Education Week - October 31, 2012 - (Page 14)

14 EDUCATION WEEK n OCTOBER 31, 2012 n New Orleans Board Race a Magnet for Outsiders’ Cash By Lesli A. Maxwell In New Orleans, where 80 percent of students attend charter schools that are not overseen by an elected board, the race for a local school AIGN CAMP board seat has become the latest battleground over how to govern public schools in a city whose education landscape has been radically transformed in the seven years since Hurricane Katrina struck. The campaign for District 3 of the Orleans Parish school board—a panel that directly operates just six traditional public schools and oversees 12 charter schools—features local lawyer Brett Bonin, a oneterm incumbent who is running for re-election against two challengers, Sarah Newell Usdin, one of the city’s most visible charter school supporters, and Karran Harper Royal, a public school parent and long time advocate for students in special education. Though five other school board seats are also up for grabs on Nov. 6, the contest in District 3 stands out for the more than $110,000 in campaign funds that Ms. Usdin has raised so far from her supporters—some of them education activists from out of state who favor market-based reforms. Her contributors include former 2012 New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein and Boykin Curry, a New York City hedge-fund manager and founder of two charter schools in that city. Fundraising on behalf of Ms. Usdin—the founder of New Schools for New Orleans, a nonprofit created after the storm to launch new charter schools in the city—dwarfs that of Mr. Bonin, who has raised more than $24,000 so far, and Ms. Harper Royal, who reported roughly $5,500 in campaign cash as of the end of last month. Potential for Influence The amount of money—and the out-of-state sources for some of it—has prompted sharp criticism from Mr. Bonin and Ms. Harper Royal, as well as from some voters and educators in New Orleans, and is reminiscent of a Louisiana board of education race last year that attracted hordes of cash from out-of-state supporters for one candidate. “You just have to ask what are they doing in our politics,” said Roslyn Johnson Smith, a longtime school administrator in New Orleans who founded a charter school in the Treme neighborhood after the hurricane. “To me, it looks only like a fight over money and political control. It’s a business conversation, not a conversation about educating our children.” Most local school board races are modest affairs, with 87 percent of elected members reporting that they spent less than $5,000 on their most recent election effort, according to a 2010 survey by the National School Boards Association, based in Alexandria, Va. In districts with at least 15,000 students, 10 percent of elected board members reported that they spent more than $25,000 on their most recent campaigns, according to the survey. Though the current portfolio of schools overseen by the Orleans Parish board is relatively small, the stakes are high in the election. The city is the national epicenter for innovation in public schooling, especially in the use of charters. The board has authority to set tax rates and take out debt. It also must hire a new superintendent in the coming months and could begin taking control over city schools that had been swept into the state-run Recovery School District after Hurricane Katrina. “Depending on how this goes, it will mean that even fewer of our schools are under democratic control because a group of wealthy people has decided they want to lock up the Orleans Parish board just like what they did on the state board,” said Ms. Harper Royal, who has no party affiliation. Mr. Bonin, a Republican who supports charters but would like to see more community-based charter schools, agrees that the board’s independence is at risk if Ms. Usdin, a Democrat, is elected. In an email, Ms. Usdin said she is “humbled” by the support she has received. She said that the “transformational change” in New Orleans “has only been possible through the tireless efforts and generosity of partners around the country.” At the time of the storm, the Orleans Parish board oversaw 60,000 students in 100 schools and had become an embarrassing symbol of financial mismanagement and corruption. Restoring Credibility But Mr. Bonin, elected to the panel in 2008, said the board has come far to restore its credibility. “We’ve worked hard to right the ship,” Mr. Bonin said. “We now have the highest bond rating of any agency in the city, and we have the highest cohort graduation rate of any district in the state of Louisiana.” Ms. Usdin’s first foray into elected politics tracks similarly with that of Kira Orange Jones, the executive director of Teach For America of Greater New Orleans, who last year raised more than $450,000 from wealthy supporters, including billionaires Eli Broad, an education philanthropist, and Michael Bloomberg, the New York City mayor, to unseat a long time incumbent on the state school board. (See Education Week, May 23, 2012.) Ms. Usdin, who worked for tfa and the New Teacher Project, has made a large imprint on the post-Katrina schooling landscape through New Schools for New Orleans. (She stepped down as chief executive officer earlier this year.) The 10 charter schools that have been incubated and opened in the city with substantial support from New Schools for New Orleans have posted a mixed record of success. Sojourner Truth Academy, a charter high school, voluntarily closed its doors at the end of last school year for poor academic performance. A handful of others showed gains in state test scores this year, but still received Ds or Fs under Louisiana’s rating system. >> The DISTRICT DOSSIER blog tracks news and trends on this issue. BLOGS of the WEEK | NEWS | Rules for Engagement Paperwork: Another Reason To Stop Bullying Louisiana’s new anti-bullying law is drawing criticism for the workload it could place on schools once it takes effect in 2013. Michael Faulk, the president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, told the state school board this month that implementing the new procedures would create an “administrative nightmare” for schools. Louisiana approved Act 861 earlier this year, one of the most-extensive bullying laws in the nation. Faulk says that the procedural mandates will cause a big strain. To begin with, bullying should be reported when it occurs on school property, at a school-sponsored or school-related function or activity, or on the school bus or at a school bus stop. “And there’s Facebook,” Faulk said in a phone interview. The law makes provisions for cyberbullying, meaning that email, instant messages, text messages, and blogs are covered, too. When a report is received, the school has one business day to open an investigation, and 10 school days to close it. In that time, investigators must interview the reporter, the victim, the alleged bully, and any witnesses, and must obtain any “copies or photographs of any audiovisual evidence.” That reporting might sound standard if not for what Faulk says is an overly extensive definition of bullying. Rumormongering and “making faces,” for example, are both covered under the law. He says he’s already heard from several principals worried about implementation, especially the possible need to hire additional staff. Not that Faulk disagrees with the law. Bullying is definitely a problem, he noted, but he wants to find ways to ease the burden on schools when the state legislature reconvenes in March. His worries aren’t new ones; when New Jersey passed its anti-bullying law last year, for example, the executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators called it “well intentioned” but “overly prescriptive.” Every state but Montana has a bullying law of some kind, but the implementation of such laws is clearly as important as the ROSS BRENNEMAN inception. | NEWS | Digital Education With E-Rate Data Release, Feedback Is Needed The Federal Communications Commission has released volumes of data pertaining to E-rate applications and approvals for the 2010 fiscal year, and with it, a call for help of sorts. In an official fcc blog post Oct. 19, the agency that governs the $2.3 billion program used by schools and libraries to subsidize Internet-related purchases called upon other interested parties to help analyze and interpret the data. With 100,000 unique E-rate service requests and roughly 1.4 million records describing requests schools and libraries had approved, the category of service they purchased, the prices they paid, and the amount of E-rate funding disbursed in each case, that may be no easy task. “We are eager to see what others can do with this data, and to understand what additional data we need to gather and publish to help answer important questions about the impact of the E-rate program,” reads the fcc blog. Any person or organization brave enough to tackle such a challenge will need a compatible database application to access the information. The fcc says that releasing fiscal 2010 data is only a first step and that the hope is to provide similar data from multiple years of E-rate applications and awards. It also welcomes input from educators about how to make access to such data easier, as well as how to explain the impact of the E-rate to policymakers and the general public. The fcc stated an interest last fall in learning from applicants how best the E-rate program might be altered or reformed to accommodate schools’ increasing bandwidth demands. —IAN QUILLEN | NEWS | Learning the Language Translating the Standards For Dual-Language Classes When it comes to putting the new common standards into classroom practice, dual-language teachers must adapt to teach the more rigorous guidelines in language arts and mathematics in English and a second language. In many dual-language programs, particularly in the early grades, students are learning up to 90 percent of their content in the target language. So what does the common core look like in Spanish/language arts, for example? Who is doing the kind of translation and modification that dual-language teachers need to bridge the language they are teaching in with the content standards? And where can dual-language teachers find more resources to help them? One effort is called the Common Core en Español Project, led by the San Diego County office of education, with support from the California department of education and the Council of the Chief State School Officers. It doesn’t appear that its final translations are available for widespread use yet, but they are to be published soon on the California education agency’s common-core website. Another initiative was spearheaded by educators in the District of Columbia public schools and researchers at the Center for Equity and Excellence in Education at George Washington University. Normas Para la Enseñanza de las Artes de Lenguaje en Español is described by the writers as being “carefully and closely aligned to the Common Core State Standards while still taking into account the linguistic differences between the Spanish and English languages, the methodological differences in Spanishand English-literacy instruction, and traditional Spanish literacy-learning expectations.” Officials in New York state, Albuquerque, N.M., and other places are developing —LESLI A. MAXWELL similar guidelines. >> To see all Education Week blogs, go to

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - October 31, 2012

Education Week - October 31, 2012
‘i3’ Grantees Face Hurdles on Aid Match
Teacher-Leader Degree Designed as a Vehicle For Career Fulfillment
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Caution Urged on ‘Value Added’ Reviews
College Board Head to Make Underserved a Priority
Miami-Dade Wins $550,00 Broad Prize For Urban Education
E-School Conference Highlights Blended Ed.
Pa. Moves to Ease Penalties for Minors Who Engage in ‘Sexting’
Education Issues Suffuse Ballots
New Orleans Board Race a Magnet For Outsiders’ Cash
Blogs of the Week
Graduation Rates Latest Waiver Flash Point
Practical Hurdles at Play in Pennsylvania Charter-Law Revamp
Policy Brief
Rethinking Principal Evaluation
Teacher Observation: Tech or No Tech?
About the Necktie
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Redefining the Federal Role In Education: Advice for the Winner of Next Week’s Election

Education Week - October 31, 2012