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The Florida Education Association, state school boards, and the Florida PTA have filed a lawsuit in a Florida court challenging the state’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program (for the second time this summer). The suit argues that the program violates clauses in the state constitution that require educational uniformity and bar state aid to religious organization. There are multiple problems here. First, the plaintiffs should be ashamed that they’re advancing a narrow agenda by jeopardizing the program's 69,000 participants—largely poor and minority students seeking a better education. Second, the U.S. Constitution permits tax credits for donations to religious organizations; if this challenge goes all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Blaine Amendments might be in trouble. The big question is the uniformity clause, which mandates a single, uniform state education system. Hopefully, the Florida Supreme Court interprets the state constitution in a way that doesn’t harm tens of thousands of disadvantaged youngsters.

On Sunday, The New York Times’s Motoko Rich penned a news analysis asking why more men don’t go into teaching. A good question; but she gave a suspect answer. She blamed, among other things, low teacher pay. Inexplicably, she cited perhaps the lowest figure one can find—claiming that the median annual salary for elementary school teachers in the U.S. is a paltry (and hard-to-believe) $40,000. The Gadfly objects! More reliable NCES data show the average salary (not the median) is a much more palatable $56,384. Let’s not make teaching appear less...

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The history-boys edition

Michelle and Alyssa discuss the lack of male teachers, Bill Gates’s Big History Project, and rating schools with classroom grades. Amber tells us whether school superintendents are vital or irrelevant.

Amber's Research Minute

School Superintendents: Vital or Irrelevant?,” by Matthew M. Chingos, Grover J. Whitehurst, and Katharine M. LindquistThe Brookings Institution (September 2014).

  1. The State Board of Ed met this week. What were they talking about? Among other things: fixing an “error” around new end-of-course tests for social studies classes, substitute assessments related to AP/IB students, and dropout recovery programs. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. Why yes, there is a statewide race for Attorney General in Ohio going on. Why do you ask? Probably because the Democratic candidate was talking about education funding to a group of retired teachers this week. Gongwer’s coverage is probably closest to the intent of the challenger’s comments: equating the fight against drug abuse in schools with the fight against the "…‘system-wide debacle’ of charter schools”, both of which he says the incumbent is ignoring to the detriment of children. (Gongwer Ohio). The Dispatch sticks only to the charter school angle, getting wonkily down to a specific issue regarding an upcoming State Supreme Court case. (Columbus Dispatch). Interestingly, the Plain Dealer takes a totally different tack, noting that candidate Pepper decried the state education funding system as unconstitutional but also noting that as Attorney General he’d have to defend it should any challenges come up. Ain’t politics fun? (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. We’ve been following the Keystone Kops-like quest for paperwork in Mansfield that kept potentially dozens of kids from starting school on time after their charter school closed. (Three weeks in and at least 20 high school students are still not enrolled.) However, administrators may finally have realized that getting all those kids on
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  1. Unless I missed something, the last (I mean it!) EdChoice Scholarship application deadline finally occurred last Friday. So it is fitting that we learn today that School Choice Ohio’s legal action against Cincinnati and Springfield school districts to get them to provide requested directory information has been 50 percent successful. To wit: a settlement has been reached in mediation with Cincinnati Schools – details to be revealed later. Mediation efforts with Springfield were unsuccessful and so that case will continue in the courts. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. Late yesterday, a 10-day strike notice was filed by teachers in Reynoldsburg. There’s the brink, folks. Let’s try not to go over it. No one wants to relive 1978 again. No one. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. Gov. Kasich was cornered by the Big D’s editorial board and asked about the prospects for Common Core repeal in Ohio. The full story is worth a read – just to get to know how Kasich answers questions – but here’s the gist: “Until somebody can show me we’re eroding local control, I see no reason to do anything. And I don’t think they’re (the House) going to do anything, to tell you the truth,” Kasich said. “In my judgment, it isn’t going to get to me, and if it does, it isn’t going to look anything like it is." (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  4. Out with the old… We told you some weeks ago about the brouhaha over the Kings school district’s interim superintendent – including
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UNIONIZING CHARTERS
The California Teachers Association has its sights set on charter school organization,Education Week reports. Nationally, the NEA and AFT have been working to bring unions to charter schools, but the sector remains mostly union-free—a good thing in Fordham's view.

BILL GATES SMILES
The New York Times Magazine profiled Bill Gates and his big idea to rework how history is taught in school, but most of the online fodder is around how photographer Dan Winters got the education philanthropist to smile.

SIGNIFICANT SIG CHANGES?
Draft guidance from the Department of Education could mean more financial flexibility for SIG recipients, reports Education Week. But can SIG even be fixed

HOW TO RATE SCHOOLS WITHOUT TEST SCORES
Jay Mathews at the Washington Post takes a crack at the NCLB-aged conundrum: sure, test scores are flawed metrics, but what else can we use? Classroom grades, not test scores. Though insert "Common Core" and this turns into a strong argument for the standards and its assessments....

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  1. Editors in Youngstown seem to have reached their limit with ongoing by-the-book efforts to fix the academic ills of the district. They opined this weekend that “the word dysfunction has become synonymous” with the district, said the state “can no longer sit back and let the status quo prevail”, and urged the state to “not wait for community consensus” and act now to restructure the district to benefit children who are “suffering”. Wow. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  2. Speaking of weekend editorials, editors in Toledo decried the “circus” of Common Core repeal hearings and urged Governor Kasich to stop the wheel spinning by declaring that he would veto any such repeal bill should it reach his desk. (Toledo Blade)
     
  3. Speaking of last week’s hearings, public radio reporter Andy Chow wanted to get clarification of a potentially incendiary comment made by the sponsor of the repeal bill about the number of “intelligent people” who have or have not testified on certain aspects of the Common Core. To wit: how about hearing testimony on a standard-by-standard basis with pros and cons from “intelligent people” on each side? I’m sure it would be an endless and unwieldy process – and Chad’s fingers would likely fall off in the live-tweet attempt – but I wonder if we’d manage to actually get to the bottom of actual concerns about the actual standards that way? (WKSU-FM, Kent)
     
  4. It’s back to the bargaining table for teachers and administrators in Reynoldsburg – hopefully with
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Michael Usdan

There is little that I might add to Checker and Mike's wonderfully fitting tribute to Graham Down. They captured the very essence of a remarkable, multi-faceted, true Renaissance man.

Graham and I were personal and professional friends for better than three decades and crossed paths often in foundation offices as we both constantly sought revenue for our respective organizations: Graham for the Council for Basic Education and me for the Institute for Educational Leadership, which I led for twenty years. Indeed, our tenures as leaders of our respective organizations overlapped for almost two decades.

Despite this ostensible competition and eternal scrambling for scarce funds for our non-profits, we developed a unique and wonderful friendship with good natured, irrepressible humor. I unfailingly would tease Graham about his "Bronx accent" and the decline of his beloved British Empire. He in turn would respond to my taunts (in an infinitely more refined and articulate way) with acerbic comments about the immaturity of the American colonies.

Graham had superb people skills. His leadership of CBE was notable for many reasons. Most importantly, his special ability to bridge and connect diverse individuals and ideologies stands out in stark contrast in the contemporary, polarized education-policy context. Graham's energetic, impeccable persona and commitment to the highest academic standards and liberal arts gave him great credibility in the ranks of reformers and critics of the quality of American education. At the same time, Graham related wonderfully to mainstream educators and their "establishment" organizations.

In other words, he...

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  1. Say you’re someone who wants to open a charter school in Cincinnati, but say that your sponsor was warned in no uncertain terms by the Ohio Department of Education that your school was not allowed to open for a number of, say, very good reasons. What do you do? The folks at Hope4Change took what we’ll call a “counterintuitive” approach.  (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  2. Week Three of Common Core hearings was short and sweet compared to previous iterations. I am sorry that I missed this editorial from Cleveland opining in exasperation at the “circus-like” nature of the hearings to that point, but honestly nothing about that description changed yesterday and it’s still a valid comment. (Cleveland Plain Dealer) A revised and amended version of HB597 was debuted yesterday. Gongwer’s coverage focuses on details of all the changes, and takes time to predict more committee hearings in the future. (Gongwer Ohio) Public radio’s Andy Chow discusses the changes in the bill made yesterday but notes that no further hearings or next steps were announced. (WKSU-FM, Kent) As it has done for the last two weeks, covering in the PD remained focused on the issue of ID in the bill – specifically, new language that the sponsor says will address concerns of those who oppose Intelligent Design being taught in schools. (Cleveland Plain Dealer) The change in language related to creationism also gets top billing in the Big D’s coverage, but I would draw your attention to
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Tony Fischer/Flickr

[Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of personal reflections on the current state of education reform and contemporary conservatism by Andy Smarick, a Bernard Lee Schwartz senior policy fellow with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.  The previous posts in this series can be seen herehere, and here.]

Andy’s odyssey: Part four

The most convincing argument against conservatism is that by defending longstanding institutions it ends up protecting longstanding injustices.

Yes, there is a prima facie case for preservation: It’s sensible to safeguard things that have stood the test of time—libraries, respect for elders, voluntary community associations, the Western canon, charity. But enormous harm is done by protecting old, immoral institutions, like serfdom, honor killings, and the denial of women’s suffrage.

A corollary of the preserve-first approach, that change should occur gradually, promises wise, prudent adjustments. But it too can injure grievously. Ending the military targeting of civilians—once a common wartime practice—needed to happen immediately, not slowly. This understanding is reflected in Gladstone’s adage, “Justice delayed is justice denied;” Goldwater’s admonition, “Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue;” and Dr. King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail rebuke of those advocating patience.

The dark sides of preservation and gradual change have been illuminated by the events of Ferguson and a recent Atlantic article on reparations. They illustrate with agonizing clarity why dramatic change is sometimes required; provide insight into the tragic...

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A fern between two Mikes: The Vergara fight goes coast to coast

A fern between two Mikes: The Vergara fight goes coast to coast

Fordham's Mike Petrilli and AEI's Mike McShane discuss the growth of Vergara-like fights nationwide and the pros and cons of taking the tenure debate to the courts.

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