Sunday, July 24, 2016

Amid Complaints From Parents, Virginia School Board Pauses New Transgender Policy

After facing significant resistance from parents, a school board in Northern Virginia has decided to temporarily suspend the implementation of new regulations for accommodating transgender and gender nonconforming students.

“Fairfax County Public Schools will keep handling transgender student matters with privacy and dignity in the way they always have…case-by-case, which is exactly what we wanted them to do in the first place,” Fairfax County School Board member Elizabeth Schultz told The Daily Signal.

The decision, announced in a press release Tuesday, came after the Fairfax County Public School Board held an “extensive” closed-door meeting to discuss new guidelines that the school board quietly released on July 1.

The guidelines, which would allow transgender and gender nonconforming students to use locker rooms, bathrooms, and other sex-segregated facilities based on their gender identity, caused a rift among parents in the affluent Virginia suburb.

The Fairfax County School Board voted in May 2015 to include gender identity under the district’s nondiscrimination policy. While the policy will remain in effect, regulations clarifying how the policy will apply to showers, locker rooms, sports teams, and other areas is temporarily on hold.

“While the regulation is temporarily on hold, Policy 1450 remains in effect, and the board remains committed to this policy of nondiscrimination,” school board Chair Sandy Evans said in a press release. “Consistent with the policy, and current practice, FCPS continues to accommodate the needs of transgender and gender nonconforming students in a way that protects the dignity and privacy of all students.”

The issue of accommodating transgender and gender nonconforming students gained national attention in May, when the Obama administration issued a directive requiring public schools allow transgender students access to the facilities that align with their gender identity.

Nearly two dozen states are challenging that directive in a lawsuit against the Obama administration.

Jeremy Tedesco, a senior attorney at Alliance Defending Freedom who is involved in a number of lawsuits regarding the transgender issue in public school districts, said the decision by the Fairfax school board to delay implementation should send a message to school districts nationwide.

“Schools think they have no choice,” he said of the pressure to implement gender identity policies. “They feel like they have to do this.” Now, he said,

    "Schools ought to look at this and say, ‘If Fairfax is even putting this on hold’—and they were one of the first ones out of the gate saying, ‘We have to do this, the federal government’s forcing us to do this and schools don’t really have a choice,’—we do have a choice".

Supporters of the regulations in Fairfax County said they were necessary to protect transgender and gender nonconforming students from being bullied and discriminated against. The guidelines, they argued, would make the Fairfax County public schools more welcoming to students of all backgrounds.

Opponents felt the guidelines were being forced upon families with little to no public discussion. They worried how the new regulations would affect nontransgender students, and said the school board was evading answering their questions.

For these parents, the decision to delay the new policy was a welcomed announcement. But having lost a great deal of trust with some school board members, they celebrated with skepticism.

“While it appears that the Fairfax County School Board’s decision to ‘temporarily put on hold’ the review of the proposed transgender regulations is a victory, in reality it simply allows the board more time to strategize on how to continue to push their liberal agenda forward,” said Bethany Kozma, a Fairfax County mother of three.

In announcing the decision to delay the regulations, the board said that it needs “additional time to evaluate the legal issues surrounding the regulation, including a case now pending before the Supreme Court on this topic.”

That case involves another Virginia school board in Gloucester County, which is fighting to keep bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers segregated by biological sex. The plaintiff involved is a transgender student named Gavin Grimm, who was born female but identifies as male.

On July 13, lawyers for the school board asked the Supreme Court to block Grimm from using the men’s facilities until the court decides whether to hear the case.

“Depriving parents of any say over whether their children should be exposed to members of the opposite biological sex, possibly in a state of full or complete undress, in intimate settings deprives parents of their right to direct the education and upbringing of their children,” attorneys for the school board wrote.

Grimm’s attorney, Josh Block from the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement to Fox News that it was “sad that the school board members and their lawyers have so little regard for the impact their misguided actions are having on a real teenager’s life.”

In addition to letting the legal cases play out, the Fairfax County School Board said it plans to also address the community’s questions regarding the regulations.

“Prior to any implementation, or formal adoption of the regulation, the board will provide additional information and further opportunity for public comment on this important topic,” a press release reads.

Kozma, a Fairfax County parent who is fighting this issue both locally and nationally, said she “sincerely” hopes the board will hold true to its word.

“I sincerely hope they do what they say and actually listen to the parents and citizens who are concerned for their children’s safety, security, and privacy,” she said.


How many non-teachers does a school district need?

Since 1950, public schools all across America have added staff at a rapid rate—much faster than their increases in students.

Sure, there have been some increases in lead teachers that resulted in large declines in class sizes. However, there were even greater increases in the hiring of administrators and all other staff over these six-plus decades.

Given the prior exclusions of special needs students from public schools and other historic inequities within the public education system, perhaps these dramatic staffing increases were warranted in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, the 1980s, and into the 1990s.

But, these increases in staffing—especially in administrators and others who are not teachers—are still going on all around the country, including in the District of Columbia.

According to data that the District of Columbia Public Schools submitted to the U.S. Department of Education, the District’s public schools experienced a 3.1 percent decline in its student population between the 1993-94 and 2013-14 school years. Despite this decline in students, D.C. Public Schools increased its staffing by 7.7 percent (all increases are in full-time equivalents).

Who were these new D.C. Public Schools staff?  Well, the teaching force declined by 1.1 percent over this period.

While the number of students and teachers were declining, D.C. Public Schools increased its employment of administrators and all other staff (all those who were not lead teachers) by a whopping 19.3 percent.

Put differently, as shown on the chart below, while the number of students they served was declining, D.C. public schools increased administrators and others who are not lead teachers by almost 20 percent.

For historical context, this tremendous increase in D.C. Public Schools staff who are not lead teachers since 1993 came after a decades-long staffing surge, where both teachers and especially administrators and other employees were added at rates far above increases in students.

This staffing surge may give us insight into why D.C. Public Schools have the highest per-pupil revenue in the country, at $29,400 per student per year.

The long-term bloat of public school staff in the District of Columbia shows that parents across the country need innovative and more effective ways to control education spending for their children, instead of letting the school district continue to fritter it away with hiring non-lead-teachers. As researcher Matthew Ladner has documented, those students who choose to attend private school instead of the struggling public schools in D.C. get far less money to spend on their education:

    "From an equity standpoint, it is difficult to justify the District’s school finance system. The system routinely provides $29,000 for high-income students attending regular public schools. It provides $14,000 for high-income students attending charter schools but only a maximum of $8,381 for some low-income students who would like to attend a private school system that improves the chances for graduation by approximately 21 percentage points".

Ladner concluded, “Instead of attempting to restructure or ‘reform’ [D.C. Public Schools], policymakers should free District parents to reform education from the bottom up.”

Students in the nation’s capital would be much better served by empowering them with control over their share of education funding through a system of universal education savings accounts Through this option, parents would receive a portion of the funds spent on their child in the traditional public school system, and could then use those funds to pay for a variety of education-related services, products, and providers, including private school tuition, online learning, special education services and therapies, textbooks, and host of other products.

Instead of financing bloat and relegating students to schools that might not be meeting their unique learning needs, a system of universal education savings accounts in the District would empower families to match learning options to their children’s unique needs, and enable them to allocate existing resources better.

As economist Milton Friedman explained, the public school bureaucracy, by its very nature, engages in what he called category four spending—the worst type of spending—whereby someone spends somebody else’s money on somebody else. That is, public schools spend somebody else’s money (taxpayer dollars) on somebody else’s kids.

As Jason Bedrick and one of us (Lindsey) explain:

    "Public-school officials, like all government bureaucrats, primarily engage in the worst kind of spending: They spend other people’s money on children who are not their own. As competent and well-meaning as they may be, their incentives to economize and maximize value are simply not as strong as those of parents spending their own money on their own children…. Though education savings accounts are still taxpayer funded, the way they are structured makes for a dynamic closer to the one involved in spending your own money on your own children: Parents still insist on the best quality education but have more incentive to find a bargain".

That mindset helps explain why D.C. is spending so much on administrative positions in recent years: D.C. bureaucrats don’t have the same urgency parents do to make sure each child receives the best education possible, and that the financial resources used are spent to maximize the child’s education.

Administrative bloat over time in the District is just one more indicator that a K-12 education financing system that funds the child – not school systems – can better serve students and taxpayers.


Australia: Schools in crisis as student numbers explode

The inevitable result of high levels of immigration

The Education Department's key formula for predicting student growth has been slammed as wildly inaccurate, with several schools already doubling their projected demand for 2031.

Nearly half of inner-city schools assessed by the department have already surpassed their projected demand this year, a Fairfax Media analysis has found.

The Lord Mayor of Melbourne, academics and parents who have been forced out of the city in pursuit of public schools, have criticised the department for lax planning in the wake of exploding student numbers.

Demand for 38 schools was forecast in a series of school planning reviews for the municipality of Banyule, the suburbs of Preston and Docklands, and their surrounding areas. These documents have served as a blueprint for the provision of new schools.

The student boom has proven so great that 10 schools have already surpassed their projected demand for 2031, some by hundreds of students.

These projections relate to the number of state school students within a school's catchment area, but do not take into account that a large number of students travel to attend a school outside their zone.

Michelle Styles, spokeswoman for lobby group City Schools 4 City Kids, has accused the department of underestimating enrolments in a bid to hose down pressure for new schools.

She said forecasting growth based on the number of students within a zone was unrealistic, and only served to shadow booming demand.

"Of course it is not only the the immediate local families that are going to attend those schools," she said.

"Parents often travel in towards the city to drop their children off at schools ... for example, a new school in Ferrars Street in South Melbourne is not only going to serve Ferrars Street, it will serve demands from anywhere, including families travelling from outside of the city."

The City of Melbourne is facing the most severe schools shortage among inner-city municipalities, and is set to experience a 62.9 per cent increase in school-aged children in the next decade – or almost 7500 extra students.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said Docklands urgently needed a state school, and cautioned the department against relying on the private school sector to accommodate growth.

"Haileybury College opened a large campus in King Street …. what does that tell us about what they see regarding population projections in the inner-city?"

Grattan Institute's Peter Goss said the department's key data set should project growth across a broad region rather than single school zones.

"Looking at each school in isolation or each school zone in isolation is flawed ... the overall picture of growth is the right way to look at it."

Department spokesman Steve Tolley said the organisation's preferred forecasting model "minimises the fluctuations" in enrolments resulting from school choice.

However, he said the department also takes multiple factors into consideration when planning new schools, including how many students outside of the zone may wish to enrol.

Docklands parents Neeti and Alok Chouraria are moving to Williams Landing, near Laverton, due to the absence of a local government school. They are one of seven local families they know who have abandoned the Docklands for this reason.

The couple work in the Docklands and have enjoyed sending their three-year-old child to a child care centre nearby.

"There is space for hundreds of thousands of apartments but for some reason, we can't find the space for a school. It's really very sad ... we both loved living in the city."


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