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Monday, August 25, 2014

Parents: Be Proactive

Nebraska public schools are in full swing for the 2014-15 school year. This is a reminder that we all need to take responsibility for making sure our kids get to school whenever they are able, and we need to get them there on time. When they are not able to attend or they have to be late, it's important for you to keep a WRITTEN LOG of their absences, down to the minute, along with the reason for their absence. Be sure to compare your written log to the school's on-line attendance site at least once a week.

If your child is ill enough to stay home, but not ill enough to go to the doctor (low-grade fever, 24-hour stomach flu, etc.), take a picture! Take a picture of the thermometer with their temp on it. Take a picture or videotape the vomit (I'm not kidding). If you're caught in traffic behind a wreck, take a picture. If your car breaks down, save the repair receipt. Document document document. Unfortunately, this is what it has come to in districts like Lincoln Public Schools. If you are referred to law enforcement for legitimate, parent-approved absences, your attorney can use your documentation and photos to defend you.

And while you're documenting, why not write a letter to your school board and ask them to change unreasonable attendance policies? Those of us in Millard, Gretna, and Omaha Public Schools would be happy to show you what a reasonable attendance policy looks like. There ARE districts that respect parents while providing a top-notch education! (Millard has a 98% graduation rate and a family-friendly attendance policy.)

Be proactive and protect your kids!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

New Attendance Law Takes Effect With New School Year



NFF Parents:  The new state law regarding school absences took effect on July 18.  As children throughout Nebraska head back to school over the next couple of weeks, we will begin seeing how our own school districts and county attorneys handle the changes.  (Please click on this link for a reminder of the primary changes included in the new law.)
http://www.nebraskafamilyforum.org/2014/03/amendment-2164-fix-to-nebraskas.html

The new law has returned discretion over attendance back to the school districts, within the guidelines set forth in LB464, and many of those districts have revised their attendance policies over the summer.   Some of the new policies look great; others continue to be unreasonable.  Case in point is Lincoln Public Schools, which still categorizes parent-approved illnesses and medical appointments as “unexcused,” with no differentiation between parents calling their children in sick and kids who are really skipping school.

The Nebraska Family Forum as a group had a great impact on getting state law changed and returning discretion to the local level.  It’s now up to you, the parents of each district, to communicate with your school boards if you are unhappy with your local attendance policy.

Several members of the NFF, myself included, have experience dealing with school boards and administrators, organizing other parents, and effecting change.  We would be happy to guide you through that process.  However, a parent in Omaha, or a statewide group such as ours, cannot resolve a bad attendance policy in No. Platte or Lincoln or Hastings.  That is up to individual community members.

Don’t be intimidated by your local school board members.  You elected them, and they are there to do what’s best for your children and your families.  They are your friends and neighbors and fellow parishioners.  NFF members have found that school boards are, for the most part, approachable and open to hearing from the parents they represent.  Most of them are parents too, and are more than willing to listen to your concerns.

My advice to all of you is to read your district’s new attendance policy NOW.  If you think it’s reasonable, that’s great.  If you have issues with the way your district plans to implement the changes to state law, I suggest you take action right now.  Don’t let the new policies catch you by surprise.  Be proactive, instead of being forced into the position of reacting after the fact.  Protect your kids and protect your family, now rather than later.  These are OUR schools and they exist to educate OUR children.  It is our right and responsibility as parents to speak up and ask for change when school policy is hurting our children.

If you need help approaching your school board, please feel free to contact me at NebraskaFamilyForum@gmail.com. 

Brenda Vosik, Director

Nebraska Family Forum

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.

http://www.arizonadailyindependent.com/2014/06/01/truth-behind-arizonas-sudden-withdrawal-from-parcc/


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.

http://dianeravitch.net/2014/05/28/breaking-news-florida-league-of-women-voters-releases-bombshell-charter-study/


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