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:
State Budgets Appear Stable, but Concerns About ‘Uncertainty’ Remain

Believe it or not, states are only a few months away from the start of their 2013 legislative sessions, and of course preparations get underway well before those official start dates. So how does the budget picture look for states going into next year, and what are the implications for K-12? A new summer report from the National Conference of State Legislatures, released Aug. 7, says that the overall picture is stable and slowly improving for states in general, but that unemployment remains high in many states and fears about developments at the federal level and abroad (like European debt woes) could easily make the picture dark and stormy once again. (Education Week – State Ed Watch)

Bad Teachers Can Get Better After Some Types Of Evaluation, Harvard Study Finds
The question of what to do with bad teachers has stymied America’s education system of late, sparking chaotic protests in state capitals and vitriolic debate in a recent congressional hearing. It has also stoked the movement known as ‘education reform,’ which has zeroed in on teacher quality by urging school districts to sort the star teachers from the duds, and reward or punish them accordingly. The idea is that America’s schools would be able to increase their students’ test scores if only they had better teachers. Since 2007, this wave of education reformers — in particular Democrats for Education Reform, a group backed by President Barack Obama and hedge fund donors — has clashed with teachers unions in their pursuit of making the field of education as discerning in its personnel choices as, say, that of finance. Good teachers should be promoted and retained, reformers contend, instead of being treated like identical pieces on an assembly line, who are rewarded with tenure for their staying power or seniority. But what to do with the underperformers? (Huffington Post) 

Mass. Officials Strive to Improve Services for English-Learners
As Massachusetts education officials begin rolling out new training requirements for core-content teachers who work with English-language learners, other leaders in the state are moving ahead with Gov. Deval Patrick’s plan to improve outcomes for ELLs in two dozen former industrial cities that have struggled economically. His plan—called the Gateway Cities Education Agenda—includes up to $3 million in grants to support summer and after-school language enrichment academies for middle and high school students who are ELLs. The state is seeking proposals for the academies now. Patrick’s plan also offers grants to establish early-career academies in the Gateway cities, as part of an effort to increase high school graduation rates and college-going. (Education Week – Learning the Language)

Charter school debate ramps up
Now that TSPLOST has gone splat, political attention has shifted to a new pitched battle: whether the Georgia constitution should be amended to guarantee the state’s power to authorize and fund charter schools. Georgia voters will be able to make that call when they go to the polls in November. The debate has served as a proxy fight of sorts about the nature of school choice. There are those who think charter schools are a critical alternative for parents whose children attend struggling traditional public schools and think the state should aggressively grow them. And then there are those who those who may back charter schools in general but think they should be approved and overseen at the local school district level. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) 

New Jersey:
Monmouth County senator calls for more N.J. tenure reform

Days after Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation overhauling the state’s teacher tenure laws, a state senator from Monmouth County has proposed a bill that would further remake the job protection. State Sen. Joseph Kyrillos (R-Monmouth) wants to end a practice known as last-in, first-out, which prevents veteran teachers from being laid off before their more junior colleagues when districts are faced with budget cuts. Kyrillos’ bill would also allow teachers to earn merit pay and give principals greater autonomy to make staffing decisions. ( 

Pension reforms get first vetting Tuesday

Lawmakers in Pennsylvania may be ready to take a small first step toward reforming the state’s pension systems. A joint hearing of the House State Government Committee and the House Finance Committee — scheduled Tuesday morning — will begin the process of reforming state pension systems. Nine bills are on the agenda, but no votes are expected during a session that is likely to focus on building consensus on how to address the $40 billion – and growing – public pension liability. Two proposals by state Rep. Warren Kampf, R-Chester, figure to highlight Tuesday’s meeting. Kampf wants to create a system modeled after the 401(k) plans more commonly found in the private sector. (Pennsylvania Independent) 


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