Newswire: February 26, 2013
Vol. 15, No. 8
SKYFALL? The impending Sequestration may not be a Bond movie but it has almost everyone painting a doomsday outlook for education cuts in the U.S. But in reality it’s actually a lot more like “Chicken Little” despite the protestations of our nation’s leaders. Said Secretary Duncan yesterday “There’s no one in their right mind who would say this is good for kids and good for the country, yet somehow it becomes tenable in Washington. I just think people don’t spend enough time in the real world.” Actually, Mr. Secretary, the Real World has already received most of its federal education funds for the year, making severe cuts in personnel and programs literally a choice, not a necessity. For example, all Title I funds for the year have already been delivered and distributed in the state of New Jersey, so any perceived spending cut backs would happen to new spending, not current programs. This is the case in almost all states – Title funds are allocated and forward-funded, and while some federal spending may have to be reconciled over certain periods, currently most schools, districts and states already have their 10% of federal funds in hand for the year. Come July, it’s another story, but then again, sequestration is not about July, it’s about now, and there is no doomsday coming for schools. It’s reminiscent of the hue and cry over the recession that led to the stimulus funds – which ended up being extra money, as districts never did face the cuts they had planned for and the new money kept coming. The whole affair should remind the American people that we don’t exactly spend wisely in education as a nation, and while money is important, it’s how we spend that’s more important. Just ask a charter school.
MEGA MEDIOCRITY. Last week the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) released a report on the five mega-states – California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas – that represent 40% of our nation’s public schoolchildren. The results were not surprising, considering it was based on the 2011 data, but all too telling that 30 years later, we are still A Nation at Risk. There were some positives, though. Check out our analysis.
SOMETHING WORTH RISING FOR. Mississippi has been the laggard state in the charter school arena, something the newly elected leadership in November vowed to do something about. Bills were passed in both the state’s House and Senate to make modest improvements in the state’s “F” rated law, by giving the state authority to approve charters while limiting charters outside of district approval to districts that rate a D or F on the state’s accountability system. It’s too little and it’s late, and debate over whether another authorizer will be allowed is still simmering. The astonishing piece of this (and so many other states) is that many a House Republican feels so beholden to its school boards and superintendents that they have been kowtowed into opposing anything truly meaningful for kids. That’s another battle to be fought but at least this southern state could rise for good reason if the lawmakers unite and get a good law enacted.
COLLEGE BOUND. Congrats to Alassane Traore, a senior at DC’s Friendship Collegiate Academy, for earning a full scholarship to Hanover College. Traore was surprised to learn he won the scholarship out of 200 applicants, and now will be the first in his family to attend college. Traore told the news he couldn’t have overcome adversity without the support and academics of Friendship. This success is not unusual at Friendship Public Charter Schools, just last month we shared the news of three other students winning full scholarships to attend four-year colleges. CER Board Member Donald Hense founded Friendship Public Charter Schools in 1997, which now operates 6 public charter schools and, in partnership with Baltimore City and DC Public Schools, manages five turnaround schools, serving nearly 8,000 students from age 3 to 12th grade.
ALL EYES ON MA. Thousands of families across Massachusetts are anxiously awaiting the deliberations of the State Board of Education meeting today where 5 new applicants will be approved or rejected, and 11 existing schools will learn if they’ll be renewed. Today’s meeting comes on the heels of proposed legislation that would eliminate the cap for new charter schools in the lowest 10% of performing districts. A good step forward for sure, but unless they raise the 9% cap on total district spending for charters, it is a modest proposal at best. What would really give the Bay State a boost in its law ranking is full elimination of any and all caps and allowing for multiple authorizers to open and approve new schools to meet extreme demand. is full elimination of any and all caps and allowing for multiple authorizers to open and approve new schools to meet extreme demand. All eyes will be on the newly seated Secretary and former Brockton Super, Matt Malone, who was at the center of the battle to stop Brockton Charter earlier this year, and where now all authority rests for new schools at the state level.