Archive for Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Education officials ponder application of Rose standards in school finance case

March 18, 2014


Topeka — The Kansas Supreme Court set out a new standard recently for determining whether the state has met its obligation to provide adequate funding for public schools.

But it has left some education officials in the state curious about how the new standard will actually work in deciding how much money schools should get.

Previously, the court had said funding has to be sufficient to cover the “actual cost” of providing all the educational services required of public schools. But in its ruling March 7, the court made a dramatic change, saying funding needs to be sufficient to produce the educational outcomes that Kansas, and many other states, expect.

The new benchmarks are commonly called the “Rose standards” because they come from a landmark 1989 school finance case in Kentucky, Rose v. The Council for Better Education.

“It’s a measure that states use,” Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker said. “It’s the case that set the precedent. Whether they’re right or not, nobody else has come out with anything else to do the measuring against.”

In Rose, the Kentucky court described a broad set of skill sets and knowledge that students should have after completing school. They cover seven general areas, including communication skills; knowledge of economic, social and political systems; understanding of governmental processes; knowledge of one’s own mental and physical wellness; grounding in the arts; and sufficient preparation in academic or vocational fields to enable students to choose a career and enter either higher education or the workplace.

Those standards are reflected, almost word for word, in a Kansas law that was adopted following the last school finance case. But they are used in that context as “legislative goals” for the content of school coursework, not as a guide for determining funding.

And noticeably absent from that list is any mention of math or science, which are key components of the curriculum standards adopted by the Kansas State Board of Education.

“I think that’s a discussion that this board will have,” DeBacker said. “Are they as up to date as what we are in education across the United States, especially given the higher standards we’ve put in place?

“They (the state board) set educational standards,” she said. “These standards are set in terms of financing. Do they have language that’s a little bit outdated? Absolutely.”

In its ruling last week, the Supreme Court remanded back to a lower court the question of whether the state is currently providing adequate funding, and it directed the lower court to use the Rose standards as the guide.

That raises the question of what kind of evidence the special three-judge panel will take into account when it reconsiders the case.

“I think we have to be careful,” said Brad Neuenswander, deputy commissioner for learning services. “In all the research around college and career readiness, there’s not one test that measures everything. And at the same time, it’s probably not best that you have a standardized statewide test to measure every skill that a kid needs.”

Neuenswander said courts in the future may want to consider things like the number of high school graduates who need remedial courses when they get to college, or even Department of Labor information about how successful they are in the workplace once they leave school.

“Those are probably better measures than how kids did on a test,” he said.

Those kinds of measurements, though, present another challenge for courts, because it could take five or more years to determine whether funding was sufficient when a given student entered high school and perhaps longer to determine whether elementary schools have been adequately funded.

“It depends on how anxious you are,” Neuenswander said.

The Supreme Court did not set a deadline for the lower court’s three-judge panel to reconsider the case, and an aide to presiding judge Frank Theis said the panel has not yet come up with a schedule.


Richard Heckler 3 years, 9 months ago

How did Kansas find itself in such a quandary?

The Wal-Mart family is knee deep in this war against public education or perhaps it is chest deep.

Before considering the specific goals and activities of these foundations, it is worth reflecting on the wisdom of allowing education policy to be directed or, one might say, captured by private foundations. There is something fundamentally antidemocratic about relinquishing control of the public education policy agenda to private foundations run by society’s wealthiest people. - Diane Ravitch, education historian and Assistant Secretary of Education under President George H.W. Bush

When the richest family in the country inserts itself into the education policy debate, ordinary Americans have reason to be concerned.

Why should one family’s overwhelmingly deep pockets give them the right to play such an outsized role in determining how the next generation of American students is educated?

What are they really trying to accomplish?

Why do the Waltons care about education? While John Walton said in February 2000 that he believed the greatest responsibility facing the country was to provide a “world-class education” for all children,recent comments from his wife suggest that the family’s original motive for becoming involved in education policy may have been less lofty.

In a June 2011 speech to the graduating class of the private school her son Lukas attended, Christy Walton explained that her family became involved in K-12 education reform because their business—presumably Walmart—“was having trouble finding qualified people to fill entry-level positions” and because the family believed that “the education being provided [in public schools] had been dummied [sic] down.”

Richard Heckler 3 years, 9 months ago

Who’s involved? Who are the Walton's connected to?

Through their foundation, the Walton family has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to promote charter schools and private schools, and family members are involved in many prominent national organizations pursuing this agenda. Get to know the family members most involved in this work:

• John Walton: Until his death in 2005, John Walton coordinated the education work of his family and family’s foundation. Most notably, he and the late Republican financier Ted Forstmann co-founded the Children’s Scholarship Fund, which funds private school educations for low-income children, and he assisted in the creation of the right-wing advocacy group Alliance for School Choice. He was also a shareholder in a for-profit school development company that went bankrupt in 2006.

• Carrie Walton Penner: Penner, who graduated from a private boarding school and attended two elite universities,sits on the boards of the KIPP Foundation (to which the Walton Family Foundation recently gave $25 million and the California Charter Schools Association. She is also on the boards of the Alliance for School Choice—a voucher advocacy group—and its lobbying and political affiliate. Penner has a degree from the Stanford University School of Education, but has apparently never worked on the front line of education as a teacher.

• Greg Penner: Greg Penner, Carrie Walton Penner’s husband, is on the National Board of Directors for Teach for America, and is a director of the Charter Growth Fund, a “non-profit venture capital fund” investing in charter schools.

• Christy Walton: Christy Walton is now the co-chair of the Children’s Scholarship Fund, which her late husband co-founded.

• Annie Proietti: Jim Walton’s daughter, Annie Walton Proietti, works for a KIPP school in Denver.

more interesting details:

The Walton's see trillions of public school tax dollars going to their bank accounts.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 9 months ago

The family is active in education policy outside of its foundation, too—for example, by injecting money into local political races, often far from where they live:

Can we say trillions of public school tax dollars going into the Walton family bank accounts?

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