The obliteration of the least empowered and the most marginalized of our citizens. “Do unto others” was not a suggestion; it was a command.

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-John Dillon. John blogs at Pension Vocabulary.

My blogger friend and I went to Benedictine College the other night to listen to three members of the General Assembly and the currently appointed State Comptroller explain their perspectives on Illinois’ current budget morass.

We had to fill out questions beforehand on small cards and submit them for approval before the program really began.

Governor Rauner appointed Leslie Munger to her current position as State Comptroller after the death of Judy Baar Topinka.  Munger will be running against Democratic Representative Susanna Mendoza (1st District) in November to retain the office.

Senator Michael Connelly and Representatives Ronald Sandack and Grant Wehrli were also present; Sandack sitting in for Jeanne Ives who was unable to attend.

The opening and ending of the program was telling for anyone who happened to be a retired state worker there.

It began with a question of how to reform pensions and ended with a general question of “If you ruled the State?” – a variation on Toney Bennett’s song but without the “Every man would say the world was his friend/ There’d be happiness that no man could end”.

Nope.  Not in their world.

Pension reform is a must – especially for those who might be coming aboard to work in the public sector.  “We’ll need opt outs, buy outs, 401k’s, choices between, options moving forward, reductions in costs, curtailments according to actuarial adjustments…”, they all affirmed.

Good answer.  But, serious question:

If the income of new workers is gone from the necessary investments in TRS and the state continues to make insufficient payments into the public pensions, might the pension system become broken?  And if, according to the Illinois Supreme Court, the state still owes that money, won’t the people of Illinois be obliged to pay for it by sale of state owned property or higher taxes?

Yet, they all confessed one way or another the Illinois Supreme Court had made lucidly clear that current Tier One and Tier Two public sector workers and teachers are guaranteed what they were promised once the began their employment.

Representative Sandack described how the conversations in the Capitol Building had undergone a unreserved shift from an ever present concern for pension-reform-now to a subdued notion no longer discussed.

In the end of the evening’s program as petty “philosophical” dictators, not one of them thought to attack the strength of the current Pension Protection Clause.  Lots of other bullet points, but not the Pensions.

During the evening, Comptroller Munger warned the audience that the current payment for pensions and pension debt would balloon next year to eat up even more of the state revenue – if there actually was a budget and any state revenue.

Serious question: My friend had sent a note asking about re-amortizing the debt like a sensible household in order to eventually reduce annual debt payments rather than pay out more and more.  It must have been lost on the way to the podium.

Read the entire post here.

The impact of the ESSA 1% cap on students of color.

Yesterday, I posted Bev Johns’ article on the ESSA’s 1% cap on testing waivers for students identified as special needs or with disabilities.

“What impact,” I asked Bev, “would this have on students of color? Is there data on whether students of color have been over-identified or under-identified as needing or receiving special education services?”

While there are several studies, the most prominent one is by Paul Morgan from 2015.

The current proposed rule-making on disproportionality (NPRM) put forward by USDOE includes this research (even though the Department continues to claim that overrepresentation is so great that almost 1/2 of school districts must take away 15 percent of current Federal spending on special ed for students ages 6 to 21 to spend it on early intervening – although the Department offers NO proof whatsoever that that would correct the supposed problems), quoted below.

The Department states the following in the NPRM –

(1)  However, research that investigates whether overrepresentation and under-identification of children of color in special education co-occur at the local level is inconclusive.

(2) The Department has included a directed question to specifically request public comment on strategies to prevent the under-identification of children of color in special education.

(3) The rate of identification of children as children with disabilities varies across racial and ethnic groups both nationally and locally.

However, as noted by numerous researchers, various racial and ethnic groups may have differential exposure to a number of other risk factors for disability including, but not limited to, low socioeconomic status, low birth weight, and lack of health insurance.

(Morgan, P.L., et al., 2015.)

Morgan, et al., (2015) compared Black/African-American, Hispanic/Latino, and other children of color to their White peers with respect to identification for one of five impairments (learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, intellectual disabilities, health impairments, and emotional disturbance).

After controlling for a number of covariates, the authors found that children of color were LESS likely than otherwise similar White, English-speaking children to be identified as having disabilities (in some cases, by up to 75 percent).

(emphasis added)

(4) A separate study examined the influence of school- and district-level characteristics – specifically racial and ethnic composition and economic disadvantage – on the likelihood of special education identification for Black/African-American and Hispanic/Latino children. (Ramey, 2015.)

The author found that, on average, schools and districts with larger Black/African-American and Hispanic/Latino populations had LOWER RATES of Black/African-American and Hispanic/Latino children receiving services under IDEA for emotional disturbances or other health impairment.

Further, the author found that, in less disadvantaged districts, there is a NEGATIVE CORRELATION between the percentage of Black/African-American children in a school and receipt of IDEA services.

On average, Black/African-American children in these more affluent school districts were LESS LIKELY to receive IDEA services as the percentage enrollment of Black/African-American children’ increases.

(emphasis added in these paragraphs)

(5) The Department’s review of research found that overrepresentation and under-identification by race and ethnicity are both influenced by factors such as racial isolation and poverty.

(6) While decades of research, Congress, and GAO have found that the overrepresentation of children of color among children with disabilities is a significant problem, some experts and respondents to the June 2014 RFI  have noted that under-identification in special education is a problem for children of color in a number of communities.

These experts and respondents highlight the possibility that policies and practices intended to reduce overrepresentation may exacerbate inequity in special education by reducing access to special education and related services for children of color.

(Morgan, P.L., Farkas, G., Hillemeier, M.M., Mattison, R., Maczuga, S., Li, H. & Cook, M., 2015.) .

Bev added: You can provide input directly to the U.S. Department of Education by making a Comment, and read the Comments made so far,at www.regulations.gov (enter in the Search box: ED-2015-OSERS-0132-0001)

Random thoughts. Et ego nesciebam.

RANDOM

The three biggest lies: 1. The check is in the mail. 2. Rahm didn’t know. 3. ESSA means teacher evaluations aren’t tied to student performance anymore.

Scratch #1. Do people write checks anymore? We aren’t exactly first adopters and we haven’t ordered new checks for years. Plus, I think there is one mail box within  four-square miles of my house.

There once was one on the corner of Fullerton and Kedzie and one on Palmer Square. Now, I think there is just one by City Lit bookstore. And the post office on California.

The folks who work at the Logan Square post office are very pleasant, even if it takes twenty minutes waiting in line to buy stamps.

Why do I buy stamps? Habit.

So, no checks. No mail.

Two.

Rahm says he had nothing to do with the firing of Troy LaRaviere.

By the way, I said hi to Troy last night at The Hideout where CPS teacher Erika Wozniak and Joanna Klonsky (who The Chicago Reader proclaimed The Best Political Flack in Chicago) interviewed newly elected State Representative Theresa Mah. They are the bad-ass version of Ben Joravsky and Mick Dumke’s First Tuesday at the same location.

Troy was at The Hideout, but plenty of folks were at his former school expressing their anger about the whole process at a meeting with CPS officials.

Rahm didn’t know about the Laquan McDonald video. He didn’t know about Barbara Byrd-Bennett. Or fugitive City Conptroller Amer Ahmad.

If it were up to Rahm, we would change Chicago’s motto from Urbs in Horto to Et Ego Nescieban.

Three.

The NEA claims ESSA ends the practice of evaluating teachers based on measures of student performance.

Baloney.

In states like Illinois, where union leaders went along with Arne Duncan and pushed legislation, that link is now written in stone. It is the law. Nothing in ESSA undoes that.

 

 

The 1% testing wars.

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Graphic: NY Times

-Bev Johns

Why do D.C. based civil rights, disability and special education organizations all insist on Standardized Testing for ALL students with disabilities?

Why do they insist, through the new Federal policy of Results Driven Accountability for special education, that all students with disabilities meet a grade level standard on the NAEP tests that students without disabilities do not come close to meeting?

The Federal special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), is entirely about the individual needs of ONE student, not standardized Instruction, not a standardized classroom, not a standardized teacher, and not a standardized Test.

IDEA is specially designed instruction for one student that provides a Free and Appropriate and Public Education (FAPE) in the Environment that is Least Restrictive (LRE) for that individual student along the required Continuum of

Alternative Placements, as detailed in the IEP where all decisions are made ONLY by the IEP Team.

The new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), replacing No Child Left Behind, requires every student with disabilities, no matter how complex or severe, to take the State Standardized Test, excepting only 1 percent of all students who have severe cognitive disabilities.

The 1 percent still have to take a state test, just a different one.

The U.S. Department of Education set up a Negotiated Rule making (Neg-Reg) to recommend rules to implement ESSA, including rules on the 1 percent and on a definition of severe cognitive disabilities.

According to Education Week:

The toughest part of the assessment negotiation was on tests for students with severe cognitive disabilities.

The Neg-Reg group finally decided NOT to have a Federal definition of severe cognitive disabilities but to let each State decide on a definition.

According to Education Week:

But the regulations set strong parameters for the definition states come up with, at the behest of civil rights advocates on the panel. For instance, states can’t identify a student as having a severe cognitive disability just because that student doesn’t do well in school, or only because that student is an English-language learner. And states have to take into account both students’ adaptive behavior (how they handle being in school) and their cognitive abilities (their academic potential) in writing their definition.

The suggested regulations will make it very hard for states to get a federal waiver of the 1 percent limit, although local school districts can get a waiver from their state if they can justify having more than 1 percent of students with severe cognitive disabilities.

In a major defeat for the civil rights groups, the Neg-Reg group rejected a rule intended  “to make sure that poor and minority students aren’t disproportionately identified as having a severe cognitive disability.” Recent research has shown that concentrated poverty, low birth weight, etc. results in students of color being under-identified for special education.

There is a developing backlash against major civil rights organizations within minority communities over standardized testing.

An April 24th article in the New York Times, Race and the Standardized Testing Wars, states:

When the parents of more than 200,000 pupils in the third through eighth grades in New York chose to have their children sit out standardized state tests last spring, major civil rights organizations were quick to condemn their decision, along with similar movements in Colorado, Washington and New Jersey.

Reliable testing results, they argued, broken down by race, income and disability status, were critical in holding schools accountable for providing equal education for all.

By refusing to have their children participate, the parents were “inadvertently making a choice to undermine efforts to improve schools for every child,” according to a statement by the groups.

Because the families opting out were disproportionately white and middle class, testing proponents dismissed them as coddled suburbanites, while insisting that urban parents, who had graver concerns about the quality of their children’s schools, were supportive of the tests.

Earlier this year, proponents of testing began using the hashtag #OptOutSoWhite – a spin on the #OscarsSoWhite social-media campaign – to suggest that testing opposition was a form of white privilege.

Yet as testing season unfolds this year, the debate is becoming murkier.

More minority educators, parents and students are criticizing the tests, opening a rift with civil rights groups and black and Hispanic educators who support testing, like Secretary of Education John B. King Jr.

Their complaints are wide-ranging.

They argue that the focus on testing has forced struggling schools to cut back on enriching programs like field trips and arts education.

Some view testing as part of a larger agenda, driven by test companies and opponents of teachers’ unions, that seeks to wring profits from education while closing public schools and replacing them with non-unionized charter schools.

Others say that the tests are damaging to students’ self-esteem, because students interpret low scores as proof that they are inferior and destined to fail.

Third NOLA charter falls to unionization.

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Following Hurricane Katrina’s destruction, New Orleans public schools were disbanded and all union teachers were fired. The city became the first all-charter school district in the country.

Last week teachers at Lusher Charter School became the third school in the city to join the teachers union.

The Lusher board voted 6-5 to refuse to recognize the union.

Teachers have asked the Labor Relations Board to force a vote.

The statement from teachers at Lusher:

Teachers and staff at Lusher Charter School announced today they have formed a union. Educators at Lusher made public their commitment to stand together as the United Teachers of Lusher, an affiliate of the United Teachers of New Orleans and the American Federation of Teachers. Teachers delivered to management a petition of union support signed by a majority of teachers, teacher assistants and other certificated staff at Lusher. They are now calling on management to recognize their union and move forward with negotiating a collective bargaining agreement.

Lusher educators have come together to improve working conditions, job security and transparency, in order to strengthen the education they provide to their students.

“I look forward to continuing Lusher’s tradition of success while working hand-in-hand with administration to improve our school,” said Julie Sanders, a social studies teacher at Lusher. “It’s important to commit to a partnership that gives teachers a voice in how to best meet the needs of our students. Granting teachers this voice will help us attract the highest-quality and most innovative teachers to our school and keep them. Our students will benefit from programs designed with input from our highly qualified staff.”

“I am proud to be a member of United Teachers of Lusher because I love Lusher,” said Brad Richard, a creative writing teacher at Lusher. “In my 10 years here, I have seen students achieve phenomenal things, and our effort toward greater transparency, fairness and a stronger voice for teachers will only make this an even better place for our students and their families.”

“Teachers in charters are building a movement for a real voice for themselves and their students, so they can secure respect and fair workplace conditions, and help shape professional development, evaluations and other decisions that affect their students. The AFT will continue to stand with them at Lusher and across the country,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

Educators at Lusher Charter School will be the third such group at a charter school in New Orleans to form a union with UTNO, joining teachers and staff at Benjamin Franklin High School and Morris Jeff Community School.

“We stand with the teachers of Lusher and with teachers in charters across New Orleans as they organize for a voice in their schools,” said Larry Carter, president of the United Teachers of New Orleans. “We know we share many common challenges and a common vision of professionalism and high-quality, student-centered education.”

“At the heart of real reform is the formal recognition of the voices and the value of those who instruct and care for students,” said Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers. “It’s both admirable and inspirational that teachers and instructional staff at Lusher Charter partner with administration in the best interests of their students. We’re hopeful that administration will welcome this partnership.”

Founded in 1917, Lusher is a K-12 school authorized by the Orleans Parish School Board that combines rigorous academics with a fine arts focus. It is consistently ranked among the best schools in Louisiana. Its graduates have won tens of millions of dollars in combined scholarships to attend top universities throughout the United States.