Thursday, January 25, 2007

Bush Proposes Adding Private School Vouchers to 'No Child' Law

In the Washington Post today...

The Bush administration yesterday unveiled an education plan that would allow poor students at chronically failing public schools to use federal vouchers to attend private and religious schools, angering Democrats who vowed to fight the measure.

The private school vouchers, which on average would be worth $4,000, were among a series of proposals presented yesterday that President Bush hopes will be included in the reauthorization of his signature education initiative, No Child Left Behind.

Click here for the complete article.


Heather Brooks said...

Seems a bit like Bush picking a fight.

The one thing in the article that irritated me was this:

"Reg Weaver, president of the National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers union, attacked the administration's proposal to allow some school administrators to override labor contracts to push out bad teachers and attract better ones."

Hey REG - why can't it be in the union contract that if you are a poorly performing teacher that a better one can come in and take your place? Seems fair to me! It's the way most of the rest of the world works!

LegalBeaglette said...

Amen, Heather!

Anonymous said...

That's always been one of the larger problems with unions: protecting and harboring mediocrity or less.

Anonymous said...

I have no problems with vouchers as long as private schools are held to the same standards as public schools.

That means they have to accept all children regardless of ability, income, or disability. They have to provide special ed services to all children who qualify. They have to make sure all teachers are certified AND highly qualified.

Also, their students all have to take MSA's and HSA's and meet AYP.

Oh wait, then they would be public schools.

Heather Brooks said...

I second imissjerry's motion.

Any union folks out there care to answer my question?

Anonymous said...

It has nothing to do with unions. Poor teachers can be removed, but unless there is criminal behavior they are entitled to due process.

If a principal doesn't want to take care of their responsibility and document the teacher's poor performance and then follow through, how is that the "union's" fault. First EACC is not even a union. It is not even legal for teachers to have a union in the classic sense in Maryland.

Heather Brooks said...

They keep declaring themselves a union - don't they? What do you mean they aren't a union? In what sense are they not a union? And why do you say Maryland teachers aren't allowed to have a union in the classic sense?

As for how it's their fault - I was quoting what the article says -It says this RIGHT IN THE QUOTE:

" allow some school administrators to override labor contracts to push out bad teachers and attract better ones."

That implies that the labor contract somehow protects bad teachers, doesn't it?

It does the way I read it.

Jennifer Abell said...

Heather - EACC is NOT a union. I've been corrected on numerous occassions also. Don't know all the details or the in and outs. Maybe someone else can explain. I know they act like a union. They even helped organize a sit out back when Gesl was Chairman of the BOard of Education. I believe it was in protest of salaries.

Anonymous said...

As for how it's their fault - I was quoting what the article says -It says this RIGHT IN THE QUOTE:

" allow some school administrators to override labor contracts to push out bad teachers and attract better ones."

That implies that the labor contract somehow protects bad teachers, doesn't it?

It does the way I read it.

Contracts protect both parties who enter into them. They are legally binding documents.

Are you implying that teachers are required to live up the terms of a contract but not administrators?

Heather Brooks said...

imissjerry -

"Are you implying that teachers are required to live up the terms of a contract but not administrators?"


That was a big help, thanks.

Does anybody with something helpful to add care to explain the legalities of Maryland/unions short.

I'd also be interested in any theoies as to why the press keeps referring to the EACC as a union?

LegalBeaglette said...

I’ll try, though no doubt there is someone out there who could answer the question much better than I can.

The issue is largely one of semantics. Per Merriam-Webster, a labor union is an organization of workers formed for the purpose of advancing its members' interests in respect to wages, benefits, and working conditions.

Now we go to the law, specifically the Education Article.

Look at Title 6, Subtitle 4 "Organization of Certificated Employees." There you will find that § 6-402(a) states that public school employees may form, join, and participate in the activities of employee organizations of their own choice for the purpose of being represented on all matters that relate to salaries, wages, hours, and other working conditions. In CCPS, that’s the EACC.

So, use of the word “union” by the press, by MSTA (Maryland State Teachers’ Association – which states “MSTA and its local affiliates serve a variety of functions for members, but perhaps none is more important than our role as a union” and “In Charles County, the union is actively protecting employees and students from a difficult board of education.”), and (just to be fair here) you and me, is a legitimate use of the term.

Note that imissjerry referred to a “union in the classic sense.” In a nutshell, that is because § 6-410(a) of Title 6 prohibits the “employee organization” from calling or directing a strike. (Who among us doesn’t generally associate the term “union” with the ability to strike?)

That is why, a decade or so ago, you saw the “work to the contract” response by the EACC while it was negotiating its contract with CCPS. “If you (CCPS) won’t give us what we want, we’ll do only what the contract in place requires us to do, and absolutely nothing more.” If you are tracking Bill Fisher’s Board presentations, you might infer a warning of a repeat of that “work to the contract” tactic.

It’s a union by strict definition, but not “in the classic sense” because of some of the legal restrictions placed upon it.

Anybody out there with corrections or clarifications to this – feel free to post them!

Jennifer Abell said...

legalbeaglette - Very good explanation. I even find myself calling the EACC a union at times but honestly that is they way I perceive them.

im1ru2 said...

Wow! And now that I am very late to the party and have nothing to say about the "union" or not issue, I would like to say the following about vouchers.

We have found ourselves in several tight spots with regards to "schooling" our kids; not enough physical buildings, not enough teachers, quality of the education itself and even maintenance of the buildings we do have just to name a few.

First, when we talk about vouchers for "private" schools everyone always assumes right away that means some type of religious school. Although many times that is correct it is not always the case. There are many other private schools that are not religious by nature but are not public either.

Next, every child living in Maryland and Charles County whose parents dutifully pay their share of their taxes but do not send their child or children to their Charles county school are SAVING the county money!

The money that is allocated for that child or those children is budgeted into the "headcount" for that district as if that child or those children were sitting in the seats that that child or those children should be sitting in for the school or schools that he or she or they would be attending if he or she or they were not attending private school(s).

When people and or politicians start jumping up and down about taking public school dollars out of the public schools and putting them into the private schools they are literally talking stupid! This is money already allocated for that child – who is not there in that public school! Tax money from the Parents of the Kids not in the Seats of the School getting the money! What “Public” Money? Is there a “Public’ money tree I don’t know about somewhere? We are not talking about taking ADDITIONAL MONIES or money from some other kid in the public school and giving it to a private school kid.

But we are talking about usually a much smaller amount (voucher) than what the state allocates to the district. Whenever vouchers are discussed we are usually talking between $2,500-4,500. The average cost of educating a student in Maryland is about $8,000, which is right around what the school is getting per child - whether he or she is there or not!

The argument over public and private money for education has gone on for years but was decided at the Supreme Court level with the ruling in favor for education leaving out religion but keeping in everything else. They call it indirect aid. This is how they came up with the rulings for allowing transportation; books; using the gyms; library, etc. This was settled long ago but seems to get argued over and over.

Did you know that on the first day of school every kid from every private school could report to their designated or districted school and request their books? They belong to them just like every other kid. Do you know what a budget crunch that would put the school system in?

Right now Charles County is the worst in the State for trailer classrooms. Why not allow vouchers to the tune of $4K which is less than what each parent contributes in taxes toward the school budget and each school gets for the student. It would mean millions less in school building costs. Millions less in teacher pay. Millions less in teacher pensions (over the years of course). Building maintenance will go down. And you know what? You are giving parents and kids a choice. Forget building a school a year over the next 5-10 years at the tune of 20 million dollars per school

Again, these are not all religious schools. How come the biggest opponent to vouchers and education choice seems to be coming from the NEA and (most) public school teachers and the politicians who have lined their pockets with contributions during their campaigns?

If the kids really mattered it seems they would really want to give this a try.

Jennifer Abell said...

I hear what you are saying and it makes sense but I agree with imissjerry in the fact that they must be held to the same standards as public schools, i.e. HSA's etc.

im1ru2 said...

Private Schools (at lest Catholic ones in the Washington Arch-Diocesan) have test called Terra Nova - their version of the MSA. Otherwise they would be oh, public!

But, yes I do agree they need to have standards and be held accountable and not just open their doors and not just wave a flag and yell, "no one can look at our books or testing we are private".

Believe me, as parents, the top share holders in these institutions (without "unions" or "non-unions") we have a great say in the "results oriented" curriculum that takes place within the educational infrastructure within the schools. The test(s) reflect this. Whether the MSA or the Terra-Nova the kids are tested and the scores are indicative of the learning environment created at these schools.

And remember, not all these schools are elite "blonde-hair-blue-eye-suburban-rich-kid" schools. Many of these schools are in the poorer neighborhoods with minority students who never dreamed they would be ever going to a private school. Also, some of these private schools lack many, many of the basic resources the public schools find at their fingertips; technology, overhead projectors, gyms, science-labs, workbooks, supplies, etc.

Some of these schools operate in annual budget debts as high as half a million dollars a year - counting on donations from individuals and parish support to bail them out each year. Not all of them make it. These kids loose their school and end up in the public schools (a lot of them anyhow - adding to the public school roles, now what?) all because again people have the perception the private school is "stealing" public money.

But yes, there should be the accountability, certainly. Teachers should be accountable. But then they should be paid the same right? How about they average $19,000 starting salary compared with the public school starting salary of $42,000 in Charles County. Yes, it is a personal choice - but again people are saying the rules should be the same. Well, let’s say the ALL rules should be the same, that's all.

Right down to taking all the kids. Special needs kids. Religious schools can't get the Federal dollars for any renovations for work on buildings for kids with special needs because they are religious schools and certainly they can't afford to make the changes on their own - the proverbial catch 22- and the answer is that the child with the special need would be to have the school district he or she would attend send the money for renovations to the private school he or she is attending instead but there is no way that school would ever do that. We are talking money, forget the child! (But please do not misunderstand my statements here: I know for a fact that many of the Catholic Schools do take kids with special needs. Do they NOT take some? I am not sure and can not say no, but I do not have any facts on the numbers. I am going to find out).

Private schools have their place and they are not for everyone. I have one child in private school and one child in Charles County public elementary school. My oldest son has gone to private Catholic Schools all his life and now attends Catholic High School and thrives. My youngest started in Charles County public school and then we moved him to a Catholic elementary school and determined he would do better in the public school environment and he has. The public schools in Charles County can and do – do a fine job with lots of parental support, just like private schooling.

The two subjects here – MSA’s and vouchers are very similar in that they both are tied to budget and parental input and support and matching the student with the school and providing choice. We are supposed to be trying to be results driven and ending up with the best method of providing our “customer” (student/then parent/then businesses) with the best product (and education) whichever that happens to be, public or private. Forget the politics.

My point is we really can fix the problem and the program if we want to by working together on this but for the money and the power and that is the crux of it and through all of this the kids - and our future – will forever suffer.