Saturday, April 01, 2006

D.C.'s Distinction: $16,344 Per Student, But Only 12% Read Proficiently

D.C.'s Distinction: $16,344 Per Student, But Only 12% Read Proficiently

Posted Mar 23, 2006

The District of Columbia spends far more money per student in its public elementary and secondary schools each year than the tuition costs at many private elementary schools, or even college-preparatory secondary schools. Yet, District 8th-graders ranked dead last in 2005 in national reading and math tests.

D.C.'s public elementary and secondary schools spent a total of $16,334 per student in the 2002-2003 school year, according to a Department of Education study. That compares to the $10,520 tuition at St. John's College High School, a District Catholic school that sends almost all its graduates to four-year colleges.

Last year, however, only 12% of 8th-graders in the District's public schools scored at grade-level proficiency or better in reading in the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress tests that were administered in the District and all 50 states. Only 7% of the District's public-school 8th-graders scored grade-level proficiency or better in math.

Not one U.S. state can boast that a majority of the 8th-graders in its public schools last year had achieved grade-level proficiency or better in either reading or math.

How much money did your state spend per pupil while failing to adequately educate in reading and math the majority of students in its public schools? The answers are in the chart below.

They eloquently make the case for school choice.

The state spending figures below are the total median expenditure per student as reported in "Revenues and Expenditures by Public School Districts: School Year 2002-03," published by the Department of Education in November 2005. The NAEP 8th-grade reading and math scores were published by the Department of Education in October 2005.

To view the rest of the article on Humun Events Online click here.

Friday, March 31, 2006

John Stossel hears from teachers in support of Stupid in America

To the email--there was lots of it from teachers, and to my surprise, most took my side, and were critical of their union:

"Just saw your report tonight on the pissed off teachers. Great stuff. I tried to wake my wife, but she is a high school principal and was zoned out from dealing with it. You are soooo right. The teachers unions have created a safe bureaucracy for teachers where they can sit on their duffs like other government bureaucrats, get a paycheck and never have to worry about repercussions..." Fernando J. L., Houston, Texas

"I am an NYC teacher and I feel unfortunate to be represented by such a loud, offensive group of people...Often, one will hear throughout the halls, 'that's not in my contract!'...If you take on that challenge, I'm sure you will see that teaching is a privilege. To be the one who opens up the world a little bit at a time to new minds is a great position to be in every day..." Karen. B. Mercurio

"John - Keep up your fight for better teachers and don't let the teachers union coerce you..." Cal Phillips, Cayucos, CA

"Thank you so much for showing the rest of America what many students see but are helpless to do anything about it. Now more parents understand what's going on and you shouldn't apologize to anyone..." Alison Wix Cedar Grove, TN

"I am a special education teacher. I don't care for the union myself, but I do like the idea of you teaching for a week..." Christinna Landon

"Mr. Stossel, Hang in there. I am a recently retired teacher and principal of 30 years and believe me EVERYTHING you reported on in 'Stupid in America' was true and in some cases worse. Teachers just don't think they are ever the problem...believe me they are the majority of the problem and those in unions are the very worst." Judy Eledge, Anchorage AK

"I am a public school teacher of thirteen years...and I agree with your assessment of public education and teacher's unions...there are still too many teachers I've work with that I would not want to teach my children...I'm against teacher tenure too. If you can jump through all the hoops and keep your mouth shut for three years of probationary status, you have it made. It would then take an act of Congress to fire you. That gives tenured teachers the OK to settle into mediocrity or to cross the line of appropriate or professional teaching practices. There's a lot of high-priced deadwood that needs cleaned out...J.G. Bertelsen, Tucson, Arizona

"Mr. Stossel, My husband is a school administrator, and I am a teacher. We loved your show, 'Stupid in America.' We thought it was right on!" Todd & Liane Schwarz, In Southern Idaho

For more information on John Stossel's Stupid in America click here.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Reiner Resigns From Calif. Preschool Commission in Spending Flap

Spending already a problem for Universal Preschool in California.

Reiner Resigns From Calif. Preschool Commission in Spending Flap
Wednesday, March 29, 2006

LOS ANGELES  — Complaining of "personal political attacks," Hollywood director Rob Reiner resigned Wednesday from a statewide preschool commission he helped create.
His organization, the California First 5 Commission, has been under scrutiny for its spending practices.
Two weeks ago, Reiner dismissed suggestions that he step down as chairman of the commission, which has collected nearly $4 billion in tobacco taxes to fund early childhood programs. "Everything I've done is completely legal," he said.
But Reiner called Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger over the weekend and resigned, said Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Margita Thompson.
In a letter to the governor, Reiner said: "We agreed that we cannot let personal political attacks get in the way of doing the very best we can for California's children."
Critics accused the commission of a conflict of interest after it spent $23 million in state money on an ad campaign that coincided with Reiner's promotion of a preschool ballot initiative.
The Legislature has asked the state auditor to investigate.

For the rest of the story go to

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Taking on the teachers unions

Taking on the teachers unions
By Frederick M. Hess and Martin R. West  |  March 29, 2006

IT IS RARE -- and risky -- for a governor and national political aspirant to put the interests of children above those of a constituency that has as much electoral clout as the teachers unions. Yet Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has done just that with the education reform package he proposed last September and is touting nationwide.

The governor's bill seeks to upend the status quo in teacher pay and evaluation that has been written into collective bargaining agreements across the Commonwealth. Specifically, it would offer annual bonuses for teachers with a math or science degree who pass the teacher test in their subject, forgo tenure, and receive a satisfactory year-end evaluation. It would also make teachers in all subjects eligible for a bonus upon receiving an exemplary evaluation and empower superintendents to reward teachers who work in low-performing schools. Crucially, the bill would remove teacher evaluation from the collective bargaining process and establish statewide criteria for assessing each teacher's ''contribution to student learning."

While several states and districts nationwide are experimenting with differential pay for teachers, Romney's proposals are noteworthy for their breadth and the size of the proposed bonuses. All told, an effective math or science teacher could receive up to $15,000 a year in three bonuses.

Catherine Boudreau, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, predictably criticized Romney's proposals as ''inequitable, divisive, and ineffective." The MTA denounced the proposal as ''uniquely designed to destroy collegiality in a school," ignoring the fact that performance pay is routine in such other professions as medicine, law, and engineering, not to mention in the Commonwealth's first-rate universities, including those that are unionized by the MTA.

The governor can expect a similarly abrupt reception nationwide -- a fact he should consider as he eyes a presidential run. Teachers unions control enormous political resources, including a network of readily mobilized voters. Moreover, the public likes to think that the interests of teachers and kids are always aligned, a line tirelessly advanced by the unions. The National Education Association's political action committee even bills itself as the ''Fund for Children and Public Education."

However, what the unions want may not always be good for students. Teacher pay is exhibit one. While unions have fought to boost salaries, they have resisted efforts to ensure that this money recruits, rewards, and retains the most essential or effective teachers. Current pay scales reward teachers only for experience and graduate credits, neither of which is a meaningful predictor of quality. The result is that districts reward long-serving veterans while failing to recognize those teachers who improve student achievement, possess high-demand skills, or take on more challenging assignments.

Proposals to revamp collective bargaining by tackling teacher pay are only a start. Teacher collective bargaining agreements extend far beyond bread and butter matters, frequently privileging the interests of employees over those of students.

Across the nation, contracts include clauses that prohibit principals from factoring student achievement into teacher evaluation, that allow senior teachers to claim the most desirable school and classroom assignments, and that engage in a dazzling array of minutiae, such as when teachers are allowed to wear an NEA membership pin. As a result, schools are organized and managed more like mid-20th century factories than professional 21st century centers of learning. None of this serves students, valuable teachers, or communities.

Improving teacher collective bargaining is not only a question of knowing what to do, but of persuading school boards and the public to tackle the issue. State policymakers must change the environment in which negotiations take place by maintaining pressure on local officials to raise student achievement. Local newspapers must shine light on contract provisions that serve adults rather than children. School boards and superintendents need to push for fundamental changes in contract language and fully exploit ambiguous language where it exists. Civic leaders and citizens must support management measures that may entail, at least initially, disgruntled unions and increased labor unrest.

For the rest of the story go to

Frederick M. Hess is director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. Martin R. West is a research fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Response to the Christian Science Monitor' View on Universal Preschool.

Dear Christian Science Monitor:
I was a bit shocked to read your highly one-sided endorsement of "universal preschool” Universal preschool, universal benefits
, as if there were simply no down-side to the concept.
Your article cites a research study done by the “High/Scope” foundation in support of the supposed benefits of preschool. It seems you neglected to mention a few important facts about High/Scope:
• High/Scope is the producer of preschool programs and as such stands to benefit enormously by widespread public financing of such programs.
• In the 1960s High/Scope was the producer of an elementary school program called “Cognitive Curriculum” that failed disastrously in the federal government’s long-term test of nine competing curricula to see the summary click here.
; this program was so awful that it actually reduced the performance of students in already-dysfunctional districts.
• High/Scope is well known for twisting the facts to suit its own purposes. In an effort to discredit the winning competing curriculum in the aforementioned study, High/Scope published a fraudulent analysis of the long-term effects of that curriculum (and in fact still publishes it today at

); the rebuttal to this travesty can be found at
Considering High/Scope’s decades-long slavish dedication to failed ideology in childhood education and its record of perennial failure when measured by standards other than its own, I would have to say that your use of this organization as a reference calls your own credibility into question.
Secondly you cite the supposed success of Head Start, a program whose efficacy is highly touted by those who have a significant financial interest in its continued funding (including High/Scope). However if we read a more independent government-sponsored meta-study by the RAND corporation, we see that even the government that provides the funding has no clear idea of whether our investment of hundreds of millions of dollars per year has been worthwhile RAND corporation
Meanwhile it seems to me that there are some quite definite downsides that will certainly come to pass if we should adopt publicly funded preschool.
Almost the entire current network of private-sector preschool providers will of course be demolished by this move. In place of the wide variety of competing independent providers we have now, we will see an enlargement of the public school monopoly - an enormously hungry and powerful organization that is famous for its lack of interest in suiting the individual tastes and needs of its “customers.”
Implementation of universal preschool will of course create an even larger support base among its beneficiaries, namely the parents who will have their children managed at public expense. This even-larger constituency will make it even harder than it is now for taxpayers to fight against the eternal tax increases demanded by this utterly inefficient and corrupt system.
And of course all universal preschool will empower the teacher’s unions even further, bringing in more union dues from all those preschool workers who will soon discover that they must now “pay to play” and carry a union card in order to keep their jobs. Along with unionization will come, of course, all of the union-oriented malaise that has afflicted the public schools for almost half a century now (a discussion of that alone would fill another letter entirely).
Another predictable result is that the use of preschool services will undoubtedly rise dramatically. No doubt this is wonderful news for people in the preschool business. But I don’t think it’s good news for the kids who would have enjoyed the company of their mothers for another couple of years, and whose mothers would never otherwise have considered dumping them in someone else’s lap.
To suit the insatiable monetary appetite of the public school administration and its unions, eventually preschool will be made mandatory. Already the people who stand to make billions off of this policy are trotting out “experts” whose job is to convince mothers that they’re doing damage to their children by keeping them home. But soon those mothers won’t need convincing … instead they’ll instead need some really creative excuses to keep the truant officers from grabbing their 3-year-olds out of their hands.
This expansion of the power of the already utterly mediocre and over-funded public school system is a travesty that we’ll be regretting for decades to come.
David Ziffer

Monday, March 27, 2006

Yes to oversight for school contracts

The following editorial appeared in the Daily Herald. Anyone investigating their schools finances needs to follow these money trials.

Yes to oversight for school contracts
With the emotions surrounding many of the school district referendums in last week’s election still fresh, it’s clear that taxpayers do care when it comes to how money is raised and how it is spent.

And when they are unhappy, they can take care of things at the ballot box — either by voting against a tax-increase in a referendum or by voting for their local school board members.

A new state law would put those school board members on the hot seat — where they belong — by requiring a board vote for contracts that bring in $1,000 or more in revenue. As Daily Herald staff writer Bob Susnjara reported Sunday, starting July 1, public school boards must vote on deals for vending machine exclusivity, class rings, photography, sports apparel and other items and services. A report would be required to state how the revenue was used.

We think that provides a necessary check and balance on contracts that in the suburbs have brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars for some school districts. For example, Stevenson High School inked a contract for soft-drink exclusivity in 2002 that is estimated to be worth $850,000 over five years.

“We learned that there was significant amounts of money for contract agreements and arrangements that sort of floated below the radar of school boards,” said state Sen. Dan Cronin, an Elmhurst Republican who helped sponsor the bill.

Another suburban district was allowing first-year teachers to sign off on income-generating contracts involving clubs. That’s just poor policy, as GOP Rep. Renee Kosel of Mokena acknowledged.

“I’m not saying there was any illegal activity going on,” she said. “I just believe we should have the sunshine of day on it.”

At Warren High in Gurnee, school officials approved tighter financial controls after it was learned the school board did not oversee a five-year $120,000 contract with Coca-Cola. Because they acted on their own and instituted controls, a Warren school board member said the new state law is not needed.

“I really think (the law) is an abuse of what a school board should be doing,” said Warren board member Charles Crowley Jr.

We disagree. There is nothing more important for a school board to do than oversee how districts spend their money. In an age when the tax cap is causing more and more districts to ask taxpayers for more money, it’s good policy for board members to have strong knowledge of all money moving into and out of the district.

The Illinois Association of School Boards took a neutral position on the law, but we’re heartened by the sentiment of Bill Dussling, president of Northwest Suburban High School District 214, in the Daily Herald story Sunday: “There should be oversight for any contracts that are signed. Absolutely.”

Sunday, March 26, 2006



Internet exclusive: On Full Disclosure™ 12 min Video
March 25, 2006
Full Disclosure

Los Angeles, CA. – Angry parents and taxpayers in South Orange County are featured in an eleven minute FULL DISCLOSURE™ Internet video, describing unsafe and unsanitary classrooms, gross fiscal mismanagement and school corruption – all of which sparked their unprecedented campaign in 2005 to recall all seven members of the Capistrano Unified School District. This "Free" video is available "On Demand" 24/7 as a public service of the Full Disclosure Network™ and can be accessed from the link in this paragraph.

Featured in the video are three leaders of the CUSD Recall Committee, the grassroots organization that led the campaign to
remove all seven CUSD Trustees from office. Tom Russell, official spokesman, Mark Nielsen, campaign research and analysis and Jennifer Beall, campaign organizer, cite many of the unacceptable conditions that led to this "mini-uprising." The CUSD Recall Committee organized and managed the recall campaign; successfully raising public awareness and collecting more than 177,000 recall petition signatures.

In this preview of the ongoing Full Disclosure Network™ special series, CUSD Recall Committee leaders discuss the many failings of the CUSD Trustees and Superintendent, including:

Failure to provide adequate classrooms and facilities for the children Squandering $52,000,000 on a luxurious administration building for themselves Allocating $130,000,000 to a new high school adjacent to a large, active landfill Ignoring the voter referendum that rejected the controversial "Toxic High" project Entering into suspicious land deals with developers
Misusing taxpayer funds and bond proceeds Circumventing the democratic process by appointing Trustees before
elections Citizens from the communities of Aliso Viejo, Coto De Caza, Dana Point, Ladera Ranch, Laguna Niguel, Las Flores, Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano are working together to reform their school district. They have also called upon law enforcement authorities to commence a full and complete investigation into the compelling allegations and evidence of serious crimes, corruption and cover-ups at CUSD.

Hosted by Leslie Dutton, the Full Disclosure Network™ public affairs television programs are featured on 43 cable systems and the worldwide Internet website www.fulld In 2002 the program was presented with a public affairs Emmy Award from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences entitled "L.A.'s War Against Terrorism" which was presented by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Channels and airtimes can be found on the website.

Watch this 12:26 minute Internet Exclusive Video Here.

Leslie Dutton
Full Disclosure Network
Tel: 310-822-4449