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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Common Core: A scam on the American public

This is a fascinating article about the deceit, cronyism and politics involved with the implementation of Common Core.

I suspect this Arizona story is just a small sampling of what's going on nationwide.

Common Core is an enormous scam on the American public. Pearson, with the help of its political allies, is making millions. Our children are Pearson's unpaid guinea pigs, worker bees, data gold mines, and victims. Americans' tax dollars are being used to victimize their own children in a money making scheme so enormous that it should have the suffix "-gate" after it. 

Nebraska parents, we must remain vigilant in our fight against Common Core in our state, and we must join with other parents nationwide who are fighting to get rid of this atrocity in the states that have already implemented CC. Common Core is doing enormous harm to children throughout this nation and it is our responsibility to stand up and save them.

I encourage you to join nationwide groups to get more information about Common Core: Parents and Educators Against Common Core, Left-Right Alliance for Education, Dump Duncan, Common Crud, Badass Parents Association, and Badass Teachers Association are a few of the groups with good information.

Charter Schools study

This study is very interesting, especially in light of the possibility that Nebraska may legalize charter schools in the near future.

Florida is often held up as the "gold standard" by proponents of charter schools, However, this study found that Florida's charter schools do not perform better than public schools; that charters are more segregated than public schools; that many charters funnel money to religious organizations; that a significant number of charters operate for profit; and that the charter industry has captured control of key seats in the legislature.
I would like to find out more about the pros and cons of charter schools. Some people think they are the answer to failing school districts. Others think they will be the death of the public schools, because they funnel tax dollars from public schools into private schools who selectively accept the cream-of-the-crop students, and are run on a for-profit basis by businessmen and celebrities (did you know the rapper Pit Bull has a charter school?)

In any case, future discussion of this topic in our legislature promises to be a lively one.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Thoughts on Amendment 2164

Whenever I talk to the press, I feel nervous that they're going to misquote me or take my words out of context. So in a nutshell, here's what I really mean.

The current excessive absenteeism law has harmed many children and families.

Interactions with the justice system have been particularly harmful for children suffering from mental and behavioral health issues (depression, autism, etc.)

School districts throughout the state have reported thousands of children to the county attorney unnecessarily. I don't know why. Some day I'd like to get a straight answer from educators on what would possess them to turn struggling kids over to law enforcement without cause or remorse.

County attorneys have prosecuted children who were not skipping school and were absent through no fault of their own, including sick children with doctor's notes. I don't understand this either. I'm not giving the county attorneys a pass; however, I do know it's their job to prosecute and get convictions.  I understand their actions more than I understand the actions of the educators, who have devoted their lives to helping children, yet have caused so much harm.

I am satisfied with the verbiage of Amendment 2164 and feel confident that positive changes will result when it becomes law.

The amendment, if implemented correctly, will resolve the problem of children with absences due to physical and behavioral health being turned over to the county attorney. I believe it will prevent thousands of children from being thrown into the juvenile justice system.

There are children who need help overcoming barriers to attendance. AM 2164 is designed to offer that help rather than punish children who are struggling.

I believe Sen. Brad Ashford is doing a good job of explaining the problems with the current law and why changes need to be made. I appreciate his willingness to advocate for those changes.

I am particularly grateful for Sen. Mark Christensen's work on this issue. His advocacy for our families was behind the scenes and many people will never know the extent of his contribution, but suffice it to say he is a hero in my book.

Once the changes take effect, parents will need to work collaboratively with their schools to ensure the new law is implemented as intended. Parents elect their school board members and pay the salaries of school employees, so parental input into policies affecting their kids is crucial. It is the parents' responsibility to work with their school districts respectfully to achieve what is best for their children. That is, after all, what we have been fighting for.

Brenda Vosik, Director
Nebraska Family Forum

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Amendment 2164: A Fix to Nebraska's Excessive Absenteeism Law

Dear NFF Members:

Over the past three weeks, I have had the privilege of working with a committee assembled specifically for the purpose of rewriting the excessive absenteeism law.  This committee consisted of school administrators, social workers, State Department of Education personnel, a county attorney and a defense attorney, a children’s advocacy group…and me, representing you.

Our committee spent about 15 hours talking, negotiating, and coming to agreement on how we could prevent children with legitimate absences from being referred to the county attorney, while still ensuring that children who are truly at risk are able to get the help they need to overcome barriers to school attendance.

Below is the link to the verbiage that the committee agreed upon.  The amendment is 2164 to LB 464, and it will be debated on the floor very soon, possibly as early as Thursday, March 6.

If this law is passed, it will provide safeguards and oversight to prevent schools from using county attorneys as a first resort to enforce attendance policy, and it will help put a stop to county attorneys filing charges on students with legitimate absences.  It puts a great deal of responsibility on the schools to work with the families before ever referring to the county attorney—a piece that has been missing for the past four years.

These are the key strengths of the new verbiage:

·        There is no mandatory referral to the county attorney.  The school is no longer required to refer your child at 20 days of absence.
·        The schools have six specific steps they must take before even considering referral to law enforcement.  Those steps must be well documented.
·        The cornerstone of those six steps is collaboration with the family.  Parents and school administrators must agree on a plan together when a student is struggling with attendance.  All factors contributing to absenteeism must be considered and addressed prior to referral to the county attorney.  The county attorney is to be used rarely and only as a last resort.
·        After all steps are completed and documented, there is a minimum number of absences (20) that must be reached before the school can even consider referral.  Illnesses that make attendance impossible or impracticable cannot be used in this 20 day tally.
·        An affirmative defense clause has been added.  The amendment specifically states that if the school does not complete and document every step required in the statute, it is a defense to prosecution of truancy or neglect charges.  In other words, if the school doesn’t do their job, the county attorney has no case.
·        The Council on Student Attendance is created.  This council will review attendance policies and practices of every Nebraska school district and make recommendations for changes.  There will be oversight of school districts who have unreasonable policies and/or are making inappropriate referrals to the county attorney.

Parents, these are very positive changes!  With correct implementation, this amendment should eliminate thousands of children being referred to the juvenile justice system.  Education of parents, schools, county attorneys, and defense attorneys will be the key to making this work the way it’s supposed to.

The NFF is almost 740 strong this morning, and growing every day.  We are not going anywhere.  Our group will continue to be vigilant as this law is passed and implemented, and we will not stop pointing out when the law is being misused and our children are being harmed.  However, I believe a great deal of that harm will be alleviated if this amendment passes.

Thanks to all of you brave families for speaking up in defense of our children over the past four years.  WE ARE NOT DONE YET.  I will be posting an urgent call to action on the Facebook page and blog very shortly, asking for you to immediately CALL AND E-MAIL STATE SENATORS and ask them to vote for this amendment. Please help make one last push to get this law passed, for the sake of our children.

Brenda Vosik, Director
Nebraska Family Forum

Monday, February 24, 2014

Lincoln County: Child with Crohn's Disease Threatened With Foster Care

First of all, I am so very thankful that I have good friends who told me of your advocacy group, as I am beside myself with worry greatly beyond having to deal with my daughter's illness now.

I have, for approximately 3 years, been trying to figure out what has been wrong with my daughter, Kristyna, who is a 14-year-old 8th grader.  She had been complaining of gastrointestinal issues and I have had her to many doctors, who have completed many tests and surgeries in attempt to diagnose.  I was hopeful that after she had her gallbladder removed that we had solved her problem; however, quite the contrary.

To make a long story short....Kristyna was finally placed in the care of the gastrointestinal doctors at Colorado Children's Hospital and I feel that we might be on our way to getting her on the right track after diagnosis of Crohn's Disease and chronic salmonella and pending-to-be-tested for gastroparesis soon.

In the midst of dealing with her illnesses, I have been fighting with the school district concerning her education.  I, as a teacher, take her education SERIOUSLY!  Also, as a teacher in the same district, I apparently continued for much too long having some trust in the idea that if I JUST talked to them enough and provided them with every bit of doctors' information, that they would take her situation seriously (NOT A LITTLE TUMMY ACHE!) and help me with her education during this trying time.

I requested her work from her school and had MANY personal conversations and correspondence with her principal, vice-principal, truancy officer, and Central Office. I knew that I was not getting all of the work that was needed to provide her with an education and to pass her classes.  I requested (as well as her doctors) that she be placed on a 504 Plan.  We met and a plan was drawn up.  At that time, I believed that Kristyna might be able to start attending SOME half days with the medications seemingly proving to have some affect.  Then......she contracted Salmonella!  With Crohn's, any stressers (health or emotional) can throw this person into a flare-up.  Kristyna's body was not able to rid of the Salmonella, as a person with a healthy digestive system would.  Her doctors were stumped as to how to rid her body of this with her already-compromised health condition.

Needless to say, this has been a long, drawn-out, horrible process.  I had asked personally and in email that her 504 Plan include a homebound tutor just in case we were to have some sort of backslide during our first meeting to develop the plan.  I was met with "we will cross that road, if we get there."  I told them that since this is all new to us and every Crohn's patient is different, that I felt it an absolute necessity to have this in the plan.  I was refused this.  Augh, we got to that road.......and my daughter was denied verbally and in writing for a homebound tutor. I became impatient after a half of a year of trying and withdrew her from school and placed her in a homebound tutoring program.  I have also shipped her off to live with my parents in Wyoming, as her health has declined and my parents are getting her in a rhythm of homeschooling.  I unenrolled her from the district on February 3 and NOW have a summons signed on February 18 as to my having to show up to court for truancies.  Her doctor at Colorado Children's Hospital agreed with me that homeschooling would be the best decision for her until she is placed on a treatment program that will help her.  I went in to talk to the District Deputy County Attorney in Lincoln County, Jennifer Wellan, on Friday and was treated as though I wasn't taking this seriously even though I CALLED WITH NO RETURN CALL AND THEN WAS SITTING IN HER OFFICE.....of course, I know it's serious!  She also told me that I could hire a lawyer, if I could afford it (I am a single mother working on a Nebraska teacher's salary, paying for medical and pharmaceutical treatments, and traveling to doctor's appointments) because it might be decided that my daughter could be taken away from me and placed in a foster home.  I AM BESIDE MYSELF!!!!! 

Kristyna is currently with my parents in Wyoming and I am going to be signing over Power of Attorney for health and education.  Will this help my situation?  Please help!!!  My daughter has lived with me her entire life, is a great student, participates in volleyball and basketball (even played through pain in her tournament prior to her gallbladder surgery against my judgement), and is a talented and beautiful singer.  She WANTS to be back with her friends and activities at school.....her health isn't allowing! I CANNOT BELIEVE that a school system has been that unwilling to help a child with a tutor and for laws that are to help children are hurting these kids who are suffering health issues!!!!!!! 

I am an educated individual and this entire situation doesn't even allow me the ability to "write" cohesively when telling of this story right now.  I pray that you can help guide me in a direction that will "stave off the wolves" and allow me to continue to care for my child.


Denise Shoults
North Platte Teacher and Pained Parent