Friday, September 23, 2011

Major NCLB Changes Ahead

President Obama announced this afternoon that states will be able to apply for waivers to No Child Left Behind. Educators and policy makers have complained for years about the unreasonableness of certain NCLB mandates such as the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

Instead of the sanction orientated focus of the Bush years, the new emphasis will be recognizing and rewarding successful schools while providing struggling schools with targeted support and more flexibility.

One major change is the elimination of the 2014 drop dead date to have proficiency for 100% of students. Instead, states will be able to have realistic improvement goals for students in reading/language arts and mathematics.

States and school districts will have greater flexibility on the use of federal funds, while at the same time funds to meet the needs of particular populations of students will be protected.

Under the waiver, priority schools will no longer have to choose one of the four intervention models. They can design their own improvement plan based on turnaround principles.

Teacher evaluation systems will not have to be fully implemented until 2014-15 school year. This will allow states time to develop stronger and sensible evaluation systems.

In order to qualify for a waiver, states must develop a plan to address three areas of education reform: 1. Statewide college and career ready standards and assessments for students. Delaware is ahead of most states in this area 2. Systems for differentiated recognition, accountability and support. In other words, a way to identify and provide resources for the lowest performing schools. Again, Delaware has this system operating. 3. Evaluation and support for teacher and principal effectiveness. Delaware's DPAS II fits this model.

The hard work of Delaware educators in winning the Race To The Top grant may now pay off in another way. The requirements for NCLB waiver appear to be very similar to the requirements for RTTT.

Ok readers, I hope the above article makes sense. I had to write it in a hurry, but I wanted you to know the scoop before the weekend.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Jobs Bill Offers New Hope

The Obama Administration sent the Jobs Bill to Congress today. Tonight, Vice-President Biden was on a national phone call with educators explaining aspects of the Jobs Bill. Education is a major part of the bill because the Administration continues to recognize education as key to our future, because we have lost 129,000 education jobs since January, and because educators are prime examples of middle class workers.

The bill has $30 billion to employee 280,000 educators for the school years 2011-2012, and 2012-2013. This type of stimulus is at work, right now in Delaware. Delaware is today utilizing money they saved from the 2010 Education Jobs Act to keep educators working this year.

$30 billion will be used to renovate our crumbling schools. $10 billion of this money will be distributed directly to school districts utilizing Title 1 funding formula. The other $15 billion will be sent to the states to allocate for school building and repairing. The average age of a US school is forty and the buildings are notoriously energy inefficient. It is estimated that we might save $2 to $4 billion on energy costs with new and renovated buildings.

$5 billion is in the legislation for community colleges although their need is much greater as demand for their services have increased with the bad economy.

Other middle class help in the bill includes deeper cuts to payroll tax and foreclosure relief.

Small business tax cuts are included as well as tax credits for those businesses hiring veterans and the long-term unemployed.

For those that have caught the fiscal conservative bug, this bill is paid for by closing tax loopholes. For example, in spite of year after year of grossly high profits, we continue to give oil companies tax breaks worth $37 billion. We also allow hedge fund managers (who actually detract, not add to the economy) to be taxed at 15% instead of the 28% rate that common folks pay on earnings. Both of these loopholes are closed by the law.

This stimulus package creates about 1.9 million jobs. The entire debt ceiling/ deficit reduction fiasco created zero jobs.

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Jobs Bill is Coming

If you are reading this consider yourself invited to join the Delaware State Education Association at the annual Labor Day Parade in Wilmington, Delaware. We will line up at 9:30Am at 15th and King Streets. Give an hour to Labor since they gave you the whole weekend!
President Obama will be unveiling a new jobs program in a few days. One interesting distraction has been the setting of the date to address Congress. The Republican House rejected the first offered date and suggested another...well you can hear about it in the news. The only reason I say "interesting" is that I have never seen such crude disrespect for the office of the Presidency than I have since Obama took office. Remember Congressman Joe Wilson's "You lie!" during the State of the State? Or John Boehner's not returning the President's phone calls? There have been other incidents as well. The point is civility appears to be gone. It's like the meaner cousins of the Beverly Hillbillies have come to Congress.
Let us all hope that Obama's jobs plan will be worth the wait when the House does finally let him speak. Playing catch up is always difficult, but that's what he needs to do. When Obama's first stimulus, the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, was before the people he should have stated something along these lines:
My predecessor attempted to help this economy with a massive initiative in trickle down economics when he bailed out the banks. This Administration is not going to do that. We are going to put money at the grassroots level to stimulate the economy and in the process of putting people back to work we will improve our education system, repair crumbling infrastructure, and move the nation forward in alternative energy and green economy. With all that said, I must warn you: This is a deep recession. Just like the Administration of FDR, we may have to come back again, and maybe again, with more stimulus until the citizens in this country are back on their economic feet. I will never apologize for investment that puts us back to work and strengthens us for the future.

Unfortunately nothing like the above was said during the first stimulus fight. So, instead of creating jobs with federal spending, we've been on a mission to cut federal spending. We didn't think of taking on this job when we gave $1 Trillion in tax cuts to the wealthy, when we took on two wars costing billions of dollars every month, or even when we gave billions to extremely profitable oil companies. No, we decided to cut spending in the middle of a deep recession. FDR must be rolling in his grave.

How the President now changes the debate from 'kill government and shrink its head', to 'government is the only entity that can get money moving again in the economy so lets rebuild and build anew', I don't know. However, he is a great communicator. Moreover he's going in the right direction and there is a power that comes from doing the right thing.