Curtis Whatley is a past member of the 50CAN team. 

Here’s what educators, advocates, wonks and policymakers are talking about today:

News & analysis

Teachers’ unions enter super pac world
The organized labor movement may not like the movement toward super PACs that have multiplied in the wake of recent campaign-finance decisions, but their motto for now seems to be, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. We reported last year that the National Education Association had set up its own super PAC. Now, the NEA has re-upped, moving $3 million from its PAC to its super PAC, called the “NEA Advocacy Fund,” according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks federal campaign-finance issues. The American Federation of Teachers, meanwhile, gave $1 million to the Super PAC run by the AFL-CIO labor coalition, of which it is a member. PACs, or direct donations, are typically limited to $5,000 per candidate each election cycle at the federal level. Super PACs, on the other hand, can spend unlimited amounts to sway elections—typically on negative advertising—because they are not coordinated with candidates’ political committees. It isn’t clear whether state and local affiliates of the unions are also moving to set up such bodies. But in any case, the unions aren’t the only ones that have tumbled to this strategy for influencing elections. (Teacher Beat)

Education slowdown threatens U.S.
Throughout American history, almost every generation has had substantially more education than that of its parents. That is no longer true. When baby boomers born in 1955 reached age 30, they had about two years more schooling than their parents, according to Harvard University economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz, who have calculated the average years of schooling for native-born Americans back to 1876. In contrast, when Americans born in 1980 turned 30 in 2010, they averaged about eight months more schooling than their parents. This development already has broad ramifications across the U.S. job market: Those with only a high-school diploma had an 8% unemployment rate in March, roughly double that of college graduates, who had a 4.2% unemployment rate. Workers with bachelor’s degrees earn 45% more in wages on average than those of demographically similar high-school graduates. And in today’s highly automated factories, many manufacturers demand the equivalent of a community-college degree, even for entry level workers. More serious consequences may be felt in the future. Without better educated Americans, economists say, the U.S. won’t be able to maintain high-wage jobs and rising living standards in a competitive global economy. Increasingly, the goods and services in which the U.S. has an edge rely more on the minds of American workers—than on their muscle. “The wealth of nations is no longer in resources. It’s no longer in physical capital. It’s in human capital,” says Ms. Goldin. (WSJ)

New York: New diplomas will not lower standards, chancellor says
Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, made the case on WNYC that a proposed career and technical high school diploma would not be easier to obtain than the current Regents diploma. “Don’t mistake this for the old vocational education. This is not tracking. This is an alternate pathway to career and college ready,” she said on “The Brian Lehrer Show.” Hear the full interview above. Ms. Tisch was responding to the news that the Board of Regents is considering offering two new diplomas — the Career and Technical Education Regents diploma and the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, or STEM, Regents diploma. These would be in addition to the current one-size-fits-all Regents Diploma which this year requires passing five subject matter tests. “The intention was to lay out other pathways that youngsters might use to create educational environments where they can succeed,” she said. “We have no intention of lowering the standard for graduation.” (School Book)

Maryland: Board of Education upholds ruling against Arundel on education funding requirement
The Maryland State Board of Education said Wednesday that Anne Arundel County government underfunded schools by nearly $12 million for the current fiscal year, striking down the county’s appeal of an earlier ruling that it failed to meet a state-mandated funding requirement. The requirement, referred to as maintenance of effort, says that counties must give school systems at least the same level of funding per pupil as in the previous year, adjusted for student growth. In November, Anne Arundel Superintendent Kevin Maxwell indicated to the state board that the county had appropriated $556.1 million for the schools, about $12 million short of the maintenance-of-effort target. In December, interim state schools Superintendent Bernard J. Sadusky notified Anne Arundel government that it had not met the funding requirement, and in January the county appealed the ruling to the state board, stating that it appropriated $610 million, which includes $54 million for debt service in the schools’ capital budget. The state board, in its decision upholding Sadusky’s ruling, cited an attorney general’s opinion that debt service cannot be used in calculating the funding requirement unless the same appropriation had been used the previous fiscal year. “In our view, the state Attorney General did not condone an artificial manipulation of the prior year’s … calculation, as occurred here, in order for a county to count debt service toward [maintenance of effort] in the first year that is included in the school system’s appropriation,” the state board wrote in its opinion. (Baltimore Sun)


Adam Emerson: Philadelphia Catholic schools pledge to pull back the curtain
The Philadelphia school district’s plan to lift itself out of financial and academic distress may have overshadowed a profound development this week for Catholic education in the City of Brotherly Love. The Philadelphia Archdiocese agreed Monday to join a compact with public and charter schools in the city to make sure that kids have access to quality schools. Two conditions of the agreement make this momentous and should give Catholic leaders throughout the nation something to consider: 1) This so-called Great Schools Compact will add Philadelphia’s Catholic schools to an online clearinghouse being developed that will provide families information on public, charter, and Catholic education in the city, and 2)The Archdiocese will make its standardized test-score data available for that clearinghouse. Most Philadelphia Catholic schools currently administer the Terra Nova, but the Archdiocese has signed on to the Common Core State Standards. Finally, a group committed to enhancing urban public education has recognized that the urban Catholic school shares a common purpose, and the Great Schools Compact is doing more than paying lip service. But the Archdiocese also has pledged to do something most Catholic schools have not: open up student performance to public scrutiny. Most Catholic schools fail to disclose test scores and other key indicators of student achievement. While regulations accompanying voucher programs in Indiana, Louisiana, and Florida will soon be changing that practice, the agreement in Philadelphia represents a rare, voluntary move to embrace academic transparency. Other Catholic school systems should follow suit. (Choice Words)

Andy Rotherham: Why Romney and Obama aren’t talking about education
President Obama and Mr. Romney aren’t talking about education’s hard questions. They aren’t even talking up their own successes. Why? Because education reform doesn’t fit well with the overall argument either candidate is making about why he should get to sit in the Oval Office next January. When it comes to education reform, both men have a party-base problem. Romney as governor championed charter schools and rigorous standards. He understood that improving our education system, especially our elementary and secondary schools, is a national issue crucial to our economic growth. He was regarded as a moderate — he even praised No Child Left Behind. Now his campaign website talks about education as a global competitiveness strategy but concludes that the solution is to leave school improvement to states. As the presumptive nominee of a party that is increasingly allergic to a robust federal role in most areas of domestic policy, Romney talks a good game about national problems but is unable to propose actually using national policies or strategies to help solve them. The former moderate from Massachusetts now finds himself to the political right of President George W. Bush on education. Obama has his own minefield to walk through. He has compiled an impressive record on education, including an unprecedented focus on turning around low-performing schools, a federal grant competition that sparked the biggest wave of state education policy change ever, and an emphasis on tough issues like teacher evaluation and data that will pay dividends far into the future. Yet a recent mailer from his campaign has a laundry list of administration accomplishments that included just one entry on education: his efforts to make student loans more efficient and increase Pell Grants for college students. (School of Thought)


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