The Bottom Line

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Taxpayers Should Question the K-12 System

The K-12 education system requests more money from state budgets every year. Yet student performance has flatlined. Commenting on the issue in an article on Edweek.org entitled, “Public Torn Between Support for School Spending and Actually Paying the Tab,” the author notes that  “K-12 spending in recent years has eaten up a larger and larger share of states’ tax revenue. On average, K-12 spending takes up more than a quarter of states’ budgets. And while recent polls show swelling support for more money going toward schools, there remains sentiment among the general public that taxes are too high” So the question regarding school funding is “how to do it in a fair, equitable, and effective way that won’t create a Read More ›

Donald Nielsen Published on Idaho Ed News

Education system not getting better, only more expensive Originally posted on IdahoEdNews.org on June 17, 2019 As Ben Franklin was leaving Independence Hall after the adoption of our Constitution, a lady asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got — a Republic or a Monarchy?” He replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” Ben Franklin knew that the new country would last only as long as the electorate adhered to the guidelines delineated in the newly adopted Constitution. It was an experiment in self-government and it would not last unless properly protected. Donald P. Nielsen The signors of the Constitution also knew that an educated electorate was an essential element. In fact, they initially limited voting to property owners on Read More ›

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Confusion Over Student Spending

Does anyone really know how much we spend on our public schools? A state-finance map on per-pupil spending from Education Week shows Washington State, where we are based, spends $11,125 per student, accounting for “factors such as teacher and staff salaries, classroom spending, and administration, but not construction or other capital spending.” Confusing! The frustrating issue with this report is it creates controversies about which state “could” be spending more in comparison to other states, which does not matter as much as the actual spending figures importantly, the figure seems to only include the state revenue portion (of course, this is not highlighted in the report). What is missing is the significant portion of school funding from local levies, federal Read More ›

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What is Missing in the Equation of “Reinventing” Schools?

“Change occurs in schools, often for the better, but it’s almost always gradual and incomplete.” So concludes Chester E. Finn, Jr., Senior Fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in a recent essay on the difficulties of “reinventing” schools. Finn focuses on “break the mold” schools of the “America 2000” plan of the late President George H.W. Bush. Finn brings to light the fact that the “break the mold” schools concentrated solely on creating brand new schools while other programs focused entirely on transforming existing schools. He notes the deficiency of this approach: “In the former situation, ‘it ain’t broke,’ so why change it? In the latter situation, it’s tantamount to taking an education sow’s ear and striving to turn Read More ›

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Vintage microphone and headphones with signboard on air. Broadcasting radio station concept. 3d illustration
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Michael Medved Interview: Donald Nielsen on Education Transformation

Introduction A guest this week on the Michael Medved show, our program chair, Don Nielsen, is a graduate from Harvard Business School and a former Seattle School Board President. A successful business entrepreneur, Nielsen is a senior fellow at Discovery Institute, based here in Seattle. Nielsen recently finished the updated version of his book: Every School: One Citizens Guide to Transforming Education. The State Michael Medved: “In the new addition you came up with a new insight and that new insight is?” Donald Nielsen: “The state, its not the school, its not the district, its not the federal government, it’s the state” Nielsen: “They control the vast majority of money, who’s allowed to teach, lead, curriculum, testing, compensation, and graduation, Read More ›

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Family Matters Most

Variation of student achievement comes from factors outside of school, and that rests with the family.  The influence of family in childhood educational outcomes results from four factors: parental education, family income, parental choice, and the access to early childhood education. Parents who are better educated generate great social and cultural capital for their children. For example, children of better-educated adults are exposed to many more words. Don Nielsen points out in his book, Every School, that in “a home where at least one parent is a professional, a child will hear 2,153 words per waking hour. In a working-class home, the number is 1,251 words per hour. A child growing up in a welfare home averages only 616 words Read More ›

Mom and daughter hands, outdoors
Mom and daughter hands, outdoors
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We Need Leaders and Parental Choice

Idaho Ed News recently published an article focusing on charter schools and leadership, highlighting two separate charter public schools’ experiences.  Devin Bodkin notes that “starting next year, Bingham Academy and Blackfoot Charter Community Learning Center will no longer share a director or ‘head administrator.’ The schools will instead operate under separate leadership according to emails between the schools’ board chairs and the commission.” Bodkin states, “Blackfoot declared an “area of need” for the middle school principal position.” The hiring of the new principal, “coincides with a new law that relaxes hiring requirements for charter school administrators. Typically, a principal must hold a master’s degree. But Senate Bill 1058 allows Idaho’s charter schools to permanently bypass the normal hiring requirements for Read More ›

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A Message from Don Nielsen

During the summer I completed a revision to my book, Every School. The revision brings all the information up to date and also adds an important new chapter—a detailed “Game Plan” for a state. I believe the only way we will transform our schools is to change the governing state laws and this chapter gives state legislators and Governors a game plan on how to start and accomplish the transformation of their schools. The highlight of the last few months was the hiring of a new program coordinator, Bailey Takacs. Bailey comes to us with a lot of experience in legislative matters and with a passion for education. He is already making a huge difference in our ability to do Read More ›

Broadcast
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Don Nielsen on the Education Gadfly Podcast

Don Nielsen, program director for the American Center for Transforming Education and author of Every School: One Citizen’s Guide to Transforming Education, appears on the Education Gadfly show to discuss “the feasibility of empowering school administrators, and whether it’s feasible in district schools.” Also discussed on the show is why Nielsen has crafted the new version of his book and how states can move forward with what he refers to as the “Game Plan.” Listen for yourself by clicking the audio below!

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Grunge state of Washington flag map isolated on a white background, U.S.A.
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Students and Parents Badly Hurt by the Legislature

The 2019 legislature missed out on a big opportunity this year. Instead of working to reform how our schools operate, the legislature took a step backwards by undoing much of the good work that was done in response to the McCleary court ruling just two years ago. In 2017, Democrats and Republicans approved a bi-partisan school funding bill, reforming state and local property taxes to ensure that the state met its constitutional obligation to fully fund K-12 education.  The law reduced inequities by capping local property taxes, so wealthy areas would not have an imbalanced benefit, by providing equitable state funding to all schools on a per-student basis. All parties, including Governor Inslee, lauded and moved forward with the agreement. Read More ›