Education News

State News Roundup for January 21, 2012

Florida – Race to the Top Grant: FEA Ignored Again

In a memo to district school superintendent in May 2010, former state Education Commissioner Eric Smith wrote: “The positive discussions reinforced the shared belief that collaboration is critical for district ownership and implementation. Therefore, we approach Phase 2 with a stronger MOU (memo of understanding) and the united spirit necessary to earn the highest amount of funding available for our students.” Things certainly have changed.

Federal officials repeatedly have warned states that ignoring the collaboration requirement would derail even the best of plans for helping struggling schools, yet Florida’s governor and new commissioner of education make no effort to involve teachers and their unions.

Recently, I learned that of the 12 Race to the Top grant states, Florida was one of three whose education commissioner and governor chose to exclude stakeholders from the ongoing discussions regarding the implementation of Race to the Top plan. The purpose of this meeting, scheduled for this Thursday and Friday, was to invite both states AND unions for a conversation with the U.S. Department of Education. But Florida and two other states did not comply and were still allowed to attend. If the Department is holding states accountable for meeting commitments made in the RTTT applications on teacher evaluation, then it must also hold them accountable for commitments made about collaboration with unions.  This steady erosion of the collaborative spirit that was established during the Race to the Top 2 application process may very well spell failure for Florida’s aggressive Race to the Top plans.

Florida’s road to winning the grant was extremely rocky. Florida lost its bid in the first round because of the lack of collaboration with the stakeholders, most notably FEA.  Because of the efforts of former Gov. Charlie Crist to bring about collaboration, Florida was awarded a grant in the second round. But since Gov. Rick Scott took office and the appointment of Florida Commissioner of Education Gerard Robinson, FEA and other stakeholders have been shut out of the process at the state and federal level without even the courtesy of one phone call or meeting.

Click here to read the full story at FEAWeb.org

Idaho – Asynchronous Requirement Fails

The Senate Education Committee today approved the proposed online credit rule, but with a twist. The panel acted with the understanding that the State Board would write a new rule eliminating the requirement that one of the two required classes be asynchronous.

State Superintendent Tom Luna said he made the move in response to testimony on Tuesday that showed widespread opposition to requiring an asynchronous class, or one in which the student and teacher are online at different times. But he said that since the committee could only pass or reject a rule, not amend it, the State Board would have to write another rule to remove the asynchronous requirement. Sen. John Andreason (R-Boise) moved to pass the rule as-is, and the committee vote was 8-1. Sen. Nicole LeFavour (D-Boise) cast the lone dissenting vote, saying she felt even the new rule would not serve all Idaho students.

Following the vote, Idaho Education Association President Penni Cyr said, “Idaho educators support the use of more online learning, but we know that truly effective online learning will require more teachers, not fewer. What’s more, the state is only partially funding the technology upgrades that will make quality online learning possible for students, and that funding comes at the expense of teaching positions and teacher salaries. Nevertheless, Wednesday’s action was a step in the right direction of allowing more local and parental control into how online classes are taken.”

In other action, the Senate committee approved a rule that seems to put further restrictions on what teachers can negotiate. Idaho Education Association General Counsel Paul Stark testified before the panel a week ago, and the committee deferred action at that time to seek an opinion from the Idaho Attorney General’s office.

Visit IdahoEA.org for the complete story.

Illinois – In 2012, IEA Members Can Lobby Close to Home

The Illinois Statehouse is under renovation, but IEA members cannot let the limited access to the State Capitol Building stop them from lobbying their state senators and representatives on school, funding, pensions and all the other issues so important to public education.

IEA leaders are urging members to participate in “Back Home Lobby Days.” [ed note: pictured above]

IEA members can directly contact and lobby their state representatives and senators by meeting with the legislators in their home districts when the legislature is not in Springfield.

Legislators understand how important it is for them to meet with their constituents and the legislator’s home district makes for a setting in which IEA members can outline what they want and expect from their elected officials.

Click here to visit IEANEA.org and find out more about how you can get involved in IEA’s Back Home Lobby Days.

Pennsylvania – Band-Aid keeps Chester Upland afloat for two weeks, state budget cuts put it on the brink

A court-mediated settlement with the Corbett administration has given the Chester Upland School District two weeks of breathing room, but PSEA President Mike Crossey urged Gov. Tom Corbett and his administration to remember that this is only a band-aid for the struggling district.

A $3.2 million state funding advance will keep Chester Upland on life support for two weeks, but will not stave off a full-blown catastrophe, which could close the schoolhouse doors to 3,600 students. Crossey pointed to the school district as an example of the dire consequences Gov. Corbett’s $860 million in public school funding cuts are having on the Commonwealth’s school districts and the students who learn there.

“This $3.2 million advance will keep the doors open for a few more weeks,” Crossey said. “It’s a band-aid. In two weeks, the school district will be back on the brink. This is what happens to Pennsylvania’s public schools when you cut $860 million in state support.”

Crossey pointed out that the Corbett administration had denied Chester Upland’s earlier requests for state help. As a result, the school district was so strapped that it would have been unable to pay its employees, its contractors, or any of its other bills. The school district filed a lawsuit against the Commonwealth in federal district court on January 12. Without the court-mediated agreement to advance the school district $3.2 million, Chester Upland’s staff would not have received their paychecks this week.

To get the latest updates on Chester Upland, visit PSEA.org.

2 responses to “State News Roundup for January 21, 2012

  1. Gov. Corbett, you are a former teacher. Why don’t you go to Chester Upland SD, teach for a couple weeks and see what kind of a difference you can make? I am sure none, but it might change your views on funding for education in PA.

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