lunches shouldn't be used as bargaining tool / Rockford Register Star Candidates
for state House talk about school spending / Daily Herald Growing
crisis may trigger changes in school funding / Pantagraph Schools to get rid of pop at a heavy cost
/ Chicago Sun-Times Ex-high school student gets $6,250 for
injury / Chicago Tribune Glenbard North
axes student editorial / Daily
Herald Year-round school is better option / Daily Herald Citys public high schools to offer
college credit in 05
/ State Journal-Register Illinois sends $10 million to booming school
districts / Chicago Tribune Health Center for Urbana schools up and
running / Champaign News-Gazette School Board recommends uniform colors
/ News Sun Small district serves students, town better
/ Daily Herald Residency rules aren't about better schools
/ Daily Southtown
lunches shouldn't be used as bargaining tool / Rockford Register Star
for state House talk about school spending / Daily Herald
crisis may trigger changes in school funding / Pantagraph
Schools to get rid of pop at a heavy cost
/ Chicago Sun-Times
Ex-high school student gets $6,250 for
injury / Chicago Tribune
axes student editorial / Daily
Year-round school is better option / Daily Herald
Citys public high schools to offer
college credit in 05
/ State Journal-Register
Illinois sends $10 million to booming school
districts / Chicago Tribune
Health Center for Urbana schools up and
running / Champaign News-Gazette
School Board recommends uniform colors
/ News Sun
Small district serves students, town better
/ Daily Herald
Residency rules aren't about better schools
/ Daily Southtown
needed in 'No Child' act / Rocky Mountain News School
lunch bill targets obesity / Boston Globe An education
fix / Fort
Wayne Journal Gazette Charter school students move to new campus
for sixth time / San Diego
Union-Tribune Pipe Bomb Found, Disabled at Fountain Valley
High School / Dramatic changes in school funding sought / Another Way To
Learn / Slot backers vow aid to schools / Miami Herald Student barred from distributing fliers
/ Boston Globe Schools challenging state's ratings / Dallas Morning News
needed in 'No Child' act / Rocky Mountain News
lunch bill targets obesity / Boston Globe
fix / Fort
Wayne Journal Gazette
Charter school students move to new campus
for sixth time / San Diego
Pipe Bomb Found, Disabled at Fountain Valley
High School /
Dramatic changes in school funding sought /
Another Way To
Slot backers vow aid to schools / Miami Herald
Student barred from distributing fliers
/ Boston Globe
Schools challenging state's ratings / Dallas Morning News
Lisa Smith, Daily Herald
Clem Mejia and the 44 other regional superintendents across Illinois found their jobs in jeopardy last year via Gov. Rod Blagojevich's proposed budget.
The governor wanted to dole out their duties to other state agencies and funnel the savings into general school funding.
Arguing their services are necessary and their offices efficient, the regional superintendents reached a compromise with Blagojevich: the number of regional offices will be slashed in half.
The regional superintendents will have until May 1 to submit a reorganization plan to the governor dividing the state into 22 regions. Then the regional superintendent representing the largest county in each new region will become the region's superintendent and fiscal agent, overseeing the distribution of all grants and other appropriations.
The remaining regional superintendents will work with that superintendent on a transitional basis until 2007, when they presumably would step down or take on other duties within the office.
A Blagojevich spokeswoman said those changes go hand in hand with the governor's restructuring of the Illinois State Board of Education; the governor reduced board members' terms and appointed seven new members.
"We're trying to put them in the best position to succeed with the school districts," spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch said of the regional superintendents.
Mejia says he does not view the impending changes negatively.
"I think every organization needs to be reviewed every so often," he said. "We can't be immune."
Consolidation was inevitable, Mejia said, noting that each of the state's 102 counties had a regional superintendent until 1973, when it was reduced to 78. It was further reduced to 45 in 1995.
The state funds the
salaries of Mejia and associate regional superintendent Julie Vallejo.
Both salaries - $88,540 for Mejia and $79,686 for
Column by Ed Wells,
Most people have heard about it. Students in the
I asked myself, what was the motivation behind "Cheesegate"? What would make it necessary to shame a child with food?
The cost of a school lunch in District 205 increased dramatically this year to close to $3. Mike Williams, a School Board member, commented on a recent Saturday radio broadcast that much of the increase was because of the settlement with the food-service contract workers and administrative costs. The price of a school lunch is now an important source of revenue for the district.
Parents and guardians who were neglectful and had not filled out the proper forms so the district can receive the lunch reimbursement had to be prodded into action. So the word came down from the district office: Crack down on those kids not properly qualified or whose food accounts had run too low. Shame the kid to motivate the parent.
It seems with the notoriety of "Cheesegate," the plan worked. Most of the parents who complained will get the necessary paperwork completed so the district can be reimbursed the price of the lunch.
It should also be said that many of these parents are often behind on many of the forms the district needs. These are chronic, neglectful parents and guardians who are just not doing the job of raising kids. Their numbers are small, but growing. We have to find a way to empower kids with these parents and guardians as much as we can so the school can fill out necessary forms on behalf of the student.
Yes, the money the district receives from the students' lunches is much more important now. Everyone needs to be paid up. New administrative costs must be paid. But did we really have to embarrass the students? Is the financial situation so bad that we had to withhold hot food and milk from hungry children? Food should never be used as a manipulative tool when it comes to kids. Other means need to be found.
If there are any other district costs included in the food budget, this should not be. Students should not have to subsidize other district costs not related to food.
About 60 percent of the district's students qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch. District 205 is poor. For some kids, the meal they have at school is the only proper one they will have all day. Feeding kids is important. We should be looking for ways to reduce the cost students pay instead of raising it.
The motivation behind
"Cheesegate" was revenue, but I'm afraid that in the end
we as a district ended up short-changing our kids.
Jason King, Daily Herald
School funding is not
the problem facing
Both Republican incumbent Robert Churchill and his Democratic challenger, Sharyn Elman, say the problem facing schools in Illinois lies in how school districts spend the money they get.
Elman said greater local oversight regarding education spending and the end of unfunded mandates is the answer. Churchill also believes the practice of unfunded mandates needs to end and says standardized test scores need to improve to show that schools are making the most with the money they get.
The candidates spoke about this issue in interviews and in a Daily Herald questionnaire.
Churchill is a 57-year-old
Elman, 45, is a former broadcast journalist from Gurnee making her first run for public office. She ran nopposed in the primary.
The district includes
Elman said schools need better checks and balances at the
local level to see where money is being spent.
The education system
also needs to look at reducing some of its bureaucracy at the state
level. And if the federal government passes mandates like No Child Left
Churchill said in the
last 20 years, education funding in
Churchill said the question that has to be asked is, "If we keep putting more money into education, why aren't test scores and graduation rates improving?"
Churchill said it's
not a question of income anymore, but a question of where the money
A statewide crisis probably
will be needed before
Some districts are already there.
Schools are operating with budget deficits in 82 percent of the state's districts, according to figures from the 2003 budget year reported in the Chicago Tribune.
The situation shows no signs of improving.
Budgets approved in September by the Normal-based Unit 5 and Bloomington District 87 school boards both showed more expenditures than revenues.
Unit 5 expects to take in $89.8 million while spending $91.9 million. In District 87, overall expenses are expected to exceed revenues $59.8 million to $52.7 million.
Those figures can be skewed by construction projects, where revenue from bonds might not come in the same year it is spent. For example, District 87 has $7.7 million in life-safety expenses this school year that will be paid with revenue generated by bonds last year.
Of course, that can also work the opposite way, helping a budget appear balanced -- or in better shape than it really is.
School boards need to be fiscally responsible. They can't continue to spend beyond their districts' means while hoping for a bailout from the state or local taxpayers.
Likewise, the state
and federal government can't continue to make demands on local districts
without providing adequate financial resources to meet those demands.
Candidates interviewed by The Pantagraph Editorial Board have repeatedly mentioned education as among the top concerns of voters with whom they have talked on the campaign trail.
When lawmakers return
BY KATE N. GROSSMAN,
Sun-Times Education Reporter,
Come Nov. 15, pop will
The school board voted
Wednesday to replace Coca-Cola products in school vending machines with
juice, water and sports drinks. This shift, announced in April, is part
of an effort to tackle the problem of childhood obesity.
But it comes at a cost. The Coke contract generated $20.8 million over five years, split among the central office and individual schools. The new contract could generate as little as $6.4 million.
That is a conservative
estimate, CPS officials say, and they pledge to give the schools the
lion's share of the drink cash. Sean Murphy, CPS' chief operating officer,
is hopeful schools won't lose money.
Also Wednesday, the
board tightened aspects of its residency policy, which requires all
CPS employees hired after 1996 to live in the city, except for those
in a few subjects where teachers are short.
Principal must check
on new hires
Previously, no one was
responsible for checking if new hires had moved into the city within
six months, as required. A principal or supervisor is now responsible.
The board also loosened one element of the policy, giving teachers in
shortage areas a three-year, rather than one-year, waiver.
The tightening did not
sit well with the Chicago Teachers Union, which says the rule exacerbates
a teacher shortage. Other cities have lifted their residency rules.
"In contrast, we have
In other news, dozens
of protesters rallied outside the board meeting against Renaissance
2010, the plan to close up to 60 schools and re-open them as 100 new
While putting away her sewing bin in August 1999, Jami Robins, then 14, tripped over an electrical box mounted on the floor, according to testimony during the three-day trial. Several months later, Robins had knee surgery.
Robins' medical bills
were nearly $12,500, said Robert Cohen, her lawyer. He asked the jury
for $33,000 for bills, pain and suffering and disfigurement.
The jury found Robins
50 percent negligent and
a lawyer representing the school, said there were no requirements the
school failed to follow.
By Catherine Edman,
Daily Herald Staff Writer,
If challenged, administrators
would have to prove their decision had an educational basis, and also
that they had reason to violate their long history of student newspaper
autonomy, said Mark Goodman, executive director of the not-for-profit
center in Arlington, Va.
"It really does
boil down to motivation," he said. "If it really is a goal
to silence a viewpoint, it is not a justifiable reason."
In its first issue of
the year, North Current Editor in Chief Katie
His dismissal, she argues,
revolved around disputes over freedom of speech.
What remained was a small cartoon and an explanation about why the article
was held. It read, in part: "Assistant Principal of Operations
Lisa Biel censored the article because it contained personnel information,
even though the former adviser had given his permission to discuss his
"It was not a public
matter. We wouldn't be able to talk about it,"
Goodman, though, said
that argument doesn't hold water, particularly because
"There's no invasion
of the teacher's rights if the teacher has discussed it with the publication,"
This is the second case
of censorship at the newspaper this calendar year.
Last spring, the paper
planned a story to explore the topic of teenage masturbation. The staff's
reasoning was that, if the topic was being brought up in mainstream
pop culture in movies like "American Pie" and songs like Britney
Spears' "Touch of My Hand," it was fair game,
In fact, the staff got
the idea from another school newspaper.
"We were definitely
not writing it to spark trouble," the 17-year-old said.
The administration said
it and came to the conclusion that it was not appropriate for the school
"These are journalists.
I want to look at nothing (in advance), honestly," she said. "There
typically is a heads-up over a story. The adviser does that."
Giaquinta disagrees. He said it was the administration's request
for that advance warning on "controversial" articles that
started the problems last year. The request undercut the very nature
of journalism, he said.
"That was intolerable
to me," he said. "They would not give me any defining parameters
for what was controversial."
The final straw apparently
came in the last Current issue in the spring when students wrote about
area teens going to a local strip club as a right of passage.
Giaquinta said that was when the administration told him his contract
as adviser would not be renewed. He remains an English teacher, and
he teaches the journalism class and newspaper production.
At issue is the extent
of freedom granted school newspapers.
A landmark case involving
school newspaper censorship would seem to support the administration's
decision, at first, to stop the articles on masturbation. But it's not
that easy, Goodman said.
The U.S. Supreme Court
ruled in 1988 that a
But Goodman said that
precedent can be overridden when a newspaper has a long history of editorial
autonomy, as does the North Current.
The paper has an otherwise
solid reputation. Last year, it received the Gallup Award from the Quill
and Scroll journalism society, first in state from the Eastern Illinois
High School Press Association and the gold medal from the Columbia Scholastic
And last month, Giaquinta was named faculty adviser of the year for northern
Given that Giaquinta said he was told last year student "opinion
could be expressed" in the paper, he was surprised when such a
piece was axed.
"We thought there's
no way they can censor an opinion piece," she said.
So when the final verdict
was delivered, she and other students at the newspaper decided to make
sure her original views were made known.
They made copies of
the editorial and distributed them throughout the school by hand.
Letter by David Tomell of
At the risk of confirming
my wife's suspicion that I have turned into a curmudgeon, I suggest
that voters in the Geneva school district reject the school board's
request for more bonds and a higher tax rate until there is year-round
classes or two shifts of lessons.
Make no mistake, public
education is a business and the taxpayer is the customer. I think it
is time our school district makes more efficient use of the plant and
equipment we already own. Twelve-month classes will immediately expand
available classrooms by a third; double shifts would increase available
desks by 100 percent. I am sure we can hire a couple of smart schedulers
to find a class for everyone that is not too inconvenient.
The school board should
be spending its time and efforts working with our legislators at making
the state funding policy fairer for our district rather than overseeing
By CHRIS WETTERICH,
State Journal-Register Staff Writer,
Starting in January,
students in the
The colleges board
of trustees approved the agreement at a meeting Wednesday. The credits
earned can be used at LLCC or transferred to other colleges and universities.
To qualify to teach
the courses, teachers must have a masters degree or 18 hours of
graduate credit in the discipline they are teaching.
Students also will have
to meet prerequisites to enroll in the dual-credit program. To be eligible,
Be a high school junior
Score a 22 or higher
on the ACT English test or have a comparable score on the colleges
placement test if taking composition courses.
Score a 22 or higher on the ACT math test or have a comparable score on the placement test if taking math.
Tuition will be waived
for classes taught during regular school hours by the districts
The district and the
college must still work out the final details for which classes will
be offered, but calculus, speech, psychology and composition are likely,
said Eileen Tepatti, associate vice president for instruction at LLCC.
Other areas could include computer programming, health and science.
The college already
has similar agreements with about 40 other area high schools, including
ones in Taylorville,
At some high schools
that partner with
In addition to
college cost savings, dual credit eases the transition from high school
to college by allowing students to take classes with their friends in
their own high schools, she said. It also offers our advanced
students greater challenges and the opportunity to make their high school
years more productive.
By Stanley Ziemba, Tribune
The Illinois State Board
of Education has issued $10 million in grants to 44 fast-growing school
districts across the state, the largest of which is earmarked for
The grants, made under the Fast Growth Grants program signed into law by Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Oct. 8, is designed to help school districts meet the expense of educating rapidly expanding student populations, according to state education officials.
Over the last 10 years,
the district, which has two traditional high schools, an alternative
high school, five middle schools, 12 elementary schools and a preschool
facility, has seen its enrollment climb from 5,000 to 22,000 students.
"We're very pleased
that the state is providing us with the funds to help us deal with our
growth; it's important to have that support," Erdey
Erdey noted that the grant will cover about 25 percent of
the $8 million more in wages, salaries and benefits the district has
had to budget this year for additional employees.
The grant is for $1.948
Other Chicago-area districts
receiving substantial grants include
seeing rapid enrollment increases need access to dollars to deal with
the increased need for books, supplies and teachers," Blagojevich
said in a news release issued Tuesday announcing the grants.
"I signed House Bill 766 to help schools to quickly respond to those needs," he added.
Fast Growth Grants are part of this year's $389 million increase in
funding for targeted education programs approved by Blagojevich and
the General Assembly, State Board of Education officials said.
By ANNE COOK, Champaign
They've helped whittle
down the list of students without current inoculations students
banned from their classrooms from 100 to fewer than 10. And the
people who helped turn a wood shop at
"Kraft just announced
yesterday that it's giving the clinic $4,000 for a nutrition program,"
Dave Remmert, director of community health
surveillance for the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, told clinic
supporters attending an official open house at the clinic Wednesday.
"Those programs will help children who are diabetic or overweight,"
Remmert said. He said within the next few weeks, dentists
affiliated with the public health district will also visit the clinic
several days a week to see children who need dental care.
He said patients so
far have included walk-ins from schools in the high school and middle
school complex and children from
Remmert secured grant money to start the clinic more than two
years ago, but he said it took a lot more than that grant to complete
"It wouldn't have
been completed without a lot of support from the community," Remmert said. "I was impressed by the number of people
motivated by love. This project has a lot to do with that four-letter
He named major contributors
including: the public health district, $40,000; Urbana Rotary, $35,000;
Carle Foundation, $30,000; Carle Clinic, $17,500; the Champaign-Urbana
Mental Health District, $5,000; the Community Foundation of Champaign
County, $3,000; and Urbana Alumni, $2,000.
said individuals also made contributions to start the project, a job
that included the expense of renovating a former workshop on the north
side of the school into a clinic.
Other partners in the
longtime district architect who designed the facility, said initially
planners faced "a lot of shortage of funds," but when project
contractors heard about the plans and the funding issues, they helped
by donating more than $100,000 worth of materials and labor.
Visitors attending the
open house Tuesday toured clinic examination and waiting rooms, its
laboratory and other facilities.
"This used to be
a big barn of a place, and now it's so efficient," said Joan Dixon,
who represented the Community Foundation. "They've used their resources
Dr. Kimberly Glow, clinic
director, said she's toured school-based clinics all over the state
and is very happy with the results at
"In others, you
see kids waiting in the halls," she said. "When I first saw
this area, it was a cement square with no walls, and I cried. Not because I was
discouraged, but because I was thinking about what could be done with
Glow said she's very
encouraged by the enthusiasm of district administrators, of teachers
who have visited to see how the clinic will work and also of social
workers who are going to help her draw up a policy about how to treat
students with attention disabilities.
"I want this clinic
to be for students and run by students," she said.
"We'll have a student
advisory board, we'll have student artwork
in the halls and a mural by students in the front."
Aurora U. to open campus to children Teacher-training facility
By Amy Fischer Roth,
Special to the Tribune,
attends 4th grade on the
"Last year my friend found the skeleton of a rat in a pellet," Julia said.
She was one of 100 pupils
at a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday for the Institute for Collaboration,
soon to be a bricks-and-mortar partnership between
Besides the educational
advantages, the district benefits financially from this partnership,
which started nine years ago, and a number of others that offer everything
from grant money to driver-education vehicles.
"I think the latest
report I saw said that 82 percent of
The collaboration with
"What we quickly
discovered was that we had a remarkable opportunity in front of us to
have our students in the teacher-education program become engaged with
children almost immediately upon their entry to the university,"
said Gary Jewel, executive director of the
The younger pupils benefit
as well for the district's $3 million commitment, said Supt. Sherry
"Our young children
gain by having more adults that are committed to and are aspiring to
be future educators, and our little children are being teachers to these
future educators," she said.
The new building will
add 100 McCleery Elementary 5th graders and
have eight classrooms for the two grades. It will house the university's
Ormond said the board
hasn't put a specific dollar amount on the savings realized by the partnership
but noted that new elementary schools can cost between $6 and $12 million.
"This is not a
cost-free partnership, but we feel it's very cost-effective," he
Last year, the U.S.
Department of Education awarded a $10 million grant to expand the partnership
so it could serve as a pilot program for the nation, House Speaker Dennis
Hastert said at the time of the award.
Money committed to the
project from the district came from the construction budget, which was
part of a $59 million bond referendum measure in 2002.
Other partnerships also
help the district's financial picture.
A deal with the Aurora
YMCA provides before- and after- school programs at Greenman
Elementary and a fitness center to be built at Herget
Middle School, which is under construction, Eagle said.
The district partners
with a Saturn dealership to provide driver-education vehicles and safety
instruction to student drivers. The high school cafeteria serves Starbucks
coffee and pours the revenues into the
""We are literally
going to build a P-20 institute--that's preschool through graduate school--where
learners of all ages will all go to school together," Jewel said.
No saggy pants: Panel reviewing dress code
By Ryan Pagelow,
News Sun Staff Writer,
Olson asked board members at Tuesday night's meeting to give their recommendations
to a committee that recently started meeting to survey how district
schools enforce their dress codes and to make suggestions for policy
"If the board already
knows what you want, then there's not a lot of sense to have a committee
meet for a month and come back to confuse the issue," Olson said.
Elementary schools and
some middle schools have already enacted policies where students wear
uniform colors such as white tops and black pants or skirts. The high
school does not require students to wear uniform colors.
The purpose of having
uniform colors would be for safety, said school board Vice President
"I know it's not
going to be a popular decision. We're going to get opposition. However,
teachers and students have to decide if they want safety or fashion,"
Hanna said. "When they hear uniform they think ROTC. We're only
talking about uniform colors. Don't confuse the issue."
School Board member
June Maguire said she would like to see a dress code that the administration
could enforce and that a majority of students would agree to wear.
"The boys need
to wear belts in their pants and not have them hanging down to their
butt. It's not safe and it's not good to look at," Maguire said.
Uniform colors at school
are not going to stop the student actions, but it will be a deterrent,
said school board member Jeff McBride.
"Caps that they
wear signify who they are. The jerseys they wear signify who they are.
It comes down to shoes they wear. It leads to violence," McBride
School Board President
Patricia Foley suggested hats be kept in lockers
because it's easy to hide gang messages on hats, even if they are just
carried and not worn.
She asked that the committee
come to a decision about the dress code policies in a "timely manner"
but did not mention when possible changes would be implemented. The
board discussed school uniforms last year, but new policies were not
introduced after parent and student opposition.
Board members on Tuesday
also voted 5-2 to approve Superintendent Richard Olson's contract extension
after a preliminary tie vote led them convene to discuss the matter
in closed session.
Foley said she voted to approve the superintendent's contract extension because for the last two years he has balanced the district's budget and has implemented new programs such as a teachers' academy and mentoring program for new teachers.
negotiations with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency over
Yeoman Creek habitat loss, the school board passed a resolution to not
exceed a $35,000 payment in damages if a settlement is reached.
During public comment
Carlos Sanchez, a chairman of a bilingual parents committee, asked the
board why parents weren't notified before the bus stop at the corner
of Baldwin and Grandville avenues was moved a block to the corner of
Frolic and Grandville where there is no sidewalk.
The move was made after
the property owner next to the original bus stop complained students
were loitering and vandalizing the property, said Brian Luosa,
associate superintendent for business services.
Also during public comment,
Rhonda Buckingham, the mother of a student on the varsity girls basketball
team, gave the board a petition signed by parents who would like to
remove the team's coach.
Letter by Monty Richards
of Bartlett, Daily Herald,
The Daily Herald has
written four front-page articles on the upcoming advisory referendum
to consider disconnection from District U-46, yet it failed to highlight
the educational or economic benefits of disconnection. The Daily Herald's
articles have focused primarily on the costs of disconnection. The Daily
Herald and the U-46 board fail to point out all the costs and the educational
benefits of a smaller, more manageable district.
What about the cost
of lower opportunities for our children who are undereducated in a failed
system? What about the costs of lower tax revenues due to depressed
housing prices caused by a beleaguered educational system fraught with
continuous fiscal mismanagement? It is time for a change in one of the
poorest-performing school districts in
A recent study by
Facts are stubborn things.
I urge the Daily Herald to research and report these facts, thus providing
the voting community a much more balanced and informed view. Our children
deserve a better educational opportunity despite the negative anti-change
rhetoric from U-46 and others.
It is time to assert
our rights as tax-paying constituents. I urge U-46 parents to vote "yes"
on the referendum question and send a loud and clear message to
Mayor Richard Daley
is defending his school board's crackdown on residency requirements
for public school teachers. "Policemen have to live in the city,
firemen. ... Should elected officials live outside the city?" Daley
In our view, policemen
and firemen shouldn't have to live in the city any more than teachers
should. If that's the best argument the mayor can come up with, the
teachers union wins this argument hands down.
Clearly there's an argument
to be made for cops and firefighters having to live near where they
work, but that doesn't mean they need to live within the city. Emergency
workers sometimes need to get to work quickly when events dictate. But
a police officer who lived in
for city workers have always had more to do with where they vote than
where they work.
As for the mayor's comparison
of teachers to elected officials, that's like comparing apples and oranges.
Elected officials must live in the city or district they represent so
their constituents can have access to them, and so that they have direct
knowledge of the area's needs.
Teachers' jobs are in
the classroom, and
If the schools were
a jobs program, then it would make sense to require that teachers live
in the city so they would spend their paychecks in the city, support
local businesses and cast their votes for city politicians. But if the
schools are about educating students, teachers should be hired based
on their talents and abilities, not their ZIP codes.
Current goals out of sight
Rocky Mountain News
Define success as perfection, and what you get is near-universal failure.
That seems to sum up
the reason why some two dozen
Setting targets so high they will never be met is likely to discredit the whole enterprise, so reforming the No Child law should be a high priority of the next Congress.
The education act sets a goal of 100 percent proficiency on state tests by 2014, not only overall but for identifiable subgroups, including racial and ethnic minorities, low-income children, English learners and so forth, in every subject. In addition, it requires that schools and districts demonstrate each year that they are raising test scores fast enough to meet the goal.
The reason for adopting the subgroup goals was to force districts to focus attention on precisely those children most at risk of being left behind. And it is having the desired effect. The Education Trust recently released a study showing that in most states with at least three years' worth of testing data, achievement gaps between ethnic groups have been shrinking while overall achievement has been going up. Not universally, and not fast enough to meet the 2014 deadline, but an encouraging sign of progress nonetheless.
So where's the problem?
First off, 100 percent proficiency is not attainable. A high but achievable
standard could be based on the performance of the most successful districts.
Why not rank all of
Another problem is that the larger the district, the more subgroups there are with 30 students or more, enough to trigger the act's requirements. So Cherry Creek, for example, had to meet 118 different subgroup goals last year, and was counted as failing because it met only 94 percent of them.
"We don't ever expect to make it if certain conditions remain in play," said spokeswoman Tustin Amole of the Cherry Creek district.
If you get no credit for progress and you know the goal is unattainable anyway, why try?
It's fair to judge districts on how much progress they're making, but it's also fair to compare them with districts that face similar challenges. That would give districts a reason to find out what's working elsewhere so they can do it too.
No matter who is elected president, the No Child Left Behind Act will need revision. Otherwise educators will stop taking it seriously.
While the reason for
the high failure rate is the arduous benchmarks
For the first time in
With 77 percent of the state's schools already unsuccessful in meeting last year's benchmarks, officials warn of across-the-board failures as schools struggle to regain ground from the hurricanes and reach the higher academic levels.
Each state sets its own guidelines to meet the federal plan, and they can be amended each year.
More failures under the federal plan mean higher busing costs for districts whose students choose to leave schools labeled as not making "adequate yearly progress" although those same schools may have an A grade under Gov. Jeb Bush's education reform plan.
It means more federal dollars going from public schools to private or religious-based tutoring companies that may not have any experience with the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
And it means stage four of federal consequences will kick in at some schools replacement of staff, loss of decision-making ability at the school level, a longer school day or school year, or hiring an outside expert to advise the school.
Educators watching No
Child Left Behind results come in from other states wonder whether
"We are concerned about the inflexible criteria of No Child Left Behind in Florida," David Mosrie, chief executive officer of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, said about the state's plan.
Palm Beach County Superintendent Art Johnson put it more bluntly:
"I can't jump that high."
The superintendents want Winn to keep last year's standards, which required 31 percent of students to be reading on grade level and 38 percent to perform math on grade level.
Those numbers may seem low, but they must be met by each of eight subgroups of students based on race, limited English proficiency and disability.
Some schools, such as
Barton Elementary in
But the law doesn't care about how close schools come to passing, or whether their testing benchmarks are high or low. The law only cares about whether the school passes or not, and Barton a B-graded school must now offer its students school choice, meaning they can go to another school with the district footing the bill for transportation.
Statewide, 963 schools are offering school choice to students because they did not meet No Child Left Behind standards for the second consecutive year.
This school year,
Also, and more complicated, is the number of students required in each subgroup for the scores to count. The lower the subgroup numbers, which again are set by each state itself, the more likely it is those scores will be counted.
Bottom line: It's less
likely that scores from minorities, disabled students and non-English
speakers will count in
Winn, who has been hesitant
to make changes he believes lower
He did not acquiesce to superintendent requests to change the No Child Left Behind benchmarks.
"We have two nonnegotiable items the level of proficiency and the cell size of 30 students," Winn said.
But he's not totally inflexible, saying he is looking at other possibilities and that the superintendents have some "excellent" ideas.
"We made the right choice," Warford said. "We negotiated this plan early on, and other states decided to lower their standards. We set our standards high, and our students are the ones benefiting."
He downplayed the fatalism expressed by superintendents who foresee higher busing costs and more federal dollars going to private tutoring companies if the benchmarks are raised as planned.
"Contrary to what the critics say, there was no massive disruption of schools this year and no massive transfer of students," Warford said.
If the superintendents
get their way and the benchmarks are changed, the new plan will have
to be approved by the federal Department of Education a hurdle
the superintendents association's Mosrie said
"I think the federal
government would realize that four catastrophic hurricanes may justify
a change," he said.
Massachusetts lawmakers plan this winter to take up one of the nation's most sweeping childhood obesity reduction plans, a measure that would ban soft drinks from schools, mandate low-fat school lunches, and stock school vending machines -- many students' primary food source -- with healthy items only.
The bill, which also seeks to bolster decimated school physical-education programs by requiring 120 hours per year of in-school physical activity, would for the first time place statewide standards on spotty school food policies. Currently, local school districts have virtual autonomy in setting menus, with some striking lucrative contracts with food and soft drink companies to allow products into cafeterias.
The state Department of Education has tentatively endorsed the bill, which its sponsors plan to introduce when the Legislature convenes in January, though fierce opposition is expected from local school districts and food and drink companies. Were the bill to pass, localities would lose some control over school menus, as well as money-making deals with food makers, and food and drink companies could lose valued customers -- schools.
In fact, lobbying from both these quarters helped doom previous incarnations of the bill, though widespread recent public concern about diet and obesity may improve the bill's chances this time around, some lawmakers say. Obesity, they say, has replaced smoking as the nation's top health evil.
"Pretty soon, the lifespan of children will be less than their parents because of obesity," said Representative Peter Koutoujian, a Newton Democrat and the bill's sponsor. "There's not much opposition out there . . . something will pass very soon. There seems to be unanimous support for this."
A federal panel recently
recommended a multipronged national antiobesity effort that would involve virtually every sector
of society and major voluntary lifestyle changes by the average American.
But within this framework, schools are unique: the only place where
food offerings can be directly legislated. With the state able to do
little else to affect obesity and childhood weight gain, Koutoujian's
bill promises to become the focal point of
The bill would require that:
All food available in schools, whether in the cafeteria or vending machines, comply with nutritional standards set by the state Department of Education.
All drinks available in schools be water, fruit juices that are 50 percent or more natural juice, or low- or non-fat milk. Soft drinks would be out.
All food from vending machines have no more than 35 percent of calories from fat, 10 percent of calories from saturated fat, and 35 percent of calories from sugar. Many chips and candies would be out.
Students have access to nutritional information on all food available.
Students get 120 hours of physical activity, in a class or recess, each school year.
Students get 50 hours of nutrition or wellness education annually.
"I think this is really an important step in the right direction," said Harvard School of Public Health nutrition specialist Dr. Walter Willett. "Kids in school, we're meant to be taking care of their health. That should mean not feeding them things that are bad for them . . . it's hard to imagine anyone could disagree."
Willett particularly lauded the provision banning soft drinks: "They really don't have any place in schools."
About 9 million children over 6 years old are obese, triple the prevalence in 1970, according to federal statistics. This greatly increases the likelihood they will be obese in adulthood, placing them at elevated risk for a range of chronic diseases, especially diabetes and heart disease.
The bill also would shift considerable control over the food served in school cafeterias from localities to the state government. Local districts could still design menus and pick specific items, as long as they conformed to state standards. The state Department of Education would be empowered to periodically revise the standards, as nutrition science evolves.
"We're very much in favor of it. It sounds like it could make a big difference," said education department spokeswoman Heidi Perlman.
Perlman said the department is not interested in micromanaging school menus: "We don't want to become the food police," she said.
But food police is precisely how some districts view the idea of statewide nutrition standards.
"I think it's better just to let local school committees set the local policies," said Paul Schlichtman, president of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, which represents the local bodies charged with setting local school policy. "I've got real problems when the state comes down and tells you how to do things all the time. . . . Why not legislate what a parent is supposed to feed their child as well?"
Schlichtman said making the changes called for would cost schools money -- to hire gym teachers, print up nutritional information, replace vending machines, and otherwise conform to the bill's requirements. The bill does not provide any additional funds to make the changes.
"Unless there's funding, there's going to be problems," said Schlichtman, who said his group would lobby against the bill, as it did a year ago when an earlier version was circulated on Beacon Hill.
He also said that the ban on soft drinks could deprive hard-pressed school districts of money. Some fear the more healthy items would sell less.
"Some districts have agreements with bottlers -- they place machines in the building and they get money," said Schlictman.
These deals are struck locally, and state education officials said they had no way of monitoring them. The other parties in these contracts -- soft drink companies and bottlers -- also plan to oppose the bill, as do food companies, both lobbies wielding arguments similar to the local school districts. We believe very strongly that it is most appropriate for local school officials and parents to determine what products are appropriate for the students in their area," said Kathleen Dezio, spokeswoman for the American Beverage Association, which lobbies for drink companies such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Minute Maid. She added a personal argument: "I don't want anyone at the state or federal level telling me what my sons should eat and drink."
Dezio said education was the only route to guarantee that children would eat well.
"The most effective way to beat this obesity problem is to teach students how to make smart eating choices," she said. But she also cast doubt on assertions that obesity is as severe a problem as health specialists and the federal government argue.
"Obviously, obesity is a problem . . . but I think we also have to take a good, hard look when people say this is a huge problem," said Dezio.
Michelle Simon, head
of the Center for Informed Food Choices, which monitors food legislation
and advocates for healthier school menus, said the
"It sounds pretty comprehensive, in that it applies to all foods sold in school," she said.
In June, the Boston School Committee passed a measure banning unhealthy foods from school vending machines, and many other districts are considering similar actions.
Thus far, said Simon, most school menu reform has occurred at the city level, in places such as Chicago, Seattle, and Los Angeles, because "at the state level it's more challenging because the food lobby is better at organizing against state legislation," she said.
But Koutoujian, who has pushed antiobesity legislation for six years, mostly unsuccessfully, said he is undeterred by the opposition.
"People don't trust what they say," he said of food companies.
Koutoujian has become well known on
"I wasn't an overweight
child. I didn't suffer socially or physically or academically as many
of our overweight children do," he said. "You don't have to
be obese or suffer from this to understand this. You just have to care
about public health."
Somewhere between sound education policy and politics lies reality. Thats what students, educators and parents are facing in terms of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. After Nov. 2, the balance should tip from partisanship to a law that better helps students succeed.
Reginald Felton, director
of federal relations for the National School Boards Association, was
No one can argue with the goals of the law, Felton said. But the devils in the details.
His association is part of a national coalition of education, civil rights, childrens and disability groups that have jointly called for major revisions.
Overall, the laws emphasis needs to shift from applying sanctions for failing to raise test scores to holding states and localities accountable for making the systemic changes that improve student achievement, the coalitions statement reads.
Local superintendents met with Rep. Mark Souder several months ago to plead for changes in the law.
But Souder insisted he would not accept changes in requiring schools to demand high standards.
Felton said thats the public response members of Congress have been giving. Privately, both Democrats and Republicans have been telling NSBA that they didnt understand what the law entailed. Felton said he believes they will hold hearings after the election to consider reasonable changes to the law.
Reed said her department believes its interpretation of the law is correct. She rightly noted that extending the sanctions to all schools would diminish the resources available to the Title I schools.
The state superintendent supports other changes in No Child Left Behind, particularly its requirements in testing special education students, and also in the resources allocated for students learning English as a second language.
Where Reed parts company with Felton and NSBA is on methods for bringing about the changes. She said the Council of Chief State School Officers wants to negotiate the changes with the U.S. Department of Education.
You lose the ability to work with them if you just criticize the law, Reed said.
If President Bush wins a convincing re-election, that might be the case. Otherwise, the best approach is a congressional fix, which Felton persuasively rgues will happen regardless of the outcome Nov. 2.
When the changes are considered, first and foremost must be the obligation to fully pay for No Child Left Behind. Besides falling short on appropriating the amount envisioned when the bill was signed, more money is needed to help schools pay for the data collection required by the law.
in local schools grew to an unprecedented level when the law went into
effect. With that intervention comes a responsibility to put federal
dollars behind the demands and to ensure those demands are reasonable.
Anything else will only harm the very students No Child Left Behind
is supposed to help.
By Adam Klawonn,
San Diego Union-Tribune Staff Writer,
All students are now
at the Boys & Girls Club of Vista under a $2,500-a-month lease through
The recent leases show
progress despite a series of setbacks that began in spring, school officials
said Principal Alma Van Nice, "but if you use the obstacles as
steppingstones to higher ground, you get through it."
A series of relocations
Classes began in the
commercial building Sept. 7 but ended less than three weeks later when
the city received a safety complaint.
Inspectors found that
evacuation routes weren't wide enough and served school officials with
That led to a two-week
stay at Green Oak Ranch, a 142-acre site used mainly for drug-and-alcohol
Students were bused
in daily, attended classes indoors and went on outdoor nature walks.
School officials, meanwhile,
searched for another site at which zoning restrictions allowed for an
educational setting for children. When the deadline came to leave Green
Oak, they had regrouped at the Boys & Girls Club.
Challenges for teachers
and students remain. Teachers carry their classroom supplies around
in a box, setting up and breaking down their materials each day to share
space with those who use the club for recreation.
Arts and crafts classes,
for example, must clean up and make room for an afternoon baton-twirling
class run by the club.
"It's hard to focus
their attention when they don't have the normal walls," she said.
who started at the school in August, remained upbeat and said the experience
has made her a better teacher.
"I've learned this,
though: It's not the classroom that makes the education. It's me,"
The challenges for many
Facility issues hounded
the academy from the start. During its short existence, the academy
operated out of
By December 2002, political
and financial pressures had mounted for the school, and Vista Unified
trustees eventually revoked its charter. It left parents and students
most of them English learners in the lurch.
The dual-immersion program,
where kids learn in English and Spanish, has
been around for 18 months in
For a more permanent
home, Hermsmeyer said she is working with an architect to develop
a site near Sunset and
Pipe Bomb Found, Disabled at
By Joel Rubin,
A pipe bomb was discovered
and dismantled Friday afternoon in the gymnasium of
Police and fire squads
responded to reports of a small fire in the boys' locker room at the
school shortly after , said police
Sgt. Kevin Thomas. Firefighters opened a smoking locker and found two
small fires and a metal pipe with a cap on one end, Thomas said. It
appears that the fires were intended to ignite the apparent pipe bomb,
Hundreds of students
participating in after-school activities were evacuated as members of
School officials turned
down requests for comment, and Thomas declined to provide details on
the bomb. No one had been arrested or was being questioned, he said.
As some push to make deals illegal, others say districts should decide
By SCOTT PARKS, The
Mr. Marshall says he
resigned his consultancy with Community Education Partners in February.
But he played two roles simultaneously for five years elected
school board member and paid employee of the company.
"All of my work
for them was external to HISD," he said. "Most of the work
was in other states. And I never discussed CEP business with my fellow
A Dallas Morning News
examination of school district records and a review of more than 80
school district audits show that Mr. Marshall is not alone among the
7,500 elected school board members in
Bankers serve as trustees
in districts that deposit funds in their banks. Architects serve in
districts that use their firms to design schools. Construction company
owners help govern districts that use their companies to build schools.
"There is clear
evidence that board members are benefiting from these contracts,"
said Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn,
who started out in politics on the
"We have no way
of knowing precisely, but our best estimate is that an
average of between one and two members of every board have conflicts."
If her estimate is anywhere
close, more than 1,000 trustees in 1,045 school districts have financial
ties to companies that sell to their districts.
says districts should be prohibited from contracting with those companies.
"This is about
educating our children and not cashing in on them," she said.
The Texas Association
of School Boards, which is active in legislative affairs in
Essentially, the association
supports current laws that require
They also must disclose
a close relative's connection to companies that do business with their
districts. Then, the board member must abstain from voting on matters
pertaining to those companies.
Search for a fair law
Cathy Douglass, a TASB
attorney and lobbyist, uses the following example to illustrate her
misgivings about prohibition:
A school board member's
daughter works at a big computer manufacturer outside
"School board members
are public servants, and they must earn a living, and their families
must earn a living," Ms. Douglass said.
The problem, according
to legal experts, is how to write an ethics law that casts a net that
snares bad people and lets good people go.
Last year, the Legislature
sided with TASB. A Strayhorn-backed bill that
would have prohibited serious financial dealings between a school district
and trustee-connected company passed the House but died in the Senate.
State Sen. Florence
Shapiro, chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, said
"We usually only
violate that rule to correct a problem that's prevalent in school districts,"
she said. "I don't think anyone knows whether these problems are
prevalent enough to take away local control."
The issue resurfaced
in Houston ISD last month when trustees passed what appears to be the
most stringent conflict-of-interest policy in
Mr. Marshall, 72, a
grandfather and retired Houston ISD administrator, says he has changed
how he does business. During his five years on the school board, he
has worked as a paid consultant for Community Education Partners and
three other companies that market to HISD. Now, he says, that kind of
work is over because of the new board prohibition.
"I follow the law
to a T," Mr. Marshall said. "But the public doesn't understand
conflict-of-interest laws. I always talked to people who thought I was
in violation of something. So, now our intent is to have a prohibition.
I take a hit. That's fine. I'll start anew."
The HISD prohibition
does not apply to companies traded on stock exchanges or over the counter.
This means HISD could
still do business with Bank of America, whose shares are publicly traded,
even if a school board member or a close relative is a Bank of America
executive. But the district couldn't contract with a small, privately
held firm a partnership of architects, for example if
a board member is associated with that company.
The new policy also
does not include charities, churches or governmental institutions on
the list of "business entities" that could be prohibited from
contracting with HISD.
Instead of prohibition,
lawmakers have adopted the public disclosure and abstention model. It
applies to board members with a "substantial interest" in
a company that does business in their district. The law also applies
to board members who have a close relative (by blood or marriage) with
a substantial interest in such a company.
Tom Hutton, staff attorney
at the National Association of School Boards, says he has never seen
a national survey that shows how the 50 states handle conflict-of-interest
laws for board members.
'We sign our forms'
a legal assistant, is a trustee in Galena Park ISD near
Dexter D. Joyner, the
attorney who employs Ms. Fisher, holds the contract to collect delinquent
property taxes for
State records show that
Mr. Joyner's firm earned more than $650,000 in legal fees from
Ms. Fisher is a former
City Council member and a well-known political figure in
Ms. Fisher says she
goes beyond the requirements of state law to avoid the appearance of
"The only thing
that comes up is [Mr. Joyner's contract with the school district], and
I don't vote on that at all," she said.
Ms. Fisher said she
does not participate if Mr. Joyner's legal business comes up for discussion
among board members or district staff.
"I don't talk about
it," she said.
In March 2003, the
After reviewing district
records, the comptroller's office concluded that four companies with
ties to trustees collected $1.5 million in fees from Galena Park ISD
during a three-year period.
The report said the
four trustees had complied with state laws by filing the required financial
disclosure affidavits and abstaining from school board votes concerning
the companies in question.
"We sign our forms
and we abstain," Ms. Fisher said.
Nonetheless, the comptroller's
report said members of the public had expressed concern about board
members' ties to school district vendors.
"Whether the allegations
are founded or not, the perception among the community is that some
board members may be making biased business decisions for the district,"
the report concluded.
Mr. Marshall, the Houston
ISD trustee, said he zealously kept his business relationship with Community
Education Partners separate from his role as a school board member.
The company was already
contracting with HISD when Mr. Marshall came on the board in 1998. The
company hired him, he said, because of his background in school administration.
They paid him $1,500 a day. His initial contract with the company called
for him to work four days a month.
During his five years
Mr. Marshall said he
has severed his financial ties with school district vendors. But he
said he might go back to work for them if the school board ultimately
decides that its current prohibition is too restrictive.
ownself be true," Mr. Marshall said.
"I believe officeholders
have to subscribe to the fact that if we didn't have government, society
would be chaos. There are times when we have to deal with regulation,
and I think the regulations should give the appearance to the public
that we are above and beyond reproach."
Ryan, SUN CAPITAL BUREAU,
Proponents say both
are designed to ensure schools get the money they need, but they come
from opposite ends of the political spectrum.
Question 1 would require
the Legislature to pass a school funding bill before it approves any
other appropriations for the coming two years. It comes from the fiscally
conservative politician who 10 years ago pushed for a constitutional
amendment to require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to pass a
Question 2 would require
the Legislature, beginning in 2012, to fund schools at the national
per-student average. It comes from the teachers union, which has been
pushing the past decade to raise taxes to better fund education.
The questions, if passed
by the voters this election, would appear on the 2006 general election
ballot for approval before becoming part of the Nevada Constitution.
Both arose out of frustration
with the way the 2003 Legislature dealt with funding for public schools,
which was imperiled during the fight over raising taxes.
Gov. Kenny Guinn had
proposed a plan to create broad-based taxes to provide more stable funding
for state services, including public schools, which took 34.7 percent
of the budget in the current biennium.
The governor's plan
created rancor among legislators, who needed two special sessions to
come up with an alternative plan to raise $833.5 million in taxes during
two years and balance the biennial budget. Several times legislators
came one vote short of the two-thirds majority required to raise taxes.
of the state's budget except
school funding had been passed before the special sessions. Because
of a constitutional requirement that the state keep a balanced budget,
the schools could not receive funding until the tax package was passed.
The delay until August
in passing the tax package, and the school budget with it, created havoc
in the state's public school systems, which were delayed in hiring their
staffs for the fall semester.
The idea for Question
1 came from U.S. Rep. Jim Gibbons, a Reno Republican and a former member
of the Assembly, who in 1994 and 1996 pushed for the constitutional
amendment that required the two-thirds vote to raise taxes.
Gibbons and his wife,
Assemblywoman Dawn Gibbons, R-Reno, led a drive to gather signatures
on the initiative to qualify it for the ballot.
Responding to the same
school-funding crisis, the Nevada State Education Association is trying
a different tactic with Question 2.
The ballot question
says, "Shall the Nevada Constitution be amended to require that
the annual per-pupil expenditure for
The state is now 45th
in the nation in funding the public schools, at $4,424, or $1,655 per
pupil below the national average, Cahill said. The average per-pupil
expenditure is $6,079, according to the
Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, introduced a bill in 2003 to raise the state's spending to the national average. That was estimated to cost $1.1 billion over the biennium. The bill never made it out of committee.
1990 the teachers circulated a petition to enact a corporate net profit
tax. It qualified for the ballot, but the teachers backed off the proposal
when state leaders agreed to enact a business tax. The 1991 Legislature
approved the per-employee tax of $100 per year.
The union then sought
to enact a 4 percent business income tax for the support of education.
But the Nevada Supreme Court last year ruled the proposed law was unconstitutional.
Question 2 takes a different
approach. Crafted by the teachers' union, it doesn't bother with trying
to propose the appropriate tax to fund schools. It simply sets the funding
level, and leaves it up to lawmakers to find the money.
The fact that the funding
requirement wouldn't take effect until 2012 gives the state enough time
to do that, Cahill said. In a year with a surplus, for example, part
of that money could be allocated to education to avoid a future tax
In addition, she said,
the public schools should be able to keep all of the money earmarked
for them from the state sales tax. The school districts, however, do
not see a windfall if the tax collections are higher than expected.
That extra money is kept by the state.
In the current biennium,
Cahill said, the group estimates the state will get $50 million in sales
tax money that should have gone to schools. In the past 10 years $131
million has gone back to the schools, she said.
executive director of the Nevada Taxpayer Association, which opposes
Question 2, said it was "totally impractical to shift money"
the way Cahill described. Ninety-two percent of the state's budget goes
to the public schools, the university, human resources and prisons,
That leaves only 8 percent,
meaning the teachers' plan would require a tax increase, Vilardo
Jim Gibbons said he
does not support Question 2 because it does not identify a way to pay
for the increased funding that it would require.
"I think that while
teachers deserve more, there are alternatives to providing that money,"
The congressman has
proposed a plan that would change the distribution of money from Bureau
of Land Management land auctions to provide more money to public schools.
The Southern Nevada Public Lands Act currently earmarks 5 percent of
the proceeds for schools; Gibbons wants it to be 35 percent.
But requiring schools
to be funded at the national average without setting up a system to
pay for it in advance is a bad idea, he said.
The education association
has not taken a stand on Question 1, Debbie Cahill, its deputy executive
"It doesn't do
anything to address the level of spending," Cahill said. "We've
been fighting a nonstop battle with the Legislature about the levels
"It was more about
the two-thirds vote than about funding education."
School Law an Issue in
Erik W. Robelen,
The flames keeping hundreds
of vibrantly colored hot-air balloons aloft for the fall balloon fiesta
here were doused by the time the two candidates for the local congressional
seat debated in a hotel ballroom earlier this month. But the sparksand
maybe even a little of the hot airwere still in plentiful supply.
I look forward
to talking with you about jobs, about our schools, and about how were
going to win this war on terrorism, said U.S. Rep. Heather A.
Wilson, the Republican incumbent in
Mr. Romero took
American politics to a new low last week with propaganda linking me
to a man who murdered 3,000 people, she said at the Oct. 11 event.
The Romero campaign
has run a TV spot that flashes the image of Osama
bin Laden and claims Ms. Wilson did a favor to terrorists
in voting against one airline-security measure.
We all know that
you dont leave common sense at the door when you go to
Not to be outdone, a
recent spot by a national GOP group said Mr. Romero is so liberal
on crime hes dangerous.
Like many tight races
leading up to the elections next week, the contest here for the U.S.
House of Representatives has gotten pretty rough, and talk of schools
has had to vie with still-stark post-9/11 worries about security and
other high-profile issues.
contest offers a good window, though, on where education ranks in the
minds of voters, and on how the No Child Left Behind
Act, a sweeping, bipartisan rewrite of federal K-12 policy, and other
school issues are faring in campaigns for Congress.
Education seemed pretty
important to the Rotary Club of Albuquerque, which hosted the Oct. 11
debate at the Old Town Sheraton hotel, nestled near a touristy section
of the city.
The second of only six
debate questions was on the No Child Left Behind law, the centerpiece
of President Bushs agenda for schools.
Ms. Wilson strongly
supports the law; Mr. Romero says it needs major changes.
[education] as number-one in my viewpoint, said Sam Fenner,
an undecided independent, standing in the elaborately decorated hotel
lobby, shortly before the debate started.
who has four children, including one still attending a local public
school, added: We rank so low nationally in terms of educational
funding, how our kids rank on a national scale, and I think we need
to give more attention to that.
This desert state falls
behind most states by several measures.
Despite their differences,
both Rep. Wilson and Mr. Romero agree that Congress is a vital player
in helping the states schools, especially its disadvantaged children.
The race for
As with the presidential
election, the biggest issues in congressional races have been the war
But candidates are still
discussing education. Both Ms. Wilson and Mr. Romero have run TV ads
touting their records and experience on the issue.
This is Mr. Romeros
second stab at the 1st District seat, which represents a swath of central
Mr. Romero, 60, was
a teacher, principal, and assistant superintendent for 27 years in the
In the Senate, he played
an influential role in passing a plan to raise teacher salaries based
on experience, using a new, three-tiered system. He also championed
a bill that gave collective bargaining rights to teachers and other
public employees, and he helped enact an increase in the portion of
a state permanent fund that goes to schools.
Ms. Wilson, 43, who
first won her seat in Congress in a 1998 special election, has a background
heavy on military and foreign affairs. She served in the U.S. Air Force
for about a decade and was on the National Security Council staff under
President George H.W. Bush.
But she gained experience
with childrens issues as the secretary of
In Congress, Ms. Wilson
doesnt serve on the education committee, but she has been fairly
active on school matters. During the 108th Congress, she has introduced
bills to improve math and science instruction, support arts in the schools,
and provide tax credits for teachers and principals in low-income schools,
though none of those measures passed.
A poll of 369 likely
voters conducted in early October for the Albuquerque Journal found
that voters were almost evenly divided between the two candidates, with
Ms. Wilson at 45 percent and Mr. Romero at 44 percent. The poll had
a margin of error of plus or minus five percentage points.
and Republican groups have provided substantial money and other support
for the campaigns.
The night before, Mr.
Romero joined Sen. Kerry for a rally in
to improve our schools; weve got to improve health care,
Mr. Romero told some 500 people gathered in an airplane hanger. Weve
got to [reduce] the deficit. Weve got to get our troops out of
The Party Line
President Bush didnt
stop in Albuquerque during his Oct. 11 visit to the state, but two weeks
earlier, first lady Laura Bush showed up to raise money for the Wilson
Heather has spent
her time in
Mr. Romero contends
that Rep. Wilson is a rubber stamp for President Bush and GOP leaders
in the House, though she emphasizes her independence.
The Romero message seems to resonate with some voters.
She is too much
the Republican hack, said Richard Desjardins, a retired builder
and self-described liberal having breakfast at the Flying Star, a popular
cafe near the University of New
Thats not to say
he finds Mr. Romero very inspiring.
Heather Wilson, Mr. Desjardins said to sum up his support for
the challenger. This is an anyone but year.
Maggie Peterson, a homemaker
I think shes
good with education, said Ms. Peterson, who has two children she
switched from public to private schools several years ago. Thats
the reason she went into public service. At least thats what she
A Republican, Ms. Peterson suggested that Democrats like Mr. Romero are beholden to the teachers unions. He is backed by the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.
You never hear
Democratic candidates speaking out against the unions, Ms. Peterson
Fred C. Martinez, an
He would know
that Leave No Child Behind better than anybody else, he said.
Friends of mine who are in education tell me that it has a nice
name, but that it doesnt have that same effect.
The No Child Left Behind Act is a clear dividing line for the two candidates.
In the Oct. 11 debate,
they were asked whether the law, which aims to hold schools accountable
for raising student achievement, was benefitting
My answer is no,
Mr. Romero said. And Im speaking as an educator.
Mr. Romero argued that
Congress hasnt provided adequate funding for the law, and that
it needs changescriticisms echoed by other Democratic candidates
this year. In an earlier interview with Education Week, he said he would
alter the laws assessment and accountability measures.
be an indicator of how were doing, but it shouldnt be used
to blast a school and give it a bad label, he said.
Ms. Wilson disagrees
about the law.
The No Child Left
Behind Act increases funding, she said during the debate.
It also gives unprecedented flexibility to schools and principals
and parents to make decisions about how that money is used. The other
thing that it does is have accountability to parents and communities.
In a later interview,
the congresswoman said theres been some confusion about the law.
Weve worked with both the state and
My Own Party
A recent TV commercial
Ms. Wilson offers that
stance to rebut the Romero charge that she always votes the party line.
I am the only
Republican in the House who has voted against the Labor, Health and
Human Services, and Education [spending] bill for the last two years
because it wasnt adequate for education, she said in the
interview. People within my own party disagree with me.
The fiscal 2005 spending
bill passed the House last month 388-13, though many Democrats claimed
it underfunded education and other programs. All 13 no votes
came from Republicans.
Larry J. Sabato,
the director of the Center for Politics at the
a competitive district, he reasoned. Of course, theyre
going to give free votes to members as needed, he said, referring
to GOP leaders. They didnt need her vote.
On some tight education
votes, Rep. Wilson has taken the party line. She backed her leadership
earlier this year on a 209-208 vote creating a pilot private school
voucher program in the
The Romero campaign,
meanwhile, has run a TV ad to promote the Democrats education
background and proposals.
Mr. Romero has a plan
for real accountability in our schools, the narrator intones,
and to reduce the dropout rate, provide college scholarships, and fight
for higher teachers salaries.
We need to pay
teachers like they have the most important job in the world, Mr.
Romero says in the ad. Because they do.
Despite such ads, Charles
Bowyer, a lobbyist for the NEAs New
Mexico affiliate, said he sees less talk of education this time around
in the House race here.
Regrettably, education has not taken the primary role that it did two and four years ago in the campaign, he said, citing issues such as national security and the economy. Thats understandable.
Whether or not education
proves to be a deciding factor, at least some local voters from both
major political parties see the federal government as highly relevant
I like the No
Child Left Behind Act, said Dave Goodnight, a minister who also
works at a local homeless shelter that Rep. Wilson toured the day after
Mr. Goodnight, who calls
himself very conservative, said he has a child who gets a great
education at a public school in
Joe Baca, a Democrat
leaning toward Mr. Romero, said
The schools need
a lot more help, said Mr. Baca, a truck driver with two children
in public schools while lunching at Barelas
Coffee House, near downtown
he said, should be the number-one priority for everyone.
By Caroline Hendrie,
With pigeons fluttering
through the rafters and plaster crumbling from the walls, the future
home of the Thurgood Marshall Academy charter
school scarcely looks like a place to entertain the likes of a big-city
Yet District of Columbia Mayor Anthony A. Williams seemed happy to be there earlier this month, as he helped kick off a project to convert the long-vacant eyesore into a community-oriented campus for 350 high school students.
Mr. Williams is not
alone among big-city mayors in extending a growing interest in public
education to charter schools. In
Mr. Williams, who has
headed the nations capital since 1999, has set a goal of attracting
100,000 new residents to the city over the next decadeparticularly
middle-income families with children. And despite strong criticism from
some backers of
you have to fix urban public schools if youre going to have any
sort of comprehensive urban renewal, said Andrew J. Rotherham,
the director of education policy at the Progressive Policy Institute,
At this months
groundbreaking ceremony for the
education thats going to take us over the goal line, he
said at the Oct. 5 ceremony at the 103-year-old former elementary school.
With an estimated 16,000 charter students this year, Washington has among the nations highest proportion of public school students in charter schoolsaround one in five. While many charter schools serve high proportions of students from low-income families, a few have attracted sizable numbers of youngsters from more affluent households.
To build on that trend,
Mayor Williams recently joined forces with a fellow Democrat, Sen. Mary
L. Landrieu of
Financed with $5 million
earmarked by Congress, the City Build Charter School Initiative is slated
to provide $1 million this year to each of five charter schools to help
meet their facilities needs. The schools are to be located in
one of 12 neighborhoods that scholars at the Brookings Institution,
The notion of creating
charter schools that appeal to middle- income families is not universally
applauded. Among the ideas strongest critics are the very sorts
of residents that the City Build initiative is aiming to please.
creating more options for people who already have a lot of options,
said Regina Arlotto, a middle-class mother of three who is the president
of Save Our Schools, a group of parents with children in the citys
regular public schools. There is a socioeconomic problem here,
where the public schools are going to end up being warehouses for the
poorest of the poor.
Last month, the group
filed a federal lawsuit to end what it calls the aggressive promotion
of charter schools by the officials charged with running the D.C. public
Calling the citys
62,000-student public school system notoriously dysfunctional,
the suit names the city school board as a defendant, as well as the
District of Columbia Council and the mayor, who appoints four of the
school boards nine members. Also named is the separate District of Columbia Public
Charter School Board, whose sole function is to authorize and oversee
Mentioning the City
Build initiative by name, the suit says it has no funds to build
new public school facilities or improve the existing crumbling public
schools, and is devoted solely to providing further incentives to D.C.
residents to abandon the public schools.
Supporters of the City
Build initiative reject the charge that promoting charter schoolsor
attempting to broaden their appealwill undermine regular public
What parents want
is for their kids to be in schools where the same values are shared
by the other parents, Sen. Landrieu said. Charter schools
are not a threat to the public education system. They are like a window
to let fresh air in, to make the public education system stronger, not
The federal money for
the City Build program came from the political horse-trading that led
to the enactment this year of a voucher plan for
Officials in the
This year, the money
is expected to go to schools that have already gotten off the ground,
said Rebecca Sibilia, the management officer
at the state education office who is overseeing the program. For example,
But in the future, Ms.
Sibilia said, the hope is that the grants will become a factor
in shaping the very missions of new charter schools, as well as influencing
where they locate. Although charter schools are open to children citywide,
supporters say the idea is to provide convenient, free alternatives
to families who for whatever reason lack confidence in the district-run
schools available to them.
If this indeed
does end up being a continuing program, this will become an incentive
grant for schools to think about what theyre giving to the neighborhood,
rather than finding the first location that they can, Ms. Sibilia
Among those hoping for
some of the City Build money is the
We already did what they want us to do, Anne Herr said with a laugh, referring to the schools decision to locate in one of the targeted neighborhoods.
Ms. Herr, a mother of
three who was an analyst at the U.S. Department of State before taking
over as the schools executive director last month, said she grew
interested in co-founding the school after growing disenchanted with
her childrens district-run public school, which was located across
town from her home. She said
were bothered at some deep level that people feel that its only
private schools that are great schools, Ms. Herr said. We
wanted it to be true that public schools can be great schools, too.
A Class Issue
As the City Build initiative
rolls out, Sen. Landrieu says that
Two Rivers has had a
difficult birth, partly because of strong opposition from Save Our Schools,
which was started by a group of parents with children in three district-run
public schools known as the Capitol Hill Cluster. Ms. Arlotto,
the Save Our Schools president, says the cluster lost enrollment this
year, and she believes the decline was a direct result of charter schools,
particularly Two Rivers.
Located in a renovated
wing of a district-run middle school, Two Rivers has attracted a mix
of low-income and middle-class families. Of the 152 students from preschool
through 3rd grade, a third qualify for subsidized
Besides that socioeconomic
diversity, the school has enrolled a larger percentage of white youngsters32
percentthan most schools in the city. The schools racial
makeup is cited in the Save Our Schools lawsuit as evidence that the
school is discriminating against African-Americans, who make up 53 percent
of the schools enrollment.
Leaders of Two Rivers
dismiss that contention, saying that the school took all comers as long
as space was available, and that it held a lottery for slots in oversubscribed
grades. As for the results, said Principal Jessica Wodatch,
I think its beautifully diverse.
Parent Darlene Boyd,
who has twin boys in Two Rivers preschool program, said that the
presence of other middle-class families like her own was a major draw,
but that she doesnt buy charges that the school is discriminating
against blacks. She said that she and her husband, both of whom are
African-American, had been considering moving to the suburbs before
the school opened.
not a race issue, its a class issue, Ms. Boyd said. Were
black, and I want my children to go to school with people like us, kids
who have lots of books and are exposed to things like us.
Oseye T. Boyd, Star Press
The exodus of administrators
to states such as
Several factors contribute to the departures.
And to retire, the experience
and age of
In essence, an administrator
can retire in
"I think the opportunity to draw a little bit more and be vested earlier makes that attractive to a lot of superintendents," Ellis said.
who retire in
Steve Heck believes the salary cap is punitive to educators who may want to re-enter the field. Heck is executive director of the Indiana Association of School Principals.
"It just raises
another issue relative to performance, achievement, consistency of leadership
in those schools," Heck said. "We're losing quality leaders.
It's unfortunate for the state of
"We don't have
any solid data," Heck said. "We have anecdotal information
on that, most of which suggests they don't even consider coming here
for that very reason. Anecdotally, we know we don't have an influx of
retirees coming in from other states, but we do have a lot of retirees
leaving to go to other states. That policy is hurting
A shorter vesting period
would help make
"We have a position that we think it ought to be shortened, but it hasn't been a big issue for us in the past," Ellis said.
Hartford City Senator David Ford, who serves on the Senate education committee, didn't know educators were leaving the state after retirement and doesn't foresee any changes in the rule any time soon.
"We haven't had anybody come to me and say that 'We just can't get superintendents in this state anymore,'" Ford said. "Until they do, I don't know the legislature is going to do much about it as long as they can get the people they need."
While it may not be top priority during the next legislative session, House Rep. Philip Pflum (D-Henry, Wayne counties), who serves on the House education committee, thinks the state needs to gradually phase in improvements to its policies.
"We need to work to make the state more competitive with the other states, simply put," Pflum said.
For now, the Indiana
Association of Public School Superintendents is taking matters into
its own hands by identifying those with potential to become superintendents.
"We're going to
start looking at how to start growing our own," Ellis said.
Another Way To Learn
For More Than 1 Million
Imagine a school where
you don't need permission slips to take a field trip, where you can
take a break from studying to go swimming, and where if you don't understand
long division, the teacher can spend as much time on it as you need.
Well, that's the kind
of school that at least 1.1 million of the nation's 52 million school-age
kids go to.
It's called home school.
Home-schooling is pretty
much like it sounds. Kids get taught at home by their parents or the
parents of friends who are also home-schooled.
If you're being home-schooled,
it's probably because your parents chose that for you.
Parents give different reasons for home-schooling. Some say schools go too slowly or don't pay attention to children's individual needs. Some say schools don't teach moral or religious values. Some don't like the bullying and teasing on school playgrounds. Many think they lose valuable time with their children when they send them off to school.
Jeffrey Loomis of
What Kids Think
Student opinions of
home-schooling are like kids' opinions of regular schools. Some love
it; others would just as soon skip it.
Jessica and Joshua Cooperstock, 9-year-old twins in Waldorf, say they are learning
a lot being home-schooled. Some of that learning comes from books, but
some comes from trips to
Jessica said she likes
getting right to work and then having the time to do what she wants.
"We do all our work in the morning or early afternoon, and so we
can do fun stuff later like ice-skating and swimming," she said.
But some kids miss the
fun-and-friends part of school. "You are stuck in your house with
your parents and siblings all day every day, and it gets incredibly
dull," said Justin Morton, 26, who was home-schooled from second
to eighth grade in
How Does It Work?
Some families turn a
bedroom or the living room of their house into a classroom with desks,
maps, bookcases and whiteboards, and have a set schedule. Some parents
don't have either a special room or a schedule, but encourage their
children to read whatever they like and take them to museums and concerts.
several families home-school together. Maybe one dad is great at math so he'll teach that to the kids, while
someone else's mom is a biologist who can teach science. These groups,
called cooperatives, help with one of the biggest criticisms of home-schooling:
that kids don't learn how to deal with other students.
So, do home-schooled
kids learn as much as kids in a regular school? Or do they learn more?
Most children who are
home-schooled seem to do well in their studies. On tests, they perform
as well as, or better than, their friends who are in school. Many home-schooled
kids say that because they are more responsible for their own learning,
they are better prepared for the demands of college.
BY MARY ELLEN KLAS,
The promoters signed
a contract guaranteeing 30 percent of their take will go to benefit
education if they're allowed to go forward with slot machines. The proposal
will be on the ballot Tuesday and asks voters to give Miami-Dade and
Broward counties the authority to hold countywide elections to allow
slot machine gambling at three horse tracks, two dog tracks and two
jai alai frontons.
The carefully crafted
contract, signed with crayons as a symbolic gesture to schools, is between
the seven parimutuel facilities and the Florida
School Boards Association, a lobbying organization for the state's 67
''They're putting their
money where their mouth is,'' said Jim Horne, former Florida Education
Commissioner and spokesman for the promoters' campaign, Yes for Local
Under the contract,
each parimutuel facility agrees to send 30 percent of its gross
revenues to the association if the Legislature fails to tax them. If
lawmakers impose a tax but it doesn't equal 30 percent, each parimutuel
facility agrees to pay the school board association the difference.
''We are taking this
out of the control of the Legislature and putting it in the Constitution,''
said Daniel Adkins, vice president of the Hollywood Greyhound track.
Opponents of the proposed
Amendment 4 and their political committee, No Casinos Inc., have raised
doubts about whether the Republican-led Legislature would risk voting
for a tax when it has rejected every tax proposal before it for years.
State Rep. Randy Johnson,
a Celebration Republican who chairs the group, called the contract an
unenforceable ``backroom deal.''
''There is no guarantee
that any of the money makes its way into the classroom,'' he said.
According to an economic analysis paid for by Yes for Local Control, Miami-Dade schools could reap $65 million in extra money in 2006 and Broward schools could receive $46.7 million if slot machine revenues were taxed at a rate of 30 percent.
PLAYING THE ODDS
The contract is one
of a handful of solutions the gaming industry has come up with to overcome
the political obstacles that have barred it from expanding gambling
A Herald/St. Petersburg Times poll last week found that voters in the southeastern part of the state support the amendment 58 percent to 38 percent, while voters in Central Florida oppose it 48 percent to 46 percent and voters in the Bay area oppose it 46 percent to 45 percent.
The group has also attempted
to avoid charges that slot machine revenue will face the same fate as
Lottery money and be used to offset existing education spending.
Promoters have promised
to create a 16-member oversight board, headed by Horne,
that would oversee how the promised revenue is spent and make
annual audits available to the public.
By William Kates, Associated Press Writer,
LIVERPOOL, N.Y. -- A fourth-grader and her mother claim a school district violated the girl's constitutional rights to free speech and equal protection by refusing to allow her to distribute "personal statement" fliers to other students because they carried a religious message.
The lawsuit was filed
Thursday in U.S. District Court against the
According to the lawsuit,
the school district near
The flier, about the
size of a greeting card, starts out: "Hi! My name is Michaela and
I would like to tell you about my life and how Jesus Christ gave me
a new one." The flier mentions five ways in which Jesus had come
into her life.
"This is nothing
less than viewpoint discrimination," said Mat Staver,
an attorney and executive director of Liberty Counsel, an Orlando, Fla.-based
conservative legal group that is representing Bloodgood.
According to the lawsuit,
"The idea that
people would think the district was endorsing Michaela's statements
is simply absurd. Schools do not endorse everything they allow students
to distribute," Staver said.
Jan Matousek said she had not been informed of the lawsuit and
therefore could not comment.
The lawsuit noted that
Michaela has received literature from other students at school, including
literature concerning a YMCA basketball camp, Syracuse Children's Theater
promotion of the show "Dragon Slayers" and the Camp Fire USA's
Staver said Michaela intended to distribute her flier only
during "non-instructional time," such as on the bus before
school, lunch, recess and after school.
Officials in some districts say glitches dropped rankings
By MIKE JACKSON, The
Some local schools are arguing they are better than the state says they are.
Administrators in 10
They were among hundreds
of schools and districts around the state that dropped a notch under
the new and tougher state accountability system this fall.
Appeals in most cases
blame technical glitches, such as record-keeping errors or lapses in
reports, rather than student test scores.
In Frisco, for instance,
Pioneer Heritage and Clark middle schools slipped from recognized, the
state's second-highest rating, to academically acceptable.
The district says there
were errors in information about students sent to the state. Once corrections
are made, those ratings should be changed, said Mike Waldrip,
director for secondary curriculum and instruction in the Frisco school
The lower rating "wasn't
based on academic performance; it was an error in coding," Mr.
Waldrip said. "Right or wrong, those ratings carry a
lot of weight."
The state deadline to
appeal to the Texas Education Agency was Oct. 14. TEA officials plan
to make final decisions on the appeals by the end of December, said
spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson.
A district can win an
appeal if errors in data or calculations can be blamed on TEA, regional
TEA services centers or companies that administer tests, Ms. Culbertson
Similar errors by districts
may also be considered.
"During the process
we look at each appeal individually," Ms. Culbertson said.
In Carroll ISD, one
of few districts with the state's highest rating, exemplary, administrators
are appealing ratings of two schools that slipped to recognized.
Administrators are arguing that some students were counted as dropouts when they shouldn't have been, which could adversely affect a rating. They also argued in the appeals that test results of some students who took the special-education test should not be included in the overall assessment.
"According to district staff analyses, the four campuses appear to qualify for a higher accountability rating," acting Dallas Superintendent Larry Groppel wrote to TEA.
In Melissa, administrators are appealing the district-wide rating of academically acceptable, which dropped from acceptable.
Jason Smith said Melissa suffered because it didn't adequately keep
track of nine students who moved to another
"We didn't properly show where these kids were," Mr. Smith said. "We know who these students are. We know they're getting an education."
Illinois State Board of Education