Tuesday, December 18, 2007

School Choice Making Its Way

The recent statewide vote in Utah got my hopes up, only temporarily though. I thought it was going to pass but I was unfortunately mistaken. However, it did not squash my hopes for the rest of the country. I still believe school choice will help the schools and definitely help the children. Missouri may get there sooner than I thought. According to The Joplin Globe's article "Proposal Would Increase Missouri School Funding":

Another issue that may surface in the 2008 legislative session is school choice.
Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon, has submitted a bill that would allow parents of private-school or home-schooled students to be reimbursed their school property taxes.

The article also discussed Governor Blunt's plan for funding increases in education.
Although this legislation piece is not school choice for every child, it is a step in the right direction. The article also points out the Missouri National Education Association (MNEA) is against school choice, which is nothing new to hear of from a teacher's union. My hope is that the MNEA and other opposing organizations will step away from the organization's bureaucracy and look for what is best for the children.

Monday, December 17, 2007

There is no Secret we Need Change!

Yesterday's Columbia Daily Tribune gave me hope that other people are thinking what I am thinking. It first pointed out that our education program is under distress. Something drastic needs to change to help in order to create an educational program that actually works. The article discusses the changes that may be occurring in Missouri and how these changes can positively affect our educational dilemmas. Hank Waters, from the Columbia Daily Tribune:

The argument for increased competition will be irresistible, but rather than bring demise, increasing options for students can strengthen and improve public education.

In Columbia, where our local schools are better and better funded than average, change will come slower. In the nation's worst schools, like the ones in Washington, D.C. and St. Louis, parents are desperate and alternatives will arrive more quickly.

Living in rural areas poses different obstacles for education than ones faced in urban areas. There are few schools around, but we still do not have a choice. My daughter excels at her school, but her brother could use a school with a different teaching atmosphere. Our district, Missouri, and the Nation need a reform and I hope it happens soon. Many children are falling through the cracks and that is devastating. These children will deal with this for the rest of their lives, and believe it or not, so will we.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

An Educated Guess

As tax season looms, those of us who say “ouch” every year should be pleased that Columbia School District is no longer wasting money suing taxpayers. From: Columbia Daily Tribune.

Janese Heavin of the Columbia Daily Tribune writes:
“Either David Ballenger doesn’t plan to seek re-election or he needs a new campaign manager. Ballenger last night joined the rest of the board in removing the district from the funding lawsuit -- but not before making it clear that he wasn’t doing it for his
constituents. It started when Tom Rose suggested that the board represent its patrons, many of whom have said they do not want to spend any more tax dollars on litigation against the state. Michelle Gadbois raised that same concern to me prior to the meeting, saying she wants voters to trust that board members are good stewards of tax dollars. But Ballenger quickly shot the notion down, saying he will “not be held hostage” by the public. “If we think” getting out of the lawsuit “is best for the district, that’s one thing,” he said. “But I don’t think we ought to make the decision based on whether a levy is going to pass in April.” “I would have never voted to join it in the first place,” Rose countered. Ballenger, who is up for re-election this year, was on the board in 2003 when he and other members voted to join the funding lawsuit.”

Avail yourselves of the democratic process, Columbians, and demonstrate the difference between representing a group of people and being “held hostage” to Mr. Ballenger. Ultimately, though, even he voted against Columbia continuing in the lawsuit.

The vote by the Columbia Board of Education was unanimous that the school district discontinue their involvement in Missouri’s school funding adequacy trial. I think this is the second best move—right next to not having participated in the first place. Many of the board members realized and voiced their concerns about the merit of the case and about using tax money wisely.

Taxes, in my mind, take a backseat to education. But there’s only so much (literally, constitutionally) that you can tax folks. The limited resource of funding forces us to say “is that the best possible use for that money?” If it’s not, then school boards have a moral imperative to examine the issue and redirect the money. Columbia fulfilled that imperative this week, and I can almost guarantee that kids will be better educated if you put the money into the classroom instead of the courtroom.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Q & A

What’s worse than a worm in your Apple?

A: Two worms in your Apple.

Q: What’s worse than two worms in your apple?

A: School Finance litigation.

I’ve always liked that as a set-up for a joke. But this is no joke. Mike Podgursky, an economist and expert witness in Missouri’s school funding trial argues against Columbia’s involvement in Sunday’s Columbia Daily Tribune.

Major points of absurdity that he points out:

As many districts drop out of this suit, Columbia’s share of the legal fees grows.

The resounding defeat in Circuit Court leaves virtually no hope that a State Supreme Court judge will radically reverse the situation.

Even if Columbia miraculously wins, the district stands to potentially lose money since they receive some of the highest spending in the state.

Now, I hadn’t thought about this last one, but Podgursky is right: Hancock Amendment implications are such that a state tax increase would be difficult if not impossible. Therefore, Columbia and the other school districts are asking that billions of dollars come out of other state programs with potentially catastrophic results. I think Columbia is beginning to see the light, but it needs to come up again and again and again until they stop spending tax dollars on lawyers.

The Promised Land of Education

Voters have spoken, and district ready for transition to begin
By Kelly Evenson | Kelly.evenson@examiner.net

Now that voters in both the Independence and Kansas City school districts have approved the transfer of seven schools, the real work is beginning. "This is one of the largest annexations in the history of the state," said Independence Superintendent Jim Hinson. "It is a pretty significant undertaking." Next summer, seven schools currently in the Kansas City School District will become a part of the Independence School District. These schools include Mount Washington, Sugar Creek, Three Trails, North Rock Creek/Korte and Fairmount elementary schools, Nowlin Middle School and Van Horn High School.

From the Blue Springs Examiner

Voting is wonderful. Russia, Venezuela, Iraq, Cuba, Chile and the list keeps going of countries where voting has been relegated to a shadow of its original meaning. But as Americans, we enjoy some of the best individual freedoms and security of expression, and some of the most control over what our government does. It may not always seem like that, but it is a great gift from our Framers and Founders.

Voters in Kansas City and Independence recently voted to let seven schools be annexed from Kansas City to Independence. What is significant about this vote is that Kansas City voters had to choose to let the schools go. {Just so you know, I’m thinking about Moses telling the Pharaoh to “Let my people go”, with Moses played by Independence School District and Pharaoh played by Kansas City. Major plot differences include a decided lack of plagues}

But Kansas City voters chose overwhelmingly to let the schools go, even though they would lose revenue—without a plague of locusts swaying their opinion. Kansas City is beginning to understand that no child deserves a sub-par education, and if they can get it better somewhere else, they should have the option to do that. The aptly-named Independence district accepting these ambulant schools will be a sort of trial in the wilderness without a process in place and tested for this kind of migration. Redistricting is difficult and resource consuming endeavor and it is not practical to redistrict every time a school district drops the ball.

We have parents who wanted a change in Kansas City. We have successful districts that understand that the responsibility of bringing poorly performing schools up to snuff is easier than the economic and social impact of failing schools. We see voters in Kansas City who would not benefit from the redistricting saying we understand—students deserve this option. That says to me that parents want choice, and they need a more expedient way to get that.

Public School Funding, SLPS-style


“The Missouri department of education is investigating whether millions of dollars are owed to area charter schools — and whether that money ended up, instead, in the coffers of the St. Louis Public Schools.

Charter leaders estimate they were shorted more than $7 million last year, or roughly 15 percent of their state funding.

Schools are paid for each student enrolled, according to a formula.

Until this year, charter schools — free, public schools run by independent boards outside of district control — got their state money through the St. Louis Public Schools. Now the state pays them directly.

St. Louis school leaders said they paid what was owed and kept the rest.

Some charter administrators said last year was tough.

"Having only 250 kids, every dollar is important, every nickel," said Marshall Cohen, director of Lift for Life Academy, a charter school in the Soulard neighborhood. His school stands to gain roughly $325,000.

"I believe we didn't get all of our money."

But Thursday, at a special administrative board meeting, St. Louis Public Schools CFO Enos Moss told the board that charter schools were using a faulty formula — in fact, he thinks they're getting more than they should.

"These are not dollars that we believe should be paid to the charters," he said.

It is unclear if all 15 current charter school campuses believe they were underpaid. Gerri Ogle, associate commissioner of finance for the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said the state received at least one complaint from an area charter school.

Her staff will now look at the dollars sent to all the schools. She doesn't know how long that will take, nor how much money is involved.

But, she said, if the St. Louis district indeed underpaid the charters, the district would have to reimburse them.”

Public School Funding, SLPS-style

"These are not dollars that we believe should be paid to the charters," he said.

Interesting statement. I can’t speculate on whether SLPS intentionally kept Charter-school money. What this does bring to light is a complete lack of organization. Charter schools ARE public schools, and any money that was kept at SLPS that was intended for a Charter kept those schools from doing their job.

Enos Moss acts as if Charters in the area are scalping too much from the state coffers, when in fact they provide the same service that public schools do: they educate children for free, and for every child that goes to a Charter, the public system is relieved from the associated cost. The amount of money coming from the state is PER CHILD, not per school, not per type of school.

What’s more, we’re talking about the education of children. If, through neglect, mismanagement or spite, more money went to some children and less to others, SLPS failed in its primary mission, which is to “improve the achievement of students in every classroom and in every school.” [from website].

Jeanne Allen, President of the Center for Education Reform [on http://charterschoolreform.org/news/04112005.htm] says,

"The districts and the folks who are threatened by their failure want us all to believe that money somehow is leaving the system, but the system is not where the money is supposed to go. The money is supposed to go to schools to educate students. So the reason that money is moving to different public schools is because parents are choosing to send their kids there. The reason they are sending their kids there is because they are unhappy with the quality of the [St. Louis Public Schools]."

Also ironic that SLPS is a huge funder of the school funding Adequacy Trial saying that the state isn’t giving them enough money when they aren’t passing along the money that belongs to other schools.

Kids Face Struggles Everyday…

Growing up is not easy. Struggling to find a niche can be hard for a child. When parents move, sometimes the children must transfer schools if they moved out of the district. This can be a rough adjustment for some children, while others it is a smooth transition. Foster children face many obstacles in their lives. They are in and out of foster homes, floating through the system, all the while trying to comprehend why they are no longer with their families. With all the struggles they face, wouldn’t it be nice if they did not have to transfer schools when they transfer foster homes. A bill, School Choice for Foster Kids Act, is being introduced by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) that would allow for this. According to Bachmann the act “would give states the flexibility to make younger foster children eligible for education vouchers – currently designated for students 16 to 23 years old – through the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program. It would allow foster parents to send a child to his or her original school or to choose a school that can undertake the unique challenges their foster child may face.”

This is a great bill and I hope it passes. This is a step in the right direction. Children face a wide array of difficulties growing up. Parents are usually the ones who can chose the best for their children, so why should all parents not be able to choose where their child gets educated?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

All Parties for Education Reform

The political arena has many hot button issues. These issues, whether they are health spending, defense spending, taxes, Medicare, social security, or education; are all concerns about most Americans. We elect our officials because we agree with their views on the issues most important to us. While some issues are thought of as more republicans or more democrats views, there are some issues stances that cross over party lines. Education reform is one issue that does not only fit in with only one party. The notion of school choice, once thought of as a republic idea, is now an issue that both sides are directing their attention to. The Democrats for Education Reform
realize the schools are in dire need for help, and they see school choice as one way to accomplish this. Not all Republicans are for school choice either. Giuliani said “there's not as much support even among Republicans for school choice as one might think”.

Bottom line is that school choice should not be seen as a party issue. It should be seen as an education issue, one that needs to be addressed now. Thousands of children across the country are attending failing schools. The children are the ones that matter here.

School Choice is for the Kids:

Club for Growth PAC Praises Giuliani on School Choice

"The Club for Growth PAC praised Rudy Giuliani for promoting school choice yesterday in North Carolina and calling for less government involvement in the country's education system.

Giuliani deemed the American education system “a massive government monopoly of the worst kind.” Instead of increased federal involvement, Giuliani called for school choice, saying “the power has to be put in the hands of the parents to select the schools.”

“Giuliani’s call for competition and choice in education is a refreshing contrast to the Democratic candidates and certain Republicans who advocate a huge federal government role in education," said Club for Growth President Pat Toomey. Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul are the only Republican candidates who oppose private school choice. Huckabee is even pushing for a federally mandated and funded arts and music curriculum.

In contrast, Giuliani refused to kowtow to the education monopoly. When asked how school choice would help reach out to public school teachers during the FOX News GOP debate, Giuliani said, “Well, I love teachers, but I really care about the kids more.”

“Mayor Giuliani understands that more federal involvement is the problem, not the solution,” Mr. Toomey said. “In New York City, Giuliani fought for private school choice against the liberal establishment and is showing the same mettle on the national stage.”"