"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Homeschooling Parents Should be Concerned about "Educated Citizenry 2020". It May Not Just Affect Public Education Students.

Taxpayers and parents of public school students have many concerns and questions about the new educational plan recently released to taxpayers in December 2010. Perhaps it is a "Christmas gift" to the citizens of Missouri from the Legislature. A homeschooling blog raises concerns this legislation may hold for homeschooled students. It may be the Legislature's educational gift is unwelcome not only in the public education realm, but in homeschooling groups as well.

Homeschooling United has written a detailed post on the history of past legislative process and the current thrust of educational reform contained in "Educated Citizenry 2020". This blog states how current legislators have made their intent clear in setting reforms which do not create more educational freedom or choices for education; rather, the legislature is developing a plan which creates more mandates and control not only for public education students, but also homeschooled students:

The legislature, Republican and Democrat, is deeply rooted in the idea that it is government’s job to monitor, regulate, supervise, oversee, the education of the children under their representation. We continue to see, year after year, more and more legislation designed to put more educational bureaucracy into government. With that ever growing bureaucracy, more authority to define and choose standards also shifts from parents to the bureaucrats and legislators. It is this mindset that defies the homeschooler’s freedom to make the best educational choices for their own children. Read these comments from Senator, Jane Cunningham:

"There are many times that government uses the private sector to achieve their goals,” Cunningham said. “I think maybe this is the time, because we are slipping behind so dramatically in global rankings, to ask what is the best way to deliver education to the public. …… We so desperately need education reform and quality schools. The Legislature has to look at what we feel are appropriate measures.”

Homeschooling United then explains what vouchers and tax credits mean to homeschooling taxpayers (and this explanation can be applied to public schooled children as well):

With the introduction of Charter Schools added to the mix of educational reform, there will be, as there has been in the past, discussion of vouchers and tax credits. There has always been a debate about the amount of taxation that homeschoolers pay to support public education, but it is extremely important to understand that no tax relief would ever come without serious strings attached.

This is the same argument we have been making on behalf of public school students in a system of educational mandates set forth by groups of states (rather than each individual state) for students AND educational mandates set by the Federal Government.

The Federal Government has already threatened to withhold Title 1 money from states IF THEY REFUSE TO SIGN ON TO COMMON CORE STANDARDS. Those are some mighty large strings attached to a "voluntary" program for states to sign on to...not only is it important to understand that no tax relief would ever come without serious strings attached, no "reform" designed by the Federal Government comes without serious and expensive strings attached. Taxpayers should be wary of what "voluntary" actions undertaken by the State Board of Education will cost the state in terms of educational freedom and tax dollars.

It is suggested by this group you contact the legislators who are supporting this "educational choice". The blog continues:

This year, Scott Dieckhaus, (R) District 109 – Franklin and St. Charles Counties, is the Chairman of the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee. He will be spearheading, for the House of Representatives, all legislation related to education. Here is the problem. Representative Dieckhaus has repeatedly voiced opinions which may be adverse to educational freedoms.

The St. Louis Beacon published an article in which Dieckhaus said that he is willing to go as far as changing the Missouri Constitution and putting all options on the table as it relates educational reform. Does Dieckhaus believe that private schools should be pulled under the umbrella of public education oversight if they accept vouchers? Will he also expect the same from homeschoolers who receive tax credits?

Remember that Race To The Top Standards, SB 21, vouchers/tax credits, all have common threads of regulation and control that could reach into the homeschooling community. It is important to remind representatives that homeschoolers do not want to be included in any educational reform they have in mind for the coming year or in the future. We are following all state regulations concerning homeschooling and doing an excellent job of making educational choices for our own children and to not need or want the interference of the government, state or federal.

The article makes note of Representative's Dieckhaus' agreement with Arne Duncan's educational philosophies which are antithetical to the 10th Amendment. If these same Missouri senators support health care freedom for Missourians with limited federal government involvement, why aren't they supporting educational freedom for Missourians with limited federal governmental involvement as well?

"Educational Citizenry 2020" seems to be Race to the Top renamed and forced upon Missouri schools...AND quite possibly, homeschoolers as well.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Test Your Knowledge of New Year's Eve History and Customs with this Fun Quiz

Happy New Year!

Here's a quiz to take to test your knowledge on New Year's Eve history and customs. The site suggests you read the history before you answer the questions. Feeling quite smart and thinking I knew quite a bit about history, I decided to take the quiz without studying the facts.

I would suggest you read the factual information first if you like to pass tests! A lesson for adults AND students: never go into a quiz unprepared. You will be surprised at how much you don't know.

Here's a quote for students in school and students of life for 2011:

"Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere" ~Chinese proverb

Best Wishes to you in the Year of the Rabbit and may you possess much treasure.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Is Charter School Expansion REALLY the Answer to Public Education's Woes?

Missourians are not the only ones concerned about the educational reforms set forth by Arne Duncan and state legislators. A citizen group in Seattle has been following these reforms very closely and this is a blog you should read to understand the charter school push by some state legislatures.

Seattle Education 2010 is a wealth of information and should be followed if you are interested in the evolution of public education being provided by private investors. If this is the course the Missouri legislature is going to pursue, it is imperative citizens understand how charters are funded and who is in charge of each charter organization. If the information from Seattle Education 2010 is correct, Missourians should be asking these questions of Missouri legislators as the plan "Educated Citizenry 2020" calls for the growth of charter schools in the state:

  • Who is funding the charter schools?
  • Are any of the charters receiving money from the Broad or Gates Foundation?
  • Does the Legislature support monetary reward for parent signatures to provoke a "Trigger" option?
  • Does this move to charters create more local control?
  • Does this move to charters create more parental involvement?
  • Will the charters be under the same common core standards as traditional public schools?
  • Will the charters be staffed with inexperienced teachers?
  • Do current Board of Education members have ties to charter school companies?
  • Do any legislators have vested interests or contributions from charter school interests?

We believe these questions need to be asked and answered before public support can be given to the reforms mentioned in the current educational plan. When charters were first instituted, they were truly innovative. This is a partial description of charter schools from the Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society:

Charter schools were founded to provide an alternative vision for schooling, to serve a special target population of students, or to gain flexibility and autonomy from local school districts. Charter developers maintained that charter schools could accomplish educational goals more effectively than traditional schools, if they were given the opportunity to operate free from restrictive regulations and had stable financing that could be tied directly to the attainment of educational goals. Waivers were requested for state and local testing mechanisms, personnel regulations, or state and local curriculum mandates; however, regulations for discrimination, health, or safety of children could not be waived.

Note the highlighted sentence in the charter school description. These waivers were what created the innovation in charter schools and set them apart from traditional public schools. However, with the common core standards implemented in traditional public AND charter schools, the only reasons to pursue the charter school route would be to diminish the teacher unions and put the decision making in the hands of private investors. Real reform of educational goals will not be accomplished by moving students from one building to another. The standards and testing and curriculum will stay the same if a student stays in a public traditional school or attends a charter.

I hope our legislators look closer at the plan they are expecting the citizens to accept. The expansion of charters does not address the underlying problems in public education today. If the curriculum is flawed and out of the hands of the state to develop and institute, it doesn't matter where a child is placed. If the mandates are flawed and not locally controlled, the placement of students is irrelevant.

We share the same concerns as the group in Seattle. Who is funding the charters and why is there such a move toward the privatization of schools that operate under the same mandates as the traditional public schools? Is this really a choice for better education or just moving the money around from one entity to another?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Conundrum for Missouri Legislators: There is No Money for Education "Reform". And it Just Got Worse.

Missouri legislators are unveiling their educational plans for students and they are aware those plans are far reaching and ambitious in this current financial condition:

  • "Educated Citizenry 2020" chairman David Pearson acknowledged there probably is no money to carry out some of the initiatives — at least not in the next few years. As the Missourian reports, federal stimulus money is about to run out. And tax revenues, though finally showing signs of growth, remain far below the levels of just a few years ago. Gov. Jay Nixon's administration is projecting a $500 million to $700 million shortfall for the fiscal year that begins July 1 — a gap equal to almost 10 percent of the state's general revenues.
  • The reforms set forth by the legislators mirror Race to the Top: common core standards, the expansion of charter schools, the termination of teacher tenure and the introduction of merit pay. When these were proposed by DESE last year, these reforms were slated to cost $400 Million. We have questioned where this money was coming from to fund these "reforms" with the severe budget shortfall we are experiencing.
These reforms are educational theories initially set forth by the Federal Government and apparently adopted by the Missouri legislators. There is no plan set forth by the legislators (at least what we can glean at this time) on how it is to be paid for, or with an explanation of how these reforms:
  • promote smaller government;
  • promote more local control;
  • promote more parental rights and involvement;
  • consider charter schools a viable alternative as they will operate under the same mandates as traditional public schools.
It seems another financial reality has been thrown into the legislators' plans. The News-Leader in Springfield reported Missouri gambling revenue for schools is falling this year. The revenues are expected to be $24 Million short because of the poor economy:

Gaming Commission director Roger Stottlemyre says casinos had been expected to produce about $372 million for education this year. That forecast assumed that a 2008 ballot measure removing gamblers' loss limits would result in more revenues.

But Stottlemyre says the slow economy continues to affect casinos, and they're now expected to generate about $348 million for education this year.

A spokesman for Gov. Jay Nixon says he will look for ways to fill that shortfall.

With all due respect to Governor Nixon, he will have to look for ways to fill that gaming shortfall for current expenses, and then he needs to figure out how to fund reforms with no current price tag. I would hazard to guess that by "looking for ways to fill a shortfall" is code talk for a tax increase.

Missouri Legislators were elected this year to be fiscally responsible in a cash-strapped economy. Citizens know the budget must be balanced and cuts will need to be made across the board for programs in all sectors. We understand education must be reformed. However, we deserve to know how much these reforms cost and if they adhere to the Missouri Constitution.

I have no idea on the total cost of these reforms (I don't believe a figure has been publicized), but I believe the stated goals are unconstitutional. How can legislators concerned with state sovereignty agree for Missouri to sign away the right to set its own educational standards? Is a data base which can be accessed by third parties to obtain social and emotional information on a student considered "good education"? How much money will it cost the local districts to provide assessment training that is mandated by the state?

Taxpayers must demand this information (cost of a program, how it is to be funded, and if it is constitutional) from their legislators. This Missouri reform sounds too much like Race to the Top for citizens to accept. The legislators need educational reform that will fit into the state budget and not raise constitutional issues.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Will Students from Failing School Districts be Placed in the New Expanded Classrooms in the Kirkwood School District?

I was sent the following email by a Kirkwood resident concerning a bond proposal (Proposition 1) recently passed in the Kirkwood School District that provided for classroom expansion with a stagnant pupil enrollment:

Friends: Please see below. This law and the court action would allow the State Department of Education to put students from failing schools into school districts with the facilities to hold them.

Since Kirkwood School District has had a low indigenous growth for 10 years but will expand some facilities by 40% where do you think that the state will put the kids from failing school districts? What the voters did, without being told about this recent court decision, was to agree to continue to pay high taxes so that kids from other districts can fill those buildings. The resultant extra costs to educate students from failing districts will end up costing tax payers even more and impact the educational opportunities of Kirkwood kids. The potential for this occurrence was not disclosed by the school board during the last election cycle!

(The following has been pre-filed by Missouri Senator David Pearce):

SB-14 follows a Missouri Supreme Court case, Turner vs. Clayton School District. The case focused on a student who lived in the unaccredited St. Louis School District and wanted to attend school in the affluent Clayton suburb. The court allowed the student to attend the Clayton school; an appeal is pending.

"It would have a huge implication on some of the surrounding districts," Pearce said. The bill would give the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education authority to set rules under which one district could accept or reject students from another district.

Pearce said the idea is to prevent a sudden influx of students from one district affecting student-teacher ratios, classroom space and services in another district. Under Turner vs. Clayton, students in one county could attend school in an adjoining county. This means if a Jackson County school lost accreditation, students there could attend Johnson County schools, potentially, Pearce said.

Full article here:


There are several issues raised in this action:

  • The question of who will pay for these unfunded state mandates (transfer and education of students who are not residents of Kirkwood School District);
  • The power (or no power) for school districts to set policy;
  • How will student test scores from non-accredited districts affect the testing data of KSD resident students? Test scores based on subgrouping (since No Child Left Behind was instituted) means KSD has failed to achieve Annual Yearly Progress educational goals for the past four years;
  • The inaction of the Kirkwood School District to inform citizens about ALL ramifications of its $33 Million expansion.
This is the same district that refuses to allow citizen comments to be part of a public record. When questioned about this practice, the Board responded that this was the method in which the Board chose to operate. When researching the surrounding school district "Board Docs" of school board meetings (Lindbergh, Ladue, Brentwood, Maplewood, Parkway, Rockwood and Clayton), I discovered ALL THESE DISTRICTS ALLOW PUBLIC COMMENT TO BE ON THE RECORD. In fact, the Ladue School District allows citizens to ask questions during the Board meetings.

Kirkwood City Council allows the comments to be on the record. Why don't Kirkwood School District citizens have a voice in the school board meetings? Why is this Board so afraid of transparency? The practice of the KSD Board does not meet industry practice; in fact, it is alone in its silencing of any real questioning or the raising of concerns by citizens.

Kirkwood School District allows public comment BEFORE the meeting is officially started. After public comments are finished, the meeting THEN officially begins which means the comments are NEVER recorded in the minutes. Citizens are NEVER allowed to talk during Board meetings, which ensures no questions are asked of members and placed on the record.

So, Kirkwood citizens, if you are concerned about a influx of non-resident students in your schools after the classroom expansion occurs and how this will be funded, you can ask your question at a Board meeting. You won't receive an answer that evening and the answer from the Board will never be publicized. Your tax dollars are being spent by a Board who doesn't care about your opinion or your concerns. You have effectively been silenced. It might be better to follow the progress of SB-14 through your state senator and representative. The School Board doesn't seem to be responsive to citizen concerns. I hope you receive a more thorough and thoughtful response from your legislator.

How does your local school board operate? Is your Board more transparent than the Kirkwood School District board? If you are in a district that may be impacted by this Missouri Supreme Court case, I would like to know what response you receive to any concerns you raise with your district.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Kudzu and the Choking of Public Education

This is an interesting article on kudzu and its symbolic relationship with Big Government. Those from the South or familiar with Southern vegetation know the damage kudzu has done to the environment. I have seen kudzu's devastating qualities, but didn't know kudzu planting had been promoted by the government in the 1930's. This is a fascinating inference of government intrusion resulting in disastrous consequences.

This writer talks about the damage of Big Government and kudzu. Could this be happening in terms of education as well? Is the Federal Government instituting mandates that will subsequently choke the innovation and intellectual curiosity of students? Don't mandates just by their definition create rules and regulations which stifle autonomy?
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