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

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

News & analysis

New York: Group sets costs of teacher fight at $1.7B
As some local school districts are nearing agreements with their unions to create tougher evaluations for teachers and principals, an interest group said failure to enact the new evaluations will cost schools $1.7 billion statewide. The New York Campaign for Achievement Now on Tuesday released its analysis, reporting that failure to enact the evaluations pushed by the Obama administration and Gov. Andrew Cuomo jeopardizes state and federal aid over two years. The group, which has ties to the charter school movement, says $1 billion in state and federal aid to school performance would be lost, besides the $700 million already publicly threatened. (WSJ)

New York: Why Buffalo’s attendance problem is actually worse than it seems
Remember the report that came out last year that found that nearly half the high school students in Buffalo missed nearly a month of school or more? Well, it turns out that students are missing even more school than the report indicated. Why? Because students who were suspended were not marked as absent. That’s right. A student could be suspended for a day, a week, or a full month — but as far as the district’s record-keeping goes, that student would be counted as present for every day he or she was suspended. Associate Superintendent Will Keresztes says that’s how the state has directed schools to keep their attendance records. The way he explained it, a suspended student cannot be considered absent because he or she is not allowed to be in school and so therefore cannot technically be absent from a place he or she is not allowed to be. (Buffalo News)

Rhode Island: Chafee calls for increases in school funding
Calling education a key to Rhode Island’s economic recovery, Governor Lincoln Chafee has proposed additional funding for public schools. The governor’s budget would fully fund the state’s education funding formula. It would also provide $11 million in extra aid to underfunded school districts, which the governor proposes offsetting with a two percent increase in the meals and beverage tax. Those underfunded districts are the “winners” under the state’s new public school funding formula, meaning they are receiving annual increases during a seven-year phase-in period. Woonsocket, Providence, East Providence, Cranston, and Barrington, among others, fall into this category. (Elisabeth Harrison)

Maryland: Education leaders offer plan to fix school funding law
State education leaders have offered legislators their recommendations for fixing the state law that requires local governments to fund their public schools at a minimum level. The state’s superintendents, teachers union and local school boards released a plan Tuesday that would tighten a law meant to require that counties fund their schools at the minimum per pupil amount that they did the year before. The law was weakened last legislative session, they say, and must be fixed. They want to ensure that governments do not decrease the money they spend on schools. Among the changes they propose is an annual cost of living increase so that the minimum local contributions to schools do not stay the same for many years. In addition, education leaders want to prohibit governments from counting in their minimum school funding the interest a county pays on construction projects, which is what Anne Arundel County currently does. (Baltimore Sun)

Minnesota: St. Paul teachers reach tentative contract deal
St. Paul Public Schools and its teachers’ union have reached a tentative contract agreement with assistance from an outside mediator. Key issues involve a union proposal for limits on class sizes and special education caseloads and a district proposal that adds 10 minutes to the school day. The St. Paul Pioneer Press says it’s the first time the St. Paul Federation of Teachers enlisted the help of a mediator. Details of the agreement weren’t immediately released. There’s no word on when union members will vote on the deal. (MPR)


Dana Goldstein: The job market, dropouts, and career “relevant” education
I agree with [New York City public advocate] Bill de Blasio that the explosion of CTE programs in highly-competitive, low-growth creative fields such as fashion design and sound engineering is a problem. All that said, I don’t think the solution is to tightly tailor CTE programs to fit economic projections of growing industries. The service sectors are growing, but we don’t want to limit working class kids to these often low-skills, low-pay jobs. Instead, we should advocate for more creative curricular connections between school and various places of employment. I think of this type of curriculum as career “relevant,” in that it actively shows students how their in-classroom learning can be applied to the labor market, but without limiting them to any specific job or field, as traditional vocational education does. The idea is to allow teenagers to explore the world of work in a way that emphasizes the importance of continuing education. (Dana Goldstein)

Chris Tessone: O’Malley fights the good fight on Maryland pensions
Maryland is not a hot-bed of education reform (though the newly-formed MarylandCAN no doubt hopes to change that) and Martin O’Malley is not usually seen as vying for the crown of public-sector reformer as Chris Christie, Andrew Cuomo, et al. are. Nevertheless, O’Malley is stepping out in favor of a much-needed—and relatively unpopular—reform to Maryland’s teacher pension system. Under current law, the state shoulders most of the burden for teacher pensions, not districts. It’s a sweet deal for the state’s wealthier school districts, which can max out teacher salaries without bearing much in the way of pension costs. The state, in turn, must divert resources from other uses to pay the bill for retirement benefits. O’Malley’s plan is modest. The state will only pick up half the tab, leaving local school boards with significant skin in the game. In return, the state will pay half of the employer contribution to Social Security, an expense that is capped by statute and, unlike pension costs, is not subject to investment losses. (Flypaper)


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