Update: some good national stories about the Seattle strike:
Washington Post The surprising things Seattle teachers won for students by striking
NY Educator What Seattle had that we don't
end of update
Here's what has been happening in Florida and California.
Two big stories out of Florida; one is about the Gates Foundation leaving one district holding the financial bag on a huge project, the other is about Florida superintendents' letter of no confidence in their state testing.
From the Tampa Bay Times:
A seven-year effort to put better teachers in Hillsborough County schools is costing the system millions of dollars more than officials projected. And the district's partner in the project, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is spending $20 million less than expected.
The numbers, found in recent reports, differ significantly from what was commonly understood about the high-profile partnership, known as Empowering Effective Teachers. The district was to raise $102 million for its part, much of it by aggressively pursuing grants from local corporations and other entities. Gates was to kick in $100 million, for a total of $202 million. But as the project stands in its final year, the district's contribution will total $124 million in money and labor, while the Gates organization is paying only $80 million, the reports state. What's more, the district has put the total cost of the program, so far, at $271 million, which includes costs related to the effort.
Much of the disagreement amounted to a change in Gates' philosophy, Brown said. "After a few years of research," she said, "they believed there was not enough of a connection between performance bonuses and greater student achievement."
So not only did the Hillsborough County district NOT get all the money Gates promised, the overall cost is greater and they have to absorb those costs.
The Gates Foundation wants to experiment with public education. That those experiments do not go well for them doesn't matter; they always have another day and another dollar for their purposes. Districts do not. The Foundation says they are still having "ongoing conversations" about how well the project is going in order
According to the article, the district cannot legally back out of the project as it includes performance pay for teachers which is now their state law.
The other Florida story is about a statement that school superintendents put out on Friday. From the Orlando Sentinel:
In a statement issued this afternoon, the state association of superintendents said it was not confident the new Florida Standards Assessments, or FSA, could be fairly used to grade public schools A-to-F or to help evaluate teachers. The state plans to do both.
The Florida Association of District School Superintendents issued a statement with four recommendations, all related to testing and how test results are to be used this year.
The statement does not reflect new concerns. We've reported previously that superintendents remain unsure the about the new FSA -- whose debut in March was marred by technology problems --and how its test scores will be used.
But the statement represents a clear sign that the concerns are statewide and deep-seated.
From California, two huge stories - one about the coming downfall of Mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento (husband to Michelle Rhee) and the move to try to make LA a big charter district.
As mayor, he’s incurred sexual harassment charges in the course of waging a bizarre war on an obscure non-profit organization; soaked taxpayers in his hometown for hundreds of millions of dollars to build a new arena for the Sacramento Kings; and used public employees to do his own private political work while attempting to hide the evidence by keeping email records off the books, Hillary Clinton-style. Most recently—and brazenly—he got a major national law firm to sue both the city of Sacramento and the Sacramento News & Review simply because the tiny weekly newspaper had filed a public-records request.
A new scandal, though, is putting Johnson’s rise at serious risk. It involves the mayor replacing civil servants with private citizens funded by the Wal-Mart empire and tasked with the twin purposes of working to abolish public education and bring in piles of cash for Kevin Johnson.
The rising star, it seems, set up a fake government—and some people are starting to notice.
Lots of folks who used Sacramento city government titles and worked out of City Hall while doing Johnson’s dirty work in the NCBM fiasco were in fact not employed by the city government. They were instead charter school advocates, funded by charter school ideologues, who kept their true allegiances and mission hidden.
Consider that since his 2008 election, Johnson has requested and received millions of dollars for Stand Up, the group that employed the fake civil servants, from the Walton Family Foundation, a conservative grant-giver backed by the founders of Wal-Mart and known for being hell-bent on spreading its pro-charter school gospel.
From the LA Times:
Critics of Los Angeles public schools have outlined an ambitious $490-million plan to place half of the city's students into charter schools over the next eight years, a controversial gambit that backers hope will serve as a catalyst for the rest of the nation.
L.A. Unified already has more charters than any school system in the country, representing about 16% of total enrollment.
The document cites numerous foundations and individuals who could be tapped for funding. In addition to the Broad Foundation, the list includes the Gates, Bloomberg, Annenberg and Hewlett foundations.
"While I continue to support and be proud of the successful charter schools we have in Los Angeles, this plan is not one for transforming our public schools, but an outline for a hostile takeover," said school board President Steve Zimmer.
Dealing with political hurdles is a key element of the expansion plan, for which backers want to set aside $21.4 million. The money would pay for outreach to parents living in neighborhoods with low-performing schools or with charters that have waiting lists. There also would be a legislative strategy to "undo regulatory interference" from government that could hinder charter growth. And there are plans, too, for a "telling the story" effort to engage the media and counter opposition.
I'll note here that the LA Times, like the Seattle Times, has matched up with the Broad Foundation and United Way, to have their own cozy Education Matters, a new Times digital initiative devoted to more in-depth reporting on schools.