Posts Tagged School district
Albany’s Unkindest Cut of All
By BILLY EASTON
Published: May 25, 2012
IN most states, top-ranked high school seniors are shoo-ins to attend their local state universities. But that’s not how it goes in New York these days. In one recent, glaring case, the valedictorian of a rural school district outside Rochester was rejected by a nearby State University of New York campus — not because her grades were too low, but because her high school didn’t offer the courses needed to compete for college admission.
Such stories are becoming increasingly common across New York State. Poor school districts are being forced to cut electives, remedial tutoring, foreign languages and other programs and services to balance budgets. Many schools in less prosperous areas face what the state commissioner of education calls “educational insolvency.”
The obvious losers are students, who will be less prepared for graduation, college and their careers. But ultimately, all New Yorkers will suffer as the lack of skilled workers becomes a long-term drain on economic activity across the state.
Only five years ago, the state committed to pumping $5.5 billion into classrooms, with 72 percent slated for the neediest schools, whether in urban, rural or suburban communities. This commitment, similar to those made in other states, came after 13 years of litigation by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, based on the state Constitution’s guarantee of a “sound, basic education” for all students. Unfortunately, that progressive commitment was abandoned as the state faced fiscal hard times.
New York started cutting education resources in 2009. The federal government stepped in that year with stimulus money directed at schools, which temporarily cushioned the blow, but was not enough to stop the onset of classroom cuts.
The problem grew worse in 2010 and 2011, when Albany made $2.7 billion in school aid cuts, resulting in the loss of 30,000 educators and increased class sizes at two-thirds of the state’s schools.
The program cuts ranged from summer school to Advanced Placement courses, but the cuts have been harshest in poor communities. Over all, cuts to poor and middle-class schools were two to three times larger per pupil than those imposed on wealthy schools.
For example, Poughkeepsie, with a student poverty rate of 80 percent, has cut its full-day kindergarten to a half day, while wealthy Jericho offers high school classes in fashion design and civil engineering. Scarsdale offers 22 Advanced Placement courses, while poor and rural Massena, in New York’s North Country, offers only two, even though many colleges now give A.P. courses greater weight than S.A.T. scores in admissions.
On top of the multiyear cuts, the state has made it harder for school districts to get more money. A new statewide cap on how high local revenues can be raised is further exacerbating educational inequities. The cap limits property tax hikes to 2 percent, which may sound fair but actually contributes to school inequality: the permitted tax increase raises a lot more revenue from million-dollar homes for wealthy schools than it raises on $100,000 homes for poorer schools. And a newly implemented cap on increases in state education aid means that even with a slight restoration of state aid this year, schools are still forced to make cuts.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has been the most vocal proponent both of cutting and capping state school aid and of capping local revenues. He has dismissed the impact that cuts and caps would have on schools — a position that becomes harder to maintain as district after district reports dire circumstances.
Simultaneously, Mr. Cuomo has been a proponent of trendy “market reforms,” like increasing the role of standardized tests in evaluating teachers and using the same tests to make school districts compete with one another for resources. These so-called reforms may be cheaper, but they are no substitute for the proven programs that are being cut.
Around the world, countries with the top-performing schools, like Finland, Singapore and Canada, all emphasize equity in school financing to provide added resources for schools in poorer communities. These international leaders also emphasize ensuring that all students have access to a high-quality curriculum and providing all teachers with support to continuously improve their skills — instead of forcing teachers and schools to compete for artificially limited pools of money.
Governor Cuomo has promoted himself as a leader in education policy. His mastery of Albany’s famously dysfunctional politics has made him one of the nation’s rising political stars. But the results in the classroom do not match his rhetoric — and unless our state government changes course on education funding policy, they never will.
Billy Easton is the executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education.
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Teacher’s aide fired for refusing to hand over Facebook password
By Emil Protalinski | April 1, 2012
Summary: Kimberly Hester, a teacher’s aide at an elementary school, was fired last year for refusing to give her Facebook password to her supervisors. She is now fighting a legal battle with the school district.
You can add this one to the short but growing list of employers demanding access to Facebook accounts. After refusing to give her Facebook password to her supervisors, Kimberly Hester was fired by Lewis Cass Intermediate School District from her job as an aide to Frank Squires Elementary in Cassopolis, Michigan. She is now fighting a legal battle with the school district.
This all started in April 2011, when Hester was using Facebook on her own time (when she wasn’t working at the school). She jokingly posted a picture of a co-worker’s pants around her ankles and a pair of shoes, with the caption “Thinking of you.”
A parent and Facebook friend of Hester’s saw the photo and complained to the school. A few days later, Lewis Cass ISD superintendent Robert Colby asked her three times for access to her Facebook account. Hester refused each of the district superintendent’s requests.
Soon after, Colby wrote Hester a letter, a part of which said the following, according to WSBT: “…in the absence of you voluntarily granting Lewis Cass ISD administration access to you[r] Facebook page, we will assume the worst and act accordingly.” Hester says he put her on paid administrative leave and eventually suspended her. She chose unpaid leave, to collect workman’s compensation, and vowed to put up a fight.
“I stand by it,” Hester said in a statement. “I did nothing wrong. And I would not, still to this day, let them in my Facebook. And I don’t think it’s OK for an employer to ask you.”
Hester plans to use the letter she received from Lewis in her legal case against the school district. The two parties are scheduled for arbitration in May. She will have a tough time given that there is currently no law barring her employer from asking for access to her Facebook account, although the issue has been put under a spotlight recently (see links below).
Michigan State Representatives Matt Lori and Aric Nesbitt have contacted Hester to let her know they are including her story in House Bill 5523, which aims to make it illegal for employers to ask employees and prospective employees for their Facebook password. Michigan is one of several states currently pushing for legislation that would make such practice illegal.
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- School Makes 12-Year-Old Surrender Facebook Password (allfacebook.com)
- 12-year-old sues school district over Facebook profile search (news.cnet.com)
- Senators Want Employers’ Facebook Password Requests Reviewed – NYTimes.com (mbcalyn.com)
- School district demands Facebook password, 12-year-old girl sues (zdnet.com)
- That doesn’t mean your employer can use your Facebook password (erratasec.blogspot.com)
- Facebook: You Should Never Have to Share Your Password with Employers (techland.time.com)
- People Power Matters! (notnumber.wordpress.com)