Friday, February 26, 2010

Legislative Update



Rick Hess (an AEI fellow, advocate for charter schools, purveyor of alternative teacher certification, and ubiquitous online presence) has analyzed the dollar amount each state requested in Race to the Top funds, and he's making a striking point with his analysis. The general conceit in grantsmanship, of course, is that the budgets we request are exactly what we need to get the work done—no more, no less. For example, if a proposal includes something breathtakingly innovative, that might well be more costly than simply continuing some well-understand program, and the budget proposal should reflect that. Many of proposal writers pride themselves on their steely objectivity and clear-headedness when working up those budgets.

Hess's calculations, however, do not consider the actual content of the proposals at all. Instead, he simply compares the dollar amount requested with two other easily-obtainable numbers: (1) the state's student enrollment and (2) the state's reported 2010 budget shortfall.

From these numbers, he ran a simple analysis from which he determined that 77% of the variance in the amount of funding requested by all of the participating states could be accounted for merely by looking at their size of their student enrollment and the immensity of their financial desperation. The remaining 23% is all that's left to account for all the different kinds of programs, interventions, and strategies that were ostensibly the key factor in the budget proposals.

Hess's previous work shows sustained concern for waste and what he regards as inefficiency in K-12 spending. I do not recall him criticizing grant budget proposals directly before, even in passing, so this is apparently a new area of study for him. Given the historic immensity of the Race to the Top allocations, however, it seems like work that was begging to be done. This simple analysis is surely just a device to open a debate, but the debate should be interesting. Might be worth listening in.

Education Week (Web page)

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Last week's announcements about Congressional earnestness in seeking the long-delayed ESEA reauthorization were followed up yesterday by an unusually specific announcement from Republican members of the House Committee on Education and Labor. They outline specific values and objectives for the reauthorization, and provided a means for public input. It seems like this game may actually be on, at long last.

U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor (Web page)

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Grant developers tend to be great re-users of text from all kinds of sources: Word documents of various vintage, PDF files of varying sophistication, ASCII files from mainframe dumps, HTML-laden text from Web pages, and so on. When we import text from some crude format into our nice proportionally-dynamic documents or our own Web pages, we sometimes end up with a mess. This simply, easy, and fast online tool converts all that junk into nice blocks of useable text. For example, it converts double hyphens into lovely em dashes and makes unitary quotation marks into printer's smart quotes. You won't need it every time, of course, but it can be quite a handy thing for cleaning up real gobbledygook. Free, simple, and well worth a bookmark. (Web page)

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(1) Number of Florida mortgage loans in foreclosure at the end of last year: 320,315
(2) Number in foreclosure now: 461,472
(3) Percentage by which Florida foreclosures have increased in the last year: 44
(4) Number of U.S. states with higher rates of foreclosure: 0
(5) Percentage of U.S. teachers in district-run schools who left during the 2004-05 school year: 14
(6) Percentage of teachers in charter schools who left during the same year: 25


(1-4) South Florida Sun Sentinel (Web page)
(5-6) National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education (PDF)

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FDOE FY2011 NCLB Technical Assistance Forum Agenda (PDF)

Pew Study of State Funded Pension Plans (PDF)


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