caveat-emptor

Caveat Emptor is a slogan for the free fully actualized man who pursues knowledge and takes responsibility for the consequences of his choices.  There is an enormous world of merchandise available to you, but it is your responsibility to know what you are buying and then be willing to accept the consequences if you did not fully investigate the product before buying it.  The concept is even more important in financial agreements where the lender sets the terms by which the lendee will accept and repay a loan.  Most important in these types of transactions is the willingness of the lendee to consider the worst possible scenario outlined in the agreement. Larry the Loan Shark will follow through on his threat to break your kneecaps if you do not repay the loan on time and in full. Despite your best intentions to repay, sometimes unforeseen actions may hamper your ability to do so. In such instances, you really can’t get mad at Larry for following through on the terms of the loan. That is just good business practices for him and “you knew what you were signing on for.”

Can our legislators in Washington and Jefferson City really claim they “know what they are signing on for” in these large education bills? Have they thought about what the local district looks like in the worst case scenario covered in these bills, after the consequences written into paragraph 700 section (c) subsection 3 on page 498 have been enacted? If they haven’t really stopped to consider all the ramifications of the bill, is it really good legislative practice to vote for it?

Let’s look at HR5, Representative Klein’s bill. Here is what the worst case scenario in that legislation looks like.

HR 5 will require state legislative approval to participate in programs under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. As such, a vote to pass the state budget that includes ESEA funds acknowledges that we the people “have affirmatively agreed to abide by the conditions attached to the receipt of such funds.’’ If we want any Title I funds in the state, the legislature must agree to any and all conditions set by the US Secretary of Education, not conditions set by Congress, not conditions that are in any way limited by Congress. The Lender in this scenario becomes the Secretary, not Congress.

Upon approval of the state budget which includes any money provided by the ESEA grant program the United States Secretary of Education “shall enforce against an authority of a State any requirement imposed as a condition of receiving assistance.”  We, the lendee acknowledge that the Secretary is also now the enforcer of the terms of the grant and can break our knee caps.

Since other sections of the SSA require all students to take the state selected standardized tests, the lender (Secretary) now is granted rights to dictate educational choices for our children. Thus, the intent of Congress is to place the United States Secretary of Education above the authority of parents to control the education of their children reserved to individual Americans by the United States Constitution if the state legislature accepts ESEA funds and by doing so expressly agrees to the conditions.

We the people believe it is the  responsibility of our elected officials to read and fully understand over 600 pages of ESEA legislation, or really any legislation that they will be voting on, to determine the ultimate costs to their constituents in the worst case scenario, confirm that there is no conflicting state legislation, and make an informed decision to accept the parameters of the bill as the supreme law and enforceable against the rights guaranteed to individuals and the state under the United States Constitution. Would any DC legislator be willing to sign a document agreeing with those statements?

Let’s do a similar analysis of HB42 in our own state.

This bill seeks to grant accreditation by building, not district. Within the state, only two districts have lost accreditation. There are individual buildings within accredited districts that might not meet AYP who might also lose their accreditation with HB42.  Any building that loses its accreditation will fall under a statewide school district managed by DESE. The local school board will no longer have any authority but will be compelled to yield to the appointed regional authority. That’s quite a term to agree to for getting state funding for education.

We also should consider the expansion of government possible under the terms of HB42. DESE could potentially control not just 519 school districts, but rather 2,698 school buildings in the state (which includes 41 charters LEAs and 64 charter schools).

Consider a district that has a couple school buildings that are surrounded by subsidized housing, where all the teachers in the district get the same professional development, where the curriculum is the same in each building and the school may even be granted additional monies beyond what the newly defined accredited buildings get, what benefit is there to yanking accreditation and control of those buildings and moving those students to other buildings within the same district? They will receive nothing different or improved in the other district buildings. In fact, they may lose a little extra support they were getting in their base school.

The underlying assumption in this scenario is that DESE has some magic bullet that they can use to bring that entire building, surrounded by poverty, up to AYP. Of course if that were true, you would also have to assume that the district either didn’t bother trying their own methods for increasing AYP, were too stupid to ask DESE for magic bullet or DESE refuses to give out their secret until they have total control. If DESE does not have a proven system for turning around schools, turning control of failing buildings over to them makes no sense. Does moving control to a distant, non-resident entity make sense? Do any of those underlying assumptions make sense?

Back to caveat emptor and worst case scenario. Say a building loses its accreditation because of student test scores on the SBAC test, which the state is determined to keep administering despite numerous problems with the test itself, HB42 grants several rights to the state as consequences for failing to meet the terms of the agreement for the money. One of those rights is the implementation of home visits which will be granted by §162.1312 if requested by the district. The bill will grant the state the right to come into your home and judge your parenting. Yes, yes I know this is meant to help the single mom struggling with raising her children who might benefit from an outsider coming in to help. She also might really resent that. You know who else might resent that is the parents of special needs children who are doing the best they can to meet their child’s needs as they see fit and are not interested in improving their child’s score on a state mandated standardized test which their child was required to take without accommodations. When you grant school districts power and authority over the home, you open the door to abuse, and that is not conjecture, that is fact.

The worst case scenario must also consider the financial impact of the legislation.  This bill has a fiscal note which “exceeds $25 million” for local school districts  Take a look at the numbers that can be easily found in the bill to see where that cost is coming from. Here is just one example.

Virtual School Option Costs To The District

“There are 74,613 private school students whose schools have voluntarily registered their numbers with DESE. There are also 6,895 home school students that school districts have reported to DESE on Screen 15 of Core Data.”

The sum of these two groups is 81,508. Because there is the potential for some of these students, who have not been enrolled in public schools, to now be enrolled in virtual schools because the tuition is going to be paid by the local school district, it is appropriate to calculate an estimated cost to the state.

If 5% of the 81,508 students who have been reported to DESE, to either be enrolled in private schools or are being home schooled, were to enroll in a virtual school the cost to the state would be 81,508 x .05 = 4,075.4 x $6,131 (State Adequacy Target) = $24,986,277 additional dollars added to the formula when the formula is fully funded. 10% would add $49,972,554 and 1% would add $4,997,255.

5% of the “documented” homeschool/private school kids who may opt to be a part of the “virtual schools” in Missouri will cost the state: $24,986,277.  These numbers are likely conservative.  The unfunded mandate to the local governments [local districts] “could exceed” the $25m.  And where will this money come from?

Under HB42, districts will be called attendance centers and will be subject to ‘formal classification’. What is Formal classification?

Formal classification of schools creates additional need for FTE. (full-time employees) Implementing and providing assistance teams to borderline districts and to provisionally accredited districts creates additional need for FTE. The department estimates it will need an additional 11 FTE (5 Regionally based school improvement specialists, 2 Area Supervisors, 1 Data Specialist, 1 Assistant Director, 1 Director, 1 Coordinator), as well as, $600,000 for 6 contracted service center specialists to meet the goals of this legislation. In addition, the department will require $70,000 in data costs to review building level measures for accountability purposes, simulations, and analysis for use as an accreditation measure.

Assistance teams needed to review struggling school districts (currently estimate at 20 to 30 annual reviews)

$300,000 Finance/operations/parental engagement/school and community compact audits
$300,000 Instructional program and student performance audit teams
$120,000 Department monitoring tools (What is THIS?)

$720,000 additional funding from the state

 The legislators have a choice. They can either hear from their constituents now about what is wrong with proposed legislation, or they can hear from them later when their superintendents, who are only too happy to implement whatever they are told to, tell them they have to pass a new bond/levee measure because the state is forcing them to implement these programs.  “Look we signed the form for the money. The state is going to break our knee caps if we don’t do what they say. You can’t blame us. We didn’t vote for the law.”

Caveat emptor.

Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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