Educate All Students, Support Public Education

June 29, 2012

IWF Alert: How Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget would impact Wisconsin

Filed under: Right Wing Agenda,Ryan — millerlf @ 8:50 am
New IWF study shows loss of $3.3 billion in federal aid and 26,000 jobs in 2013-14
If Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan’s approach to budgeting became U.S. law, Wisconsin would lose about $3.3 billion in federal spending in the next two years, with a resulting loss of about 26,000 full-time jobs.
Medical assistance programs would suffer most under the Ryan budget, with $1.7 billion cut in 2013 and 2014 compared with current law. That’s enough to keep more than 400,000 adults off Wisconsin’s BadgerCare program.
Income security programs—including food stamps, child nutrition and housing assistance—would lose more than half-a-billion dollars in 2013-14. Over 70,000 households would lose food benefits next year.
Those are conclusions from a new IWF analysis of Ryan’s budget: Which path leads to prosperity? The report details both the statewide impact and the effects on each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties.

MPS School Board President Michael Bonds Refutes Wisconsin Policy Research Institute’s Fabrications

Filed under: MPS — millerlf @ 8:46 am

A misleading picture of MPS liability

By Michael Bonds June 27, 2012, Milwaukee JS

The Christian Schneider column published Wednesday contains information that is, at best, flatly misleading.

Before he even gets to the main point of his argument – and there are critical problems there, too – Schneider falsely claims Milwaukee Public Schools “ignored Walker’s plan” when it “re-upped” employee contracts.

What plan exactly did MPS ignore?

The plan that became Act 10 was introduced in February 2011. The terms of MPS’ current employee contracts – which have saved the district an estimated $150-plus million in health care costs – were laid out months before in September 2010 and approved on Dec. 2, 2010.

The Journal Sentinel’s own PolitiFact Wisconsin found then-Gov.-elect Scott Walker first publicly hinted at his plan to curb public employee collective bargaining days later on Dec. 7, 2010. PolitiFact ruled the claim that the governor campaigned on his plan false. We did not know about the plan when we approved the contracts.

And what about Schneider’s central argument – that retiree benefit costs could bankrupt the district?

The author uses a 2009 liability analysis that came before aggressive and critical steps the Milwaukee School Board and the administration of MPS Superintendent Gregory Thornton took to address the district’s long-term liability.

MPS has acted to raise its minimum retirement age and years of service required to reach retirement, and we project that the steps will save the district several hundred million dollars in legacy costs over the next 30 years. We changed health plan administrators and plan design.

We formed a trust to fund the liability. The health care contributions that are part of the 2010 contract – and further contributions that will take place once contracts expire – will further reduce the liability. We froze a supplemental pension for teachers and ended it for new hires, shaving millions more from long-term liability.

All of those actions will significantly reduce the base liability – and we’ll know by just how much in the coming months. At the same time, we know our actions have shaved at least a full percentage point off the projected growth of that liability. Think of that like getting a lower interest rate on your mortgage.

MPS has taken aggressive steps to cut costs across the district and ensure more dollars are flowing to classrooms. The health care savings from our 2010 contracts estimated at more than $150 million will grow further as board actions in 2011 yield an additional $188 million in estimated health care and pension savings through 2017. We’re also moving toward a central kitchen to serve healthy meals more efficiently, saving an estimated $90 million over 15 years.

We’ve rebid our transportation contracts for an estimated $2.2 million in savings, and we’re using private-sector Six Sigma efficiency strategies to save money on operational costs such as textbooks, saving an estimated $2.7 million. Our 2011-’12 budget cut positions and spending at Central Services, saving $5.7 million. Millions more cuts at Central Services are in the 2012-’13 budget.

We would have been happy to share all of that information – particularly the information that affects legacy costs – with Schneider or his colleagues at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute if anyone had asked.

We appreciate what we hope and can only assume are WPRI’s efforts to accurately inform the public and believe that goal would best be served by using the most relevant, up-to-date information rather than 3-year-old data that, at this point, paints a misleading picture of what is a very important issue.

Michael Bonds is president of the Milwaukee School Board.

Texas GOP Opposes Critical Thinking, No Really, It’s in the Platform

Filed under: Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 8:41 am

Party platform paints original ideas as a liberal conspiracy

By Richard Whittaker, Wed. Jun. 27, Austin Chronicle

Who needs a frontal lobe anyway? Texas GOP platform opposes critical thinking.

It’s official: The Republican Party of Texas opposes critical thinking. That’s right, drones, and it’s part of their official platform.

One of our eagle-eyed readers emailed us to point out this unbelievable passage in the RPT 2012 platform, as adopted at their recent statewide conference.

“Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

What this really means is that the GOP is doubling down on learn-by-rote fact recitation – of the kind spearheaded by the worst of the pro-testing advocates, and locally by IDEA Public Schools, which has committed to the anti-analytical direct learning model (aka “press button A, B or C.”)

But what the hell is all that bunk about “undermining parental authority”? Could it be that the Texas GOP has shown its paternalistic streak a little too overtly? And, let’s face facts, that’s just policy-wonk speak for “honor thy father and mother.” Yup, the Texas GOP is officially enshrining blind obedience into its doctrine of political domination. And be careful that you don’t disturb a student’s fixed beliefs, like, say, that the Loch Ness Monster is real.

Sadly, this is just one of 30 pages of head-in-the-sand, pretend-the-Enlightenment-never-happened thinking from the state’s dominating party. Other gems include:

– Abstinence-only sex ed (yeah, because that’s worked so well so far.)
– Trying juveniles as adults
– Faith-based drug rehab should be emphasized (Scientology front operation NarcAnon should be rubbing its hands at that one)
– Oppose the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Yeah! Who’s the UN to tell us we should ban child slavery?)
– Flat rate income tax (go Team 1%!)
– Repealing the minimum wage (suck it, wage slaves!)
– Opposing homosexuality in the military (don’t ask, don’t tell, and don’t do that!)
– Opposition to red light cameras (because if you run a red, kill someone, and there’s no witnesses, was the light ever really red?)
– Oppose the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, because firms should be able to fire people for what they consider “sinful and sexually immoral behavior.” Like, say, growing a beard?
– Continued opposition to ACORN (even though it has not existed since 2010)
– Opposing statehood or even Congressional voting rights for the citizens of the District of Columbia (who writes this crap, Rand Paul?)
– And no-questions-asked support for Israel because, and this is another direct quote, “Our policy is based on God’s biblical promise to bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel and we further invite other nations and organizations to enjoy the benefits of that promise.”

Yes, for every measure that everyone can agree on, like labeling GMOs, there’s another entry or three from the crazy ideas discount bin.

So, next time some Tea Partier tells you the GOP is all about freedom and liberty, remind them that the GOP doesn’t want people to learn how to think critically. Because people who can think critically might start looking at their platform.

June 26, 2012

National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing

Filed under: Testing Issues — millerlf @ 7:58 am

This resolution is modeled on the resolution passed by more than 360 Texas school boards as of April 23, 2012. It was written by Advancement Project; Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund; FairTest; Forum for Education and Democracy; MecklenburgACTS; Deborah Meier; NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.; National Education Association; New York Performance Standards Consortium; Tracy Novick; Parents Across America; Parents United for Responsible Education – Chicago; Diane Ravitch; Race to Nowhere; Time Out From Testing; and United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries.

We encourage organizations and individuals to publicly endorse it (see below). Organizations should modify it as needed for their local circumstances while also endorsing this national version.

WHEREAS, our nation’s future well-being relies on a high-quality public education system that prepares all students for college, careers, citizenship and lifelong learning, and strengthens the nation’s social and economic well-being; and

WHEREAS, our nation’s school systems have been spending growing amounts of time, money and energy on high-stakes standardized testing, in which student performance on standardized tests is used to make major decisions affecting individual students, educators and schools; and

WHEREAS, the over-reliance on high-stakes standardized testing in state and federal accountability systems is undermining educational quality and equity in U.S. public schools by hampering educators’ efforts to focus on the broad range of learning experiences that promote the innovation, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, communication, critical thinking and deep subject-matter knowledge that will allow students to thrive in a democracy and an increasingly global society and economy; and

WHEREAS, it is widely recognized that standardized testing is an inadequate and often unreliable measure of both student learning and educator effectiveness; and

WHEREAS, the over-emphasis on standardized testing has caused considerable collateral damage in too many schools, including narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the test, reducing love of learning, pushing students out of school, driving excellent teachers out of the profession, and undermining school climate; and

WHEREAS, high-stakes standardized testing has negative effects for students from all backgrounds, and especially for low-income students, English language learners, children of color, and those with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, the culture and structure of the systems in which students learn must change in order to foster engaging school experiences that promote joy in learning, depth of thought and breadth of knowledge for students; therefore be it

RESOLVED, that [your organization name] calls on the governor, state legislature and state education boards and administrators to reexamine public school accountability systems in this state, and to develop a system based on multiple forms of assessment which does not require extensive standardized testing, more accurately reflects the broad range of student learning, and is used to support students and improve schools; and

RESOLVED, that [your organization name] calls on the U.S. Congress and Administration to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as the “No Child Left Behind Act,” reduce the testing mandates, promote multiple forms of evidence of student learning and school quality in accountability, and not mandate any fixed role for the use of student test scores in evaluating educators.

Endorse the resolution as an organization
See list of organizational signers
Endorse the resolution as an individual
See list of individual signers

printer-friendly version (with bibliography)

June 20, 2012

Charter Schools Still Enroll Fewer Disabled Students

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 11:04 am

June 19, 2012 By NYTimes

Charter schools in most states continue to enroll proportionately fewer students with disabilities than traditional public schools, a new government report shows.

Across the country, disabled students represented 8.2 percent of all students enrolled during the 2009-10 year in charter schools, compared with 11.2 percent of students attending traditional public schools, according to a Government Accountability Office analysis of Department of Education data.

In the previous year, 7.7 percent of students in charter schools had disabilities, compared with 11.3 percent in traditional public schools. Data covered students ages 6 to 21 in the 40 states that have charter schools.

Critics of charter schools, which are financed with taxpayer money but typically enjoy more autonomy than district public schools, have said the charters skim the best students from their communities and are less likely to enroll students with special needs.

Representative George Miller, a California Democrat who is the ranking member on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said the lower enrollment of students with disabilities in charter schools was “not acceptable by any means.” But given the controversy over charter schools, Mr. Miller said, “my political antennae would have said that the disparity would have been greater.”

The G.A.O. report showed that in six states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, charter schools enrolled a higher proportion of disabled students than traditional public schools. And schools where more than 20 percent of the students had disabilities were more likely to be charter schools than traditional schools, in part because some charter schools cater specifically to students with special needs such as autism.

The report’s authors posited several possible reasons for the overall disparity. Some parents choose public schools that have more established programs for students with disabilities, while some charter schools do not have the resources or teaching staff to support individual students’ needs. But in some cases, the report said, school administrators tacitly discriminate by discouraging students with disabilities from enrolling.

Jim Shelton, assistant deputy secretary of innovation and improvement, the Department of Education office that oversees charter schools, said some district schools might be identifying students as disabled who are not, a factor that could skew the data.

But in response to some complaints of discrimination, the Education Department opened an office to help charter schools support students with disabilities.

James H. Wendorf, executive director of the National Center for Learning Disabilities, described the report’s findings as “troubling.”

“There could be a number of reasons that this is happening, but it’s starting to quack like a duck,” Mr. Wendorf said. “I think we need to start looking carefully at how decisions are made by charter schools in admitting students or in releasing students. We’re concerned from some previous studies that children with disabilities are admitted but then counseled out.”

Todd Ziebarth, vice president of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools, said charter schools did not always receive sufficient financing to provide special education.

“Anything we can do to better equip charter schools to be able to serve the fullest range of students possible is something we support,” he said.

June 19, 2012

Correction of Blog Posting Concerning Elizabeth Coggs

Filed under: Correction — millerlf @ 11:30 am

I recently posted a personal blog in response to a blog by Katy Venskus, Wisconsin State Director of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).

In the blog I referred to a letter posted by DFER calling on legislators in New Jersey to support voucher legislation now being considered in that state. The letter included Elizabeth Coggs’ signature as a supporter of vouchers in Wisconsin and supporter of expanding vouchers to the state of New Jersey.

I received a letter from Elizabeth Coggs informing me that her name was added to the DFER letter in error and that the Democrats for Education Reform had provided a written letter of apology to her.

Also, in my blog I questioned Elizabeth Coggs’ participation in the recall efforts. Elizabeth Coggs did participate in a variety of ways in the effort to support the Democratic Party’s work in the recall election.

While I clearly have a difference of opinion with Elizabeth Coggs on issues of school privatization and vouchers, I am happy to set the record straight on both these areas and regret passing on incorrect information.

My blog does not in any way represent the MPS Board of School Directors or any of its members. I am representing my perspective and my perspective alone.

June 11, 2012

Right-wing Lobby Group, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), Pick Pro-Voucher Candidates for August 14 Wisconsin Primary

Filed under: Right Wing Agenda,Vouchers — millerlf @ 5:04 pm

Larry Miller

Katy Venskus, Wisconsin State Director of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), recently put forward a list of Milwaukee candidates that DFER supports in the upcoming August 14 primary. Each of these candidates supports the expansion of vouchers in Milwaukee and in the state of Wisconsin.

The list includes Jason Fields, running for the 11th assembly district seat, along with Jason’s brother, Jarrett Fields, running in the 16th assembly district.  Jason recently made his position on vouchers clear by signing onto a letter generated by Howard Fuller in support of the creation of vouchers in the state of New Jersey. (see NJ Letter on Vouchers2.)

In the letter sent to the speaker of the New Jersey state assembly, Fields claim success of the Milwaukee voucher program as the reason they support creating such a program in New Jersey. He neglected to mention that students in Milwaukee Public Schools outperform voucher students in both math and reading.

Those of us who fight for justice in Milwaukee must ask Jason Fields, where do you stand? The Republican-led state legislature is eliminating voting rights, slashing healthcare for the poor and elderly and waging war on women’s rights while decimating Wisconsin’s economy. Why do you think the education privatization plans from these same people are disconnected from the rest of their agenda?

It’s troubling that none of the above-mentioned people – Katy Venskus, Howard Fuller, Jason Fields, Jarrett Fields –signed the recall petition against Governor Walker. Nor am I aware of any evidence that any of them worked to defeat Scott Walker on June 5th.

We need representatives in the state legislature who are going to stand up to the right wing and fight for policies that support communities and democracy.

National Voucher Group, Democrats For Education Reform, Calls for Using Public Dollars to Lobby

Filed under: Charter Schools,Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 4:50 pm

Democrats For Education Reform Head Says Charter Schools Should Use Per Pupil Dollars For Lobbying

By posted Apr 2nd 2012 on Republic Report

One of Big Money’s last targets for privatization is America’s public schools. Using a variety of policy schemes ranging from school vouchers to for-profit charter schools, the education privatization movement seeks to take over America’s largely public K-12 education system and put it in the hands of some of the very same people who caused the financial crash on Wall Street.

One group that has been successful in pushing this wave of privatization is Democrats For Education Reform (DFER), a group of largely finance industry Democrats who advocate for expansion of charter schools and high-stakes testing, among other policies.

Dissent Magazine uncovers a conference that DFER executive director Joe Williams spoke at in 2010. At that conference, Williams actually advocated for charter schools to spend money on advocacy organizations and lobbying through their “per pupil dollars” — meaning the very same funds that are supposed to be used to educate students. Williams justified this by saying that charters are an attempt to run a school “as a business” and that businesses of course allocate their funding “right off the bat” to “lobbying, advocacy work“:

Another of Williams’s comments reveals what is so misguided about this brand of education reform: “I think charter schools should be paying advocacy organizations for their advocacy work out of their per pupil dollars. If you think of running a school as running a business, any sound business is going to allocate right off the bat a certain percentage of their funding towards lobbying, advocacy work.”

William’s comment is revealing. DFER appears to view education as no different than any other for-profit business. And just as America’s other big industries spend enormous amounts of money to influence our politics, DFER appears to have no problem with charter schools digging into funds that should be used for student education to seriously impact public policy.

Rep. Gwen Moore Holding Town Hall Friday at UWM on Voter ID in Wisconsin

Filed under: Right Wing Agenda,Scott Walker,Voter Suppression — millerlf @ 9:47 am




June 7, 2012

We Cannot Be Deterred

Filed under: Recall,Right Wing Agenda,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 10:34 am

Larry Miller

Big Money had a victory and democracy was set back on June 5th. But how we respond will define our character and our children’s future. This cannot immobilize us or deter us. New battles are looming.

 We Are Not Going Away

Walker’s Republican campaign outspent Barrett’s Democratic campaign by $30.5 million to $4 million — that’s a 7.5 to 1 advantage. Another way of saying this is that of the $34.5 million spent on their campaigns, Walker spent 88% of the money.

Walker beat Barrett by 1,334,450 votes to 1,162,785 votes — 53% to 46% (with 1% going to an independent candidate).

Here’s another way of saying that: Walker spent $23 for each vote he received, while Barrett spent only $3.47 per vote. Scott Walker Spent 88% of the Money to Get 53% of the Vote.*

As Peter Dreier* stated it in his 6/6/12 Huffington Post blog, “But the reality is even worse than this, because the $34.5 million figure does not include so-called independent expenditures and issue ads paid for primarily by out-of-state billionaires (like the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson and Joe Ricketts), business groups, and the National Rifle Association, which were skewed even more heavily toward Walker. Once all this additional spending is calculated, we’ll see that total spending in this race could be more than double the $34.5 million number, that Walker and his business allies outspent Barrett by an even wider margin, and that he had to spend even more than $23 for each vote.”

This is a defeat for democracy. But the last 16 months has been a victory for what can be. There are one million, one hundred and sixty two thousand, seven hundred and eighty five Wisconsinites who are not fooled by the lies and tricks of  the right-wing.

On Election Day I gave rides to the polls and saw turnout beyond belief. Communities were mobilized, networks of organizers established and the demand for justice clear.

The New York Time editorial today described Wisconsin as a “laboratory” for the right-wing saying, “… from the beginning, the money behind Governor Walker was intended to turn a once-reliable blue state into a laboratory for Republican ideas, where business could grow free of union fetters, taxes could be cut and thousands of people could be removed from Medicaid rolls.

That’s why David Koch, the billionaire industrialist whose family money was crucial to Mr. Walker’s election in 2010, gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association this year, which, in turn, ran ads supporting Mr. Walker. Mr. Koch said Mr. Walker’s fight against public unions was ‘critically important.’

The future of Wisconsin depends on our efforts on the ground and in communities to show our fellow Wisconsinites the betrayal of Walker’s policies. Voting rights are being decimated. Health care for the poor and elderly is being slashed. Women’s rights are under attack. Privatization is pervading public education. And where are the “Walker jobs?”

We must turn the Wisconsin “laboratory” into a haven for democracy. Keep up the fight!

Reverend King said, “We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”


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