Archive for September, 2012

27th 2012
“Parent Trigger” Debate Triggered as Won’t Back Down Movie Opens in Colorado

Posted under Edublogging & Online Schools & Parents & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & Urban Schools

I’m getting too excited to wait much longer. Tonight is the special Colorado screening of Won’t Back Down, the new feature movie about empowering parents to improve failing schools. Put simply, it brings the “Parent Trigger” reform concept to the big screen.

So as you look forward to catching the movie, either tonight or when it premieres this weekend for general audiences, you might appreciate some thoughts from a couple of prominent education reform voices to chew on first. It started yesterday with New Schools for New Orleans’ Neerav Kingsland, who argues that “maybe we shouldn’t support Parent Trigger laws at all” and “the best parent trigger is parent choice between non-governmental school operators.” Continue Reading »

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25th 2012
Is This Conservative Alternative to Federal Education Policy Just Too Sensible?

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Research & School Choice & School Finance

Four months ago, while introducing you to the education policy blueprint of a major party presidential candidate, I noted that one of the hardest areas in which “it might be hard to make a contrast” between Obama and Romney is K-12 education.

Every time one of these major national elections comes up, serious questions and debates take place about the federal government’s role — like the seven-part video series on Choice Media TV with Joe Williams and Jay Greene. In the last installment, the question comes up about the deep potential and widespread problems with fraud and abuse in the federal Title I program for low-income students.

Greene responds with the vital idea of attaching the Title I dollars directly to needy students rather than filtering them through wasteful bureaucracies — a great idea touted here before. But beyond that kind of choice, mobility and empowerment, what other reform ideas could be part of a conservative agenda for the federal role in education? Continue Reading »

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24th 2012
Adams 12 Teachers Applaud Union Bargaining Transparency: Coming Soon?

Posted under School Board & School Finance & Suburban Schools & Teachers

Talk about picking up where I left off. On Wednesday I shared the story of Adams 12 taxpayer Joseph Hein, from his daughter’s difficult confrontation with a schoolhouse bully to his own experience having to be escorted for his own protection away from union bullies at a school board meeting. At the end of last week’s post I noted:

Now he and other district residents have begun pushing for district-union negotiations to be open and transparent, so taxpayers and teachers can see what’s being negotiated, to be informed and act accordingly.

Well, that very night Mr. Hein made just such a case in his public comment to the Adams 12 school board: Continue Reading »


21st 2012
Finding Winners, Losers, and (Weekend!) Bright Spots in Chicago Teachers Strike

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & School Finance & Teachers & Urban Schools

It’s Friday, and I’m itching to get out and play. So let’s make today’s post short, sweet and to the point. For anyone paying attention, it’s no mystery that the Chicago teachers strike finally got resolved a couple days ago. Rick Hess has the best breakdown of winners (including the interesting trio of President Obama, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis) and losers (Rahm Emanuel, reform-minded Democrats, and Class Warfare author Steven Brill). Continue Reading »

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20th 2012
Mike Thomas’ Account Reminds Ed Reformers Hearts and Minds Can Change

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

(H/T Matt Ladner on Jay Greene’s blog) In the never-ending education reform debates, it’s important not to take for granted that prominent voices can change their minds. Mike Thomas used to be a Florida education news reporter notably skeptical of Jeb Bush’s bold and cutting-edge school reform program. After reviewing the evidence, much of it firsthand, his intellectual transformation has led him onto Bush’s team in the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s communications department.

From Thomas’ introduction on his new Ed Fly blog (not to be confused with the Education Gadfly): Continue Reading »

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19th 2012
From Schoolhouse Bullying to Union Bullying: Adams 12 Taxpayer Speaks Out

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & Journalism & Parents & School Board & Suburban Schools & Teachers

So you may have heard the Education Policy Center’s Ben DeGrow has started hosting a weekly K-12 education half-hour radio segment on AM 1310 KFKA in northern Colorado, every Wednesday at 10 AM. Earlier today he had a great conversation with a parent and taxpayer from Adams 12 in suburban Denver.

Joe Hein was one of two speakers at a September 5 school board meeting who had to be escorted out for their own protection from teachers union protesters who didn’t appreciate a different opinion on the school board’s difficult budget cut decision. Protesters said the Board is violating the collective bargaining contract by asking teachers to make the same retirement contribution that other Adams 12 employee groups have to make.

From the Colorado Watchdog:

District taxpayer Joseph Hein, who has attended numerous board meetings this year, mentioned the extra burdens parents have taken from recent cuts made to transportation and middle school sports. He then gently urged the District 12 teachers in attendance to listen carefully to the board’s response. “You guys are part of the solution, as well,” he said, while union members waved signs from the crowd.

Watch his brief remarks for yourself. To me, they appear respectful, kind and reasonable. Continue Reading »

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17th 2012
“Won’t Back Down” Sept. 27 Colorado Screening Highlights Parent Power

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Just For Fun & Online Schools & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & Teachers & Urban Schools

About a month ago, I pointed out to you the somewhat disturbing views about parents held by certain figures within the education establishment. Well, here’s going way out on a limb to guess the same crowd won’t be lining up in excitement to watch the new movie Won’t Back Down:

The feature-length film starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis and Holly Hunter is a story about parents who take charge of transforming their children’s failing inner-city school. In other words, it’s a real Hollywood movie with a powerful education reform message that should resonate with American families facing challenging educational circumstances. Maybe it can pick up where Waiting for Superman left off. Continue Reading »


14th 2012
Idaho Voters to Consider Tossing Out Yummy Education Reform Tater Tots

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Parents & School Finance & Teachers

Progress in education reform, like so many other areas, is never final. Just as bad policies can be undone, so can good policies. Simply put, we can’t rest on our laurels.

I’m sure that Idaho superintendent Tom Luna and the team behind his Students Come First program are well aware of that reality now. Last year I told you about the yummy tater tots of education reform coming out of the Gem State — a few key pieces of legislation that, among other things, spurred some great innovative local pay-for-performance projects.

But a report this week from Education News’ Julie Lawrence, the teachers union and other reform opponents collected enough signatures to put the reform items on the ballot for voters to reconsider: Continue Reading »

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12th 2012
What the Smart Experts Are Saying about the Chicago Teachers Union Strike

Posted under Education Politics & School Accountability & Teachers & Urban Schools

No time to opine today, but the attention of the K-12 education world is on the continuing Chicago teachers strike. A lot of pixels are being used to cover the topic, but I believe the following are the most informative and insightful: Continue Reading »

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11th 2012
Upward Spending, Revenue Trends Add Context to Tax-Hiking School Districts

Posted under Denver & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & School Board & School Finance & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Urban Schools

From Todd Engdahl’s story yesterday in Ed News Colorado, at least 23 school districts in the state are going to local voters this year to ask for one or more tax increases–mill levy overrides for various operating costs, and/or bonds or BEST matching grant requests to pay for capital construction or renovation projects. (In the unusual case of Aspen, voters will decide on a sales-tax increase to fund schools.)

The proposals follow one year after a historically-high 26 out of 38 local school tax proposals went down to defeat. Notably, this year five of the state’s nine largest school districts, cumulatively enrolling more than one-third of Colorado’s public K-12 students, are seeking voter approval of various tax increases. Some of them represent significant amounts (descriptions from Ed News in quotes):

  • Jefferson County: “$99 million bond for a variety of building upgrades; $39 million override to maintain class size and protect some programs.”
  • Denver: “$466 million bond for maintenance, technology, renovation and upgrades; $49 million override for enrichment, student support services and other programs. DPS also is an alternate for a $3.8 million BEST grant to renovate South High School, and some of the bond issue would provide a match.”
  • Cherry Creek: “$125 million bond for building upgrades and technology; $25 million override to offset cuts.”
  • Aurora: “$15 million override for partial offset of state cuts.”
  • St. Vrain: “$14.8 million override to maintain staff compensation, technology and early childhood programs.”

Given fiscal realities, there can be little doubt that all of these districts experienced some degree of cuts in per-pupil funding. But hard data from the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) only goes through the previous school year of 2010-11. My Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow has compiled CDE numbers for the state’s five largest tax hike-seeking districts. Continue Reading »


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