Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Study: Taxpayer-Funded Charter Schools Cost Less than Public Schools

A new study done by policy group Save Our States has discovered that publicly funded charter schools cost taxpayer less money in New York than traditional public schools - by a margin of more than $3,000 per student.

Why the 24-27 percent discrepancy between charter schools and public schools? The report points to teacher benefits:

 Pensions and health costs for teachers and other staff are substantially higher for the traditional, unionized public schools compared to charters, which offer their employees 401ks rather than more generous defined benefit plans.

The group's study directly challenges a New York City Independent Budget Office study from 2010 that suggested the cost gap between charter schools and more traditional public schools was much more narrow.

According to Harry Wilson, a co-author of the new study and experienced pension expert, the IBO study was "fraudulent" for not measuring employee benefits by the same standards used by corporations.

Both IBO and Save our States are defending their reports. Either way, charter schools will play a critical role in the New York City mayoral election. Democrat Bill de Blasio has been aggressive about charging charter schools rent and has made education reform a core component of his campaign platform. In contrast, Republican Joe Lhota is a passionate charter school advocate and critic of de Blasio's proposals. Although de Blasio is the current favorite in the polls, this new study and the recent pro-charter school/anti-de Blasio endorsement from state education chancellor Merryl Tisch could change the game.

Ultimately, voters will need all of the information on this top priority that they can get.


3 Reasons Obamacare Hurts Low-Income College Students (From One)

Nicole Bailey

Alejandra makes Obamacare sound great. Yet most of the liberal pundits and legislators speaking for socioeconomically disadvantaged kids in school have no idea what it’s like to be one. As a recent grad from that demographic, I have three reasons Obamacare hurts low-income college students:

1. The Individual Mandate is Not Compatible with Financial Aid

Financial aid is based on the difference between an individual’s estimated family contribution (EFC) and cost of attendance (COA). However, the cost of health insurance is rarely considered part of COA. This means kids who have a very low EFC and can barely afford school have to pay insurance premiums thanks to the individual mandate.

Those who say the fee will not apply to struggling students are the most out-of-touch. Not only are scholarship grants over the COA considered taxable income, but the poorest often work while in school and make enough money to be slammed by the fee. The individual mandate was already implemented years ago at most public and private universities – it has already done damage to the most financially needy students.

2. Keeping Parents’ Plans Until Age 26 Hurts the Poor

Most Supporters claim Obamacare will increase competition among insurance companies to provide low-cost plans to the poor who were suffering before—a true bleeding-heart story. Yet the provision that children are covered by their parents’ plan until age 26 hurts the poor the most.

The worst off parents don’t have health insurance and will likely opt to pay the $95 fee. As a result, the rich kids will relax and have several years out of college to find a job with benefits while the poor kids (whom Obamacare claims to help the most) will be forced to sign up for whatever plans are left over before the higher $695 fee hits.

3. The Economic Fallout Makes College Less Valuable

For most wealthy families, college is a given. Poor families, however, often send their children to college with great sacrifice – even if the student earns a full ride there are difficulties: perhaps the student was expected to work in the family business, look after many siblings, or add to the household income. This is especially true for first-generation students. It is difficult, but it is also a time-honored part of the American Dream.

The American Dream is at stake. If Obamacare continues to cause employers to avoid hiring the 50th worker and cut back on employment hours, then the prospects for college graduates will only go from bleak to worse. A low-income student may weigh the odds and simply decide it’s not worth it anymore.


Unqualified staff used to teach British pupils on the cheap: Union claims assistants and support workers are called in as cover

Schools are teaching on the cheap by using unqualified staff, a teachers’ union claims.  Teaching assistants and support staff are being drafted in to take classes, according to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).

It says many are asked to provide cover for teachers, with some taking lessons for three days or more.

It questioned 1,435 of its school support members in state-funded schools in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man.  They are often hired to oversee classes while teachers are doing work such as lesson planning.

Some 25.4 per cent of the teaching assistants and learning support workers questioned, 49.1 per cent of higher level teaching assistants and 96.1 per cent of cover supervisors said they were asked to cover lessons. 

Of all of those surveyed, two-fifths said they had been asked to provide more or the same amount of cover for absent teachers in 2012/13 than the year before.  The rest said they had been asked to provide less, or the question was not relevant.

Of more than 400 who said that they stand in for teachers when they are off more than two-thirds said they are asked to cover short-term absences of less than three days.

But 2.9% of teaching assistants, 1% of cover supervisors and 8.1% of higher level teaching assistants claimed they are asked to cover for longer absences.

One higher level teaching assistant said: ‘I prepare, teach and mark at least four lessons for two Year 7 bottom-set classes, and a Year 8 set for at least three hours a week. It is teaching on the cheap.’

And a teaching assistant at an English primary school said: 'It is unfair that many TAs are teaching classes in the absence of a teacher, and doing the same job as a teacher for much less money.'

ATL general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: 'Schools are selling children short by using teaching assistants to teach classes when the regular teacher is unavailable.  'We are totally opposed to this exploitation of support staff who are being used as a cheap option to teachers.

'It is grossly unfair on them and on the children and their parents who rightly expect their children to be taught by qualified teachers.'

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: 'The Government's recent review of school efficiency showed that, when properly trained and deployed, teaching assistants play an important role in helping to improve learning.

'But the rules are clear - they should not be teaching. It is for school leaders to use the expertise of all staff to ensure any disruption to pupils is minimal and that taxpayers get value for money.'


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