Who Is In Charge

Romney, Obama at Education Nation

Mitt Romney said Tuesday that the federal government would not aid the 45 states who adopted the Common Core State Standards if he is elected.

Image of voter putting ballot in ballot box.“I don’t happen to agree that every time there’s a good idea … the federal government should finance the implementation,” said Romney, who has opposed a set of new national standards which the Obama administration has supported. “I’m not willing to add more spending to get people happy with me.”

Speaking at NBC’s Education Nation, the Republican presidential nominee fielded questions directly from audience members about testing, local control and unions.

He told one audience member that he “didn’t believe” a poll that found parents in New York City supported the teachers union more than they did Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “I know something about polls, and you can ask questions and get any answer you want,” he said.

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  • The Hechinger Report is a nonprofit news organization that is focused on producing in-depth education journalism. It is an independently funded unit of Teachers College, Columbia University.

Romney also repeated a charge he often makes about teachers unions: that they care about their members’ interests more than children. “The teachers union has every right to represent their members in the way they think is best,” he said. “But we have a right to say, ‘No, this is what we want to do.’”

Romney said he respected teachers’ right to strike, recently exercised in Chicago; his bigger problem was with the fact that the unions donate so heavily to political campaigns, mostly to Democratic candidates. It creates a “conflict of interest,” he said.

President Obama was invited to attend the event but declined, instead giving a speech at the United Nations on Tuesday morning. In a prerecorded interview, Obama, who didn’t comment at the time, weighed in on the Chicago strike, saying he could understand both sides.

“It was very important for Mayor [Rahm] Emanuel to say let’s step up our game,” he said of his former chief of staff. “It was important for the teachers union to say let’s not just blame the teachers.”

Both candidates, however, spoke highly of teachers and the teaching profession in general.

“I really get frustrated when I hear teacher bashing as evidence of reform,” Obama said. “They work so hard. They’re putting money out of their pockets into the classroom every single day. They’re not doing it for the pay.”

Even so, Obama expressed his continued support for merit pay. “I think that pay for performance makes sense,” he said. Romney agreed that the best teachers should be more highly compensated.

Research has shown that merit pay does not have an impact on student achievement. And yet Romney and Obama also spoke of letting research guide school reforms.

“When we have good data that shows how do you improve schools, it shouldn’t just sit in a drawer,” Obama said. “We’re going to tell you what we think works.” Romney cited research showing that class size and per-pupil spending do not have a large impact on student achievement.

Romney also focused on the importance of parent involvement, frequently mentioning that he attempted to make parenting classes mandatory when he was governor of Massachusetts.

When it came to specific early education programs, though, he praised a few privately-run groups, like the Harlem Children Zone, and touched briefly on federal ones, including Head Start, which provides early childhood care for low-income families.

The Obama campaign has charged that a Romney administration would decimate the Head Start budget.

“We can evaluate where those have been effective and less effective,” Romney said of Head Start and other public programs.

Who Is In Charge

Indianapolis Public Schools board gives superintendent Ferebee raise, bonus

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee is getting a $4,701 raise and a bonus of $28,000.

The board voted unanimously to approve both. The raise is a 2.24 percent salary increase. It is retroactive to July 1, 2017. Ferebee’s total pay this year, including the bonus, retirement contributions and a stipend for a car, will be $286,769. Even though the bonus was paid this year, it is based on his performance last school year.

The board approved a new contract Tuesday that includes a raise for teachers.

The bonus is 80 percent of the total — $35,000 — he could have received under his contract. It is based on goals agreed to by the superintendent and the board.

These are performance criteria used to determine the superintendent’s bonus are below:

Student recruitment

How common is it for districts to share student contact info with charter schools? Here’s what we know.

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
Staff members of Green Dot Public Schools canvass a neighborhood near Kirby Middle School in the summer of 2016 before reopening the Memphis school as a charter.

As charter schools emerge alongside local school districts across the nation, student addresses have become a key turf war.

Charter schools have succeeded in filling their classes with and without access to student contact information. But their operators frequently argue that they have a right to such information, which they say is vital to their recruitment efforts and gives families equal access to different schools in their area.

Disputes are underway right now in at least two places: In Tennessee, school boards in Nashville and Memphis are defying a new state law that requires districts to hand over such information to charters that request it. A New York City parent recently filed a formal complaint accusing the city of sharing her information improperly with local charter schools.

How do other cities handle the issue? According to officials from a range of school districts, some share student information freely with charters while others guard it fiercely.

Some districts explicitly do not share student information with charter schools. This includes Detroit, where the schools chief is waging an open war with the charter sector for students; Washington, D.C., where the two school sectors coexist more peacefully; and Los Angeles.

Others have clear rules for student information sharing. Denver, for example, set parameters for what information the district will hand over to charter schools in a formal collaboration agreement — one that Memphis officials frequently cite as a model for one they are creating. Baltimore and Boston also share information, although Boston gives out only some of the personal details that district schools can access.

At least one city has carved out a compromise. In New York City, a third-party company provides mass mailings for charter schools, using contact information provided by the school district. Charter schools do not actually see that information and cannot use it for other purposes — although the provision hasn’t eliminated parent concerns about student privacy and fair recruitment practices there.

In Tennessee, the fight by the state’s two largest districts over the issue is nearing a boiling point. The state education department has already asked a judge to intervene in Nashville and is mulling whether to add the Memphis district to the court filing after the school board there voted to defy the state’s order to share information last month. Nashville’s court hearing is Nov. 28.

The conflict feels high-stakes to some. In Memphis, both local and state districts struggle with enrolling enough students. Most schools in the state-run Achievement School District have lost enrollment this year, and the local district, Shelby County Schools, saw a slight increase in enrollment this year after years of freefall.

Still, some charter leaders wonder why schools can’t get along without the information. One Memphis charter operator said his school fills its classes through word of mouth, Facebook ads, and signs in surrounding neighborhoods.

“We’re fully enrolled just through that,” said the leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his relationship with the state and local districts. “It’s a non-argument for me.”

A spokeswoman for Green Dot Public Schools, the state-managed charter school whose request for student information started the legal fight in Memphis, said schools in the Achievement School District should receive student contact information because they are supposed to serve students within specific neighborhood boundaries.

“At the end of the day, parents should have the information they need to go to their neighborhood school,” said the spokeswoman, Cynara Lilly. “They deserve to know it’s open.”