States will vote on vouchers, charters, ed reform

Across the nation, voters will have a chance to change state education policies, notes the Hechinger Report.

A ballot initiative in Florida would amend the Constitution to allow religious schools to receive vouchers.

Georgia is voting on a special commission to authorize new charters.

Washington voters have rejected charter schools three times, but another charter measure is on the ballot, along with a “trigger” that would let a majority of parents, or teachers, vote to convert their traditional public school into a charter.

Idaho’s teachers union hopes voters will reject three recently passed education laws.

Proposition 1 aims to repeal a law mandating that 50 percent of teacher evaluations be tied to student growth – an increasingly common policy nationwide. The law also abolished teacher tenure, limited collective bargaining and eliminated incentives for early retirement. Proposition 2 would end Idaho’s new merit pay plan, which provides bonuses for teachers and administrators based on student growth on standardized tests. The law also allows for bonuses to be given to teachers who take hard-to-staff positions or leadership roles. And if a majority vote yes on Proposition 3, a law mandating that all students take two online classes before graduating high school will be repealed.

Voters in Maryland will decide on in-state tuition at public universities for undocumented immigrants.

Indiana Superintendent Tony Bennett’s re-election campaign is “being watched nationally as a referendum on reform,” Fordham’s Mike Petrilli told AP. “If Tony Bennett can push this type of aggressive reform agenda and win, it will give a big lift to other politicians eager to enact similar reforms.” Indiana now has the biggest voucher program in the country.

Also keep an eye on Michigan, where a union-sponsored measure would put collective-bargaining rights in the state constitution. That would block education reforms, argues Michelle Rhee, who’s put Students First PAC money into the “no” campaign.

Many ‘dreamers’ will need GED, college access

Young illegal immigrants began applying this week for two-year stays on deportation and renewable work permits. High school drop-outs can qualify by enrolling in a GED or job training program. That sets the bar low: Enrolling is easy; completion is hard.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  Half the jobs lost in the recession have been recovered, according to a Georgetown report, but virtually all new jobs require college credentials — a certificate, associate degree or bachelor’s.

Amnesty doesn’t require college, military service

President Obama’s quasi-amnesty for young illegal immigrants doesn’t require college attendance or military service, according to Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano’s memo. Applicants who came illegally by age 16 and are 30 or younger must pass a background check showing no felonies or multiple misdemeanors. In addition, the applicant must be: “currently in school, has graduated from high school, has obtained a general education development certificate, or is an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the  United States.”  Those who qualify will be able to get two-year work permits renewable indefinitely.

“In school” seems to refer to high school. Would dropouts qualify if they enroll in GED or basic skills classes at a community college?  Do they have to pass their classes?

The military provision is a bit puzzling: Illegal immigrants aren’t eligible to serve in the military. However, a few use fraudulent papers to enlist. The order doesn’t say whether those who qualify for temporary work permits will be allowed to serve in the military. If so, would their service qualify them for citizenship?  I can’t imagine denying citizenship to military veterans.

In May, speaking at the commencement of Miami Dade College‘s commencement ceremonies, President Obama reaffirmed his support for the Dream Act, which provides a path to citizenship for young immigrants who complete two years of college or serve in the military in the six years after qualifying for conditional legal status. The executive order, which doesn’t promise citizenship, sets a much lower bar.

Obama orders ‘Dream’ amnesty

Congress has refused to pass the Dream Act, which would offer a path to citizenship to young illegal immigrants who enroll in college or serve in the military. Today President Obama ordered a quasi-amnesty for young illegal immigrants who’d be protected from deportation and allowed work permits. To qualify, they must have arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16, live in the U.S. for at least five years, be no more than 30 now, have a high school diploma or GED, attend college or serve in the military. Those with criminal records will not be eligible.

If the executive order withstands a legal challenge, the promise of a work permit could motivate more immigrant students to finish high school — or at least earn a GED — and enroll in community college. Apparently, they won’t have to finish a credential.

I predict pressure to waive deportation for young immigrants with minor criminal records and weak academic credentials.

Update:  Obama’s executive order means increased competition for jobs and college places, the Washington Post headlines. The jobs issues will be the biggie.

I don’t know if Obama will gain more Latino votes than he’ll lose in the backlash against adding 800,000 young workers to the above-ground labor force at a time of high unemployment.

Republican pushes STARS instead of DREAM

A Republican alternative to the DREAM Act creates a path to citizenship for children brought illegally to the U.S. — if they complete a bachelor’s degree. But the STARS (Studying Towards Adjusted Residency Status) Act, introduced by Florida Rep. David Rivera, doesn’t have broad Republican support.

California dreaming

California’s Dream Act, which offers state aid to undocumented college students, passed the Legislature on Friday; Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to sign the bill.

High school graduates with three or more years in California could apply for Cal Grants, which pay for tuition, fees, books and living expenses for lower-income students.

Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, introduced the bill and said that it is necessary to ensure that California has an educated workforce in the future, including students who didn’t come to the country by their own choice but excelled in school.

“We will need them for our future, for our position in the global economy,” he said. “We don’t have one student to spare.”

Democrats passed the bill on a party-line vote.

The bill is expected to cost the state up to $40 million per year to fund grants to an estimated 34,000 community college students, 3,600 in the California State University system, and as many as 642 in the University of California system.

Once students earn degrees, they’ll be unable to work legally in the state, critics said. The federal Dream Act, which includes a path to citizenship through college attendance or military service, has failed repeatedly.

Is Pell spending out of control?

Spending on Pell Grants for low-income college students has more than doubled in the last three years. Democrats and Republicans are looking for solutions — but not in the same places.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  Two bills extending college aid to undocumented students passed a legislative committee in California this week.

Dreaming of U.S. citizenship

Principled Chat blogger Yvonne Watterson’s former students have graduated from high school in Arizona but can’t afford college because they’re undocumented. They work “Mexican jobs” for low pay and dream of achieving legal status so they can pursue careers in nursing or pediatrics. A legal immigrant from Ireland, Watterson is a strong supporter of the DREAM Act which would offer a path to citizenship to young illegal immigrants who qualify for college or military service.

She’s starting a charter school, Alhambra College Prep, that will aim to give students a chance to earn college credits while in high school.