Posts Tagged ‘legislation’

More Than 1,250,000,000 Reasons to Tighten Regulations Affecting For-Profit Education

October 13, 2015 Leave a comment

The lead story in today’s NYTimes is the sorry tale of the ability of for-profit post secondary schools continued receipt of federal funds despite their fraudulent behavior. How much money went to the schools who fleeced students? Well one of the “bad actors”, Corinthian College, received $1,250,000,000 in federal funds last year…. $125,000,000 more than was budgeted for learning centers in public schools and more than four times the amount budgeted for SIG grants designed to help struggling K-12 schools. The article rehashes all of the wrongdoing on the part of these for profit entities, who defend themselves by claiming that no charges have been brought against them. My reaction to this report was summarized in the comment I left:

For profit deregulated schools… what could go wrong?
What we’re seeing at the post-secondary level is a larger scale of looting than we’ve witnessed in K-12 education, but the market-driven reforms in K-12 have encouraged the proliferation of for-profit deregulated charters and resulted in an increase in cheating behaviors at the administrative level as jobs are rated based on test scores.

We have now repeatedly witnessed what goes wrong when profit is introduced into public enterprise. When will we fix the problem? Maybe when money is as far removed from politics as possible.

Tennessee Taking Steps to Ensure an Uninformed Electorate

October 13, 2015 Leave a comment

Think Progress blogger Kira Lerner reported yesterday on Tennessee legislator Sheila Butt’s proposal to “…prohibit schools from teaching “religious doctrine” until high school. This legislation was introduced in response to concerns expressed by parents when a unit in middle school required students to learn about “…the Five Pillars of Islam and other historical lessons about how the religion has influenced regions of the world”.  Ms. Butts believes youngsters are incapable of discriminating between the historic impact of religion and religious indoctrination until they are in high school and therefore wants to ban all religious doctrine until the children are old enough to make that distinction. How she will reconcile that with the current Tennessee law that says “…the Bible can be taught in schools, as long as schools aren’t using it to teach “religious doctrine or sectarian interpretation is unclear. Moreover, given the strident anti-Islamic attitude of some parents and the predominant Christian beliefs in that state it is unlikely that anyone will ask Ms. Butt to do so.

The result of this kind of determined withholding of information about other religious groups is to harden whatever attitudes students about religion students bring with them and to deny the underlying reasons for much of history. How does one teach about the Crusades, the settling of our nation, and virtually all of the wars in history without acknowledging the role of religion? And if a future voter does not understand the role of religion in world history and OUR history, does not realize why our constitution separates church and state, how will they make an informed decision when they vote?

Kansas’ Solution to a $42,500,000 Revenue Shortfall: An Efficiency Study by a Discredited Firm

October 11, 2015 Leave a comment

I’ve written earlier posts about Kansas budget woes that resulted from a misguided adoption of trickle down economics, the Governor’s exploration of the idea of replacing the members of the State Supreme Court because they ruled that education funding was unconstitutional, and their horrific curriculum. Today I’m checking in on the latest bad idea from Kansas: spending $2,600,000 on an efficiency study will help them close their budget gap by finding huge savings in the spending in schools. Here’s the summary description of the idea as reported by Peter Hancock of the Lawrence Journal Herald

Last week, state lawmakers finalized a contract with A&M; for nearly $2.6 million to conduct a government efficiency study for the state of Kansas.

The contract calls on A&M; to conduct a “diagnostic analysis” of the current budget, make recommendations for significant cost savings and efficiency, and evaluate the state’s budget process in general based on best practices in both the public and private sectors.

The contract is not clear about how much focus the firm will put on state funding for K-12 education, which accounts for roughly half of all state spending in Kansas.

But it does say that the firm is to develop recommendations that target “areas with large and substantial expenditures of state general funds and where the State can become more efficient and thereby provide cost savings to the State’s taxpayers.”

Hancock examined A&M’s previous contracts and found them wanting.

When A&M tried to apply business principles in St. Louis it saved money by closing 16 schools, privatizing custodial and food services, and using a computerized bus routing system that ignored highway crossings and known drug dens when it assigned bus stops. Oh, and the firm assumed that if costs were cut and taxes lowered more people would move into Saint Louis and the increase in student population would help improve the districts financial picture. One thing they overlooked was that in making their draconian cuts they eliminated programs to the extent that the district lost its accreditation.

The plan A&M developed and implemented to reduce the number of teachers in New Orleans was found to be flawed by the courts. The price tag for that error: $1,500,000,000. My hunch is that A&M needed to charge Kansas $2,600,000 for the study to cover its Errors and Omissions policy!

Every dollar A&M saved came at the expense of a job that paid a decent wage and when decent paying jobs are lost in a community on a large scale it hurts the local economy. The bottom line in all of this is that you cannot run an agency that provides human services the same way you run a business… and “gaining efficiency” often flies in the face of community interests.

What’s “stunning” about a Democrat hating unions?

October 10, 2015 Leave a comment

As readers of this blog probably realize, I am a great fan of Naked Capitalism blog edited by Yves Smith with help from fellow blogger Lambert Strether. Strether regularly coordinates afternoon posts under the heading “2:00 PM Water Cooler”offering links to articles that decry the corrosive effects of deregulated capitalism or links to articles that do the opposite with Strether offering pointed comments that undercut the premises of the writer. The “2:00 PM Water Cooler” is divided into segments whose headings often change as various news stories emerge… but one section called “Class Warfare” appear almost every day. Yesterday’s “Class Warfare” section is all about public education and Strether’s commentary– which concludes with the headline of this post— is excellent! The section appears in its entirety:

Class Warfare

“If a proposal for a massive expansion of charter schools in Los Angeles moves forward, the casualties probably would include thousands of teachers who currently work in the city’s traditional public schools” [Los Angeles Times]. Spurred by squillionaire Eli Broad, it’s the “Great Public [snort] Schools” program. Ka-ching.

“Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration has dropped a stunningly anti-union, anti-faculty, anti-Connecticut State University proposal on the table as it begins its contract negotiations with the CSU Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the union that represents faculty and a variety of education professionals at the four universities of CSU” [Jonathan Pelto].

This development comes on top of the news that Malloy’s political appointees on the University of Connecticut’s Board of Trustees have authorized a contract with an extremely controversial, high profile, anti-union, Governor Chris Christie affiliated New Jersey law firm to lead the negotiations against the UConn Chapter of the AAUP. That contract could cost taxpayers and students as much as $500,000 or more.

What’s “stunning” about a Democrat hating unions?


Complicated State Funding Formula Explained Effectively… OBVIOUS Reasons For It’s Failure to Achieve Equity Overlooked

October 5, 2015 Leave a comment

Google’s feed sent me an excellent article written by Dale Singer of Saint Louis Public Radio that explains with cartoons how the schools are funded now and how the funding formula evolved over time. The overview reminds me how little has changed in the 25 years since I served on Maryland’s Blue Ribbon Task Force and ongoing struggles to provide equitable funding for schools in the 42 states who have been sued over the past several decades.

The MO legislature used two approaches to achieve equal funding for all students: one based on an equity formula that was ultimately scrapped and one based on an adequacy formula the has been in place for several years. In the end, though, it matter less HOW the money is distributed. What counts is HOW MUCH money is applied to the formula. MO State Board of Education chair Charlie Shields provided a good synopsis of why the new adequacy formula doesn’t work:

A formula based on adequacy, he added, would work better, with one big condition: The state has to have the money to fund it fully.

The same thing could have been said about a formula based on equity… but it seems that whenever a legislature sets a goal for schools and money gets tight, the solution is to short-change the funding formula which, in turn, exacerbates the disparities. That’s what happened in MO:

The adequacy formula was set to be phased in over seven years, but the efforts smacked into the 2008 recession, when Missouri’s revenue took a big hit. It’s beginning to recover, but (State Education Department official) Lankford estimated that the state is still $450 million short of what the formula would call for. That translates to $6,110 per student, instead of the $6,716 the formula would call for.

The article quotes others as saying that until the formula is fully funded there is no way to know whether it works or not… and because fully funding seems improbable it is likely that another lawsuit will be in the offing and another generation of students will be shortchanged.

As I read this article, I felt that at least four other states I know of (MD, PA, NH, and VT) continue to struggle to find the “magic formula” for funding schools… and in each state they invariably find that in order to make ANY formula work more money is needed. Former MO State Supreme Justice Mike Wolff provides the best response to the rejoinder that “throwing money at the problem won’t work”:

“If money were unimportant, then people who live in the wealthier districts wouldn’t be so concerned about it, would they? But they’re sure interested in keeping the level of spending for their children at a higher level. I’m not faulting them for that …

“There’s no substitute for money. You can distribute it all you want to, but you have to have more of it.”


It’s Come to This: UN-locked Schools are Newsworthy

October 5, 2015 Leave a comment

I retired from my final assignment as Superintendent of Schools four years ago after serving two communities in the Upper Connecticut River Valley in New Hampshire and Vermont… and unless things have changed dramatically since I left the four schools I oversaw may be the last ones in North America that do not have a buzzer system to allow the entry or video cameras throughout the school.

I thought about this after reading this news account from from the Hamilton (Ontario) Spectator reporting that Halton’s schools are still safe even though they are unlocked as a result of a work stoppage by school secretaries. I found it distressing that the union representing the secretaries saw the monitoring of doors one of the job requirements that gave their membership some leverage in bargaining. From the time I attended school until I retired, that is roughly 60 years, secretaries DID assist with the monitoring of visitors and the scheduling of parent appointments. But the best secretaries also set a positive tone for the school by their interactions with parents, teachers, administrators… AND students. The notion that the secretaries think of themselves first and foremost as gatekeepers for the school— implicitly the only thing separating the safe haven of school with the cold world of gun-toting shooters— is a sign of how much fear is governing the lives of children today.

Since retiring I have served as a consultant to small rural school districts in Vermont and New Hampshire, and upon reflection cannot think of any I’ve been to where there hasn’t been restricted entry. It seemed odd to me since the college community I served kept its school doors open, though, as mentioned in an earlier post, was upgrading the locking system on the egress doors in it’s elementary school to make sure that anyone seeking entry was funneled into a single door that was near the office where people were asked to sign in.

But when a headline reads “”Halton’s Unlocked Public Schools Still Safe, Director Says”, it seems to me we’ve passed a threshold that will be difficult to return from. Put simply, we are inculcating our children with fear of the other when we confine them in locked compounds.

NYS Businesses Solution to Common Core: “Re-Branding”

October 2, 2015 Leave a comment

In one of the most disingenuous ploys ever concocted, High Achievement New York, a self-identifed “coalition of teachers, parents, civic, civil rights and business groups who share a commitment to a brighter educational future for every child in New York” is advocating that the state stay with the Common Core standards and offer a seven step plan for implementing them. Here’s the first step of the groups plan:

  1. Renaming the Standards: Several states have dropped the “Common Core” moniker to put their own stamp on the standards, something Chancellor Tisch suggested last week.  For instance, the standards in Arizona, Florida and Iowa are now known as “Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards,” the “Next Generation Sunshine State Standards” and “The Iowa Core,” respectively.  Survey after survey shows strong support for higher learning standards in ELA and Math, and annual assessments of college and career readiness, but support drops when those components are called Common Core.

One of the Uniserv reps I worked with in MD had a great aphorism for this kind of thing: “You can’t paint C-O-W on the side of a horse and expect to get any milk”… and re-jiggering these standards or shortening the time for summative assessments will not address the fundamental problem, which is the use of common core test results as the sole metric for determining “success” in school and now, in NYS, “success” as a classroom teacher. Nor will it address the fundamental assumption of the common core, which is that all children are expected to develop at the same rate intellectually in all content areas, an idea that is preposterous on its face yet implicit in the way the common core is presented. We won’t get better performance from a re-branded set of standards any more that we could get milk from a re-labelled horse.