Charter schools funding hot issue

“Charter schools funding hot issue”
by Marquita Brown
Jackson Clarion Ledger
February 29, 2012

As state lawmakers work to relax requirements for opening charter schools in Mississippi, the unanswered question is can the state afford both or will it leave both underfunded.

Today, the House Education Committee will take up House Bill 888, which includes broader allowances for charter schools. Last week, the Senate passed SB 2401 that would allow charter schools in every Mississippi school district with some restrictions.

If a district has enough demand for a charter school, the state and local dollars should follow the child, said John Moore, chairman of the House Education Committee and principal author of HB 888.

The problem with the argument that scarce resources would be spread over a larger group of students is “you’re not increasing the number of kids,” said Moore, R-Brandon.

Critics of those groups are no longer in a fixed group. Most charter schools cap their enrollment, meaning some students who might have wanted to attend the new school can’t and would likely remain in traditional public schools, which would then be operating with less money.

“Mississippi has very scarce resources. We can’t afford to fund schools at the level that most people would acknowledge they need to be funded,” said Nancy Loome, executive director of the Parents’ Campaign. That’s also true for other public service agencies, she said.

Loome, who heads a network of more than 60,000 people, said she has heard from parents of students in home schools and in private schools who are interested in charter schools. Adding more students to the mix leads to less funding for all students and a less efficient use of resources, she said.

Superintendents of traditional public schools have said they increased class sizes, postponed building maintenance, made due with outdated textbooks, cut central office staff and, in some cases laid off teachers, because of cuts in state funding. Many have said additional cuts would force additional layoffs, which could include teachers.

There should be an analysis of what impact pulling students from school districts may have “on the resources left behind for the children who will remain in the public schools,” said Oleta Fitzgerald, Southern regional director for the Children’s Defense Fund.

Not requiring or discussing “a fiscal impact analysis in Mississippi just does not seem to be reasonable,” she said, “especially for people who pride themselves on fiscal responsibility.”

The bills should require no additional appropriations because “there is no money for new buildings that would be provided by the state,” said Forest Thigpen, president of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy. Charter schools would have money donated to help with the costs of building or renting buildings and would not have access to bond issue money or other facilities dollars available to traditional public schools, he said.

“If a school is educating children well, then they should have nothing to fear from charter schools. If they are not educating children, then there is no reason that they should continue to expect to receive money from taxpayers,” Thigpen said.

Nationally, charter schools’ impact on traditional public schools’ funding has been mixed.

“The specifics of the policy in your state matter a lot,” said Macke Raymond, director of Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes.

“In some cases across the country, charter schools didn’t impact the local public school budget at all because there was a hold harmless provision so that the districts continue to receive the same budgetary amounts regardless of how many students they lost to a charter school,” Raymond said.

Addressing funding equity requires a different view than charter schools versus traditional public ones, she said. Instead, Raymond said, the view should be that public schools, including public charters, need full funding.

Legislators tend to make a common mistake of “trying to be all things for all people,” said Jeanne Allen, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Education Reform. They try to push for charter schools, but not full funding, and expect those schools to take on the most disadvantaged students anyway, she said.

“It’s not money alone, it’s having freedom to spend the money,” Allen said. “But it’s also being treated equitably, so there’s a level playing field between traditional public schools and public charter schools.”

Moore said today’s meeting will likely focus on HB 888. The House charter bill has to clear the committee by Tuesday and then be voted on by the full House.

He expects a charter school bill to go to Gov. Phil Bryant, a charter school supporter, in late spring.

Maryland charter school law ranked seventh worst

“State charter school law ranked seventh worst”
by Blair Ames
Frederick News Post
February 29, 2012

The creation of great new public charter schools in Maryland requires just one simple thing, according to Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, an advocacy organization.

“It’s a law that is very clear and open to actually allowing people to step forward to get those schools,” Allen said Tuesday.

Maryland is far from having what CER officials consider an adequate charter school law, she said. According to the center’s 2011 annual ranking and score card of charter school laws released in January 2011, Maryland’s law ranks 35th of 41 laws on the books.

As reasons for the poor rating, the report cited limitations with district-only authorizing, union requirements, school board control of charters and lack of funding for charters.

Mississippi claimed the worst ranking, while Washington D.C. was deemed to have the best charter law.

Allen will visit Frederick tonight to discuss Maryland’s charter law, what she believes is lacking and what needs to be done to improve the law. The event at the C. Burr Artz Library will be hosted by FrederickEducationReform.com.

Tom Neumark, a founder of FrederickEducationReform.com, said his organization wanted to inform the public and elected officials about the rankings and how the law could be changed.

According to Allen, fixing the law won’t be easy.

The state law would need to be totally rewritten for Maryland to have a quality charter school law, she said.

She suggested starting with adding an independent authorizer to form charter schools rather than school boards because school boards don’t know what it’s like to operate a charter school.

“They’re not set up to review, approve and even consider what a new school looks like,” she said. “They’re not in the new schools business.”

Allen said the Maryland legislature has shown no “appetite” during this session to understand the issue, let alone challenge charter school opponents.

Regarding Frederick County’s charter schools, Allen said it is a tragedy that the school board is doing little to help Frederick Classical Charter School “see the light of day” and open this fall.

The charter school situation in Frederick is similar to others across the country, she said, where the state or local school board authorizes charter schools.

Daily Headlines: February 29, 2012

Colleges Misassign Many to Remedial Classes, Studies Find
New York Times, NY, February 29, 2012

Two new studies from the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College have found that community colleges unnecessarily place tens of thousands of entering students in remedial classes — and that their placement decisions would be just as good if they relied on high school grade-point averages instead of standardized placement tests.

Two Sides Of Obama’s Federal Takeover of Education
Washington Examiner, DC, February 18, 2012

Waivers recently granted by President Obama to 10 states allowing them to escape the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act are themselves filled with prescriptive dictates from the administration.

Union Hijacking Of Charter Schools
Washington Times, DC, February 29, 2012

If you can’t beat them, take them over. That seems to be the new union strategy on charter schools.

House Panel OKs Education Bills, But Hopes Dim For Big Reforms
Washington Times, DC, February 28, 2012

On strict party-line votes, a key House panel on Tuesday cleared the final two pieces of the Republican education-reform agenda.

FROM THE STATES

Allow School Choices: Change Alaska’s Constitution To Permit Vouchers
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, AK, February 29, 2012

Like the rest of the nation, Alaskans have been discussing and debating the merits of school choice for decades. Many parents say they would like the option of choosing non-government schools for their kids; teachers’ unions say they hate the idea.

Teachers’ Contracts Hinder Misconduct Investigation
Los Angeles Times, CA, February 29, 2012

A 1990s agreement, in exchange for a pay cut, to place ‘pre-disciplinary’ documents in an ‘expired file’ after four years complicates L.A. Unified’s attempts to review records.

Adelanto Parent-Trigger Supporters Claim Fraud
Los Angeles Times, CA, February 29, 2012

Parents seeking to improve Desert Trails Elementary say opponents altered documents in an effort to defeat the petition to force change at the campus.

California’s Flawed ‘Parent Trigger’
Los Angeles Times, CA, February 28, 2012

Education reform benefits from parent involvement, but state rules on the so-called parent trigger need revision.

Don’t Waste Our Time: Committee Wants Nod On Charter Model
Plumas County News, CA, February 29, 2012

Before Plumas Charter School officials in Greenville spend more time working to help develop the combination public-charter option for Indian Valley students, they want a nod from Plumas Unified School District that this is an acceptable alternative.

Education Secretary Duncan Says Good Ideas Come From Communities, Not D.C.
Denver Post, CO, February 29, 2012

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan hosted a town hall meeting in Denver Tuesday morning, answering questions from the community about the federal role in Colorado’s education reforms which are hailed as leading the way for the nation.

Why We Support School Choice
The Hill, DC, February 28, 2012

Colorado’s citizens pride themselves on independence and a practical ability to get things done. This mix of autonomy and pragmatism is paving a new trail for public education by providing broad, bi-partisan support to a simple principle: school choice.

Schools Again Face Turmoil
Connecticut Post, CT, February 28, 2012

The attempt to put Bridgeport’s troubled public school system under state control has now been officially declared illegal.

Henderson Calls For National Standards To Guide Probes Of Cheating
Washington Post, DC, February 28, 2012

D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson called Tuesday for national standards to guide educators in investigating claims of cheating on standardized tests, contending that without them, school districts will continue to be second-guessed in their efforts to probe and punish such misconduct.

Fla. Board Reverses Denial of 3 School Charters
Miami Herald, FL, February 28, 2012

The Florida State Board of Education has reversed the denial of charters for one regular and two virtual schools. Charter schools receive taxpayer money but are operated by entities other than school boards.

Pinellas School District Officials Sour On New Charter For Scientology-Affiliated Life Force School
Tampa Bay Times, FL, February 29, 2012

Pinellas County School District officials on Tuesday delivered a blow to a charter school tied to Scientology, recommending the School Board vote against a proposal that could keep the school open through 2016.

Charters Taking From Public Schools
News Chief, FL, February 29, 2012

As this year’s legislative session nears an end, those reformers are pushing to allow charter schools greater freedom to expand, to take over public schools if parents want that, to give charter schools a slice of property taxes for construction and maintenance, provide more vouchers and to expand virtual education programs. These reformers, instead of wanting to improve public schools, seem intent on turning their backs on them.

Bill Protects Kids From Failing Schools
Miami Herald, FL, February 28, 2012

Sustaining chronically failing schools, protecting school boards’ authority, or funding charter school systems are not goals of public education. The singular purpose is to equip every child with the quality education they need to succeed as a student and as a citizen of our state, our nation and the world.

Cheating Educators Would Return Bonuses Under Bill
Atlanta Journal Constitution, GA, February 28, 2012

Georgia educators who got bonuses tied to falsified standardized test scores will have to return that money to their school districts if a bill passed by the House of Representatives Tuesday becomes law.

Senate Gets Turn At Charter School Amendment
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, GA, February 29, 2012

As expected, on the third iteration of House Resolution 1162, the Legislature passed the measure that will put a constitutional amendment on the ballot giving the state power to form an alternative school system outside of local controls. Now the fight is in the Senate where the measure must also pass by a two-thirds majority

Stakeholders Get More Say In Revised Charter School Bill
Honolulu Star-Advertiser, HI, February 29, 2012

A bill to overhaul Hawaii’s charter school system is up for a vote today in the Senate Ways and Means Committee, after legislators were urged to make changes in view of turmoil on a few charter campuses.

Charter Still Hopeful for Fall Opening
The Journal Gazette, IN, February 29, 2012

Despite having only five months, proponents of a proposed charter school in southeast Fort Wayne are confident they can construct a building, hire staff and be ready to welcome students this fall.

Randolph Central To Pilot Performance-Based Teacher Pay
Muncie Star Press, IN, February 29, 2012

Randolph Central Schools will be among the first districts in the state to develop a new performance-based pay structure for its teachers.

School Reform Changes Disappoint Branstad
Des Moines Register, IA, February 29, 2012

Gov. Terry Branstad on Tuesday expressed disappointment that lawmakers have “watered down” the wide-ranging education reform proposal he introduced last month.

Schools May Get Less Funding
Opelousas Daily World, LA, February 29, 2012

The state’s top education board backed a $3.4 billion public school funding formula Monday that would keep spending per student flat for a fourth straight year and require certain districts to cover some of the cost of local students attending public schools outside of the parish.

Bill Would Force Counties To Pay For Schools
Baltimore Sun, MD, February 28, 2012

To force counties to pay their share of the cost of operating K-12 schools, top legislators in Annapolis want the state to seize local tax dollars and deliver them directly to school systems.

State Charter School Law Ranked Seventh Worst
Frederick News Post, MD, February 29, 2012

The creation of great new public charter schools in Maryland requires just one simple thing, according to Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, an advocacy organization.

Boston Charter School Among Four Approved By State
Boston Globe, MA, February 29, 2012

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved four new charter schools yesterday for Boston, Holyoke, Lowell , and Springfield as part of a broad effort to expand educational opportunities for students in urban areas.

Charter Schools Debated
Desoto Times, MS, February 29, 2012

A charter school bill is expected to go to the House floor for a vote on Thursday but not without a push to amend the bills in committee. At issue are so-called virtual charter schools and zones where charter schools could be located.

Charter Schools Funding Hot Issue
Jackson Clarion Ledger, MS, February 29, 2012

As state lawmakers work to relax requirements for opening charter schools in Mississippi , the unanswered question is can the state afford both or will it leave both underfunded.

Charter-School Law Should Not Close The Door For Online Schools
Sun Herald, MS, February 27, 2012

Mississippi legislators are considering a proposal to strengthen the state’s charter-school law. This is great news for a state with the weakest charter-school policy among the 41 states (and D.C.) that have them. However, because the state Senate Education Committee has moved to ban virtual charter schools, the scope of this new policy is significantly limited.

Rutgers To Evaluate New Teacher Evaluation System
The Record, NJ, February 28, 2012

The New Jersey Department of Education has contracted with Rutgers University to evaluate a new teacher evaluation system being tried out in 10 school districts across the state.

Teacher Data Aid Parents, Mayor Asserts
Wall Street Journal, February 29, 2012

He spoke as the city released a limited set of rankings for teachers at charter schools and a handful of special-education schools.

New York City Charter Schools Have A Higher Percentage Of Better Teachers Than Public Schools
New York Daily News, NY, February 29, 2012
Mayor Bloomberg said in no uncertain terms Tuesday that parents have a right to see teacher evaluations and keeping them private would be an “outrage.”

A Call for Parents’ Say Over Co-Locations
New York Times Schoolbook Blog , NY, February 28, 2012

Members of the New York State Assembly and Senate, parents and education advocates called for state legislation on Tuesday to give local school advisory panels the power to veto school co-locations in their districts.

Hold On Charters Requested
News & Observer, NC, February 29, 2012

The Durham County Board of Commissioners has asked the State Board of Education to hold off on new charter schools until legislation requires them to provide meals and transportation for underprivileged students.

Get In Step With The Charters
News & Observer, NC, February 29, 2012

It’s beyond me how any person or organization can oppose the establishment of a charter school designed to reduce the achievement gap, or a charter that focuses its curriculum on science, math and engineering. But some local heavy-hitters do.

Durham’s Charter Schools Raise Issues of Fairness, Efficiency
News & Observer, NC, February 29, 2012

While the charter school experiment was intended to develop best practices in public instruction and aimed at helping the neediest students, in reality North Carolina’s charter law has created an “un-level” playing field and has fostered competition for “good” students.

Amid Takeover Talk, Oklahoma School Districts Should Focus On How They’re Helping Their Schools
Oklahoman, OK, February 29, 2012

OTHER than the legislative session, the hot topic in education right now is what will happen to the state’s poorest-performing schools. Despite Chicken Little predictions from some school officials, the outcome is anyone’s guess.

Proposer Will Submit New Application For Sports-Themed City Charter School
The York Dispatch, PA, February 29, 2012

The woman behind a proposed fitness and sports-themed charter school said she won’t let the denial of her application slow her down.

Greenville Trustees Opposes Private School Tax Credits
Greenville News, SC, February 29, 2012

The Greenville County School Board fired off a letter Tuesday to members of the county’s legislative delegation to express opposition to the House’s latest attempt to offer tax credits to parents who send their children to private schools or home-school them.

MCS Avoids State Bulldozer
Memphis Commercial Appeal, TN, February 29, 2012

The state chose collaboration over a hammer to work with Kriner Cash to improve the worst schools.

Carver Going Charter Route
San Antonio Express, TX, February 28, 2012

Former San Antonio Spurs star David Robinson said Tuesday the private Christian elementary school he founded, George W. Carver Academy , will be converted into an IDEA public charter school starting in the fall.

Not All Kids Will Benefit From School-Choice Bill
Bristol Herald Courier, VA, February 29, 2012

I received a postcard recently from Gov. McDonnell asking me to call my Senator today to pass the school choice bill SB241. I agree with the postcard – every Virginia child deserves a quality education. This message is sound, and people should agree. But we should not make the call, because SB241 will not help Virginia meet the needs of every child.

DPI Trying To Dictate To Private Schools
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, WI, February 28, 2012

The issue of school choice has been at the forefront of political debate, media attention and community discussion for a number of reasons in recent years, and that’s good. This successful program has provided hundreds of lower-income southeastern Wisconsin families with the opportunity to choose a school that best fits their educational needs, and the more attention, review and consideration it receives, the better.

No Child Left Behind Waiver Makes Sense If Accountability Kept
Green Bay Gazette, WI, February 29, 2012

Wisconsin’s request for a waiver of some No Child Left Behind requirements makes sense but puts state education officials on notice they have to produce adequate accountability levels. We support standards that also are attainable and fair but that prepare students for both higher education and the workplace.

VIRTUAL LEARNING

State Education Board Backs Charter School Rejected By Duval School Board
Florida Times Union, FL, February 29, 2012

The state Board of Education Tuesday ruled in favor of Jacksonville’s Florida Virtual Academy , which had its charter school application previously rejected by the Duval County School Board.

Don’t Neglect ‘Virtual’ Schools
Jackson Clarion Ledger, MS, February 29, 2012

Unfortunately, while the original proposal included a provision for virtual charter schools, the Senate Education Committee included language that expressly prohibits the payment of state funds to virtual public charter schools.

Plans For ‘Virtual School’ In Lafourche Move Forward
Houma Courier, LA, February 28, 2012

Some Lafourche Parish public-school students could have the option of attending classes entirely online under a proposal that took a step forward Monday.

Obama to Governors: Boost Spending

“Obama urges governors to boost education funding, calls it key to competitiveness”
by Beth Fouhy, Associated Press
Chicago Tribune
February 27, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama Monday urged the nation’s governors to invest more state resources in education, saying a highly skilled workforce is crucial for the U.S. to remain competitive with other countries.

Obama made his pitch at a White House meeting with governors in Washington as part of the annual winter meeting of the National Governors Association. The president and first lady Michelle Obama hosted a black tie dinner with the governors Sunday night.

Obama said at Monday’s session that he sympathized with governors whose state budgets have been badly squeezed during the economic downturn. But he said that was no reason to trim resources from schools.

“The fact is that too many states are making cuts in education that I think are simply too big,” Obama said. “Nothing more clearly signals what you value as a state than the decisions you make about where to invest. Budgets are about choices.”

He reaffirmed his view that decisions about education should be left to states and not the federal government. “I believe education is an issue that is best addressed at the state level,” the president said, “and governors are in the best position to have the biggest impact.”

It was a message directed largely to Republican governors, many of whom have complained of too much federal intrusion in state matters including education. Several prominent GOP governors were in the room as the president spoke, including Chris Christie of New Jersey and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.

Obama earlier this month granted waivers to 10 states, freeing them from some of the toughest requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, as long as they measure student progress with their own standards.

He called on governors to assist that effort toward a more state-centered approach to education by spending more on education.

“That does not mean we have to invest in things that aren’t working,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t make sense to break some china and move aggressively on reforms. But the fact of the matter is we don’t have to choose between resources and reforms, we need resources and reform.”

Specifically he called for more teachers in the classroom. He also noted that 21 states require students to stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18.

“I urge others to follow suit of those 21 states,” Obama said.

On higher education, Obama said more than 40 states have cut financing of public colleges and universities over the past year. “This is just the peak of what has been a long term trend of reduced state support for higher education,” he said.

The president said more than 40 states have cut funding for public colleges, universities and community colleges over the past year.

Obama said his administration, Congress and the institutions themselves need to do more to make higher education more affordable. And he warned that other countries have been “doubling down” on education funding while the U.S. has cut back.

“The countries who out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow,” Obama said. “If we want America to continue to be number one and stay number one, we’ve got some work to do.”

National Charter Schools Institute

This Michigan-based organization is looking to expand its team of passionate individuals to help make a greater contribution to enhancing the performance and productivity of public education.

The National Charter Schools Institute is seeking experienced, innovative, results-oriented professionals to help develop and grow a dynamic array of programs, tools and services strategically designed to strengthen educational performance and productivity. Check out the flyer for descriptions of three available positions and application information.

AAE Supports Union Power Check

The Association of American Educators (AAE) testifies before the Utah Senate Education Committee in favor of a bill (SB 82) that would penalize those not following current law that allows all education associations equal access to schools. The organization’s membership director says the unfair reality is that districts shut their doors to the AAE in favor of the union, preventing the AAE equal access to teachers.

The committee approved the penalization measure 5-1, and the measure now awaits the full Senate.

Daily Headlines for February 28, 2012

Will Business Boost School Reform?
Wall Street Journal, February 28, 2012

Elected officials from both parties are so fed up with the status quo of failing schools that they’re challenging the entrenched power of teachers unions.

State Waivers Leave Uncertainty In Federal School Reform Law
Washington Times, DC, February 27, 2012

But that still leaves a confusing, patchwork system in which schools in Montana, New Hampshire and other states and other states will be operating under the No Child Left Behind blueprint for the foreseeable future.

In Defense of No Child Left Behind
Washington Times, DC, February 28, 2012

The 2001 reauthorization of the Education Act, dubbed “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB), got battered around pretty good in the last week’s GOP debate, and has been lambasted by Democrats and their liberal union allies since its passage. Attacks usually rely on misrepresentations of the most demagogic sort.

How to Treat Bad Schools
New York Times, NY, February 28, 2012

“Shuttering Bad Charter Schools” (editorial, Feb. 21) holds up a study claiming that “only” 6.2 percent of charter schools are closed annually as evidence of the need to close additional charters. However, a far lower percentage of traditionally organized schools are closed every year despite high dropout rates, low levels of student achievement and a refusal to change in the face of repeated failure.

FROM THE STATES

Should District Get Back Into The Business Of Authorizing Charter Schools?
Washington Post Blog, DC, February 27, 2012

Last week’s disclosure that Mayor Vincent C. Gray and Chancellor Kaya Henderson may seek to regain the District’s status as a charter authorizer received a tepid response, including this from D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D):

Don’t Pull ‘F’ Trigger
Miami Herald, FL, February 27, 2012

The Florida Board of Education meets Tuesday to decide new rules to rank public schools and make them more accountable. The focus is in the right place but Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson wants to move too quickly and too broadly to institute the new rules.

Florida House Panel Rejects Bill To Share Construction Money Between Public, Charter Schools
Florida Times-Union, FL, February 28, 2012

For a third time this legislative session, a House panel killed a provision Monday requiring that traditional public schools and charter schools share a pot of construction money. After a heated hearing, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Janet Adkins, said the fourth time will be the charm.

Jeb Bush Foundation Helps Shape Florida Education Policy
Miami Herald, FL, February 27, 2012

Ex-Gov. Jeb Bush Bush and the Foundation for Florida’s Future play a role in influencing state education policy.

Rest of the Story on Charter Amendment
Atlanta Journal Constitution, GA, February 27, 2012

The issue is simple: Should Georgia voters be asked to approve a constitutional change this November? That change would result in the revival of a now-defunct, Atlanta-based commission of political appointees empowered to approve charter schools in local communities without the approval of local boards of education.

Legislators Take ‘Cut-And-Run’ Approach To Public Schools
Macon Telegraph, GA, February 28, 2012

Dear public school teachers: The “school choice” crowd in the General Assembly is after you again. I am beginning to think this is all your fault.

House Votes To Lift Charter School Cap
Coeur d’Alene Press, ID, February 27, 2012

The Idaho House voted 49-19 to lift the state cap on charter schools while also allowing more than one to open within the boundaries of a traditional school district each year.

Ex-Wayne Principal, Sons, Seeking Charter
The Journal Gazette, IN, February 28, 2012

A former Fort Wayne Community Schools principal and his two sons are in discussions they hope will lead to the creation of a new local charter school that would open next fall.

Another Break for Private Schools
The Journal Gazette Blog, IN, February 27, 2012

Looking for a new tax deduction as April 17 draws closer? If you’re an Indiana parent who home-schools or sends your child to a private or parochial school, you’re entitled to one, thanks to the General Assembly.

Indiana Schools Test Merit-Based Teacher Pay
Indiana Public Media, IN, February 28, 2012

Two Indiana school corporations are testing out a way of paying teachers based in part on their performance evaluations. The pilot programs announcement comes ahead of the statewide implementation of performance pay next school year.

Parents List Concerns, Fear Des Moines Charter School Will Close
Des Moines Register, IA, February 28, 2012

Parents of students at Des Moines ’ only charter school said they fear it will close, in part because of what they see as the incompetence of the administrator and unprofessional behavior by an office manager.

Using Public Money To Pay For Private School Vouchers Is Approved By State Education Board
Times Picayune, LA, February 27, 2012

Louisiana’s new superintendent of education, John White, took a first step Monday toward opening the spigot of state and local tax dollars to expand the use of private school vouchers statewide.Gov. Bobby Jindal is pushing to expand a small pilot voucher program that’s already up and running in New Orleans , hoping to offer aid to pay private or parochial tuition for low-income families across the state.

State Senate Strikes Down Teacher Tenure
Minneapolis Star Tribune, MN, February 28, 2012

A bill to end the tenure system that protects older teachers and makes newer teachers the “last hired, first fired” was passed 36-26 by the Minnesota Senate on Monday, moving it a step closer to Gov. Mark Dayton’s desk.

Seniority-Only Policy Should Go
Minneapolis Star Tribune, MN, February 28, 2012

Both the Minnesota House and Senate have now passed teacher tenure law revisions that would scrap the state’s “last in, first out” rule. Under the legislation, the seniority-only provision that applies when school districts lay off staff would be replaced with a system based on a combination of seniority, licensure and performance.

School Board Turns to Founder of Harvest Prep
Minneapolis Star Tribune, MN, February 27, 2012

Eric Mahmoud has proven he can produce high test scores with low-income black elementary students on the North Side. He’s done it at a private school. He’s done it at charter schools.

Filling The Learning Gap Helps Close The Achievement Gap
Minneapolis Post, MN, February 28, 2012

When discussing how to close the achievement gap, typically the focus is on what happens in the classroom. But a narrow focus will not succeed. It ignores reality, which is that: a) youth spend twice as much time outside of the classroom as they do in the classroom; and b) learning occurs outside of the classroom as well as inside the classroom. We have more than an “‘achievement gap.” We have a “learning gap.”

Charters Would Segregate Weak
Clarion Ledger, MS, February 28, 2012

The charter school bill before the Legislature is less about choice than it is about segregation. It will segregate our children into those who are at high risk to fail and those who are not.

Charter Schools Beyond The City?
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, MO, February 28, 2012

A school choice advocate says he’s preparing to open three charter schools in the unaccredited Riverview Gardens School District and possibly two in St. Charles County if legislation passes allowing for charter school expansion in Missouri .

Downtown KC Charter School Clears A Big Hurdle
Kansas City Star, MO, February 28, 2012

A longtime goal of opening a downtown charter school is nearing fulfillment following state approval and a sweetheart lease that will house the venture for a buck per month.

Top-down Model
Salt Lake Tribune, NV, February 28, 2012

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, would eliminate the present system, which bases teacher raises on years of service and academic degrees, and replace it with one based 60 percent on student improvement and 40 percent on several other criteria.

Teacher Union Compensation
Las Vegas Journal-Review , NV, February 28, 2012

As it turns out, the leaders of the union are part of a problem they’re quick to condemn. The Review-Journal’s Trevon Milliard reported Sunday that administrators with the Clark County Education Association have been raking in big bucks themselves.

Will NJ Go Public With Teacher Ratings?
New Jersey Spotlight, NJ, February 28, 2012

When New York City last week posted the performance ratings for thousands of its public school teachers online, it raised concerns about the fairness of the data and the accuracy of the ratings themselves.

Booker Endorses Christie’s School Reforms
Asbury Park Press, NJ, February 28, 2012

Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker said Monday that he backs Gov. Chris Christie’s education reform measures — including school choice and teacher tenure changes — but he is critical of the new plan for higher education.

State Eyes Shielding Teachers
Wall Street Journal, February 28, 2012

As New York City parents and teachers struggled Monday to make sense of recently published schoolteacher rankings, education officials considered whether future releases should be illegal to protect a fragile truce on a new statewide system.

Grades Spur Parents’ Revolt
New York Post, NY, February 28, 2012

At PS 89 in The Bronx — which had the highest number of teachers who were rated poorly in 2010 — several parents returning to school yesterday after last week’s mid-winter recess said they plan to pull their kids out.

Legislative Proposal Cuts Many At-Risk Children Out of Pre-K
Winston Salem Journal, NC, February 18, 2012

Differences between conservative and liberal attitudes toward public education may have never been in sharper contrast than they were last week when Gov. Bev Perdue and legislative Republicans offered proposals on pre-Kindergarten programs for “at-risk” children.

County Wants Slowdown On New Charter Schools
Herald Sun, NC, February 27, 2012

Four of Durham’s five County Commissioners say the State Board of Education should deny new charter school applications until the N.C. General Assembly requires the independent public schools to provide basic student-support services.

Cleveland Teachers Should Be On The Same Reform Team
Cleveland Plain Dealer, OH, February 28, 2012

We in the Cleveland Teachers Union agree with Mayor Frank Jackson that every child in our city should attend an excellent school and every neighborhood should offer our families a multitude of great schools from which to choose.

Bill To Empower Oklahoma School Boards Clears Panel
The Oklahoman, OK, February 27, 2012

Oklahoma school districts would be able to ignore most statutory state requirements under a bill that has cleared a Senate committee and faced fierce resistance from public schoolteachers.

Schools’ Victory Is Fleeting
Philadelphia Inquirer, PA, February 28, 2012

A welcome reprieve that saved four Catholic high schools from being closed seemed like a miracle to fearful students. But now they and their parents are looking for divine intervention to solve the archdiocese’s long-term budgeting woes.

York City School Board Rejects Two Charter School Applications
York Dispatch, PA, February 28, 2012

A large turnout of support, a track record of success and a long relationship with the district weren’t enough to convince York City School Board members to approve Helen Thackston’s charter high school application.

State of Tennessee Intervenes In Operations of Six Memphis City Schools
Commercial Appeal, TN, February 27, 2012

The state of Tennessee will run three Memphis City Schools in Frayser next fall. Three more, mostly in North Memphis , will convert to or co-exist with charter schools as part of a strategic effort to concentrate on pockets of town where schools chronically under-perform.

Dade County Students To Evaluate Their Teachers
‎Chattanooga Times Free Press, TN, February 28, 2012

Dade County students this week turn a critical eye on their teachers as the North Georgia school district pilots news ways to gauge teacher performance.

Austin School District, Charter School Partners Get Gates Foundation Grant
Austin American-Statesman, TX, February 27, 2012

Separately, traditional public school districts and charter school operators have bemoaned shrinking state funds, even as they sometimes competed for students and public and private education dollars. But a joint venture of the Austin school district and seven charter school operators sees greater advantage in working together.

Carver Academy Changes From Private To Charter School
KENS 5 TV, TX, February 27, 2012

Parents with students attending the Carver Academy are facing some tough decisions.
School officials, including former Spurs player and NBA Hall of Famer David Robinson, who is also the academy’s founder, met with parents for an informational meeting Monday evening.

State Seeks To Improve Charter Schools
Beaumont Enterprise, TX, February 27, 2012

A state legislative committee recently discussed those same concerns at a meeting to determine best practices of how to better oversee and improve the state-funded schools.

Achievement Gap Needs Public’s Greater Scrutiny
Badger Herald, WI, February 27, 2012

You’ve undoubtedly read about the Madison Metropolitan School District’s recent initiative to close the racial and socioeconomic achievement gap that’s been plaguing the city for decades.

Wisconsin School Aid Up In The Air Under Voucher Program
Appleton Post Crescent, WI, February 27, 2012

Parents in 37 school districts across Wisconsin could become eligible for a program that would let them use state aid to offset the tuition costs of private schools.

VIRTUAL LEARNING

DCSS Entertains Idea of Virtual Classrooms
WFXL FOX 31, GA, February 27, 2012

Dougherty County school Superintendent Dr. Joshua Murfree held a forum Monday night to get parents and educators on board and in the know about the goals and possible changes coming to the system.

Virtual School Never Closes For Union County Students
WBIR-TV, TN, February 27, 2012

The closing does not impact one set of Union County students. 1,900 kids are enrolled in the district’s virtual school. The Tennessee Virtual Academy started this school year. It serves students in grades K-8.

Kudos On ‘Virtual’ Charter School
Monroe News Star, LA, February 28, 2012

As Gov. Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana Legislature and advocates for public education prepare to tackle his proposed education agenda, I would like to say “thanks” to all involved in chartering the first statewide online public school, Louisiana Connections Academy.

State Funding Changes Concern Ouachita Superintendent Webber
Monroe News Star, LA, February 28, 2012

Webber said the initial information the district received from the state Department of Education means the district could lose $1 million of funding to New Vision Learning Academy, a charter school, but the district is questioning the validity of the information.

Christie-Union Clash Reaches New Level

Videographers lurk outside New Jersey Education Association headquarters in hopes of trying to catch NJEA executive director, Vincent Giordano, in another embarrassing moment. The stakeouts are a result of the union leader’s comments about opposition to school vouchers. When asked about low-income families that can’t afford to send their children to schools that could work better for them, he says, “Life’s not always fair and I’m sorry about that.”

The comments drew a reaction from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who said Giordano’s comments were “outrageous” and he should be fired or resign. The union leader quickly fired back at Christie, saying he should resign for bullying him.

Not long after this battle of words did cameras start appearing at NJEA headquarters. Cameramen have been identified and have connections to the Republican Party, prompting union spokesperson Steve Wollmer to ask if Republican Christie was behind these tactics.

The Statehouse Bureau captures Michael Drewniak’s response for Christie well: “The governor certainly had no part in it, but it is great to see NJEA’s crack public relations machine at work. They’ve succeeded in re-shining the light on Giordano and his cold-hearted, ‘life is unfair’ feelings about children trapped in failing urban schools. Bravo.”

Newswire: February 28, 2012

Vol. 14, No. 9
 
BREAKING UNION MONOPOLY. Utah’s Senate Education Committee recently voted in favor of a plan to add teeth to an existing law that allows all teacher associations equal time to recruit members. The amendment just passed adds penalties for not following the law. Speaking in favor of the amendment, Charity Smith of the Association of American Educators argues that her job is to let teachers know there is a “professional, non-partisan choice in Utah with the (AAE). Time and time again doors have been shut in districts throughout Utah in favor of the union. We are simply asking for all associations to be granted equal access to teachers and for districts to be held accountable for violating the law.” Sounds more than fair. The bill has moved to the Senate for a vote. All in Utah, make sure your legislative representatives vote in favor of this amendment, Senate Bill 82. Choice… for teachers.
 
CHOICE WORKS IN PHILLY. Who says urban schools comprised of students living in poverty can’t show improvement quickly? Let them take a look at Research for Action, an independent study that shows strong first-year gains for children at all 11 of the city’s K-8 turnaround schools due to progress made by the Philadelphia Renaissance Schools Initiative. Seven of the schools are charters. Mark Gleason, head of the Philadelphia School Partnership, agrees that this report busts the myth that poverty means kids can’t achieve. “Dramatic improvement can happen quickly,” he says. He adds, “variety works,” since the 11 schools “are managed by a total of five different operators, all with some overlapping characteristics but using different strategies and approaches. This is strong evidence that we can put more kids in quality classrooms faster with one monolithic system.” In short, choice works.
 
CATHOLIC SCHOOL RESURRECTION. Another powerful school option in Philadelphia, the city’s Catholic schools, won a huge victory last week as four high schools were granted a reprieve from imminent closure at the end of the year. Upon the counsel of State Senator Anthony Hardy Williams (D-Philadelphia) – a tireless advocate for school options for parents and kids throughout The Commonwealth – and his own dedication to Catholic education, developer Brian O’Neill engineered both a second chance for the schools and ushered in a refreshed clarion call for expanding the existing EITC program and the much debated bi-partisan voucher bill championed many in the legislature. The effort has also established a foundation to continue the effort to allow Catholic schools, anchors of many Philly neighborhoods, to continue educating kids in the face of mounting budgetary concerns. “The grassroots efforts to save these schools, coupled with the advocacy of legislators and the generosity of many who wish to make our schools healthy again, brought us to this innovative new model for Catholic secondary education,” said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput.
 
HELP THE FUTURE GENERATION OF GUARDIANS OF REFORM: Students for Education Reform (SFER) are up for the coveted Campus Champions for Change, sponsored by none-other than the White House! SFER is hands down the most relevant and impactful group on the otherwise worthy list of champions. But they need your vote to win. You have until Saturday at midnight to make it happen. Go vote now!
 
THE LEGISLATIVE ACTION HEATS UP. Education reform proposals are gaining steam in statehouses from coast to coast. Some are unique to the state, like Georgia’s battle for a constitutional amendment to restore charters as a choice, while other action is trending nationwide, including major efforts to end teacher tenure and replace it with effective evaluations in order to put teaching on par with other professions. Here are some of the latest updates from the states:
 
Charter Schools:
 
Georgia – Charter bill just cleared the House; Constitutional amendment progress; AND online education…
 
Mississippi – Charter bills in both the House and Senate, though the House version is much more broad (more work to be done)…
 
Idaho – House Education Committee graduates a bill to raise the charter cap to the full House…
 
Florida – Panel rejects the sharing of funds between charters and traditional public schools…
 
Teacher Quality:
 
Minnesota – Gov signs new teacher testing regulations and Senate passes end to tenure…
 
South Dakota – Sends a new teacher tenure bill to Senate…
 
Governors’ Education Plans:
 
Connecticut – Assembly debates Gov. Malloy’s education reform proposals…
 
Iowa – Senate passes an education bill, but it differs from Gov. Branstad’s original plan…
 
Vouchers:
 
Louisiana – The state school board voted Monday on a plan to start paying for the vouchers in New Orleans by drawing from the same pool of money set aside for public schools…

Voucher Students Make Gains

“Voucher students improve on reading, study finds”
by Erin Richards
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
February 26, 2012

A sample of students in Milwaukee’s private voucher schools made gains in reading in 2010-’11 that were significantly higher than those of a matched sample of peers in Milwaukee Public Schools, but math achievement remained the same last school year, according to the results of a multiyear study tracking students in both sectors.

The results of the study are being released Monday in Milwaukee as the final installment of an examination of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, or voucher program.

The longitudinal study – meaning it tracked the same set of students over the testing period – was conducted by the School Choice Demonstration Project, a nonpartisan research center at the University of Arkansas. The group was selected by the state to conduct a long-term study of the voucher program and its impact on Milwaukee.

Rather than looking at scores of all students, the study matched a sample of 2,727 voucher students in third through ninth grades in 2006 with an equal number of similar MPS students. The study used a complex statistical methodology based on growth models.

The study matched the random sample of students and found their achievement growth on the state’s annual standardized test to be about the same in math over the next four years, and about the same in reading for three of those four years.

The latest year of data shows the reading bump for the voucher students and represents the first time an achievement growth advantage has been observed for either the public school sample or the voucher school sample over the four-year period, according to the study. That finding casts the program in a slightly more favorable light than when the state released the fall 2010 results of the standardized test, known as Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination, for all students, which showed voucher students scored worse than or about the same as MPS students in math and reading on the point-in-time test.The study suggests exposure to voucher schools marginally increases the likelihood that students graduate from high school, especially on time, as well as enroll in college.

The latest study also researches special education and estimates that between 7.5% and 14.6% of voucher students have disabilities. That’s lower than MPS’ 19% but higher than the 1.6% disability rate the state had previously reported for the voucher schools, based on information from the private schools.

The findings this year prompted optimism among voucher school advocates who were given advance access to the report’s findings. But Bob Peterson, president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, said the report had inconsistencies and lacked transparency. He also said he was “flabbergasted” the researchers hadn’t given an advance copy of the report to the state Department of Public Instruction, which oversees the voucher program, so officials could respond to the findings.

“I think this is a very positive precursor to what’s coming,” said Jim Bender, president of School Choice Wisconsin, a group that advocates for school vouchers. He indicated that the study has provided a solid analysis, and that it’s now time to research what’s working well in individual schools that could be replicated.

The conclusion of the group’s exhaustive study of the nation’s oldest and largest urban school voucher program comes at a pivotal time. The program offers qualifying students the opportunity to use a taxpayer-funded subsidy worth up to $6,442 per year to attend one of a selection of private, mostly religious schools, but it looks much different this year than it did last year.

That’s because the Republican-controlled Legislature raised income eligibility limits for participants, lifted the cap on enrollment, allowed private schools outside of Milwaukee to participate in the program and launched a new voucher program in Racine.

Wisconsin wasn’t alone in changing the private school voucher landscape dramatically in the past year: seven new school voucher programs were enacted across the country in 2011 and 11 existing programs (including Wisconsin’s) were expanded.

Milwaukee’s program enrolls more than 23,000 students to attend one of 106 private schools on a voucher, and the new voucher program in Racine has enrolled 228 students in its inaugural year, according to a summary from the report.

No conclusive winner

Patrick J. Wolf, the study’s lead author and a professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas, said there was no clear overall “winner” between the voucher program and MPS.

But he said that for low-income families in Milwaukee, the voucher program has had a positive effect on students on some measures and no difference on other measures from what students would have experienced in the public schools.

The study started with data from the 2006-’07 year from a sample of students in the voucher schools, and for a similar sample of students in MPS. They were required to take the state standardized achievement test so those results could be compared to the public school students’ test results in reading and math.

The study did not reveal the names of the schools participating in the study, but by fall 2010, all the voucher schools were required by state law to administer the state’s standardized achievement test.

The DPI released the scores of the voucher schools, broken down by school, in spring 2011, the same time they released the scores of the state’s public-school students. That comparison of scores of all schools indicated that MPS students scored better than students in the voucher program in math and about the same in reading.

But within the smaller sample of low-income students in the study, voucher students pulled ahead of the public-school students in reading growth last year.

Peterson questioned one of the study’s main conclusions, that enrolling in a private voucher high school increased the likelihood of a student graduating from high school and enrolling in a four-year college by four to seven percentage points. That’s because the report also notes that about three out of four students enrolled in voucher schools in ninth grade were no longer enrolled in a voucher school by the time they reached 12th grade, and it says there’s evidence that the students who leave voucher schools for public schools are among the lowest-performing private-school students.

Peterson said although the information was buried in the stack of reports, it shows that students who leave voucher schools are those who are the most difficult to educate, while those who remain started out as higher achievers.

“If we believe in educating all children, that shouldn’t be a source of pride,” he said. “Given such internal inconsistencies in the report, it’s difficult to have confidence in the report’s conclusions.”