According to an Education Week blog post by Lauren Camera on June 23, the Senate Appropriations Committee has increased the funding for USDOE by $1,100,000,000 over the House budget. That’s still not good news since it represents a cut of $1,700,000,000 over the current level. This is all in advance of the real budget battle, which will likely take place in the fall… but it does show where both the House and Senate agree on cuts… and it doesn’t look good for at risk children. Here’s where cuts seem inevitable:
…the proposal would slash funding for a slew of education programs and eliminate 10 others, including Investing in Innovation, Preschool Development Grants, and Striving Readers.
…School Improvement Grants would be cut by $56 million,Promise Neighborhoods would be cut by $20 million, and 21st Century Community Learning Centers would be cut by $117 million. Other cuts would include:
Migrant Education would be cut by $9.8 million
Teacher Quality State Grants would be cut by $103 million
State Assessments would be cut by $28 million
Safe and Drug-Free Schools would be cut by $10 million
Elementary and Secondary School Counseling would be cut by $26.6 million
Teacher Incentive Fund would be cut by $5 million
Magnet Schools Assistance would be cut by $6.6 million
Advanced Placement would be cut by $5.6 million
English Language Acquisition would be cut by $25.3 million
Eventually it appears the conservative wing will get its wish and the Department of Education’s budget will be small enough to drown it in a bathtub… and if the test-and-punish regimen persists few will lament it’s passing.
The title of Wednesday’s NYTimes op-ed article by Paul Morgan and George Farkas posed this question: “Is Special Ed Racist?” The short answer is “No”. The reason?
Black children face double jeopardy when it comes to succeeding in school. They are far more likely to be exposed to the gestational, environmental and economic risk factors that often result in disabilities. Yet black children are less likely to be told they have disabilities, and to be treated for them, than otherwise similar white children.
Based on my experience, poor children of any race face the same double jeopardy because in the final analysis the root of special education’s problem is funding. Everyone agrees we need to meet the unique individual needs of children and everyone agrees that the warehousing of severely needy children is abominable… but no one wants to pay the costs needed to provide these services. When the federal government passed 94-142 it promised to provide 40% of the costs. That has never happened. Worse, the mandated services effectively require districts to hire case managers who serve as quasi-administrators, instructional assistants who often shadow students all day long, and central administrative staff to oversee this personnel and make sure that the program is in compliance. This all costs money… and since the federal mandate is not matched with federal money there is no incentive for schools to aggressively identify children with special needs, especially in districts that are financially strapped to begin with.
But in affluent districts, engaged and informed parents seek the services of attorneys who serve as advocates for their children. Sadly, the parents of the poorest children in the most impoverished schools are often uninformed with it comes to special education services and, as a consequence, their children are underserved. While it is unimaginable that any level of government would fund advocates and perhaps equally unimaginable that some attorneys would take on this work pro bono, absent such a movement children raised in poverty will miss out on the services they are entitled to and schools will be incapable of providing children with the services they need to afford an equal opportunity to all children.
The Nation does a good job of following up on the fallout from news stories that fall out of view, and an article by Erin Einhorn earlier this month on a Detroit school for pregnant teens is a case in point. “This School Successfully Sent Teen Mothers To College… Why Was It Shut Down?” describes the success and public adulation for the Catherine Ferguson Academy, a public school on the West Side of Detroit that served pregnant teens. At the height of its success, the school provided 300 teens with an interdisciplinary program that gave the students the skills and qualifications needed to get into college, the skills needed to be a successful parent, and a sense of self-worth that most students lacked before they enrolled. The school was featured in a documentary film and highlighted on Oprah and it was visited by people from across the country. But, as Einhorn describes in the article, Catherine Ferguson fell prey to political machinations that led to its closure. The ultimate rationale for the decision to close Ferguson, in keeping with those who want to run schools like a business, was based on cost instead of cost-effectiveness. When Detroit was sliding into bankruptcy in 2011, the Governor appointed an “emergency manager” who was given broad authority to manage the school district. Faced with the need to make rapid budget cuts, the emergency manager looked at Ferguson’s high cost/pupil and determined that it needed to close…. and that was the beginning of a long, sad saga as the school was “rescued” by converting to a charter school :
But the rescue was short-lived. Many teachers quit to avoid losing their public school pensions while working for a charter. Some students left when they learned the new management company—chartered to work with kids who’d been expelled or in jail—would require students to get court referrals to be admitted. And fewer new students arrived because public school principals were reluctant to refer students to a charter school that would draw money from an ailing district.
The lack of referrals is mainly what sunk the school, said Steven Ezikian, interim superintendent of the Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency, which authorized the school’s charter.
Students were also turned off by the lack of transportation since the school no longer benefited from public school busing.
“It’s hard to sustain a school with under 100 students enrolled,” Ezikian said.
The school later experimented with a project-based curriculum that was so unpopular, a group of students filed suit against the school in 2013 alleging it was depriving them of their right to an education.
And with high expenses from a large, aging building, the school couldn’t survive.
The decision to close a public school successfully providing education and support to pregnant teens because it had higher cost/pupil than most schools and because there was a decline in the teen pregnancy rate is classic short-term thinking, the kind of thinking that leads corporations to shelter tax dollars to get a strong profit while bemoaning the fact that the cities, states, and Federal government can’t upgrade the infrastructure needed to operate a successful business. But as long as we run-schools-like-a-business the short-term thinking will prevail and our human resources will suffer.
I just finished reading an article in the Columbus Dispatch about a report titled “Getting Out of the Way” commissioned by the Thomas Fordham Foundation and delivered by Education First. Unsurprisingly the conservative think tank recommends the complete and total deregulation of public education as the optimal solution for school improvement.
Regulations such as length of the school day, staffing requirements and teacher qualifications — the one-size-fits-all approach — have failed to guarantee student success across Ohio, according to the report authored by Seattle-based Education First.
“What if, rather than asking what more can we tell our schools to do to get better, the state took a different tack? What if the questions were, how can we free educators so they can use their expertise, time and resources to identify and implement strategies that will work best for students?” the report said.
In the report on the ensuing discussion about this report, no one rebutted the assertion that deregulation was necessary and.. worse yet… no one stated the obvious: if Ohioans expect to have better schools without spending more money they are deluded. My conclusion: the article illustrates that those advocating a focus on outcomes have obliterated the arguments for more spending on public education. Outcomes are unarguably important, but expecting better outcomes without spending more on publicly funded social services is magical thinking at its worst.