Saturday, September 06, 2008

CAIR Gets Failing Grades at Running Ohio Charter Schools

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) released their annual school report cards this week, and the results show that two taxpayer-financed Islamic charter schools operated by officials of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) have failed miserably yet again. But protected by powerful political connections, including Ohio Governor Ted Strickland and Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, and apparently indifferent to their exploitation of the Somali children that comprise the vast majority of their students, the Islamic extremists running the operation appear to have no fear of losing their cash cows. In fact, Ohio educrats have renewed one school’s contract after five years of complete academic failure.

The two schools, International Academy and Westside Academy, are run by a group of local Islamic leaders, including CAIR national board vice chairman Ahmad Al-Akhras, CAIR-Columbus president and CAIR-Ohio board member Abukar Arman, and Islamic Society of Greater Columbus president and imam Mouhamed Tarazi (who serves as principal of one of the schools). At one time or another, all have served on the board of the local private Islamic school in Central Ohio, Sunrise Academy.

Beginning operations in 2002, International Academy has a long track record of failure. According to the school’s most recent state report card, the school only meets two of the 19 indicators measured (one of the two indicators it met was attendance). The performance index score of 73.9 fell well short of the 100 points required (of 120 total; the state median is 96.6), but since that was slightly more than the 72.2 scored the previous school year (2006-2007) the school received a “continuous improvement” designation. Only in the Orwellian world of union-controlled, taxpayer-financed public education does this performance rate a grade of C-, thanks to some grade inflation in this year’s report cards courtesy of the ODE.

That “continuous improvement” designation notwithstanding, since International Academy opened, it has never met the state’s required “adequate yearly progress” standard and has never met more than two of the state indicators. Looking at the past three years of academic performance data, we find in four of the seven tested areas, test scores declined last year from the previous year.

The second school, Westside Academy, appears to be following in its older brother’s failing footsteps. Their state report card shows that they met state standards in one area — attendance. Across all grade levels and subjects, less than 20 percent of their students rated proficient or better. In one subject area, 3rd grade math, the school achieved zero percent proficiency. Their performance index also dropped to 56.9 last school year (again, 100 of 120 points being the state requirement), putting them in the “academic watch” category.

No doubt, officials for both schools will place the blame on their students, claiming that since many of them speak English as a second language they are at a disadvantage. But in fact, ODE excluded testing results from students who had limited English proficiency. And the school curriculum itself continues to academically disadvantage the children. Instead of focusing their efforts on helping them improve their English skills, the language emphasis at these two schools is not on English, but instead, Arabic — a foreign language to Somalis. If there is one subject that both schools excel in, it is Islamic extremism.

More here

Is it Really 'Public' Education If Voters Get No Say?

At 9 a.m. Wednesday, the state Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case that will shape the future of education in Florida. At issue are two constitutional amendment questions slated to go before voters in November. A lawyer for Florida's teachers union will argue that they should be removed from the ballot; the secretary of state's lawyer will ask the court to leave them in place, allowing voters to decide these questions. The court should let Floridians have their say.

The first question, Amendment 7, deals with religious discrimination. This amendment would make it illegal to exclude any person or organization from participating in a public program because of religion. It also would allow the state to continue operating programs under which religious organizations can receive funding as long as the purposes and primary effects of those programs are secular (as required by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution).

The second question, Amendment 9, would require at least 65 percent of school-district operating expenditures to be spent in the classroom rather than on administration. It also would allow legislators to create alternative education programs in addition to the constitutionally required public-school system (though it wouldn't create any new programs).

Judge John Cooper of Tallahassee's Circuit Court already approved both questions for inclusion on the November ballot, and opponents have asked the state Supreme Court to reverse his decision. It would be a surprise if the court were to oblige them. Cooper's written opinion was short and simple, demonstrating that the questions were legally added to the ballot, and that their wording is not misleading as plaintiffs claimed.

But although the legal details of the case seem almost trivial, the principles at stake, especially on Amendment 9, are momentous. This question would decide whether Florida children have access to the best system of education legislators can devise, or if they will be forced to make do with the status quo. And the status quo is nothing to cheer about.

In the early grades, Florida students have made some promising academic headway in recent years, but SAT scores are down from a decade ago -- a decline that can't be fully explained by changes in the number of students taking the test. Florida's graduation rate places it 42nd in the nation, even though it is in the middle of the pack when it comes to total spending per pupil ($12,000 last year).

But, ever since the Florida Supreme Court's 2006 decision in Bush v. Holmes, legislators have been forbidden to offer families any new alternatives to the traditional public-school system. If Amendment 9 does make it onto the ballot, and voters approve it, lawmakers would once again be free to design new educational options to serve Florida families. The amendment wouldn't create a single new program; it would just permit legislators to create such programs if they wished to do so.

And that's what's so remarkable about the case before the court on Wednesday. The Florida Education Association, the union representing the state's public-school employees, has sued to prevent Floridians from even having a say on the future of public education. Would it even make sense to keep calling it a "public" school system if voters are given no voice in the matter?

It's no surprise that the union opposes this amendment, because it opposes any education program that would provide families with an alternative to the schools employing its members. That's only natural. And it's no surprise that school-choice supporters are in favor of the amendment, because many of their proposals will be impossible without it. But, in the end, it is the people's education system, and the people should have a right to decide whether or not they want alternatives to it.


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