Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tuesday 2/27/07

Voucher victory out of Utah: Edspresso has a good overview including some information on other counties implementing this and why schools-to-be are a bit slow to jump on board.

Three percent of Utah students currently attend private schools. In the Netherlands, the figure is 75 percent. The difference? The Dutch enacted their universal school voucher program in 1917, and Utah's passed just last week.

In a nail-biting 38-37 vote, Utah's heavily Republican House of Representatives passed the nation's first universally available school choice program. The Senate followed, by a vote of 19-10, and Governor Jon Huntsman signed the bill into law.
These ARE Public Schools: Virtual public schools are on the legislative agenda via HB1872/SB2008. I do believe it's past time for this option, especially in light of zero tolerance laws. This would allow many of those students to stay in school and get their diploma instead of just being thrown out into the community.

One of the groups that will fight against this (along with the teacher's union and the service employees) is the Home School Legal Defense Assocation (HSLDA). HSLDA's concern is that parents will misunderstand this 'school at home' option to be homeschooling. HSLDA has made it clear that they will not accept as members virtual school families and that may cut into their membership numbers and political power (they've got a lot in common with those employee unions).

HSLDA does make a good point in one area. It doesn't cost the same amount of money to run a virtual school as it does a brick and mortar one. Legislators may want to reconsider the portion of the legislation that gives "equitable resources" to these virtual schools. We're not on the cutting edge of this education choice. Surely, there is financial information in other states which can help us come close to reimbursing for actual costs.

I really like the freedom this legislation provides with this line:
6(2) The same length of time for learning oppportunities per academic year that is required for public school students, unless such school can show that a student has demonstrated mastery or completion of appropriate subject area.
If only all public school students had that same freedom.

MNEA elections are coming up. I'm glad to see that members may have a change in leadership. Presidential candidate Jane Walling is exactly correct in saying “It’s time for positive change and it’s time to restore the professional image that MNEA teachers have.”

Compare her comment with that of current VP Eric Huth:
“We’re obviously concerned about membership because we’re a member service organization for one thing and the other issue is that our membership level determines whether we remain the certified bargaining agent for teachers,” Huth said. “We’re already in the process of trying to work up a campaign to address membership here in the spring.”

According to current MNEA president Jamye Merritt, who is unable to run this year due to term limitations, approximately 60 percent of Metro schoolteachers are members of MNEA. In order for the group to maintain its position as the major bargaining agent for teachers as a whole, it must have memberships of at least 50 percent of all teachers. City Paper
The MNEA is viewed as a union, not a professional organization in the community. With the probable loss of Peer Assistance, Leadership and Support (PALS) money from the MNPS budget this looks like a great time for the professional organization to take on the task of mentoring their own. It would also enhance the value of membership and perhaps help keep that magic 50% membership number.

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