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Posts Tagged ‘Public Policy’

The Washington State Supreme Court voted 6-3 to strike down charter schools, saying they “aren’t governed by elected boards and therefore not accountable to voters.” Read the decision here

Some background: In November 2012, voters approved a referendum to establish as many as 40 charter schools in the state. Charter school opponents became “Alarmed over the lack of local accountability and fiscal impacts of the Act” and filed a lawsuit against the network. The Washington State constitution says funding must be given to “common schools”, which were essentially defined as traditional public schools. The main complain is, charters and other school choice options are “selective” and force traditional schools to take “problem students.” The schools must also be “uniform”, or the same. If charters have lotteries and restrictions public schools do not have, then the schools are no longer uniform and charters cannot be provided public funding.

Delaware has a similar constitutional law which requires the government to fund a public education system, though it does not say the schools have to be run by the government, only provided. But the point is the same: these rules were set up not to ensure everyone an education, but to make sure as very few kids would be able to have an option besides the traditional public school. The way public schools are funded requires as many kids as possible to get into the buildings so the schools receive money.
Anti-charter proponents celebrated; at long last, they have succeeded in their quest to prevent students from going to a charter school. Most of these children will either end up home-schooled, sent to a private school which can take them, or, most likely, sent back to traditional public school where their attendance will ensure the schools get more taxpayer dollars and make any sort of education reform even more unlikely. Sadly, some adults are so opposed to school choice, the idea that a child might leave public school, that they openly cheer for the demise of alternative schools and education freedom just to make sure public schools (and those whose livelihood derives from public schools) keep getting money AND the status quo is maintained.
If you don’t think there is a problem yet, keep in mind SAT and ACT scores are flat, or even in decline. Here’s an article from left-leaning Slate acknowledging this.
The excuses abound: more students are taking the test (which is 1. dumb policy and 2. aren’t we supposed to improve everyone’s education? Isn’t that the whole point of No Child Left Behind?), Common Core State Standards are so stringent they are raising the bar too fast, the SAT and ACT are not fully aligned with student goals. The problem with this argument is, scores have declined for decades now in reading, and since 2006 writing scores declined across all ethnic and gender groups, and is now being eliminated from the SAT. Therefore, blaming Common Core for raising the bar and making the test now too difficult is a convenient overlook of the long-term problems we’ve had in this country.
What is not acknowledged is the stark reality: Most students just are not ready for college. Some ought not to go, but even then too many students are graduating high school lacking the basic skills needed to obtain a decent-paying job and career advancement opportunities. Of course, every entity except our current education system is to blame.
The same people who go after charters almost always include homeschooling and private schooling as a problem as well. Their attacks on charters and choice are little more than a thinly veiled effort to push all students to attend public schools, no matter how good or bad the school is run, no matter how ridiculous the government mandates are, or even irregardless of whether public education is right for every child.
Take the battle over HB 50, the Opt-Out bill. Supporters see this as a way for parents to have a say in their child’s education and keep their children from having to submit to a standardized test many feel is a problem. We agree- parents should be allowed to have a say in their child’s education, and absolutely students, especially in public schools, are over-tested. But what HB 50 supporters do not seem to understand is how futile their efforts are the long run, the “big picture” if you will. HB50 supporters seem to believe if you just get rid of Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), somehow everything will be alright in the end. But they continue to believe in the system which gave them SBAC, they will find the bureaucracy will just provide a new program and standardized tests with similar, if only slightly different, objectives.  As long as they continue to keep the current system of education in place, there will be no real change.
Supporters of HB50 and anti-testing advocates also need to find a common alternative to Common Core/SBAC which will give principals the data they need to measure student progress and teacher competence. There are, in fact, teachers who are incompetent; admitting this is not “anti-teacher”, but a reality that no organization has complete competence from every single member. Not every student is motivated to learn on their own. Not every school is run well, or run poorly. As long as a method of measuring student progress is offered, education progress can be made.

Education Savings Accounts by themselves will not improve our education system, but they will move us forward when parents realize they do have the power to improve their children’s education if they want to. It’s parents, not school boards, not school districts, not teacher’s unions, not elected officials, not employees of the state Department of Education, not employees of the U.S. Department of Education, not private sector companies, who ought to have the final say in how their child is education. With a more competitive education system in place, one which empowers teachers and principals to do what is right, one which allows parents to have choices beyond what is in their zip code, education will improve.

And for those who say it won’t, look at our university system. We have arguably the best system on the planet, and there are plenty of public and private schools to go to. Oh, and public schools receive plenty of funding and are in no danger of going under, even though the government provides student loans to students who might go to a private school.

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Just recently CRI began a campaign to keep Transparent Delaware, our government payroll and vendor contract data website, open to the public by asking people to donate towards our goal of $5,000.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-keep-government-spending-data-open-to-all/x/9753455

Our campaign pitch:

“We operate the website Transparent Delaware, which provides the public with open data on state payroll spending and state vendor payments. Want to know who the highest paid state employees are, by division or year? We have that. Want to see why an employee who was given a $60,000 base salary received $164,000 is overtime and “other” pay? We have that too.

We would like to obtain state pension data but we have been blocked multiple times in our efforts to find out how much the state spend on employee pensions. While we recognize that state workers are human beings too the fact is, it’s our money and we should know how it’s being spent. With extremely few exceptions government spending data should ALWAYS be open to the public.

What we need from you: It costs us about $5,000 a year to keep Transparent Delaware open to the public. All money collected for this campaign go to paying our web developer and host to keep the site up, or else we’ll have to shut it down :(. The exception is if you reach a donation threshold, we will send a small gift of thanks.

Even if we do not meet the $5,000, the more money we receive towards this goal, the more we can pay our web developer to keep the site open. They are great people but they have bills to pay too!”

As many before us have stated, “freedom isn’t free.” Now generally people who use this line are nearly always speaking about military service and the need for people to make some kind of meaningful sacrifice to keep our freedoms alive. But this axiom should apply as well to keeping information about our government available to the public.

We have to pay our web host and site developer, and while they may be awesome people they have bills to pay too. Understandably many people are used to internet content being free or “freemium” and the more successful web pages can place ads on the site to make money, but we are a non-profit and we cannot, and will not, rent our website space over to advertisers. Thus, we need the generous support of people like you to help us reach our goal and keep Delaware state payroll and vendor data available to the public.

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The College Board recently released new SAT data for 2013-2014 and for Delaware it doesn’t look any better than last year. On the positive side Delaware is no longer 51st in SAT scores and 16th out of 16 “High Participation Rate” states and D.C. (70% or greater participation). The state moved to 50th this year and 15th out of 16, surpassing Washington D.C. in both categories.

Total average SAT scores, class of 2013-2014:

Critical reading: 456

writing: 444

math: 459

Total: 1359

For college-bound seniors the numbers improve slightly:

Critical reading: 497

writing: 487

math: 513

Total: 1497

The number best estimated to predict success at the college level is a total score of 1550 for the entire SAT. Delaware scores nearly 190 points below average. 26 out of 51 states and D.C. reach this 1550 threshold. The CATO Institute studied Delaware and factored in the mandatory SAT testing, and even weighted we are still near the bottom. Even when factoring in only high school seniors who attended any college institution this year, the average scores were still below 1550.

Another interesting note: for college-bound seniors, writing scores dropped 10 points from 2006 for both boys and girls, and both boys and girls score 32-34 points lower respectively in reading than in 1972. Math was up 4 points combined since 1972, with girls making slightly bigger gains.

Excluding the writing section, in 1972 the average college-bound high school senior in Delaware earned a 1039 on their SAT’s, while the class of 2014 had a mean of 1010. Meaning, we’ve DROPPED in proficiency, particularly in reading, from the 1970s. Remember, these are seniors who went to college this year. We aren’t counting those who didn’t go.

The only real way we can move forward is to agree that only a robust range of education options for children will allow children to learn as best they can. A one-size-fits-all public school model does little to understand that some students do better in bigger classrooms, others smaller. Some students may do better with the parent as a teacher and for others cyber school may be a better choice. Even among charter and magnet schools there are diverse options, such as the First State Military Academy set to open in Clayton later this year, which is a Junior ROTC program charter school for which some students will benefit from more than others who enter. For some kids and parents issues like safety, school hours, or programs will determine the best options.

The point is we want a system which allows parents or the children’s legal guardians to choose the place best suited for the kids. There is absolutely no reason a child’s fate should be determined by their zip code or that a child should attend a school which either a) is not serving them properly, or b) is not suited to the child’s best method of learning, simply to appease those whose primary interest is keeping the system as-is.

It’s time we made education options available for all children. Visit our website www.caesarrodney.org and sign up for our e-mail newsletters. See what you can do today to make tomorrow’s education a better experience for all children.

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At the Hispanic CREO (Council for Reform and Education Options- CREO is Spanish for ‘I believe’) conference December 11-12 the topic of how to approach the issue of school choice was discussed. Here are our top three takeaways and fantastic photos of Miami:

  • First session had speakers representing four different Hispanic Chambers of Commerce: South Florida, Albuquerque, Illinois, and California. The big takeaway is that Hispanics have got to stop the in-fighting and work together to solve problems. This lesson applies to all groups though Hispanics were the #1 focus of the conference (see the name).
  • Myles Mendoza is the Executive Director of Ed Choice Illinois, and a member of the Democrat Party. He discussed the challenges Democrats who support school choice have since the issue has become so highly (and unfortunately) politicized. One method he had: focus on the “low-hanging” fruit. Find people of all backgrounds who are willing to accept the truth about Delaware’s public education system and explain to them the merits of supporting school choice. Police officers might find it easier to support it if they realized just how much better schools would improve the local community, like Wilmington or Dover. Then find others who see the benefits of better schools and who realize this isn’t a partisan issue.
  • The business community MUST become more involved. Too many business owner’s don’t see the benefits of how better schools benefit them because they have never been approached on this issue, or have been approached from a partisan point of view. SUPPORTING QUALITY EDUCATION ALL CHILDREN IS NOT PARTISAN! One way is to ask local businesses to invest in their community’s education. They can either a) get apprentices/interns out of high school to work for them or b) they will benefit when educated people turn into consumers with money to spend at those businesses.

If you have other ideas, please share!

Now, the photos:

Biscayne Bay, from the Marriott where the conference was.

Downtown Miami

The post-dinner dessert.

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An article written by Andrew Dal Nogare

In 2009 several members of the House of Representatives formed the Small Business Caucus to better serve the sector of our economy that is responsible for the majority of jobs in this state. As a result of their outreach in all three Counties, the group developed an agenda with several bills designed to address some of the major concerns small business owners have and to improve the overall climate for this vital sector of the economy.

HS 1 for HB 390, “The Regulatory Flexibility Act”, is adapted from model legislation recommended by the Small Business Administration and would replace a more general existing section of the code with a consistent and balanced approach which applies several specific steps as guidelines in the rulemaking process. The bill will rationalize a process that now varies greatly from agency to agency and will guard against arbitrary and unnecessary regulation.

As is often the case, small business owners are at a competitive disadvantage with larger companies. They lack the resources and manpower to comply with overly complex regulations that a larger company would usually have the capacity to handle. Passage of this bill will require regulators to place themselves in the position of a small business owner and determine what burden the proposed rules will place on the business.

Key components in the bill include both the requirement to streamline regulations and eliminate rules that overlap with existing Federal rules, and the requirement for an economic impact statement to be created.

The economic impact statement must include an estimate of the number of small businesses likely to be impacted, the cost that the regulatory burden will have on the small businesses, a statement of probable effect on the regulated businesses, and an analysis of less costly or less intrusive means to achieve the regulatory goal.

Provisions in the legislation also call for regular review every 5 years to update the economic impact statements, and the increased coordination between the Registrar of Regulations, State agencies, Office of Management and Budget and the Department of State to insure compliance.

The Regulatory Flexibility Act is commonsense legislation that will help our companies stay competitive while reducing the burden of State regulations on their operations.

HS 1 for HB 390 passed the House on Thursday June 17th and is now headed for the Senate for consideration. With only a week left in this General Assembly, we urge the Senate to act on this bill with all deliberate speed. In our current economic climate, we need to support our small businesses by reducing the cost of regulatory compliance. 31 other states have adopted versions of this legislation and the opportunity to reform this sector of government has never been timelier.

Andrew Dal Nogare, Public Policy Director, Caesar Rodney Institute

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