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Stephen Dyer of Innovation Ohio is a former legislator and is currently the most astute analyst of the legislature’s efforts to undermine public education.

In this post, he describes the legislature’s current approach to vouchers.

He writes:

Yesterday, Ohio’s legislature passed their COVID-19 emergency package. And while there were some much needed and positive things in it (no standardized tests this year, no report cards), the bill also settled the contentious debate over what to do with next year’s EdChoice perofrmance-based voucher program.

A bit of background. Next year, due to legislative changes, 1,227 school buildings would have been labeled by the state as “failing”. Families with students in those buildings could therefore receive publicly subsidized private school tuition vouchers to leave these schools. The problem for districts is the way this program is funded, the state removes state revenue meant for the students in the districts and instead provides a private tuition subsidy — an amount that on average is abot $1,300 more per pupil than the student would have received from the state if he or she had remained in the school district. This forces many districts to use local revenue to make up the difference.

Also, it is obvious that more than 1/3 of Ohio school buildings are not “failing” students, as the current 1,227 building calculation would conclude. And legislators on all sides of the aisle agreed that the state report card that made this determination is fatally flawed.

However, families were gearing up by Feb. 1 to request vouchers for next school year based on the expanded school building list. The legislature put off that deadline to April 1 and included $10 million in state funding to help offset the cost of increased vouchers. They were hoping to hash out a plan to address this issue before that date.

Then COVID-19 hit and everything changed.

The solution included in yesterday’s bill was essentially freezing the number of buildings at this year’s 500+ buildings, and limiting new vouchers to siblings of current recipients and incoming kindergarten students, as well as any 8th graders who want to take the voucher in high school.

But it’s all based on this current school year’s building list — which is still about double the amount of the 2018-2019 school year, but is far fewer than the 1,227 it could have been.

This solution also did not include the $10 million state infusion to help districts cope with the increase in vouchers.

So the immediate question became: Will this “freeze” really be a cost-neutral freeze on the program? Or do we still need an infusion of state cash to offset new vouchers?

Looking at the data, it appears we could be looking at an increase in voucher funding next year, but it could also be cost neutral. It all depends on how the math works out.

According to the latest state funding printouts, there are currently 3,264 kindergarten voucher students. In addition, there are an average of 2,324 voucher students in 12th grade this year.

The kindergarten students cost $4,650 per year. The 2,324 12th graders cost $6,000 a year.

When advocates of vouchers assert that all children should have the “same choices” as rich people, they are lying. The private schools that Trump, Gates, and others of their wealth choose do not charge $6,000 a year. They charge $30,000-$60,000 a year.

Ohio is offering a subsidy to religious schools, including to children who have never attended a public schools. These schools do not necessarily require that teachers are certified. The education they offer is typically inferior to public education.

Ninety percent of the children of Ohio choose to attend public schools. Their legislators ignore them.

Andrew (Andy) Saultz is running for the Oregon State Legislature in District 33 (Northwest Portland).

I am pleased to endorse his candidacy.

The legislature will be fortunate to have Andy Saultz, an experienced and knowledgeable educator, among its members.

Education is the most important of every state’s responsibilities. Nothing matters more than making sure that the children and young people of every state are prepared to take their place as responsible and thoughtful citizens.

Andy has been a teacher and a scholar of education.

I asked Andy to spell out his vision for education and he sent this statement:

 

My views

Education is a right for every child regardless of race, gender, class, ability, sexual orientation, or religion.

Education is fundamental in a democracy.

That workers should have the freedom to collective bargain, to form unions, to have safe workplaces, and to have sustainable working conditions.

Our schools should be racially and socio-economically integrated. Segregated communities led to segregated schools, which is bad for kids and for society. Richard Rothstein’s work has shaped my understanding of the relationship between housing and educational policy.

Our school system was established to socially reproduce society. Jean Anyon and others have shaped my views on the hidden curriculum and how different social classes are treated in our schools.

We have to actively work against racism, classism, xenophobia and white supremacy in our schools and social structures.

All children deserve access to the arts, PE, recess, social studies, and science.

 

What I believe

I believe in public education. That education is a public good. That a diverse, liberal arts education creates well rounded citizens.

I believe that we know what ‘works’ in education. We need high quality teachers, with manageable class sizes, schedules, and pay.

I believe we need a system that trusts teachers and listen to them.

I believe we need to elect people with classroom experience.

I believe teaching is really challenging, and cannot be taught in a six week course.

I believe in community centered schools that engage families and center the lives of students.

I believe in John Dewey’s approach that centers students.

I believe in union workers. I oppose the privatization of bus drivers, custodians, food workers, or any other workers. I am proud to have voted against privatization as a school board member.

I believe that all workers deserve quality health benefits and a retirement system that rewards public service.

 

What I hope to accomplish

Increase the number and percentage of teachers of color

Increase the number and percentage of principals of color

Improve special education funding and the SPED system overall.

Better serve the ELL community

Improve teacher pay

Transform teacher professional development to give teachers autonomy over what they need

Lengthen the school year (Oregon currently has the shortest school year in the country). This negatively impacts students in poverty.

Expand before and after school options, particularly in communities of color and low income neighborhoods

Expand computer science in k-12 schools. These courses are disproportionately offered in high income, white neighborhoods.

Invest in public higher education to combat the student debt crisis.

Increase the number of mental health professionals in schools.

Reform our state revenue system to increase revenue through a more progressive taxation system.

 

His vision is just right for the young people of Oregon.

I am happy to endorse his candidacy and wish him the best of luck.

andyfororegon.org

Sue Legg of the Florida League of Women Voters wrote here about concerns about teachers’ pensions and whether the 2020 legislature is planning to undermine them.

She writes:

There are rumblings that the 2020 Florida Legislature may revise funding for the Florida Pension Plan.   There is no question that the retirement system revenue has declined; it has not been 100% funded since the 2008 recession. The current rate is about 84% of the cost if all people retired at one time. Of course that is an unlikely scenario, but there are now more people vested in the system than are contributing to it. One million public employees participate in the system, about half are teachers and the others are local and state government employees. As retirees increase and new participants decrease, covering costs becomes more problematic…

Pensions are not the problem..The real question as always is whether funding pensions is mostly a political, not a financial issue.  The National Association of State Retirement Administrators cited a report stating that an 80% funding level is the federal benchmark for financial stability of state pension systems.  Florida’s level exceeds that benchmark. Nevertheless, there is a political divide over providing pensions, and it is closely tied to those supporting school privatization.  Florida charters and private schools typically do not contribute to retirement systems, and the resulting high teacher turnover keeps salaries lower.   Thus, there is more money available for management companies in the private sector.   This is not a recipe for a high quality educational system.

 

New Hampshire has divided government. The governor is a Republican, who chooses the State Commissioner. But in the last election in 2018, Democrats won control of the legislature.

The State Commissioner is a home-schooling parent who is hostile to public schools. He comes from the Betsy  DeVos mold.

Speaking of DeVos, she gave New Hampshire $46 million from the federal Charter Schools Program, which is her own $440 million slush fund to promote charters.

If spent, this money would double the number of charters in the state, a dramatic expansion.

But the Legislature used its powers to hold up the grant. They want answers to their questions about how the state’s public schools would be affected, and how the charter expansion would affect the state’s finances.

The pending charter expansion grant – the largest earmarked for any state – aims to double the number of charter schools in New Hampshire over the next five years. It is currently on hold, after Democrats on the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee cited concerns that building more charter schools would lead to unanticipated costs for the state and harm existing, non-charter public schools. 

Governor Chris Sununu criticized the hold, calling the money a “game-changing grant [that] would have cost New Hampshire taxpayers nothing.”

But an analysis by the public education non-profit Reaching Higher estimated that, because charter schools are typically funded by the state rather than local districts, the state’s plan to expand charters with this grant money could cost the state over $100 million in the next ten years.

Is this a pig in a poke?

 

Both houses of the Massachusetts legislature unanimously passed a major funding bill for education, directing $1.5 billion mainly to the neediest districts.

Massachusetts has long had the most successful public schools in the nation. The state is poised to build on its record of success.

The majority of the $1.5 billion set aside in the bill will go to lower-performing and underfunded school districts, which means adding more teachers, bringing back art and music classes, and increasing funds for students from low-income households.

When voters were asked to pass a referendum to expand charter schools in 2016, they overwhelmingly said no. (I write about this epic battle in my forthcoming battle in my forthcoming book SLAYING GOLIATH).

 

Steven Singer writes about what is wrong with Speaker of the House Mike Turzai’s bill to authorize vouchers for the underfunded public schools of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: In a word, everything!

He writes:

The best way to help a struggling public school is to cannibalize it.

 

 

At least that’s what Betsy DeVos thinks – and so does her Pennsylvania puppet Mike Turzai.

 

 

The Republican Speaker of the state House is expected to propose a school voucher bill Monday that will treat Harrisburg Schools as nothing more than carrion fit for plunder by school privatization vultures.

Sure the district is in state receivership after decades of neglect and bad decisions by the elected school board.

But instead of helping the school and its students get back on their feet, Turzai proposes siphoning away as much as $8.5 million in state funding set aside for the school’s aide. Alternatively, that money would go to help offset some of the cost of sending Harrisburg students to private or parochial schools if they so desire.

However in lieu of any safeguards to make sure these children fleeing from the public system receive the same quality of services required by state law, Turzai’s bill goes out of its way to protect the vultures!

Under House Bill 1800, private or parochial schools won’t be held as accountable for how they spend the money they plunder from Harrisburg nor will it force them to enroll all comers like authentic public schools are required to do.

Specifically, non-public schools would be allowed to take public tax dollars but refuse any students they wished – based on gender, race, religion, even special educational needs.

 It’s bad policy and bad politics.

Essentially Turzai is proposing we swoop in and tear the district to pieces – for its own good.

The bill would force state taxpayers to pay for half the cost of the voucher program – essentially making us shell out our hard earned money for two parallel education systems.

It’s unclear where the other half of the money would even come from that the state is supposed to match.

Thinking people know this is nonsense on so many levels. If the public schools have problems, there’s no reason to believe school vouchers hold the answer. After all, the best way to save yourself from drowning is to patch up the boat you’re already on. You shouldn’t jump to a lifeboat willy-nilly with no assurance that your escape craft is more seaworthy than the one you’re already sailing on.

And in fact, there is no evidence that voucher schools are better than authentic public schools.

Singer proceeds to review the evidence against vouchers. It is overwhelming. Vouchers do not help students or schools. They harm them. 

 

In a major setback for Republicans in Virginia, Democrats swept control of both houses of the state legislature!

Trump has no shirttails.

This election and the election in Kentucky should send a message to the a Republican majority in the Senate. Will Democrats sweep both houses of Congress next year as Mitch McConnell and every other Republican Senator stick by Trump to the bitter end?

 

This is a great opinion article by Tony Messenger, a regular columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which is one of the nation’s great newspapers. It is an Open Letter addressed to Missouri’s Suburban Moms and written in the voice of the state Republican party. This is the party that loves women so much that it voted to eliminate all abortions, even in the case of rape, incest, or a threat to the survival of the mother. The GOP loves the unborn but ignores the born.

For starters:

First off, and this is really important: We didn’t raise your taxes. As you save to send your children to college, it’s important to us to allow you to spend your hard-earned money the way you want to. Of course, that doesn’t mean college isn’t going to get more expensive. Because we are so committed to never, ever raising taxes, Missouri is among the lowest-funded higher education systems in the country. And that’s why the Board of Curators of the University of Missouri voted to raise tuition 5 percent starting next year. Some might call that a back-door tax increase. Not us.

Speaking of college, if you are sending your daughter to a university in the state — public or private — we want you to know about our efforts to change the federal Title IX regulations meant to protect her from sexual assault or discrimination. We fell just short in our effort to gut those Obama-era regulations this year, but rest assured, we’ll be back at it next year.

It is a wonderful satire that isn’t funny because it is so true.

 

 Kansas has a State Supreme Court that pays attention to the State Constitution and cares about the future of the state, which rests on the educational opportunities of its children. Isn’t that novel these days!

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June 24, 2019
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KANSAS LEGISLATURE SHORTCHANGES PUBLIC SCHOOLS, ISSUE MOVES TO SUPREME COURT
     

KANSAS HIGH COURT TO STATE: SCHOOL FUNDING FORMULA ADEQUATE, NOW FUND IT

By Wendy Lecker

The Kansas Supreme Court has found the State’s most recent school funding formula to be adequate but will retain jurisdiction to make certain the State fully phases in required funding increases through 2023. The Court’s ruling, issued June 14, is the latest decision in Gannon v. State, Kansas’ long-running lawsuit challenging inadequate public education funding.

The Gannon case was filed in 2010, after the State walked away from implementing a funding remedy ordered by the Supreme Court in an earlier case, Montoy v. State. In a 2005 decision in Montoy, the Court threw out the State’s school finance system and ordered reforms to ensure Kansas school children adequate resources to give them a meaningful opportunity to achieve academic standards. The Montoy case ended in 2006, when the Court ruled that new legislation substantially met constitutional requirements.

In 2008, however, before the State fully implemented the Montoy remedy, it began making significant reductions in school funding. The Gannon lawsuit was filed in response.

The Gannon plaintiffs – parents, students and school districts – are represented by attorneys and Kansans Alan Rupe and John Robb. Alan and John, who also handled the Montoy v. State lawsuit, are among the nation’s most experienced plaintiffs’ lawyers in school funding cases.

In its initial Gannon decisions, the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed a lower court’s rulings that the State’s action’s resulted in inadequate and inequitable funding levels and ordered funding reforms.

The plaintiffs were forced to seek relief from the Supreme Court several times after the Legislature and Governor failed to enact the required reforms. In 2018, the Court ruled that additional funds provided by the State addressed funding equity but did not ensure adequate funding levels.

In its June 14 decision, the Court found the State had finally substantially complied with the constitutional requirement for funding adequacy. The Court noted the plaintiffs’ agreement that a $90 million increase was adequate for 2019-20. The Court also found the State provided good faith estimates for inflation to be phased-in through successive year increases through 2023.

Most important, the Court is retaining jurisdiction over the Gannon lawsuit to ensure the State follows through with the required funding increases. In a ruling similar to the 2009 New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in Abbott v. Burke, the Kansas Supreme Court pointed to Kansas’ long-term resistance to providing adequate funding and noted its inherent power and responsibility to enforce judicial remedies, especially those relating to constitutional rights.

The Gannon litigation represents a powerful example of the critical role courts can play in advocacy efforts to ensure states fairly fund public education. The Gannon rulings have safeguarded the constitutional right to education against repeated efforts by the legislative and executive branches to severely reduce Kansas’ investment in the education of the state’s children.

No doubt, the Gannon plaintiffs and their experienced counsel will continue their vigilance to make certain lawmakers follow through on the latest court mandate to effectuate the education rights of children across the state.

Wendy Lecker is a Senior Attorney at Education Law Center

Education Law Center Press Contact:

Sharon Krengel

Policy and Outreach Director

skrengel@edlawcenter.org

973-624-1815, x 24

 

 

 

The Chicago Teachers Union reports on some gains. Most notable is that individual school districts will be able to limit charter school expansion into their districts, a battle now being fought in California. The issue is whether the wishes of charter entrepreneurs should outweigh democratic local control of schools. Illinois says no.

 

While some gains have been made, equity agenda in Springfield requires real leadership from Lightfoot

The CTU is calling on Chicago’s new mayor to ‘Keep the Promise’ for education equity by supporting the restoration of our bargaining rights—and an elected, representative school board.

CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union made some powerful gains in this spring’s Springfield legislative session. The union won passage of legislation to reign in and reform the charter industry—including the right of individual school districts to control charter expansion in their districts. Until both houses passed the legislation, the Illinois State Charter School Commission had unilateral power to ignore school districts’ attempts to close down bad operators in their regions. Now, that power is ended.

Legislators also increased the number of days that retired teachers and support staff can serve as substitute teachers by 20 percent without sacrificing their pension benefits. The bill is designed to help alleviate an acute shortage of substitute teachers, and put retired veteran educators back in the classroom. Before the legislation was passed, retirees could be forced to forfeit their entire pension if they substituted for more than 100 days per year, roughly twenty weeks out of a full school year.

And the legislature has sent a bill to the governor’s office that would suspend a teacher test that was widely decried as of dubious value—and a dangerous driver of the state’s acute teacher shortage.

Two other CTU initiatives—a bill to restore the CTU’s right to bargain over critical issues like class size and staff shortages, and a bill to create an elected, representative school board—both stalled in the senate, where Senate President John Cullerton sandbagged that legislation at the request of Chicago’s new mayor, Lori Lightfoot. The earliest the effort could be taken up again by the state legislature is this October.

“The mayor ran on her support of an elected representative school board and on an agenda of real equity for neighborhood public schools,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey. “Cullerton has, unfortunately, a long track record of carrying the water for the previous mayor on some terrible legislative initiatives. The new mayor should reverse that practice, respect the platform on which voters elected her, and move to get both of these initiatives passed.”

Chicagoans are the only residents in the state denied the right to elect their school board. The bill would have created distinct, walkable districts that ensure that every neighborhood in the city is represented on the school board. The 21-member board is about 40% the size of the City Council, and on par with the number of state representatives who are elected by Chicagoans to serve in Springfield.

For more than a quarter of a century, Chicago’s public school educators have also been denied the right—unlike educators across the state—to bargain over so-called ‘non-economic’ issues like class size and outsourcing. Those restrictions have allowed Chicago’s mayor to push massive privatization of school services—from health services for special needs students to janitorial services. That privatiziation agenda has driven deep deficiencies in health services for special education services and chronic cleanliness and maintenance issues in the public schools, at the same time that class sizes have exploded and the district confronts sweeping shortages of critical frontline staff like school nurses and social workers.

“We’ll continue to work to introduce and fight for passage of this legislation until we get it done,” said Sharkey. “Mayoral control of the board of education has been a dismal failure. It’s time for the mayor to fulfill her promises to Chicagoans, get behind these initiatives and start the hard work of building a school district built on real equity for our students. We elect our mayor, our aldermen, our state legislators—and Chicagoans should have the same right when it comes to our public schools that every other part of the state has the right to exercise.”