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Op-ed

There is no ‘War on Teachers”. Wall Street Journal, October 19, 2010

No longer is education reform an issue of liberals vs. conservatives. In Washington, the Obama administration's Race to the Top program rewarded states for making significant policy changes such as supporting charter schools. In Los Angeles, the Times published the effectiveness rankings—and names—of 6,000 teachers. And nationwide, the documentary "Waiting for 'Superman,'" which strongly criticizes the public education system, continues to succeed at the box office.

UFT wrong to fight Joel Klein's attempt to release teacher data, says leading education researcher. New York Daily News, October 27, 2010

New York City's schools chancellor, with the support of Mayor Bloomberg, wants to release the value-added test score results for 12,000 teachers - revealing for parents and the public the student learning gains attributable to each instructor. News organizations have requested the data; the city is ready to comply. The city's United Federation of Teachers has challenged the release, and a judge will decide next month.

I've spent many years looking carefully at such data. I know it can be incendiary; I know it has flaws. Still, I strongly support its release.

Cry Wolf! This Budget Crunch Is for Real. Education Week, 29(32), May 2010, pp. 32-40

We are entering the season for dire warnings about the loss of teacher jobs unless school funding is improved. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has given high-level credibility to this story by providing administration support to Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin’s new $23 billion stimulus bill in Congress.

California Needs to Make Wiser Use of School Funding. (with Alfred A. Lindseth). San Francisco Chronicle, June 17, 2009, p. A-15

California's budget woes are known nationally. On May 19, voters overwhelmingly rejected a series of five ballot initiatives that were central to the state's plans for feigning a balanced budget. While there might be an element of sport in watching politicians flail around trying to deal with more than $20 billion of red ink, the stakes for California and the nation are huge. Perhaps the most significant impact will come through what happens to California's public schools

Performance-Based Funding. (with Alfred A. Lindseth) . Education Week, 28(33), June 10, 2009, pp. 28-30

How to finance our schools remains controversial, and is the subject of continuous rancor in courthouses and statehouses across the nation. There are many movements, replete with Web sites and annual reporting, that advocate, among other things, proposals such as the “65 percent solution” and weighted student funding. None of the approaches that have been tried, however, has led to significantly improved achievement by students or has closed the nagging achievement gaps that continue to plague schools.

A numbers game: Consultants sell legislatures school studies and collect millions. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 17, 2007, Perspective, pp. 93, 98

In the state of Washington, adequacy plaintiffs filed a new lawsuit in early 2007 that is expected to rely heavily on a report prepared at the request of a gubernatorial-appointed commission, Washington Learns. This report, "An Evidence-Based Approach to School Finance Adequacy in Washington," claims to present scientific evidence of exactly what needs to be done to bring everychild to proficiency as defined under state and federal law. The advance, if true, would go far beyond this specific court case and could revolutionize American education.

The Court’s Gift to Spitzer. The New York Sun, November 28, 2006

Now that the state Court of Appeals has once and for all settled the New York City school finance lawsuit, state and city officials must soon initiate the next necessary discussion, which should prove much more interesting — about what needs to be done to improve the city's schools.

The Cost of an 'Adequate' Education. The Wall Street Journal, October 9, 2006, p. A19

The nation is watching to see what happens with New York City school finance. After a dozen years in the courts, the case of Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) v. New York is now back at the Court of Appeals for a final judgment about the added appropriations that the legislature must send to the city. This judgment is, however, unlikely to be the final statement. If the legislature must come up with an incredible sum of money close to the more than $5 billion currently on the table, it may well balk, precipitating a true constitutional crisis.

Education and the Economy: Our School Performance Matters. Education Week, 24(21), February 2, 2005

The PISA results came out recently, and they were greeted in the normal manner: The vast majority of U.S. citizens, both educators and populace, presumed that the discussion was about a bell tower in Italy and went on to something else. Germany was at the other extreme. Virtually every local newspaper covered the results on its front page.

Learn Lessons of the Past. . The Australian, August 26, 2004
It's not how much, but how you spend the money on schools. Salt Lake Tribune, April 18, 2004

After the Kansas City experiment, I figured that nobody with a straight face would suggest "throwing money at schools."

Same Amount of Money Should Yield Better Results. San Jose Mercury News, November 23, 2003, p. 1P, 3P

California's education finance system is broken in every way, but the real story is the dismal achievement of kids in California. What needs to be fixed is not just how schools are financed, but more important how the whole K-12 educational system is organized, and especially the incentives given to schools to do better.

A False Schools ‘Fix’. . New York Post, June 30, 2003

The state of schooling in New York City returned to the news Thursday with the highest court coming down on the side that the city's schools fail to meet constitutional requirements. The court has now turned the spotlight back on the state Legislature to "fix things."

An Enormous Opportunity. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 1, 2003

Arkansas is following some two dozen other states that have had to respond to a court finding that its current financing system is unconstitutional. These events are always traumatic, but—from a slightly different perspective—they offer enormous opportunity.

End Class-Size Straightjacket. Los Angeles Times, April 27, 2003, p. M2
Money Alone Will Not Fix Bad Schools. New York Daily News, January 23, 2001
Class Size Reduction: Good Politics, Bad Education Policy. High School Magazine, 6(4), January/February 1999, p. 44
Schools Need Incentives, Not More Money. Wall Street Journal, October 5, 1994
Throwing Money at Schools. Education Week, November 2, 1981

By our cultural heritage we are led to believe that the performance of students can be improved by providing more resources to the schools. This would allow schools to provide more individualized instruction, to hire more qualified teachers, and to expand program offerings. But what is often missed in current discussions is that this is exactly the experiment that we have been conducting. School expenditures per pupil, after allowing for inflation, almost doubled between 1960 and 1975. These increases led to smaller classes, more teachers with advanced degrees, more experienced teachers, and better paid teachers. But there were no concomitant improvements in student achievement.

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