Archive for April, 2014

April
30th 2014
Forget HB 1292 Transparency Soap Opera: Make it an Old Gangster Film

Posted under Education Politics & Journalism & Just For Fun & School Finance & State Legislature

Update, 5/1: Looks like no knees had to be broken after all….

Did you see that post I did a little over a week ago: “HB 1292 Transparency Headed for Happy Ending? Good Solution Still Needed”? Given last night’s events, I thought about just publishing that all over again today and hoping nobody would notice. When some adults try to teach me about the importance of recycling, I don’t think that is what they had in mind.

As usual, Chalkbeat Colorado does an unparalleled job of bringing readers the latest Student Success Act scoop from the Capitol:

The bill left the House with a central website in it. That provision has been amended in various ways as HB 14-1292 traveled through three Senate committees, which basically contradicted each other.

Bill sponsors thought they’d finessed a compromise on Tuesday night, but they hadn’t. Discussion on the bill was repeatedly interrupted for huddles on the side of the Senate chamber. At one point sponsor Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, and other senators went outside the chamber for a vigorous exchange with a big scrum of district lobbyists (sometimes known as the “K-12 mafia.”)

Shortly after that, Heath announced consideration of the bill had been delayed.

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April
29th 2014
Teachers vs. the Public on K-12 Education: Scratching the Surface

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice & Tax Credits & Teachers

Earlier today one of my Education Policy Center friends got to watch most of an online telecast of a panel discussion titled Teachers versus the Public: What Americans Think about Schools and How to Fix Them. One of the co-authors of a recently released book by the same name, Dr. Paul Peterson, led the discussion.

The book and the discussion are essentially a reflection on some of the more interesting results like those released in the 2013 Harvard/Education Next survey. Many months ago I offered readers some examples of how this poll cast skepticism on the findings of the more widely touted PDK/Gallup education survey. Continue Reading »

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April
28th 2014
Denver Post: “Fundamental Fairness” in Jeffco Charter Student Funding Plan

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Principals & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Board & School Finance & State Legislature & Suburban Schools

When the Center for Education Reform (CER) released this year’s Charter School Law Rankings and Scorecard in March, I didn’t take time to give you an update. Colorado scooted up from 10th place to 9th place, not for any improvements of its own but because one state (ahem… Missouri) took a small step back.

But it’s action on the local front that soon may show Colorado outperforming the ranking of our law, at least in one important respect.

CER uses a 55-point scale to rate the quality of state laws related to public charter schools. The formula takes into account the availability of different entities to authorize charters, various restrictions on the number of charters that can open statewide, and to what extent these schools can operate free from a number of different regulations.

More than a quarter of the total scorecard, however, is tied to the issue of funding equity — whether charter students have access to the same share of operating funds and relevant facilities dollars as their counterparts in district-run schools. In this regard, a significant number of states top Colorado, though only by small margins. (Even the best states have a ways to go.) Continue Reading »

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April
25th 2014
Is It Time to Rethink the Colorado Department of Education’s Role?

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Research & School Finance & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Teachers

A Friday is as good a time as any to step back, survey the education reform landscape, and question some underlying assumptions. The new Fordham Institute report The State Education Agency: At the Helm, Not the Oar summons us to rethink the role of a major player in the K-12 policy world.

Here’s the question: Are we asking, or expecting, too much from our state education agencies (SEAs)? Here we’re talking about the Colorado Department of Education (CDE). Andy Smarick and Juliet Squire lay out the scope of the problem, and then offer a solution.

On the first count, it’s hard to disagree: The current approach of trying to do too much is having some bad results. The Fordham authors cite an example close to home: Continue Reading »

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April
23rd 2014
Hooray! Kansas Becomes 14th State to Adopt K-12 Scholarship Tax Credits

Posted under Governor & Independence Institute & Parents & Private Schools & School Choice & State Legislature & Tax Credits

Before I begin, let me agree with you: Yes, this blog is definitely spending an inordinate amount of attention on the state of Kansas recently. But trust me, it’s for a good reason this time. Two weeks ago I told you that the Sunflower State was on the verge of creating the newest private school choice program.

Well, as of a couple days ago, it’s official. As the American Federation for Children explains, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed scholarship tax credits into law on Monday: Continue Reading »

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April
22nd 2014
Could Stopping a Teachers Union Vote Make a New “Hammer” Celebrity?

Posted under Education Politics & Just For Fun & Teachers

Last Friday I told you about some Maryland teachers standing up to the union machine and seeking the chance to represent themselves. According to the Education Intelligence Agency’s Mike Antonucci, the story about the Wicomico County Education Association (WCEA)’s attempted breakaway from the state and national union just grows more and more interesting:

Upset by the actions of WCEA’s board, Gary Hammer, a union site representative at Bennett Middle School, began circulating petitions to recall all the WCEA officers and members of the board, and to suspend them from office until the recall took place. Hammer and his supporters claim to have gathered 700 signatures, which would constitute a majority of the bargaining unit.

Last Tuesday, Hammer and others “entered the WCEA offices, changed the locks and codes, removed or altered office equipment and purported to illegally fire the Association’s only employee.”…

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April
21st 2014
HB 1292 Transparency Headed for Happy Ending? Good Solution Still Needed

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & School Finance & State Legislature

Sometimes it’s fun to be the odd man out in a heated discussion, to throw up your arms, and shout, “You’re all wrong!” Whether you’re able to change any minds, well, that’s another story.

This time it’s my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow writing a short response to the Denver Post‘s glowing editorial in favor of HB 1292 (the so-called “Student Success Act”). The piece argued that the version of the bill just approved by the Colorado House would make our state “a national leader in transparency.”

Chalkbeat Colorado reported Friday that in taking its first crack at the legislation, the Senate Education Committee passed a bipartisan amendment to that part of the bill, particularly the “elimination of funding for a proposed state website that would link users to information about district and school spending. Instead, districts would post that data on their own websites.” Continue Reading »

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April
18th 2014
Breath of Fresh Air: Teachers Stand Up Against Tenure Lawsuit, Union Bullying

Posted under Education Politics & Teachers

It’s a special Friday. For various reasons, you probably have, or at least should have, other things to think about than what I might tell you about the world of K-12 education. But here are a couple observations to share that remind us all teachers are not in lockstep with a certain group’s efforts to focus on narrow interests and defending the lowest common denominator.

It was just two days ago I shared with you a few thoughts on tenure reform and how to avoid the munchkins. While Kansas is contemplating ways to weaken tenure, Colorado’s largest teachers union is fighting to strengthen the practice that often hurts students and costs taxpayers.

Thankfully, as a Westword piece by Melanie Asmar pointed out yesterday, some teachers do not agree with the CEA lawsuit and are willing to speak out about it: Continue Reading »

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April
17th 2014
Cheering for New Hampshire Kids to Win Their Day in (the Supreme) Court

Posted under Courts & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & School Choice & State Legislature & Tax Credits

Welcome aboard, Little Eddie’s Virtual Airlines. Yesterday we made a landing in Kansas while skillfully avoiding the munchkins. Today the blog wheels touch down in the Northeast, where oral arguments in an important state supreme court case very recently took place.

Back in 2012 New Hampshire became one of the 13 (soon to be 14) states that have adopted scholarship tax credits. These programs encourage more private donations that give students access to educational choices that better serve their needs. After taking an attempt to roll back the program and nipping it in the bud, school choice in the Granite State took its defense to the courts.

Last June, some “particularly odd” judicial logic shot down part of the scholarship tax credit program. Not just odd, but scary. Namely, that any money you own potentially belongs to the government. Therefore, Judge John Lewis said money that might go to the government cannot help pay for private tuition at a religious school — well, because, I guess…. Continue Reading »

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April
16th 2014
How to Avoid the Munchkins: A Little Tenure Reform Advice for Kansas

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Just For Fun & Principals & State Legislature & Teachers

The teachers union may have ordered the death of its own bill to weaken mutual consent for teacher placement. But HB 1268‘s twin, the CEA’s lawsuit to enshrine tenure protections as a state constitutional right, lives on.

Meanwhile, a glimpse across the eastern border reveals the winds surrounding this debate are blowing in a very different direction. A weekend article from the Kansas City Star reports that Kansas leaders are having a heated debate about some late-developing significant tenure reform:

For generations, the state promised that before getting canned teachers could get an appeal. If a hearing officer disagreed with the teacher’s bosses, the instructor stayed in the classroom.

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