Friday, June 22, 2012

The Cleveland Plan.....will your district be next?

Mayor Jackson’s “Cleveland Plan” Legislation Passed by Ohio General Assembly and Awaits Governor Kasich’s Signature
Mayor Jackson’s Cleveland Plan, House Bill 525 (R-Amstutz/D-Williams), was passed by the Ohio House on June 12, 2012 by a vote of 78-16. The Ohio Senate passed the bill on June 13, 2012 by a vote of 27-4. Amendments offered to remove the provision in the bill that would authorize the Cleveland Municipal School District (CMSD) to place millage on school levies for certain charter schools was tabled in both the House and Senate by generally partly line votes, with Democrats voting not to table the amendment. The Senate amendment was offered on Senate Bill 335 (R-Lehner/D-Turner), a Cleveland Plan companion bill, which was symbolically passed by the Senate 27-4.
The Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT) and the Cleveland Teachers Union (CTU), an affiliate of the OFT, supported passage of the Cleveland Plan legislation after negotiations between Mayor Jackson and CTU led to a number of compromises. The Ohio Education Association (OEA) was a Neutral Interested Party on the Cleveland Plan legislation, reflecting the fact that OEA does not represent the teachers in CMSD and was not at the table for negotiations on the bill. OFT, CTU and the OEA all advocated for the removal of the charter levy language in the bill.
The following is a synopsis of major provisions in House Bill 525:
Only applies to a “municipal school district”: Under continuing law, the Cleveland Municipal School District (CMSD) is the only “municipal school district” in Ohio.
Collective Bargaining
• Specifies that the bill's requirements regarding teacher employment in municipal school districts, including requirements related to (1) contracts, (2) building assignments, (3) evaluations, (4) salaries, (5) contract non-renewals, (6) terminations and disciplinary suspensions, and (7) layoffs, generally prevail over collective bargaining agreements entered into on or after the bill's effective date.
Teacher Contracts
• Lowers from five years to two years the maximum length of an initial limited contract for employment entered into between a municipal school district and a teacher on or after the bill's effective date.
Assigning Teachers to School Buildings
• Establishes procedures for assigning teachers to school buildings of a municipal school district, whereby the decisions of the district CEO or designee are guided by the recommendations of building-level interview teams that used prescribed credential factors.
Teacher Evaluations
• Requires a municipal school district to use evaluations in decisions about compensation and layoffs (in addition to promotion and retention decisions, as in current law).
• Specifies that teachers in a municipal school district may use the collective bargaining agreement's grievance procedure to challenge violations of the evaluation procedures, but limits the violations that may be corrected to those that cause "substantive harm" to the teacher.
Teacher Salaries
• Requires a municipal school district to adopt a performance-based salary schedule for teachers, in the same manner required by current law for school districts that receive federal Race to the Top funds.
• Requires a municipal school district to place newly hired teachers on the salary schedule based on years of experience, area of licensure, and other factors determined by the district.
• Requires a municipal school district to initially place veteran teachers on the salary schedule so that their salary is comparable to their pay under the previous salary schedule.
Nonrenewal of Teacher Contracts
• Exempts a municipal school district from most provisions requiring the automatic reemployment of a teacher when the district fails to comply with nonrenewal procedures.
• Specifies that the decision of a municipal school district to not renew a teacher's contract is not subject to appeal.
Teacher Terminations and Disciplinary Suspensions
• Permits a municipal school district to place a teacher on an unpaid disciplinary suspension for a definite period of time for "good and just cause."
• Specifies that "good and just cause" for a municipal school district to terminate a teacher's contract includes receiving an evaluation rating of "ineffective" for two consecutive years.
• Establishes new due process procedures, including a fact-finding hearing, for teacher terminations and disciplinary suspensions in municipal school districts.
• Prohibits an arbitrator from overturning the termination or disciplinary suspension of a teacher by a municipal school district for failure of the district to comply with the procedures of the bill or a collective bargaining agreement, unless the failure results in "substantive harm" to the teacher.
Teacher Layoffs
• Modifies the reasons for which a municipal school district may lay off teachers by (1) omitting suspension of schools as a reason and (2) allowing layoffs for academic reasons resulting in the consolidation of teaching positions, duties, or functions or in changes in educational programs.
• Requires a municipal school district to lay off teachers in order of their evaluation ratings, starting with teachers with the lowest rating, and to lay off nontenured teachers before tenured teachers within each group of teachers with the same rating.
• Requires a municipal school district to make decisions regarding the recall of laid-off teachers in the reverse order of the tenure status and composite evaluation rating categories used in the layoff decisions.
• Specifies that the municipal district board and the teachers' union "shall negotiate" how specialized training and experience will be factored into layoff and recall decisions.
• Specifies that laid-off tenured and nontenured teachers of a municipal school district have the right of restoration only to positions for which they qualify within three years after the date their contracts were suspended.
• Requires a municipal school district to give teachers preference in contract renewals, layoffs, or rehiring based on seniority or tenure, only when deciding between teachers with the same evaluation rating and tenure status.
Employment of Principals
• Requires a municipal school district to pay principals based on performance, generally in the same manner required by the bill for the district's teachers.
Academic Performance Plan
• Requires that the district CEO's academic performance plan include provisions requiring parents or guardians of students in the district's schools to attend, prior to December 15 each year, at least one parent-teacher conference or similar event.
• Adds adjustment of the length of the school year or school day to the items that may be included in the corrective actions specified in the plan.
• Prescribes procedures for development of the CEO's "corrective plan" for a particular school, whereby the CEO and labor union presiding officer must appoint corrective action teams to make recommendations regarding implementation of the plan.
• Specifies that the content and implementation of a corrective plan and any actions taken to implement the plan prevail over collective bargaining agreements entered into on or after the bill's effective date.
Additional Accountability Measures
• Requires the board of education of an existing municipal school district to develop, subject to approval by the Superintendent of Public Instruction, an array of measures to evaluate the academic performance of the district, and to use those measures to report annually to the General Assembly, Governor, and state Superintendent.
School Calendars
• Declares that the board of a municipal school district "has final authority" to establish a school calendar for the district's school buildings that provides for additional student days or hours beyond the state minimum.
• Specifies that the school calendar adopted by the board prevails over collective bargaining agreements entered into on or after the bill's effective date, but requires the board and the teachers' union to negotiate regarding any additional compensation for working an extended school day or school year.
Charter School Tax Levy
• Authorizes the school board of a municipal school district to propose a levy for current operating expenses, a portion of which would be allocated to "partnering" community schools and distributed among those schools on a per-pupil basis.
Municipal School District Transformation Alliance
• Allows the mayor of the city containing the greatest portion of a municipal school district to initiate the establishment of and appoint the board of directors of a Municipal School District Transformation Alliance as a nonprofit corporation under R.C. Chapter 1702.
• Requires the Alliance, if created, to (1) confirm and monitor a "transformation alliance education plan" prepared by the mayor, (2) suggest national education models for and provide input in the development of new district schools and partnering community schools, (3) report annually on the performance of all municipal school district schools and all community schools located in the district, and (4) make recommendations to the Department on the approval of sponsors of new community schools located in the district.
Framework to Assess District and Community Schools
• Requires the Department of Education, the Transformation Alliance, if created, and a statewide nonprofit community school sponsor organization, by April 30, 2013, jointly to establish a framework to assess the efficacy of district schools and community schools located in the municipal school district.
Criteria for Community School Sponsorship in a Municipal School District
• Requires the Department of Education, the Transformation Alliance, if created, and a statewide nonprofit community school sponsor organization, by December 31, 2012, jointly to establish criteria for both (1) sponsors to use to determine if they will sponsor new community schools in the municipal school district, and (2) the Department and the Alliance to use in assessing the ability of a sponsor to successfully sponsor schools in the district.
Combining Community School and District Report Card Data
• Authorizes a municipal school district, with the approval of the community school governing authority, to elect to have the student performance data of a community school located in the district combined with the district's data on the district's annual state report card, if the district either sponsors the community school or has entered into an agreement with the school to endorse each other's programs.
• Specifically authorizes the board of education of a municipal school district to request exemptions from education-related statutes and administrative rules through an existing law that permits any district to request such exemptions for an innovative education pilot program.
~ OEA Legislative Watch, June 22, 2012


From Mario Iacone, June 22, 2012

CURRENT ASSET VALUE as of 5/31/2012
..........62.4 Billion

..........65.2 Billion

..........approx 80 Billion

LOW ASSET VALUE...early 2009
..........approx 47 Billion

..........approx 66.2 Billion

approx 18 Billion BELOW 2007 HIGH and
approx 15 Billion ABOVE 2009 LOW

Thursday, June 21, 2012

What happens when ALEC takes over your town?

From John Curry, June 20, 2012
A really good read and, hopefully, not an omen for Ohioans.....hopefully!


Article published Jun 20, 2012
When ALEC takes over your town

The Rhode Island state legislature finally adjourned its 2012 session around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday. It had been a brutal last few days.

In May, the state Senate had approved a supplemental property tax increase of 13.8 percent, to be imposed on the residents of Woonsocket, a struggling city with a $10 million deficit. But when the bill moved to the House of Representatives, two conservative Woonsocket representatives refused to go along, and no amount of late-night negotiating could change their minds. Everyone finally gave up and went home.

The state has named a budget commission to grapple with Woonsocket’s money woes. Ultimately, though, a receiver may have to be appointed — which is to say, a person not beholden to the voters who would nonetheless have the power to abrogate union contracts and do whatever else he or she deemed necessary to erase the deficit. Incredibly, the two Woonsocket legislators have pushed for a receiver, despite the pain that would likely bring their city.

Or maybe it’s not so incredible. It turns out that one of them, Jon Brien, is also on the national board of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. Although ALEC is probably best known for its support of the Stand Your Ground law in Florida, the conservative group has a very clear agenda for dealing with state budgets. It wants to shrink them. Although Brien has denied that he is applying the ALEC philosophy to his small city, it looks, in fact, as if that’s exactly what he is doing. It’s not pretty.

Woonsocket’s problems stem from the decision of Rhode Island’s previous governor, a Republican named Don Carcieri, to balance the state’s budget by cutting state aid to the cities. All of Rhode Island’s poorer cities had become dependent on that aid, so when the economy soured, they essentially ran out of money. Providence had to renegotiate the retirement benefits of its municipal workers. Central Falls actually sought bankruptcy court protection — and a receiver was put in charge of its finances. As for Woonsocket, its current difficulties came to light last fall when the school district revealed a huge, unanticipated budget shortfall.

The two Woonsocket legislators quickly decided to apply Rahm Emanuel’s famous maxim about never letting a crisis go to waste. The fact that their town had a big budget deficit meant that if they played their cards right, they could do a lot more than just fix the schools’ problem. They could actually shrink the town government!

And how does one go about doing that? By refusing to go along with tax increases and forcing the city to the edge of bankruptcy, thus raising the possibility of bringing in a receiver. “You never move faster than when you have a piano hanging over your head,” Brien told me. “The receiver is that piano.”

He went on to say that the municipal unions — police, firefighters, teachers — “have been given pensions and benefits the city can no longer afford” but have no incentive to renegotiate. But a receiver, with the wave of his magic wand, can instantly cut their pensions, and there isn’t a thing they can do about it. When I asked Brien how bad the pension problem was in Woonsocket, he told me he didn’t know. “I’m a state legislator,” he said. “I don’t get into that level of municipal finance.”

Here’s the rub. Pensions are not the core problem in Woonsocket. Yes, Woonsocket has a pension shortfall, but it is more manageable than in many other places and has almost nothing to do with the current crisis.

“The meme in Rhode Island is that if there is a problem, you can trace it back to the public employees,” says Bob Plain, a journalist who runs the website In Providence, the pensions, with an annual cost of living adjustment of up to 6 percent, were, indeed, a huge problem. (Note: My brother used to work for Angel Taveras, the city’s mayor.) But that’s just not true in Woonsocket.

Yet, in Central Falls, the receiver took an ax to retiree benefits, cutting them by 55 percent, meaning that many retirees are now getting pensions of under $20,000. The receiver has also laid off city workers, closed the city’s library and shuttered a popular community center. This is the future Woonsocket now faces, thanks to its own legislators.

Shrinking government sounds appealing. We all have our favorite examples of silly regulations and bloated bureaucracies. But struggling municipalities like Woonsocket don’t have a lot of fat; cutting means reducing or eliminating programs that citizens depend on. And, in any case, in a democracy the decision of what — and whether — to cut should rest with elected officials who are responsible to voters, not to an unelected receiver using bankruptcy law to unilaterally make cuts.

That may be the ALEC solution, but it shouldn’t be ours.

Joe Nocera is a columnist for The New York Times.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Plunderbund: Columbus Dispatch continues to smear public schools

From John Curry, June 18, 2012

Columbus Dispatch continues to smear public schools

On June 17, 2012

Another Sunday brings us yet another biased article by the Columbus Dispatch written with no attempt at being factually honest while trying to focus blame on the public education system instead of engaging in meaningful dialogue around questions that the two researchers cited within would pose in an attempt to improve student learning. Click on the link in the opening sentence if you haven’t read their take on the story yet — we’re not republishing it here.
Jennifer Smith Richards’ slanted viewpoint causes her to overlook key information from the two “experts” that she thinks she is using to back up her assertions of corruption surrounding attendance reporting. Instead, she misses the points offered by Michael Gottfried, a young economics professor from California with no education experience who performed a study on schools in Philadelphia. Gottfried is quoted as saying,
“If the numbers are real, if the kids are actually going to school, those kids should be doing better in reading and math.”
The operative word being should. Indeed, what a great research question Gottfried reveals with such a statement instead of Richards’ assertion that the numbers CAN’T be real and let’s condemn the district (again) and claim that the obvious solution is corruption in the schools! But if she would have read Gottfried’s 2007 study, Richards would have learned that he fully admits that other, less readily identifiable factors must exist surrounding student attendance that should merit further discussion. Additionally, Gottfried’s stated in his conclusions,
“It is possible that different results and interpretations may be found in other school districts of varying urbanicity.”
Shocking, right? But why would an academic scholar make such statements while a journalist would only jump to conclusions based on personal opinion?
Another important and ignored fact from the Dispatch’s expert, Gottfried, is that his dataset was from the late 1990’s and included tests that were less stringent than today’s Ohio tests (many more recent studies are also revealing significant changes in practices since the passage of No Child Left Behind in 2001).
Richard’s second expert, Douglas Roby, conducted his 2004 study on this topic based in Ohio, and in his study he explained that while his results had significance, they were anything but conclusive and merit more study, especially in urban districts that did not have statistically significant results (again, late 1990s). From Roby’s study:
“Even though there are many variables (some uncontrollable by school officials) affecting student attendance throughout all school buildings in Ohio, positive and exceptional student attendance efforts should be revealed and considered for school buildings with attendance concerns and problems….There are other variables that could be the focus of continued analysis, such as student socioeconomic status, aptitude and their relationship to school attendance patterns and student achievement. Student age, perceived relationships with teachers, and perceived value of attending school are other variables to consider for student attendance/student achievement research.”
In the end, instead of doing some actual journalistic research to verify their assertion that “there’s no good explanation” for what has allegedly occurred (she’s never actually stated the specifics), Richards simply wants to lob accusations at the local school district instead of contributing to the more intellectual discussion of determining why there might be a disconnect in the lives of these children. With these lazy shortcuts that only serve throw our school districts under the bus, we have to wonder if Richards won’t soon have a Republican seat in the Ohio Legislature.
Because if the Dispatch was truly interested in answering the question of wrongdoing instead of slandering the local public school district, the author could have conducted some simple research on all Ohio schools and uncovered the following details that were NOT a part of her article.
First, a graph comparing a school’s attendance rates and Performance Index score (composite of student achievement test results):
(Click to enlarge.)
First, 92% of Ohio’s schools report an attendance rate over the state standard of 93% (shown by the vertical bar on the graph). While it is easy to see the upward trend of scores, it is even more apparent that not only do many of the state’s schools have scores below the top 10%, there appears to be a threshold of attendance around 95-96% at which top student achievement can and is attained.
Statewide, 74% of the schools that have Performance Index scores below the state’s benchmark of 90 reported an attendance rate of over 93%. Based on the Dispatch’s accusations, this would imply that Ohio has over 640 schools across the state that simply MUST be falsifying their attendance numbers, including 146 charter schools!
But if the Dispatch ran this information and obtained this chart, they would be faced with the dilemma of having to report negatively about some of Ohio’s charter schools, including two located right under their noses in Columbus. See those red dots at the lower right of the graph? Those data points represent the following charter schools who reported 100% attendance for the 2010-11 school year along with low student achievement scores.
• East Columbus Drop Back In – Columbus
• Striving to Engage Potential – Kenton
• Massillon Digital Academy, Inc - Massillon
• Arts Academy West, The - Cleveland
• Zenith Academy East - Columbus
• Imani Learning Academy - Toledo
• Groveport Community School - Groveport
• Graham Digital Academy - Saint Paris
• Fairborn Digital Academy - Fairborn
So where’s the article about these schools? Where’s the call for an audit by the state? Where’s the outrage?
To be honest, I really don’t care about these charter schools, their abysmal performance results, or whether there is some in-depth audit by the state about their attendance practices, but it’s absolutely wrong to pin accusations on them about cheating or inappropriate maneuvers without conducting any form of legitimate inquiry to discover what has actually occurred.
Now, the Dispatch has continued their course of trying to cause irreparable harm by claiming fraud by the public schools without releasing a single shred of specific evidence of improper behavior. Instead, hearsay again rules the day as they continually seek to defame the schools by claiming to have “experts” that back up their position.
As we’ve shown above, the Dispatch’s “experts” do not provide this support and neither does Ohio’s own data. Ohio either has a systemic problem that exists in the majority of schools across the state, or the connection between attendance and student achievement isn’t as strong for Ohio’s standardized tests. Or….perhaps the Ohio Department of Education’s rules for reporting attendance are flawed, resulting in numbers that confound the researchers yet follow every legal guideline as provided by the state.
The Dispatch could have used this information in the way that the educational researchers would have, to help ask questions about what could lead to lower achievement scores for students with relatively high attendance rates, especially in the state’s Big 8 urban districts — 260 of the schools with “high attendance, low achievement” come from these high poverty areas. Well over 100 charter schools that would be considered “high attendance, low achievement” are also located within these cities. Again, are they all engaged in systematic cheating or does this highlight a different problem in education connecting poverty and performance?
But we also know that the Dispatch doesn’t care about that pesky thing called “data” when they can display a complete lack of professional journalism and sell sensationalist conspiracy theories in an effort to damage the reputation of the public schools and the community they serve.
Shame on you once again, Columbus Dispatch.
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
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