Articles from January, 2005

Follow-up on school board spouses: Pillow talk

Apparently in some places the question of spouses serving on the same school board could be more complicated than we thought. As Mike Martin of the Arizona School Boards Association tells BoardBuzz: “In Arizona our ‘open meeting’ law requires the posting of a meeting notice whenever a quorum of the board will be meeting. Some of our districts have only three board members. Sooooo…”

Erin Walsh|January 31st, 2005|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Principal finds a way to slow drivers down

This can’t be part of most job descriptions for principals, but a Colorado school’s principal is doing what he thinks is necessary to keep his students safe. Bill Gillenwater, principal of Monfort Elementary in Greeley, Colo., got tired of drivers speeding past his school as students are being picked up and dropped off. The school and parents are raising money to purchase a radar-controlled sign to remind drivers to slow down in front of the school, but in the interim, Gillenwater has found an empty milk jug will suffice. He stands by the road pointing the plastic jug at oncoming cars whose drivers instinctively slow down thinking he’s a police officer with a real radar gun. Good thinking. More here from

Erin Walsh|January 31st, 2005|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

School board members on NCLB: ‘Fix it and fund it’

A focal point of the school board Federal Relations Network (FRN) conference in Washington, D.C., this week is NSBA’s call to improve the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). “Our board members know best the challenges school districts face and the impact that this federal legislation has had on local schools,” says Anne L. Bryant, NSBA’s executive director. “They will be poised to share their stories and the many reasons why the No Child Left Behind law needs to be amended to work better for all students.”

A summary of NSBA’s proposed bill to improve NCLB can be found here. The proposed changes maintain NCLB accountability but are important to preserve the act’s credibility so the accountability succeeds. The improvements would address and neutralize some of the nonsensical “horror stories” that have caused many to question whether the act can work as is, others to question whether the act even is intended to work, and a few to want to do away with the act altogether. Expect the inevitable finger-pointing and smug cheap shots we see whenever anyone points out a problem with NCLB. But also look forward to a little more listening and some more thoughtful discussion of what needs to change to make this thing work.

Today, school board members attending the FRN hear from Senators Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), as well as Representatives Tom Petri (R-Wis.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) and Betty McCollum (D-Minn.). Senator Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), the recipient of an NSBA Special Recognition Award, will address board members Monday too. NSBA is recognizing Burns for being instrumental in restoring the majority of funding for Title V Grants for Innovative Education Programs and for leading the floor debate to protect the E-Rate program.

Erin Walsh|January 31st, 2005|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

School board service: A family affair?

Voters in Charleston, South Carolina chose David Engelman to represent them on their county school district board this past November. In doing so, they became the only Palmetto State community to elect a husband and wife to serve on the same school board. Now a state legislator from Charleston, Rep. Floyd Breeland, has introduced legislation to prohibit this. Coverage here by the Charleston Post and Courier.

South Carolina School Boards Association executive director Paul Krohne notes that the proposed ban will necessitate a lot of legal research into its legality. Others ask where this kind of thing will end. Rep. John Graham Altman, former chair of the Charleston County board, suggests that Breeland is miffed that Engelman defeated his friend for the seat. This Breeland denies, claiming he’s just concerned about spouses forming “voting blocs” on school boards.

BoardBuzz is no authority on marital bliss, but we have to ask: Since when do husbands and wives agree on everything? And when have our elected or appointed decision-making bodies not had voting blocs? At any rate, if family ties among elected officials really are a problem, surely a South Carolina school board is pretty far down the list.

Erin Walsh|January 28th, 2005|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Minister pens provocative piece on public schools, vouchers, and faith

Following-up on our post yesterday about the tuition tax credit battle brewing in South Carolina, we noticed this thought-provoking and eloquent column in the Rock Hill Herald by the Rev. Jim Watkins, a retired Presbyterian minister. He clearly doesn’t like the tuition tax credit plan either. There are many good points in his column about education and religious faith, and not just about vouchers, so we urge you to read it in full. If you must cheat, here’s a nut graph:

“The question is not whether or not parents have the right to send children to private schools or to home school them. Parents have that right. The question is one of the public good. Redirecting public money to private and home schools does not match with the historic principle of education for everyone. It is as much symbolic as it is fiscal. To redirect resources sends the wrong message, i.e., ‘Public schools are really second-class schools for second-class people.’ Public monies need to be directed to public schools to the end that everyone has the opportunity for a first-class education.”

Erin Walsh|January 28th, 2005|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

FRN Conference kicks off Sunday

NSBA’s 32nd Annual Federal Relations Network (FRN) Conference starts Sunday afternoon in Washington, D.C., with more than 800 school board members expected to attend. Improving the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), holding Congress accountable for federal education funding, along with updates on the recently reauthorized Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the E-Rate program, vouchers and more, mark a busy agenda for board members. Congressional speakers include the Chair of the Senate HELP Committee Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN).

Erin Walsh|January 28th, 2005|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Spellings starts filling out her staff

New U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has tapped David Dunn to be her chief of staff. Dunn is familiar to school board folks, having previously served as associate executive director for the Texas Association of School Boards. Most recently, he was special assistant for domestic policy (including education) in the Bush White House. Spellings also named Emily Kertz Lampkin and Robin Gilchrist as deputy chiefs of staff. More here from the Department.

Erin Walsh|January 27th, 2005|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Bumps in the road ahead for voucher-like plans

The retooling is underway (again) in Utah as the voucher lobby attempts to make Round 5 different from the previous four years when the state legislature rejected tuition tax credit plans. Why the retooling on the current proposal? Why do politicians ever make significant changes to their bills? They need more support to pass them. We’re not about to predict ultimately what’s going to happen in this legislative session, but the plan doesn’t appear to be sailing through. The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News have the latest changes, including a no-brainer: families of current private school students will be eligible for the tax credit, up to $3,750. Yeah. A real shocker there. Of course existing private school students will be eligible. And no, you don’t have to be a math wizard to know that will lead to new costs (not savings) for the state. Existing tuition tax credit programs have already proved that. Meanwhile, Utahns continue to express distaste for the idea in general. Their comments here and here. Not to mention more news about Utah’s successful public schools, something we’ve commented on before.

The deep pocketed proponents in the voucher lobby may be getting restless about South Carolina too, one of their other targets for 2005. The governor’s proposal, which failed a year ago, is meeting resistance again, according to The State. The paper says proponents consider South Carolina to be a “bellwether” state for their national efforts, but Republicans in the House are “fractured” over the plan and support in the Senate is, in the words of its education chairman, “tepid.” Even the state’s leading national figure has expressed doubts about the idea. The governor pitched it again in his State-of-the-State last night. Committee consideration is not expected till March. Stay tuned.

Erin Walsh|January 27th, 2005|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

How to fund Texas’ schools, and a citizens group steps up

School finance is front and center for the Texas Legislature this year, and Gov. Rick Perry, in his State-of-the-State address yesterday, said that public schools need a $1.6 billion increase in public school funding. He also reaffirmed his support for vouchers, while avoiding the word. The move reminded us of this column by John Young of the Waco Tribune-Herald. The Houston Chronicle has more on the Texas session here and here.

BoardBuzz also points you to a new Texas group that thinks its state’s public schools don’t always get a fair shake in the public square. Friends of Texas Public Schools says it is out to promote the many positives of the public schools and strengthen the public’s faith in them. An impressive group of citizens are involved, including business and community leaders, and a former speechwriter for a pair of former Texas governors (including one who now resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington) and more recently for First Lady Laura Bush. Check out their website.

Erin Walsh|January 27th, 2005|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Colorado cyberschool students struggling

Students in Colorado’s cyberschools are having to repeat grades four times as often as students in traditional bricks-and-mortar schools, and attrition is high, reports today’s edition of The Denver Post. (Hat tip: The figures have lawmakers calling for statewide oversight, including a commission or authority to help set standards for the schools. The Colorado Association of School Boards backs that move. “So as long as we use the public dollar for choice programs, we need to follow that dollar with accountability,” CASB’s Jane Urschel told the Post.

Erin Walsh|January 26th, 2005|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|
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