April
1st 2015
Unity is Strength: Independence Institute Staff Take the Plunge and Unionize

Posted under Edublogging & Education Politics & Independence Institute & Just For Fun & Transparency & Union

You know, maybe I’ve been too hard on teachers unions. Just this year, I’ve celebrated their declining membership rates, poked fun at their colossal loss of money if the 2014 election cycle, and had a little too much fun reliving an extraordinarily entertaining “battleflop” by Jeffco’s local teachers union.

Who can blame me? My big boy policy friends at the Independence Institute are always talking about union political spending, making sure union negotiations are required to be public, and helping teachers learn more about how they can opt out of paying union dues. Ben DeGrow did a scathing analysis of posts on the Jefferson County Education Association’s Facebook page back in January, and just this month Ross Izard published an article decrying union efforts to undermine tenure reform and accountability systems in education. I’m just a little guy, and I’ve got to follow the grownups’ lead.

But now it seems like the grownups may be changing their minds. Faced with impossible expectations and the cruel management of Jon Caldara, staff members are banding together for support. Continue Reading »

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March
27th 2015
A Dandelion on a Battlefield: Taking a Timeout to Celebrate 2015′s Daniels Scholars

Posted under Edublogging & Just For Fun

Another Friday has arrived, my friends. In Colorado education, this week saw the continuation of an increasingly ugly fight over testing, accountability, and opt-outs. It will get worse before it gets better, but we don’t need to talk about that today. No, Fridays are happy days. And because I’m a stubborn young man about my happy Fridays, I’m going to (very) briefly stroll out between the trenches and pick an education dandelion that is likely to otherwise get lost in the cacophony: The new list of 2015 Colorado Daniels Scholars.

First of all, I’d like to congratulate this year’s scholars. Great work, and I can’t wait to see what you can accomplish as you move into the next stage of your lives!

For those who don’t know, the Daniels Fund provides college scholarships every year to “graduating high school seniors who demonstrate exceptional character, leadership, and a commitment to serving their communities.” These scholarship cover the gap between other financial aid sources, expected family contributions, and total tuition costs at an accredited college or university of a student’s choosing. Applicants have to meet a number of requirements that you can read more about here. Continue Reading »

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March
26th 2015
Urban Charters Rock CREDO’s Newest Report

Posted under Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice & Urban Schools

Earlier this week, we celebrated Alabama’s entry into the world of charters even as we mourned the death of the first stab at an ESA program here in Colorado. We can’t leave the school choice balance teetering between good and sad, though, so today I want to take a look at some awesome new research on urban charters schools from Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, or CREDO.

Some of you will remember that my education policy friend Ross Izard wrote an op-ed last year praising Colorado’s charter sector for its continued progress and efficiency. That op-ed discussed previous reports from CREDO, including a 2009 national report that was particularly damning—and that was used repeatedly in the years that followed to hammer charters across the country. CREDO’s follow-up 2013 report on charters nationally found significant improvements, and its brand new 2015 report specifically on urban charter schools sees that trend continue. Continue Reading »

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March
24th 2015
RIP, C-FLEX? This Year Perhaps, But Bring Back the Debit Card ASAP

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Journalism & Parents & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & State Legislature

Yesterday I celebrated the fantastic news that Alabama has become the 43rd charter school state. In that post I noted that Alabama is behind the curve (and way behind Colorado) on public school choice, but beat us to the punch on scholarship tax credits.

Still, as good as it is, welcoming new states into the charter fold wasn’t at the forefront of my mind when I contemplated that 2015 could become the official Year of School Choice sequel. I made that observation based on the number of states pursuing new or expanded Education Savings Account (ESA) programs.

For example, I’m not the only waiting with bated breath to see if and when Alabama’s next door neighbor, Mississippi, will become the third ESA state. (My elders keep advising me to be patient, but that’s just really hard!) Continue Reading »

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March
23rd 2015
Alabama Joins the Charter Club

Posted under Public Charter Schools & School Choice & Tax Credits

Not too long ago, I wrote about why I love it when school choice is talked about as a “movement.” Now, though, I realize I may have been wrong there. Instead, I think school choice should be talked about as a series of simultaneous movements that are linked by similar goals and values. The Colorado public school choice movement is doing nicely, with a strong charter law and wide-open (if you ignore the waiting lists) public choice already thriving. Even so, we have yet to open the door to our world of fantastic private schools. Other states are in different places.

Alabama is a good example of a state working from a different starting position. To my envy, the state already has a scholarship tax credit program. But until very recently, it was one of only eight states that don’t have a charter law on the books despite years of unsuccessful efforts by charter advocates. In a totally random twist that underscores the differences between choice situations in Colorado and Alabama, both Colorado’s pseudo-scholarship tax credit bill and Alabama’s charter bill are designated SB 45. You can’t make this stuff up.

Anyway, charter proponents’ efforts finally paid off last week. On March 18, the state’s legislature sent a charter bill to Governor Robert Bentley for his signature. The next day, the governor waved his magic pen and America’s 43rd charter state was born! Continue Reading »

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March
20th 2015
The Most Important Policy Field Trips Are the Ones I’m Not On

Posted under Edublogging & Just For Fun & learning

Fridays are always better when they involve policy field trips, don’t you think? This morning, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a floor debate on SB 45, which some of you will remember I wrote about a while back. SB 45 may well pass in the Senate, but it doesn’t have much chance of passing in the House. That doesn’t mean it’s insignificant, though. It is, after all, the first school choice bill to make it to the Senate floor for debate in quite some time. That means yours truly got to sit in on some pretty interesting arguments. We will discuss these arguments in more detail in the near future.

But I don’t want to talk about SB 45 today. In fact, I don’t want to talk about policy at all. Instead, I want to use today’s post to highlight the other young policy explorers at the Capitol.

Every time I take a field trip to the Capitol, the building is absolutely stuffed with little guys and girls who, like me, are excited to see democracy in action. These explorers lean toward the rail in the Senate gallery to get a better look at our state’s leaders, stare wide-eyed as lobbyists and folks with big briefcases rush around, and ask questions of their tour guides. Almost invariably, a couple almost fall over as they stare up at the ceiling.

Continue Reading »

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March
19th 2015
NEA: Colorado Falls from 21st to 22nd in Per-Pupil Spending – Sound the Alarms!

Posted under Education Politics & Research & School Finance & Teachers

The bad news? Today is one of those days when little Eddie is going to be a broken record. The good news? This will be brief and to the point.

Go back in your mind all the way to last March, a whole year ago. The National Education Association — the nation’s largest teachers union — released its annual statistical dump known as Rankings & Estimates. The big news? Colorado ranked 21st in per-pupil spending during the 2012-13 school year.

In recent months, this information has provided a great antidote to attempted spooks and various forms of number-fudging. With this year’s new release of Rankings & Estimates, guess where Colorado stands? Continue Reading »

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March
18th 2015
What’s a “Bedfellow”? New Article Takes a Look at Weird Alliances and Tenure Reform

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Teachers & Union

Late last year, I wrote about the sticky testing issue knot. After a series of weird events on the State Board of Education and the early prospect of a strange alliance between Republicans and teachers unions during the ill-fated effort to reauthorize ESEA, we may be looking at more of a sticky testing issue black hole. Now, though, things are beginning to reach maximum weirdness, with the same strange alliances seen in Congress being observed in Colorado.

So yeah, stuff’s complicated. It’s getting tough to make sense of it all. That’s why I was glad to see my Independence Institute friend Ross Izard’s new article, “Strange Bedfellows: Teachers Unions, Conservatives, and Tenure Reform.” I’m pretty sure I’m too young to know what a “bedfellow” is, but I think I see what Ross is trying to convey.

The article takes a long, hard look at the differing motivations behind the oddly aligned conservative and union pushes against testing and for opt-outs. We’ll just do a brief overview of the highlights here in order to avoid unnecessary brain damage, but the article is stuffed with links and references for those whose nerdy proclivities drive them to dig a little deeper into the debate. Continue Reading »

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March
17th 2015
K-12 Bureaucratic Barriers a Problem? Who Ya’ Gonna Call? Cage-Busters!

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Just For Fun & Online Schools & Research & Teachers

It’s not a completely unfair characterization to suggest that a specialty for 5-year-old boys is busting things. Or at least enjoying watching others bust things. This post won’t help disabuse anyone of that impression.

Last week I cheered to see Marcus Winters flex his charter school myth-busting muscles. Today I bring your attention to a different kind of bustin’ going on.

Two years ago American Enterprise Institute (AEI) education scholar Rick Hess made waves calling for a greater can-do attitude among school and district administrators with his book Cage-Busting Leadership. Now he highlights the same sort of opportunities for teachers. Continue Reading »

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March
16th 2015
Denver’s SchoolChoice Program Keeps Growing

Posted under Denver & School Choice & Tax Credits

I love when people talk about school choice as a “movement.” The word just does such a good job of conveying a sense of momentum and highlighting the fact that an increasing number of families are looking for more options for their kids. A Chalkbeat story illustrated that kind of momentum this morning, reporting that participation in Denver Public Schools’ SchoolChoice system jumped nearly 10 percent this year. More than a quarter of the district’s students are now using the system.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the SchoolChoice system, it essentially creates an all-in-one application for families looking to get their kids into schools other than their neighborhood school. Families list their top five choices on the application, something magically administrative happens, and kids are (hopefully) matched with one of those choices.  This year, about 95 percent of kids got one of their top-five choices. Around 75 percent of students got their first choice. Continue Reading »

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