New Whitmore Lake “cyber school” took advantage of a loophole to get chartered | From Michigan Radio

Technically, Livingston Classical Academy is a “cyber school.”

In reality, though, the only class that will be online this year is health – which parents will be encouraged to participate in for the more “sensitive discussions.”

A few more online classes will be added next year, like career readiness and nutrition.

But for the most part, this brand new charter school looks like any other brick-and-mortar K-9 school. Kids in plaid uniforms and khaki pants stop by their lockers, whisper to friends during band class, read the Red Badge of Courage in 7th grade, and take handwritten notes.

That’s because LCA’s founders never envisioned their charter school as having a “cyber” component. In fact, its administrators assure parents that they’re cracking down on any wayward technology use, like personal iPhones or tablets during class.

But it turned out that getting a cyber charter, was the only way this school could open its doors.

Read more and listen to the story here: New Whitmore Lake “cyber school” took advantage of a loophole to get chartered | Michigan Radio

Flint might have a bigger problem with lead pipes than previously thought | Michigan Radio

New research suggests there may be many more lead service lines in Flint that need to be replaced than previously thought.

A team of University of Michigan researchers examined 171 drinking water service lines removed as part of Flint’s “Fast Start” program. The pipes had connected homes to city water mains.

Based on the city’s records, they expected around 40% of them would contain lead, but they found 96% did.

See full report here: Flint might have a bigger problem with lead pipes than previously thought | Michigan Radio

Reports point to consequences of ending Louisiana voucher programs, but researcher says they’re based on unproven assumptions

Review of Papers Estimating Budgetary Implications of Ending Louisiana Voucher Program | National Education Policy Center

Key Review Takeaway: Terminating program may yield savings or add expenditures, depending on key assumptions.

BOULDER, CO (September 29, 2016) – Two recent papers from researchers at the University of Arkansas offer predictions about the budgetary consequences of terminating the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP), a voucher program that funds over 7,100 Louisiana students to attend private schools.

Using an economic model, the papers offer several different scenarios and then conclude that terminating the LSP would increase the costs statewide and do so in almost all districts in the state. The papers’ findings are reasonable but depend on unproven assumption, according to NEPC reviewer Clive Belfield. Other reasonable assumptions would show termination generating savings. Accordingly, the papers do not make a fully convincing case that the state will incur extra expenditures without the LSP. But in any case, the net fiscal effect of terminating the LSP is unlikely to be large; in the context of a $9 billion state expenditure, the change would likely be less than $10 million.

Queens College, City University of New York professor Clive Belfieldreviewed

Squeezing the Public School Districts: The Fiscal Effects of Eliminating the Louisiana Scholarship Program and The Fiscal Effect of Eliminating the Louisiana Scholarship Program on State Education for the Think Twice Think Tank Review Project at the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder’s School of Education.There may be savings or additional expenditures, Professor Belfield states, depending on several key parameters that have not been precisely estimated. He also notes that the papers’ findings of extra costs run counter to those of the state’s Legislative Fiscal Office, which estimated savings from program termination. But the papers do not mention this contrary evidence.

Nevertheless, Professor Belfield concludes that these papers provide a useful analysis and application of a reasonable economic model to understanding the immediate fiscal impact of voucher systems.

Find Clive Belfield’s review at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-Louisiana

Find Squeezing the Public School Districts: The Fiscal Effects of Eliminating the Louisiana Scholarship Program, by Corey A. DeAngelis and Julie R. Trivitt, published by the University of Arkansas, athttp://www.uaedreform.org/downloads/2016/08/squeezing-the-public-school-districts-the-fiscal-effects-of-eliminating-the-louisiana-scholarship-program.pdf

. Find The Fiscal Effect of Eliminating the Louisiana Scholarship Program on State Education, by Julie R. Trivitt and Corey A. DeAngelis, also published by the University of Arkansas, athttp://www.uaedreform.org/downloads/2016/04/12162.pdf

.

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) Think Twice Think Tank Review Project (http://thinktankreview.org

) provides the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice:http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at:http://nepc.colorado.edu

Source: Review of Papers Estimating Budgetary Implications of Ending Louisiana Voucher Program | National Education Policy Center

Goal: Make Michigan a Top-Ten Education State Solution: Why Not Local Control?

Ron Koehler Photo By Ron Koehler, Kent ISD Assistant Superintendent – Organizational & Community Initiatives and Legislative Affairs

Campaigning for governor in 2010 as Michigan was clawing its way back from the abyss of the Great Recession, Rick Snyder created a huge sense of urgency for business tax reform as a way to revive the state’s failing economy.

Just 143 days into Snyder’s tenure as governor, longtime Lansing observer Peter Luke wrote the following for Bridge Magazine:

Gov. Rick Snyder signed the biggest tax overhaul in Michigan in 17 years that finances the elimination of the Michigan business tax with a bundle of changes to the personal income tax.

Overall, it amounts to a $220 million net cut in tax revenues to state coffers, but for Michigan businesses, including some 100,000 that no longer will have to pay the repealed Michigan Business Tax, it’s a $1.65 billion cut.

The difference is being made up with $1.42 billion in additional income taxes, which includes applying the tax to pensions and other retirement income.

“Something fundamentally had to happen to make us a great state again,” Snyder said before signing House Bill 4361 into law as Republican lawmakers looked on.

Snyder did so after adopting wholecloth the Business Leaders For Michigan mantra that it was essential we take bold and decisive action to make Michigan a Top 10 economic powerhouse  once again.

Today the governor, along with State Superintendent Brian Whiston and education advocacy group The Education Trust-Midwest, all have their own plans to make Michigan a top 10 state in education.  The governor has empaneled a 21st Century Bipartisan Commission on Education to study the issue and make recommendations.

Does anybody really believe the governor’s proposal for education will reflect the same sense of urgency with which he addressed the Michigan Business Tax? I suspect not.

There are myriad reasons for the education reform malaise, even as Michigan continues to plummet in student performance among the states, much as its per capita income ranking fell from 1994 through 2014.

One reason may be that few see the crisis.  Parents are still likely to grade their school as an A or a B even as they grade the institution of public education as a C or a D.

A better reason may be the lack of consensus on a cure.  Voters and legislators are almost always in alignment on fiscal crises but there is often wide disparity on policy solutions.  The education crisis that prompted the Legislature to act in concert with voter concerns, as it did for Governor Snyder in 2011, was the property tax revolt of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.  That resulted in Proposal A, a dramatic redistribution of tax burden from property taxes to sales taxes to finance public education.

There is no such policy consensus for improving academic performance as evidenced by the recent debate over the Detroit Public Schools.  While the system’s debt riveted the attention of Snyder and legislators, it was the difference of opinion over a policy decision — a proposed oversight body to govern charter school openings and placement — that stalled the bailout until community leaders abandoned their hopes of a coordinating commission for fear of a total loss through bankruptcy.

Absent agreement on crisis or cure, I’ve something of a counterintuitive recommendation for reform.  Follow the lead of Congress.  Restore local control.  Faced with a failed national policy demanding 100 percent student proficiency in 2014, and with the U.S. Education Department issuing waivers to virtually every state in the union, Congress in December 2015 punted the problem back to the states with the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Michigan and all other states are now struggling to rewrite their own assessment and accountability plans.  The vision of a showdown between the Legislature and the State Board of Education already looms as those who don’t want to retreat on the No Child Left Behind standards-based accountability movement are lining up against the school community’s preferred model of growth measurement as opposed to high-stakes testing.

So too do we have a wide division between the Legislature and the school community on funding.  Educators believe we’ve too little; legislators believe we certainly have enough despite a recent finance study indicating most schools should receive about $1,200 more per pupil and those students at greatest risk, or those who are English-language learners, should receive 30 to 40 percent more.

Why shouldn’t our new state accountability plan mirror the third-grade reading bill the Legislature recently sent to the governor?  It places a great deal of focus on early literacy, sets a standard to be met by educators, and recommends strategies for improvement and discussion between parents and teachers.  This is far better policy than that proposed in the original draft, which had  Lansing telling parents, third-grade teachers and elementary principals whom to pass on to fourth grade and whom to hold back.

State government should set standards and allow local boards of education, parents and the business community that elects them to determine how to meet those standards.  The consequences of failing to meet those standards should be clear, and they should be enforced.

So, too, should our state return to local communities the opportunity to increase their contribution to school operating budgets.  The current formula — in the opinion of the Legislature’s own study — fails to adequately fund schools at the base foundation grant and marginalizes those at the top by giving those districts just half the annual increase received by those at the bottom. If annual school spending increases matched or exceeded the rate of inflation for all schools, that may be an acceptable funding policy.  But that’s not the case.  The House Fiscal Agency reports the high water mark for school funding was sometime just before the year 2000.  Today’s inflation-adjusted school revenues buy 6 percent fewer goods, services, salaries and benefits than they did in 2000.

Giving individual communities the opportunity to adequately fund their schools by contributing more from local taxpayers needn’t negate equity or return Michigan to the vast differences in funding before Proposal A.  Maintaining equity could be managed through an equalization factor applied to state funding which would not allow a gap any greater between high- and low-funded districts than, say, 25 percent.  If we were really serious about equity, we’d do the same thing for school bond levies by equalizing to the statewide average the amount of money raised by 1 mill for those districts in struggling communities with extremely low property values.

Our communities have demonstrated their commitment to education through their contributions to the construction of buildings.  Let’s reinforce that commitment with a return to local control where it counts, making them complete partners in the operation of those buildings and the performance of the people they hire and the students they serve.

If there’s a crisis worthy of dramatic response, it’s more likely to come from the parents of children in their neighborhood schools than it is from legislators and lobbyists.

Submitted on: September 30th 2016

– See more at: http://www.schoolnewsnetwork.org/index.php/2016-17/why-not-local-control/#sthash.hohTLicD.FJdd2gvC.dpuf

Source: Why Not Local Control?

About the Author:
Ronald E. Koehler, Assistant Superintendent – Organizational & Community Initiatives and Legislative Affairs
ronkoehler@kentisd.org

Ron has worked at the Kent ISD since 1996.  He works to integrate the needs of schools, the business community, philanthropic interests and others to improve student achievement and support for public education.  A past president of the National School Public Relations Association, Ron also oversees legislative affairs for Kent ISD and its member districts and serves as the public schools’ liaison with a wide range of community agencies, organizations and initiatives.

DeVos Family now funding mostly out of state elections through PACs

R”ichard and Helen DeVos have contributed the most, but all of their children and their spouses are also major contributors as of June of this year. Many of the DeVos Family members had been making sizable contributions to Republican Presidential candidates like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina. However, as these GOP candidates dropped out, the DeVos Family then shifted their funds to the Republican National Committee, Freedom Partners and American Crossroads.

In the Grand Rapids area, DeVos Family members were the Top 46 contributors in the current electoral cycle, ranging from $50,000 with each contribution, to half a million for each contribution. The most recent donation was in June of 2016, which means it is likely that they will contribute a million or more before the November election.

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, the DeVos Family has shifted their political donations from Republican Presidential candidates to Political Action Committee, mostly operating outside of Michigan. 

screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-2-19-31-am

Richard and Helen DeVos have contributed the most, but all of their children and their spouses are also major contributors as of June of this year. Many of the DeVos Family members had been making sizable contributions to Republican Presidential candidates like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina. However, as these GOP candidates dropped out, the DeVos Family then shifted their funds to the Republican National Committee, Freedom Partners and American Crossroads.

In the Grand Rapids area, DeVos Family members were the Top 46 contributors in the current electoral cycle, ranging from $50,000 with each contribution, to half a million for each contribution. The most recent donation was in June of 2016, which means it is likely…

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New Mexico Lawsuit Update | VAMboozled!

VAMboozled!

A blog by Audrey Amrein-Beardsley

New Mexico Lawsuit Update

Posted: 26 Sep 2016 10:11 AM PDT

As you all likely recall, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), joined by the Albuquerque Teachers Federation (ATF), last fall, filed a “Lawsuit in New Mexico Challenging [the] State’s Teacher Evaluation System.” Plaintiffs charged that the state’s teacher evaluation system, imposed on the state in 2012 by the state’s current Public Education Department (PED) Secretary Hanna Skandera (with value-added counting for 50% of teachers’ evaluation scores), was unfair, error-ridden, spurious, harming teachers, and depriving students of high-quality educators, among other claims (see the actual lawsuithere). Again, I’m serving as the expert witness on the side of the plaintiffs in this suit.

As you all likely also recall, in December of 2015, State District Judge David K. Thomson granted a preliminary injunction preventing consequences from being attached to the state’s teacher evaluation data. More specifically, Judge Thomson ruled that the state could proceed with “developing” and “improving” its teacher evaluation system, but the state was not to make any consequential decisions about New Mexico’s teachers using the data the state collected until the state (and/or others external to the state) could evidence to the court during another trial (initially set for April 2016, then postponed to October 2016, and likely to be postponed again) that the system is reliable, valid, fair, uniform, and the like (see prior post on this ruling here).

Well, many of you have (since these prior posts) written requesting updates regarding this lawsuit, and here is one as released jointly by the AFT and ATF. This accurately captures the current and ongoing situation:

Read the entire blog post here: New Mexico Lawsuit Update | VAMboozled!

MLB a little late to the game with FEC filings | From OpenSecrets Blog

 If only the MLB was as meticulous with its bookkeeping as it is with its player stats.
The professional baseball organization’s PAC, the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball PAC, is now correcting past errors, reporting at least $19,000 worth of political contributions it had failed to share with the FEC over the past eight years, according to an OpenSecrets Blog review of recent amendments filed by the PAC’s new treasurer …read more: MLB a little late to the game with FEC filings | OpenSecrets Blog

RNC covered its convention costs, but some who gave in 2012 stayed away | From OpenSecrets Blog

 The last-minute pleas for donations seems to have paid off (literally): The committee organizing the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this year raised $65.7 million, more than was given for each of the previous two powwows: In 2012, the Tampa host committee raised $55.2 million, while 2008’s St. Paul festivities attracted about $61.3 million. The Cleveland 2016 host committee spent about $49.8 million.
read more: RNC covered its convention costs, but some who gave in 2012 stayed away | OpenSecrets Blog

Boehner joins the not-quite-a-lobbyist ranks | From OpenSecrets Blog

Count former House Speaker John Boehner as the latest not-quite-a-lobbyist.
For nearly a decade, the number of registered lobbyists has slipped each year. This summer, the figure finally dipped below 10,000 — the lowest it’s been since the Center for Responsive Politics began keeping track in 1998.

And that drop in lobbyists has been accompanied by a dropoff in revenue, painting a numerical picture of an industry seemingly in pronounced decline …read more: Boehner joins the not-quite-a-lobbyist ranks | OpenSecrets Blog

Team Blue routing Team Red in presidential fundraising, unlike 2012 | From the OpenSecrets Blog

 Many polls suggest the presidential race has gotten closer in recent weeks, but the financial status of the two campaigns and their allies is far less competitive.

Since Citizens United and other court decisions beginning in 2010 changed the landscape of federal campaign finance, it makes sense to look at presidential financing as a three-legged stool. The campaigns themselves, while still central, are supplemented and occasionally surpassed by the national party committees and independent outside groups that exist only to support one of the candidates.

Click here to read the full article: Team Blue routing Team Red in presidential fundraising, unlike 2012 | OpenSecrets Blog