Thursday, May 26, 2011

Gee, Mr. Duco, wonder why we didn't hear from you earlier and why the Dispatch was the chosen one to release selected info re. SB 5?

"While an aggregate number is big I am worried that it will be challenged and we will not be able to defend."
DAS analyst expressed serious concerns about SB5 cost savings analysis
By Joseph, May 26, 2011
Records recently obtained by Plunderbund from the Department of Administrative Services show that the analyst who worked on February’s SB5 cost savings report expressed serious doubts in the methodology and the lack of data used in the analysis.

On February 28th the Kasich administration released a report produced by the Department of Administrative Services showing “State and local governments would have saved an estimated $1.3 billion in 2010 on health insurance and automatic pay increases if the limits imposed by Senate Bill5 were in effect.”

The report was released only to the Dispatch and wasn’t provided to any other news source until Monday. It was strategically timed so that it would come out just a few days before the committee vote on SB5 but with limited release. And the full report was embargoed from release by Dispatch reporters until Monday when the administration made it available to the public. The goal was to prevent an in depth analysis of the report prior to voting SB5 out of committee, but the analysis and findings in the report were still quickly been debunked by multiple sources.

Based on a review of emails from Department of Administrative Services employees responsible for producing the report, it appears as though Toledo was the only city who provided data for use in this initial SB5 analysis. (Which makes sense considering Toledo’s mayor is the only big city mayor in Ohio who has expressed support for Senate Bill 5). This lack of data, along with the shaky methodology used in the analysis, were brought to the attention of DAS’s director who still chose to release the report.

On February 23rd, three days before the report was released, Mike Duco, the DAS analyst working on the report, sent an email to Robert Blair, the Director of DAS, explaining that he didn’t have enough data to do a proper analysis. He also expressed concern that if he did continue with the analysis as they expected, he would not be able to defend the results.

From: Duco, Michael
To: Blair, Robert; Menedis, Nicholas; Wykoff, Pieter Cc: Trackler, Julie; Colson, Harry
Subject: Columbus
Date: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 9:20:31 AM

I left a message for Jan Campbell for the same information that I asked Toledo for. I am not sure that they will cooperate. I am walking over to SERB to see what kind of data they may have. I know that you want an aggregate number but there may be no way to give you it with any amount of precision.

Maybe what they should do is show what the savings to the State, a city (Toledo) and a school district and a county. If you all provide me with a school district that would work with us and a county we can work on these snapshots. While an aggregate number is big I am worried that it will be challenged and we will not be able to defend. My only solution is to use the savings garnered in Toledo and the state divided by the number of employees to come up with an average savings multiple that by the number of public employees and use a factor of 5% either way. I chose 5% because the elimination of five sick days is approximately 2% savings which Toledo and State workforce would not capture and say 3% for potential pick up coverage. Let me know your ideas or whether you think this formula is defensible.

His concerns, it seems, fell on deaf ears.

Three days later the report was released. It provided an aggregate number – just like Mr. Duco said he couldn’t provide with any precision. And it used nearly the same methodology Mr. Duco said he could not defend.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011 many educator cuts in Ohio are anticipated?

From John Curry, May 25, 2011
Ohio schools cut jobs anticipating funding cuts
LISA CORNWELL, Associated Press
May 25, 2011
CINCINNATI (AP) — Ohio school districts already are cutting thousands of jobs in anticipation of losing funding in the upcoming state budget, as unions and other education groups lobby hard at the Statehouse to get some of it restored.

In Cincinnati, 208 school district jobs have been cut, including 145 teaching positions. Columbus schools are eliminating the equivalent of about 260 full-time jobs, including about 200 teaching positions. Cleveland's district is eliminating more than 800 jobs, including 643 teacher slots. Dayton school officials are cutting nearly 300 jobs, including about 140 teacher and teacher-support positions.

"No corner of our district has been untouched by the cuts we have had to make," Dayton Superintendent Lori Ward said.

Smaller districts also are slashing jobs. The Medina district in northeast Ohio is cutting more than 70 teacher and teaching-support positions, and 13 teachers won't be replaced in southwest Ohio's New Richmond district.

The Ohio Education Association union says nearly 3,800 teacher and support staff jobs won't be filled next year through layoffs, retirements or resignations, and more cuts are expected.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich's $55.6 billion, two-year budget includes $6.4 billion in education aid in its first year and $6.5 billion in its second — up 1 percent the first year and 2 percent the second. It would take effect July 1.

Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols says no district will take more than a 7.9 percent hit and most will see only a 4 percent to 5 percent decrease in federal, state and local funding.

Teachers' unions and groups representing school boards and school business officials estimate the lost federal stimulus funding and two big tax policy changes contained in the budget really mean districts will see $3.1 billion in overall losses the next two years.

Stimulus money was intended to carry cash-strapped states through a national recession, after which their revenue streams hopefully would improve.

Nichols said districts should have been prepared for the stimulus dollars to dry up.

"Districts that failed to take into account the loss of federal stimulus money will have more trouble than most coping," he said.

The budget is now in the state Senate, where Thursday is the deadline for the next round of changes in the state's proposed spending blueprint. Senate President Tom Niehaus said Tuesday it was too early to tell what changes would be made to school funding, but education groups are lobbying intensely.

"We're trying to get legislators to understand how these cuts are going to impact students and communities, if people are losing jobs," said Sue Taylor, Ohio Federation of Teachers union president.

Taylor cited a study by the left-leaning Innovation Ohio think tank that estimates 25,000 teaching and support staff positions will be lost by the end of 2013 under the current plan.

"What is scaring a lot of districts now is what situation they will find themselves in come July 1," Taylor said.

Kasich's administration says his plan ensures that districts that rely the most on state assistance will not bear the greatest burden from lost federal stimulus funds. But the majority will see funding decreases, and more than 300 districts will no longer get a tangible personal-property tax reimbursement, said David Varda, executive director of the Ohio Association of School Business Officials.

That reimbursement and a public-utility tax reimbursement pumped over $1 billion this year into districts that will be affected by the accelerated phase-out of those payments under Kasich's plan, Varda said.

Ohio Education Association spokeswoman Michele Prater said the strategy "passes the buck" to local communities, where pressure will be increased to raise taxes to provide basic educational services.

Read more:

Gee, Gordon won't like this one! Be there!
Live Against 5! Student-Led SB5 Concert and Rally at OSU this Thursday

Senator Bacon: Please resign NOW

Kathie Bracy to Senator Kevin Bacon, May 25, 2011
Dear Senator Bacon,
You need to do the Right Thing and resign from office, as your colleague Jimmy Stewart has done. Every senator who supported Senate Bill 5 has proved him/herself to be a traitor to the heart and soul (not to mention major taxpayers and voters) of Ohio and has NO BUSINESS remaining in office. You do NOT represent us. The only honorable thing left for you to do is to step down. NOW.
Katherine B. Bracy,
Registered Republican in your district
Columbus, OH

How did your senator and others vote on SB 5?

Click here to refresh your memory.
Find your state legislators here.

SB 5's first political victim...let there be many more!

Wouldn't your local pro-SB 5 politician's face look good on a billboard like the one below? Hint, hint, hint!
Facing Strong Backlash Over SB5 Vote Republican State Senator Jimmy Stewart Resigns

..........[Find your state senator here.]

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A picture is worth 10,000 words!

Click image to enlarge.
From John Curry.................................................

Want to see what one of Kasich's buds thinks about consumers and our Consumer's Counsel?

From John Curry, May 24, 2011
"Thibaut does not hide his disdain for the office: ‘I think it is nothing but a bastion for left-wing attorneys to sit around and get paid by the taxpayers to take care of what they perceive to be serious problems,’ he said."
Note from John...of course, Thibaut doesn't want to talk about who pads his paycheck (besides IGS Energy), does he? You might want to read the second article below which pulls back the curtains far enough to see that this same Kasich lobbying buddy, Thibaut, also wallowed in the OSU "feed trough" by "escorting" Kasich around the OSU campus while getting paid 20K for his troubles while King Kasich gorged himself on $4,000 per day guest lectures!
On May 24, 2011, in Lobbyists News, by admin
3 who have long been advisers to governor become top lobbyists
COLUMBUS — “But [John] Kasich and [Donald G.] Thibaut [lobbyist], conceded that they’d had at least one conversation about a topic of interest to one of Thibaut’s clients. Thibaut has asked the governor why the state needs the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, the utility watchdog, when it has the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to represent consumers….
Thibaut does not hide his disdain for the office: ‘I think it is nothing but a bastion for left-wing attorneys to sit around and get paid by the taxpayers to take care of what they perceive to be serious problems,’ he said.
One of Thibaut’s clients, IGS Energy, a Dublin-based natural-gas marketer, was not happy in October when Consumers’ Counsel Janine Migden-Ostrander filed a complaint with the PUCO accusing IGS of deceptive marketing.” Joe Hallett, The Columbus Dispatch.
Read the whole story
Strickland rips Kasich for OSU gig
By Laura Bischoff
August 18, 2010
"Democrat Ted Strickland ripped into his political opponent, Republican John Kasich, and Ohio State University on Wednesday, Aug. 18, for striking a deal that paid Kasich $50,000 a year and an aide $20,000 a year over seven years to make guest lectures and interact with students."
Strickland called it appalling and selfish, particularly since Kasich has advocated that universities cut costs and expect more out of teachers.
The annual payments worked out to about $4,000 per day spent on campus, according to a schedule provided by OSU.
“It says to me that John Kasich thinks he is a very special person, that the rules that apply to everyone else don’t apply to him. He ought to be ashamed of himself,” the governor said.
The Kasich campaign said Ohio State paid Kasich what the university officials thought he was worth and continued to ask him back. OSU officials said they received nothing but positive feedback on Kasich’s guest lectures and campus activities.
Strickland said Ohio State is culpable for the arrangement as well and he questioned why an aide was paid to assist Kasich with his campus duties.
“If he only showed up four days a month, what did the campus aide do? Look for a parking place?” Strickland said.
Kasich resigned as a presidential fellow at OSU in May 2009 when he announced his candidacy for governor.

I'm sorry, Akron educators but.....

From John Curry, May 24, 2011
...welcome to the "real" world. You can afford to contribute more than zero %. Yes, I know this may shock some readers but...what is fair is fair. Paying nothing towards healthcare isn't.
Having said that (the flipside) I will say that this, in no way, validates the lack of fairness in the majority of verbiage of Senate Bill 5. Governor Kasich and his minions shouldn't try to correct one wrong by imposing a list of more wrongs as the solution to Ohio school funding.
"The district’s employees contribute zero percent."
Akron schools face deficit
By John Higgins
Beacon Journal staff writer
The Akron school district’s finances will plunge from a surplus of nearly $34 million to a nearly $11 million deficit in two years.
That’s treasurer Jack Pierson’s projection for the next five years, which the school board accepted on Monday.
The district has managed to push off the date when the district falls off the cliff for the last few years by making cuts and avoiding the ballot.
”I’m not talking about a levy,” said Superintendent David James. ”I’m talking about budget reductions. I’m talking about shared services and consolidations.”
The district plans to eliminate 60 jobs, mostly from vacant jobs not being filled, by the beginning of the next school year. James believes layoffs won’t be necessary.
James wouldn’t comment on whether the district would put a levy on the November ballot.
That will have a lot to do with the fate of Senate Bill 5, which among other things, would require public employees to contribute a minimum of 15 percent of the total cost of health care.
The district’s employees contribute zero percent.
”That would be a big savings, about $7 million [a year],” said Pierson. ”The question is when does it go into effect. It still hasn’t been settled.”
Opponents to Senate Bill 5 are collecting signatures to place an issue on the November ballot repealing the new law.
Pierson expects the issue will be on the ballot. But even if it survives appeal, he said it’s not clear if it would affect existing contracts or only new ones.
”Different attorneys have weighed in differently in different discussions we’ve had, so we don’t know,” Pierson said.
At this point, Pierson’s not counting on that revenue.
Senate Bill 5 isn’t the only unknown in Pierson’s calculations.
The state operates on two-year budgets crafted by governors with four-year terms, but school districts must project income and expenses for five years.
Akron receives about 63 percent of its money from the state, and the legislature is still debating Gov. John Kasich’s first two-year budget.
The district already is spending more than it’s taking in.
This school year, costs exceed revenues by almost $9 million, but the district started the fiscal year with a $42 million surplus built up from the passage of the last levy passed in 2006.
Next year, the district will overspend by about $11 million, reducing the surplus to $22 million.
But the next year, costs will exceed income by $33 million gobbling up what remains of the surplus and leave Akron about $11 million in the hole.
The deficit balloons to $56 million in the fourth year of the forecast and $106 million in the fifth year.
The economy hasn’t done much for the district’s tax base.
Pierson expects a 10 percent decrease in revenue from property taxes in 2012 — up from a 4 percent decrease projected in October. He is projecting commercial property to stay flat.
The biggest loss in revenue in the 2012-2013 school year, however, comes from the loss of federal stimulus money to retain teaching jobs — a one-year drop from $6.6 million to zero — and another loss of almost $6 million from the loss of a local business tax on machinery, office equipment and inventory.
The state has been reimbursing districts at 100 percent to make up for the elimination of that tax. Akron received almost $17 million from the state for this school year.
Under the original legislation, the state was going to begin reducing the reimbursement this year. The Strickland administration decided to make districts whole for the lost taxes until the 2013-2014 school year and then begin phasing it out.
Gov. John Kasich’s proposed budget eliminates all reimbursement after the 2012-2013 school year.
Next year, Pierson estimates Akron will receive about $11 million in reimbursement. The following year, it will be $5.5 million. The next year the state will contribute nothing to make up for the lost business tax.
Targeting expenses
The biggest increases in expenses are in pension and health insurance costs for employees and for utilities and transfers of funding to other districts because of open enrollment, charter schools and private schools accepting vouchers.
All but one of the district’s unions have agreed to a one-time, 2 percent payment this year and no wage increase next year. The board wasn’t ready to vote on a tentative agreement Monday night with the last union, which represents educational aides.
Pierson has projected no wage increases over the five-year period except for increases to teachers who have obtained advanced degrees and for years of service. Administrators will have frozen wages during the next school year.
The unions also have agreed to health-care concessions, such as deductibles and prescription co-pays that will save the district an estimated $2 million in the 2012-2013 school year.
”That will help,” Pierson said. ”Overall the insurance is going up by 5 percent next year and 9 percent the year after.”
Voters approved a 7.9-mill operating levy in 2006.
Pierson estimates that each mill of a levy request would generate $2.7 million in additional revenue, with an approved levy collecting only half that amount in the first fiscal year.

Kathie Bracy re: Fast Track Educators

From Kathie Bracy, May 18, 2011
Subject: Re: With all the teacher layoffs COMES THIS?
It's going to be real interesting to see how this turns out once these fast-trackers hit the classroom in the real world. Most of them won't last, nor will they want to, once our governor gets all his mandates in place, like bigger class size, smaller salaries, merit pay, no collective bargaining, no job security, no public schools, etc., etc., etc.
I had to take the equivalent of four full summers of courses for certification. Some of those courses were academic -- political science, biology, etc., since my background was mostly in music [including my master's]. I hated the education courses; I thought they were pretty ridiculous and meaningless. I always thought they should be giving us courses in the subject areas we were teaching instead. That plus classroom management -- that's all we really need. The rest is fluff.
If you went into a European classroom, you wouldn't see fancy decorated rooms designed to make the kids 'feel good". You'd see teachers teaching the subject matter and attentive students taking it in, because that's what is expected of them in their culture. They also "track" their students at a certain point. They find out early what a child's natural inclinations are, and track him in that direction, whether it's college or manual labor. Also, blue collar work over there is not considered demeaning. Every job is respected, and the workers take pride in their job, whether they're bus drivers or university professors. Teachers are highly regarded and highly paid, too.
I remember visiting a school in Holland once. I was talking to the headmaster, and asked him how often he went into the classroom to observe the teacher. He looked at me like I was nuts. He said he wouldn't dream of doing such a thing, nor did he need to. He knew how the teachers were doing without such an intrusion. It's a whole different culture over there. The parents and teachers work together, and obviously there's a level of trust all around -- teachers, administrators & parents. Something like my early days of teaching, before everything and everyone got crazy. (I will say things have no doubt changed in many instances, with the influx of foreigners to the European countries.)
Yes, these fast-trackers will be very interesting to watch. Many of them are in for a big shock and won't stick it out.

UD offers a fast track to teaching license
It’s part of state effort to offer a quicker route for professional license.
Dayton Daily News, May 17, 2011
By Christopher Magan, Staff Writer

COLUMBUS — Citing a need for more science and math teachers, Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Jim Petro tapped the University of Dayton as one of seven institutions that will offer a new route for working professionals to enter teaching.
The Ohio Teaching Fellowship program is the latest example of how Ohio colleges and universities and state lawmakers are working to offer alternative licensing and quicker pathways for people who want to teach.
“If you look at the public discourse about teaching, this is what the state wants and what a lot of our critics want us to do — break down barriers to teaching,” said Kevin Kelly, dean of the UD School of Education and Allied Professions.
Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, said the Ohio Teaching Fellowship will begin with 65 fellows at John Carroll University, Ohio State University, the University of Akron and the University of Cincinnati later this year.
Each fellow will receive a $30,000 stipend through the Woodrow Wilson foundation.
UD, Ohio University and the University of Toledo will join the other four and begin offering the program sometime in 2012. UD expects its first students to start next summer and be in area classrooms by 2013.
The fellows will include recent graduates, working scientists and long-time professionals looking for a career change. The program also exists in Michigan and Indiana.
Last month, Gov. John Kasich signed legislation that will allow recent graduates to teach in low-income schools by 2012 as part of the national Teach for America program.
TFA has been controversial because “corps members” receive only five weeks of training before heading to the classroom, where they get continued mentor support.
Woodrow Wilson fellows will receive a year of university-led classroom training before teaching on their own.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

School treasurer gives Huffman and Gov. Kasich an earful!

From John Curry, May 22, 2011
“Public education is under attack now like it has never been before. Our governor has an agenda and it's not to better public schools. His children aren't in public schools,” Buddelmeyer said. “And I wish I felt like Matt Huffman cares, but I personally don't feel like Matt Huffman cares.”
Shawnee Schools Treasurer - Greg Buddelmeyer
Parents concerned about proposed Shawnee cuts
Lima News, May 17, 2011
SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP — Treasurer Greg Buddelmeyer ran through a lengthy list of proposed cuts during Tuesday night's Shawnee school board meeting. But of them all, it was moving Cheryl Quay that had parents the most riled.

Buddelmeyer laid out the school's plan to try to balance the rapidly increasing number of cuts to its revenue stream by allowing a number of the jobs left vacant by retiring staffers to remain vacant. The district will save $561,493 by not replacing and adjusting staff.

That includes not replacing the retiring middle and high school choir teacher and putting Quay — who has taught music in the elementary school program for more than four decades — to the high school. That would mean the two elementary schools would share one teacher, reducing the amount of time the children have music from once a week to every seven or eight days.

The plan included similar arrangements for physical education. The district will also not replace a Maplewood special-education teacher previously paid with federal stimulus money. A retiring health/reading teacher at the middle school and a retiring high school science teacher also won't be replaced.

But it was that music spot — and a round of rumors that the program would be completely dissolved — that brought in a crowd so large they had to move the meeting to a cafeteria to accommodate them all.

“I just don't think that taking away from the little guys in the right way,” said Kris Vondrell.

Vondrell was joined by more than a dozen other parents and teachers, many of them former students of Quay's, all expressing fear that the move was the first step toward larger cuts to the arts.

“You're taking a very good teacher from the intermediate level and moving her to the high school. I'm just afraid of what will happen next,” Trudy Dennison said.

The moves come as the school is facing one of the biggest hits in state funding in the region, losing stimulus money, per-pupil funding, and taking a loss from reduced state tax reimbursements. The district faces a $2.8 million deficit in 2012, with it growing yearly. Additional cuts are likely next year.

“It keeps multiplying,” Superintendent Paul Nardini said. “It eats into our carry-over quickly.”

Other cost-cutting moves were also unveiled. A maintenance position open since November won't be replaced unless the cost of contracted maintenance services could be reduced by $75,000. The number of summer custodial, grounds and paint crews will be reduced by at least eight. Athletic busing costs paid by the general fund will be reduced by 10 percent. Student field trips will be eliminated unless the transportation is paid by an outside source. Students cannot be charged for transportation.

One classroom teacher at Elmwood and another at Maplewood will also not be replaced.

Those staffers who continue are being asked to accept some changes as well. While teachers have another year on their contract, the administration asked them to forgo the 3 percent raise they were expected to get in September. Teachers are voting on the proposal this week. Most administrators' pay is tied into the teacher union, so if approved by the union, they would also forgo the raise.

Nardini already froze his pay through the rest of his contract. Treasurer Greg Buddelmeyer got a raise in January. He said he would not take one next January if the rest of the staff does not.

The governmental changes behind the reduced income was at the center of much of the conversation during the meeting, with state leaders, especially state Rep. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, taking the brunt. House Bill 136, which Huffman introduced in March, would give parents vouchers to remove their children — and the money that they represent to school districts — from public schools to private schools. Even schools that perform well, like Shawnee, would be left wondering from year to year how many students and how much money they will have.

Members of the audience suggested writing Huffman, Gov. John Kasich and other politicians. Buddelmeyer admitted he was cynical about whether letters would help.

“Public education is under attack now like it has never been before. Our governor has an agenda and it's not to better public schools. His children aren't in public schools,” Buddelmeyer said. “And I wish I felt like Matt Huffman cares, but I personally don't feel like Matt Huffman cares.”

Five Myths Challenging everything you think you know

From Ralph Roshong, May 22, 2011
Five myths about America’s schools
Washington Post, May 20, 2011
By Paul Farhi
The end of the school year and the layoffs of tens of thousands of teachers are bringing more attention to reformers’ calls to remake public schools. Today’s school reform movement conflates the motivations and agendas of politicians seeking reelection, religious figures looking to spread the faith and bureaucrats trying to save a dime. Despite an often earnest desire to help our nation’s children, reformers have spread some fundamental misunderstandings about public education.
1. Our schools are failing.
It’s true that schools with large numbers of low-income and English-as-a-second-language students don’t perform as well as those with lots of middle- and upper-middle-class students who speak only English. But the demonization of some schools as “dropout factories” masks an important achievement: The percentage of Americans earning a high school diploma has been rising for 30 years. According to the Department of Education, the percentage of 16-to-24-year-olds who were not enrolled in school and hadn’t earned a diploma or its equivalent fell to 8 percent in 2008.
Average SAT and ACT scores are also up, even with many more — and more diverse — test-takers. On international exams such as the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, U.S. elementary and middle school students have improved since 1995 and rank near the top among developed countries. Americans do lag behind students in Asian nations such as Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan on these tests, but so do Europeans. The gap in math and science scores may be an East-West divide.
2. Unions defend bad teachers.
Unions have proved amenable to removing the bad apples in their ranks — with due process. Montgomery County, for instance, implemented its Peer Assistance and Review program with union cooperation a decade ago. It requires every new teacher and those flagged as “underperforming” by a principal to be observed by a specialist over a school year. All teachers get support, advice and a chance to do better; then they are reevaluated.Those who fall short lose their jobs. Between 2006 and 2010, 245 teachers resigned or were dismissed. Many districts have similar programs, but, as a Harvard study pointed out, they are expensive.
Reformers who attack unions for school problems should mind their logic: Some school systems show better results than others, yet most have teachers’ unions. If unions are universally problematic, why are some students succeeding while others languish?
3. Billionaires know best.
Bill Gates, real estate developer Eli Broad and Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg have made massive financial contributions to public schools to promote pay-for-performance programs, which reward teachers with bonuses when their students do better on standardized tests. They argue that merit pay creates the same incentives for public-sector employees that bonuses do in the private sector.
But the emerging research on merit pay for teachers disputes that.
In a three-year, $10 million study released last fall, Vanderbilt University researchers found no significant difference in performance between students who were taught by middle school teachers eligible for cash bonuses and those who weren’t. That’s no surprise to most teachers; they know that teamwork is key to success. Individual pay-for-performance schemes create the opposite incentive, fostering competition, not collaboration.
Despite this, Gates alone is investing $290 million over seven years in schools in Memphis, Tampa, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles. Zuckerberg has endorsed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s merit-pay agenda by pledging $100 millionover the next five years to Newark’s schools, whose budget this year is $940 million.
There’s no doubt that these schools can use every dime that rich guys give. But attaching strings for pet projects is elitist and wasteful.
4. Charter schools are the answer.
President Obama certainly thinks so. He’s said that state limits on the number of charter schools aren’t “good for our children, our economy or our country.” He and Education Secretary Arne Duncan want more charters — taxpayer-supported schools that operate independently of traditional public school systems. About 1.5 million children, or 3 percent of public school students, attended a charter school this past school year. Some have outperformed their non-charter peers, particularly in inner cities.
Credit for that may rest solely with the students, however. Charter school students are among the most motivated, as are their parents, who sought an alternative education for their children and mastered the intricacies of admission.
And siphoning off those better students through choice may create the same disastrous effect as de facto segregation through the geography of poverty — it leaves behind those least able to advocate for themselves and most susceptible to falling through the cracks.
All for results that are not uniformly impressive: A 2010 study of 2,330 middle school students at charter schools in 15 states found that they performed no better in math and science. And a Stanford University study in 2009 concluded: “Nearly half of the charter schools nationwide have results that are no different from the local public school options and over a third, 37 percent, deliver learning results that are significantly worse than their student[s] would have realized had they remained in traditional public schools.”
5. More effective teachers are the answer.
Former D.C. Schools chief Michelle Rhee and other big-city superintendents called for more effective teachers in a reform “manifesto” published in The Washington Post last fall. Well, sure. Who doesn’t want more effective teachers? While we’re at it, let’s get more effective superintendents, curriculum specialists and principals, too.
Let’s be realistic: Teachers aren’t miracle workers. There’s only so much they can do to address problems that troubled students bring to class every day, including neglect, abuse, and unaddressed medical and mental health issues. The obvious and subtle ways that poverty inhibits a child’s ability to learn — from hearing, visual and dental problems to higher asthma rates to diminished verbal interaction in the home — have been well-documented.
So let’s seek to improve the state of families. Attacking schools and teachers makes everyone feel like a reformer, but the problems begin long before a child steps through the schoolhouse door.
Paul Farhi is a reporter for The Washington Post.
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