Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How EduJobs Saved Senate Bill 1

After several years of legislative haggling over education reform, KERA, and testing, the Kentucky General Assembly finally came together to chart a new path for the public schools when it passed a revised version of Senate Bill 1 in 2009.

Gone were earlier claims that attempts to kill “the CATS test” were merely an effort by state Republicans to undermine public education. Pushed by disgruntled teachers, Democrats were suddenly on board saying it was time to move to the next phase of reform. The abandonment of CATS became the central focus of R’s and D’s alike.

Nationally, it is hard to find much distance between the educational ideologies of Republicans and Democrats. Most of the debate is between two groups made up mostly of Democrats. Except for the use of fixed targets, and allowing individual states to define what it meant for a student to be “proficient,” President George W Bush’s use of NCLB testing is a lot like the policy of President Barack Obama - who promises to fix the broken NCLB measures but has yet to accomplish it.

Both camps seem to be listening to Bill Gates when it comes to education policy. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s agenda of charter schools, national standards, a national exam, longitudinal data systems and the use of student achievement results to evaluate teachers has been broadly accepted by hundreds of education groups – as have hundreds of millions of Gates dollars for those willing to follow along.

In Kentucky, Senate Bill 1 provides a good plan but no budget allocation to make it work.

In an effort to salvage his central mission, Education Commissioner Terry Holliday went looking for money to make Senate Bill 1 happen. It was a hard slog. The Obama administration and Gates provided lots of opportunities for money, but only to those willing to tailor their state systems to fit the national agenda. To show enthusiasm for the new reform agenda, Kentucky became the first state to adopt national standards. That may have earned brownie points from Education Secretary Arne Duncan but it earned too few real points in the federal Race to the Top competition. Holliday’s effort to win a $175 million grant fell short, in large measure but not exclusively, due to Kentucky’s resistance to passing charter school legislation.

“Not getting the Race to the Top funds will slow down our ability to implement Senate Bill 1,” Kentucky Education Association President Sharron Oxendine said. The failure of the Kentucky General Assembly to provide “adequate state funding for our schools will make it even more difficult for Kentucky teachers to assure that all students reach their potential.”

However when the bad news came down, Holliday was not completely out of luck. Kentucky is participating in three separate consortia of states who are working on developing national assessments by 2014. Kentucky recently learned it would share in $330 million to build the new tests.

Part of Holliday’s problem was solved. The state could now build the test, but there was no way to train Kentucky teachers on the new standards – the most important aspect of reform.

Then, just when it appeared that Kentucky teachers would be denied the support they needed to implement SB1, along came EduJobs. The US Congress passed the $28 billion EduJobs bill with the idea of saving teachers jobs but it also allowed flexibility so long as the funds were used to “save or create” education jobs at the school level.

But most Kentucky school districts had already tightened their belts in anticipation of bad budgets and any district that hired new teachers through this one-time fund would end up firing them in the end.

So Holliday saw an opportunity and strongly encouraged districts to utilize Kentucky’s $135 million share of EduJobs funds for “Senate Bill 1 professional development” over the next two years.

Problem solved.

When asked if EduJobs saved Senate Bill 1, Holliday said flatly, “Yes it did.” The money the state failed to budget was provided by the federal government.

And there was a minor miracle. In Frankfort Thursday, a joint meeting of the P-12 and Postsecondary Budget Review Subcommittees passed a unanimous motion asking Governor Steve Beshear, Senate President David Williams and Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo to send a letter to all state superintendents urging them to use EduJobs in support of Senate Bill 1.
“We’re getting a lot of support behind the scenes now that we know about Race to the Top,” Holliday told the Kentucky’s Association of Teacher Educators who met at Georgetown College Friday.

EduJobs which was supported by Congressman Ben Chandler, and quickly pursued by Governor Beshear gives districts local control over decision-making in the use of the funds.

Andy Barr, who is seeking Chandler's seat in the US House called EduJobs a “reckless spending spree.”


This from the Budget Review Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education and the Budget Review Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education:

September 23, 2010

The Honorable Steven L. Beshear
Governor, Commonwealth of Kentucky

The Honorable David L. Williams
President of the Senate, Commonwealth of Kentucky

The Honorable Gregory D. Stumbo
Speaker of the House, Commonwealth of Kentucky

Dear Governor Beshear, President Williams, and Speaker Stumbo:

At a joint meeting of the Budget Review Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education and the Budget Review Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education, subcommittee members discussed with Dr. Terry Holliday, Commissioner of Education, the possibility of utilizing funds from the recently enacted Federal EduJobs Program to support implementation of Senate Bill 1 (2009 General Assembly). As a result of this discussion, the subcommittees voted to request that you jointly prepare and forward a letter to all local school superintendents encouraging them to utilize, to the extent possible, EduJobs funds to support and implement the provisions of Senate Bill 1.

We appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.


Senator Vernie McGaha, Co-Chair
Budget Review Subcommittee on
Postsecondary Education
Budget Review Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary

Representative Arnold Simpson, Co-Chair
Budget Review Subcommittee on
Postsecondary Education

Representative Tommy Thompson, Co-Chair
Budget Review Subcommittee on
Primary and Secondary Education
This from the Gov:

Kentucky to Receive Millions to Support Education, Teachers

Governor Steve Beshear announced today that he has submitted the state’s application for nearly $135 million in federal money to support education and teacher hiring. President Obama signed the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act in mid August, which includes $10 billion to support teacher hiring and retention and other educational support in the states. “Despite the worst economic times in our recent history, we have been able to protect the primary funding formula for primary and secondary education from deep budget cuts,” said Gov. Beshear. “These funds were unexpected, and are one-time in nature, but will help school districts get through a tough year in which their local funds are not growing along with their expenses.” Funds will flow directly to the school districts through the SEEK formula and must be used to retain, hire and rehire school personnel, including teachers. The funds may also be used to support related expenses that were in jeopardy because of funding pressures.

“Even with the protection of SEEK funding, school districts are struggling to maintain teaching positions and instructional programs,” said Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. “These federal funds will provide some much-needed temporary support for the state’s 174 school districts.” Many states have had mass layoffs of teachers, have closed schools, and have made other deep budget cuts to education. “We acted aggressively early in this financial crisis to both cut state spending and at the same time protect education from those cuts,” said Gov. Beshear. “So our schools haven’t faced the disastrous cuts inflicted on schools in some other states.” · In New Jersey, about 3,000 teachers were let go in May. · In Florida, about 550 teachers were let go this spring in Broward County Public Schools alone. · Illinois’ governor recommended an additional $70 million in education cuts on top of $241 million in previous cuts. · Georgia’s fiscal 2011 budget cuts schools and colleges by more than $600 million. For those states, their share of the $10 billion Education Jobs Fund will be used to restore the cuts.

Gov. Beshear reminded school districts to be prudent. “I urge our schools to be cautious and conservative with these funds,” he said. “These funds will help the districts this fiscal year, but they will not be available next fiscal year, which will be more challenging than the current year from a funding perspective.”

And from The Governor's BLOG – who knew?

First, the good news. Kentucky is getting $134.9 million from the Education Jobs Fund, money that we are sending directly to school districts through our current SEEK formula. It must be used to retain, hire and rehire school personnel -- including teachers -- and to support related expenses that were in jeopardy because of funding pressures. In short, 100 percent of these funds will be used to support classroom instruction, which has been a high priority of mine throughout this crisis.

Our schools haven’t faced the disastrous cuts inflicted in other states because we acted aggressively early in this financial crisis to both cut state spending and yet protect education spending from those cuts. Still, as school officials will tell you, these new funds – though one-time in nature – are desperately needed. I urge our schools to be cautious and conservative with these funds because they will not be available next fiscal year, which promises to be even more challenging from a funding perspective.

1 comment:

Ali McKiernan said...

I believe that we need to do everything in our power to promote education by any means necessary. Yes, that bill costs a lot of money but what will our country look like if we are not educated? From what I have read about charter schools in the past, they seem to be successful and produce harder workers.