Sunday, February 09, 2014

Surprise: Charter Schools Lose Out on Funding in NYC

After the celebrations and pomp ended, one of the first things recently inaugurated New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio did was begin slashing funding from the city’s public charter schools. As the editors of National Review Online put it, this was a calculated and cynical maneuver by the mayor to repay the special interest groups who elected him:

 After Barack Obama gave a thousand campaign speeches on Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, and the economy, one of his first actions upon taking office as president was to begin gutting a tiny school-choice scholarship program in Washington, D.C. And now newly inaugurated New York mayor Bill de Blasio has, as one of his first agenda items, begun the gutting of the city’s charter schools, which are public schools that operate with some limited measure of independence from the usual education bureaucracies. Like President Obama, Mayor de Blasio is here engaged in plain, naked payback, rewarding the teachers’ unions that funded and manned his campaign by taking hundreds of millions of dollars away from projects they despise. If a private city contractor had bankrolled the mayor’s campaign and been repaid by having him hobble its competition, we’d call it simple corruption. And it is simple corruption, legal though it may be.

This quid pro quo agreement may seem corrupt, but it sounds more like business as usual to me. Indeed, the teachers unions who helped elect him knew full well that once in office he would use his leverage and political clout to advance their interests. This is how it works. And yet the NRO editorial flags a Brookings Institute study which reports “two recent rigorous evaluations” show that charter schools in New York City are outperforming traditional public schools in mathematics and have higher graduation rates. And what's more, charters schools are very popular in New York City, as evidenced by the number of families who want to send their children to one:

 Judging by the application rates, New York City parents love charter schools. The evidence suggests they do a meaningfully if not radically better job than their traditional counterparts. They are seeking only the same resources to which they would be entitled if they were not charter schools, meaning they place no special burden on taxpayers. The only faction opposed to them is the teachers’ unions, which seek to legally eliminate all competition and all alternatives.

Charter schools are a tiny crack in the Berlin Wall of the government-school monopoly, far short of the liberalized approach to education we would prefer. But they are a significant improvement that comes at very little cost, and Mayor de Blasio’s attack on them elevates the interests of his political cronies over those of the city’s children. It is low and it is shameful, and the Panel for Education Policy, which has the opportunity to stop this abuse in March, should see to it that the mayor’s proposal does not stand.

As part of the GOP’s re-branding effort, Republicans must champion school choice. After all, more choice and more opportunity for all is what the Republican Party stands for.


GUN BULLIES: Florida college retreats on campus gun policy, expulsion threat after justified school shooting

We told you several days ago about the story of Landrick Hamilton, the East Florida State College (EFSC) student who was attacked in a campus parking lot by a pair of thugs armed with a sawed-off pool cue. Hamilton was able to retrieve a pistol from his car and shot one of his attackers.

While Hamilton broke no laws, the school threatened to expel him for having a gun in his car campus against school policy. They made this threat even though another state college had recently had their similar ban on guns in cars on campus defeated in court.

Gun rights group Florida Carry filed suit against EFSC Monday night, and just coincidentally on Tuesday morning, the college dropped their ban and all disciplinary threats against Hamilton:

On Monday night, the gun rights group Florida Carry announced a lawsuit against the college, claiming its ban on firearms in your personal car on school grounds is unconstitutional.

The same organization sued the University of North Florida about the same issue in December and won. The First District Court of Appeals ruled 12–3 that colleges and universities cannot regulate guns kept safely in their vehicles while on campus.

Florida law currently prevents anyone from possessing or exhibiting guns on school campuses, including university and college campuses.

That same law, however, says the automatic ban doesn’t apply to guns kept in cars. School districts had the option to adopt policies to prohibit guns in cars parked on campus. UNF attorneys tried to argue that the university falls under this exception, but that position was rejected by a majority of the court.

Eastern Florida State officials said Tuesday morning they are revising their gun ban policy to comply with the recent court ruling.

School officials said the student involved in the shooting was back to full-time status, and revisions to the gun ban policy should be complete and in place by the end of the week.

It’s interesting how the threat of a costly and near-certain defeat in court can change the tune of some gun control advocates.

Let’s keep the pressure up, folks.


Local state school where most children don't speak English as their first language is now better than William and Harry's private prep, claims Michael Gove

A London state school where most children are brought up with English as a foreign language offers a better education than the private school attended by Princes William and Harry just around the corner, Michael Gove claimed today.

The Education Secretary vowed to ‘break down the Berlin wall’ between state and private schools to drive up standards.

And he claimed the Thomas Jones primary school in West London is now better than the £17,460-a-year Wertherby Prep-School which taught the heirs to the throne.

In speech to the London Academy of Excellence today, Mr Gove said the evidence shows ‘beyond any reasonable doubt’ that English state education is starting to show a ‘sustained and significant improvement’.

He said state schools could become the best in the world by tapping into the expertise of the independent sector.

But he went further in claiming that Wetherby school in particular may already have been overtaken by nearby state schools teaching much poorer pupils.

William and Harry both attended the prep school in Notting Hill in the 1980s before taking up places at Eton.

Other former Wetherby pupils include Downton Abbey creator Lord Fellowes, composer Lord Lloyd Webber and actor Hugh Grant.

Mr Gove insisted that the expensive and exclusive education on offer there was now matched by state schools ‘every bit as good as excellent private schools’.

He added: ‘There are state primary schools every bit as ambitious, as supportive, as exciting, as the smartest of private prep schools.

‘Like, for example, Thomas Jones primary in West London – a school with a majority of children eligible for free school meals during the last six years, a majority coming from homes where English is not their first language – which is just as good, if not better, than the pre-eminent London prep - Wetherby school - just a mile or so away.

‘Under the changes we're making, it’s becoming easier for state schools to match the offer from private schools.  ‘Instead of reinforcing the Berlin Wall between state and private, as the current Labour leadership appear to want, we should break it down.’

Mr Gove was speaking at the London Academy of Excellence, a new free school in Newham, East London, which has managed to secure places in Oxford and Cambridge for six of its pupils – the same number achieved last year by Millfield, an independent school that charges annual fees of up to £32,385.

The Education Secretary also wants state schools to make pupils sit the ‘robust’ Common Entrance exam used by leading private schools and subject them to old-fashioned classroom discipline.

He suggests that all 13-year-olds should study for the 100-year-old test to indicate how well they are ‘performing against some of the top schools around the world’.

Mr Gove argues that it is wrong that between national curriculum tests at age 11 and GCSEs at 16, children have no formal, externally assessed examinations.

He also urged head teachers to go further by adopting traditional methods of discipline.  New guidance being sent to schools today sets out suggested punishments for misbehaving students, including being sent for a run around a playing field, picking up litter or writing out hundreds of lines.

It also suggests that detentions can be issued at lunchtime, after school or weekends, with no notice for parents.

He argued that the state education system is ‘starting to show a sustained and significant improvement’.  But he warned schools must go further – setting out his proposal for 13-year-olds to sit the Common Entrance exam.

‘Privately educated children often benefit from rigorous testing of ability – and, crucially, knowledge – at regular points throughout their school career,’ Mr Gove said.

‘But since the last Labour government abolished tests for 14-year-olds, we have had no rigorous externally set and marked measures of progress for students in the first five years of secondary school.  ‘It is often during this period that performance dips and students suffer.

‘I am open to arguments about how we can improve performance – and assessment – in this critical period.  'But there is already one widely available, robust and effective test of knowledge for just this age group: the Common Entrance test papers.

‘They are designed for 13-year-olds – they are used by private schools to ensure students are on track for later success – they are already available on the web, and are a fantastic resource.

‘So I want state schools to try out Common Entrance exams – giving them a chance to check how well they and their pupils are performing against some of the top schools around the world.’

There is, however, no suggestion that taking the Common Entrance test will provide a path into private schools.

On discipline, Mr Gove said every head in the state sector must have the ability to ensure children behave as ‘impeccably as in the most successful state and private schools’.  He added: ‘That means giving heads the power to ensure there is exemplary behaviour – and giving teachers the power to keep control in the classroom and the playground.

'Because without excellent behaviour, no child can learn – and a tiny minority of disruptive children can absorb almost all of teachers’ time and attention, in effect holding the education of the rest hostage. ‘So we have given teachers more freedoms to keep control in the classroom, and to discipline pupils for misbehaviour.

‘We trust the professionalism of our teachers. So we’ve given them the tools to keep control of their classrooms, and allow every student to learn in peace.’

The Department for Education said while current guidelines make clear the legal backing for setting school punishments, they fail to outline potential sanctions, leaving many heads and teachers unclear of what action they can take.

Mr Gove also suggested he wanted to see more state schools offer extra-curricular activities to extend the school day to fit in with the lives of working parents.

He said he did not support shorter holidays but said free schools and academies could vary term dates to allow parents to avoid the expense of holidaying during rigidly fixed half terms and other holidays.


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