Archive for December, 2011

Money Rolls In

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

In spite of comments about the Obama administration from the right and the left, one of the big coups that has just landed in California comes from a United States Department of Education’s Race to the Top grant. Anyone in the education world is happy to grab money for young kids to provide readiness before they start kindergarten. Finally, the state has written a grant that has been approved. Would anyone raise his or her hand to vote to give the funds back? The GOP has tried time after time to snuff out funds for early childhood education.

So, the Obama administration hasn’t shown leadership-when?

Here is a list from Elaine who commented on David Brooks and Gail Collins post on the Opinionator, December 14, 2011.

President Obama’s successes:
-End the Iraq War.

-Health care reform-this will change the way Americans can access health insurance . It will make health insurance affordable for everyone. Who in their right mind can argue the benefits?

-Brought down Osama bin Laden. This is a big deal.

-A great deal of financial intervention, aside from stimulus, during a time when the economy was poised to go over a cliff.

-Recognized the problem with unemployment and the reasons behind the problem-meaning recognizing the real reasons unemployment stays high. Corporations are holding back, not hiring, and also taking this opportunity to practice age and other discrimination.

Also one might add, help to orchestrate the demise of Muammar el-Qaddifi.

Stimulus funds, though not enough and fought over since they were voted for, helped California fix Interstate 5 after trucks had destroyed the right lane. Have you seen the ARRA signs around?

The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The resuscitation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (NCLB) that was about to go another year without revision. The administration finally suggested “waivers” and offered them to states.

The California Early Learning Challenge grant of $52.6 million squeezed out of Race to the Top monies given to eight other east coast states is for a specific program that will primarily fund local Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) being developed by Regional Leadership Consortia – voluntary groups of local First 5 commissions, county offices of education, and county governments. These Consortia will work with licensed child care programs, school districts, and child care partners.

Although the current Congress has a perverted way of counting every penny, one of the ways that the administration has led the nation is by looking out for young children. All those, including teachers, who need to criticize, must keep their students in mind.

Happy Holidays

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

I’m relieved. It’s December and my students are doing well. We’ve just reviewed the major math concepts they’ve learned since September and they haven’t forgotten much. We’ve completed a non-fiction reading and writing unit on Fact and Opinion. I’ve learned that the difference between fact and opinion, which may be obvious to an adult, is colored by TV and what parents say. It will be long years of experience before fourth graders can grasp the concept. I say grade four is just the beginning to understand the core standard.

For instance, last week, Friday, December 9, 2011, I read an article that caught my attention: “Funding, not reform, upgrades schools” by David Sirota, a well-known columnist. Although he included many facts, a few of which were new to me, the article was on the Opinion page of the San Francisco Chronicle.

On International student Assessment exams American students in low-income public schools are among the high-achieving. So are public schools “in crisis” as is the opinion of many? Another fact: the opinion that teachers’ unions are destroying public schools doesn’t hold up when the high Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) proficiency-a number fact and No Child Left Behind goal-is found in unionized public schools.

In addition, Sirota directs the reader to a report written by Sean F. Reardon and Kendra Bischoff of Stanford University in July 2010. The abstract states, “both income inequality and income segregation in the United States grew substantially from 1970 to 2000. Using data from the 100 largest metropolitan areas, we investigate whether and how income inequality affects patterns of income segregation along three dimensions-the spatial segregation of poverty and affluence; race-specific patterns of income segregation; and the geographic scale of income segregation. We find a robust relationship between income inequality and income segregation, an effect that is larger for black families than it is for white families. In addition, income inequality affects income segregation primarily through its effect on the large-scale spatial segregation of affluence, rather than by affecting the spatial segregation of poverty or by altering small-scale patterns of income segregation.”

Another report issued by the United States Department of Education “More Than 40% of Low-Income Schools don’t Get a Fair Share of State and Local Funds” November 30, 2011, shows that “high-poverty schools receive less than their fair share of state and local funding.”

Now, Sirota gives his opinion and guess what it is? That low-performing schools in low-income neighborhoods should get more money. But with the facts above, do I call it Opinion? I know what schools are like. Our school receives little Title I money, but I know teachers in schools that rely on those funds to cover tutors and extra personnel. Each time the budget is cut, another person leaves.

The question is will there ever be a funding policy, federal or local, that helps low-performing schools in poverty areas? It’s a good thought for the holidays when it is the opinion that Americans feel more generous.

More School Aid

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

In education magazines this week could be found articles on the eleven states who have currently applied to the U.S. Department of Education for waivers. California has not applied yet. It may in February but no decision has been made.

In addition to the report offered by the Think Long Committee under the auspices of the Nicolas Berggruen Institute, analyzed in this blog last week, another report titled “A Blueprint for Great Schools” authorized by Mr. Torlakson, the new California Superintendent of Instruction, and funded by various California foundations, has appeared. It came out in August 2011, but a summary seems to be available to teachers only in the November 2011 issue of California Educator magazine. Its purpose is “the development of a new mission and planning framework for the California Department of Education (CDE). [It provides] innovative and strategic advice to ensure that the state provides a world-class education to all students, preparing them to live, work and thrive in a highly connected world.” Sound familiar?

Knowing how the California Department of Education is entwined with the state legislature’s struggle with funds, this blog has been most interested in how all those pages of goals and objectives in any of the reports that have surfaced are going to be paid for.

The report in last week’s post has offered an initiative for funding at the November 2012 election-one of many.  This report offers to

Create a weighted student formula approach to funding, with most K-12 funding streams consolidated into core formula funding, supplemented by a small number of block grants to ensure that students who are at risk or high cost would receive the services they need.

Establish a flexibility/accountability task force to identify strategies and metrics to determine whether districts are using their funds in ways that support successful outcomes for all students.

Seek new revenue sources for schools: At the state level, explore taxes on selected sales and services; at the federal level, initiate efforts to recapture more of the imbalance in funds between California and the federal government.

Seek legislation to allow districts to pass parcel taxes with a 55 percent majority vote.

Right now (December 2011) in the California education world, school districts are deciding how to economize their resources and adjust the school year to allow five more furlough days in order to absorb the deficits that have shown up in the state budget adopted in June 2011. According to Dan Walters, columnist for the Sacramento Bee, the California budget that governs school aid in California is crazy. In June 2011 as part of balancing the state budget, if revenue did not accrue, the legislature agreed that school districts would be responsible for revenue reduction by automatic spending cuts. That’s currently $1.8 (about ¾ of the current $2.5) billion not being generated.

How many years will pass before the goals outlined above actually become law? Let’s hope the taxpayers suddenly find money, one of the many initiatives pass, or the legislature is willing to stand up.  Everyone wrings their hands about schools, but can’t put out the dough.

For report see www.cde.ca.gov/eo/in/bp.