Friday, April 24, 2015

Jersey Jazzman: Tests Don't Fund Schools

Jersey Jazzman: Tests Don't Fund Schools:

Tests Don't Fund Schools

 So let me get this straight: rich white kids not taking enough tests is the civil rights issue of our time?

John White, as reformy a guy as you'll ever find, seems to think so (all emphases in this post are mine):
John White, state superintendent of Louisiana, took that argument further, calling state testing "an absolutely essential element of assuring the civil rights of children in America." 
White said broad testing is the only way to know which students are learning and which are not. Testing, he said, is the only way to know the truth of the "serious injustice" to low-income, minority or handicapped children that do not received a good education.  
"We should examine how and how much testing we do," White said last week. 
"But we should always be conscious that we still have a country and a society that is rife with inequity and injustices, and until the time when we can assure every family of an equal opportunity to achieve an excellent education, we must commit to an annual measurement of our delivery of an education so that we can lay bare the honest truth as to whether or not we succeeded in educating every child." 
He added: "The value of testing, at its essence, is that it tells the truth and that is a civil rights issue first and foremost and should not be forgotten by anyone," he said.
So does New York's reformiest testing maven, Merryl Tisch:
It used to be easy to ignore the most vulnerable students. Without assessments, it was easy to ignore the achievement gap for African-American and Latino students. Without an objective measure of their progress, it was easy to deny special education students and English Language Learners the extra resources they need. Obviously we still need to do more for those students, but now is not the time to put blinders back on.
And, of course, here in New Jersey, our reliably reformy education commission, David Hespe, thinks opting out of tests hurts our "struggling" schools the most:
Hespe said the tests are vital to efforts to deliver quality education statewide, including in currently struggling school districts, and that meddling by lawmakers risks creating a “social justice crisis in New Jersey’’ if the program is derailed.
Golly, if these three august champions of America's students believe that an expansive, intrusive, and expensive regime of noisy, biased testing is absolutely vital for making sure we provide a high-quality education for our most deserving students, who are any of us to disagree?

I mean, all three of these warriors for impoverished children and children of color know that tests are critical in their fight to ensure that kids born in disadvantage are getting adequate resources for their schools...

Aren't they?

Let's see how much person political capital White is willing to risk to get more funds to Louisiana's children:
Louisiana Education Superintendent John White is trying to split the difference between two camps in a rough budget year. He proposed an $80 million increase in public school funding Wednesday (March 4) -- less than what a task force of educators, analysts and lawmakers wanted but more than twice what Gov. Bobby Jindal proposed. 
The governor and superintendent already are at odds over the Common Core education standards, and White has accused Jindal of punishing his agency financially. 
White proposed a 1.4 percent increase in the amount the state will give local school systems for each elementary and secondary student in the fiscal year that starts July 1. On top of that, he would add $8 million for special education, vocational classes and college work undertaken by high schoolers. 
Yes, a group of actual educators and other stakeholders told White what Louisiana's schools needed... and he promptly proceeded to ignore them. He crows about a paltry 1.4%, as if he had a huge triumph and reversed Louisiana's chronic underfunding of education.

Keep in kind that Louisiana is already one of the worst school funding offenders in the nation: a large number of wealthy families send their children to private schools, and the state expends little effort to provide the necessary resources for those children who stay in the public system.

You'd think John White might spare a word or two about education underfunding in between telling poor people that more testing will save their kids' schools. 

What about Tisch? Well, she certainly talks a good game: in her famous letter responding to NY Governor Cuomo's staff, she called for another $2 billion in state education aid. The budget wound up increasing aid by $1.6 billion. Impressed?

You shouldn't be. From the Education Law Center:
The Maisto case made clear that the crucial question in this year’s budget was this: Did the State redress the failure to fulfill its constitutional obligation to fund New York schools adequately, so that all children can have the opportunity for a meaningful high school education? 
The answer, once again, is no. The FY16 budget provides a $428 million increase in Foundation Aid, against the backdrop of the cumulative $4.7 billion shortfall in Foundation Aid. The budget provides $603 million in GEA restoration, but that is still half a billion dollars short of the $1.1 billion owed the districts. Also absent was a commitment to put the Foundation Aid formula back on track to full funding. 
The overall aid increase of $1.3 billion exceeds last year’s figure, but it falls far short of what New York students are entitled to. It also fails to mitigate the severe resource cuts over the past six years. 
An analysis of the FY16 budget by noted school finance expert, Bruce Baker, a witness for the Maistostudents, shows that these eight Small City districts still face significant funding
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