Arizona Taxpayers Spend $125 Million Each Year On Students Who Don’t Exist

May 27, 2012

ARIZONA – Taxpayers in Arizona spend $125 million each school year funding more than 13,000 students who don’t exist at public schools.

That’s because the state school system uses an antique budget approach that causes taxpayers to overpay, says a new report, “Ghost Busters: How to Save $125 Million a Year in Arizona’s Education Budget,” by Goldwater Institute education director Jonathan Butcher.

The system pays for some students twice, Butcher says.

Here’s how it happens.

Arizona schools are funded based on the number of students who attend each school in the prior school year, Butcher’s report says. However, when a student transfers out of one school and into another, the school getting the new student can apply for funding for that student in the middle of the year, he says.

But the schools don’t talk to each other, nor share funds, nor computer systems, it seems. So that results in the two schools double filing for — and getting double the taxpayer money for — the same student. This budget snafu costs taxpayers $125 million each school year, according to Butcher’s estimates.

Arizona taxpayers “are literally throwing $125 million school funding dollars into a black hole,” says Butcher in a statement. “More money would be available for all schools if we weren’t paying for ‘ghosts.’”

The phantom students are doubly painful, because “two years ago, Arizona voters passed a temporary sales tax increase to protect schools from budget cuts during the recession,” his report notes.

Taxpayers would not have been hit with higher sales taxes if the state officials would do their jobs and get on the stick.

“Do we really need to raise taxes on families when we are paying for thousands of empty desks?” asks Butcher. “We should re-direct the money that is double-paying and fill whatever gap schools may have.”

But Arizona taxpayers may get a crack at this issue again in the coming November ballots, since this tax is scheduled to expire in 2013, he notes.

Butcher also says there’s an easy fix to the problem.

Instead of being lazy and funding schools based on the prior year’s enrollment figures, Butcher suggests that “school funding should be based on current enrollment, he says, given that Arizona’s 524 charter schools are already funded this way.

“We already have a model for how this funding structure would work. We do it like this for charter schools,” Butcher says in his statement. “They are funded on current student counts and adjust according to the increases and decreases in their student populations. All we’re asking is that all schools be funded like charter schools.”

This simple fix, Butcher adds, would save taxpayers millions each year.

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Public Schools In Jackson Mississippi Agree That They Will Stop Handcuffing Children To Poles, Railings, Desks, And Chairs As Punishment

May 26, 2012

JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI – Public schools in Jackson, Mississippi, will no longer handcuff students to poles or other objects and will train staff at its alternative school on better methods of discipline.

Mississippi’s second-largest school district agreed Friday to the settlement with the Southern Poverty Law Center, which had sued over the practice of shackling students to a pole at the district’s Capital City Alternative School.

Nationwide, a report from the U.S. Department of Education showed tens of thousands of students, 70 percent of them disabled, were strapped down or physically restrained in school in 2009-10. Advocates for disabled students say restraints are often abused, causing injury and sometimes death.

The Mississippi lawsuit was filed in June 2011 by Jeanette Murry on behalf of her then-16-year-old son, who has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It said staffers routinely restrained students for hours for offenses as minor as dress code violations, forcing them to eat lunch while chained to a stair railing and to shout for help when they needed to go to the bathroom.

The settlement, approved by U.S. District Judge Tom Lee, says all district employees will stop handcuffing students younger than 13, and can only handcuff older students for crimes. In no case will employees shackle a student to a fixed object such as a railing, a pole, a desk or a chair.

“It’s apparent there were severe problems that we hope now are being addressed and will be alleviated,” Lee told lawyers in court Friday, just before signing the settlement order.

Troubles at the alternative school helped spark the proceedings that have jeopardized the accreditation of the entire 30,000-student district.

The suit also reinforces criticism of alternative schools statewide. A 2009 report by the American Civil Liberties Union found that such schools “overemphasized punishment at the expense of remediation.” That report urged that alternative schools focus instead on “intensive services delivered by a well-qualified staff in a highly structured but positive environment,” so that students could return to and succeed at regular schools.

Nationwide, there are no federal standards, although legislation is pending in Congress. The U.S. Department of Education says Mississippi is one of 13 states with no statewide rules governing restraints.

National experts have said seclusion and restraint should only be used in emergencies when there’s a threat of someone getting hurt. But people who aren’t properly trained resort to restraints when students get out of control, they say.

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High School Students With Jobs At Lowest Level In More Than 20 Years

May 25, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Did somebody say McJobless?

The American job market is no place for students as the number of employed high schoolers has hit its lowest level in more than 20 years, according to new figures from the National Center for Education Statistics.

In 1990, 32 percent of high school students held jobs, versus just 16 percent now. Blame their elders.

Sectors that traditionally have offered teens their first paying gig — fast-food chains, movie theaters, malls and big-box retailers — have now become the last resorts for out-of-work college graduates or older Americans forced back into the labor force out of sheer financial necessity. The resulting squeeze has left students on the outside looking in.

“By definition, teenage workers get the jobs that are left over,” said Charles Hirschman, a sociology professor at the University of Washington who has studied and written about student employment. “When you can’t find someone else to bag your groceries or work construction, often teenagers are the labor force you can count on to pick up that slack for a low wage. But now, with the recession, everybody has moved down. Those jobs aren’t going to teenagers.”

The decline began in the 1990s, but accelerated in the past decade. It has grown worse since the dawn of the Great Recession, analysts say.

Local McDonald’s managers, for example, are no longer forced to accept young workers who can show up after class. They now have the option to hire older employees with more experience and, in many cases, much more education.

“They think, ‘I can hire this old guy instead. He already knows how to work, so we don’t need to teach him,’ ” said Andrew Sum, director of Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies. “It’s a real weakness in our labor market right now. We’re going to need a big increase in demand to turn this around in the short run.”

The crunch is also hitting college students. In 2000, 52 percent of full-time college students worked. That number has now fallen to 40 percent, the National Center for Education Statistics reports.

Some may interpret the NCES numbers as a sign that today’s generation of young people simply has grown lazier, but analysts say that’s not necessarily the case. It’s their opportunity to work, not their desire, that has fallen off a cliff.

“Adolescents, like everybody else, like to spend money. If they have opportunities to work, even if it’s at a local fast-food place, a lot of students would still do that so they can afford to buy new music and new clothes,” Mr. Hirschman said.

For high schoolers, the dream of going to college also plays a role in low employment figures, according to specialists. Their desire to get straight A’s and attend a prestigious university can lead them to spend all their time studying. Parents often encourage that type of laserlike focus on studies at the expense of getting that first job.

“Everybody wants to do it. Every positive thing in life is highly correlated with education. Most adolescents know that, and most parents know that,” Mr. Hirschman said.

In the long run, the trend could produce more and more young adults who lack the basic skills, such as how to interact with a customer, gained while working early in life. The longer a young person goes without a job, Mr. Sum said, the less attractive he or she looks to employers.

“There’s only one way you can learn how to work — you’ve got to work,” he said.

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Santa Monica California College Police Pepper Sprayed Crowd Of Non-Violent Students After Officer Lost His Balance – Female Student Also Attacked By Police For Pointing Finger

April 4, 2012

SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA — Campus police at Santa Monica College pepper sprayed a crowd of students Tuesday after they disrupted a Board of Trustees meeting.

Roughly 100 students began chanting “Shame on you!” at the board members from outside the meeting, which took place in the Business Administration building.

The group reportedly caused a campus police officer to lose his balance, which apparently led to the use of pepper spray.

As seen on this video on the Patch’s Web site, students began running out of the hall as it filled with vapor.

The board was forced to end the meeting when paramedics were called to treat nearly 30 people.

Two people were taken to the hospital, according to the Santa Monica Fire Department.

Students told CBS2 reporter Suzie Suh that the incident should not have escalated to that point.

They said they were demanding to have a say in a new course program that could begin as early as this summer.

The program, which would be funded privately, would offer core courses at prices that would be three times the cost of state-funded courses.

School officials argue that it would offset major cuts in state funding.

The students, with the exception of a few student delegates, were not allowed inside the room where the meeting was held.

“It was a mixed crowd. There were elderly members, there were students, and there were children as well,” according to a student at the protest.

She added that one student delegate inside the meeting, upset after being pepper sprayed, pointed her finger at an officer when she was “grabbed by her neck and thrown down to the ground by her neck.”

“Right now we don’t even know what condition she’s in. I’m sure she’s in the hospital,” the student said.

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California Governor Jerry Brown Signs Law That Hands Out Tax Dollars To Illegal Immigrant Students

October 8, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – Undocumented immigrant students in California will be able to receive state-funded financial aid in 2013 to attend college, under a new law signed Saturday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The law allows top students who are on a path to citizenship to apply and receive the state aid, the governor said.

About 2,500 students are projected to receive Cal Grants totaling $14.5 million, according to the California Department of Finance. That averages out to $5,800 per student.

The funding amounts to 1% of the overall $1.4 billion Cal Grant program, officials said.

The new law, AB 131, is one of two pieces of legislation known as the California Dream Act and will become effective January 1, 2013, officials said.

“Going to college is a dream that promises intellectual excitement and creative thinking,” Brown said in a statement from Sacramento. “The Dream Act benefits us all by giving top students a chance to improve their lives and the lives of all of us.”

Currently, illegal immigrant students in California must pay resident tuition rates if they graduated from a state high school and are actively seeking to legalize their immigration status, officials said.

The other half of the California Dream Act was signed into law by Brown in July and allows undocumented immigrant students to receive privately funded scholarships administered at public universities and community colleges.

That law, called AB 130, was needed because the University of California and California State University systems avoided giving the private scholarships to their undocumented students, citing vagueness in laws, said the legislative aide to California Dream Act’s author, state Assemblyman Gilbert Cedillo (D-Los Angeles).

Cedillo called Saturday’s signing “historic” and path-breaking for the United States — coming at a time when many states such as Alabama and Arizona are passing aggressive laws targeting undocumented immigrants. Some of those laws are being challenged in court.

“The signing of now both parts of the California Dream Act will send a message across the country that California is prepared to lead the country with a positive and productive vision for how we approach challenging issues related to immigration,” Cedillo said in a statement.

“Today, Ana and Maria Gomez, Jaime Kim, David Cho, Pedro Ramirez — and thousands of other students who are some of the best and brightest in California — have been told by our governor and legislative leaders that you are welcome here, that you have something to contribute, that you can be proud of what you have accomplished and that your talents and ambition will not go to waste,” Cedillo said.

Under AB 131, undocumented immigrant students will be eligible for state Board of Governors fee waivers, student aid programs administered by a college or university, and the state aid Cal Grants program for state universities, community colleges, and qualifying independent and career colleges or technical schools in California, according to Cedillo.

The California Dream Act differs from a proposed federal bill called the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors — or DREAM — Act, which would create a path to citizenship for immigrants who entered the United States illegally as children under the age of 16 and have lived in the United States for at least five years, obtained a high school or General Education Development diploma, and demonstrated “good moral character,” according to a White House fact sheet.

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