April 3, 2011

Reshaping Education via the BEP

Marc Comtois

As reported by the ProJo this morning, the new Dep't of Education Basic Education Program attempts to implement a new way of doing business. It strengthens management rights, implements evaluations, defines a "code of responsibility" and removes seniority as the primary qualifier for job retention. All done to, as Commisioner Deborah Gist explains, to make the system "child-centered." To help explain these changes, Gist has written several advisories, including one on seniority.

Gist has sought to clarify the ramifications of these new rules by sending out “guidance memos” to districts. No longer will seniority –– the long-held practice of seasoned teachers being allowed to “bump” newer colleagues out of their jobs –– be the sole factor in determining teacher assignments, Gist says.

The new BEP aims to ensure “that highly effective educators work with classrooms of students who have significant achievement gaps,” Gist wrote in an October 2009 memo. “In my view, no system that bases teacher assignment solely on seniority can comply with this regulation.”

Obviously, teacher unions aren't happy and they're girding up for a fight. Yet, it's not just the teacher unions that are taking issue with Gist and her interpretation of the new BEP and Rhode Island law as it pertains to education. In Warwick, for example, Mayor Scott Avedisian is taking issue with school funding requirements that seek to reset the baseline back to 2009 dollars and not the prior baseline (2010/11) that had been legislatively reduced.
Gist’s memo is an answer to the hypothetical question if a community reduced its contribution for fiscal years 2010 and 2011 “is the maintenance of effort reference year FY2009 for purposes of calculating a community’s maintenance of effort obligation for FY 2012?”

In response, she says for 2010 and 2011, a 95 percent of the 2009 maintenance of effort is allowable but that for 2012 it reverts to the 2009 level. Further, she writes, if a community contributed more to schools than the 2009 amount that higher amount becomes the threshold.

I guess time will tell if this will fly.

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"95 percent of the 2009 maintenance of effort is allowable but that for 2012 it reverts to the 2009 level."

Yeah, this is a stipulation and a problem that hasn't gotten much notice yet. I just noticed it yesterday.

It's a pretty bad time economically/revenue-wise for such a requirement to kick in.

More importantly, however, with student achievement at the bottom 20% and teacher pay at the top 20% nationally, Rhode Island has decisively demonstrated that money does not equate to better education results. Frankly, I'm pleased that Mayor Avedisian is resisting this development. Presumably, other municipalities will also soon find that they will have no choice but to join him.

Posted by: Monique at April 3, 2011 3:58 PM

Monique, the only caveat I'd add re:Avedisian is that while the school budget was frozen/flat-funded/reduced (however you want to count the beans) the overall budget still increased because City-side expenditures continued to rise. That means that all new "revenue" (taxes) raised over the last couple years have gone to pay for increases in those parts of the budget controlled by the Mayor and City Council. I'm definitely for fiscal restraint re: Schools, but the City (Warwick isn't the only one) uses school dep'ts and committees as too-convenient scapegoats while quietly raising their side of things.

Prime example: municipal workers in Warwick get health care for life (not just cops and firemen, clerks and dpw too!) while paying a low flat rate ($11 I believe). The teachers pay a similarly low rate, but do not get health care for life.

Posted by: Marc at April 4, 2011 9:02 AM
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