Posts Tagged ‘Parents Rights’

Democrats Versus Poor Kids-DC

April 1, 2011
  • APRIL 1, 2011
    Democrats and Poor Kids—II

The House GOP revives a D.C. voucher program that Obama opposes.

We hope the tea partiers don’t faint, but House Republicans this week voted 225-195 to restore $20 million in federal spending—for the District of Columbia’s school voucher program. This is the program, terminated by Democrats in 2009, that gave some 1,700 D.C. students (virtually all of them black or Hispanic) up to $7,500 per year to attend a private school.

Most District residents ardently supported the voucher program, while the teachers unions—locally and nationally—reviled it. This proved to be an embarrassment to professional Democrats—from the Presidency down to local school boards—who still claim to be the party of the poor but who have no clue how to win elections without prostrating themselves for union support.

Thus in 2009 we had the spectacle of Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, then head of a subcommittee that oversaw the program’s funding, stringing along its supporters with intimations of support if they jumped various hoops, such as getting the D.C. Council to support it. The Council did. Whereupon Senator Durbin ginned up a new hoop.

This week the Obama White House put out a statement that it “opposes targeting resources to help a small number of individuals attend private schools.” It continues to say there is no evidence of academic improvement. As we noted in a 2009 editorial, “Democrats and Poor Kids,” the Education Department was in possession then of a study showing gains in reading scores and no declines in math relative to public schools.

The President this week didn’t promise a veto, so if perchance it passed the Democratic Senate, he just might sign it. That’s the undying optimist in us. The cynical view would be that Mr. Obama will do what the unions say he must to win their re-election cash.

From the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page.

LA Parent Trigger (contd.)

March 30, 2011

A Good LA Weekly article of the continuing saga of Parents vs. Inept School Board. Highlights:

The last few months have been a painstaking uphill battle for Parent Revolution, the group of organizers and McKinley Elementary School parents trying to turn one vastly underperforming Compton campus into a charter school.

Now that the community battle has been transplanted to a house of law, things are going a little more smoothly. At this morning’s hearing, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge … Mohr, … told district officials that their method of verifying Parent Trigger signatures … was … unconstitutional, ….

When the judge’s deadline arrives, CUSD … [will] have … their verification process … “subject of strict scrutiny,” and — if found … un-thorough — could instead be handed off to a “neutral third party.”

Wow. Neutral third party. What a concept.

But the fight has just begun. We’ll see you back in court on April 11.

If You’re Looking for Some Humor…

March 29, 2011

You Might Enjoy “Anonymous’s” Comment and My Responses at this link.

Meet the Reluctant Star of “Waiting for Superman”

March 29, 2011
  • MARCH 26, 2011

Weingarten for the Union Defense

Teachers Union Chief Randi Weingarten on charter schools, reformers Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein, and her star turn in ‘Waiting for Superman.’

By JASON L. RILEY

New York

Teachers unions are on the defensive these days. The Obama administration is pushing various measures long opposed by the unions: charter school expansion, pay-for-performance, teacher evaluations and more. States and localities are looking to change collective-bargaining rules and scale back costly, bloated education work forces that have grown even when student enrollment was flat or declining. And Hollywood, in recent documentary films like “Waiting for ‘Superman,'” “The Lottery” and “The Cartel,” has highlighted how teachers unions block or stifle education reforms to the detriment of the low-income minority kids who populate the nation’s worst schools.

When I sit down for an interview with Randi Weingarten, who has been head of the American Federation of Teachers since 2008, my first question is whether those films are getting her recognized more in public these days.

“Actually, no,” she responds, not particularly amused by the query. “I’m used to the use of scapegoating and demonization and finger-pointing as a mechanism to divert or distract from problem-solving.”

“We want to improve public schools,” says Ms. Weingarten. “Ninety percent of the kids in the United States of America go to public schools, and it’s our responsibility to help them. I think every single child deserves a great education.” These films, she said, “are all made by people who have not ever once looked at a good public school.” She adds that what bothers her in particular about “Waiting for ‘Superman'” is that “there was not one public school teacher in a unionized setting who was acknowledged as a great teacher, and there are hundreds of thousands of them. . . . So you have a movie like ‘Waiting for “Superman,”‘ which is about one [charter] school, when so many other charter schools don’t do a good job.”

In fact, “Waiting for ‘Superman'” tracks five children who enter lotteries at four charter schools located in two states and the District of Columbia. It explicitly notes that not all charter schools are high-performing. And it features footage of the late Harriett Ball, the influential public school teacher in Houston who mentored Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg, the two young teachers who would co-found KIPP, the most successful charter school network in the country.

winterriley

I ask Ms. Weingarten about union-backed laws in 14 states mandating that teachers be laid off by seniority instead of job performance, and whether they help improve public schools. Why can’t teachers who have been chronically absent from work be the first to go? Or the ones who have been convicted of crimes? Or the ones who are languishing—with full pay and benefits—in some “reserve pool” because no school will hire them? Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently said that “last in, first out” policies hit low-income kids hardest because the poor are more likely to attend schools where teachers have less seniority.

Says Ms. Weingarten: “It’s not the perfect mechanism but it’s the best mechanism we have. You have cronyism and corruption and discrimination issues. We’re saying let’s do things the right way. We don’t want to see people getting laid off based on who they know instead of what they know. We don’t want to see people get laid off based on how much they cost.” She praises New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for defending the state’s seniority system.

What about teacher-tenure rules that offer lifetime sinecures after two or three years in the classroom and compel principals to hire bad instructors? “If you eliminated due process, what we would get is we would lose innovation and risk-taking in schools,” she says.

And so it goes. Ms. Weingarten insists that teachers unions are agents of change, not defenders of the status quo. But in the next breath she shoots down suggestions for changes—vouchers, charter schools, differential teacher pay and so on—that have become important parts of the reform conversation. She seems to conceive of her job as the one William F. Buckley Jr. ascribed to conservatives in the 1950s: To stand athwart history yelling “Stop!”

“We’ve started some charter schools, but there are studies out there that say 80% of charter schools are no better [than traditional public schools] and 37% are worse.” she says. “We’ve tried merit pay in a few places [but] there’s a new study from Vanderbilt University that says it doesn’t work.” And school vouchers “have never been shown to be successful,” she insists, ignoring the results of a study last year by Patrick Wolf of the University of Arkansas, who found that “students in Washington, D.C., who used a federally funded voucher to attend a private school were more likely to graduate from high school.”

Ms. Weingarten is dismissive of some of the country’s leading public education reformers. Michelle Rhee, the celebrated former schools chancellor in Washington, D.C., who negotiated a teachers contract that has become a nationwide model, “had a record that is actually no better than the previous two chancellors.” And Joel Klein, the former education chief in New York City who closed 91 failing schools and sought to change the process for awarding tenure, is a reformer-come-lately who “just started talking about revamping teacher evaluations this past Sunday.”

The labor leader downplays differences with the Obama administration, despite its tough talk on holding teachers more accountable. “We’ve been generally supportive of what the president and the secretary of education have done,” she says. So either her union doesn’t take the rhetoric seriously, or Team Obama can say whatever it wants so long as the education spending spigot remains open.

Then there’s the matter of collective bargaining for public workers, which has caused so much controversy in Wisconsin and elsewhere—and which past labor leaders resisted. Former AFL-CIO President George Meany, for example, said that “it is impossible to bargain collectively with the government.” And Franklin Roosevelt said that “all government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining cannot be transplanted into the public service” because “it has distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management.”

“If Meany and FDR were alive today, they’d have a very different view,” Ms. Weingarten says.

“What’s happening now is you see George Meany’s successors, Richard Trumka and others—you see FDR’s successors as governor of New York—all giving people collective-bargaining rights. What collective bargaining does in the public sphere is that it helps transform systems. It helps focus on equality. It helps create a check and balance that’s really important.”

The AFT and its larger sister organization, the National Education Association, may be the most powerful labor unions in the country. They have a combined membership of more that 4.5 million, and their policy influence reaches far beyond public schools. Political donations from these groups go overwhelmingly to Democrats, and the role that member dues play in the wider liberal movement can be seen in teachers union support for everything from abortion rights to single-payer health care to statehood for Washington, D.C.

But the real strength of the AFT, NEA and their state and local affiliates lies in their ability to obstruct. They have been particularly effective at blocking poor people from leaving bad public schools. They offer financial and logistical support to political candidates sympathetic to their agenda of curbing educational options, and they punish elected officials who don’t stay the course.

Teachers unions agitate for laws and regulations that ban means-tested voucher programs or cap the number of charter schools that can open in a state. To protect jobs for their members, they fight to keep the worst instructors from being fired and the worst schools from closing. All the while, they insist that their interests are aligned with those of the kids.

It is this skill set that has made Ms. Weingarten a documentary film star. And it is why education reformers, of all political stripes, focus so much of their attention on undermining the teachers unions and setting up public charter schools that can operate outside of their grip.

Mr. Riley is a member of The Journal’s editorial board.

Printed in The Wall Street Journal

ACTION ALERT: Call Rep. White in Support of HB 3339!

March 26, 2011

Rep. James White, who has courageously filed the “Parent Empowerment Bill” HB 3339, is getting flack from school superintendents in his district (HD 12)

We need to show him voters that support HB 3339, ESPECIALLY IN HIS DISTRICT.

CALL HIS CAPITOL OFFICE AT 512-463-0490!  You can call on Saturday or Sunday and leave a voice mail.

Tell him that:

  • you are in support of HB 3339, and
  • you want parents involved in fixing chronically failing schools, not more bureaucrats.

After you call, please comment on this post to tell me you called.

That way I can count YOU as one of the faithful.

Remember to be polite.

 

ACTION ALERT: Call Rep. White in Support of HB 3339!

March 25, 2011

Rep. James White, who has courageously filed the “Parent Empowerment Bill” HB 3339, is getting flack from school superintendents in his district (HD 12)

We need to show him voters that support HB 3339, ESPECIALLY IN HIS DISTRICT.

CALL HIS CAPITOL OFFICE AT 512-463-0490!  You can call on Saturday or Sunday and leave a voice mail.

Tell him that:

  • you are in support of HB 3339, and
  • you want parents involved in fixing chronically failing schools, not more bureaucrats.

After you call, please comment on this post to tell me you called.

That way I can count YOU as one of the faithful.

Remember to be polite.

Please Send a “Thank You” Email to Rep. White!

March 14, 2011

Please send a simple email to james.white@house.state.tx.us .  Just say “Thank you for filing HB 3339”.

Rep. James White deserves our deepest gratitude for filing the Parent-Trigger Bill, HB 3339.

Now Listen Fellow Activists!  I’m going to ask Rep. White how many emails he gets.  He better get at least 200 or I’m going to get after you!

Now that we have a bill number, there will be many times between now and June 1 that I’m going to ask you to call, email, or write key legislators from whom we will need support.  Your response will be ABSOLUTELY VITAL to the success of passing this bill and helping the kids escape from bad schools.  The unions and status quo defenders will likely respond with 5 times as many calls and letters than us, but that’s OK because the legislators know that we are the thinkers and responsible citizens.  Each of our calls is worth more than 5 calls from the status quo defenders who have been the cause of the problem.

Rep. White can only do this if we carry him on our shoulders of support.  So get in the habit now of responding to my calls for action.  Show him that you are one of the most active grassroots teams in Texas.  MAKE HIM PROUD OF YOU!

Please don’t call him right now with “thank you’s” because you will just keep his receptionist distracted from her other responsibilities.  However, if you cannot contain your joy, call me, Bob Schoolfield, at 512-461-3126 and I will pass on your enthusiasm.

I thank God for each one of you even though we are only Facebook friends or fans.  Each one of you is so valuable and needed.  I want to have celebration parties all over the state when we see our bill become law.

But this isn’t really “our bill”.  It is God’s bill, and we will glorify Him as we work in the earthly realm of politics with a heavenly mission.  Our mission is to bring these children out of the darkness of broken schools into schools where they can learn how to read, write, and do arithmetic, hold down good jobs, build healthy families, and rebuild our nation.

Our job this legislative session has just begun.  Thank you for joining the team!

HB 3339 HAS BEEN FILED!!!

March 11, 2011
Be of good cheer! The “Parent Trigger” bill, HB 3339 has been filed.
Important highlights of the bill:
1. School must be graded “Unacceptable” (Failed) two consecutive years.  Currently, 188 Texas schools qualify.
2. There is only one choice, Charter Conversion, (no voucher option).
3. The parents can avoid stalemate by appealing to the Commissioner of Education, Robert Scott.  This position is appointed by Governor Rick Perry (Republican).
Filer is Rep. James White.  White is a freshman, African American, Republican, rural, representative from House District 12 in East Texas.  Largest town in the district is Lufkin, TX, 60 miles from the Louisiana border.
Hurray!  PTL!

Strategy: Short-term Goals vs. Long-term Goals

February 2, 2011

These are the long-term goals of Texans for Parental Choice in Education.

Long-term Goal 1

Every family in Texas, who pays taxes for public education and pays for any product or service to further the learning of their school-aged child, would be compensated for that expense with a dollar for dollar credit against their personal public-education-tax, up to some generous ceiling.

Long-term Goal 2

There would be a network of private, charitable, scholarship organizations that gave scholarships to needy students to attend the private school of their parents’ choice, and any public-education-taxpayer, including corporations, could donate to one of these scholarship organizations and be compensated with a dollar for dollar tax credit.

Long-term Goal 3

Finally, the attempts by the enemies of educational liberty to obstruct those liberties would be defeated.

☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺

But now back to the unfortunate reality. ☹ ☹ ☹ How do we get from here to that wonderful vision?

This report is about strategy. What are the logical steps and short-term goals that will lead to the long-term goal described above?

Option 1: All-out Frontal Assault

This strategy would say that, with our conservative legislature, an all-out assault on the unions with a universal property tax-credit bill is the obvious strategy. Unfortunately there are three problems with this strategy.

Problem 1: The ISD Property Tax

During the legislative session of 2009, Rep. Paxton agreed to submit a property tax-credit bill for educational expenses to Legislative Counsel.  To my amazement and frustration, Legislative Counsel never returned a draft.  Not during that session, not during the rest of 2009, and not before October 2010 did I hear from them.  Finally in October of 2010, one of the attorney’s at Legislative Counsel called me directly and told me that because the ISD property tax was complicated by the addition of robin-hood’s complex and perverse formulas for tax-fund flows from district to district and from the state comptroller to districts, it had become so complex that they, the team of lawyers, could not write a ISD property tax-credit law!  That’s right, the law had become so complex and perverse, a law to give a credit off of this tax could not be written.

Short-term Goal 1 for Problem 1: Replace the ISD property tax with a Simple State Tax

The first project is to abolish the ISD property tax and replace it with a simple statewide tax. There aren’t many choices.  A state income tax and a state property tax are both unconstitutional in Texas.  The only two taxes left are a Value-added Tax, which is a hidden tax, or an expansion of the state sales tax.  The expansion of the state sales tax is the obvious choice.  It is simple, visible, voluntary, and flat.

We currently have a state sales tax, but it does not raise enough funds to replace the ISD property tax.  Rather than replacing the ISD property tax by dramatically raising the sales tax rate from its current 6.25%, it is better to broaden the tax.  Texas has many services that do not charge sales tax. By broadening the sales tax to include these un-taxed services, more tax funds can be raised without dramatically raising the tax rate.

Texas does have a state corporate-franchise tax, this tax can be used for a scholarship organization tax-credit, but not a family tax-credit (since corporations don’t have children. :)

Problem 2: The TSTA’s & AFT’s Grassroots Network

The Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) and the Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) are the two major ISD employee associations.  In Texas, these associations (unions) cannot call a strike and they cannot make membership a requirement for employment or advancement.  So these unions are not as strong as they are in northern states where they can do these things.  In spite of that these unions are still very powerful in Texas.

The unions oppose charter schools, voucher programs, and tax-credit programs for a very simple reason.  All these innovations represent a direct threat to their income stream of member dues, because teachers in charter and private schools are not members of the TSTA or AFT.  The priority of the unions is not effective learning or even good teachers.  It is member dues.

The main political power of the TSTA & AFT is not money.  Since a majority of ISD employees are members of these organizations, they have a huge grassroots network in every county in Texas and they keep that network politically organized.  Although the elections of 2010 saw a great resurgence of conservatives in Texas, this network of ISD employees is powerful and tenacious.  They have not given up and will not go away easily.  I am sure that they are regrouping and preparing for a counter-attack.

In order to have any long-term success against the unions, we must match their network with our own network of passionate parents, teachers, and citizens who can clearly identify the enemy and are willing to invest time and resources to fight the war for the sake of the kids and the future of Texas.  I believe our grassroots organization has to be bipartisan and much bigger in order to have long-term victory.  How do we build such a network?

Problem 3: The Unions’ Strategic “Con Game”

In addition to their extensive grassroots organization, the unions’ successful strategy for the last 20 years has also included a huge “con game.”  They siphon the public school budget for themselves by adding unnecessary administrators and staff, which increases their member dues, but claim that they are focused on educating the kids and helping the neighborhood.  This lie only works because most low-income parents are suffering in silence, and this silence doesn’t contradict the union lies.

This lie is what the unions effectively hide behind.  If we propose an all out assault with a universal tax-credit program, the unions will complain that, “You right-wing bigots are trying to take the money away from the schools that are helping the poor inner-city kids.”  This lie has worked in the past, and it will work again, as long as the inner-city parents are silent.  How do we give inner-city parents a voice?

Short-term Goal 2 for Problems 2 & 3: Energizing Inner-city Parents with the “Parent Trigger”

If we can energize the sleeping giant of the inner-city parents, we can solve problems 2 & 3 at the same time.  So how do we energize them?

Inner-city parents have only one “education reform” goal.  They want their public school down the block where their child goes to school to improve.  Any goal bigger than that seems irrelevant and overwhelming.  We have to give them a way to change their public school down the block, one school at a time.

The “parent trigger” bill would give inner-city parents a way to organize to improve their public school down the block.  The bill would allow parents whose kids attend one particular public school to collect signatures on a petition to change the school’s management to a private management company free of union ties.  Then the school would be run effectively and efficiently outside of union control.  The name for this privately managed school is a charter school.  Collecting a majority of parent signatures would “trigger” or force the school district to make the conversion.  A small voucher program for the kids that don’t prefer the new charter school could be added.

If the parent-trigger becomes law, then the real job of Short-term Goal 2 begins.  This job is passing petitions in inner-city neighborhoods to energize and organize parents to improve their neighborhood school.  This will take time, but it should be productive because it engages parents at the level that they understand and care about.  This is the process of building the large bipartisan grassroots network required in Problem 2.

When some of the petitions “trigger”, the unions will try to block the charter conversions.  The unions will surely resist this reform because more charter schools mean less union dues.  But they will be opposing the very inner-city parents that they claim to be helping.  This will expose their lie, which gives them no place to hide.  Now the right-wing tea-partiers AND the inner-city parents will be united in their opposition to the unions.  Then we will have a grassroots army large enough to fight for universal tax-credits.

In summary, even though our long-term goal is universal family and scholarship tax-credits, there are two short-term goals that must be accomplished first.

Short-term goal 1 is to abolish the ISD property tax and substitute a broad-based state sales tax.

Short-term goal 2 is to pass the parent-trigger bill and start organizing parents to convert their local school to charter schools.

Both short-term goals can be worked on simultaneously.  When both are accomplished, the groundwork will be completed to move on the universal tax-credits.

Rep. Kelly Hancock Preparing to File Powerful Ed Reform Bill!

January 28, 2011

Good news fellow Texans!

Rep. Kelly Hancock from Ft. Worth is preparing to file a powerful bill.

The bill, called the “Parent Trigger,” would allow parents whose kids attend one particular public school to collect signatures on a petition to change the school’s management to a private management company free of union ties.  Then the school will be run effectively and efficiently outside of union control.  The name for this privately managed school is a charter or contract school.  Collecting a majority of parent signatures would “trigger” or force the school district to make the conversion.  A small voucher program for the kids at that school could be added.

The power of the Parent Trigger is that it will give parents a way to change their public school down the block; one school at a time.

Please call (512-463-0599) or email (kelly.hancock@house.state.tx.us) Rep. Hancock to thank him for proposing the Parent Trigger.