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Archive for Monday, December 10, 2012

Governor’s task force on school efficiency criticized for not hearing teachers

December 10, 2012

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Teachers on Monday criticized the Governor's Task Force on School Efficiency. From left to right are Mark Desetti, a lobbyist with the Kansas-National Education Association; Judy Johnson, a school counselor from Great Bend; Karen Godfrey, president of the KNEA; Jarius Jones, an instructional teaching coach from Kansas City, Kan.; Shane Heiman, a technology teacher from Emporia; and Todd Roberts, a third-grade teacher from Derby.

Teachers on Monday criticized the Governor's Task Force on School Efficiency. From left to right are Mark Desetti, a lobbyist with the Kansas-National Education Association; Judy Johnson, a school counselor from Great Bend; Karen Godfrey, president of the KNEA; Jarius Jones, an instructional teaching coach from Kansas City, Kan.; Shane Heiman, a technology teacher from Emporia; and Todd Roberts, a third-grade teacher from Derby.

— Gov. Sam Brownback's task force on school efficiency was wrapping up its work Monday after having heard from school administrators, school board members and critics of school funding.

But the task force hasn't allowed time, and apparently won't, to hear from those who are in the classroom every day — teachers.

"Our voice, when it comes to education decisions, is critical because we are the ones that are intimately involved in that work," said Kansas-National Education Association President Karen Godfrey, who has taught for more than 30 years in the Seaman school district in Shawnee County. "It is disappointing when our input is not sought and it isn't even welcomed in some circumstances," Godfrey said.

In an email obtained by the Lawrence Journal-World, Ken Willard, the chairman of the Governor's School Efficiency Task Force, rejected a request from KNEA to allow teachers to testify before the panel.

Willard said that he wanted the task force to spend its last meeting hearing from presenters who had been previously scheduled for an earlier meeting — including the state librarian — and to discuss issues for possible recommendations to Brownback.

"I would very much like to hear from teachers at the classroom level who have suggestions for improving efficiency in the allocation of education dollars, so while we will not have time for more testimony during the task force meeting, I would love to have teachers submit their testimony in writing for consideration by the task force," Willard said.

Four educators were on hand at a KNEA news conference to share with reporters what they would have told the task force, which was meeting upstairs.

They said reductions in school funding over the past several years had increased class sizes and reduced the number of counselors, librarians, janitors in schools, as well as funds available for professional development.

This meant, they said, they had less time to prepare lessons and collaborate with colleagues, and had to spend more time on chores, such as vacuuming classrooms and cleaning tabletops.

And they said fewer school counselors was having a negative impact on students' mental well-being.

Todd Roberts, a third-grade teacher in Derby, said his class has access to a social worker one day each week. He said half of his students are from divorced parents. "I have kids crying because they think they won't see Mom or Dad for a week," he said.

Judy Johnson, a counselor in Great Bend, said the high school there of 1,000 students has one librarian with no support staff, and the elementary schools have no counselors.

"It might be efficient to have no elementary counselors … but is it really educationally effective? The students who are dealing with so many things, they need our help," Johnson said.

And the educators said they feared the tax cuts signed into law by Brownback were going to result in more cuts to schools.

"No amount of efficiencies that they are talking about in that committee upstairs can make up for what has already been cut out of school budgets, and no amount of efficiencies can make up for what is potentially going to be cut as the governor's tax bill takes effect," said Mark Desetti, a KNEA spokesman.

Kansas spends about $3 billion each year in state revenue on public schools, which makes up approximately half of the state budget.

Brownback signed into law tax cuts that will drop the top state income tax rate to 4.9 percent from 6.45 percent, and exempt the owners of 191,000 partnerships, sole proprietorships and other business from income taxes.

Legislative researchers have estimated that the cuts will be worth $4.5 billion over the next six years. The researchers also project that the cuts will create collective budget shortfalls approaching $2.5 billion during the same period.

State budget experts say the state is already facing a $328 million revenue shortfall next year.

Brownback has said school districts should focus more of their resources on classroom instruction and find ways to reduce spending on functions that don't affect teaching. Some ideas that have been discussed are sharing administrative resources and purchasing power.

But Brownback's task force has generated controversy since he announced its formation in October.

It was under fire immediately because it was dominated by accountants and no one on it was an educator or worked in a school. Brownback also established a website where people could anonymously report inefficient spending in the educational system.

Democrats and education groups said the task force was set up to attack public schools. In the task force's first meeting on Oct. 8, it heard from the Kansas Policy Institute, which has been a critic of how schools spend money.

In setting up the task force, the governor's office said only 15 of the state's 286 school districts complied with a state law that requires at least 65 percent of state funds be spent in the classroom. But there is no such legal requirement, and school officials released a report that showed based on state funding, all school districts were surpassing the 65 percent level.

Comments

Bob Forer 1 year, 7 months ago

Why should Brownback seek advice from the teachers? All he has to do is pray for god's guidance on the matter. .

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JJE007 1 year, 7 months ago

It looks like he's starting a new BROWN movement.

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riverdrifter 1 year, 7 months ago

You just made me spit whisky on my keyboard!

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dabbindan 1 year, 7 months ago

why talk to teachers? everyone knows teachers are the problem, can't be trusted and are only in it for the paycheck.

bad bad teachers. soon there many not be any. problem solved!

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chootspa 1 year, 7 months ago

Put each kid next to a pile of money. The free market is magic and solves all problems, so soon each child will be just as knowledgable about sound policy as the current Kansas leadership.

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Cait McKnelly 1 year, 7 months ago

You know, Gareth, you actually bring up a good point. HAS Brownback done a single positive thing for the state since he took office? Anybody up for the challenge?

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Alyosha 1 year, 7 months ago

And rockchalk again complains about the Governor's actions being reported in the press.

Very strange how some wish for pro-Brownback propaganda and can't handle a free press holding a governor accountable, or reporting on controversies the Governor's actions create.

Perhaps, rockchalk, you should keep yourself to reading the self-serving PR pieces the Governor puts out.

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Gareth 1 year, 7 months ago

Has Governor Opus Dei ever done anything positive?

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chootspa 1 year, 7 months ago

He did have a Kansas author's celebration, but I believe that was actually his wife's idea.

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Bob Forer 1 year, 7 months ago

So what's your point? I have never heard a preacher say anything positive about the devil from his pulpit.

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simpleton 1 year, 7 months ago

Let's all hold our breath and wait for Sam to do something good. I'm sure someone will write about it. Maybe even in his baby book.

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Bob Forer 1 year, 7 months ago

Scott reports facts. If you cannot find anything positive in those facts, I suggest you draw the only possible logical conclusion.

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optimist 1 year, 7 months ago

Most won't necessarily dispute the facts Scott reports. It's simplistic to state that by simply reporting some of the facts that the truth is presented. The truth requires Scott report not only the facts that support his point of view but also the facts that may disagree with his position and do it without framing the discussion or using the words of others to frame the discussion. That's journalism, what Scott practices is more like commentary the likes of Ed Shultz, Bill O'Reilly, just not as good or as entertaining.

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Alyosha 1 year, 7 months ago

And how, optimist, do you know what the reporter's "position" is? How do you know his point of view?

Mind reading?

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oldexbeat 1 year, 7 months ago

they lie. always lie. their god tells them to lie. that it is ok to lie about lower class people. you know. teachers. low pay. low class. right ?

"In setting up the task force, the governor's office said only 15 of the state's 286 school districts complied with a state law that requires at least 65 percent of state funds be spent in the classroom. But there is no such legal requirement, and school officials released a report that showed based on state funding, all school districts were surpassing the 65 percent level.'

Lies.

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FalseFlag 1 year, 7 months ago

School efficiency is an oxymoron like Military Intelligence, heavy gas or democrat leadership.

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usesomesense 1 year, 7 months ago

The fact is that the 'correct' answer is somewhere in the middle. Having first hand experience both ends of the spectrum in public schools - from fantastic teachers to terrible teachers there is need for reform. There's also room for efficiency improvements that don't cut teacher pay.

A remedy that I believe would help our district: Eliminate early release Wednesday Eliminate late start/early release Thursday Reduce number of days off throughout the year. Lengthen each day by ten minutes.

The above would allow most of our schools to be closed about a month more during the summer, reducing utility costs during the hottest months and opening up the option of a real full semester of summer school if we need or want it.

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hedshrinker 1 year, 7 months ago

Research shows a high degree of student learning loss over lengthy summer breaks already , especially in at risk students who don't live in families that have a rich learning environment or can't afford supplemental summer enrichment activities. The early release on Wed or Thurs is to allow teachers and other staff collaboration time to consult about vexing cases, etc.

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chootspa 1 year, 7 months ago

And your PhD is in Anecdotal Evidence, I presume? There's enough of that in the committee already. I don't think teachers as a group want to keep bad teachers around, contrary to the current propaganda. They just don't want to use evaluation measures that are inherently arbitrary or unfair. Didn't they already propose their own system?

I think the short Wednesday schedule stinks, but it's a personal inconvenience, not an inefficiency. There's a difference.

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chootspa 1 year, 7 months ago

It's not today. It's pretty much the history of schools. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discipli...

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Glenn Reed 1 year, 7 months ago

The problem with including teachers in such a discussion is that the teachers will factor health, safety, and educational outcomes for the children. See, they care about the kids more than they care about the money.

That Derby teacher, Roberts? He's talking about social workers because half his students are kids of divorced people. Everyone knows you just get those people married, right? There, that eliminates the need for social workers right there!

This is hardly the place we want to focus on for public education.

This is about MONEY. Something teachers simply don't have enough of to know enough about. Right?

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hedshrinker 1 year, 7 months ago

I don't believe the Governor's children attend public school and his accountant in chief isn't even in KS much of the time (private schools in his case too?)....what do they care?

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verity 1 year, 7 months ago

When you realize that the aim is to kill public education and privatize it, then what the Gov is doing makes perfect sense. But they know they can't present that idea in a straight forward and honest way, so they go about destroying public education from within, the same way the Feds are trying to destroy the USPS.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

In the current debates on vouchers, there is strikingly little discussion of the relationship between democratic values, civic responsibility, and public education. Instead, education is treated as a mere commodity, with parents and children reduced to mere consumers.

Do our urban public school systems have deep-seated problems? Without a doubt. But at the end of the day, they are the only institutions with the commitment, capacity, and legal obligation to teach all children.

In Milwaukee, vouchers have created separate and unequal school systems. The education of students with special educational needs is just one example. The percentage of special ed students in Milwaukee’s public schools is about 20 percent. At the private voucher schools, the comparable figure is less than 2 percent.

“All together, the 102 voucher schools are serving a special education population that is equal to what the Milwaukee Public Schools serves in just one of its district schools: Hamilton High School,” Milwaukee superintendent Gregory Thornton noted last year.

Vouchers were promoted in the 1990s as a way to help poor black children escape failing schools. But that rhetoric has disappeared in Milwaukee. Voucher supporters have expanded vouchers to middle-income families and have made clear they want to make vouchers available to all, including millionaires. Vouchers for poor children was just a first step.

For more than twenty years, I have listened to the voucher movement’s seductive rhetoric of “choice” and “parent power.” If I didn’t know better, I might proclaim, “Sign me up today!” Milwaukee, however, has more than two decades of reality-based vouchers. The lesson from this heartland city?

Vouchers are a vehicle to funnel tax dollars into private schools. Using the false promise of “choice,” they are an unabashed abandonment of public education and of our hopes for a vibrant democracy.

Barbara Miner has been a reporter, writer, and editor for almost forty years, writing for publications ranging from the New York Times to the Milwaukee Journal. The former managing editor of Rethinking Schools, she has co-edited numerous books on education, including Selling out Our Schools: Vouchers, Markets, and the Future of Public Education. Her book Lessons from the Heartland: A Turbulent Half-Century of Public Education in an Iconic American City will be published New Press in January 2013.

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/10/13-0

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