January 18, 2019 - Volume 39 Issue 2



TIME (1/10) reports on the role of charter school policy in the Los Angeles teacher strike, saying teachers are “focusing on the growth of charter schools as a central issue in the nation’s second largest school district. At a press conference Wednesday night following another day of negotiations, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) President Alex Caputo-Pearl accused district leaders of wanting ‘to starve our schools in order to justify cuts and justify handing more schools over to privately run charter schools.’” Superintendent Austin Beutner “has said previously that the contract dispute should not be seen as a referendum on charter schools. ... But the issue has become a focal point in the debate over the future of Los Angeles schools, as union leaders accuse Beutner and the city’s Board of Education of favoring charter schools over traditional public schools.”

Politico Morning Education (1/10) reports that U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue “heavily featured” education in his annual State of American business address. Politico adds Donohue also highlighted workforce development as a “top priority” of the Chamber. Donohue said: “Our challenge today is to preserve, strengthen and expand the American dream — and put it within the reach of every child, every family, every worker, and every entrepreneur. The Chamber’s agenda for 2019 and beyond is built around this simple idea — to harness our new-found economic strength, do everything we can to keep it going, and put it to work on behalf of all Americans who hope for a shot at their own unique American dream.”

The Allentown (PA) Morning Call (1/10, Palochko, Merlin, Wojcik) reports Pennsylvania districts, under the state’s new Future Ready PA Index school accountability system, are focusing on exposing “students to skills needed to find and land post-education careers. ... Schools, including charter schools, need to show the state that students, starting in kindergarten, are learning such job skills as making resumes, writing reports on industries and job shadowing.”

Education Week (1/10, Schwartz) reports that according to research published in the journal Economics of Education Review, “offering a one-time bonus could help keep high-performing teachers in high-needs schools and raise student scores. ...Researchers from the University of Georgia, New York University, and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill looked at Tennessee, which put this kind of bonus program in place in 2012 for teachers working in the state’s Priority Schools – those with student test scores in the lowest 5 percent of the state.” Highly-rated teachers “were offered a one-time, $5,000 bonus (a 10 percent salary increase, on average) if they committed to returning to the same school the next year. The program produced results, according to the study.”

VTDigger (VT) (1/10) reports that amid the controversy surrounding Vermont’s new school district consolidation law, “an internal government document suggests” Education Secretary Dan French “believes it hasn’t gone nearly far enough.” The draft memo outlines “a radical idea for Vermont’s schools,” suggesting “consolidating all school districts into one, abolishing the State Board of Education, and establishing four regional administrative entities, each with its own school board and superintendent, to oversee schools in the area.” Students “would have universal public and private school choice. Budgets would be developed by regional superintendents and submitted to the secretary of education, who would create an overall education budget. That budget would then go before the General Assembly, which would have the final say over how much money schools receive. Regional school boards, with the approval of the secretary, would decide whether to close schools.”

The Seventy Four (1/7, Mahnken) reports Vanderbilt University professor Jason Grissom and University of Pennsylvania professor Marc Meredith published a study in the American Educational Research Association’s open access journal that “has uncovered a big finding: School board members are disproportionately likely to come from wealthier, whiter and more educated neighborhoods within districts.” According to the study, there is “even a partisan dimension to this trend.” After reviewing voter registration data, the two researchers “found that the more Democratic voters resided within a census block group, the less likely it was to produce a school board member.” Furthermore, the “disparities in socioeconomic status are far greater in urban and suburban areas than in rural ones, the authors note, because earnings and home values are generally more polarized in cities.” Taken as a whole, “the study finds that Ohio school boards – which hold significant influence over the school districts they oversee – provide a greater voice to families and schools that already hold an edge over their neighbors.” Grissom and Meredith conclude that this “presents major governance problems,” because “privileging the input of the wealthy and well-connected can contribute to equity problems between schools.”

Grant Opportunities

The National PTA is accepting entries of original works of artacross arts disciplines from students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade for this annual award program. Students can submit artwork through their local Reflections program, with selected winners receiving the opportunity to exhibit their artwork. The deadline to register to participate is Feb. 1.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services’ Accelerating Promising Practices for Small Libraries initiative seeks to support these libraries, as well as archives and related organizations, in their work through grants of up to $50,000. IMLS will award grants across three categories, including Transforming School Library Practice. Deadline to apply: Feb. 25. 

In a Bloomberg View(9/4) piece, Andrea Gabor, Bloomberg chair of business journalism at CUNY’s Baruch College, writes, “For two decades, the prevailing wisdom among education philanthropists and policymakers has been that the U.S. school system needs the guiding hand of centralized standard-setting to discipline ineffective teachers and bureaucrats. Much of that direction was guided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has spent billions since 2000 to influence both schools and education policy.” However, “top-down national initiatives based on standardized testing and curricular uniformity” have waned in popularity, and now groups including Gates are moving toward a more local approach. Gates’ “K-12 philanthropy will concentrate on supporting what it calls ‘locally driven solutions’ that originate among networks of 20 to 40 schools.”