ICYMI: Trump and K-12 Education

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Trump and K-12 Education

In his first address to Congress, President Trump urged Congress to dramatically expand school choice. Two days later, at a Catholic school in Florida, Trump and his Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, reaffirmed their commitment to choice.

The President is considering a federal tax credit scholarship program that would channel billions to families who want to send their children to private schools, including religious schools. Critics on the right worry this would increase the federal government’s role in education and pressure states to standardize state tax credit programs. Public school advocates say it’s a voucher program in disguise that would divert tax dollars from struggling public schools.

In an opinion piece for CNN, Andre Perry says DeVos should start by addressing the flaws of charter schools and vouchers, which she helped create. A new study of national and international voucher programs found no evidence that school vouchers offer students significant academic advantages or are a proven education reform strategy. Louisiana’s voucher program received a D for 2016, performing worse than all but three public school districts.
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ICYMI: ESSA plan available for public comment

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ESSA Updates 

An updated framework of Louisiana’s plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is available for public comment. The revised framework from state Superintendent John White details possible changes to how school performance is rated and how local school systems can apply for federal funding. 

White’s ESSA plan includes less mandatory testing in public schools, but there is debate over how much testing should be reduced. White recommends modest changes; the governor’s panel favors much more, including an end to annual science testing in third through eighth grades; and teachers disagree over whether fewer tests will downgrade the importance of key subjects, especially science.

Other ESSA recommendations are stirring controversy, including how much weight should be given to student growth and how to phase in higher standards over time (whether schools should be graded on a curve).

Other Louisiana News

To address this year’s budget shortfall and to reduce the amount of rainy day funds used to plug the deficit, Louisiana House Republicans have proposed two plans that include mid-year cuts to K-12 education.

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Helping Students and Schools Affected by Tornadoes

Tuesday’s devastating tornadoes impacted the lives of students, teachers and school staff in New Orleans East. Here are some ways you can help.

Donate Funds

ReNEW Schools has started a Tornado Relief Fund to help students from ReNEW Schaumberg Elementary, which suffered extensive tornado damage, as well as other ReNEW students impacted by the tornadoes.

Einstein Charter Schools has started a Go Fund Me campaign to help pay for school uniforms, school supplies, and other supports for their affected students, families, and teachers.

Communities in Schools New Orleans is accepting donations to support the specific needs of students and families from ReNEW Schaumberg and their other affiliated schools who were affected.

New Schools for New Orleans is collecting funds to support public school families. 100% of donations will go towards purchasing gift cards for families in need.

The American Red Cross is accepting donations to support their efforts to meet short term and long term housing needs.

The Greater New Orleans Foundation has opened the Helping Our Neighbors: Tornado Relief Fund to provide support to nonprofit organizations in the Greater New Orleans area providing assistance to affected families.

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ICYMI: Will state freeze MFP again?

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Will the State Freeze the MFP Again?

The MFP advisory committee has recommended the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) request a 1.375 percent increase in MFP funding ($35 million) for the 2017-18 school year, but Gov. John Bel Edwards is going to recommend legislators freeze basic aid to public schools for another year. Edwards might include an $18 million increase in his proposed budget for high-needs students and high school programs, but this targeted funding won’t give districts the income needed to offset the projected $38 million increase in payments to the Teacher Retirement System of Louisiana (TRSL).

Teachers Retirement Systems Penalize New Teachers

new study on teacher retirement systems finds that for the majority of new teachers, what they will receive in retirement benefits will be worth less than what they contributed, even if they stay in the school system for decades. The study looks at the largest school district in each state. In 27 districts, teachers have to work 21-30 years in the system before they reach the “crossover point” where their benefits are worth more than their contributions. In 35 districts, three-fourths of teachers will leave the system before they reach the crossover point, and in 3 districts the wait is infinite – benefits will never be more than contributions. In Jefferson Parish, the crossover point is 29 years. The Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana (TRSL) requires a 12.3% contribution for current employees (employee + employer contribution). A large portion of this goes to fund benefits for retired teachers (the unfunded accrued liability). As mentioned above, TRSL costs are expected to go up by $38 million next year. 

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ICYMI: Update on Threat to Charter Funding

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Update on Charter Funding

What a Friday! Earlier this month, the appeals court ruled that Type 2 charter schools are not public schools and cannot receive MFP funding and sent the case back to the district court.  On Friday, the district court complied with the appellate ruling and issued an injunction that immediately barred the impacted Type 2 charters from receiving funding, stopping MFP payments effective 1/25. The defendants went back to the appellate court, which Friday evening agreed to lift the injunction so these schools could keep receiving money, and their 16,000 students would not be forced to change schools mid-year. This ended the immediate threat to Type 2 charter school funding. The case is now being appealed to the state Supreme Court.

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Type 2 Charter Funding Threatened

Appeals Court says Type 2 charter schools are not public schools, jeopardizing their funding

 
In a 3-2 split decision, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Type 2 charter schools are not public schools and cannot receive MFP funds.

In 2015, the Iberville School Board and the Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE) sued the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and the state, arguing it was unconstitutional to include Type 2 charters – schools authorized by BESE – inside the MFP. A District Court judge ruled in favor of the charter schools, but the plaintiffs appealed.

Yesterday, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. The court’s majority opinion stated that because these schools are not under the jurisdiction of a local school board, they are not public schools and cannot receive MFP funds. The dissenting opinion argued that nowhere in the state’s constitution or statutes does it say only schools authorized by local school districts are public schools.

What does this mean for New Orleans?

This ruling, if left intact, could have a devastating impact on a number of area schools, although it’s unclear if it would affect all Type 2 charters and state-authorized schools, or just charter schools authorized after July 1, 2008.
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ICYMI: How Trump Could Change Public Schools

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How Trump Could Change Public Schools

American Prospect magazine looks at how a Trump presidency could change public education. This analysis examines how the President-elect might expand school choice with charters, vouchers, and for-profit schools; decrease federal oversight and accountability; influence state and local policy in areas like Common Core; and limit funding for higher education research.

The confirmation hearing for Betsey DeVos, the President-Elect’s nominee for Secretary of Education, has been postponed until January 17. DeVos, is a billionaire and education activist who inspires strong opinion (both positive and negative) for her support of charters and vouchers and her efforts to reform Michigan public schools. In a piece for Politico, Andrew Vanacore of The Advocate explains how the New Orleans model differs from Michigan’s and could serve as a helpful guide to DeVos and the Trump administration. While her position on school choice has gotten the most attention, Andrew Rotherham maintains it’s important to know where she stands on other key issues, such as school accountability and the government’s role in enforcing civil rights in schools.
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ICYMI: Will OPSB Charter Its Last 5 Direct-Run Schools?

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Will OPSB Convert Remaining Schools to Charters?

It’s possible that OPSB’s five remaining direct-run schools will be converted to charters, making New Orleans the country’s first 100% charter school district. Supt. Henderson Lewis, Jr. received “informal expressions of interest from current school and charter leaders” about converting Ben Franklin Elementary, Eleanor McMain, Mahalia Jackson, Mary Bethune, and McDonogh 35 to charters authorized by OPSB.

Some McDonogh 35 alumni are concerned about converting McDonogh 35 high school into a charter school. After Katrina, OPSB converted most of its other direct-run high schools to charters, and all of these Type 3 conversion charters have an A or B letter grade, including those that are open-admission and participate in OneApp. McDonogh 35 received a low C in 2016 and is OPSB’s lowest rated high school.

 

Type 3 Charter
2016 Grade
Ben Franklin
A
Lusher
A
Edna Karr (open-enrollment)
A
Warren Easton (open-enrollment)
A
Sci High (open-enrollment)
B
 

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In Other News

Who is Betsy DeVos?

President-elect Trump nominated Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. DeVos is a billionaire and an education activist from Michigan, and she is known as a strong proponent of school vouchers. She was chairwoman of the American Federation for Children (AFC), which is a leading national advocacy organization promoting school choice. Fordham Institute compiled some quotes from Betsy DeVos on choice and K-12 education.

Doug Harris, the director of Tulane University’s Education Research Alliance, penned an op-ed in the New York Times that compares New Orleans’ charter school performance and regulation to Detroit’s. Harris says the DeVos nomination should worry anyone who wants to improve results for children, as DeVos helped design the effort in Detroit, which did not have the needed regulation and accountability.

Education Week offers a reality check for both sides of the school choice debate, pointing out the challenges that anyone pushing for large-scale reform will face.

 
More on Charter Schools

Peter Cunningham of the Education Post says charter schools are working for children and parents, and he offers suggestions for how to change the charter school narrative to counter misinformation and confusion.

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ICYMI: New Orleans School Board Endorses Platform

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School Board Endorses Platform

The Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) is moving forward with a shared vision and platform for New Orleans schools. Five incumbents have retained their seats. Leslie Ellison, Woody Koppel and Nolan Marshall Jr. defeated their challengers in the recent election, and John Brown and Sarah Usdin won unopposed. Two new members join the school board: Ben Kleban and Ethan Ashley.

All seven members of the board have pledged their support for a series of goals and action items developed by Forward New Orleans Public Schools (FNOPS). The FNOPS platform covers eight different commitments: to expand high-quality, high-performing schools; serve students equitably; ensure equal access to schools; enforce school autonomy with accountability; act as a responsible resource manager; engage in system-wide strategic planning; collaborate to implement best practices; and promote academic excellence and equity for all public school students.

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