July 1, 2010

July 1, 2010

Update for Thursday, July 1, 2010

Minnesota without RTTT, Summer Primary

In This Issue
Ed Reform in MN
Issues to Watch
What Can I Do?
From the Website

“…I arise in the morning torn between
a desire to improve the world,
and a desire to enjoy the world.
This makes it hard to plan the day.”

— E.B.White 

If this is your first update from Parents United, welcome! Please let us know if you have questions or experience any problems with your mailings from us.

Important Date
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Primary Election

I hope you’re finding time to “enjoy the world” this summer! But we also want to keep you posted periodically about what’s happening post-legislative session in Minnesota – and beyond!

Reforming Education in Minnesota – without RTTT
RTTT: When announcing Race to the Top (RTTT) grants Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was quoted as saying, “The $4.35 billion dollar Race to the Top program that we are unveiling today is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the federal government to create incentives for far-reaching improvement in our nation’s schools. For states, for district leaders, for unions, for business, and for nonprofits, the Race to the Top is the equivalent of education reform’s moon shot. And the administration is determined – I am determined – not to miss this opportunity….” Prophetic words.

Background: Minnesota’s first application was underwritten by several foundations that hired McKinsey & Company, at a cost of $500,000, to pull Minnesota’s proposal together. Early indication was that 10-15 states would potentially “win” the grant money which could be as much as $330 million over four years. Minnesota did not make the first cut.

Delaware and Tennessee won the money and then the real race began, the race to change state legislation throughout the nation to adhere to the tenets of RTTT: to qualify for much needed dollars to balance state budgets, to not be outdone by another state, to appear a “winner,” to make teachers out to be lazy and incompetent, to increase student achievement — take your pick as to motive.

Today: While it is old news that Minnesota did not re-apply for the second round of grants, the reasons for that decision are being played out in this election season. The governor said his reason for passing on a second round application was the legislature’s inability to pass reform measures necessary to increase Minnesota’s chance of winning. An election season where the party in control of the legislature is not the same as that of the sitting governor might put this statement into context.

There were a great deal of “reform” issues floated in the waning days of the session and one of those issues that is now being used as an election issue is the provision to provide an alternative pathway to teacher licensure. Parents United testified for and supports this provision, but saying its non-passage is the reason Minnesota would not prevail in a second application for RTTT is simply not true.

One could argue – and I would – that there are a great many reforms that are necessary and Minnesota must move to implement many of these NOW. But accepting or advancing the idea that there is one silver bullet – a different way for a tiny percentage of teachers to have a different pathway to licensure – as the way to increase student performance is naïve. And to use an elected official’s position on this one provision as proof that they are against reform or against increasing student performance and are therefore unfit to hold office is the epitome of using our kids as political footballs

Overlooked in all of this is the RTTT component that was worth twice the point value in the application process than was the passage of an alternative pathway to teacher licensure: a state’s adoption of National Common Core Standards. The National Common Core Standard initiative came from the National Governor’s Association. On June 11, the former chair of that Association, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, announced that Minnesota would not adopt these standards.

A few questions we might be asking: Where did the idea to use a competitive grant process for federal funding come from? Why and how were the components of RTTT chosen? Who is driving this initiative? These questions are addressed in a New York Times article worth reading. Parents United’s position on funding initiatives has always been to follow the data, the evidence-based strategies that increase student achievement. 

The reason we need to pay attention to these facts is so we won’t be misled by political rhetoric and let our children’s future be hijacked by those trying to win elections. And by the way, the federal IDEA bill passed in the 1970s – known to most as the special education bill – authorized that 40 cents of every dollar a state was required to spend on special education be paid by the feds. But the federal government has never paid more than 18 cents on the dollar. This year alone, that bill would bring $26 BILLION to America’s school kids. Over the four-year period of the RTTT initiative, that adds up to $104 BILLION owed to America’s schools. Maybe one of the reasons for RTTT is that providing $4.35 billion in grants is a lot less expensive than paying the $104 billion owed!

In this issue

Issues to Watch
National: Texas Board of Education passes new standards determining what children in Texas will be learning for the next decade, which has implications for other states.

What can I do
Primary Election: August 10

Don’t forget to vote! One of the most important things you can do this summer for your kids is vote in the August 10 primary election. Minnesota is the only state in the union without a state board of education or an elected education commissioner, so whomever we elect as governor will appoint a commissioner of education. For our school kids this dynamic is critical. What does your candidate believe about public schools? Who do they listen to for information about education policy?

One of Parents United’s key messages is that elections matter – they matter for our kids. “Guesstimates” have an August primary bringing in just 10-15% of all voters. That is a very small number to be determining the outcome for our state over the next four years. Let’s be sure to be there! If you can’t be there in person, the absentee balloting system in Minnesota is user-friendly – take advantage of it!

From the Website

Find these articles — and much, much more — at our News & Events page!

You really won’t believe everything that’s in our News Archive — Check it out!

In this issue

Mary Cecconi, Executive Director (mary@parentsunited.org)
Parents United for Public Schools
1667 Snelling Avenue N., St. Paul, MN 55108
651-999-7391
www.parentsunited.org

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