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: U.S. Department of Ed. to investigate NAACP complaint against Anne Arundel schools
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights said that it will investigate allegations by the Anne Arundel branch of the NAACP that the county’s school system discriminates against African-American students when meting out discipline. The office’s March 29 decision came in response to a formal complaint filed last year by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People that accused the school system of subjecting African-American students to different treatment than other students regarding discipline referrals, suspensions and expulsions. In 2004, the NAACP joined with a consortium of community organizations in bringing a similar complaint, which resulted in a 2005 memorandum of agreement mediated by the U.S. Department of Justice and signed by NAACP and county school officials. (Baltimore Sun)

Maryland: School funding gets fuzzy after budget crack-up
Legislators in Annapolis stunned Gov. Martin O’Malley, the media, and even themselves when they failed to pass a balanced budget plan on Monday, the last day of the legislative session, and put hundreds of millions of dollars in education funding in jeopardy. The budget belly flop was precipitated by the failure of legislators to vote on a proposal from O’Malley to increase taxes on those earning more than $100,000 annually. Legislators now face the prospect of an awkward special session to pass a new budget, or there will be cuts to various areas of state government, including education aid to public school systems. If a special session doesn’t clear up the budget fiasco, the state will be required to eliminate about $205 million in various forms of aid to K-12 schools, according to information from O’Malley spokeswoman Raquel Guillory and state department of education spokesman William Reinhard. Of that amount, $128 million would be lost to the state’s Geographic Cost of Education Index, which takes into account and helps make up for regional differences in education costs. Per-pupil state spending would drop by $70.9 million in total, through the reduction of the state’s per-pupil spending to $6,650 from $6,761.The state would also cut $5.2 million in teacher quality incentives and National Board certification fees. (The $205 million figure doesn’t include a $5 million cut to libraries.) It’s important to point out that nothing is final until July 1, when the 2013 fiscal budget kicks in, so legislators have about 80 days to come up with an alternative budget plan. (State EdWatch)

New York: Spring break is admissions season at some city charter schools
At some city charter schools, Monday of spring break was earmarked for filling out next year’s class. The Success Charter Network held its annual enrollment lottery Monday morning, selecting students for 12 schools that are set to be open this fall. The schools have about 1,200 open seats, and 12,374 families applied for them, some for more than one school, according to figures provided by the network. About 30 percent of applicants are considered English language learners, according to the network, meaning that at least 20 percent of new students at most of the network’s schools this fall will be learning English as a second language. The Children’s Aid College Prep Charter School also held its admissions lottery, its first ever, on Monday, using a tiered system of preferences to the neediest of 500 applicants for 60 spots in the inaugural classes. The school aims to serve high-needs students and had recruited heavily among families in the foster care system and non-English-speaking communities. The state’s 2010 charter schools law set April 1 as the earliest allowable lottery date, and most city charter school chains held their lotteries last week before the break began. (Gotham Schools)

New York: New rules to speed teacher discipline cases
Provisions included in the state budget should speed up teacher discipline hearings and bring down costs. The changes will limit the pay of the hearing officers who decide the cases and force both sides to shorten the process. Though extremely rare, hearings required to fire a public school teacher in New York are notoriously slow and extremely expensive. The average “3020-a” hearing takes 502 days and costs $216,588. The state Education Department fund that pays for the process is almost $10 million in debt, and it takes more than a year to pay the arbitrators who hear the cases. The state Education Department can now set the rates for hearing arbitrators, who make up to $1,800 for a five-hour day. Hearing officers who fail to meet deadlines can be disqualified, and the number of study days for which they are paid is now limited. Stenographers, whose services can cost $1,000 a day, are no longer required because the changes authorize the use of new recording technologies. (Times-Union)

North Carolina: Democratic Party video skewers GOP on school funding
A new web video from the N.C. Democratic Party hits Republican lawmakers for cutting state education funding – reinforcing the results of a recent survey that puts the issue squarely on Jones Street. N.C. Policy Watch, a liberal outfit, has released poll numbers showing that 50 percent of voters blame the state legislature for cuts to education, compared to 21 percent who fault Gov. Bev Perdue and 19 percent who point the finger at the federal government. The two-minute Democratic Party video – featuring former Gov. Jim Hunt, Perdue and state lawmakers – is meant to stir the party’s base. It rehashes a “war” mantra the party used to criticize GOP lawmakers for budget cuts hurting women. (News Observer)


Sara Mead: Comparing pre-k and k-12 spending trends: It’s not just the economy, stupid
I think it’s useful to contrast these trends in state pre-k spending with the contemporaneous trends in per pupil spending for public elementary and secondary schools over the past decade. [Per-pupil] spending on pre-k has trended down pretty consistently over the past decade–declining by about 12% from 2002 through 2009 (unfortunately, I could only find average per-pupil spending on K-12 through 2009, so I didn’t run the comparison past that point–If I had, the % decline in pre-k spending would be even higher). Over the same period, per-pupil expenditures on public elementary and secondary education increased by about 13%–or over $1,200 per-pupil. As a result, average spending per pre-k pupil went from 52% of average spending on K-12 student in 2002 to only 40% in 2009. This, to my mind, highlights a failure of early childhood advocacy over the past decade: It we look at trends in pre-k spending in a vacuum, it looks like pre-k advocates made a lot of progress. If we look at them compared to trends in K-12 or higher ed funding, it looks like a disaster. And we’re now in a period where getting new local, state, or federal spending for education–early childhood, K-12, or higher–is increasingly challenging. (Sara Mead)

News Observer: Slipping away?
School leaders and North Carolina’s last three governors – Beverly Perdue, Mike Easley and Jim Hunt – have been true believers when it comes to preschool help for children. Hunt’s Smart Start tried to ensure good child care and health checks for younger children, and Easley’s More at Four ramped up the state’s pre-kindergarten efforts to give poor kids a better shot at success once they entered formal school training. Perdue has kept up the effort despite Republican budget cuts, going so far as to use federal child-care subsidy money to enroll more kids in state Pre-K programs. Now, alas, a study from the National Institute for Early Education Research notes a decline in state spending and in enrollment in the state’s Pre-K program. This, says the institute’s director, Steven Barnett, means the state has “lost its leadership position.” That’s frustrating, and disputes over budgets aren’t likely to improve spending. Republicans who control the General Assembly already have tried to limit eligibility with a cap on the number of students who can be signed up, but Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard Manning Jr. has ruled that access for poor kids can’t be limited by an enrollment cap. (News Observer)


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