Sunday, April 02, 2006

Weekly Reader, Vol 1, No. 3

A regular compendium of education news.

Some Subjects Left Behind

A new survey by the pro-public education Center on Education Policy finds that the emphasis on math and reading mandated by No Child Left Behind is crowding out other subjects. This isn’t terribly surprising, and probably represents more of a challenge of living under the law than a searing indictment. After all, if you are teaching reading, you can do so by having kids read social science texts in addition to the usual kiddie lit. The Dispatch covers the survey straight up, while the PD goes local with the impact on schools there.

Elsewhere in NCLB news, the State of Maryland is the first to invoke the state takeover provisions in the law, having assumed control of four Baltimore high schools. Everyone will be watching how this plays out.

School Funding Reform Legislation.

A state budget reconciliation bill working it's way to the Governor's desk contains a potentially helpful provision allowing local taxpayers to opt out of the freeze in the growth of levy revenues mandated by HB 920. Here's my previous post on the effects of 920, how it creates the phantom revenue effect and generally makes school funding miserable.

To judge from reaction on RAB, the conservatives are not down. It's not surprising that the very thought of taxes causes them to break out in hives -- that's what makes them conservatives, right? But the taxation without representation tag line is bizarre. Not only have elected officials crafted the legislation -- generally all that is needed for "representation;" and not only are the school boards, for good or ill, made up of elected representatives; citizens must vote for the growth provision. Aside from allowing popular vote for the purchase of each paper clip, it's hard to imagine a more representative system.

Meanwhile, Stark County Rep Kirk Schuring flogged a comprehensive funding reform plan at a public forum last week. Schuring is a relative newcomer to the increasingly crowded field.

Sad Setback to a Promising Idea

Sixteen school districts in Franklin County collaborated to establish a county-wide math and science specialty high school. I'm a big fan of specialty schools. Unfortunately, as the sage Cyndi Lauper observed, "Money changes everything.*" Now the schools whose students will, for the purposes of state funding, be deemed out of district want the families to pony up tuition money. This will probably ultimately require a legislative solution. Hopefully the politics of dumping on public schools won't get in the way.

D. O. Fink -- Not Going Away.

Deborah Owens Fink gave the ABJ an interview on the intelligent design controversy last Monday. More of the same garbage about free inquiry into a scientific controversy that does not exist. She's up for re-election this year. This is a far-downticket race I will be tracking closely. So far, only rumors of a challenger, but I know people who are looking to recruit one.

Boener vs. Professors?

While not the usual bailiwick of the Weekly Reader, we’ll end on an interesting higher education note. Ohio Rep. and new Majority Leader John Boener may have crawled into bed with the reflexively dishonest academic witch hunter David Horowitz. If your unfamiliar, check out his Wikipedia entry, this essay from one of the subjects of his pernicious Discover the Network website or, if you dare, DTN itself.

Boener has, according to Horowitz, gotten on board with one of his pet projects, the Minstry-of-Truthish Academic Bill of Rights by which those who criticize campus speech codes as squelching free speech on the right seek to squelch free speech on the left.

I say Boener is on board according to Horowitz because what Horowitz says doesn’t always mesh with reality. For instance, in the Horowitz house publication Front Page he says:

Despite the witch-hunt conducted by the education establishment and the political left – which is funded by the massive treasuries of the teacher unions -- legislation for an Academic Bill of Rights is now being brought to the floor of Congress itself. This is the work of three congressmen, whose political courage under ferocious political fire should not go unnoticed by the American public: Representative Jack Kingston of Georgia, Representative Howard “Buck” McKeon of California, and House Majority Leader John Boehner of Ohio.
Yes, you get a sense of the Horowitz paranoia and hyperbole there. What’s worse, USA Today’s discussion of the same legislation says that the bill has been assigned to a committee. For anyone with more than a passing knowledge of Congress, describing a bill in Committee as being brought to the floor is simply a lie. Horowitz has not shortage of dangerous ideas. Time will tell if he is truly dangerous or simply ridiculous.

*Yes Music Geek, I know she was covering The Brains, but that wouldn't work in the joke, now would it?


Jill said...

Excellent, excellent feature and rundown. Thank you for this, Scott. For the dedication and dissemination.