Senate budget - good, bad, ugly

The much anticipated Senate budget, when it comes to education policy, could be titled "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly". We've already discussed the ugly, let's take a look at the good and the bad.

The Good

The statewide parent trigger, proposed by the governor and eliminated by the house, is not proposed by the Senate either and appears dead, for now.

The Senate also includes a fix to HB555 and the onerous teacher evaluation provisions it contained. Here's what the fix proposes

Prescribes that the student academic growth factor must account for 35% (rather than 50% as under current law) of each evaluation under the standards-based state framework for evaluation of teachers developed by the State Board of Education and permits a school district to attribute an additional percentage to the student academic growth factor, not to exceed 15% of each evaluation.

Specifies that, when calculating student academic growth for a teacher evaluation, students who have had 30 or more excused or unexcused absences for the school year must be excluded (rather than excluding students with 60 or more unexcused absences as under current law).

Ohio Revised Code labels a student as a chronic truant if they are absent 14 days, so 30 days is still a high number of absences to allow, but it is certainly better than the ridiculous 60 days in current law. The reduction in the use of VAM to 35% from 50% is a welcome improvement.

The Governor proposed eliminating the single salary schedule, and the House concurred. The Senate however strikes this proposal from their budget. We suspect there will be pressure applied to put this back in. Educators and support professional should continue to apply their own pressure on legislators to keep it out.

The Senate also eliminated the home-school freeloading provision the House added that would have allowed home schoolers to participate in district extra-curricular activities at no expense.

The Bad

The Governor proposed a massive statewide voucher expansion effort, the House concurred, and the Senate has left the proposal in too. With massive opposition to this proposal we were a little surprised the Senate left this unnecessary proposal in their budget.

Charter schools get a number of additional free passes from the Senate, including an e-school exemption for phys ed., an additional qualifying condition for vouchers, and a provision that would make charter school closures more difficult as LSC notes it "May be more difficult to close community schools after July 1, 2013 (compared with current law after that date).". The Senate also eliminates a charter school teacher quality provision for charters populated primarily with students with disabilities. A number of other smaller provisions setting charter schools on a longer path to failure are also propsed by the Senate, such as:

Exempts students of chartered nonpublic schools accredited through the Independent School Association of the Central States from passing the end-of-course examinations as a prerequisite for graduation from high school.

The Charter school business doesn't contribute millions of dollars a year to Republican politicians for nothing.

The challenging

The Senate adds a new levy type aimed at school safety

Authorizes school districts to levy a property tax exclusively for school safety and security purposes. Requires the levy to comply with the same requirements that apply to general school district levies in excess of the 10-mill limitation.

A good intentioned proposal aimed at lowering violence in schools, but there should be concern that a safety levy might reduce local taxpayers appetites for funding levies for normal school operations, the core purpose of schools themselves. School districts will have to be mindful in how they approach this issue.

Here's the full comparative document of the education section of the budget

Senate Sub HB59

Education News for 04-18-2013

State Education News

  • School funding plan from Ohio House headed to a vote with many details still unclear (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  • The school funding proposal created by Ohio House leaders is scheduled for a vote Thursday, along with the rest of the state budget…Read more...

  • Patrolman’s substitute-teaching job might start security trend (Columbus Dispatch)
  • When Columbus Police Officer Bret Wilson encountered teens on the job, he found them to be disrespectful, rude to their parents…Read more...

  • Legislator’s sex-ed proposal baffles some educators (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Some local school administrators say it’s unclear how a ban on teaching about “gateway sexual activity” would change sex-education lessons in their districts…Read more...

  • Coleman balks at school-takeover legislation (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman opposes a legislative plan that would allow him to pick two of the five members of a state panel that could take over Columbus City Schools…Read more...

  • Teachers see movement in state reading requirements (Mansfield News Journal)
  • Helping struggling readers master the skill is becoming more difficult for some Ohio teachers, even as lawmakers try to make it easier…Read more...

  • Conotton Valley debuts student helpline (New Philadelphia Times-Reporter)
  • Conotton Valley Union Local Schools has launched an anonymous helpline where students can report threats of violence, illegal activity, depression or bullying situations…Read more...

  • Bring Your Own Device pilot starting soon (Newark Advocate)
  • Newark City Schools is running a pilot for the Bring Your Own Device initiative in select classrooms at the high school. The students in the pilot will be encouraged to bring their own…Read more...

  • Budget bill contains proposal for state takeover of schools (Toledo Blade)
  • Proposed legislation could lead to a state takeover of Toledo Public Schools and eight other districts because of its data-reporting practices…Read more...

Local Education News

  • Phila school board gets ‘EverFi’ update (New Philadelphia Times-Reporter)
  • Members of the New Philadelphia Board of Education got an update on the EverFi Program…Read more...

  • Local groups could gain, schools lose under tax exemption (Zanesville Times-Recorder)
  • Some local fraternal organizations could save thousands of dollars each year if they are exempted from paying property taxes, dollars that could be directed to other charitable work in the community…Read more...

Poll: Educators Support Stronger Laws to Prevent Gun Violence

Results of a new poll by the National Education Association (NEA) show educators support stronger gun laws to prevent gun violence and keep children safe. The poll comes as the White House is scheduled today to make public the recommendations of a task force led by Vice President Biden. The poll of the nation’s teachers, faculty and education support professionals comes one month after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that claimed the lives of 20 children and 6 adults, including educators. NEA polled 800 of its members nationwide during the period of January 9-10, 2013.

“The senseless tragedy in Newtown was a tipping point and galvanization for action,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “As educators, we have grieved too long and too often—for the children killed, their families and heroic educators. Now more than ever we need to do what is necessary, including enacting stronger laws to prevent gun violence, to make sure every child in our nation’s public schools has a safe and secure learning environment.”

Key Findings:

  • Educators overwhelmingly support stronger laws to prevent gun violence. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of NEA members polled feel gun laws in the U.S. should be made stricter, compared to 7 percent who believe they should be less strict.
  • NEA members polled support background checks and bans on assault weapons and high capacity magazine clips.
  • 90 percent of NEA members favor a proposal to require background checks before people can buy guns at gun shows or from other private sellers, including 85 percent who strongly back this proposal.
  • 76 percent of NEA members support a proposal to ban the sale and possession of military-style semi-automatic assault weapons to everyone except the police and military, including 70 percent who strongly favor this proposal.
  • 69 percent of NEA members back a proposal to ban the sale and possession of high capacity magazine clips, which allow some guns to shoot more than 10 bullets before they need to be reloaded, including 64 percent who strongly support this proposal.
  • America’s educators resoundingly reject the notion of arming school employees. Only 22 percent of NEA members polled favor a proposal to allow teachers and other school employees to receive firearms training and allow them to carry firearms in schools, while 68 percent oppose this proposal (including 61 percent who strongly oppose it.)

Vote Yes on Issue 2 - Had Enough Early Vote Tour

The Issue 2 campaign is about to kick off a Vote Yes on Issue 2 - Had Enough Early Vote Tour. You can see their list of stops, and get involved, here.

This comes on the heels of the Toledo Blade endorsing a YES on Issue 2

Issue 2 on this fall’s statewide ballot enables voters to start to reclaim Ohio’s election machinery from the partisan politicians and their special-interest allies who now control it. The reform proposal merits a strong YES vote.

The ballot proposal would amend the Ohio Constitution to change the way district boundaries are revised for the state’s U.S. House delegation and the General Assembly after every federal census. Such redistricting largely determines the level of party competition within Ohio, a battleground state in national elections.

That process now is dictated by the Republican Party, which dominates the legislature and state Apportionment Board — and thus, the drawing of political maps. Republicans have rigged the maps in their favor, giving themselves the edge to win as many as 12 of Ohio’s 16 U.S. House seats and to keep control of both legislative houses for another decade.

Read the entire endorsement here.

Cleveland teachers advance the way forward

According to an excellent news report in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Cleveland Teachers Union (CTU) just wiped away all of Frank Jackson's empty rhetoric for why he would not involve teachers in the development of his plan, by presenting a clear set of workable alternatives, that advances the way forward for Cleveland schools..

Whether educators express it through massive surveys, or actual deeds, they continue to prove a deep commitment to reforms that lead to quality learning for students. Cleveland teachers, with their clear set of alternative, have demonstrated that too.

Just a week ago, less than 24 hours after Jackson released his plan, he was complaining that he didn't have a response from CTU. We could be petty and point out that Jackson has now had CTU's proposals for nearly a week and still hasn't gotten around to reading them.

"I'm not in a negotiation or compromise mode," Jackson said. "I'm in an outcome mode. If I'm wrong in how I'm proposing to get there, tell me how I should do it. I'll do anything that gets us the outcome."

Jackson was unwilling to say whether CTU's plan offered the kind of change he wants, but said that "my expectation is that there is something that we have a deeper dive on in terms of conversation and details."

School district Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon said he has also not had time to review the plan in detail but is "hopeful."

We suggest he and his team now make that a priority. The alternatives put forward by CTU are based upon research and principles that work, and provide for a fair way forward. If Jackson is unable to begin to compromise now he has a credible and clear way forward, it should become crystal clear to all that his objections are political, not pedagogical.

Below is a table of comparisons between current policy, Jackson's plan and the way forward presented by Cleveland teachers.

Current Jackson's plan CTU proposal
Until the summer of 2013, seniority is the deciding factor in layoffs and recalls. Teachers with short-term, or limited contracts, are laid off first, but based on seniority, then teachers with tenure, or continuing contracts, are laid off based on seniority.

When CTU's contract expires in 2013, a 2011 law makes teacher evaluations the deciding factor. Teachers with limited contracts will be laid off based on evaluations, then teachers with continuing contracts based on evaluations. Seniority is used only as a tiebreaker between teachers in the same pool.

Mirrors the budget bill by making teacher performance the main factor in layoffs and recalls, but removes the distinction between a continuing and limited contract except as a tiebreaker. Also adds other factors to determine the ranking of teachers, including recent teaching assignments and specialties. Would create eight "buckets" that would divide teachers first by their evaluation (ratings of 1 to 4, with 1 being the lowest) and then by seniority. Teachers with the lowest rating and a limited contract would be laid off first, followed by teachers with the lowest rating and a continuing contract, then teachers with the second-lowest rating and a limited contract, then the second-lowest rating and a continuing contract, and so on.
Merit pay
Current Jackson's plan CTU proposal
The contract pays teachers based on their experience and education level, with bonuses for extra duties. Last year's state budget bill required districts to include teacher ratings in their salary schedules but did not specify to what degree. Jackson wants to make performance a major part of a "differentiated compensation" plan for teacher pay that pays more for higher performance, extra duties or teaching subjects where there is a teacher shortage or in troubled schools. The proposed law would mandate that this plan prevail over any new contract. The union has issues with the wording of this part of the legislation. It did not raise objections to the compensation plan itself.
Current Jackson's plan CTU proposal
The district is testing a plan that mirrors statewide requirements to have an evaluation system that measures teachers half on academic growth of students and half on other factors. The state requires a plan for all districts by the 2013-14 school year, but Cleveland is a year ahead of that timetable. Reaffirms that plan but offers some flexibility in timing. Teachers and the district mostly agree. Teachers want any law changes on evaluation to include extra training and support for teachers who fall short, and to be sure that evaluators are properly trained. They also don't want to jeopardize the federal Race to The Top grant the district and others are using to develop the plan.
Current Jackson's plan CTU proposal
The district can seek to fire a teacher for poor teaching after either a year-long review process by the principal, or after following that year with a year of peer review and assistance through a system the union has helped set up. Teachers can also be fired for other behavior. Would allow a teacher to be fired for having the lowest evaluation rating two years in a row. Jackson also wants the system to move faster. His plan would give teachers short-term contracts that the district can simply choose not to renew. The teachers union believes the current plan or one developed by its national union is just as fast and effective as Jackson's. Its plan includes help for teachers with low performance ratings before they are fired.
New collective bargaining agreements
Current Jackson's plan CTU proposal
The old contract between CTU and the district guides all new negotiations, and the contract includes several rules on specific issues that roll over in the new contracts. Jhrows out the previous contract and all previous rules and would start negotiations from scratch. If the two sides cannot reach an agreement, the district could impose a contract rather than reverting to the old one.

The union objects entirely to this proposal.

It proposes instead creating a new contract that starts from scratch for three specialty schools within the district, Campus International and two MC2 STEM schools, and it would be in place by July 2013. Those schools would be exempt from layoff and recall rules that apply to the rest of the district.

Tenure/continuing contracts
Current Jackson's plan CTU proposal
Teachers can apply for a continuing contract after three or seven years of service, depending on when they were hired, and their removal becomes much harder after that. If teachers meet experience and continuing education rules, continuing contracts are generally granted. All new teachers would not be eligible for continuing contracts and existing teachers would have strict limitations on applying for them. Even then, continuing contracts would be granted at the discretion of the CEO and school board. The union completely opposes the plan, saying that if the district does not offer job security, it will be at a recruiting and hiring disadvantage.
Reforming low-performing schools
Current Jackson's plan CTU proposal
The law allows reallocation of resources, redesigning academic programs or giving extra assistance to students. The district and CTU must negotiate any changes in work rules or hours. The two sides have reached agreements for some schools in the last few years. The district CEO would have wide authority to close or reshape a school. The CEO could lay off or fire teachers or change the length of the school year or day in order to reorganize the school.

The teachers union wants to forbid the layoff or firing of teachers just because they work in a low-performing school, regardless of their individual performance.

It proposes turning low performing schools into "New Generation" schools that would focus on failing students in the third through seventh grades. Those schools could have a year-round calendar, an extended school day and work with social services agencies.

Union presence in district-sponsored charter schools
Current Jackson's plan CTU proposal
If a district converts a school to a charter school, a 2011 law allows it to exempt the school from any unions as soon as the current contract for that union expires. Jackson sought this change last year so his plan does not propose anything further. The union wants to repeal the rule. It also wants more leeway to try to organize teachers in any charter school sponsored by a district. This would let teachers at the district-sponsored Breakthrough charter schools talk with CTU without fear of reprisals and possibly unionize.