Monday, July 29, 2013

State Briefs

Alabama Accountability Act May Have Little Beneficial Impact for Students in "Failing" Schools

Having branded 70 of its public schools as failing, Alabama is finding that there are even fewer  opportunities for students in those schools to transfer to a better school. We already noted on this blog that students in 25 of the 70 schools on the state's failing school list may not be able to transfer because of federal desegregation orders. With the school year around the corner, only 7 of Alabama's private schools have agreed to take students from failing schools. Thus, most students in failing schools have nowhere to go. No private schools in Alabama's largest two cities, Birmingham and Mobile, have yet said that they will accept transfers. The Accountability Act was sold as helping students in troubled school districts. It seems that for now, the Act will mostly benefit families who can already afford private school tuition.

Former Indiana School Chief Raised Grade for Charter School Founded by Influential Donor

The Associated Press reports former Indiana education superintendent Dr. Tony Bennett ordered the rating for a charter school run by an influential donor to be raised from a "C" to an "A." Last September, Christel House Academy was going to receive a "C" for alegbra under Bennett's grading system. Indiana's Christel House Academy was founded by Christel DeHaan, who has given nearly $3 million to political candidates. Christel House was going to receive the "C" for alegbra under under the state's A-F grading system, which Bennett instituted. According to emails obtained by AP, Bennett wrote his then-chief of staff saying that “anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work." Bennett, who is now Florida's education commissioner, told AP, “This wasn’t just to give Christel House an A. It was to make sure the system was right to make sure the system was face valid.” Read more here. According to Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig (UT Austin) blogging at Cloaking Inequity, education accountability formulas at the Houston Independent School District were regularly changed in the '90s to have politically desirable outcomes.

North Carolina eliminates college IDs as acceptable form of identification for voters; ends preregistration for teens

North Carolina's General Assembly has been in the news this summer for a number of things, including cutting the state education budget, as Derek posted last week, placing abortion measures into a motorcycle safety law and repealing the Racial Justice Act. Last Thursday, in the legislative session's final hours, the General Assembly passed a voting law to exclude college ID cards as a form of acceptable photo identification to vote. The law also shortens early voting by a week, prohibits counties from extending voting hours for extraordinary circumstances, and eliminates straight-ticket voting, same-day voter registration, and pre-registration initiatives for high school students turning 18 by Election Day. The president of the North Carolina chapter of the NACCP, the Rev. William J. Barber II, says the voting law is "the most comprehensive attack on the right to vote that this state has enacted since the institution of Jim Crow laws." North Carolina was one of nine states that had to submit voting changes to the Justice Department for pre-approval under the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA). That requirement is now gone after the Supreme Court's decision in Shelby County v. Holder in June holding Section 4 of the VRA (containing the formula for identifying jurisdictions subject to preclearance) unconstitutional. Despite a frank admission by NC Governor Pat McCrory that he has not had time to read the bill, there is little doubt that he will sign it. There are several ways to look at North Carolina's new voting laws. One view is that the law is justified is to prevent voter fraud, as NC lieutenant governor Dan Forest told the Charlotte Observer in April. Another view is that North Carolina's legislative session, newly-freed from DOJ oversight, is the beginning of a nationwide effort by Republican-majority legislatures to disenfranchise segments of the voting population, particularly those that were part of President Obama's support in 2012. Others characterize this as a cynical move of one party to rid the state of undesirable (failing to vote for the right party) voters, particularly as the state's demographics are changing. We welcome comments from our North Carolina readers about the need and predicted effects of this law.


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