Thursday, October 7, 2010

Flunked to appear on the Halogen Network

Flunked will be premiering on the Halogen Network this Saturday, October 9th, and Sunday, October 10th!

Check here to see where Halogen is available in your area:

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

WEA to pay teachers for campaign finance violations

Yep, you heard it right! Teachers Union must pay teachers back:

Total settlements now exceed $1 million

OLYMPIA—The Washington Education Association (WEA) has agreed to return $225,000 to teachers after using their wages for the union’s political agenda without their authorization. This settlement ends a nine-year lawsuit that included an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in which the high court ruled in favor of the teachers, Davenport v. WEA. The suit began when the Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF) filed a complaint with the Public Disclosure Commission. To date, the WEA has been ordered or agreed to pay over $1 million for violating teachers’ rights in this case.

Teachers in Washington are generally required to pay for union representation as a condition of employment. Teachers who decline to join the union must also pay union fees, but are given protections in state law to ensure protection of their First Amendment rights. Specifically, RCW 42.17.760 required unions to get permission from nonmembers before using their payments for political activity. (The legislature amended the law in 2007, significantly weakening its free speech protections for union-represented employees.)

In 2000, EFF filed a complaint with the Public Disclosure Commission alleging the WEA had violated RCW 42.17.760. After an investigation, the WEA admitted to “multiple violations” of the law, and then-Attorney General Christine Gregoire filed a lawsuit against the union in October 2000. A Thurston County Superior Court judge found the union had committed intentional violations. The union appealed.

Meanwhile, in March 2001, a group of teachers led by former teacher Gary Davenport filed a separate class-action lawsuit against the WEA in order to recover their improperly-spent dues. The teachers were represented by Steven T. O’Ban of Ellis, Li & McKinstry PLLC and Milton L. Chappell of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, and supported by the Evergreen Freedom Foundation. This case was consolidated with the State’s case against the WEA to determine the constitutionality of the law requiring unions to get permission for political spending.

In 2006 the Washington State Supreme Court ruled the law was unconstitutional. Justice Faith Ireland (retired) wrote that requiring unions to ask permission before spending nonmember dues on political activity was “too heavy an administrative burden.” The State and the Davenport teachers both appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On June 14, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upheld RCW 42.17.760 as constitutional. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that “unions have no constitutional entitlement to nonmember employees’ fees.” Thus, laws requiring unions to gain permission from employees before using the money to further the union’s political objectives are constitutional.

Both cases were then returned to state court. The State settled its case with the WEA in December 2008. The WEA agreed to pay the State $735,000 and return up to $240,000 to affected teachers. Today’s settlement for an additional $225,000 brings the total the WEA has paid in penalties and restitution to teachers well over $1 million dollars.

“With today’s settlement of the Davenport case, this matter is finally laid to rest,” said Steve O’Ban. “We are pleased that the WEA has been held accountable for its actions. The real victors today are the teachers who fought for nearly a decade to vindicate their rights.”

“This case was about a simple principle,” said Michael Reitz, general counsel of EFF, “to ensure that teachers are not forced to pay for political activity with which they disagree. No one should have to support someone else’s political agenda as a condition of employment.”

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

State Lawmakers Pass Sweeping Education Reform

State lawmakers passed sweeping education reforms in a race to get hundreds of millions of dollars in federal money. 400-million dollars are up for grabs under President Barack Obama's ‘Race to the Top Competition.' Fewer than half the states are likely to win the money. State lawmakers said this legislation should give Michigan a better chance.

Lawmakers are calling this the biggest education reform in 20 years. They passed five bills to make up this race to the top package. The changes would make it easier to remove poor performing teachers and create a merit-based pay system to reward good performance. The bills also allow for some thirty additional charter schools. The measure also increased the dropout age from 16 to 18. Of course lawmakers hope all of these are things help qualify Michigan for the federal money....

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Florida's Fort Pierce charter school closing?

By James Kirley

ST. LUCIE COUNTY — An injunction that would have kept students in classes and public money flowing to a 14-month-old charter high school has been denied by a circuit court judge, leaving a state hearing as the school’s last chance to survive.

On Friday, Circuit Judge William Roby dismissed a complaint and request for an injunction by The Charter School of Fort Pierce.

Roby said the charter school had failed to show that irreparable harm will result without an injunction.

“On the other hand, after extensive review, it appears that the school board, which is responsible for all public schools and public school students in St. Lucie County, found that deficiencies at the school pose an immediate threat to the educational welfare of students attending the school,” Roby wrote.

The St. Lucie County School Board voted unanimously Nov. 10 to close the school after district officials and a third-party audit indicated the publicly funded, privately run charter school was operating in the red. The charter school filed for an injunction Nov. 19.

Like all public schools, the charter school got state funding based on student enrollment. But it never achieved the enrollment envisioned in its business plan.

The charter school posted the school district’s only “F” when school grades based on results of the 2009 Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test results were released last spring. Charter school officials said their first-ever grade was because many of their students had struggled and performed poorly in traditional public schools in prior years...

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Performance pay works in the Prince George's schools

By William R. Hite Jr. and Donald J. Briscoe

Performance pay is supposed to be the third rail of education reform. But in Prince George's County, we have shown that it doesn't have to be.

Two years ago, we agreed to reward teachers and principals who elevate student achievement in high-need schools. Our program shows that the government can be a catalyst for school reform and that the Obama administration's plans to dramatically expand incentive programs are essential to changing school systems that currently fail, or cannot afford, to reward effective teaching.

It also shows what administrators and teachers can accomplish when we work together. During the 2006-07 school year, Prince George's schools and the unions joined hands to create and implement the district's first pay-for-performance program, supported by a five-year, $17 million grant from the federal government's Teacher Incentive Fund. TIF helps states and school districts develop innovative systems to reward teachers and principals who boost student achievement in high-need schools.

Yes, we had our disagreements as we worked out how to supplement the existing compensation system, which is based largely on seniority and qualifications, not performance. But thanks to the involvement of teachers and administrators selected by the unions, we were able to create a voluntary program that provides up to $10,000 in bonuses for effective teachers in high-need schools and as much as $12,000 for administrators who work to turn around struggling schools. Two committees that included teachers and administrators designed both the cash-incentive structure and the program's professional development system, which helps teachers improve classroom instruction and assists teachers and administrators in earning their bonuses...

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Is Arne Duncan giving up on education reform?

By David Ellison- Oakland Tribune

TO CHARTER OR not to charter? That is the question.

Hamlet pondered whether to battle "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" or to just give up. My fear is that, in pushing for more charter schools, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has given up.

Charters never really became laboratories for innovation.

They simply adopted the "new ideas" all public schools would if they had the freedom and the funds: longer school days and years, smaller schools and class sizes, careful selection of motivated, gifted teachers, strict accountability for both students and their parents, site-based management. "...

Charters have such freedom. But their claims to operate with less state funds than most public schools are spurious.

For one, charters usually receive substantial outside support. Even more significant, since salaries account for more than 90 percent of most schools' budgets, charters typically employ younger, far-less expensive faculty, and turn them over after only four years, thus keeping expenses artificially low.

In other words, charters attract our best new teachers but quickly burn them out.

This is reform?

True reform would address the real and enduring problems plaguing public education, such as the fact that the teaching profession generally attracts our least qualified college graduates; that the worst of them too often staff inner-city schools; that schools stand more segregated by race and class than ever; that they follow the same factory model as a century ago.

Many (certainly not all) charters — such as Summit Preparatory High School, which I featured in my last column — offer at least a few of our inner-city children a way out of an obviously broken and shamelessly unjust system of public schools...

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why Michelle Rhee Has to Play Tough

By Richard Whitmire
Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The forces lined up against D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee -- angry teachers, grumpy D.C. Council members, the nation's top teachers' union leader quarterbacking the opposition -- are essentially asking one question: Why can't you behave more like that nice Arne Duncan?

Indeed, with his aw-shucks humility and his anecdotes about playing b-ball with the president, Duncan has undeniable charm. That charm was honed in Chicago, where he never played in-your-face politics and never publicly suggested there was widespread incompetence among the teaching force, qualities that contributed to President Obama's tapping him to be U.S. secretary of education.

By contrast, Rhee appeared on the cover of Time wielding a broom to symbolically sweep incompetence out of her public schools. Yikes.

But there's a reason Rhee plays hardball: She has no choice...

Click here to read the rest of the article.