April 1, 2016

100% April Fools Free! Jimmy Carter On Hufstedler, Are Vergara And Friedrichs So Different? School Choice, Higher Ed, Hard Realities On Teacher Evaluation, School Infrastructure, Pensions, Parenting Choices, And Panthers!

By Bellwether

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Exclusive: RealClearEducation talked with President Jimmy Carter about the passing of Shirley Hufstedler.  Sara Mead gets under the hood on TFA restructuring. 

Hillsborough teacher evaluation not going so well.* Theory of action is that if you just do this “well” everyone will come along. Alternative theory: Places like D.C. are outliers and we should talk honestly about why.

Rick Hess on why he likes Friedrichs but not Vergara:

 …there are inevitable comparisons and linkages to California’s famed Vergara lawsuit. In that case, the plaintiffs are asserting that they have a right to “effective teachers” under the terms of the California constitution, and that policies relating to tenure, dismissal, and LIFO (“last in, first out” termination) are unconstitutional. Both suits represent a profound challenge to teacher unions. The big difference, to my eye, is that Friedrichs is a simpler determination of whether state compulsion is trampling fundamental rights, while Vergara requires the courts to tell the legislature how to organize particular elements of educational policy. I’m quite comfortable with Friedrichs, which strikes me as precisely the kind of case that we expect the courts to adjudicate. On the other hand, for reasons I’ve previously explained, I have real concerns with Vergara—even though, on substance, I wholly support the plaintiffs. I think would-be reformers are asking the courts to wade into areas that are beyond judicial expertise, where rulings are more likely to yield paralysis and bureaucracy-inducing compliance, and want the courts to substitute their policy determinations for those of legislators.

Regardless of the merits of the two cases I don’t get the distinction Rick is making? The Vergara plaintiffs are not asking the court to make policy – and the court explicitly said it wasn’t going to do that. They were arguing that under California’s constitution the current laws violated the rights of students. Their claim requires a specific reading of how the constitutional provisions apply – and that’s being debated on appeal right now. But they just asked for a (non-specific) policy that wouldn’t violate those rights –  hardly a crazy thing to ask a court for. I think Rick and I would agree that the courts are sometimes inappropriately dragged into policymaking but that doesn’t seem like the issue in either of these cases. Agree with the plaintiffs or not, both are basic state or federal constitutional claims.

More interesting to me in Friedrichs is the question of whether there is inherently a First Amendment issue here or whether the way teachers unions and public sector unions more generally operate has in practice created one. Yes, Abood is a political compromise that doesn’t make a lot of sense at First Amendment law but would it be a better/more workable/less acrimonious compromise if unions didn’t make the agency process so painful for people? Possibly not given the politics. But seems like he polarizing nature of the case obscured some questions (I did hear some behind the scenes grumbling about this).

For a change of pace you can watch Rick and Mike Petrilli get drunk on video. Really…

Surprise! If you live in a country where wealth and power follow racial contours and you have a sector of schools you have to pay to attend then those schools will be disproportionately white. New Southern Education Foundation report finds exactly that (you can quibble with some of the methodological choices but it seems directionally right). School choice advocates have not adequately wrestled with the ugly legacy of choice in the south, where it was used to overtly to create segregated academies as part of the massive resistance strategy (it had the same effect elsewhere but was just more subtle). But choice critics have not adequately wrestled with a more basic question – what to do now?

Private schools are not going away. Calls to outlaw them make make periodic cameos as thought pieces but that’s not going to happen – it’s not constitutional anyway. The school choice programs that are springing up probably aren’t going anywhere either. In case you didn’t notice this is a country that likes choice. So where does that leave you except supporting much more aggressive strategies to give low-income Americans more choice in their schooling? Yet the people who seem most concerned about this power imbalance seem to be the same ones least interested in radical steps to upset the apple cart. Kevin Chavous on the study here.

Ron Matus gets his Dutch on pointing out the embrace of school choice there. I’m basically with Ron on the need for more choice here but you can’t look at The Netherlands without considering both history and also cultural norms. It’s a different place than the U.S.

If you build it they will come? We’re back to talking school facilities. It feels so 1996! I’d like to see the federal government get in the infrastructure game with some creative and sustainable strategies like infrastructure banks for revolving loan funds. Could support school renovation and also construction of new schools do address population growth or parental demand. Or, alternatively, we can do what hasn’t worked politically for 20 years.

Speaking of the wayback machine, new playbook of education ideas from the National League of Cities. Some interesting ideas but striking how input oriented it all is, very little on structural change to help improve outcomes for urban youth. Especially striking against the backdrop of some of the data on various reforms.

Tom Loveless on Common Core politics. NASBE on balancing privacy and progress with student data. State of the state of education in Rhode Island (pdf). Worth reading. Here is a crib sheet on i3 evaluations.

Sad news from NOLA.

A new look at rural charter schools. I get the idea, and there are some great rural charters, but I’m also struck by how much rural schools in general often operate like charters – for good and ill. The upsides and downsides of autonomy are frequently present.

Turnover at BIE. C’mon….

This point on higher education gets made a lot but given how the field is covered you really can’t say it enough: It’s not about elite schools.

Conservatives on campus:

To the contrary, most of those interviewed expressed what the authors call a “Madisonian” political philosophy: “It is a political vision that values the discovery of common ground over ideological purity, learned elites over charismatic leaders, and reasoned appeals over passionate exhortations.” If institutions of higher learning refuse to make a place for scholars who share this vision, they will not only stifle inquiry. They will also deprive themselves of vital allies when the inevitable backlash comes to pull them down.

Chicago pensions. Chad Aldeman on the pension numbers in Chicago.

You knew this was coming: Here’s your chance to weigh in on Adam LaRoche’s parenting decisions! So far the White Sox are winning.

Exciting ice bridge collapse. Boardwalk panther.

*Update: Originally this item had a bad link, that’s fixed. But the actual link is still a few months old. I got a news alert on it, clicked, read, but didn’t notice date and thought it was an update on what’s happening. In any event, here’s a more recent one about the changes the article described, which are undoing a lot of the things Hillsborough was lauded for. Apologies for both errors.

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