Despite deep pockets, key political connections, and support from leading state politicians, the voucher lobby has repeatedly been stymied in the Lone Star State, as Democrats and Republicans alike have preferred to support the state’s public schools. Everyone expected another go-round in this legislative session, and with just a few days left, a showdown is on the horizon. To no one’s surprise, multiple stand alone voucher bills had no chance. Predictably, the voucher lobby pressured a House committee—meeting at the chairman’s desk on the House floor during a lunch break this week—to attach a voucher proposal to a Senate-passed bill to reauthorize the Texas Education Agency. A vote by the full House is now expected on Sunday. Already, the Republican sponsor of the Senate bill has said he will not accept any voucher amendments to the bill. More from the Houston Chronicle. And legislative details here from the Texas Association of School Boards, which opposes the voucher plan.
School Board News Today, an online publication of NSBA, provides timely and relevant stories and analysis from NSBA and other news outlets to school board members, administrators, and all others interested in K-12 education.
Articles from May, 2005
Remember the deal brokered between Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) and the GOP-controlled legislature? She got more money for full-day kindergarten, one of her top priorities. They got a corporate tuition tax credit program to send kids to private schools. A voucher proposal was shelved. Lawmakers of both parties who opposed any kind of voucher were stunned and angry the governor had agreed even to the tax credit voucher plan. Well, now there’s word that Napolitano may veto the bill anyway because, her staff says, she had agreed the tax credit provision would sunset after five years but that language was left out. Republican leaders say the governor’s staff reviewed the language before the legislature voted on it. The governor has until May 25 to sign or veto, but insiders say the decision could come sooner.
Lately we’ve heard the refrain that those darn schools are just assigning too much homework. One high-minded student in Wisconsin recently took his school to court over summer assignments saying, “Nobody really likes to do homework, especially during the summer.” Another high school eliminated homework altogether since the kids weren’t doing it anyway.
But wait, hold up … seems a new study from the Indiana University at Bloomington found that, in general, American high school students do too little homework. More than half spend less than three hours a week on take-home reading or other school assignments. (The Brookings Institution found pretty much the same thing in its own study two years ago.) The result: Students are under-prepared for the academic requirements of college. The Indiana University researchers concluded that students have an unrealistic sense of the work required at a postsecondary level. After following a class of ninth-graders for five years, the study found that while 82 percent of them said they were going to college, only 27 percent of them actually made it through their sophomore year of college. This finding is supported by a recent look at the study habits of college students. So educators, stick to your guns, and kids, do your homework would ya?
What do public school advocates and leaders do when the governor of their state impugns their integrity in a battle over education funding? They respond. And set the record straight: “The truth is, the governor did promise to protect Proposition 98 and he did promise to share a portion of any new state revenues with schools this year … ” said Scott Plotkin, executive director of the California School Boards Association. “I know because I was there—along with my colleagues in the education community representing school board members, teachers, administrators, classified employees and parents—when he shook my hand and gave us his word. What did we get in return? The governor has not only broken his word, he’s now resorted to name-calling and worse, he’s attempting to dismantle and gut California’s school funding system — which already ranks a dismal 44th in the nation in per pupil spending.” More from CASB here. The L.A. Times’ take here.
BoardBuzz will be taking next week off as we carefully map out our summer vacations, get our spray-on tans, and fire up the grill. No, we just need a little break. See you on the 31st!
Yesterday, BoardBuzz reported on the fight over the kinds of snacks and drinks Connecticut public schools could sell to their students. Now, it appears that after eight hours of debate (the longest debate of this session … longer than civil unions or the death penalty), the House passed the bill with an amendment, and returned it to the Senate where final passage is virtually certain. The amendment allows 20 percent of the vending machine products to be “unhealthy,” and provides that the 20-minute opportunity for physical activity doesn’t have to be in a single time block. But, as Connecticut Association of School Boards Deputy Director and General Counsel Patrice McCarthy points out, “Our legislature hasn’t found the time to discuss the need for preschool education yet … and they adjourn on June 8.” What can we say? Priorities, priorities.
The bill provides that not more than 20 percent of the beverages can be diet soda or electrolyte replacement beverages; they’re only allowed in high schools. The State Department of Education will publish a list of recommended prepackaged foods … where do BoardBuzz and McCarthy sign up to get seats on the food tasting committee?
Feedback from a parent in South Carolina on our Monday item about non-partisan school board elections:
“I live in a school district that has had non-partisan board races for many years. While I support non-partisan races, it is very hard to keep politics out. Our most recent election featured openly partisan campaigns by a number of candidates who were elected in a Republican landslide of local, state, and national candidates … These races typically involve $5,000 to $10,000 or more in campaign expenses with web sites, lots of signs, and multiple mass mailings; in other words, all the usual features of partisan races. The school board has evolved into an openly partisan position that has very little to do with helping students and much to do with pandering to special interests and carrying out personal vendettas and agendas.”
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The AP reported recently that the Red Lake School district, and three other nearby districts, were denied a $3 million Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant for mental health and conflict resolution services last year. Why? Because the business manager, not the superintendent, had signed the paperwork. No one can say if the district would have been assured of funding, or if such a grant would have prevented the killings there earlier this year, but as a Red Lake school board member said, “That’s pretty sad. That’s pretty lame.” Not so, says Deborah Price of the Safe and Drug Free Schools Office at Department of Education: “The signature that was required was not there … This is not a gray area; it’s a black-and-white area.” The department has given the district $50,000 since the shooting.
Public schools are used to being publicly taken to task for their supposed shortcomings, so parent grievances are just another “day in the life.” Not so for Gateway Charter, a Florida charter school run by Charter Schools USA. It seems some parents of Gateway, unhappy with the way things are going for their students, set up an Internet chat to share complaints. Calling the parents’ accusations “unlawful, defamatory and libelous,” attorneys for Charter Schools USA told parents to cease and desist or face a lawsuit. The parents ceased and desisted, although they claim it wasn’t because of legal threat. Kind of ironic to hear charter school profiteers complain about bad publicity when so many of them have been … how shall we say? … less than complimentary about public schools.
Oh, and Charter Schools USA is also in a bit of hot water with its chartering district, Lee County Schools, over its amazing disappearing deficit. Apparently Charter Schools went from a $1.4 million dollar deficit three months ago to perfectly balanced books today and the school district is a tad skeptical.
Want to check out some truly stunning school architecture? The annual Learning By Design, published by American School Board Journal and Stratton Publishing & Marketing, offers a collection of eye-catching photos and articles covering the continually booming school construction universe. Architects of school buildings these days are pushing the design and aesthetic envelope, creating some dazzling spaces that are inspiring whole communities to re-examining just what a school building can be and do. Check it out.