Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Reich: Strengthen human capital by investing in education

Our nation’s future depends on all Americans living up to their responsibility to help provide quality public schools for all students. Unfortunately, budget cuts and a very aggressive attack on public schools are creating new urgency to support, defend and strengthen public schools.

In this video, Robert Reich, former U.S. secretary of labor, urges Americans to shift the focus from investing in financial capital to investing in human capital in the form of public education. “Our schools are the engines of our human capital, and if we don’t bail out public education, we face a bigger economic Armageddon years from now,” says Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. “Human capital is the one resource that is uniquely American, on which our future living standards uniquely depend."

Investments matter:
  • According to a recent report by the Center on Education Policy, about 70% of all school districts experienced funding cuts in school year 2010-11. An even greater proportion of districts, about 84%, anticipate funding cuts in school year 2011-12.
  • Laying off teachers, counselors, and other school staff is a primary means used to make up for these funding shortfalls. About 85% of the districts with funding decreases in school year 2010-11 cut jobs for teachers and other staff (CEP). 
  • About 60% of districts that anticipate funding cuts for school year 2011-12 plan to let go of additional teachers and other personnel (CEP).
  • McKinsey & Company has estimated that closing the achievement gap between White students and their Black and Latino peers could increase the annual Gross Domestic Product by more than half a trillion dollars (Lost Opportunity).

Friday, August 12, 2011

Ohio judge takes steps hold Ohio charter operator accountable for actions

Our friends at the Public Education Network highlighted this news article that’s a reminder about the lack of accountability of charter schools.

With White Hats like these...
An Ohio judge has ordered charter-school operator David L. Brennan to turn over a detailed accounting of how his for-profit management company White Hat spends the millions of tax dollars it receives each year, The Columbus Dispatch reports. The state’s law “clearly and unambiguously requires operators of community schools to provide their governing authorities with a detailed accounting of how public funds are spent,” Judge John Bender wrote in a 12-page decision. 

Last year, charter schools in the Akron and Cleveland areas sued to terminate or renegotiate contracts with White Hat, saying their input was ignored and White Hat ran the schools “as they deem fit regardless of many legitimate objections, questions, and challenges that the (community schools) have raised.” Under contracts with the schools, White Hat receives 96 percent of the state aid schools are given. 

Bender’s decision means White Hat must turn over a broad range of financial data, including how much is spent on teacher salaries, computers, textbooks, and other classroom equipment; an inventory of personal property for each school; how much is spent on lobbying state lawmakers or making political contributions; and funds paid for security.

Brennan is the second-biggest Republican campaign donor in Ohio over the past decade. His lobbyists wrote many of the proposals governing charter schools in the Ohio House's proposed state budget this year, although most were removed by the state Senate.

Read more here

Thursday, August 11, 2011

CDF's Marian Wright Edelman: Zero tolerance policies are a failing idea

In her "Child Watch" column, Marian Wright Edelman of the Children's Defense Fund draws attention to an exceptionally timely topic -- the over-reliance on counterproductive zero tolerance policies and the resulting school-to-prison pipeline. In addition to Edelman's column, we encourage you to learn more about this issue by visiting the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice's "Redirecting the School to Prison Pipeline" project.

Marian Wright Edelman's Child Watch® Column: 
Zero Tolerance Discipline Policies: A Failing Idea
Release Date: August 5, 2011

Many school children in America are on summer break right now, but here’s a pop quiz about discipline policies in our nation’s schools that’s just for grownups:

Would you suspend a student from school for four months for sharpening his pencil without permission and giving the teacher a “threatening” look when asked to sit down?

Would you expel a student from school for the rest of a school year for poking another student with a ballpoint pen during an exam?

Would you expel a student from school permanently because her possession of an antibiotic violated your school’s zero-tolerance drug policy?

Would you call the police, handcuff, and then expel a student who started a snowball fight on school grounds?

If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions because they sounded too unfair to be the result of an actual policy, give yourself a failing grade. All four are real examples of zero tolerance school discipline policies in Massachusetts—and there are thousands of stories like these throughout that state and across the country. Suspended and expelled students are at greater risk of dropping out of school and dropping into the prison pipeline, and using automatic suspensions and expulsions for minor infractions often has a major negative effect on a child’s entire future.

Read the rest of Edelman's column here.

When you get what you pay for

It is often said, in certain circles, that “money doesn’t matter in education.”  But, as that well-known social commentator, Deep Throat, observed, to understand what’s going on, we need to “follow the money.”
This chart shows the dramatic per pupil spending differences between some of our nation’s largest school districts, a sample of wealthy public school districts and three of our most prestigious private schools.

The three schools on the far right are well-regarded private schools, the American equivalents of Eton and Harrow.  They are boarding schools, so the typical boarding charges ($12,000 annually) have been deducted from these figures.  The remainder, the per student expenditure, averages $62,000.  Some of this is from tuition, some from the school’s endowment and other sources. 

The middle three columns represent the per student expenditures of school districts in upper-middle-class communities well-known for the quality of their schools. Their per student expenditure averages just under $20,000, less than a third of what the private schools spend.

Chicago, Los Angeles and Baltimore are large urban districts with all the challenges that go with that.  They spend, on average, $12,000 per student, less than one-fifth what private schools spend.

Phillips Exeter, St. Paul’s and Deerfield Academy have classes that average 11 students (remember this when you hear someone say,  “class size doesn’t matter”); student-to-teacher ratios of 5:1, and send their students to Harvard, Columbia, Georgetown, University of Pennsylvania, Yale, Dartmouth, Stanford, Brown, Middlebury, Princeton, Tufts and Amherst.

Presumably, the parents of the children sent to Phillips Exeter, St. Paul’s and Deerfield Academy know that investing in their children’s futures is worth the price. 

So it should be for all children in this increasingly inequitable society.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

EdVox Blog: NY 2011 test scores are no time to celebrate

The citywide test scores for New York’s public school students were released this week, and Zakiyah Ansari from the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice voices concern about blowing modest gains out of proportion:

"Without a real commitment to providing the supports parents, students and educators need to get us out of this crisis, a small improvement measured by questionable scores that are already so low is nearly irrelevant."

Read Zakiyah Ansari's entire blog post, published on the EdVox blog, here.