Archive for Wednesday, August 29, 2012

First Bell: Stories in the works this week; more funding doesn’t equal better test scores?

August 29, 2012


News and notes from Douglas County schools:

• I've been away from Lawrence for a few days, but upon my return Tuesday morning, I started looking into the number of exchange and international students currently in the area. It's a topic near and dear to me as my mom did an EF program when she was in high school and then I stayed with that same family years later. If you're a member of a host family yourself, please contact me if you wouldn't mind being interviewed briefly; you can call at 832-6939. Look for a full story soon.

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• The independent news site featured a Kansas story today on the fact that, though education funding is going up, test scores like the ACT are pretty flat. Travis Perry makes the argument through stats from the Kansas Policy Institute, a Wichita policy group, which points out that per-pupil funding is lower in Colorado and Texas, but ACT scores are higher. Read the full story here.

• Free State High School recent graduates Nina Keizer, Lauren Nus and Ruthie Ozonoff had work featured in this year's Aerie International, a magazine for and by high school student writers and authors.

• Last week, U.S.D. 497 expanded by at least one — board member Shannon Kimball had a baby girl on Tuesday. Board president Vanessa Sanburn told me that she's expecting, too, in January.

• Anything I need to learn? Send news tips, comments or questions to


Richard Heckler 5 years, 7 months ago

This very conservative watch dog group is sponsored by anti public school money. Let's take a look at that. Trabert did not provide a credible source for his claims.

Public Education is not evil. So let's pay up Topeka,Kansas to increase the wages of our teaching staff throughout Kansas.

Based on the theory coming from insider Trabert it is time to cut off subsidies to large and small corporations for they should learn to make do with what they have rather than take money from from ME by way of government politicians.

I would rather have my tax dollars and more go into the paychecks of Kansas teachers

It could be that No Child Left Behind teaches to prepare for local tests but not the ACT.

More funding would impact teacher wages which are quite low and cannot support a family living in Lawrence.

Teacher wages are usually a forgotten in Lawrence,Kansas.

Teacher Salary Support
Would you favor a sales tax increase to provide more money for Lawrence teacher salaries? Of 5,198 votes increasing teacher salaries 4,204 votes in favor of increased teacher salaries.

Jean Robart 5 years, 7 months ago

I favor more money for teachers---but a sales tax is NOT the way to do it. Can't tell you what IS, but I know what isn't.

GUMnNUTS 5 years, 7 months ago

What does this have to do with 497? "That's" 'right' "nothing." "Just" the "usual" off "topic" fhnc.

question4u 5 years, 7 months ago

Thanks. Reminders of how illogical it is to make sweeping generalizations based on single incidents is always helpful. It's even better when the incident is reported as hearsay.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 7 months ago

Not only that an increase in the wages of teachers bring more of OUR tax dollars back to the community.

Also promotes local economic growth as a result!

This new radical conservative republican party hates public education and good pay for hard working people! They prefer Chinese wages for America.

Stop electing this new radical conservative republican party to any position.

KSManimal 5 years, 7 months ago

"What are you saying? The "teachers" will teach 'better' if they are paid more?"

No. Nobody ever said that, except folks like you who try to twist the call for higher teacher salaries into some convoluted over-simplification that makes no sense.

What higher teacher salaries would do is attract more people, and more talented people, into the profession. More teachers would mean districts could be more picky about who they hired and who they retained on the job. It's quite simple, really: to attract and retain the best, you have to compensate people well.

It never ceases to amaze me how everyone - even the right-wing teacher-bashers - have no trouble at all understanding this concept when it applies to business executives or athletic coaches; yet when someone says one word about the need for higher teacher salaries, we get the same old nonsense like this parroted by the same old teacher-bashing regulars.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 7 months ago

It seems to me that USD 497 is still in Kansas. More tax dollars to USD 497 is healthy for our LOCAL economic growth. Bring home those tax dollars to Lawrence,Kansas.

Teacher Unions are healthy for the economy no question about it. Once again public education is not evil.

Flap Doodle 5 years, 7 months ago

Throwing money at a problem doesn't always work? Inconceivable!

ECM 5 years, 7 months ago

Exactly which is one reason the KC School District is in the state that it is.

Paul R Getto 5 years, 7 months ago

Ask the military or Wall Street about this.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

Clearly, as is the goal with all Koch front groups, Kansas Policy Institute's sole goal is to cut funding for all government programs in order to 1) allow further tax cuts to wealthy individuals and corporations and 2) dismantle most government programs as a matter of ideology.

But in the short term, before they've actually pulled the plug on public schools altogether, I'd like to hear what they would suggest cutting in order to slash that funding.

Should class sizes be doubled so that half of all teachers could be fired? Should the remaining teachers be required to work at minimum wage with no benefits? Should current school buildings be sold off to the highest bidders, and then move classes into Butler buildings? Should all forms of technology, including computers and electric lights, be eliminated, in favor of candles and chalkboards? Should the kids be required to bring their own chairs?

If money really doesn't matter in educational outcomes, what exactly does the AFP suggest gets cut?

Paul Wilson 5 years, 7 months ago

Blame everyone except for those who are actually responsible. That seems to be the tenor of most of the threads on this topic. Why? Are you all afraid of offending someone? I don't get it. "Flat" or lowered test scores are not the teacher's fault. It is not because of a lack of funds. Throwing money at public schools hasn't worked yet. Why any rational adult who's observed this for 10 or 20+ years think it will somehow work now is beyond me. It has never worked. It is not NCLB Act. It's not the administrators or the teachers union. It's not the Democrats or Republicans. And the worn out scapegoat that is the Koch Family for every woe is completely best. It is simply the lack of attention by parents and the enabling of their children to fail. They are just "too busy" to pay attention and administer consequences for poor school work. Administrators have caved to 'parent pressure'. Lowering standards and taking the 'F' out of the system. I was at a party last week where a parent was explaining why they were holding 'Johnny' back this year. He was upset that the teachers/school didn't recognize that he had a real hard time reading. I was stunned. I said "You mean you didn't see this Every Night when he read to you before bed?" He just looked at me...deer in headlights. They didn't read with him. Un-Real. They were actually surprised that the kid was having issues. There are many obvious financial and educational reasons why students in private schools do better than public. I concede all of those. But the most important one that, many times, gets over looked is simply that a far greater percentage of parents take an active role in the child's education and follow through with consequences with work that is below the child's abilities. You can tax everyone to death and pay teacher's a million bucks a year....that will not make 'Steve and Jennifer' miraculously put down the remote or keyboard to help 'Johnny' make better grades. 'Johnny' get's too upset when you pull him off his Xbox anyway. S & J would rather be his BFF's than his parents. Until parent's get out of themselves, their T.V., their Facebook, their work, their personal drama, etc, and get deeply involved with their child's education ...nothing will change.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 7 months ago

Very well said. 99.99% of the problems at school have their origin at home.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

Yes, lack of parental involvement is a major part the problem.

But what do suggest be done about it? Should funding for schools be cut, or not? If so, what would you cut? Would that get parents more involved than they are now?

jhawkinsf 5 years, 7 months ago

As I've said many times, I'm loathe to simply throw money at a problem, hoping some of it will stick. Except schools. I am willing to simply throw money at that problem, hoping some of it will stick. But that's a far cry from saying I believe throwing money at schools will really make schools better. I doubt it will and I sincerely hope I'm wrong.

But all the discussions we have about NCLB, school funding, teacher pay, etc., just distracts us from the real issues. We all should be shouting from rooftops the things Pork_Ribs mentions above. We have too damn many people who are ill equipped to be "good" parents having children when they shouldn't. Too damn many kids being born into homes when all ten kids have different last names. Too damn many.

The solution: I haven't a freaking clue. I can think of a dozen solutions, each as bad as the other. But whatever it is that we're doing now, maybe we need to try something else, even if we have problems with it's implications. But for a start, how about instead of telling the parents of those ten children "Oh, that's O.K., we'll help you out", maybe shout at them as loud as we can, "SHAME ON YOU"!!! And yes, I'll still contribute more to schools. And if it doesn't help them, it'll make me feel better when I write that check to support their bad decisions.

jafs 5 years, 7 months ago

Yes, I'm sure that yelling at people and shaming them will produce better results.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 7 months ago

I said I don't know the answer. But as long as they're cashing my check, I see no particular reason not to shame people who behave shamefully. I'm a believer in a policy that if it's none of my business, then it's none of my business. Until you make it my business through your actions. Generally, I don't care what you do in your bedroom. I have no desire to search through a woman's uterus. I don't care if you smoke this or drink that. Until you reach into my billfold. Then you're making it my business. And it's then that I feel as if I have every right to tell you exactly what I think, even if you don't like what I say, even if it offends you. If you think it's none of my business, then get your hand out of my billfold. Generally, as in not absolutely.

jafs 5 years, 7 months ago

Unless it just makes things worse, which yelling and shaming often do, in my experience.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 7 months ago

You ever get pulled over by the police? You just sit there while he runs your license, checks your insurance, writes you the ticket? I have, speeding. I now every single person that passes is looking at me, thinking SHAME ON HIM. Well, maybe not, but some. So, why don't I speed all the time? Because of the fine? Partly. Because my insurance rates go up? Party. Because of the SHAME I felt sitting there on the side of the road, everyone looking at me? Partly.

Shame can motivate. And since we're talking about people who behaved shamefully, what the heck.

jafs 5 years, 7 months ago

That's nice that you shame yourself into "good behavior", I guess.

The main reason I don't speed most of the time is that it's dangerous to do so.

You're way too judgmental for my taste - I agree that parents should be more involved in their children's education, but I'm not interested in blaming and shaming them if they're not. I'd be much more interested in helping them do a better job.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 7 months ago

"I'd be much more interested in helping them do a better job" - Another way of saying that is that you want some of my money to support some program to help them. As I said, if it's none of my business ... '. You're making it my business, they're making it my business, so I do feel as if my opinion may be expressed, loud and clear. Unless you meant your money and only your money to support that program. Which did you mean?

jafs 5 years, 7 months ago

You can express whatever opinion you like.

I'm just not interested in blaming and shaming people, because I think it generally makes things worse, not better.

But, it's clear that you have no idea how to solve any of our numerous problems, and have resigned yourself to complaining about them instead - that's also your prerogative, but I won't join you there.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 7 months ago

But while I've resigned myself ... you still are talking about taxing me more to support these programs that you have no idea whether or not they will succeed. Why don't you just take my money, buy some lottery tickets and give them to the poor. It makes the same amount of sense.

You're probably correct in that I've become somewhat cynical. Experience can do that. I said I don't have the answers. I said I'd be willing to throw money at the problem of schools, hoping that some of it will stick. I said I'd be willing to give different approaches a chance. I've said I'm willing to pay higher taxes for just about anything we choose to spend our money on. (But I'm opposed to burdening future generations with our debt). I've said I want everyone's taxes increased, including my own, as long as it is spread across the entire population.

The difference between us is that I admit I don't have the answers. I don't know the solution. You think you know, more programs, more education, more of what we already have, with zero evidence that success will find your end of the rainbow.

jafs 5 years, 7 months ago

I never said anything about taxing you more.

I think throwing more money at schools won't solve the problem of parental lack of involvement - that money would be better spent helping parents get more involved in their kids' education, in my view.

If you want to claim some sort of superiority because you're cynical go ahead - I think it's rather a Pyrrhic victory.

I've never said I have the answers, but I'm looking for them - and I've said numerous times that I don't just want more of the same, but am looking for new and better ideas and policies.

Scratch a cynic, and you generally find a disappointed idealist, they say.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 7 months ago

Throwing money at the public schools? Since when. Certainly not in the last decade. Before Topeka began cutting funding USD 497 was receiving raving reviews. I believe it was among the top in the country....... not so anymore.

It is somewhat like running a business. If too much money is not reinvested in the business goes out of business which is the underlying motivation of Sam Brownback. No he is not alone he has partners like Grover Norquist,Koch money,Wal-Mart money and governors in Indiana,Ohio,Michigan,Florida,New Jersey and such.

Make no mistake about it this is a orchestrated event. Dave Trabert is among the puppets.

Private industry is more efficient,less bureaucracy and manages funds more fiscally sound? BS! Why then are taxpayers always called upon to bail out private industry or give millions if not billions in tax subsidies locally,at the state level and the beltway level?

Paul Wilson 5 years, 7 months ago

More efficient than anything Government run. Stay with us Oh Long Winded One.

Paul R Getto 5 years, 7 months ago

ACT and SAT scores are dependent on what percentage of the student population takes it each year. Want good ACT scores? Only test the best students. Want good K-12 scores? Don't let the slower kids into your boutique charter school. While you are at it, find the head of any private organization willing to assert that money "doesn't matter."

jhawkinsf 5 years, 7 months ago

"Don't let slower kids into your boutiques charter school". - Another way of saying that is: If I'm spending thousands of dollars to send my child to a private school, I guarantee you that he/she will work hard in all of his classes and he/she will behave up to the expected standards.

It's a promise, an understanding that there is a partnership between parents and schools. It includes a mechanism for enforcing that partnership (should child and/or parent not keep up their end of the bargain, the school may terminate the agreement. Should the school not keep up their end of the agreement, the parent may terminate). Unfortunately, the parent/school partnership in public schools has lost it's importance along with the fact that there is no way to enforce such an agreement. But don't blame those sending their children to boutique schools. We're doing what's best for our children. To expect less would be irresponsible.

Paul R Getto 5 years, 7 months ago

Charters are public schools. Private schools can discriminate. That's why they are private. I should point out the Catholics have done a good serving poor and minority students.

Paul R Getto 5 years, 7 months ago

No blame intended. I was discussing statistics. Parents with money should use it to their child's advantage.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 7 months ago

There is no evidence that private schools will provide a better education. Private schools have the right to deny their institutions to those students who might achieve the desired goal of the private institution.

The same could be said for charter schools.

Public schools must accept all who come through their doors. Therefore must accept the challenges accordingly.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 7 months ago

"There is no evidence that private schools will provide a better education" - Let's see, if my choice is Yale or K.U., Stanford or M.U., Harvard or K-State, Princeton or Wichita State, M.I.T. or U.M.K.C. - I choose the former. That each of the former is private and each of the latter is public is merely coincidental.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

Do you choose these schools simply because of the higher tuition and better PR, or is there some concrete reason you would choose them? Please be specific, using actual degree programs to make your point.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 7 months ago

I'm just using anecdotal evidence. It's just what I've heard. Tens of thousands of times, from tens of thousands of different sources.

Why? Have you heard that U.M.K.C. is a better school than M.I.T.? Have you heard that having a resume with Wichita State on it will open more doors than a resume with Princeton on it?

Richard Heckler 5 years, 7 months ago

"The same could be applied to some charter schools." Not sure how charter school students are selected. I have read that charter schools are more expensive and that some principals draw a salary of $250,000 a year.

I say the public school model is excellent and has prepared millions upon millions for college or community college or Vo-Tech. = Damn good tax dollar investment since 1820.

Vocational education is first funded when the Smith-Hughes Act passes in 1917.

"Today, school choice, bilingual education, and testing are the hot issues being debated in communities, government chambers, and newspaper op-ed pages. These reform initiatives have lofty goals of increasing access, raising standards of quality, spawning innovation, and empowering students. But as promising as each of these initiatives may be, each produces unintended consequences, thus increasing the complexity of the debate."

Richard Heckler 5 years, 7 months ago

The History of Public Schools in America

Hundreds of years ago, most learning happened at home. Parents taught their children or, if their families could afford it, private tutors did the job. The Puritans were the first in this country to point out the need for some kind of public education. They established schools to teach not just the essentials-reading, writing and math- but also to reinforce their core values.

After the American Revolution, Thomas Jefferson argued that the newly independent nation needed an educational system, and he suggested that tax dollars be used to fund it. His pleas were ignored, however, and the idea for a public school system languished for nearly a century.

By the 1840s, a few public schools had popped up around the country in the communities that could afford them. However, that smattering of schools wasn't good enough for education crusaders Horace Mann of Massachusetts and Henry Barnard of Connecticut. They began calling for free, compulsory school for every child in the nation.

Massachusetts passed the first compulsory school laws in 1852. New York followed the next year, and by 1918, all American children were required to attend at least elementary school.

Next came the movement to create equal schooling for all American children, no matter what their race. At the turn of the 20th century, schools in the South, and many in the North, were segregated. The 1896 Supreme Court ruling, Plessy v. Ferguson upheld the legality of segregation. Finally, in 1954, the Supreme Court overturned its ruling with the landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education, and public schools became open to people of all races.

Paul Wilson 5 years, 7 months ago

And you're point would be? Do you ever actually get to a point Merrill. What's the bottom line here novelist? When you find me a major Government program that doesn't consistently run in the red... then we'll talk.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

I'm still waiting for you to make a concrete point. How would you improve schools? (and please don't go off on an ideological tangent about how public schools do everything wrong, and private schools do everything right.)

Paul Wilson 5 years, 7 months ago

When have I ever made that statement? There are many factors to why private schools test better than public. With those factors...there is no way that public's will ever test better. That is not the point. The public model could definitely learn a thing or two from the private...but there are too many variables in the public sector. The main issue with me is that I believe we must find a way to hold parents accountable by failing 'Johnny' and making him repeat the grade he failed. (what private schools do and one public could do but don't because it might hurt someone's feelings)
Sure we could look at all the things that the State and Fed do wrong on their end...but those are all secondary reasons to the core problem. I believe that core problem is that parents, taken as a whole, do not focus enough time at home to help their children do better in school. I trust the opinions of teachers. I personally know seven and have had conversations with four about this. One in Raytown, two in Olathe, and one here in Lawrence. The one common denominator with all is that too many parents are completely disengaged. And when they do engage a problem...they blame everyone else but 'Johnny' or themselves. I have many opinions that are popular and many that are not. But I believe this is the heart of the matter/problem. Until we find a way to hold the people responsible for the actions accountable...I don't believe anything will change. Just my $.02

Rex Hargis 5 years, 7 months ago

Pork -- government agencies are supposed to run in the red. If they make a profit, they are cheating somebody. I want to see one break even (spend exactly the budget, and no more. That, to my belief, has never happened.) If you are talking about spending less than the amount budgeted, forget it. The way it works, if you come in under budget, your budget next year is cut.

Paul Wilson 5 years, 7 months ago

Problem is you can't have it both ways. If it is the norm...then why are they crying for more and more money? Where is the accountability? That is my issue with anything Government run. Unbelievable amounts of waste. The inefficiency is where most of us have issues. "The way it works, if you come in under budget, your budget next year is cut." Then one solution is that we simply stop this practice. Allow a system prove that it can simply float around breaking even before blaming it on a lack of funds. You're right...sometimes running black can be just as bad as red. But black is always better and should always be the goal....always. Running in the red as an acceptable practice is irresponsible, reckless, and will only lead to ruin. Which is where we are at.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

Yes, parental involvement is critical. But before we all jump on the AFP/Koch bandwagon of slashing funding of public schools, consider carefully if that will really result in better or worse outcomes. What would you cut? How would those cuts improve educational outcomes.

Paul Wilson 5 years, 7 months ago

Parental involvement is not just is essential. It has to be there for the system to work.
Cuts make businesses more efficient. They are forced to find waste. Which we can be absolutely sure exist in anything that is Government run. Some can be hard, "not fair", or even verge on...oh no.... offending some. Start by cutting funding to sports, band, and other non essential activities. Some warm and fuzzies will say that they are essential...logical people recognize that they are not. You do not need these things to excel in college. If you think your 'Johnny' needs these things...then you can pay for it yourself.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 7 months ago

Wal-Mart Anti Public Education In Action

Walmart, Right-Wing Media Company Hold Star-Studded Benefit Promoting Education Reform Film

Richard Heckler 5 years, 7 months ago

Public School Districts work on a budget which is not in the red..... as far as I know.

Private industry and households work off borrowed money daily which I suppose is working in the red. We borrow for homes,cars,investing,large appliances etc etc etc etc.

Paul Wilson 5 years, 7 months ago

"Public School Districts work on a budget which is not in the red..... as far as I know." I am stunned that you would actually say this. For all your babbling and never ending novels...I still thought you knew a little about what you were talking about. What do you think everyone has been arguing about for the past 30+ years? Do you think school districts have been screaming about underfunding for the fun of it? No they scream because they don't know how to spend their budget efficiently. There is always just one-more-thing they need. Always in the Red. Where have you been? Private industry and households pay loans back by generating revenue. What revenue does a school generate? Econ 101. Sounds like you could benefit from a little education.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 7 months ago

"Vilson describeds Walmart’s involvement in "Teachers Rock" as evidence of an agenda “to Walmart-ize teachers" by securing the power to “totally strip collective-bargaining rights and health benefits," and exercise discretion to replace teachers at will. As David Moberg has reported, Walmart has had a hostile relationship with organized labor for decades. None of its U.S. stores are unionized."

Wal-Mart European stores are unionized and need to be if Wal Mart wants to locate in Europe.

Paul Wilson 5 years, 7 months ago

I'm trying to find the person you are having this Wal Mart conversation with.

1983Hawk 5 years, 7 months ago

Alex - I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you weren't told to characterize watchdog as an "independent news site," the most laughably inaccurate assertion possible. They are a Koch funded mouthpiece and are about as "independent" as Rupert Mudoch's Fixed News Network. Next time please check into the shadowy backgrounds of these think tanks and fake media organizations that keep springing up with carefully concocted political half-truths based only on carefully selected and eagerly spun data BEFORE you characterize them as "Independent" or even as a "news site." Very poor journalism on your part. You get a C- here, and I'm being charitable.

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