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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Texas schools short by 15,000 teachers this year, analysis shows

By TERRENCE STUTZ | Dallas Morning-News May 28, 2012 AUSTIN — Texas’ public schools should have operated with 15,000 more teachers this year, the fallout from unprecedented legislative-imposed funding cuts. And many educators believe the situation will worsen in the coming school year. Official state figures show that schools lost 10,717 teaching positions after the state aid reductions. But to keep the student-teacher ratio the same as enrollment grew, the state would have needed 4,417 more teachers on top of the positions lost, for a total increase of 15,134 for the 2011-12 year, according to an analysis by The Dallas Morning News. Public school advocates say the losses have hurt students, especially in crowded urban districts. Conservative groups argue that the impact on schools has been exaggerated. In making the cuts last year, legislative leaders said they had no choice in trying to offset a $23 billion revenue shortfall caused by the sluggish economy and the failure of the state’s business tax to produce as much revenue as first projected. “We did the best we could with the revenue we had — that’s a fact,” Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said earlier this month. In Dallas County, school districts had nearly 1,250 fewer teachers for students and about 2,275 fewer employees based on staffing ratios for the 2010-11 school year. Those figures include the actual decreases from the previous year plus the new employees that would have been hired because of enrollment growth — nearly 7,400 pupils. Statewide, school districts employed more than 324,000 teachers in the 2011-12 school year, meaning the lost jobs represented nearly 5 percent of the total number of positions. Similarly, state figures show that 25,286 school jobs — including teachers, administrators and support workers — were eliminated this school year. But that also doesn’t take into account the staffing needs for the 65,000 additional students who were enrolled. And many districts are worried because after this year’s $2 billion reduction in state aid comes another $2 billion cut. Combined with a $1.4 billion slice in state education grants, the funding loss for schools in the current two-year budget will be $5.4 billion. Dallas hit hard While districts in North Texas and across the state saw similar reductions this year — averaging 3.3 percent — the cuts next year will more than double for Dallas. Several others districts in the area face decreases of up to 8.6 percent. “The second year is looking as bleak as the first,” said Amy Beneski of the Texas Association of School Administrators, citing her conversations with superintendents. She also said school administrators are frustrated by some of the election-year rhetoric, especially from officeholders who’ve told voters that funding actually increased. “It is absolutely false, and they know it’s not true,” she said. “I don’t think the public is buying it, especially those with kids in school.” But Peggy Venable of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group that backed the cuts, said the dire predictions of education groups did not come true. “There was so much talk of teachers being laid off and school district budgets being decimated by the Legislature, but we have not seen the cutbacks they warned about. The Legislature worked hard to make sure that schools were not substantially cut,” she said. Venable also said education funding in Texas has grown at a much faster pace than student enrollment over the last 10 years, undermining claims that public schools have been hurt by diminishing financial resources. But lawmakers came under criticism for failing to account for increased enrollment in the current two-year budget. That required districts to handle the 65,000 additional students this year with a smaller pool of teachers and school employees. A similar enrollment increase is expected in the 2012-13 school year. Most districts increased class sizes to cope with the situation, particularly in upper grade levels. In elementary grades, where kindergarten through grade four are limited to 22 pupils, a record number of districts received state waivers to exceed the cap. Nearly 8,600 classes in 1,729 schools were authorized to have larger classes, said the Texas Education Agency. And next year? “We’re holding our breath about next year,” said Clay Robison of the Texas State Teachers Association. “We are expecting to see more layoffs and larger classes. Many of our teachers will have larger classes than they’ve ever had before, and others will be working without teacher aides.” Hundreds of school districts are expected to detail the impact of the funding cuts when they go to trial this fall in their suit against the state alleging inadequate and inequitable funding of schools. Wayne Pierce, director of the Equity Center and former superintendent of the Kaufman school district, said the educational effects of the cuts will be felt down the road. “The state seems to have forgotten about the 65,000 new children this year who didn’t get any new teachers,” he said. “Children don’t stand still waiting for those in charge to correct things. Whatever they are denied these two years will have an impact on their education.” The Equity Center represents 683 low and mid-wealth districts, a majority of which are part of the school finance case. In addition to larger classes, districts also have reduced expenses by scrapping field trips, scaling back remedial classes for low-achieving pupils and deferred maintenance and school improvement projects. Source: http://www.dallasnews.com/news/education/headlines/20120528-texas-schools-short-by-15000-teachers-this-year-analysis-shows.ece

Friday, May 25, 2012

MEMORIAL DAY: REMEMBERING OUR PAST AND THOSE WHO SHAPED IT



MEMORIAL DAY:
REMEMBERING OUR PAST AND THOSE WHO SHAPED IT
From La Prensa de San Antonio, May 26, 2008
By Felipe de Ortego y Gasca

Scholar in Residence, Western New Mexico University; Professor Emeritus, Texas State University System—Sul Ross

Memorial Day is about remembering and honoring not only those who have fallen in battle in military service to the country but remembering all those who have lived before us and made our present possible. The event urged Longfellow in 1867 to write the poem “Decoration Day” which ends with the words: “Your silent tents of green / We deck with fragrant flowers / Yours has the suffering been / The memory shall be ours.”

No one is sure about who exactly initiated Memorial Day. Here’s one story. Boalsburg, Pennsylvania (off Route 322 in the foothills of the Alleghenies of Centre County), boasts the origin of Memorial Day. The story (apocryphal or true) is that on a pleasant Sunday morning in October of 1864, Emma Hunter and Sophie Keller were placing flowers on the grave of Emma’s father, Dr. Reuben Hunter, a surgeon in the Union Army, when they met Mrs. Elizabeth Meyer who was placing flowers on the grave of her son Amos, a private in the Union Army who was killed on the last day of the battle at Gettysburg. They decorated the graves of each other’s kin and gave birth to Memorial Day originally called Decoration Day.

Gaining adherents, on May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed May 30, 1868 as a day for decorating the graves of those who died in defense of their country. In 1882, the event was designated as Memorial Day and later broadened to include any American who had died in war or peace as soldiers or civilians, to which Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote: “One flag, one land, one heart, one hand, one nation evermore.” In May of 1966, President Lyndon Johnson recognized Waterloo, New York, as the “official” birthplace of Memorial Day.
(extracted from http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~pacentre/memory.htm).

What does Memorial Day mean for American Hispanics? Memorial Day should give us pause to remember that American Hispanics have been part of the United States since its founding and that American Hispanics have fallen in every American war in defense of the nation [see Hispanics in America’s Defense, Department of Defense].

American Hispanics fought in World War I, the Spanish-American War, the Civil War, the War of 1812, and the American Revolution, and countless other skirmishes including the present day conflagrations in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Many historians point out that without Spain’s help the American colonists could not have won their independence. Hispanics have been America’s strongest supporters and allies.

More importantly, though, Memorial Day gives us a moment to remember our antepasados and their struggles for our well-being. We all stand on the shoulders of those who went before  us.  It
is therefore fitting to honor their memory and their place in our lives and in our history.

In 1776 Hispanics (Sephards) were part of the founding of the United States, having become part of the American population when the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam (of which they were a part) became New York.  When the United States acquired the Louisiana territory and New Orleans, the Hispanic citizens of that purchase became Americans (having been French briefly when Napolean acquired the territory from Spain). And again when the United States acquired Florida in 1819, the Hispanic settlements of that region became Americans. Hispanics are not newcomers in the United States. They have been part of the American fabric since the beginning.

The largest number of Hispanics who became Americans by fiat were the Mexicans who were part of the Mexican Cession—that territory of Mexico annexed by the United States as a prize of the U.S.—Mexico War of 1846-1848. The territory dismembered from Mexico was larger than Spain, Italy, and France combined. In part, we are the progeny of that “conquest generation” that endured the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

Like other “territorial Americans” (Native Americans, Mexican Americans, Pacific Islanders), the United States came to Puerto Ricans, they did not come to the United States. Territorial Americans are Americans by fiat—they came with the territories acquired by the United States by force of arms and conquest.

Despite the travails of life in their own lands as strangers, Hispanics have answered the nation’s call in times of peril. During World War II, they served in numbers greater than their percentage in the American population. More than 700,000 Hispanics were in uniform during World War II, most of them Mexican Americans. As a group they won more Medals of Honor than any other group.

This is the history we must remember and honor; and why we ought to decorate the graves of those who shaped our present. More importantly, however, we ought to extract from that me-mory, the most important lesson of history as George Santayana, the eminent American Hispanic philosopher, put it: those who cannot learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat it.

Por eso nos recordamos de nuestros valientes militares y  nuestros antepasados en este dia de la memoria—Memorial Day!

No one is sure about who exactly initiated Memorial Day. Here’s one story. Boalsburg, Pennsylvania (off Route 322 in the foothills of the Alleghenies of Centre County), boasts the origin of Memorial Day. The story (apocryphal or true) is that on a pleasant Sunday morning in October of 1864, Emma Hunter and Sophie Keller were placing flowers on the grave of Emma’s father, Dr. Reuben Hunter, a surgeon in the Union Army, when they met Mrs. Elizabeth Meyer who was placing flowers on the grave of her son Amos, a private in the Union Army who was killed on the last day of the battle at Gettysburg. They decorated the graves of each other’s kin and gave birth to Memorial Day originally called Decoration Day.

Gaining adherents, on May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed May 30, 1868 as a day for decorating the graves of those who died in defense of their country. In 1882, the event was designated as Memorial Day and later broadened to include any American who had died in war or peace as soldiers or civilians, to which Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote: “One flag, one land, one heart, one hand, one nation evermore.” In May of 1966, President Lyndon Johnson recognized Waterloo, New York, as the “official” birthplace of Memorial Day.
(extracted from http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~pacentre/memory.htm).

What does Memorial Day mean for American Hispanics? Memorial Day should give us pause to remember that American Hispanics have been part of the United States since its founding and that American Hispanics have fallen in every American war in defense of the nation [see Hispanics in America’s Defense, Department of Defense].

American Hispanics fought in World War I, the Spanish-American War, the Civil War, the War of 1812, and the American Revolution, and countless other skirmishes including the present day conflagrations in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Many historians point out that without Spain’s help the American colonists could not have won their independence. Hispanics have been America’s strongest supporters and allies.

More importantly, though, Memorial Day gives us a moment to remember our antepasados and their struggles for our well-being. We all stand on the shoulders of those who went before  us.  It
is therefore fitting to honor their memory and their place in our lives and in our history.

In 1776 Hispanics (Sephards) were part of the founding of the United States, having become part of the American population when the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam (of which they were a part) became New York.  When the United States acquired the Louisiana territory and New Orleans, the Hispanic citizens of that purchase became Americans (having been French briefly when Napolean acquired the territory from Spain). And again when the United States acquired Florida in 1819, the Hispanic settlements of that region became Americans. Hispanics are not newcomers in the United States. They have been part of the American fabric since the beginning.

The largest number of Hispanics who became Americans by fiat were the Mexicans who were part of the Mexican Cession—that territory of Mexico annexed by the United States as a prize of the U.S.—Mexico War of 1846-1848. The territory dismembered from Mexico was larger than Spain, Italy, and France combined. In part, we are the progeny of that “conquest generation” that endured the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

Like other “territorial Americans” (Native Americans, Mexican Americans, Pacific Islanders), the United States came to Puerto Ricans, they did not come to the United States. Territorial Americans are Americans by fiat—they came with the territories acquired by the United States by force of arms and conquest.

Despite the travails of life in their own lands as strangers, Hispanics have answered the nation’s call in times of peril. During World War II, they served in numbers greater than their percentage in the American population. More than 700,000 Hispanics were in uniform during World War II, most of them Mexican Americans. As a group they won more Medals of Honor than any other group.

This is the history we must remember and honor; and why we ought to decorate the graves of those who shaped our present. More importantly, however, we ought to extract from that memory, the most important lesson of history as George Santayana, the eminent American Hispanic philosopher, put it: those who cannot learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat it.

Por eso nos recordamos de nuestros valientes militares y  nuestros antepasados en este dia de la memoria—Memorial Day!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

State leaders unveil 2012 Texas Public Higher Education Almanac

Tuesday, May. 15, 2012
 
Want to know how many Texas college students are enrolled part time or how many are prepared for coursework when they start university or community college?
For those pondering these topics, the answers are now available in the second edition of the Texas Public Higher Education Almanac that was released Tuesday.

This year's almanac, which is available on Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board website, details a variety of data and aims to provide the public a snapshot of how the state is performing on the higher education front. State and national data about college tuition, access and completion is documented in the almanac.

"It's a living, breathing document," said Dominic Chavez, spokesman for the coordinating board.
The 2012 almanac was announced at a press conference held at Texas A&M University-San Antonio Tuesday. Gov. Rick Perry and Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Chairman Fred Heldenfels IV described the efforts as a way to promote transparency and accountability.

"Access to a college degree is more critical than ever, and we must maintain our dedication to transparency, which is essential to making higher education more affordable, accountable and accessible to Texas students," Perry said in a release detailing the event.

"This almanac is an important tool in those efforts, not only because it offers transparent data that is valuable to a student in the process of choosing a school, but also because it holds our colleges and universities accountable as they pursue efforts to improve their graduation rates, create more affordable degree options and achieve standards that will keep our state a leader in higher education."
Chavez added that the almanac is a work in progress as it is improved to include more data and changed to reflect current concerns.

For example, this year's almanac includes part-time student performance and how graduation rates have improved over time. The almanac also has several topical pages that reflect current higher education concerns, including developmental education, graduation success, transfer trends and finance.

The idea is to make the information accessible to policy makers, educators, parents and students, Chavez said. This year, the effort goes more grassroots as the coordinating board works to get the almanac in the hands of school district superintendents.
Among some of the findings documented this year:
  • Texas ranks 35 nationwide in the percentage (49.6 percent) of students who graduate in four years from an institution.
  • Texas ranks 28th nationally in the attainment of Bachelor's degrees.
  • Texas ranks 27th nationally in average tuition at public, four-year institutions ($6,350).
  • Fifty-seven out of every 100 Texas public university students earns a degree within six years.
  • Forty out of every 100 students, who are college ready when they start at a two-year institution, graduate or are still enrolled after three years.
  • Seventy percent of students enrolled at public community colleges were enrolled part time.

Daniel Formanowicz, former chair of the UT System faculty advisory council and a biology professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, said the more information about higher education available to the public, the better. He said providing information about part-time students gives people a fuller picture.

"I see that as a positive thing," Formanowicz said.

The almanac's release coincided with a directive from Perry to the coordinating board to follow up with state colleges and universities to see how they are progressing in implementing previously recommended cost efficiencies.

Among recommendations are that higher education institutions improve credit hours produced per full-time faculty member by 10 percent. That move would save an estimated $255.3 million over four years. The report also suggests institutions should evaluate e-textbooks to se if they are more affordable to students and institutions and how they impact learning.
Formanowicz said every Texas institution is dealing with cost savings as they see less state dollars and more students.

"We don't really have a choice. We have got to get more efficient," he said.
The cost savings issue, along with creation of undergraduate programs that cost no more than $10,000, was highlighted Tuesday.

Texas A&M University-San Antonio has created a $10,000 Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degree program that focuses on information technology and includes dual credit coursework at the high school level, said Jillian Reddish, a spokeswoman with the campus.
To find the almanac, go online: www.thecb.state.tx.us

Source: http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/05/15/3962270/state-leaders-unveil-2012-texas.html#storylink=cpy#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/05/15/3962270/state-leaders-unveil-2012-texas.html#storylink=cpy#storylink=cpy

Perry touts higher ed accountability, responds to rumors: Political attack on universities denied.

Gov. Rick Perry told Texas educators Tuesday, May 15, 2012, that he agrees with the University of Texas regents’ decision to impose a two-year freeze on undergraduate tuition for state residents, saying education costs need to be kept down. Photo: JOHN DAVENPORT, SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS / SA


By Jennifer R. Lloyd | San Antonio Express-News
Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Gov. Rick Perry, in town Tuesday to talk about accountability in higher education, found himself addressing questions about his influence and direction of higher education policy.

In prepared remarks before other education leaders at Texas A&M University-San Antonio, the governor touted the second edition of the Texas Public Higher Education Almanac, a compilation of statistics — tuition and fees, enrollment, graduation rates and other details — that was released Tuesday.

Perry said the almanac will send a message to employers that Texas has a skilled workforce and will give young people the data they need to choose the right school and maximize their potential. The almanac is available online at www.thecb.state.tx.us/almanac.

But Perry had to veer off the topic when asked about recent controversies involving the University of Texas System Board of Regents and a comment made Monday by Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who opined that higher education in Texas is under political attack.

A recent blog post from Paul Burka, senior executive editor at Texas Monthly, stated that University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers could lose his job after opposing the regents' decision to impose a two-year freeze on undergraduate tuition for state residents there.

On Tuesday, Perry said he agreed with the regents' decision.

“I don't think it's any big secret that I'm for keeping the cost of education down, so my suspicion is that no one in Texas thinks that I'm for tuition growth,” Perry said. “It's a good message to send to the citizens of the state that we're not going to just have tuition ... increasing with no regard for what's happening economically for the citizens of the state.”

In the blog, Burka wrote that an unnamed source said UT Regents Chairman Gene Powell asked UT Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa to recommend firing Powers, but that Cigarroa refused. The chancellor later responded with a statement saying Powell “has never directed me to fire anyone.”

Asked if he was satisfied with Powers' job performance at UT Austin, Perry responded, “That's for the Board of Regents to decide.” “I've got a state to oversee,” Perry continued. “I don't spend all my time focused on one institution of higher learning.”

Support for Powers has flowed in recent days from UT students and faculty. Michael Morton, a student and president of UT Austin's Senate of College Councils, said he believes the threat to Powers' job is real and continues.

“This is not the first time we've heard this rumor,” said Morton, who sent a letter supporting the president to regents Monday. “I don't think it's any coincidence that this happens at the end of the school year when students are either leaving the university or are consumed with finals.”

During Perry's visit to San Antonio, he also disagreed with Wolff's statement that there has been a coordinated attack on higher education in recent years.

Wolff's comment came during a San Antonio Express-News editorial board meeting in which he supported the University of Texas at San Antonio's campaign to become a major research university despite cuts in state funding.

Perry countered by saying, “There's been a coordinated focus on higher education” in a positive way. He said he couldn't recall a legislative session that left everyone satisfied with their funding and added, “I'm pretty sure that won't happen in 2013.”

Source: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/education/article/Perry-defends-school-policies-3560897.php#ixzz1v5tzsY95

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Interactive: How Much Does Your Superintendent Make?


by Ryan Murphy and Morgan Smith | Texas Tribune
May 2, 2012

During the 2011 legislative session, amid a heated conversation among state lawmakers about whether Texas public schools spent too much on administration, the Texas Tribune published a salary database of the state’s highest-paid school administrators: superintendents.

After a year and a $5.4 billion reduction in state funding for public education, schools are under scrutiny for how they have — or haven’t — trimmed their budgets to absorb the cuts. So we’ve added an interactive with the 2012 figures released by the Texas Education Agency in March. (Compare with the 2011 database here.)

Here’s a rundown of some highlights:

The average salary for the ten highest-paid school chiefs is down from $312,993 to $297,039 — just over $15,000 from last year. There has been some movement in the ten highest-paid superintendents since then, too. Beaumont ISD’s Carrol Thomas still tops the list at a base salary of $347,834. Katy ISD, Garland ISD and Coppell ISD have pushed the Fort Worth, Northside and Alief districts off the list. (If you break the list down by per-student pay, Jeffrey Turner of Coppell ISD makes the most per student in that category at $27.60 to Thomas’ $17.49.)

With a new person in the top post at Alief, that district, whose superintendent used to be the second-highest paid in the state, has dropped to 22nd on the list.

The former third and fourth top-paying districts, Dallas and Fort Worth, have both installed new chiefs at lower salaries than their predecessors, leaving Spring Branch’s Duncan Klussmann in the second spot at $309,400.

Unsurprisingly, the superintendents of districts with the smallest enrollments tended to have the highest per-student pay. There are 15 superintendents in the state that make more than $1,000 per student — and the largest of them has 113 students.

But Eric Stoddard of West Texas’ San Vincente ISD took home that superlative with a $1,500 lead over the next in line. As chief of a district with 16 students, he makes $91,670 a year — that’s $5,729.38 per student.



Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott Stepping Down



by Morgan Smith | Texas Tribune
May 1, 2012

Texas Education Agency Commissioner Robert Scott is leaving the post Gov. Rick Perry appointed him to in 2007. 

When Scott steps down on July 2 from the agency that oversees the public education of Texas' nearly 5 million students, he will be the longest-serving education commissioner of the past two decades. 
Scott said in a statement that it had been a "privilege" to serve at the agency and noted that he began his career there in 1994 — when his son was one and his daughter was 3 months old — and they have both now gone on to graduate from Texas public schools. 
"It's time," he said.

Texas was often at the center of national conversations on education matters during his tenure — skirmishing with the Obama administration over Race to the Top and other federal policy and making deep reductions to public education funding. More recently, Scott drew fire over his remarks suggesting Texas needed to reform how it uses standardized testing to hold schools accountable.

During the past legislative session when the state cut public schools by more than $5 billion, Scott often found himself having to both reassure educators that they would be able to make do with fewer resources and ask lawmakers for more funding. Asking what parts of the education budget should be funded, he once told senators during a hearing, was akin to asking "a guy on the operating table whether wants his heart or his lungs back." Texas schools have lost more than 25,000 employees in the year since lawmakers slashed the education budget — and to absorb its own state budget cuts the TEA has dropped a third of its staff. 

In January, Scott made waves with a forceful speech at an annual gathering of school administrators in Austin that added fuel to a national conversation on standardized testing — and to speculation that he might soon be leaving his post. He said student testing in the state had become a “perversion of its original intent” and that he looked forward to “reeling it back” in the future. While he said that testing has its place in keeping schools accountable, he called for an accountability system that measured “every other day of a school’s life besides testing day.” (Here is a full version of his remarks.)
Though the speech marked his strongest comments on the subject to date, it was not the first time Scott found himself navigating a controversy on how standardized exam scores factor into state accountability ratings. Last May, the agency discontinued the use of a mechanism in the ratings called the "Texas Projection Measure," which critics said artificially inflated students' test scores by inaccurately taking into account their future performance. The move came after a year of outcry from lawmakers and a unanimous vote against the measure on the House floor.

Under Scott's watch, Texas also became one of the first states to refuse federal Race to the Top funding, which he said at the time would have imposed too many burdens on schools, including forcing them to adhere to national common core curriculum standards. 

Before his appointment, Scott served as TEA's acting commissioner twice and served four years as chief deputy commissioner, managing daily TEA operations. He previously served as senior policy adviser to Perry and is credited with helping pass and implement the Texas High School Initiative in 2003.

In a press release, Perry praised Scott's performance at the agency. 

"Robert’s experience and dedication have left a lasting imprint on our state’s education system and countless Texas children, ensuring a top-notch education for our students and their preparation for success in and out of school," he said. "I’m thankful for his service and wish him all the best in the future.”

Source: http://www.texastribune.org/texas-education/texas-education-agency/texas-education-commissioner-robert-scott-step-dow/