State News Roundup for January 14, 2012

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photo above courtesy of El-Wise Noisette and NYSUT

New York – NYSUT activists demand release of funding for School Improvement Grants

NYSUT officers demanded Monday [ed note: pictured above] the immediate release of tens of millions of dollars in federal grant money targeted to help New York’s most vulnerable students now being arbitrarily withheld by the State Education Department.

“The State Education Department has decided that acting as a bully, and acting as a bureaucrat, is better than meeting the needs of New York’s neediest children,” said NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi as he stood on the steps of the SED building with fellow NYSUT officers Maria Neira, Kathleen Donahue and Lee Cutler. (NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta at the time of this event was attending a simultaneous press conference at the state Capitol regarding the closure of corporate loopholes.)

Joined by teachers, parents, administrators and superintendents from across the state, Iannuzzi said suspension of the School Improvement Grant money threatens programs for special needs students and English language learners, as well as tutoring, mentoring, after-school and intervention services. Also jeopardized by the SED decision are hundreds of teaching jobs, including the possible loss of 11 in Schenectady, 14 in Albany, 19 in Yonkers, 35 in Rochester, 58 in Buffalo, and more than 60 in Syracuse.

The union on Monday also launched an action campaign as part of its effort to free the SIG money, and urges its members to make their voices heard by emailing the Board of Regents and requesting it order SED to release the funds.

Click here to read the full story at NYSUT.org.

Connecticut – Helping Students Succeed by Listening to Teachers

On January 3, CEA released an education plan that includes reforming the teacher evaluation process and replacing tenure with a streamlined dismissal process for underperforming teachers.

At a news conference at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, CEA shared “A View from the Classroom: Proven Ideas for Student Achievement” — a comprehensive education reform plan developed by teachers.

“There’s no greater asset to improving our public schools than teachers. Teachers are in the classroom every day; they know what is needed to prepare students for the economic challenges ahead. We are proposing specific ideas that can make a real difference to improve education for Connecticut students,” said CEA President Phil Apruzzese.

CEA Executive Director Mary Loftus Levine said, “We cannot build a strong local economy in Connecticut unless we have high quality education, and we cannot have high-quality schools without adequate funding, small class sizes, and involvement of parents and communities to transform local schools that need help.”

Find out more at BlogCEA.org.

Idaho – 2013 Budget: The Closer you Look

Just one day after Gov. Butch Otter delivered his 2012 State of the State and budget message, it appears that instead of Idaho investing more in education, students and teachers may actually face a fourth straight year of cuts.

The governor’s education budget recommendation for Fiscal Year 2013 is $1.53 billion, a 1.5 percent decrease from the FY 2012 appropriation of $1.56 billion. While Otter recommends that the general fund allocation for education increase by 2.6 percent to $1.25 billion, dedicated funds (including Land Board revenue) are down nearly $6.5 million and federal funds have dropped $48.8 million. The federal funding drop is the result of Idaho no longer having most of the one-time stimulus and Education Jobs Bill money that state officials have used to prop up the education budget over the past two years.

Digging deeper, Otter is reducing the salary budget while focusing on the technology mandates and pay-for-performance plan sought by State Superintendent Tom Luna and passed by the 2011 Idaho Legislature. (The reforms are subject to a vote of the people in November 2012.) As Betsy Russell reported today at spokesman.com, Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee Co-Chairman Dean Cameron asked Otter’s budget chief Wayne Hammon about how the governor’s recommendation treats salary funding.

Get the full story at IdahoEA.org.

Louisiana – BESE Names New Education Superintendent Despite Words of Caution from Education Stakeholder Groups

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved Governor Bobby Jindal’s pick for Louisiana’s new superintendent of schools. John White will take on the department of education’s top spot and leave his post as the head of the Recovery School District just months after he arrived in Louisiana. While several education stakeholders showed up at the appointment meeting to argue why the decision was the wrong move, the board still moved forward with their selection.

“I believe that John White is a very charismatic, kind-hearted and courteous fellow,” said LAE President Joyce Haynes. “Unfortunately, now we will watch him struggle as he makes the changes that Governor Jindal wants.”

Changes such as moving forward with more charters, the use of vouchers and the flawed value-added teacher evaluation model brought forth by Louisiana law ACT 54.

Haynes feels as though educators have been disrespected once again by BESE since the board did not allow for a transparent, open selection process for those who could have met the qualifications to apply for the position.

“We’re definitely disappointed that the process – which is set forth in law – was not followed,” Haynes said. “This is typical Louisiana ‘poli-tricks’ – using our students as the reason for the rush in appointment, rather than doing the right thing.”

Newly inducted BESE District 3 Board Member Lottie Beebe was the only voice of dissent on the 11-member panel. Beebe joined in with LAE calling for nationwide search after questioning White’s credentials and level of experience.

Read more at LAEducators.org.

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