Leading the News
Pennsylvania Governor Proposes Tax Hike For Schools.
The AP (3/4, Levy, Jackson) reports that Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has released an “ambitious” first budget proposal calling for “more than $4 billion in higher state taxes on income, sales and natural gas drilling to support a huge injection of money into schools and property tax cuts as part of an overhaul of the way public education is funded.” Wolf’s plan would boost education funding by over $4 billion. Democrats hailed the plan, while Republicans dismissed it.
The Lansdale (PA) Reporter (3/3) reports that Wolf is painting the budget as the cure for the state’s education funding crisis, noting that his budget speech focused largely on improving the quality of the state’s schools. The plan “not only seeks to improve education at every grade level from kindergarten through 12th grade, but also through universal pre-kindergarten programs.” Wolf also “wants to improve higher education by boosting state funding for community colleges by $15 million.”
The Allentown (PA) Morning Call (3/3) reports that wolf was delivering on a campaign promise by “proposing an education budget for 2015-16 that seeks to restore funding for public schools and higher education that his predecessor Tom Corbett wiped way.”
District Officials Hail Budget. The Philadelphia Inquirer (3/4, Graham, Woodall) reports that Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite Jr. said that the plan would be a windfall for his district, quoting him saying, “I’m elated with his proposed increases in revenue. I think that it not only helps Philadelphia, but it helps all of the public schoolchildren across the Commonwealth.”
In a separate article, the Philadelphia Inquirer (3/4, Boccella) reports that area district officials said the proposal was “like a Christmas bonus in March,” saying that the plan “to boost state education aid for every district, and by more than $500 million, could spare them painful decisions to increase local taxes to pay for rising worker pensions and other fixed costs.” The Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News (3/4) also reports on the positive impact that the budget would have on districts.
In the Classroom
Arizona Governor Repeats Call For Schools To Devote Additional 5% Of Funding To Instruction.
Arizona Daily Star (3/2) reports that Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday reiterated his call for the state’s schools to devote an additional 5% of their funding to instruction, citing an Auditor General’s study which determined that just 53.8% of each school’s funding, on average, is allocated for instruction. Critics of the approach argue that, since some schools already use as much as 61.9% of their budget on instruction, it is unfair to expect every school to redistribute the same percentage of funds. The report notes that Chuck Essigs, a lobbyist for the Arizona ABSO, “agreed with [Heidi Vega, a spokeswoman for the Arizona School Boards Association,] that the governor’s idea needs further development, and proposes postponing the whole issue for a year.”
Egg-Drop Experiment Allows Girls To Demonstrate Engineering Prowess.
The North Andover (MA) Eagle Tribune (3/4, Tennant) reports “only 14 percent of engineers in the United States are women, according to the National Science Foundation.” However, “that percentage may be destined for a dramatic increase” as “dozens of girls who participated in an egg-drop experiment at the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence showed that they have the ability to think like engineers.” Afterwards, “several middle-schoolers said in interviews that they are contemplating careers in engineering or science.”
Douglas Will Continue To Monitor Tucson Ethnic-Studies Program.
The Arizona Republic (3/3, Douglas) reports “Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas announced Tuesday the department would continue to monitor the Tucson Unified School District’s ethnic studies program.” Although “Douglas said the district’s curriculum does not violate statues,” she also said “she feared some teachers do not follow the district-approved standards.” Douglas and Tucson superintendent H.T. Sanchez agreed in January that “the district had a 60-day period to fix any violations or have $15 million reduced from state funding”
On the Job
Study: TFA Teachers’ Students Perform Equally Well On Reading And Math Exams.
TIME (3/4) reports that a Mathematica Policy Research study released Wednesday concludes that, based on their students’ test scores in math and reading, Teach for America’s first- and second-year teachers were “as effective as their counterparts in the same schools, who averaged 13.6 years of teaching experience.” The report notes that this study partly answers critics who argue that TFA places its recruits “into classrooms without adequate experience or training.”
Teachers Protest Cuomo’s Evaluation Changes.
Newsday (3/4, Roy) reports “hundreds of union members Monday protested Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposal to strengthen ties between schoolteachers’ evaluations and student scores on standardized tests, kicking off a week that will see education budget battles escalate.” The New York State United Teachers also “are fighting Cuomo’s proposal to increase the number of charter schools and make it easier for the state to take over underperforming schools.”
“Endangering Prosperity” co-author Eric Hanushek writes in The New York Times (3/3, Subscription Publication) that Cuomo’s desire to tie teacher evaluations to test scores represents “a trend that is popping up across the country, raising concerns among teachers, administrators and public school parents, some of whom are refusing to let their children take the exams.”
Enrollment In State Teacher Training Programs Drops.
NPR (3/3) reports in its “Ed” blog that “several big states have seen alarming drops in enrollment at teacher training programs,” including California, where “enrollment is down 53 percent over the past five years.” Bill McDiarmid, the dean of the University of North Carolina School of Education “points to the strengthening U.S. economy and the erosion of teaching’s image as a stable career,” noting that “there’s a growing sense...that K-12 teachers simply have less control over their professional lives in an increasingly bitter, politicized environment.”
Study Indicates Biased Teachers Dissuade Girls From STEM Courses.
Education Week (3/4, Moeny) reports “a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, released in February, has shown that teacher bias early in a girl’s education can have significant effects on her later success in STEM subjects, including whether or not she chooses to take classes in those subjects in high school.” The study analyzed “roughly 3,000 Tel Aviv students from 5th grade through their graduation from high school” and compared their “results on national blind-graded exams in 5th grade to their results a year later on similar internal exams that were not blind-graded.” Although the study found that “the difference between blind and non-blind scores was statistically insignificant” on Hebrew and English test, “in math...while girls performed better than boys on the blind math tests, teachers scored boys higher when their gender was known, suggesting a teacher bias against girls in math.”
Law & Policy
Florida Districts Report Second Day Of Testing Glitches.
NPR (3/3) reports that for the second day running, some Florida districts implementing Common Core-aligned testing “decided to suspend” it because of computer problems. The piece reports that state education officials “told school leaders this morning that test provider American Institutes for Research had found and corrected the problems that shut down testing Monday,” but “problems persisted Tuesday when districts attempted to administer the exam.”
The Tampa Bay (FL) Times (3/4) reports that after Tuesday’s continued glitches, “at least three superintendents” decided to suspend testing for Wednesday, unconvinced by the state Department of Education’s assurances that “Monday’s software problems had been fixed.” The piece notes that superintendents have been warning that the system was not ready, and says that the issue “is expected to spill into today’s meeting of the Senate education committee.”
Over One Million Illinois Students Set To Begin PARCC Testing Next Week.
The AP (3/3) reports that despite the controversy over the test in Chicago, over one million Illinois students are scheduled to take the PARCC test next week. The piece notes that Chicago Public Schools officials had balked at administering the test, but “CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said there was the possibility of losing millions in funds otherwise, though she still didn’t feel administering the tests was in students’ best interest.”
Report: States Lack Coherent Testing Opt-Out Policies.
Andrew Ujifusa writes at the Education Week (3/4) “Politics K-12” blog that according to a new study from the Education Commission of the States, it’s not clear what states’ laws say about parents opting them out of Common Core-aligned tests. Moreover, it’s difficult to discern what kinds of penalties students would face for not taking the tests.
Louisiana School Board To Reopen Common Core Testing Debate.
The Baton Rouge (LA) Advocate (3/4) reports that as schools in Louisiana prepare to launch Common Core testing in the coming weeks, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is planning to “reopen debate Thursday on the exams.” The piece notes that amid a state-wide opt-out movement, “several BESE members contend the state Department of Education should waive penalties for schools and districts when students ‘opt out’ of the assessments.” The board will consider a controversial proposal “requiring that state Superintendent of Education John White provide a report to the panel after the tests on the participation rate and whether any BESE action is needed to address the issue.”
Hillary Clinton’s Education Record Could Haunt Her On Campaign Trail.
Education Week (3/4) reports that stretching back to her time as first lady of Arkansas in the 1980s, through her time in the Senate, and as a presidential candidate in 2008, Hillary Clinton has spearheaded several K-12 education policy initiatives. The piece reports that while she has yet to declare a 2016 White House bid, “she is widely seen as the presumptive favorite for her party’s nomination.” Meanwhile, Clinton’s “outsize stature in the political landscape makes her record on education as on other issues, such as health, the inevitable focus of early attention—and speculation.”
Safety & Security
Study Shows That Black And Latino Students Are Suspended At Higher Rates In San Antonio Schools.
The San Antonio Express-News (3/4, Vara-Orta) reports “students of color and those with disabilities in San Antonio middle and high schools are disciplined with off-campus suspensions at higher rates than their peers, according to analysis of federal data by the University of California, Los Angeles.” Meanwhile, “education reformers have become more critical of the practice, contending school districts lose teaching time with suspended students as well as funding for counting them absent, essentially putting them on a path toward falling behind, dropping out and falling into the criminal justice system.”
Newtown Shooting Commission Completes Recommendations.
The New York Times (3/4, Hussey, Subscription Publication) reports that “in the emotional weeks after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012 that left 20 first graders and six faculty members dead, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy assembled 16 experts — emergency workers, psychiatrists, trauma specialists, teachers, a pediatrician, a mayor — to examine the event.” The group, asked to “look at gun violence, school safety and mental health...completed its detailed recommendations in February and plans to deliver its report to the governor on Friday.” Former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter Jr., “who served on a panel formed to examine the 1999 Columbine school shootings,” was a guest speaker at the commission’s first meeting, warning them “that the mission would take a toll.”
Iowa House Committee Passes Anti-Bullying Bill.
The Des Moines (IA) Register (3/2, Pfannenstiel) reports “a House committee approved anti-bullying legislation Monday, moving it one step closer to final passage following Senate committee approval last week.” The version of the measure passed by the House “was approved 19-4 and would include $150,000 for training programs and $50,000 to fund a student mentorship pilot program.” Conversely, “the Senate version does not include that funding in the bill itself,” meaning “it would have to move separately through the Appropriations Committee, which creates some risk that the bill would pass but the money would not.”
Overcrowding Chronic Problem For New York City Schools.
The Wall Street Journal (3/4, Brody, Subscription Publication) reports overcrowding in New York City schools was the main source of complaints lodged by students and parents at Tuesday’s City Council Committee on Education hearing. The chronic problem is expected to worsen with a projected increase in enrollment, preschool expansion, and the continued growth of charter schools using public facilities.
Detroit Announces District Restructuring Push.
The Detroit News (3/3) reports that Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Darnell Earley has announced “a restructuring plan aimed at stabilizing the district’s finances, boosting academic performance and preparing for possible changes to be recommended by a coalition studying ways to improve the city’s schools.” Earley said that school closings and consolidations are potential items in the plan as the district grapples with a $170 million deficit, but said that he hopes to avoid teacher layoffs.
The Detroit Free Press (3/3) reports that Earley “announced today that he will make ‘targeted cuts,’ streamline operations and put in place academic changes as he tries to stabilize the struggling district’s finances.” The plan is intended to take into account “input from a coalition working to reform education in Detroit.” Instead of cutting teaching jobs, Earley said “he intends to pare down central office administration, with notices of contract non-renewals expected to go out to some administrators within a few weeks.” WDIV-TV Detroit (3/4) also covers this story.
Iowa Legislature Continues Education Funding Negotiation.
The Des Moines (IA) Register (3/3) reports “lawmakers from the Democratic-majority Senate and Republican-controlled House remain at odds over education funding” as “a joint committee met Tuesday to try to hammer out a deal for a funding level for K-12 education for the upcoming academic year.” While “House Republicans have advanced a plan that would provide about $100 million in additional funding...Senate Democrats want to give schools over $200 million in additional funding.”
Kansas Supreme Court Will Decide Whether To Take School Finance Appeal.
The Lawrence (KS) Journal World (3/3, Hancock) reports “a three-judge district court panel in Shawnee County has postponed a hearing this week in the ongoing school finance case, allowing time for the Kansas Supreme Court to decide if it wants to take up an immediate appeal in the lawsuit.” A final decision in the case “could have a profound impact on the state’s budget in future years because funding for K-12 education accounts for roughly half of the state’s entire $6 billion general fund budget.”
Tuesday's Lead Stories
• Former Superintendent At Center Of Atlanta Cheating Scandal Dies.
• Hoeven Introduces Legislation To Ease School Lunch Rules.
• North Carolina Gov. To Propose Increased Starting Salaries For Teachers.
• House NCLB Bill May Not Stand Much Chance This Year.
• Report Finds Wisconsin, Milwaukee Schools Suspend Black Students At Highest Rate In The US.
• Pennsylvania Budget Proposal Expected To Feature Education Funding Increases, School Property Tax Cuts.