Monday, May 03, 2010

Bills are Moving, but Moving Slowly. Two weeks from today, the curtain on the 2010 Legislative Session will come down. There's a lot left to do and the education bills are poised to hit the respective chamber floors in the next week. Rumor has it (not the song by the Honeydogs) that the major funding bills--taxes, health and human sacrifice (oops, services), and education--will all hit the Senate floor on Thursday. The Senate unveiled two education-funding related bills last week, but they were relatively minor in scope. Tomorrow morning (Tuesday, May 4), the Senate Education Funding and Policy Division will be finishing the job by presenting the Senate version of the education policy bill. It will be interesting to see how warm the Senate proposal will be to the provisions of the Governor's Race to the Top proposal.

HF 2431, the House omnibus E-12 funding and policy bill, was heard this morning in the House Finance Committee and will be heard in the House Tax Committee tomorrow morning. There was considerable discussion regarding the provision in the House bill that would allow school boards to renew existing referendum levies without putting the question back on the ballot. While no action was suggested in the Finance Committee, I wouldn't be surprised if an amendment was offered tomorrow in the Tax Committee to remove the measure. Clearly, given the current economic climate, some type of measure that would at least provide an extension of a year or two to existing levies would be welcome.

Viking Stadium? It wouldn't be a legislative session without some discussion of a proposed stadium. With the Gophers and Twins off the docket in recent years, this year's discussion centers on the Vikings. It would seem odd that in a year when budget negotiations will be going full bore up until the very end that a stadium would have any chance of passing (especially given the fact that this is an election year with a very some fairly illegible tea leaves.

Regardless of the prospects for success, which I am reluctant to gauge, there are more than a few lobbyists running around with the Vikings as recently-inked clients and sometimes big things happen in an atmosphere governed by confusion.

The Hot Education Book of 2010. It's the first half of 2010, so it's too early to award Diane Ravitch's "The Death and Life of the Great American School System" that prize, but from the discussion that it's generated, it's hard to believe that any subsequent books published this year will spark this much interest.

Ravitch's book has received a lot of attention in the national press. For those of you unfamiliar with her work, Ravitch has generally be considered part of the school urging greater accountability through the incorporation of market-driven forces into the delivery of public education (charter schools, vouchers). In this book, Ravitch has, in her terms, returned to her roots as a colleague of former American Federation of Teachers President and education reformer Albert Shanker.

Ravitch contends that markets and testing have not helped raise achievement in the United States. She bemoans No Child Left Behind as measuring too narrowly the skills that comprise a meaningful education. She also contends that charter schools and vouchers have not produced marked improvements across-the-board. She admits that these newly created options have helped some children, but that overall, the excitement generated by these proposals has not meant much in terms of achievement.

You can find this book reviewed in any number of places. The New York Review of Books had a balanced and somewhat complimentary review by E. D. Hirsch. Richard Kallhnberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, gave the book a glowing review in The Washington Monthly. Eric Altschuler also gave the book a very positive review at National Public Radio. Everywhere you look, someone is saying something about the book. Just do a search and you'll find something.

I haven't had a lot of reading time, but this book will be the first one on my post-session reading list. Here is a link to Ravitch's book at Amazon.

The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education:

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