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AAE State Policy Update May 16, 2011
posted by: Alix | May 16, 2011, 07:05 PM   

When the dust settles on 2011 legislative session, states across the country will be dealing with some of the most sweeping changes in education and labor policy in generations. For months, tough-talking governors and state legislatures have been in the process of pushing through legislation that seeks to curb union power and implement sweeping education reforms. While each state is experiencing reform on different levels, it is impossible to ignore that this year will have an impact on the entire country's education outlook for years to come.

California: Last week, the California Teachers Association implemented a "State of Emergency Week" plan that brought thousands of union teachers to the State House in Sacramento. Union leaders called on legislators to raise taxes on the wealthy as a means to combat cuts to the education budget.

Teachers and union leaders marched on the Capitol and in various other large cities across the state to get their tax messages heard. Some teachers and union leaders were even arrested as they refused to leave their posts in government buildings. While the success of their campaign is not yet known, the CTA certainly made national headlines last week with their unprofessional antics.

AAE Executive Director Gary Beckner penned a letter to the editor featured in several prominent California newspapers, including the Orange County Register, on the events of the week.

Georgia: A Georgia law clearing the way for new charter schools in the state was struck down by the Georgia Supreme Court in a high-profile decision today. The impact of the decision will affect thousands of Georgia's students and could reshape how the state's public school system is funded for years to come.

The decision overturned the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, which allowed the state to approve and fund charter schools over the objection of local school boards. The 2008 legislation created a backlash from local school districts, which filed a lawsuit a year later claiming the commission broke the law by moving millions of local tax dollars without the approval of local taxpayers.

Supporters of the law say it is was designed to re-direct state money to charter schools that need the funding. Under the current law, Georgia has approved over a dozen charter schools for incorporation under these guidelines.

Indiana: The head of Indianapolis Public Schools is making waves with his plans to prohibit students who start the school year in a charter school from transferring into the district's schools after the school year begins. Superintendent Eugene White said he thinks some charter schools entice students to sign up and then encourage them to return to public schools after their enrollment has been recorded and the charter school is issued additional funding.

Despite claims that money is being misdirected, the Indiana Department of Education said state law gives every student the right to attend classes in the school district where they reside regardless of where they were enrolled before. Any students who live in the Indianapolis district are barred from enrolling in its schools could appeal to the state board of education.

New York: Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined a plan Friday that would call for tougher criteria to evaluate teachers, including greater use of student test scores, more rigorous observation in the classroom, and a higher bar to gain an overall positive rating.

The teacher evaluation system would replace the system used in layoffs based on seniority. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and state schools Chancellor Merryl Tisch both expressed support for the plan as a means to evaluate teachers fairly.

Unsurprisingly, a representative from the state's largest union said Tisch's support of Cuomo's recommendations is "extremely disturbing."

Wisconsin: As union leaders and supporters of Governor Walker's budget repair bill fight it out in court, disturbing records were released last week by the Wisconsin Department of Justice showcasing dozens of death threats and threatening comments by the public in response to the law.

Law enforcement officials in Wisconsin reviewed 90 complaints of threats or harassment, most of them directed at Governor Scott Walker and lawmakers from both parties and about a dozen of the threats remain under criminal investigation. Beyond those singled out as possible criminal behavior, the others included 30 reported threats or harassing comments against Democrats and 27 against Governor Walker and other Republicans.

Don't see your state listed? Visit the database compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures for the latest updated information on labor legislation in your state.

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