There’s no time like summertime to focus on some good news, even if it comes from some place even hotter than home: Arizona. Thanks to Matt Ladner guest-posting on Jay Greene’s blog, I learned that the Grand Canyon State is a small step away from creating more opportunities for students and families after the legislature voted to expand two of its leading school choice programs.
Archive for the 'Governor' Category
There are a few possible explanations for all those shouts of “May Day” Coloradans may have heard yesterday. Some might have been the annual calls for an imaginary workers’ paradise, while others might have been desperate pleas of displaced Texans and Californians calling for relief from the late-season snow. In my education policy wonk world, though, “May Day” was code for a noteworthy coincidence. Have you heard?
As Ed News Colorado reports, the state legislature yesterday put the finishing touches on Senate Bill 213, the new school finance bill tied to some form of a billion-dollar tax increase initiative. Finishing its partisan course, the senate approved house amendments by a party-line 20-15 tally. Every legislative vote cast for SB 213 has come from Democrats; every vote against has come from Republicans. The Governor, also a Democrat, has given every indication of signing it into law.
The strict partisan divide may have something to do with all the bill’s missed reform opportunities, including continued inequities for charters and only a tiny share of total funds assigned to student “backpacks” (and in the final version of SB 213, pgs 139-140, even that small amount of principal “autonomy” is subject to district-level review). Then there’s the issue of “phantom students,” an ongoing problem of inequity left completely untouched by this new legislation.
That brings us to the May 1 coincidence. The same day as Colorado’s SB 213 received its final stamp of legislative approval, the smart people over at Education Next published a research-based commentary by Marguerite Roza and Jon Fullerton titled “Funding Phantom Students: State policies insulate districts from making tough decisions.” Continue Reading »
Often it’s very easy to get bogged down in a big education policy debate like Colorado’s SB 213 school finance reform proposal. Then along comes a Denver Post op-ed piece by a motivated citizen that exhales a breath of fresh air:
Colorado currently spends about $10,600 per student per year on K-12 education. You can get a pretty good private education for that. Sen. Johnston wants to increase school spending to nearly $12,000 per student. But without changing the design of the system, why should anyone expect different results?
Let’s stop funding the education establishment and instead fund parents and children. In a state-regulated environment, let’s give that $10,000 to parents for each child they have in school and let them decide how and where the money used to educate their children should be spent.
The author is Littleton’s own John Conlin, founder of the small nonprofit activist group End the Education Plantation. True fans may recall his appearance several months ago in an on-air interview with my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow. Continue Reading »
A little over a week ago I told you about the brilliant blindside hit for Alabama kids in failing schools and other school choice supporters. Not only did they sack the quarterback for a loss, but the reform team defense forced a fumble and returned it for a touchdown!
Well, the coaches for the education establishment didn’t like the call, I guess. Because about the same time I posted the good news, they filed a restraining order to stop the tax credit scholarship legislation from going into effect.
I don’t think true football fans would wait more than a week after the red challenge flag hit the field for the referees to make up their mind, but yesterday’s response from the Alabama Supreme Court actually came pretty quickly for the legal system. Continue Reading »
Yesterday, some attorneys got up and argued an important case affecting K-12 education before the Colorado Supreme Court. The hearing was about an appeal of the Denver district court’s Lobato decision, previously referred to by the Denver Post as the “Super Bowl of school funding litigation.” Judge Sheila Rappaport granted judgment for the plaintiffs, contending that an additional $2 billion-plus a year would be needed to fund the K-12 system.
Where the money is supposed to come from, who knows? Before the state’s highest court, the lawyer for the State of Colorado questioned one of Rappaport’s key findings:
[Jonathan] Fero, an assistant attorney general, repeatedly argued that having a thorough and uniform educational system doesn’t mean creating a system where every child is equally successful.
The concept of time is the topic of 100 proverbs and cliches. In the world of education reform, it definitely doesn’t feel like time is on our side. Every year of delay in debating, approving and implementing important policy changes — including expanded parental choice — is a year many students will not get back. But what about just making sure they are spending more time in school? Colorado is one of five states taking part in a three-year pilot program to keep thousands of students in school longer:
Spending more time in the classroom, officials said, will give students access to a more well-rounded curriculum that includes arts and music, individualized help for students who fall behind and opportunities to reinforce critical math and science skills.
“That extra time with their teachers or within a structured setting means all the world,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. “It means it allows them to continue the momentum they had the day before. It means they don’t slip back over the summer. It allows them to really deliver.”
Just the kind of glum news you (don’t!) want to hear before your weekend gets rolling, from the Wall Street Journal:
A Louisiana district court judge ruled Friday that the state’s school-voucher program is unconstitutional, dealing a blow to one of the nation’s most expansive efforts to let students attend private schools at taxpayer expense.
Judge Tim Kelley, a Republican, ruled that the program, created and championed by Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, illegally diverts tax money intended for public schools to private and religious schools instead.
Very sad to see the educational fate of thousands of students in private schools up in the air. Those of us in Colorado who waited more than a year for an Appeals Court hearing — and especially those Douglas County families who had everything turned upside down by the August 2011 injunction — feel the pain.
Here’s hoping that Governor Bobby Jindal and all the great supporters of school choice in Louisiana are able to get things turned around, sooner rather than later. And here’s hoping that things turn out better in Indiana, where the nation’s most thriving private school choice program is before that state’s supreme court.
Don’t know about you, but I’m going to try to focus on some cheerier news for the weekend.
Sometimes the stars seem to align, and you have to wonder who is manipulating the telescope. I haven’t gotten into astronomy — at least not yet. But what I’m talking about really isn’t about astronomy. It’s about politics, and giving money to education bureaucrats. A metaphor, as it were.
Today, Ed News Colorado reports that Governor John Hickenlooper’s statewide listening tour has yielded some convenient recommendations for K-12 education:
Public school funding – tied to student outcomes – higher education support and expansion of preschool and full-day kindergarten should be top state priorities, according to the board of directors of TBD Colorado, the group that’s spent more than a year studying and sampling public attitudes about major issues facing the state.
Throw more money at the problem? Hmmm. The stars are beginning to align between the governor’s “TBD” initiative and the established-interest-heavy School Finance Partnership. Well, I may be only a perpetually 5-year-old blogging prodigy, but that was predictable.
More funding into the currently unsustainable K-12 system? I can’t say for certain whether the deck was stacked for the status quo. Or whether the findings actually are representative of Coloradans’ policy priorities for education, and little Eddie and friends just have that much more work to do persuading people about the need for more freedom and a productive approach that funds students directly, empowers parents, and leads to effective outcomes.
Ed News reports that the State of Colorado has laid out its detailed argument in the appeal of the Lobato school funding case. Former governors of both political stripes joined the University of Colorado Board of Regents and a coalition of business leaders in submitting their formal backing with the State and against the lawsuit:
The state’s brief, along with most of the amicus briefs, attempts to make the point that the high court needs to consider all state budgetary needs, not just whether K-12 funding is constitutional, in making its eventual decision.
So no more union monopoly collective bargaining agreement exists for teachers in Colorado’s third-largest school district… Now what? Change certainly isn’t easy. And the group losing its prestigious status, in this case the Douglas County Federation of Teachers, isn’t just going to walk away quietly into the shadows.
The largest teachers union, NEA, already is experiencing a serious membership decline nationwide. So I’m sure national AFT leadership doesn’t want its largest Colorado chapter to set the precedent of surrendering exclusive bargaining authority, government dues collection, and taxpayer-funded personnel. In that sense, seems like they almost had to ask the state to get involved. What state officials opt to do is almost anyone’s guess.
I pointed out before that while taking such a bold step may be unsettling to some employees accustomed to old patterns and relations, that in the end Douglas County teachers will have both a less filtered professional voice and more effective membership options without a master agreement. Reporter Jane Reuter’s new story for Douglas County newspapers brings home that latter point quite well: Continue Reading »