meeting rundown

What’s on deck at the March Regents meeting? A lot of charter school business.

PHOTO: Monica Disare
Regents Luis Reyes and Beverly Ouderkirk go over some paperwork at July's Board of Regents meeting.

New York’s top education policymakers are set to discuss a slew of charter school issues at their meeting this week.

The Board of Regents will decide whether some charter schools should remain open and vote on changes to others, such as increasing enrollment. Additionally, a state work group that has been tackling issues of diversity and integration will meet, and the board is scheduled to discuss its plan to evaluate and support schools under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

Assuming the charter school votes aren’t contentious, the meeting is shaping up to be a fairly quiet one. (Although, there’s always the possibility of a surprise at the last minute.)

Here’s what we know about the items so far:

Charter schools

Twenty charter schools will be discussed, in some capacity, by the board on Monday.

For six of the schools authorized by the board, Regents will formally decide whether the schools are performing well enough to stay open. Others are asking for enrollment increases or a name change. Another set of schools whose charters are up for renewal on Monday’s agenda is overseen by the city’s Department of Education. The Regents can either accept the city’s recommended actions or suggest changes.

Though these votes are typically straightforward, any discussion of charter schools by the boardprovides more insights into how the state’s top education policymakers view them. In the past, Regents have sent mixed signals about charter schools. At their meeting in November, for instance, the board took the unprecedented step of rejecting two charter schools that the state education department suggested approving. But at the same meeting, they approved five different schools, bringing approvals to the highest number in four years.


The Regents “Research Work Group” is slated to meet on Monday. Though no official materials are posted, the group has been tackling issues of integration and diversity. At the last meeting, this work group started outlining potential ideas to address school segregation. They included convening a conference to discuss school integration research and bringing together the state’s civil rights groups to address the issue.

Every Student Succeeds Act

On Monday morning, the state will likely provide more insight into a new rule that will soon require schools to disclose how much money they spend on students.

The requirement is part of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, and it is also at the core of a brewing state budget debate. While ESSA requires schools to disclose financial information, Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to go a step further and give state officials the power to reject local budgets if they do not provide enough money to the neediest schools.

The state’s budget director, Robert Mujica, released a statement on Sunday that seemed intended to justify the governor’s proposal. “The question is not overall state spending. New York State leads the nation in spending,” Mujica said in part of his lengthy statement. “The fundamental question is how much do poor schools receive versus richer schools?”

But New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia has already come out forcefully against the governor’s proposal. The state’s website says only that officials will provide a “recommended approach and time line” for the law’s “fiscal transparency requirements,” but Elia may also use the time to address the governor’s budget proposal.

Extra credit

The board is also scheduled to vote on a new teacher certification area that is specific to computer science, discuss funding for pre-K programs that serve students with disabilities, and provide an update on the state’s work to ensure data privacy.

call for more

Almost half of Detroit district schools don’t have a gym teacher. Next year, that may change.

Students during PE class at Lyn Knoll Elementary School in 2016 in Aurora, Colorado. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)

Since 10-year-old Hezekiah Haynesworth moved to his new school in the Detroit district, he’s always up out of his seat, talking to classmates and getting into trouble.

His mother, Victoria, says he wasn’t always like this. She believes he has nowhere to burn off excess energy because Bagley Elementary doesn’t offer students enough time for gym class or recess.

Bagley Elementary is one of 49 schools in the district without a gym teacher. Out of the 106 schools in the district, only 57 have at least one certified, full-time physical education teacher, according to data obtained by Chalkbeat.

The district employs 68 certified full-time physical education teachers for its student population of 50,875. More than 15,000 Detroit schoolchildren attend a school without a full time physical education teacher.

In Michigan, there are no laws requiring schools to offer recess. As for physical education, schools are required to offer the class, but the amount of time isn’t specified, which means some kids, like Hezekiah, might only go once a month or less.

“He’s had behavior issues, but if he had the gym time there’s different activities he would do to burn off energy,” she said. “They would get that anxiety and fidgetiness out of them.”

Haynesworth might get her wish. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti announced earlier this month that there’s money in the budget to put gym teachers back in schools, along with art and music teachers and guidance counselors next school year, though the budget plan has not yet been approved.

“Not every student is provided an opportunity for physical education or gym” right now, Vitti said at a meeting earlier this month.

The district has almost 200 teacher vacancies, and giving schools money for a gym teacher doesn’t mean a school will be able to hire one.

But Vitti said he has several efforts in the works, like more recruiting trips and better hiring practices, to address the difficulties of finding and bringing in new employees.

Detroit is not the only district that has cut back on physical education teachers in recent years. At a time when schools are heavily judged by how well students perform on math and reading exams, some schools have focused their resources on core subjects, cutting back on the arts and gym and cutting recess to make more time for instruction and test prep. But experts say that approach is short-sighted.

Research on the importance of physical activity in schools has reached a consensus — physical education improves children’s focus and makes them better students.

“Available evidence suggests that mathematics and reading are the academic topics that are most influenced by physical activity,” according to a 2013 federal report.

The link between physical education and improved reading is especially important for the Detroit district. Educators are working in high gear, in part pushed by Vitti, to prepare for the state’s tough new law that will go into effect in 2020, requiring third-graders who don’t read at grade level to be held back.

This year, the Michigan Department of Education has started to include data on physical education in schools into its school scoring system, which allows parents to compare schools. A separate score for physical education might push schools to hire physical education teachers.

Whether the state’s new emphasis on gym class or Vitti’s proposal to place a gym teacher in each district school is enough to put physical activity back in the schools is unclear, but Hezekiah’s mom Victoria desperately hopes it happens.

Hezekiah is given 45 minutes to each lunch, and if he finishes early, he’s allowed to run with the other children who finished early. If he doesn’t eat quickly enough to play, Victoria says she can expect a call about his disruptive behavior.

“I used to think that my son was just a problem — that it was just my problem,” she said. “But it’s a system problem. They don’t have the components they should have in the school.”

See which schools have gym teachers below.

Out of the game

The businessman who went to bat for apprenticeships is out of Colorado’s governor’s race

Democratic gubernatorial candidates Donna Lynne, Noel Ginsburg and Cary Kennedy at a candidate forum hosted by the Colorado Association of School Boards. (Photo by Nic Garcia)

Noel Ginsburg, an advocate for apprenticeships and a critic of Colorado’s teacher effectiveness law, has withdrawn from the Democratic race for governor.

Ginsburg, a businessman who had never run for office before, always faced a tough road to the nomination. He announced Tuesday that he would not continue with the petition-gathering or assembly process after his last place finish in the caucus, where he got 2 percent of the vote.

In an interview with The Denver Post, Ginsburg said, “I don’t believe I have the resources to be fully competitive.”

Just last month, Ginsburg released an education platform that called for the repeal of Colorado’s teacher effectiveness law, the signature legislative achievement of former state Sen. Mike Johnston, also a candidate for governor.

Ginsburg runs CareerWise, an apprenticeship initiative of Gov. John Hickenlooper that allows students to earn money and college credit while getting on-the-job experience starting in high school. His platform called for expanding apprenticeship programs and getting businesses more involved in education.

He also promised to lead a statewide effort to change the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to allow the state to retain more revenue and send much of it to schools. He said that schools, not roads, should be the top priority of Colorado’s next governor.

Ginsburg will continue at the head of CareerWise, as well as Intertech Plastics, the company he founded.

Johnston, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, and Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne have all turned in signatures to place their names on the ballot. Former Treasurer Cary Kennedy, who has the endorsement of two teachers unions, is not gathering signatures and will need at least 30 percent of the vote at the assembly to appear on the ballot. Kennedy finished in first place at the caucus earlier this month.