March 1, 2019 - Volume 39 Issue 8


NPR (2/22, Kamenetz) reports on the “current wave of teacher walkouts” in states across the country, noting that a lot of teachers’ frustration “comes down to money, but dignity and respect are touchstones, too.” The article touches on low teacher pay, and reports that teachers in Denver and Los Angeles got promises of pay raises after striking. Other factors in the strikes include districts’ finances and the impact of charter schools on budgets. Moreover, “teachers in two Chicago charter school networks have gone on strike, asking for better pay and smaller classes. Meanwhile, public school teachers have long argued that charters siphon public funds and fail to serve all students. In Oakland and Los Angeles, teachers are asking for more restrictions on these schools.”

CNN International (2/23, Wolf) reports each teacher strike across the country is “unique and has its own local concerns, but each also shares the underlying issue of how America should compensate its teachers and educate its children. The national takeaways, according to Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, are that schools have been underfunded for years, that teachers have had enough and that parents are behind them.”

The AP (2/22, Thompson, Raby) reports teacher strikes in Oakland and West Virginia amount to “round two of the teacher mobilizations that began last spring as grassroots revolts in conservative-leaning states over salaries and school funding. The most recent actions, including a union-led strike in liberal Los Angeles, have been as much about pushing back on charter schools and other school choice reforms – initiatives that have a history of bipartisan support but have long been decried by unions as threats to the traditional public school system.”

The AP (2/27, Collins) reports South Carolina’s House Education Committee sent a “massive bill” to the House floor Wednesday containing “several changes to the bill urged by teachers, including deleting a study to see if teacher pay should no longer be directly linked to experience and eliminating a proposal to allow high performing schools to hire uncertified teachers.” Committee members rejected “several amendments...on reducing class sizes and slowing the possible consolidation of poorly performing districts,” the AP says. Senators also have critiqued the formation of a “Zero to Twenty committee to monitor all aspects of education from early childhood to workforce training,” per the AP, as well as an included “student bill of rights,” suggesting it has “language that would invite lawsuits.”

The Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal (2/28) reports organizers of a statewide teacher sickout that took place Thursday in Kentucky say “educators will return to the classroom on Friday — alleviating concerns that schools could be shut down for a second day.” Teachers are protesting legislation “which would restructure the board for the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System. ... Hundreds of teachers clad in red showed up at the statehouse, many cramming into the committee meeting space Thursday afternoon.”

WHYY-TV Philadelphia (2/25) reports Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed a $45,000 minimum teacher salary. Currently, “state law only requires a minimum teacher salary of $18,500.” In some rural districts, teacher pay is lower than the proposed $45,000 amount. “Wolf’s proposal would send about $377,000 to the Scranton School District and about $263,000 to the Reading School District. Most districts in the Philadelphia suburbs and southcentral Pennsylvania wouldn’t receive money under the proposal.”

Chalkbeat (2/27) reports “Denver Public Schools began the process this week of cutting more than 150 administrative positions from its central office, which will free up $17 million for raises for teachers and other district employees, as well as additional money for special education services.” Chalkbeat says “the Denver district has far more administrators than others in Colorado, and Superintendent Susana Cordova has said repeatedly that the district needs to have fewer initiatives and focus on doing a smaller number of things well.” Cordova said, “We have too many priorities, too many people working on those priorities, and not enough impact coming out of that. ... I am 100 percent committed to right-sizing what the central office looks like.”

The Dallas Morning News (2/27) editorializes that the committee’s “unanimous approval” of the bill has “good intentions,” but “without a sound strategy for improving academic performance,” the bill has the “potential to put Texas students further behind.” The Morning News says the bill “lacks any mechanism for districts” to incentivize teacher performance, which is “disappointing when we know...student success lies with the caliber of the instructor.” The Morning News instead recommends “merit-based programs that give districts the ability to encourage great teachers to work in struggling schools and help draw talented young people into the profession,” with Dallas ISD’s Accelerating Campus Excellence plan as a model.

Teacher Preparation

Education Week (2/26, Will) reports that “more than half of aspiring elementary teachers fail the most common licensing exam the first time,” according to a new analysis by the National Council on Teacher Quality, “a Washington-based think tank that advocates for more rigorous teacher preparation.” The analysis also found that “only 38 percent of black candidates and 57 percent of Hispanic candidates ever pass the most common teacher licensing test, compared to 75 percent of white candidates.” The report “pointed to research that suggests that teachers who have a higher passing score on licensing exams tend to see more student achievement gains in the classroom, especially for mathematics.” It also “recommends that state policymakers publish first-time and overall licensing test pass rates for all teacher candidates who are enrolled in a teacher-prep program.”


The Tulsa (OK) World (2/28) reports, Epic Charter Schools, “the Oklahoma-based online education juggernaut, is the target of scrutiny by state and federal law enforcement in addition to state lawmakers.” The piece reports the “Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation says it is again investigating Epic Charter Schools,” but quotes an official saying there were no additional details forthcoming. Meanwhile, “public records indicate widespread accounts of Epic Charter Schools students also being enrolled in private schools appear to be at least one line of inquiry by federal investigators.”

In commentary for the Philadelphia Public Schools Notebook (2/26), Deborah Grill, a retired teacher and school librarian, and a research coordinator at the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, urges the Philadelphia Board of Education to reject “applications for three new charter schools: People for People’s Frederick Douglass Charter High School, String Theory’s Joan Myers Brown Academy, and American Paradigm’s Tacony Academy Charter at St. Vincent’s.” She argues that “the District cannot afford any more charter schools,” noting that the new charter schools’ proposed budgets show that “they would cost an additional $119 million just for the first five-year term.” In her view, the applications have “less to do with increasing educational opportunities for Philadelphia’s children than with enriching charter operators and their affiliated businesses.”

EdSource (2/26) reports, “The chairman of the Assembly Education Committee and several Democratic colleagues introduced a package of bills Monday that would impose severe restrictions on the growth of charter schools.” According to the article, “three of the bills would eliminate the ability of charter schools to appeal rejected applications to the county and state, place an unspecified cap on charter school growth and enable school districts to consider the financial impact of charter schools when deciding whether to approve them.” A fourth bill would “abolish the right of a charter school that can’t find a facility in its authorizing district to locate a school in an adjoining district.”

The Seventy Four (2/26, Swaak) reports that a charter school critic and former school board member is looking “to fill the vacant seat in L.A. Unified’s Board District 5” in next Tuesday’s special election. Jackie Goldberg, who has been called “the candidate to beat,” said “that if elected, she could stay past December 2020 when the term expires, marking a departure from statements made last year.” According to the article, “one of her main drivers in re-entering the field, she says, is keeping the seat out of the hands of charter school proponents.”


WBUR-FM Boston (2/27) reports Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has released a plan to “withhold state aid from long-struggling schools,” sparking questions over whether this would “help schools improve.” Baker “included the provision in a broader bill proposed last month, which would pump local and state aid into public schools across Massachusetts. Education Commissioner Jeff Riley – who would wield the power if Baker’s bill passed into law – described it as ‘much less punitive’ than it might seem.”

The Tampa Bay (FL) Times (2/28) reports that, “on the campaign trail, Gov. Ron DeSantis pitched the idea that 80 percent of education funding be spent ‘in the classroom,’ claiming that there is too much wasted on administration and not enough spent on kids’ learning.” Sen. Manny Diaz, “who chairs the Senate Education Committee, filed a bill that makes that percentage a requirement and also takes a stab at defining what ‘classroom’ spending would include.” However, “even Republicans have expressed doubt that making it to the 80 percent threshold is possible, considering the costs of guidance counselors, school buses, cafeteria staff and the myriad of other expenses that are related to student success and not included in the administration.”


In an op-ed for the Fitchburg (MA) Sentinel and Enterprise (2/26), Jamie Gass, director of the Center for School Reform at Pioneer Institute, and Ze’ev Wurman, an executive with a semiconductor startup in Silicon Valley and a former senior adviser at the U.S. Department of Education, criticize Massachusetts Govs. Deval Patrick and Charlie Baker, who “discarded the commonwealth’s nation-leading math and science standards for inferior, nationalized ones – Common Core math and so-called Next Generation Science Standards.” They attribute the state’s educational prior success to “the landmark 1993 Massachusetts Education Reform Act (MERA), which put academic quality before politics.” But now, “the ineptitude of K-12 educationists reigns over public schooling.” The authors decry “these pedagogues,” who favor “edu-babble and empty fads instead of durable facts, timeless truths, and empirical evidence,” and “cling to failed dogmas that leave American schoolchildren’s STEM futures lost in space.”

The Jackson (MS) Clarion Ledger (2/27, Skinner) profiles the Mississippi School of Mathematics and Science, “one of two residential public high schools in the state” whose methods have garnered it a composite ACT score for juniors of 27.3 compared to a statewide average of 17.8. However, there is “shrinking support from the state, which considers the school a point of pride,” per Clarion Ledger, and the school is “funded by the state Legislature directly through appropriations,” causing it to seek grants and donations from the private sector in recent years. MSMS Executive Director Germain McConnell stated that the most successful students “are a little bit more mature” because the school requires “personal responsibility.”

School Bus Safety

The Deseret (UT) News (2/28, McKellar) reports the Utah state House has “shot down a bill to require school districts to phase in buses with seat belts.” The chamber killed a similar measure two years ago. Legislators “balked at passing an unfunded mandate down on local school districts – and some still argued seat belts in some cases decrease safety for children on school buses.”


Education Week (2/27, Will) reports that a practice called “bug-in-ear coaching” is catching on with educators. It involves wearing an earpiece during a lesson, which is being monitored by an instructional coach off-site. According to the article, “throughout the lesson, the coach delivers in-the-moment feedback to the teacher, who can add something or switch gears based on what she’s hearing in her ear.” While “a growing body of research shows it works,” experts “say there’s skepticism from some in the education community, who worry that real-time feedback while teachers are delivering instruction will be overwhelming.”

Resource opportunities

Charleston, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) is seeking partnerships with organizations across the state to help feed children and provide supervised activities during the summer months. When school is out of session during the summer months, community programs and organizations are vital to ensuring children in West Virginia are still receiving the nutrition they need, especially in low-income areas.

County boards of education, local government agencies and other nonprofit organizations can participate in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which ensures children (ages 18 and under) in lower-income areas continue to receive free, nutritious meals during the summer when they do not have access to the programs that are available to them during the school year, like the School Breakfast Program or National School Lunch Program. Feeding sites often include schools, churches, community centers, pools, parks, libraries, housing complexes and summer camps.

“Supporting summer feeding sites in your community is one of the most important things you can do to ensure no child goes hungry this summer,” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Paine. “Children require consistent, good-quality nutrition for development of their minds and bodies. We want to make certain every child returns to the classroom in the fall ready to learn.”

An average of 208,000 children in West Virginia or about 76 percent of school children, depend on free and reduced-price meals at school, yet only about 21,000 receive the free meals provided by the SFSP.

“In 2018, 554 Summer Food Program sites provided nutritious meals to children in West Virginia and we believe many organizations will renew their commitment for 2019,” said Amanda Harrison, Executive Director of the Office of Child Nutrition. “We encourage new organizations in communities all across the Mountain State to join us so the number of sites can grow and more children have access to healthy meals.”

Organizations interested in becoming a 2019 summer sponsor should contact Cybele Boehm or Samantha Reeves with the Office of Child Nutrition by calling (304) 558-3396. Summer sites will be announced in June 2019.

For more information, contact Kristin Anderson at the West Virginia Department of Education Office of Communications at (304) 558-2699 or

Follow the WVDE on Facebook and Twitter.

Grant Opportunities

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.”

The Wall Street Journal (2/12, Castellanos, Subscription Publication) reports United Technologies Corp. is committing to investing $1 million over several years into Girls Who Code, the nonprofit high school computer science initiative. United Technologies senior VP and Chief Digital Officer Vince Campisi said the effort will help Girls Who Code expand and thereby increase the number of female technology workers