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Friday, September 23, 2016

'TUSD Kids First' Amasses $35,000 War Chest From Large Donations

Posted By on Fri, Sep 23, 2016 at 3:30 PM

COURTESY OF SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Courtesy of Shutterstock
If you've been driving around town lately, you've probably seen the signs lining the roadsides and medians: "Change the Board!" and "Change the Board! Rustand, Stegeman, Betts." The Board referred to on the signs is, of course, the TUSD Governing Board. The group paying the bill is TUSD Kids First.

If you're a Facebook user who's interested in local education, most likely you've also seen the TUSD Kids First posts which began showing up in February of this year. Most of them are links to stories which appeared in online publications and blogs, local newspapers and television news. The vast majority of the stories are critical of TUSD. The most recurrent phrase in the comment area above the story is "the dysfunctional 3-2 board."

Until the signs showed up on Tucson's streets, indicating that TUSD Kids First has some serious money behind it, it looked like a small grassroots group highly critical of TUSD Superintendent Sanchez and three board members: Adelita Grijalva, Kristel Foster and Cam Juarez. But a look at the Pima County government's Campaign Finance website shows that it's an independent expenditure committee which filed its papers in early February. In its most recent filing, it reported receiving a total of $35,150 in donations as of Aug. 18 of this year.

Five donors accounted for $31,500 of the funds received. The committee's chair, Jimmy Lovelace, contributed $3,334. Its treasurer, Kathleen Campbell, contributed $8,170. The other major contributors are Jim Click, $7,500, Cody Richie, $7,500, and Tom Regina, $5,000.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Letter With 160 Signers Opposes NAACP's Proposed Moratorium on Charter Schools

Posted By on Thu, Sep 22, 2016 at 5:14 PM

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Six weeks ago, I wrote a post about a resolution from the NAACP calling for a moratorium on new charter schools. It's important to note, the resolution calls for a moratorium on opening new schools, not a shuttering of current schools, though one of its purposes is to take a closer look at those already operating in black communities, some of which, the resolution says, are the educational equivalent of subprime mortgages. The resolution is pending. It should be voted on sometime this year. 

Now there's a response, a letter with 160 signers, which begins, "Dear Esteemed NAACP Board Members," and sings the praises of charter schools, especially those in black neighborhoods. The letter asks that members of the NAACP board meet with representatives of the signers to discuss the resolution and, they hope, decide to vote it down.

The effort is spearheaded by two organizations, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and the Black Alliance for Educational Options. Both groups are heavily funded by some of the deepest pockets in the privatization/"education reform" movement. In 2014 alone, the Walton Foundation, created by the Walmart fortune, gave NAPCS $1 million and BAEO $3.5 million. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave NAPCS $3 million in 2014. Its last contribution to BAEO was $250,000 in 2012. NAPCS also gets funding from at least ten other funds, including the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation and The Broad Education Foundation. I couldn't find any information on other BAEO funders.

Clearly, these aren't small, community-based grassroots organizations. They're significant, well funded players in the vast charter/voucher ground game.

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Monday, September 19, 2016

Ducey 'Next Step' Watch: Day 123: "Changing the Trend Line" Edition

Posted By on Mon, Sep 19, 2016 at 9:03 PM

ILLUSTRATION FROM PHOTOSPIN IMAGE
  • Illustration from Photospin image
COURTESY OF PHOTOSPIN
  • Courtesy of PhotoSpin
Forget about the "next step" in education funding Governor Ducey promised when he wanted to pass Prop 123. Ducey has forgotten about it, or is trying to forget, anyway. His phrase du jour is "changing the trend line."

Ducey published an op ed about his most recent educational goal. He wants 60 percent of Arizonans to have a college degree or career training certificate by 2030. Oh, he admits it won't be easy to reach that mark—right now, about 42 percent of adults in the state are there—but he thinks we can do it. How? He didn't offer a plan. He didn't suggest more funding for K-through-college education. All we need is a goal, he says. Ducey told reporters after presenting his 60 percent benchmark, “Nothing focuses the mind and the resources like setting that goal.”

If we just focus our minds . . .

In our future, I see bumper stickers passed out by the governor's office that read, "Visualize World Peace More College Grads." Or Ducey dressed like Peter Pan, hands clasped together, saying, "Do you believe in more college grads, boys and girls? Then wherever you are, clap your hands. Clap! Clap!"

Once again, Ducey has made it clear, he has no plans to increase next year's education budget. Any budget surplus is earmarked for tax cuts for his rich friends. Instead, he's patting himself on the back for "changing the trend line" in education funding. Which means, after a consistent, dramatic downturn in education funding since the 2008 recession, he's leveling things out.

Ducey wants us to believe he increased education funding in last year's budget, hoping we have short memories. So, lest we forget, here's what Ducey wrote, and what actually happened.

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Teacher Shortages: Things Are Bad All Over (Only More So In Arizona)

Posted By on Thu, Sep 15, 2016 at 3:03 PM

COURTESY OF PIXABAY
  • Courtesy of pixabay
The Learning Policy Institute just published a research paper, A Coming Crisis in Teaching? Teacher Supply, Demand, and Shortages in the U.S. Across the country, the demand for teachers is growing at the same time teachers are leaving in large numbers and fewer college students are enrolling in teacher education programs.

Before looking at the study's general findings, I want to take a look at the interactive map which gives each state a "teacher attractiveness rating" from 1 to 5, based on factors that would encourage people to apply for teaching jobs and stick around once they've been hired. Most of the lowest rated states are in the southwest and the south: Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Mississippi and Florida. Three other states, Colorado, Indiana and Maryland also make the list. At the bottom of the bottom is Arizona with a rating of 1.5. The other low-rated states range from 2 to 2.27.

Our teacher shortages began in earnest with the 2008 economic recession, when states began laying off teachers by the thousands. When the economy improved and school districts started hiring again, both because they lowered the number of children in each class and there were more children total, they had trouble finding enough teachers to fill the vacancies. Many of the fired teachers left the profession for good, and the number of students in teacher education programs fell dramatically—a 35 percent drop in the last five years, about a 240,000 teacher-prep-student decrease. Combine that with our high teacher attrition rate (about one-third of teachers who go are retirees, and the other two-thirds just leave), and we've got a serious and continuing shortage on our hands.

Here's the report's summary on Arizona:
In Arizona, 62% of school districts had unfilled teaching positions three months into the school year in 2013–14. In the same school year, close to 1,000 teachers were on substitute credentials—a 29% increase from the previous year. With one of the highest turnover rates of any state and 24% of the teacher workforce eligible to retire by the end of 2018, the outlook for Arizona’s future points to continued shortages.
Nationwide, the report estimates we have a 60,000 teacher shortage this school year, and that could go up to 112,000 by 2018 and 316,000 by 2025. Here's a graph with recent and projected shortfalls.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Ducey 'Next Step' Watch: Day 118. Duck-Dodge-and-Stall Edition

Posted By on Wed, Sep 14, 2016 at 12:35 PM

ILLUSTRATION FROM PHOTOSPIN IMAGE
  • Illustration from Photospin image
Ducey and Republican legislators have some ducking and dodging to do. According to a recent Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News poll, voters still want more money for our schools by a wide margin, even after the passage of Prop 123—74 percent for more money, 17 percent against and the rest undecided. Republicans, many of whom want to weaken or dismantle public education, don't want to go along. But they can't say that in the face of overwhelming public support for funding, especially just before an election.

"Let's wait 'til next year," Sen. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said. Well, he didn't actually say that, but that's what he meant. He said he's waiting to hear the governor's proposals for increasing education funding.
“My hope is the governor will have some proposals,” [Shooter] said. “I know they’re working on it, but I don’t know how far along they are."
Don packed a whole lot into his statement that needs to be unpacked. Even though he's a legislator—you know, one of the folks who write laws, vote on them and send them to the governor for his signature—he claims he doesn't have any ideas of his own on way to increase school funding. So he hopes the governor has some proposals. Hopes. You'd think as the Republican head of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Don could walk into the governor's office and say, "Hey, Doug, what do you have in mind for education funding?" He could, of course. But then he'd have to tell the reporter what Ducey told him. It's much more convenient for Shooter to say he knows the governor is "working on it," but he doesn't know any more than that.

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Friday, September 9, 2016

Trump's Education Policies Are Conservative Boilerplate, Give Or Take $20 Billion

Posted By on Fri, Sep 9, 2016 at 3:07 PM

COURTESY OF FLICKR.COM
  • Courtesy of flickr.com
Donald Trump has finally told us what he thinks about education, making it abundantly clear he hasn't thought much about the subject. Before this, he's made general pronouncements about wanting guns, not Common Core, in schools, and being for school choice. And of course, "I want the parents, and I want all of the teachers, and I want everybody to get together around a school and to make education great." Most of his current proposals are nothing new, a restatement of the standard "education reform"/privatization agenda, including an emphasis on vouchers. His advisors wrote him a speech, he read it, and now he'll be able to return to what he really cares about, which is TRUMP MAKING AMERICA (and Trump)GREAT AGAIN!

"School Choice," which Trump says will lead to "Increased Student Performance," is the uniting theme in his proposals. There's no solid evidence that charter schools or private schools increase student achievement—most studies come out as a wash, with little difference in achievement between district, charter and private schools when they compare similar students—but never mind. Facts never have never stood in the way of Trump's runaway assertions before.

Here is Trump's vision of school choice.
As President, Mr. Trump will establish the national goal of providing school choice to every American child living in poverty. That means that we want every disadvantaged child to be able to choose the local public, private, charter or magnet school that is best for them and their family. Each state will develop its own formula, but the dollars should follow the student.
It's all about poor children, according to Trump's statement. No mention of the rich children whose parents will be able to send their children to toney private schools on the taxpayers' dime, though they're clearly included in the plan. Later the proposal says he wants school choice "to bring hope to every child in every city in this land."

Trump is in favor of portable funding, where federal money follows the child. It's another conservative educational standard, which would gut Title 1 programs in schools with a majority of low income students and transfer money to schools with more high income students. And of course, he's for teacher merit pay and ending teacher tenure laws.

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About That Charter School Trump Visited In Ohio

Posted By on Fri, Sep 9, 2016 at 2:26 PM

COURTESY OF FLICKR.COM
  • Courtesy of flickr.com
Before Trump gave his speech on education at a charter school in Cleveland, Ohio, he had a photo op talking with an African American student to show how much he cares about those What-the-hell-do-you-have-to-lose? folks. Then in the speech he talked up the value of school choice, including charter schools, as a way to increase student performance, especially among poor and disadvantaged students. Problem is, the charter where he spoke, Cleveland Arts and Social Sciences Academy, isn't exactly a model of educational excellence.

Bad school choice, Donald.

The for-profit charter is currently owned by Pansophic Learning, founded by Ron Packard. Packard is the man who co-founded and was the CEO of K12 Inc., the notoriously bad, privately traded corporation which runs a string of low performing online schools in a number of states. Now he's buying up a bunch of brick-and-mortar charters, mainly in Ohio, which is known to have some of the most corrupt and low-performing charter schools in the country. He bought a number of schools from White Hat Management, which has received almost as much bad press as K12 Inc. for its poor schools and profit-centered management, and some from another charter network. The school where Trump spoke got a D for its Performance Index on Ohio's 2014-15 school report card, which is "a composite of scores across multiple grades and subjects that Ohio uses to summarize results." It did even worse in the value-added category, which measures how individual students' achievement grew over the school year. There, it got an F. You could say, "Well, that's just Cleveland," but the Cleveland Municipal schools got a C grade from the state.

Anyone who reads my posts know I don't put a great deal of stock in comparing schools by their achievement scores, which are more an indicator of the schools' zip code than their educational quality. But Trump apparently thinks charters, along with private school vouchers, are the answers to improving school performance.  He might have looked around for a better school to make his case.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

ITT Tech Closes All Its Campuses, Including One in Tucson

Posted By on Wed, Sep 7, 2016 at 11:00 AM

ILLUSTRATION FROM WIKIMEDIA PHOTO
  • Illustration from wikimedia photo
ITT Tech, one of the for-profit college companies which have come under well-deserved scrutiny for their predatory recruiting tactics, dependence on government funds to pay student tuition and the questionable quality of their course offerings, is shutting down nationwide. That includes one campus in Tucson and three in the Phoenix area. Nationally, it has about 35,000 students and 8,000 employees.

ITT Tech blames the Feds for the closure, which is partly true. Last week the U.S. Department of Education said the colleges could no longer enroll new students who needed federal financial aid to attend, which pretty much meant no new students. However, the company's shoddy tactics and performance were the reasons the Department of Ed cut off the funds.

ITT Tech follows the Corinthian Colleges closure in 2015 for similar reasons. And the Phoenix-based Apollo Education Group, which is the parent company for the University of Phoenix, has fallen on hard times because of increased government scrutiny. The last time I wrote about Apollo a year or so ago, the company's stock had plummeted from its 2012 high of 56.64 to 12.45. The stock is currently trading at 8.91.

The future doesn't look bright for the very profitable for-profit schools which prey on their students who often end up with poor educations and high student loans. That's good for the students and could be a boon for community colleges, which often compete for the same students, charge lower tuition and give the students a higher quality education.

The Department of Education is working to help students who are currently enrolled, including possibly forgiving their student loans.

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Staff Pick

Mindful Yoga, September

Led by certified yoga instructor and massage therapist, Vivianne Uyeda, this series explores moderate hatha yoga, with… More

@ Tucson Botanical Gardens Thu., Sept. 1, 8-9 a.m., Thu., Sept. 8, 8-9 a.m., Thu., Sept. 15, 8-9 a.m., Thu., Sept. 22, 8-9 a.m. and Thu., Sept. 29, 8-9 a.m. 2150 N. Alvernon Way.

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