Parental Trigger Hits the Florida Senate


Throughout Florida's legislative session, education reform groups and teachers' unions have done battle over proposals to pass a very controversial  "parent trigger" law. The state House has already passed its version of the measure and the state Senate is schedule to vote on it tomorrow, while opponents make a last ditch effort to kill the bill. With the session ending on Friday, the stakes for both sides are high. 

Education on the Cheap


Publicly funded online schools run by private companies have been controversial with teachers groups and some education advocates since they started to take off a few years ago. But the concept of educating kids by computer has a strong appeal—not just among lawmakers but also among portfolio managers and investors. The two biggest companies offering online education—K12, Inc. and Connections Academy—are both for-profit, and until recently K12 had been a stock-market favorite. But an article this week on Seeking Alpha, a major investment website, casts doubt on the long-term profitability of K12 in light of poor student results.

With Time Running Out, States Debate Education

(Flickr/Dave Nicholas)

Time flies—just ask the legislators in the 11 states who have to get their business wrapped up in the next few weeks. (New Mexico has already adjourned.) Most of the states began the year with fairly extreme education reform agendas, in terms of both funding and policy. Since then, with pushback from teachers groups, most of those efforts have been watered down considerably. With only weeks to go, key education bills remain up in the air in most of the places, leaving the roles of charter schools, teacher protections, and school funding in the balance.

The End of Affirmative Action in College


As my colleague Jamelle Bouie noted yesterday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Fisher v. UT Austin, a challenge to the use of affirmative action for undergraduate admissions at the University of Texas. I wish I could make a case for more optimism, but I have to agree with the conventional wisdom that Grutter v.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T-ing Teachers?


U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan took to The Daily Show Thursday night to discuss and defend his agency's latest initiative: Project RESPECT. The project looks a lot like 2009's Race to the Top, a chance for states (and in this case school districts) to compete for big grants if they offer ideas that conform to the department's priorities. But unlike Race to the Top, RESPECT is almost entirely focused on teachers and teacher evaluation. It's not likely the Republican-controlled Congress will fund the $5 billion program, which is part of the the president's budget proposal, but the initiative does offer a clearer sense of the department's priorities.

No Such Thing as an Arizona Free Lunch


Subsidized school lunches always seemed like a government program most people could get behind. The federal program gives food to low-income children. Giving food to children who live in poverty—hard to argue with that idea.

In 2010, I was covering a state legislative race out in East Texas. A Tea Party candidate explained to me that free school lunches are bad for society, because were it not for the government program, parents would provide food for their kids on their own. If the kids still couldn't get food, then he believed churches and charities should pick up the slack, rather than the government. But sadly for my Tea Party friend, in Texas, free lunches may be one of the few federal programs that hasn't stirred up too much controversy.

The Coming Battle over NCLB Exemptions


In 2014, no students will be behind in math or reading. All of them will meet grade-level goals. That's the plan according to No Child Left Behind.

Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that ten states were getting waivers from the controversial law’s requirements. The states would implement their own plans, approved by the Department of Education, for improving public schools. New Mexico, the only other state that applied, was not granted a waiver, but Duncan explained htat this was because its application was incomplete. A few days, he said, and the state would likely be approved.

A Ride to School, Brought to You by Disney


Ah, the old days when school buses were yellow, slow, and smelled funny. With state budget cuts to education around the country, more buses may soon stop being so yellow and instead become traveling billboards.  (I'm guessing they're still going slow and smelly.)

Sam Brownback's Anti-Poor Agenda


The GOP presidential primary has offered some odd debates on who cares about the "very poor" and whether there should be a "safety net" or a "trampoline" to help people get out of poverty. Meanwhile, in Kansas, it seems Governor Sam Brownback is hoping to dig a bigger hole for the poor fall into. Between his tax plans and his approaches to school funding, Brownback's agenda overtly boosts the wealthy and makes things harder for the poor. While many liberals speculate this to be a secret goal, Brownback is hardly making a secret of his agenda.

Does Changing the Dropout Age Matter?

Among the many policy proposals in the president's state of the union last night, you may have missed his one-liner, urging states to adopt a dropout age of 18, with a goal of reducing the dropout rate. Right now, in most states students must attend school until they are 16 or 17. However, even before last night's speech, several states were considering legislation to raise the dropout age, like Wyoming and Kentucky. Many states—19 back in 2009—already had raised the age for compulsory attendance to 18.

Rick Scott's Strange Math

Updated to clarify Texas' use of stimulus dollars.

I was surprised when I saw the headline, "Scott, lawmakers agree: Schools need at least $1 billion more." Florida governor Rick Scott kicked off his term last year with proposals to eliminate 7 percent of state government jobs and slash the state budget. He also cut the public-education budget by $1.3 billion. Now, as the Miami Herald reports, the governor is pushing for pumping money back to schools.

Well sort of.

Common Sense Radicalism

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

Apparently California Gov. Jerry Brown missed the memo. Across the country, governors outlining educational priorities for their states have focused largely on more testing and doing away with teacher tenure. The approach is so in-vogue, it reaches across party lines. A few examples: Last week, South Dakota's Gov. Dennis Daugaard outlined his education reform package, including merit pay for high performing teachers and the right to fire those whose students fail to perform on tests two years in a row. On the east coast, New Jersey Gov.

Bad Education

In Arizona, only the courts can save ethnic-studies programs in public schools.

Arizona took a shot at the state's Latino residents last week after a judge ruled that Tucson’s Mexican American Studies (MAS) program violates ARS 15-112, a new Arizona law targeted at ethnic-studies programs in the state.

In response to the decision, state Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal announced that the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) must revise or drop its Mexican-American Studies program, appeal the decision, or face a 10 percent cut in state funding.

Tocqueville for Toffs

On any given day in Washington, D.C., the city’s hotels teem with civic activity. Trade associations, lobbies, corporations seeking government contracts, lawyers looking to influence agency rules—all form a beehive of action. At last count, there were 12,200 registered lobbyists in Washington, according to, and that doesn’t include the many thousands of corporate attorneys who are technically not lobbyists. Of the top-spending trade associations or issue organizations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce leads the list with a budget of more than $46 million. Only one quasi-liberal group, the AARP, is even in the top 20.