Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Three articles as to why we should not pass CACR 18.

I sent the following to our Senators and Representatives regarding CACR 18.

My name is Catherine Peschke, I am a parent and I am asking you not to support CACR18. Research shows that adequacy lawsuits do not improve educational outcomes.

Court-Ordered Funding Increases Are No Remedy for Ailing Schools

Written By: Matt Warner
Published In: School Reform News
Publication Date: March 1, 2007
Publisher: The Heartland Institute

State courts have taken an increasingly active role in addressing the failures of America's public schools--a role education reformers say is not best for students.

In December, New York Supreme Court Justice Leland DeGrasse ordered the state legislature to increase education funding by $2 billion. According to a November 22, 2006 New York Times editorial, "the dollar figure was a disappointment to teachers who wanted more than twice that amount."

The plaintiff, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE), was likewise hoping for more money--closer to $6 billion. New York already spends almost $14,000 per student, making it the third-biggest spender nationwide. Education reformers cite that fact when explaining why court-mandated funding increases are the wrong approach to improving educational opportunities for K-12 students.

"One of the underlying problems with the New York legal battle is money may not be the answer to the achievement problems we face," said Andrew LeFevre, executive director of REACH Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Pennsylvania that promotes school choice reforms.

No Returns

LeFevre is the author of a report published last November by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the nation's largest nonpartisan group of state legislators, examining the effect of funding increases on student achievement. The 2006 Report Card on American Education concludes, "despite substantial increases in resources being spent on primary and secondary education over the past two decades--per-pupil expenditures have increased by 77.4 percent (after adjusting for inflation)--student performance has improved only slightly."

CFE says Americans need to shell out billions more than the nearly $500 billion currently spent, to reduce class sizes and raise teacher salaries. But classrooms nationwide have been shrinking over the past two decades. On average, today's classes are close to 11 percent smaller than they were in 1983, the year the Reagan administration issued its education report A Nation at Risk, calling for serious education reform.

Since then, every state has increased its education spending, with Georgia, Maine, and South Carolina topping the charts for largest increases. According to the 2006 Report Card's state academic achievement rankings, these three states were not in the top 10 for test scores.

Only Maine ranked in the top 20, at 18, while South Carolina and Georgia ranked 40 and 45, respectively. Of the 10 states that increased their spending the most, only two were ranked in the top 10 in academic achievement, and three ranked among the worst 10.

The December report from the Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, Tough Choices or Tough Times, also casts doubt on the usefulness of funding increases. The report calls for a major overhaul of the way public schools are managed and funded. It warns, "There is not enough money available at any level of our intergovernmental system to fix th[e] problem by spending more on the system we have. We can get where we must go only by changing the system itself."

Bypassing Lawmakers

The CFE lawsuit is the latest in a stream of adequacy suits--appeals for courts to step in to remedy schools' inadequate performance.

In "Courtroom Alchemy," a feature article in the winter 2007 issue of Education Next, authors James Guthrie and Matthew Springer write, "plaintiffs have filed more than 125 court cases questioning the constitutionality of school district and school spending levels. In 2005 alone, high court decisions were handed down in eight states."

Opponents of court-ordered funding increases also point out that tackling student achievement deficiencies is a public policy matter best reserved for state legislatures' deliberation.

In another article in the Winter 2007 issue of Education Next, Josh Dunn and Martha Derthick explain why this kind of judicial intervention ought to be left to legislative bodies: "Adequacy lawsuits have proved a serious threat to the right of citizens to have their taxes determined by elected officials who are in a position to weigh competing claims for public support and to judge the relative efficacy of spending for particular purposes."

Free Interpretation, Fuzzy Math

In addition to those concerns, judicial decisions depend too heavily on interpretation of vague and often brief state constitutional provisions, Dunn and Merthick note, citing DeGrasse's decision.

According to the authors, the judge "without apology explained that in education litigation courts 'are called on to give content to Education Clauses that are composed of terse generalities,' which in New York's case is 'The legislature shall provide for the maintenance and support of a system of free common schools, wherein all the children of this state may be educated.' From that clause, DeGrasse determined that the New York City schools were unconstitutional in everything from library expenditures to arts courses."

Adequacy lawsuits not only ask judges to take license with state constitutions, but once inadequacy is thought to be established, call on the court to determine how much money is necessary to achieve adequacy. For this, spending advocates have produced "costing out" studies that Guthrie and Springer say may represent more guesswork than reliable figures. The two most common approaches for conducting such studies often produce outcomes representing several billion dollars' worth of differences in recommended spending increases.

Matt Warner (mwarner@alec.org) is executive director of the American Legislative Exchange Council's Education Task Force.

For more information ...

"A Nation at Risk," National Commission on Excellence in Education, April 1983, http://www.ed.gov/pubs/NatAtRisk/index.html

The 2006 Report Card on American Education

Judging Money

When courts decide how to spend taxpayer dollars
Written By: Josh Dunn and Martha Derthick
Published In:
Publication Date: January 1, 2007
Publisher: Education Next

Since the 1970s, proponents of greater spending in disadvantaged school districts have pursued their goal through litigation in state courts. They have brought suits in 45 of the 50 states. These suits began with claims of equity,which sought to redistribute revenues from rich to poor districts.Disappointed with the results,within a decade the plaintiffs substituted “adequacy” for “equity”—and have had more success.
Often the victories for adequacy are only the beginning of prolonged and inconclusive struggles within the ruling courts and between the courts and legislatures or governors. But sometimes the outcomes are radical. In a pathbreaking suit in Kentucky, the state supreme court in 1989 found virtually everything about that state’s schools to be unconstitutional, and the legislature responded with major reforms.More recently, in March 2006, an appellate court in New York State ordered its elected officials to increase operating aid for New York City schools by between $4.7 and $5.63 billion a year and by $9.2 billion over five years for capital improvements. Adequacy lawsuits have proved a serious threat to the right of citizens to have their taxes determined by elected officials who are in a position to weigh competing claims for public support and to judge the relative efficacy of spending for particular purposes.

For More information go to http://heartland.org/pdf/20599.pdf

Spending Increases Don't Improve Student Achievement: Report

Written By: Lori Drummer
Published In: School Reform News
Publication Date: May 1, 2006
Publisher: The Heartland Institute

On February 23, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) released the 12th edition of its annual Report Card on American Education: A State-by-State Analysis, by Andrew T. LeFevre (who also contributes to School Reform News). The handbook assesses the academic achievement rates and public education investments of the 2003-04 school year and measures changes in these indicators over the past two decades.

Minnesota topped ALEC's academic achievement rankings, while the District of Columbia ranked 51st. To calculate the rankings, LeFevre included indicators from the 2003 assessments of the SAT, ACT, and fourth- and eighth-grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests in both reading and math.

The current Report Card varies from previous publications because, for the first time, the author compared educational inputs, such as education spending, teacher salaries, and pupil-teacher ratios, with educational outputs, such as standardized test scores and student achievement rankings, from the same year. The 2003-04 edition assesses both educational inputs and outputs from 2003, whereas the previous edition evaluated 2002 inputs and 2003 outputs.

Dollars Don't Yield Success

As has been the case with previous editions, this version of the Report Card found no evident correlation between improved student achievement and increasing education spending or lowering student-teacher ratios. While education expenditures ballooned by 78 percent after inflation adjustments over 20 years, 73 percent of public school eighth-graders performed below proficiency in math, and 70 percent scored below proficiency in reading, according to the NAEP exam.

"Education policy debates in state capitals around the nation must concentrate on student learning above all else, and state legislators have the power to promote real reform," said Georgia state Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs), ALEC 2005 national chairman. "Parents are demanding solutions to these challenges and are looking to legislators to make changes to our public school system."

Only two of the 10 states that increased their per-pupil expenditures the most over the past two decades ranked in the top 10 in academic achievement: New Hampshire increased its per-pupil expenditure by 106.1 percent over the past 20 years and ranked third in academic achievement, while Vermont raised student spending by 100.2 percent and ranked fifth in student assessments.

By contrast, Georgia increased per-pupil expenditures by 139.7 percent--the largest percentage increase of any state over two decades--but ranks 45th in academic achievement. South Carolina increased expenditures by 137.1 percent and ranked 43rd, and the District of Columbia increased student spending by 105.4 percent and ranked 51st.

Reform Essential

Similarly, of the 10 states that experienced the greatest decreases in pupil-teacher ratios over the past two decades, only Vermont--which saw a decrease of 17.6 percent--ranked in the top 10 for student achievement. Tennessee (ranked 40th in overall student achievement) cut its pupil-teacher ratio by 22.6 percent; Hawaii (46th) cut it by 26 percent; Alabama (47th) by 22.7 percent; Louisiana (48th) by 21.5 percent; and New Mexico (49th) by 20.1 percent.

"If pumping more money into schools, providing higher teacher salaries, reducing pupil-per-teacher ratios, building more schools, and spending more federal dollars to bail out public schools have not led to student achievement in the past, how can they be expected to do so in the future?" LeFevre wrote. "Dogged perpetuation of failed policies wastes public dollars; worse, it delays further the implementation of valuable new approaches."

Within its more than 50 tables and figures, which display in various ways more than 100 measures of educational resources and achievement, the report also includes analyses of numerous factors affecting the public education system, including demographics, school choice, and charter school initiatives.

"ALEC has conducted this study for 12 years now, and for 12 years we've witnessed no categorical increase in student achievement," LeFevre said in an interview for this article. "It is high time that education policies focus on student achievement and not on a dollar sign."

Data Should Inform Policies

The data found in the Report Card are meant to provide in a single volume the most basic and customary measures of educational resources and achievement on a state-by-state basis. ALEC notes the publication is neither a policy manual nor an ideological document. Lawmakers and policy experts should use the compilation of educational data and historical perspectives on instructional spending and academic achievement rates as a point of reference for future policies.

"ALEC members agree that Americans demand a first-rate public school system, and we are dedicated to making high student achievement a reality," Ehrhart said. "We must challenge ourselves to question the established thinking about public education and focus our policies on those [approaches] that deliver results."

Lori Drummer (ldrummer@alec.org) is education task force director at the American Legislative Exchange Council.

For more information ...

An electronic copy of the Report Card on American Education: A State-by-State Analysis is available online at http://www.alec.org.

If you must support CACR18 I will not be able to support you in the future. If you truly want to support our children, support school choice not special interests groups such as the teachers unions. These lawsuits were about greed not about the best interests of the children of New Hampshire and New Hampshire's future. Show the people of New Hampshire you care about our children and not special interests group please do not support CACR18.

Cathy Peschke

Croydon, NH


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