Monday, September 30, 2013

What does the Federal Shutdown Mean for Education?

From Politico:
A shutdown of the federal government now seems all but certain if Congress doesn’t come to an 11th-hour agreement today. And it will hit the Education Department hard. About 90 percent of the department’s 4,225 employees will be immediately furloughed, and most won’t come back until the funding crisis is resolved, even if the shutdown lasts longer than a week. But many schools and colleges won’t feel an immediate effect if the funding crisis is resolved quickly. Federal dollars will continue to flow to both K-12 and higher education. A longer shutdown, though, could lead to a big paperwork backlog and problems for schools, colleges and students that receive federal funds.
From PoliticsK-12:
Brokedown Congress appears likely to spend the weekend attempting to keep the government from shutting down and the U.S. from defaulting on its debt. The sticking point this time isn't schools. Instead, education is getting caught in the crosshairs. Republicans want to defund, or at least delay implementation of, the president's landmark health care overhaul law (the Affordable Care Act to its fans and "ObamaCare" to its critics).

What does the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad budget situation mean for schools?
From D.C.'s Contingency Plan (via Washington Post):
A protracted delay in Department obligations and payments beyond one week would severely curtail the cash flow to school districts, colleges and universities, and vocational rehabilitation agencies that depend on the Department’s funds to support their services.  For example, many school districts receive more than 20 percent of their funds from Department-funded programs.
From NBC re: Head Start:
A small number of Head Start programs, about 20 out of 1,600 nationally, would feel the impact right away. The federal Administration for Children and Families says grants expiring about Oct. 1 would not be renewed. Over time more programs would be affected. Several of the Head Start programs that would immediately feel the pinch are in Florida. It's unclear if they would continue serving children.
From the National Center for Learning Disabilities:
If the government shuts down, all non-essential government employees stop working. This includes the majority of employees at the U.S. Department of Education.

Because schools are generally operated at the local and state level, your local public school will most likely continue to operate and your child's teachers will continue to work. However, schools will face difficult decisions as real time federal funding in certain areas such as Head Start (early childhood education) stops. For lump sum payments under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a government shutdown will cause extreme uncertainty going forward, with schools unable to plan for future expenses. All of this is on top of the damaging effects of cuts already caused by sequestration in the 2013-14 school year.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday Leftovers

Barbara Buono says she’ll be the “education governor.”

Real Clear Politics, in "African Americans Embrace Christie," analyzes a new Quninipiac poll that gives Christie a 34 point lead: 
Even more stunning, while just 9 percent of African-American voters cast their ballots for the Republican in 2009, he currently earns 36 percent of the black vote, according to the new poll.
Though the sample size of black voters polled by Quinnipiac was small, Christie has polled at or above 30 percent among African-Americans in several other recent surveys.
To put that standing in recent historical perspective, no Republican presidential, Senate, or gubernatorial candidate in the state Jersey has topped 17 percent of the African-American vote in more than two decades.
The Star-Ledger takes the measure of community support for Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson: “Among a dozen educators interviewed, as well as parents, city school officials and members of Anderson’s senior staff, there is strong belief that her plan to remake the district is working. But she is still opposed by a stubborn, vocal group of officials and parents who think she fails to seek enough input from the community and sometimes does not consider the impact of her changes on surrounding neighborhoods.”

And NJ Spotlight considers Newark teachers’ first year with a merit pay clause in their contracts.

The TEAM Academy charter school group in Newark has purchased a dilapidated school building for $4.3 million.

SAT scores for New Jersey high schoolers are up by an average of 10 points, although achievement gaps remain steady. From NJ Spotlight, here’s one comparison:
•  Family income under $20,000: 416 reading; 441 math; 416 writing
•  Family income over $200,000: 567 reading; 593 math; 573 writing

Here's the Star-Ledger's coverage.

The Trenton Times Editorial Board applauds the consolidation of three school districts in Hunterdon County and bemoans the inefficiencies of home rule: “As a Home Rule state, New Jersey maintains far too many layers of government and all the attendant costs of each and every one of those overlapping folds. What made sense in the days when distance was measured by actual horse power may no longer be valid. In a world that’s gotten smaller thanks to instant communication, New Jersey has gotten microscopic.”

So does the Asbury Park Press, which also  previews the Common Core.

School board antics in Perth Amboy, here and here.

From the Trentonian: “Trenton Central High School has been documented to contain mold, leaks and a rodent infestation, but the state authority that oversees school construction projects is placing the burden elsewhere.”
Don't miss Brent Staples' piece in today’s Times on the challenges in implementing new teacher evaluations:
This approach — and the mentoring that is supposed to support the teachers — will require a great deal of training for principals and an enormous investment of time, something school administrators don’t have. Beyond that, for the new system to work, administrators need the trust of teachers, who often view the evaluations as part of a plan to dislodge them from their jobs.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Bergen County, NJ: Unleash Thy Servants From that Accursed Common Core

Here’s a bit of NJ weirdness: the Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders) has issued a resolution “in opposition to the Common Core and Assessments.” (Civics lesson: each of our 21 counties has a board of “freeholders,” an archaic term that refers to the elected group that holds the county’s purse strings, and in Bergen that’s a pretty hefty purse.)

The resolution, which the 7-member board passed unanimously, charges that the Common Core was “developed by non-governmental organizations and unelected boards outside of Bergen County,” was developed through “private” funding, violates privacy laws,  and “violates Constitutional and Federal Law by granting the United States powers which the Constitution reserves for the States, or to the people.”

Another "whereas" states that one rationale for the resolution is that “the New Jersey Education Association urges the State to “slow down a headlong rush to over-rely on student test scores to evaluate teachers in New Jersey.”

What are freeholders doing opposing the Common Core? Got me. They’re supposed to be spending their time overseeing road paving and park maintenance and county-specific functions. But  the resolution is a great example of the sort of ménage a trois that's become a trademark of Common Core opposition: first, a dash of Tea Party-ish distortion of  states’ rights, second, that suburban opposition to equity and accountability (not much of a poor urban constituency in monied Bergen), and, third, a  misunderstanding of the blend of private and public funds already present in public education.

NJEA is Stronger than the Storm

A few thoughts on John Reitmeyer's commentary at The Record, which compares the education platforms of Gov. Christie and his challenger, Sen. Barbara Buono:
The stark difference between Buono’s and Christie’s positions when it comes to education policies and school funding illustrates a political shift in New Jersey, where candidates used to vie for the support of the powerful teachers union.
While Buono has courted and received the union’s support, Christie has openly clashed with the union and has pressed for a series of policy changes, including a successful rewriting of tenure rules.
The implication here is that NJEA’s ability to strong-arm the Statehouse is so diminished that Christie can “openly clash with the union” and suffer no consequences.  I’m not sure it’s quite so clear-cut: NJEA has suffered some losses (pension and health benefits reform;  tenure and teacher evaluation reform that, despite protestations that the actual bill duplicates NJEA’s proposal, isn’t quite all that) and some lapses in strategic-planning. The brand may be damaged, but it’s hardly Enron.

In fact, NJEA is still pretty powerful, and the leadership knows that. How powerful? Enough to back a teacher union-loving candidate who will lose (in part because she's not being backed by most of the other unions,  in part because she has no money or bedrock support, in part because no one knows who she is and Christie is Christie.) NJEA is sticking its neck out, not to mention its money.  It regards itself as stronger than the Christie storm and the consequential Buono washout, and that’s probably the right call.