Lisa Gibes is 50CAN’s vice president of strategy and external relations. She lives in San Francisco, CA.

Here are news and opinion stories educators, advocates, policy wonks and makers are talking about today:

News & analysis:
Mitt Romney’s education record was mixed

Mitt Romney campaigned for governor in 2002 in favor of scrapping the nation’s first bilingual education law and instead immersing non-English speakers in classrooms where only English would be taught. The effort proved to be a failure. Romney’s other big initiative as governor — trying to loosen union rules so teachers could be held more accountable — ran into a wall of opposition in the Democrat-controlled Legislature and went nowhere. Even a scholarship program Romney introduced to get top scorers on the state’s high school exit exams to enroll in Massachusetts’ public colleges failed to make a difference in the lives of most high-achieving students. Now, running for president, Romney boasts of a record as an educational innovator, but a review of his efforts to impose changes on Massachusetts public schools reveals a wide disconnect between what he says on the stump and what he accomplished during his single term in office. (Boston Globe) 

D.C. Public Schools Grossly Under-Reports Spending
When the U.S. Census Bureau released a report last week breaking down per pupil spending across the United States by school district, the spending figure for DCPS (the nation-leading over $18,000 per pupil per year) grabbed headlines both inside and outside the Beltway. Tipped off by a blog post by Andrew Coulson at the Cato Institute, I went digging through the report and similarly found that even the $18,000 figure was a huge under-reporting of the total spending per pupil in DCPS. Table 15 (on pg. 31) in the report lists both the enrollment and the total expenditure of DCPS. The district enrolled 43,866 students at a total cost of $1.196 billion. Simply dividing one by the other yielded a true per pupil expenditure of $27,263. (Huffington Post) 

Hansen Clarke, U.S. Rep., Calls Student Loan Cap A Band-Aid, Says Popular Movement Supports Debt Forgiveness
Both houses of Congress decided to extend a cap on student loans Friday, but Congressman Hansen Clarke (D-Detroit) said the move is little more than a band-aid — one that doesn’t change anything for Americans dealing with debilitating student debt. The measure, which passed as part of a larger transportation bill, fixes federally subsidized student loans interest rates at 3.4 percent for another year. The legislation had strong bipartisan support, with the House voting 373 to 52 and the Senate voting 74 to 19 in favor of the bill, according to CNN. President Obama is widely expected to sign the legislation. The law’s passage will protect students from a scheduled increase that would have doubled their interest rates on July 1. (Huffington Post)

State schools score better — like magic

Actually, it is a bit of magic, or at least sleight-of-hand, in terms of standards. “Poof” isn’t normally the sound you hear when a state agency uploads a new database to its website. But if you listened closely as the Minnesota Department of Education uploaded its new school rankings database last month, that’s exactly what you heard. Why is that? Because with the release of the state’s new Multiple Measurements Rating system (MMR), the number of schools that are red-flagged because their students aren’t making adequate yearly progress in reading and math suddenly dropped from the 1,056 identified in 2011 under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law to an astonishing 127 in 2012. Poof! Either a thousand elementary, middle and high schools suddenly and collectively erased stubborn achievement gaps and radically upped test scores in the last 12 months, or someone is getting cute with the numbers. One of the key goals of NCLB was the expectation that all students would be able to read and do math at grade level. These rigorous standards — developed by Minnesota educators — were coupled with measures to ensure that schools where students failed to meet that goal were held accountable. While NCLB was not without flaws, the law was doing its part to highlight where changes needed to be made. (Star Tribune) 

On deadline, Pa. Republican lawmakers seal deals

After days of long meetings and last-minute bills flying, Gov. Tom Corbett signed a $27.7 billion no-new-taxes budget just before midnight Saturday that was the centerpiece of several long-term victories for his legislative agenda. There were defeats for the governor too, though his fellow Republicans who control the Legislature tried to squeeze out as many victories for Corbett as they could in the waning moments of the fiscal year. Minority Democrats staunchly opposed elements of the budget as well.
Corbett won approval from the Legislature for two different tax credits: one designed to seal the deal for the construction of a massive new petrochemical refinery and another designed to advance his agenda to open up taxpayer-financed alternatives to public schools. (Times Online) 

David E. Drew: Why U.S. can’t get back to head of the class (because it was never there)

Policy makers and politicians like to talk about “restoring America’s leadership” in education. Our high school students rank low when tested in math and science compared with their counterparts in other countries, but, they say, we can move our students back into the top ranks with effective reforms Education Secretary Arne Duncan frequently gives speech about restoring America’s leadership in education. Not to be outdone, the subtitle of the Romney education policy statement is “Mitt Romney’s plan for restoring the promise of American education. The slogan of the ExxonMobil National Math and Science Initiative is “Let’s get back to the head of the class.” To be sure, effective educational reforms can significantly improve the academic performance of American students. But the idea that the United States once was a world leader in elementary and secondary education, while a compelling part of our belief system, is false. We never ranked #1. We can’t get back to the head of the class because we never were the head of the class. (Washington Post) 


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