Year: 2012

The Role of the Charter School Authorizer

This is the Choice Media #EdReformMinute for Friday, December 28. Bob Bowdon Lisa Keegan is currently on the board of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.  She speaks here about the goals of that group. Previously, Ms. Keegan was elected as both an Arizona state legislator and the state’s education chief.  She remains a leader in the national education reform movement. LISA KEEGAN INTERVIEW All the day’s news in education reform available at ChoiceMedia.TV. © 2012 Choice...

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Mike Van Beek: MI Right-to-Work is ‘Huge’

This is the Choice Media #EdReformMinute for Friday, December 14. Bob Bowdon This week Michigan passed right-to-work legislation.  How did it affect public school teachers? I posed that question to Michael Van Beek.  He is the Director of Education Policy at the Michigan-based Mackinac Center, and here is the audio of that interview. MIKE VAN BEEK INTERVIEW All the day’s news in education reform available at ChoiceMedia.TV. © 2012 Choice...

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Jeanne Allen on the State of Ed Reform

This is the Choice Media #EdReformMinute for Tuesday, December 11. Bob Bowdon At the Foundation for Excellence in Education conference in Washington, DC, I was able to sit down with Jeanne Allen, the President of the Center for Education Reform, to discuss the state of education reform in America today.   Here is that interview. JEANNE ALLEN INTERVIEW All the day’s news in education reform available at ChoiceMedia.TV. © 2012 Choice...

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IN Supreme Court Hears Anti-Voucher Case

This is the Choice Media #EdReformMinute for Thursday, December 6, 2012. Bob Bowdon At the Foundation for Excellence in Education conference in DC last week, I sat down with Robert Enlow of Friedman Foundation to talk about the lawsuit against vouchers, currently under consideration by the Indiana Supreme Court.  Here is the audio of that interview. ROBERT ENLOW INTERVIEW All the day’s news in education reform available at ChoiceMedia.TV. © 2012 Choice...

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Breaking: Voucher Decision May Not Mean Much

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media Special Report on the Louisiana Voucher Decision, November 30th, 2012. Bob Bowdon The headlines broke today that District judge Tim Kelley had ruled Louisiana’s statewide vouchers unconstitutional.  But on closer inspection, the ruling may not as dramatic as some have assumed.   That’s because the judge specifically said he is not striking down the voucher program itself, only its current funding method.  In other words, if the school vouchers were instead paid for by a line item in the state budget, the judge says it would be constitutional.  Moreover, the case is headed for the Louisiana Supreme Court anyway, and the higher court won’t even be considering this judge’s rationale when they get the case. I spoke with Louisiana’s lead attorney defending the voucher program, Jimmy Faircloth, and he began by telling me what the decision did not say. JIMMY FAIRCLOTH TELEPHONE INTERVIEW All the day’s news in education reform available at ChoiceMedia.TV. © 2012 Choice...

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PA State Senator to Introduce Parent Trigger Bill

This is the Choice Media #EdReformMinute for Friday, November 30th. Bob Bowdon What is a Parent Trigger law?  The first one was passed in California.  It said that if over 50% of a particular school’s parents decide that the school is failing, they should have the power to force a major remedy, like replacing the principal and 50% of the teachers, replacing all the adults by bringing in a high-performing charter operator to run the school, or simply close the failing school so kids can be re-enrolled at better nearby neighborhood schools.  The selection of the remedy would not be up to education bureaucrats, who might just want to protect their friends’ jobs — it would be up to a simple majority of parents, provided that a majority actually do agree on what should be done. Pennsylvania State Senator Tony Williams wants his state to have a parent trigger law too.  Pennsylvania has interesting politics.   Despite voting for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by five points, 52% to 47%, nevertheless has a state government controlled by Republicans.  That means the state House, the state Senate and Governor’s office are all in GOP hands.  Senator Williams, a Democrat, says he expects a new Parent Trigger bill isn’t likely to have problems in the Senate, or winning the signature of Governor Tom Corbett.  The challenge, he says, will be the...

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IN Ed Reformer Tony Bennett Loses Election

This is the Choice Media #EdReformMinute for Friday, November 9th. Bob Bowdon Education reform was on the ballot for a number of states in this November election, and the results were a mixed bag.  Charter schools won big in Georgia, and apparently by a sliver in Washington state — they’re still counting the votes there.   On the other hand, Idaho voters rejected education reforms of traditional districts, like merit pay and more online learning.  South Dakota voters said “no thanks” to a law that would have added merit pay and the use of student test scores as a part of a teacher evaluation. So… a mixed bag.  But of the setbacks, perhaps the one that stung the most to education reformers was the loss of Indiana’s State Superintendent of Education, Dr. Tony Bennett.  He has the same name as the famous singer, but this Tony Bennett helped usher in the nation’s first statewide school voucher program, now in its second year.  To say the voucher law has been popular would be an exercise in understatement.  This year the enrollment has more than doubled to over 9,300.  Bennett also reformed what’s often called social promotion.  He put in place a third grade reading test that kids must pass to advance to fourth grade, rather than just being a year older.  Bennett’s challenger and new state superintendent-elect, Glenda Ritz, has...

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Georgia Voters Overrule Court on State Charters

This is the Choice Media #EdReformMinute for Wednesday, November 7th. Yesterday, voters in Georgia completed a process that had once been considered impossible — they overruled their own Georgia Supreme Court to legalize state authorized charter schools. It all started back in May of last year when the Georgia Supreme Court in a controversial 4-3 decision, held that only local boards of education should have the power to open and pay for public schools, essentially invalidating overnight 17 state chartered schools.  At the time, Chief Justice Carol Hunstein called those schools “clearly and palpably unconstitutional.” So faced with the finality of that language, what did Georgia school choice advocates do?  They said if those schools were unconstitutional, they’d change the constitution.  They wrote an amendment; introduced it to the statehouse last February where… it promptly failed the required 2/3rds majority by ten votes.  Ten votes short.  So, they submitted it again, the second time it gained 13 more votes, which was enough for passage.  Then in March, it moved on to the state senate where it passed 40 to 13 on the first try. Yesterday’s statewide ballot referendum was the last step, with the public saying yes, loudly.  It passed by an 18% margin, 59% “yes” to 41% “no.”  I asked Tony Roberts, the CEO of the Georgia Charter Schools Association, why it passed. “The major vote for the...

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Teacher Union Power: Ranked By State

This is the Choice Media #EdReformMinute for Monday, October 29th. No matter which state you’re living in, health care policy isn’t that much different.  The way electric utilities and garbage collection are run — pretty much the same everywhere too.  Traffic laws, not too different either, except for a new Texas highway that has an 85mph speed limit. Public education policy, by contrast, is a lot different depending on which state you’re in.  And underneath the debates about particular teacher evaluation reforms and school choice efforts lies a key factor that’s often the real driver of whether or not any change ever happens: Teacher Union Power. Today the Fordham Institute released a study comparing the strength of different state teacher unions.  They looked at factors like the percentage of teachers in the union, the level of union campaign contributions to local politicians, and how successful the unions have been in getting their way in that state. On this basis, they concluded the strongest teacher union in the country is in Hawaii.  Dara Zeehandelaar, Ph.D., is with the Fordham Institute, and she co-authored the study.  “Hawaii has the golden trifecta.  It does have mandatory [collective] bargaining laws, but it also has extremely high unionization rates, which is a voluntary teacher’s decision, and it can collect agency fees.  So the union has a lot of money. “Hawaii, in addition to the golden...

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New Site: The Consumer Reports of Schools

This is the Choice Media #EdReformMinute for Monday, October 22nd. If you’re buying a car, you can go to CarAndDriver.com for reviews and information.  If you’re choosing a digital camera, it’s good to have a CNET.com around. But sometimes even the most strident advocates for school choice have spent little time thinking about how parents might get reliable information about school quality, to better inform their decisions on where to send their kids. The people at the Philadelphia School Partnership have been focused on this very question, and last week they launched GreatPhillySchools.org, a comparative website on school quality which could become a model for the country.   This is not a novelty site; it’s real.  It can take an actual street address from anywhere in Philadelphia, and respond with a set of all kinds of schools, district, charter, private, including Catholic schools, all in the same list, ordered simply by distance from the supplied address, along with numerical ratings on academics, safety and likelihood for students from that school to move on to college. Mark Gleason is with the Philadelphia School Partnership. “We anticipate controversy with regard to the [school] grades.  What we’re using these ratings for is to help parents to sort schools, and to help them know what questions to ask and what things to look for as they’re going deeper into a school search.  These ratings...

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New STEM Program Pays Cash to Kids

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media #EdReformMinute for Thursday, October 18th. The National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) is a non-profit group tackling the chronic underperformance of American students in the so-called STEM studies (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).  They’ve identified a series of steps that they say regular public schools can take to not only improve the way math and science are taught, but also increase the number of kids who elect to sign up for the more challenging math and science courses.  And this group is making waves. They have a comprehensive program with lots of elements.  For example, a high school usually has only one AP calculus teacher, meaning she typically has no one to talk to about a how best to teach certain parts of a curriculum.  And so their program makes sure all teachers have mentors to whom they can turn for support.  Their plan also brings in free pizza for kids who come in to study on Saturdays. But there’s one particular piece of the NMSI plan that’s getting the most attention.  Kids will get $100 cash for each subject in which they pass an Advanced Placement test.  And their teachers will get $100 as well. Gregg Fleisher of the National Math and Science Initiative told me that the biggest effect of the cash awards is how they motivate kids to take the harder...

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Legal Action in NJ to Compel School Choice

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media #EdReformMinute for Wednesday, October 17th. Choice Media regulars know about how lawsuits have been used by the education establishment to stop school choice.  For example, statewide voucher laws have been sued in Colorado, Indiana and Louisiana.  Lawsuits have closed charter schools in Georgia, and sought to kick charter schools out of public buildings in New York.   And in many of those places, lawsuits have been effective in stopping school choice. So today’s Ed Reform Minute may come as a surprise to you.  Dateline Camden, New Jersey, where the mothers of three public schools students filed a complaint with the State Board of Education declaring the city’s public schools unconstitutional because of poor performance.  And if the complaint is not heeded, they may sue to get school choice. “The lawsuit is about a ticket for freedom for children who are in the Chernobyl of public school districts.  There is probably nothing like this anywhere else in America.   It’s certainly the absolute worst in the state of New Jersey.  Does money equal quality in public education in Camden, NJ?  In this case, you can make up your own mind.  Camden schools for at least three years have spent over $22,000 per student.  So for a classroom of 20 that would be $440,000.  The district graduation rate is 44%. “The solution historically in New...

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Unions Sue to Stop Vouchers in Louisiana

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media #EdReformMinute for Friday, October 12th. Imagine for a moment you have a job in a failing public school, and your state passed a new voucher law, which gives parents the option of pulling their kid out of your school and instead send them to a private school.  What would you do about it? Support sweeping reforms to increase teacher quality and improve discipline, so parents and kids would be persuaded to stay in your school?  Or just work to kill the voucher law so parents don’t have the option to leave? Dateline Louisiana, where the two state teachers unions and the state school boards association are suing to… kill the voucher law. The case is mostly predicated on a piece of the Louisiana constitution that requires the state to annual develop a minimum school funding formula for all “public schools.”  They’re arguing that since that section doesn’t mention private schools, the omission implies a prohibition against public money to private schools.  Bill Maurer of the Institute for Justice will be one of the lawyers defending the school choice law. “What they’re trying to do is use a procedural requirement in the Louisiana constitution to make a substantive argument to keep money from going from public schools to private schools.” The trouble is with 44% of Louisiana schools rated “D” or “F” by the...

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GA Schools Sued for Anti-Charter Campaign

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media #EdReformMinute for Wednesday, October 10th. On November 6th, the same day voters across the United States will be weighing in on a Presidential election. voters in Georgia will also be deciding whether the state should be allowed to authorize charter schools.   Question: Would you be surprised if the Georgia education establishment started using taxpayer-funded facilities, that were put there to serve children, to campaign against the charter initiative?  (We’ll put that down as a rhetorical question.) The use of public facilities to influence a ballot campaign is the subject of a new class action lawsuit filed this last Monday on behalf of all taxpayers in Georgia.  [The group’s press release is here.]  It says that the state school boards association, which isn’t supposed to take sides on ballot measures, brazenly held a training meeting to teach attendees how to fight the charter referendum.  And Atlanta attorney Glenn Delk says they have a secret recording of that meeting. “We obtained an audio tape made by a school board member who attended this training session, on how to defeat this amendment.  This school board member was offended, secretly recorded it.  And the audio tape shows that the Georgia School Boards Association which is funded in large part by taxpayer dollars, is orchestrating this campaign to defeat the amendment.” The suit also says the Georgia...

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Audit Shows Baltimore District Wasting Millions

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media #EdReformMinute for Tuesday, October 9th. Another day, another large urban school system shown to be throwing away millions and millions of dollars, while crying poverty. Dateline Baltimore, Maryland, where an independent audit of the school system was ordered by the research arm of the Maryland state legislature.  The independent auditors found $2.8 million were paid in overtime even though there were no records or supervisor approval for most of the alleged overtime hours.  1,400 computers bought by the district could not be located. Marta Mossberg of the Maryland Public Policy Institute told me the school system does not have the incentives to spend their money wisely. “It shows a complete lack of oversight.  It’s a situation where you have people who don’t care about money because it’s not their money, and so they’re not held accountable.  That’s why you see this happen over and over and over again.  It’s not just the 1,400 computers; it’s the fact that so many people were paid for time that they didn’t work, and all sorts of other issues.  Because it’s just the way the system operates.  When there isn’t an incentive to save money, you know no one’s going to do it.” The district paid employees for unused sick days, which is generally legal, except for the fact that this $10 million expense for one year,...

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CA Makes School Assessments More Subjective

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media #EdReformMinute for Friday, September 28th.  The education establishment will often say they support concept of teacher evaluation, but the word they use for an actual evaluation that holds people accountable is “Unfair.”  So accountability in principle: Good PR.  Accountability applied: Teacher bashing.   This week the state of California converted this whole concept to school ratings as well. Dateline Sacramento California, where Governor Jerry Brown just signed into law Senate Bill 1458, which will change the way schools are graded in the Golden State, mostly by reducing the student learning component of the school rating, otherwise known as test scores.  Instead, there will be an increase in subjective opinions from committees and non-learning-related metrics like graduation rates and the percentage of kids who get moved along to the next grade. Lance Izumi is with the Pacific Research Institute. “Up ’til now, test scores had to account for at least 60% of the academic performance index.  So that was basically the floor: 60% or more.  Now however, under this new law, it’s going to be a ceiling.  Test scores from the state achievement test and also the high school exit exam can only count up to 60% of the academic performance index.” In some places, social promotion is seen as a problem.  But in California with this new law, moving students into the next...

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How Districts Spend Money, Lessons in FOIA

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media #EdReformMinute for Wednesday, September 26th.  As school districts across the country grapple with a bad economy, sometimes cutting teachers, somethings asking taxpayers to reach deeper into their pockets, there’s increased attention on just how districts are spending the money they’re already getting. Take the case of the Flint school district in eastern Michigan.  Through Freedom of Information Act requests, the Education Action Group obtained spending records for the district, and you’ll never believe what they found.  Despite facing a $3.7 million deficit, the  district spent $195,000 at restaurants over a nine-month period, including one visit to the Captain Coty’s Family Restaurant on October 15, 2010, where administrators spent over $10,800. That’s one restaurant visit. Kyle Olson is the Founder & CEO of the Education Action Group.  He told me that this broke district also spent over $47,000 in hotel bills.  In one example, it was for a trip to Las Vegas, but in other cases, thousands of dollars were spent on hotels that were within easy driving distance of the school district. “They stayed at hotels that are literally… there’s one hotel that they spent $16,000 at that is about 90 minutes from Flint.  There’s another hotel that’s about 45 minutes away; they spent about five grand there.” “And then what’s interesting to me is then they come back at us and say...

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Pennsylvania Governor Pushing Charter Reform

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media #EdReformMinute for Tuesday, September 25th.  Pennsylvania already has 180 charter schools serving 105,000 students.  That may sound like a lot, but when you consider that another 44,000 Pennsylvania kids are on waiting lists for charters, it’s clear there’s a lot more demand than supply. That’s part of why Governor Tom Corbett is not only pushing for a charter school reform bill to be passed in the shortened, fall legislative session before the November elections, but the issue is at the top of his agenda, and that’s what got our attention. The current law in Pennsylvania is that only local school districts are allowed to authorize brick and mortar charter schools, which as we’ve said before, is often like asking McDonalds to authorize a new Burger King.  The new bill, SB-1115, would create a statewide authorizer for the regular, schoolhouse-type charter schools.  [Online charters in Pennsylvania, by the way, are already authorized by a state group.] Bob Fayfich is the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools.  I asked him who doesn’t want a statewide charter authorizer. “Mostly the school districts do not want it to happen.  Primarily because they have sole authorizing responsibility right now.  And they argue that local control is best.  That is not a national best practice, however.” The Senate version of the bill would have also...

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Students for Ed Reform Holds National Summit

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media #EdReformMinute for Monday, September 24th.  Any advertising professional knows the value of the young demographic.  Younger people are less likely to have solidified their buying habits about toothpaste, running shoes or casual clothes.  So if you can introduce them to Colgate, Nike or Old Navy when they’re young, they might be more open-minded to that messaging. For most of the history of American education reform, this whole “young person outreach” thing has not been happening.  The only place on college campuses that one might expect to hear anything about education policy are the schools of education, mostly known for their staunch defenses of the existing K-12 establishment, with the one genre of reform they generally do advocate being more money thrown at the system. But apart from the just spend more money approach, the principles of Ed Reform have been largely absent on college campuses — until Students for Education Reform came along.  The group held its third National Summit last weekend.   Catharine Bellinger is a Students for Education Reform Co-Founder. “It’s less a conference and more a leadership summit.  So it’s when we bring together our 130 chapter leaders from college campuses across the country.  We bring them together to train them on the leadership skills they need to build successful chapters.  And to give them an opportunity to network with...

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Did the Chicago Teachers Union Win?

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media #EdReformMinute for Thursday, September 20th. The great Chicago teacher strike of 2012 has ended, and it’s time for Ed Reformers to look back and decide what really happened.  We know kids didn’t go to school for 7 days.  We know the union extracted a 17.6% raise from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and succeeded in getting merit pay dropped from consideration. The Chicago Sun-Times today said the Union President Karen Lewis won congratulatory messages from the likes of Gloria Steinem, as well as supporters in Australia, France, Italy & Canada.  It also says she basked yesterday in what some say is her new status as a union rock star. With all this, how are prominent education reformers summing up the results of the Chicago strike? Lindsey Burke is with the Heritage Foundation. “So I think the union actually won big in Chicago after seven days of strike, after leaving 350,000 children on the street. They won, and it’s sad, and this is why they strike, because they know that they will get rewarded when they strike. So, they got a huge increase in pay, 17%, on top of what some people say is the highest teacher salary in the country, $76,000 a year. This will put them well north of $80,000, $85,000 a year. Huge increase in salary. They get plush pension benefits. And so,...

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Parent Power Index Ranks States in Ed Reform

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media #EdReformMinute for Wednesday, September 19th. If you’re listening to this, you’re probably interested in education reform, and you may have even had a conversation with neighbors, relatives or friends about how things are going in your state to shake up the education establishment and make schools better. But how would you calculate where your state ranks?  You’d probably have to know something about the school choice policies.  Are there private vouchers, public vouchers, charter schools in your state, and is the school choice movement large or small?  Is it allowed to grow, or is it forcibly limited? Does your state have a Parent Trigger law for turning around failing schools?  Do teachers receive a meaningful evaluations, or do you live in one of those places where tenured teachers are pretty much only ever fired if they commit felonies.  Are parents able to see the teacher ratings? How much access do parents have to the inner conversations of school boards in your state? In short, there are many components to education reform, and where your state ranks nationally probably isn’t obvious to you. That’s exactly why the Center for Education Reform, or CER, released the first ever Parent Power Index, turning all these kinds of data points into a Parent Power percentage for every state, along with a national rank. Alison Consoletti is with...

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What a Teaching Contest Says About YouTube

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media #EdReformMinute for Tuesday, September 18th. Why should any student ever again have to sit through a weak or mediocre Algebra I, Spanish II or English class on George Orwell, when there’s a superb version of that same lesson just a click away on the internet? Most kids these days are not yet using virtual education or blended learning tools, but the numbers are growing fast.  A new online teaching contest sponsored by none other than Google/YouTube and Khan Academy, the free online school, caught our attention because of what it says about how teaching will soon transform. First, the details.  They say in their description: “Do you set historical events to music?  Doodle your geometry?  Sing your Shakespeare?  We are looking for content creators who create all kinds of curriculum-related videos.” It goes on to explain that they’ll pick the ten best submissions to get a $1,000 voucher  for video gear so they can up the production quality while they continue making education videos for the world.  One will win a grand prize. But here’s the best part.  Do they say the best teacher contest is only open to certified teachers?  Absolutely not.  You just have to be good. Is it limited to teachers from the United States?  No.  Generally it’s a contest for English-speaking countries, but if you’re from the U.S. or...

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Charter Operator Has Had Enough of Nashville

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media #EdReformMinute for Monday, September 17th. Charter schools can’t just form on their own & start accepting students, of course.  As their name implies, they have to be granted a charter, and the depending on what state you’re in, the people doing the charter granting might be the state department of education, might be a university, a non-profit group, or the local school district where the charter would operate.  For today’s #EdReformMinute, we want to focus on this last category, where in states like Tennessee, the only way a charter school can form is for the local district to let it in.  This has been likened to putting McDonalds in charge of whether a Burger King can open.  And while some local districts have green-lighted charter school alternatives, charter numbers in those cities are often kept artificially low, prevented from growing to be anywhere near the number that would satisfy parental demand.      Which brings us to last week, when Metro Nashville schools denied for a third time, a charter to Great Hearts Academies, a respected Arizona-based charter operator.  The denial came despite the fact that the Tennessee state education board unanimously ordered Nashville to approve the charter.  The Metro Nashville school board said, too bad.  It led the Great Hearts CEO, Dan Scoggin, to finally say enough is enough.  They’re pulling out...

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The Chicago Teachers Strike By the Numbers

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media #EdReformMinute for Friday, September 14th. Today is day five of the Great Chicago Teacher Strike of 2012, and we thought it might be time for a few numbers.   The average public school teacher in Chicago presently makes $74,000, according to a report by Northern Illinois University, quoted in the Christian Science Monitor.  That’s 14% higher than the average Illinois teacher.  Chicago Public Schools current offer to the union, that has been rejected so far, would be a 16% raise over four years. That would bring the average teacher salary to over $86,000. The Chicago school board hasn’t voted yet on this school year’s budget, but the plan presently on the table would raise property taxes by 1.5% and drains all of the district’s rainy day fund to plug a structural yearly deficit of $665 million.  By the school year after next, district officials are projecting the operating single year deficit will be $1 billion — that’s not the budget, that would be the projection for the annual deficit. What do the people of Chicago think about all this?  So far — they’ve been for the union.  A poll of 500 registered voters released Tuesday by the Chicago Sun-Times showed support for the strike by a 8-point margin, 47% for it, to 39% against it, with 14% undecided.  If the strike drags on, most analysts...

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Is That Allowed? Local Union Quits State Union

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media Ed Reform Minute for Thursday, September 13th. In many states, every public school teacher is required to pay hundreds of dollars per year of dues money to the local teachers union.  And usually, a portion of that money goes to the state office to pay the salaries of the central statewide teachers union leadership. It’s not supposed to be used for campaign contributions to legislators.  Money for candidates is only supposed to come from political action committees.   So if not for direct political purposes, what are the local unions of a particular school district getting for the money they send to the state office?  Some goes to general issue advocacy, like TV commercials praising the union.  Some is supposed to be for contract negotiation support by seasoned union negotiation experts.  But the most tangible benefit that rank-and-file teachers get from the portion of their dues going to the state office is insurance: the state union office buying policies to insure teachers against lawsuits from parents, who might decide to sue a teacher for anything under the sun. Well, one local teachers union in Michigan started asking the question of whether they were getting a good deal for this portion of dues money going to the state union office. Or instead, might they be better off quitting the state organization, doing everything themselves...

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Eyepopper: Houston Dist Seeks to Borrow $2B

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media Ed Reform Minute for Wednesday, September 12th. The Houston Independent School District, or HISD, will be explaining a new proposal to voters through a series of ten town hall meetings over the next three weeks. The plan is not about offering more school choice to parents, nor is it about how the district can be more efficient by reducing administrative staff and overhead.  The meetings will be to explain why the district wants to borrow almost $2 billion. The great majority of spending, 87%, would be for construction — 20 new high schools, three new elementary schools, and renovations or new wings at 15 other schools. James Golsan of the Texas Public Policy Foundation says borrowing has become quite fashionable among school districts in Texas. “This is kind of a theme that’s happening a lot in Texas schools.  You’re seeing bond debt go up and up and up in this state.  And local voters need to understand that down the line this could become a very serious problem if you’re a school district, one.  But two, there’s not necessarily going to be a direct correlation or any correlation between, in this case the quality of the facilities, and the quality of the education product.” For some in Houston, the proposed school bond will sound familiar.  That’s because five years ago, in 2007, HISD...

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Parent Trigger Laws Win in Polls, Now What?

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media Ed Reform Minute for Tuesday, September 11th. Ed Reformers and #EdReformMinute subscribers already know about Won’t Back Down, an upcoming feature film about a failing school, a corrupt local teachers union, and the power of a parent trigger law to re-focus the priority of a school back on to children. Parent trigger laws say that if more than half of the parents of kids in a failing school sign a petition, the school must be changed, either converted to a charter school, have most of its staff replaced, or shut down entirely.  The choice between these remedies will be the parents. The question many Ed Reformers are now starting to ask is whether this new movie is likely to lead to the passage of more state Parent Trigger laws.  A couple of polls, both released last month, shed light on the question.  The first one by Phi Delta Kappa and Gallup asked 1,000 adults and found that 70% of Americans favor parent trigger laws.   The second poll released just two weeks ago and commissioned by StudentsFirst, asked 1,000 different adults and found the exact same result: 70% support Parent Trigger laws.   “As we’ve seen this momentum over the past couple of years kind of build, it seems like a popular movie coming out right about this time, it seems like the...

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Chicago Teachers Strike: It’s On

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media Ed Reform Minute for Monday, September 10th. It’s on.  Unionized public school teachers in Chicago went on strike this morning.  Schools are closed.  Many children are sitting at home, although the city also set up 144 public schools as emergency centers, staffed by nonunion employees, including principals, assistant principals and central office staff. Union delegate Stephanie Davis-Williams said of some of the contingencies, “We understand that there are many people who need some place for their children to go.  I just don’t trust the people they’re leaving them with. I’ve seen some this morning and don’t know them. I didn’t recognize any of them.” The picketers in the audio were saying, “What do we want? Contract.  When do we want it?  Now.” But the union has already rejected contract offers by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, which offered a 3% raise in the first year, and 2% in each of the next three years.  On top of these raises, teachers also automatically get step increases — more money for years served — and the city offered to increase that scale too, by 16% over four years. Mayor Emanuel has also already negotiated away part of its reform agenda.  For months, Chicago had insisted that in four years it would begin merit pay, compensating the best teachers differently from the worst.  But the union fiercely...

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Buffalo Dist Transfers Teachers, Heads to Court

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media Ed Reform Minute for Friday, September 7. Administrators in Buffalo, NY, wanted to turn around three persistently failing public schools where, according to the Superintendent, 80 to 90% of the students have failed for years.  They came up with turnaround plans for the schools and determined that half the teachers needed to be transferred out.  54 Teachers in all.  Not fired, but transferred so these failing schools would at least had a chance of a turnaround. The trouble is the teachers union contracts over the years chipped away at the district’s ability to transfer teachers, requiring Byzantine sets of notifications and procedures that would be required for the district to manage its staff and effect changes.  So when the district moved forward to transfer the teachers anyway, the whole matter ended up before a professional arbitrator. Last week, the arbitrator sided with the union, saying the way the district implemented the teacher transfers violated the union contract.     Which brought us to the day before yesterday when the district decided to exhibit backbone, challenge the arbitrator and take it to court.  Oral arguments have now been set for September 18th.  Perhaps finally, the question of whether the transfers of the 54 teachers from these worst failing schools will be resolved. But even if the transfers are upheld, not a single one of...

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“Won’t Back Down” at Democratic Convention

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media Ed Reform Minute for Thursday, September 6. If you flew to Charlotte to be a part of the Democratic National Convention, do you think you’d spend part of your time there going to see a movie?  What if that movie happened to be an advanced screening of “Won’t Back Down” — a story about a failing school where the teachers union is portrayed as the problem? And in case you’re surprised that this kind of film would be screened at the Democratic National Convention, you should also know that the director, Daniel Barnz, describes himself as a “liberal Democrat.” Ben Austin of the group Parent Revolution was both at the screening on Monday and a panelist for the Q&A discussion afterward. “We had about 400 delegates and parents in the room, and the crowd reaction was incredibly positive.  It’s what I would have expected. “I’m a Democrat because I support social justice, and I support making sure the government is responsive to the people it’s designed to serve.” The film “Won’t Back Down” is enough of a threat that teachers unions actually called for a protest of the screening at the Democratic convention. “It’s important to note this is their home turf.  Twenty percent of the delegates to the convention are members of the teachers union.  And Parents Across America, the teachers union-funded...

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ACLU Sues to Stop Single-Sex Instruction

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media Ed Reform Minute for Wednesday, September 5. There are many charter and voucher schools across the country that offer single-sex instruction as an educational option.   And many regular public district schools are trying to follow suit with their own single-gender offerings.  There’s just one problem.  The ACLU is suing or threatening to sue, calling even optional all-girl or all-boy classes illegal “stereotyping.” Last year, the ACLU of Pennsylvania threatened to sue Pittsburgh Public Schools over the all-girl and all-boy classes at its Westinghouse school.  And it worked.  In November of 2011, Pittsburgh dropped that option for parents. Last June the district in Sanford Maine reluctantly agreed to drop its single-gender classes after the threat of an ACLU lawsuit there.  In the announcement, the board said they regretted having to capitulate, but they just couldn’t deal with the litigation, and that the ACLU had “chosen to elevate ideology over the needs of individual students.”  Which brings us to Parkersburg, West Virginia, where for two years the Van Devender Middle School offered all-boy and all-girl classes.  Until last week.  A judge sided with the ACLU, ordering the school to drop its single-gender classes for at least the rest of this entire school year. [James] Patrick Law is the Wood County Superintendent, and he said they still have to go back to court because the plaintiffs...

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CA Union Kills Bill to Fire Sexual Predators

[powerpress] This is the Ed Reform Minute for Tuesday, September 4. More and more, it seems, K-12 teachers are getting caught having sex with their students.  On August 20th, a Pacoima California elementary teacher pleaded no contest to molesting 13 students.   On August 27th, a 50-year old Orange County California Spanish teacher was convicted of meeting a 17-year old student in a motel and committing eight felony counts of unlawful sexual acts.  On August 30th, two married Huntington Beach teachers pleaded guilty to seducing an underage student with alcohol, nude hot tub visits and sex, resulting a total of 12 felonies. These are only cases from the state of California, and they’re only from the last two weeks of August.    Trouble is, convictions and plea deals can take years, and districts no longer want to have to pay these teachers to leave before then.  California State Senator Alex Padilla wrote a bill to make it easier for districts to fire the teachers who’ve been credibly accused of the worst acts against children.  It offered due process to those accused, but after those provisions were exhausted, it finally gave the districts some authority to get these teachers out of schools.  The bill passed the Democrat-controlled State Senate and moved to the Assembly.  But then came heavy lobbying to kill the bill from the California Teachers Association, the largest...

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Union Calls School Choice ‘KKK Vouchers’

[powerpress] This is the quite the Choice Media Ed Reform Minute for Friday, August 31. A remarkable tweet war yesterday in the Bayou state.  The Louisiana Federation of Teachers, the state chapter of the AFT teachers union, accused the national school choice group BAEO of supporting a pro-KKK educational curriculum.  That’s right, they were saying the Black Alliance for Educational Options was on the side of Ku Klux Klan.   The logic went like this.  The union claimed that 20 private schools in Louisiana, which accept government vouchers for tuition, use textbooks from Bob Jones University Press.  They also said some of the textbooks include positive phrases or insinuations about the Klan.  So since BAEO supports school choice through vouchers, and some of the vouchers go to the schools that use those textbooks, the union says that BAEO is supporting the KKK. “Louisiana BAEO supports pro-KKK curriculum via vouchers,” said the union.     Before long, the union added other groups to the list of supporters of what it called “KKK vouchers,” including Hispanic CREO and Tennessee School Choice.   The trouble was that neither the union, nor any of its supporters in the twitter war, could name any actual school that was supposedly teaching this pro-KKK content.  When we, Choice Media, asked the union for names of any of these schools, they answered not by naming them, but by...

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Ohio Offers New Special Needs Vouchers

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media Ed Reform Minute for Thursday, August 30th. There are now eight states that offer special education vouchers — government money to pay for special needs private school tuition, if the parents want it.  The newest such program is in Ohio, starting this fall, and it is one robust voucher. It’s called the Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship, and it’s just started serving over 1,500 kids. The scholarship amount ranges from $7,000 to $20,000 depending on the kid’s needs.  There are no family income restrictions, and most special needs students would quality, whether they’re coming from public schools, private schools or were homeschooled.  Cheryl Bowshier of School Choice Ohio says it’ll be of particular help to parents of poorer school districts. “There are a lot of public schools that are overwhelmed.  If the funding’s not there, say it’s a poorer school district, it’s hard to get that child services.  So this gives them a choice then.” Applications for the coming spring semester are due November 15th. All the day’s news in education reform, available at ChoiceMedia.TV. © 2012 Choice...

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NEA Janitor Strike Closes Rhode Island District

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media Ed Reform Minute for Wednesday, August 29th. Administrators in the small district of North Kingstown, Rhode Island, decided they were paying for 26 more school janitors than they needed.  If instead they used a private company for cleaning services, they could cut 30% of these cleaning costs and prevent cuts in educational programs. There was only one problem.  The existing custodians are not only unionized, they’re members of the NEA, the largest teachers union in the country.  They went on strike yesterday, teachers wouldn’t cross the picket lines, and the public schools sat closed.  All because the district wants to stop paying for dozens of custodians that it doesn’t need. In essence, the union was saying, “better no school at all, than for you to stop hiring unnecessary janitors.” In an act of synchronicity, writer Kristen Rawls published an opinion piece last week titled, “6 Reasons Teachers Unions Are Good for Kids.”  No word on whether any of the kids in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, might have read that piece yesterday, as they sat at home.  [For more information, see this story.] All the day’s news in education reform, available at ChoiceMedia.TV. © 2012 Choice...

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Peter Schiff on Why Education Doesn’t Need Government

Peter Schiff is CEO of the investment firm Euro Pacific Capital and the host of the nationally syndicated radio program, The Peter Schiff Show.  He has been quoted in many of the nation’s leading newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Investor’s Business Daily, The Financial Times, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and The Chicago Tribune.  He also appears regularly on CNBC, CNN, Fox News, Fox Business Network, and Bloomberg TV. Schiff began his investment career as a financial consultant with Shearson Lehman Brothers, after having earned a degree in finance and accounting from U.C. Berkeley in 1987. He joined Euro Pacific in 1996 and has served as its President since January 2000. In the realm of politics, Schiff was an economic advisor for Ron Paul’s 2008 Presidential campaign.  Then in 2010, Schiff ran for the U.S. Senate from Connecticut but was defeated in the Republican primary by Linda McMahon. © 2012 Choice...

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Colorado District Gets Rid of Grade Levels

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media Ed Reform Minute for Tuesday, August 28th. Does it make sense to group kids in schools by age, or by what they know?   Three years ago the folks in Colorado’s Adams 50 school district, in a Denver suburb, asked that question, and I bet you can guess what happened.  This regular public school district started grouping kids by academics, not how old they were, in what’s called a competency-based system. New data shows it’s working.  Three years ago the district had seven schools in Colorado’s worst-performing category.  Now, all seven have improved up and out of the doghouse.  Meanwhile, during the same three years, five other schools in the district entered Colorado’s top category. The superintendent is Pamela Swanson. “We’re actually drilling down to the specific skill.  So when kids move forward, we’re not socially promoting, but we’re actually trying to do something about that.  And not send them forward so that in the end they end up with needing remediation in college.” [For more information, see the Denver Post coverage.] All the day’s news in education reform, available at ChoiceMedia.TV. © 2012 Choice...

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VA Waiver Application Sets Goals by Race

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media Ed Reform Minute for Monday, August 27th. The state of Virginia received a waiver for No Child Left Behind from the Obama administration.  What’s controversial is that Virginia’s application set different academic goals based on the races of the kids.  For example, next year’s math objective was for 82% of Asian kids to be proficient.  68% of white kids, and just 45% of black kids.  [The figures appear here, near the top of page four.] Charles Pyle of the Virginia Department of Education says this is simply about realism, and that you have to consider student subgroups independently to be serious about getting rid of achievement gaps. “These are not intended as aspirational objectives for all children in these subgroups.  These are goals for a select group of schools in Virginia that are at the bottom of the ladder, so to speak.” He also says these goals only apply to the federal No Child Left Behind waiver, and Virginia has its own tougher, state accountability rules that don’t vary with race. All the day’s news in education reform, available at ChoiceMedia.TV. © 2012 Choice...

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Report Compares State Laws on Teacher Eval

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media Ed Reform Minute for Friday, August 24th. In the last 3 years, many states have passed new laws to reform teacher tenure.  But while the various bill signing press conferences sounded similar, it turns out many of these state plans were actually quite different.  Just this week, Bellwether Education released the first comparative analysis. They found that only 14 of the 21 states passing reforms require all teachers and principals to be evaluated every year.  In other places, like Maryland, Arkansas & Minnesota, some teachers get full evaluations only every three years. Three states, Florida, Indiana & Michigan require districts to tell parents if their kid has been assigned to a low-rated teacher, while nine other states explicitly prohibit this disclosure. The report assigned point values to all these sorts of criteria, and concluded overall that the best teacher evaluation law prize goes to Indiana. The weakest reform: Minnesota. And many states, of course, did nothing. This and all the day’s news in education reform, available at ChoiceMedia.TV. © 2012 Choice...

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DC Charter Schools Denied Equal Funding

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media Ed Reform Minute for Thursday, August 23rd.  I’m Bob Bowdon. Washington, DC charter schools are thriving.   Their four-year graduation rate of 80% is 20 points higher than the regular district schools.  Their students test better in both reading and math.  And DC parents are flocking to charters.  Already 41% of DC kids go to charter schools; that’s the second highest percentage in the country behind New Orleans. So why is the city shoveling $26 to $46 million every year [as reported by the Washington Post], over and above the official school funding formula, to only the dysfunctional regular district schools — money that charters don’t get.   And that’s on top of the city already giving district schools double the facilities funding per student, compared to charters. Ramona Edelin of the DC Association of Chartered Public Schools says some people believe that “traditional schools, even when they don’t perform well, should be rewarded nevertheless with additional funds and additional services.” This and all the day’s news in education reform, available at ChoiceMedia.TV. © 2012 Choice...

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One-Third Georgia Kids Don’t Graduate On Time

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media Ed Reform Minute for Wednesday, August 22nd.  I’m Bob Bowdon. Turns out there are different ways to calculate high school graduation rates. In the past, districts could often count kids who didn’t show up for the new school year as transfers, not dropouts. Districts also used to count kids who take 5, 6 or even 7 years to finish high school.  This allowed for a certain amount of data manipulation by the districts. A new method, called the cohort rate, is a four year high school graduation rate.  It also happens to be the figure highly correlated with success later on. Now with this as preamble, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution used open records requests to crunch the raw numbers on Georgia’s class of 2011.  What did they find?  That Georgia’s four-year high school graduation rate was only 67.4%.  And number of dropouts were double what had been previously reported. One-third of all Georgia kids are not finishing high school in four years. This and all the day’s news in education reform, available at ChoiceMedia.TV. © 2012 Choice...

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CA School Board Overrules Parental Majority

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media Ed Reform Minute for Tuesday, August 21st, I’m Bob Bowdon. California has something called a Parent Trigger Law, where if you’ve got a failing public school, and more than half the parents agree on a major remedy, then they have the power to implement it.  Which brings us to the story of Desert Trails Elementary School, where not even one-quarter of 6th graders read and do math at grade level.  Over half of the parents signed the petition for a particular solution to turn it into a charter school… but then the effort began to get parents to rescind their signatures or claim they were misled.  Months went by, it all ended up in court, and finally after about a year of delays the judge sided with the parents, ordering the school board to accept the petition, and “charterize” the school. Until last Friday night.  The board President now says there simply isn’t enough time to bring in a charter school operator for the new year, telling the newspaper, “It’s over.”  So for an all-together new reason, the board decides once again, it should hold on to power. This and all the days news in education reform, available at ChoiceMedia.TV. © 2012 Choice Media...

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Presidential Politics and a Teachers Strike

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media Ed Reform Minute for Thursday, August 16th. I’m Bob Bowdon. Pop Quiz: What coming out of Chicago  could have huge Presidential election consequences? The answer: A possible massive Chicago Teacher’s strike.  Already, 90% of Chicago Teachers Union members have authorized a strike — and it would be, against whom?  Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama’s former right hand man and current mayor of Chicago. Whose side, one might wonder, would the President be on?  The union’s or Rahm’s? The dispute is over, among other things, that the union doesn’t want teachers paid differently based on their ability to teach, known as merit pay.  The union’s financial secretary Kristine Mayle said,   “A Merit pay system would set us up so that we’d be competing against our neighbors.  We are completely against this.  It goes against everything that is good in teaching.” She did not address why this pernicious competition doesn’t ruin every private company in America. This and all the days news in education reform, available at ChoiceMedia.TV. © 2012 Choice...

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District Borrows $60M for High School Stadium

[powerpress] This is the Choice Media Ed Reform Minute for Tuesday, August 14th. I’m Bob Bowdon. There’s a new football stadium just outside Dallas, Texas.  It has what you’d expect from any new NFL stadium, a shiny new press box, hospitality rooms, tented plazas available for rent and an 84-yard long weight room. There’s just one thing.  This isn’t where the Dallas Cowboys will play.  It’s where the Allen Eagles will play.  A new high school football stadium built with $60 million of borrowed money.  Back in 2009, 64% of voters said “yes” to bond which included plans for the new stadium.   Now, it’s raising eyebrows nationally as an emblem of one-size-fits-all education in full glory.    By contrast, the school choice concept acknowledges truth that we’ll never agree on what to teach kids, how to teach kids, or how best to spend education dollars.  And in this case, over a third of Allen Texas voters opposed the bond for the stadium, saying no, let’s NOT build a $60 million palace for football. But in the world of government monopoly education, the joke’s on them. This and all the days news in education reform, available at ChoiceMedia.TV. © 2012 Choice...

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Obama Equates School Staff Size w/Quality

  [powerpress] This is the Choice Media Ed Reform Minute for Monday, August 20th, I’m Bob Bowdon. Over the weekend, President Obama called for Congress to send more money to states if they agree to hire more teachers. Obama: “Since 2009, we’ve lost more than 300,000 education jobs… in part because of budget cuts at the state and local level…. That’s the opposite of what we should be doing as a country.  States should be making education a priority in their budgets, even in tough fiscal times. And Congress should be willing to help out.” The President did something reformers hate: he equated education quality with the number of jobs in school bureaucracies. Hand out more paychecks, the logic goes, and our children will have brighter futures. But what about school districts that had too many administrators, sometimes classified as teachers?   Or districts using innovative technology in new ways? Or districts that simply have shrinking student enrollments? Does it ever make sense to reduce staff in education? Not according to this logic, which says schools should always become more labor intensive. This and all the days news in education reform, available at ChoiceMedia.TV. © 2012 Choice...

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Gary Johnson and Libertarian Education Reform

Former two term New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson is the 2012 Presidential candidate for the Libertarian party. Johnson, who has been referred to as the ‘most fiscally conservative Governor’ in the country, was the Republican Governor of New Mexico from 1995-2003. Governor Johnson brings a distinctly business-like mentality to governing, believing that decisions should be made based on cost-benefit analysis rather than strict ideology. Gary Johnson has been an outspoken advocate for efficient government, balanced budgets, rational drug policy reform, protection of civil liberties, comprehensive tax reform, and personal freedom. As Governor of New Mexico, Johnson was known for his common sense business approach to governing. He eliminated New Mexico’s budget deficit, cut the rate of growth in state government in half, and privatized half of the state prisons. This interview was recorded in July, 2012. © Choice Media...

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Demand Exceeds Supply for Vouchers & Scholarships

This is the Choice Media Ed Reform Minute for Friday, August 17th. I’m Bob Bowdon. If you’re poor, but you want to send your kid to private school instead of public school, several states have  new ways for you to pay for it: vouchers and tax credit scholarships.   These programs fiercely debated, of course, reformers v. establishment defenders.  But there’s a third group, the parents.  And new data shows they are voting with their feet. In Florida, the tax credit scholarship will have over 50,000 kids next year –  up about 25% in a year, 2/3rds are black or Hispanic. The new Louisiana voucher program will offer 5,600 private school tuitions  — nearly double number that applied. And Indiana offered 7,500 vouchers in the first year of that program, but there was such demand, they have doubled the program in the second year. So amid the claim that private school vouchers and tax credits are “corrupt privatizing,” draining money from traditional public schools, lower income parents keep saying, “Sign Me Up.” This and all the days news in education reform, available at ChoiceMedia.TV. © 2012 Choice...

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Steve Forbes on Education Reform

Steve Forbes is the editor-in-chief of the business magazine Forbes as well as president and chief executive officer of its publisher, Forbes, Inc. He was a Republican candidate for President in 1996 and 2000.  As a candidate, he supported both charter schools and private school vouchers to allow more parental choice among providers of public education. This interview was recorded in July, 2012. © 2012 Choice...

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What’s Next for Education Reform in Wisconsin with Governor Scott Walker

The histrionics and vitriol of the 2012 Wisconsin recall election received national attention, often eclipsing the substance of the collective bargaining reforms signed by Governor Scott Walker in his first year. For details on the Walker reforms, click here. It all led to a re-vote in June, 2012, an exact rematch between the same candidates who squared off in 2010.  Walker not only prevailed in the recall, marking the first time in U.S. history a sitting governor survived a recall election, but he won by a larger margin than before. In the aftermath of the Walker win, for many in the education reform movement the new question is, “What’s next?”  After having already grown the Wisconsin school voucher initiative, both geographically and by income eligibility, could a statewide voucher plan be on the Walker agenda?  To that, the Governor says, “not initially.” © 2012 Choice Media...

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The Politics of Charter Schools with John Danner

John Danner is the Co-Founder and CEO of Rocketship Education Rocketship Education was founded in 2006 with aspirations to become a national network to eliminate the achievement gap in low-income neighborhoods. Its first school opened in San Jose, California, and it now operates seven schools in the Golden State. In February 2012, Rocketship announced Milwaukee, WI, as its first expansion region outside of California; the first Wisconsin school is scheduled to open in the fall of 2013.  The company says it’s developing the next set of expansion cities and aspires to ultimately open regional clusters in 50 cities, effectively changing the lives of  over 1 million students. This interview was conducted at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools conference, June, 2012....

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Reform School, Clip 7: The Federal Role (The Final Installment)

Reform School: A Public Forum on Changing American Education Part One can be found here. Part Two can be found here. Part Three can be found here. Part Four can be found here. Part Five can be found here. Part Six can be found here. Featuring: Joe Williams, Executive Director, Democrats for Education Reform Jay Greene, Professor of Education Reform, The University of Arkansas Bob Bowdon, Executive Director, Choice Media Question by Larry Sand, President of California Teacher’s Empowerment Association...

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Reform School, Clip 6: The Federal Role

Reform School: A Public Forum on Changing American Education Part One can be found here. Part Two can be found here. Part Three can be found here. Part Four can be found here. Part Five can be found here. Featuring: Joe Williams, Executive Director, Democrats for Education Reform Jay Greene, Professor of Education Reform, The University of Arkansas Bob Bowdon, Executive Director, Choice Media Question by Ursula Wright, COO for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools...

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The Superintendent Who Fought Back

Janine Caffrey is the Superintendent of Perth Amboy schools. Janine Caffrey, who has been at odds with the Perth Amboy school board since taking the position as superintendent last July, served nine schools days on paid administrative leave following an April 25 school board vote. The commissioner reinstated her to the superintendent position on May 8. Caffrey has been a very strong advocate of the same brand of education changes Cerf and Gov. Chris Christie have been supporting. Both camps agree teacher tenure should be graded upon student performance in the classroom and that a practice known as “last-in, first-out,” which ensures senior teachers from layoffs, should be abolished. The proposed reforms, however, have been unpopular with Perth Amboy’s teachers union and school board, both of which have accused Caffrey of forcing changes upon them rather than working together. Caffrey’s uncompromising support for the revisions — which she has said stem from personal experience with ineffective teachers — has isolated her from her staff. © 2012 Choice...

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Teacher Evaluation in Indiana: ‘Professionalizing,’ Not Demonizing

Tony Bennett is the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction. As the leader of Indiana’s public school system, Tony Bennett has been both a lightning rod for criticism and a main factor behind changes to the state’s education system for which conservatives have agitated for many years. A former science teacher and schools administrator, Bennett won the post of Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2008, running as a Republican and garnering 51 percent of the vote. (Indiana is one of only 14 states where elections determine the chief education officer.) Since he took office, he’s been an essential force in moving forward education priorities of Gov. Mitch Daniels’ administration: school voucher programs, merit pay for teachers, and expansion of charter schools. Bennett says this is just the start of his education overhaul. He, along with Daniels, says he is pushing to alter graduation requirements in state high schools to match more closely with graduate or career-based training. Bennett’s success in pushing through these reforms has raised his national profile. © 2012 Choice...

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Reform School, Clip 5: The Federal Role

Reform School: A Public Forum on Changing American Education Part One can be found here. Part Two can be found here. Part Three can be found here. Part Four can be found here. Featuring: Joe Williams, Executive Director, Democrats for Education Reform Jay Greene, Professor of Education Reform, The University of Arkansas Bob Bowdon, Executive Director, Choice Media Question by Julio Fuentes, President / CEO of Hispanic CREO...

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Gloria Romero on Jerry Brown

  Gloria J. Romero is the California Director of Democrats for Education Reform. She is a former California State Senator and was the Democratic majority leader of the California State Senate from 2001 until 2008, the first woman to ever hold that leadership position.  She authored the original Parent Trigger Law, which empowers parents to take decisive action to turn around failing public schools. Gloria Romero was first elected to the California State Assembly in 1998 and to the Senate in 2001. Romero represented the 24th district, which includes East Los Angeles, portions of the city of Los Angeles, as well as a major part of the San Gabriel Valley. © 2012 Choice...

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Reform School, Clip 4: The Federal Role

Reform School: A Public Forum on Changing American Education Part One can be found here. Part Two can be found here. Part Three can be found here. Featuring: Joe Williams, Executive Director, Democrats for Education Reform Jay Greene, Professor of Education Reform, The University of Arkansas Steve Buckstein, Cascade Policy Institute Bob Bowdon, Executive Director, Choice Media...

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Reform School, Clip 3: The Federal Role

Reform School: A Public Forum on Changing American Education Part One can be found here. Part Two can be found here.  Featuring: Joe Williams, Executive Director, Democrats for Education Reform Jay Greene, Professor of Education Reform, The University of Arkansas Bob Bowdon, Executive Director, Choice...

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School Choice in Connecticut

Part Two of Our Interview with Allan B. Taylor, Chairman of the Connecticut Board of Education Part One can be found here. Noteworthy quotes from Allan Taylor: 0:38 – “I was one of the early supporters of the charter law back in 1996 and ’97 when it was passed.” 0:48 – “I’m not interested in becoming Arizona. I’m not interested in becoming some of the other states that have thousands of charter schools.” 2:16 – “I am a supporter of a public school system, and charters are public schools the way we do it. You get to have 15, 20, 30% of your kids going to charter schools, I’m so sure that remains true.” 3:30 – “I’m very conflicted about choice.” 4:01 – “You can’t build a policy on asking parents to sacrifice their kids.” 6:55 – “The scores are unimaginably bad in many places. And I don’t have any doubt that poverty handicaps kids greatly. But I believe that schools can make a difference. If you don’t believe that schools can make a difference then I don’t know how you can be working in the field at any level. What are you doing?” ——– The speech by Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy referenced in the video can be found here. The story about the 5-Year Old who brought heroin to a classroom show-and-tell can be found...

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Teacher Evaluation Reform in Connecticut

Interview of Allan B. Taylor Chairman of the Connecticut Board of Education The speech by Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy referenced in the video can be found here. Part Two can be found here. Remarks by Allan Taylor: 3:36 – “[The education committee of the legislature] wants to take very small, very tentative steps.  And we can’t afford to do that.” 3:57 – “The unions were obviously supporting the idea of cutting way back on what the Governor proposed.  And they think in doing that they’re supporting their members.  I don’t think they’re supporting the long run interests of either their members or more importantly the school children.” 4:59 – “I think, in the end, we’re going to come, I hope, a lot closer to what the governor submitted, because I think there is a general public recognition that we need to make that kind of change.” 5:33 – “The voices of the few who really can’t make it can’t control what the state does.  And the fear that has been generated is what I think is crippling.  And it’s wrong.” 7:54 – “There are bad teachers.  And they don’t belong in the classroom.”  ...

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Reform School, Clip 2: The Federal Role

Reform School: A Public Forum on Changing American Education Part One can be found here. Part Three can be found here. Featuring: Joe Williams, Executive Director, Democrats for Education Reform Jay Greene, Professor of Education Reform, The University of Arkansas Bob Bowdon, Executive Director, Choice Media   Question by: Bruno Behrend, Director, The Center for Transforming Education, The Heartland Institute...

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Reform School, Clip 1: The Federal Role

Reform School: A Public Forum on Changing American Education Part Two can be found here. Part Three can be found here. Featuring: Joe Williams, Executive Director, Democrats for Education Reform Jay Greene, Professor of Education Reform, The University of Arkansas Bob Bowdon, Executive Director, Choice Media...

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Arizona Vouchers May Rise Again

After Voucher Veto, State Ed Chief Says the Governor Could Sign ‘Identical’ Bill Arizona Vouchers May Rise Again… (yes, like a Phoenix) A Choice Media Exclusive John Huppenthal, Arizona State Superintendent of Public Instruction, says an expanded voucher program in his state may materialize after all, despite the recent, high-profile veto of a voucher bill by his boss.  In an exclusive video interview with Choice Media, the state superintendent explains it wasn’t the content of the recent voucher bill to which Governor Brewer objected, but rather the timing.  According to Huppenthal, the Arizona governor might sign a new voucher bill even if it were “identical” to the previous version.  He also called the vetoed bill “a beautiful piece of legislation.” The statement signals a change in tone by the Brewer administration.  In her original veto letter, the governor expressed concerns about the substance of the bill, writing, “…we must also ensure that government is not artificially manipulating the market through state budget or tax policy in a manner that would make an otherwise viable option so unattractive that it undermines rational choice in a competitive market.” Jonathan Butcher, Education Director with Arizona’s Goldwater Institute, agreed with Huppenthal that it’s not too late for the legislature to move on a new school choice bill in the current session.  Butcher told Choice Media, “Despite the veto last week, I think lawmakers...

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Constitutional Amendment for GA Charter Schools: Headed for Statewide Referendum

The Georgia legislature passed a constitutional amendment to allow the state to charter public schools.  The measures cleared both houses by the required two-thirds super-majority.  This interview is an update to a previous Choice Media story on the 4-3 Georgia Supreme Court decision from 2011 that found state chartered schools unconstitutional. © 2012 Choice Media...

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National School Choice Week Surges in 2012

National School Choice Week enjoyed explosive growth in 2012, its sophomore year of existence.  The kickoff event in New Orleans’ Lakefront Arena was attended by approximately 2,500 people, according to the Times-Picayune newspaper. In the week that followed, about 400 events were held all around the country in cooperation with some 260 different organizations.  For more information, visit the School Choice Week website. © 2012 Choice...

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Teacher’s Choice

School Choice — It Isn’t Just for Kids Teacher’s Choice presents portraits of four American educators who’ve selected non-standard paths. Teachers at a charter school, an online school and a parochial school are all featured, as well as a teacher at a traditional district school who declined membership in the local union. Their journeys have only one thing in common — the options less traveled. Kids aren’t all the same. Neither are Teachers. It’s time they all had...

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National Digital Learning Day

From the organizers of Digital Learning Day: Digital Learning Day is a nationwide celebration of innovative teaching and learning through digital media and technology that engages students and provides them with a rich, personalized educational experience. On Digital Learning Day, a majority of states, hundreds of school districts, thousands of teachers, and nearly 2 million students will encourage the innovative use of technology by trying something new, showcasing success, kicking off project-based learning, or focusing on how digital tools can help improve student outcomes. For more information, please visit DigitalLearningDay.org....

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Whose Side Are You On?

NAACP Sues Charter Schools The Story of How the NY NAACP Sued Charter Schools Serving Black Kids As school choice becomes more integrated into the fabric of American public education, teachers unions have been using a new tactic to fight these reforms: the lawsuit.  And it’s making for strange bedfellows. The United Federation of Teachers, the New York City teachers union, joined forces with the New York State NAACP in a lawsuit to evict charter schools from buildings shared with traditional district schools.  This despite the high percentage of students of color that attend the city’s public charter schools. Why would the NAACP agree to sue the very charter schools that were providing so many black kids with a high quality...

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