Teacher Truancy, Open Lunch Periods and Charter Funding
Below are a few interesting education related articles for everyone interested in the quality and results of our K-12 system.
Student absenteeism has long been an issue for educators, but under Arne Duncan's leadership the Department of Education is now tracking teacher attendance. Teacher truancy has an impact on student performance, it is also a major expense for school districts. Now teacher attendance will be tracked as part of the federal funding formula for low performing schools.
- Check out this article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Learning Curve: Teachers too often MIA
A Maryland high school is betting that simply reorganizing the day (a no cost school reform) can help improve student engagement and test scores. Patuxent High School is joining others in the state by getting rid of rotating 30 minute lunch periods and implementing an hour-long school-wide lunch. The open time allows clubs to meet and students to get extra help and mentoring from teachers.
- Check out this article from the Washington Post: Calvert high turns them loose at lunch
Despite facing a serious budget deficit, Rhode Island is proposing an increase in funding for charter schools in their next budget. The move is drawing criticism from teacher's unions in the state.
- Check out this article from the Providence Journal: Charter school budget raised by educators
The beauty of travel
As you can imagine, and have heard/read from my communications, this job comes with a lot of travel. Being gone 90 nights a year and hanging out in commuter airline concourses may not be appealing, but other aspects of the travel is rewarding and exciting. It can also be beautiful.
Unforeseen vistas and touching small scenes have stuck with me throughout these eight years of wandering. Because it's Thanksgiving, I'm especially grateful for the opportunity you've provided me to see some wonderful and wonderous sights. This is a little long -- hope you'll indulge me.
From over the flat plains of the west, I drove toward the unexpectedly luminous skyline of Tulsa in twilight. I don't know what I was anticipating on this first trip there, but it wasn't the Oz I saw in the distance that night. The city rising up from the flat plain, lit by a nearly-set orange sun. Stunning.
Another surprisingly beautiful road experience occurred in the Rio Grande Valley. Thousands of yellow flowering cacti speckled the roadside for 100 miles, standing out in what would otherwise be a monochromatic desert scene.
Urban art forms -- Mickey's Diner in St Paul has been placed on the national registry for its historic authenticity. I just think it's beautiful.
Golden Gate, Centennial, Olympic, Stanley and Central Parks . . . the Commons in Boston . . . the Grassy Knoll in Dallas . . . Temple of Heaven in Beijing . . . the botanical garden in the Bronx . . . the olive tree canopies on the campus in Tucson . . . the Arch. Iconic city green spaces with pasts and presents and presence. I've been able to enjoy the landscape/topographic artistry and life of all of them.
I've seen a hundred sunsets through plane windows -- over the snow covered Rockies, the impossibly blue Pacific, white-capped Lake Michigan, Red Rocks of Utah, the swollen banks of the Mississippi and endless wheat fields of Saskatchewan. The view from up there gets old.
Getting lost in small towns on the way to chamber offices has presented me with chances to see beautiful neighborhoods in small towns across North America. A tulip filled Victorian street scene in Holland Michigan and a snow lined college avenue in Mankato. I've seen the glorious homes facing the surf in Carmel and the cobblestone lanes overlooking Gloucester's harbor. If I didn't miss my turns, I would have missed the white fenced front lawns in Niagara on the Lake and the canal nieghborhoods of Fort Lauderdale. From Glens Falls to Cedar Falls, you live in some Rockwellian places.
I have also been privileged to see an endless tapestry of people in space -- scenes I'll never forget. Amish kids bouncing on a backyard trampoline (yes, it's allowed). The sea of hats in the grandstand at the Derby. Solitary runners on a Sanibel beach. A million Chinese in the lights of Tiananmen Square for the centennial's final night. 500 proud smiling faces looking back at me in Nashville when I delivered their Chamber of the Year Award. Dejected young ballplayers walking beside the road after being eliminated from the Little League World Series in Williamsport. Fiesta on the street in New Mexico, art show in Waterloo, election demonstration in Istanbul, inauguration in DC. Wow.
The travel sometimes seems hard, but there are so many rewards -- among them the chances to see and feel the beauty of countries, cities, towns, panoramas and neighborhoods. I am very thankful that you're still inviting me to visit. Onward.
Early Childhood Investment Pays Off
Is early childhood education an item on your 'soft stuff' list? You know, that list of nice but non-essential programs that we can strive for some day. If so, you may want to rethink its designation.
According to University of Chicago economist and Noble Prize laureate James Heckman society receives better return on educational investment made earlier in life. Speaking to a business crowd at the St. Louis Federal Reserve last week, Heckman said, "We really spend more money later in the life cycle, and the real return comes from spending more in the early years. The way we are going to make schools more efficient is by making the children that come into school more efficient."
He added, "Before, the case that was made for early childhood was that it is a good and fair thing for children, the current thinking is, it's a fair thing to do, but it's also an economically efficient thing to do."
For details, check out this article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch - Early childhood education called a smart investment
For more information and in-depth resources about early childhood education, visit the National Association for the Education of Young Children at www.naeyc.org
Chambers Suggest Budget Solutions
Monday I blogged about the Pew Center study on State budgets. The underlying message - we've got a mess to contend with. But chambers can do more than join the hand wringing, they can (and should) suggest smart cuts and budgetary solutions. Here are two recent examples:
The Salt Lake Chamber has proposed a strategy to close the budget gap by cutting spending and tapping rainy day funds. Their plan preserves spending for K-12 and higher education and stops short of calling for any new taxes. Chamber chief operating officer Natalie Gochnour was quoted as saying:
"We believe that balancing the budget is easy. The hard part is doing it in a way that enables our economy to grow long term. So we tried to outline budget recommendations that would sustain our economy."
Read more in this article from the Salt Lake Tribune: Chamber outlines ways to cut state deficit
The Kentucky Chamber has also been an active proponent of closing the budget gap through smart spendingcuts and structural changes. They recently called for a re-examination of state employee health benefits as an opportunity for cost savings. David Adkisson, President and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber and Chair of ACCE said:
"The budget outlook is grim, and we believe reasonable changes in public employee health benefits could generate nearly $200 million in savings in the 2010-12 budget."
Read more about the Kentucky Chamber's proposal in this article from the Lexington Herald-Leader - Chamber: State workers should pay higher premiums
What proactive steps is your organization making to identify smart state budget solutions? Leave a comment below.
Not All Bad in California - Time Cover
I don't want to be accused of California bashing by friends on the West Coast after my last blog post about the Pew Center study on state budgets. (They called California out as the example of fiscal crisis, not me!) So I direct you to the Time cover story from Nov 2 - Why California is Still America's Future. Here's a hint, economic innovation.
It's (California's) the greenest and most diverse state, the most globalized in general and most Asia-oriented in particular at a time when the world is heading in all those directions. It's also an unparalleled engine of innovation, the mecca of high tech, biotech and now clean tech.
Read more from Time.com
Not Just California - Budget Woes
Last week the Pew Center on the States released a new report detailing the financial peril that many states are in. It uses California as the benchmark for dire budgetary woes and ranks the other 49 states on a scale of most like to least like the Golden State. State rankings were based on six factors using data from July 31, 2009. The six factors are:
- Foreclosure rates
- Lost State Revenue
- Relative Size of Budget Gap
- Obstacles to Balanced Budget
- Money Management Practices
After California, the states with the worst budgetary prospects were each of California's neighbors (Nevada, Oregon, Arizona), Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, New Jersey and Rhode Island. Together those ten states account for 1/3 of the US population and economy, so their dire circumstances impact everyone.
This thorough study is a great resource for anyone concerned with state spending, deficits, taxes, services and economic health. So basically everyone.
Visit the Pew Center on the Statesfor more information and to see where your State ranked on the "like California" scale. I highly recommend downloading and reading the Executive Summary.
Another group is trying divide and conquer tactics to influence US Chamber positions. This time the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) is targeting healthcare by asking 36 companies to publicly declare whether the US Chamber speaks for them on the issue.
Does this signal a worrying trend that could soon face state and local chambers that take strong positions of all kinds supporting employers? Your comments are appreciated.
Click for the article from the Wall Street Journals' MarketWatch.
Transportation Secretary LaHood Briefs ACCE Board
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood spoke at the ACCE Board of Directors Meeting last Friday. He provided a overview of progress on stimulus funded projects (focused on discretionary TIGER grants) and talked about other recent DOT programs like the Cash for Clunkers program and the future focus on high speed passenger rail.
The Secretary also stressed the linkage between transportation and economic development, and touched on potential areas of cooperation between DOT and HUD or Commerce to make sure transportation spending really impacts economic development.
Overall, it was a great session. You can read more on Sec. LaHood's official DOT blog: Welcome to the Fast Lane.
Spokane Prop 4 Defeated!
Last Tuesday Spokane voters rejected Proposition 4, the Community Bill of Rights. This is the set of nine city charter amendments we've featured on this blog several times over the past month or two. It would have expanded citizens rights to affordable housing, healthcare, a clean environment and locally based economy without any provision to pay for those rights.
Greater Spokane Incorporated lead a coalition to oppose Proposition 4 because of the potentially devastating impact it might have on local businesses. Greater Spokane Inc's President and CEO (and former ACCE Chairman) Rich Hadley said:
“The initiative process in Washington State creates situations, such as the one related to the Community Bill of Rights, where a small group of people can, through creative wordsmithing, propose a potentially devastating piece of legislation. ... It was imperative that we, as a representative of business, be a leader in this fight due to the potential impact to business that this initiative presented."
Hadley and the business community had much to fear from Proposition 4. Even in defeat, this kind of issue casts a long shadow that directly impacts economic development.
"If we had known that the 'Community Bill of Rights' was going on the ballot, we would not have chosen Spokane to locate our business," said Jeanette Fairless, President of Spectrum Home Services. "Several years ago Portland voters passed a bill that was similar to Prop 4. It was apparent early on that this new law helped a few and hurt many, even though it was designed to protect the average citizen. It was voted out by the majority the very next year."
Spokane Prop 4's defeat is cause for celebration among those of us who favor rational, fiscally responsible government, but there is still cause for concern. Envision Spokane, the organizers of Proposition 4, might try again. And Spokane doesn't exist in a vacuum. We have seen other policy issues like this become contagious quickly and it seems highly probable that this set of proposals will take root somewhere else very soon.
Ballot Measures on Tuesday
This Tuesday night/Wednesday morning I'll be watching election results. I'm interested in the VA and NJ Governor races and that Upstate NY congressional district that has gotten so much attention. I also know that many of your communities have important races for mayoral and city council seats. But I'll really be paying attention to are a number of state and local ballot initiatives.
Over the past month, this blog has referenced the TABOR proposals in Maine and Washington State. We've also devoted several posts to the Community Bill of Rights struggle in Spokane. But those are only a few of the issues facing voters.
In this off year November election, voters in six states (Maine, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, Washington) will decide on 26 statewide ballot measures ranging from municipal bonds to gay rights. That doesn't include all the local ballot measures and city charter amendments.
Some issues are relatively minor - New York will decide whether or not to allow prisoners to perform volunteer work. Other issues have been debated and re-debated for years - Ohio voters will decide whether to allow gaming in state for the fifth time in 20 years.
For more info on the specific statewide measures check out: National Conference of State Legislatures - 2009 Ballot Measure Overview or go Ballotpedia.
I've got several questions about ballot initiatives: Is direct democracy good or are our elected representatives shirking their responsibility? Is running a ballot initiative campaign a great citizen motivator or a divisive money pit?