Archive for June, 2015

Patty Murray and “Bi-Partisan Seeking” Democrats Should Recall Jeffords in NCLB Reauthorization

June 30, 2015 Comments off

In reading an account in the ASCD Journal about the tug-of-war over the reauthorization of NCLB I recall the original bi-partisan passage of the bill. During the final negotiations, Jim Jeffords agreed to vote for the bill because it was supposed to include a proviso that would fully fund the special education law. This was a key issue for Jeffords whose home state, VT, included scores of small districts who constantly struggled to balance budgets when students with extraordinary special needs moved in. When the final bill was adopted Jeffords saw that his Republican colleagues pulled that proviso out of the bill, an action that contributed to Jeffords decision to pull out of the party and create a slim Democrat majority in the Senate.

Whenever I read about the desire for “bipartisan agreements” and promises of provisos that will include elements that ensure more equitable funding I think of Jim Jeffords. I hope Patty Murray does not fall victim to the same shenanigans… but expect to see vouchers and abandonment of the replacement of national common core tests with state developed tests as elements in whatever bill passes the Congress… Alas, Murray and other bi-partisan minded Democrats have nowhere to run.

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Will the Repeal of NCLB and the Demise of RTTT Bring Relief… or More Headaches?

June 29, 2015 Comments off

As reported in a post earlier this week, the prognosis for federal spending on public education is not good and, as intimated in earlier posts, those of us hoping to see NCLB and RTTT replaced with something better might be disappointed. Allie Bidwell’s interview with Senate Education Chair Lamar Alexander in the US News and World Report makes me think we should be pessimistic about the repeal of NCLB and the demise of RTTT. My pessimism is based on the following:

  • As the quote below indicates, neither the house or the senate reauthorization will eliminate the use of standardized tests. The quote:

The consensus we came to in our Senate education committee was that the federal role should be to require measures of student achievement, tests, and to publicize them so that parents and students and taxpayers would know how the schools were doing.

  • That same quote implies that both legislative bodies are viewing schools as a commodity whose worth can best be measured by standardized tests and, presumably, if they don’t like the “product” available in their public school will be able go elsewhere to purchase something better.
  • The Democrats, the presumptive “pro-public education branch” traded new funding for pre-school for vouchers. Alexander indicated to Bidwell that the compromise between the parties was reached when he and his Democrat counterpart Patty Murray “exercised restraint in search of a result” and abandoned positions on issues that divided them.
  • The President and Congress seem to be in agreement on the broad issues, including the continuation of standardized testing. When asked about the prognosis for passing the reauthorization bill, Alexander was optimistic: “Whenever you get both houses of a Republican Congress on a parallel track and you’re talking with the president of a different party at the same time, your chances of success are pretty good.

As I’ve written often in this blog, those who want to replace the Common Core should be careful what they are wishing for… because when the decision about what to teach and test is returned to the STATES it is highly likely that academic rigor will be replaced with Christian culture… and this may prove to be one of the worst outcomes of the Obama administration’s ineffective roll-out of a national accountability measure.

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End of School Year Article Suggests Alliance Among TRUE Reformers

June 28, 2015 Comments off

Ruth Coniff’s Common Dreams post last week provided a good synthesis of the dismal year public education experienced in 2014-15 and suggested a brighter future IF those who oppose the privatization of public schools can get their agendas aligned.

The overview for the past year was necessarily grim. The “failing government school” meme continued to gain traction in legislatures who enacted ALEC inspired legislation expanding vouchers, public funding of deregulated for-profit charter schools, and diminishing the power of local school boards and teachers unions. But there are some signs that things have gotten so bad that the public might be ready to re-examine the direction their states are headed and the way USDOE has led the states.

  • The opt out movement grew, especially in NYS where one out of six students stayed home rather than take the standardized tests linked to the common core.
  • The common core itself has fallen into disrepute with many of the governors who once championed the idea of a tough national curriculum now disowning their positions. This is particularly the case where those Governors might be aspiring to the Presidency (e.g. Walker, Christie, Kasich, Jindal).
  • The mismanagement and outright corruption in charter schools has become headline news, particularly in those states where regulations were eliminated in the name of “flexibility” and states who advocated on-line learning as a cheaper and more effective means of educating children.
  • In some states, the general public is pushing back against vouchers, seeing that they are hurting children raised in poverty and effectively subsidizing parents who were previously paying for parochial schools themselves.
  • Finally, some elections over the past school year indicate that the public wants to take back their schools. The election of Ras Baraka as mayor in Newark, NJ, the election of governor Tom Wolf in PA, and the election of Tom Torklason as State Superintendent in CA were all the result of a grassroots movement to push back against privatization and regain Board and voter control of local schools.

Coniff’s article concludes with a section titled “Now What?”… and she suggests that MORE grassroots activism is needed and among groups that have a common interest in maintaining the current governance of schools while ensuring there are sufficient resources to improve those schools:

Superintendents, school boards, as well as administrators of local public schools have been writing letters and testifying against the privatization and defunding of public education.

Parents are engaged as never before.

Communities, from urban mostly black and brown districts to conservative, rural areas, are rising up against budget cuts and the threat of school closures.

“It’s not too late,” one impassioned letter from a group of school superintendents declared, urging citizens to stand up and resist the defunding of public schools and their privatization.

Let’s hope they are right.

Indeed… let’s hope it’s not too late to undo the damage done in states that have drastically cut funding to schools and stripped the programs that bring joy and depth to public education.