Today's news -- August 29, 2017





Americans express support for traditional public schools *

Most American adults are weary of the intense focus on academics in public schools today, according to a new national survey, and want students to get more vocational and career training as well as mental, physical and dental services on campus. Even so, a majority of public school parents give higher grades -- A’s and B’s -- to the traditional public schools in their neighborhoods than they have in years. A majority of Americans polled also said they oppose programs that use public money for private and religious school education, policies that are supported by President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. And a majority said they do not think that standardized test scores -- which have been used for more than a dozen years as the most important factor in evaluating schools -- as a valid reflection of school quality. These are some of the findings in the 49th annual PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, the longest continuously running survey of American attitudes toward public education, released late Monday. It was commissioned by PDK International, a global association of education professionals that is headed by Joshua Starr, former superintendent of the Montgomery County Public School District, and was conducted, for the second year, by Langer Research Associates of New York City. Gallup had long conducted the poll. “These and other results suggest that some of the most prominent ideas that dominate current policy debates -- from supporting vouchers to emphasizing high-stakes tests -- are out of step with parents’ main concern: They want their children prepared for life and career after they complete high school,” Starr said. The poll indicated increased support for traditional public schools at a time when Trump and DeVos have pushed alternatives to them. DeVos has called the traditional public education system a “dead end” and Trump has repeatedly disparaged public schools as “failing.” The new poll finds that the proportion of Americans who give their community’s public schools an A grade is at its highest in more than 40 years of PDK polling. In the newest survey, 62 percent of public school parents gave public schools in their own communities an A or B grade, compared with 45 percent of nonparents. Grades go higher when parents are grading their own school -- 71 percent gave them A’s or B’s.  The report said that 24 percent of Americans give public schools na­tionally an A or B (with no difference between parents and all adults), and it noted: There’s no contradiction in the gap. Awareness of a few poor schools can diminish the ratings of all schools together, driving down scores nationally while leaving local scores far better. But 52 percent of Americans oppose using public funds to send students to private school and opposition rises to 61 percent when the issue is described in more detail, the report says, indicating that Americans broadly care about the issue of how public funds are spent. Among other findings:

• There was strong support for “wraparound” services for children who need it at school. Ninety-two percent said schools should offer after-school activities; 87 percent said schools should offer mental health services; 79 percent said they wanted general health services; and 65 percent said schools should offer dental services to students.
• Eighty-two percent of Americans support job or career skills classes even if that means students might spend less time in academic classes.
• Eighty-six percent say schools in their community should offer certificate or licensing programs that qualify students for employment in a given field.
• Eighty-two percent also say that it is highly important for schools to help students develop interpersonal skills, such as being cooperative, respectful of others and persistent at solving problems.
• Fifty-five percent of Americans polled said having a mix of students from different racial and ethnic backgrounds in public schools is extremely or very important. The demographic breakdown: blacks, 72 percent; Hispanics, 57 percent; whites, 48 percent. Democrats cited this as important nearly twice as often as Republicans.


DeVos coming to Tallahassee

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will visit two Tallahassee schools today. DeVos a staunch supporter of charter and private schools will make stops at Holy Comforter Episcopal School and the Florida State University High School, according to her official Department of Education schedule. A Michigan philanthropist and activist before being appointed the secretary of education, DeVos immediately drew fire from the left and right when President Trump announced her appointment. Opponents pointed to her long time advocacy for private-school vouchers and charter schools in Indiana and Michigan and her contributions to politicians who favored school privatization. “It’s no surprise that Betsy DeVos will be visiting a private school among her stops in Tallahassee,” said Joanne McCall, president of the Florida Education Association, the state's largest teacher union. “DeVos has never committed to the basic premise that all schools that receive public funding should be held to the same standards of accountability.” In a 2015 speech, DeVos referred to the public school system as a “monopoly,” and said that public schools were at a “dead end.” Beth Overholt leads Opt Out Leon County, a local affiliate of a statewide group formed to reduce high-stakes testing in public schools and has grown to oppose efforts to benefit charters at the expense of traditional public schools.  She disagrees with much of what DeVos proposes. “If you look statewide when charter schools fail, they fail because of financial problems,” said Overholt. “And charters have a larger percentage of Ds and Fs schools.” DeVos is promoting a Trump proposed 2018 budget that would cut total federal spending on public schools by $9 billion but direct an additional $1.4 billion to school choice programs. (Joanne McCall quoted) (Joanne McCall quoted)

How’s teaching changed since you entered the classroom *

Joanne McCall, president of the Florida Education Association, which represents more than 140,000 educator workers, says, “What we have now is that the Florida legislature is micromanaging and getting right in to our classrooms, and scripting what we should be teaching.” The current mandates by the state, “suck the love of learning right out of it for kids, and takes away the love of teaching for teachers.”


Duval votes to join lawsuit against education bill *

Duval school board members voted 4-2 Monday to join 10 other districts suing the state over the major education law passed by the Florida Legislature last spring. The law known as House Bill 7069 contain a number of measures that lawyers for school district’s around the state say are unconstitutional and will hurt school districts but benefit charter schools. The law went into effect July 1. Voting to join the lawsuit were Board Chairwoman Paula Wright, members Lori Hershey, Becki Couch, and Warren Jones. Ashley Smith Juarez and Scott Shine voted against the measure. Cheryl Grymes was absent. At least 10 districts so far have agreed to challenge the constitutionality of the law in a joint lawsuit, including Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach and Broward counties. So far, the districts have each contributed $10,000 to $30,000 to the effort, depending on enrollment size, but the preliminary budget is expected to total $400,000. The special meeting was scheduled for a half hour, but discussion went on for about two hours. The decision authorizes the district’s general counsel to pursue litigation against the state for House Bill 7069, a bill the board believes will negatively impact its ability to carry its responsibilities. “This is not about taking choices away from kids,” Couch said. “This is not about disliking charter schools. We also have people who pay taxes, and those people trust us to make decisions to their benefit.” The biggest legal target is the new law’s so-called “schools of hope” measure, which sets aside more than $100 million to create charter schools in areas near D- or F-rated public schools. Some of those schools will be forced to close by other sections of state law. Opponents of the law removes most of what little oversight school districts have over charter schools, which are privately run public schools. Duval County has 31 charter schools. The schools of hope provision would divert local tax revenues districts receive for school capital improvements to charter schools. Duval officials estimate they’ll lose at least $16 million in school improvement dollars over five years. The law also absolves schools of hope from some local laws and allows the schools to employ uncertified teachers. It also appears some charter schools will be given a status similar to school districts and take more Title I federal money for poor schools, according to the analysis.


Fight for neighborhood schools with suit against HB 7069 *

Last week the Orange County School Board voted unanimously to join numerous other Florida school districts in petitioning the courts to declare recently enacted House Bill 7069 unconstitutional. The decision to join the litigation was not made lightly, and was made only after concluding that constitutional principles of a uniform, high-quality education and local control of our neighborhood schools were worth fighting for. I teach the citizenship merit badge to Boy Scouts. As part of that merit badge lesson, Scouts learn about different forms of government. They learn that, in the United States, we live in a constitutional democracy. They learn that this means that while we are a democracy in which we elect those who govern us, we are a constitutional democracy, meaning that our government is guided by a written constitution limiting the powers of government, protecting our civil rights and freedoms, and setting forth the principles by which we have chosen to govern ourselves. Just as our national government must abide by the federal Constitution, so, too, must Florida’s government abide by the state constitution. We believe that HB 7069 -- passed on the final day of the legislative session without the benefit of committee hearings or any semblance of an open, deliberative legislative process -- clearly violates the Florida Constitution. Article IX, Section 4 of the Florida Constitution provides for local control of public schools through locally elected school boards, stating, “The school board shall operate, control and supervise all free public schools within the school district.” Yet HB 7069 eliminates the power of local school boards to review and approve charter schools applications or to demand minimum standards of quality, competence or taxpayer accountability from certain charter school applicants favored by the Legislature. House Bill 7069 also diverts local property taxes earmarked for building and renovating neighborhood schools to charter-school operators without regard to local school-district finances, growth needs or bond ratings. This is directly contrary to Article VII, Section 9, of the Florida Constitution, which gives local school districts the sole authority to levy ad-valorem taxes for local purposes. Perhaps most perversely, however, is that HB 7069 requires local schools districts to grant charters to charter-school operators that employ uncertified teachers, a practice prohibited in traditional public schools. It is unfathomable why our legislators would require us to allow children to attend publicly funded charter schools employing teachers not certified to teach in Florida. Article IX, Section 1 of the Florida Constitution states that every child deserves a uniform, high-quality education. We believe that a high-quality education begins, and ends, with a qualified, certified teacher in every classroom. Make no mistake, we have many fine charter schools in Orange County of which we are justifiably proud. Yet we have seen the effect a poor-quality charter school can have on a child’s education. It was just a few short years ago that we were forced to shut down a failing charter school where the principal was taking a half-million-dollar salary, paid for by the taxpayers, while the children in the school were failing wholesale. Shortly before that, we shut down another failing charter school in which only 8 percent of the children in the school could read at grade level, children whose reading scores declined dramatically after enrolling in the school. The true victims of these failures were the students and their parents who had entrusted the education of their children to those charter schools.,amp.html


Updated budget plan outlines more cuts for Hillsborough schools


Questions about a struggling Pinellas charter school


Do public schools benefit from charter competition?

The late Gerald Bracey, once called “America’s most acerbic educational psychologist,” spent most of his time calling out bad education research and data, trying to explain that things did not always mean what the author said they did and that numbers were too often wrongly interpreted. He wrote a book about it, titled “Reading Educational Research: How to avoid getting snookered.” The book came out in 2006, but the issue remains as important as ever. Today, hardly a day goes by without yet another research study on some aspect of education being released, often with news releases topped with a headline declaring that something definitive has been found and the proof is finally here. Except too often it isn’t. Some educational research is thoughtful and important, but there are myriad problems with a good deal of it, including insufficient samples, funders who want certain results, conclusions declared that aren’t borne out by the data, etc.  The problem is hardly a new one; in 1999, D.W. Miller wrote an article titled “The Black of Education Research,” for the Chronicle of Higher Education that said: “Research on the effectiveness of reforms is often weak, inconclusive, or missing altogether. And even in areas illuminated by good scholarship, it often has little influence on what happens in the classroom.” The National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder often asks researchers to take a deep look at some published studies; its newest such research critique looks at a 2016 study on whether publicly funded private school choice programs save money. You can read the critique here. Below is a post that critiques a charter school study that recently became news. The title of the study being critiqued is  “In Pursuit of the Common Good: The Spillover Effects of Charter Schools on Public School Students in New York City,” and it finds potentially positive results from charter competition in New York. The author of the post below is Carol Burris, a former award-winning New York high school principal who is executive director of the Network for Public Education, a nonprofit advocacy group. She has been chronicling problems with modern school reform and school choice for years on this blog. Burris was named the 2010 Educator of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State, and in 2013 the same organization named her the New York State High School Principal of the Year.


Teacher shortages affecting every state *

The 2017-18 school year has started in many places across the country, and federal data shows that every state is dealing with shortages of teachers in key subject areas. Some are having trouble finding substitute teachers, too. The annual nationwide listing of areas with teacher shortages, compiled by the U.S. Education Department, shows many districts struggling to fill positions in subjects such as math, the traditional sciences, foreign language and special education, but also in reading and English language arts, history, art, music, elementary education, middle school education, career and technical education, health, and computer science. That is not an exhaustive list. Teacher shortages are nothing new -- most states have reported some since data started being kept more than 25 years ago -- but the problem has grown more acute in recent years as the profession has been hit with low morale over low pay, unfair evaluation methods, assaults on due-process rights, high-stakes testing requirements, insufficient resources and other issues. According to a 2016 report by the nonprofit Learning Policy Institute, teacher education enrollment dropped from 691,000 to 451,000, a 35 percent reduction, between 2009 and 2014, the latest year for which there is data. And there are high levels of attrition, with nearly 8 percent of the teaching workforce leaving every year, the majority before retirement age. The Learning Policy Institute report found five key factors that influence whether a teacher decides to enter, remain in or leave the profession: salaries and other compensation; preparation and costs to entry; hiring and personnel management; induction and support for new teachers; and working conditions, including school leadership, professional collaboration and shared decision-making, accountability systems, and resources for teaching and learning.


Texas: Students evacuated after being stranded by Hurricane Harvey


Arizona: When a state divests from public education


UF, GAU fail to reach agreement on stipend raises (Bobby Mermer and Josh Papacek quoted)


Florida Retirement System’s 13.8 percent return tops benchmark


Workers’ comp rates could decrease in 2018


Trump associate boasted Moscow business deal “will get Donald elected”


Trump Organization executive asked Putin aide for help on business deal


Trump’s long history of seeking a politically inconvenient business deal in Russia


Mueller asking if Trump tried to hide purpose of Trump Tower meeting


Senate chairman eyes Sessions testimony this fall


DeSantis floats measure to kill Mueller probe after six months


The Arpaio pardon could be a test run for shutting down the Russia investigation


Putin saw the Panama Papers as a personal attack, Russian authors say


Why Medicare and Medicaid can outmatch private plans on cost


The Trump administration’s stealth attack on legal immigration


Appeals court appears inclined to exempt relatives from travel ban


Trump again threatens government shutdown if he doesn’t get border wall money


Construction industry would benefit from rebuilt immigration policy


“Dreamers” deserve to stay in this country


Two bankers are selling Trump’s tax plan. Is Congress buying?


Trump reverses restrictions on military hardware for police


Bondi applauds move to give surplus military equipment to local law enforcement


Conservative group launches big push to get Trump court picks OK’d


North Korean missile flies over Japan, escalating tensions


Tillerson moves to ditch special envoys


Public rifts between Trump and senior officials widen in the wake of Charlottesville


Trump unusually silent after aides challenge him


Trump punishes longtime aide after angry Phoenix speech, sources say


“The president speaks for himself”


Harvey death toll reaches nine as flooding continues


Harvey takes aim at Louisiana as Trump plans to survey stricken Texas


Trump pledges swift aid, says effort will be unimpeded by government shutdown


For Congress, storm adds another urgent issue to a full plate


Thousands pile into makeshift shelters, big and small, across Texas


Texas governor warns of a long, slow recovery


Cost of cleaning up Harvey will bring new test of governance for Trump and GOP


Hurricane Harvey previews our stormy future


How Trump and Chao bartered flood-control policy to the highest bidders


Trump's rollback of flood protections risks further Houston-style calamity


Texas Republican vows to fight for flood insurance overhaul


Trumpian branding meets national tragedy


Cruz’s false claim about Hurricane Sandy bill


The Arpaio pardon displays Trump’s disdain for the rule of law


Trump defends pardon, assumed “ratings would be far higher” during hurricane


Why did Trump pardon Arpaio? Because he sees himself in the former sheriff.


Arpaio’s prison was a circus of cruelty. Now his values are spreading.


How can law-and-order Republicans stay silent on Arpaio's pardon?


Leaks are actually the lifeblood of American democracy


Thousands of faith leaders descend on Washington to condemn racism and Trump





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