Archive for June, 2012

20th 2012
Quiet D.C. Scholarship Program Expansion Gives Me a Summertime Smile

Posted under Federal Government & Parents & Private Schools & Research & School Choice & Urban Schools

Anyone who has followed my opinions here for awhile knows that I’m a big fan of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides real choices to a small number of needy students in our nation’s capital. Well, I had to smile because the Washington Post reports this week that leaders from both parties in Congress have struck a deal with President Obama to continue and expand the program:

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), the authors of legislation that reauthorized and expanded the Opportunity Scholarship Program, said they had reached an agreement with the White House to ensure that there would be no cap on enrollment in the program and that parents can apply to have their children stay in or join the program and get a response as soon as possible.

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19th 2012
No More Middleman: Find Your Colorado School Bargaining Agreements

Posted under Independence Institute & Just For Fun & School Finance & Teachers

I am young and energetic, and have pretty keen eyes. But sometimes things slip past me. I admit it (or maybe I just could cast the blame on my Education Policy Center friends… they have pretty big shoulders). In this case, it slipped through during Colorado’s recent legislative session. House Bill 1240 was advertised as “clean-up” legislation for various education laws, to get up with the times, or something like that.

The final version of HB 1240, which Governor John Hickenlooper signed into law two weeks ago, included a provision that means one less thing for the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) to do, namely that they no longer must “post copies of all of said current collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) on the department’s web site.” [link added] But I just noticed it this week!

Colorado’s 2001 School Collective Bargaining Agreement Sunshine Act was perhaps the first of its kind in the nation, designed to ensure that both the local school district and state department of education kept true copies in print and online. Now that CDE is out of that business, the Education Policy Center has updated the information in a one-stop central repository for taxpayers, teachers, researchers and others to see what’s in the state’s known CBAs. The page also explains why it can be tricky to make a definitive list: Continue Reading »

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18th 2012
K-12 Finance Reform Video Stars Differ on Weighted Student Funding Views

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Research & School Choice & School Finance

Education Week last week ran with a story touting renewed local interest in the weighted student funding concept. Quoted in the story, the Center on Reinventing Public Education’s Dr. Marguerite Roza noted that while current budget pressures have sparked interest, the policy offers some real benefits:

Weighted student funding can also help promote nonstandard staffing models that are growing in popularity, Ms. Roza said, offering as an example the Rocketship Education model. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based charter management organization combines online learning with small-group instruction. Standard funding formulas that provide a teacher for a certain number of students don’t allow for that kind of flexibility, she said.

Also quoted in the Education Week story, another nationally-renowned academic expert on school finance is less high on weighted student funding: Continue Reading »

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15th 2012
Parental Demand for Public Charter Schools Nationwide Growing Fast, Data Show

Posted under Independence Institute & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Choice

A quick Friday freebie to wrap your mind around, compliments of Education Week‘s Sean Cavanagh:

An estimated 610,000 students are on waiting lists to attend charter schools—a jump of about 200,000 from just two years ago, a national organization says.

The National Alliance of Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) — with its brand new executive director Nina Rees — notes that there are as many students nationwide on charter school waiting lists as attend charters in the two most heavily enrolled states, or enough to “fill seven and a half Olympic Stadiums during this summer’s Olympics in London.” Continue Reading »

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14th 2012
Six Falcon 49 Schools Win Innovation Status as Board Nears Important Crossroads

Posted under Denver & Elementary School & High School & Innovation and Reform & Middle School & Principals & School Board & State Board of Education & Suburban Schools

About six weeks ago I shared with readers that the Falcon School District 49 innovation plan was nearing a crossroads. That crucial time may now be upon us. As reported in the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado State Board of Education yesterday unanimously approved requests to give six District 49 schools official innovation status:

“Innovation is here to stay,” said Bob Felice, Innovation Zone leader/assistant superintendent, adding that the plans grant a lot of autonomy to teachers and parents.

Yesterday’s Board votes bring the list of innovation schools to 33, including 24 from Denver Public Schools and now the following six from Falcon 49: Continue Reading »

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13th 2012
Hey, Abbott!!! Colorado Really Doesn’t Rank 49th in K-12 Education Spending

Posted under Independence Institute & Just For Fun & Research & School Finance

Who appreciates a little creativity from education policy wonks more than I do? Exactly, which is why a big smile covered my face to see today’s posting from Jonathan Butcher at the Goldwater Institute, titled “An Abbott and Costello routine: Who’s on… 49th?” It’s hard to imagine the really old-time comic duo taking on misleading claims about K-12 funding, but Butcher does a great job setting up the parody.

Then he brings home the powerful punchline:

Since 2007, local media in five states have named their state “49th” in education funding. In 2005, eight states were crowned 49th. While we all argue over who is second-to-last in funding, we ignore the larger problem: Despite decades of increasing education funding, student achievement is no higher today than it was 40 years ago. In Arizona, real per-student funding more than doubled between 1969-70 and 2008-09, but test scores are flat.

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12th 2012
Teachers Union Officials Get Sappy, Sentimental about Declining Power

Posted under Education Politics & Just For Fun & Teachers

Last week, the day after the landmark failed recall elections in Wisconsin, I offered some thoughts about what it means and where it’s all headed. We’ve crossed an important threshold that shows the teachers union power is declining and that the industrial labor model of collective bargaining gradually fades from the governing of public education. But I didn’t realize that the changes would cause the status quo to go all sentimental so soon.

Yesterday, the Education Intelligence Agency’s Mike Antonucci sent out his weekly Communique detailing a remarkable revelation from the National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest teachers union. Following up on the news of significant NEA membership declines and the need to cut staff and budget at their Washington, D.C., office, Antonucci posted from an NEA memo being circulated among union activists:

Unlike in the past, our shrinking membership is not the sole product of a down economy from which we could expect to eventually recover. The forces impacting us are so strong that they have indelibly changed our industry, the educational system, and society at large. Things will never go back to the way they were…. [emphasis added]

Mind you, it wasn’t my parents who picked up on the phrasing. But some woman with a nasal voice started singing about “The Way We Were.” Sounds pretty sappy to me. Misty water-colored memories? What’s got teachers union headquarters so sentimental then? Continue Reading »

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11th 2012
School Choice News from Indiana and Tennessee Should Brighten Your Monday

Posted under Courts & Independence Institute & Parents & Private Schools & School Choice & State Legislature

Being a Monday and all, I thought you might appreciate a little good news on the school choice front. So let’s head quickly to our nation’s Heartland, first to see my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow‘s new offering for School Reform News on the state of Hoosier State’s Choice Scholarship Program:

Scarcely more than a year old, Indiana’s voucher program has grown in popularity, sent an extra $4 million to public schools, and yielded clear evidence of taxpayer savings.

With Governor Mitch Daniels and Superintendent Tony Bennett at the helm, Indiana has really taken the reins of education reform and run forward with it. Just one year old, the private school choice program already is the nation’s largest, and two years from now there will be no cap on enrollment for choice scholarships. Most interesting, though, from the article is what’s beginning to bubble up: Continue Reading »

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8th 2012
How Can School Choice Best Lead Us to the Greenfield of Effective Innovation?

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Parents & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice

Once in awhile you read something that makes you really step back and think. In that spirit I commend to you the new Friedman Foundation report The Greenfield School Revolution and School Choice by Greg Forster and James Woodworth. Want to know what I mean? Start off with a statement like this potent summary:

Existing choice programs transfer students from marginally less effective public schools to marginally more effective private schools, but they do not seem to drive more ambitious school reforms.

Forster and Woodworth dive into the data, unpacking the private-sector share of students and schools in places where school choice has had the biggest reach, such as Milwaukee, Florida, Arizona, Ohio, and Washington, D.C. Generally speaking, while doors are opening to break down some segregation, the private sector is shrinking and still catering to provide niche educational opportunities. Far and away, the greatest amount of true innovation is coming from charter schools, which includes blended learning superstars like Carpe Diem and Rocketship. Continue Reading »

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7th 2012
Welcome to Age 5, Democrats for Education Reform: At Least You’ll Grow Older

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Just For Fun

I saw an email this morning from Joe Williams, founder and executive director of Democrats for Education Reform. Receiving such a message is not a noteworthy event in and of itself. But the beginning of the message caught my eye:

Five years ago today a bunch of us set out to try to change our party. We wanted to put an end to the days when the Democratic Party was the place where good education reform ideas went to die. We were frustrated but hopeful, despite the long list of skeptics who warned us we were wasting our time. Along the way, many of you like-minded activists – already working to improve education in your communities – joined forces with us and a political movement was born.

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