Archive for May, 2012

Some private schools refuse to follow lawmaker’s advice and cheat the state

The investigation in The New York Times about the abuses of the Georgia Private School Tax Credit program has riled up a lot of people. (See earlier blog on this.)

The AJC has also written about this law, noting that the Georgia Legislature has enshrouded this questionable program in so much secrecy that it is near impossible for taxpayers to see where the money is going.

An investigative piece last year by AJC reporters James Salzer and Nancy Badertscher raised questions about the weak public accountability imposed on the program, which was created by the Legislature in 2008. (The bill was part of the general heave-ho given to public education that year.)

Last year, the Legislature made changes this year to the law that make it a crime for state officials to release key information about the program.  In contrast, other states with similar laws have strict public accountability rules including Florida.

Because of the lax language and virtual absence of oversight, a …

Continue reading Some private schools refuse to follow lawmaker’s advice and cheat the state »

Desperate in DeKalb: Should schools drop sports programs? How about band and drama?

A parent raised an issue at the DeKalb school board meeting that merits more discussion here:  Rather than increase class sizes, the parent said the county should cut athletics. “There’s no point in training student athletes when they can’t read or write or get a job,” she said.

As a parent, I have to agree. But I also have two kids who chose sports — tennis and volleyball — that are largely played outside of school in tournaments and club leagues. So, I am already paying for their sports. My older two played only school-based sports, and it was a lot cheaper.

As we have discussed on this blog, Finland, the model du jour for U.S. schools, does not offer school-based sports teams, relying on community programs to provide them. (A reader from Finland wanted me to note, however, that the Finns are very health oriented and their schools offer vigorous PE classes that utilize public parks for running, public ice skating rings for skating and public ball fields for Finnish …

Continue reading Desperate in DeKalb: Should schools drop sports programs? How about band and drama? »

Even magnet school transport and pre-k on chopping block as DeKalb addresses $70 million shortfall

DeKalb is even considering eliminating pre-k to address its $70 million deficit.  (AJC file)

DeKalb is even considering eliminating pre-k to address its $70 million deficit. (AJC file)

More depressing school news today in the AJC about DeKalb’s efforts to address its $70 million deficit:

The DeKalb County School District is facing its worst budget in recent memory, so officials are weighing wholesale elimination of programs, including pre-kindergarten, magnet school transportation and Montessori schools.

“We’re putting everything on the table,” said Jesse “Jay” Cunningham, a school board member who serves on the board’s budget committee. The committee got a long list of possible cuts at a meeting Monday, along with a picture of the potential for new revenue — $29 million — if the board raises the property tax rate by two mills.

Last week, Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson revealed that the school district faces a $73 million deficit. Chief Financial Officer Michael Perrone said about $24 million of it was due to collapsing real estate values, which reduce the …

Continue reading Even magnet school transport and pre-k on chopping block as DeKalb addresses $70 million shortfall »

State rep: Did DeKalb school board ever vote on redistricting?

From state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver today:

I have filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the DeKalb Board of Education asking for documents showing the Board held a public meeting and took a public vote on a proposed redistricting map for DeKalb School Board seats. The Board has written the Department of Justice complaining about redistricting and General Assembly’s actions. But did they ever take a public vote on a map they allegedly proposed? Aren’t they required to vote in the open? More conflict –probably more cost and waste! Unfortunate.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

Continue reading State rep: Did DeKalb school board ever vote on redistricting? »

Georgia’s private school scholarships: “Neovouchers”

Many people contend that the private school scholarships approved by the Georgia General Assembly were a back-door voucher and subsidy, that the money would not go to poor students in public schools to move to private schools as promised, but to students already in the private schools.

Reports that parents were making donations to schools that were then repackaged as “scholarships” for their own kids have been made to the Georgia General Assembly, which has ignored multiple reports of abuse and, in fact, enabled even greater abuse of the program.

In the last few years, the General Assembly has adopted a strong anti-public school posture, which remains puzzling given that nine out of 10 Georgia children attend public schools. But these legislators keep getting re-elected, so voters either don’t care or, more likely, don’t know what their lawmakers are doing.

A lengthy new New York Times investigation into these private school scholarships found that it’s no secret that the …

Continue reading Georgia’s private school scholarships: “Neovouchers” »

Roommate in Rutgers spying/suicide case gets 30 days in jail. Is that fair?

Too little time or too much?

A judge today sentenced former Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi to 30 days in jail and 300 hours of community service for using a video camera to spy on his gay roommate, Tyler Clementi, during a romantic encounter in the dorm. Clementi later jumped from a bridge to his death.

The sentence didn’t satisfy either side. Ravi’s attorneys argued that he shouldn’t spend any time in jail, while prosecutors pushed for a much longer sentence for the charges, including invasion of privacy, witness tampering, tampering of evidence and a hate crime based on bias intimidation.

Telling the crowded courtroom that Ravi had no prior record, Judge Glenn Berman said, “I do not believe he hated Tyler Clementi … but I do believe he acted out of colossal insensitivity.”

This tragic case mobilized people all over the country to address the frequent bullying of gay teens.

According to the LA Times:

Judge Glenn Berman addressed Ravi before announcing his …

Continue reading Roommate in Rutgers spying/suicide case gets 30 days in jail. Is that fair? »

Can’t we get paddling out of all schools once and for all?

Given that there are far better and more effective ways to discipline students, why would schools risk lawsuits and criminal charges by striking children?

I still don’t understand how we teach kids not to hit people by hitting them.

Paddlings are often recalled on this blog with wistfulness as if they were a vanishing Southern staple — in the tradition of pickup trucks and pickled okra. It’s time to get rid of paddling in schools. (I would also like to get rid of pickled okra but my husband loves it.)

Schools should not physically discipline children. Suspend them. Call the parents. Send them home. But don’t hit them. It’s wrong. It invites complaints and lawsuits. And it teaches kids to use force to make their points.

Here’s yet another story on yet another spanking incident, this time in a private school where parents apparently have to approve the physical disciplining of their kids:

A family is complaining that their 11-year-old son was paddled excessively as punishment …

Continue reading Can’t we get paddling out of all schools once and for all? »

To cope with budget, Cobb shortens school year, raises class size and cuts teachers. Welcome to the new normal

I can’t help but be depressed at the continual AJC news stories about larger classes, fewer teachers and shorter calendars.

This story is about Cobb, a school system that has been an academic pace setter and a major factor in the county’s appeal to middle-class families. When these top systems start slashing, I worry even more about the future of education in Georgia.

Here is the latest report from the AJC:

After failing to reach agreement last week, the Cobb County school board held a special meeting Monday for another go at next year’s budget, and approved one with $841.9 million in spending.

The 2012-13 budget, which kicks in July 1, cuts 350 teaching positions. That should increase average class sizes at all grade levels by two students per teacher.

The new budget pulls back from other cuts that were contained in the tentative budget approved in April.

Instead of five furlough days, for instance, teachers and all other employees will get three. That will mean a …

Continue reading To cope with budget, Cobb shortens school year, raises class size and cuts teachers. Welcome to the new normal »

A nation grows more diverse as many of its schools grow less

downeyart (Medium)I have written a lot about the resurgence of segregated schools in the South, not by court order, but by housing choices.

Despite the hopes of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, court-ordered school desegregation never led to full community integration.

“Our nation, I fear, will be ill served by the court’s refusal to remedy separate and unequal education, for unless our children begin to learn together, there is little hope that our people will ever learn to live together, ” wrote Marshall in his dissent of the 1974 Supreme Court decision Milliken v. Bradley.

That decision effectively blocked drawing from heavily white suburbs to integrate city districts with high minority populations. When the Harvard Civil Rights Project looked at race and education 10 years ago, it concluded that metro Atlanta’s suburban residential segregation was the cause of its school resegregation.

School resegregation is occurring at the same time that the United States is …

Continue reading A nation grows more diverse as many of its schools grow less »

The mission of community colleges is under siege

Rick Diguette teaches English at a local college. He is also a great op-ed writer. Here is a new piece by him.

By Rick Diguette

At the large community college where I teach, we face challenges that go to the heart of our mission as a gateway institution of higher education. Although student needs have remained relatively constant over the years, today the business of effectively meeting those needs is fraught with uncertainty. That uncertainty is driven by the struggling U. S. economy and by the fact that higher education, like it or not, is a business. Community colleges across the country, not just here in Georgia, are under increasing pressure to show that capital expenditures will translate into tangible future benefits, or degrees awarded.

The educator in me knows that the number of degrees awarded tells only part of the story. Community colleges have always served a wide variety of educational needs. Our open enrollment policies have seen to that. Some argue, …

Continue reading The mission of community colleges is under siege »