Money and politics

If the Tea Party are truly concerned about the influence of money in politics, then the "work place freedom" that is needed, is the freedom from corporations buying politicians and elections. This graph from amply demonstrates how asymetric the situation is

Corporate political donations far outstrip any other kind, including labor organizations, and since the Supreme Courts Citizens United decision to allow even greater freedom for corporations to buy elections and politicians, that gap is growing significantly.

Virtual schools, virtually useless

Michael Morrison, writing for Decisions Based on Evidence, brings to our attention some recent reports on the failures of virtual schools (or e-schools) in places other than Ohio. Here's findings from Colorado

Minnesota is also finding similar problems

“While the number of course registrations has quadrupled over the last few years, full-time online students have become less likely to finish the courses they start. Course-completion rates for full-time online students dropped from 84 percent in the 2006-07 school year to 63 percent in 2009-10. During this period, several individual online schools experienced large and steady declines in course-completion rates, while only one program showed significant improvement.”

And in Pennsylvania, K-12 Inc.’s Agora Cyber Charter School's results are terrible.

Nearly 60 percent of its students are behind grade level in math. Nearly 50 percent trail in reading. A third do not graduate on time. And hundreds of children, from kindergartners to seniors, withdraw within months after they enroll.

We've mentioned K-12 Inc. before and noted they are Ohio's fastest growing virtual school provider. It appears there is a two fold reason why K-12 is Ohio's fastest growing, a reason that might also indicate why academic performance isn't so stellar. Stephen Dyer at 10th Period notes from K-12's financial filings

In fiscal year 2011, we derived approximately 13% of our revenues from each of the Ohio Virtual Academy and the Agora Cyber Charter School in Pennsylvania. In aggregate these schools accounted for approximately 26% of our total revenues. If our contracts with any of these virtual public schools are terminated, the charters to operate any of these schools are not renewed or are revoked, enrollments decline substantially, funding is reduced, or more restrictive legislation is enacted our business financial condition and results of operations could be adversely affected.

Dyer concludes

This means the laws in Ohio and Pennsylvania are so beneficial to online schools that one of the nation's biggest operators cannot exist without those laws remaining in place. As we reported last year at Innovation Ohio, Ohio Virtual Academy had a 51:1 student-teacher ratio, and this is on top of them getting enough state money to have a 15:1 student-teacher ratio and give $2,000 laptops to every child while still clearing 31.5% profit. In fact, they spend barely 10% of their money on teachers -- easily the lowest percentage of any of the major statewide eSchools. That means 90% of their $59 million in state money they got last year went to things other than teachers. But they don't have buildings, custodians, lunch ladies, or buses to maintain. So what where could the remaining $53 million in Ohio taxpayer money be going?

It would be a shame if K-12's milking the Ohio taxpayer to subsidize their other operations, as their SEC filing indicates it's doing.

An even greater shame that thousands of Ohio's virtual school students are being short changed a quality education at the expense of next quarters financial report.

Stop Tying Pay to Performance

The evidence is overwhelming: It doesn’t work.

That's the headline from a Harvard Business Review article. If the HBR can conclude that pay for performance doesn't work for big business executives, it's not a giant leap to understand it won't work for the teaching profession where there is no profit motive, but instead relies on collaboration and teamwork.

Time frame: next week | Degree of difficulty: operationally easy, psychologically hard | Barrier: greed, economic theory

We’ve talked about this since the financial meltdown. Now it’s time to do it: Unlink pay from performance. The evidence keeps growing that pay for performance is ineffective. It also may induce executives to take company-killing risks. There are other ways to motivate employees that yield better results at lower cost.

It may take a while before actual evidence and research finally convinces corporate education reformers they have it wrong, but month after month the moiuntain of evidence grows.

Administration destroying jobs to create phantom ones

One thing that hasn't changed in the Senate's budget revisions are the cuts. While they did manage to find another $100 million or so, that still leaves schools across the state suffering from an estimated $3 billion shortfall over the next 2 years. The results of which we are starting to see now as districts cut, cut, cut, cut and cut some more.

One of the plans the administration has in the budget was to lease the state liquer business and use those receipts to fund its new economic development program, "JobsOhio". The plan had been to lease it for $1.2 billion. Now it turns out that a people are starting to question whether that's a low ball number, and that maybe this valuable state asset could be worth a lot more. Hundreds of millions of dollars more in fact.

The state of Ohio needs to jack up the $1.2 billion price on its state liquor operations before selling them off to the newly hatched JobsOhio economic development board later this year.

That's the conclusion of Republican Sen. Tim Grendell and the Center for Community Solutions, a public policy think tank. Both have popped up in recent days with criticisms that the proposed $1.2 billion price tag for the state's liquor monopoly is far too low.

By some estimates the price might be $800 million too low. Sen. Grendell wants to amend the budget to increase the price to $1.5 billion and divert that extra $300 million to education. The Governor, through his spokesperson is having none of it.

Nichols also responded in an e-mail that creating jobs was more important than expanding government.

"For those who really understand that job creation is Ohio's greatest need right now, then the right focus is on making sure JobsOhio has every resource it needs to help create jobs and revive Ohio's economy," he wrote. "Ensuring a fair transaction on the liquor enterprise is a given, but a preoccupation with that to the detriment of JobsOhio's success is just another example of people failing to realize that creating jobs is more important than growing government."

This is nonsensical. Getting more money from the sale of a state asset in order to preserve thousands of middle class education jobs is economic development. To block this move and call it "growing government" is incomprehensible, and should cause everyone to pause and consider what the administrations true motives are.

Ohio Budget Watch has more on this privatization scheme.

Olentangy Schools Budget

Olentangy Schools Superintendent, Wade Lucas, provides a good overview of of the impact of the state budget on his district.

The Treasurer, Rebecca Jenkins, testimony on HB153 can be read here, and provides a good backdrop to the financial havoc this reckless budget is causing. This section caught our eye

Note that charter school per pupil funding (as well as state-wide per pupil funding) has grown each year over that same time period. This would seem logical since the state pupil funding amount has grown steadily over that period. It is interesting to note that if charter schools were kept at their 2006 funding level (like many other growing schools have experienced) their funding would have been over $55 million less in FY11.

Olentangy have a May 3rd ballot issue whereby voters will asked to pass a 7.9-mill operating and no-additional-millage bond issue. If you live in the district, take a moment to check out their FAQ.

Outsourcing the Future

From Pro Publica

Since 2008, an Ohio-based company, White Hat Management, has collected around $230 million to run charter schools in that state. The company has grown into a national chain and reports that it has about 20,000 students across the country. But now 10 of its own schools and the state of Ohio are suing, complaining that many White Hat students are failing, and that the company has refused to account for how it has spent the money.

The dispute between White Hat and Ohio, which is unfolding in state court in Franklin County, provides a glimpse at a larger trend: the growing role of private management companies in publicly funded charter schools.

[readon2 url=""]Continue Reading...[/readon2]