State News Roundup for May 22, 2011
Photo courtesy of Betsy Johnson and the Montgomery County Education Association
Maryland – Teachers Stage Grade-ins at Montgomery County Malls
On Saturday, May
14, more than 300 teachers converged on malls (pictured above) across Montgomery County, Maryland in the largest grade-in to date nationwide. They came to engage the public in discussions about the hard work of teachers and the needs of our schools. The grade-in came as the County Council considered cuts of over $100 million to the county school budget.
With a County budget battle over education spending ongoing, a group of teachers took up the fight themselves.
On Saturday, May 14, the Montgomery County Education System held a “Grade-In” demonstration at the Lake Forest Mall.
According to GradeIn.org, the purpose of the demonstration was to give the public “a sense of all the extra time and care that teachers have for their profession.”
At 11:45 a.m. around 75 teachers gathered in the food court and removed their jackets to reveal purple shirts that read “Teacher At Work.”
“Every Saturday I am doing something, either planning lessons or grading papers,” said two-year Montgomery County Public School first grade teacher Latechia Mitchell. “It was important for me to be here because the public doesn’t understand the work we put in on weekends.”
To read the full story and check out some more great photos of the events, visit Montgomery Village Patch.
We’ve featured grade-ins here on Education Votes before, and now there’s a great new website to help you plan your own. To learn more and get free resources to organize your own grade-in, like the table tent pictured below, click through to Gradein.org.
Florida – 2011 Legislative Session Plagued with Radical Changes
When teachers and other school employees return to class in August, they will discover a radically altered landscape in their schools. The 2011 session of the Florida Legislature will go down in history as one of the most radical and damaging in our state’s history.
In fact, many won’t return to class. When the 2007 legislative session ended, Florida allocated $7,306 per student. By the time last year’s session ended, that figure was down to $6,877 and 12,000 education jobs had already been lost in Florida. This year’s budget calls for the per-student allocation to be lowered once again – this time to $6,268 per student. Districts have begun readying the pink slips for many dedicated and hard-working teachers and other school employees. During those same four years, the Legislature has dramatically increased the requir2007 legislative session ended, Florida allocated $7,306 per student. By the time last year’s session ended, that figure was down to $6,877 and 12,000 education jobs had already been lost in Florida. This year’s budget calls for the per-student allocation to be lowered once again – this time to $6,268 per student. 2007 legislative session ended, Florida allocated $7,306 per student. By the time last year’s session ended, that figure was down to $6,877 and 12,000 education jobs had already been lost in Florida. This year’s budget calls for the per-student allocation to be lowered once again – this time to $6,268 per student. This year’s SB 736 requires the formation and implementation of scores of new standardized tests – yet the Legislature has given school districts far less money with which to complete that order.
This massive loss of funding and increased reliance on testing in a state that’s already turned standardized testing into the focal point of its public education system will have a strong impact on children. Students will see fewer education opportunities as school districts curtail the number of courses they offer to save money. Students will face even more standardized tests in a school year that is already dominated by them. This reliance on testing and preparation for testing deadens a child’s natural curiosity and makes classes more and more focused on test success, not on the joy of learning. In addition, children will see much larger classes in some subject areas and far less extracurricular activities as schools try to figure out ways to pay for many of the unfunded mandates handed down by lawmakers.
Visit the Florida Education Association to read the complete article.
New York – Early Estimates Show 93.5% School Budget Approval
New York State United Teachers today estimated that voters passed 93.5 percent of school budgets on the first try, demonstrating that New Yorkers value education and local control, and want to spare their schools from even deeper cuts.
According to a preliminary count, voters in 565 districts passed budgets, while 39 budgets went down in defeat Tuesday. Results for several dozen districts were not available. A final tabulation should be available by mid-afternoon.
With debate over an ill-conceived tax cap plan continuing in Albany, NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi said the preliminary budget results suggest local communities are quite capable of democratically determining their own educational priorities, instead of being forced to accept a one-size-fits-all property tax cap imposed by Albany.
“We already have a democratic process for capping property taxes, and it works pretty well,” said Iannuzzi, noting that 242 school districts – nearly 4 in 10 – reduced spending this year. The average spending increase this year was just 0.84 percent, the lowest ever documented.
Visit NYSUT.org to get the complete story.
New Jersey – Christie/Kyrillos Bill Seeks to End Tenure, Quash Collective Bargaining
In his State of the State address in January, Gov. Christie proclaimed that “the time to end tenure is now.” Legislation introduced by Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R- Monmouth) seeks to implement that and other destructive aspects of the Christie education agenda, to the detriment of schools, students and educators.
The bill keeps the word tenure but redefining it so radically that it would no longer provide any meaningful protection against unfair, unreasonable or politically motivated firings of experienced teachers.
It also seeks to undermine collective bargaining by outlawing existing salary guides and imposing an unproven and subjective merit pay scheme in every district.
For more information on the bill, visit NJEA.org.
Wisconsin – Parents, Educators say New Bill Would Decimate Public Education
The future of small class sizes, school library services, health instruction and more in Wisconsin’s classrooms are all in jeopardy of being decimated in a new, rushed bill before the Legislature, educators and parents said today. Speaking out against Senate Bill 95, the subject of a hastily convened public hearing Monday, parents and educators said the extreme proposals aim to destroy some of the most successful curriculum programs in our public schools.Kelly McMahon, a teacher from Milwaukee, has taught for nine years and said that eliminating resources for small class sizes would affect the most vulnerable students in school. “Currently roughly 50% of my students either receive speech services or are ESL students. By having a SAGE classroom, I am able to devote more time to work with these students one-on-one with their reading and writing. If I had a significant increase of students in my kindergarten classroom, I would not be able to devote the amount of time I currently do to provide one-to-one assistance for my students that need the extra support,” she said.
One of the proposals in the bill would utilize the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam (WKCE) as reason to fire, discipline, or non-renew a teacher. The WKCE was never intended to be a measure of teacher performance, but this bill disregards that, said Mary Bell, the president of WEAC and a 30-year teaching veteran in Wisconsin Rapids. “Anyone knows that a single score on a standardized test isn’t a complete measure of a teacher – but this legislation ignores that and allows for standardized test scores to be used to evaluate teachers, without input from educators into the evaluation process, and as one of the reasons to fire, discipline, or non-renew a teacher,” Bell said.
Get the full story at WEAC.org.
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