Parents Petition for Forestville High’s Return to Full Military Academy

fhs1Some parents and students in the Forestville High School community say recent changes may be the cause of violent attacks there this year, and they want the school to go back to a full military academy.

Charmaine Scarlett, a Temple University student who graduated from Forestville High in 2014, said it was just a military academy when she was a freshman but changed in 2013.

The school opened to neighborhood children to increase dwindling enrollment, a Prince George’s County Public Schools spokesman said. As it stands, the school’s building is still underused.

Military academy students dress and act like military personnel while regular students have school uniforms and a more relaxed structure. Some call that a distraction.

Teacher Marq King told News4 he’s noticed a deterioration in the atmosphere of the school since the change.

Hundreds of parents are petitioning to have the school return to a full military academy.

Board of Education battles before passing budget

school-board-pic4

UPPER MARLBORO – The Prince George’s County Board of Education engaged in one of its most bitter battles in recent memory while giving approval to changes to the school system’s 2016 budget.

Despite two motions to amend the budget and a motion to table the discussion, the Board passed the 2016 fiscal year budget as proposed to them by Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO 7-2 with three abstentions.

Board members could not agree on anything, such as which items to vote on together and which to separate. Both the budget and the ratification of the local 2250 union, the Association of Classified Employees American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, were introduced under the budget consent agenda. Originally the two were separated for voting, but after Board Chair Segun Eubanks questioned separating the agenda items, Board Member Cutis Valentine motioned for them to be voted on together, and later refused to separate them after objection from other members to them being tied together.

“The motion is for 7.4 (2250 contracts) and 7.5 (the budget). We can have a discussion on 7.4 and 7.5 right now, can we not? I’ve been told that if this does not pass and someone makes a motion to accept 7.4, someone will second it, we will have a decision on it, it will pass or it will fail,” Valentine said. “Then someone will make a motion on 7.5, someone will second it, we’ll have discussion, it will pass or it will fail. We can have a discussion right now on 7.4 and 7.5 as we would if the motion does not pass.”

However Board Member Verjeana Jacobs said she felt the process the county and the school system have used for recommending the budget this year has eroded the public’s trust in the Board. For example, she said, she was not aware of County Executive Rushern Baker III’s plan to propose a 15 percent tax increase for education until she went to the grocery store and a constituent asked her about it.

Board Member Edward Burroughs III said he was disappointed by the “political games” he believes some members of the board have played at the expense of employees.

“I’ve been on this board since 2008, longer than anyone else up here except for one person, and this is the worst I’ve seen it,” he said. “I am taken aback to be honest. I think to tie the budget vote to the negotiated union contract was despicable, because we negotiated with that union for months and that union’s negotiations and their step increases and the things that we promised them had nothing to do with that budget vote. But some decide to play games instead of working through tough issues and that’s what you saw and that has no place in a district like ours and that will not move our district forward”

Rosalind Johnson, a former teacher, student and Board of Education member in Prince George’s County, said during the public comment that she was disappointed in the board, the budget it had created and its lack of funding for what really matters to children.

“There are questions that need to be answered and to understand how this budget benefits Prince George’s County Public School system now and in the future. I’m going to end my statement by saying, school systems were set up for children, adults are essential, but we must make sure the needs of our children come first,” she said.

During the meeting board member Beverly Anderson moved to amend the budget and have $5.2 million shifted from international schools to services for students failing both basic literacy and mathematical skills. She said the school system could not afford a separate or new building for international schools and the budget, as it is, does not reflect the Board’s desires.

While other members agreed low-level learners are in need of more funds and programs, Maxwell said, with his voice raised, there is no intention of housing the international schools in a new facility and the majority of the funding for the new program is from a grant.

“To the particular issue of paying $5.2 million with money from one (English-language-learners) school, I would say that as we stated at the workshop last week, the appropriation reflected in this budget for the ELL schools is a total of $2.8 million not $5.2 million,” Maxwell said. “Secondly, half of that is $1.4 million and we’ve said over and over again in the months before this, that the Carnegie folks and the international schools have indicated that there is a likelihood that we will be asked to return half of the $3 million to Carnegie if we don’t open two schools as we agreed to do.”

Anderson’s amendment failed after a 6-6 vote. Further discussion broke out over whether the vote needed two thirds to pass or only a majority, but Eubanks said either way the amendment failed and attempted to continue the budget discussion.

Jacobs then moved to have the full day pre-kindergarten program increased to 20 sites instead of the 10 allocated in the budget.

John Pfister, the director of budget and management services for PGCPS, said the new locations would cost an additional $1.3 million, which again caused questions of where the funds would come from. Pfister and Maxwell both said it would take time to “move the needle” and move funds from another already funded program.

The pre-kindergarten amendment failed 7-5.

Board Member Zabrina Epps then moved to have the budget and the 2250 contract tabled until June 30, citing her lack of confidence in the budget’s representation of the will of the Board. The school system must have a budget in place by July 1.

Epps’ motion also failed 6-5 with one absention.

The budget and union contract both passed with no amendments in a 7-2 vote with three abstentions.

Before the meeting, Anderson, who chairs the Board’s finance, audit and budget committee, released a report wherein she voiced frustrations with the bureaucracy of the school system and claimed her committee from providing input during the development of the budget.

“Unfortunately, the Board chair did not allow the opportunity for the Board to dialogue with the Committee on its findings and recommendations. Further, the chair appeared to minimize the involvement of the Committee during the hearing and thwart the efforts of the Committee,” she wrote in her statement.

Anderson refused to comment on her report, but did express to Sherrie Johnson, a spokesperson for PGCPS, that her report was “accurate and true.”

Eubanks said he had read Anderson’s report, but was not aware of any specific accusations.

“I think Dr. Anderson is doing a great job. I think the work of the finance and budget committee has gone well. I think we had a very interesting and challenging budget season, as you just heard, but I look forward to us continuing to work together and I have a great deal of respect for Dr. Anderson and her work and I couldn’t be happier with the work she has done on the budget committee and I plan on spending a little time with her and working that out,” Eubanks said.

Burroughs, who also served on the committee said he agrees with Anderson and said the board needs to stop “playing games on the back of our students.”

“At some point we have a decision to make and that is are we going to continue to run the system as we’ve always run it?” Burroughs said. “Are we going to continue to use the school system as a playground for political games or are we truly going to move the district forward. And we can’t do that without accountability, we can’t do that without performance audits, we can’t do that without a clear vision.”

The board will not meet again until early August.

via Prince George’s County Sentinel

images1imagescalhguwb***

Dooms day for teachers Unions?

school_protests_600By this time next year, everyone in the education world cheering the Supreme Court’s progressivism on health care and gay marriage may be singing a different – and sadder – tune. In its next term, the court will hear cases that could end affirmative action in higher education and curtail the power of teachers unions and other public employee unions. This latter case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, could dramatically weaken teachers unions and scramble the education landscape. The prospect of a defanging of the unions has many in education hopeful after the court agreed to take the case earlier this week. In practice, though, the ramifications of Friedrichs are not so straightforward.

The case turns on the question of whether public employees can be required to support union activities related to their work. Today, teachers and other public workers can elect to opt out of the political parts of union activities and only pay “agency fees” to support union activities benefiting them directly in the workplace. California teacher Rebecca Friedrichs and other California teachers argue that even agency fees compromise their First Amendment rights and want the court to overturn the 1977 Supreme Court case extending agency fees to public workers. In other words, yes, here’s an instance of teacher voice and activism the unions aren’t so excited about.

Friedrichs rocketed through the courts, encouraged in no small part by bread crumbs the court’s conservative justices left in related cases, most notably a 2014 case where Justice Samuel Alito declined to overturn the 1977 precedent but pretty much asked for a case like Friedrichs so the court could consider the issue. That’s why teachers unions are nervous – Friedrichs is a strong argument, and the Supreme Court’s willingness to hear it after lower courts ruled against Friedrichs and her colleagues is an ominous sign for opponents.

If the Supreme Court overturns agency fees, the bottom line is that the teachers unions – and other public employee unions – will have less money and consequently less power. Given the apathy in their ranks (teachers union elections have notoriously low turnout, for instance, and technically “none of the above” wins every contest), changing tastes among younger teachers and the professional rather than industrial nature of teachers’ work, a system of voluntary unionism represents an existential threat to teachers unions.

The National Education Association, which has more experience operating in right-to-work environments, is better positioned than the more urbanized American Federation of Teachers, but both will face real challenges if today’s rules are overturned.

Teachers union advocates and critics are loathe to admit it, but the effects of weaker teachers unions would be both good and bad for schools. On education policy, the unions are rarely helpful players these days – remember education is a field about teaching and learning where debate still rages about whether it makes sense to consider actual classroom performance when laying off teachers. When the interests of students and adults in the education system come into conflict, the unions are obligated to represent the adults, creating obvious problems on a host of operational and policy issues that are instrumental to running effective schools. Because the teachers unions can elect their management – via school boards – the normal balance of power in labor-management relations is often absent in the education context.

[READ: Teachers Petition Supreme Court to Overturn Forced Collective Bargaining Dues]

Yet the interests of adults and students are not always in conflict. Education funding, working conditions, adequate curriculum and professional development, teacher training and broader issues of health care, nutrition and social services are examples of issues where what’s good for teachers is also good for students.

In addition, on the whole, educational management isn’t going to win any awards for excellence. The reality is that every anecdote about outrageous union defenses of incompetent or dangerous teachers can be matched with crazy stories of ineffectual or ridiculous behavior by management. Underneath the heat of today’s education wars, there is not a lot of day-to-day policy attention focused on these issues. If the unions wither, something must fill these various roles for the education sector to thrive.

Meanwhile, many progressives have quietly tolerated the teachers’ unions intransigence on education reform because union money is so helpful on a range of social issues and causes. That marriage would be tested in a post-Friedrichs environment, creating challenges as well as opportunities for new political alliances.

My hunch? Union opponents look poised to catch the car they’ve been chasing for so long, so the education field should prepare for a post-Friedrichs world. Perhaps a no-agency fee situation will make the teachers unions leaner, stronger and more effective, but I wouldn’t bet on it. In Wisconsin, where the unions saw their power diminished legislatively by Gov. Scott Walker, the results have been mixed substantively and politically, but the unions hardly came out winners.

So like a dog that finally has its teeth on the bumper, teachers union proponents and opponents are about to find out reality is a lot more dynamic than it appeared at a distance. 150701_union.jpg

***

 

Reports of Charter School Fraud Grow as Oversight Continues to Lag

charter-school-protest-When charter schools appeared on the educational scene, they were envisioned as a way for public schools to experiment with new and better systems and methods to teach our children. While across the country their numbers have grown dramatically, they have transformed from educational laboratories into the bulwark of an alternate educational system designed to give every family the ability to choose a school that meets its unique perspective of what is best for their children and a mechanism through which power of the marketplace can be channeled to solve the problems in public education.

Given the ability to operate outside the traditional public school bureaucracy and often freed from many of the mandates and requirements that traditional public schools are required to fulfill, charter schools have all too often also become laboratories for ways to misuse public funds and mislead their supporters. Examples of mismanagement and worse make headlines regularly; two new ones hit the news just a few weeks ago.

In Dayton, Ohio, the Education News reported:

“A recently-closed charter school in Dayton, Ohio now owes taxpayers close to $1.2 million after it was said to have falsified its attendance records and received state funding for students who never attended the school. An investigation by state auditor Dave Yost found that almost half of the reported 459 students enrolled at General Chappie James Leadership Academy had either never attended the school or had already left the school. Of the alleged students found by investigators, some had been incarcerated, moved out of state, or had been working and not attending school.”

Across the country, in San Francisco’s Bay Area, ABC News recently uncovered that the FAME charter school had not been paying many of their vendors. “County officials say as of March, the school had enough funds in its reserve to make payments to vendors and their recent attempts to get financial statements from FAME have been unsuccessful.”

Over one year ago, the Center for Popular Democracy and Integrity in Education issued a report in response to one from the Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General that had raised concerns about vulnerabilities in the oversight of charter schools, pointing out that “state level agencies were failing to provide adequate oversight needed to ensure that Federal funds [were] properly used and accounted for.” The CPD report found “charter operator fraud and mismanagement is endemic” and “at least $100 million in public tax dollars has been lost due to fraud, waste, and abuse.”

Six distinct categories were needed for this report to capture the practices of the charter school operators that were studied:

  • Charter operators using public funds illegally for personal gain
  • School revenue used to illegally support other charter operator businesses
  • Mismanagement that puts children in actual or potential danger
  • Charters illegally requesting public dollars for services not provided
  • Charter operators illegally inflating enrollment to boost revenues; and
  • Charter operators mismanaging public funds and schools

At the federal level, despite the apparent misuse of such large sums of scarce funds and the lack of adequate oversight mechanisms, the 2016 budget that is working its way through Congress includes a significant increase in funding with little if any increase of management. According to Jonas Persson of PR Watch, “Despite drawing repeated criticism from the Office of the Inspector General for suspected waste and inadequate financial controls within the federal Charter Schools Program—designed to create, expand, and replicate charter schools—the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is poised to increase its funding by 48 percent in FY 2016.”

There are also concerns at the individual state level, but little progress seems to have been made in limiting the losses.—Marty Levine

USA-Flag-Wallpaper-01

***

Former FIFA VP Jack Warner says he’s ready to sing

XJ6DSKKWFormer FIFA VP Jack Warner – accepted a $10 million bribe in exchange for his support for South Africa in the voting for the 2010 World Cup

Former FIFA vice president Jack Warner says he has an “avalanche” of evidence linking FIFA, including President Sepp Blatter, to worldwide soccer corruption and promised to reveal all that he knows about wrongdoing at world soccer’s governing body. Warner also said he has evidence linking top FIFA officials to the 2010 general election in his native Trinidad and Tobago.

Warner, former president of soccer’s governing body in North America, Central America and the Caribbean, is at the center of a U.S. investigation into FIFA corruption. American prosecutors say he accepted a $10 million bribe in exchange for his support for South Africa in the voting for the 2010 World Cup, which was held in South Africa.

30861_l

FIFA headquarters, | Zurich | Switzerland 

switzerland-04

Switzerland

***