Monday, January 24, 2005

Your Bond Money at Work

I'm continually amazed how school districts blow millions of dollars in bond money--without building any actual buildings. Yet, voters continue to say yes to more school facilities bonds. This week San Francisco Unified is the case in point.

San Francisco's city controller has found major accounting mistakes in the school district's spending of construction bond money and is urging the district to stop additional projects until it fixes the problems.

In a report to be released next week, Controller Ed Harrington's office found a lack of communication between district departments, computational errors, contradictions in what phase of construction projects were in, no record of $30 million in bonds that had been sold, no record of $13 million that had been spent and $19 million noted simply as "miscellaneous spending."

Good to see that this is what happens after the school district "reforms" there school construction system.

Harrington's findings come after what Ackerman has called a major cleanup of the district's spending on facilities. Under her predecessor, Bill Rojas, the district misspent at least $100 million from four voter-approved bonds, and promised projects never materialized.

Posted by lisas at 02:05 PM | Comments? Email Us

Monday, January 03, 2005

Disincentives to Teach in Chicago

Chicago provides a clue as to why teacher turnover might be high and to why as the Seattle Times reports in a given year, "almost one-third of the 3.4 million K-12 teachers are moving into, between or out of schools."

The Chicago Sun Times reports that complaints about city teachers and other public school employees living illegally outside Chicago tripled during the last school year.

The horror:

Chicago public school teachers were caught living as far away as Plainfield, Lockport and even in posh Glencoe, according to Inspector General James Sullivan's annual report, released Thursday.

Almost all CPS employees hired after 1996 must live in the city, and this school year, principals were ordered to make sure new hires move into the city within six months of their starting date. Schools CEO Arne Duncan insists the system has been able to recruit more and better qualified teachers, despite the residency requirement.

Sure. Way to be competitive and attract those high quality teachers.

And good to know Chicago is targeting resources to improve the quality of education for the city's students.
Privatization Watch--Education Issue

We are opening the new year with an issue of Reason's Privatization Watch focused on education issues. Some of this is material you may have seen before, but much of it is new.

Some of the articles in this issue are:
1. No Way Out: The Illusion of School Choice
2. Helping Charters Schools Help Special Ed Students
3. Bad Schools Threaten Urban Renewal
4. D.C. Schools May Follow Privatization Trend
5. Top-Heavy Education

Read it at here.
Bring on the Charter Schools

As the No Child Left Behind Act matures, it appears that at least a few low-performing schools will be put up for a bid.

In Colorado’s first forced conversion of a low-performing public school to charter status, the state board of education has directed the Denver school district to hand over its lowest-performing middle school to the nonprofit Knowledge Is Power Program, or KIPP.

Rival proposals for the Denver charter came from two for-profit education management organizations with experience in taking over failing schools: Edison Schools Inc. and Mosaica Education, both based in New York City. A Denver parents’ group called Padres Unidos had submitted a fourth plan proposing to replicate a locally operated charter school in Pueblo, Colo., called Cesar Chavez Academy.

Nationally, the conversion of Denver’s Cole Middle School marks one of the first times that a state has compelled a district to convert a failing school to charter status. Observers elsewhere are watching in part because the federal No Child Left Behind Act identifies conversion to charter status as one of five approaches states can take to turn around schools that repeatedly fail to make the grade.

Like all forced conversions and government-mandated solutions, charter-school conversions will only work based on the free movement of students between schools and the local school district's right to end contracts with low-performing charter schools. However, this development is a big step forward from years of coddling low-performing schools with extra resources despite zero improvement in student educational outcomes.