Archive for the ‘adult education’ Category

Plus and Minus for School Vouchers

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

To our readers: Take Care Schools has taken a month’s pause. Posts will resume every 7-10 days until August 2012 when we will resume weekly comment on educational topics in the news.

Good news! With state funds continuing to face a shortfall, school districts will benefit from passage of school bond proposals in the primary elections. Since Congress cannot agree on support for schools, such funds from successful bond efforts offer relief to districts that need funds for infrastructure renovations.

However, a glitch appears before our eyes. The word “voucher” is heard. After loud discussion about Congressional budget proposals that included Medicare vouchers died down, the likely conservative nominee for the November presidential elections advocated school vouchers.

In the opinion of this blog’s writers, it is unconscionable to recommend vouchers to parents who need another choice for a school. Congress is unwilling and states are unable to raise enough revenue to support the basic programs for the state and country. How is money to be found to offer school vouchers to families?

Setting aside funds for school vouchers have long been touted as a way to provide school choice to parents unsatisfied with the neighborhood public school. Simply speaking, the amount of the voucher is often based on the amount calculated to provide school services for each student in a school district. A parent applies for a voucher for the amount provided by the school district per student which is then used to defray the cost of a seat in a private or parochial school.

Voucher advocates claim that families that don’t have the resources can use vouchers to gain access to a better school-private or parochial. Critics say that proclaiming vouchers will provide a seat to a previously inaccessible school is unlikely because the amount for a private or parochial school seat is often more than the voucher is worth.

Advocates claim that using vouchers force public schools to improve curriculum and services as in a supply and demand market. Voucher critics say that schools needing improvement must focus time and resources on the long term goals to improve–not compete.

Passing state legislation to provide vouchers hits a barrage of hurdles from overwhelming budget shortfalls, conflicting perceptions of the impact on school districts, and blaming teachers’ unions. Thus, Pennsylvania voucher legislation, for example, remains on the table, not brought up for a vote, in the legislature. On the other hand, Louisiana and Indiana state legislatures have managed to pass voucher legislation.

For those concerned with improving public schools, this blog advocates relentless messages to Congress and state governments. Pass legislation to help college students pay off loans, support adult education, and agree on budgets that adequately support K-12 public schools instead of using vouchers that pull funds away from schools.

Not only K-12 kids are losing out!

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

The furlough days in California, the shortened school year in Hawaii, minimum required hours in West Virginia fill K-12 teachers and administrators with gloom. Editorial after opinion piece describing the poor high school graduation statistics and increasing middle school drop-out rates lead to hand-wringing.

California middle school

California middle school

And this week in California Jack Scott, community college chancellor, and Charles Reed, state universities chancellor, have chastised the state legislature and Congress for looking away when students pay $10 more per unit in community college fees and CSU student yearly fees have risen 19%–AND students still can’t get into classes needed for timely graduation.

Surely everyone knows the government’s problem: an inability to raise revenue, not only by cutting unnecessary spending but raising revenue from taxes. How is the country going to hire job seekers with the abilities needed for work in the U.S. economy without a strong education component?

One of the few areas where jobs were lost but soon recovered after 2009 is Silicon Valley. Those workers DID NOT finish their education with a high school diploma!

People still think manufacturing jobs will return. They think health and service jobs will be enough to put us back into the middle-class. It’s not going to happen. The only private industry that needs lots of brawn and a few college-grad engineer brains is the oil industry. The country better get used to the idea of education, both K-12 and college, and the funds needed to make public universities accessible to Americans.

In California, one conservative assemblyman, Tim Donnelly (San Bernardino) offered that “they’re  whining about…more taxes to chase more business out of the state. You can’t have a high level of investment when you’ve killed off the golden egg.” This legislator thinks professors should be paid less and labor unions and trial lawyers reined in. See the San Francisco Chronicle “Chancellors blame campus woes on GOP” by Nanette Asimov, August 23, 2011.

There was no evidence in the quotation to support his positions and in fact California’s business relocations have been minimal. Joseph Vranich’s June 2011 blog post had counted 129 businesses relocating out of 3.2 million small businesses in the state in 2011. That hardly seems like the golden goose has flown away. We’re not talking corporations in this post for which no statistics were found in the search.

However, Jack Scott and Charles Reed are adamant about the difficulty of keeping faculty courted by other universities. Lower salaries are going to help retain faculty to teach the students who need to graduate?

One can read reports from both liberal and conservative education foundations and institutes galore to see improvement to K-12 academic growth. The uniform graduation rate that requires all states to report the number of students who graduate in four years with a standard high school diploma; the U.S. Department of Education agreement to give waivers to improve the process to close the gap between poor and well-off students; and schools that have managed to set in place extended days instead of furloughs and still keep the budget under control. Not many: 1000 of the 300,000 schools in the country, but a start.

If only the minority of legislators that look at the budget or debt-reduction plan in their hands could see the consequences of shortchanging students, K-12 and college, both immediately and long term.

Same old, same old won’t do

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Same old, same old won’t do for public education anymore

School boards will be under tremendous pressure for the next three to four years to meet two seemingly contradictory goals:  cut budgets and improve school achievement.

Schools can produce revenue

I submit that schools should add one more goal:  increase revenue.  If districts can increase revenue when tax receipts are down, maybe they can also make forward strides on student proficiency.

School buildings, especially those with dwindling student enrollment, can be more efficiently used to bring broad-based education to whole communities, not just kids in the communities.  With the push for high school kids to take community college courses, and with more adults needing to train for new careers, public schools become an ideal place to institute post-12 education.

I’m suggesting public school-community college partnerships to reduce new construction and to create satellite delivery systems for face-to-face higher education.  Community colleges wouldn’t have to raise money for new construction, and public schools can gain revenue from leasing rooms and advanced technology.

Adult learning in public schools can help kids achieve

A cheap way to increase student achievement is to provide middle and high school courses to adults, particularly parents with kids in school.  Math is taught differently today from 1980.  If parents take a beginning algebra course today, about two weeks ahead of their children, for example, they can be much more instrumental in helping their kids learn.  And we can charge parents for the opportunity.

How can this happen?  As school districts develop online classes for kids, those classes can also be offered to parents, at a price.  Why not?  If a high school class that a teacher wants to offer doesn’t fill, maybe that class should be offered also to the adult community, which would create an interesting mix of adults and adolescents.  Maybe an adult wants to learn the physics he or she never took, or study a foreign language.  Or revisit the classics in literature.  Or relearn grammar.  Or take art.

Online courseware swapping can save everyone $$

School districts can save money and improve education outcomes by trading online courseware.  If one district has great science courseware and another district has great writing courseware, why not swap and trade?  This method saves money for everyone.

Put post-12 remedial education online through high schools

Currently, community and four year colleges do a lot of remedial skill building for students.  Why not bring some of that work back to high schools using online courses to deliver the services.  This may be a place where state or federal funding could intervene to support remedial programs and allow public schools to more expansively use their courseware.

New to a school board in a large Colorado district, my goal will be to think outside of the traditional boundaries, and I hope those ideas will bring more money and better learning to public schools.

Will let you know as changes move forward.

Next Year

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

When I read the newspaper I wonder how schools will ever change.  Budget cuts threaten everyone and everything associated with teaching students.

Now, I’m the lucky teacher.  My district cut costs in the 2008-9 budget, somehow recognizing the dangers lurking in the economy.  Also, the residents in my school district, who strongly support education, passed a parcel tax at the last election.

The district has saved so much money that, at the end of the school year just completed, we were assured of weathering the disasters affecting other districts.  The major disruption will be a reduction of before and after school classes.  They will only be offered for students with learning difficulties.

On the other hand, funding for adult education classes, touted to retrain the unemployed all over the country, is being slashed (the New York Times, May 28, 2009, and the San Francisco Chronicle, July 1, 2009).  I question how people are going to get back to work without the programs offered in the community colleges?

In Oakland, California, a school district under state takeover after making a mess of its finances, is now back under the guidance of its school board, along with $60 million of debt.  How is that low-performing district going to devise a plan to raise its students reading and math achievement when it’s searching for money to clean the school restrooms?

A teacher friend in a large district in San Jose, California, told me the schools will revert to 30-1 students per teacher.  The 30-1 formula reduces the number of classrooms needed.  That’s when teachers will not be rehired and the “who-to-lay-off” question comes into play.  A young highly-qualified teacher or a tenured teacher?  In my school, the issue has been put off for a year because of the massive savings held by the district.

In the huge Los Angeles district, I’ve read that most summer school programs have been cancelled.  The cuts leave students whose parents work at loose ends; leaves teachers who depend on the summer income searching for work in a recession; and worst of all, leaves the achievement gap, that most worrisome of school issues, to expand because students don’t have access to learning opportunities.

Most students in my school have highly-educated parents with time and money to provide all sorts of opportunities during the summer.  In my small district I only worry about keeping students at the top of the achievement benchmarks in California.

It’s infuriating that the federal stimulus funds, supposedly available to support a turn around in low-performing schools, will likely be used for basic services.  Why?  Because the legislature in California and other states gives funds and takes them away from the budget depending on the temper of the governor and legislators from one day to the next.

As a teacher I surely want clean restrooms in my school, but I also want to teach my students with all the resources available, not simply ‘make do’.