“Furor in N.J. Over Charter School Space.” By Barbara Martinez. Wall Street Journal. March 22, 2011. The union representing Newark’s teachers is rallying its members to what is expected to be a raucous meeting Tuesday night over whether charter schools should share space with traditional public schools. “Say No to peaceful co-existence in the same school building!” said an e-mail that went out to all 4,800 teachers of the Newark Teachers Union asking them to appear at the regular meeting of the Advisory School Board. The space battle is the first frontier of a system-wide restructuring effort spurred by a $100 million grant from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Over the past month, the school system, which is under the control of the Christie administration, began raising the possibility that charter schools could take over space in under-used public school buildings. Almost immediately, the teachers’ union and others objected. “There isn’t going to be any way that there will be co-existence with charter schools while I’m breathing,” Joseph Del Grosso, president of the NTU, said during an interview Monday. He said sharing space sets up the opportunity for “the haves and the have-nots” because some charter schools raise money from private donors, which allows them to upgrade their part of the building. “We’re saying to kids: ‘You don’t get into the lottery and you’re banished to the school down the hallway?’ That’s horrible, it’s just wrong,” he said. Charter schools, which have more demand than spots, hold lotteries to determine entry. Thousands of children are on waiting lists in Newark.
“Hoosiers on the Lam; Indiana Democrats flee to block more charter schools.” No by-lines. Indianapolis Star. March 23, 2011. Unlike in Wisconsin where only budget legislation requires a quorum, all bills in Indiana require a quorum to pass. So even though Republicans outnumber Democrats 60-40 in the state house and 37-13 in the senate, Republicans can’t change state law without Democrats present to vote nay. Last month 39 Democrats fled to beautiful Urbana, Illinois, to derail “right to work” legislation that would make union membership and dues voluntary. Republicans then gave up on that legislation in hopes of bringing Democrats back to the state to vote on Governor Mitch Daniels’s education reforms. One month later, Democrats are still AWOL. This week the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee began running ads attacking Mr. Daniels and Republicans for “hurting middle class families” and trying “to kill collective bargaining, slash wages for workers and decimate public schools by sending our tax dollars to private schools.” Let’s hope Indiana’s public schools really aren’t so bad that Democrats don’t know how to read. In fact, they’re muddling the issues of collective bargaining and education reform to prevent the public from understanding the Governor’s modest proposals. One of Mr. Daniels’s reforms would limit collective bargaining for teachers to wages and wage-related benefits. Teachers could still bargain over pensions and health benefits, but working conditions, which often drive up school costs, would no longer be subject to negotiations. Also removed from the bargaining table would be evaluation and dismissal procedures. Under the proposed reforms, local districts would be required to develop teacher evaluations that take into account student achievement and year-to-year progress and to base salary increases and lay-off decisions on these evaluations. Imagine that. Job protections would be reserved for exceptional teachers who consistently receive positive evaluations. However, teachers’ current salaries would not be cut and teachers with tenure would not lose their job protections.
“As Student Absenteeism Rises, a Charter School Fights Back.” By Karen Ann Cullotta. New York Times. March 24, 2011. The corridors were calm and the classrooms humming at the Chicago Talent Development Charter High School, but Kirby Callam, the school’s chief executive, was focused on one missing honor student. On a sunny March morning, that 15-year-old was chalking up yet another unexcused absence and falling further behind in his accelerated coursework. As Mr. Callam looked at his laptop, which is loaded with software designed to track the attendance of each of the high school’s 200 students, he said the student had only an 11 percent attendance rate during the last two weeks. Repeated phone calls to his home had not helped. The missing student is part of a worrisome trend. During the 2009-10 school year, Talent Development Charter’s first year, attendance was about 90 percent. This year, it is 85 percent despite a number of anti- absenteeism initiatives — including sophisticated attendance-tracking software, encouragement from a team of young AmeriCorps members, pizza parties and twice-weekly shout-outs called power greetings that welcome students as they walk into the school. Talent Development Charter’s attendance program was developed with help from Johns Hopkins University’s nationally renowned Diplomas Now initiative. While the school’s attendance rate dwarfs those of others in its hardscrabble West Side neighborhood — Marshall High School recorded a 53.5 percent attendance rate for 2010 — it is still losing ground. And Talent Development Charter’s mixed success raises questions about how other Chicago schools with fewer resources can attack one of the system’s most serious problems. At schools in the city and across the United States, chronic absenteeism is affecting performance, particularly among children from poor families. Absenteeism costs money for school districts, because they receive no state payments for students who are not at school. It also contributes to cycles of failure in neighborhoods already facing high rates of crime and poverty.
“The Weekend Interview: Weingarten for the Union Defense; Teachers Union Chief Randi Weingarten on charter schools, reformers Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein, and her star turn in ‘Waiting for Superman.’” By Jason L. Riley. Wall Street Journal. March 26, 2011. Teachers unions are on the defensive these days. The Obama administration is pushing various measures long opposed by the unions: charter school expansion, pay-for-performance, teacher evaluations and more. States and localities are looking to change collective-bargaining rules and scale back costly, bloated education work forces that have grown even when student enrollment was flat or declining. And Hollywood, in recent documentary films like “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” “The Lottery” and “The Cartel,” has highlighted how teachers unions block or stifle education reforms to the detriment of the low-income minority kids who populate the nation’s worst schools. When I sit down for an interview with Randi Weingarten, who has been head of the American Federation of Teachers since 2008, my first question is whether those films are getting her recognized more in public these days.
“Charter School Champion Shifts Focus.” By Sam Dillon. New York Times. March 25, 2011. Green Dot, the schools group based in Los Angeles that challenged conventional practices by staffing its charter schools with unionized teachers, is going through a divorce with its founder, Steve Barr, who is leaving to build a new national charter group. On Friday, Mr. Barr and Shane Martin, the college dean who succeeded him as chairman of the Green Dot board in 2009, issued a joint statement announcing that Mr. Barr would no longer use the Green Dot name as he sought to open charter schools in New York and elsewhere. The Green Dot organization will continue, under the leaders who have replaced Mr. Barr, to run its network of 16 charter schools in Los Angeles. Mr. Barr’s exit left somewhat unclear the status of the Green Dot New York Charter School, which he helped organize in the Bronx in 2007 as a collaboration with the United Federation of Teachers. Marco Petruzzi, who succeeded Mr. Barr as chief executive of Green Dot in 2008, said through a spokeswoman that Green Dot had provided curriculum and other educational services to the Bronx school and would continue to do so. But Michael Mulgrew, the teachers’ federation president, said it would be up to the Bronx charter’s nine-member board of directors to decide whether the school’s future relationship would be with Mr. Barr’s group, or with Green Dot’s management. Alexander Russo, the author of a coming book on the efforts of Mr. Barr and Green Dot to overhaul the troubled Locke High School in Los Angeles, said, “Steve is a hard-charging visionary, as many founders are, and as Green Dot got bigger, people struggled to find an appropriate place for him in the organization.” In 2009, Green Dot reported to the tax authorities that an internal review had determined that Mr. Barr had charged more than $50,000 in expenses to Green Dot that were undocumented or unjustified, and he repaid the money
“Charter school parents gather at Richard Riordan’s Brentwood home.” No by-line. Los Angeles Times. March 26, 2011. Well over 200 parents and school employees went to the Brentwood home of former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan on Saturday to express concern about the future of cash-strapped ICEF Public Schools, one of the nation’s largest charter school-management organizations. Riordan, who is chairman of the ICEF board, had called an ICEF board meeting at his home so that trustees could vote on whether to move forward with ceding control of ICEF’s 15 schools to Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, another large, local charter-school group. After more than an hour of discussion, the board postponed the vote. Riordan insisted that the move would be necessary because ICEF’s debt was too deep and philanthropists were not stepping forward with sufficient funds, according to parents and ICEF staff members who attended the meeting. ICEF Chief Executive Caprice Young holds out hope that the group can remain independent and that the debt load, though bad, is not as catastrophic as Riordan fears. In an interview, Young praised Riordan for raising enough money to keep ICEF afloat this year. Alliance Chief Executive Judy Burton has said that any merger would have to protect Alliance schools from being damaged financially by ICEF’s problems. She added that any takeover would not be hostile — that each organization’s board would have to be comfortable with moving forward. Charters are independently managed, publicly funded schools that, in California, are authorized by an education agency such as the Los Angeles Unified School District. L.A. Unified has more charters than any other school system in the country. Riordan said his plan is to use Alliance’s solid financial reputation to help raise the money necessary to keep individual ICEF schools open, which he said is worth doing even if ICEF itself is no longer in control.
“Private school funding draws ire.” By James Salzer and Laura Diamond. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. March 20, 2011. [For story, go to Law & Public Policy].
“Secret Admirers Give University $100 Million.” By Kevin Helliker. Wall Street Journal. March 23, 2011. In a twist on a higher-education mystery, anonymous donors once again have bestowed riches on Kalamazoo, Mich. The city’s Western Michigan University said Tuesday that it received $100 million from anonymous donors to establish a medical school. WMU ranked it the seventh-largest cash gift ever to a public university. The announcement comes about six years after anonymous donors gained national attention for creating Kalamazoo Promise, an organization that covers tuition costs at state colleges and universities for graduates of Kalamazoo public high schools. Five years after Kalamazoo Promise began writing tuition checks—the total thus far exceeds $20 million—the donors’ identities haven’t been disclosed. That will also be the case with the new medical school, said WMU president John M. Dunn, saying only that the $100 million comes from individuals “passionate and affectionate” about Kalamazoo, the university and the state of Michigan. The medical school will open in the fall of 2013 or 2014 with a debut class of about 50 students. Its opening is part of a slow increase in the number of U.S. medical schools, a trend that many regard as vital to addressing an anticipated severe shortage of physicians.
“SEAS nets $50 million donation; John Malone’s $50 million donation to SEAS is the largest in the school’s history.” By Drew Henderson. Yale Daily News. March 25, 2011. With a $50 million gift to the School of Engineering & Applied Science announced Thursday, University administrators say they now have the resources to put ambitious plans for the school into motion. Donated by John Malone ’63, the gift is the largest in the engineering school’s history and will enable Yale to create 10 new endowed professorships across all engineering disciplines. Dean T. Kyle Vanderlick said that the donation will provide the school with what it needs most in order to improve — prestigious faculty. “When you’re trying to grow a school, an academic unit, it’s about the faculty — that’s the engine,” Vanderlick said in an interview Thursday. “We’re so undersized relative to other schools of engineering, and that’s why this gift is important to us.” The gift supports the hiring of new professors across the school’s four core departments — Biomedical Engineering, Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science — and interdisciplinary research centers. It also pays for two professorships with joint appointments in the School of Management. The engineering and applied science professors, who will be hired from within and beyond Yale’s faculty, will all be known as “Malone Professors,” which Vice President for Development Inge Reichenbach said will be similar to the Sterling professorship. A native of Milford, Conn., Malone attended Hopkins Grammar School in New Haven before graduating from Yale with a degree in electrical engineering. After obtaining his Ph.D. in operations research from Johns Hopkins University, he entered the telecommunications business and has continued to invest in media companies to the present. Malone has a history of support for Yale’s engineering programs: In 2000, he gave $24 million to construct the Daniel L. Malone Engineering Center, named for Malone’s father. The center opened in 2005 and houses the Department of Biomedical Engineering. At the time, it was the largest donation in the school’s history, University President Richard Levin said.
PUBLIC EDUCATION PHILANTHROPY
“Bill Gates Seeks Formula for Better Teachers.” By Stephanie Banchero. Wall Street Journal. March 22, 2011. Bill Gates shook up the battle against AIDS in Africa by applying results-oriented business metrics to the effort. Now, he is trying to do the same in the tricky world of evaluating and compensating teachers. The Microsoft Corp. co-founder has moved on from a $2 billion bet on high school reform—much of it spent on breaking up big, failing high schools and replacing them with smaller ones. Now, he is venturing that improving teacher effectiveness is the key to fixing broken schools. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded $290 million to school districts in Memphis, Tenn.; Hillsborough, Fla.; and Pittsburgh, and a charter consortium in California to build new personnel systems Mr. Gates hopes will be models for the country. In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Gates said the nation spent a “mind blowing” amount of money on education. Still, he said increased taxes and a restructuring of budgets is the only way to substantially improve U.S. graduation rates. And, in the wake of moves by Republican governors in several states to cut costs and curb collective-bargaining rights for teachers and other state workers, he argued that lasting school improvement required more-targeted investment and close collaboration with teacher unions, who are painted by many governors as an obstacle. Mr. Gates has been touring the country recently, urging politicians and educators to eliminate teacher salary increases based on seniority and master’s degrees and instead reward teachers for boosting student achievement.