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Articles tagged with Economy

The week in blogs

President Obama’s “American Jobs Act” – part of the $477 billion legislative package he proposed to Congress Thursday night – includes $30 billion in new funds to prevent more teacher layoffs and  another $25 billion in school construction money that could help rebuild 35,000 schools.

Sounds great. But is it too good to be true? Afraid so, writes Alison Klein in Education Week’s Politics K-12 blog:

“There’s almost no chance that Republicans—who generally think the $100 billion for education in the stimulus was a giant waste of money—will rush to support this,” Klein writes. “Remember, the administration had a very tough time getting Congress to approve $10 billion for the Education Jobs Fund back in the summer of 2010, when Democrats had healthy majorities in both chambers.”

For a simpler, graphic representation of the above analysis, see Tom Toles’ cartoon Friday in the Washington Post.

But do schools really need that $25 billion in construction funds. Well……yes, writes the Post’s Valerie Strauss. She notes that decades of research have shown a link between the condition of buildings and student health, attendance, teacher recruitment, and, most critically, student achievement.

Speaking of student achievement, read Peg Tyre’s critique of standardized testing on Freakonomics. (Thanks to This Week in Education for highlighting it.)  You no doubt have heard a lot of arguments against standardized tests, but Tyre’s is the most unique — and intriguing — that I’ve read in recent months.

Of course, there’s another side. And that’s part of what makes education policy so interesting and, sometimes, maddening. For a positive reassessment of testing, see “Putting Myself to the Test,” by Ama Nyamekye, in Edweek.

Lawrence Hardy|September 10th, 2011|Categories: Uncategorized, Teachers, Week in Blogs, School Buildings, Budgeting|Tags: , , , |

The week in blogs

In school board circles — you might say, “school board lore” — it’s known simply as “The Blueberry Story.” But for our purposes, we’ll call it “The Blueberry Question” and add that any audience query that backs a public speaker into a corner (a rightfully deserved corner, some might say) “A Blueberry Question.” This week, in a Washington Post blog, Mary Fertakis, a board member for the Tukwila (Wash.) School District, describes a classic “Blueberry Question” she asked Education Secretary Arne Duncan last winter during NSBA’s Federal Relations Conference.

More on that later. But first, the original. In case you haven’t heard it, here it is, very briefly: Many years ago, Jamie Vollmer, an ice cream entrepreneur and public school critic who wanted schools run more like businesses, was questioned by a polite veteran English teacher after one of his lectures. She asked if he makes great ice cream, and, as he would later describe, he fell into “the trap.” After he raved about the quality of his ice cream and all its premium ingredients, she asked what he did if he got an inferior shipment of blueberries.

“I send them back,” he said, already sensing that he was a goner.

Then the teacher gave an eloquent speech about schools not being able to send back their blueberries – the blueberries, of course, being children, who arrive at school rich or poor, speaking English or not, well-adjusted or troubled. Vollmer thought about that, and soon thereafter his attitude shifted ’s 180 degrees and he became a champion for the public schools.

So, what was Fertakis’ “Blueberry Question? As she describes it in the Post’s Answer Sheet blog, her question to Duncan was this: “Should children have to compete for their education?” and of course, his answer, indeed anyone’s answer, had to be “no.” But then he was left to explain why Race to the Top, which Fertakis says pits small, rural, and disadvantaged school districts against larger, wealthier ones, is good policy.

Duncan’s no Vollmer (I’m talking pre-Blueberry-Question Vollmer) and he’s doing all he can to help close the achievement gap. But Fertakis column is an eloquent account of what it’s like to lead what the New York Times once called the “most diverse school district in the United States.”

There was a lot more in the national press this week, including a National Journal experts’ blog on bullying. The forum takes, as its starting point, NSBA’s recently launched Students on Board initiative, which encourages board members to get a better understanding of their schools through talking directly to students.

Also, see the sobering report Kids Count, from the Anne E. Casey Foundation, which found that child poverty increased 18 percent between 2000 and 2009. And nearly 8 million children in 2009 were living with at least one parent who was unemployed but looking for a job.






Lawrence Hardy|August 19th, 2011|Categories: Uncategorized, School Boards, Week in Blogs, Diversity, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , , , |

The week in blogs

Should we be paying school board members who serve in large school districts? Lynne K. Varner, a columnist for the Seattle Times, thinks so. Citing the growing complexity of K12 education and the increasing demands on board members’ times, Varner says it’s time for Seattle to follow the lead of cities like Los Angeles, which pays board members $46,000 but requires that they not take other jobs. She cites NSBA’s School Boards Circa 2010 for her statistics.

I see where she’s coming from, but I doubt that the LA schools’ payment system has much to do with how well the system is governed. And $46,000 doesn’t sound like a lot to raise a family on in the LA area.

Have you heard any of NPR’s series this week on dropouts in America? It’s pretty disturbing but very well done. Joanne Jacob comments on it in her blog, “Linking and Thinking on Education.”

Elsewhere in the news, it’s been a tough week for President Obama, who can’t seem to get Congress to agree on a bill to increase the debt ceiling. Adding insult to injury, the leaders of the “Save Our Schools” rally in Washington apparently turned down a meeting with the president as well.

Speaking of the debt crisis and Congress’ apparent paralysis, The Onion, a satiric weekly, has the answer: Just air-drop in a team of 8th grade civics teachers to the nation’s capital for some serious remedial instruction.

Now that’s a plan!

Lawrence Hardy|July 29th, 2011|Categories: Uncategorized, School Boards, Teachers, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , , , |

Recession’s lasting effect on public schools unknown

1-1235664948qCNwHaving made some really tough budget decisions in the past few years—and now confronted with yet another tough fiscal year ahead—local school boards truly are entering “uncharted territory.”

That’s the title of ASBJ‘s May cover story, which examines the budget struggles of public schools nationwide—and what the future holds.

Perhaps the biggest question is how recent budget cuts will affect student learning. If little Johnny must attend a class with 30 other students, how does this affect his ability to learn to read? How is little Sally affected if her math teacher hasn’t had any professional development training since 2007?

Answers are simple: No one knows. But certainly many worry about the accumulated impact of larger class sizes, loss of teacher training, delayed technology and textbook purchases, closed down tutoring programs, and the layoff of many qualified teachers and administrators.

Oh, yes, then there’s the astonishing fact that some financially hard-hit school systems—including the entire state of Hawaii—switched to a four-day school week to balance their budgets.

Naomi Dillon|April 29th, 2010|Categories: NSBA Publications, Budgeting, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |

Lowering the bar to raise graduation rate

California’s troubled economy — the state is on track to run out of cash in a matter of weeks unless drastic measures are enacted— has taken another victim in education: high expectations.

The board at Santa Ana Unified School District, the largest school system in Orange County, has been discussing and will likely move forward with a plan to reduce the number of credits required to graduate from 240 to 220, dropping them from the district with the most stringent requirements to among the lowest in the county.  

In 2008, the district’s graduation rate was 83 percent, which district officials say would have been bumped to 87 percent or higher under the proposed plan.

With about 56 percent of its roughly 52,000 students classified as English Language Learners, the district argues the change would give them a better a chance at succeeding, while providing all students more flexibility in choosing their classes.

While all of that is true, it seems like the real reason is lack of funding. Ironically, the district had increased it’s graduation requirements in 2001, in concert with a pilot program it had launched to increase the high school day from six to seven periods.

The district has since dropped that program and its hopes of expanding it districtwide as the state’s financial situation has worsened.

“The main goal is to ensure all students graduate,” Jennifer Ruvalcaba, a counselor at one of the district’s high school’s told the Orange County Register.

Yes, but shouldn’t the goal also be to ensure all students are competitive? This isn’t a slam on Santa Ana, which like all districts in California are struggling just to survive, but an admonishment to California legislators for letting its school system continue to slip, one credit at a time.

Naomi Dillon, Senior Editor

Naomi Dillon|January 30th, 2009|Categories: Governance, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , , |

A good lawyer needed in bad economy

A little over a week ago, I was in sunny California; topping 80 degrees, I almost forgot it was winter until I returned to the Washington D.C. area and it’s single-digit weather. What a rude awakening!

Not as rude of an awakening, however, as many of the school districts are having in the Golden State, thanks to its plummeting economy, which was the reason I was out west in the first place. With one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, a housing bubble market that has seen the largest bust, and the foreclosure rates to prove it, California is among the worst affected by the economic downturn.

And education is definitely feeling the effects. Gov. Schwarzenneger has proposed cutting $2.1 billion from schools in the middle of this year and another $3.1 billion from education in the 2009-2010 school year. Ouch!

But as districts begin the torturous process of cutting “extras”, laying off employees, and finally eliminating whole programs or shuttering schools, officials must worry about another unpleasantry: lawsuits.

While I was in California, I visited the Capistrano Unified School District in the southern part of Orange County. There are a lot of good people there, trying to do good things on a shrinking budget. It, like other school districts, are trying to figure out how to continue providing a quality education, even as its budget continues to get smaller and smaller, while operating costs continue to rise. Naturally, they have had to cut and reduce many services— they cut their bus routes by more than half, for example.

Naomi Dillon|January 23rd, 2009|Categories: Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , , |

Hey brother can you spare $100 million?

There’s been a lot of talk about the nation’s sudden affliction of “bailout hangover” now that Congress has approved the $700 billion financial industry takeover and an emergency loan package to automakers looks like a done deal.

So with everyone asking “what about me?” these days, why shouldn’t school districts ask for a share of the pot? After all, the nation’s future economic outlook largely hinges on a well-educated population.

Turns out, that’s what some had in mind.

On Tuesday Broward County became the second school system, and the largest, to formally ask for a share of the pot when its school board voted to petition the government for an unspecified amount of bailout funds. In suburban Cleveland, Olmstead Falls superintendent Todd Hoadley made national news last week when he called on Congress to provide $100 million to help his fast-growing district pay for school construction projects and unfunded federal mandates.

Just a few weeks after taking his job, Miami-Dade superintendent Alberto Carvalho says it’s time for the federal government to bail out schools. While its local economy is quite different than the Rust Belt, Florida is also hurting from the economic slowdown, as evidenced by its glut of home foreclosures.

“The most commonly heard solution out of Washington these days is a bailout where the federal government intervenes to safeguard key industries and in the process, the quality of American life,” Carvalho said. “If that’s the rationale, than I cannot think of a more strategic investment than safeguarding the quality of public education.”


Naomi Dillon|December 10th, 2008|Categories: Governance, Budgeting, American School Board Journal|Tags: , |
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