A pair of Argus op-eds
Posted Wednesday, May 16, 2007
There's lots of opinion flying in the Argus Leader this morning, with the editorial board chiming in regarding Attorney General Long's request of the Auditor General and Senate Minority Leader Scott Heidepriem chipping back at House Majority Larry Rhoden.
The Argus Leader editorial board tells the state to drop the audit idea, and needles the legislators that supported the idea.
Here's what all this means: Legislators have control over school funding, and the only way anyone can change that is to vote them out of office. Even if they're cheating students. Even if their funding levels are unconstitutional.
And now legislators are trying to shut down even the Coalition of Schools.
Long's effort simply is one to drive the last nail in the coffin of the lawsuit. Let it go. As long as we've started down this path - and as long as legislators refuse to adequately fund our schools - let's at least find out if what's going on meets a constitutional test. That doesn't seem too much to ask.
Scott Heidepriem, the democratic Senator from Sioux Falls, fires a response to an earlier editorial written by republication legislator Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center. In his letter, Rhoden defended the Legislature's recent efforts, insisting that lawmakers got plenty accomplished.
Sen. Heidepriem challenges that, calling the House Republican caucus divisive.
For most of the 2007 session, the Legislature worked in a bipartisan way to improve education funding. However, that bipartisan unity fell short at the hands of the Republican House Caucus.
... and ...
Senate Republicans, Senate Democrats and House Democrats were united in a sweeping and positive agenda for K-12 funding with an index factor, endorsed by the Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce. This index factor, for the first time, would link the idea that adequate education funding is a tool for economic development. The House Republicans killed the proposal. Our teachers are paid the least in the country.
Senate Republicans, Senate Democrats and House Democrats were united in support of early childhood development, a concept supported by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis as carrying a return on investment of 16.7 percent, for every dollar invested in children, in an entirely voluntarily private-public partnership. The primary sponsor was Republican Sen. Tom Dempster. House Republicans killed it. Only eight states lack such a plan.
Oklahoma Supreme court upholds dismissal of adequacy suit
Posted Thursday, May 10, 2007
The Oklahoma Supreme Court will not tell the Legislature it has to allocate more state resources to K-12 education, a decision handed down Tuesday says.
The court action, supported by the Oklahoma Education Associaton and three Oklahoma school districts, called for an addtional $1 billion to be spent on K-12 education in the state.
"Questions of fiscal and educational policy are vested in the Legislature, and its wisdom in these areas are not within the scop of this court's review," the opinion said. A lower court had ruled that the state's funding system was a political question, an not within the jurisdiction of the courts.
Roy Bishop, president of the teacher's union, was disappointed in the ruling. He told the Associated Press that the court held that the Legislature is "free to ignore legislatively enacted goals for the improvement of public educaton."
School chiefs tackle NCLB
Posted Thursday, May 10, 2007
The officials in charged with the administration of No Child Left Behind at the state level are weighing in as the nation's signature eduation law moves toward reauthorization.
Ed Week (subscription required) reports that national standards were a hot topic at the April Council of State School Officials meeting in Washington, D.C. As pressure to raise the bar has increased, some national education advocacy groups have pushed for a set of national standards to replace state standards, which typically vary in their rigor.
Several state education secretaries took a cautious approach to the issue, expressing understanding for a need to improve U.S. competitiveness but stopping short of endorsing national education standards. Unfunded federal mandates pose problems for states, many said during the three-day meeting.
Several top officials also expressed concerns that federal funding falls short of what is needed for the program.
From Ed Week:
Ms. Jeffrey, of Iowa, said: “I don’t think anyone has appropriately committed to what it takes to meet the goal of 100 percent proficiency [of students in reading and math by the end of the 2013-14 school year]. It’s a very ambitious goal, and it’s the right goal. We simply don’t have the resources to do this.”
South Dakota Education Secretary Rick Melmer serves in a leadership capacity for the Council of Chief State School Officials.
Lawmakers taking up cyberbullying
Posted Thursday, May 10, 2007
Lawmakers in Minnesota, Oregon and Washington are working on legislation to combat cyberbullying, a new form of harassment that takes place through electronic communications.
Debra Hilstrom, the Minnesota representative that carried the bill, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that new technologies, such as cell phones and MySpace, have made bullying a lot easier.
Some South Dakota districts have already taken the step to enact cyberbullying policies, and a recent incident in Beresford - where a threat posted on the social networking site Facebook caused district officials to close school - may futher the issue.
Cyberbullying is yet another in a string of issues that are causing school leaders to change the way they think about school safety. While some fear free speech infringements, there's a passioned argument for schools taking the leading in heading off violent situations before they occur.
To find out more about cyberbullying, click here.
In Kansas: first evolution, now sex education
Posted Tuesday, May 8, 2007
The Kansas Board of Education is set to establish new comprehensive abstinence-based sex education program instead of the abstinence-until-marriage curriculum currently used, the Kansas City Star Reports.
The new standards are the second major policy shift since board's composition shifted to a "moderate majority" in the 2006 elections. Just after the election, they repealed the nation's only intelligence design standards.
From the Kansas City Star:
“Comprehensive” sex ed curriculums stress abstinence as the safest choice but give more information about practicing safe sex than an abstinence-only curriculum, according to board member Sue Gamble of Shawnee.
“It’s pretty much what’s been taught in Kansas schools for 30-plus years,” she said. “It’s teaching kids the only foolproof way of protecting yourself is abstinence. However, it understands that kids need the facts and need information if they choose to become sexually active.”
As a part of the new standards, local school boards will be given the option to send permission slips to parents that would allow the students to opt-out of the class. Previously, the state mandated the use of permission slips.
Florida mandates elementary P.E.
Posted Tuesday, May 8, 2007
The Florida Legislature has approved mandatory physical education for elementary school students, the Miami Herald reports.
Lawmakers added 30 minutes of daily physical activity to elementary requirements to encourage activity and combat rising rates of child obesity.
Jayne Greenberg, director of physical educaiton for Miami-Dade schools, said it's time to address the problem. "It's long overdue for the state," Greenberg told the Herald. "Being physically active and eating right becomes a way of life - it's a habit we have to teach our children. Teaching them young is the way to start it."
Florida Governor Charlie Crist has announced his intentions to sign the bill.
A rollercoaster called improvement
Posted Monday, May 7, 2007
In the name of progress - to create the new electronic Bulletin and to integrate it into our site - Open Forum has been up and down over the past 10 days.
We would have mentioned it sooner, but in many respects, it just happened.
Sorry for the inconvenience - we'll get back to posting. As always - we hope you continue to enjoy your association's efforts to communicate with our members.
Gates chips in $60 million
Posted Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Bill Gates will team with two other large donors to vault public education to the top of the political agenda in 2008, the New York Times reports.
The Strong American Schools project will spend more than $60 million on a public awareness campaign themed around the slogan "Ed in '08." According to the Times, the campaign will rank as one of the most expensive single-issue initiatives ever.
Eli Broad, the founding of SunAmerica Inc. and KB Home, joins the Microsoft founder in trying to make public education a priority in the coming presidential election. Broad told the Times that education is getting overshadowed by foreign policy and healthcare. "Right now it's too low on the list of priorities for all the candidates," Broad told the Times, "and our job is to get it up on the list."
From the Times:
The project will not endorse candidates — indeed, it is illegal to do so as a charitable group — but will instead focus on three main areas: a call for stronger, more consistent curriculum standards nationwide; lengthening the school day and year; and improving teacher quality through merit pay and other measures.
While the effort is shying away from some of the most polarizing topics in education, like vouchers, charter schools and racial integration, there is still room for it to spark vigorous debate. Advocating merit pay to reward high-quality teaching could force Democratic candidates to take a stand typically opposed by the teachers unions who are their strong supporters.
Pushing for stronger, more uniform standards, on the other hand, could force Republican candidates to discuss the potential merits of a national curriculum, a concept advocates for states’ rights deeply oppose and one that President Bush has not embraced.
While all education groups may not agree with the "ED in '08" platform, the group's decision to put education on the front burner will provide a rare, well-funded opportunity for dialogue.