Guest Blogger

A post from guest blogger and Fordham Director of Ohio Policy and Research Suzannah Herrmann.

As Stafford mentioned, we just returned from the National Press Club. Since today's presentation by the National Working Group on Funding Student Learning has some interesting implications for state policy, I thought I'd throw in my perspective on what this report could mean for policy in Ohio, Fordham's other base.

The report notes up front that "states will never educate all students to high standards unless they first fix the finance system that support's America's schools." This is not the same thing as calling for more money for schools, but rather it is a call for making sure we get more from the $500 billion Americans already spend annually on elementary and secondary education. This call has special resonance in our home state of Ohio where the Governor has staked his administration's reputation on "fixing" the state's school funding system. Ohio is one of 20 states that have been deemed "unconstitutional" by state high-court judges because funding levels were deemed insufficient. This report "Funding Student Learning" notes that between 1990 and 2005, average inflation-adjusted expenditures on education in America...

As a Maryland resident I have to decide how to vote on the state's Question 2 next week, which would legalize slot machines and use the resulting revenue for education. And while the image of seniors throwing their social security checks down the slot machine toilet leaves me a little queasy, I've come to see this as a brilliant solution to the problems identified by radical Robert Samuelson last week. The financial pressure of baby boomers retiring en masse is likely to squeeze tax dollars that otherwise could have gone to the education of our young. So the slot machine solution is perfect, for it simply recoups a chunk of elderly-entitlement spending and hands it over to the next generation. Sure, it's less efficient than just trimming entitlements in the first place, but politics is the art of the possible, right?


Mike Antonucci wants everyone to know that AFT President Randi Weingarten only makes $350,000 a year.

(You heard it here first.)

We've just returned from the School Finance Redesign Project Panel (and were caught in the rain, no less!) Here are some final thoughts:

Great ideas... not so practical. I'll give you two examples.

In the ideas area, I was struck by Guthrie's thoughts on the transformation of American education. 50 years ago, he asserts, you could drop out of high school and still get a job and have a productive, comfortable life. Today, those jobs that don't require education have either disappeared or moved overseas. As a result, we, as a nation, are facing a momentous task: educating everyone and educating them well. He proposes that we're the first modern, democratic, industrialized nation to confront this challenge. NCLB may be an "awkward instrument" but we are venturing into new territory.

Criticizing NCLB is the new "it" thing to do (presidential election, anyone?). I can almost hear someone saying, "It's an axe when we need a scalpel"...[cue laughter] The point is that Guthrie is largely right. Most countries don't even attempt to educate everyone or consider that doing so is a laudable goal. Take Germany, for example. It fits all of Guthrie's criteria (or those that I...

Panelist James Guthrie of Vanderbilt University asked an interesting question that goes beyond the education community: "What do we do when we don't know what to do? What steps do we take when there is no clear technical guidance for policy?"

As explained by Guthrie, the latest School Finance Redesign Project report advocates:

-Specifying desired goals, but making these goals comprehensive enough to avoid goal displacement (i.e. getting side tracked)

-Making sure our measurement systems are aligned with these goals

-Establishing a comprehensive information system

-Determinig better methods of what works

-Putting the resources near those who deliver services

-Dismantling the current incentive system, which rewards getting as far...

Right now, Amber, Suzannah and I are at the National Press Club for the University of Washington School Finance Redesign Project's conclusionary panel. The report being released is the product of five years of work. The basic premise: schools will never provide quality education if the funding system is broken. Jacob Adams, the panel moderator, says the question to ask is: How can we translate resources into results?

It's going to start with understanding that the school system today is not structured to support ambitious learning goals and then reform the complicated and opaque finance system operations.

To do this, we must answer the following questions:

-How can we effectively deliver, manage and account for dollars?

-What can we do right now?

-How can the policy community support what's going on in schools?

-How can we learn more about school finance to continue...

You read that right: Kudos to the NEA. According to the Wall Street Journal editorial page, the teachers union and its California affiliate have coughed up $1.25 million to defeat an anti-gay marriage initiative in the Golden State. This is welcome news for two reasons. First, gay marriage is a good idea. (Not that you care what an education wonk thinks about gay marriage, but hey, what's a blog for?) And second, that's $1.25 million that won't be supporting the NEA's typical nefarious work of combating every promising education reform proposal known to man. It's a real win-win!

* Mike Antonucci says it was just the California Teachers Association that donated. Well darn, I wanted to praise the NEA for something....

Don Soifer of the Lexington Institute provides some interesting background on the portfolio issue, and why this wonky topic matters.

I really enjoy Andy Rotherham as a colleague and friend (you know, the way Joe Biden loves John McCain), but in this recent post he sounds an awful lot like Greg Marmalard, the Omega President in Animal House who thinks he's smarter than everyone else.

First some background. Last week, Andy and Sara Mead released a Brookings Institution report that called for a new federal role in supporting education entrepreneurs. At the release event, in an Education Week story, and in this post, I criticized Andy and Sara for failing to learn key lessons from the No Child Left Behind experience. Specifically, I found them to be overly optimistic that the feds would be able to convince states and locals to remove obstacles to education entrepreneurs (Jay Greene thinks so too)*; those of us in the Bush Administration sure did try our darndest to do this, particularly in the case of NCLB's public school choice and supplemental services provisions, to no avail. That's because, as I argued, the feds have few tools to coerce states and districts to do things they...

Laura Pohl

Today's Friday, which means there's a pretty good chance your child is being taught by a substitute teacher. According to this new study by the Center for American Progress, public school teachers are more likely to be absent on Mondays and Fridays, and on any given day one in 20 teachers is out. Their absences add up to $4 billion a year in substitute teacher payments and associated administrative costs. USA Today's Greg Toppo reports that study author Raegan Miller suggests paying teachers for unused sick leave. Read more of the study here and read Greg's report here.