Issue #9: What a District Can do
Douglas County, Colorado is the nation’s first school district to create its own voucher program. It offered students a charter school that planned to contract with area private schools for each child’s education. Of course, no good deed goes unpunished, so those vouchers are on hold until the state supreme court considers a lawsuit against them. In the meantime, the district has restructured teacher pay to fit market demand (imagine that); rejected Common Core national standards in favor of creating its own, better standards and tests; and kicked out the local teachers union. The district, one of the wealthiest in Colorado, has done all this while spending up to $2,000 less per student than nearby Denver-area districts.
This sort of behavior is unusual, even bizarre, for a school district, given the incentives that pull nearly all to spend the least amount of money and effort possible on students’ needs and the most possible to make adults’ lives comfortable. It all started with a group of Colorado moms and dads who decided to take over their school board. Townhall.com’s finance editor, John Ransom, helped lead the charge, and his little group of parents created Parent-Led Reform to elect a slate of voter-oriented school board members who aren’t messing around. They’ve found this far more effective than getting one lone voice of reason elected to an otherwise progressive, follow-the-leader school board, or to visiting school board meetings with concerns only to be politely ignored.
Parent-Led Reform is taking its bypass-the-bakesale approach nationwide. Anyone who wants their district to become the next Douglas County should drop these activist parents a line.
SOURCE: American Enterprise Institute, Parent-Led Reform
IN THIS ISSUE
- LOUISIANA: House Republicans demand more information from the U.S. Department of Justice about its lawsuit against Louisiana vouchers. Their letter charges the DOJ suit could “cause other states to feel pressured to shut down similar initiatives that provide countless children the opportunity to receive a better education.”
- WISCONSIN: Two lawmakers introduce a bill that would make the Milwaukee school district sell old, unused buildings to choice schools. The district has been keeping the buildings vacant, instead, while they deteriorate and taxpayers pay for their upkeep.
- TENNESSEE: Parents pack school choice fairs in Nashville. Although Republicans hold a supermajority in the statehouse, they have so far failed to give families private school choice.
- FLORIDA: Gov. Rick Scott moves to pull the state from Common Core national tests. Florida is the testing group’s fiscal agent. Pulling out leaves 15 states and DC involved, and the group’s federal grant requires at least 15 participants.
- MARYLAND: An off-duty police officer arrests a father for arguing about Common Core at a public meeting. The father has been charged with second-degree assault of a police officer and disturbing a school function, which carry penalties of up to ten years in prison and $5,000.
- HISTORY: A new national framework for social studies curriculum almost completely omits content like the Constitution, dates, and the Bill of Rights.
- DELAWARE: Becomes the seventh state to adopt national science standards. The link includes a map of states that have switched to the puffy-named Next Generation Science Standards.
- ARIZONA: Gov. Jan Brewer renames Common Core standards but changes nothing else about them. Changing the name will ensure the public better understands the standards, said the governor’s spokesman.
- TESTING: States can skip a year of accountability tests if they pilot Common Core tests, says the U.S. Department of Education. Pundits pile on the decision for its potential to throw schools into confusion, increase federal tyranny, and deprive the public of an education accountability mainstay. The alternative is giving some children two end-of-year tests: the real one and the Common Core field test. Or dropping Common Core.
- GATES FOUNDATION: How one of the world’s richest men is flooding education reform with bad ideas. Top on the list is the foundation’s college-for-all push, which is hitting just as the college bubble has begun to burst.
- TENNESSEE: Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman is under fire from all sides: Parents, unions, and school administrators express their frustration at constant school reform. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan stand behind Huffman.
- TURNOVER: Teachers probably leave the profession at half the rate of people in non-government jobs, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The media frequently reports that teaching has high turnover rates.
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