Monday, April 10, 2006

Weekly Reader # 4

Much delayed and somewhat truncated, my attempt to summarize education news that is flying at us fast and furious.

The ECOT Decision

The final outcome of the audit of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow wasn’t pretty. The final bill: $263,000 owed to ECOT. The Boring Made Dull asks rhetorically if he is missing something. In fact, yes.

First off, the audit didn’t exactly give ECOT a clean bill. ECOT was found to have overcharged over $600,000 from 2001-2005, but having been underpaid over $800,000 in the 02-03 school year. It’s not clear how all this went down, but rules for tracking students were considerably looser a few years ago. It may be that students were in the school as defined by statute, even though they wouldn’t have been earlier.

Second, the real scandal – or at least investigation – is ECOT violating the rules and setting up a brick-and-mortar school in violation of the rules. Given how minimal the requirements for setting up a school are, it’s a real trick to violate them.

So Naturally, We Need to Loosen the Rules.

From today’s CD, the budget corrections bill apparently pushed back one year a new requirement that new charter schools or those in continuous improvement or worse give additional tests. Games like this don’t generate a lot of confidence in our supposed new charter accountability regime.

No, What We Really Need Are Some Unfunded Mandates.

The two most popular politicians on the planet – George Bush and Bob Taft. – have similar ideas. Both want to improve science instruction in high school just by wishing it so. Bush wants to add accountability for science scores to the No Child Left Behind law.

Meanwhile, Taft has submitted his "Ohio Core" proposal for a new curriculum including four units of science and two of foreign language. Students who do not complete the curriculum would not be eligible to enroll in state four-year colleges, but would have to state in two-years.

Two questions. First, do either of these proposals offer any means to pay for the new mandates? I thought not.

Second, do Republicans really want high schools to graduate competent science students?

Suburban Politics.

Two stories in the Beacon Journal today highlight some of what passes school funding reform these days. The first is the new law allowing local option for growing levies. I discussed this last week and, yes it might help a bit. It also shifts yet more of the burden on local taxpayers. And as the Center for Community Solutions notes, at the same time, the General Assembly is offering new tax breaks to businesses.

Meanwhile, proposals are being floated to allow local impact fees under which fast-growing suburbs can assess fees to developers to help build new schools.

Neither of these ideas is horrid. But each is geared to solve the most pressing problems of suburbans school districts, peeling them off the constituency for true comprehensive reform.

One last note:

I'm not ignoring the intersection of the Oriana ruling and the White Hat audit. I want some time to try and go through it all and do a comprehensive post. Looking at my schedule