Flypaper

Amy Fagan

So, just a funny Friday-afternoon tidbit. Apparently last night, The Daily Show's Jonn Stewart did a little skit called "Senate Confirmation Hearings Roast," in which, among other nominees, he pokes fun at Arne Duncan for keeping his kids out of school that day (truancy), and having his son fetch him water during the hearing (child labor laws). It's kind of funny....

Amy Fagan

Well well. Look who's going head-to-head with the new education secretary. Our own Mike Petrilli! Check out this USA Today piece about the stimulus and its big payday for schools. Arne calls it "an extraordinary opportunity." Mike says it's "redefining the federal role" in education.

By the way, Mike is quoted in a USA Today stimulus article that ran earlier this week, too.

Education Week reports this week on efforts by reform-minded district leaders to recruit and retain better teachers by "front-loading" teacher compensation to pay new teachers significantly more than they'd make under a traditional salary schedule:

Economists who study teacher compensation say most salary schedules, combined with defined-benefit pension plans, tilt compensation strongly toward veteran teachers regardless of those teachers' effectiveness at raising student achievement.

Low starting pay, they argue, discourages talented individuals who might otherwise consider teaching from giving it a try. And lock-step salary increases can drive away young teachers who feel they aren't earning what they are worth.

The driving idea behind front-loaded pay systems is to bring the teacher-development and -compensation trajectories together, thus giving beginning teachers the opportunity to win high salaries sooner, and by extension, improving districts' ability to recruit and retain teachers.

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According to the New York Daily News this morning, NY Chancellor Joel Klein is making some big cuts for next year--15,000 jobs, specifically, and most of them teachers. Class sizes will increase and some programs (no word on which ones) will get cut. "There's no way for me to sugarcoat the budget situation in??New York City," he explained.

We here at Fordham have been calling for some fat-trimming for some time now. Per that opinion, this decision is right on the money. (Eh! It's a pun!) I'm not going to rehash that argument. What I am curious about is the ratio of cuts to funds from, say, 2 or 3 years ago. Sure, no one wants to see art class and after school programs cut, but schools should be subject to the same rules as everyone else when it comes to the economy. This is the umpteenth time we've heard predictions of disaster due to budget cuts from teachers, unions, parents, legislators-you name it. But is it really disaster? Every year budgets go up for schools, at a much higher rate than inflation would deem necessary. Enrollment across the country is dropping...

Laura Pohl

Checker and Mike tackle the bleak question "Will the recession kill school reform?" in a commentary just published on Forbes.com. They write:

Understand that gloomy fiscal news does not necessarily portend worse schools or an end to serious reforming. To the contrary, an earnest campaign to "trim the public sector's fat" would not only turn up many plump candidates to cut, it could actually make our education system more effective.

You can read the whole opinion piece here.

Take a look at this dandy from AEI's Rick Hess, in today's New York Times article about the federal stimulus package's largesse for the nation's schools:

Frederick Hess, an education policy analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, criticized the bill as failing to include mechanisms to encourage districts to bring school budgets in line with property tax revenues, which have plunged with the bursting of the real estate bubble.

"It's like an alcoholic at the end of the night when the bars close, and the solution is to open the bar for another hour," Mr. Hess said.

Bam! Want to hear more insightful comments like that one? Listen to the Education Gadfly Show podcast every week, hosted by yours truly and Dr. Hess.

Amy Fagan

"It's Raining Ed$." That's the headline the National Review Online's "The Corner" chose for a recent post on the economic stimulus package. The post quotes Fordham's Mike Petrilli, who manages to diss the idea that the ed money is a temporary rescue AND diss fluffy-haired Blago, all in one fell swoop. Check it out. (If you do, you'll also see a Rick Hess quote about an alcoholic in a bar!) The NRO post cites a NY Times stimulus article, the heart of which I think is probably this:

Critics and supporters alike said that by its sheer scope, the measure could profoundly change the federal government's role in education, which has traditionally been the responsibility of state and local government.

I think Mike has it exactly right when he says, "There's no doubt in my mind that the implementation of No Child Left Behind could have been much more successful had we engaged the Department's career staff earlier and in a more meaningful way."

I found this exact problem on the state level when I was doing research last year for my senior thesis. I wanted to look at the unquantifiable variables in NCLB's implementation in New Haven, CT (a typically struggling, mostly minority, high poverty urban area). I set up interviews with local and state officials and was given access, in particular, to some of the state-federal correspondence. This included publically released documents like new regulations, interpretations of the law, and similar (all of which, if you're interested, you can find online). These were understandably in dry bureaucratic monotone. But I also got to see some of the letters exchanged over Connecticut's request for waivers and in response to questions posed about different standards. I got a glimpse of some email correspondence, too, and of course I talked to lots and lots of people. The one theme running throughout all of it? Nasty...

In today's State of the State address , Ohio Governor Ted Strickland clarified his position on charter schools:

For those who may have misunderstood my position on charter schools, I want to be very clear. I support charter schools that meet the same high standards we demand of traditional public schools. Charter schools that hire quality teachers, show fiscal and academic accountability, are regulated by the Department of Education, and are not run by for-profit management services have a place in my plan.

If Strickland gets his way, for-profit operators are on their way out, regardless of how well their schools perform. Of course if "meeting[ing] the same high standards we demand of traditional schools" means adhering to the same regulations and bureaucratic demands as districts, then all charters will be packing their bags in the Buckeye State.

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