Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mayors back parents seizing control of schools

Hundreds of mayors from across the United States this weekend called for new laws letting parents seize control of low-performing public schools and fire the teachers, oust the administrators or turn the schools over to private management.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors, meeting in Orlando, Florida, on Saturday unanimously endorsed "parent trigger" laws aimed at bypassing elected school boards and giving parents at the worst public schools the opportunity to band together and force immediate change.

Such laws are fiercely opposed by teachers' unions, which stand to lose members in school takeovers. Union leaders say there is no proof such upheaval will improve learning. And they argue that public investment in struggling communities, rather than private management of struggling schools, is the key to boosting student achievement.

But in a sign of the unions' diminishing clout, their traditional political allies, the Democrats, abandoned them in droves during the Orlando vote.

Democratic Mayors Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles and Kevin Johnson of Sacramento led the charge for parent trigger - and were backed by scores of other Democrats as well as Republicans from coast to coast.

"Mayors understand at a local level that most parents lack the tools they need to turn their schools around," Villaraigosa said. Parent trigger laws, he added, can empower parents to do just that.

Representatives from the two largest teachers' unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, were not available for comment Sunday.

Parent trigger laws are in place in several states including California, Texas and Louisiana and are under consideration in states including Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York. So far, though, the concept has never successfully been used to turn around a school.

Parents in two impoverished, heavily minority California cities, Compton and Adelanto, gathered enough signatures to seize control of their neighborhood schools but the process stalled in the face of ferocious opposition from teachers' unions. Both cases are now tied up in court.

Though it has not yet been shown to work, parent trigger has support from many of the big players seeking to inject more free-market competition into public education, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation.

Major philanthropies and wealthy financiers have poured money into backing political candidates and advocacy groups, including one called Parent Revolution, that promote parent trigger, according to campaign finance records in several states.

The concept has even inspired an upcoming Hollywood film, "Won't Back Down," in which Maggie Gyllenhaal portrays a single mother who organizes parents to take control of their failing school over union opposition. The movie was financed by Walden Media, which also backed the 2010 documentary "Waiting for 'Superman,'" which advocated for another central goal of education reformers - expanding charter schools.

For their part, mayors may have jumped on the bandwagon because parent trigger fits neatly with two of their key goals, said Kenneth Wong, a political scientist focused on education policy at Brown University.


"Mayors are moving in a new direction on education, one that's more consumer oriented... and focused on serving parents and giving them choices," Wong said. Facing tight budgets and huge pension liabilities, many mayors are also looking to rein in the power of teachers unions and force them to accept more austere contracts, Wong said.

Teachers unions have long been among the biggest donors to Democratic politicians, but that alliance has frayed in many cities in the past 18 months.

In Los Angeles, Mayor Villaraigosa blasted union leaders as an "unwavering roadblock to reform." In Philadelphia, Mayor Nutter has backed a plan to close dozens of neighborhood schools and convert many others to charters, which are publicly funded but privately run - and typically non-union.

And in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel successfully pushed to cancel a scheduled 4 percent raise for teachers and extend the school day by more than an hour. Teachers are so angry, nearly 90 percent of union members just voted to authorize a strike if ongoing contract negotiations falter.

"We are on the path to change," said Gloria Romero, a former California state senator who now runs that state's branch of Democrats for Education Reform, an advocacy group that funnels donations to politicians willing to buck the teachers unions. She called the mayoral vote a "landmark" that would inspire poor and minority parents to demand change in their schools. "This is a civil rights fight," she said.

Opponents of parent trigger, however, pointed out that the mayors' endorsement was largely symbolic, since such policies typically require legislative approval.

They said they would continue to fight - in part by reminding voters that parent trigger can be a mechanism for turning public schools over to private control. Some of the private management companies that run charter schools are for-profits that do not divulge much about how they spend public funds.

"Parents don't have control once they pull the trigger," said Kathleen Oropeza, co-founder of Fund Education Now, an advocacy group that successfully fought to derail a parent trigger bill in Florida earlier this year. "Who profits? Not parents and children."


Sacramento "Teacher of the Year" Laid Off; Who is to Blame?

 Mike Shedlock

I have a great deal of sympathy for Michelle Apperson, the Sacramento "Teacher of the Year" who was laid off. Assuming she deserved the award, she should not have been laid off.
Sixth-grade teacher Michelle Apperson passed down a simple message to her students.

"My favorite teachers growing up were the ones who challenged me to go out of my comfort level a little bit, strive for the stars, and work hard," the veteran California educator wrote on her school's bio page.

Despite just being named Sacramento's "Teacher of the Year," Apperson was laid off as part of a massive budget cut.

"It hurts on a personal level because I really love what I do," Apperson, who taught all subjects, told KXTV-News 10. "But professionally and politically or economically, I get why it happens."

Her pink slip comes just days after President Barack Obama prodded Washington lawmakers to help cash-strapped states with education funding.

The Sacramento City Unified School District has suffered approximately $143 million in budget cuts in recent years. School spokesperson Gabe Ross told News 10 that who gets laid off is mandated by state law and is based on seniority, not performance.

"It's an awful situation," Ross said. "It's another sign of how education's funding really needs an overhaul."

According to her bio, Apperson's goal was to teach her students "how to solve problems with peers, other adults, and the world around them."

Now they know firsthand how difficult that can sometimes be.
Does Apperson Really "Get Why it Happens"?

I like Apperson's Bio, her experience, and her message to her 6th grade class.  However my sympathies end there.

She says she "gets why it happens". Does she? If so why doesn't she explicitly say so?

Who is to Blame?

Teachers' unions are 100% to blame for this mess. Unions protect the under-performers at the expense of those like Apperson. Unions even protect repeated sexual predator teachers.

From the New York Times article Give Schools the Power to Punish
In one case, a male teacher in Manhattan was accused of inappropriately touching a female student in 2010, but the arbitrator imposed only a suspension without pay. And now — after more disturbing episodes — we’ve filed charges against this individual for a third time.

As it stands, public school teachers accused of sexual misconduct enjoy protections that no other city employee has. That puts children in danger, and we cannot allow it to continue.
Rest assured there are thousands of cases like that nationwide. Want some articles?
The Huffington Post reports New York Teachers Paid To Do Nothing: 700 Of Them
Hundreds of New York City public school teachers accused of offenses ranging from insubordination to sexual misconduct are being paid their full salaries to sit around all day playing Scrabble, surfing the Internet or just staring at the wall, if that's what they want to do.

Because their union contract makes it extremely difficult to fire them, the teachers have been banished by the school system to its "rubber rooms" _ off-campus office space where they wait months, even years, for their disciplinary hearings.

The 700 or so teachers can practice yoga, work on their novels, paint portraits of their colleagues _ pretty much anything but school work. They have summer vacation just like their classroom colleagues and enjoy weekends and holidays through the school year.

Because the teachers collect their full salaries of $70,000 or more, the city Department of Education estimates the practice costs the taxpayers $65 million a year. The department blames union rules.

Here is a Google search of Teachers Paid to Sit if you want more examples.

Now factor in incompetent teachers and poor teachers. The union protects them too.

Overhaul Needed

Yes, indeed. An overhaul is truly needed. Teachers should be hired, fired and receive pay raises based on merit, not seniority.

School spokesperson Gabe Ross told News 10 that who gets laid off is mandated by state law and is based on seniority, not performance.

Ross then whines "It's another sign of how education's funding really needs an overhaul."

An overhaul is indeed needed. It's time to get rid of collective bargaining of public unions, and it's time for merit pay for teachers.

Enormous Sense of Entitlement

With very few exceptions, public union members have an enormous sense of entitlement.

Public union members need to put themselves in the average taxpayer's shoes. Public union members also need to realize promised benefits cannot possibly materialize.

Teachers' Unions Do Not Give a Damn About Kids

Here is the deal, straight up. Teachers' unions do not give a damn about the kids.

Please read that carefully. I said "Teachers' unions" NOT teachers.

Most teachers do care about the kids. However, those teachers are sucked into believing garbage fed by union organizers. That garbage inevitably leads to cannibalization of the lowest on the seniority totem pole, regardless of skills or talent.

Union mentality is also to blame for inability of school districts to get rid of sexual predators and grossly incompetent teachers.

Time For Reflection

This is a time for serious reflection. We all need to think about what government owes us (or doesn't), what taxpayers owe public union workers (or don't), and what promises have been made by politicians at taxpayer expense that cannot possibly be met.

The problem is not a lack of education funding.

The problem is absurd expectations as to what benefits public union workers receive, coupled with inability to get rid of union workers, except on the basis of seniority, even in the face of repeated sexual predator behavior.


British School days could be extended to 8pm: PM  signals shake-up to improve childcare

School days could be extended until 8pm and red tape on childcare provision slashed under Government reforms.

David Cameron will today launch a commission on childcare to draw up measures to reduce costs for parents and ease bureaucratic restrictions on providers.

It will investigate whether there is red tape that could be abolished or rules – such as adult-to-child ratios for organisations offering childcare – that could be relaxed.

Childminders are generally restricted to looking after no more than three children, but this could be increased to five.

Mr Cameron also wants schools to examine innovative ways of providing after-school childcare.

For example, the Free School Norwich offers affordable childcare six days a week, 51 weeks a year. And the Mossbourne Academy in Hackney, London, operates a longer day, with some pupils staying until 8pm.

The Prime Minister wants more academies and free schools to extend their days, and others to offer after-school clubs.

Parents would generally pay a fee if they wanted their children to go to clubs, but the costs would be considerably less than other forms of childcare.

Work and pensions minister Maria Miller and children's minister Sarah Teather will lead the commission, which is to report to Mr Cameron by the autumn.

The Prime Minister, speaking at the G20 summit in Mexico, said: 'Working parents want to know that after school or in the holidays their children will be looked after in a safe, happy environment that is affordable.

'We want to do all we can to reduce the cost of childcare for parents, and make sure they can find and afford high-quality nurseries, after-school clubs and holiday schemes for their children.'

An Education Department study shows only four in ten parents believe there is sufficient  care in their areas for over-fives. And a recent survey by Save the Children and the Daycare Trust suggested working parents are spending more than a third of their incomes on childcare.

State spending on childcare is already among the highest in the world. By 2014, the Coalition will have increased investment by more than £1billion a year.

The commission will look at whether more value for money could be squeezed from some providers. Bureaucratic 'lunacy' governing the work of childminders is of particular concern. Ministers believe rules introduced by the last government helped fuel a dramatic collapse in the cheapest, most traditional form of care for working parents.

In 1997, when Labour came to power, there were 100,000 childminders catering for half of families paying for childcare.

But Labour introduced a raft of regulations, including Ofsted inspections and a 'nappy curriculum' of targets to be achieved by a child's fifth birthday. Carers said they were being required to put 'wash your hands' signs in bathrooms even though children are often too young to read, and to conduct 'risk assessments' if there were pets such as hamsters in their house.

The number of childminders has fallen to 55,000, pushing more families into using nurseries.

Tory MP Elizabeth Truss, who has led a campaign for childcare reform, said: 'Becoming a childminder is a bureaucratic process, involving registering with Ofsted, a local network and insurance provider.

'British child-adult ratios are some of the lowest in Europe – 3:1 for childminders looking  after under-fives. In the Netherlands, Germany and Ireland that ratio is 5:1.

'The UK should raise ratios  for childminders to 5:1 for the under-fives whilst improving supervision.

'This would enable higher-paid staff to be attracted to the profession, improving quality, or would make the service more affordable and widely available.'


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