Archive for the ‘state public universities’ Category

Political Obstructions Shake Schools

Monday, August 13th, 2012

Politics is taking over all thought and action on education issues, pre-school to college. Clashes echo over the benefits of Common Core Standards, a project of the National Governor’s Association-bipartisan at one time in the recent past. Salvos from both liberals and conservatives about state budget needs for schools lead to rising college tuition and cuts in scholarships. Disparities flare in the U. S. over ethnicity of special ed students suspended although viable alternatives exist to reduce harsh measures.

Your single school or school district may have dodged the bullets, but be aware. In this nation thousands of teacher jobs have been lost; class sizes have risen as the number of children ready for school has climbed to 7% for the next year; salaries are reduced by using furlough days, i.e., fewer days in the school year; and so on and so forth.

Across states, much of the reduction in school services is due to anxiety over reduced revenue for the state budgets and reluctance to raise revenue except by local bonds or parcel taxes. Nationwide, the political quandary rears over increasing revenue and reducing government programs. The desire to control the national debt and turn the deficit into surplus leaves the effect on education nearly lost in the complex argument.

Numerous times this blog has reminded readers of the momentous changes that have rapidly occurred since the current administration has put an emphasis on education: accountability for all-teachers and administrators; improved student achievement in the lowest-performing schools; variety in techniques and strategies shown to increase learning; legislation to help poor families with health, nutrition, and job training.

Nonetheless, if certain budget possibilities gain the upper hand next year the country may find discretionary spending in agriculture (affecting food for schools), education, transportation, science and more reduced by three-fifths. Medicaid would become a state block grant, in effect dropping about 14 million people from health coverage. And who do you think those people include? The children over whom pundits wring their hands because they need to have access to the best education possible.

In spite of fears for education, promising actions have been described in the media. The New Teacher Project offers a study with recommendations to create policies aimed at retaining high-performing teachers and holding administrators accountable for maintaining high-performing schools. It is suggested (following on many similar research proposals) to set clear standards for teaching effectiveness and offer higher earning potential for excellent teachers.

Further, a state with conservative leaders has instituted programs to extend the academic learning year. Arizona ‘s Balsz Elementary School District took advantage of state legislation that offers 5% more financing to districts that add 20 school days per year. The funds were used to raise teachers’ salaries to pay for the additional teaching.

A liberal legislature and conservative governor designed legislation to revise tenure provisions and establish revocation of said tenure when necessary. Chris Christie, New Jersey’s governor, signed the new tenure bill developed with bipartisan support and aid from the state’s teachers’ union.

Optimistic news, but what would the education world look like, much less the rest of society, if cuts to discretionary funds take effect?

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.