Headlines in Education

I troll various sites during the week to find topics for my blog. This week I found several I wanted to write about – some good news and some bad news. I decided to post a few (with links if you want to read more).

~At its annual meeting in Chicago, the American Medical Association came out strongly for a ban on assault weapons, and made a firm stance against arming teachers as a way to fight what they say is a “growing health crisis” (AP News). They agreed to:

Support any bans on the purchase or possession of guns and ammunition by people under 21.

Back laws that would require licensing and safety courses for gun owners and registration of all firearms.

Press for legislation that would allow relatives of suicidal people or those who have threatened imminent violence to seek court-ordered removal of guns from the home.

Encourage better training for physicians in how to recognize patients at risk for suicide.

Push to eliminate loopholes in laws preventing the purchase or possession of guns by people found guilty of domestic violence, including expanding such measures to cover convicted stalkers (AP News).

~Michigan State Senator and gubernatorial candidate Patrick Colbeck (R) this week proposed changes in what is taught in social studies in the state. Colbeck’s proposed curriculum removes all references to gay rights, Roe v. Wade and climate change  (CBSlocal.com).  It also slashes the word “democratic” and replaces it with “republic” and reduces references to the Klu Klux Klan.

Colbeck claims these changes were brought on by concerns that, “…some standards are not politically neutral or factually accurate, and to ensure students are “exposed to multiple points of view” (CBSlocal.com).  Crowds of people have gathered at the state capitol to protest these changes. **In researching for this story, I found an article titled    “11 Most Ridiculous Things Done By State Senator Patrick Colbeck”   Changes to the Social Studies curriculum in Michigan seem to be on par with some of his other decisions.  In other news, Colbeck seems to be behind in the polls in the race for governor.

~Cynthia Nixon, gubernatorial candidate for governor of New York outlined her education policy this week, promising to “tackle what she called the ‘unholy trinity’ of racial segregation, underfunding, and over-policing in schools (chalkbeat.org). Nixon said, “We have two different education systems in our state – one that sends wealthy white children to college, and another that sends poor children of color to prison (chalkbeat.org).

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A spokesperson for current Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke against Nixon and her education policy, saying she was acting as a front for parent advocacy groups. As Diane Ravitch said, “Cuomo’s education policies are controlled by hedge fund managers, billionaires, and Wall Street advocacy groups.”

~The California Teachers Association is calling for support AB 276, which would set the standards for charter schools across the state.  “AB 276 requires all charter schools to be transparent and accountable to parents and to disclose how they spend taxpayer money, including budgets and contracts. It prohibits charter school board members and their families from profiting from their schools and requires charter schools to comply with California’s open meetings, open records and conflict of interest laws (CTA.org).

~Former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens (R) was not able to seat a state board of education because he couldn’t get his appointees approved. The new governor, Mike Parson (R), has already seated his board. The bad news is the board immediately renewed the charters for several under-performing schools in St. Louis and Kansas City despite their weak performance. The good news is the new president of the board, Charlie Shields said that it was time to review charter school laws.

Shields argued the charters in question “do not convincingly outperform St. Louis Public Schools. He said the state Legislature allowed charter schools to operate in Missouri on the premise that charter schools would be easy to open, but poor-performing charter schools should be easy to close(St. Louis Post-Dispatch).

~In a huge defeat to charters in New York, this week a judge ruled against allowing certain schools to certify their teachers. The ruling ends Success Academy’s plan to hire teachers at their discretion and removing the master’s degree requirement. Success Academy is the largest charter chain in New York.

“The regulations, approved by the State University of New York in October 2017, were designed to give charter schools more discretion over how they hired teachers. They eliminated the requirement that teachers earn master’s degrees and allowed charter schools authorized by SUNY to certify their teachers with as little as a month of classroom instruction and 40 hours of practice teaching (Chalkbeat.org).

~The Seattle Education Association voted this week for moratorium on standardized testing.  This movement began in 2013 when high school teachers refused to administer MAP tests. The superintendent threatened teachers with a 10-day suspension without pay, but teachers would not back down.  “At the end of the year, because of the overwhelming solidarity from parents, teachers, and students around the country, not only were no teachers disciplined, but the superintendent announced that the MAP test would no longer be required for Seattle’s high schools (Iamaneducator.com).

The movement in Washington has continued. In 2015, Nathan Hale High School had a 100% opt out rate on the test given to all high school juniors. As many as 60,000 families opted their children out of common core testing as well.

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~To end on a positive note, here’s an inspiring graduation speech. Dr. Louis Profeta, MD, an emergency room doctor who spoke at his alma mater, North Central High School in Indianapolis of his failure in schools, only to become a successful doctor.

These are my reflections for today.

6/29/18

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Charter scandals continue

COLORADO – In the past two years,  Stargate Charter School for gifted and talented children has been slapped with eight civil rights complaints. The complaints were related to sexual discrimination and disability discrimination. Complaints include the school’s mishandling of allegations that a former coach groped students and the school’s treatment of students with disabilities. According to Attorney Jacque Phillips, “Many of the problems faced by Stargate are because it does not take seriously its responsibility as a public school to educate all its gifted-and-talented students, including those with disabilities”(Denver Post).

In response to the most recent charges, administrators say they have “learned their lesson and are making changes to better address allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination against disabled students” (Denver Post).

CONNECTICUT – Path Academy in Windham is in fear of losing its license for defrauding taxpayers of $1.6 million dollars. According to papers filed in court, the school could not provide documentation for 128 students enrolled at Path. This represents a potential overpayment of $1,573,000 over a two year period. “The failure to maintain records establishing that students who were reported as enrolled in the data used to determine the per pupil grant payment were actually enrolled and attending school constitutes, at a minimum, failure to manage state funds in a prudent or legal manner” (EdVotes.org).

FLORIDA – Fearing a failing grade from the state, Palm Harbor Academy charter school transferred low-performing students to a recently opened private school on the same campus just before the charter students were to begin their state assessments.  Those transferred included 13 third graders, and 5 fifth graders. According to the Palm Coast Observer, “Many of the children were multiple grades behind grade level. Another five students in other grades, all at least two grades behind grade level, were also transferred out of Palm Harbor and into the private school at around the same time.”

Palm Harbor Academy governing board chairman the Rev. Gillard Glover said, “First and foremost, we did not move the students,” Glover said, noting that the parents had requested the move. School Board member Andy Dance said Glover was blaming the parents.

“I’m not blaming the parents. We did not talk to the parents at all about moving their children. … We did not in any fashion conduct any kind of campaign, solicit, try to induce parents to take their kids out of Palm Harbor(Palm Coast Observer).

Dance responded, “But you accepted them(Palm Coast Observer).

Additionally, students with disabilities who were moved into the private school no longer had access to  state-mandated speech and language services. “I’m going to tell you right now there is nothing that can be produced to us to show that those third-grade students’ rights were not violated by moving them,” School Board Attorney Kristin Gavin (Palm Coast Observer).

NORTH CAROLINA – School board members along with local clergy in Charlotte-Mecklenburg are standing together in opposition of HB 514, a recently proposed bill that would contribute to re-segregation of schools because a town-run charter would allow admission preference for children who live in the four towns. Opponents of HB 514 compared it to Southern education policies of the 1950s – implemented to keep schools segregated. In the 1950s these schools were called segregationist academies, created to have a school for white families who refused to allow their children to attend school with black children.

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HB 514 was introduced last year by Republican Bill Brawley. He has criticized the Charlotte Meckeinburg board for not providing students with a quality education—one reason he says township parents want their own charter (WFAE).

“Roslyn Mickelson, a professor of sociology at UNC Charlotte says studies have not shown that charter schools are better academically. A report she co-authored this year on state and local charter schools did find that charters are becoming less diverse(WFAE).

Additionally, Mickelson said of HB 514, “If this bill passes it will be a driver of segregation in public education. It’s not even subtle… The freedom of choice plans were drawn in such ways that they replicated the segregated schools. What we have today is not freedom of choice but charter school choice and the way it is being designed will have the same effect” (WFAE).

PENNSYLVANIA – A Philadelphia attorney, David Schulick, has been convicted  of embezzling $800,000 from the Philadelphia School District using a charter school he ran intended to help at-risk students. Instead, Shulick and Chaka Fattah Jr. falsified documents and faked student enrollments to inflate the school budget. “Federal prosecutors said Shulick faked business expenses to cheat on taxes and listed nannies and housekeepers as employees of the school, while using the profits to renovate his vacation home on the Shore and installing a $9,000 set of speakers in his Gladwyne home” (Metro). Shulick may face a prison term at sentencing. At the very least he is expected to be ordered to pay significant restitution to the School District (Metro).

COLORADO – At least four administrators at Wyatt Academy in Denver were recently put on administrative leave after a video captured the school’s justice coordinator encouraged students to throw punches. The elementary school principal, assistant principal, school psychologist along with the justice coordinator were suspended. One source reported Wyatt Academy administrators learned of the fight the same day yet no action was taken until the group released the video. The school board has hired an outside investigator (Seattle Times).

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TENNESSEE – New Vision Academy charter school in Nashville is under investigation by the school district for financial irregularities and failing to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.  According to a report filed by teachers, English language-learning students and students with learning disabilities were not receiving required instructional time. The report also noted students were charged for textbooks even though the school earmarked thousands of dollars for classroom supplies (Tennesseean.com).. The top two executives at New Vision, who are married, make a combined $562,000. Executive director Tim Malone made $312,971 in the 2017,  and his wife, LaKesha Malone is New Vision’s second highest ranking executive. earning $250,000 during that same period,(Tennesseean.com).

There were so many scandals in the news from the past few weeks, I found it difficult to choose for the blog. The bottom line is as the charter movement grows, scandals continue to grow exponentially as well. There are patterns, repeats, and new offenses. The underlying theme is misappropriation of funds and faculty and administrators behaving inappropriately and/or illegally.

It’s important to know about the scandals plaguing charter schools, and to be aware of the current administration’s drive to create more.

Deplorable.

These are my reflections for today.

6/8/18

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“Defendemos La Educación Pública”

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“Defendemos la educación pública” (We defend public education). This chant was heard in the capital building in San Juan, Puerto Rico in March. Teachers, parents, and supporters of public education rallied against a proposal to close more public schools.

If you ask Puerto Rico’s Secretary of Education Julia Keleher why she is closing an additional 283 schools this summer (last summer it was 167 schools), she would say it’s because of the declining enrollment as many students and their families fled to the US after Hurricane Maria. Keleher would cite 1 in 13 (22,350) students have left their neighborhood schools. There are 1,100 schools remaining (NPR).

Puerto Ricans have a long-standing history of resistance in the sphere of education. Lauren Lefty pointed out that since 1960’s and 1970’s, campaigns promoting community control of schools, along with the curricula focused on Black and Puerto Rican studies, with slogans, “Seize the schools, que viva Puerto Rico libre!” formed an essential part of the education reform.

But despite a history of strong resistance, “the island’s political leaders and investors are hoping the post-hurricane confusion and demobilization will allow them to push their agenda through” (Jacobin).

If you ask Mercedes Martinez, president of the Puerto Rican Teachers Federation the same question, she would say Keleher is using the hurricane as an excuse to accelerate closures. “Our Secretary of Education has a plan to shut down schools. She wants to privatize and close more, but the communities have fought back” (NPR).

Martínez sees these reforms as part of a larger push to hollow out the public sector, undermine labor rights, and sell the island’s public education system to the highest bidder. “Public education in our country, like in all capitalist countries, has been under attack for many years,” says Martínez. (Jacobin).

An investigation of school closures revealed Keleher “never conducted a comprehensive analysis of the impact of closing the 283 schools she plans to close.” However, after seeing mounting opposition to her plan, she quickly backtracked saying she plans to visit every one of the 283 schools on the closure list to make a quick and hurried assessment (NPR).

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Keleher has advocated to bring charter schools and reform the educational system since her arrival to the island as an education program specialist for the DOE in 2007.  She was appointed Education Secretary in January 2017. She has argued the hurricane has given Puerto Rico an “opportunity” to reform the system, citing the changes in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina (Telesur).

The Puerto Rico public school system still is very rural and many of the schools are small, serving poorer communities that are some distance from urban centers. Following the hurricane, many schools became community centers and aid distribution sites and shelters. In some communities, parents and neighbors cleaned schools of debris and did repairs, even helping provide food for meals so children could return to classes (NBC News).

“No a los charters buitres!” (No to the vulture charters!).

Much like in New Orleans, the movement to privatize public education in Puerto Rico started before Hurricane Maria struck.  An IMF-backed, hedge fund–commissioned report sought school closures, with school-choice policies in 2017. However, unlike New Orleans where 7,000 public school teachers were fired after Katrina, Keleher announced there will be no layoffs or employment terminations. Those who currently work in schools slated for closure will be given new assignments in different locations.

Keleher’s plan is to start with 14 charter schools, two in each of the island’s seven provinces. “If the schools are super successful and more people want them, we should allow that up to a point” (The Intercept).

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told a group of reporters “she was very encouraged by Puerto Rico’s leadership for embracing school choice after the hurricane. She praised its approach for thoughtfully “meeting students’ needs … in a really concerted and individual way” (Politico).

The proposed legislation would also allow for the creation of virtual charters in Puerto Rico – a particularly contentious type of online school, even among school choice supporters. (DeVos is a big proponent of virtual charters, and a former investor in them.)  (The Intercept).

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló has exacerbated concerns he is not considering the risks of the proposed education reforms. Last week he visited an ASPIRA charter school in Philadelphia, and reported it represents an “excellent charter school model.” Interesting statement. Two months ago Philadelphia voted to close two ASPIRA charter schools for their low academic quality, as well as a host of financial scandals and mismanagement issues (The Intercept).

Diane Ravitch identified many misleading statements coming from Puerto Rico regarding school closures and the impact to the island:

  • The Government of Puerto Rico has been unable to sell any previously closed schools and is leasing 50 schools for $1 annually.
  • The Governor acknowledged there is very little cost savings from closing schools.
  • A recent Pew research study found municipalities get a fraction of the savings they budget for when they close schools.
  • The government just passed voucher and charter school legislation written by Betsy DeVos that would cost the Puerto Rico up to $400 million a year.
  • The Puerto Rico Secretary of Education argued that school closings were driven because the fiscal board required it. However, in a recent interview with Telemundo, Jose Carrion, Chairman of the Fiscal Control Board, said the Fiscal Board did not require school closings.

If Keleher is closing schools because of declining enrollment, then why is she also opening charter schools at the same time? Using New Orleans or Philadelphia as exemplar models should scream what NOT to do. We know how this story ends. We’ve seen it before.

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These are my reflections for today.

5/11/18

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Teachers Wanted or Wanted: Teachers

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Any of you familiar with Blazing Saddles which is IMHO the second best Mel Brooks movie (Young Frankenstein being #1, of course), are familiar with this poster. My parallel today is with this poster and the charter/voucher debacle in Florida.

Last week I saw a headline from the Network for Public Education. “Raleigh charter school on state ‘watch list’ for employing teacher with suspended license.”
Under any other circumstances this is an alarming and disheartening headline.

But when I saw one from Florida, Raleigh paled in comparison. “Convicted criminals working as teachers. Welcome to voucher schools in Florida.” Orlando Sentinel reporters  Annie Martin and Leslie Postal wrote how Florida’s voucher schools are hiring convicted felons — “some of whom are supposed to be barred from teaching under state law.”

This report comes on the heels of a series of investigative reports on charter/voucher issues plaguing Florida. Scott Maxwell of the Sentinel writes, “We’re talking a billion or so dollars worth of public money and tax credits into a ‘scholarship’ system that has far fewer checks, balances and even basic requirements than public schools.”

Two convicted teachers were in classrooms, yet – according to Florida law- should be banned from teaching in any public school.

“One former convict was discovered at a Pine Hills school after she was arrested again on a child-abuse charge involving a student.”

“Another teacher was fresh out of prison on $47,000 worth of Medicare fraud — and banned from teaching in public schools — when she was hired by a voucher school the next month” Orlando Sentinel.

Hiring convicted criminals is just the most recent example of the dysfunction in Florida. Recent investigative reporting  () uncovered a host of other issues plaguing charter/voucher schools in Florida. Following are headlines from their reports:

October 17, 2017 – Florida private schools get nearly $1 billion in state scholarships with little oversight

October 17, 2017 – Florida’s school voucher and scholarship programs face little oversight

October 18, 2017 – Orlando private school with troubled history took millions of dollars in state scholarships.

October 19, 2017 – After student alleges abuse, principal shutters one private school, opens another

Betsy DeVos, while speaking at the Reagan Institute Summit on Education said, “The Sunshine State is one bright spot in otherwise gloomy national achievement results and should be an exemplar to other states”. She continued, “It’s really attributable, I think, to this concerted effort to tackle reforms on a student-focused, student-centered basis”  (The74Million).

In contrast, Maxwell wrote, “Florida’s voucher system is the Wild Wild West of education with tax dollars and children’s futures on the line” (Orlando Sentinel).

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Life is Beautiful. In this movie, Roberto Benigni’s character was at least aware life wasn’t beautiful. DeVos has no idea.

Public schools would not close in the middle of a school year leaving children at a loss, employ convicted criminals, close in one neighborhood because it’s failing only to open in another.
Billions of dollars are poured into charters/vouchers not only in Florida, but all over the country. No oversight, misappropriation of funds, child-abuse…the list goes on.
Recruit certified teachers who will work tirelessly to help children. Invest in public education.

These are my reflections for today.

5/4/18

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Congress rebukes DeVos’ education agenda

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The education budget approved by Congress and signed by Trump was a far cry from what was proposed, weakening DeVos’ agenda to privatize public education. Trump’s budget plan called for slashing the education budget, cutting discretionary spending by $9.2 billion. That did not happen.

Here are some highlights of the budget:

Title I funding  for disadvantaged students will increase to $300 million up from $15.8 million in 2017.

DeVos and Trump asked for a $1 billion program designed to support open enrollment (school choice) in districts. This is not included in the budget.  The bill also leaves out a $250 million private school choice initiative.

Title II funding which provides professional development to educators got $2.1 million. The Trump budget wanted to eliminate Title II.

Title IV grants slated for districts to use for a variety of needs from technology to school safety will receive $1.1 billion. Trump wanted to eliminate Title IV.

21st Century Community Learning Centers gets a $20 million bump, another program Trump wanted to ax.

DeVos wants to reduce the Department of Education, but the bill bars funds from being used for “a reorganization that decentralizes, reduces the staffing level, or alters the responsibilities, structure, authority, or functionality of the Budget Service of the Department of Education”(Ed Week).

DeVos wanted to shrink the office for civil rights’ budget by $1 million. Instead the funding increased from $109 to $117 million.

The budget includes a $2.37 billion increase in funding to the Child Care Development Block Grant, increases Head Start funding $610 million, and kept spending level for the Preschool Development Program – another program this administration sought to eliminate.

The bill requests $120 million for the Education Innovation and Research (EIR). This program seeks innovative practices in schools.

The spending bill would raise the maximum Pell Grant award to low-income students by $175 to $6,095; DeVos had proposed freezing the maximum at $5,920. She had also proposed cutting federal work-study programs in half, but the spending bill would add $140 million, for a total of $1.1 billion (CNN).

The budget increases funding for student mental health, increasing funding by $700 million for a wide-ranging grant program schools can use for violence prevention, counseling and crisis management. An additional $22 million is slated for programs to reduce school violence and support mental-health services in schools (Washington Post).

Significant changes come to the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative. This program is currently housed in the Department of Justice and uses funds for research and development of safety programs  for bulling and school safety. Now the funds will be redirected to the STOP School Violence Act, allowing funding for metal detectors and other safety measures. Funding can also be used for evidence-based programs for school safety, violence prevention efforts, and anonymous reporting systems (Ed Week).

One item that did not get cut from the budget is the increase in funding for charter schools, up $58 million to a total of $400 million. But with the cuts in other areas including vouchers and school choice, this is a small concession.

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After a tumultuous year of trying to prove herself worthy of a cabinet position she is not qualified to hold, a year of pushing an agenda not aligned with an already volatile congress, and an abysmal interview on national television, by all appearances this is a vote of no confidence. The Secretary should consider embracing this budget and work to support every aspect of it or step aside. She may surround herself with marshals, and protect herself from grizzlies, but she can no longer push her agenda on a country and congress that does not support it.

These are my reflections for today.

3/30/18

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Who is Charles Foster Johnson?

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Charles Foster Johnson is the pastor of the small, interracial Bread Fellowship  in Fort Worth, Texas. Much of his time is spent preaching behind the pulpit, but lately he has a different audience and a different message.

Johnson is also the executive director of Pastors for Texas Children, an independent ministry and outreach group of 2,000 pastors and church leaders across Texas. According to the website, the mission is:

To provide “wrap-around” care and ministry to local schools, principals, teachers, staff and schoolchildren, and to advocate for children by supporting our free, public education system, to promote social justice for children, and to advance legislation that enriches Texas children, families, and communities (Pastors for Texas Children).

Johnson and Pastors for Texas Children are leading what is now a nationwide charge against state legislators to stop the growth of vouchers and charters.

In a message to Texas legislators, Johnson said, “You have the right to home-school your children. You have the right to ‘private school’ your children. You don’t have the right to ask the people of Texas to pay for it…” “When you take public dollars through vouchers and charters that are connected to religious schools, you are violating the First Amendment. You are violating the religious liberty, a gift from God – James Madison didn’t make it up – that government should not be involved in religion” (Pastors for Texas Children).

Last week Johnson took his message to the state house in Indiana, where the voucher system is deeply embedded in the state’s public education system. Since 2011, more than $520 million has been dedicated to Choice Scholarships, which is the state voucher program. More than 90% of schools accepting vouchers in Indiana are faith based– primarily Catholic or Lutheran (Pastors for Texas Children).

Johnson’s platform is simple. He supports the separation of church and state. He advocates for supporting public schools, and teachers. He recognizes teachers for accepting ALL students. “Christians have an obligation to embrace public schools as a social good, especially for poor children”(Dallas News). 

Johnson haters are trying to destroy him and his message. It was reported in one Texas newspaper that Johnson “was kicked out of his denomination for his liberal views” and runs a “fake ‘pastor’ group” that’s a “radical leftist organization.”  Republican Rep. Jonathan Stickland wrote to Johnson on Twitter, “You don’t care one bit about children. You care only about $$$ and perpetuating a broken system. Fraud”  (Pastors for Texas Children).

Pastors for Texas Children support a simple model whereby members talk to ministers, youth ministers and children’s ministry leaders about the “moral message of public education for all children” and urge them to connect with their local schools as supporters and volunteers, but without proselytizing (Journal Gazette).

The group urges faith communities such as churches to adopt public schools. Many groups across Texas are providing food-filled backpacks, school supplies and clothing, school facility maintenance, tutoring, mentoring and after school programs (Dallas News). 

According to the US Census Bureau, in 2014, Texas ranked 43rd in per-student spending on public education, spending $8,593, about $3,000 below the national average.

In Waco public schools, more than 80% of students qualify for free or reduced lunches. As such, the district has come to rely on school-community partnerships like the ones Pastors for Texas Children facilitates.

While Johnson critics say he is a failed preacher, he insists he’s just going deeper into the socially provocative teachings of Jesus (Pastors for Texas Children). He advocates for public education and the separation of church and state. “Dozens of churches are involved in Waco schools, but they don’t preach or proselytize” (Reporting Texas).

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Dallas Morning News

Johnson said, “Legislators may not listen to the poor, but they sure listen to pastors” (Reporting Texas). His message is simple, and support for his message is growing exponentially.

These are my reflections for today.

2/23/18

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Shanker and Friedman

Albert Shanker was past president of the United Federation of Teachers (1964 -1985) and past president of the American Federation of Teachers (1974-1997). During his tenure at  AFT, Mr. Shanker brought up the idea of a public school where teachers would have the opportunity to experiment with new,  innovative ways of teaching students.  In these so-called charter schools, teachers would have the opportunity to create high-performing educational laboratories to model for traditional public schools (NY Times).

The idea of charter schools was inspired by Shanker’s 1987 visit to a public school in Cologne, Germany. Teachers made critical decisions about what and how to teach their students, and stayed with the same students for six years. Students in Cologne came from a mix of abilities, family incomes and ethnic origins.

Teachers making critical decisions???  Richard M. Ingersoll, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania, found that where teachers have more say in how their school is run, the school climate improves and teachers stay longer (NY Times) This is also supported by data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) showing that low-income fourth graders who attend economically integrated schools are as much as two years ahead of low-income students stuck in high-poverty schools.

So what happened to Shanker’s idea?

Ten years after his visit to Germany, charter schools morphed into something very different from his original idea, as conservatives promoted charters as more of an open marketplace where families would have the opportunity to choose schools.

What conservatives were creating however, were more segregated schools. Charter schools on average are more racially and economically segregated than traditional public schools, according to a recent study from the Civil Rights Project at U.C.L.A.

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Today we see a strong push for more charters, which are problematic on so many levels; segregation is only one of them.

In 1955 Milton Friedman had an idea that was also radical for its time. Friedman, a Nobel Laureate economist, was among the first to propose the financing of education be separated from the administration of schools, the core idea behind school vouchers (Education Next).

In his famous essay written in 1955 “The Role of Government in Education, Friedman argued that there is no need for government to run schools. Instead, families could be provided with publicly financed vouchers for use at the K-12 educational institutions of their choice. The idea boiled down to taxpayer funded but privately run schools. Such a system, Friedman believed, would promote competition among schools vying to attract students, thus improving quality, driving down costs, and creating a more dynamic education system.

According to Friedman, families should have the freedom to choose which school to use their funding. A voucher is equal to the government’s per-pupil spending amount. This would allow parents to pick a school and use the voucher to cover all or part of the tuition. Friedman said school choice would help racial minorities. “There is not a single thing you could do in this world that would do more to improve the condition of the black people in the lowest income classes …than the voucher scheme” (Washington Examiner).

Many argue that Friedman’s essay, published a year after the Brown v. Board decision, addresses the question of vouchers and school segregation, but perhaps in a way that supported segregation. First, he said: “I deplore segregation and racial prejudice.” Then he asserts his opposition to “forced non-segregation” of public schools (Dissent).  Friedman stood behind a Virginia law that authorized school vouchers, arguing it would have the “unintended effect of undermining racial segregation” (Dissent).  Mixed messages.

According to Leo Casey, executive director of the Albert Shanker Institute, “empirical studies of vouchers programs in the United States and internationally show  they increase segregation in schools” (The Century Foundation).

Halley Potter of the Century Foundation writes, “The best available data on the impact of school vouchers, tracking the movement of students in two different voucher programs that enrolled mostly black students, shows that voucher students by and large did not see an increase in access to integrated schools as a result of the programs. Two-thirds of school transfers in one program and 90 percent of transfers in the other program increased segregation in private schools, public schools, or both sector” (The Century Foundation).

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In an administration with a high level of distractibility (what I call the “look over here”), and an agenda to privatize public education, we must be mindful of what is being said and how it’s different from what history has taught us. What started as an innovative idea is now leading the privatization movement, but it is far from its original intention.

Privatizing public schools is being advocated by the secretary of education, billionaire philanthropists and others who are profiting from this movement, and the general public who is taking the hand fed bullshit about this being the cure for the ills of American public education.

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These are my reflections for today.

2/9/18

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