Saturday, February 12, 2005

A Lot More of Less

Some weekend newspaper headlines indicated that Indiana schools could get a slight increase in funding instead of a cut. Buried in the Fort Wayne Gazette article is the actual news.

Here is the short version

"YOUR kid doesn't get it."

Buried well down in the text is this quote from Pat Bauer,

The rich get richer and the urban centers will be hurt,” said Bauer, whose caucus claims that 240 school districts will see less money under the new formula. The GOP plans to add money to the complexity formula to educate children with socio-economic disadvantages.

So the Krispy Kreme Theory of School Funding is validated again. Under this theory (see previous posts), the I-465 donut will get the Carmel icing and sprinkles, the remainder of the extra money for education will be taken from the rural schools and given to schools with higher at-risk indicators.

Not to be too critical but isn't it ironic to see a headline that implies education may get a slight increase but the small print reveals that 240 of the 300+ school districts in Indiana will actually get less.

A lot more of less.

Improvements To The Super's Blog

I am looking for a new name for The Super's Blog. The idea is to appeal to a broader audience and to speak to educational issues that affect all educators and parents. We still believe that all superintendents in Indiana need to be checking in here every day and then forwarding the address to patrons, PTO members and educators everywhere. Our goal is to create a giant blogosphere. People will not always agree with what is posted but then if they did...what fun would that be! The goal is to create a greater awareness of the complexity of educational issues - yet have some fun while we are at it. Help me rename the site.

Examples (some of these are already taken) of new blog names include:
1. SOS.blogspot.com (stands for save our schools)
2. edublog.blogspot.com
3. edblog.blogspot.dom
4.etc.

I will take your suggestions and a small group of anonymous bloggers will choose one. To send a suggestion just post a comment on this board.

You will notice that I have changed the comments section. Now you can just click on the word "Comments" and then click on the words "Post a Comment" and you can leave your suggestions without being a registered blogspot.com user.

Now the fun begins! Comments from readers everywhere will begin to turn this into a giant cyber coffe shop. So every morning when you fire up the computer, sit back, take a sip on your steaming hot cup of coffee and check in briefly every morning to see what the educational world has to say about the latest educational/political brouhaha.

Welcome to the cyber-coffee shop. The local gossip spot minus the lingering tobacco smoke. (Of course I haven't seen your computer room either - so just surmising there.) :-)

Any good blog site names you want to contribute?

Friday, February 11, 2005

Liar Liar Pants on Fire

I find the recent brouhaha over comments in Friday's Indy Star (click on highlighted words for the link to the Star article) by Dr. Eugene White to be quite comical. The righteous indignation coming from the Governor's office is just a hoot. Dr. White had the audacity to point out what every single school administrator in Indiana knows but the governor and his education folks evidently did not.

They didn't knowthat Indiana has made tremendous progress in recent years and absolutely does NOT "lag" behind the nation in education as the governor reports in his address. (see post titled, "Top 10 things you won't read in the Governor's newsletter.")

Dr. White is quoted as saying that the governor was a "liar." The governor's office might as well as responded with something that sounds suspisciously like, "He wasn't lying, he just didn't tell the truth."

The story on the streets is that when confronted with their deceptive comments about Indiana's educational status, the governor's assistants have said, "Well if you aren't number one then you are lagging behind." David Shane leaves no mystery as to who said that. He verifies it in today's Star article.

I shudder to think of Shane being responsible for the Governor's educational policy. His comments are totally nonsensical in educational policy. This isn't a "race." I thought the nation was trying to "Leave No Child Behind". I guess the governor wants to leave ALL the nation's children behind. Then we can be number one.

Hmm. I think the governor needs some new speech writers and new assistants. (Unfortunately the word on the street is that he wrote his own speech so he would have to fire himself.)

The governor needs to wake up and realize that the campaign is over!! He does not need to fire up his political base. Now he actually has to go to work. The RV and pork tenderloin thing is done. Picnic is over Mitch. Work with all legislators. Even our own republicans that you have already trodden over.

Don't forget Mitch, many of those republicans are the same ones that you need to pass some of these intitiatives. Don't forget that they too were responsible for the tremendous bipartisan efforts that resulted in the very improvements you and your assistants are denying exist.

Liar Liar Pants on Fire. Now let's see you tightrope walk the telephone wire.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Krispy Kreme Theory of School Funding

You heard it here first. :-)

The Krispy Kreme Theory of school funding.

Picture interstate highway I-465 around Indianapolis on the map. Picture the donut-sized ring it makes around our fair and illustrious capitol city. Picture the wealthy suburbs ringing the donut. (This is where most of the dough actually is.) You know, suburbs such as Carmel where the governor has decided to live instead of in the "people's house." (Oh well, "the people's house" is actually a mansion too. By the way, I wonder if the Guv would consider just living in his RV. He wouldn't even have to take the wheels off his house like our patrons in real Ho0sier land sometimes have to.)

My Krispy Kreme Theory of school funding is a basic concept. Based on my theory I will make a bold and shocking prediction.

When the current legislative session ends with a midnight vote on a budget no one has actually read because it consumes approximately 437,000 pages of pork in some variety or another (I hear the lard actually sticks all the pages together so the reading is very problematic), count on the following:

1. The donut will get all the "Carmel" icing (pun intended)
2. The donut will get all the dough
3. The donut will get its dough from all the public schools that will lose (that's right the schools were the patrons in working-class Indiana have to take the wheels off their homes)

Herein the inequities lie. The growing suburban schools in most cases already have per pupil expenditures higher than most schools - even with their growing student populations.

If our school district just had the state average spending per pupil, we could lay-off 20 certified employees and still have the same exact program we have today.

The problem I see is this - Republicans used to be the party in favor of local control and smaller government. This is why I have tended to vote Republican. But now I ask this question, "Does anyone, I mean ANYONE out there have any information that would lead them to believe that our Republican-led state government has any inclination at all to increase local control of ANYTHING?

I didn't think so.

Mitch is on a roll.

More and more regulation and control has been assumed by the state, but more and more of the funding responsibilities have been assumed by the local patrons. Then the politicians turn around blame local school boards for increasing tax rates etc.

The Krispy Kreme Theory of school funding shows us the light. You see...this way they can have their donut and eat it too!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Top 10 Things You Won't Read In the Governor's Newsletter

Here are the top ten things you won't read about in the governor's newsletter. The governor noted in his state of the state address that Indiana "lags" behind the nation when it comes to education.

Well, read these 10 facts and see how far we "lag."

Indiana was 2nd internationally in 4th grade science
Indiana was 9th internationally in grade 8 science
Indiana was 9th internationally in grade 4 math
Indiana was 10th internationally in grade 8 math
Exceeded the national average of students from the US on every measure
Increased combined SAT score 35 points since 1990 exceeding other state averages by 15%
Raised attendance rates to highest in state history
Raised percentage of Academic Honors Diplomas for 13 of 14 years
One of only 8 states to get A- in Standards and Accountability in Education Week 2005
Made progress on narrowing the achievement gap on 13 of 18 measures

I think I know what happened. The Guv really meant to say "brag" but it came out "lag."

Yeah that's it.

He really meant to "brag" and express his gratitude to the bipartisan effort all legislators and educators have put out to accomplish so much in recent years.

Yep...he was so excited that educators and legislators from both the republican and the democrat side have worked so hard to raise the bar for our children and their futures - that the Guv just got tongue-tied and said "lag" when he really meant to "brag" about Indiana.



Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The Gov's Priorities are Showing........

This article from the Herald Times was interesting. Seems a legislator wants to decrease the amount of the budget cut by 20 Million by using some dollars ear-marked for education spending. The Governor's office had a response that evidently sounded something like..."Yeah...but then the state might be fulfilling their financial obligations passed by previous legislators..that is not our mission. Our mission is to put public schools in their place." OK maybe I am paraphrasing a little.

Interesting reading though. This was printed from the Herald-Times.

Simpson: $20 million in account for schools Money could be used to fill funding gap, but spokeswoman says governor is opposed to that by Andrew Graham, Herald-Times Staff WriterFebruary 2, 2005

State Sen. Vi Simpson, D-Ellettsville, says there is an additional $20 million previously set aside for school corporations which could help the state meet fiscal obligations to them.
Gov. Mitch Daniels notified Indiana school corporations last week that the state did not intend to pay out $26.7 million that had been earmarked for the schools by the state funding formula.
But Simpson contends that $20 million of unspent 2003-04 Department of Education allocation was designated by Daniels' predecessor, Joe Kernan, for the express purpose of helping address any such deficiency. And that the money remains available.
Jane Jankowski, a spokeswoman for Daniels, said Tuesday night that the governor's office is aware of the $20 million but wasn't aware it was designated to help cover the deficiency.
Jankowski cited a 2004 memo from Kernan budget director Marilyn Schultz that discussed several differ- ent possibilities for the money other than addressing the school funding formula deficiency.
"It was a memo to (State Superintendent of Public Instruction) Suellen Reed regarding requests the money might be used to fund: textbooks, full-day kindergarten, Marion County desegregation, special education and a couple of other things," Jankowski said from her home Tuesday evening. "She said any decision regarding use of the money would have to be cleared with the governor and the Legislature.
"If no agreement was reached as to how the money would be used, it would revert back (to the state's general fund) in fiscal 2005."
Simpson, speaking by cell phone, said the money was originally part of the allocation to the state Department of Education for its tuition support and special education categories. The amount left unspent was $24.8 million.
While $4 million was allowed to revert to the state's general fund and $800,000 went toward a subsequent special education project the Department of Education wanted to pursue, the $20 million balance was placed into a nonreverting escrow account.
Simpson said the Kernan administration made clear it designated the money to address the unpaid balance. And it didn't hide the money. "They informed the (combined Senate-House) budget committee (about the money)," Simpson said. "Suellen (Reed) knew about it. The money is there, but nobody seems to be talking about it.
"Either the (Daniels) administration didn't know about it, or has chosen to do something else with the money."
Jankowski said the Daniels administration does not intend to use the money to address the 2005 funding deficiency. It has no intention of finding any funds to make the payments, given the status of the state's budget, she said.
"Making that deficiency payment would be a base budget adjustment which would increase the dollars required in future fiscal years, and the governor feels our state's financial condition does not permit us to do that," Jankowski said. "We'd be adding another $27 million to the base this year (and) an estimated $100 million over the next biennium.
"If you fill that deficiency, that adjusts the base upwards each successive year, so that you're starting at a higher level each year."
Simpson maintained the state budget isn't the issue, since the money is contained in a separate account and not part of current budget computations.
"They can't use the budget as an excuse," Simpson said. "This money isn't in the cash balance or the surplus statement. But it is available, and it was set aside for the express purpose of covering deficiency in funding formula payments.
"My question now, I guess, would be what does (Daniels) plan to do with the money? Is he going to revert it and put it back in the cash balance? My personal opinion is we ought to use the money to pay the schools what we owe them."
Reporter Andrew Graham can be reached at 331-4346 or by e-mail at agraham@heraldt.com.

Unfunded Mandates

I was planning a presentation for the school board the other evening regarding our school district's challenges to The Governor's education funding cuts.

While doing so, I was preparing a slide showing some of the unfunded mandates.

Here are just a few:

1. No Child Left Behind : I can't imagine the personnel costs that have gone into schools in recent years as they attempt to get every child to meet state standards. Reading Recovery, Literacy Collaboratives, Writer's Workshop Training, Instructional Coaches, major staff development efforts, technology intitiatives to track data, the list goes on and on and on...

2.Core 40: More and more teachers are needed in the Math and English areas.

3. Higher state standards and higher cut scores: These create more remediation classes, more teachers and more paraprofessionals.

4. Training Costs: Ask your superintendent what has happened to your school district's budget line for substitute teachers. It has gone through the roof. Release time for everything - all of it important.

5. Special Education: Yes, despite the state and federal dollars - special education is hugely underfunded. In the 1970's it was supposed to be funded at a 40% level. It has now reached a whopping 18-20%.

That means the other 22% is being subsidized by the General Fund.

There is no question that higher standards and accountibility have put a focus on school improvement, but the constant barrage of unfunded mandates has created a crushing financial burden for Indiana schools.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Hidden Agenda Behind Spring ISTEP Testing?

The Governor has proposed a change from Fall ISTEP testing to Spring ISTEP testing. I admit that on the surface this seems to make intuitive sense. Testing at the end of the year to see what students have gained over the course of the year seems logical to many people.

However, I propose the possibility that there is actually a hidden agenda behind this switch. Since the Governor has proposed slashing education budgets, there must be a compelling reason to propose spending millions of additional dollars just to make a change in testing procedures. Otherwise he isn't The Blade, just "The Butterknife."

I propose that someone in the Governor's inner circle actually knows that Indiana has made outstanding strides in improving the quality of education for Hoosier children. (This is despite the fact that the Governor insisted on saying that Indiana "lags" behind the rest of the nation.) The best way to make sure that the previous people in charge do not get credit for these improvements is to immediately change the testing so that comparisons are not valid. By changing the testing the Governor can seal off the past progress and take credit for what others have already worked so hard to put in place. (See NAEP for the real story about whether Indiana "lags" behind the nation) .

The story is making the rounds that when the Governor's office was questioned as to why the deception of saying Indiana "lags" behind the nation when the facts indicate otherwise, the reply was, "If you aren't number one then you are lagging behind." Another "talk-tough sound bite" but hardly sensible in the real world of attempting to educate all students to high levels.

After many years in education, I have never seen so many educators working so hard to improve the achievement of students. Would you please stop messing around and mixing things up? Allow the reforms that are already in place to have a chance to work. Spring or Fall - in the end the change isn't worth the cost for the following reasons:

1. Too expensive when budgets are beng slashed.
2. The switch to Spring testing does not allow the 917 schools that are using the NCA accreditation model to make valid comparisons of student achievement. Many schools have been learning to use fairly sophisticated data analysis measures to evaluate their progress. A change to Spring ISTEP testing clearly is NOT a good thing for almost one-third of Indiana's schools.

Note to legislators...leave the testing alone and attend to more important matters.