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Educated Citizenry 2020 Equals Race To The Top

December 21, 2010

On Friday the State Senate panel, in Missouri, that is studying education, released its recommendations for their latest plan for reform and they are calling it Educated Citizenry 2020. Perhaps what they should call it is More of the Same Political and Educational Bureaucratic Bologna or Race To The Top, Renamed.

The first priority for public education is to make sure that children enter kindergarten ready to learn. Is what is wrong with education today that 5 year olds are not prepared for the alphabet and counting to 100 when they enter kindergarten? Are they saying that parents are falling short of their responsibilities and so it is necessary for government to pick up the slack? No, I would say that perhaps that the teacher’s unions need some support from legislative bureaucrats to further their cradle to grave agenda of having the monopoly on your children’s attention as soon as the umbilical cord is cut. Read NEA 2009/10 resolution B-1 about Early Childhood Education.

B-1. Early Childhood EducationThe National Education Association supports early childhood education programs in the public schools for children from birth through age eight. The Association also supports a high-quality program of transition from home and/or preschool to the public kindergarten or first grade. …

The  E-C 2020 report supports even earlier public education enrollment for your children in hopes that early public education will be able to enhance their academic achievement in later years. I think we should also make a special note to observe that SB21, was introduced before the report was released, by Robin Wright-Jone, a member of this panel. Her new bill will mandate full day kindergarten and lower compulsory school age. Must be just a coincidence.

As with all, or most state educational department studies, there is the proverbial “We will do what ever it takes to meet/demonstrate proficiency, yada, yada, … state achievement tests, … yada, yada. This report does add:

Missouri students will perform at comparable levels to the highest performing industrialized countries on international, standardized measures.

Missouri will increase attainment of postsecondary degrees and credentials to 60% for all adults, which will be supported in part by an increase in retention rates in higher education.

So, now the state will have a hand in regulating your child’s education from pre-school through college. Nowhere does the report ever say exactly what the benchmarks are for achievement or how they realistically expect to get there, except that they intend to shift priority to the expansion of virtual and Charter schools. The vernacular is pretty much the same as just about every other statement that comes from edu-crats. Lots of fluffy expectation with no substantive solutions. Perhaps recycling the vernacular is part of the problem with these studies, in the first place.

The idea that a semi private school, Charter and/or virtual, regulated by the state, is the hook that the panel is hanging its hat on to convince the public that they can reform public education. They have obviously missed the point that state regulation of any kind has been the problem with public education in the first place, but since most folks have the impression that Charters are “better” than public, they feel it will be an easy sell to the larger culture. The $64,000 question is, can they sell the folks on the idea that state mandates won’t destroy the integrity of Charter and virtual schools?

The Race To The Top connection? The St. Louis Beacon reports that panel chairman, David Pearce, the Republican from Warrnesburg, said that this report would be used to bring further legislation and he has already filed SB 13 which would require a joint committee to oversee a task force on teacher compensation and effectiveness. Teacher compensation and tenure is a driver in the Race To The Top agenda along with the expansion of Charter schools.

Funding? How and by whom do we fund the program? Again, not addressed in the report. Missouri Education Watchdog asks the most pertinent questions pertaining to the implementation of EC-2020.

Questions taxpayers should be asking the legislators involved in this plan include the following:

  • What is the total cost of this program?
  • If there are unfunded/underfunded mandates in this program, how will these be addressed in this climate of budget cutting in the state?
  • How does this plan promote smaller government?
  • How does this plan promote more local control?
  • Does this plan promote more parental rights and involvement?
  • How are charter schools considered a viable alternative as they will operate under the same mandates as traditional public schools?

Just in case you have doubts about the teacher’s union’s involvement in the Educated Citizenry 2020 development, read what the National Education Association has to say about Charter schools in their 2009/10 resolutions?

A-32. Acceptable Charter Schools and Other Nontraditional Public School Options

The National Education Association supports innovation in public education. The Association believes that acceptable charter schools, which comply with Association criteria, and other nontraditional public school options have the potential to facilitate reforms, such as decentralized and shared decision making, diversity in educational offerings, and the removal of onerous administrative requirements. By developing new and creative methods of teaching and learning that can be replicated in mainstream public schools, these schools may be agents for positive change. The Association also believes that, when concepts such as charter schools and other nontraditional school options are proposed, affected public education employees should be directly involved in the design, implementation, and governance of these programs.

The Association further believes that plans should not negatively impact the regular public school program and must include adequate safeguards covering contract and employment provisions for all employees, voluntary participation, health and safety standards for all students and employees, nondiscrimination and equal educational opportunity, staffing by licensed education professionals, and financial responsibility.

The Association believes that programs must be adequately funded, must comply with all standards for academic assessment applicable to regular public schools, must include start-up resources, must not divert current funds from the regular public school programs, and must contain appropriate procedures for regular periodic assessment and evaluation, as well as adequate attendance and record keeping procedures.

The granting of charters should be consistent with the following principles:

a. Charter schools should serve as a laboratory for field-testing curricular and instructional innovations and/or to provide educational opportunities for students who cannot adequately be served in mainstream public schools.

b. Charter school programs must be qualitatively different from what is available in mainstream public schools and not just an avenue for parental choice.

c. Local school boards should be the only entity that can grant or renew charter applications.

d. The criteria for granting a charter should include a description of clear objectives, missions, and goals. Renewal of a charter should be contingent on the achievement of these objectives, missions, and goals.

e. Appeals of local school board decisions in charter applications should be made to a state education agency but appeals should be heard only on the grounds of arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable decision making, not on the educational judgment of the local school board.

f. Prior to employment at a charter school, educators should be given full disclosure with regard to working conditions, right of return, transfer rights, and financial implications.

g. Private, for-profit entities should not be eligible to receive a charter.

h. Charter schools should have a limited right to contract with for-profit entities for services only to the extent that mainstream public schools can do so.

i. Charters should not be granted for the purpose of home schooling, including providing services over the Internet to home schooled students.

j. Charter schools should be nonsectarian in nature.

k. Private schools should not be able to convert to charter school status. If state law allows such conversions, the chartering agency should ensure that the converted school is significantly different in student body, governance, and education program than its predecessor. This assurance should be especially vigorous in the case of schools with prior religious affiliation.

l. Charters should be granted for a limited period, with five years being the norm, and should be opened within one year of the date the charter was granted.

m. Charter schools should be monitored on a continuing basis and the charter should be subject to modification or revocation at any time if the children’s or the public’s interest is at stake.

n. Charters should not be granted unless the chartering agency is satisfied that adequate startup resources will be available.

o. Charter schools should secure insurance for liability, financial loss, and property loss. A school district should not be responsible for debts of a charter school, except for debts previously agreed upon in writing by both the district and the governing body of the charter school.

p. School boards must be authorized to deny applications that do financial harm to the authorizing school districts.

Charter schools should be designed and operated in accordance with the following principles:

a. Charter schools may have flexibility within the requirements of law dealing with curriculum, instruction, staffing, budget, internal organization, calendar, and schedule.

b. Charter schools must meet the same requirements as mainstream public schools with regard to licensure/certification and other requirements of teachers and education employees, health and safety, public records and meetings, finance and auditing, student assessment, civil rights, and labor relations.

c. Teachers and education support professionals should be considered public employees.

d. Teachers and education support professionals should have the same constitutional and statutory rights as other public employees.

e. Charter schools should be subject to the same public sector labor relations laws as mainstream public schools and charter school employees should have the same collective bargaining rights under law and local practice as their counterparts in mainstream public schools.

f. Students should not be charged tuition or required to pay a fee to attend a charter school.

g. Students should not be involuntarily assigned to attend a charter school.

h. Charter schools should have some discretion in selecting or rejecting students if they are designed to serve a targeted student population. Students shall not be screened on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and/or gender identification, English-language proficiency, family income, athletic ability, special needs, parental involvement in school affairs, intellectual potential, academic achievement, or cost of educating the student. Indirect screening such as denying admission because of the cost of transportation of a student shall not be permitted.

i. Charter schools should meet the needs of at-risk students and those students requiring special education services.

j. The choice of employment at a charter school should be voluntary. Employees in conversion charter schools should be afforded an opportunity to transfer to a comparable position at another mainstream public school.

k. Charter schools should not disproportionately divert resources from mainstream public schools. Charter schools should receive the same amount of money as a comparable mix of students in a mainstream public school. Adequate funds must be available for capital expenditures such as buildings and equipment that do not come from the operating budget of the charter school or the host district. (1993, 2008)

† See the NEA Handbook for the Policy Statement on Charter Schools adopted by the 2001 Representative Assembly.

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