Thursday, January 12, 2017

Ducey 'Next Step' Watch: Day 237—Talk Is Cheap Edition. Ducey's Funding-Lite, Destructive Education Proposals.

Posted By on Thu, Jan 12, 2017 at 9:00 AM

  • Illustration from Photospin image
A few days ago I wrote that I'd try to suspend my disbelief and cynicism regarding the education proposals in Ducey's State of the State address until Friday when he releases some budget numbers. Couldn't do it. The generally positive reception of his ideas in the press has left a major hole in the analysis of his speech. I wrote that I liked most of what Ducey proposed, adding there are a few exceptions, but I didn't discuss the exceptions. Those bad ideas are either cost free or can be accomplished by rejiggering the current education budget—specifically his ideas to relax teacher certification rules and to give more money to "high achieving" schools—which means the worst of his education plans can be implemented on the cheap. It's time to look at them more closely.

Ducey laid out something like ten separate education-related proposals in his address. That leaves the impression that he's given the topic considerable thought and has laid out a comprehensive package of changes and reforms, but it also means he can pick and choose which items he plans to emphasize and implement. After all, who expects him to tackle all ten items during this legislative session?

While making his grandiose education proposals, Ducey said we shouldn't expect him to spend a lot of new money on education this year.
“Now, I’m not promising a money tree. There’s no pot of gold or cash hiding under a seat cushion."
Realistically, for him to be serious about enacting some of his most important proposals, like increasing the funding of schools, raising teacher pay and expanding full day kindergarten, the cost would begin at $100 million and move upwards toward $400-800 million. Meanwhile, most budget projections agree the governor has about $24 million in loose money to play with — the rest is accounted for—with lots of places those dollars can be spent. I suppose Ducey could free up a few more dollars with draconian cuts to other government agencies. But $100 million? $400 million? $800 million? Hardly.

We'll find out Friday, but I suspect Ducey will put a bit of money into the big ticket items as a down payment to show he's serious, then he'll push less expensive items he can enact with the willing support of Republican legislators.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Three (Maybe Four) Energy Stories From the News

Posted By on Wed, Jan 11, 2017 at 9:06 AM

  • Photospin
If you go to to Friday's New York Times and AZ Star, you'll find these three energy-related articles:

Sensing Gains Ahead Under Trump, the Kochs Court Minorities. The Koch Brothers have begun a well-funded, new nonprofit business association, Fueling U.S. Forward, which is spreading the fossil fuels gospel to minority communities — almost literally, by funding gospel concerts where Hosannas are sung in praise of God, Coal, Oil and Natural Gas.

Arizona Corporation Commission urged to fix solar net metering 'grandfathering' issue. The ACC slashed the compensation rooftop solar owners will receive for excess energy generation that makes its way onto the grid. The ACC is being asked to improve one small part of a very bad decision by amending the grandfathering rules so people who submit their energy interconnection applications before the deadline will receive the current net metering compensation, as well as people who have their interconnections completed by the deadline. [Note: On Tuesday the ACC amended the rules to include those who submit applications before the deadline.]

China Aims to Spend at Least $360 Billion on Renewable Energy by 2020. China is funding a huge push to add renewables to its energy grid, both to lower its ridiculously high pollution levels and to try and dominate the world's growing renewable energy markets.

To sum up: U.S. cities have less pollution than they had decades ago and far less pollution than China's smog-choked cities, but courtesy of the expected pro-fossil-fuels, anti-regulation push from the Trump administration, we may slide backwards while China pushes forward. The Brave New Trump Era could harm our environment and our health while it slows our technological advances in the renewable energy arena and loses us potential business worldwide.

The headline for a fourth story from a few days ago reads, Arizona still a force in solar power, despite other states' gains. It's about our growing solar energy sector, which is second in the nation to California. Apparently, we're OK with private businesses setting up vast solar power arrays so they can make lots of money off our abundant sunshine, but we're not so OK with encouraging individual homeowners to fill unused space on their rooftops with solar panels by giving them fair compensation for the energy they produce. Corporate and home solar both reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, but home solar can also reduce corporate profits, and that's just not the Arizona way.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Ducey 'Next Step' Watch: Day 235 — State of the State Edition. Great Ideas! Terrific Ideas! Wallet Still Safely Stowed in Back Pocket.

Posted By on Tue, Jan 10, 2017 at 9:00 AM

  • Illustration from Photospin image
Loved the education part of Gov. Ducey's State of the State address—with a few exceptions, of course. Great stuff, mostly. Unfortunately, it'll take lots of money to accomplish even half of what Ducey proposed. Lots and lots of money. And he didn't commit dollar one.

My understanding is, the state is expecting to see about $24 million in revenue that's not already accounted for. Even if all that went to education, it only comes to about 7 percent of the $350 million a year voted in when Prop 123 passed, so it's not a hell of a lot of money. I've read that it'll cost the state about $20 million just to cover the extra costs from the minimum wage hike. And of course, education isn't the only area in dire need of additional funding, or the only sector Ducey made financial promises to. So that puny little $24 million, a tiny fraction of the state's nearly $10 billion yearly budget, will have to be stretched way beyond the breaking point for it to make any kind of a difference anywhere.

Here are some of the education proposals in Ducey's speech. As you read them, count the potential costs on your fingers and toes, with each digit worth $10 million. Warning: pretty soon, you'll need to start in on your neighbor's fingers and toes as well. It's gonna take a lot of "This little piggies" to get us all the way to market.
• Increase investment in public schools above and beyond inflation.
• Raise teacher pay.
• Pay down teachers' student debt.
• Create "Teacher Academies" at our universities and community colleges where prospective teachers' educations are paid for and teaching jobs will be waiting upon completion, debt free.
• Give a $1,000 signing bonus to teachers who commit to work in low-income schools.
• Expand full day kindergarten.
• Connect schools in rural areas and on tribal lands to high speed internet and create a statewide coding and technology initiative.
• Increase per pupil funding at excelling schools, with even more going to excelling schools with low income students.

Continue reading »

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Monday, January 9, 2017

United We Dream National Educators Week

Posted By on Mon, Jan 9, 2017 at 12:00 PM

United We Dream has asked educators to "come out this January 9 as an unafraid educator and pledge to protect immigrants in your classrooms and community."
Sign this pledge to commit to taking action the week of January 9th - just a few days before the regime of terror of Donald Trump begins.
You can declare yourself an Unafraid Educator or Unafraid Ally publicly by printing the appropriate sign, putting your name on it and posting it on social media. You can get more information about how educators can help in the detailed and informative #HereToStay Toolkit for K-12 Educators & Schools.

According to the group's website:
United We Dream is the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation. Our powerful nonpartisan network is made up of over 100,000 immigrant youth and allies and 55 affiliate organizations in 26 states. We organize and advocate for the dignity and fair treatment of immigrant youth and families, regardless of immigration status.

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Friday, January 6, 2017

TUSD Magnet Schools, Desegregation, and the Next Step

Posted By on Fri, Jan 6, 2017 at 9:00 AM

  • Courtesy of Shutterstock
It's no surprise that a number of TUSD schools lost their magnet status. A magnet school is supposed to have something special about it to attract students who are outside the neighborhood, with the purpose of improving the school's ethnic balance, and the district has failed to meet the court's required goals for the schools. The six schools are Ochoa Elementary, Robison Elementary, Safford K-6, Utterback 6-7, and Cholla and Pueblo high schools. The schools aren't closing, but they will no longer be considered magnet schools.

This is a failure for TUSD and its students, an opportunity lost. Most studies indicate that students achieve at higher levels in more integrated schools, especially minority students. On top of that, society benefits when people learn to know each better other across ethnic lines, and integrated schools are an ideal place for that to happen.

However, there's another side to the story. TUSD is, depending on how you look at it, in good company or bad company in its failure to integrate its schools. The famous 1954 Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education, made it unconstitutional for states to demand that schools be segregated, but across the nation 68 years later, segregation has increased since 1970, and there are few signs that trend will turn around any time soon. Recently I did a reasonably extensive online search looking for urban school districts whose integration efforts could be called successful. Few came even close to qualifying. One of the rare exceptions is the Jefferson County Schools in the Louisville, Kentucky, area. The way it has succeeded is by creating a county-wide school district, then dividing it into 13 separate clusters, each containing an economic and ethnic student mix, and even this successful plan nearly collapsed any number of times due to intense public pressure. There may be a case of an urban district which has successfully desegregated its schools using the magnet school model, but I haven't come across it.

Charter schools, by the way, tend to be more segregated than district schools, so going with charters isn't a deseg solution.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Private School Vouchers Are Bad For Arizona. Discuss.

Posted By on Wed, Jan 4, 2017 at 11:18 AM

It's almost a sure thing that the Republican-led AZ legislature will try to add more funding and more students to our two private school voucher systems this year. They try it every year, and they usually succeed. The only questions are, what will their additions look like, and will they make it to Gov. Ducey's desk?

The Arizona School Boards Association has put together a three minute primer on the state's two voucher systems: Student Tuition Organizations (aka backdoor vouchers) and Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (aka Educational Savings Accounts, also aka Vouchers on Steroids). The information in the video is pretty accurate, though it's possible to quibble around the edges. As for its anti-voucher slant, which I agree with, you don't have to agree to learn more about how the two programs work.

Remember, vouchers have nothing to do with charters. Charters are publicly-funded, privately run schools which get more-or-less the same amount of tax dollars per student as district schools. Vouchers are about using tax dollars to pay for tuition to private schools.

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Has Arizona Reached Peak Charter?

Posted By on Thu, Dec 29, 2016 at 1:01 PM

  • Illustration from graphic
I've been wondering lately, has the growth in the number of students in Arizona's charter schools slowed significantly? This is just speculation, built on wisps and indications I've noticed over the past few years. But it may be that our charter schools have completed their rapid expansion and reached something like an equilibrium in their percentage of the overall student population.

I've been sensing this for awhile, but a possible confirmation came from an article titled Charter School Enrollment Continues To Rise In Arizona. It sounds like it should be an affirmation of the continued growth in the number of students in charters, but a bit of number crunching makes it seem like it's damning the increases with faint praise.
About 180,000 students currently attend charter schools in Arizona. That’s an increase of 8,000 students in the last year.

At the same time, district school enrollment has stayed the same.
Let's look at those numbers. Adding 8,000 students amounts to a 4.7 percent charter enrollment increase across the state. That's not bad, adding a little under five percent in a year. But with 180,000 students, charters have less than 20 percent of the state's total student enrollment. Over a million students attend district schools. The 8,000 student increase amounts to less than one percent of the district school population.

That 180,000 student, number is on the Arizona Charter Schools Association website. But the association's 20 Years of Charters publication says the charter population was 190,000 in 2013-14. If that figure is correct, charters have actually lost 10,000 students from a few years ago. If it's a projection, it means the association was far too optimistic about enrollment growth. An enrollment chart in the publication shows increases have slowed since charter schools first opened in the mid-1990s.

Continue reading »

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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The City Of Tucson Makes a Statement

Posted By on Tue, Dec 27, 2016 at 9:00 AM

  • Public Domain Pictures
Last week, the City of Tucson joined a number of other concerned cities across the nation by adopting a resolution supporting immigrant immigrant rights and condemning the kind of mass deportation policies Trump promised during the campaign. It passed unanimously.

Resolution #22699 is long and detailed. It refers back to a resolution adopted in April, 2012, which was "a declaration of five principles to guide Arizona's immigration discussion," as well as other resolutions and memorials adopted since then. The current resolution states:
The Mayor and Council condemn any threat, by any elected official, of mass deportations, and publicly proclaim through this Resolution that the City shall not participate in any such actions.

The Mayor and Council further publicly proclaim through this Resolution the commitment to protect all members of our community so they can live their lives free of fear and can feel safe in our city.
The mission and policies of the Tucson Police Department in regards to human rights and immigration are specified in 12 points, including: prohibiting racial profiling; recognizing that "unauthorized presence in the United States is not a criminal offense"; affirming it "will not make immigration status inquiries during consensual contacts with members of the public and will not make such inquiries of victims and witnesses of crime"; and affirming that "School Resource Officers, when interacting with minors, shall refrain from asking about immigration status."

The City also published a valuable Resource Guide for Immigrant Families, which begins,
Following the harsh language and statements regarding immigration in the 2016 presidential campaign, we understand that many immigrant families are currently experiencing high levels of anxiety and fear. We know these can be difficult times, but Tucson is committed to doing everything we can do to ensure that as residents of our city, you feel safe and valued. As an Immigrant Welcoming City, we will stand united and protect one another.
The guide explains immigrants' rights and legal options and provides a list of organizations providing legal help and support.

Other local governmental and educational organizations should follow suit. They now have two excellent templates to guide them: the resolution and resource guide provided by the City of Tucson and a resolution passed by TUSD a week earlier.

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