Tag Archives: private schools

William Mathis: What Americans Think About Their Schools


In the past, Reps. Oliver Olsen, of Londonderry, Adam Greshin, of Warren, and Laura Sibilia, of Dover, signed a nine-page letter and issued a news release calling for more transparency and accountability by the board. They expressed concern that board member William Mathis worked for a national education organization based in Colorado that receives funding from teachers unions and that he has written policy papers raising civil rights questions about charter schools and voucher policies.

What Americans Think About Their Schools

William J. Mathis

“Schools are not as good as they were in my day. Kids had to mind then. Not like today. Things are out of control.” Said in a variety of ways, over half the population agrees. The truth is that schools are a lot better in many ways — and worse in others.

Among the better ways, since 1971, when reliable records became available, 9 and 13 year olds have registered steady improvement in reading and math while minority students are closing the achievement gaps. The national graduation rate is at an all-time high of 84% and it has steadily increased since we passed 50% in 1948. Serving needy children is now the law of the land. There is less smoking, bullying and drinking. That is not a bad picture.

But the citizens have reason to see it differently.

On the nightly news, the latest school shooting will be the lead and the villain will be glorified with name, picture and amateur psychoanalysis (Note to Media: Don’t give the perpetrators personalized attention). School lockdowns, police tactical squad exercises, allegations of impropriety, privatization lobbyists, religious objectors, sports parents, angry parents, gun toting teachers, juvenile drug pushers, opioids, school closing controversies, publicity seeking politicians, and discrimination charges all find their way into the headlines and ooze into our collective psyche.

To get an even handed picture of the public attitudes toward education, Phi Delta Kappa, an honorary education society, sponsors an independent national poll each year. This year, it has some positive results and some things we should worry about. Perhaps the most important finding in this time of calls for charter schools and privatization is 78% of Americans prefer to reform the existing public school system rather than replace it with something else. This is the highest support level in the past 20 years and is an affirmation of the public’s will to look to the common good. Perhaps people are concerned about the fragmenting of the values that held us all together, the things that make us a nation.

As elections get closer, the perennial question of taxes is raised. Here we might be surprised. Even though the single biggest cost of education is teacher salaries and benefits, two-thirds of the citizenry think that teachers are underpaid while “an overwhelming 73% of Americans say teacher pay in their community is too low” and 73% would support teachers going out on strike for higher salaries, including about 6 in 10 Republicans. This is the highest support for teacher pay seen in the 50 years of the poll. For the last seventeen years, the lack of funding has been named as the biggest problem facing their local schools.

The citizenry also shows a strong commitment to equality even as the news brings us disturbing pictures of some folks wanting to refight the civil war. There should be extra programs and resources for children with special needs say 60% of the sample. The public also realizes that the achievement gap is also the opportunities gap. While recognizing the racial and geographic differences, the root problem is the income gap. We should be disturbed about the increasing segregation of schools and society. Low-income areas have lower expectations, lesser resources, and lesser achievement.

As an educator the most discouraging finding is that parents don’t want their children to be teachers. The public, nevertheless, has high regard for teachers but that does not translate into a livable wage for half the teachers in the country, reports Education Week. Teacher benefits are better than what are provided in other fields but the astronomical increase in medical and prescription costs is pushing negotiators to ask the teachers to pay an ever increasing share. Add a crushing college loan debt and the field becomes a poor economic choice. Teachers fundamentally like their work but the finances and ever increasing laws generate a bureaucratic deterrent. We face teacher and administrator shortages in a state that is losing student population.

As a society, we can be proud of our educational system and we honor our teachers. Large crises loom on the horizon particularly as manufacturing is off-shored, middle class jobs are eliminated, medical costs threaten people’s ability to afford care and as our nation ages. Of course, the answer is investing in our future and providing the skills and opportunities a new generation needs to sustain our nation and our planet.

The fiftieth Phi Delta Kappan poll can be found at http://pdkpoll.org/results

William J. Mathis is the managing director of the National Education Policy Center and Vice-Chair of the Vermont State Board of Education. The views expressed are not necessarily the opinions of any group with which he is affiliated.



National Education organization based in Colorado that receives funding from teachers unions and that has various groups and persons have written policy papers raising civil rights questions about charter schools and voucher policies.



Cold classrooms a hot issue in PGCPS


About 50 concerned Bowie parents gathered at Whitehall Elementary School for a meeting last week during which heating problems at several local schools was discussed. (John McNamara / Capital Gazette)

Cold classrooms have some Bowie parents fired up.

About 50 of them gathered at Whitehall Elementary last week to exchange information about the problem and try to figure out how to solve it.

Representatives of parent-teacher organizations from Whitehall Elementary, Samuel Ogle Middle School and Bowie High School were among those in attendance.

Heat has been spotty in some classrooms at Whitehall, Ogle and Bowie during the recent cold snap, parents said. Large sections of Ogle and Bowie High School were without heat earlier this week before maintenance workers rectified the problem.

Katie Moran, the president of the Whitehall Parent-Teacher Association, organized last week’s meeting after county education officials seemed unresponsive to her concerns about the temperatures inside some classrooms.

Whitehall Elementary PTA president discusses lack of heat in classrooms


Katie Moran, president of the Whitehall Elementary PTA, talks about the lack of heat in some classrooms at the Bowie school. (John McNamara / BSMG)

“It started when kids were reporting to their parents that they were having to wear their coats in the classroom and parents were having to keep their kids home more often because they were having colds and things like that,” she said. “That’s when our parent base really started to build some momentum in realizing the county wasn’t responding in the way we would expect them to when it comes to the conditions in our classrooms.”

After repeated requests from Moran and others, the county was able to provide space heaters in classrooms, which brought temperatures up to the low 60s – 68 degrees is considered standard. One parent reported a classroom temperature reading at Samuel Ogle of 49 degrees one morning, she said.

According to Sam Stefanelli, Director of Building Services for Prince George’s County Public Schools, the problem is that the county doesn’t have to money to replace all the failing heat systems at its schools. So, his department must do the best it can to provide temporary fixes.

Priorities are also an issue, he said at the meeting with parents.

“When I have 20 schools that don’t see heat at all, you’re not going to see my mechanics” at places where the temperature problems are less severe, he said. “It’s not that they’re not coming here. But they have to get those (non-working) systems up first. Then they’re working their way to other systems.

“It’s gotten to the point where there’s so many of them, we’re not able to keep up on a daily basis. So, we’re bringing in contractors to try to supplement our work force.”

According to school system documents, there were more than 800 open work orders for heat-related problems inside the county’s 230 school buildings as of last week. Ten of those work orders involved problems at Bowie High School.

Cold classrooms aren’t the only temperature issue. According to Katie Eckenrode, the PTSO president at Bowie High School, some classrooms there are unbearably hot – even during the winter months.

The temperature problems at either extreme are creating a learning environment that is less than ideal, she said.

“I think it seriously impedes your ability to pay attention to a teacher,” she said. “It makes it impossible to focus on the work in front of you. What I’m hot, I’m grouchy. The teachers are grouchy. They’ve been in these classrooms all day long. Research shows that the learning environment is a huge factor in kids’ ability to pay attention to their schoolwork … I just don’t think the research is wrong there.”

The key to fixing the problem is to lobby elected officials for more money from the state for county schools. Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith urged parents at the meeting to email elected officials at the county and state level.

“This is a huge problem – much bigger than any of us suspected,” Valentino-Smith told those at the meeting. “Bowie has a problem, the county has a problem. We’ve got the big picture now.”

Moran and Eckenrode say they need to channel the parental frustration into action and will try to formulate a strategy to convince officials to make necessary changes in the school budget and policy.

“I think tonight we saw a show of real frustration, a real boiling point, where people are saying ‘I can’t take this any more,’ ” Eckenrode said. “Parents need to take that passion and that fire to the governor, to (County Council member) Todd Turner and it needs to be relentless. You can’t let up.”

via Capita Gazzette



State’s highest court upholds school voucher program despite lack of accountability and standards –


In a 4-3 decision that defies principles of accountability to taxpayers and students alike, the elected Republican justices of the state Supreme Court today upheld a school voucher program that allows taxpayer dollars to fund tuition for private schools having virtually no obligation to provide North Carolina students with even a basic education.

Chief Justice Mark Martin, writing for the majority and joined by Justices Robert Edmunds, Paul Newby and Barbara Jackson, couched the opinion in terms of judicial restraint and deference to the legislature, saying that the court’s role was “limited to a determination of whether the legislation is plainly and clearly prohibited by the constitution.”

Finding that the state’s “Opportunity Scholarship Program” did not clearly violate the state constitution, the court reversed Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood’s 2014 ruling reaching the opposite conclusion.

“The General Assembly fails the children of North Carolina when they are sent with public taxpayer money to private schools that have no legal obligation to teach them anything,” Hobgood wrote at the time.

The challenged law, enacted as part of the 2013 state budget, allows the state to appropriate more than $10 million in public money to award qualifying low-income families $4200 per child for use at private schools.

Those schools, which can range from religious schools with several students to a home school of one, are not subject to state standards relating to curriculum, testing and teacher certification and are free to accept or reject students of their own choosing, including for religious or other discriminatory reasons.

In reaching its conclusion — and despite the constitution’s language that state funds should be “appropriated and used exclusively for establishing and maintaining a uniform system of free public schools” — the majority held that public funds may be spent on educational initiatives outside of the uniform system of free public schools.

As to the lack of accountability required of the private schools receiving public voucher money, the majority said that the constitutionally required “sound basic education” for North Carolina students, set down in the landmark Leandro decision, did not apply to private schools.

It is axiomatic that the responsibility Leandro places on the State to deliver a sound basic education has no applicability outside of the education delivered in our public schools. In Leandro we stated that a public school education that “does not serve the purpose of preparing students to participate and compete in the society in which they live and work is devoid of substance and is constitutionally inadequate.” We concluded that the North Carolina Constitution guarantees every child of this state an opportunity to receive a sound basic education in our public schools. Leandro does not [though] stand for the proposition that [the constitution] independently restricts the State outside of the public school context.

The upshot of that conclusion is that public schools paid for with taxpayer funds must provide students with such a “sound basic education.” Taxpayer-funded private schools need not.

That double-standard particularly perturbed Justice Robin Hudson, who wrote in her dissenting opinion that “a large gap opens between Leandro-required standards and no standards at all, which is what we have here. When taxpayer money is used, the total absence of standards cannot be constitutional.”

Hudson added:

Private schools are free to provide whatever education they deem fit within the governing statutes’ requirements. When parents send their children to any private school of their choosing on their own dime, as they are free to do, that education need not satisfy our constitutional demand that it be a for a public purpose. However, when public funds are spent to enable a private school education, that spending must satisfy the public purpose clause of our constitution by preparing students to contribute to society. Without meaningful standards meant to ensure that this or any minimum threshold is met, public funds cannot be spent constitutionally through this Opportunity Scholarship Program.

Hudson, who was joined in her opinion by Justices Cheri Beasley and Sam Ervin, went on to compare accountability standards in the state’s voucher program with those in other states — and found North Carolina’s woefully inadequate.

“Compared with ten similar programs across the country, North Carolina’s program falls painfully short,” Hudson wrote.

Justice Cheri Beasley joined in Hudson’s opinion but wrote separately to explain her further concerns with the state’s voucher program.

Beasley pointed out that in Leandro, the court had already confirmed the right of every child in the state, not just those in public schools, to a “sound basic education.”

“The majority notes that the purpose of the grants is to address grade level deficiencies of a “large percentage of economically disadvantaged students,” but it is unclear whether or how this program truly addresses those children’s needs,” Beasley wrote.

She also noted the practical realities of a program that offers little help to the legislature’s professed beneficiaries:

For now, as noted by the majority, the program is available only to lower income families. This availability assumes that private schools are available within a feasible distance, that these families win the grant lottery, and that their children gain admission to the nonpublic school of their choice. With additional costs for transportation, tuition, books, and, at times, school uniforms, for the poorest of these families, the “opportunity” advertised in the Opportunity Scholarship Program is merely a “cruel illusion.”

– See more at: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2015/07/23/states-highest-court-upholds-school-voucher-program-despite-lack-of-accountability-and-standards/#sthash.VKhThHjD.dpuf


Md. Gov. Hogan wants to set up state grants that benefit private schools.


Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan discusses the budget debate in the final week of the state’s legislative session during an interview in his office on Monday. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposal to compensate companies for donating to private schools is one of many sticking points in budget negotiations with the General Assembly.

A supplemental budget proposal submitted by Hogan to the General Assembly last week does not fully fund public education, but it would provide $5 million to reimburse businesses for no more than 50 percent of the “certified amount” they contribute to a student assistance organization to provide financial assistance to students attending non-public schools.

Pushing for the grants that would benefit private and religious schools has elated non-public school administrators, angered public school parents and teachers, and divided lawmakers.

Hogan has called the Building Opportunities for All Students and Teachers (BOAST) Maryland Tax Credit “common sense reform.” Opponents call it a back-door maneuver to vouchers.

The grants are one of two education initiatives put forth by Hogan in his first year as governor. The other is an expansion of charter schools.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said late last week that the effort to provide additional funding to private and religious schools as a “dividing point between Democrats and Republicans.

“There is tremendous resistance from a lot of people who believe strongly in public education that this is not the appropriate way to go and this has cost other states money and that we shouldn’t be diverting that money,” Busch said, noting that the state provides $10 million in grants to non-public schools to pay for textbooks, technology and infrastructure.

Ray Leone, president of the Maryland PTA, said the organization opposes Hogan’s proposal because it diverts funds from public schools.

“We urge you to stand up at this point for schools that serve all of Maryland’s children, and for protecting the integrity of regular order in the legislative process,” Leone said in a letter to members of the budget conference committee. “We do not believe that last-minute, privately-bartered deals regarding funding for education (or any other public service) inserted into budget conference committee reports that have not previously considered such issues are in the best interest of Maryland taxpayers and families.”

A bill that would provide tax credits to companies that donate to private and public schools has previously failed in the General Assembly.

>>> Read more



Vouchers and Tax Credit Scholarships in the US.

2015 – The future of public education in the United States is at a critical crossroads.  Watch this video to learn how the growing trend of sending public money to private schools through vouchers and tax credit scholarships threatens public education.

It is worth your while to watch it especially now with state of Maryland gearing towards charter schools.