Editorial/Opinion

Luna, Have You No Shame?

posted Sep 26, 2012, 8:24 PM by Common Sense

The recent full page ads in newspapers around the state establishes the battle lines over the Luna referendum next month. It’s a union of millionaires who will profit immensely from the Luna referendums, against parents and teachers who stand for quality in education, with the children of Idaho as the victims.

 The ads bring to mind the famous charge by attorney Joseph Welch when facing the Communist baiting Joe McCarthy, Wisconsin’s alcoholic, mentally demented senator. Welch's reply to McCarthy’s attempt to smear yet another innocent American, “Senator, have you no shame?”

To the perpetrators of the recent full page ads we ask the same question. The ads, filled with outright lies, denigrate teachers, and insult the mentality of Idaho voters.

 The teachers’ organization is not run by ‘bosses’.  It’s leaders are chosen in a democratic process involving elected delegates and committees.   Not one staff member or elected officer of the IEA will benefit one dime regardless of the referendum outcome.  Association leaders, teachers, parents  and many others are concerned about the negative impact these laws will make on children’s schooling, not on personal profit.

 The major elements of Luna’s ill-conceived laws are pay for performance, elimination of academic freedom for teachers, increasing class size, requiring all children to take impersonal, robotic, on line courses, and providing cheap laptops to children.

 Research and the experience of districts or states who have experimented with these ideas clearly reveal that none relate to improving the quality of education.

 On line courses have become extremely profitable for providers. For some, even young children, they can be of value but most students need supervision, interaction and support which live teachers can provide, assuming the class size is not excessive.

Pay for performance is a waste of money. Effective teachers are already doing their best. Throwing more money at them won’t change that. Every child deserves an effective teacher. Better to assure that every teacher is effective by spending more for mentoring, supervisory, and developmental programs.

 Technology can, and always has, been a valuable teaching tool. Rather than laptops, if money is available it should be used for those resources teachers identify and will use. However, class size, not resources, is the most important single factor in providing quality learning.

 Academic freedom, the right for teachers to teach rather than indoctrinate is inherent in the American way. A democracy cannot survive when run by demagogues. Currently, there are those with wealth who seek to privatize the public schools for their own lustful profit and will trade our way of life for their ill gotten gains.

 

Anti school people cite their opposition to paying for schools with the lament that ‘throwing money at schools won’t improve quality.” Luna’s efforts certainly lend credence to that lament. On the other hand, without money, school quality will not improve. Luna’s agenda illustrates the danger of  just spending money, but not spending it wisely.

 The funds dedicated to  laptops and performance pay could provide an additional reading teacher for every school district, or could fund additional teachers to reduce class size in crowded classrooms, or could provide current textbooks and/or e books for thousands of students, or could fund aides to free up teachers and provide more time for planning and individual tutoring. 

 The vote on November’s referendum will indicate where Idaho voters stand on supporting, Idaho’s public schools, Idaho’s teachers, and Idaho’s future.

 

Lilburn E. Wesche, Ed.D.

Director of Public Information

Common Sense Democracy Foundation of   Idaho

commonsensedemocracy@gmail.com

Luna Should take a Pause on 9/11 and Learn from NYC

posted Sep 12, 2012, 9:14 PM by Common Sense

The Common Sense Democracy Foundation of Idaho

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sept. 11, 2012


Contact
Lilburn Wesche, Director of Public Relations
elwesche@aol.com
cell:  208 – 859 – 1219
Common Sense Democracy website

 

LUNA AND HIS BUDDIES ARE DEAD WRONG!

& LUNA SHOULD TAKE PAUSE ON 9/11 AND LEARN FROM NYC
 
Boise, ID -- Dead wrong! That’s what recent statewide newspaper ads—which claim to support the ill-advised school ‘reform’ proposals of state school superintendent Tom Luna—are!

This November, a ‘no’ vote on the Luna referendums is critical to thwarting the anti-education forces who are seeking to profit from our schools, where profit margins are more important than best practices for schools. Luna’s proposals should be labeled ‘students come last'. His ‘reforms’ fly in the face of peer-reviewed educational research.

The over emphasis on the need for technology is generated, and the ads funded, by in-state and out-of-state tycoons who hold stock in major online schools and computer companies. There is no valid evidence to support their claim that more technology will make a difference.

In truth, given their limited finances, schools in Idaho have already been using technology effectively for years. All schools are equipped with computers and internet access. Many classrooms are equipped with smart boards, computer projection equipment and related resources.

The greater needs for Idaho’s kids include:
•         reducing class size;
•         ensuring that every child from the fourth grade on can read well;
•         increasing professional development for teachers;
•         and recruiting and retaining the best and brightest young teachers.

"Instead, tens of millions of dollars will be wasted on cheap laptops, teacher morale is at an all-time low causing 1,300 teachers to leave the profession and/or the state last year alone, and Idaho has become a petri dish for dozens of failed education reforms from other states," said Travis Manning, Executive Director of Common Sense.  "You don't see schools trying to force their organizational structures on business and corporations and there's a reason for that."

And through it all, Luna and his ilk flood the media with distorted data, untruths, senseless allegations, and pie-in-the-sky claims. Perhaps must damaging is the persistent lack of respect shown Idaho's professional teaching corp, particularly the effort to introduce performance pay, on the assumption that teachers aren’t already doing their best. Because money is the highest priority for Luna and his buddies, they have difficulty realizing there are people who care more about helping kids learn than about the almighty dollar. 

Just look at New York Public Schools and their last 10 years with heavy handed, top-down style reforms, including pay for performance, among many others; no measureable successes -- with reforms similar to Idaho's.  New York City was never the same after 9/11, and that includes the radical reforms imposed on its school system under the steel hand of its 3-time mayor Michael Bloomberg, a business man reformer who tried to force round pegs into square holes.  Mr. Luna should take note.

This November Idahoans will have a choice. Hopefully, that choice will be to return schools to local control, to best teaching practices, and away from for-profit, out-of-state corporations.

What Tom Luna and Terrell Bell Can Teach Us about Education Reform

posted May 31, 2012, 4:31 PM by Common Sense

What Tom Luna and Terrell Bell Can Teach Us about Education Reform


If you were following the news recently, you likely heard that Mitt Romney named Idaho Superintendent Tom Luna as one of his education advisers. This news may cause many of us here in Idaho to scratch our heads: Does Mr. Romney not know that over 78,000 people signed three referendums to put Mr. Luna's controversial education “reform” bills on the ballot this November? Does he not know that 50,000 people signed petitions to recall Mr. Luna from office last year and that many people who voted for Luna now sincerely regret that decision? Perhaps Romney doesn't follow Idaho news very closely, yet interestingly enough, Tom Luna is not the first Idahoan to be to tapped for a top federal education position, and an examination of the career of a Secretary of Education who hailed from Idaho tells an interesting story about the course of US education policy and its reform.

The Department of Education is a federal bureau that was created under President Carter in the 1970's, and the 2nd US Secretary of Education was Idaho native Terrell Bell. Bell, who began his career in Lava Springs, Idaho, served as Reagan's first Secretary of Education and is unique among all of our nation's Secretaries of Education because he is one of two who have been a teacher, and he is the only one who worked his way up from teacher, to principal, to superintendent, then state superintendent, and finally US Secretary of Education. Yes, you read that right: Out of nine Secretaries of Education-the highest education post in the land-only two have ever been teachers and only Mr. Bell has worked his way up through the ranks holding all the positions one might imagine this post should entail. So how did Bell do as a Secretary of Education?

It was Secretary Bell who ordered the most comprehensive study of public education ever undertaken in American history to prevent Reagan from indiscriminately cutting federal funding for public education. The study that Bell ordered produced the important and controversial Nation at Risk report, which may be ultimately connected to increased enrollment in advanced courses and academically talented programs, to the state standards movements of the 1990's, and increased rigor in schools. Education historian Diane Ravitch calls the Nation at Risk report the most important school report in our nation's history. Because of the significance of this report and what it ultimately would lead to, one could easily make the argument that Terrell Bell was one of, if not the most influential and effective Secretaries of Education our nation has ever produced.

Why is Terrell Bell and his role in US education policy important today? Bell is significant because he is the exception to the rule: seven of the eight other Secretaries of Education, like Tom Luna, had no experience in the industry of education and most were appointed by various Presidents as political favors to whatever powers got them into office; they were politicians. Many lament the state of American education and feel that we need reform or even overhaul, but could poor education policy have any connection to the fact that the highest education office in the land is almost never staffed by an industry expert?

If the highest education post of the state is occupied by someone who does not understand the industry, should we not expect this person to institute reforms not supported by research or actual stakeholders or reforms mainly motivated by a particular political ideology? Worse yet, could we not expect reforms that may even enrich politically connected interests at the expense of students and communities? When our highest education post is occupied by someone who has only a superficial knowledge of education, it is only logical to expect ineffective education policy and to expect that this person will be an easy dupe for the shiny gadgets and slick presentations produced by the for-profit educational-industrial complex.

By the way, does this type of education reform sound familiar?

I believe that one of our nation's most basic problems is that we say we value expertise and those who work their way up through the ranks of an organization, but in practice often we really don't. I remember reading in 2004 about Southwest Airlines' promotion of Gary Kelly as CEO to replace resigning CEO James Parker. The article stated that Southwest's corporate culture was unusual in that Kelly had worked with the company since 1986 and outgoing CEO Parker had been with the company since 1979. As I read the article, I remember thinking that the problem with corporate culture in America was that promoting employees who had been with the company for decades from within is the exception, not the rule. I don't believe that it is coincidental that Southwest is one of the most successful and profitable US airlines and their leadership is made up of people who have been with the company for decades just as I don't believe it is coincidental that the nation's most important Secretary of Education was the one Secretary that happened to have spent decades in the industry of education.

If we place people with only superficial knowledge of education in our state's and nation's highest education posts, we should logically expect little meaningful reform. The moral of the story of Tom Luna vs Terell Bell is that if we want true reform in education, we should place people who truly understand education in important education posts. It's too bad Mr. Romney doesn't seem to value real expertise.


Clayton Trehal

Why the Ferguson report on school funding matters

posted May 20, 2012, 6:09 AM by Clayton Trehal   [ updated May 20, 2012, 7:34 PM ]

If you haven't yet read Mike Ferguson's report on school funding and thought about its implications, you should. On May 17, I was part of a forum about Idaho education policy held after the screening of the film American Teacher at the Northern Lights Theater in Nampa. One of the centerpieces of this discussion was the recent report on school funding by retired State Chief Economist, Mike Ferguson. This report, published in April, has received some press coverage but has important implications that all Idaho citizens and taxpayers should seriously consider. There are three main reasons why the Ferguson report should alarm taxpayers.


The shifting of school funding from a primary reliance on property tax to a primary reliance on sales tax enacted in 2006 has dramatically reduced school funding and caused school funding to be unstable. In the 80's and 90's, the state spent 34% of its overall budget to fund schools, and today spends 26.4%, the lowest funding level in 34 years. What happened? When the 2006 legislature shifted school funding from property taxes to sales taxes, they raised sales tax by 1% to make up the difference but the sales tax revenue provided only $210 million in revenue to make up for $260 million schools used to make from property taxes. This is important for two reasons: a.) It created a significant budget shortfall that we will see both in good and bad times, which means permanently reduced funding for education. b.) Sales taxes are volatile and fluctuate with the economy, which means that we will see more variation in school funding from year to year based on the economy.


To make up for the revenue reduction that is now built into the system, Idaho schools have had to increasingly turn to supplemental levy bond elections. In Fiscal Year 2011-2012, 70% of Idaho school districts ran levies, and Idahoans spent $140 million in voluntary supplemental property taxes to fund their schools. There is no reason not to suppose that FY 2012-2013 won't show even higher numbers, since we are all aware levy elections are now being held on an annual or biannual basis in many areas, but were levy elections always such a feature to our system? In the 1980's Idahoans spent less than $20 million annually in levy bonds for schools, in the 1990's between $40-50 million, and today over $140 million annually with more increases on the horizon for next year. Under our new school funding structure, supplemental levies are such an integral feature of the system we should rename them “operational levies” because in essence that is exactly what they now are. The state legislature has reneged its responsibility to fund education and thrown that unto the shoulders of local schools and local taxpayers.


An increased reliance on local levies creates an increasingly inequitable system of education that is at this point likely unconstitutional. The way that levy elections work, school districts with high property value and few students can raise revenue easier than districts with lower property value and/or many students. How does this effect school funding? Idaho's wealthiest district has 67 times more funding capacity than its poorest district, and how much each child receives for his or her education depends on what zip code that child has. Students in Canyon County receive a little over $5,000/year to fund their education, Boise students get $8,500, McCall/Donnelly Students get $13,430, and Blaine County students receive $16,109. It is easier for some districts to raise money than others, some communities pass levies while some do not, but however you look at it, under this system zip code is critically important in how well funded (or not) the school our students will attend. By 12th grade,  a student in Ketchum will have had $144,417 more dollars spent on his or her education than a student in Nampa. The Idaho Constitution mandates that the state will provide a “thorough and equitable” system of education for its citizens, but when one considers these numbers it hardly seems likely that our current system is doing that.


So why should this matter to citizens in Canyon County and throughout the state? Because all citizens in the state pay taxes and we all have an interest in seeing a more fair and equitable system. I have taught in Nampa, Meridian, and Boise (in addition to out of state) and have seen firsthand what effect these funding differences have in the classroom. I think if more residents of Canyon County could see what I have seen they would be appalled. Under this system, schools in Ketchum, McCall, and Boise will have books for students, competitive pay for teachers, and will be able to afford programs to boost student achievement, and all the other districts will have to make do with inadequate resources. And if an employer wishing to settle in our state gets past the red flag of Idaho being 50th in the nation for educational funding, when they do settle it will likely be in one of well funded districts, which will continue to widen the gap between the “haves” and “have-nots.” If we want to see an increasing divide between communities that can fund schools and attract industry vs those who fall further and further behind, this system is perfect, but if we want to create quality school systems throughout the state, our current system is woefully inadequate.

Clayton Trehal


 




SCF Technology Mandate is a Trojan Horse

posted May 2, 2012, 5:07 AM by Common Sense   [ updated May 3, 2012, 5:20 AM by Clayton Trehal ]

A few days ago I received my copy of the “Idaho Education Resource” the propaganda piece by the Albertson's Foundation supporting Students Come First. Since the Albertson's Foundation has gone through all the trouble to put together and mail me this very professional looking nineteen page pamphlet, I felt obligated to read it and I was blown away. Featured inside are stories of innovative teachers who use technology in the classroom, patriarchal farmers who supported tech initiatives in their communities, and cute kids with IPads. Add to this mix stories about charismatic education innovator Sal Khan's digital academy and a list of various technology devices and applications, and what's not to like? Why would the evil IEA and anyone in their right mind oppose the use of technology the Albertson's PR folks describe in their pamphlet and the flood of superior learning that it is sure to create?


I have two words to answer the questions above: Trojan Horse. If you remember the story, the Trojans took this impressive gift from the Greeks into their city thinking they were getting one thing when in fact they were getting something else altogether. We all know how that turned out for them, and so it is with the “technology” component of SCF: the public is being told they are getting technology for their schools when in reality the laptops mandated by the legislation are really the Trojan Horse for the online curriculum that now all schools and districts will be forced to purchase. Remember that the legislation is written in such a way that the “mobile computing devices” stipulated by it will basically end up being laptops rather than Kindles, IPads, etc. Why so specific about which technology to give to the schools? Because laptops are what is needed to take the online courses, which were mandated despite repeated and consistent opposition from the public. What is being packaged as a technology reform is in fact a curriculum reform, and in order to understand its implications, one should look at what this curriculum shift entails.


First, schools and districts will now either have to create their own online curriculum (a task few of our small districts are equipped to do) or purchase this curriculum from outside. While traditionally teachers create curriculum for the districts they are employed in, districts will now pay teachers and online providers for their curriculum, incurring additional costs. Secondly, traditionally teachers paid by the district do all the teaching in school, but if students school online in their physical school buildings (as they are almost certain to do unless the state also wants to pay internet stipends for those students who cannot afford it), now many teachers will spend part of their day only supervising students they used to teach while they school online. Thirdly, if we use the example of K12, Inc., the curriculum schools are mandated to purchase isn't that good: 2/3of K12's schools don't make NCLB's standards of adequate yearly progress and the CEO of the company is currently in a lawsuit against some of its shareholders for misleading the public about test scores. Districts will now pay both teachers and online providers for tasks they used to just pay teachers for, in many cases getting a product with a proven track record for inferiority.


While it is easy to get excited by the promise of technological innovation in our schools, especially when it is professionally packaged as it is in the Idaho Education Resource, we taxpayers should ask ourselves what price we are paying for these shiny gadgets the state wants to put into the hands of our educators and children. We should ask whether it is coincidental or not that a superintendent who has as close connections to for-profit education as Tom Luna does would create legislation that so clearly benefits for-profit educational providers at the expense of local schools. We should also ask ourselves whether it is coincidental or not that the same foundation that is so heavily invested in K12 also just happens to be spending money on expensive pamphlets promoting technology in schools. The Trojan Horse episode inspired the phrase, “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts”, and we taxpayers should ask ourselves who benefits most from this new technology as we consider whether to accept this gift or not.

Clayton Trehal

What is an EMO?

posted Mar 22, 2012, 9:29 PM by Common Sense

On March 20th the Idaho Press Tribune reprinted an editorial from the Moscow Pullman Daily News discussing the death of a recent bill in the Idaho House to require Educational Management Organizations (EMO’s) operating in Idaho to file yearly reports detailing their expenditures and contracts with local districts. This bill, sponsored by Boise House Representative Brian Cronin and authored in part by the Common Sense Democracy Foundation, didn’t make it past the House Education Committee and didn’t get much press primarily because it deals with an issue few understand: the EMO. Supporters of Luna’s reforms are quick to point out that contracts with online curriculum providers like K12 are no different than contracts with textbook and bus companies, but EMO’s are fundamentally different than textbook providers because they offer not only curriculum, but also the learning platform and student information system, and most importantly, many manage their schools.

What does it mean that an EMO manages a school? The traditional arrangement in public education is that the school board, made up of elected members of the community, hires and employs school administrators who in turn hire and manage all school employees, which means that all employees in the organization work for the school board. When a school or district purchases the services of an EMO like K12, the principal and all the school employees work for the corporation, not the school board. The board still technically has control, like in a traditional school, but the school administration and the staff follow policies set by their employer rather than the school board as in a traditional arrangement. If one assumes that employees are typically most loyal to those who sign their paychecks, administrators in EMO-run schools will generally do what the company tells them compared to the traditional arrangement where administrators take orders directly from the board.

What this means to anyone concerned with education is that EMO’s are not similar to textbook and bus providers because EMO’s actually manage schools. While the head of Idaho Virtual Academy gets her paycheck from the K12 corporation, when has a textbook or bus company ever managed a school and governed its employees? When local districts are forced to provide online courses as the SCF laws mandate, if they contract with EMO’s to offer these courses they will be forced to give away some school management as part of the package. While Luna supporters are hoping that privately managed schools will work better than private prisons, the question that voters and citizens will have to ask themselves next fall is whether they prefer schools run by local school boards or out of state for-profit corporations.   

Clayton Trehal

Idaho Legislature should have its own "Luna Laws"

posted Mar 9, 2012, 2:23 AM by Clayton Trehal

Idaho Legislature should have its own "Luna Laws"
Travis Manning, printed in the Idaho Press Tribune, March 8, 2012

Last week, Rep. Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, along with announcing his retirement, said in an interview with Idaho PTV’s Greg Hahn, “I am concerned … what I’m seeing right now is there are more people [in the current Idaho legislature] willing to follow how somebody else is voting, rather than stand up and make their own decisions.”


It is clear this is precisely what happened with Mr. Luna’s 3 education reform laws.  Fortunately, this Nov. 6 the state of Idaho will have the opportunity to right these wrongs at the ballot box.


Idahoans do not appreciate inattentive lawmakers.  But legislators like Rep. Darrell Bolz , R-Caldwell, can be thanked for listening to constituents, defying the party mandate, and voting against those ill-conceived edicts.  Granted, Rep. Bolz will never get a chairmanship, but, unlike some, he’s not in it for the power.


I think it would be instructive if Idaho legislators applied the Luna laws to themselves.


To save precious tax dollars, lawmakers should go entirely online.  Committee and caucus meetings could happen via video link.  This would allow legislators to remain in their home districts closer to their families and the citizenry they serve.  No travel and per diem issues.


Merit pay.  Let’s compensate legislators based on how well they adhere to the majority voice of their constituency.  Let’s improve transparency and accountability to voters.  Instead of 2-year terms, let’s make their “contracts” 1 to 2 years, depending upon performance.


Every legislator is already given a laptop, but let’s reduce their exorbitant salaries over 5 years to pay for both it and the merit pay.  Idaho comes first, right?  Let’s not apply “the ol’ 19th Century way of doing things in this the grand 21st Century.”   


Reduction in force (RIF).  Let’s put term limits on the older legislators, those with all that institutional memory, large network of contacts, mastery of the subject matter, those who have really perfected their craft, you know—the expensive lawmakers.  Let’s “reward” them for a lifetime of service by firing them.


Union busting.  Let’s do away with the dominant political party.  Like unions, the dominant political party serves no real purpose other than to resist progressive change and prosperity for all.  Let’s “party bust,” then tell Idahoans, “It’s really about what’s best for Idaho.” 


And akin to the propaganda being shoved down the throats of Idaho’s school districts, let’s put more regulation on the legislature, enact more federal laws, weigh them down with mandates, and tell them, “We’re really giving you more power, more ‘local control.’”


Finally, like the bill currently before the Idaho Senate to raise the cap on charter schools, let’s raise the number of legislators we have in office.  Currently, it stands at only 105 senators and representatives.  Let’s entirely lift this cap to whatever the business lobby wants.  Big Corporation is better than Big Government, right?


Travis Manning is Executive Director of the Common Sense Democracy Foundation of Idaho and can be reached at manning_travis@hotmail.com


Idaho legislators finally doing the right thing

posted Feb 19, 2012, 7:53 AM by Common Sense

#  PRESS RELEASE  #

 

Common Sense Democracy Foundation of Idaho

www.commonsensedemocracyfoundation.org

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 20, 2012

 

 

Contact:  Travis Manning, Caldwell, ID

Email:  Manning_Travis@hotmail.com

Cell:  801.824.8226

 

Idaho Legislators Finally Doing the Right Thing

 

BOISE, ID--If Idaho legislators pass Senator Dean Cameron’s bill to restore the $19.4 million dollars to be taken this year from teacher salaries to fund the Students Come First laws it will begin to undo some of the damage State Superintendent Tom Luna’s proposals have done to Idaho’s schools.  While this is a positive step, it does little to offset the negative effect of Luna’s ill-advised and hastily developed Student Comes First mandate.  Fortunately, citizens will have opportunity at the November referendum vote to set aside all three of the so-called “Students Come First” laws.  The SCF laws have three primary problems:

 

Virtually all of Luna’s ‘reform’ efforts are contrary to both research and proven practice.  No study definitively connects the use of laptops or taking of online classes to higher academic performance, and recent analysis of schools run by K12, Inc., whose schools 3/5 Idaho online students are enrolled in, reveals that only about a third of their online schools meet standards.

 

 The primary beneficiaries of the Students Come First proposals are out-of-state, for-profit educational management organizations (EMO’s) like K12, Inc., whose enrollment and profits will substantially increase as a result of the online requirements. While out of state EMO’s will see their profits rise, the cost to Idaho taxpayers will be increased class-sizes and fund reductions for local school districts.

 

Luna’s proposals, which have no relation to actual instructional improvement or student learning, are costly.  Last year, $14.8 million or 1.67% of the education operation fund was shifted to pay for his plan; the cost this year is $19.4 million at 4% of the operation fund. The projected cost to the general school operation fund continues to increase through 2016 and then hold steady at reducing the fund at 5.74%, over $25 million annually. The additional cost of required online courses will further dilute state support for local schools.

 

The increased class sizes and staff reductions seen in the 2011-2012 school year are a result of these reductions and are politically unpalatable, which is why Luna and many of the legislators who supported SCF are now seeking to “back-fill” the $19.4 million this year.

 

Idaho stands at or near the bottom of the states in every funding category, and Idaho’s local districts, due to the reduction in state support, are now forced to float override levies. Apparently pre-occupied with his supposed ‘reform’ efforts,  Luna has shown no interest in advocating increased local school support nor has he endorsed local override  levies.    

 

While it is good that our legislators may finally begin to undo the damage Luna has done, it would have been better if they had heeded the outcry of the public and of professional educators  in the first place.

 

For additional information see:  common sense democracy foundation.org

or Contact:  Travis Manning, Executive Director  
Email: Manning_Travis@hotmail.com
 
The Common Sense Democracy Foundation is a non-partisan community group that opposes the Students Come First legislation and advocates  the need for Idaho citizens  to have a greater voice in responsible education reform.

 

 

 

Idaho legislators finally doing the right thing

posted Feb 19, 2012, 7:51 AM by Common Sense   [ updated May 24, 2012, 3:15 AM ]

Idaho Legislators Finally Doing the Right Thing

 

BOISE, ID--If Idaho legislators pass Senator Dean Cameron’s bill to restore the $19.4 million dollars to be taken this year from teacher salaries to fund the Students Come First laws it will begin to undo some of the damage State Superintendent Tom Luna’s proposals have done to Idaho’s schools.  While this is a positive step, it does little to offset the negative effect of Luna’s ill-advised and hastily developed Student Comes First mandate.  Fortunately, citizens will have opportunity at the November referendum vote to set aside all three of the so-called “Students Come First” laws.  The SCF laws have three primary problems:

 

Virtually all of Luna’s ‘reform’ efforts are contrary to both research and proven practice.  No study definitively connects the use of laptops or taking of online classes to higher academic performance, and recent analysis of schools run by K12, Inc., whose schools 3/5 Idaho online students are enrolled in, reveals that only about a third of their online schools meet standards.

 

 The primary beneficiaries of the Students Come First proposals are out-of-state, for-profit educational management organizations (EMO’s) like K12, Inc., whose enrollment and profits will substantially increase as a result of the online requirements. While out of state EMO’s will see their profits rise, the cost to Idaho taxpayers will be increased class-sizes and fund reductions for local school districts.

 

Luna’s proposals, which have no relation to actual instructional improvement or student learning, are costly.  Last year, $14.8 million or 1.67% of the education operation fund was shifted to pay for his plan; the cost this year is $19.4 million at 4% of the operation fund. The projected cost to the general school operation fund continues to increase through 2016 and then hold steady at reducing the fund at 5.74%, over $25 million annually. The additional cost of required online courses will further dilute state support for local schools.

 

The increased class sizes and staff reductions seen in the 2011-2012 school year are a result of these reductions and are politically unpalatable, which is why Luna and many of the legislators who supported SCF are now seeking to “back-fill” the $19.4 million this year.

 

Idaho stands at or near the bottom of the states in every funding category, and Idaho’s local districts, due to the reduction in state support, are now forced to float override levies. Apparently pre-occupied with his supposed ‘reform’ efforts,  Luna has shown no interest in advocating increased local school support nor has he endorsed local override  levies.    

 

While it is good that our legislators may finally begin to undo the damage Luna has done, it would have been better if they had heeded the outcry of the public and of professional educators  in the first place.

 

For additional information see:  common sense democracy foundation.org

or Contact:  Travis Manning, Executive Director  
Email: Manning_Travis@hotmail.com
 
The Common Sense Democracy Foundation is a non-partisan community group that opposes the Students Come First legislation and advocates  the need for Idaho citizens  to have a greater voice in responsible education reform.

 

 

 

Three reasons Students Come First should be overturned

posted Feb 19, 2012, 7:43 AM by Common Sense   [ updated Mar 4, 2012, 9:05 PM ]

Three reasons Students Come First should be overturned

 

1.      Reason 1: SCF is neither research nor performance backed

Luna’s mandate that all students take online classes is neither research nor performance backed. The Common Sense Democracy Foundation created a document using the same research that the state department backs up SCF and came up with very different conclusions such as the Texas study on mobile computer devices  whose authors could connect “no statistically significant gain” for students using them,  an analysis that merit pay had a “weakly positive, negative, or negligible effect on student achievement gains”, an assertion that the 60 billion spent by taxpayers, philanthropies, and corporations to equip students with computers  had made,  “hardly any impact”, and that the synthesis of 8 studies done on online education done between 2004 and 2005 was inconclusive, with some studies citing statistical differences between the performance of online students and some citing no difference.

Luna’s research doesn’t add up document

 

The 2005 research the state DOE uses tout the merits of online education is outdated now in 2012, and intense scrutiny of K12, Inc. (whose schools 3/5 current Idaho online students attend) over the last couple of years is painting a clear picture that many online schools actually perform much worse than their traditional counterparts in testing, enrollment, and student retention.  A 2011 study by the National Education Policy Center points out that only 1/3 of K12’s schools achieve Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), A unionization battle in K12’s Agora Charter highlighted the extremely high teacher to student ratios common to K12 schools, and state auditors in Colorado found that the K12-run Colorado Virtual Academy received reimbursement for 120 students whose enrollment could not be verified or who could not meet Colorado residency requirements.  The SCF mandate that all Idaho high school students take online classes would force Idaho students to attend schools that have proven track records for underperformance by most reasonable standards.

Onlineschools do better on wall street than in the classroom, New York Times

Troublingquestions about online education, EdNews, Colorado

 

2.      Reason 2: SCF primarily benefits lobbied interests and out-of-state corporations

K12 and their lobbyists are well connected to Idaho Policy Makers. Luna’s financial and personal connections with education lobbyists and the K12 corporation in particular are well known: K12 contributed $44,000 to Luna’s 2012 election campaign and Luna has boasted that he and K12 CEO Ron Packard play golf together and exchange ideas. In addition to this connection, Luna’s education mentor is William Bennett, the powerful Washington, DC lobbyist who co-founded K12, and K12 has no less than two representatives on the state’s “Technology Task Force” charged with implementing the technology component SCF reforms. Albertson’s Foundation Chair Joe Scott’s investment company Alscott, Inc. has invested $15 million in K12 and foundation CEO Thomas Wilford was on K12’s board for 8 years before stepping down shortly before the SCF legislation was authored. K12 and other Educational Management Organizations (EMO’s) have given extensively to Luna, Otter, and Idahoans for Choice in Education. Although SCF endorses no specific EMO and gives districts the choice of which online courses students must take, Herndon, VA-based  K12, who educates 3/5 current online students in the state will be the largest beneficiary from the online mandate. Since K12 is an EMO and provides both curriculum and management services in its schools, the majority of the student funding K12 schools receive goes back to the corporation rather than staying local, shifting an increasing amount of Idaho tax money out of local communities and into the hands of out of state for-profit corporations.

TomLuna’s education reform plan was a long time in the making, Idaho Statesman

Albertson’sheir made millions on K12, Inc., promotes it to Idaho schools, Spokesman Review

 

3.      Reason 3: SCF is expensive and will continue to increase in price through 2016

The cost of SCF is a prohibitive $57 million dollars taken out of education salary-based apportionment over a 4 year period, then an annual maintenance cost of the program that will permanently shift 5-6% of the money for education salaries into SCF initiatives. Phase one of the program, begun in the 2011-2012 school year, shifted 1.67% of salary apportionment (about 14.8 million dollars) to support SCF, and in the 2012-2012 the percentage goes up to 4.05%, or $19.7 million in cuts, with the amount increasing until the 2016-2017 school year when the cuts stabilize at around 5.74%, or somewhere past $25 million annually. Luna’s request to “back-fill” $19 million dollars in teacher pay only replaces what was scheduled to be cut in 2012, the year his bills will be voted on in the referendum. The citizens of Idaho have already seen what $14.8 million in cuts to salary apportionment does to class size and district reductions, so the nearly $20 million scheduled to come out this year is politically unpalatable for Luna and those who supported the SCF bills. This highlights one of the central problems of these bills: The cost increases through 2016 then continues past $25 million annually for as long as the bills are in place. Rather than “doing it better for less” we will be continually reducing educator numbers and upping student-teacher ratios in order to fund the reforms, which is more like “doing less for more” A one-to-one laptop program and an expensive pay-for-performance  program are expensive propositions during prosperous times, but during austere times these proposals are both technically and politically untenable in the long haul.

S1184, S1108, S1110

Otter,Luna split over 19.7 million for teacher pay, Idaho Statesman

OurView: Public school spending a matter of priorities, Idaho Statesman

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