How to fix the School State Takeover problem

grading schools poverty gets an fThree years ago I could have told you that Dayton Public Schools was going to face State Takeover. The exact time? When the incompetent DPS board pushed David Lawrence out of the running for Superintendent. Now, the state is faced with taking over a district that’s almost twice as large as both Youngstown and Elyria combined- the two that they’ve already taken over and failed to make progress with.

To be clear, even with David Lawrence, there was no guarantee that DPS wouldn’t be in the same boat, and even with a different board, more money, better teachers, better administrators, more training, you name it- DPS would still be facing the same problems- and State Senator Peggy Lehner and the State School Superintendent don’t have any answers on how to fix what’s broken- because they keep ignoring the one absolutely proven correlation for poor performance in a district: poverty.

It’s not local control, it’s not dollars spent on buildings, technology, teachers that are going to fix it as long as you keep doing two things: maintain the current school model of 180 days of instruction, with 7 hour days, and you keep thinking you can overcome poverty.

Even the idiots who’ve sunk DPS understand that attendance is the first key, yet they still refuse to transport DPS high school students:

Associate Superintendent of Student Services Sheila Burton said this undermines the work the district has done to enhance classroom instruction.

“Until we have students physically in school it doesn’t matter the strategies that we have because they can’t benefit from them,” she said. “Whatever strategies teachers employ won’t work with 30 percent of the population because they are not there….

Instead of the district’s goal of narrowing its chronic absenteeism rate by 1 to 2 percent a year, the number of students missing 10 percent or more of the school year increased from 27 percent to 30 percent from last year to this year.

Associate Superintendent of Student Services Sheila Burton said this undermines the work the district has done to enhance classroom instruction.

“Until we have students physically in school it doesn’t matter the strategies that we have because they can’t benefit from them,” she said. “Whatever strategies teachers employ won’t work with 30 percent of the population because they are not there….

Burton said the primary driver of this is the absenteeism problem, which not only affects the child who misses school but also the other students when the kid comes back and the teacher has to spend time catching him or her up.

Source: Amid reforms, Dayton schools headed in wrong direction in key measures

Two years ago I made a video that proposed ways to fix DPS. Longer school year, longer school day, shorter actual instruction day, more life skills and extra-curriculars all built into the school day. I even suggested that there is a different way to transport students (and frankly, until DPS starts paying to transport high school students, they will always fail).

What I left out was the last piece of the puzzle, incentive pay. Not for teachers, or administrators, but for parents of students.

That’s right- pay kids to go to school.

Welfare programs get a bad rap from conservatives- “we incentivize poor moms to breed to get more welfare money” is the argument. “More kids = More money” was their problem.

While we can’t go back and undo that mistake, we can do this: pay each student as much as $2000 a year for the following: 50% for showing up at least 95% or more (remember, this is a year round school schedule). What about vacations? For teachers and students? Easy- just like real jobs- you can take off up to two weeks of vacation anytime you want except times when testing is scheduled. Teachers and students.

If you don’t get in trouble, and get at least a “C” average, you get another 25%, And if you get above a “B” average, you get another 25% and entered into a contest to double your annual income for up to 2% of the students who achieve the full payout. Oh, and one other factor, a parent or legal guardian has to attend at least 2 parent teacher conferences each year, or the payment gets cut in half.

Take a mother with three kids in DPS. She could bring in an extra $6000 a year to help feed, clothe and shelter her kids. One of them could win the double- and bring in another $2000. Do you think little Johnny will be showing up now? Do you think our district enrollment will continue to shrink, being the only district to pay kids to attend? I doubt it. We’ll be back at capacity pretty quick, and kids will actually be engaged and motivated.

Now, the other factor- Jefferson Township and Trotwood schools aren’t far behind in the failure forecast. It’s time the state started wielding some power over these insignificant districts- we don’t need 608 districts, with 608 superintendents and 608 treasurers and boards etc. To run this as a test- all three districts should be combined- cutting overhead, and providing some real talent to move things in the right direction. The fact that 440 students can be a district is a showcase of stupidity- that’s an elementary school- not a district.

Trotwood schools superintendent Tyrone Olverson should be the new mega district Superintendent. Olverson immediately showed that he has a real understanding of educational reform when he implemented the simple system of adding a “dean of students” to every building to administer discipline, freeing principals to concentrate on classroom instruction. And that was just for starters. His extended school days, transportation even after after-school activities and dinners included showed he has a firm grasp on battling poverty in his district. No other superintendent past or present in Dayton has moved as quickly to address poverty related issues in their district.

Mr Gates from Jefferson should be placed in charge of remedial education. Libby Lolli can be sent packing- along with her assistant superintendent Dr. Sheila Burton, and their incompetent Treasurer and payroll department (seriously, losing Lolli’s pay to a phishing scheme? And then someone leaking the story to the paper?). The new district treasurer should be the old DPS treasurer Craig Jones who was no-nonsense and rational.

There is no need for a local school board, instead, put the double dippers at the Montgomery County ESC in charge- and hold them accountable- no progress, no pay. These jokers already have a pension plus huge salaries with no oversight. Frank DePalma, Rusty Clifford, Tom Lasley- put your money where your mouths are. Between the three of you there has to be at least 500 years of educational experience with the paychecks that you get.

If you say “oh we can’t pay kids to go to school” – wake up. That’s exactly what the “Learn to Earn/Preschool Promise” folks have been offering- while paying themselves a ton of your tax dollars for their un-regulated slush-fund jurisdiction.

Try this program in Dayton for three years and see what happens. Don’t think a few extra bucks in poor folks pockets makes a difference? Read this from the New York Times:

Some of the biggest beneficiaries of minimum wage increases are children. A 2017 study co-authored by Lindsey Bullinger, an assistant professor in the School of Public Policy at Georgia Institute of Technology, found that raising the minimum wage by $1 would reduce child-neglect reports by almost 10 percent. Higher wages allow parents working in the low-wage labor market to keep the lights on and the refrigerator stocked; failing to do so can court neglect charges. “These studies show the positive externalities of increasing the minimum wage on serious outcomes, like reducing child abuse,” Bullinger said, issuing an eloquent barb at economists’ obsession with the “negative externalities” of minimum-wage hikes.

The list goes on. Studies have linked higher minimum wages to decreases in low birth-weight babies, lower rates of teen alcohol consumption and declines in teen births. A 2016 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that between roughly 2,800 and 5,500 premature deaths that occurred in New York City from 2008 to 2012 could have been prevented if the city’s minimum wage had been $15 an hour during that time, instead of a little over $7 an hour. That number represents up to one in 12 of all people who died prematurely in those five years. The chronic stress that accompanies poverty can be seen at the cellular level. It has been linked to a wide array of adverse conditions, from maternal health problems to tumor growth. Higher wages bring much-needed relief to poor workers. The lead author of the 2016 study, Tsu-Yu Tsao, a research director at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, was “very surprised by the magnitude of the findings.” He is unaware of any drug on the market that comes close to having this big of an effect.

A $15 minimum wage is an antidepressant. It is a sleep aid. A diet. A stress reliever. It is a contraceptive, preventing teenage pregnancy. It prevents premature death. It shields children from neglect. But why? Poverty can be unrelenting, shame-inducing and exhausting. When people live so close to the bone, a small setback can quickly spiral into a major trauma. Being a few days behind on the rent can trigger a hefty late fee, which can lead to an eviction and homelessness. An unpaid traffic ticket can lead to a suspended license, which can cause people to lose their only means of transportation to work. In the same way, modest wage increases have a profound impact on people’s well-being and happiness. Poverty will never be ameliorated on the cheap. But this truth should not prevent us from acknowledging how powerfully workers respond to relatively small income boosts….

The stress of poverty can also burden the mind, causing us to make worse decisions and ignore our health… Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir, authors of the insightful book “Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much,” call this “the bandwidth tax.” “Being poor,” they write, “reduces a person’s cognitive capacity more than going a full night without sleep.” When we are preoccupied by poverty, “we have less mind to give to the rest of life.”

Dollars on the margins, NY Times

Right now, such a high percentage of DPS kids qualify for free meals that the district just gives them to everyone. The reality is, full-time year round school also solves child care problems for the working poor. If you go back to my campaign literature for Mayor back in 1991- I suggested that the city should invest in subsidized day care for city residents, not just during the school day, but round the clock, because back then, we still had a truck plant that had 3 shifts. Solving day care makes Dayton a more affordable place for businesses to locate that need low cost workers (like big distribution warehouses for online retailers). Educated and reliable workers are more important to businesses these days than tax breaks and subsidies. People generally don’t send their kids to DPS by choice these days for good reason (exception is Stivers of course).

It’s been forever since Ohio’s school funding formula was found unconstitutional. If the Republicans running the statehouse want to prove that they can actually do anything right in education, here’s their chance. School choice hasn’t proven to make strides and takeover hasn’t worked either.

Take this roadmap, take credit for it yourselves- call it the DeWine/Husted plan, I don’t care, just fix the worst district in the State before it kills our city.


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