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Sunday, December 6, 2009
HSTA using furloughs to keep “Race to the Top” dollars—and reform--out of Hawaii schools
By Andrew Walden @ 3:25 PM :: 10429 Views :: Energy, Environment, National News, Ethics

By Andrew Walden

The political culture of Hawaii is built around the pursuit of federal funds. Yet, by refusing to renegotiate their contract in exchange for $50M of State “Rainy Day” money, leaders of the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) are all-but-preventing Hawaii from receiving millions of federal “Race to the Top” dollars.

The HSTA claims that its members’ “planning days” are just too important to give up, but nobody takes that excuse seriously. The real problem is that “Race to the Top” funds come with strings attached—the rules favor accountability of teachers and administrators, favor lifting the cap on charter schools, and take some small steps in the direction of actually tying the fate of teachers and administrators to student achievement.

The HSTA is dragging Hawaii schools down in order to prevent them from being lifted up.

Hawaii has been singled out in the national media because the HSTA/DoE/BoE furloughs are the most extreme of any school system. But this is not solely a local issue. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told the Washington Post, November 12, “We’re getting a lot of pushback on this.”

And who is pushing back? The Post continues:

Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.4 million-member American Federation of Teachers, who had criticized major elements of the proposed rules as "Bush III," praised the final version. She said the administration made changes to ensure that teachers are included. She also cited the addition of a key qualifier -- that teachers should be evaluated on "multiple" measures, including, but not limited to, student achievement.

Under the Bush administration, unions and administrators continuously whined that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was an unfunded mandate--as if schools should be paid extra to actually so their job.  Obama (aka “Bush III”) has now funded NCLB with $4.35B “Race to the Top” dollars.  The unions still demand it be watered down and then work to sabotage implementation of the watered-down version.

AFT’s sweet words are belied by the efforts of AFT local unions--such as New York City United Federation of Teachers which continues to work day and night to block education reform in the NY Legislature in order to sabotage Race to the Top.  But the NEA—parent union of the HSTA—doesn’t even pretend to be satisfied:

Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, the largest teachers union, with 3.2 million members, said the final rules were better. But he said he was disappointed by the continuing focus on tying test scores to job evaluations. "I think they missed the mark," he said.

In essence the HSTA has conspired with the DoE and BoE to make the furloughs as damaging as possible in order to put Hawaii schools so far out of the competition that the Hawaii Legislature will see no point in trying to enact the education reforms which could help win “Race to the Top” funding.

This is a more developed version of the gambit DoE Superintendent Pat Hamamoto tried unsuccessfully last March.  Hamamoto falsely claimed Governor Lingle’s proposal to balance the State budget by swapping $90M out of the DoE budget in exchange for $90M in federal “Stabilization Fund” monies would result in schools being forced to shut down on May 6—26 days before the normal end of school year.

What is it which terrifies the union bosses? Race to the Top takes a few baby steps away from the HSTA/NEA and AFT approach—treating teachers like wage slaves—and towards a future where elementary and secondary teachers will be paid as professionals—and held to measurable professional standards of performance.

Announcing the $4.35B “Race to the Top” program this spring, President Barack Obama sounded a bold note:

"Any state that makes it unlawful to link student progress to teacher evaluations will have to change its ways to compete for a grant."

The Wall Street Journal gave enthusiastic support for Obama’s initial proposal. But as with so many of Obama’s proposals, the leadership just hasn’t been there on follow through. After the watered-down November 12 rules were released, WSJ editors wrote:

The final Race to the Top regulations allow states to use "multiple measures," including peer reviews, to evaluate instructors. This means states that prohibit student test data from being used to measure a teacher's performance may be eligible for the federal funds, even though the President clearly said that they wouldn't be.

Nor are states any longer required to embrace charter schools to win a grant. In June, Mr. Duncan scolded by name some of the states, such as Maine and Tennessee, that don't allow charters or limit enrollment in these independent public schools. Under the final regulations, however, states that prohibit charters can still receive Race to the Top dollars so long as they have other kinds of "innovative public schools." That's an invitation for states to game the criteria by relabeling a few traditional public schools as innovative.

And yet this milquetoast version still isn’t good enough for the unions.

A December 4 news release from the Governor’s office announces the “Lingle-Aiona Administration will introduce legislation to remove the cap on charter schools, which is a requirement to qualify for additional ‘Race to the Top’ federal stimulus grants.”

The HSTA/BoE/DoE hostility to charter schools is well documented. But this is only one of the HSTA-feared reforms incentivized by the 500-point “Race to the Top” grant request scoring system.

The Washington Post explains:

“Making education funding a priority? Good for 10 points. Demonstrating significant progress in raising achievement and closing gaps? That's worth 30. Developing and adopting common academic standards, turning around the lowest-achieving schools and ensuring successful conditions for high-performing charter schools: Those are worth 40 each.

“But improving teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance is worth more than any specific improvement: 58 points.”

Most public debate over furloughs and school reform has focused on the least important issue: funding. Last February BoE members even began whining about the costs of hiring competent consultants to take over failed DoE schools.

There is already far more than enough money in the DoE budget to restore all of the furlough days and more. But the Race to the Top scoring system gives the greatest credit for systemic change. Forty points are available only if the DoE adopts a curriculum. Another forty if the DoE stops strangling charter schools. And 58 points are available for any kind of tie between student performance and the employment, promotion, remediation, or pay of principals and teachers.

The HSTA contract’s mis-named “academic freedom” clause is interpreted to prohibit establishment of a curriculum—the essential basis for measuring student in any performance-pay system. The AFT, HSTA, and NEA leadership is implacably opposed to this in spite of calls from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for massive—but student-performance driven—increases in teacher pay.

If the Legislature forced the DoE to implement these changes, Hawaii schools would soon no longer be failing at everything everywhere. Hawaii’s Race to the Top application could then be boosted by 30 points for “raising achievement and closing gaps”. Another 40 points could only then come from “turning around the lowest-achieving schools.” If the DoE actually had proper financial controls, Hawaii could get another 10 points for “making education funding a priority” – without spending another penny on the DoE.

The ongoing dispute over furloughs may look like local politics but it is part of a much bigger picture.

These proposals are the core of “Race to the Top”—and defeating them is at the top of the teachers’ union agenda in Hawaii and nationwide.

Individual Hawaii teachers have repeatedly shown that they do not agree with their union’s so-called leadership—first by voting overwhelmingly to accept drug testing in their 2007 contract. More recently rank and file teachers have taken a different path than their union mis-leaders by working with parents in to eliminate some or all furloughs in 184 of Hawaii’s 257 non-charter K-12 schools and most of Hawaii’s 31 charter schools.

It is long past time for teachers to overthrow their union officials and elect a new leadership which will formally break from the NEA and negotiate for school reform instead of against it--in exchange for the six-figure student-performance-based teacher salaries envisioned by the Gates Foundation.

Hawaii school furloughs were created in Democrat-on-Democrat negotiations between the HSTA and the DoE/BoE. Now Hawaii’s Democrat-controlled Legislature has an opportunity to bring tens of millions of federal dollars to Hawaii schools by lifting the Charter School cap, forcing the DoE to adopt a curriculum, and offering HSTA members a student-performance driven raise funded by Race to the Top monies. Will they take the bull by the horns?

In a year of cutbacks and recession with no end in sight, free federal money brought in with zero outlay by the State should be hard to resist. The HGEA, UPW, UHPA, and other unions have demands of their own to make upon the shrinking State budget. Will they be willing to sacrifice the welfare of their own members to go along with this very expensive, wasteful, and destructive HSTA scheme? Will they continue to circumscribe the education of their own members’ children in order to support an increasingly inscrutable and untenable HSTA agenda which is at odds with the Democratic US President?

---30---

Furlough negotiations: $50M ransom offered, but unions balk at releasing hostages

Audit: DoE instructor salaries diverted to "operating expenditure, supplies, and capital items"

DoE Procurement audit: Millions wasted by "fraudulent unethical behavior"

Lingle calls for constitutional amendment: DoE Superintendent to be appointed by next Governor

Gov. Lingle announces $50M plan to get children back to class

Furloughs: Advertiser sides with “sustainability” billionaires against “Save our Sports”

Furloughs: How Unions and the DoE aim to co-opt protesting parents

Furloughs vs Layoffs: The union no-solution strategy

Hawaii budget crisis: Adult Supervision vs Team Chaos

HGEA vs HSTA: The coming legislative budget crisis

Good News: A small elite no longer runs Hawaii -- Bad News: Mufi thinks he can change that

Chaos in the Department of Education

Randall Roth: In Hawaii Education, The Buck Stops Nowhere

Randall Roth dissects Hawaii's failed Department of Education

Roth's full 45 page analysis: http://www.hsblinks.com/mu

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