Archive for the 'Independence Institute' Category

October
12th 2017
Opening a charter school is difficult – but worth it

Posted under charter schools & Educational Choice & Independence Institute & Public Charter Schools & Publications & Ross Izard

My friends at the Independence Institute published a new paper in July telling the stories of three groups of parents and visionaries seeking better educational options for children in their communities by starting charter schools.

Often, I don’t know why adults do what they do.  Sometimes they seem so stressed and anxious.  Sometimes they aren’t nice to each other.  Sometimes they seem so desperate and hopeless.

Other times they seem deeply satisfied, happy, or even elated.  They seem to be this way when they accomplish something that they believe to be extremely valuable—something for which they were driven to work hard.  It’s hard for me to relate because my largest accomplishment in any given day is getting my shirt on right-side-out.

One thing that adults seem to value is doing right by their children, and a big part of that is ensuring that they receive a quality education.  In some cases, that requires lots of hard work.

In The Challenges of Opening a Charter School: Three Colorado Case Studies, Ross Izard portrays the countless hours of hard work that go into navigating the many legal, logistical and bureaucratic barriers to opening a charter school.  Some of these barriers are common to all potential charter schools, but each school also faces its own unique challenges.  Izard contrasts the challenges faced by the parents trying to open a STEM-focused school in an affluent community with those faced by a visionary seeking to open a charter high school to serve teens in a poverty-stricken neighborhood who are pregnant or already parents, and still others faced by parents simply trying to expand school choice in an average suburban area with a classical charter school.

So, what does it really take to open a charter school?  First, there must be a shared vision among the parents and advocates seeking to open a charter school for what a “better” education means.  Next comes translating that vision into a hundreds-of-pages-long charter application, followed by navigating the politics and bureaucracy surrounding the application process.  Charter schools must be authorized by either a school district or the state chartering authority.  Many applications are rejected on either merit or politics.  Though charter schools can request waivers from many state laws, giving them more freedom to be autonomous, they are still public schools and must meet state academic standards and administer state assessments.  Sounds both easy and fun, right?

Wrong.

One of the most difficult challenges is funding.  Unlike traditional public schools, charter schools often must provide their own facilities, forcing them to spend resources out of their operating budgets.  There are federal and state grant programs that help charters get started, though they fall short of covering the full cost.  This leaves less money to pay their teachers, meaning they must work to find quality educators willing to work for less than they could earn in a traditional public school.

Why is it, then, that so many of these schools end up succeeding despite these disadvantages?  It’s simple: persistence, patience, and the relentless desire of parents and other visionaries determined to provide a high-quality education for Colorado’s children.

I don’t always know why adults do what they do, but this paper helps me to understand what they’re up against in the fight to create the best educational opportunities for their children.

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November
20th 2015
Change is in the Air — I’m Just Getting a Little Older, Though, Not Going Away

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Independence Institute & Just For Fun & Parents & School Board & School Choice

Maybe it’s because it’s the Friday before Thanksgiving, or maybe it’s because a couple of my really good Education Policy Center friends are picking up and moving to another state, but I’m not really keen on writing another long post today.

Change is in the air — change that I didn’t wish for, and change that will merit me keeping an eye on. I’m not just talking about the fact that, according to increasingly loud rumors, the Broncos’ great QB Peyton Manning may be ready to hang up his cleats once and for all (thanks to Complete Colorado for helping me to find this piece).

No, more fitting to my world, as part of Election 2015‘s Empire Strikes Back theme, union-backed candidates swept back into power in Jefferson County and Thompson, while reform opponents gained a foothold in Douglas County, the most interesting school district in America. Sad perhaps, but silver linings remain. Continue Reading »

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November
5th 2015
Yes, Election Night Happened, But Keep Your Chins Up, Colorado Reformers

Posted under Courts & Denver & Education Politics & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Union

Yeah, yeah, yeah, school board elections happened in Colorado this week. Ok, so I promised to give you a full report yesterday. But I got a little busy crying in my Cheerios with some important stuff to do.

Do I really need to review what happened with the Teachers Union Empire Strikes Back? After all, my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow donned his Captain Obvious hat for Chalkbeat Colorado, observing “You can’t deny it was a setback for conservative reform at the school board level in Colorado. The unions had their day. There’s no doubt about it.”

Another of my Education Policy Center friends, Ross Izard, did a pretty good job laying it out in more detail. He optimistically notes that conservative education reformers have been bruised, but not beaten by the big recall in Jeffco or setbacks in a number of other districts: Continue Reading »

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October
27th 2015
Get Past the High Drama and Give Reform a Chance to Succeed

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & School Board & Suburban Schools & Union

Some days I wish that improving schools for all students and giving all families access to the best educational options were easier to accomplish. But change can be difficult, especially when self-interested groups have their power and prestige at stake.

Emotions are tense and high in Jefferson County, where a fact-challenged, union-backed recall election against three school board reformers has consumed a lot of attention. The good news is that it means many people care about the future and about the value of education.

The sad part, however, is that a group of people are persuaded that restoring control to the union and traditional bureaucratic powers will help quiet down the turmoil that the union and allies have manufactured from the very beginning.

Try to do things a little differently? You know, focus on raising student achievement, funding all public students fairly, and rewarding highly effective educators, and what do you get? Bullying of reform supporters — which apparently gets you promoted to PTA president.

But at least board members’ children aren’t subject to this harassment, right? Uh, guess again: Continue Reading »

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October
12th 2015
Can’t We Just Get Colorado on the CER Tax Credit Report Card… Please?

Posted under Federal Government & Independence Institute & Just For Fun & Parents & Research & School Choice & Tax Credits

Imagine this scenario: The teacher has posted the grades for the final exam on the wall outside the classroom. There, standing and staring at the paper is a young student crying. “What’s the matter? Did you not get a passing grade?” the passerby asks. The weeping student, struggling for composure, simply shakes her head. “Then what’s wrong?”

Finally, the answer comes out. The student explains that she was sad not because she got a poor grade, but because she never got a chance to take the course, and thus received no grade at all.

That’s kind of how I felt upon seeing the Center for Education Reform’s new Education Tax Credit Laws Across the States Ranking and Scorecard 2015.

Continue Reading »

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September
15th 2015
Binding Thread? Four-Day School Week Research & Denver’s Roots Elementary

Posted under Denver & Elementary School & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Public Charter Schools & Research & Rural Schools

Sometimes a little edublogger sees two small interesting stories to cover, and leaves it to insightful readers like you to figure out the connection. Today is one of those somewhat interesting occasions.

Let’s start over at Education Week, where a recent post by Liana Heitin caught my attention. A newly published study of 15 rural Colorado elementary schools show that changing the school week from five days to four brought about clear improvements in math and likely has the same sort of effect on reading. (It may even help student attendance, but those results weren’t definitive.)

The average person’s reaction to such news might be a true head-scratcher. The research doesn’t provide any real insights into what causes this counterintuitive result. All these schools are still providing the required instructional hours, just packing them into longer days and extending the weekends.

Some complementary research from Idaho released a couple months ago shows that making the shift to the shorter school week yields no savings, and in a few cases, actually incurs extra costs. Crazy, huh? Continue Reading »

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August
20th 2015
Eddie’s Crazy Idea: More Colo. Districts Should Pursue Student-Based Budgeting

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

Hey, I’ve got a crazy idea! Why not have school districts base their budgeting on students like me (or any student, for that matter)? It just makes sense to do it that way, right? Especially since the whole K-12 education enterprise is supposed to be about the kids.

It’s not that simple, however, and it’s not usually the case. Things like staffing formulas and seniority rules — not to mention bureaucratic traditions and old-fashioned accounting systems — generally rule the day. But in Colorado, the practice of Student-Based Budgeting is on the rise:

Through student-based budgeting (SBB), six school districts have prioritized student need over administrative convenience with a cost-effective approach that places more funds under individual school control.

This is from one of those long issue papers by my Education Policy Center friends that little me may never get around to reading cover to cover. SBB isn’t terribly glamorous, nor (like any other reform) is it a silver bullet. Even so, I’ve learned just enough to know that it’s something that very much should be on your radar. Plus, it has a fun and inspiring cover: Continue Reading »

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August
11th 2015
Let Me Repeat Myself Once Again: Colorado Needs Course Choice

Posted under High School & Independence Institute & Online Schools & Rural Schools & School Board & Suburban Schools

It has been said far more than once: “Repetition is the key to learning.” Given the number of times I’ve been told the importance of cleaning my room and eating my vegetables, my parents are firm believers in this statement.

But hey, little Eddie gets it, too. Sometimes you have to make the same point over and over again — in new and creative ways, or just to new audiences. The lesson applies today to the subject of Course Access, or Course Choice.

Back in 2012, my Education Policy Center friends published the paper “Online Course-Level Funding: Toward Colorado Secondary Self-Blended Learning Options.” The idea? Allow education funds to be unbundled so students can take a portion of the money to complete their learning path with their own selection of quality course providers.

At the time Minnesota, and especially Utah, were the models for Colorado to study and follow in order to ensure a highly flexible and student-centered system of funding and delivering education. Many kids get all they need from their home secondary school — whether it’s traditional public, charter, or private; brick-and-mortar, online, or blended. Continue Reading »

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June
11th 2015
Waiting for Dougco Choice Ruling? Florida, Kansas Serve Up Good News

Posted under Courts & Denver & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Private Schools & School Board & School Choice & State Legislature & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Union

Education policy and the courts: Usually not a match made in heaven. Though often there’s a very good reason to pay close attention. Like six months ago, when I proclaimed my excitement that the landmark Douglas County school choice case finally reached a hearing at the Colorado Supreme Court.

Sorry if I got anybody’s hopes up. We’re into the summer months, closing in on the fourth anniversary of when the complaint was first filed against the Choice Scholarship Program, and here we are still waiting for the big decision from the seven justices.

Meanwhile, you can cheer up a bit at a tidbit of good school choice news from a different case: Continue Reading »

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June
3rd 2015
Nevada Joins Ranks of ESA States, Adds Momentum to Educational Choice

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

A few months ago one of my Education Policy Center friends created one of the first-ever Freedom Minute videos on “The Education Debit Card.” Remember? It’s everywhere you want to learn or Don’t leave home without it.

The Education Debit Card is a catchier name for Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). Dubbed the “iPhone” of school choice by Matt Ladner, ESAs give families control over a prescribed amount of state education funds to be used on private school tuition, tutoring, instructional materials, online courses, educational therapies, or to save for college expenses. More than any kind of choice program, it targets dollars to serve students’ individual learning needs.

At the time the video was made there were exactly two states with ESAs: Arizona and Florida. And both those states had limited eligibility, mostly students with recognized special needs and/or in special circumstances (e.g., foster care or military family). As of yesterday, there are five states, including the first to offer nearly universal ESAs to all public school children. Continue Reading »

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