Separation of church and state?
School choice battle
LIMA — Since enrolling six children into Temple Christian School four years ago, Paul and Mary Engle have struggled.
A forum for Ohio educators, sharing thoughts regarding their health care and pension system (STRS Ohio). Researcher John Curry manages a clearinghouse of related e-mails, articles, announcements, etc. His daily mailings include many items that do not make it to this blog. Contact John (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you wish to be on his e-mail list. Kathie Bracy: email@example.com.
A Feb. 6, 2012 trial date has been set for the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of SB 10-001, the General Assembly’s effort to put the Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA) on solid financial footing.
Denver District Court Judge Robert S. Hyatt also set aside three weeks for the trial, known as Justus et al v. the state of Colorado. Hyatt is still reviewing the plaintiffs’ request for class-action status, but a decision on that motion isn’t likely before the end of the summer.
The lawsuit charged that SB 1 is unconstitutional “because it impairs the retirees’ contractual rights to receive pension benefits at the level promised” when employees retired or were eligible to do so. The lawsuit initially attempted to block PERA from eliminating the COLA in 2010-11 but after that wants to stop PERA from implementing lower adjustments in future years. The lawsuit affects those who retired with PERA benefits between 1994 and February, 2010.
Under SB 1, the 2010-11 adjustment that would have gone into effect on March 1 was instead cancelled. Beginning in 2011, the COLA will drop to the lower of 2 percent, or indexed based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners (CPI-W). The COLA also could drop to zero if PERA experiences a negative investment return year, as was the case in 2008.
The case has taken an odd turn: in February, PERA demanded every plaintiff disclose any communications with third-party organizations and assumed class members concerning the solicitation of funds and payment of costs and expenses related to the lawsuit. The plaintiffs disclosed they had already given their attorneys a $25,000 retainer but otherwise refused all other documents, citing attorney-client privilege and a First Amendment right of association. In April, PERA asked the courts again to compel the plaintiffs to produce the documents, noting that the association right applies only “where a party can establish that the disclosure of documents would have a chilling affect on associational rights.”
Calls to PERA were not returned.
Two other lawsuits challenging a legislature’s authority to reduce retiree benefits also are continuing to move through the process. In the Minnesota case, Swanson, et al v. State of Minnesota, et al, Ramsey County District Court Judge Gregg Johnson held a hearing during the spring on the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment. Following that hearing, the judge asked both sides to submit proposed orders for his consideration by May 13. A ruling on those orders is expected within 90 days of that date.
Public pension retirees also are suing the state of South Dakota over changes to their retirement benefits. The case of Tice et al v. South Dakota is still in discovery, according to attorney Stephen Pincus of Stember, Feinstein, Doyle & Payne, which is representing the plaintiffs in all three cases.
When they try and force through the performance pay and evaluation language that is dependent on student growth as measured by assessments, Batchelder, et al., continue to make two fatal assumptions:
Whether referring to teacher performance pay or the evaluation process, the bills both rely on state assessments and value-added data. At the present time, those tests are limited to math and reading for grades 3-8 and five tests at grade 10 (math, reading, science, social studies, writing). For those subjects without a state test, the Ohio Department of Education and/or the local school board are directed to adopt assessments (fatal assumption #1).
If teachers are to be equitably measured across all subjects, then these assessments must be statistically valid. That process can and should take years to develop, and if intended to provide consistency statewide (why else is it being adopted into state law), then these additional measures should be created at the state level in the same manner that the current Ohio Achievement Assessments and Ohio Graduation Tests were developed.
What would something like that cost? In 2003, a financial analysis was prepared for the Ohio Department of Education to explore the cost of implementing the No Child Left Behind Act in Ohio. That study estimated that it would cost $9.1 million to develop the eight new required assessments, a cost of $13 per pupil and $1.13 million per assessment (fatal assumption #2).
Let’s consider what new assessments would need to be created under the GOP proposals. With apologies to every subject that is omitted, for this simple projection, we’ll limit to easily identified basics. Students at each grade should expect to be taking at least seven assessments every year:
Students will certainly be taking different combinations of these, especially as they reach high school, but it is reasonable to expect at least seven assessments per year.
Including kindergarten, this would result in a total of 91 state assessments (7 per year x 13 years). Subtract out the 17 existing assessments and we’re left with a total of 74 new assessments that the state will need to develop to implement the new law.
In 2003, the development of those tests would have cost the state $83.6 million. Look for that amount in Kasich’s or Batchelder’s budget — you won’t find it. This would be the kind of thing we might use one-time money on, if only that was something that was appropriate to do in a budget.
And that amount is chump change compared to the annual cost of administering the assessments. The current allocation to implement those 17 existing tests is approximately $56 million, an amount equal to approximately $25 per student – the amount charged to a district for a replacement test.
If you’ve started to calculate how that adds up, you’ll need to know the number of students taking these tests — 1,744,969 in 2009-2010. Now we can start calculating the total cost:
1,744,969 students x $25 per test x 7 tests = $305,369,575
Awesome, isn’t it? Our illustrious Ohio Republican leadership is pitching a fit over this legislation that will increase the annual cost of state assessments from the FY2011 budgeted amount of $56,703,265 to a staggering $305,369,575. Will that also be spun to be the fault of the teacher unions and local district mismanagement?
These people are just brilliant. Why do we even try to argue educational philosophy when they can’t even comprehend the basic financial implications of this legislation?