Friday, May 14, 2010

Holliday's Highwire Juggling Act

Governor Steve Beshear.
Senate Democrats.
Senate President David Williams.
Senate Republicans.
Sen Ken Winters
Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo.
House Democrats.
Rep Carl Rollins
House Republicans.
Kentucky teachers.
School Superintendents.
Sheldon Berman.
The Kentucky Education Association.
Big districts.
Tom Shelton.
Small districts.
Editorial boards.
The Kentucky Board of Education.
Political Action groups.
The Prichard Committee.
Bloggers !
Parents across the Commonwealth.
Oh yeah. And Students.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday has a lot of balls in the air. And he's trying to keep all of them aloft as he navigates the high wire that is President Obama's Race to the Top.

Get a charter bill passed and he's got $175 million to implement Senate Bill 1. Drop too many balls and it's back to an assessment system put together with duct tape and good intentions and an instructional program that fails to deliver what Kentucky teachers need to be successful.

This from Jim Warren at the Herald-Leader:

Education commissioner asks that
charter schools be added
to legislative session

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said Thursday he still hopes that charter schools can be added to the call for a special legislative session this month.

Gov. Steve Beshear announced Wednesday he will call the session May 24 to consider the state budget, but he did not include charter schools legislation on the agenda.

Holliday has said passing legislation providing for charter schools in Kentucky is essential to the state's chances of winning up to $175 million in the second round of the federal Race To The Top grants program next month. Because of that, he's still trying to persuade leaders in the state House and educators to go along with the idea so charters could be added to the special session call.

"We're still working behind the scenes toward that end; we haven't been closed off yet," Holliday said Thursday. "We've done our legwork. Now it's kind of up to the leadership of the House. I don't think there's a problem in the Senate."

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said late Thursday he has not talked with Holliday about charter schools being on the call for the special session.

"But I would be happy to see if he has a vote count showing enough support in the House," Stumbo said. "Personally, I remain skeptical."
Some of that skepticism may be related to feeling that Jefferson County, the Kentucky district that many see as tailor-made for charter schools, has been seen as exempt from the charter law as it has been redrafted.

In what has been Holliday's trickiest maneuver yet, new language in House Bill 109 would seem to exempt Jefferson and Fayette Counties from the need to consider charter schools.

But does it really?

At Monday's Prichard Committee meeting in Louisville the topic certainly came up. The Prichard Committee has not taken a stand on charters but there was clearly interest in discussing the topic in the room. Like the Education Trust, Prichard has not seen charter schools as the central issue in school reform.
Holliday was asked to explain what was up with Jefferson and Fayette Counties in his draft charter language. He told the group,

As we worked with all stake holders, we did have a request from a couple of organizations to put in one thing - Jefferson County being the main one. They're in the middle of a major student reassignment plan and they haven't had enough years for that to work.

But the exclusion we put in there is not an exclusion. It said they would not be required to implement the charter schools. But, the old, it was already written like that.

No district is required to implement charter schools. The local board has the authority to accept or reject any charter school application. If Jefferson County still wanted charter schools, a group could come to the table and tell the Jefferson County board, we want charter schools: Fayette County Schools - we want charter schools.

It would be up to the local board to negotiate that. In other words, the clause we put in was redundant, but it helped me move forward with the negotiations.

The Prichard Committee had spent the day focusing on matters that were more central to the education enterprise; standards, professional development and an improved assessment system. For Holliday, charter school legislation is the means necessary to reach a larger goal.

I guess the reason you all are having a charter school debate is because I said we couldn't win the Race to the Top without charter school legislation.

I still believe that 100%.

All the other states are pushing to improve their Phase II Race to the Top applications. States are submitting their applications right now. If nothing changed, we'd be top eight, and we'd be funded. But the problem is that everybody else is improving also.

The only way to improve with enough points to get Race to the Top, is with charter school legislation.

We tried our best to make the case that we had something even better than charter schools in our site-based councils. The federal reviewers gave us zero points for it.

If you want to go to my blog and track back the last two or three months, you can see the whole debate going on there and we have a bunch of online resources for you.

What I'm trying to do is take this issue to the education community and say 'Ladies and gentlemen, you are one of ten states left that does not have charter school legislation. How long do you think you can avoid charter school legislation? How long do you think that a child in an inner city is more likely to go to prison than to graduate a four-year university. How long do you think that that African American male, that we're talking about right there, can continue to have that type of statistic and not have charter schools.

It's just a matter of time ladies and gentlemen. And no matter how much we fight charter schools we're going to have some type of legislation n the near future. I believe the Tea Party does exist in Kentucky. So I'm trying to push forward a bill that keeps local board authority on charter schools.

Where are we? If you guys don't make a difference in the next three weeks, it's over.

We anticipate a special session in the last week of May. If charters are not on the agenda - and there is no guarantee that they'll be on the agenda. The governor has not made that decision yet. The governor has left that decision to work with the education community to see if we can find common ground upon which to get charter school legislation. I have responded to every group that has talked to me or written and we have proposed draft legislation.

...We don't know what legislation would look like come the last week of May. They can take our draft and work with it, or they can just ignore it, or start with their own draft. So whatever we draft may be important or may not be important.

But if you don't make a difference in the next three weeks - you won't see me talk about this legislation again because the superintendents are overwhelmingly against charter schools. But they understand, and they're willing to go along with it if they get 175 million because of everything you said today that was a concern.

How are we going to train teachers? How are we going to get teachers the support they need?

Right now they can't even afford a math textbook much less training to help them do this. There's $600,000 in the budget for math for textbooks - a dollar and a quarter a child. You can't buy any textbooks for that.

There is hardly any money in there for professional development.

I'm going to be standing in front of an accountability committee this week and they're going to ask me what I'm doing to implement Senate Bill 1. And I'm going to tell them we're doin' a darn heck of a lot. We got regional co-ops working. We got people training. Every resource we've got we're putting out in the field so that we can get this work done.

If we don't get teachers the support they need, Bob [Sexton]'s absolutely right, this will be one more failed effort that will never get to the student level.

And if you think China's eating our lunch today, just wait for about ten more years.

Ladies and Gentlemen, charters are not the answer. They're one of the tools to the answer.

But you're never going to get the money you need, to do what you need to do, if you don't get behind this legislation, or some type of legislation. The only money I know of that's on the table is $175 million. I know of no other money out there that anybody's offering us. And without that funding I can't get teachers what they need.

Holliday told H-L,

"I don't know of any requirement that any stakeholder has given us that we haven't accommodated," he said. "I think behind the scenes we've gotten most all of the stakeholders ... they're not happy with it, but they're OK with it. They understand why we're doing it." ...

"I can't introduce legislation," he said. "We need somebody to introduce the legislation, and then the House Education Committee needs to be willing to hear it, which means the House leadership needs to let it be heard." ...

Without Race funding, implementation would be tough, Holliday said. "I think it would pretty well stop SB 1 in its tracks."

It is unclear if Holliday has gotten the word from on high, but today on his blog he cast doubt about this chances.

This from Dr H's Blog:

Special Session to Focus on Budget Only

This week, Governor Steve Beshear called for a special session of the Kentucky General Assembly. At the time of this blog, the only agenda item is the budget. The special session was called for the week of May 24, and the Governor hopes for a five-day session, which is the minimum to pass legislation. You can see the Governor’s compromise budget and letter to the legislators here.

As commissioner, I am very proud of the Governor for maintaining a focus on education. The Governor is asking for no reduction in instruction for our children and no pay cuts for our teachers. Given the economic imperative that we improve our education outcomes in Kentucky, I am excited to see this focus on maintaining the critical elements of instruction and support for teachers.

While we had hoped to address charter schools in the special session, it does not appear that there is consensus on this issue at this time. While charter schools would have helped with our Race to the Top application for $175 million in federal funds, charter school legislation also would have opened up numerous windows of funding for innovation.


Richard Innes said...

The commissioner made it clear in Friday's EAARS meeting that we are really talking about a lot more than $175 million if we lose RTTT. And, he is very concerned that will will lose without charters.

Right off the top, Commissioner Holliday says there is another $10 million available to states to set up charter-college cooperatives. We currently can't qualify.

Also, private groups like the Gates Foundation are unlikely to send any of the millions they are getting ready to donate to states that don't win RTTT.

Probably, we are talking losing out on somewhere around $200 million - maybe even more - including credibility as a state really interested in education reform, from multiple organizations, if we don't get a charter bill through.

On average, this works out to well over $1 million we will forfeit in every single school district in Kentucky if we don't get a charter bill through.

I really hope the teachers union finally gets this, because they are blocking what many people see as the only real chance for Kentucky to get some serious education dollars in the current fiscal climate.

Richard Day said...

Richard, I agree with you generally but differ on some of the specifics.

The Gates Foundation funds programs that support their vision of 21st century schooling, and that certainly includes charters. But it looks like Gates will continue to fund projects that support their objectives in creating national standards, even in states that lack charters. Similarly, they may well fund the building of new accountability schemes in charter-less states as well.

But you are correct that Gates charter dollars will go elsewhere.

School reform schemes are always debatable. It probably should not be assumed that the proposed programs will all be successful.
We've seen to many instances of seemingly great ideas that disappoint.

For example, Gates put a lot of money into smaller high schools too, but abandoned them when they weren't found to be successful. Reasonable people can disagree on the efficacy of charters and the opposition to them is much broader than just the KEA.