Education Week - October 16, 2013 - (Page 24)

BLOGS Districts File Applications For Race to Top Funding POLITICS K-12_News | Despite some delivery problems that came alongside a federal government shutdown, 219 applicants made the Oct. 3 deadline for the U.S. Department of Education’s second Race to the Top district contest. A few more from Colorado may have trickled in, however, as districts affected by flooding in that state had until Oct. 10 to apply. This year’s applications, made by districts and groups of districts, represent 678 school systems in 44 states. The only states without any Race to the Top district applicants were Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming—plus Hawaii and the District of Columbia, which count as just one district each. Awards will range from $4 million to $30 million, with a total of $120 million to be awarded. Last year, the U.S. Department of Education received 317 applicants, so interest is down. But so is the money up for grabs. Last year, $400 million was awarded; less than half that is now available. The money will be awarded by the end of the calendar year, even if that means calling back some federal employees to work on the judging process. —MICHELE McNEIL | Education on Horizon for 2014 Elections CONTINUED FROM PAGE 21 special session where lawmakers ultimately stopped short of agreeing to a “permanent underfunding” of K-12. She also said her filibuster would have the long-term effect of giving more prominence to voices of teachers and parents opposed to a reduced budget. In the 2013 legislative session, lawmakers approved a $3.4 billion boost in education funding, up to a total of $52.7 billion, for the 2014-15 fiscal biennium (the Texas Legislature meets every other year), a decision that Ms. Davis also highlighted in her kick-off speech. A lawsuit opposing the 2011 cuts is making its way through the Texas legal system. In 2009, Ms. Davis introduced a bill to provide easier access for severely autistic students to therapeutic services. But when she came to believe that the bill could be used to implement vouchers, she pulled it, recalled Kathy Miller, the president of the Texas Freedom Network, a K-12 advocacy group that considers Ms. Davis an ally. “She ultimately understood that the bill could be damaging to public schools,” Ms. Miller said. This year, her vocal opposition to a proposal from Republican Sen. Dan Patrick, Electoral Underdog Ms. Davis is starting out as the decided underdog in the race, which so far also features state Attorney General Greg Abbott on the Republican side (other gop candidates include a former chairman of the Texas Republican Party, Tom Pauken). The state government is controlled by the gop, the state hasn’t elected a Democratic chief executive since 1990, and Texas has voted for the Republican candidate in every presidential election since 1980. Early polling shows Mr. Abbott with a lead, but many respondents said they didn’t know enough about the candidates to choose a favorite. With lingering questions about the state’s K-12 funding system and new proposals likely on the way from school choice advocates, “2015 is definitely going to be a major, major education session in Texas,” regardless of who wins in Texas next year, said James Golsan, an education policy analyst at the nonpartisan Texas Public Policy Foundation, which supports vouchers and parent-trigger laws. Legal Showdown Looms In Kansas Funding Case STATE EDWATCH_News | If you’re interested in a K-12 political battle that doesn’t pit one group of lawmakers against another, look no further than Kansas, where the state Supreme Court and legislators seem to be at loggerheads over the future of education spending in the state. What’s the story? The Kansas Supreme Court is considering a 2010 lawsuit brought by several school districts, Gannon v. Kansas. The districts argue that the state has failed to live up to its constitutional obligation to fund schools. Specifically, the 2010 suit says the state hasn’t abided by a 2006 ruling from the same court, in Montoy v. Kansas, in which justices said the legislature wasn’t making “suitable provision” for paying for public education, referring to language in Article Six of the Kansas Constitution. After the 2006 ruling and much “wrangling,” as the Kansas City Star puts it, lawmakers agreed to pump about $750 million in new money into schools. But the state got slammed by the Great Recession, and the new funds didn’t materialize. This in turn led to the 2010 Gannon lawsuit, which is essentially a continuation of Montoy. Earlier this year, a Kansas district court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, who are seeking at least $440 million in new funding, a per-student spending boost from $3,800 to $4,500. Now that the case is before the Supreme Court, the judges are making it clear that the onus for the current legal wrangling in court rests with the state. “It stands before me, in my eyes, as a broken promise,” Justice Eric Rosen said during arguments on Oct. 8. But state Solicitor General Stephen McAllister claimed that simply increasing funding commitments wasn’t a sustainable model. “The legislature has to deal with the real world,” he said. “The constitution shouldn’t be a suicide pact.” During the 2013 legislative session, Kansas lawmakers seemed to sense that the court wouldn’t necessarily look favorably on their budget decisions with respect to Montoy and Gannon. For a February story I wrote about school funding lawsuits, I quoted Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle, a Republican, about the issue: “We believe [the justices] should not be appropriators and that that role should be clearly left in the hands of elected officials.” —ANDREW UJIFUSA the chairman of the Senate’s education committee, to create tax-credit scholarships for private school tuition also exposed typical rifts between the parties on certain education policies. Ms. Davis argued that funds directed to private schools through the tax credits “would have otherwise gone to the public school system.” At the same time, there was strong bipartisan support this year in the Texas legislature for House Bill 5, which reduced the number of tests students are required to take, noted Matt Prewett, the founder of Texas Parents Union, a nonpartisan group. In a May statement supporting the bill, Ms. Davis said it meant teachers “will be assessing their children with far fewer tests, but with a curriculum that makes sense.” “If you want to bridge the divide, K-12 education is a very good place to start,” Mr. Prewett said. LM Otero/AP | Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis, a Democrat, has vowed in her gubernatorial campaign to protect state funding for schools and to fight voucher proposals. High Court Term Opens Amid Federal Shutdown CONTINUED FROM PAGE 21 (No. 12-1479) argued that her remarks were private speech, and that the school engaged in viewpoint discrimination in censoring them. Campaign Finance, Age Bias The court also heard arguments last week in two cases of interest to educators. In a case about campaign finance, the politically active teachers’ unions filed or joined friend-of-the-court briefs arguing for upholding aggregate federal limits on contributions by individuals. The aggregate limits are meant to prevent a donor from circumventing direct campaign-contribution limits by giving to multiple candidates, parties, and party committees, all in support of a desired candidate. The limits are being challenged on First Amendment free-speech grounds by Shaun 24 | EDUCATION WEEK | October 16, 2013 | McCutcheon, an Alabama business owner and Republican Party activist, who would like to give more than current limits allow. The National Education Association, citing its interest in “fair elections and clean government,” said in its brief that the aggregate limits are justified “by the compelling interest in combating both the reality and appearance of corruption arising from large campaign contributions.” The American Federation of Teachers made a similar point in its brief, saying that without the aggregate limits, “a small cadre of donors will be able to contribute millions of dollars to candidates, parties, and political action committees, and candidates and officeholders will be permitted to solicit large sums from potential donors, functionally reviving the ‘soft money’ system that Congress acted to end a mere 11 years ago.” At the Oct. 8 arguments in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (No. 12-536), the court’s conservative members appeared skeptical of the aggregate limits, while the court’s liberals suggested they were necessary to stem the growing influence of wealthy donors in federal elections. On a separate matter, the justices a day before heard arguments in Madigan v. Levin (No. 12-872), a case about whether public employees may sue for age discrimination under the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment in addition to the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. The question is significant, and the case drew friend-of-the-court briefs from the National School Boards Association (on the side of public employers) and the nea (on the side of employees). The oral arguments exposed procedural problems with the case, brought by a 61-yearold assistant state attorney general in Illinois who claims he suffered age bias when he was dismissed and replaced by a younger lawyer. The justices indicated they might dismiss the appeal or send the case back to lower courts.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - October 16, 2013

Sequester May Linger, Some Fear
Parent-Sparked Charter Faces Challenge to Deliver
Pa. Texting Furor Shows Difficulties Facing IT Leaders
Educators Launch Startups; See Steep Learning Curve
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Teachers Use Social-Emotional Programs to Manage Classes
Ind. Districts, AG File Suit Over Federal Health-Care Law
Hospital Partnership Provides Trainers for School Sports
Mass. Enterprise Targets Inadequate Preschool Facilities
Blogs of the Week
Tablet-Computing Initiatives Suffer Major Setbacks
Charter-Campaign Aftershocks Continue
Texas Race Flags Education Issues On 2014 Electoral Horizon
School-Related Cases Factor in Supreme Court’s First Week Back
Lights On, Nobody There As Ed. Dept. Weathers Shutdown
Blogs of the Week
KEVIN MEUWISSEN: Teachers as Political Actors
ANDRE BENITO MOUNTAIN: Easing Social Studies Through Turbulent Times
JUDY WALLIS: A Call to Teachers: Don’t Forget the Joy
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
DEBORAH STIPEK: Using Accountability to Promote Motivation, Not Undermine It

Education Week - October 16, 2013