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

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

News & analysis

Teacher unionism reborn
In the past five years, we have witnessed a demonization of teachers unions that is close to achieving its goal: destruction of the most stable and potentially powerful defender of mass public education. Teacher unionism’s continued existence is imperiled — if what we define as “existence” is organizations having the legal capacity to bargain over any meaningful economic benefits and defend teachers’ rights to exercise professional judgment about what to teach and how to do it. (The Indypendent)

Rhode Island: Cities and towns seek advance on education aid
As lawmakers wait for Governor Lincoln Chafee to release his spending plan, school officials are keeping their fingers crossed for no major cuts to public education, and some are even hoping for increases. Many city and town leaders have asked the state to speed up implementation of its public school funding formula, which determines state aid to school districts. The formula calls for increases to several cash-strapped districts including Woonsocket and Providence. (Elisabeth Harrison)

Minnesota: Teacher seniority, NCLB top education issues in low-key session
A state House committee will hear a proposal Tuesday that would change several rules regarding teacher seniority and layoffs. GOP lawmakers are pushing the legislation, one of several education-related proposals they hope to pass this year. Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said bills like the teacher seniority proposal are examples of how his party hopes to use this year’s session to build on the policy changes that passed last year. The bill, which Garofalo is co-sponsoring, would — among other things — end the practice of cutting the newest teacher when there are layoffs. Garafalo calls this ‘last in, first out.’ “We mandate that schools use quality-blind seniority privileges for retention decisions. That doesn’t work; it’s being widely criticized. I think we’ll take a look at repealing that,” he said. The state’s teachers union, Education Minnesota, opposes the bill, saying the move takes away collective bargaining rights. The union said those decisions should be left to local negotiators. (MPR)

New York: City shifts on teacher evaluations
After months of talks with the teachers union, the Bloomberg administration is asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to help put an end to the labor dispute by scrapping the state’s teacher evaluation law. The Bloomberg administration wants to replace the 2010 law with one that makes it easier to fire low-rated teachers and spells out how they can appeal a poor evaluation, people familiar with the matter said on Monday. After meeting with lawmakers in Albany, schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said the law was “not going to work as constructed,” because it did not give the city enough power to fire teachers who had been deemed ineffective. “We have a responsibility to make sure that the law gives us the ability to move those teachers out, to be fair to them at the same time, provide them proper professional development, but at the end of the day moving them out of the system,” he said. (WSJ)

New York: Local education groups coalescing statewide to support Cuomo’s reforms
Local education groups announced Monday they would join with others across the state to form a “Student Lobbyist Association” to support Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s reform agenda and to push for state legislation that includes a parent trigger law. Leaders from Buffalo ReformED, the District Parent Coordinating Council and United Partners for Public Education said they will work more closely with similar groups in Rochester to support the governor, who has targeted teachers unions and called for improved outcomes in schools. “Traditionally, people have looked at New York City as the place where reforms take root,” said Hannya Boulos, director of Buffalo ReformED. “What’s really exciting about reform in Buffalo and Rochester is that it’s really parent-driven.” (Buffalo News)

Louisiana: Jindal touts education proposals, knocks union leader
Gov. Bobby Jindal delivered his education stump speech to a packed hotel ballroom in Baton Rouge on Monday. He plugged his main talking points on vouchers, tenure reform and charter schools and chided one of the state’s two biggest teachers unions for remarks that its executive director made last week about parents struggling with poverty. The governor, who has made expanding options for parents a main plank of his reform plan, has pounced on Michael Walker-Jones, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Educators, for telling The Times-Picayune in an interview last week, “If I’m a parent in poverty I have no clue because I’m trying to struggle and live day to day.” The LAE has already posted a message on its website saying Walker-Jones was taken out of context, but it has not apologized, which Jindal said Monday was “offensive and inexcusable.” (Times Picayune)

New Jersey: Education department settles special-education lawsuit
When Ahiezer Ortiz was in kindergarten in 1996, said his mother, Gladys Lorenzo, she knew he needed extra help by the way he paused for an unusually long time before answering questions. It turned out he had attention-deficit disorder and a learning disability. Lorenzo tried to enroll him in a special-education program of the Newark school district, but it took four years of pleading before the district had him evaluated to determine eligibility. By law, the district was to have done an evaluation within 20 days of her request. In 2001, Lorenzo and the parents of five other Newark students filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court, citing delays in the process of obtaining special-education services in the city’s schools. Last week, the Newark public school district and the state Department of Education, also a defendant, settled the suit, both agreeing to safeguards to ensure Newark schools are complying with the law. (Star Ledger)


CT Post: Get a handle on test results
The state can’t stop talking about education. It’s expected to be a top priority in the capital this year. And that means plenty of attention on standardized-test scores. The least we should expect is those tests to measure what they’re supposed to measure. A report last week casts doubt on that. Connecticut Voices for Children, an agency based in New Haven, said statewide gains on the 2009 Connecticut Mastery Tests may be linked to fewer disabled students taking the test. Scores went up, but that may not reflect improved performance. The agency’s report says up to 4 percent of students with disabilities who previously took the standard test that year took a modified version. Those results were not factored into the scores released by the state. (CT Post)


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