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Archive for the ‘Sunlight on Schools’ Category

Hispanic CREO2014

photo: hcreo.com

Yesterday, January 7, our Director of the Center for Economic Policy and Analysis (CEPA) Omar Borla appeared on 104.1 and 930 AM “La Exitosa” (the success) on the Cristian Tijerino show for a Spanish-language interview about the most recent Friedman Foundation poll on attitudes toward school choice. The interview transcript is available by request and we will begin to integrate more content towards the Hispanic community, which comprises nearly 8% of the state’s total population.

The observation Cristian made was that for many Hispanic families, lack of information about school choice options prevents them from ever considering alternatives such as charter schools or private schools. Since many parents are either not able or capable of homeschooling or cyber-schooling their children they are often left in the traditional public school system, typically in schools which lack the resources to properly educate Hispanic children. Many Hispanic children come from homes where one or both parents do not speak English and it is this language barrier which discourages many parents from being more active in their children’s education, whether that means not going to parent-teacher conferences or being able to help with homework.

Omar explained the poll results and pointed out the huge enthusiasm gap between people of ALL groups who supporter school choice versus those who don’t. For Hispanics 74% of parents and for Blacks over 70% of parents were supportive of the idea of charters and vouchers. You can read the full results by clicking that link but there were overwhelming majorities in every demographic group: ethnicity, age, gender, party affiliation, among others.

In regards to the Hispanic community, where language is often a barrier, the question is what to do to help bridge this gap. Cristian pointed out that in addition to a lack of information about education alternatives, two other barriers which exist are: lack of interest with many parents in regards to the children’s education (NOT the same as not caring- just means by and large accepting the status quo without personally seeking alternatives) and also the negative perception floated around about alternatives. Cristian cited one parent who told her he though charter schools were for “kids with learning problems.” Many told her they thought charter schools are private schools and thus they cannot afford them.

Omar answered this by showing a data point where support for charter schools, vouchers, and Education Savings Accounts went up in every demographic when the options were explained, meaning more people were supportive when the understood exactly what these ideas were. Understandably school choice isn’t good for every child but parents can and should be better educated about these opportunities. Efforts to misinform parents about what these options are (how else would a parent think charter schools were private schools) are well underway and it’s up to us to counter these false perceptions.

At the end of the day we have only one question for parents, grandparents, legal guardians, educators, principals, elected officials, appointed officials, community leaders, and everyone else: Of all these groups,  who is likely to know best what is best for the child? We’re going out on a limb and saying “Education Department bureaucrats” and “elected officials” are not going to receive the majority of votes.

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After reading Matthew Albright’s article in the News Journal (“Virtually no Delaware Teachers Received Poor Evaluations”) those of us who are enthusiastic about improving the quality of education in Delaware had to stop and ask ourselves this question: Are there really no teachers in Delaware who are ineffective at teaching children?

We understand that ever-changing “standards” and severe fluctuations in education dollars for public schools makes teaching difficult for many who enter the profession. At the same time Delaware’s 51st overall ranking in SAT scores (mandatory testing was factored in and we are still last) should be considered unacceptable, despite whatever rankings the state was coming up with on the DCAS testing. The fact that two-thirds of all students, and four-fifths of low income, Black, and Hispanic students, cannot read or write at a grade level comparable to their peers in other states should be considered unacceptable.

There should be accountability for the two-grade gap between White students and Black and Hispanic students, particularly students in Wilmington and Dover. There should be accountability for why, despite the mediocre to poor results in Delaware’s public schools, the state has the fourth highest ratio of administrators to students and why Delaware employs as many “support staffers” as they do teachers in the public schools.

There should be accountability for why, out of $435,000 per classroom per year the state spends, 80 percent is not spent in the classroom.

Does anyone living in Delaware not think Wilmington has real problems? Wilmington and Dover, two areas with higher than average crime rates, would benefit from better education which will come only when there is a real movement for education reform.

Terri Hodges, president of the state PTA, was quoted as saying, “We support a fair evaluation system, but we can’t say that 99 percent of teachers are effective when we look at the number of student’s we’re seeing reaching proficiency or how we stack up to other states.”

We agree with Ms. Hodges on this statement. We would like to see a review of the Delaware Performance Appraisal System (DPAS) which is supposed to make sure ineffective teachers are removed from the classroom. Children are a nation’s most valuable asset and without well-educated children America will not be able to compete with children in other nations for jobs which offer good wages and a sense of security.

All of this starts with the Delaware Department of Education, the Delaware State Education Association, and the Markell Administration. Eventually the government and the public will have to acknowledge the poor service the state is providing education-wise to Delaware’s children. The first step will be to review this DPAS evaluation system to make sure it is there to protect students’ education and not teachers’ jobs. The second step will be to stop treating non-public schools as the enemy and instead welcome the opportunity to prove why public schools are a good option for parents and families through innovations where the student and parents are the VIPs and not the administrators in charge of collecting and disbursing funds. No child should be forced to play guinea-pig with her or his education experience to try out “standards” which have never been tested before. We at CRI hope the state and public will listen.

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Next Tuesday, July 31st, the Caesar Rodney Institute will host a Guest Lecturer Series luncheon at Dover Downs in the Kent Room. Mr. Jim Hosley, who is the Center Director for Excellence in Education at CRI, has invited Dr. Matthew Ladner from the Foundations for Excellence in Education as the featured speaker. Dr. Ladner is the Senior Advisor of Policy and Research there, and has previously worked as Director of State Projects for the Alliance for School Choice. He has provided testimony to Congress, a number of state legislatures, and the United States Commission on Civil Rights. He has also authored studies, journal, and law review articles on education reform.

The purpose of this lunch (which is free for those who attend) is not to hear a great speak pontificate about his accomplishments and preach to the choir of those of us mortals below him as to what we should be doing. What Dr. Ladner is going to do is to facilitate a discussion about education, how strategies to help students from low-income families to succeed have worked, and how to put parents and teachers back in charge of their classroom, as opposed to the red tape bureaucracy both in Dover and in DC which micromanages every aspect of the educational process. So far, two elected officials have confirmed attendance: Senator Gary Simpson and Representative Harvey Kenton. We also have both GOP candidates for the 32nd House District, Will McVay and Ellis Parrott, who will be present.
If you are interested in attending, please RSVP to Matt Revel, our Programs Coordinator, at 734-2700, or e-mail him at matt@caesarrodney.org

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Wednesday the House Education Committee tabled HB 380.  The purpose of this bill is to revise the Delaware Charter School law by among other things requiring charter school applications be submitted to local school boards for review and consideration, require a face-to-face meeting with the charter school applicant to review and discuss the application, requiring statements about the impact on school district enrollment and financial programs, and eliminating five mile draw boundary.

The objectives of HB 380 seem reasonable until questions from House Members and testimony by the Charter Schools Network, CRI, Department of Education and other interested groups pointed out issues with the bill. Problems that include the application process, impact statements, administration of lotteries, the emphasis on the system taking focus away from the student, the logistical impact on families that would have made teacher and parent interaction difficult if not impossible for some, and the potential for influence  by unions and other special interest groups with specific agendas.

 

Rep Jaques’ intent was to start a conversation about Charter Schools and to promote a more civil discourse. He accomplished his purpose and after hearing all the discussion decided the bill should be tabled.

The focus now switches to Rep Schooley’s ‘blue ribbon’ committee on Charter Schools. She briefly outlined her plan at the end of the discussion on the Charter School Bill.

CRI is disappointed she continues to focus on one small part of the overall education system. A part that is less than 10% of the total K-12 enrollment, has some really stunning successes, and has a 58% minority enrollment. We agree they can be even better however they do not deserve the attention given them particularly when the larger problem of how poorly prepared students are for college or careers.

The focus must be on how to improve the education experience and results for all children in the total system including charter schools.

Over the past few years across the country there has been a revolution in innovation. Charter schools were created nearly twenty years ago to improve total student learning and to encourage different and innovated learning methods in exchange for being freed from some onerous regulations and influence; but charters are not enough.

Today innovation challenges the model of single or limited school choice. One model just doesn’t fit the diversity of student and family issues when there are available many different methods with private, religious, home schooling, virtual schooling – creative greenfield approaches that have the potential to overcome the lack of change over the past 50 years and overcome the ‘tuition barrier’ by opening up more funds for parents in all income levels to pay for the best education for their children.

Over next few months CRI will feature some of these through profiles, You Tube video and print articles.

And, CRI needs your support – make your concerns known to your elected representatives. The focus must be on renewing the total school system and expanding the opportunity for all to share the benefits of a great education system.

 

James E. Hosley

Director, Center for Education Excellence

 

 

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A report released by State Auditor Tom Wagner estimates that the state can save approximately $50.1 million by consolidating the state’s 19 school districts into four districts.

The report analyzes the cost savings that could occur if the General Assembly passes Senate Bill 95 sponsored by Senator Karen Peterson and co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of legislators.

The legislation calls for consolidating the 19 school districts into four districts:  a Northern District (New Castle County north of the canal); a Central District (New Castle County below the canal plus Kent County); a Southern District (Sussex County); and a consolidated Vo-Tech District.

The existing school districts would fall into the proposed consolidated districts as follows:

Northern:  Brandywine, Christina, Colonial, Red Clay

Central: Appoquinimink, Caesar Rodney, Capital, Lake Forest, Milford, Smyrna

Southern:  Cape Henlopen, Delmar, Indian River, Laurel, Seaford, Woodbridge

Vo-Tech:  New Castle County Vo-Tech, Polytech, Sussex Vo-Tech

Wagner’s report highlights cost savings from the merger and elimination of administrative positions resulting from consolidation. Wagner compared existing payroll information in Delaware with that of surrounding comparably sized school districts.

As stated in the report, “Based on research of surrounding states, AOA [Auditor of Accounts] identified several comparably sized districts to each proposed district, and we obtained their respective rosters of administrative positions. We compared the number of administrative positions, by category, to the average number of administrative positions for that category in the comparable districts.”

This analysis resulted in Wagner’s proposing to eliminate 363 positions through consolidation into the new Northern District, 259 proposed eliminated positions in the Central District and 119 proposed eliminated positions in the Southern District. The Vo-Tech analysis was released in an earlier report.

The Vo-Tech consolidation savings are estimated to be $4,436,327. Combined with the estimated $45,469,422 in savings from the Northern, Central and Southern consolidation plan, the estimated savings total $50.1 million.

The savings will be found by eliminating various administrative positions through consolidation as follows. Note:  these figures are statewide totals. Wagner’s report breaks the numbers down by consolidated district.

Admin. Assistant – General Admin/legal:  -3

Superintendents:  -12

Deputy/Assistant Superintendent:  -10

Casual/Seasonal:  -16

Clerks:  -48

Directors: -18

Managers/Supervisors: -46

Secretaries: -217

Financial Secretaries:  -113

Specialists:  -116

Other:  -142

In total, there are 741 proposed eliminations.

You can read The News Journal’s coverage here for more information.

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The Center for Fiscal Accountability has chosen SunlightOnSchools.org as its current featured website.  This feature will help spread the word about Sunlight on Schools and help to increase awareness about how our schools are performing and what Delaware taxpayers are paying for the state’s school districts and charter schools.

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