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Posing as Reform in Pennsylvania

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Pennsylvania State Rep. James Roebuck (D-Philadelphia) is not an honest broker. With more than $50,000 in contributions each year from the city’s teachers unions, the public should know that the reform bill he is backing for charter schools is about destroying, not reforming; about raising up the status quo, not real reform of our schools.

His reports and allegations, of widespread problems in charter schools across the state, are misleading and plain wrong. For example, he alleges that most charter boards have conflicts of interest with those with whom they work or depend for services. But that would also suggest that the largest employer in the school system is riddled with conflicts. Who isn’t related to a teacher or a child or a board member or a vendor in any district? Everyone with a pulse has overlapping interests. The only time it’s a conflict is when their views and their work is at odds with what’s good for kids.

Conflict of interest is code for keep charter schools small and insignificant. Demands from opponents for accountability is code for shut them down.

The charters are efficient, effective, albeit underfunded public schools that are oversubscribed and, in most cases, achieving above and beyond the traditional public schools.

Why would you try to save money on schools that are already underfunded and over subscribed? Why not save money on schools that are failing on a system that has a larger administrator/adult -student ratio than most comparable districts?

Philadelphia District:
15-to-1 teachers to students
655 administrators making over $100,000/dollars a year! (100 of who are teachers)
2980 in total all education administrators — Average salary is $104K

There are about 150,000 students in district public schools – 50 students for every administrator! A charter school survives with half as many administrators – an average of 100 kids for every administrator!

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Newswire: March 12, 2013

Vol. 15, No. 10

RACISM & GREED? Should our public services be used for people who really need them? Aren’t prisons a place for criminals who defiantly break the law? And how exactly does intentionally breaking the law help children understand the importance of schooling? These and more questions are on our minds as we ponder the actions by President of the AFT union Randi Weingarten this past Thursday, who, upon her arrival in Philadelphia to protest the closing of 23 FAILING (yes that was caps intentionally) schools got herself arrested. Make no mistake — this was planned. Anyone with a big time PR shop like the AFT has doesn’t do these things without much consideration. You could just see her — boarding the plane, arriving in Philly, taking her car to the site, getting poised to protest and WHAM, standing in front of the door to the School Reform Commission meeting just to be carried away to the Klink, the pen – prison! The cheering and hizzahs were incredible, thanks to the adult members of the union who joined her. “This is about Racism and Greed” one sign said. Actually — he’s half right. It’s about the not so subtle racism that pervades a system that makes someone want to keep a bad school open and keep poor kids of color from getting a good education and it’s about the greed of the unions who just can’t let it go.

BABIES TO THE CORE. Those cute little kindergartens we all like to fawn over are apparently getting the shaft in schools that have already started implementing the Common Core standards for young children. It’s not intentional, as Harlem Village Academies Founder & Author (and CER 2006 Honoree) Deborah Kenny writes in a fabulous op-ed. It’s that teaching

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Newswire: March 5, 2013

Vol. 15, No. 9

OK PINOCCHIO. Last week, Newswire sparked a mini-debate on what the sequester really means for education. But as CER president Jeanne Allen points out in today’s National Journal, “… that among all of these thousands of entities that spend and receive federal money, no one seems to know or to be even talking about how the almighty federal dollar flows.” The reality that CER continues to point out, is that most of the money has already been collected by states and districts. Thankfully we’re not alone in holding the Administration accountable for irresponsible rhetoric about a frenzy of “pink slips.” In fact, the US Department of Education has yet to produce any district-level evidence of lay-offs, according to the Wall Street Journal.

COVER UP. The Worcester County Teachers Association in Maryland has been making headlines as news broke of their botched attempt to cover-up the fact that Denise Inez Owens, the union’s former treasurer embezzled over $430,000 of teacher dues to fund her gambling addiction. In 2009 when the MSEA (state affiliate of the NEA) learned of the crime, they merely forced Owens to resign. We know these union contracts are ironclad, but come on, they sent a known-criminal back to teaching in a middle school classroom! Finally justice has been served, but where’s the accountability and “common good” that the union leadership supposedly values?

EXPANDING CHOICE. In a press conference last week Alabama Governor Robert Bentley applauded the legislature for sending an individual and corporate tax credit bill to his desk, “I truly believe this is historic education reform and it will benefit students and families across Alabama regardless of their income and regardless of where they live. I’m so proud we have done this

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School Cancelled So Teachers Can Protest

Students in two Michigan districts, the Taylor School District and Warren Consolidated Schools, are not in class today. The districts cancelled school, allowing teachers to go protest right-to-work legislation at the capital instead of educating kids.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder says schools shutting down so teachers can go prostest is inappropriate.

“Too often the educational system’s all about the adults,” he said. “To see schools shutting down because of an issue like this is not appropriate in my view.”

The legislation at hand would make Michigan the 24th right-to-work state, and would mean union dues could no longer automatically be deducted from teachers’ paychecks. Unions attempted to enshrine collective bargaining rights in the constitution, but the measure failed to win voter approval in November.

Mitch Daniels: Collaboration Isn’t Key to Real Reform

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“Getting along with unions to get reform done is an idea that’s been weaved into many conversations during this conference. Do you agree collaboration is key?”

Mitch Daniels: “No.”

That was Mitch Daniels’ answer to CER President Jeanne Allen’s question at this year’s Excellence in Action summit in Washington, D.C. Mitch Daniels is known for his tough stance on reform and ability to get meaningful reforms passed in Indiana, and recently ousted State Superintendent Tony Bennett shares this reputation as well.

After a simple “No” answer, Daniels went on to explain some of the improper tactics used to defeat Tony Bennett in the 2012 election, and his remarks are still making waves in the press:

“If you’re a fan of anything-goes politics, it was a creative use of illegal — but still creative use — of public resources.”

“We got emails sent out on school time by people who were supposed to be teaching someone at the time, all about Tony Bennett. We have parents who went to back to school night to find out how little Jebbie is doing and instead they got a diatribe about the upcoming election.”

Union Challenges Louisiana Reforms In Court

“Louisiana education lawsuit: Teachers association expects protracted legal battle”
by Lauren McGaughy
Times Picayune
November 28, 2012

Louisiana’s recent education overhaul will be tested Wednesday in court as multiple teachers associations and school boards challenge the constitutionality of changes made this year to the state’s voucher program and teacher hiring rules. Ahead of Wednesday’s court case, Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT) President Steve Monaghan told NOLA.com he expects a protracted legal battle with the Jindal administration.

“Pragmatically, one has to understand that the legal process doesn’t go like a blitzkrieg. It is a lengthy process that can take months and sometimes years,” Monaghan said Tuesday.

He added, “we are fully aware that the administration is very, very likely to appeal and to appeal to the Supreme Court.”

State Superintendent of Education John White came out against the lawsuit in June, issuing a statement that said, “The LFT is preventing parents from doing what they think is best for their children. It’s time to return our focus to teaching and classrooms, but the LFT keeps dragging us back to politics and courtrooms.”

The Washington, DC-based Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm, have also come out against the suit. They issued a statement this month condemning the suit.

“It is imperative that school choice flourish in Louisiana or else another generation of Louisiana schoolchildren will be condemned to educational purgatory,” the Nov. 20 statement read.

“Faced with an exodus of children from underperforming and failing public schools, teachers’ unions and school boards have sued to stop parents from making that choice,” it added.

Institute of Justice members, along with Ken Campbell, president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, and others will protest the suit tomorrow morning outside the court house in Baton Rouge.

The suit was brought by the LFT, Louisiana Association of Educators, Louisiana School Boards Association

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Resistance From Unions, Even When Reform Passes

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As the Wall Street Journal Review & Outlook notes, “Education reformers had good news at the ballot box this month as voters in Washington and Georgia approved measures to create new charter schools. But as the reform movement gathers momentum, teachers unions are giving no quarter in their massive resistance against states trying to shake up failing public education.”

… “No reform effort is too small for the teachers union to squash. In this month’s election, the National Education Association descended from Washington to distant Idaho, spending millions to defeat a measure that limited collective bargaining for teachers and pegged a portion of teachers’ salaries to classroom performance. In Alabama, Republican Governor Robert Bentley says he’s giving up on his campaign to bring charter schools to the state after massive resistance from the Alabama Education Association.” READ MORE

The Evil Empire Strikes Back

Review & Outlook
Wall Street Journal
November 18, 2012

Education reformers had good news at the ballot box this month as voters in Washington and Georgia approved measures to create new charter schools. But as the reform movement gathers momentum, teachers unions are giving no quarter in their massive resistance against states trying to shake up failing public education.

In Georgia, 59% of voters approved a constitutional amendment that creates a new statewide commission to approve charter schools turned down by union-allied school boards. Instead of absorbing the message, charter opponents are planning to sue. The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus said last week it will join a lawsuit against Governor Nathan Deal to block the change. According to Caucus Chairman Emanuel Jones, because the ballot measure’s text didn’t discuss the details of how the schools were selected, “people didn’t know what they were voting for.”

This is the legal equivalent of sending back a hamburger because you didn’t know it came with meat. Georgia voters rallied around the charters because they want something better for their children than the dismal status quo. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that as of April only 67.4% of the state’s freshmen graduated from high school in four years. Last year a state investigation of Georgia schools found that dozens of public educators were falsifying test results to disguise student results.

A different battle is unfolding in Chicago, where the city’s teachers union is getting ready for its second showdown with Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In September, teachers went on strike and won a pay raise and limits on test scores in teacher evaluations. Now the union is fighting the city’s plan to close underused schools in an effort to consolidate resources.

Chicago Public Schools have some 600,000 seats but only 400,000 kids, while the district faces a $1 billion deficit

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Mike Antonucci: Defensive Victory for Teachers Unions

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The unions did what they needed to do. They helped re-elect the President and they brought to a halt any momentum there may have been for more serious and wide-ranging threats to their power base. They defeated hostile ballot measures in California, Florida, Idaho, Michigan and South Dakota, and were even able to put a tax hike over the top in the Golden State. There will be no mass movement into voucher systems, merit pay, tenure reform and collective bargaining limits. Those are big wins. READ MORE

Georgia, Idaho, and Washington Initiatives

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Before election day, we reminded people that while education is up for a vote in every state through the candidates they select, Georgia, Idaho, and Washington had initiatives on the ballot that could have major impacts education in each state.

Georgia’s students scored big on Tuesday with a 58% to 42% victory for Amendment One. The Peach State’s ballot initiative on charter schools allows local communities to create more of these important options by amending the state’s constitution to allow other state and local agencies, in addition to local school boards, approve charter schools.

Washington state’s ballot initiative on charter schools is still looking favorable for reformers with a slight lead of 51% for passage. While still not declared a victory, it looks like Initiative 1240 will open up new educational opportunities for families with the creation of 40 new charter schools over the next 5 years. A modest proposal, but it would make Washington the 42nd state to adopt a charter school law and finally bring them into the 21st century of education delivery.

Idaho’s ballot left the fate of three laws, known as the Students Come First laws, up to voters. Unfortunately, the $1.2 million in NEA funding to squash these measures paid off. Voters turned down that reforms that would have paid teachers based on performance, phased out tenure, limited collective-bargaining, and expanded online learning opportunities.

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