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Morning Shots

School Funding in Australia (Jennifer Buckingham)

A couple of times each year, usually in January and September, the Fairfax press in Australia makes a big deal about private school fees. Newspaper articles invariably list the schools with the highest increases in fees, note that the fee increases are greater than inflation, and point out that these schools receive government funding.

This year was no exception. The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age ran articles stating that tuition fees in some private schools in Australia will next year reach $20,000. This applies to only a handful of schools, but there are a substantial number of schools with tuition fees above $15,000 a year.

This is an enormous amount of money. It is net of tax and is for tuition alone. You could reasonably add another couple of thousand dollars for building funds, school uniforms, excursions, laptop computers, and other non-optional items. As one parent put it: “It used to be that parents slaved to pay off the mortgage, but the fact is that mortgage repayments are truly petty cash alongside this stuff. With two kids costing $20,000 each and a third at $18,000 – all after tax – plus trips, books, uniforms, sports, you have to earn $140,000 before getting out of bed.”

A little background on school funding in Australia might be helpful at this point. There are two school sectors in Australia: government and non-government (private). Government schools are fully government funded and cannot charge compulsory fees.

The non-government sector consists of Catholic systemic schools and independent schools. Catholic systemic schools receive around 80 per cent of their funding from government sources and the remainder is from fees which are set by their archdiocese. Their total funding level is similar to government schools.

Independent schools receive some government funding – between 10 and 70 per cent of their

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Planning Insanity (Elliot Haspel)

I don’t understand why first-year teachers are creating lesson plans from scratch. No, check that, let’s get more declarative: First-year teachers should not be creating lesson plans from scratch.

The objectives which students need to learn are not brand-new. Lesson plans exist from previous years — tested, pre-made lesson plans from veteran teachers. It is insanity that we eschew best practices. No other industry operates in this way. Not a single one. It would be like each car company coming up with their own way to build cars.

Now, not every teacher should be teaching carbon-copy lesson plans. They need to be adapted and tweaked and honed to fit each teacher’s personal style and the particular needs of his or her class. Not every car company uses the exact same building system — but they’re all based off the assembly line. Nor is there One Lesson Plan To Rule Them All — clearly, there are any number of ways to effectively teach an objective. So, make all the options available!

I should not be drawing up how to teach multiplication on a blank piece of paper, for example. Teachers have been teaching multiplication for decades upon decades, some of them quite well. Surely I can be handed a template for teaching multiplication that is battle-tested, instead of my ad hoc, I-hope-this-works system. It’s not that I’m adverse to the work–it’s that I’m going to be, on average, far less effective at doing the work. That doesn’t help the students learn multiplication, or anything else.

I do understand why the system is so incredibly decentralized. Traditionally, schools have been the exclusive bailiwick of localities, perhaps more than any other institution. And the classroom has reflected this independence, with the teacher as king or queen of his or her fiefdom as soon as the

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Harmony or Havoc? (Donna Connolly)

Now that Governor Schwarzenegger has signed AB 1381 into law and everyone has left the photo-op, and clarity has returned to the eyes of those blinded by all the flash bulbs, what happens next? 

The bill–due to go into effect on January 1, 2007­–will give the “Council of Mayors” hiring authority over the Superintendent and gives authority for hiring and awarding construction contracts to that Superintendent in addition to other powers.

The question on everyone’s lips now is: “Who will be the next LAUSD Superintendent?”  Since Roy Romer is anxious to step down from the position, the LAUSD Board of Education is feverishly searching for his replacement.  Amid chaos?  It appears so.  The Board of Education–currently possessing hiring authority for the next three months–is, according to Mayor Villaraigosa, withholding information about candidates vying for the position. The Board claims their decision is to protect those candidates who wish for their application to remain confidential–and with 26 mayors receiving the information it would be difficult if not impossible to respect their wishes.  The mayor’s office in response has accused the Board of using “obstructionist tactics.” 

Oh, to be a fly on that wall.  I can only imagine how quickly the Board would like to hire someone to replace Roy Romer and retain some of their authority–if for no other reason than to avoid Jackie Goldberg getting the position.  I wonder if her résumé has made it into the stack of applicants, yet.  Maybe they’re busy checking her references. 

“Let’s see, previous employment: Assemblywoman.  Hmmm, that sounds familiar. References?  Here we go: Antonio Villaraigosa and Fabian Nunez.  Hmmm!  Those names sound familiar.”

For us regular citizens, if you don’t like what your elected officials are doing, you

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