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Note: This is an excerpt from an article that appears in its entirety on the EducationVotes website. Kathy Meltsakos, a veteran special education paraprofessional, had her hours and pay cut and her health insurance contribution increased significantly. As a result, she is currently taking home no pay. Her story helps put a human face on the wage and benefits cuts many educators are experiencing.

By Steve Lemken

Initially earning $13.74 for a 35-hour week with the Pentucket, MA schools, Meltsakos paid 20 percent of her insurance, which was manageable, and she did that for 10 years until laid off in June 2010. While looking for work she received unemployment benefits. She was later rehired at a lower pay rate, with five less hours, and with a higher contribution for her healthcare.

“I was placed at the bottom of the scale at $10.74 an hour for a 30-hour week. After taxes, I paid 60 percent of my medical insurance. My pay stubs from February to June 24 (the end of the school year) show no net take home pay since February. Oh – and the insurance rates went up in May.”

By April she was frustrated with no take home pay and knew she had to get a second job. “My husband is doing everything he can but we have kids in college and of course the regular bills to pay. I tried a pizza shop, then found work with a discount store, twenty hours a week during school, and a few more now that school is out.

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Reprinted with permission from NEAToday.org.

By Alain Jehlen

The long experiment with incentives and test-based accountability has so far failed to boost student achievement.

That’s the conclusion of a comprehensive examination of education research by the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academies of Science.

“The available evidence does not give strong support for the use of test-based incentives to improve education,” the NRC concluded. The benefits of these incentives, the group said, have been “small or nonexistent.”

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Mon Jun 20, 2011 at 11:30 AM PDT

Public School, For a Price

by OurPublicSchools

Reprinted with permission from our sister site at NEAToday.org.

By Rebecca Bright

What is the value of a child’s annual school band performance? How about his first-year Spanish class or her position on the swim team? And who should pay for it?

In an era of state budget cuts, a slow economy and decreasing tax revenues, many school districts around the country have been forced to pass the bill for certain activities and classes on to parents. The policy, which started in select states as a “pay to play” fee for extracurricular sports and activities, has grown to include fees for some courses and a wide array of mandatory supplies and services in schools in nearly every state, according to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal.

Not only must students “pay to play,” in many of these public schools they must pay to learn.

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Reposted from Eddie C by OurPublicSchools

The quote "Public employees have become targets of anger and criticism" that was followed by "and that's leading to a growing number of them calling it quits," came from Lester Holt last night on NBC Nightly News.

John Yang reported from New Jersey where public worker retirement jumped 60% and nearly doubled for teachers in 2010. But it is not just Governor Chris Christie "mocking teacher benefits" who deserves all the credit. The report shows many states where politicians downgrading the value of public workers has become too much for the good government workers to continue. In 2010 California and Colorado each reported a 20% rise in retirees from the public sector. This year Ohio has reported a 34% increase and after the assault from Scott Walker public worker retirement in Wisconsin is up 96%.

One New Jersey teacher was the focus of the segment. Judy Cinnamond who has decided to give up teaching. This highly respected educator sums up the situation with "All of the sudden the teachers are the enemy and I don't want to feel that way. Having dedicated my life to this job, I just don't want to feel that way."  

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Reposted from Rep Michael Honda by OurPublicSchools

The subprime mortgage disaster caused the greatest loss of wealth from communities of color in modern American history. When banks misled African-American, Asian-American and Latino borrowers into taking on crushing home mortgage debt they could never hope to pay back, we called it what it was: predatory lending.

Today, many for-profit colleges have picked up where the subprime lenders left off. They are using the same promise of the American dream as bait to trap vulnerable students — the vast majority of whom are women and minorities — into underperforming schools and saddling them with a lifetime of debt.

The costs to these students and taxpayers are tremendous. In the 2008-09 school year, the federal government invested more than $4 billion in grant aid to for-profit institutions, quadrupling its investment from just a decade earlier.

Despite this increased federal assistance, tuition at for-profit institutions continues to far outpace other schools, costing more than five times as much as community colleges. These for-profit schools are gaming the system — undermining the value of Pell Grants and forcing students to take out more loans.

As this industry’s profits have soared, so have student-loan default rates. Students enrolled in for-profit schools represent just 10 percent of all undergraduate students, but they account for 44 percent of all student-loan defaults.

The industry says these schools offer opportunities to low-income students that they couldn’t get elsewhere. But the debt being piled on students has devastating consequences, rendering them unable to receive credit to rent an apartment, buy a car or home, or receive future education loans. When these programs fail to deliver on their promises, students suffer for the rest of their adult lives and taxpayers are left on the hook.

The industry is targeting and taking advantage of women, minorities and low-income students. About one out of every four African-American, Asian-American, Latino and low-income students starts his or her postsecondary education at a for-profit institution. But these students’ graduation rates are far below the rates for such students at public and nonprofit colleges. Just like the subprime mortgage lenders, this industry is profiting off the misery of our country’s most vulnerable communities.

We believe the Department of Education took the right step in issuing a rule that holds these schools accountable for delivering on their education and career promises.

Under the rule, colleges that fail to demonstrate their programs are preparing students for “gainful employment” would risk losing their eligibility to participate in federal education grant and loan programs. This rule is not nearly as strong as it could be, but is a long-overdue and important step in protecting students and taxpayers from unscrupulous career-education programs.

While the rule does not include many important protections urged by civil rights, student, women’s, labor and consumer organizations, it sends a strong message to many for-profit programs to start putting students first. Its focus has been narrowed to those programs that, after four years, still fall far short of delivering a quality education. Those programs that serve their students well, however, will easily pass muster under the rule.

All schools should be held accountable for the educations they provide, including for-profits that have flown under the radar of regulation for far too long. These rules respond to the Department of Education’s recent investigation finding that some in the industry were promising students job placement upon completion of their programs and failing to deliver on that promise.

Once the industry got its cut from the government’s financial aid program, it left its students without an adequate education, without a job and with an insurmountable debt load.

Just as Wall Street is fighting to undermine the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other financial reforms, the for-profit college industry is fiercely resisting this reasonable oversight.

It spent more than $4 million on lobbyists in the first quarter of 2011 alone and has engaged in a documented campaign of staging false support in the very minority communities it is victimizing.

Nothing should stand in the way of real gainful-employment rules. This industry has destroyed people’s futures, cost our government billions of dollars and gotten rich by selling false hopes to those who most need a quality education. Now that the rule has been issued, we expect conscientious Members of Congress to resist the temptation to bow to pressure from this multibillion-dollar industry.

Coauthored by Rep Honda and Wade Henderson.  Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) is a member of the House Budget and Appropriations committees and chairman emeritus of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. Follow Rep Honda on Facebookand Twitter. Wade Henderson is president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the Leadership Conference Education Fund.

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On Thursday, June 16, at Netroots Nation in Minneapolis, Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas will sit down with National Education Association Vice President Lily Eskelsen to discuss the DREAM Act, which would offer a path to citizenship for immigrant students who graduate high school and then complete two years of college or serve two years in the armed forces.

Markos and Lily will be taking your questions about the DREAM Act! Just post here or tweet using #dreamactnow. The event begins at 2 PM Central Time and will be live-streamed at www.educationvotes.org.

You can also get more information on the Speak Up For Education & Kids Facebook page.

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Thu May 12, 2011 at 11:30 AM PDT

A Picture is Worth 40,000 Jobs

by OurPublicSchools

A sobering image from Sacramento, CA, where the California Teachers Association this week placed 400 chairs on the Capitol lawn to represent the 40,000 educators who have lost their jobs due to budget cuts in the past three years. For more info, visit CTA's State of Emergency Web site.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

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Reposted from Caj by OurPublicSchools

For the first time in history, the total extant student loan debt has exceeded the total extant credit card debt.   This was inevitable as more students go to college, and more of them borrow more money in order to go.

Although it may be statistically meaningless, I think it is fitting compare the two, because student loans and credit cards are dangerous for the same basic reason:  unlike car loans or mortgages, these lines of credit are handed out to youngsters without any regimented plan to pay them back.  It is easy to be suckered into a huge and eternal debt without having any idea how much and for how long you will be paying.

This, I believe, is the one reform we really need in the student loan system:  making a college loan more like a car loan or mortgage and less like a credit card balance, requiring a sit-down meeting detailing how much you should borrow, how much you can safely borrow, how to pay the remainder of your bill without loans, and then how much you will be paying back and when.  A college loan should require as much explicit planning as any other loan of comparable size.  Right now, it is up to us to apply that level of rigor and discipline ourselves.

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Reposted from SixDollarLiberal by timmyc

Many conservatives and libertarians are touting more privatization and less government control of key programs. Our schools, our emergency services, our social security, even our prisons; there are proposals out there to privatize just about everything. I could tell you about where our economy would be today if everybody's social security was in the stock market when it collapsed, or try to scare you with plausible scenarios about what could happen if these things are privatized. However, I don't need to scare you with what-ifs, because I am an example of what happens when privatization is allowed to run its course. I am one of a small minority of people who have attended a form of privatized school known as a non-public school.

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Reposted from Daily Kos by Laura Clawson Editor's Note: If you want it. -- Laura Clawson
kid protesting school vouchers
Protesting education privatization.
(Photo: Teamster Nation)
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and former DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee were the star attractions at a "policy summit" held by the American Federation for Children—and hundreds turned out to protest.

What's the American Federation for Children? Alex Pareene at Salon sums it up pithily. It's a:

a right-wing "education reform" organization founded and funded by religious right activist multimillionaire Betsy DeVos (former Republican candidate for governor of Michigan and sister of Blackwater founder Erik Prince) and dedicated to electing state legislators who'll fund Christian schools with taxpayer money and crush public employees' unions.

But that's not all you should know about the American Federation for Children. It's not the first such organization DeVos has created to push school vouchers:

Betsy DeVos has headed a confusing array of state and national pro-voucher entities under different names, including different types of non-profits and PACs. The current Betsy DeVos-led organization at the helm of the voucher movement is the American Federation for Children (AFC). As noted in the Pennsylvania report, the AFC was established after Betsy DeVos and All Children Matter have failed to pay a 5.2 million dollar fine in Ohio for funneling money from the affiliate organization in Virginia in amounts exceeding Ohio's campaign finance laws. The organization was also fined $500 for providing media support for candidates without registering as a PAC in Wisconsin.

School vouchers, of course, are a ploy to defund public schools and privatize education in the name of choice. According to a People for the American Way report,

The long-term goal is to make all schooling an activity supplied by private sources: for-profit management companies, religious organizations and home schools. The movement believes that targeted voucher plans, such as those in Florida, Milwaukee and Cleveland, give them a foot in the door en route to achieving this goal. While many of those who want to privatize education choose their words very carefully, others are more candid about their goals. The Heartland Institute’s Joseph Bast has urged others who share his group’s extreme agenda to be patient. “The complete privatization of schooling might be desirable, but this objective is politically impossible for the time being. Vouchers are a type of reform that is possible now, and would put us on the path to further privatization.”

That's the education agenda Scott Walker, Tom Corbett, and Michelle Rhee were in Washington, DC to support today, at the behest of Betsy Prince DeVos.

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Fri Apr 22, 2011 at 12:22 PM PDT

Tenure: the Myth

by CTDemoFarmer

Reposted from CTDemoFarmer by OurPublicSchools

Now many of you have been lead to believe that once a teacher or a professor receives tenure they have that position for life.

That is not true. All tenure gets you is a level of due process that you did not have before. For the first three years of teaching, I could be let go on the spot, and I, and everyone else in my system had to prove in our first three years that we were worthy of being a teacher in our system. Once we accomplished that we were given tenure, and from then on, we had to meet yearly goals and proper evaluations.

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Reposted from ThirdandState by OurPublicSchools

This week, we blogged about closing tax loopholes on Tax Day, a deeply flawed school vouchers plan in the state Senate, Governor Corbett's claims about property taxes in Texas, and much more.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

  • On education, Steve Herzenberg wrote that despite amendments made to the Senate school voucher bill, it remains a deeply flawed and expensive new program, with little to no accountability.
  • On state budget and taxes, Sharon Ward shared her Tax Day op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where she suggests that instead of grumbling about taxes this year, we start the work of closing tax loopholes that disproportionately benefit the well-connected few. Meanwhile, Chris Lilienthal passed on Tax Day resources from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Demos' Taxes Matter Project to provide a fresh perspective on how we think about taxes. And Michael Wood posted a video clip from a Monday press conference, hosted by Common Cause Pennsylvania, where he and good government advocates called on lawmakers to close tax loopholes before cutting schools, colleges and services for vulnerable Pennsylvanians.
  • Finally, on the Marcellus Shale, Michael Wood sets the record straight on what taxes Texas drillers do and don't pay, in response to recent comments by Governor Corbett.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

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