Archive for March, 2009

March
31st 2009
Kansas Teacher Explains Why His Colleagues Broke Away from NEA

Posted under Independence Institute & Rural Schools & Teachers

Recently, a group of public school teachers in rural Kansas were tired of being represented by the nation’s largest teachers union and decided to do something about it. From Education Week:

Teachers in Riley County have voted to decertify from the Kansas National Education Association and the National Education Association.

The approximately 58 teachers in the district voted earlier this month to have Riley County Educators serve as their negotiating agent.

Riley County High School industrial arts teacher and track coach Garry Sigle, who also serves as spokesman for the Riley County Educators, was kind enough to record an iVoices podcast explaining why he and the other teachers chose this course of action and what the process is like:

The Association of American Educators (AAE), which has provided assistance to the teachers in Riley, explains that these teachers in the Kansas district are not the first local to decertify from NEA in recent years. It has happened in several other states, though not yet in Colorado.

My Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow tells me he is working to get more information on the decertification option to put up on the Independent Teachers website. I’ll keep you updated.

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March
30th 2009
A Big School Choice Week Down at the Colorado State Capitol

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Homeschooling & Independence Institute & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & State Legislature

This week brings a couple of big days for supporters of school choice. First of all, bet you didn’t know that it’s 2009 Colorado Charter Schools Week, celebrating the 15th anniversary of charter schools in Colorado. The big day to commemorate the occasion is this Thursday, April 2 – as charter school families and supporters rally at 11:30 am at the State Capitol.

Public charter schools represent an important educational option that has established itself in our state. If you want to keep track of charter school issues here, you absolutely have to bookmark two sites: the Colorado Charters blog and the new A Parent’s Voice.

The very next day – Friday, April 3 – is the annual Homeschool Day at the Capitol, with a chance to meet elected state representatives and senators, to participate in two workshops, and to join in a noon rally. And younger homeschooled kids can participate in the Future Statesmen Program, which sounds pretty neat to me.

Show up at the Homeschool Day at the Capitol, and you might just meet one of my Education Policy Center friends there with information on the new, exciting paper Colorado’s Homeschool Law Turns Twenty (PDF) – a real call to vigilance.

If you don’t visit the State Capitol very often, but you’re a real supporter of school choice here in Colorado, this week provides a couple very good excuses to get down there.

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March
27th 2009
Milwaukee School Choice Research Yields a Lot of Interesting Results

Posted under Elementary School & High School & Middle School & Parents & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice & Urban Schools

School choice doesn’t provide all the answers to our education challenges, but it’s becoming very hard to deny that choice in itself yields some positive results. Look at the new results (PDF) from the University of Arkansas’s School Choice Demonstration Project for the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP).

Milwaukee isn’t just famous for that show about two women who work as brewery bottlecappers. The Wisconsin city is the granddaddy of school choice programs, and probably the best place for in-depth studies of all sorts of issues surrounding choice.

And the School Choice Demonstration Project has brought together some of the best and most experienced education researchers – including Patrick Wolf, John Witte, and Jay Greene – to do just that. The series of studies released this week focus on everything from fiscal impacts to parental satisfaction to academic growth and real estate prices. Some of the more interesting findings: Continue Reading »

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March
26th 2009
Frivolous Attacks on Pension Reform Draw Attention (For Me, Detention?)

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & Journalism & Principals & Research & School Finance & State Legislature & Teachers

Yesterday morning some of my Education Policy Center friends were down at the State Capitol (now, like me, they can hardly get out of their driveways… snow day!). They joined Dr. Michael Mannino, author of the Independence Institute report Deferred Retirement Compensation for Career K-12 Employees: Understanding the Need for Reform (PDF), for his informational presentation to the joint House and Senate Education Committee.

New Ed News Colorado reporter Nancy Mitchell provided some colorful coverage of yesterday’s unusually well-attended proceedings (hey, I don’t even want to get out of bed at 7:30 AM):

Rep. Michael Merrifield, D-Manitou Springs, drew applause from a standing-room only crowd when he closely questioned Michael Mannino, a University of Colorado professor who helped write the report.

“Is it possible that your phrases like drastic tax increases and meltdowns could be fear-mongering on your part … in support of your political agenda?” Merrifield asked, an apparent reference to the report’s sponsor, the Independence Institute, which bills itself as a “free market” think tank based in Golden.

“Could it be that you’re making an assumption to support your personal views that teachers shouldn’t have a defined benefit plan?” Merrifield asked at another point.

“I want people to begin to understand how pensions systems work and the inherent problems associated with them,” said Tony Lewis, executive director of the Donnell-Kay Foundation which helped fund the report. “I think we got some of that across to the joint ed committee. I was a little disappointed that Representative Merrifield seemed to take a fairly partisan and fairly non-productive stance.”

Thanks, Mr. Lewis, for making an important point, though I’ll take it a little bit further. Continue Reading »

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March
25th 2009
Another Chance for You to Learn More About Denver’s ProComp Program

Posted under Denver & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Research & Teachers

Last week the Christian Science Monitor featured a full-length article on the state of teacher performance pay, with special focus on Denver’s ProComp program.

It’s an especially great piece for someone who has little familiarity with the topic — as some of the leading figures are quoted: Brad Jupp from DPS, Phil Gonring from the Rose Community Foundation, Paul Teske from the University of Colorado Denver, and Kim Ursetta from the teachers union, to name a few.

Once you’ve read the article, if you still yearn to learn more, you should check out the Issue Paper Denver’s ProComp and Teacher Compensation Reform in Colorado (PDF) by my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow. He’s glad to give other groups an “honest education in ‘professional pay’”. Continue Reading »

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March
24th 2009
Virginia Walden Ford: D.C. Scholarship Program Under Attack by Congress

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & Independence Institute & Parents & Private Schools & School Choice

I’ve written about it a lot: the attack by Congress against students in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, that is. But I’m not ready to give up yet. And you shouldn’t be, either.

If you need some inspiration – or maybe you’re just learning about this attack on school choice that benefits low-income kids in our nation’s capital – you really ought to listen to Virginia Walden Ford, executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice, explain the situation in this 10-minute iVoices podcast:

Is it really true that the best we can hope for is saving the scholarships of the 1,700 kids who currently receive them, and leaving out in the cold the thousands more on waiting lists to escape some terrible D.C. public schools?

Maybe that is the best we can hope for on behalf of Washington D.C. students for now, but don’t give up.

After all, it’s important to note – as Adam Schaeffer does on the Cato-at-Liberty blog – that voucher and tax credit programs across the country are growing and growing in bipartisan political support.

Keep your chin up. Stay in the fight.

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March
23rd 2009
NYC KIPP Charter School Teachers Drop Union — Still Concerns, But No Trend

Posted under Public Charter Schools & Teachers & Urban Schools

Two months ago it made quite a stir when announced that the American Federation of Teachers was having success unionizing two New York City KIPP public charter schools.

On Friday, however, the astute Mike Antonucci wondered aloud why so much less attention is given to a story about two New York City KIPP public charter schools deciding to drop the union. It’s an excellent question for reasonable education reformers to step back and consider carefully.

I’m beginning to think it’s safe to assume that neither the January pro-union charter school development nor the new anti-union charter school development is harbinger of a sweeping national trend.

Still, as explained here in pixels by Dr. Marcus Winters and here on an iVoices podcast with Dr. William Moloney, serious concerns remain about how poorly unions and charter schools mix.

But thanks to Mike Antonucci for helping to put the news into perspective.

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March
20th 2009
Keep Spreading the Message to Help D.C. Kids Keep Their Scholarships

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & Independence Institute & Research & School Choice & Teachers & Urban Schools

The fight isn’t over yet, but things aren’t looking good for the 1,700 poor Washington D.C. kids who benefit from the federally-funded voucher program – kids like those featured in this compelling Heritage Foundation video (H/T Flypaper):

Are you listening, Congress? Are you paying attention, President Obama? Continue Reading »

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March
20th 2009
Celebration Widespread for State Board Approval of First Innovation Schools

Posted under Denver & Elementary School & High School & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & innovation schools & Public Charter Schools & School Board & School Choice & State Board of Education

After a close vote Monday from the Denver Public Schools board, Manual High and Montclair Elementary found smooth sailing from the State Board of Education in their pursuit to become Colorado’s first “innovation schools”.

As Ed News Colorado explains, the vote in favor of the waiver request was unanimous — winning plaudits from both sides of the political aisle:

“I really think this is groundbreaking for Denver and groundbreaking for the state of Colorado,” said Elaine Gantz Berman, D-1st District, herself a former DPS board member.

“I’m hoping that this growing, positive trend finally gives the state the motivation it needs to realize that our schools are being crushed by rules, regulations and bureaucracy,” said board Chair Bob Schaffer, R-4th District.

My Education Policy Center friends at GoBash point out that this is no small request: Manual and Montview “received waivers from 40 state statutes, 32 district policies, and 18 collective bargaining agreement provisions”.

Also, another good point from Colorado Charters:

State Board Vice-Chair Randy DeHoff commended DPS for learning from their charter schools. Charter schools operate via waiver from state laws and district policies.

The only substantive difference between charter schools and “innovation schools” is that the latter still operate primarily under the oversight of a school district board rather than an independent board. But both education alternatives point to the importance of freedom and flexibility — and maybe the dawn of a new era.

To meet the needs of students and the choices of parents, let a thousand flowers bloom.

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March
18th 2009
State Board Members Criticize Supreme Court Ruling Made “For the Children”

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & Governor & Independence Institute & Public Charter Schools & School Board & School Finance & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Teachers

Update: State Board member Peggy Littleton also weighed in (see below)

When I asked my teacher, she told me that judges are supposed to interpret the law — not just make up stuff. (Which is something I tend to do after eating the last two chocolate chip cookies from the jar.) So I was a little confused and disappointed when I saw what went down a couple days ago at the Colorado Supreme Court.

Independence Institute president Jon Caldara and the Denver Post‘s Vincent Carroll are among many who have highlighted flaws in the court’s judgment. They’re right — the ruling seems to say taxpayer protections in the state constitution don’t mean much when the issue at stake supposedly is “for the children”. I know it’s really not my fault, but being a kid, whenever I’m used for unsavory political purposes — well, I feel a little guilty about it.

That guilt led me to get my Education Policy Center friends to ask the opinions of some other important people about this supreme court decision: namely, members of the Colorado State Board of Education. Interestingly, the State Board was the original defendant in this lawsuit led by the Independence Institute and filed by taxpayers. If you didn’t know better, you’d think they’d all be happy with a Supreme Court decision that went their way. But not so fast. Continue Reading »

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