Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Help TPS make the right choice on a performance audit

The Toledo Public School board is making a lot of noise about doing a performance audit... finally!

In May I suggested they do a performance audit PRIOR to putting a new or increased tax levy on the ballot.

My thinking was, as usual, very logical: do a performance audit and, based upon the recommendations, see whether or not TPS even *needs* more money. Many school systems in the state saw significant yearly savings, in addition to millions in one-time savings, when they implemented the recommendations from an Auditor of State performance audit review.

Had TPS started in May to pursue this approach, they would be near the completion of the audit and would have a better understanding of any financial needs going forward. They also would have had valid justification for any requested increase in taxes and they could have put that request on the ballot in 2013.

It is critical to note that they also had an $11.22 million carryover so they weren't facing any emergency in terms of funding nor did they need to make cuts in spending in this school year.

Of course, their last financial audit was proof enough that they don't handle public monies well (see here, here and here - yes, it took three very long posts to share the miserable report), so a performance audit and a commitment to implement the recommendations would have gone a long way to regaining public trust.

But they didn't do that. They pushed forward with a 4.9 mill levy because they wanted "a cushion" so they wouldn't have to "start cutting."

But their levy lost.

So, like they did in 2010 after the failure of levy requests at both the primary and general election, they're again talking about doing a performance audit. But they're going to need your help to get it right.

You see, they're not looking at a State Auditor performance audit - they're pursuing a contract with the Council of Great City Schools, an organization of public schools devoted to promoting urban education.

Not only are they turning to a group that they pay dues to, they're going to compare their performance with other large public school districts. Of course, there's nothing to say that the other public school systems are being run effectively, efficiently or at the least cost to taxpayers, so what is the point of comparing TPS practices to them?!?

The basic difference between using CGCS and the state auditor is that one promotes the interests of public schools and the other promotes the interests of the taxpayers.

Who do you really think will do a better job of evaluating every aspect of TPS operations?

Several other points to remember:

* the cost for either organization is basically the same, but the State Auditor offers payment options and financial assistance; the CGSC does not.

* CGCS has no experience doing comprehensive audits - they focus primarily on educational aspects and outcomes, not on such things as alternative options for costs.

* CGCS is not an 'independent' organization - they are a biased group to which TPS belongs.

So who and what is the Council of Great City Schools? Let's take a look.

"The philosophy of the classroom today will be the philosophy of government tomorrow." ~ Abraham Lincoln

This is their mission:

It is the special mission of America’s urban public schools to educate the nation’s most diverse student body to the highest academic standards and prepare them to contribute to our democracy and the global community.

That should stop TPS right there.

We are a REPUBLIC! We are not a democracy. The fact that this organization - devoted to educating our youth - doesn't understand that basic concept should disqualify them right out of the gate!


They support and promote the Common Core State Standards.

I've not completed my research on Common Core, but everything I'm reading so far makes me want to run away from it - screaming.

Basically, Common Core is a national set of educational standards mandated by the federal government and pushed to the local level. It removes local control over multiple aspects of education and dictates what students will learn and how.

It also appears to be very costly in terms of implementation and on-going costs - about $16 billion or so. (Just the thing we need for TPS: more costs to be paid by increased property tax levies.)

You've probably not heard much about Common Core, so a good place to start is American Principles in Action and their five part video on the subject.

Heritage Foundation has a short video that explains how these standards will trump local control and what parents and teachers believe is in the best interest of the children.

Additionally, here are some bullet points about Common Core - from Truth in American Education:

* requires transferring, to the federal government, decisions about educational content and standards and removing such decisions from parents, local districts and even states. Education is supposed to be a state issue, not a federal one.

* local districts must provide the funds for implementation, including for technology, equipment, network capacity, new books and materials and related personnel. The implementation costs are exorbitant - and there is no discussion about the ability of local districts to pay for these additional costs.

* adopting the non-public domain, privately owned copyrighted Common Core State Standards means that everyone must comply 100%. Basically, it's all or nothing though states can add their own standards, so long as those standards are 15% or less of the requirements. Talk about conforming to the lowest common denominator.

* assessment testing will "include annual multiple administration of standardized tests to students that, as the Department of Education notes, “could replace already existing tests, such as interim assessments that are in common use in many classrooms today.”

* will "increase the frequency of standardized tests, diminish the importance of traditional classroom tests, and further marginalize the role of parents and teachers."

Who is writing these standards and curriculum? "Linda Darling-Hammond, a radical left-wing educator and close colleague of William “Bill” Ayers, the former leader of the communist terrorist Weather Underground who became a professor of education and friend of Obama’s."

As Mary Grabar summarizes:

Common Core is part of an effort to implement regionalism, the replacement of local governments by regional boards of federally appointed bureaucrats, who in turn are beholden to international bodies. Regionalism will eliminate the freedom parents now have in choosing neighborhoods with good schools because tax funds will be distributed equally. There will be no escape in home schooling or private schools either, because the curriculum will follow national tests. Students will be tracked through mandatory state records that will then be accessible to Washington bureaucrats. Ultimately, all students will be subject to education mandates implemented by Obama’s radical cronies.

Grabar also wrote:

Although its proponents claim that Common Core increases academic rigor, education professor Sandra Stotsky — a major force behind Massachusetts’ previously high standards — refused to sign off on Common Core, referring to its “empty skill sets.” Others have noted the emphasis on the lowering of standards that is necessary for the goal of “closing the achievement gap.”

In my recent report, I added to the discussion by looking at some of the Common Core lessons now being peddled by school districts and freelance Common Core entrepreneurs. Among these materials was a horrendous “Common Core-compliant” book titled Master of Deceit: J. Edgar Hoover and America in the Age of Lies by professor Marc Aronson. Extremely manipulative, historically inaccurate, and age-inappropriate for middle school students, Aronson’s book is a continuation of the Soviet disinformation campaign of diverting attention about the communist threat to J. Edgar Hoover’s alleged homosexuality. Sadly, it is these kinds of materials – tracts that meet the new focus on “informational text” — that school districts are now forced to buy. Teachers, professors, and freelance writers who had previously resisted standards now see a bonanza, as schools replace traditional literary works with books about such subjects as diamonds, snakes, New York City gangs, public artists, and yes, Justin Bieber.

Common Core sounds good on the surface: every school teaches the exact same thing to every child. As I was beginning my research on the issue, I reached out to several blogger friends who have experience in the area. Recognizing just how bad Common Core is, Michelle Malkin responded, "This is my number one policy issue for the next year."

You'll hear more about this, I'm sure, especially since Ohio has signed on to the program. There is still time to stop it. But back to CGCS and TPS:

Do you really think that a group dedicated to promoting Common Core Standards is going to ignore them in doing a performance audit and making recommendations about what TPS should do?

I don't. In fact, since that is one of CGCS's core missions, I expect it will be the primary focus of any audit they may do.


CGCS has several research publications that look at various performance measurements. It's called the Performance Measurement and Benchmarking Project.

This year's report includes data from 61 of the Council's 67-member districts (91 percent) and provides a fully tested set of Power Indicators that superintendents and school boards can use to assess the overall performance of their district's business operations. It also provides a set of what we call Essential Few Measures that, along with the Power Indicators, can be used by chief executives to assess the performance of individual departments and operations.

Note the wording: "indicators that superintendents and school boards can use to assess ... their business operations."

If they already provide these measurement for free (report is downloadable to anyone), why would we pay them anything at all?

Why doesn't the board just direct the staff to apply the indicators to current practices and get their own assessment?

And if these reports and indicators have been available from CGCS since 2009, why hasn't TPS already used them to evaluate their operations???

Of course, as I mentioned earlier, this is just comparing TPS to other large districts. It will only tell us how TPS stands in relation to such districts as Atlanta, Washington DC, New York, New Orleans and Detroit. Are these schools districts indicative of the performance we want from TPS?

Additionally, any so-called audit by CGCS won't tell us how to use existing and limited dollars to best educate our kids.

Do you think they will even touch on union contract terms?


TPS needs to contract with the Auditor of State for their performance audit. You need to contact all the school board members and demand this of them. They are your employees - they work for you. You get to direct them and their actions, not the other way around.

Here is the contact page. Go there now and send all board members an email and tell then you want an unbiased, objective, taxpayer focused performance audit done by the Auditor of State.

Let me repeat that:

Here is the contact page. Go there now and send all board members an email and tell then you want an unbiased, objective, taxpayer focused performance audit done by the Auditor of State.

Keep contacting them, either by email or phone calls (419-671-8200) until you get the answer you want.

The only way to get them to do a meaningful performance audit is to bring enough public pressure to bear so that they will make the right decision. They've already lost one levy and they have another up for renewal next year. They threaten us with loss of educational opportunities for our kids when they want more money - threaten them with active opposition to their existing funding if they don't comply.

Then, after they agree that a state performance audit is the right way to go, hold their feet to the fire to implement the recommendations.

As Lisa Sobecki asked:

“Once it's done and we made that investment, is the board going to have the will to actually enact what was put forward in the performance audit?”

They will if we make them.

1 comment:

RBancroft said...

Probably to no one's surprise, many of the states that have adopted Common Core have done so because they were essentially bought off.

The snippet below is from one of Ms. Burke's (from the video) many publications on education reform at Heritage.
- The Department of Education offered $4.35 billion to states in Race to the Top grants, conditioned in part on adoption of “standards common to a significant number of states.” The only standards option that qualified at the time (and currently) was the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Moreover, suggestions that $14.5 billion in federal Title I money for low-income school districts could be tied to standards adoption and, more recently, the availability of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waivers conditioned on common standards adoption have coaxed many state leaders to go along with the overhaul.

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