State Education Roundup

Published July 1, 2001


Keegan to Head Education Leaders Council

In May, Arizona State Superintendent of Public Education Lisa Graham Keegan announced her plans to step down from her elected state post to become chief executive of the Washington, DC-based Education Leaders Council, an organization of state education leaders she helped found. Calling ELC an “action tank,” Keegan said she would use the organization to launch referenda and propositions on state ballots–as well as to help develop the new mainstream of education thinking.
Center for Education Reform Newswire
May 8, 2001

For more information . . .

visit the ELC Web site at


Paige to Address Teacher Union

U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige will be the keynote speaker at the National Education Association’s pre-convention Joint Conference on Bargaining and Instructional Issues on June 30 in Los Angeles. This is an unusual venue for such a high-ranking Republican official, particularly considering the topic and Paige’s background in a right-to-work state. However, Paige was able to establish cordial relations with union officials in Texas and appears to be continuing that policy in Washington, DC.
Education Intelligence Agency Communiqué
May 7, 2001

Charter Proponents Fight Back

Fed up with the illegal imposition of regulations on California charter schools, the California Network of Educational Charters has taken the state Department of Education to court.

Represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, CANEC is seeking declaratory relief from state regulations forcing charters to abandon their own financial accounting systems and replace them with more costly, inefficient, and burdensome financial reporting systems used by traditional public schools.

Regulations like these “undermine the very reason for creating charter schools–to cut through the complex tangle of red tape that saps creativity and innovation in our public school system,” said CANEC Executive Director Sue Bragato.
Center for Education Reform Newswire
May 8, 2001

For more information . . .

visit the CANEC Web site at


Call for Change in Education Delivery

The underperformance of Florida’s public schools provides support for changing the organizational structure of the state’s educational system: from separate governance for K-12, community colleges, and higher education to a comprehensive K-20 system, according to a recent policy study from The James Madison Institute.

The transition to a K-20 system is one of the February 2001 recommendations of Governor Jeb Bush’s Education Governance Reorganization Transition Task Force, which grew out of voter approval of a 1998 referendum to give the governor full responsibility for educational performance.

In detailing the need for change, James Madison Institute President and CEO Edwin H. Moore points out that the history of incremental changes to the educational service delivery system “has not served Florida well.” The state’s high school graduation rate for the school year 1999-2000 was 62.3 percent, one of the lowest in the nation. Just 28.2 percent of Florida 19-year-olds are enrolled in college; the national average is 38.8 percent.

According to the Florida State Board of Community Colleges, only 15 to 20 percent of each year’s graduating high school seniors are fully prepared for the rigors of higher education. Unprepared students must take remedial classes at great expense to taxpayer, students, and parents.

An analysis by the Florida Community College System found that only 60 of 100 public school ninth-graders in 1995-95 had graduated high school by 1998-99. Of those 60 graduates, 31 enrolled in state or community colleges but only 20 were found to be prepared for college.

“It is apparent the current K-12 system is not performing to the degree that any unbiased observer would find satisfactory,” comments Moore.
The James Madison Institute
Policy Report #30, March 2001


Teacher Strike Ends

After a 20-day strike, public school teachers in Hawaii approved a deal in April that gave them a retroactive bonus totaling $1,100 for the two years they worked without a contract, plus a 16 percent increase over the life of the agreement. According to the American Federation of Teachers, the average Hawaii teacher earns $40,416.

Was the strike worth it? The state’s last offer before the strike was a 14 percent increase and no retroactive pay. According to Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency, at the end of the four years the average Hawaii teacher will end up with just $148.51 more under the settlement than under the state’s final offer.
Education Intelligence Agency Communiqué
April 30, 2001
May 1, 2001


Funding-per-student Hits $9,386 in Chicago

The Chicago Public Schools received record funding of $9,386 per student in 1999-2000, according to the April issue of the ITEF Review from the Illinois Taxpayer Education Foundation.

Measured in current dollars, funding rose from $6,001 per student in 1984-85 to $8,453 in 1994-95. After dropping sharply, to $7,361 two years later, funding per student has increased an average of $500 a year for each of the last four years.

The ITEF Review also points out that much of this increased funding for Chicago’s public schools has come not from Chicago taxpayers, but from state taxpayers. While state taxpayers provided only 30 percent of Chicago’s public school funding four years ago, they now provide almost 38 percent. At the same time, the share of funding provided by Chicago taxpayers has dropped from 56 percent to 47 percent.

In 1999-2000, the Chicago Public Schools had 387,497 students and 23,568 teachers, for a student-teacher ratio of 16.4. This is similar to the student-teacher ratio at Chicago’s Noble Street Charter School, the subject of a recent favorable Chicago Tribune editorial. Noble Street, with 16 teachers and 250 students, must make do on funding of just $5,000 per student, which has to cover building and other needs as well as instruction. One of the things it has covered is a laptop computer on every teacher’s desk, something the Chicago Public Schools don’t have, even with a far higher level of funding.
Chicago Tribune, April 30, 2001
ITEF Review, April 2001

School for At-Risk Students Delayed

Last year, shortly after denying Global Vision Network the opportunity to open a charter school for at-risk students, Alton school district officials announced plans to create their own charter school for at-risk students.

But in April, the district superintendent announced the district could not afford to start such a school because a change in Illinois charter law meant the district no longer qualified for Impact Aid funding.

According to Paul Seibert of Charter Consultants, however, the charter law has not changed. He says the Superintendent’s reason for withdrawing the proposal is “a misrepresentation of fact.”

In the meantime, Global Vision Network received a federal charter school stimulus grant and has proceeded to revise its proposal for resubmission to the district. When the district withdrew its charter school plan, Seibert and Gregory Norris, president of GVN, Inc. met with the district’s superintendent and assistant superintendent to again propose that GVN, Inc. and the district become partners in Norris’ charter school proposal. The school district’s response was “No.”
Illinois Charter School Facs
May 15, 2001


Students in 141 Schools Eligible for Choice

Under a little-noticed budget agreement between then-President Bill Clinton and congressional leaders in 1999, pupils in government schools that have consistently failed despite infusions of federal Title I money are to be given the option of transferring to a better-performing government school. But experiences in Maryland schools recently reported by the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post raise doubts as to how much real choice this entails.

For one thing, school bureaucrats can reject requests for transfers if they deem the new school to be too far away. In addition, the better-performing schools can reject transfers by claiming to have too little classroom space or too few teachers. Finally, failing schools that lose students suffer no adverse consequence; in fact, they receive increases in Title I aid.

Maryland officials so far have identified 141 schools, most of them in Baltimore, where pupils are eligible to apply for the transfers.
The Friedman Report
May 2001


1 in 4 Public Schools Fails to Meet Standards

Michigan business leaders have called on state education officials to make public the results of the latest statewide school accreditation report. The State Board of Education and superintendent of public instruction decided to withhold the report when they realized that almost 900 of Michigan’s 3,128 government schools–more than one of every four–were failing to meet the minimum standards.

“Hard-earned state and local tax dollars were used to prepare this report. Taxpayers have a right to know the results,” stated Michigan Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jim Barrett. “This report must now be made public.”

To be accredited, a school needs to establish, among other things, that at least one in four children is passing the reading, math, and science portions of the Michigan Education Assessment Program.

“This standard is extremely low,” remarked Jim Sandy, director of Michigan Business Leaders for Education Excellence. “Now the education establishment is pushing for even lower standards. How low can we go?”
The Friedman Report
May 2001


Charter-Issuing Authorities Taken to Court

In early May, a circuit judge in St. Louis accepted a petition for judicial review of a breach of contract question regarding The African American Rite of Passage Charter School. The TAARP school was the first St. Louis charter granted last year, just prior to a St. Louis Public Schools lawsuit that stopped all St. Louis charter schools. TAARP’s sponsor, the University of Missouri-St. Louis, proposed to nullify the school’s contract. The circuit court will examine evidence to determine whether the proposed nullification was an illegal action on UMSL’s part.

Also in May, a circuit judge in St. Louis was scheduled to hear arguments that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education violated Missouri Charter Law when it failed to provide reasons for its denial of the Imhotep Academy Charter School proposal. After over nine months of review, the denial gives no explanation of how the proposal could be corrected, as required by law. Since the Imhotep proposal is based on another Missouri proposal previously approved, the school’s founders believe the DESE review was unfairly discriminatory.
Illinois Charter School Facs
May 15, 2001


Charter School Law Challenged

Charging that “Students are being exploited–and parents are being deceived” in the state’s 70 charter schools, the Ohio Federation of Teachers has filed a lawsuit contending Ohio’s charter school law is illegal. Joining OFT in the suit were the Ohio School Boards Association, several big-city unions, and the Ohio PTA.

The Ohio lawsuit is the 13th challenge to state charter school laws in the United States. All of the other cases resulted in charter laws being declared constitutional.

Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform finds the involvement of the PTA particularly notable since it puts them in the position of “trying to block a public educational reform that has wide support in the parent community.” She notes the bulk of charter school research shows a) charters are serving at-risk students far better than traditional public schools, and b) parents in charter schools are immensely satisfied with their choice.
Center for Education Reform Newswire
May 15, 2001


Governor Wins Choice Reforms

Governor Tom Ridge won passage of his choice-based school reform plan in a late-night session of the state legislature May 7 by conditioning his support for a pension increase for lawmakers, state employees, and teachers on approval of his far-reaching education plan.

Teacher union leaders criticized Ridge’s program as “back-door vouchers”–even though it involves tax credits, tutorial grants, and school deregulation rather than vouchers. Key points in the Ridge reform include:

  • Tax credits worth $30 million for corporate donations to tuition scholarships for low- and middle-income families, or for “innovative public education programs.”
  • Grants to parents of up to $500 for after-school tutorial help when a child in grades 3 to 6 scores below state minimums.
  • New power to enable school boards to create charter-style “independent schools” run by separate governing boards composed of parents and teachers. The independent schools would have the authority to deviate from standard monopoly regulations in hiring staff and setting school hours and calendars.
  • A requirement that teachers be tested every five years on mastery of academic standards that apply to what they are teaching.

“I didn’t want to give [a pension boost] to them at all, unless we could get something for Pennsylvania,” Ridge commented. “And we got a lot. . . . This is building on the reforms we have now in an important way.”
The Friedman Report
May 2001


Seattle “Voucherizes” School Expenditures

Seattle has embarked on a means-tested “voucherizing” of regular school expenditures that The New York Times’ Richard Rothstein finds “more show than substance,” but full of potential for generating real reform if fully funded.

Seattle’s idea is that pupils with greater needs attributable to such factors as poverty, limited English proficiency, or disability will bring a higher share of public money with them to schools they choose than will better-off students.

But the “differentials are too small to make a difference,” says Rothstein. “A low-income elementary pupil brings only $259 in extra resources.” He argues that if poor children carried larger sums of public money with them, “middle-class” schools would have an incentive to recruit them, and integration would increase.
The Friedman Report
May 2001

Governor Vetoes Bill Outlawing Predatory Teachers

A bill that would have barred sex between high school teachers and their older students has been vetoed by Governor Gary Locke, who said the measure was too broad and could be used to prosecute a teenage tutor who had sex with a classmate. Although the governor said he would offer a revised bill, backers of the measure were critical of Locke for not bringing up his objections while the bill was under consideration by the legislature.

What prompted the bill was a sexual relationship between Eisenhower High School social studies teacher Mike E. Brown and a 19-year-old senior to whom he gave gifts, including a used car. Although there was a criminal investigation, no sexual misconduct charge could be filed against Brown because current law applies only to minors, i.e., teens under 18. Brown resigned, but Yakima Country Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Sullivan and Rep. Kathy Lambert (R-Redmond) wrote HB 1091 to outlaw sexual liaisons between teachers and students up to the age of 21.

“I am extremely disappointed by the governor’s action on this bill,” Sullivan told The Seattle Times. “They have never expressed any concerns about it.”
The Seattle Times
May 18, 2001