Monday, March 31, 2014

And the Final Budget

Well, the School Boards Association is kinder than I would have been. Summing up: More money = good. Retaining teacher evaluation systems = good. Tax freeze = bad. UPK = good, but plan for UPK = bad. And with a sigh, we give up for another year.

Friday, March 28, 2014

State Finances, encore

Here's my letter to the local Gannett papers:
I remember when the New York State Senate was routinely contrasted with the Assembly as the champion of upstate vs. downstate interests. Based on the current Senate budget resolution, that contrast is a fallacy. The Senate proposal favors New York City schools over upstate schools with every dollar it spends.

The Senate mysteriously locates $485 million to fund pre-kindergarten, $340 million of which will go directly to New York City to avoid taxing rich city residents. It allows charter schools to remain in public school buildings rent-free and even grants them building aid similar to that for public schools. This millionaire-backed, special-interest giveaway was supported by every single one of our region’s state senators despite the fact that the Charter School Office lists 42 charter schools in upstate New York (all city schools) compared to five times that many downstate.

Let’s hope that wiser heads prevail and that our hard-earned taxes don’t once again go to expand the gap between rich urban/suburban and poor rural schoolchildren. Downstate charter schools are less about parents selecting a school than about schools selecting their students. Upstate public schools are about education for all, but the state Senate has chosen this year to promote special interests over special education and to throw our small rural districts under the bus.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Who Wrote Those Standards, Anyway?

Maybe it's just my nearly three decades trying to parse individual state standards that makes me appreciate the Common Core Standards. Maybe it's that I love an underdog when it's being attacked by the fangs of misinformation. At last night's Bill Daggett event at IHS, a parent rose to spread the left-wing gospel* about CCSS—that educators had nothing to do with its construction, that it was a money-making construct by big business, led by Achieve, Inc. Well, Achieve is the organization created by the governors and state superintendents to lead the standards project. It was founded as a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. Its board includes governors and captains of industry, its staff includes curricular experts and content advisors, but the people who did the work are mostly educators from the field, from both the K-12 and college levels. This list is easy to find; I have no idea why this myth of "no educators involved" continues to filter through the cyberscape.

—*Right-wing complaints concern the loss of local control (a myth, as every state already had its own standards), the federal takeover of schools (confusing CCSS with NCLB or RTTT), and the unfairness of increased rigor. Left-wing complaints have mostly to do with tying standards to accountability of teachers, overuse of assessment, and the corporate takeover of schools (as though there never was a multimillion-dollar textbook industry). Both sides complain about the suddenness of it all, as though seven years were but a blink of the eye. Most of the complaints could have been avoided by a decent rollout and much better use of the media. Shades of Obamacare.

LATER: It's worth pointing out that thousands more teachers were involved in the vetting process—on the draft analysis teams; via NCTE, NEA, AFT, and NCTM; and as part of the public comment periods (along with parents and others). Far more teachers were involved with the creation of CCSS than with the creation of the rather wretched and confusing NYS Standards or any other state's standards that I'm aware of.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

I Thought They Were Lawyers

Statistics I find show that 37 percent of today's U.S. Senators are lawyers. Yet the body as a whole seems to misunderstand the underlying principles of our system of justice, including the notion that all defendants, even the wickedest, should be afforded competent counsel. How else to explain the ridiculous failure to confirm Debo Adegbile as head of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice? Cynthia Tucker calls out Bob Casey, but there is enough idiocy to go around.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Ice Age

Love this space photo. Ithaca Falls is frozen from top to bottom, you can walk on the ice from Stewart Park a few yards northward. But this shows the reality around us. Click on the photo for a clearer view.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Governor v. Mayor

There's a long tradition in NYS of struggles between the governor and the mayor of NYC, whomever they might be. Few of those struggles have excited me, but the current one strikes close to home. I found this article interesting, although I'm not sure I buy 1) that Cuomo is in any way progressive or that 2) de Blasio's motives are nearly as sinister as described. But I like the distinction drawn between populism and progressive liberalism, and I think it may be useful.

It's worth noting that the amount Cuomo has "found" in the budget for pre-K will not nearly cover the costs, and that he has "found" it while continuing to shortchange public schools through the gap elimination adjustment.

"Tax-the-rich" populism is nothing new in NYS, of course. It's been our local assemblywoman's clarion call throughout her term, and it's a fond dream of many Assembly Democrats. But none of them has put his or her mouth where the money is the way de Blasio did right out of the box. Fun to watch. Although I am a longtime fighter for pre-K (and brought it to Dryden after a decade of fussing), I do think we need to fund K–12 first. But if NYC can get a functioning program solely through a single tax, more power to them.