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Posts Tagged ‘funding equity’

ESSA and the “Death of the Compassionate Democracy”

March 18, 2019 Leave a comment

NYTimes columnist Margaret Renkyl offers a scary and scathing insight into the synergistic efforts of the religious right and pro-business libertarians to undermine democracy in Tennessee in the name of God and mammon. In so doing she describes how the notorious Koch brothers use the causes of the religious right to help advance their goals, which are described in Nancy Maclean’s book “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America”as follows:

According to Dr. MacLean, the Koch network’s goal — and the goal of all legislators in thrall to the Kochs’ PACs — is to weaken unions, suppress voter turnout, privatize public education, undercut climate science, roll back existing environmental protections, dismantle the social safety net and, of course, stack the courts with sympathetic judges.To enact that unpopular agenda, they’ve had to make common cause with the religious right.

And so we have a world where religious zealots who presumably believe in the teachings of Jesus are stripping poor people of medical coverage, relegating their children to substandard schools, and subjecting all of their fellow citizens to polluted air and water… all in the name increasing the bottom line of corporations.

Ms. Renkyl’s column is full of excellent insights, but it’s closing paragraph overlooks one reality that is most unsettling:

For all its often-empty swagger, the Tennessee General Assembly has made one thing very clear: If Americans don’t start paying closer attention to what’s happening in statehouses across the country, the republic may never recover.

The one reality that Ms. Renkyl overlooks is that Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, the champion of the bi-partisan disaster known as ESSA, has enabled states like Tennessee to set their own standards for education and, in so doing, effectively support the notion that STATES should be able to define curriculum standards… and if Ms. Renkyl doesn’t think that the Koch brothers are willing to throw science education standards, reading lists, and literacy under the bus in the name of free enterprise she is not paying attention herself.

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Another Year, Another Lawsuit Against New Hampshire’s Funding for Public Education

March 15, 2019 Leave a comment

Yesterday’s “Advancing New Hampshire Public Education” (ANHPE) blog posted the news that the Conval School District in the southern part of the state filed a lawsuit against the state for failing to provide the funding needed to provide an adequate education to students. The suit caught several funding advocates off guard because the legislature is currently deliberating on how much money to provide in the coming fiscal year based on an as-yet-unfunded settlement with a group of property poor districts. Coeval, unlike the districts in the current litigation, is NOT property poor… and despite their presumed ability to pay for schools is filing the suit under the pretext that the level of funding the state is offering for an “adequate” education is woefully inadequate. Here’s an excerpt from the post:

The lawsuit says the current price tag for a base “adequate education” —  $3,636.06 — does not reflect accurate costs for facilities, transportation, and teacher salaries and benefits….

By ConVal’s calculation, the state should pay $10,343.60 per student, which would total over $22 million per year.

An NHPR broadcast journalist indicated that the lawsuit troubled some advocates for higher spending because of the timing of the suit, a sentiment echoed by Carl Ladd in the ANHPE post:

Carl Ladd, the executive director of the N.H. School Administrators Association, says he worries about the lawsuit’s timing.

“I can really sympathize with school board and community, but the courts aren’t going to be a quick fix,” he says. “My fear is that if this is back in court, the legislature will just wait and not do anything.”….

I fear that Carl Ladd is correct in his assessment of the timing of this suit… but… it begs the question of whether there will EVER be a “good time” for a lawsuit and whether NH will ever change it’s system for funding public schools. When I first came to NH as a Superintendent in 1983 there were rumblings of lawsuits by property poor districts and since then there have been “victories” in court that have not translated into fair and equitable funding in reality. The Conval suit is unlikely to result in any quick fix unless the filing by a district with relatively strong tax base paves the way for a full scale debate over school funding in the 2020 gubernatorial election. As Michael Tierney points out, the “arguments that Conval is making would be applicable to many school districts across the state” and if the voters in those “many districts” get behind a candidate who wants more State money to go to schools maybe another court victory won’t be needed. Indeed, as we have witnessed for decades, a court victory without legislative support will go nowhere.

I Hate the Idea of Public Employee Strikes… But… They ARE Working AND They Might be Showing the Way for Others

March 4, 2019 Comments off

For the past decade or so, no profession has been as demeaned as public education. Instead of facing the fact that schools and social service and public health agencies are woefully underfunded and the fact that the safety net for families has been shredded, school reformers and politicians blame “failing schools” on bad teachers and poor parenting. In doing so they have turned parents and taxpayers against public— make the “government”— schools making it increasingly difficult for public education to get out of the death spiral it’s been put into.

But thanks to persistent work by public school advocates like Diane Ravitch, Jeff Bryant, and a host of progressive politicians and writers the public is beginning to understand that the public schools aren’t “failing” because teachers are failing, they are “failing” based on meaningless data gathered from irrelevant and time consuming standardized tests that are making schools joyless places to learn. And now, after over a decade of stagnant pay and nearly two decades of test-driven instruction, teachers are coalescing around these issues AND the issue of privatization and getting some favorable attention and favorable results. As Axios writer Khorri Atkinson reports, there is no end in sight for the nationwide wave of teacher strikes because the teachers’ calls for “…smaller class sizes, fewer annual standardized tests, and opposition to the expansion of private-school voucher programs and charter schools” resonate with parents. Like the teachers, parents are tired of overcrowded classrooms, the mind-numbing test-driven curricula in many schools, and the closure of neighborhood schools to effectively push students into private for-profit schools located far from their homes and not necessarily with the playmates their children grew up with. And they are also tired of seeing teachers come and go from the schools in their communities and in many cases not seeing their children’s teachers in the community because the teachers cannot afford to live there.

Maybe… just maybe… the tide is turning and the respect for teachers will return and with it a chance to restore public education to its rightful place as a hallowed institution in our country.

NPR’s “Dog Bites Man” Headline: “DeVos Announces Support for Proposed School Choice Tax Credit”

March 1, 2019 Comments off

An article in the NPR blog had this completely unsurprising headline:

“DeVos Announces Support for Proposed School Choice Tax Credit”

The article was equally unsurprising in terms of who supported it and who didn’t. As the article noted, the “school choice tax credit” idea is nothing new: several states have adopted the ALEC inspired legislation that enables wealthy donors to make contributions to a slush fund that can be accessed to pay for presumably indigent children to enroll in the “school of their choice”… that is unless the school is in a well-funded district or a school whose costs are prohibitive. What “choice” does that leave? A for-profit charter school or a religiously affiliated private school that underpays its staff and offers religious training as part of the curriculum.

Dog bites man is NOT news. Neither is the political reactions to a warmed over ALEC bill promoting “choice”.

Build a Wall… or Build a Floor? Clearly the Wall is Unnecessary… But a Floor for Earnings is an Emergency

February 28, 2019 Comments off

Reverend William Barber and Dr. Liz Theodoris, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, wrote a compelling op ed piece for the Guardian declaring that poverty, not the threat of an invasion by Spanish speakers, is the real emergency in our nation. The essay is full of chilling statistics illustrating the widespread poverty in our nation and the crumbling infrastructure that has resulted from decades of underfunding by governments at all levels… and by both parties! Here are some examples:

And the fact is, it’s not just the Republican party that has ignored these issues. Poverty has increased by 60% since the Rev Dr Martin Luther King launched the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign, under both Democratic and Republican administrations.We can no longer accept the same political discourse that for the past 50 years has refused to mention poverty nor can we accept politicians enacting policies that prey on the poor. It’s time to talk about the real emergencies plaguing our nation and the real moral issues of our day – the lack of health care, living wage jobs, clean water and sanitation, the militarization of our communities, the attack on indigenous sovereignty….

This is the time to take on the lies of the enablers. When people say poverty is caused by laziness, race, or lack of moral character, we must expose these lies.

In today’s America, the real emergency is that a quarter of a million people die from poverty each year while our political system refuses to use the great wealth of this nation to lift the load of poverty.

Democrats should validate the fact that 250,000 people die from poverty each year, and hammer that fact home during this debate. One way they could do so is to declare that when they have the opportunity to do so, hopefully after the 2020 election, whoever is elected President as a Democrat will declare a national emergency and divert funds earmarked for wars abroad to deal with the decades-long emergency of poverty. Such a declaration would shine a spotlight on this shameful reality.

In Chicago, Black Families Leave, White Families Arrive, NYTimes Wonders Why. The Answer? The Degradation of Public Schools

February 26, 2019 Comments off

Today’s NYTimes has a lengthy analysis of the forthcoming mayoral election written by Monica Davis headlined: “Chicago, Seeking a New Mayor, Sees Many Black Residents Voting With Their Feet“. The reasons given for this outmigration are myriad, with the best synopsis offered in this paragraph:

“People are frustrated and they’re saying, ‘We’ve just had enough. No more mayors for the 1 percent. This city belongs to all of us, not just the people who live in the Gold Coast,’” Sharon Fairley, a former federal prosecutor who also led an agency that oversees Chicago police, said of the hurdles facing the next mayor. “The biggest challenge that anyone coming into this position now is facing is generating a feeling of inclusiveness.”

One of the actions that undoubtedly contributes to the disenfranchisement of African American was the mayor’s decision to close 50 neighborhood schools and compel children to board buses to attend schools in parts of town where they felt unwelcome. They felt unwelcome not because the schools were predominantly white or middle class, but because the schools were often in neighborhoods where different gangs controlled the streets and where it was impossible for parents to regularly monitor their children’s performance.

Nothing reinforces a lack of inclusiveness like closing a neighborhood school, shunting children to a distant school where they are unwelcome, and stripping the schools of elective programs and support services. Yet the school closure issue barely registered in the lengthy article, warranting only these two passing comments:

Downtown Chicago is booming, its skyline dotted with construction cranes. Yet residents only a few miles to the south and west still wrestle with entrenched gang violence, miserable job prospects and shuttered schools — some of the still-being-identified forces, experts say, that are pushing black Chicagoans to pack up and get out.

Before his announcement, he was facing a wide field of people who said they would challenge him, as well as criticism over a tenure that included conflicts over police conduct, street violence and the closings of schools on the city’s South and West Sides. And Mr. Emanuel’s policies have remained a focal point for criticism from some who now hope to succeed him.

If you want to send a message to voters and residents that they don’t matter and that the political leaders are looking out for the 1% at the expense of everyone else; underfund schools and close those that are underperforming…. and that formula for reform is precisely what is generating a feeling of despair and a lack of inclusiveness in our nation today.

A Shortfall in Gambling Profits Dedicated for the Funding of NH Kindergartens Put Public Education Advocates in a Box

February 12, 2019 Comments off

Concord Monitor reporter Ethan DeWitt wrote an article the appeared in today’s Valley News indicating that there is a serious revenue in the gambling revenues that could result in a shortfall of funding for Kindergarten’s across the state.

The game pulled in $8.3 million in sales in its first few months – Fiscal Year 2018 – and is projected to garner just under $15 million in Fiscal Year 2019, which ends in June, according to figures provided by the Lottery Commission on Monday.

But after expenses and prize payouts, those numbers diminish to $1.5 million of net profits in its first year, and $2.3 million in its second, according to the commission. That’s the money that ultimately makes it into the state coffers for kindergarten.

Those profits — exacerbated by several rejections of keno in major cities and towns — are far below the estimated $11 million needed to provide the minimum additional adequacy under the keno bill. The shortfalls mean the state will be picking up the tab for the rest, and that school districts are unlikely to get more than the minimum.

The consequences appear to be innocuous… but the Governor is concerned enough that he sent an email to all Superintendents alerting them budget only $1100 per student— the minimum amount allowed by law– as they prepare their budgets. Moreover, given New Hampshire’s notorious inability to raise any supplemental revenue and their past practice in fulfilling funding promises it would not surprise me if the State did not keep its commitment to meet the minimum figure.

And here’s what I find despicable: the schools in communities who rejected the keno “opportunity” might find themselves at a point where they might feel compelled to support gambling so that they can get sufficient funds for their Kindergarten children. While this has been a de facto reality at the STATE level, the NH legislatures unwillingness to mandate a statewide gambling program pushed it down to the local level. When faced with revenue shortfalls due to the lack of Keno funds and angry voters whose taxes are increasing, school boards in towns who failed to adopt Keno might find themselves in an awkward position. But then in New Hampshire, where so called “sin-taxes” on alcohol, cigarettes, and gambling are the major source of revenue, voters who drink, smoke, and gamble are prized. Those who earn money, not so much.