Friday, July 31, 2009

Is California ready for "Race to the Top"?

State Schools Chief Jack O'Connell
Comments on "Race to the Top"
SACRAMENTO — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell today issued the following statement regarding President Obama's launching of the federal "Race to the Top" competition, which allows states to compete for $4.35 billion in education funds if they fulfill the competition's criteria.

"Without question, 'The Race for the Top' fund will be one of the boldest and farthest-reaching efforts to implement meaningful reform in our nation's schools in generations.

"The over-arching goals of the education community must be to increase student achievement and close achievement gaps, and I applaud the Obama Administration for making these two points a focus of their education reform efforts.

"While every one of our states is unique in the needs of its students, as a nation we must make a united commitment to a number of important, core philosophies, including increasing effective teaching, developing globally competitive standards and assessments, turning around low-performing schools and improving data systems to become continuous learning systems that guide decision making.

"As the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, I am wholly committed to ensuring that California is actively engaged in this national conversation. And so, I look forward to joining Governor Schwarzenegger and the State Board of Education in working with the President and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to move forward this ambitious agenda for change.

"Of course, as with any push for significant change, there will be legitimate concerns. Certainly, these guidelines call for some hard decisions by California educators and policymakers, and while this is not an easy conversation to have, it is the right conversation to have.

"While I generally agree with the intent and the focus of the proposed guidelines, there also are some specific areas with which I disagree. Specifically, I would like to point out what I believe to be a misunderstanding about the law surrounding our data systems. California law does not prevent any school district from using the state's student assessment results for purposes of evaluation or compensation. It only prohibits the use of this data to evaluate individual teachers at the state level. This is simply a matter of local control that appropriately ensures school districts handle their own personnel decisions.

"Regardless of this disagreement or any others, I look forward to beginning this effort to effectively communicate our thoughts and any potential changes to the guidelines over the next month."

# # # #

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Schools and the budget compromise

Schools Chief Jack O'Connell Issues Statement on Budget Deal
SACRAMENTO — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell issued the following statement today regarding the budget agreement struck by the Governor and the Legislative Leadership:

"I am glad to see that the Governor and Legislative leadership have reached an agreement that addresses our budget shortfall and resolves our cash-flow crisis, at least for this year. Sadly, the agreement includes $6.1 billion in cuts in Proposition 98 funding. This new massive reduction, which is added to the $11.6 billion in school funding cut just last February, will result in very real consequences for students. Larger class sizes, canceled summer school, a shorter school year, and no new textbooks are just a few of the painful results. I fully recognize that given the magnitude of our state fiscal crisis, the pain for schools could have been worse than that created by the agreement that was reached. I am pleased that the agreement did not include a suspension of Proposition 98 and that schools eventually will get the approximately $9.2 billion that is owed under the Prop. 98 guarantee.

"Nevertheless, the reductions that our schools must absorb now will heighten the challenge educators face in trying to increase student achievement and close the achievement gap, and I fear that the last decade of progress in statewide student test scores will be interrupted. I continue to have faith in the hard work of our teachers, administrators, school staff, parents, and students, and I sincerely hope that this fear is proven unfounded.

"I am pleased that the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) will remain as a condition of graduation for most students, but it is unfortunate that the agreement excludes the CAHSEE requirement for students with disabilities. Many thousands of students with disabilities have passed the Exit Exam, and many more will continue to take and pass this test. The Exit Exam requirement has pushed our system to help ensure that all students have the critical basic skills in English-language arts and math that are needed for productive work or college after high school. Eliminating this requirement for students with disabilities who are on a diploma track does nothing to help prepare these students for success after high school."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Let the Financial Inquest begin

Let The Financial Inquest Begin

By Isaiah J. Poole
July 15, 2009 - 2:43pm ET

Now that congressional leaders have named the members
of the Financial Services Inquiry Commission-what is
often referred to as the "Pecora Commission"-we are
going to see once again who is prepared to lay the
groundwork for real financial reform and who is going
to stand in the way.

Both Democratic and Republican leaders have named a
total of 10 members of the commission, six Democrats
and four Republicans, who are charged with identifying
the decisions and actions that led to the current
financial crisis. The good news is that House Speaker
Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have
named a commission chairman-Phil Angelides-who has a
solid record of standing on the side of sound financial
regulation and accountability. The unfortunate news is
that at least some of the Republican appointees have a
track record of standing for precisely the opposite and
of spreading falsehoods about the roots of the crisis.

Angelides was the treasurer of the state of California
from 1997 to 2007, and in that position also sat on the
boards of the largest and second-largest pension funds
in the country, CalPERS (for state employees) and
CalSTRS (for state teachers). William Greider of The
Nation wrote about Angelides' pioneering and
progressive-minded role on these pension fund boards
back in 2005:

Angelides has become a favorite target of the
corporate critics--and a visible point man for
pension-fund activism ... Angelides has pushed
both funds to adopt a whirlwind of reforms-dumping
tobacco stocks, blacklisting ten "emerging
markets" that ignore international labor
standards, redeploying capital to neglected
sectors like inner-city redevelopment and
innovative environmental technologies, and, above
all, peppering scores of corporations, banks,
brokerages, financial markets and federal
regulators with critiques and demands for change.

In a 2007 interview, Angelides offered his assessment
of what he accomplished during his term as treasurer:

We transformed the treasurer's office into a force
for progress. We showed that the capital, money,
in a free enterprise society could be applied to
do good things for people--billions of dollars of
investment in inner cities, investments in
renewable energy, in environmental technology,
using our pension funds to stand up for
shareholders who had been defrauded in the
marketplace, making the case for investment in
education and higher education, in the knowledge
and skills of our people. We showed that
government can make a difference.

Contrast this with one of the Republican appointees,
Peter J. Wallison, a fellow at the American Enterprise
Institute. One of his latest acts of intellectual
dishonesty was an op-ed for The Washington Post
attacking the proposed Consumer Financial Protection
Agency as "elitist." Wallison doesn't appear to see
anything wrong with the widespread practice, for
example, of mortgage companies selling subprime loans
steeped in obfuscatory language, and doesn't see why
companies should be held responsible when consumers are
taken in by the subterfuge. Wallison also authored an
article for Bloomberg last year that brazenly argued
that financial deregulation had nothing to do with
causing the financial crisis-an extremist view that
even former Federal Reserve Chairman and deregulation
apostle Alan Greenspan abandoned.

Another Republican appointee, Keith Hennessey-who was
the last White House chief economic adviser under
President George W. Bush-was a chief architect of the
very troubled Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and
presumably has a vested interest in defending the Bush
administration policies. Bill Thomas, the former
Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means
Committee, was a longtime, reliable protector of
corporate interests in Congress who helped architect
the Republican tax cuts that are now key drivers of the
nation's deficit. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a top operative
in Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign, has
advocated some populist positions on breaking up "too-
big-to-fail" banks.

The Republican appointees, however, set up a dangerous
dynamic in which an honest dialogue about the shape of
reform is short-circuited by rigid ideology and worship
of the status quo. That must not be allowed to happen.

Look to Angelides and the other Democratic nominees to
be the bulwalks against that type of obstruction. A few
of the have particularly promising track records.
Brooksley Born, who was director of the Commodity
Futures Trading Commission under President Clinton,
warned about the dangers of deregulation in the
derivatives trading markets. Byron Georgiou, a Las
Vegas-based businessman and attorney, not only has one
of the most respected blogs in financial regulation,
but has also defended investors against abuses by
financial firms.

Here's what Campaign for America's Future co-director
Robert Borosage is hoping for:

The commission must act boldly to investigate and
expose the abuses of Wall Street that left
millions of Americans suffering. This is our best
opportunity to identify the people and practices
that got the country into this mess. ...

I trust that both the Democratic and the
Republican appointees will reflect the mandate
provided by the vast majority of Americans who
want a no holds barred investigation that exposes
the practices, legal and illegal, that are at the
base of the financial collapse.

The Commission should hold public hearings across
the country, from California to Wall Street,
exposing the systematic malfeasance that inflated
the housing bubble, and gave bankers multimillion
dollar personal incentives to gamble recklessly
with other people's money.

Only by exposing the systematic malpractices that
got us to where we are can we gain a foundation
for broad reform. The Commission can play a
critical role in insuring the public understanding
and support for the change that we need.

It is clear, though, that if progressive activists are
not shining a bright light on this commission and its
work, iit could-despite the best intentions of people
like Angelides-become nothing more than another stage
for Washington blather, resulting in yet another pile
of paper to collect dust on the policy shelves. With
the damage that has been done by the policy missteps of
people in both parties, we cannot afford, and cannot
tolerate, having this commission be anything less than
the springboard for bold changes in the financial


Monday, July 27, 2009

Gerald Bracey on Testing:

The President of the United States and his Secretary of Education are
violating one of the most fundamental principles concerning test use: Tests
should be used only for the purpose for which they were developed. If they
are to be used for some other purpose, then careful attention must be paid
to whether or not this purpose is appropriate. This position was developed
jointly by the American Educational Research Association, the American
Psychological Association, and the National Council on Measurement in
Education in their document “The Standards for Educational and Psychological

The President and his Secretary want to use existing tests, willy-nilly to
evaluate teachers. They should both be ashamed. The President should be
chastised and Secretary Duncan should be fired on the simple grounds of

From the American Psychological Association’s “Appropriate Use of
High-Stakes Testing in Our Nation’s Schools:” “It is important to remember
that no test is valid for all purposes. Indeed, tests vary in their intended
uses and in their ability to provide meaningful assessments of student

It is not the case that a test is a test is a test. Research into the use
of existing tests to evaluate teachers has called that use into question (I
summarized other people’s research on these issues in my May and December
2004 Research columns in Phi Delta Kappan). More recent studies, summarized
in the July 15 issue of Education Week by Debra Viadero, cast further doubt
on the whole enterprise.

States are rolling over and playing dead on this issue because a) they are
desperate for money and b) it is unlikely that people like Bloomberg or the
Governator—or Duncan-- have a clue about the abuse they are permitting.

Duncan’s enthusiastic championing of a “reform” that has been shown not to
work very well—charter schools—can only be taken as an instrument for union
busting. If the NEA and AFT won’t stand up to this abuse of testing, they
deserve to be busted.
Bracey is a nationally recognized authority on educational assessment

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Obama blames California for schools

Obama chides California for not using test scores to evaluate teachers
At stake are billions in federal stimulus funds to be allocated in 'Race to the Top' grants. Schwarzenegger says state law will be amended if necessary to comply.
By Jason Song and Jason Felch
July 25, 2009
President Obama singled out California on Friday for failing to use education data to distinguish poor teachers from good ones, a situation that his administration said must change for the state to receive competitive, federal school dollars.

Obama's comments echo recent criticisms by his Education secretary, Arne Duncan, who warned that states that bar the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers, as California does, are risking those funds. In an announcement Friday at the Education Department in Washington, Obama and Duncan said the "Race to the Top" awards will be allocated to school districts that institute reforms using data-driven analysis, among other things.

See Los Angeles Times for entire article.,0,4550811.story

See articles below on the limits of testing and Arne Duncan's dubious claims to success in Chicago.

I took my Obama sticker off my car today.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

California excluded from school reform funds? 2

By Diana Lambert
Published: Saturday, Jul. 25, 2009 - 12:00 am | Page 1A
California schools may already have lost the Race to the Top.
The state isn't likely to see any of the $4.35 billion in competitive federal grants that will be passed out as part of the American Recovery Act if legislators don't rescind a law that prevents teachers from being evaluated based on student test scores, say federal officials.
"Any state that makes it unlawful to link student progress to teacher evaluation will have to change its ways if it wants to compete for a grant," President Barack Obama said in a news conference Friday.
California's education code states that a system tracking teacher data, to be online next year, is not to be used in combination with student information to evaluate teachers.
Only Wisconsin and Nevada have similar laws.
Read the entire post at the Sac Bee.

The appointment of Arne Duncan by Barack Obama was disappointing. This is the kind of corporate/media "school reform" he claimed in Chicago. See earlier posts on this topic. Use the search button for Arne Duncan.
If you support this kind of test based accountability, I recommend that you spend some time reading up on testing. Two good sources are , Tested, by Linda Perlstein, and Collateral Damage, How High Stakes Testing Corrupts America's Schools, by Sharon Nichols and David C. Berliner.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Obama Administration attacks teacher unions

Obama Administration attacks teacher unions.

The Federal Department of education directed by Secretary Arne Duncan proposed rules for school reform money that would prevent states such as California and New York from receiving funds under the so called “race to the top” funds a 4.3 billion dollar part of the federal stimulus act.
Secretary Arne Duncan has an enormous fund of money and great flexibility to stimulate schools to reform, particularly in the areas of most failing schools. However, the rules require states to use student achievement data to rate teachers. The federal Department of Education proposed rules to prevent states with such laws from getting money from a $4.3 billion-educational innovation fund.
Using the data from the current flawed testing regimes to rate teachers and to influence teacher pay has been blocked by the teachers unions in New York, California and elsewhere; up until now.
States and schools districts are reeling from budget cuts and reductions, particularly in cash strapped California, this new assault on teaches unions adds to the unions problems. See post below.
This decision and direction of the rules has the full support of President Barack Obama who has been following the educational advice of neo liberal Arne Duncan. Teachers unions were among the strongest supporters of Barack Obama in the last election.

The following is from Jim Crawford, President of English Language Advocates.

What's most remarkable about Race to the Top -- especially coming from a progressive Democrat like Obama -- is that it's an end-run around the democratic process.

1. National standards and tests have long been controversial ideas. But with its new slush fund for "reform," the Obama administration can now "incentivize" states to go along, regardless of what Congress wants to do. This would be a policy change with enormous implications, and it should properly be debated as part of ESEA reauthorization, when there would be at least some chance for critical views to be heard and for citizens to contact their representatives. But the administration has set this up so states will already be on board before Congress acts and any protests may come too late to have an impact on the outcome.

2. Experiments with "merit pay" systems for teachers are already happening as pilot projects around the country, with help from the federal Teacher Incentive Fund. Obama is pushing for that program's funding to be quintupled from $97 million to $487 billion in the appropriations bill now pending (and Congress will probably approve most of it). But the carrot is not enough for this administration; it wants the stick, too. Duncan is now telling states they'll have to "change their laws" to allow test scores to be used in calculating merit pay or miss out on funding for any kind of "school reform" project. Why? Not because we've had any full airing of the issues -- e.g., in a Congressional hearing -- or any kind of deliberative process, but merely because Barack and Arne think they know better.

Congress occasionally passes laws that overrule state authority -- e.g., when it raised the national drinking age to 21 under pressure from Mothers Against Drunk Driving. In my view that was an unfortunate decision, which seemed to exacerbate the problem of binge drinking on campus, but at least it was done with some semblance of democracy. Since when does the president have power to force states to change their laws to conform to his preferred policies by threatening to withhold funding for unrelated purposes? A very bad precedent.

3. It also looks like states will now have to take draconian steps to "turn around failing schools" -- in particular, replacing all the teachers and administrators. That's one option now allowed under NCLB. Obama & Duncan are telling states to require it a lot more often if want to keep the federal money flowing. There's no evidence that reconstituting schools is effective, despite considerable research in this area. But, using the carrot of federal funding, the "reformers" have the power to impose their pet solution without democratic interference. And they obviously plan to do so.


California excluded from school reform funds?

A $4 Billion Push for Better Schools
Obama Hopes Funding Will Be Powerful Incentive in 'Race to the Top'
By Michael D. Shear and Nick Anderson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, July 24, 2009

President Obama is leaning hard on the nation's schools, using the promise of more than $4 billion in federal aid -- and the threat of withholding it -- to strong-arm the education establishment to accept more charter schools and performance pay for teachers.

The pressure campaign has been underway for months as Education Secretary Arne Duncan travels the country delivering a blunt message to state officials who have resisted change for decades: Embrace reform or risk being shut out.

"What we're saying here is, if you can't decide to change these practices, we're not going to use precious dollars that we want to see creating better results; we're not going to send those dollars there," Obama said in an Oval Office interview Wednesday. "And we're counting on the fact that, ultimately, this is an incentive, this is a challenge for people who do want to change."

On Friday, Obama will officially announce the "Race to the Top," a competition for $4.35 billion in grants. He wants states to use funds to ease limits on charter schools, tie teacher pay to student achievement and move for the first time toward common academic standards. It is part of a broader effort to improve school achievement with a $100 billion increase in education funding, more money for community colleges and an increase in Pell Grants for college students.

Duncan has used the Race to the Top fund, created through the economic stimulus law, as leverage to drive the president's education agenda in Rhode Island, Tennessee, Colorado and elsewhere. Never has an education secretary been given so much money by Congress with such open-ended authority, according to current and former federal education officials. Margaret Spellings, Duncan's predecessor under George W. Bush, had a tiny fraction of that amount at her disposal.

Obama says stagnating student achievement is part of a "slow-rolling crisis" and represents a threat to the country's economic future. Stark achievement gaps remain for minority and low-income students. In some big cities, fewer than half of high school students graduate on time. The United States trails international competitors in math and science.

In trying to reverse those trends, he faces the same decentralized educational system and resistance to change that hampered Bush's No Child Left Behind law, which required annual testing to hold schools accountable for closing achievement gaps. Like his predecessor, Obama is using the federal treasury to power through the obstacles.

Unlike Bush, Obama must try to carefully bring along the teachers unions, a key Democratic constituency that so far has praised the president's goals but remains wary of the threat to members' paychecks and the promise of tenure.

"There are going to be elements within the teachers union where they're just resistant to change, because people inherently are resistant to change," Obama said during the 20-minute interview. "Teachers aren't any different from any politicians or corporate CEOs. There are going to be certain habits that have been built up that they don't want to change."

Already, some legislatures, eager for a share of the massive federal money pot, have begun clearing the way for more charter schools and taking other steps to show they are pro-reform.

The effort has helped Obama enlarge the federal role in an arena dominated by state and local governments, but there is deep skepticism about his approach. Congressional Republicans say the initiative, coupled with another $650 million for school reform under Duncan's control, is wasteful.

"We just took a big old checkbook with a $5 billion total behind it and handed it to the secretary and said, 'Write a whole bunch of checks,' " said Rep. John Kline (Minn.), the top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee. "I'm uncomfortable that we're doing that."

Obama says the money will be distributed to states that can demonstrate results backed by data that show student scores and teacher performance are improving.

"It's not based on politics, it's not based on who's got more clout, it's not based on what certain constituency groups are looking for, but it's based on what works," he said. "Now, what we're also doing, though, is we're saying this is voluntary. If there are states that just don't want to go in this direction, that's their prerogative."

Leaders of the two largest teachers unions praise Obama's intentions to lift standards, raise teacher quality and turn around low-performing schools. But they acknowledge concerns about specifics.

"We're absolutely in sync with where they're going," said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association. Van Roekel said performance pay, charter schools and links between student and teacher data raise difficult issues for his union. On the data issue, Van Roekel said he told Duncan: "This is going to be a tough one for us."

"The devil really is in the details," American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said. Many teachers fear they will be fired if they are judged unfairly on student test scores, Weingarten said. "You want to be respectful of an administration that believes in public education. And on the issues where you have differences, you try to work those out."

For Duncan, the stimulus law has provided an opportunity to steer billions of dollars to school reform on his own terms. Duncan has broad control over the Race to the Top fund and the $650 million to spur innovation through local school systems and nonprofit groups.

Since the law's enactment in February, states have inundated the department with queries about how to share in the bonanza. Duncan has dispensed plenty of tips: Lift restrictions on the growth of charter schools; build data systems that show individual student progress under specific teachers and principals; seek out new ways to turn around perennially struggling schools; and sign on to efforts to develop common academic standards that are tough enough to withstand international scrutiny.

Today, the department will formally unveil its criteria for the competition. Applications will be accepted starting late this year for states that want to be first in line, or next spring, for those needing more time. (The District is also eligible.) Money will be awarded in two waves next year. Up to $350 million from the fund will be carved out to support a recently announced effort by 46 states to develop common academic standards.

But even before applications begin, Duncan has scored several policy victories around the country by making carefully worded statements designed to send signals to lawmakers and school officials.

As the Rhode Island legislature debated $1.5 million in spending for two charter schools, Duncan said June 22 at a charter school conference in Washington: "We are fighting this on a state-by-state battle, that's the battleground. And places like Rhode Island that are thinking of underfunding charters are obviously going to put themselves at a huge competitive disadvantage going forward. So we don't think that's a smart thing for them to do, and we're going to make that very, very clear."

The money was restored.

In similar ways, Duncan has stepped into legislative debates in Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee and Massachusetts to advance or defend charter schools, though he points out that he wants to shut failing charter schools as much as he wants to open new ones.

In Tennessee, a law was enacted in June to expand the pool of students eligible to attend charter schools. Tennessee Education Commissioner Tim Webb said Duncan's advocacy helped move the bill through a divided legislature. Without the intervention, Webb said, "I don't think it would have passed."

Some are wary of the long arm from Washington. A Tennessee newspaper editorial railed against an "inappropriate threat" from federal officials. California officials are pushing back against suggestions that a state law on teacher evaluations could disqualify them from receiving funds.

"Don't count California out," State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said in a telephone interview. "We plan on vigorously attempting to secure this funding."

Other states are maneuvering for advantage, too. The Colorado legislature passed three laws this year aimed at aligning state and federal goals on turning around low-performing schools, linking teacher and student data and helping students at risk of dropping out, according to Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien (D). One of the state laws "lifted language" verbatim from a federal education document, she said.

"I have read every speech that Arne Duncan and President Obama have given on education like a literary critic," she said. O'Brien has noted it all on a spreadsheet, and she is aggressively reviewing policies and developing coalitions to maximize the state's chances.

"We all know Colorado needs this money," she said. "Nobody wanted to be the group that threw up the roadblock that would kick us out of the competition."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

California Closed

The Courage Campaign

Lies and the Governor

In his press statement on the budget agreement, the Governor said that public education was fully funded.

"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the leaders of the Legislature reached agreement Monday evening on a pain-filled, recession-driven, $25 billion state budget revision that cuts some $9 billion from public schools, colleges and universities, takes $4 billion from cities and counties, continues three furlough days per month for most state employees and cuts $1.4 billion from the state's prison system.

Still more cutting loomed. "Frankly, we may not be done (cutting) yet," Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg said after the agreement was reached. He said the state has confronted a $60 billion cumulative shortfall since Jan. 1."

The actual cut to K-12 education was 5.7 Billion. That is not fully funded.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Budget deal

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and California's legislative leaders apparently have agreed Monday on a plan to close the state's $26 billion budget shortfall.

The governor and legislators announced the compromise after more hours of closed-door talks on Monday.
Most analysts expect that California will face multibillion dollar deficits into the foreseeable future as the economy struggles to recover from the current crisis and tax revenue lags far behind.
Republicans incessantly demanded more school budget cuts and more cuts of social services.
Cuts made in higher education will hurt the economy for decades.

The state's financial crisis

Reporters at the Bee's Capitol alert say that the Big 5 will reach a budget deal this PM. Lets see.

California budget deficit dwarfs other states
California isn't alone in facing very severe state budget deficits, but a new report from the National Conference of State Legislatures cites the "sheer size" of California's problem as dwarfing those of other states, even in relative terms.

The NCSL report says that collectively, states faced $142.6 billion in deficits for the 2009-10 fiscal year and many already are seeing signs that the total could grow.

"If you think legislators are breathing a sigh of relief because their budgets are passed, think again," said William Pound, NCSL executive director. "If history repeats itself, states are bound to see budget gaps reappear within the first quarter of FY 2010."

The report focused on California, noting that the original estimate of a $24.8 billion gap for 2009-10, plus a leftover deficit of $14.8 billion for 2008-09 "was resolved in a February 2009 budget agreement--except that it wasn't. The resolution included five ballot measures, representing about $5.8 billion of the fix, that failed to get voter support in a May special election.

"Adding the $5.8 billion unresolved figure to the amount of the gap that was closed ($18.9 billion), plus the newest gap ($14.2 billion) that officials expect because of declining revenues, California's cumulative FY 2010 gap explodes to a whopping $38.9 billion or 35 percent of the general fund budget."

The full NCSL report is available here.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Financial crisis inquiry commission

Here's what Campaign for America's Future co-director
Robert Borosage is hoping for:

The commission must act boldly to investigate and
expose the abuses of Wall Street that left
millions of Americans suffering. This is our best
opportunity to identify the people and practices
that got the country into this mess. ...

I trust that both the Democratic and the
Republican appointees will reflect the mandate
provided by the vast majority of Americans who
want a no holds barred investigation that exposes
the practices, legal and illegal, that are at the
base of the financial collapse.

The Commission should hold public hearings across
the country, from California to Wall Street,
exposing the systematic malfeasance that inflated
the housing bubble, and gave bankers multimillion
dollar personal incentives to gamble recklessly
with other people's money.

Only by exposing the systematic malpractices that
got us to where we are can we gain a foundation
for broad reform. The Commission can play a
critical role in insuring the public understanding
and support for the change that we need.

It is clear, though, that if progressive activists are
not shining a bright light on this commission and its
work, iit could-despite the best intentions of people
like Angelides-become nothing more than another stage
for Washington blather, resulting in yet another pile
of paper to collect dust on the policy shelves. With
the damage that has been done by the policy missteps of
people in both parties, we cannot afford, and cannot
tolerate, having this commission be anything less than
the springboard for bold changes in the financial


Goldman Sachs steals billions; you and I pay

The Scandal Continues: The Billions in Govt. Cash Behind Goldman's "Profits"
By Matt Taibbi, True/Slant. Posted July 17, 2009.

That Goldman Sachs is getting away with robbery is bad enough -- that they're getting praised for being so smart is damn near intolerable.
Equity underwriting boomed during the period as dozens of banks raised money to strengthen capital and repay Troubled Asset Relief Program funds. The business reported record revenue of $736 million.via Article -
So what’s wrong with Goldman posting $3.44 billion in second-quarter profits, what’s wrong with the company so far earmarking $11.4 billion in compensation for its employees? What’s wrong is that this is not free-market earnings but an almost pure state subsidy.

Last year, when Hank Paulson told us all that the planet would explode if we didn’t fork over a gazillion dollars to Wall Street immediately, the entire rationale not only for TARP but for the whole galaxy of lesser-known state crutches and safety nets quietly ushered in later on was that Wall Street, once rescued, would pump money back into the economy, create jobs, and initiate a widespread recovery. This, we were told, was the reason we needed to pilfer massive amounts of middle-class tax revenue and hand it over to the same guys who had just blown up the financial world. We’d save their asses, they’d save ours. That was the deal.

It turned out not to happen that way. We constructed this massive bailout infrastructure, and instead of pumping that free money back into the economy, the banks instead simply hoarded it and ate it on the spot, converting it into bonuses. So what does this Goldman profit number mean? This is the final evidence that the bailouts were a political decision to use the power of the state to redirect society’s resources upward, on a grand scale. It was a selective rescue of a small group of chortling jerks who must be laughing all the way to the Hamptons every weekend about how they fleeced all of us at the very moment the game should have been up for all of them.

Now, the counter to this charge is, well, hey, they made that money fair and square, legally, how can you blame them? They’re just really smart!

Bullshit. One of the most hilarious lies that has been spread about Goldman of late is that, since it repaid its TARP money, it’s now free and clear of any obligation to the government -- as if that was the only handout Goldman got in the last year. Goldman last year made your average AFDC mom on food stamps look like an entrepreneur. Here’s a brief list of all the state aid that is hiding behind that $3.44 billion number they announced the other day. In no particular order:

1. The AIG bailout. Goldman might have gone out of business last year if AIG had been allowed to proceed to an ordinary bankruptcy, as AIG owed Goldman about $20 billion at the time it went into a death spiral. Instead, Goldman gets to call upon its former chief, Hank Paulson, who green-lights this massive, $80 billion bailout of AIG (with Lloyd Blankfein in the room), at least $12.9 billion of which went straight to Goldman. Moreover, let’s not forget this: both Goldman and Bank Societe Generale had been tattooing AIG with collateral calls in the period before AIG’s collapse, with Goldman extracting a full $5.9 billion from the company during that time. It was those collateral calls that really killed AIG.

Read the entire piece:

Goldman Sachs steels billions. You and I pay for it in taxes. Thus we do not have funds for schools, parks, nor fire protection.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

President Obama on responsibility and schools

Goldman Sachs loots the economy --again

By Robert Scheer

Connect the dots: Goldman Sachs made $3.44 billion in profit this past quarter, while the U.S deficit topped $1 trillion for the first time in the nation’s history and appeared to be headed toward doubling that figure before the budget year is out. Since most of the increase in the federal deficit is due to bailing out the banks and salvaging the greater economy they helped destroy, why is the top investment bank doing so well?

Well, because that was the plan, as devised by Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, a former CEO of Goldman Sachs. Remember that Lehman Brothers, Goldman’s competitor, was allowed to go bankrupt. The Paulson crowd wouldn’t let Lehman change its status to that of a bank holding company and thus qualify for federal funds; soon afterward, Goldman was granted just such a deal, worth a quick $10 billion. Much is now made of Goldman paying back part of its bailout money, but forgotten is the $12.9 billion that Goldman got as its cut of the $180 billion AIG payoff. That is money that will not be paid back.

Goldman is considered a very smart bank because it was early in reducing its exposure to the mortgage derivatives that in large part caused the meltdown. However, it had done much to expand the market and continued to sell suspect derivatives to unwary buyers as sound investments, even as Goldman divested. The firm still holds $1.85 billion in real estate and lost $499 million in the previous quarter on bad loans, but made up for it by playing the vulture role and issuing high-interest debt to governments and companies made desperate by the recession that the financial gimmicks of the banks brought on in the first place.

And Goldman was not just another bank. Before Paulson ran the Treasury Department, another former Goldman head, Robert Rubin, pushed through the repeal of the Glass-Steagall controls on banking activity. While some now play down the significance of this radical deregulation, not so Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd C. Blankfein—at least not back in June 2007, when the markets were still doing well. “If you take an historical perspective,” Blankfein told The New York Times by way of explaining his company’s spectacular success at the time, “we’ve come full circle, because that is exactly what the Rothschilds or J.P. Morgan the banker were doing in their heyday. What caused an aberration was the Glass-Steagall Act.”

That 1933 act was repealed in a law signed by President Bill Clinton at Rubin’s urging, and in the following eight years Goldman Sachs recorded a 265 percent growth in its balance sheet. “Back then,” The Wall Street Journal reports, “Goldman was churning out profits by trading credit derivatives, speculating on currencies and oil and placing big bets [on] the roaring stock market.”

Big bets made in a casino designed by Goldman, which now makes money off loans to the victims. High on the list of victims are state governments that have to turn to Goldman for money because the federal government that saved the banks won’t do the same for the states, which have watched their tax bases shrink because of the banking meltdown. As the WSJ noted, “issuing debt to ailing governments” is now a growth industry for Goldman.

Why didn’t the federal government just lend the money to the states? Why was all the money thrown at Wall Street instead of needy homeowners or struggling school systems? Because the federal government works for Goldman and not for us. Indeed, when it comes to the banking bailout, Goldman Sachs is the government.

So much so that last fall The New York Times ran a story, headlined “The Guys From `Government Sachs,’ ” that stated: “Goldman’s presence in the [Treasury] department and around the federal response to the financial bailout is so ubiquitous that other bankers and competitors have given the star-studded firm a new nickname: Government Sachs.”

One of those stars was Stephen Friedman, another former head of Goldman. Friedman was both a director of the company and chairman of the New York Federal Reserve Bank when he helped work out the details of the Wall Street bailout. The president of the N.Y. Fed at the time, Timothy Geithner, now secretary of the treasury, requested a conflict-of-interest waiver that allowed Friedman to buy more Goldman Sachs stock, and Friedman ended up with 98,600 shares. At market close on Tuesday that was worth $14,756,476. That’s nothing – three years ago, the 50 top Goldman execs made $20 million each, and this year could be better.

They’re not hurting.
But, state and local funding, including schools, are in dire straights caused directly by the national depression.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Suspending Prop. 98 Would Permanently Rob Billions From Public School Students

By Marty Hittelman
California Federation of Teachers

Repealing corporate tax breaks makes more sense

To address the ongoing state budget deficit, the governor and legislative Republicans have proposed suspending Proposition 98, the state’s minimum school funding law, so they can cut several billion additional dollars from school funding. The California Federation of Teachers (CFT) strongly opposes suspending Prop. 98.

The governor and Republicans refuse to provide more state revenues to cover the necessary education programs. Meanwhile, they’ve been busy handing out huge tax breaks to corporations. So, while cutting public school students’ basic education, the governor and his Republican allies have punched huge new loopholes in the state’s budget benefiting a handful of the largest corporations.

California schools have been cut $11 billion in the past year. Suspending Prop. 98 would further drain basic resources from schools that have already been forced to increase class sizes, cut programs critical to student learning, cancel bus routes and eliminate summer school programs, as well as librarians, counselors and arts and music classes.

Educating our kids is investing in our future. Closing corporate tax loopholes that benefit only a handful of the largest corporations is a common-sense step to take. California can’t afford tax breaks for big corporations while our kids are neglected.

The wealthiest people in California and large corporations, after years of tax reductions, could afford more taxes to support the well being of the entire population. CFT proposes to increase state revenues with fair tax policies for individuals and businesses that can afford it.

Suspending Prop. 98 would devastate public education

Statewide, education program reductions have resulted in layoff notices to 25,000 certificated and 10,000 classified. Millions of dollars have been taken from each K-12 school district, and will result in class sizes increasing by as much as 35%.

In community colleges and universities, students will lose classes, contingent faculty and support personnel will be laid off, and student costs will rise (proposed quadrupled tuition), along with the time necessary to graduate.

California already underfunds education and other services

California ranks 47th in the nation in K-12 per-pupil spending. California community colleges rank 45th in the nation in per pupil spending. California ranks 48th in the nation in state employees per resident. When the governor and the Republicans say, “We have a spending problem,” they are dead wrong. California is under-funding education. California’s K-12 public schools educate more than 6.3 million kids. The community colleges serve 2.5 million adults. These are the largest systems of public education in the country. Failure to adequately fund them will severely impact the state’s future.

Another way: tax fairness to preserve and improve education and other services

California is the richest state in the richest country on earth. The problem is not that we don’t have the money. The problem is one of priorities, and that the money is in the wrong pockets. The top 1% of wealth holders owns 34% of the wealth. Their tax rates today are lower than they used to be. In 1993 the highest tax bracket in the California was 11% of income; today it is 9.3%. The same is true for corporations. In 1980 California corporations contributed nearly 15% of the state budget; today they pay 11%. The Legislature has enacted more than $12 billion in tax cuts for individuals, families and businesses over the past 15 years. It is time to reverse this trend so we can continue to provide necessary services to Californians. We need to address the state’s structural budget problem, with progressive tax policies that largely do not adversely affect the average Californian.

Repeal corporate tax loopholes put in place during last year’s state budget deal would save more than $2.5 billion a year. That’s preferable to suspending Prop. 98 and cutting billions from public education. Our kids get only one chance at their youth and their education.

Close loopholes, not schools!

Marty Hittelman, a community college math professor from Los Angeles, is the President of the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) which is a member of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). The CFT represents faculty and other school employees in public and private schools and colleges, from early childhood through higher education in California.

Posted on July 15, 2009

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Goldman Sachs and the economic crisis

Goldman's Back, and Why We Should Be Worried
July 14, 2009, 10:39AM

Should we breath a sigh of relief that Goldman Sachs has posted record earnings as revenue from trading and stock underwriting reached all-time highs (second quarter net income was $3.44 billion) -- less than a year after the firm took $10 billion directly from taxpayers and $13 billion indirectly through AIG?

In some ways, yes. That Goldman is back signals that the worst of Wall Street's recent meltdown is over. And at least New York City's economy will again benefit from the trickle-down effects of the multi-million dollar bonuses of Goldman's executives and traders.
But in another respect, Goldman's resurgence should send shivers down the backs of every hardworking American who has lost a large chunk of retirement savings in this economic debacle, as well as the millions who have lost their jobs. Why? Because Goldman's high-risk business model hasn't changed one bit from what it was before the implosion of Wall Street. Goldman is still wagering its capital and fueling giant bets with lots of borrowed money. While its rivals have pared back risks, Goldman has increased them. And its renewed success at this old game will only encourage other big banks to go back into it.

“Our model really never changed, we’ve said very consistently that our business model remained the same,” Goldman's chief financial officer tells Bloomberg News. Value-at-risk -- a statistical measure of how much the firm’s trading operations could lose in a day -- rose to an average of $245 million in the second quarter from $240 million in the first quarter. In the second quarter of 2008, VaR averaged $184 million.

Meanwhile, Goldman is still depending on $28 billion in outstanding debt issued cheaply with the backing of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Which means you and I are still indirectly funding Goldman's high-risk operations.

Goldman is skillful at playing the market. Now that most of its major competitors are out of the action or still under the strict control of the Treasury and the Fed, it has the market mostly to itself. Expect the others to jump back in to high-risk deals as soon as they can. But Goldman is also skillful at playing politics -- something its rivals aren't nearly as good at. Recall that last fall, at a closed meeting between Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson (formerly Goldman's CEO), Tim Geithner (then at the New York Fed), and a handful of others to decide on the fate of giant insurer AIG, Goldman's cheif executive, Lloyd Blankfein, was at the table. The decision to bail out AIG resulted in a $13 billion giveaway to Goldman because Goldman was an AIG counterparty. Indeed, Goldman executives and alumni have played crucial roles in guiding the Wall Street bailout from the start.

So the fact that Goldman has reverted to its old ways in the market suggests it has every reason to believe it can revert to its old ways in politics, should its market strategies backfire once again -- leaving the rest of us once again to pick up the pieces.
Robert Reich

Insurance corporations try to kill health care reform

See: The excellent report on Bill Moyers Journal
Health Care;
The industry has always tried to make Americans think that government-run systems are the worst thing that could possibly happen to them, that if you even consider that you're heading down the slippery slope towards socialism... I think that people who are strong advocates of our health care system remaining as it is, very much a free market health care system, fail to realize that we're really talking about human beings here, and it doesn't work as well as they would like it to... They are trying to make you worry and fear a government bureaucrat being between you and your doctor. What you have now is a corporate bureaucrat between you and your doctor... The public plan would do a lot to keep [health insurance companies] honest, because it would have to offer a standard benefit plan. It would have to operate more efficiently, as does the Medicare program. It would be structured, I’m certain, on a level playing field so that it wouldn’t [have an] unfair advantage [over] the private insurance companies. Because it could be administered more efficiently, the private insurers would have to operate more efficiently.”

The “public option” is central to many Democrats’ vision for health care reform, but it has attracted pointed criticism from supporters of the “single payer” model and opponents of federal intervention alike.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Protect school funding

Schwarzenegger is the problem.

We need to deal directly with the attack on school funding. In the past 6 months, school funding in California has declined from 56.5 billion to 50.7 billion . Now, the governor and the Republicans propose to set aside Prop.98 in order to cut even more.

Since the passage of Prop. 13, California’s schools have been destructively under funded. We have gone from one of the best school systems to 29th in per pupil expenditure. California’s students rank 48th. out of the states in 4th. grade reading. So , if 4th. grade reading is a predictor, then perhaps we should do something about reading such as adequately fund the schools. California has remained with the poverty stricken states since the passage of Prop.13. Remember when the ideologues all claimed that by switching to phonics reading scores were going to go up? Or, others claimed that by eliminating bilingual education would produce dramatic gains. Well- how did that work out for you?
Schools have increased class size and severely cut back on counselors thus promoting violence and drop outs. Over half of California schools are in crisis caused specifically by lack of sufficient funds.
Rather than accept the budget limitations and plan to intervene before grade 4, we should change the budget. It does not have to be this way. Voters could keep Prop.13 benefits for private home owners but use actual assessed valuation of property for corporate property- the split roll approach. Rather than simply accept that these are difficult budget times, voters favor improved funding for public education. This change to a split role approach would immediately solve our state budget crisis, and the one coming next year. Or, we could as proposed establish an oil severance tax. This is where you make the corporations pay a tax when they take our oil out of the ground and then sell it to us. Even the most conservative of states have an oil severance tax. California does not because of the power of lobbyists in Sacramento.
We need all of the children in the state well educated to have a prosperous economy. Unless we change our schools are sinking toward those of Alabama and Mississippi.
We cannot have sustained prosperity in California without decent schools, and we will not have decent schools unless we amend Prop. 13 and tell the legislature to adequately fund the schools. Or, we could remain a poverty stricken state.

Chicago school reform: not

More on school reform by press release:

USA TODAY -- July 13, 2009
By Greg Toppo

New research from a Chicago civic group takes direct aim at the city's "abysmal" public high school performance — and puts a new spin on the academic gains made during the seven years that Arne Duncan led the Chicago schools before he was named U.S. Education secretary.

The Civic Committee of The Commercial Club of Chicago, a supporter of Duncan and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's push for more control of city schools, issued the report June 30. It says city schools have made little progress since 2003.

Its key findings stand in stark contrast to assertions President Obama made in December when he nominated Duncan as Education secretary.

And though the findings are by no means as explosive, they're reminiscent of revelations from Houston in 2003, when state investigators found that 15 high schools had underreported dropout rates under former superintendent Rod Paige, who by then was George W. Bush's Education secretary.

In December, Obama said that during a seven-year tenure, Duncan had boosted elementary school test scores "from 38% of students meeting the standards to 67%" — a gain of 29 percentage points. But the new report found that, adjusting for changes in tests and procedures, students' pass rates grew only about 8 percentage points.

Obama also said Chicago's dropout rate "has gone downevery year he's been in charge." Though that's technically true, the committee says it's still unacceptably high: About half of Chicago students drop out of the city's non-selective-enrollment high schools. And more than 70% of 11th-graders fail to meet state standards, a trend that "has remained essentially flat" over the past several years.

Even among those who graduate, it says, skills are poor: An analysis of students entering the Chicago City Colleges in fall 2006 showed that 69% were not prepared for college-level reading, 79% were not prepared for writing, and 95% were not prepared for math.

"Performance is very bad, very weak," says Civic Committee president Eden Martin.

Obama also said Chicago students' ACT test score gains "have been twice as big as those for students in the rest of the state." Again, technically true — ACT data show that Chicago students' composite score rose 0.9 points from 2002 to 2006, while Illinois' score rose 0.4 points. But Chicago students' composite score of 17.4 was lower than the statewide average of 20.5.

Timothy Knowles, who directs the University of Chicago's Urban Education Institute, says the report highlights "a highly irresponsible state reaction" to the federal No Child Left Behind law.

"In essence," he says, "many states have lowered (passing) scores on standardized tests to create the public appearance they are meeting federal standards. This practice sells children short — and the states that engage in it are, ironically, leaving themselves behind."

Knowles says Chicago schools are moving in the right direction, with "some extraordinary new schools" and promising performance from black and Latino students, for instance. "However, the Civic Committee report reminds us these successes are fragile … and there is unambiguous evidence that Chicago has miles to go before it sleeps."

Duncan spokesman Peter Cunningham says Chicago schools "made significant gains across a range of indicators" under Duncan. "While we still have a long way to go, it is absolutely misleading and irresponsible to suggest that there has not been progress."

Blogger Alexander Russo, who writes about Chicago schools, says the findings show that nearly 15 years into mayoral control, the city school system "isn't nearly as improved as many have been led to believe."

"What I find particularly appalling is that Duncan and Obama — supposed champions of transparency and using research rather than ideology — have cited Chicago's inflated test scores, even though they knew the increases were exaggerated."

/ Read the report at

/ /


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Governor proposes suspending Prop. 98

"Not once in the two decades since California's Proposition 98 school-funding formula became law have lawmakers bucked education groups to suspend it – so Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's push to do so has rocked the Capitol.

Neither Democrats nor Republicans are rushing to embrace the idea, but with tax hikes off the table, there may be no easy alternative in bridging the state's $26.3 billion shortfall." The Sacramento Bee. Jim Sanders.
Even without suspending Prop 98, school funding has decreased from $56.5 billion to $50.7 billion.
In spite of the dramatic cuts in school spending, the Sacramento Bee editorial page accuses the Democratic Legislative leaders ( Bass and Stienberg) as being unwilling to lead.
Further cuts in school funding must be stopped.
The Governor and the Republicans incessantly demand more school budget cuts.
So, now I have 120 fewer Sheriffs to protect my neighborhood.
250 fewer teaches to assist school children, and cuts in higher education that will hurt the economy for decades.
Welcome to Mississippi. That is the kind of society the Republican legislators want to create.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Education cuts: Sacramento Bee

This is from the Sacramento Bee editorial of today;
"Consider education spending and the way the Democrats who control the Legislature have acted over the past two weeks. Only 10 days ago, on the night of June 30, the Democrats were pushing a bill that would have cut education spending by $3 billion, or about 6 percent. When Republicans balked because they wanted those cuts to be part of a comprehensive solution to the state's massive fiscal shortfall, the bill failed, the clock struck midnight and a new fiscal year began.

Now the same cuts the Democrats were pushing cannot go into effect without a suspension of Proposition 98, the constitutional amendment that sets a floor beneath school spending. And many Democrats are saying they won't vote to suspend that measure, even to implement the very cuts they were so recently demanding.

In a perfect world, we wouldn't cut education spending, either. While there's little or no proof that more money for the schools leads to better outcomes for students, California is already well below average in per pupil funding, near the bottom of the states by some measures."

Now, lets see. California ranks 47th. of the 50 states in per pupil spending. (depending on how you count). If you use the dept. of finance figures, we rank 27th.
And, we have ranked near the bottom for decades.

Our reading scores and math scores rank about 47 -49 in the nation.
Lack of money produces results. The Governor and the legislature each year under fund the schools and they get exactly what they pay for - a low quality system.
The following is from the 4th. edition of my book, Choosing Democracy.

parochial schools have enjoyed these advantages for years.

Currently, our schools work for some students and do not work for others. As Berliner and Biddle well demonstrated in The Manufactured Crisis (1995), schools for middle class Black, Latino and European American children fundamentally fulfill their purposes. But the schools for poor African American, Latino and European American children fail. And while this failure affects all children, it disproportionately impacts the children of African Americans and Latinos. Fully half of all their children are in failing schools. In 2005 on the NAEP assessment, nationally over 58% of Black and 54% of Latino children scored below Basic in Reading levels in 4th grade (Reading Report Card of the National Center for Educational Statistics 2005). Differences in math scores are similarly stark. (See Figure 1.2) That is to say, we do not have a general education crisis in the nation, we have a crisis for Black, Latino, Asian and poor white kids. We have an unjust and unequal school system in an unjust and unequal society.

Duane Campbell

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Arne Duncan; does he understand the limits of data? (at the end there are now 6 other replies that precede mine; most are quite good). Monty Neill

Duncan: But sometimes, despite our best efforts, these methods don't work. Today, America has about 5000 schools that continue to underperform year after year, despite our best efforts.

Comment: The number apparently represents those schools not making AYP for 5 years or so. Some of those schools may well be in very bad shape, others may have been making steady progress but started so far behind as to never make AYP. Some may be dysfunctional, others functional but needing more help for the school and in the communities from which the students come. How do we know the difference?
And how do we know they have received "our best efforts," especially since until a year ago the improvement fund for Title I was essentially non-existent? Whose best efforts, how are we to know they were the "best"? Were they strong efforts to do things Duncan listed immediately previous to this point (e.g., "we have tried boosting support for teaching staff and making other changes around curriculum, school day, etc.—and sometimes it has worked. I always favor more support, collaboration, mentoring and time on task")? Is it therefore necessary to take an extreme action, like privatize control of the school, or is it simply time to finally help schools get better on their own?
I am not opposed to extreme measures if a school really is dysfunctional after serious efforts at assistance. The Forum on Educational Accountability, which I chair, has stated that in the end states are responsible for their schools and students don't deserve perpetually non-functional school (see "Empowering Schools and Improving Learning," at But before generally untried nostrums - ones with only anecdotal evidence to support them, ones that seem to fail as much or more than succeed (e.g., charters, on average) - far more careful thought must go into what it takes to improve seriously troubled schools, what kinds of in-school and in-community supports are needed, etc.
Duncan goes on to cite the urgency of the situation. But doing something that has no evidence it will work in terms of improved student learning (more than test scores, however) and completion rates, and that simultaneously undermines democratic control over schools (which turning schools over to private operators very fundamentally does), is to respond via panic not thoughtful action -- if the agenda is systemic, sustained improvement.
Duncan: Now let's talk about data. I understand that word can make people nervous but I see data first and foremost as a barometer. It tells us what is happening. Used properly, it can help teachers better understand the needs of their students. Too often, teachers don't have good data to inform instruction and help raise student achievement.

Data can also help identify and support teachers who are struggling. And it can help evaluate them. The problem is that some states prohibit linking student achievement and teacher effectiveness.

I understand that tests are far from perfect and that it is unfair to reduce the complex, nuanced work of teaching to a simple multiple choice exam. Test scores alone should never drive evaluation, compensation or tenure decisions. That would never make sense. But to remove student achievement entirely from evaluation is illogical and indefensible.

It's time we all admit that just as our testing system is deeply flawed—so is our teacher evaluation system—and the losers are not just the children. When great teachers are unrecognized and unrewarded—when struggling teachers are unsupported—and when failing teachers are unaddressed—the teaching profession is damaged.

Comment: There are many problematic points here. While he describes the current testing system as "far from perfect" and "deeply flawed," he criticizes prohibitions on linking that data to teachers as a way to judge "performance." He seems to equate "data" with test scores, since he at no points suggests data is anything else. Indeed, "teachers need good data," but that must be far more than scores on the mediocre to lousy tests that now exist, from state exams to "benchmark" tests to travesties such as DIBELS.

So when he says, "But to remove student achievement entirely from evaluation is illogical and indefensible," he means that part of evaluating teachers should be their ability to raise test scores. As Alfie Kohn phrased it so sharply, this leads to "raising the scores and ruining the schools." And if some schools are already "ruined," focusing on test scores won't lead to a situation in which, to again cite Duncan, the nation can "give children the very best education possible." Schools that focus on boosting test scores do no such thing. (FairTest regularly summarizes this evidence in our quarterly Examiner newsletter and various reports;

Duncan then moves on to payment by results - "When great teachers are unrecognized and unrewarded." He has made clear on other occasions he very much supports payment by results, though he regularly cautions he wants to do this with teachers. But what if the teachers refuse? Meanwhile, Duncan has echoed Eli Broad in claiming that payment for performance is common in other fields. As the recent EPI book by Rothstein makes clear, it is not common among professions, and where implemented it brings about goal distortion, gaming the system, and bad consequences. George Madaus has looked at paying teachers for results in Ireland, others have looked at England, and the situation is the same: it does not work.

Again, we are in a situation in which Duncan insists that due to the dire situation, we must "do something." But the something, in this case, not only has no evidence it will not work, it has clear evidence it will not work.

Two points are here inter-twined: payment for results, and using test scores to define the results. The first has not worked in other fields, the second compounds the damage and will further intensify the score inflation now seen across the states (and that will plague a national test as well).

Teachers and their unions should flat out refuse payment for results. They will of course be attacked as protecting themselves at the expense of their students -- but the truth is, they are also protecting the children from the systemic malfeasance of allowing standardized tests to control curriculum and instruction.

Duncan is correct, as many people have pointed out, that evaluation of teachers is largely a farce - for many reasons. It should be greatly improved, first of all in order to help teachers get better. It must be tied to very different forms of professional development than the trivial time-wasters that have given PD a bad name among teachers. And assessment must be overhauled, not to have "better" ways to institute payment for results, but to have good information about student learning that students, teachers, administrators and other professionals, parents, communities and states can use to improve real learning (guide, not drive, action, as Deborah Meier puts it). FEA has much to say about most of these points in our various reports such as Redefining Accountability and the report of the Expert Panel on Assessment, at (not teacher or principal evaluation, however; but see the National Staff Development Council materials).

So there is much to do, and the stimulus funds as well as an overhauled ESEA can be used to improve assessment in line with FEA and FairTest recommendations, to overhaul professional development in line with FEA recommendations, to make data mean something far more than test scores, to focus on improving school capacity to serve all children well, to educate the whole child, and to pay attention to the consequences of racism and poverty that plague so many communities and their schools. Payment for "performance" is ultimately a distraction, as are national standards and a national test, from the real work of improving schools. It is time to re-focus and move in more useful ways.

Monty Neill, Ed.D
Deputy Director
15 Court Sq, Ste 820
Boston, MA 02108
857-350-8207; fax 850-357-8209

Monday, July 06, 2009

Nine years of job growth wiped out.

Nine Years of Job Growth Wiped Out

Jobs Picture for July 2, 2009

by Heidi Shierholz with research assistance from Kathryn Edwards and Andrew Green

This morning's employment report from the Bureau of
Labor Statistics marked a year and a half of job loss
and showed that the economy shed another 467,000 jobs
in June. Since the start of the recession, the labor
market has lost a total of 6.5 million jobs, down from
138.2 million in December 2007 to 131.7 million in
June. As the chart below shows, the peak number of
jobs after the expansion of the 1990s was 132.5 million
jobs in February 2001. We are currently 838,000 jobs
below that figure. In fact, the entire growth in jobs
over the last nine years has now been wiped out - the
economy currently has fewer jobs than it had in May
2000 (when there were 131.9 million jobs). And
importantly, this decline was not occurring because the
jobs weren't needed - the labor force has expanded by
12.5 million workers since then, as the population
continued to grow. This is the only recession1 since
the Great Depression to wipe out all jobs growth from
the previous business cycle, a testament both to the
enormity of the current crisis and to the extreme
weakness of jobs growth over the business cycle from
2000 to 2007.

Furthermore, the loss of 6.5 million jobs over the 18
months of this recession dramatically understates the
hole in the current labor market. To keep up with
population growth, the economy needs to add around
127,000 jobs every month, so the labor market needed to
grow 2.3 million jobs over this period. All told, the
labor market is currently 8.8 million jobs below where
it would need to be to maintain pre-recession
employment levels. If there is any good news in this
report, it is that despite the increase in job loss
from May, the pace of losses still appears to be
slowing from the enormous declines of earlier this
year. In the first quarter of 2009, the economy shed
691,000 jobs per month, on average, but in the second
quarter the losses averaged 436,000 jobs per month.

The continued losses, however, mean unemployment is
still rising. This recession has set a new
unemployment benchmark as unemployment has increased by
4.6 percentage points, higher than the rise of
unemployment in the 1980s recession. Unemployment rose
from 9.4% in May to 9.5% in June as 218,000 people were
added to the jobless rolls. One of the reasons the
unemployment rate did not rise more than it did in June
was due to a shrinkage of the labor force of 155,000
workers, partially offsetting the labor force gain in
May of 350,000 workers. There are now 14.7 million
unemployed workers in this country, up 7.2 million from
the start of the recession. The picture changes
dramatically, though, when considering the broader
measure of underemployment. If the ranks of the
"marginally attached" (jobless workers who want a job
but are not actively seeking work and so are not
counted as officially unemployed) and "involuntary
part-time workers" (those who want full-time jobs but
can't get the hours) are added to the mix, the figure
rises to 25.9 million, which means nearly one in six
U.S. workers (16.5%) is either un- or underemployed.

Furthermore, with less than one job opening for every
five job seekers, unemployed workers are getting stuck
in unemployment for long periods. In June, 4.4
million people, 2.8% of the labor force, had been
unemployed for at least six months, surpassing the
record high of 2.6% set in the early 1980s. While
today's overall unemployment rate has not reached the
peak rate of the early 1980s, the rate languishing in
long-term unemployment has. Another new record:
currently 29% of unemployed workers have been jobless
for over half a year.

While all groups have experienced large increases in
unemployment during this recession, some are feeling
the effects of the downturn more than others. In June,
unemployment was 14.7% among black workers, 12.2% among
Hispanic workers, and 8.7% among white workers
(increases of 5.8, 6.0, and 4.3 percentage points,
respectively, since the start of the recession). Male
unemployment increased to 10.6% in June, compared to
8.3% for women (increases of 5.6 and 3.5 percentage
points). For workers with a college degree, the
unemployment rate is 4.7%, and unemployment among those
with only a high school diploma, at 9.8%, is more than
double that of college-educated workers. Workers with
less job experience are also particularly hard hit -
those age 16-24 face an unemployment rate of 17.8%;
25-54 year olds are seeing 8.5%; and those over 54 are
at 7% (up 6.2, 4.5, and 3.9 percentage points,
respectively, since the start of the recession).

Wage growth, which held up for the first year of the
recession, has collapsed over the last six months. In
the second quarter of 2009, nominal hourly wages of
production workers grew at a 0.7% annualized rate,
which is only one-sixth of the 3.9% growth rate from
December 2007 to December 2008. And as workers have
seen their hours cut back, nominal weekly earnings have
actually fallen, declining at a -0.6% annualized rate
in the second quarter. Along with undercutting the
living standards of workers, the collapse of wage
growth puts further downward pressure on the overall
economy by constraining the growth of consumption.

Manufacturing and construction saw big employment
losses in June, as has been the case throughout the
downturn. Manufacturing saw a decline of 136,000 jobs
last month, (most of that - 112,000 - in durable
goods manufacturing) for a total drop since December
2007 of 1.9 million, or 14.0% of that sector's
employment. June's decline, however, was smaller than
the average loss of 182,000 jobs per month for the
prior six months. Construction saw a decline of 79,000
jobs in June, for a total of 1.3 million jobs lost in
this recession (17.1% of employment). This was a
larger decline than May's (which was 48,000), but
significantly smaller than the average of the prior six
months (which was 103,300).

Another sector that saw a big loss in June was
professional and business services, losing 118,000 jobs
after declining only 48,000 jobs in May. The federal
government lost 49,000 jobs in June, mostly due to
layoffs of temporary workers hired for preparations for
the 2010 Census. State governments lost 4,000 jobs,
and local government employment remained basically
flat, adding 1,000 jobs. Education and health services
added 34,000 jobs in June, the only major sector that
saw growth.

Rapid declines continued in the index of aggregate
weekly hours - a measure of the total number of hours
worked in the economy and thus a more comprehensive
measure of the economic contraction than employment
because it captures both job loss and reductions in
hours for workers who kept their jobs. It fell 0.8% in
May (an annualized rate of 9.2%), for a total of 8.2%
since the start of the recession, a substantially
larger fall than in earlier recessions.

The June employment report shows that while the pace of
losses is stabilizing, the U.S. labor market is still
losing jobs at a stunning rate, and unemployment
continues to rise. It is important that the relatively
good news of the stabilizing pace of job loss does not
overshadow the fact that the economy continues to shed
hundreds of thousands of jobs per month and the pain in
the real economy is deepening. Unemployment will
almost certainly pass 10% by the end of the year; the
economic case for additional policy interventions to
generate jobs and to assist those adversely affected by
the recession keeps growing stronger. It is apparent
that, despite the substantial positive impact of the
February recovery package, the economy's dramatic
deterioration from November to March was even greater
than anticipated. Clearly, more work needs to be done
to mitigate further damage.

1. This counts the "double dip" recession of the early
1980s as one recession.


NEA President calls for cooperation on school reform

NEA President: Dennis Van Roekel. July 3,2009.

In a stirring call to action on the first day of the annual NEA Representative Assembly, President Dennis Van Roekel exhorted his colleagues to lead the efforts to transform public education in America, restore stability and respect to this country's middle class, and make sure the world knows that NEA is a swift-moving powerhouse with vision and strength.
"We have the history. We have the skills and knowledge. We have the power and we have the courage. Now we must seize the opportunity," Van Roekel exclaimed.
When half of all poor and minority children face a future without a high school diploma, a future with "no hope, no opportunity, no possibility of realizing the American dream," and millions of American jobs lost and homes foreclosed on, it's critical that educators take action now.
"Our members - the people on the front lines - know what it takes to increase student learning to transform the system," Van Roekel said. "But we have to do more than define a vision for transforming public education -- we must lead the nation in making this transformation happen."
For the first time in this century, NEA has a partner in the White House who "understand(s) that transformation is something you do with educators, not to them." And NEA welcomes this opportunity to transform education. Better ways to measure student learning - not by a single test scores but through multiple measures - and also to improve teaching are welcome, he said. The Association also is open to new ways of paying teachers - but "we understand compensation systems are bargained and negotiated not imposed!"
We won't agree with President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on everything, Van Roekel promised. "But what is most important to me is that even though we may disagree on strategies or tactics.they share our mission to fulfill the promise of public education for every student." He called on federal policy-makers to reform NCLB so that the new law helps students, not labels and punished them.
Of particular concern to Van Roekel are America's lowest-performing school -- and he asked every delegate to get personally involved in turning them around. Teach there if you can, he asked. Mentor another teacher if possible. "It is important you do something - because these kids deserve better - and we are the ones who can make a difference."
But NEA can't close achievement gaps when the families of our students don't have jobs or health care, or living wages and benefits. So Van Roekel called on members to be political activists as well - to fight for decent salaries and health benefits for all. Every congressional district needs at least 50 NEA activists by January 1, 2010, he said. He also noted that all delegates should sign up for an NEA web site specifically for them - a site where Van Roekel will continue speaking to them post-RA.

And, an opposing viewpoint:

Arne Duncan attacks teachers as NEA convention cheers... The Day of Duncan§ion=Articlet

Schwarzenegger cuts schools, protects prisons II

July 6,2009/
The leaders also discussed Schwarzenegger's proposed suspension of the state's education funding guarantee, Proposition 98. The governor has asked that lawmakers agree to fund schools at about $3 billion less than the constitutional guarantee in 2009-10, and school groups are gearing up to lobby heavily against that plan.

Bass said she does not want to entertain that suspension of Proposition 98, while Democratic Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg called it a "bad idea."

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Joe Klien Educator (Right) !

In an irony typical of the New York Times' tin ear for democracy, a recent article (May 22) on New York Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein carried the headline "Big Thinking and Radical Dreaming." In a puff piece passing as news, Susan Dominus gave us this choice in thinking about the diktat-obsessed, top-down lawyer-bureaucrat who helped impose Mayor Bloomberg's iron will on the New York school system: Klein must either be a "passionate reformer" or a "driven zealot".

How about an imperial ignoramus? A grandstanding bureaucrat? A union-busting bully? Klein advocates "reforms" like compelling kids before they finish fifth grade to visit colleges (you know, so they will understand the joys of higher ed and be motivated to succeed!); like preventing parents from sending their kids to neighborhood primary schools (there's a great way to keep the middle class in the public school system); like empowering principals at the expense of teachers; and like making "remote" education via the web a surrogate for live teachers in the classroom (hey, you can reduce the teacher corps by 30%, Klein boasts, and increase the size of classes at the same time).

In this last bureaucrat-speak idea he is aping the social science wisdom of Terry Moe and John Chubb (Chubb runs that wondrous for-profit outfit called Edison Learning). Moe envisions a world in which "kids can work it out on their own" while schools become a "place where they go and have clubs and sports activities and drama," doing all their course work online.

I've done remote teaching and it is a far cry (remote indeed) from real teaching. But coincidentally it is a whole lot cheaper since one virtual teacher can instruct hundreds while the rest of the real teachers can join the fast food service industry.

Susan Dominus acknowledges in her piece that Klein "can be hard on the people who educate the city's children," but thinks we should give him "credit for holding his tongue most of the time."

Truth is, Klein is a perfect clone of a Mayor who seized control of the schools and vowed to put his stamp on them (just as he overturned the two term limit standing in the way of his running again for Mayor later this year). His "big thinking" means bureaucrats and their business-inspired management schemes come first, principals with tough top down controls come second, while teachers and parents come last. Children, the pupils, they don't rate at all, except as the subjects for Klein's "radical dreaming" - which is inspired neither by reformist pedagogy nor democratic inclusion but by the corporate management nightmare of totally controlling the "customers" it pretends to serve.

(By the way, I am not sniping from the sanctuary of private school privilege: my daughter graduates next month from a New York public high school and has spent her entire K-12 education in public school).

Benjamin Barber

Saturday, July 04, 2009

We hold these truths to be self evident

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Schwarzenegger cuts schools, protects prisons

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said separately Thursday that they are optimistic a budget deal can be struck within several days.

The tone of their comments marked a stark contrast to Capitol fighting over the last few weeks between Democrats and Republicans over bridging the state's $26.3 billion budget gap.

Steinberg also said Democrats had given up any attempt to increase taxes on tobacco or establish an oil severance tax.

In a Capitol news conference, Steinberg said significant progress is being made behind closed doors, adding, "It's time that we get this done."

Steinberg said he is encouraged by lengthy discussions Wednesday with Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders.

"I'm going to be here and I know that some of my colleagues are going to be here around-the-clock today, tomorrow and over the weekend with the hope and expectation that over the next several days we will complete this and complete it successfully."

See the article below about the cutting of Prop. 98. And the California Budget Project analysis.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

School budget cuts

“The Governor continues to attempt to balance the budget on the backs of our students and our schools. Suspending Proposition 98 is a shortsighted approach that drops school funding into financial quicksand and will harm a generation of students.

“Our schools already have absorbed nearly $12 billion in cuts from a budget passed just months ago. As a result, schools have had to cut summer school; class sizes are going up; teachers and support staff have been laid off; and art, music, and sports programs are being eliminated. The list of tragic consequences of our budget crisis continues to grow.

“California needs a well-educated, critically thinking, and problem-solving workforce in order to improve and grow California’s economy. Public education is the key to unlocking the potential for success that our students possess. It is wrong-headed to cut education when we desperately need to nurture and support the students in our schools today who will be the backbone of our economy in just a few short years.

“Proposition 98 was passed by the voters of California to provide a floor of funding for our schools. Suspending it simply pulls the rug the out from under our students and the future of our state."
In addition to Mr. O’Connell, one of his potential replacements, Assemblymember Tom Torlakson who was a long-time teacher also spoke out strongly against the proposal.

“I am adamantly against suspending Proposition 98. The students of California and our schools have suffered far too much already. The Governor had the option to avert a suspension of Proposition 98 and an additional $3 billion in further cuts. Instead he chose to put our schools and the education of our kids at risk. There are many other solutions to the budget crisis that would not hurt the children of California.”

Under Proposition 98, the state is required to devote a specific proportion of the budget to education programs. Already, education funding has been slashed by over $12 billion. Proposition 1B was designed to restore just under $10 billion that has already been raided from education. That measure failed and now the governor is talking about taking even more money.
Superintendent O'Connell
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