To call the decision not to frack gamechanging is to minimize it. Not only does it set a precedent for other states on the fence (Maryland, Michigan, etc.), but it also pulls the rug out from under a lot of NYS politicians for whom this issue, pro or con, has been the bellwether. Here's hoping that a lot of that grassroots energy that underwrote the ban can be turned gently toward related issues of climate change and green technologies. Meanwhile, those of us who have built up calluses of cynicism are starting to crack and soften with this vindication of the more sanguine activists who led the way.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
Monday, December 8, 2014
Now, Michigan under Gov. Snyder is not the Michigan we may remember. Sure, it went for Obama in 2012, but that same year, Snyder made the state built on unions into a right-to-work state. In that same session, he signed into law anti-abortion and pro-gun legislation.
So when is a blue state not a blue state? Ask Wisconsin. And now, it seems, ask Michigan, too.
Saturday, December 6, 2014
I get that it's a tough sell. The bro mentality is strong and resolute from childhood. It's reinforced on sports teams and in scouting programs. But it sucks, and eventually it will destroy the very institutions the bros are trying to protect. The danger may be greater from within than from the unknown terror outside.
Thursday, December 4, 2014
So the board and administration came up with a Good Idea: Tuxedo would remake itself as a charter school, specializing in STEM. That way, they could charge Greenwood the going charter rate for students, which in Greewood Lake's case would come to $18,311 per kid. They could hope to draw students from homeschool situations and from other surrounding districts as well if they billed themselves as a STEM school. And at the same time, they could follow charter rules and perhaps spend less on teachers, because as a charter, they could hire some that lacked certification.
It would be a totally cynical plan if it weren't so necessary and so clever. Needless to say, Greenwood Lake is not pleased. And educational leaders around the state are sitting up and taking notice, because if this works for Tuxedo, why couldn't they be next?
The Greenwood Lake superintendent's remarks are worth contemplating:
"I don't know that this is what the intent of charter schools was. My impression was that it was a way to help get students out of schools that weren't academically successful, not a way to seek out financial stability and deal with enrollment problems."
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
At a recent event about school funding, someone came up to me and suggested that we should not talk about education as a “right” when we force kids to go. I was sorry not to continue the conversation, because in the United States, like it or not, education is NOT a right. That was determined in the case San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez back in 1972. Mexican-American parents brought a class action suit against the state for financing schools in a way that violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause by failing to distribute funding equally among districts. The Supreme Court decided that it would not examine the system with strict scrutiny because there was no fundamental right to education in the Constitution. Justice Powell, writing for the 5-4 majority, also found that the Equal Protection Clause really didn’t mean “absolute equality.”
So since that time, any such case has been stuck at the state level, because every state constitution has a clause somewhere that guarantees students an education. In NYS, we talk about a “sound basic education.” Other states refer to a “thorough and efficient system of common schools.” Incorporating this right into state constitutions was mandated by the federal government as territories applied for statehood.
Today, not only is litigation about school funding pending in most of the states in the Union, but also certain states (OH, KS) are seeking to remove the right to education entirely from their constitutions.
One of the best resources on current and past litigation is out of Teachers College at Columbia University, where Michael Rebell currently resides. Rebell is the lead attorney in the battle of students v. NYS for adequate funding. This site’s map and some of its material need updating, but it’s a great place to start if you want to see how states are systematically fighting their own people over public education.
Sometimes the people win: Washington courts found the state legislature in contempt for not providing adequate funding for public education. Sometimes they lose, as in the Michigan case. The Teachers College site clarifies the shift between cases that asked for equity and those that request adequacy. Equity cases, brought mostly in the 1970s and 1980s, routinely failed. In adequacy cases, starting in 1989, the plaintiff prevails two-thirds of the time.
This begs the question: Why do the people have to fight so hard to retain a guaranteed right? Anyone viewing this from the vantage point of another country would have to conclude that the United States as a whole values education very little.
“Adequate” is a term Paul likes to use when a waiter asks how a so-so diner meal tastes. It’s not a word I would willingly choose to describe a school system. Yet “adequate” is apparently the best we can do, and many states, including ours, are not even there yet.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Well, that was 2007, and you'd think that would have been the end of it, but then came 2008 and the Great Recession. And in 2009, the aid was frozen and then cut, with school funding seized to cover other state needs. You'd think that a court-ordered payment would have to be made, but as Assemblywoman Nolan told a group of us recently, "Well, we didn't have the money, so what are you gonna do." As the then-head of CFE, Michael Rebell, has stated, all of CFE's work since 1993 was thus erased by the legislature. And despite the fact that aid has slowly been added back in, most districts are not funded up to 2007 levels even now.
So Rebell, who is really the hero of this Dickensian tale, worked over the past year or so with a group of parents and others to initiate a whole new lawsuit. New Yorkers for Students' Educational Rights (NYSER) seek to have $1.6 billion immediately restored to school coffers, property tax caps rescinded, and a fair formula reimposed.
Again, the case is wending its way through the courts. And yesterday, NYSER won step one with the State Supreme Court, which refused to dismiss the case as requested by the state. Justice Manuel Mendez, ruling for the plantiffs, pretty much wrote their argument for them, stating that the mechanisms the state has used to keep from paying up "could potentially be found irrational, arbitrary or capricious and capable of preventing a sound basic education."
The state now has twenty days in which to appeal the ruling or go to trial. Rebell expects the state to delay the case as long as possible.
Rebell will be one of the speakers at an event I'm moderating Monday night. It should be enlightening and entertaining, if moderately depressing. I encourage anyone local to attend.