Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 3, Number 13
May 13, 2009
Gadfly Readers Write
about the importance of classroom instruction
School funds should follow the child
News and Analysis
The governor needs all the help he can get but falls short with Arne
News and Analysis
Arizona joins Ohio in value-added push to close weak charters
How smart is Ohio's proposed school-funding plan?
Reviews and Analysis
The Fiscal Impact of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, 2009 Update
New book: Is universal preschool really a good idea?
May 13, 2009
Jim Cowardin commented on the recent Gadfly story concerning Paul Hill's testimony to the Ohio Senate Education Committee.
I am sure this gentleman is extremely qualified to give this testimony, and he is, I am also sure, working hard on his research and analysis. But why do we keep talking about the peripheral issues, such as funding and organization of schools and social issues, when
the real issue is instruction and its results on students day-to-day. I have followed discussions by Edexcellence.net and the many good, intelligent people associated with it for some time. I admire them for eloquence and clear thinking and writing about the things they write about. However, too much time is spent on the tangential issues. It is all about instruction, and it escapes me no end why so little time is spent on this issue, which is the heart of the matter. It is like talking about medicine and discussing the color of the paint on the walls of the offices, while ignoring the medications that
would cure the disease.
Terry Ryan / May 13, 2009
"Money should follow the child, not the school building," said Ohio Senate President Bill Harris last week. In one simple sentence, the senate president captured the complexity of the debate around Gov. Strickland's school-funding plan in the way that only a veteran political leader could. There is much here to unpack.
First, what does "money should follow the child mean?" In the 2008 Thomas B. Fordham Institute report Fund the Child: Bringing Equity, Autonomy, and Portability to Ohio School Finance (see here) we observed that a system that funds the child incorporates three key principles:
- full state funding follows the child to the public school that he or she attends;
- per-pupil funding amounts are weighted according to children's individual needs and circumstances; and
- resources arrive at the school as real dollars that can be spent flexibly with an emphasis on results, rather than on predetermined and inflexible programs, activities, or staffing requirements.
A system that "funds the child" would:
- direct more state funds to schools that serve high proportions of disadvantaged children, regardless of where they live;
- ensure that a student's school receives all of the resources generated by that student, whether the public school is a district school, a magnet school, a STEM school, or a community (charter) school and whether it's located in a poor or affluent neighborhood, in a tranquil suburb or a tough urban neighborhood; and
- allow school-level leaders and educators to allocate resources in ways that meet the needs of
Mike Lafferty / May 13, 2009
Politically, everybody got a little something from last Friday's education rally at Ohio State University. Gov. Ted Strickland got media attention and the presence of a national education rock star to boost his education plan. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan-the rock star-got to talk about his education vision without directly endorsing the governor's school reform plan.
The governor's plan needs all the help it can get these days, given the serious drop in the state revenues that are needed to pay for it. The plan is facing a serious bashing in both the Senate and the media (see here). Secretary Duncan, however, refused to play the role of the U.S. cavalry.
Many reporters left the rally perplexed about what their story leads would be. The most interesting news-for education policy wonks-was the governor saying poorly performing public district schools should be closed and that he is thinking about pushing a plan to get several other Midwestern states to band with Ohio to seek collectively some of the $5 billion in special federal education "race to the top" stimulus funds. Ohio needs all the revenue it can get after the Columbus Dispatch reported, Sunday, how difficult it will be to meet the state's education spending projections (see here) to fully phase-in the governor's plan over the next decade.
Dale and Nathan DeRolph, of the infamous DeRolph school-funding case, put in an appearance as one of the rally's warm ups. Dale, the father,
Mike Lafferty / May 13, 2009
Arizona charter-school operators are moving to cleanse their ranks of weak schools by seeking tougher state charter-school standards based on value-added test scores. The proposal is similar to language proposed in Ohio's current biennial budget and could lead to the closing of weak schools that, as in Ohio, taint the entire charter-school movement.
The Arizona Republic reports that about a dozen charter-school operators have taken over the Arizona Charter Schools Association and are pushing for testing reforms such as tougher state standards and stricter accountability for that state's 475 charter schools.
In a description that would also fit Ohio, reporter Pat Kossan points out that Arizona charter-schools have been tarnished for years by an image of poor performance and shoddy financial practices, even though some charters perform significantly better than district schools (see here).
The solution, some Arizonians now argue, is to purge the state of poor performers. The revamped Arizona charter-school association has created a value-added achievement model to measure how the state's district and charter schools are doing. The achievement data will help the state determine which schools deserve to have their contracts renewed and which should close. Association leaders believe charter schools must shift the movement's goals from growth to quality, an idea that has gained momentum in Ohio over the years. (See Turning the Corner to Quality here.)
Central to the effort in Arizona is the use of value-added achievement data (how much have student's grown in knowledge
In late April, the Coalition for Student Achievement released Smart Options: Investing the Recovery Funds for Student Success (see here).This document, developed following a convening of more than 30 K-12 national education leaders, including state and district superintendents, was sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. The document provides states and districts with five "big ideas" for investing one-time federal recovery funds that can lay "the groundwork for real student improvement for decades to come."
Our chart, below, compares the five recommendations from Smart Options to policies proposed in the House-passed version of House Bill (HB) 1, which incorporates billions in federal stimulus dollars. Using the Smart Options recommendations as a benchmark, we rate the legislative language in HB 1.
May 13, 2009
This report, issued by the University of Arkansas' School Choice Demonstration Project (see here), examines the taxpayer burden of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) (see here). A decade older and nearly three times the 7,000 enrolled (in 2007-08) in Ohio's EdChoice Program, the Milwaukee program offers families opportunities to use vouchers across the greater Milwaukee area to send their children to private schools. Professor Costrell estimates that the Milwaukee voucher program saved taxpayers as much as $31.9 million in 2008, which was up from $24.6 million in 2007. The program creates taxpayer savings because it is less expensive to fund a voucher student ($6,501 per pupil in 2007 and $6,607 per pupil in 2008) than a student in a traditional Milwaukee public school ($8,833 per pupil in 2007 and $9,462 per pupil in 2008). Savings increased between 2007 and 2008 because of growing enrollments in the MPCP as well as "a widening gap between per pupil public revenues allocated to the Milwaukee public schools and the MPCP." Still, not all taxpayers in the metropolitan area receive the same benefits. Milwaukee property taxpayers are negatively affected, while Wisconsin property taxpayers outside of Milwaukee reap benefits because of an idiosyncratic funding formula (see here). Regardless, the report offers a solid case that taxpayers receive a net savings, while offering students and families choices to go to private schools. See here for the report.
May 13, 2009
Among many educators and public officials in Ohio, and across the U.S., there is a drumbeat for "universal pre-school"-and for government to provide it to all 4-year olds so as to close school-readiness gaps and prepare kids to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.
In his newest book, Reroute the Preschool Juggernaut (Hoover Press, 2009), Fordham's president Chester E. Finn, Jr. takes issue with this conventional wisdom, examining some fundamental questions. Which children really need preschool that aren't already getting it? Will a universal program help the kids who need it most? Will it be a costly windfall for millions of other families? What about Headstart? What defines "quality" in this area and who should provide these services? Is this more about extending the mandate of public-school systems or furnishing needy young children with important skills?
President Obama has stated that early childhood education is one of his top priorities and the federal government should spend an additional $10 billion per year on it.
"Before taxpayers commit tons more money to this venture," says Finn, "we should think twice about the benefits, tradeoffs and alternatives. Highly targeted preschool for the neediest girls and boys would be a far wiser investment of scarce dollars than a vast new program for everyone. Reshaping existing efforts like Headstart would be even more productive."
Reroute the Preschool Juggernaut examines all the crucial angles of this debate and finds major flaws in the "universal" approach to preschool education: