Archive for the 'Education Politics' Category

July
30th 2014
Gamblin’ for Children

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & education schools

My father always told me that nothing says “kid-friendly” like a day of gamblin’ at the ol’ horse track.

Coloradans for Better Schools, the backers of Initiative 135, agree. And just this week, it was reported that the initiative has received enough signatures to appear on the ballot in November. Everyone, say hello to Amendment 68 to the Colorado Constitution.

The proposed amendment would allow for a full casino to open at the Arapahoe Park Racetrack. It may also pave the way for limited gambling at racetracks in Mesa and Pueblo Counties in the future.

In exchange for the new casino, Amendment 68 promises to deposit a lump sum of $25 million into a new K-12 education fund. Thereafter, the casino will deposit 34 percent of its adjusted gross proceeds—the difference between all the money bet and all the money won for my fellow youngsters—to the fund.

Early revenue estimates are in the ballpark of $100 million. But the amendment’s opposition, backed by casino interests farther up I-70, isn’t convinced. Instead, Don’t Turn Racetracks into Casinos argues that the amendment is little more than a money grab by East-Coast gambling tycoons.

I tried to plug the numbers into my faithful pocket calculator, but it only beeped sadly in protest. For now, I’ll have to resign myself to not knowing how Amendment 68 would shake out if it passed. I do know that, as Chalkbeat Colorado reported last week, previous “sin taxes” for education have so far not lived up to their lofty promises.

Once again, my fellow students and I find ourselves standing in the political arena as the grownups argue over big numbers. It will be many years until I’m old enough to care about slot machines or blackjack. But as the fight over Amendment 68’s casino heats up, I think it’s important to remember that I’m a child, not a poker chip.

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July
29th 2014
Let’s Grow Colorado K-12 Course Access But NOT Reinvent the Wheel

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Research & School Board

Give me Legos, Play-doh, or just a pile of rocks and sticks, and I’ll create something. If you want to know what some of my crazy inventions have been, just ask my poor mom. But let me tell you one thing I haven’t tried to do, and that’s reinvent the wheel.

I’m sure the members of the new online education task force are well aware of that wise maxim. One of the tasks they’re charged to do is authorize pilot programs for digital learning that can and ought to include course-level funding. A couple months ago I pointed them to a quick Fordham Institute manual about the different policy dimensions to consider.

Now I’m hoping even more that they’ll see the lessons gleaned from other states, lessons reported reported last week by Digital Learning Now. The report highlights not only the advantages of Course Access, but also key challenges that need to be addressed, such as “Creating meaningful foundations for system performance review and assessment.” Continue Reading »

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July
23rd 2014
Overconfidence, Low Expectations, Little Innovation: Not a Good Mixture

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & International & learning & math & Principals & Research

Remember that clip from the ages-old education documentary Waiting for Superman, where we’re told that American students are behind the pack in math in almost any way you measure it, except for one:

Yes, when it comes to students’ classroom confidence (“I get good marks in mathematics”), a much different story emerges: The USA is #1! Compare that to #32 in actual math proficiency overall, or #28 among kids with college-educated parents. Continue Reading »

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July
21st 2014
Argue Policy, Not Philosophy

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Public Charter Schools & Research

Some things don’t mix well. Mustard and chocolate cake, seafood and ice cream, bacon and vegetables—all of these make me wrinkle my nose. As it turns out, hard-nosed philosophy and education policy also do not make a good pair.

Last week, Andy Smarick wrote about the problems that arise when philosophical views collide with education policy discussions. While Andy was specifically discussing the ongoing (and rather nasty) debate over charter schools, I think his point is applicable to education policy more generally.

Instead of arguing over well-supported points or thoughtful positions, education activists and experts too often find themselves battling over philosophical differences. As these debates become increasingly vitriolic, potentially valuable answers to important policy questions are ignored. Sadly, this means that kids like me may be denied the solutions we deserve while the grown-ups we depend on for help point fingers and sling insults. Continue Reading »

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July
14th 2014
Union Leaders Miss Bus as Union Bus (Thankfully) Misses Me

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Federal Government & Independence Institute & Just For Fun & Teachers

Usually I’m reluctant to cross into the intersection of education policy and national politics. But when I do, I lean heavily on the trusted big people in my life to walk me across the busy lanes of scary-looking traffic. The aftermath of the NEA Assembly in Denver is one of those times when I’m reaching out and reaching up for a hand.

My Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow took on the matter with a Greeley Tribune op-ed last week. He set up the 2009 NEA Assembly as a point of comparison, with candidly expressed union priorities put on center stage.

Retiring NEA counsel Bob Chanin laid down the line that better results for students “must not be achieved at the expense of due process, employee rights, or collective bargaining.” As Ben wrote in his column, that line in the sand expresses why union leaders are so concerned about a couple of court cases that threaten their status and bottom line. Continue Reading »

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July
8th 2014
Colorado Starts New School Finance Lawsuit: How Different than Lobato?

Posted under Courts & Denver & Education Politics & Governor & Independence Institute & School Finance & State Legislature

Back at the end of May I told you about another school finance lawsuit looming in Colorado. Even as my Education Policy Center friends were helping me write that, I could almost hear the distant strains of anguish. Lobato was floating out there for nearly eight years… do we really have to endure the same excruciating twists and turns again?

The answer is “Sort of.” On Friday, June 27, the same law firm that brought you Lobato made it official when they filed Dwyer v State in Denver District Court. The good news is this time they’re not asking to break the bank:

The plaintiffs ask that the negative factor section be stricken from the state’s school funding law and that the legislature be barred from reinstating the factor in another form. The suit does not ask that lost funding be restored.

After all, National Education Association data indicates that Colorado ranks 21st in per-pupil spending. So cries for an extra $2 billion a year in the wake of Amendment 66‘s decisive electoral conflagration might just be scoffed at this point. Continue Reading »

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July
3rd 2014
Dougco Choice Spirit on Display with Aspiring Florida School Board Leader

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Parents & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools

Writing over at redefinED today, Travis Pillow features a Floridian named Brian Graham, a school choice supporter who is running for his local Board of Education:

If he’s successful this fall, he will join the small but growing ranks of school board members around the state – including his friend Jason Fischer in neighboring Duval County – who say school districts should embrace the full range of options available to parents, and look to add more of their own.

A couple cursory comments. First off, because of the public positions he has taken, little Eddie wishes Mr. Pillow well. Second, it appears the Sunshine State holds school board elections on regular election days in even-numbered years. I wouldn’t mind Colorado considering that change. Continue Reading »

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June
30th 2014
Friedman Survey Finds Big Shift on Standardized Testing, Not to Mention….

Posted under Education Politics & Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & Tax Credits

For someone who has what some would consider an unhealthy fascination with education surveys, it has been awhile since I really delved into one of them. Back then, the big concern was about PDK/Gallup’s wording of a key question about school choice — adding the ominous phrase “at public expense.”

This latest survey of a nationally representative sample of voters is sponsored by my friends at the Friedman Foundation. Interestingly, this renowned pro-school choice group led its release of the results with the headline: “Parents say too much focus on standardized tests.” According to their poll, 44 percent of parents think standardized tests take up too much time, 22 percent say too little, and 30 percent say it’s about right.

Note that we’re talking about parents of school-aged children — a smaller subset of voters. Interestingly, though, the results for non-parents only skew a little bit toward the “too little” and “about right” categories. More significantly is the comparison to last year’s findings from a different poll, in which 61 percent of parents said testing was “about right,” compared to 11 percent saying “too little.” Continue Reading »

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June
12th 2014
Vergara Big Win for California Kids, But Should We Worry about Courts’ Role?

Posted under Courts & Denver & Education Politics & learning & Principals & Research & Teachers & Urban Schools

Yesterday it was belated high fives all around for a defensive legal victory here in Colorado, as a Denver judge dismissed a union-backed lawsuit to enshrine harmful tenure protections. For anyone in the K-12 education world who may have been sleeping under a rock for a few days, you may not have heard that good policy similarly prevailed Tuesday in the California courts.

I’m talking about the Los Angeles Superior Court judge’s decision in the Vergara case. Nine student plaintiffs, backed by an advocacy group called Students Matter, won their claim that California’a particularly egregious tenure and dismissal laws led to “grossly ineffective instruction” particularly in low-income schools. If higher courts agree, the state’s laws could be thrown out and the legislature made to rewrite them.

It seems apparent to me we have two major issues at play here, potentially in conflict with one another. First, from a policy perspective, the clear and resounding victory has these little legs running and jumping for joy! Come along with me and survey the cheering voices: Continue Reading »

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June
11th 2014
High Fives All Around: Colorado Union’s Pro-Tenure Lawsuit Shot Down

Posted under Courts & Denver & Education Politics & State Legislature & Teachers

I had planned to post this good news with you on Monday. But then sickness intervened. Not me, mind you. But the website itself was maliciously attacked, perhaps by someone who doesn’t like what this little kid has to say. Well, better late than never. And more to come soon.

You hang around these big policy wonk people long enough, and sometimes you can be overwhelmed by all the “nuance” and “qualifications” and “ambiguity.” It’s not every day you get to see the guys in the black hats flummoxed, foiled, and defeated, while the guys in the white hats celebrate a clear-cut victory.

Maybe on one of my grandpa’s old cowboy shows, or on one of the silly cartoons my parents watched growing up. But not so often in education news — unless you count late Friday afternoon: Continue Reading »

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