March 8, 2012

Headlines
Occupy education: Teachers, students resist school closings, privatizations
MI: Detroit mayor resist state takeover
MI: Senate approves prison privatization plan
LA: Bobby Jindal vs. Public Education
IA: Online education executives describe internet academies to House
SC: House committee advances private school choice
FL: Education bill with ties to pro-business goes before Senate
FL: Duval’s school bus woes show downside to privatization
NE: Lawmakers closer to ending child welfare privatization
NC: Editorial: GOP wisely backs off plan to privatize pre-K

Occupy education: Teachers, students resist school closings, privatizations
As students across the country stage a National Day of Action to Defend Public Education, we look at the nation’s largest school systems—Chicago and New York City—and the push to preserve quality public education amidst new efforts to privatize schools and rate teachers based on test scores. In Chicago, the city’s unelected school board voted last week to shut down seven schools and fire all of the teachers at 10 other schools. In New York City, many educators are criticizing Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration after the release of the names of 18,000 city teachers, along with a ranking system that claims to quantify each teacher’s impact on the reading and math scores of their pupils on statewide tests. “The danger is that if teachers and schools are held accountable just for these relatively narrow measures of what it is that students are doing in class, that will become what drives the education system,” says Columbia University’s Aaron Pallas, who studies the efficiency of teacher evaluation systems.
Democracy Now

MI: Detroit mayor resist state takeover
…Under legislation signed last year by Mr. Snyder, a Republican, emergency managers have been given wider powers, including the ability to override contracts with a city’s employees. Potentially complicating the issue, critics of the broadened emergency manager law filed signatures last month on petitions calling for a statewide vote on the issue. If 161,305 are judged valid, the matter will appear on ballots in November, and the stricter emergency manager law would be suspended until the vote.  New York Times

MI: Senate approves prison privatization plan
The Republican-led Michigan Senate has narrowly approved bills that would allow a now idle, privately owned prison in West Michigan to house inmates if the move will save the state money. Sentinel-Standard

LA: Bobby Jindal vs. Public Education
I went to Lafayette, La., last week to speak to the Louisiana School Boards Association. These men and women, representing their local schools from across the state, are trying to preserve public education in the face of an unprecedented onslaught by Gov. Bobby Jindal and the state’s Republican-dominated legislature. Jindal has the backing of the state’s corporate leaders, the nation’s biggest foundations, and some powerful out-of-state supporters of privatization for his sweeping attack on public education. Education Week

IA: Online education executives describe internet academies to House
Executives from two private education companies seeking to partner with Iowa school districts on internet-based academies described their operations to a panel of skeptical lawmakers on Wednesday..Lawmakers’ questions focused in on the quality of education provided by Connections and K12. How do student-teacher ratios at the online academies compare to traditional schools, they asked. How much are the teachers paid? How do they deal with behavior problems and ensure students are completing the work assigned? The Des Moines Register

SC: House committee advances private school choice

A measure offsetting parents’ cost of private school tuition and homeschool expenses moved Tuesday to the House floor.  Spartanburg Herald-Journal

FL: Education bill with ties to pro-business goes before Senate
..The bill, which opponents have said is merely a push to privatize public schools, has already passed the House of Representatives. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that promotes “free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty, through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector, and the federal government,” wrote a model Parent Trigger bill, which includes language promoting parent empowerment, turnaround models or options for failing public schools.  Florida’s version of the “Parent Trigger bill,” filed by Sen. Lisbeth Benacquisto, R-Ft. Myers, is similar, and would introduce statewide statutes to regulate parent empowerment and turnaround options in Florida…Organizations led by Michelle Rhee and Jeb Bush, which support the school choice movement, have also pledged their support of the trigger bill.  Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education and Foundation for Florida’s Future, Rhee’s Students First, the Florida chapter of the Koch-affiliated tea party group Americans for Prosperity, ALEC and several hundred think tanks, charter school companies and businesses all supported the 2012 National School Choice Week, an event that advocates and promotes charter schools, private schools, virtual schools, homeschooling, school vouchers and scholarship tax credit programs. The Florida Independent

FL: Duval’s school bus woes show downside to privatization
,,But there was another busing problem last month that also enraged taxpayers. This one involved Student Transportation America, the company that left at least 100 Jacksonville elementary school kids stranded in the rain because they were too busy running shuttles to the Daytona 500. STA spokesman Keith Engelbert told the Times-Union his company “had a bad day” and that it would willingly pay a fine levied by Duval County Public Schools…But the larger point is that privatization is not necessarily a panacea. Yes, it saves money. But there can be hidden costs. And the school bus snafu is a classic example of the potential pitfalls of outsourcing a vital public service — the transport of our kids to school. Jacksonville.com

NE: Lawmakers closer to ending child welfare privatization
…The centerpiece proposal would end the state’s experiment with privatizing child welfare services except in Douglas and Sarpy Counties, where the state’s last private contractor could continue to manage child welfare cases as a pilot project. That contractor is the Omaha-based Nebraska Families Collaborative, whose major partner is Boys Town. The pilot would be subject to review by the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, which would recommend whether to continue with the contract after April 1, 2013. The legislative package also would set statutory limits on workloads for case managers…Caseload reduction was among the changes announced after the loss of the state’s largest private contractor dealt a major blow to the privatization initiative….Gov. Dave Heineman’s child welfare privatization initiative has been rocked by one blow after another since being launched two years ago. Four of the five original contractors have dropped or lost their contracts, and repeated infusions of money into the contracts pushed up state spending on child welfare by 27 percent last year. KearneyHub

NC: Editorial: GOP wisely backs off plan to privatize pre-K
‎The Republicans wanted to privatize all pre-K classrooms by summer 2013. Such an edict would essentially “fix something that ain’t broke” and hamstring the program in parts of the state. As currently constituted, the pre-K program uses both public and private day-care centers…Yet all in all, the current program works well. In some areas, public schools use their facilities to provide the service to what are known as “at-risk” children. Sometimes they do so because their leaders feel they can do a better job than the private sector, other times because there are no private-sector centers nearby. Proponents of the plan said the public schools are crunched for space, and their idea would alleviate that. But that is not true everywhere. In some places, school buildings have open rooms that are wisely and efficiently being used on pre-K. Forcing the pre-K program out of the public schools would lead to less-efficient use of existing facilities…Although the committee backed off its proposal last week, there is still support for the rigid, all-private rule in the full House, where it could be revived in May. The current system works well. The legislature should leave well enough alone. Winston-Salem Journal

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