Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Budget Ideologies

Geroge Cunningham makes a lot of sense.

With few exceptions, the options proposed by the Legislature, pundits, business groups, think tanks, lobbyists and others to address the $3.5 billion annual budget deficit fall into one of two categories: (1) cut spending, resulting in service levels below taxpayers' expectations, or (2) increase revenue (taxes), resulting in funding-service levels that meet or exceed taxpayers' expectations.

Unfortunately, the options presented are more likely to be based upon the person's or entity's ideological notion of government's role in our society rather than upon sound economic and public-finance policies.

Be sure to read his lists of statistics about the budget. Arizona is a low-tax state. That is in large part why we are in our current crisis.

Student Loans to Become 'Cleaner'

President Obama and Congress are making some changes to student loans and Pell Grants.

Every year, taxpayers subsidize student loans to the tune of $9 billion. Banks service these loans, collect the debt, keep the interest, and turn a profit. When borrowers default on their loans, taxpayers foot the bill, and banks still reap the interest.

It's a great deal for banks and a terrible one for taxpayers.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

John Wright Discusses Investing in Education Reform

This is from a longer segment which aired on PBS Horizon last Thursday (02.18.2010).

Watch how Mathew Ladner from the Goldwater Institute wants to talk a lot about the high expectations of increased student achievement, but does NOT want to talk about the investment of dollars it will take to reach those lofty goals.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Modern Disaster Drill


The so-called Institute for Justice is asking the US Supreme Court to reverse a ruling which questions the religious ties to voucher/tax credit programs in Arizona.

60,000 Unemployed Teachers

Most estimates for 2010-2011 see this number increasing significantly.

I wonder if we can do anything to change this forecast.

Gilbert Legislator Pushes to End Career Ladder

Rep Lauren Hendrix (R-Gilbert) is pushing a new bill which will end Career Ladder.

This comes on the heels of an Arizona Superior Court decision which declared the program unconstitutional citing the "fair and uniform" clause in the AZ Constitution regarding public schools.

There is Opportunity in Every Crisis

Those that hate everything public are now attacking tenure full throttle.

If New York City is forced to lay off some of the more than 30,000 new teachers it has hired in the past five years, it is "going to be catastrophic," said Joel Klein, chancellor of the city's school system. "We're going to be losing a lot of great new teachers that we hired" in recent years, the chancellor said.

Mr. Klein added that another problem with "last in, first out" was that because newer teachers earn less than veterans, more teachers will end up losing their jobs.

What Mr. Klein "is really trying to say is, 'I would like to churn the work force by keeping cheaper teachers on the payroll,' " said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, the teachers union in New York. "If we can do our work in a constructive and collaborative way, we can avoid the layoffs. That's where we should be focusing our energy."

Why Stop With Just Ads On School Buses?

Indeed. If Scottsdale is expecting upwards of $1 million dollars from stamping ads on the sides of their school buses, why not adopt full corporate sponsorship?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Do Rural Students Count in the Budget?

Does the legislature pay attention to statistics? They and the governor are proposing major cuts to education. Career and Technical Education (CTE) finds itself on the cutting board this go 'round. That is not sitting well with the editorial board of the Willcox Range News

In St. David, of 123 high school students, 119 are enrolled in CTE. In Benson, 332 of the 341 students, or a whopping 97.4 percent are in these classes. That is overwhelming support from students and parents.

School is more than readin' writin' and 'rithmetic. For many students who won't go on to college, some kind of vocational education is key to their being able to support themselves. But for all students, education should include enrichment beyond the basics that will get them a good score on the AIMS test.

Smoke and Mirrors on Pensions

Watch closely the discussion on our public pensions. They have been targeted for years by the for-profit investment industry. They would love us to all have 401K's instead of our solid, tested-and-true defined benefits plans. Those industries are using the current crisis to push for dissolving public pensions.

In this news story, many public pensions are grouped together so they can write about a "trillion dollar gap." That's silly. The pensions are not funded together. Why report on them like it was a collective debt unless you wanted to make the situation appear more dire than it is?

Two things have caused pensions to be devalued, but I rarely see anyone addressing them.

First, many states can and do borrow money from their state pension, as if it doubled as a "rainy day" fund. In the same way Congress has repeatedly spent the Social Security surpluses, this leaves the remaining funds inadequate to cover known costs.

Second, all of the poisonous and deceptive stock market trading over the past two years found their way into pensions. Much of the bad mortgages and loans were packaged and put out on the market with unrealistic projections. The public pensions, which have an obligation to purchase bonds, futures, etc with the highest yields, unknowingly took on these risks.

Here is the data presented in the study. It is from 2008.

Peoria Forum on Ed Budget

March 4th activities in Peoria will include speakers addressing the budget issues facing the local schools on the west side.

What are you doing on March 4th?

Touching the Untouchable: Sports

Budget cuts have forced Yuma to tread on sacred ground: high school athletics. Due to high transportation costs, Yuma will no longer travel to sporting events... except for state tournaments.

Of course.

Parents Claim School Spying on Student via Laptop

I doubt anyone involved thought this might happen when the school in this well-to-do community offered laptops for students to use to study.

Move On When Ready

Arizona is looking at this.

Dozens of public high schools in eight states will introduce a program next year allowing 10th graders who pass a battery of tests to get a diploma two years early and immediately enroll in community college.

Judge Says OK for Students to Facebook Teachers

This one could have some interesting ramifications.

While a senior at Pembroke Pines Charter School, Evans created a Facebook page entitled “Ms. Sarah Phelps is the worst teacher I’ve ever had” from her home computer and invited other students to voice their dislike of her teacher. After several students’ postings defended the teacher and berated Evans for her opinion, Evans took the page down.

The principal and teacher only became aware of the posting after it had been taken down, and never even saw it. Nevertheless, Evans was suspended for three days and removed from Advanced Placement classes as a punishment for her Internet posting. Evans sued Bayer for injunctive relief, seeking to clear her record, and nominal damages. The Principal moved to dismiss the case.

The Court’s ruling recognizes that Evans’ off-campus Facebook posting of her opinion about a teacher “falls under the wide umbrella of protected speech. It was a student’s opinion about a teacher, which was published off campus, did not cause any disruption on campus, and was not lewd, vulgar, threatening, or advocating illegal or dangerous behavior.”

Bad Math

The 65% Deception is back.

The basic idea is that schools should spend 65% of every dollar inside the classroom. The downside is that the heat and cooling of the classroom is not considered inside the classroom... nor are librarians, counselors, security guards, or even instructional aides.

Bad idea.

Retired Teacher Backs Payson Override

Retired and on a fixed income, he lays out his support for supporting his local school district:

The children in this community did not cause the recession. Nor did they vote for a state Legislature, which appears to be unwilling or unable to adequately provide funding or academic oversight for public education.


From the Payson Roundup Editor:

It cost Arizona $143,000 per year for each juvenile held in a detention center.

If that is true, it is only 15 times what we spend on educating that same child in public school.

Rep Steve Farley Gives Insider Report on Voucher Expansion

It's a bit biased, but does offer some good information.

Meanwhile, all Arizona kids are gearing up for more cuts to our public schools. What are Republicans doing about that? Apparently their solution is to dramatically increase the private school voucher program that has been providing huge tax breaks for rich families to send their kids to private schools on the public dime.

He goes on to tell how one major School Tuition Organization (STO) is against some of the voucher expansions-- but no one will listen.

School bus goes hi-tech

Educators in Vail may have stumbled upon something.

...school officials mounted a mobile Internet router to bus No. 92’s sheet-metal frame, enabling students to surf the Web. The students call it the Internet Bus, and what began as a high-tech experiment has had an old-fashioned — and unexpected — result. Wi-Fi access has transformed what was often a boisterous bus ride into a rolling study hall, and behavioral problems have virtually disappeared.

Total cost was under $200.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Move on When Ready

I am reposting this one in its entirety. It is from the Arizona Guardian. I hope they forgive me. Of course, if you had a subscription ($15 per month for educators) you would have already seen it.

Is the push for early graduation student-centered or money-centered? And by money, I don't just mean how much money the state might be saved (in the short run) if students graduated in fewer than four years of high school.

How many "Early Graduation" charter High Schools will spring up because of this?

There's the real money angle.

Education reformers push early graduation

By Amanda Soares
The Arizona Guardian

High school students could graduate by age 16 if a new, more rigorous academic plan in a sweeping education bill becomes law.

The measure, set to be introduced today, is an attempt to reconcile comprehensive education reform with state budget cuts, said House Education Committee Chairman Rich Crandall, the bill's sponsor.

The "Move on When Ready" initiative aims to give high school students an incentive for choosing a tougher academic path, Crandall said.

"What we're saying to kids is, if you achieve this high bar, we'll reward you," he said.

Under Crandall's bill, high schools across the state would be eligible, but not required, to offer an alternative, internationally benchmarked two-year curriculum to their freshmen.

Those students who choose to study under the new program would be required to take rigorous college and career readiness exams at the end of the two years.

Some of the exams being discussed include the ACT, Cambridge, and Edexcel exams.

High school sophomores who pass the assessment would then receive a so-called "Grand Canyon diploma" and be able to pick one of three options:

• Enroll in community college courses. Students choosing to stay on their high school campus to take the courses could participate in extracurricular activities, such as sports.

• Enroll in a special continuation program, offered by the high school, to prepare them for college.

• Move on to a full-time technical school.

In addition to graduating early, students in the program would be eligible to receive community college and university scholarships. The bill also would give cash bonuses to outstanding teachers.

And all of it would be done with no extra money from the state, Crandall said.

"This moves funding around so it's an incentive rather than a disincentive," he said. "We're using the money much more efficiently."

Schools would continue to receive state funding through 12th grade for the students who graduate early. The school would then pay the community college for the courses in which its graduates are enrolled.

Schools would get to keep the remaining balance to use toward program expenses, including exams and financial incentives for teachers and students.

Sybil Francis, executive director of the nonprofit Center for the Future of Arizona, said the program will have a transition cost during its first couple of years.

Schools that decide to participate in the plan will have to pay $100 for each student who enrolls, she said. After kids begin graduating early, the money the state saves from the students' last two years of school would repay the investment.

But even with the startup cost, Francis said, 15 school districts are already willing to sign up.

"I'm not going to minimize some of the concerns," she said. "But most districts we've talked to have shown interest."

Francis said AIMS, the high-stakes test given in the 10th grade, is not preparing kids for college admission exams and that most seniors who successfully complete AIMS do not know they're not ready.

Moreover, she said the bill is an attempt to improve stalled high school and college graduation rates in Arizona.

She also said it would help many high school dropouts who lose interest in their studies because they do not feel challenged by them.

"They would feel much more empowered to take their future in their own hands," she said.

High school students already have the option of graduating early under Arizona law, said Penny Kotterman, chair of the Education Coalition, a collection of advocacy groups.

"We just don't have it very well systemized," she said.

She said she likes the concept of "Move on When Ready," but hopes lawmakers are also considering students who take longer to learn.

Francis said schools could give more assistance to struggling students with the money that early graduates will save the state.

The initiative is part of a national push to standardize education curricula. Behind the effort is "Race to the Top," a federal competition for $4.5 billion that will be distributed to states taking bold steps toward education reform.

Arizona is one of roughly 10 states that signed up for a Board Examination Systems consortium aiming to jointly set higher bars for their students.

"In Race to the Top, they're really looking for extremely innovative states that are pushing higher standards," Crandall said.

Moreover, Crandall said the consortium would allow for states to get a better deal on exam prices from providers.

The governor's office is supportive of the "Move on When Ready" bill, said Karla Phillips, Gov. Jan Brewer's education advisor.

This bill is one of five initiatives the governor's office is pursuing this session to help make Arizona's application more competitive, Phillips said. The state stands to win up to $250 million in federal Race to the top grants.

But the proposed national standardization is worrying some education experts.

Jaime Molera, former state school superintendent and a member of the state Board of Education, said what other states believe is important for their education systems may not work for Arizona.

"Whatever they believe in Massachusetts, New York, South Carolina, that may be different for Arizona," he said. "We should prioritize what we think is important."

He also said the new programs would take much authority away from local school boards.

"It's all starting to gravitate toward Washington D.C.," he said. "We have a constitutional duty to oversee state education."

Senate Education Chairman John Huppenthal said he supports the measure and thinks it could "potentially shake the foundation" of the state's high schools.

"It's a big deal," he said.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Horizon Discusses the "Orphan" Budget

Horizon recently hosted a discussion with Chad Campbell and Bill Konopnicki regarding an "orphan" budget. It looks to be the best budget proposed thus far, but is it too politically toxic for either Democrats or Republicans to claim?

Studies Indicate Charter Schools Re-Segregating Students

Through Race to the Top is Obama unwittingly promoting a new wave of school segregation?

The growth of charter schools has promoted segregation both in California and nationwide, increasing the odds that black, Latino and white students will attend class with fewer children who look different from themselves, according to two new studies.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

End of Tax Credits?

Pat Kossan reports that there are three bills circulating in the Arizona legislature which could suspend or kill the private school scholarship tax credit program.

I'll wager none of them make it out of committee.

The Republicans held a few open hearings over tax credits after the Tribune and Republic both published a week's worth of investigative reporting and criticisms of the shady world of private school tax credits.

The resulting recommendations included spending more money on tax credits.

Berliner Nails Testing

Dr David Berliner has penned a must-read for every person concerned about education.

But because Secretary Duncan does not have classroom experience, he may not know that teachers evaluate their students every day, 180 times a school year. The fact that under our laws these teachers have no say in evaluating their students’ skills and abilities is really quite ludicrous.