Yesterday Terry responded on Flypaper to remarks made by the president of the Dayton Education Association (DEA) as to why the union turned down up to $5 million in federal Race to the Top money. (This, while the district faces a $5 million budget shortfall! Do the math.)
There is something specific about the DEA president's remarks worth addressing further. In response to a Dayton Daily News editorial arguing that the teachers union ???let kids down by saying no to millions,??? she said:
It is totally wrong, and indeed inappropriate, to claim that Dayton teachers do not care for their students.
Her evidence of Dayton teachers' commitment to children is that they spend, on average, ???$500 a year of their personal funds for materials and supplies for their classrooms.??? Whether or not teachers care about students is totally beside the point (although it's an oft cited defense any time teachers unions are the target of critique). And pointing to teachers' supply receipts doesn't refute the underlying reasons the DEA is being criticized: intentionally stifling reform, and rejecting much-needed funding for its students.
Not many people would doubt that Dayton teachers are committed to children. But this commitment (as evidenced by extraneous purchases, long hours, or any one of the countless sacrifices that teachers make for their kids) does not offset the need for serious evaluations to be sure that all teachers are doing what they were trained, recruited,
Last week I, and others, took the Dayton Education Association to task for its decision to scuttle the district's participation in the state's Race to the Top application. To understand this criticism, consider that the union rejected RttT funds in the face of a $5 million budget shortfall caused by rising home foreclosures and delinquent property taxes.
Further, Dayton's school district has seen 10,000 students flee for charters and other places in the last decade (shrinking from 24,000 students to about 14,000 students) and enrollment in the DEA has dropped from 2,000 in 1998 to about 1,100 in 2008. During this time the union has steadfastly resisted any serious reform, despite real efforts by different superintendents and school boards over the last decade. Dayton is perennially ranked as one of the lowest performing districts in Ohio, battling the likes of Cleveland and Youngstown for the dubious distinction of worst in the Buckeye State.????
If any urban school district in America needs reform, it's Dayton, and the reforms embedded in RttT are steps in the right direction. When asked why the DEA rejected RttT funding, here is what the union president had to say:
How would you like your job to be based on criteria over which you had no control? Let's say you are an editorial writer for a city newspaper. How would it be for your evaluation to be based on how many ads your paper
Last week, Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eugene Sanders unveiled a major plan to transform the district, Ohio's second-largest and one in dire need of fixing.???? The plan (see Eric's analysis here) aims to improve academic achievement by, among other things, right-sizing the district by closing 18 schools and laying off teachers, allowing high-quality charter operators to take over some buildings, increasing intra-district choice options, and reassigning teachers to schools based on their teaching interests and abilities.
Sanders has a tough road ahead of him to get these reforms implemented and at least two major obstacles to overcome.
Obstacle number one is money.???? The plan will cost $70 million over three years and Sanders is hoping for significant investment from the philanthropic community and Cleveland's share of Ohio's potential Race to the Top winnings to foot the bill.???? He'll also need a continued high level of state investment in the district.???? But Ohio's Race to the Top application isn't a sure-thing, the state faces a $5 billion-plus deficit when state budget talks resume this time next year, and as Governor Strickland's evidence-based funding model is phased in over the next decade, districts will have less and less say in how they actually spend state funding.
Obstacle number two is the adults who benefit from the school system.???? First, the teachers union.???? Its extensive, and incredibly detailed, collective bargaining agreement will require serious reworking in order for many of
Having spent four years working in New Jersey, I was happy to hear the announcement this week that New Jersey Governor-elect Christie selected a school choice advocate (Bret Schundler) to serve as state education commissioner.
I am no expert on New Jersey education or politics. My limited perception of Garden State education is shaped largely by my experience as a TFA teacher in Camden City elementary classrooms and in various tutoring sessions with high schoolers in Trenton. But one doesn't need expertise to realize that children in cities like Camden, Trenton, and Newark are grossly underserved by the public school system, or that spending more money (without more accountability, and major systemic changes to the way schools and districts run) won't necessarily improve outcomes.
New Jersey spends more than any other state on education per pupil yet has little to show for it in the way of student achievement. (To get a sense of the crisis, check out the trailer for The Cartel, a documentary by journalist Bob Bowden exposing the corruption and wasteful spending that makes New Jersey a poster child for what is wrong with public education [mismanagement, strong unions preventing reform, inexcusable achievement gaps despite constant spending increases]).
Bret Schundler is a supporter of charter schools, differentiated teacher pay, and tax credits to fund scholarships for K-12 private schools, reforms that the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) is sure to continue
About the Editor
Michael J. Petrilli
Executive Vice President
Mike Petrilli is one of the nation's foremost education analysts. As executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, he oversees the organization's research projects and publications and contributes to the Flypaper blog and weekly Education Gadfly newsletter.
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