APS: Doing More with Less?

APS Board Chair Martin Esquivel claims that we at the Rio Grande Foundation are all wrong about APS and that the school district is doing a great job. He also claims that the district’s buildings shouldn’t count as money spent per-pupil by the district. Sure, capital spending and annual appropriations are taken out of two different pots, but the fact is that money is money and in the real world, those dollars must be considered as part of what APS spends per pupil.

Esquivel does make one accurate claim and that is that the district must accept all kids that show up on their doorstep. Having disruptive “students” in the classroom is undoubtedly a problem for teachers in the classroom, but there are plenty of things APS could do differently and better. For starters, he should rent himself a copy of “Waiting for Superman” as I did this weekend. Esquivel could see in that movie how impoverished inner-city kids can learn and graduate at rates exceeding 90 percent. Compare that with APS where 23 of the 34 high schools are considered “dropout factories.”

Of course Esquivel does not mention exactly what APS’s graduation rate is, but according to the best information I have from the “Diplomas Count 2010,” New Mexico’s state graduation rate is 54.9%. I find it hard to believe that APS’s real graduation rate is much better.

Oh, and one important thing to note is that APS alone is not at fault. The federal government, state government, local school boards, teacher unions, and yes, even parents, all have a role to play in the ongoing failure. The problem is that the first step in solving a problem is recognizing that you have one. Esquivel clearly doesn’t think APS needs to change and improve.

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11 Replies to “APS: Doing More with Less?”

  1. Esquivel, though he seems to want to continue as the board’s mouthpiece, is no longer the President; Paula Maes has taken his place.

    There is a simple answer here; call in independent auditors who will examine APS district wide looking for ineffectiveness and inefficiency. Then we will know one and for all, how effective and efficient the administration really is.

    Maes will be a problem. She spoke for the board when she said, (we) will never agree to any audit that individually identifies corrupt or incompetent administrators or board members.

    There is a reason they are fighting an independent audit.

  2. Ched is absolutely correct… it is impossible for either side to argue effectively when the numbers are concealed.

    One has to ask, “what are they hiding and why are they hiding it”?

    If they are proud of their numbers, then put it out there for all to see how much APS spends… on everything.

    But, clearly, they are NOT proud. They don’t want the public to see the ruse they’ve got going on.

    If ever there was a time for Governor Martinez to weigh in… this is IT!

  3. Where did you get your math degree? Good Lord. Sure, count the cost of buildings. But be honest and count the cost of the building over the life of the building and the number of students it services over the many years. Count all the times the building is used for other purposes for little or no fee. put a value on the cost of not educating a child and what that ignorant, illiterate, desperate child costs the community in the long run. Balance those costs. Come on, you can put a dollar value to everything, right? Everything has a dollar value in your world, right? Everything.

    One of your foundation’s members claims that the average New Mexican makes almost 90,000 dollars a year? When do you learn the difference between average and mean? 8th grade? Sooner than that? Talk about disingenuous claptrap.

    Here’s a lesson you apparently missed: If there’s a guy who makes a million bucks in a room with 9 unemployed men, the average earned income in the room is 100,000 bucks. But that doesn’t mean anything. It’s a statistical game. Just like the games you’re playing with our community’s children.

    If you didn’t have all that corporate money backing you you’d be invisible.

    1. Hey, it is an annual budget. They pay for the buildings every year just as they use them, so it is over the life of the building. Where is the data on the average New Mexican making $90,000 annually? If you are going to assert it, give me a link at least.

  4. Why should it be up to APS to make its finances public? Since schools are state-funded, the state should be auditing school districts regularly to determine how our dollars are being spent. If the state is not looking at school districts’ budgets, that’s REALLY scary.

  5. “Waiting for Superman “ Doesn’t Have Any Magic Bullets
    Franklin P. Schargel
    The release of the DVD of “Waiting for Superman” means that many more people will see this excellently made propaganda film extolling the virtues of charter schools.

    There isn’t any argument that education in America needs to be improved. Politicians on all sides of the spectrum agree. The discussion is not about whether it should happen but how it should happen. President Obama’s Race for the Top demands that states raise the cap on how many charter schools they have. Charter schools, the filmmakers insist, are the ultimate answer to all that ails education today. There are excellent charter schools and not so excellent charter schools. Just as there are excellent public schools and not so excellent public schools. Not once in the film do the producers show any successful public schools. But they do state, that only one in five charter schools is performing at a high level.

    Charter schools were supposed to be educational learning laboratories which were benchmarked for best practices. To envision them as the sole universal answer to the ills of American education is as foolish as believing that high stakes tests would, by themselves, raise America’s achievement level. All that the testing achieved was to confirm what we already knew – that children of low-income families do worse on examinations than children of high-income families. It then rewards high-achieving schools and punished low-achieving schools.
    If we wish to improve America’s schools, we need to systemically improve all aspects of America’s schooling. We need to improve early childhood education and make it available to every student. We need to level the playing field of school spending so that schools in affluent areas get as much funding as those in the inner cities. If children do not learn the way teachers teach, then teachers need to teach the way students learn.
    We need to have colleges validate high school degrees by not accepting students who are not prepared to enter college and stop accepting and remediating those who are below college admission standards. We need to have schools of education train teachers with the skills they need and not what the schools of education want to teach. And politicians need to stop coming up with sound-bite solutions to highly complex educational problems.

    The enemy in the film is not Lex Luther, but teacher unions. If teacher unions were the evildoers than union-less states like Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi would be high performing and we know they are not. Finland, which is the top rated country on the Organization of Co-operation and Development’s) TIMSS examination, has a strong teacher union. High performing countries of Finland, Korea and Japan operate schools as “state monopolies.”

    Teacher tenure at the university level means life-long employment. In the K-12 system it simply means due process. Teacher unions do not hire incompetent teachers – administrators do. The same administrators have three years to get rid of poorly performing, non-tenured teachers. If anyone should be blamed for poor teachers in classrooms, it should be school administrators. No Child Left Behind calls for “highly qualified teachers” but we need teachers to be highly effective as well. We have all had knowledgeable teachers who knew their material but lacked the capacity to teach it.

    There are two kinds of errors – errors of omission and errors of commission and the filmmakers commit both. The film emphasizes the failing of public schools and fails to show any of the successful public schools or teachers.

    Charter schools don’t seem to be doing any better than regular public schools, and tend to be much more expensive to operate than regular schools. One of the most successful charter schools is shown to achieve high results but the writer of the film fails to indicate that they spend $16,000 per student (more than the amount that New York City spends on its public school students). (Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/13/education/13harlem.html)

    I have visited a charter school in Florida (since closed) where the graduation rate was 17%. Another charter school failed to invest that money in the classroom or to provide required financial disclosures. (http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook/content/ohio-lawsuit-alleges-white-hat-charter-school-company-failed-schools)

    Are charter schools really supermen capable of sweeping needy students out of harm’s way? Innovation is frequently confused with improvement. Americans embrace whatever is believed to be “new” more readily than what already exists.

    What makes charter schools so attractive to so many parents? Most charter schools are operating at capacity and have waiting lists? And the film plays on the heartstrings by showing the disappointment when children are turned away because of lack of room in one high-performing charter school. Obviously all parents want the best for their children and are willing to do whatever it takes to get the best education for their child. They have been led to believe that charter schools provide the answer. Maybe, like Superman, it really is fiction.

    1. Franklin, I do agree with you that not all charters are excellent. Wherever they are adopted in large numbers, there need to be efforts to weed out the charter schools that fail.

      Administration is indeed a problem as well as the unions. The system as a whole needs to be reformed along market lines.

    2. Franklin,

      I don’t have the time or space to respond to everything you wrote (and Waiting for Superman is not perfect), but not all labor unions are created equal. As Esther Cepeda writes, in Finland and in many other educationally-successful nations, teacher compensation is tied to student performance. That is not the case with US teacher unions.

      Also, you talk about the charter school in Florida that was closed with a 17% graduation rate. It would be great if we could close failing public schools as well!

  6. How is it that APS is still able to get away with hiding public information? Do we the taxpayers need to start some industrial-strength lawsuits against individual members of the APS board to get the info to which we are entitled?

    1. APS is able to get away with hiding records because they have hired one of the most powerful law firms in the state; Modrall, to litigate their exception to the law. And in our judicial system, the win goes to the power/money, not to the just.

      APS’ litigation budget is literally unlimited. It comes from operational funds – funds that would be spent in classrooms if they weren’t being spent on legal weaselry, the purpose of which is to insulate senior APS administrators and board members from the consequences of their incompetence and corruption.

      They enjoy the aid and abet of the establishment media, most notably Kent Walz and the Journal, in their effort to cover up fundamental problems in the leadership of the APS.

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