Monday, November 4, 2013
Thursday, October 31, 2013
In August, Emily Gold Waldman's post on the First Amendment "I [Heart] Boobies" case noted how school policies piecing out acceptable cancer awareness clothing from the "lewd" can get messy. Last Friday, Friendly High School in Prince George’s County, MD, handed out in-school suspensions to students who showed up to school in Breast Cancer Awarness Month t-shirts. Seventy-five students showed up in pink shirts to celebrate October's "Pink Out" breast cancer campaign that readers may have seen during NFL, WNBA, MLB, and PGA Tour events this month. But pink shirts violate the district's uniform policy, and the principal told students in advance that they could not hold their annual “Pink Out.” When students showed up anyway wearing pink shirts, they were ordered to cover up or receive in-school suspensions. The students given in-school suspensions were told that they would receive an unexcused absence and zeros for their classes. Here's the messy part: the first wave of students apparently were ordered to cover up the pink shirts with some acceptable ones that the school had around. Those students went on to class. But the school ran out of acceptable cover-up shirts, so students who showed up later got in-class suspensions. Yesterday, the district posted an apology on Friendly High's website for the "confusion regarding our school’s Breast Cancer Awareness event this year... The student Pink-Out that occurred on Friday has made the school district aware of the issues that can result from inconsistencies in uniform policies for special commemorative events." Instead, the school allowed all students to wear pink ribbons yesterday. I suspect (or hope at least) that the school rescinded the in-school suspensions because of the inconsistent policy. Read more at the National School Boards Association here.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
After Paying $2.2 Million, Normandy School District Votes to Stop Paying Tuition and Transportation Costs to Transfer Districts
To avoid running out of money by March, the Normandy School District voted Thursday to stop paying tuition and transportation costs for the hundreds of students who chose to attend a transfer district this year. The district in St. Louis County also voted to layoff 100 employees (including 71 teachers) starting next month and to close an elementary school in December. The district estimates that layoffs and school closure will save more than $3 million. The unaccredited Normandy district is struggling to come up with the money to pay for students who transferred out of the district this school year. It has already paid receiving districts $2.2 million in tuition and transportation this school year for students who transferred out of Normandy under Missouri’s new school transfer law. The district estimates the cost of tuition and transportation for students who transferred will be $13 to $15 million. Riverview Gardens, the other unaccredited district, says that it has enough reserves to get through the school year. Read the story here.
Real estate investment firm Municipal Acquisitions’ (MA) offer to buy 30 of Philadelphia’s closed schools for $100 million has sparked a feud between the city council, the school district, and the mayor. The School District of Philadelphia has to make up a $304 million deficit, and City Council President Darrell L. Clarke thinks that MA offers a creative way to stabilize the district’s finances. The school district and Mayor Michael Nutter, however, are cautious about the “too good to be true” offer, particularly as MA has not appraised the properties. After the school district passed on MA’s offer, Clarke called for a hearing on the district's financial stewardship. Clarke and Mayor Nutter are already disputing where to find $50 million that the city promised to loan the district in September. Mayor Nutter reportedly wants to borrow the money; Clarke wants to give the school district money for closed buildings that were already at odds over where to find the $50 million the city promised the district in September. Nutter wants to borrow the money; Clarke wants to give the district cash for closed buildings that could be sold to pay back the city. Drexel and Temple universities have expressed interest in seven of the closed schools. MA specializes in offering to buy public buildings from local governments in financial difficulties. If MA’s bid gets serious consideration, get ready for some fireworks, because MA’s attempted acquisition of North Carolina’s Roanoke Rapids’ theatre was a controversial leaseback deal that Roanoke Rapids ultimately rejected.
A Las Vegas elementary school joins those in Atlanta and D.C. in facing an investigation into “statistically improbable test scores,” according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Last week, the Nevada attorney general’s office subpoenaed the principal and six staff members of Matt Kelly Elementary School, where students’ reading test scores tripled in the last two school years. Kelly Elementary School’s test results have historically hovered between 51 and 24 percent in reading and math proficiency across all grades. That pattern was evident in the 2010-11 school year, when fewer than 25 percent of Kelly Elementary School’s fifth-graders read at grade level. A year later, however, the school’s fifth-grade reading scores soared to to 77 percent, more than tripling the previous year’s scores. In the 2012-13 school year, Kelly’s fifth-grade reading scores held steady at 72 percent proficiency. Clark County School District officials said that the district requested in August 2012 that the Nevada Board of Education review Kelly Elementary’s scores. Kelly Elementary is considered one of seven high-need schools in the school district; all seven have high black populations and poverty. Each of those schools receives $400,000 more a year than other district schools.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Two major for-profit higher-education companies, the Apollo Group (parent of the University of Phoenix) and the Education Management Corporation, (Argosy University, the Art Institutes, etc.), have announced that they are each laying off 500 nonfaculty employees each. Apollo’s flagship school, the University of Phoenix, had an 18-percent annual drop in enrollment and a 36-percent annual decline in operating income in the last year. Education Management reported a loss of $268 million for the 2013 fiscal year and reported a $1.51 billion loss in 2012. Nevertheless, Barron’s reports that major investment firms are bullish about Apollo’s stock because of the company's cost reduction plans (laying off employees). The Motley Fool, on the other hand, is unimpressed with Apollo’s 25% stock jump, saying that the gain is a better reflection of optimizing a declining business than real growth. Apollo has also announced that it will focus on certificate and nondegree programs.
Monday, October 21, 2013
Thursday, October 17, 2013
The State of California has brought its second lawsuit in six years against Corinthian Colleges, Inc., saying that the company has failed to live up to the terms of a previous settlement with the state. Corinthian Colleges, Inc. (CCI), is one of the largest for-profit post-secondary “career education” companies in North America and reported having 96,631 students in a 2012 10-Q statement. Back in 2007 when Jerry Brown was the state attorney general, Corinthians agreed to settle a lawsuit with the state by paying a $6.5 million fine, including $5.8 million in consumer restitution to students who had been deceived by false advertising. Current California Attorney General Kamala Harris filed a complaint last week against the company for not following the terms of the 2007 settlement, alleging that the schools’ ads continue to mislead students, investors, and regulators about job placement and student default rates. California believes that CCI continues to lure students to take on massive student debt to train for jobs at CCI's schools, and when the students cannot find jobs, the students default on their loans.
California’s complaint alleges that CCI targets students who head single parent families and have annual incomes that are near the federal poverty line ($19,530 for a three-person household). The complaint alleges that “CCI targets this demographic, which it describes in internal company documents as composed of "isolated," "impatient," individuals with ''low self-esteem," who have "few people in their lives who care about them" and who are "stuck" and "unable to see and plan well for future." CCI attracts students through “aggressive and persistent internet and telemarketing campaigns and through television ads on daytime shows like Jerry Springer and Maury Povich,” the state alleges. One of CCI’s deceptive practices, the complaint says, is arranging for a temp agency to employ students for a few days right before reporting post-gradation employment data. The company simply did not report employment data for several of its schools that closed in 2011.
The recession prompts underemployed adults to return to school and with that comes an uptick in aggressive advertising by for-profit technical schools. The problem is that students at for-profit higher education institutions have loan default rates at much higher rates than the national average. California wants to curb CCI’s falsely reporting post-graduation employment data to lure students into taking out student loans that they cannot repay (or discharge in bankruptcy) after they cannot find a job in their chosen fields. Watching for-profit schools is difficult enough but monitoring Corinthians has been particularly hard because the company opens and closes its schools at a brisk pace. During the 2011-12 school year, for example, Corinthians announced closures of its affiliated schools in Washington, Chicago, Illinois, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Decatur, Georgia and Arlington, Texas. Of course, we in legal education have to clean up our own employment data reporting too, as shown in the well-publicized cases of Villanova Law School and University of Illinois College of Law’s publishing misleading data about students' debt burden and employment statistics after graduation.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
The article, “Public School Money Should Only Go to Public Schools,” raises policy concerns regarding the use of school vouchers to supplement tuition for private schools that the authors suggest may lead to a challenge under the Oklahoma state constitution that are relevant. This article describes the differences in accountability that private schools in Oklahoma enjoy (not having to be graded A-F as public schools) as well as concerns regarding access to private school for students who cannot afford to go there.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Derek recently wrote about the financial hits that St. Louis area schools are taking under Missouri’s new transfer law. Under the Missouri scheme, unaccredited school districts have to pay tuition and transportation costs for the 2,600 transferring students who have used the law so far. Recently, however, Missouri lawmakers are realizing that the law has an unanticipated cost—families are taking advantage of the student transfer option to establish residency in unaccredited districts then immediately transferring their children to accredited schools. These “bouncing” transfers can get students into higher-rated suburban schools that would be otherwise unavailable because of residency requirements. Nothing in the Missouri statute stops such “bouncing” transfers or caps the number of transfers that families can have in a school semester. Nor do students have to enroll or attend an unaccredited shool -- they just have to establish residence in that district. State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal told the St. Louis Beacon yesterday that the law allows families “to just move into an unaccredited district, then turn around right away and transfer elsewhere, [which] amounts to “educational larceny.” Lawmakers are finding it difficult to count how many families are using the loophole because of transience rate in city schools is already high. Sen. Chappelle-Nadal estimates that the unaccredited Normandy High School could run out of money by next March. Read more here.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Monday, October 7, 2013
Educators may be interested in four new films about the Civil Rights movement, called Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle, showing throughout the country this fall. The films track the civil rights movement, of which segregation in education was a key part, from the 1830s to the 1960s. The films are The Abolitionist, Slavery by Another Name, Freedom Riders, and The Loving Story and were supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)’s Bridging Cultures Initiative. Learn more about the films here.
Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed wants to double the salary of the Atlanta Public Schools’ superintendent to $600,000, and is asking businesses to kick in private money to do it. Reed says that the extra compensation will help “recruit a superintendent like we would recruit the head of football at the University of Georgia." The APS superintendent’s position has been a troubled one since former superintendent Beverly Hall was indicted in a test cheating scandal. Hall’s replacement, Erroll Davis, Jr., retired this year. Whoever takes on the superintendent mantle faces real challenges: including a 51% high school graduation rate and a slight ding on APS’ credit rating after the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that charter schools were exempt from contributing to the school system’s pension debt.
Friday, September 13, 2013
Friday, August 30, 2013
The San Francisco Chronicle is running an in-depth four part series on African American males in Oakland Unified School District. The articles chronicle real day life for the students both inside and outside school. It also include statistical data and analytical commentary. As the chart above reveals, there were more than twice as many African American men and boys killed in 2002 as there were college ready African American males. This college versus death comparison, while grim, pales in comparison to the incarcerated versus college ready data in Oakland.
To the school district's credit, it recognized the crisis and created a special department to address it, the African American Male Achievement Office, which has special classes and programs. Although the trend in improvement started before the formal creation of this office, the number of college ready African American males has tripled in comparison to the 2002 numbers and quadrupled in comparison to 2003. Sadly, the deaths among this group have stayed relatively steady, but those numbers are beyond the full control of schools. In other words, violence and death continue to surround these young men at an alarming rate, but the school district is doing a better of helping some defy the odds.
The full series is available here.
Friday, August 16, 2013
via the ACLU of Montana:
The ACLU of Montana is suing the Wolf Point School District on behalf of seven Native American voters who are being denied the equal right to representation on the high school board because of discriminatory voting districts. As the voting districts stand now, each resident of majority white District 3 has far more say on the school board than each resident of majority Native American District 45 in clear violation of the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment.
Wolf Point High School District 45A unites School Districts 3 and 45. With only a 2010 Census population of 430 people, District 3, with a majority white population, elects three members to the Wolf Point High School Board - one board member for every 143 residents. District 45, which is majority Native American, had a 2010 Census population of 4,205 and elects five members - 1 board member for every 841 residents. "This clearly violates the principle of one person, one vote, and creates a school board where white members of the district are overrepresented and Native Americans are underrepresented," said ACLU of Montana Legal Director Jon Ellingson. "The school district has an obligation under both state and federal law to redraw voting districts every 10 years based upon accurate population numbers. It's long past time for the district to do that."
Read the complaint here.
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Among Julius Chambers’ notable cases include his advocacy at the U.S. Supreme Court:
Swann v. Charlotte–Mecklenburg Bd. of Ed., 402 U.S. 1 (1971) (holding that where dual school system had been maintained by school district, federal district court had broad powers to order remedies such as busing).
City of Riverside v. Rivera, 477 U.S. 561 (1986) (holding that there was no requirement under Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Awards Act that attorneys' fees be proportionate to civil rights plaintiffs' damages).
Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U.S. 30 (1986) (holding that the legacy of official discrimination, along with multimember districting scheme, impaired minority groups to elect candidates of their choice).
Patterson v. McLean Credit Union, 491 U.S. 164 (1989) (holding that employee bypassed for promotion in racial discrimination suit under 42 U.S.C. 1981 does not have to show that promoted coworkers had lesser qualifications).
Missouri v. Jenkins, 491 U.S. 274 (1989) (Eleventh Amendment did not prohibit enhancement of fee award under Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Awards Act to compensate for delay in payment; separate compensation award for legal assistants in accord with Act).
Board of Educ. of Oklahoma City v. Dowell, 498 U.S. 237 (1991) (holding that federal court may permanently dissolve an injunction when a school system has shown that it is "being operated in compliance with the Equal Protection Clause, and that it was unlikely that the Board would return to its former ways.").
Houston Lawyers' Ass'n v. Texas Attorney Gen., 501 U.S. 419 (1991) (holding that prohibition of § 2 of the Voting Rights Act against vote dilution applies to the election of trial judges).
Shaw v. Hunt, 517 U.S. 899 (1996) (holding that only voters who resided in a congressional district alleged to have been created by racial gerrymandering had standing to challenge the constitutionality of that district's creation and districting plan was not narrowly tailored to serve compelling state interest, thus violating the equal protection clause).
Currently embattled Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell held his second education reform summit yesterday and you can watch some of the speakers on UStream here. The summit is a bellwether for Virginia's education reform laws and featured influential speakers such as Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Baltimore Superintendent S. Dallas Dance. (No Jane Pauley or Pitbull, though, who were at July's National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.) Looking over the Virginia summit's speakers list, it appears that few current public school teachers or administrators were invited to speak (and in fairness, perhaps no one wants to put public employees at risk losing their jobs by advocating educational reform). Gov. McDonnell credited last year's summit for inspiring several of the state's education laws this year, including the Educator Fairness Act (making student testing a part of teacher evaluations and extending the probationary window for public school teachers from 3 to 5 years) and the Strategic Compensation Grant Initiative (grants for performance and for teaching in high-need areas). In July, Gov. McDonnell signed the Teach for America Act (creating a two-year provisional license for participants in Teach For America); the Opportunity Educational Institution Act (school takeover); and A-F School Grading. Read more at the Washington Post.