Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Academic Improvement and Teacher Quality Programs

The Stimulus Package  grants $200 million to this program, also known as the Teacher Incentive Fund/Program.  Here is what that program is supposed to be about. Just click on the following to reach this U.S. Department of Education site.

Academic Improvement and Teacher Quality Programs

one of the "assurances" that governors have to make to receive their chunk of the state stabilization money is to take steps to address equitable distribution of “highly qualified,” experienced, and in-field teachers across all schools, including in very poor schools. This has been a provision under the No Child Left Behind Act that hasn't been very well enforced, so it will be interesting to see what education secretary Arne Duncan does about this.  In an interview  specifically about the equitable teacher distribution provision during this  C-SPAN's Newsmakers show, Mr. Duncan seemed more inclined toward incentives than enforcement...

Below is the transcript of Mr. Duncan’s interview of 2-21-2009. All toll the Stimulus will grant $5 BILLION TO Education.



Guest: Education Secretary Arne Duncan

Reporters: Michele McNeil and Libby Quaid

Moderator: Pedro Echevarria

Tape Date: Friday, February 21, 2009

1AIR DATE/TIME: Sunday, February 23,2009, 10:00 AM

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Host: Pedro Echevarria

Guest: Arne Duncan

Reporters: Michele McNeil and Libby Quaid

PEDRO ECHEVARRIA, HOST, “NEWSMAKERS:” We are pleased to welcome to “Newsmakers,” Arne Duncan, the Education Secretary. Thanks for coming by, sir.

ARNE DUNCAN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: Thanks for having me. I really appreciate the opportunity.

ECHEVARRIA: And joining in the conversation is Michele McNeil of “Education Week,” the federal policy reporter. Also joining us, Libby Quaid of the Associated Press. She serves as their education reporter. To both of you, thanks for coming by.

Mr. Duncan, in a word or maybe even in a short, couple of phrases, what has President Obama asked you to do? What is he looking for you to do when it comes to the nation’s schools?

DUNCAN: This is a historic, extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make things better for children. And as a country, we have to get dramatically better. Due to the extraordinary influx of resources of the stimulus package, we have that opportunity. So his leadership, Congress’ leadership has given us a chance to dramatically change students’ lives. And I feel so lucky to have that chance.

ECHEVARRIA: Michele McNeil?


Since the passage of the economic stimulus plan, schools are chomping at the bit to get their hands on these billions of dollars, especially since a lot of them are having to lay off teachers, as you know, as we speak. So the number one question, I think, on their minds is, when are we going to get the money?

So can you tell us a little bit about where you and your department are at in terms of implementing this gigantic spending package?

DUNCAN: Yes, and again, this is just a huge opportunity at a couple different levels. First and foremost, my job is to help protect kids. The second goal is to save and create jobs. And the third goal is to push a very strong reform agenda. And this stimulus package gives us a chance to accomplish all three of those goals.

We want to work in a couple, different ways. We want to work very, very fast. We have to be quick about this. We also want to be smart and we also want to be transparent. Those three themes. Quick, smart, and transparent are going to guide us every step of the way.

We’re going to move this money out absolutely as quickly as we can. We recognize districts are setting budgets now for the fall. And we don’t want folks to lay you know lay people off and try and bring them back. This doesn’t make any sense. So we’re going to work very, very quickly to get the money to states and to districts.

The recent University of Washington study talked about as many as 600,000 teaching jobs being lost. That would be absolutely devastating. And we really think we have a chance to avert the catastrophe here.

I was in New York yesterday with Mayor Bloomberg, and Chancellor Klein, and President Weingarten from the AFT. They’re estimating that due to stimulus resources, that may save as many as 14,000 teaching jobs in New York. And so we have a huge chance here to avert massive layoffs.

And as I said earlier at the start, the status quo isn’t good enough. We have to keep getting better. So this allows us to sort of maintain that baseline. If class size goes from 25 to 40, we would layoff you know librarians, and social workers, and counselors. The consequences for our students are absolutely devastating. So we want to get the jobs money out. You know there’s significant money to do capital. And there’s tremendous unmet capital needs out there. And so we’re going to be working very, very quickly to get this out. We’re going to be – hold everyone, including ourselves, accountable for results, and to be very transparent throughout the process.

MCNEIL: And when you get the money out to states, how can you ensure that states will then get the money out to districts as quickly as possible?

DUNCAN: Well, we’re going to work very closely with them. I met today with mayors from around the country. Next week, I’m meeting with governors from around the country and states’ School chiefs (ph). And we’re going to push very, very hard to get this money to where the action is, to get it into classrooms and to again, fist and foremost, protect children, and get into those districts that need the most help.

MCNEIL: How soon will we see any instructions or guidance from the department telling states how to get the money?

DUNCAN: Very soon. Very soon. We’ve had staff, and I’m so proud of the staff here and watching folks worked throughout the weekend last weekend, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, working extraordinarily hard this week. We’ll be working throughout the weekend. And very soon, we’ll be giving out guidance and timeframes.

MCNEIL: Is there a way you can require governors to get the money to the schools more quickly?

DUNCAN: We’re going to give, work very closely with everybody. This is in everyone’s best interest. This is sort of the issue that cuts across you know political lines, and bipartisans, and states versus districts versus cities. Everyone wants to do the right thing by children, and we’re going to push very hard to make sure that happens.

MCNEIL: When you talked about staff, I wonder who is helping you make all these decisions about this tremendous amount of money, because you have you know a lot of key vacancies still in your departments. So who all is helping you?

DUNCAN: Well, I think it’s a little bit misleading some times. We have an army of 4,000 people here who are working extraordinarily hard. And we’re finalizing the team. We have some great people who are going through the vending (ph) process, and you know should be on board very soon.

And so we’re bringing in extraordinary talent from around the country. But we have a team of folks, lifetime workers in the Department of Education who have never had this kind of opportunity. They are unbelievably excited. They see this as an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help students.

So the level of commitment you know from the team is remarkable and simultaneously, are trying to spend a lot of time listening. So they’re going to be (ph) talking to mayors, talking to governors, talking to state school chiefs, talking to superintendents, talking to parents, and will you know obviously, ultimately make decisions in the department. I’ve always worked in a really collaborative manner, and it’s very important to continue now. So getting lots of good impact (ph) and feedback from the people we’re trying to help. Those are my customers. That’s who I’m trying to serve. I want to listen to them and hear of how I can best help them be successful.

QUAID: So when do you get the dollars started rolling out the door? Before long, you’ll be able to turn your focus to this special $5 billion incentive fund. It’s an unprecedented amount of money for a secretary to have as much discretion over as you do. Can you talk a little bit about the things you want to do with that money?

DUNCAN: Quite happily. And this is an extraordinary opportunity. Five billion dollars is a huge amount of money. We’re calling it “a race to the top” fund. And the goal is pretty simple. We want to get dramatically better. I think we have to get dramatically better. I think we’re in not just an economic crisis, but an educational crisis. I’m just convinced long term, we have to educate our way to a better economy.

What we’re going to do is work with a set number of states. We’ll figure out what that is through an RFP (ph) process that really wants to challenge the status quo and do exactly what the fund talks about, race to the top, lead the country to a much better place educationally.

So what are we looking for? We’re looking for states that will commit to common, very high, common standard, internationally benchmarked tests so that we’ll really know where our students are competing against the best in the world, so the students graduating from high school will be both college ready and career ready, again, and have international comparisons with that, international benchmarks.

Secondly, behind that, we want to have great assessments. I want to be able to look a second grader or a third grader in the eye and say, you’re on track to graduating from college, or you’re not. And this is your strengths and this is your weaknesses. You have to have great assessments to do that.

Third, you need to have a great data system so you can track those students throughout their academic career, and also track students to teachers, and track teachers ultimately, hopefully to the schools of education they came from, so to really know who’s making a great difference in our students’ lives.

So common, high standard, great assessments behind it, comprehensive data systems, and then finally, I’m a big believer that talent matters tremendously in our work. And I want to find ways, much more creative ways to incent that great talent, great teachers, great principals who are making extraordinary differences in our students’ lives.

I want to reward those great teachers and principals for their performance for making a difference in students’ lives. I want to reward them for taking on tough assignments and working in areas that have been historically underserved.

I think we have to think differently. Do we compensate math and science teachers differently? And really be creative and challenge the status quo. We have a chance to bring in this great, new generation of talent into the system and this “race to the top” fund will work with a set of states that wants to push the envelop in all of those areas.

Again, great standards, high common standards, great assessments, comprehensive data systems, and really thinking about, what I call talent management, how we get the best and brightest into our classrooms, into our principalships, and making sure that great talent is working in communities where we most need them.

So it’s an extraordinary opportunity. There’s great, great work out there going on in a number of states. And we want to have a competitive process, work with a set of states who want to challenge the status quo and help lead the country to a much better place.

Within that $5 billion, there’s also a pool of $650 million to work with districts and non-profits, and really take the scale of those practices that are making a huge difference in students’ lives. So there’s a real chance for the education entrepreneurs of the world, the social entrepreneurs, the great folks at the district level who are really, dramatically improving student achievement to take the scale of what works.

Part of what I’m so hopeful about is you look around the country in every state, in every district. There are wonderful pockets of excellence. There is just extraordinary, Herculean work going on. Where I want to use these resources to do is to really take those best practices to scale, to really enable them to impact many, many more students. And if, under my tenure, if our department can become the engine of innovation in really driving best practices, and taking the scale what works, and frankly, stopping doing things that aren’t making a difference to students’ lives, that would be so fun. And we have a remarkable chance to do that.

MCNEIL: When you talk about standards and common academic standards, and benchmarking them internationally, how do you make that happen? Do you use, do you envision your role as one in which you use your bully pulpit and any money, discretionary money to get governors to do this? And do you envision national standards for every kid across all subjects, across all states, and national tests?

DUNCAN: Well, we want to get into this game. And I’m not leading this game. There are many, great governors out there who have been talking about this, and not just talking working on this for awhile. There are a set of state school chiefs who are pushing this very hard.

Interestingly, Randi Weingarten, the new president of the AFT, just wrote a huge editorial talking about the need for a higher standard and a common standard. So there’s a huge amount of thoughtfulness, hard work. There are great, outside partners achieved (ph), the Gates Foundation, others, who are providing great leadership.

What I want to do is I want to be the catalyst. I want to help to take all this hard work and really start to make it happen, and again, implement at scale. And so there’re just wonderful ideas, tremendous commitment out there. I want to be the one to help it come to fruition.

What I think is going on too much now, and I always try to be very candid and honest about this, in too many states, we have 50 different bars, 50 different goalposts. It’s been a race to the bottom. We’re talking about how it being a race to the top. And what happens is due to political pressure. You have districts lowering, districts in states lowering standards. And what most concerns me is that when you tell a child that they are you know meeting whatever bar it is, meeting state standards, whatever it might be, if I was a parent, if my child is meeting those states’ standards, I would think that they’re going to be on track to be successful, to graduate from high school, to go on to college.

Unfortunately, in too many places, I think we’re lying to children. While we’re telling them they are meeting state standards, they are absolutely ill-equipped, not just to graduate from high school, but to begin to think about going on to college. I think we do children and families a great disservice when we do that. And so the more we can be transparent, the more we can talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly, and be able to look our children and parents in the eye and say, yes, and say, you are really are on track to graduate from college. And by the way, we’re going to help you compete for jobs, not down the block or around the corner, or compete for jobs with children from India and China, because that’s the reality of our economy today. That’s what I want to do.

So it’s going to take some hard work, but again there’s tremendous leadership at the state level, at the district level, at the school chief level, to make this happen, against (ph) real, real significant investment from the non-profit community and philanthropic community. This is the right thing to do for children.

QUAID: You talked about finding these pockets of excellence, these places all over the country where they’ve tried sort of experiments that seem to be working. You were the superintendent of Chicago public schools. I’d like to ask, is there anything that you were able to do, that you thought was successful in Chicago that you would like to, as secretary, take to scale?

DUNCAN: I think we know a lot of what works. There are wonderful non-profits. There are wonderful district leaders. There are wonderful charter groups that, in the toughest of communities around our country, we’re seeing remarkable results. I want to see them grow.

I’m desperately fighting for more time. I think our school day is too short. I think our school year is too short. I think the week is too short. And so particularly for children who aren’t read to at home, who may not come from two-parent families, and really need extra support, we need to get to those children early. We need to support them over the long haul. And we need to invest significantly more time in them.

And again, third, I think talent matters tremendously. We need to get the best and brightest teachers and principals into communities that have been underserved, frankly, sometimes for decades. And so what we can do to incent great talent to go where it’s needed, where we can get more time, and where we can challenge that status quo, and really help those folks who are already making a difference, do more of that work. That’s an extraordinarily exciting opportunity.

QUAID: That sounds like several, different things that you did in Chicago that you’d like to take to scale.

DUNCAN: And again, to be real clear, this – there’s some interesting work around Chicago. There’s phenomenal work going around the country. And my job is to listen and learn, and give those folks who are making a difference throughout the country a chance to do more of that.

MCNEIL: When you talk about wanting to get the best teachers, especially in those underserved communities with the children who are most at risk, there is a provision of No Child Left Behind right now that requires states to take steps to do – to address equitable teacher distribution and to make sure that we have really high-quality teachers teaching in all of our schools. But it’s not really been enforced. Are you going to take that in a different direction?

DUNCAN: To me it’s not about enforcement. I don’t think we’ve been creative enough. I don’t think we have pushed the envelop and thought outside the box about how we really do this and do this at scale. And what I fundamentally believe – and this is going to – there are some folks in the public who think that poor children can’t learn, that it’s too hard, or they’re too far behind. Like, why bother and throw up their hands.

Why I’ve been so lucky is, throughout my life, I’ve worked with children from very poor backgrounds, often very dysfunctional homes who went on to do extraordinary things academically because they had adults (ph) in their lives who believed in them. So I know in my heart and into my bones what our children from the toughest of our communities throughout the country can do, intercity, urban, rural, whatever it might be, when we as adults really give them a chance.

And we have created, frankly, lots of disincentives for that great talent to go where it’s needed most, and not enough incentives. I want to dramatically reverse that status quo, create very significant incentives to identify the best and brightest, and then get them to work in those communities that for far too long haven’t seen that great talent come in. There have been great places where great talent unfortunately fled from. And so I think we can be very creative, very thoughtful in how we do it, and start to get a new generation of great talent to go into those communities that most need it. And I promise you that when we do that, when we get great teachers in every classroom and great principals, you’re going to see children from families that may have never achieved academically, go on to do remarkable things, because we’re giving them that opportunity because we’re going to have the highest of expectations. And we’re going to stay with them for the long haul.

ECHEVARRIA: You’re watching “Newsmakers.” Arne Duncan is the Education Secretary. He’s our guest. Joining us, Libby Quaid of the Associated Press, their education reporter; and Michele McNeil of “Education Week,” the federal policy reporter.

Mr. Secretary, you said we create disincentives. What do you mean by that?

DUNCAN: I think in too many places, you make more money if you move to places that have better funding, and not work in places that are more poorly funded. We don’t identify that great talent. And I think we have to reverse all that. I think we need to reward teacher excellence, get those good teachers to go where they’re needed the most, and do it in critical mass.

You’re not going to find a teacher who’s going to do it by themselves maybe. They want to work with a team that’s like-minded, that has this real entrepreneurial visions and wants to do better.

So there are many different ways we can incent not just individual, great teachers and principals, but teams of folks to go in those communities. There’s so much – everyone goes into teaching for the most altruistic reasons. They don’t go into make $1 million. And the money is almost a symbolic token of our appreciation for their hard work.

But what we found in Chicago and what I see around the country is that when you put teams of folks together, when you create some of the sense is to get the best and brightest in the communities. They’re chomping at the bit to do that work. Folks want to come in because they want to change lives. That’s why teachers teach because they want to make a difference.

We have to create the opportunity structure and support them in that tough work so that they stay and stay committed to those communities where historically, they fled (ph).

QUAID: I know you have this fundamental belief that all kids can learn. But the fact is, we have this system where today, right now, there are schools in poor communities, a high number of minority kids that don’t get as much money, and they don’t have teachers that are as good. So when you look at this system as it is, a big question a lot of people have for you is, do you believe, even though you believe all kids can learn, that they can learn to read and do math as the law says they’re supposed to be able to by 2014?

DUNCAN: Well, you asked a couple different questions there. Do I believe all children can learn to read and do math? Absolutely. And again, we’re talking about lots of strategies to help more students to do that. Part of why I feel such a huge sense of urgency, is that as you said that Libby, so many children around the country aren’t given that opportunity. And I just think children have one chance at an education. We can’t wait. If we don’t deliver it, we, as educators, we perpetuate poverty. We perpetuate social failure. We’re part of the problem. And so we have to challenge the status quo as hared as we can every, single day.

Where you’re getting to sort of long-term, NCOB reauthorization on how to sort of get into that, where we’ve been focused until a few days ago, was getting a stimulus package passed. And as this, again, absolutely historic, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, over $100 billion for education, and what the president did, what the Congress did, is just extraordinary for the children of this country. That’s staved off catastrophe and not only done that, but given us a chance to get dramatically better.

Now, we have to focus on implementing impeccably against this huge vote of confidence in our children and this huge gift of the public’s trust. The public is intrusting scarce, tax dollars for our children and giving us a chance to really do something special. And we want to implement impeccably against that. And I will spend the next, several months making sure we put in place those mechanisms to help us get the money out fast, as you talked about earlier, get it out in a smart way and responsive way, and then also, really think about transparency, and how we make sure the public is very, very clear. And if we make a mistake, we want to correct it. We want to make sure every, scare dollar is used wisely.

As we get into the implementation phase, and things are really rolling out, and the money is getting out to districts and in states, then I want to get out and travel the country a bit and really spend some time listening and learning on No Child Left Behind. Obviously, I have lots of my own strong opinions. But I want to listen across the country to hear what teachers, and principals and parents, and students think about it.

Sort of directionally where I’m going, the one thing that I think was phenomenal about the No Child Left Behind law is that it’s shown a spotlight on the achievement gap. And it talked about this (ph) aggregate (ph) data. And it sort of forever, I think, historically (inaudible) that was swept under the rug. And that was a huge, huge problem, a huge challenge in our country.

And so that idea of really shining a spotlight on that achievement gap, just aggregate (ph) data. We’re going to continue to do that and find ways to do it even in more thoughtful, more creative, and more comprehensive manner.

Other things didn’t work, the idea of moving children around. Choice before more tutoring, more time, didn’t make sense. So simply put, those things that worked, we want to build upon. Those things that didn’t work, we want to fix and be very pragmatic about.

MCNEIL: Do you think the amount, the shear dollars, the increase in federal funding that’s now going to schools, changes the conversation on NCOB reauthorization? Does it give you more justification to ask for even more accountability from school districts?

DUNCAN: It’s me again; I look at it different – I just start asking for more accountability. It’s asking for us all to have higher expectations for all of us, for us as the education department, for teachers, for principals, for parents – which you don’t talk about enough – for students. We all have to do better, because what we’re doing for our students today too often simply isn’t enough.

So it’s not just about accountability. It’s about again, creating incentives so you incent the best behavior. It’s scaling up those extraordinary efforts that are going on around the country that are working, to shine a spotlight on those great examples.

And yes, where things aren’t working, it’s talking about that openly and honestly. These additional resources do help us to push the conversation. And what we want to do with the “race to the top” fund, that $5 billion, to work with a relatively small number of states that really want to challenge the status quo and push the envelop. Where we’re going without those states in that “race to the top,” is really going to help, I think, start to build a platform from which we will be moved to reauthorize No Child Left Behind.

One piece in that that we also want to think about is I think, rightly or wrongly, fairly or unfairly, No Child Left Behind name you need to think about and probably rebrand. I think there’s very substantive things we want to build upon, and where it’s working or fix what’s not working. But we really need to think about something much more aspirational (ph), something inspirational, and again, less about the bottom and more about the top.

UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: You have an idea for a new name?

DUNCAN: We’re working on it. And again, maybe we’ll get a child to help us rename it. We’re going to get out there and listen and learn, and figure out what’s going to aspire the country to get dramatically better. We have to do it. We have to significantly increase our high school graduation rates. We have to significantly increase our college graduation rates.

And again, I just think we have to educate our way, not just to a better economy, but to a fair and more just society. I’ve said repeatedly, I really see this as a civil rights issue of our generation, that when we do a great job educating, we give our children, from whatever background, a real chance at the American dream. And where we don’t, we’re part of the problem.

And so we’re going to push very, very hard to get dramatically better and to do it with a huge sense of urgency.

QUAID: I’d like to throw in a personal question. What’s it like to play basketball with the president?

DUNCAN: It’s a lot of fun. And we haven’t had a chance too much recently to do it, but hopefully, we’ll start to play a little bit more. But not surprisingly, he’s a really smart player. And no surprises there. And it’s just a good – lots of great camaraderie and stress relief, and we have a great group of guys who play with him in Chicago. And I guess, you’ve got to figure out a game here in Washington. We haven’t quite done that. But it’s a heck of a lot of fun. He’s a good player.

ECHEVARRIA: Mr. Secretary, when it comes to reauthorization, do you think you’ll get the bipartisanship you saw when No Child Left Behind was enacted?

DUNCAN: Well, we’re going to work at it. And I think it’s so critically important. What’s been so fun for me so far here in Washington, is just to see the outpouring of support for our work, again, across the aisle. And everyone knows that what we do for children is in all of our best interests. And so whether it’s my confirmation hearings, or whether it’s the conversation I’ve been having subsequently, everybody wants this to succeed. And this is an issue, it’s not Republican, it’s not Democratic, this is about children. It’s about changing students’ lives and giving them a chance to fulfill their tremendous potential.

So I’m very, very hopeful, and we’re going to work hard again, to listen and to learn. But this needs to be an absolutely bipartisan effort. And that’s how I plan to work in everything that I do. This is nothing to do with politics. I’m probably the least political guy you’re going to meet here in Washington. It’s just about; can we dramatically change the lives of our children? Whatever it takes to do that, that’s what I’m committed to doing.

ECHEVARRIA: So who have you been talking to over the last couple of days about your plans, your thoughts on both sides of the aisle?

DUNCAN: Yes, again, not just the politicians, but you know out – I was out visiting a school yesterday, talking to parents, talking to principals, and met with about 80 mayors today, meeting with a set of governors next week, school chiefs, talking to you know congressmen versus senators, congressmen and senators. And again, wherever I’ve gone, people want this thing to work. And that’s been so inspiring to me. And we would not have this huge opportunity were it not for that bipartisan support.

ECHEVARRIA: Michel McNeil?

MCNEIL: When you think about going forward and reauthorizing No Child Left Behind, or looking back at what the Bush administration did, typically, when a new administration comes into office, especially one of the opposite party, you look at things you want to reverse or take back or take in another direction. What one specific thing you would like to undo that the Bush administration did as far as education policy?

DUNCAN: Well, a couple of things we are already undoing as part of the stimulus package, is adding dramatically more money to what has been an often largely unfunded mandates. So you know over $10 billion in additional money for Title One, you know working with our poorest of children. Over $10 billion in additional money for IDEA, special education children, so those things that were historically underfunded have been addressed already in the first month of the president’s new term. So that’s been pretty remarkable.

I talked about things like moving students around. This idea of choice before supplemental services doesn’t make sense to me.

I’m a big believer in looking at graduation rates. And yes, third-grade test scores are important. That’s what I call a leading indicator. I want to really focus on high school and college graduation rates and getting more folks there.

One thing that Secretary Spellings and her team did remarkably well that we want to build upon – this is a fifth of your question – was the teacher incentive fund, where they put significant resources out to school districts that challenged school districts to think differently about rewarding excellence. And when I was on the other side in Chicago, that helped to create a huge culture change for us in the city that we could never have done without that significant, financial support. And so I’ve seen both.

What doesn’t work and also the great, great work that can happen here – and again, I go back to the theme of not just being getting away from sort of a compliance-driven bureaucratic organization to really being the real engine of innovation, spurring innovation, and challenging status quo, and steeling up best practices and those things that are working, really taking them to a whole different level. That’s the opportunity we have here.

ECHEVARRIA: We are out of time here, but Mr. Duncan, I want to thank your time and being our guest on “Newsmakers.”

DUNCAN: Thanks so much for having me. I appreciated it.

ECHEVARRIA: Libby Quaid, in the conversation with the secretary, did you hear anything new from him regarding education policy.

LIBBY QUAID, EDUCATION REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: No. The secretary is very disciplined with his message already. The new administration is only a few weeks’ old. And we’ve already heard – we’ve already heard the same messages I – the same kind of theme that I think we’ll keep hearing from the secretary. It’s not that he didn’t say anything. He seems to have some pretty clear ideas of where to go.

He’s in a difficult position because No child Left Behind in particular, has made education more of a partisan issue than it was when the Bush administration began. And I don’t think Arne Duncan wants to start off on that footing.

You know the question about what would he reverse, the Bush administration budget answer made it seem that he had much or more in common with Secretary Spellings and the Bush administration than he has in difference with them.

ECHEVARRIA: Michele McNeil, same question.

MCNEIL: I think Secretary Duncan has also been handed $100 billion and told, make this happen, spend it well. And he’s doing it without a complete management team. And so I think he’s under. He has a really big management challenge ahead of him. So I think he’s really focused right now on this stimulus and getting that money out as job one.

And so I think, if you want to hear a lot of specifics on what he might do on NCOB, I think we might have to wait awhile for that.

ECHEVARRIA: And he repeated the need for resources in school districts, he repeated incentives. These are things that we’ve heard before. He talked a lot about this $5 billion incentive fund. In the end, though, what does it do from your experience as reporters, what does it do to put that kind of money into systems? And does is result in better education of students?

QUAID: Well, there’s never been an opportunity like this. There’s never been this amount of money to do the kinds of things. He refers to it as reform that he wants to do. So we don’t really have experience to go on.

If he’s able to do the kinds of things that he would like to do, it could make a big difference. He talks about wanting national standards, wanting states to have the same types of academic standards as other countries from state to state, which has politically been very unpopular. When the Clinton administration took steps toward doing that, there was a lot of resistance from states. And it’s not just any kind of politics; it’s in Texas, in Kansas. What happens when you bring up evolution in a science curriculum?

So the only way realistically, anybody from Washington can make states want to do it, can keep from making it an ugly issue, is to not just offer them money – that’s very important. He can offer them this money to help them do it because new standards, new curriculum, new tests is (ph) all very expensive and time consuming.

He could also potentially ease up some of the very rigid structures that states and state leaders hate about No Child Left Behind.

MCNEIL: I think Libby is right too; that this money gives him an incredible opportunity to do things that might be politically unpopular, which may be national standards. It could be giving a lot of money to districts to look at different ways to pay teachers, which can be very controversial. You know there’s a lot of talk about paying teachers based on test scores. And you know with that big pot of money, you can do that too.

So there’s potential for him to do some things that we might not have seen before. So I think there is a lot of potential here for him to take things to scale depending on how he is able to execute it.

ECHEVARRIA: So money he’s got. Politics on Capital Hill, what kind of support would he have on both sides, assuming he’ll have support from Democrats for efforts that he wants to make.

QUAID: So far, it seems that the president could not have picked somebody who would have had more support from both parties. Republicans really like the ideas that Arne Duncan is talking about. They didn’t like that he included these reforms in the stimulus bill because they thought it should be about immediate job creation. And the reforms he’s talking about are not.

But they love the ideas that he’s talking about. They like the idea of states having data systems that track students and teachers’ performance.

And not every Democrat on Capital Hill likes all of the ideas that he’s talking about. Teachers unions have been – have tread cautiously on the idea of performance pay, paying teachers more according to how students do. They have agreed to it. They’ve agreed to it when it has been a bonus for the entire school.

But the key Democrats right now also love the ideas that Arne Duncan is talking about, like Ted Kennedy, and George Miller, who chair the education committees in Congress.

ECHEVARRIA: Michel McNeil, what would you add to that?

MCNEIL: I would just add that he has this amazing ability to get both sides to like him. He goes to charter schools you know and he really seems to embrace more of the reform-minded part of the Democratic Party. He also talks about performance pay which can you know isn’t always popular.

But yet, you know Libby’s right. He has this ability to get both sides to like him. And I think that bodes very well for No Child Left Behind reauthorization, and other big things that he wants to do going forward.

ECHEVARRIA: Michele McNeil reports for “Education Week,” their federal policy reporter. We’ve also been joined by Libby Quaid of the Associated Press, their education reporter. To both of you, thanks for being on “Newsmakers.”




Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Where is Ex- District 100 Director of Technology, Eric Willard?

I thought many of you might enjoy this story as to what Mr. Willard is up to these days.  Mr. Willard was District 100’s Director of Technology back in 2005 before Steve Schlomann (brother to the Superintendent) held the post on an interim basis.  The article is from Cal Skinner’s Blog:  So when “I” is being used it is referring to Cal Skinner.


Eric Willard, an Entrepreneurial District 300 Employee

Maybe I should have entitled this “Another Entrepreneurial Employee” since I wrote a little while ago about Carpentersville District 300 energy czar David Ulm's efforts to explore using windmills to offset electric costs.
After the District 300 legislative meeting during which pleas were made for the state funding for school construction which were assumed in the $185 million bond approved in 2006, newly elected State Rep. Keith Farnham (D-Elgin) was talking to Chief Technology Officer Eric Willard.
They discussed the possibility of commuter trains between Rockford, where Willard lives, and Elgin, among other things.
Impressed with what I heard about Willard's plan for fiber optic linkage of the schools, I stuck around and got a fascinating presentation.
Willard has rented two dark fibers owned by the Illinois State Tollway Authority. This project was initiated in conjunction with NIU, that had similarly leased Tollway fiber down I-90, I-88 and is just about finished with linking the two systems to the third side of the triangle, I-39 (thanks to funds obtained from a federal grant).
The D300 fiber will connect from I-90 to NIU's Hoffman Estates campus and then gain access to the Internet from them. This is how we'll distribute the current risk from all schools in the district having their Internet access at DCHS.
At a current cost of about $88,000 a mile to bury new fiber to connect to the leased fiber, NIU has made quite an investment to connect their campuses in DeKalb, Rockford, Hoffman Estates and Naperville.
District 300 has rights to two strands beginning at the truck stop on I-90 at Route 20 and extending to Meacham Road.
My short course in fiber optic capacity taught me that eight colors will be transmitted over the fibers, allowing eight different connections each way.
If more capacity it needed, the electronics can be swapped out and up to 32 colors or message pathways can be used on the existing fiber, Willard said.
The new Hampshire High will be connected directly to the tollway cable and over-the-air connections will be made from there to the old high school, now a middle school and the grade school in town. Fiber already connects the new high school with Gary D. Wright Elementary School in Hampshire.
Willard wants to run a line up from the tollway to Dundee-Crown, where the the school district has its technology headquarters.
He is also talking to Kane County and McHenry County officials about the possibility of a joint project to run a fiber optic cable up Randall Road to serve the growing communications needs of the two counties and various cities and villages along the way.
His goal is for the cable to be laid when Randall Road is widened.
Willard has been approached by Hoffman Estates and Schaumburg for access to the cable strands that the Carpentersville School District is leasing.
Local law enforcement units are also showing interest in the opportunity.
I asked Willard if the District might bring in more money than it costs.
He grinned broadly and said he hadn't mentioned that at this year's presentation to legislators.
I wouldn't lay odds that such an announcement might be made next year.
Finally, it occurs to me that if Crystal Lake gets its wish fulfillment of a new interceptor sewer, McHenry County College might want to pop for the cost of $88,000 to lay cable up Route 14.

Labels: District 300, Eric Willard, Fiber Optic, Keith Farnham

Friday, February 20, 2009

School Board Briefs from 2-17-2009 Meeting

Click on the icons below to see the Briefs of District 100’s  regular monthly School Board meeting of February 17.  These briefs are produced by District 100.

Feb Brief 1 Feb Briefs 2

Feb Briefs 3

Teachers’ Salary Schedule--Revisited

As you know District 100’s Administration is negotiating with the teachers’ union for this coming year school year.  Conversations with many of my non-teacher friends has convinced me that many members of the public do not understand teachers’ salary schedule.  I hope to present, as objectively as possible, an analysis of the current District 100 teachers’ salary schedule.  I hope this will help the public have a positive input to school board members and other decision makers for the next contract.  With the current economic crisis, both our teachers and our community must be treated fairly.

If you think the salary schedules are low compared to other college graduates, do remember that these schedules do not include teachers retirement.  District 100 pays all of teachers’ retirement, that is nearly 10% of a teacher’s gross pay.  If you are working for a private employee, it is as if you answered the question “how much do you make?”,  by stating your salary after you paid your social security tax.   Of course,  we usually just quote our much higher, gross salary.   District 100 teachers do not contribute to Social Security.

How does the salary schedule work?   The schedule provides salary increases for steps (another year of experience at the district) and lane changes (increase for 6 more semester hours of approved college coursework). These concepts of salary increase for longevity and coursework prevail in most school districts across Illinois.  (I hope to publish some of the neighboring K-12 School Districts so you can compare them with District 100.  District 100 should be competitive, but the big question-- competitive with whom?  Rock Valley schools or McHenry County and suburban schools?)

What is another year of longevity or another six hours of coursework worth?  Each year, the teacher will receive another 3.3% in salary for working another year at District 100.  Every six hours of additional approved coursework is also worth a 3.3% in salary*.  A teacher who gains another six hours of credit and another year of seniority in the same year, would receive just over a 6.6% increase. There is a limit to these annual increases.  After 17 years**, a teacher will no longer receive a step increase (longevity) and after MA plus 48 hours there is no lane change available.  Teachers who cannot receive additional steps and lanes,  receive more money only if the school board approves a higher pay schedule for the coming school year.  In past years, multi-year contracts have been approved by the school board and the schedule increased each year.

What is a MA plus 48?  That probably is a doctorate degree.  Technical, any 48 hours of District approved coursework after an approved Masters Degree.  Most Masters degrees can be completed with 32 semester hours.  So the MA plus 48 could be two Masters Degrees plus an additional 16 semester hours of graduate work.  Sometimes the coursework need not be all graduate work.


*The increase for MA+40 and MA+48 are worth only a 1.65% increase.

**The BA lanes have a limit of 13-15 steps for longevity.

 Click on the salary schedule to enlarge.


teachers salary

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Belvidere district gears up for contract talks - Rockford, IL - Rockford Register Star

This is the reason you should look through the long slide presentation on District 100 finances.  Can District 100 really afford a more expensive teachers’ contract?  Click to see what the Register Star says.

Belvidere district gears up for contract talks - Rockford, IL - Rockford Register Star

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

State of District 100 Finances Address

A recently received email from Superintendent, Dr.  Michael Houselog grants permission.  The exact words from his eSlide 1mail are:  “Last night(2-17-2009) the Belvidere School Board approved the minutes of the February 10, 2009 Business Services Meeting. Thus you are granted permission to post that document on your blog.”

The following are the seventeen slides that Scott Smith, PMA Financial Networks, presented in the approximate one hour meeting on TuesSlide 2 day, February 10, 2009.  The presentation was primarily for teachers and employees who are currently negotiating their union contract with the Board of Education for the 2009-2010 and subsequent school years.

In general, slides presenting writteslide 3n material map out the assumptions and facts that are the basis for the graphic presentation.  The facts and assumption of the earlier slides build up to Slide # 15 and #16.  These are the very largest slides at the bottom.   These slides relate the cash balance in the main five funds of the District 100 under two scenarios—Slide 15—District 100 receives all funds promised for 2009-2010 by the State and the state increases state aid--------------------------                                                                                                       slide 4

(foundation level) for 2010 by $130 and $150 for each subsequent year.  Slide 16 does not have an increase in the foundation level for 2010 and subsequent years.   See Slide #11, all the presentations assumes that neither the teachers nor non-certified staff are granted a higher-------------------------------------------

slide 5

pay scale schedule.  That is, an employee will have an increase in pay due to changing step or seniority but there is no increase  due to higher negotiated salary schedule.  In short,  the schedule for   2008-2009 salaries is used again in 2009-2010 slide  6and subsequent years.  All the estimates are provided by District 100 administration and are their best estimates.

You may wish to have some sort of reference as to what is an adequate level of total cash.  Usually that is measured in two to six months of expenditures.  Expenditures are not stated in dollar terms on the slides.  Neither are revenues other than State Aid.  Everything is in percentage terms. This maybe good to show what is changing but not in evaluating cash adequacy.  $37 million was the District’s cash level when District 100 was seeking an increase in the education rate in 2005.     Perhaps we can ask the Administration what is the cash level to cover 2-6 months.

Please send me your comments or questions.


slide 7   slide 8

slide 9


 slide 10

slide 11  slide 12

slide 13 slide 14 


slide 15

slide 16

slide 17




Economic Slow-Down Slows Growth in Belvidere Schools

Here is an interesting article from February 11, 2009 between Dr. Michael Houselog and Channel 23.  Below the link, I have cut and pasted the article in case the link is no longer active.

Economic Slow-Down Slows Growth in Belvidere Schools


Economic Slow-Down Slows Growth in Belvidere Schools

Posted: 7:21 PM Feb 11, 2009
Last Updated: 7:21 PM Feb 11, 2009
Reporter: Alice Barr

A snapshot of America, that's how the superintendent of Belvidere schools views his changing district over the past few years. District 100 is uniquely tied to the auto industry, as well as a drop in growth and prosperity and it's struggling to hang on to a balanced budget.

When the Belvidere school board chose to dip into its savings to open a new high school and save extracurricular activities, after a failed 2007 referendum, the district and the country were in a very different place.

"We had a much more robust economy," says Belvidere Schools Superintendent Michael Houselog.

With the dropoff in the housing market, Houselog says the area's overwhelming growth has slowed dramatically.

"We've had years where we were picking up between four and seven hundred kids a year, and now here we are under a hundred student increases."

That's helped the district catch up with costs. But it still educates 9,000 kids and Houselog says the middle schools are seriously overcrowded.

He adds, "Plus at the elementary level, we're at about 87% capacity, and we start to plan at 85%. Well we also know that now is not the time to be planning to pass referendum."

The city's Chrysler assembly plant remains a mainstay of revenue for the district, mostly through property taxes and school leaders watch the auto giant's financial woes with alarm.

Every round of layoffs hits the schools too. Over the past two years, the number of students on free and reduced lunch has jumped up ten percent. Just this year, there are double the number of kids coming in to eat a free breakfast, adding associated costs for the district.

Still, Houselog says the school board is expecting to pass a balanced budget and there's not much room to cut.

"When you go beyond bare bones, you're going into muscle and bone."

More than 80 percent of the district's budget goes directly to staff working with the kids.

District 100's total budget is around 95 million dollars. They have about a third of that in reserve in case of a serious disaster, like the closure of the Chrysler plant.

Negotiations are just beginning for new teacher and staff contracts and Houselog says everyone is aware it's not a rosy picture.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Will you be allowed to view the slides from the State of the District Finance Address?

Update:  Permission has been granted. See today’s posting on District 100 Watchdog.  His exact words from his email are:  “Last night(2-17-2009) the Belvidere School Board approved the minutes of the February 10, 2009 Business Services Meeting. Thus you are granted permission to post that document on your blog.”

On Tuesday , February 10, 2009  James E. Metz, District 100 Consultant,  and Scott Smith, PMA Financial Network Account Executive,  presented a State of  District Finances to the general public and  the  Employee Associations for District 100.  There were fifteen pages of graphs,  assumptions and findings.  If you were there you could have obtained a copy of the presentation.  I would like to show you this presentation which I have in my possession but I am currently being prevented by PMA’s oral warning.  Please read my letter to District 100 Board.   What do you think?  Should the taxpayers’ be allowed to view these fifteen pages of the presentation?

Below is my letter to the Board of Education, the cover for the presentation, PMA’s Disclaimer to the report, and some web information on PMA’s services.  Click to enlarge the photocopy

Bd Letter


Presentation cover Disclaimer

PMA Financial Planning

Friday, February 13, 2009

What the Electoral Board Refused to Read or Hear.

The two page letter below was submitted to the Electoral Board of School District 100, but they refused to read or put it into their records.

Please noted the markings at the top, the office box and dates indicated that this letter was received by District 100 before their meeting.

Below my letter is the January 27, 2009 legal notice which District 100 posted on their website.  I refer to this notice in the February 12 letter.  Was there really any question for which position Mrs. Hathaway or myself were running?


Click on the photocopy to enlarge.


letter 2-12-2009 page 1letter 2-12-2009 page 2

January 27, 2009 BCSD Notice

What District 100 did, as reported by the Rockford Register Star.

Last RRstar article

Candidacy Denied: What was unclear? It was unclear to whom? Ms. Wallace , Superintendent Houselog's Secretary/ Election Authority, or her Board appointed, paid attorney?

Ms. Pam Wallace, District 100 Electoral Official, denied candidacy to Ms. Lisa Hathaway and myself because “it is unclear on the face of your nominating petition whether you are seeking a full term or seeking to fill the two-year unexpired vacancy”.  Below is a letter from District 100 which was posted on their website until early February, notifying objectors of their deadline.  This statement on District stationary clearly states that District 100 knows who is running for what position. Is this not,  a legal notice from District 100’s Electoral Official that she understands who is running for what posts? See the Rockford Register Star Article, Ms. Wallace needed a Naperville attorney (G.Robb Cooper) before she became confused.

Click to enlarge:

Notification of Candidacy

certification of candadacy

Last RRstar article (2)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What would Lincoln say?

Will today’s Electoral Board hearing at 4:00PM determine if I am a candidate for the two year,  Bonus Township resident, District 100 School Board member?  Or will Ms. Wallace and her decertification, just after my motion to dismiss Mr. Powell’s objection, determine my fate on the ballot? At 3:10PM yesterday I submitted my dismissal motion personally to Ms. Wallace at Central Office. She did not tell me she would not certify my candidacy. Just after 5:30 PM I was served by Art Commare, Director of Building and Grounds, with the document stating Ms. Wallace would not certify my candidacy.  Ms. Wallace is the Local Election Official and also Superintendent Houselog’s personal secretary.



Click on photocopy to enlarge.

2-12-2009 RRStar

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Please note the letter which I was just served by Art Commare,(Director of Building and Grounds) just after 5:30 PM on Wednesday.   I need you tomorrow Thursday, February 12, 2009, 4:00 PM at Central Office, 1201 Fifth Avenue, Belvidere, Illinois.  From what I understand the Electoral Board can put me on the ballot.  Below is the letter I just received from  Ms. Wallace.

As background for this new move,  here is the timetable of the whole thing:  3:10PM I submit a motion to Strike and Dismiss to Ms. Wallace(the post immediate below this post):Ms. Wallace gives no indication that a denial of candidacy is being written.; 3:13PM my motion is emailed by District 100 to Mr. Powell; just after 5:30 Mr. Commare, Director of Buildings and Grounds, serves the denial shown below:    Click on photocopy to enlarge.

School Board Cerification

Motion to Strike and Dismiss

Well,  Thursday at 4:00 PM is the hearing with the Electoral Board, Belvidere Community School District. 100.  Below is what  I submitted to the board at 3:10PM.   In item 2,  the statement “Petitioner’s interest in the purported objection”, refers to the fact that if you are an opponent that should be detailed.

Click the photocopy to enlarge.

Motion to Strike and Dismiss p1

Motion to Strike and Dismiss p2Motion to Strike and Dismiss p3

Some Details from the 2/10/2009 Objection Case in District #205

Here is  Mr. Mitchell’s objection in the case of Mitchell v. Salgado.  Below it is Mr. Powell’s objection in Powell v. Pysson now before the Belvidere District 100 Electoral Board.

rockford challenge

John Powell

Rockford School District #205 dismisses objection to candidacy

This is from today’s Rockford Register Star.  Mr. Salgado requested dismissal for reasons  similar to my request.  (See my request, posting of 2/9/2009,   Click on picture to make larger.

Rockford 205 case-rrstar

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Agenda for February 12, 2009 Hearing

Just a few hours ago I received the agenda for Thursday’s hearing.   The same Rules of Procedures proposed for February 9, 2009 will be considered for this meeting.

 Agenda Feb 12

Business Cards: Bill Pysson, Candidate for School Board


For your convenience I have a business size card which you can give to your friends for viewing the blog.  Please note, I say “Vote April 7”—at this point I only hope that you will have a choice for this board seat between Mr. Powell and  myself.

The card is also a handy reference for my other blog regarding Boone County.   Just substitute “boonecounty” for “district100”

To copy, click to obtain a full page of cards and then copy.


Challenged Belvidere School Board candidate granted extension - Rockford, IL - Rockford Register Star

Hey here is a good summary as to where we are now.

Challenged Belvidere School Board candidate granted extension - Rockford, IL - Rockford Register Star

Monday, February 9, 2009

Half of the Motion Passes: Bill Pysson’s case is postponed so he has adequate time to obtain legal counsel.

The Electoral Board meet, recited the pledge and postponed the hearing.  The hearing will continue at 4:00PM, Thursday, February 12. 2009 at Central Office, 1201 Fifth Avenue, Belvidere, Il.  As for my motion for dismissal, no decision was made regarding that issue.  The board adjourned without approving the rules of procedure.   The board was advised by G. Robb Cooper, of Ottosen Britz Kelly Cooper & Gilbert, Ltd of Naperville, Illinois (1804 North Naper Boulevard suite 350),  I asked the attorney if the board would rule on my move for dismissal “first”,  at the next hearing as the old procedures said.  He stated “not necessarily.”

So anyway we don’t know about the dismissal and I have no idea what procedures will be used.  I have three days—a day to search for an attorney (if I  decide to spend the dollars), a day for the attorney to look at the situation and then the court date.  Does any know a pro-bono (free) attorney who is up to the job.

Attention Observers to the Electoral Hearing

Here are the Rules of Procedures which I will have to apparently  abide by this evening.  I was given a copy of them on Friday.  As stated in Item 6, Page 2, “the Board shall follow the Open Meetings Act, 5 ILCS 120”. I do not know if it is technically in affect currently because as stated on Page 4 it will be “adopted this 9th day of February, 2009”.  As of yet no agenda has been posted for the meeting and from what I gather no notification to the news media and others who have requested such automatic notification.  Click on each picture to enlarge these photocopies.

Rules of Procedures--1 Rules of Procedure 2

rules of procedure page 3 Rules of Procedures Page 4