Friday, February 27, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
I see this as horrible news if it's true.
Schools will likely see a huge cut in state funding, which will be replaced by federal money designed to, "help schools and colleges avoid layoffs and program cuts." If that money is instead strung up by the state and limited to new technology, schools will have the newest computers and software but no teachers to use them.
The first priority for stimulus money should be to provide schools the flexibility and funding they need to protect existing programs and teacher compensation.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Currently, many districts continue to pay the salary of former teachers who leave the profession (at least temporarily) to "lobby" the district and state on behalf of teachers. HB 381 would change that.
The proposed law makes a simple change. It simply restricts the ability of districts to offer "paid association leave" to teachers. It doesn't forbid teachers leaving, nor protect their job while they are gone. It simply says that teachers no longer teaching will no longer get paid as if they were.
This goes to the heart of one of my basic principles of smart school finance. Let's pay people for the work they do for us, and not pay people who don't work for us.
Having schools pay former teachers who work for the union would be like the state paying former legislators who become lobbyists. We can argue all day about whether Greg Curtis should be allowed back on the hill so soon as a lobbyist, but I hope we all agree that we shouldn't be paying his salary with tax dollars.
Let's agree the same for former teachers. If they leave teaching to work for the union, the union should pay their salary, not the school.
To be clear, every dollar spent outside a classroom is a dollar that can't be spent inside it. Especially in such a tight budget year when schools are looking to trim budgets down, why does it make sense to pay former teachers with district money to lobby the district?
It doesn't, and HB 381 should pass so that we put more eduction dollars into actual education.
The current process is fake democracy. A committee of experts interviews people who want to run and then picks the ones it likes best. The governor then chooses two of those folks to run. By the time people have a chance to vote, the choice is, Candidate A whom the committee and governor liked, or Candidate B whom the committee and governor liked.
It would be better to just have the board directly appointed. At least then people would know that when electing the governor, people are also electing education leaders who agree with him, instead of pretending that their vote so late in a gamed process makes a difference.
Elections created by HB 150 would be non-partisan--another attempt by the political class to keep the public in the dark about whom they are really voting for. Democrats fear that if state board candidate's parties are known, the State Board will start to have the same party breakdown as the legislature. Democrats would be greatly outnumbered and Republicans.
By keeping party affiliation anonymous, Democrats are more likely to be elected. That's just as cynical (though it's at least democratic) as the committee vetting process.
The State Board of Education is charged with oversight of a system that spends over $2 billion in public money. It is the largest and arguable most important part of our state's government. People deserve a real voice in who sits on that board and all the information about the candidates as possible, including their political philosophy.
The idea that the board is (or even should be) non-political is not realistic. When public dollars are involved, and when the decisions affect directly nearly every child and family in the state, politics are involved.
Rather than design an election system that ignores reality, we should be giving voters access to all the information about candidates, not trying to hide facts so that we can game the electoral process. If the State Board should reflect the will of the people of Utah, we should be unafraid of whom informed people elect.
While HB 150 is more of a direct election then the current system, it still tries to influence the process by hiding information from the voters.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
SB199, "Equal Recognition of School Parent Groups," sponsored by Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, would require that all schools treat all formal parent organizations equally. If schools grant regular access to one parent group, like the PTA, they must also allow other formal groups the same access, whether to school mailboxes, budget meetings, or use of the facility. The DNews reported that "state charter school leaders" support the bill. The Tribune reportes that "the Charter Schools Association [testified] in favor of the bill." (The Trib incorrectly called the Association was "pro-voucher"--in fact UAPCS did not endorse either the voucher legislation or referendum. I'm holding my breath for a correction.)
The bill also would require any parent organization in a public school to waive fees (just like schools have to do) for families who cannot afford to pay.
I don't speak for UAPCS. My own view is that providing choice to families in their education and improving access and influence for parents within schools is good for schools and kids. We should apply the princples of choice and access universally, including to parent groups. No parent should have to join the school's preferred club to have a meaningful voice at their school's table.
Read all the quotes from and about those in "the traditional public school system."
- "Gooding, however, is the poster child for the impact of charter schools on one of the poorest districts in the state."
- "I'm not sure they totally understood what they were doing, the ramifications of putting a charter in a rural school district," Spiropulos said.
- "There are still Idaho lawmakers who consider [charter schools] a threat to the traditional public school system."
Idaho, too, has an establishment trying to use the economic downturn to restrict charters and protect the district monopoly.
When charter schools open, they only attract students if they offer something better or different than the local public school. If districts want want to keep students from attending charters, the thing to do is offer better programs that parents and students want. Instead of innovating and improving, however, the goal of others is to protect what they have at the expense of removing all other choices.
Friday, February 20, 2009
- "The most immediate and substantial funding to impact all public schools, including public charter schools, is the $53.6 billion in funding for the state fiscal stabilization fund."
- "States must use these funds over the next two years (into FY2011) to fill cuts made to their budgets now and/or meet increases in education funding levels that they’ve already authorized."
- "Of the $53.6 billion, $48.3 billion is dedicated for the support of state budgets, with $39.5 billion immediately earmarked for restoring education funding to the greater of the level in FY08 or FY09."
- "61% of a state’s allocation will be based on the state’s relative population of individuals ages 5 through 24; and 39% of a state’s allocation will be based on the state’s relative total population compared to the country." (Utah has a young population, so its allocation will be proportionately higher than most states.)
- "From this [funding], the governor must restore education funding to the greater of the state’s levels in FY08 or FY09. (Our higher level is FY09.)
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
The program would be small ($300,000 for the whole state) but charters could really benefit. Unlike establishment schools, many charters have had performance pay programs for many years, hopefully long enough to refine and perfect them. Since the program will be competitive, charters may be at a competitive advantage over districts.
That money can help schools survive the funding cuts, maybe.
The federal money is just boosts to existing federal programs, like Title I, IDEA, and other NCLB programs. There was no money specifically given to the Charter School Program, that I've seen.
Schools that don't use or qualify for Title I money won't see that benefit, and IDEA funding is so restricted that it may not help in areas that schools need it. It certainly will help keep Special Education programs going and funded well, but that may just mean that general education programs get all the cuts in schools.
The state could help by loosening restrictions on state funds for programs that can be well-served with federal dollars, at least temporarily.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
But are these new numbers really worse than people expected? For weeks we've heard that state revenues were likely to continue to fall. "I really, honestly, expected those revenues would be down $350 million to $400 million," Senator Lyle Hillyard said in the Trib article. It is "substantially less than I was concerned we would be facing."
I believe that the funding reductions already spoken about are still higher than schools are likely to ultimately face, and that the rainy day fund, federal stimulus, and/or tax increases will be used before school funding is cut to the point that teachers lose jobs or class sizes increase.
Friday, February 13, 2009
I continue to believe cuts will not be near that high. (See previous post here.) Remember that just a few weeks ago, the committee recommended cuts of 7.5 percent to the current year, but then came back with a 1.5 percent cut.
From a political standpoint, it would be easier to raise taxes than to gut education to the point that classes grow by five students and the school year is cut by five days. The public won't allow cuts that deep while $500 million remains in the rainy day fund.
Democrats opposed the bill (read a good summary of the debate here), saying that it "expands the profession of teaching into a hobby of teaching" (cute quote). "Teaching reading is not something you just pick up," Senator Goodfellow said. "You need to learn the pedagogy, the teaching methods."
Here's the problem with that logic: There's more than one way to learn how to teach. It's true that content knowledge is only one part of what makes a good teacher, and real-world experience doesn't necessarily come with the ability to relate to and manage a classful of children. But niether does attending education classes and getting a license from a teachers' college.
Democrats displayed a lack of trust in educators. They believe that if another option is available, educators would choose and hire teachers who have no ability to relate to children. It's the classic response of the establishment: the only way to know what you need to know is if we teach you. Managing a classroom and effective teaching methods are skills that can be learned, and educators should be trusted to hire professionals who have those skills or demonstrate the ability to learn them.
This bill will help alleviate the teacher shortage and encourage qualified professionals to share their knowledge and experience in a valuable way in classrooms. Those who can, do, and if we can also get them to teach, we should.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Total, it looks like ED will have $126,162,000,000 over the next two years from the stimulus. We are working on getting bill text, but I know many of you were interested in seeing information as soon as we had it and felt it was reliable. The State Fiscal Stabilization fund and the modernization funding for schools appear to have been consolidated into one program, total funding is $53.6 billion over two years. Title 1 received $13 billion, IDEA received $12.4 billion, and The Teacher Incentive Fund received $200 million. It appears the Credit Enhancement program did not retain its $25 million in additional funding.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Patti Harrington sent out her powerpoint slideshow to schools seeking feedback. I can't figure out a convenient way to attach it here--inserting it as an image wouldn't work--too many slides. She pointed out several ways that the legislature could take it easy on public ed for next year.
I continue to believe that public ed will be protected much like it was this year from severe budget cuts, severe being defined as between 10 and 15 percent. I think that cuts may be marginally deeper than those we experienced this year, but not significantly more.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
According to the DNews:
"If the bill is approved, 22 school districts and charter schools as a whole would gain funding, while 19 would lose money.
"Charter schools would get $8.8 million, Davis School District $4.9 million and Alpine School District $3.3 million. Meantime, Salt Lake District would lose $8 million, Park City School District $7.8 million and Canyons School District $3.2 million."
Charters would "gain funding" only because they have been underfunded to this point. This moves Utah in the direction of all students being funded equally regardless of the model of public school they attend.
This bill expands the ability of experts in any field to receive a "competency-based" license to teach in a public school. People with degrees or expertise, and who are able to demonstrate that expertise on a competency exam, can become licensed educators, greatly expanding the pool of teachers. Too often, qualified professionals avoid teaching because of the restrictive nature of the licensing process.
If this bill passes (it is waiting to be heard on the Senate floor after passing the education committee) I hope it will lead to more professionals teaching in charter schools either full or part time. What a great advantage it would be to be able to have computer professionals teach a section of CTE classes part-time, while still working in the technology field, or mathemeticians teaching math, or scientists teaching science.
The beneficiaries will be professionals, schools, and most of all students. It's a win-win-win.
Charter schools, in particular, are increasingly appealing to parents, and for good reason. As laboratories for new and challenging educational strategies, these schools prove that breaking tradition and establishing a high bar for performance can yield extraordinary results for students. Many charter schools boast strong test scores along with impressive attendance and graduation rates, which are the result of the freedoms that these schools offer. They allow administrators the freedom to innovate, teachers the ability to be creative, parents the opportunity to be involved, and students the right to learn—creating a partnership that leads to improved achievement. Charter schools often “raise the bar”, and in turn, stimulate the entire public school system to improve.
The President’s education plan proposes to double the funding for the federal Charter Schools Program with the goal of increasing the number of successful charter schools among states that are committed to improving academic accountability.
Friday, February 6, 2009
The legislature passed SB4 on Monday, which means this:
- Charters will face current year funding reductions of about 1.6% (a reduction of about $55,000 on state funding of $3.4 million). That number will vary school to school depending in what programs each school participate. USOE will send out precise numbers "shortly" according to Larry Shumway, the associate superintendent.
- Performance Pay funding was reduced by $15 million, and the State Board was given direction to pick and choose the schools that would be funded based on the quality of their submitted plans. Only some charters and/or districts will receive the funding. The SBE hopes to have those schools named by the end of February.
- Flexibility regarding funding reductions was changed so that some programs were exempted. That means that schools still have flexibility to reallocate some, but not all, state funding streams. Schools will not be able to reduce salaries to teachers from the legislative salary adjustments, extended year for special educators, or the teacher salary supplement program for math and science teachers. USTAR centers were also limited, but I doubt most charters participate in that.
Full disclosure: the text of this post was largely taken from an email from Larry Shumway.
UPDATE: At the charter directors' meeting, Associate Superintendent Todd Hauber said the number for charters was likely to average 1.51 percent, before any reductions to specific programs, including performance pay.
Speaker Dave Clark addressed students and the media. He said that charter school students are public school students, and that they deserve access to public education dollars. Senator Curt Bramble spent about a half hour talking politics, government, stimulus, and deficits with students from Merit Academy high school. Dozens of other lawmakers from both parties spent time talking with students and school leaders.
These events are always energizing for me, though my feet get tired by the end. See story covering the event in the DNews.