Posts Tagged ‘Charter School’

Parent-Trigger V-Day

July 21, 2015

Alexander Hamilton said an independent judiciary is essential to guard against “serious oppressions of the minor party in the community.” Last week a California judge reaffirmed this wisdom by overruling local school district officials who tried to thwart parents from using the state’s parent-trigger law.

In January parents filed a petition to convert Palm Lane Elementary in Anaheim into a charter under California’s 2010 parent-trigger law, which allows a majority of parents in any failing school to force changes. Palm Lane had made the state Department of Education’s list of underperforming schools since 2003. Fewer than 40% of students scored proficient in English in 2013. About 85% are Hispanic, and most are low-income.

School district officials and the teachers union tried to stymie parents at every turn. The union even complained that signature gatherers were bribing parents with free iPads, a false allegation that the district superintendent repeated in a cautionary letter to parents. In February the school district rejected the petition on dubious grounds, which included claims that parents had made paperwork errors, such as failing to “submit a separate document that identifies the lead petitioners.”

Though more than 60% of parents signed the petition, the district threw out dozens of signatures that could not be “verified.” That is, the parents could not be reached between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to confirm that they signed the petition. Maybe that’s because they were working. This left parents 12 signatures short of the 50% threshold, so they sued the district for improperly rejecting the petition.

Last Thursday Orange County Superior Court judge Andrew Banks ruled in favor of the parents on all counts and rebuked the district’s conduct as “unreasonable, arbitrary, capricious and unfair.” He also scored district officials for violating their obligation under the trigger law to work in good faith with parents—a responsibility many other districts have disregarded as well.

Judge Banks has ordered the district to accept the petition and allow parents to immediately begin soliciting charter school proposals. Palm Lane will become the second school in California where parents have successfully triggered large-scale reform. There would be more if unions working with district officials hadn’t intimidated parent organizers.

Palm Lane parents were assisted by the trigger law’s author, former state Democratic Senator Gloria Romero, who helped seek outside legal counsel. The case shows how far the union and administrative bureaucracy will go to preserve their monopoly, even breaking the law. Palm Lane’s parents are heroes for fighting back, but the scandal is how hard they had to fight to fulfill a basic legal right.

 

Congressman Paul Ryan Talks Education In WSJ

January 26, 2014

Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin wrote a feature column in the Wall Street Journal this weekend to discuss the “war on poverty” as it turns 50 years old. Congressman Ryan, who worked extensively with the late Jack Kemp in the early 1990’s before becoming a Congressman, is advocating many of the ideals that Kemp spent a career fighting for, such as parental choice in education, and local leadership taking control and solving problems, rather than bureaucrats in Washington far removed from the situation.

The two excerpts below really highlight some smart, innovative thinking when it comes to education. They say sunlight is the best disinfectant, and I think Congressman Ryan shining a light on these ideas in the WSJ is really important. I’m curious to know your thoughts.

One day at Pulaski High School in Milwaukee, a fight broke out between two students. The staff separated them, but one of the students, a young woman named Marianna, refused to relent. She continued to fight—now with the staff—and to cause a stir. Then a call went out over the school radio for “Lulu” to respond. Soon, Marianna began to calm down. Once she arrived, Lulu quickly defused the situation. Of all the people at Pulaski High—all the teachers and administrators—only one person got through to Marianna that day, and it was Lulu.

“Lulu” is Mrs. Louisa, one of five youth advisers in Pulaski High’s Violence-Free Zone program. Along with program head Andre Robinson and site supervisor Naomi Perez, they work as a band of roving mentors. On a typical day, you’ll find them walking the halls in black polo shirts. They chat with students, break up fights and help with homework. Most of them are recent alumni who grew up in the inner city, and they have the scars to prove it. They’ve been part of gangs. They’ve seen violence firsthand.

But they don’t have education degrees or state certification. They have something more important: credibility. The youth advisers understand what the students are going through because they’ve had the same struggles. That credibility creates trust, and so the students listen to them. In the two years since the program started, suspensions at Pulaski High are down by 60%, and daily attendance is up by nearly 10%. Fourteen gangs used to roam the school grounds; today, they’ve all but disappeared. The school tried all sorts of things to keep students safe—more police presence, more cameras. But only this program worked.

Mrs. Louisa, Mrs. Perez and Mr. Robinson aren’t just keeping kids in school; they’re fighting poverty on the front lines. If you graduate from high school, you’re much less likely to end up poor. According to the Census Bureau, a high-school graduate makes $10,000 a year more, on average, than a high-school dropout, and a college graduate makes $36,000 more. Ever since that day at Pulaski High, Marianna has improved her grades and now she is looking at colleges. Yet for all its professed concern about families in need, Washington is more concerned with protecting the status quo than with pursuing what actually works.

Later:

• In education, give teachers more control, and give parents a choice. Some of the most exciting work in education has occurred in Indiana. Three years ago, then-governor Mitch Daniels shepherded through the legislature several bold reforms.

Before the reforms, union-negotiated contracts required teachers to earn compensation based on seniority, not performance, and the contracts dictated all aspects of the classroom experience, from the humidity level in the school to the number of hours a teacher must spend with students. Under the new laws, teachers’ pay is based on performance. In exchange, they have more control over the classroom. Collective bargaining covers only wages and benefits, so teachers can tailor the curriculum to the needs of their students.

Low-income families are also now eligible for tuition vouchers on a sliding scale, and the reforms allow parents unhappy with a low-performing public school to turn it into a charter school with the approval of their local school board.

TEA Harasses Exemplary Charter School

April 17, 2012

The TEA is hard at work spending taxpayers’ money to improve the educational outcomes in Texas, NOT!

El Paso’s 900-student Burnham Wood Charter School District [is] hit hard by a [negative] report from the Texas Education Agency… [Iris Burnham, the charter school district’s superintendent,] estimates they have spent $200,000 so far defending itself against TEA charges.

Why is the charter school being attacked? Not because is has poor educational outcomes. It is simply because it is a successful charter school.

The highly regarded Burnham Wood District earned an exemplary academic rating in 2010, and a recognized rating in 2011.

But among the thousands of schools that the TEA oversees, how did they even notice Burnham Woods, a small school with an exemplary rating? It’s because of disgruntled former employees.

Burnham Wood officials and lawyers contend that TEA’s actions, prompted by complaints from former employees, have been unwarranted, over-reaching and punitive.

If this situation angers you, do something productive. Call Commissioner Robert Scott (512-463-9451) and ask him to stop this TEA witch-hunt against Burnham Woods?

HISD Plans To Shut an Exemplary Charter School

April 14, 2012

A new HISD proposal would merge Kaleidoscope Middle School, a small charter academy, with Jane Long Middle School, the traditional public school that shares its campus with Kaleidoscope.

Both serve the same community: recent immigrants, low income, largely Spanish-speaking residents.

But Kaleidoscope has something its larger host school does not: Exemplary Status from the Texas Education Agency.

“Out of all the schools that are currently Exemplary, why would you shut one down?” asked community organizer Fidencio Leija Chavez, Jr. “Instead of embracing it — keeping it intact — they’re wanting to take it apart and dismantle it.”

“H-I-S-D administrators have proposed merging Kaleidoscope Middle School into Long 6-12 Middle School, which is adding grades 9-12 for the new pharmaceutical technology academy, in an effort to increase academic rigor and options for students,” read the HISD statement.

HISD wants to “increase the options for students” by shutting down the one successful option, Kaleidoscope?  That is clearly a lie.  There are two real reasons for the closure.  The first is to get rid of a successful school that is putting their traditional public school to shame.  The second is to yield to pressure from the teachers union, who want to get rid of teachers that don’t operate under the union contract.

Education reformers in Houston need to shine some light on this HISD travesty and pressure the board to “retain the options for students” who attend Kaleidoscope. 


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