Articles tagged with recession

The week in blogs

At the more popular charter schools operating within the Los Angeles Unified School District, there are lotteries to see who gets to attend and waiting lists that are very long – 500 children long, in the case Larchmont Charter elementary school. But if you’ve got the money and the time, according to a revealing story in LA Weekly, you can go to the front of the line as “founding parents” — even though the school opened in 2004.

“Add something called a ‘founding parent’ to the long list of ways that charter schools are accused of manipulating which children get to enroll and who doesn’t,” writes Alexander Russo, who cites the story in his This Week in Education blog. But “before you go crazy…” he adds later, “remember that district schools also have all sorts of ways of letting students in through the back door …”

True …but, the scale of the Larchmont “program” and the amount of money involved – and how it bridges the increasingly blurry line between public and private schools – is truly amazing. And it backs up what charter skeptics have long said about charters tailoring their admission policies in various ways (for example, not accepting near as  many special needs children) but claiming a universal benefit for an area’s students.

Need something lighter? When I do, I turn to the Principal’s Page and Superintendent Michael Smith’s often amusing view of his job and life. This short piece is on his junior high school daughter’s unusual level of self-esteem, which is uncannily high for someone who has every right to be the brooding teenager.

My favorite line: “Her worst day ever was great.”

It reminds me of those brilliantly funny Dos Equis beer ads – yes, brilliant beer ads – featuring “The Most Interesting Man in the World,” played by the late Jonathan Goldsmith. (I love these two lines, especially: “When he’s in Rome, they do as he does.” And: “His Mother has a tattoo that reads, ‘Son.’” – both uttered with mock gravity by a reader who, in real life, does the ultra-authoritative voiceover for PBS’s Frontline.)

Enough fun. There are serious issues to consider. And Jay Mathews has taken on a weighty one in his Class Struggle blog, namely how well schools are addressing the needs of gifted students. Actually, Mathews is commenting on a much longer article by Rick Hess, of the American Enterprise Institute, who says “not very well at all.” But, like Mathews, I don’t think re-restricting access to Advanced Placement courses, because they’re presumably not as rigorous as in the past, is the way to go.

The final item is not a blog, but a piece Friday on NPR’s All Things Considered about how the recession caused a drop in the U.S. birthrate. (Scroll down to “US  Birthrate Dropped During Recession,” which refers to this Pew Research Center report.)

So what’s so bad about 300,000 or so less babies a year? Well, think of that in terms of the reduced number of parental Babies R Us visits, and you get an idea of the economic impact.

“Then, as we look further down the road, school enrollments will be begin to fall,” said Carl Haub, a demographer with the Population Reference Bureau who was interviewed on the radio show. “We would need fewer teachers….   A school board that looks at 15 percent fewer students has some tough decisions to make down the road.”

Lawrence Hardy|October 14th, 2011|Categories: Charter Schools, Student Achievement, Uncategorized, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , , , , |

The week in blogs

Last December I read a disturbing New York Times article about “China’s army of [college] graduates,” but it wasn’t disturbing in the way you might think.  For years, Americans have been concerned, understandably, about the increasing economic clout of the world’s most populous nation. And, in today’s high-tech world, economic competition means educational competition as well, with China’s aforementioned “army” of new graduates now numbering more than six million a year.

But the unsettling point of the story wasn’t that young, highly educated Chinese were taking away jobs from Americans; it was that, in growing numbers, they couldn’t find jobs at all. So much for the universal, transformative value of the college degree.

In the months since then, we’ve seen the same thing happen – on a smaller, but no less traumatic, scale – for thousands of disappointed U.S. graduates as well. Now comes Christopher Beha asserting in Harper’s magazine that “educating a workforce doesn’t change what jobs are available to society as a whole,” according to Alexander Russo’s This Week in Education blog. “Our treatment of education as a social panacea  … allows us to ignore entrenched class differences and the root causes of inequality in America.”

Read Beha’s entire essay on the Harper’s website. Also read John Marsh, author of Class Dismissed: Why We Cannot Teach or Learn Our Way Out of Inequality,” who is interviewed in Urbanite. Concerning the debate over whether schools can “do it all” in terms of raising up the disadvantaged or must be well supported by strong anti-poverty programs (the Richard Rothstein view) Marsh sides with the Rothstein camp, yet takes the argument a step further.

“If we do want to reduce poverty and inequality,” he tells Urbanite,  “we need to stop talking about classrooms and start talking about class  — about economics, about who gets what and why, and how this might be different.”

But, of course, education is important, especially public education. And no one makes that point better than Peggy Zugibe, a guest columnist in Valerie Strauss’s Washington Post Answer Sheet blog and a member of the Haverstraw-Stony Point (N.Y.) Board of Education. Quoting academic Benjamin Barber, she writes that “public schools are not merely schools for the public, but schools of publicness; institutions where we learn what it means to be a public and start down the road toward common national and civic identity.”

Lawrence Hardy|October 8th, 2011|Categories: Uncategorized|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: Diversity, School Boards, Student Achievement, Uncategorized, 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.
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Naomi Dillon|April 29th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Budgeting, NSBA Publications|Tags: , , |

New on ASBJ.com

0510ASBJndThe cover package for the May edition is a downer— literally.  “Dealing with Decline” and “Offering Benefits in a Downturn” are both pieces that look at how districts are operating and adjusting operations in this lagging (and dragging) economy.

And while the recession has created some crises in communities and states, it has also created opportunities that perhaps can even be replicated in your district, proving there is always an upside to even the most depressed situation.

Naomi Dillon|April 21st, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, NSBA Publications|Tags: , , , , , |

Michigan among the hardest hit and longest to recover from recession

What says “Vacation’s Over” for the Hardy family? How about driving south along U.S. 23 between Detroit and Toledo, and reading the outdoor signs.

Considering Bankruptcy? asked one. Then, about a mile down the road: Bats in Your Attic? — presumably from the long-foreclosed-on property next door.

The economic problems of Southeastern Michigan are well known. In April, you may recall, I wrote about the Pontiac School District, which decided to close nearly half its schools in an attempt to eliminate a crushing $10 million deficit.

Pontiac’s money problems may be extreme, but across Michigan, school districts are feeling the squeeze as they suffer from one of the worst state economies in the nation.

We were vacationing about 60 miles south of Traverse City, an absolute gem of a town surrounded by gorgeous sand dunes, pristine waters, and wineries that dot the hills above Lake Michigan.

Paradise? Maybe. But the Traverse City schools are also hurting. For the 2010-11 school year the 9,900-student district is considering a “best-case” shortfall of $6 million and a “worst-case” deficit of $11 million, or about 12 percent of this year’s nearly $90 million budget, according to the Traverse City-Record-Eagle.

This month, the school board set up a task force — which includes teachers, administrators, a school board member, and others — to suggest ways to make these cuts.
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Naomi Dillon|August 18th, 2009|Categories: American School Board Journal, Student Achievement|Tags: , |

Does generosity dry up in a down economy, too?

Not necessarily, as I discovered while researching how  school fundraising and giving, in general, has been hit by the recession for May’s edition of ASBJ.

For days, I scoured search engines and subscription databases, expecting to find countless stories of districts abandoned, ignored, desperate to find donors willing to spare a dime and bolster their crippled budgets.

I found a few, like Beaverton High School in Oregon, where booster club president and long-time volunteer Marcia Loggins was at her wits end on where else to go and who else to turn to fund events and programs at the school.

“I know businesses are hurting and because there’s such competition for fewer dollars it’s like a frenzy,” Loggins told me. “It’s almost like people are running to doors saying, ‘Me first.’ Our poor little orthodonist probably supports everything in town.”

Loggins’ experience was certainly dire, but from what I could find, isolated. At my wits end and at the suggestion of my editor, I turned to one of the posterchilds of the depressed economy: Elkhart, Ind.

Pres. Obama had put the manufacturing town on the map, as he hosted a series of townhall  meetings across the country intended to create momentum toward his economic stimulus package.

With a decimated local economy, thanks to tanking RV sales (their big industry), and unemployment rates at 15 percent, surely, community generosity toward schools was scaling back in Elkhart. Nope.

Ellen Moore, the public relations and volunteer coordinator at Elkhart Community Schools, told me a movement began in 2001, just before the last recession, and has continued throughout this recession.
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Naomi Dillon|April 24th, 2009|Categories: American School Board Journal, NSBA Publications, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , , , , |
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