Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Education Policy Blog: Hosted by the Forum on the Future of Public Education: GRADE INFLATION

Education Policy Blog: Hosted by the Forum on the Future of Public Education: GRADE INFLATION

This grade-gate scandal doesn't speak well to the info parents are getting on charter school quality.


Former Indiana Schools Superintendent Raised Grade of Charter School Run by Big GOP Donor

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Teachers, Need Cash Now? Finance Classroom Supplies Here

There is a colloquial saying that teaching is the only profession where you steal supplies from home and bring them to work.  And while this is quite commonly true, what is more likely is that teachers often use their personal money to buy necessary supplies for their classrooms, for example see here, here, here, here, here, and here.  In fact, teachers spend anywhere from $1.3 Billion to $3.5 Billion in out-of-pocket on classroom materials per year.

The other day I received this check (loan offer) in the mail (pictured below).  If you read it closely, as I did, the check is a real check than can be cashed immediately for the purpose of purchasing supplies for my classroom (or “take a vacation” or “buy new clothes”…something that many teachers on their salaries have difficulty affording).  But, it is obvious that the intended use of the loan is for classroom supplies.  Being that the check is a loan, it comes with a hefty APR of 28.77%, which is what many credit cards charge after defaulting on payments.  It also fits the financial definition of loan sharking.  Not to mention, given the payback schedule of 10 months, the Effective Annual Rate is actually 32.88%.  Thus, according to the document, once I cash the check totaling $1,205.40, I would owe $1,370 to be paid over 10 months time.  That is, during the course of my annual contract, I would pay $137.00 per month for the entire school year.

And, as pointed out above, with the vast amount of personal money being spent on classroom supplies, there apparently is a huge market to cash in (pun intended) on teachers with these types of loans.  And while all of the teachers using their own money would not necessarily cash a loan check like this one (perhaps some will use their own money and a loan check), the amount of personal money teachers spend represents potentially $177.5 million to $477.9 million in loan profits under the same loan parameters on the estimated range of $1.3 – 3.5 billion in personal spending.

So, not only does this type of practice ensure that teachers have even more opportunity to use their own money for supplies, it is an attempt to cash in and make a profit off of those teachers while charging teachers (at an Effective Annual Rate of 32.88%) to use their own money.  While we as a society have continued to overlook the realities that our nation’s schools face – namely the realities of those teachers on the front lines who bring their personal lives and money into the equation – banks have joined ranks with those seeking to get even more out of our teachers. 

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Potential implications of Supreme Court decisions on racial equity in K-12 education

The Supreme Court ended its most recent term with the release of decisions on several high-profile cases.  Two decisions, Fisher v. University of Texas, which concerned race-conscious affirmative action policies, and Shelby County v. Holder, which challenged parts of the Voting Rights Act, may have significant implications for racial equity in K-12 education.

The Fisher decision did not directly challenge prior precedent regarding race-conscious policies in either K-12 schools or higher education – decisions that have been elaborated on in 2011 guidance from the US Departments of Education and Justice. Because the Court remanded the case back to the lower courts to apply a stricter version of strict scrutiny to University of Texas’s admissions policy, it is not yet clear how the decision will impact existing policy.  However, to the extent it continues to cast doubt on the legal viability of race-conscious policies, it may make school districts hesitant to implement policies using race, even if well within the bounds of current jurisprudence, because of the concern about legal challenges. Further, as Richard Rothstein has pointed out, the case continues the evolution of justifying race-conscious policies through the lens of diversity, ignoring the many ways in which racial segregation and inequality, including in K-12 schools, are the result of decades of governmental housing and education policies.

In the South, sections 4 & 5 of the Voting Rights Act have caused school districts to shift from at-large elections to ward-based elections to ensure the ability of minority voters to have representation. In many southern jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination, for example, any changes in voting procedures had to be approved first by the Justice Department. The context of the Voting Rights Act suggests that this provision is not terribly onerous nor is it unpopular.  The overwhelming majority of proposed changes have been approved by the Justice Department since 2000, and Congress reauthorized the Voting Rights Act in 2006 with a vote of 98-0 in the Senate (and 390-33 in the House). One of the examples cited by Justice Ginsburg in her dissent about the continued need for the parts of the Voting Rights Act in question was the Charleston County, South Carolina school district.  After a majority of African-Americans won elections in 2003, they proposed switching to at-large elections. Ginsburg noted, “The proposal, made without consulting any of the African-American members of the school board, was found to be an "‘exact replica’" of an earlier voting scheme that, a federal court had determined, violated the VRA.” The Justice Department used Section 5 to prevent such a change from occurring, as has been the case in other jurisdictions – here and here, for example.  In one suburban district in Texas that was required to change to ward-based elections, the district reported that they were subsequently more responsive to ensuring that all parts of the district had equitable facilities. Accordingly, they devoted money to renovating older buildings in the poorer, more diverse part of the district as well as building new facilities in developing whiter, and more affluent parts of the district. Further, in Wake County, NC, some suburban communities have suggested switching from ward-based school board elections to at-large systems as a way to try to influence the district’s diversity policy. Specifically, they sought to reduce the share of the board elected from wards including the city of Raleigh, which is where most of the minority residents live. One possible outcome of the Court’s decision—presuming that Congress does not pass legislation establishing a new coverage formula—is that there would be a move towards more at-large elections of school boards.  It is likely that this would only further exacerbate the demographic gap between school boards and students, and may detract from a focus on equity for students from low income and/or minority families. For those concerned about the implications of such changes for public school governance, California’s Voting Rights Act, which has led to switching away from at-large elections, may be a useful model.

Thus, while the Court’s busy end of the Term did not include any decisions directly about public schools, it is likely that K-12 educational policy-making and governance could be indirectly influenced by the Court in ways that could further racial inequality.

by EricaFrankenberg