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

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

News & analysis

Maryland: Education advocacy group to focus on pre-K funding, charter schools
A new education advocacy group, formed late last year, has pledged to lobby for charter schools, funding for pre-kindergarten education and leave time for parents attending meetings with teachers. MarylandCAN, which is affiliated with a national coalition of school reformers called 50CAN, announced its agenda this week. Curtis Valentine, executive director of MarylandCAN, said he was “quite optimistic about passing” a bill that would give more students access to pre-kindergarten and legislation that would allow parents to take time off from work to attend teacher-parent meetings without being penalized by their employer. Funding for pre-kindergarten programs could potentially be funded by revenue from gaming tables if a referendum passes allowing them, Valentine said. Both the pre-kindergarten and the parent involvement bills have been introduced before. Maryland’s charter law, which some charter law advocates view as weak, is another issue the organization wants to work on, Valentine said. (Baltimore Sun)

Maryland: O’Malley proposes $240M shift of teacher pension costs to counties
Teachers, local elected officials, affluent Marylanders and health care providers are among those likely to be aggrieved Wednesday when Gov. Martin O’Malley releases his budget for next year. As part of a plan to address Maryland’s $1 billion budget shortfall, O’Malley will propose a groundbreaking shift of teacher pension costs from the state to local governments, legislative sources said Tuesday. The most significant change would be a sharing of the burden for paying the retirement costs of public school teachers between the state and local jurisdictions — the 23 counties and Baltimore City. Changing that system would put added pressure on the counties and city to raise taxes — or to hold down teacher salary costs. (Baltimore Sun)

New York: Cuomo pushes teacher evaluations
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday told school districts to adopt new evaluation systems for teachers or risk losing a portion of their state funding, employing his expansive budgetary powers to set education policy. Using his annual budget address to wade into the national debate over education changes, Mr. Cuomo outlined a series of measures he said would preserve about $1 billion in threatened federal education funding contingent upon new evaluations. Mr. Cuomo gave unions and the state Education Department 30 days to settle a lawsuit filed by unions that has helped delay job-performance ratings for teachers that incorporate student test results, or he would push a new system through the Legislature himself. He gave school districts one year to implement new systems based on the state framework or risk losing a scheduled 4% increase in state aid—about $805 million statewide. (WSJ)

New Jersey: Governor Christie signs bill changing school board elections, budget votes
New Jersey voters may no longer have a direct say on their school boards’ spending, under legislation signed by Gov. Chris Christie today that would allow districts to dispense with seeking approval for budgets that meet the state’s spending cap. The new law allows school districts to move their April elections to the November general election, either by asking voters for their OK — or by a resolution of the local school board or governing body. In districts that move elections to November, boards will also no longer have to seek voter approval for budgets that fall within the state’s 2 percent tax levy increase cap. (Star Ledger)

Wisconsin: Supporters of Walker recall claim they have 1M signatures
Nearly a year after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker launched his push to curb teachers’ collective bargaining powers, opponents say they’ve turned in more than 1 million signatures to recall him from office. United Wisconsin, a group that organized the recall campaign, said this afternoon that it submitted the signatures to the state agency that oversees elections. The group boasts that the drive is the largest such recall effort in the nation’s history. In order for a recall to make it onto the ballot, supporters need to have collected 540,208 valid signatures, or one-quarter of the 2,160,832 votes cast during November 2010 general election, when Walker, a Republican, defeated Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a Democrat. It will take the state’s Government Accountability Board at least 60 days, and possibly longer, to review the petitions to determine how many signatures are valid, said Reid Magney, a spokesman for the agency, in an e-mail. (State EdWatch)

Missouri: Proposal seeks to ban teacher tenure
A proposed state constitutional amendment would prohibit tenure for Missouri teachers. The initiative was filed Tuesday with the secretary of state’s office and could appear before voters in November. Under the measure, school districts receiving public funding could not enter into new contracts with teachers for a term of more than three years. Schools would be barred from receiving public funding if seniority plays any role in determining whether to fire or promote teachers. Districts would be required to use local performance standards for employment decisions that consider student performance. (News Tribune)


Sara Mead: What does it mean to say we want teachers to be a profession on par with doctors?
One interesting result of the the seemingly ever-increasing vogue for evoking Finland in education reform conversations is that it’s become a sort of conventional wisdom that “In Finland, teaching is a high-status profession, comparable to doctors,” a statement I most recently saw evoked by omnipresent Finnish educator and Finnish-style reform (whatever that means) evangelist Pasi Sahlberg in this Ed Week forum. I think that the implication of such statements, in the U.S. context, is highly skewed by the fact that the U.S. is a real outlier in terms of the amount of respect and compensation accorded to doctors. U.S. doctors make significantly more than their peers in other developed countries, and roughly 2.5 times as much, annually, as their Finnish peers. In fact, for all we hear about the tremendous degree of professional respect awarded to Finnish teachers, they actually are paid less than their American counterparts. Now, again, that’s only part of the picture: Finnish teachers are paid less on average than American teachers, but they are paid more relative to their college educated peers, in part because Finland has a lower level of income inequality. (Sara Mead)


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