What happened to 9,000 low-income students in North Carolina?

Effective teachers know how to challenge students academically, and do so on a regular basis. Students enjoy the academic challenge, and will rise to the level of expectation placed on them by their teachers. The benefits of students placed in academically appropriate classes can be seen later in school as they qualify for Advanced Placement classes. Students on an AP track likely move on to college, for example.

In many districts across the country, qualifying students in public schools are offered academic enrichment or gifted and talented classes. These G/T courses go above and beyond what is taught in the classroom. Students are identified  for G/T courses through a process which may include test scores, grades, and teacher recommendations.  An investigation in North Carolina recently revealed a systemic disparity in the children who were being offered opportunities for academic enrichment.

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Two newspapers in North Carolina, The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer conducted a six year investigation on which students were qualifying for gifted classes based on end of year test scores. “From school years 2009-10 through 2014-15 across the state, a lower proportion of low-income students with superior scores on end-of-grade tests were placed in math classes for gifted students the following year than their classmates from higher-income families” (The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer). Specifically, 9,000 low-income students were left out of opportunities for gifted classes even though they qualified for them. Why were so many students in North Carolina being denied these opportunities?

What this investigation revealed is disturbing on so many levels- most importantly the investigation found a consistent pattern over six years (2009-2015). This was noted across rural, urban, and suburban districts across the state.

Analysis of data collected revealed:

  • In 2015, one of every three low-income students with superior math scores was labeled gifted, compared to one out of two high-scoring students whose family income was too high to qualify for federal lunch subsidies.
  • In Wake County, 24 percent of low-income third graders scoring a 5 in 2014 were labeled gifted in math the following school year. The percentage for their higher-income counterparts was more than twice as high: 54 percent.
  • In 2015, Wake County filled 291 gifted slots with higher-income fourth graders who had average end-of-grade math scores. At the same time, 228 low-income children with superior scores were left out. This also occurred in several other large districts, including Durham, Guilford and Forsyth.
  • These high-potential, low-income students are less likely to take high school math in middle school, an important step toward the type of transcript that will open college doors. Only one of every two low-income third graders who scored above grade level in 2010 took high school math in middle school, compared with three of four more affluent students with the same scores.
  • Even those low-income students who start high school math in middle school are far less likely to take Advanced Placement math classes in high school than classmates with similar scores but more family income (The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer).

What are the ramifications of students not taking AP classes?  Students who only take Math 1 in eighth grade in NC, fall behind their college-prep counterparts, with many teachers believing that once students fall behind, they aren’t able to catch up.  “Among low-income students who test above grade level in sixth grade but don’t take high school math by eighth grade, only one in 14 go on to take four advanced math courses in high school. For those who do start high school math by eighth grade, the numbers are better: two in five.” (The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer).

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While the investigators made recommendations based on the study results, I present a few of my own:

  1. Criteria for inclusion in G/T courses must be consistent and monitored -from within and outside the program. Administrators and curriculum supervisors may be well-suited for the task. This would ensure ALL qualifying students are given equal opportunities.
  2. Training for teachers who teach honors courses. AP teachers are required to meet certain criteria by the College Board.  Honors teachers may benefit from training to ensure they possess the tools to assist students who want to succeed, and are given every opportunity to succeed.
  3. Professional development for K-12 teachers to better understand how to meet the academic needs of all students in the classroom. Every student should be provided with academic challenges.
  4. Counseling students in and out of higher level courses- providing scaffolding and support for students placed in these courses for the first time. If a student qualifies in 6th grade for a G/T course, or 9th grade for an honors or AP course, this may be quite an academic shock as they have not performed in such a course. Facilitating their growth and success would ensure they are succeeding in these higher-level classes.

There are varying opinions on gifted and talented education. This study is not about the value of gifted and talented classes, rather it is about the equal opportunities afforded to all children.  This investigation revealed a weakness in the system in North Carolina. In response to the study, Cathy Moore, Wake’s deputy superintendent for academic advancement, said what the investigation revealed  was “disturbing.” “I think there is a sobering punch in the gut about what is happening here,” she said (The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer).

“Students who show promise need to be challenged,” said Keith Poston, executive director of the Public School Forum of North Carolina, a nonpartisan advocate for better schools. “Schools need to see their promise and push them into more rigorous classes early so they aren’t left behind and left out.”

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Superintendent Ann Clark says the key is individual tracking. In high schools, for instance, Charlotte-Mecklenburg now has counselors reviewing each student’s transcript every year to make sure the student is getting appropriate classes to meet his or her goals, whether that’s earning a diploma or building up advanced credits to be competitive for a top university. (The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer).

It may have been easier to understand one or two districts demonstrating such bias, but a six year study revealing state-wide systemic bias such as this is unacceptable. Regardless of how NC got here, the question is how do they get out? Perhaps a non-partisan study every year similar to the one in this investigation would ensure ALL students who qualify for gifted/talented and AP courses are offered these courses. Accountability would be a good first step.

These are my reflections for today.

6/10/17


Post script:  Since I started Reflections in Education in November, I have had 900 visitors with almost 1,300 views of 43 posts, and my site has been viewed in 10 different countries. That may not seem like a lot to you, but it does to me – I didn’t think anyone would read it.  So, thank you for reading, sharing and re-posting. I hope my blogs have got you thinking, talking, reading more, and reflecting. I will keep writing if you keep reading. I appreciate your support. Thank you.


 

 

1.6 million poor kids lose in ED budget

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The White House released the proposed education budget this week. The budget is harmful to public education- cutting teacher training and funding to reduce class size, and ending the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which would affect 400,000 students. And no surprise to anyone who has been following, charter schools would receive $500 million in new funding, an increase of 50%. This is  bothersome.

Equally as disturbing is the $1.2 billion cut of the 21st Century Community Learning Center. This program provides after school academic enrichment for 1.6 million children in the US (ThinkProgress). Children who benefit from this program generally come from high poverty, under-performing schools.

According to the program’s 2014–2015 performance report:

  • 80% of parents whose children are served by after-school programs say that those programs helped them keep their job.
  • 65.2% of teachers reported an improvement in homework completion and class participation for students served by the program.
  • 56% of teachers reported improvement in student behavior (ThinkProgress).

Halley Potter, a fellow at The Century Foundation whose work focuses on educational inequality said, “Their stated reason for cutting after-school programs is the idea that there isn’t evidence quickly boosting student achievement.”

This budget is adding $500 million to a voucher program which has very little evidence to support its effectiveness (especially with regard to the positive effects on children living in poverty), while cutting programs which positively affect 1.6 million poor children and data supports its effectiveness. How does this make sense?

With data collected from 30 states, the program’s performance report shows how this program has an overlapping positive impact on the children and  families who participate. Let’s not forget the report which came out recently showing how the DC voucher program was not working.

What’s in the budget for DeVos?  “An additional $158 million for salaries and expenses in the Education Department.” A portion of this money will go for increased security for DeVos, who has contracted the U.S. Marshals Service instead of the ED’s security team (The Fader).

This budget is aligned with what Trump and DeVos have been pushing all along – the privatization of public schools. It’s interesting to note that with all the president has on his plate lately, he still has time to destroy public education and ignore the needs of so many children in this country.

DeVos and her husband are deeply rooted in their evangelical Christian beliefs. Her actions and her beliefs seem to take distinctly different positions on educating poor children. The irony is not lost on me.

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If you would like to get involved in the campaign to let your representatives in Congress know how you feel about the proposed budget: https://networkforpubliceducation.org/2017/05/act-now-stop-cuts-public-education/

These are my reflections for today.

5/20/17

Michelle Rhee – Back in the News

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Remember her? The former Chancellor of  DC Public Schools. She was called the face of reform of public schools in the US-especially in DC. On her first day on the job she said, “I am Michelle Rhee. I’m the new chancellor of the D.C. public schools … and no, I have never run a school district before” (CNN). Nailed it.

She has no degrees in education, and three years of classroom experience with Teach for America (TFA). In her first year with TFA in the Baltimore City Schools, she failed miserably. So on the first day of her second year, she took a different approach. “I wore my game face. No smiles, no joy; I was all thin lips and flinty glares. My mistake the first year was trying to be warm and friendly with the students, thinking that my kids needed love and compassion. What I knew going into my second year was that what my children needed and craved was rigid structure, certainty, and stability” (Substance News).

She taught second grade.

According to Kugler (2010), “Rhee admitted that she taped shut the mouths of her young students because she could not control their talking”.  According to Rhee, she tried the tape method after she was unable to keep the little ones from making noise when she marched them through the hallways to lunch. In an even more disturbing revelation  Rhee laughed about when the tape was removed hurting the children- some even started to bleed (Substance News).

In 2007, after three years with TFA, Rhee was appointed as School Chancellor by DC’s newly elected Mayor Adrian Fenty. In her time in DC, she closed schools and fired teachers. Lots of teachers. According to Deal (2008), Rhee, “… gained the right to fire central-office employees and then axed 98 of them. She canned 24 principals, 22 assistant principals, 250 teachers and 500 teaching aides. She announced plans to close 23 underused schools and set about restructuring 26 other schools (together, about a third of the system). And she began negotiating a radical performance-based compensation contract with the teachers union that could revolutionize the way teachers got paid” (The Atlantic).

She spent three years as a highly polarizing figure in DC, and a self-proclaimed change agent for what’s wrong with public schools, though there is no data to support her success. She left the job in 2010 when Fenty lost his reelection bid for mayor.

Well she’s back in the news this week. Rhee and her husband, former Sacramento mayor and NBA player Kevin Johnston started a charter school chain called St. Hope in Sacramento, CA. Rhee is on the Board, and though her husband was a founder, he is no longer affiliated with the chain.

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The Los Angeles Times reported this week that teachers at St. Hope want to unionize, citing growing discontent over the schools’ management and high turnover of staff, teachers, and administrators. A majority of teachers, school psychologists, and other certified educators signed a petition to be represented by the Sacramento City Teachers Association (which is an affiliate of the California Teachers Association and the National Education Association).

The chain’s four schools employ about 100 teachers. One teacher said, “Our desks are old, we have to fight for resources for kids — and when we asked where the money’s going, we never get a full answer” (Phillips, 2017). The union says that educators are frustrated with the network’s lack of transparency regarding school finances and their evaluation system. Salaries fluctuate by as much as $10,000 a year, based on observations from “often overworked and inconsistent” administrators (Brown, 2017). A science teacher, earned an unsatisfactory rating after creating a new course, at the school’s request, then received his contract for the fall: “It was for $10,000 less than he’d made the year before” (Toppo, 2017).

“Our kids deserve consistency,” said Kingsley Melton, a government teacher at Sacramento Charter High, who is in his sixth year of teaching there. “In many cases, our students come from homes where there is no consistency. They need us to be the constant and not the variable.” Kingsley said teachers also want more transparency from the administration—“We have never seen a budget,” he said. “We don’t know where the money goes and why” (Will, 2017). Melton also said, “Next year I’ll have my seventh principal — and I’ll be in my seventh year” (Toppo, 2017).

In response to the request for unionization, Chief of Schools Shannon Wheatley expressed disappointment in employees who want to form a union. Wheatley said he had worked for a traditional public school “that prioritized the needs of adults before those of children.” …I came to St. Hope so that I didn’t have to deal with union politics and adult issues dominating the day”  (Phillips, 2017).

Rhee has offered no comment.

Another charter school story with a different twist. Another story of Michelle Rhee doing what she does. With Betsy DeVos taking all the news lately, thanks to Michelle for providing fodder for this week’s blog, which could have been called Charters and unions: The continued failure of educational reform.  People always say of weather forecasters – how can they be wrong 100% of the time and still have jobs?  Is this also true for reformers?  I’m going with yes.

These are my reflections for today.

5/13/17

 

The Voucher Sell Just Got Harder

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A study conducted by the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), found that students in Washington DC’s federally funded voucher program performed worse academically, particularly on math test scores, after a year of private school. Reading scores were also lower, but researchers say that was not statistically significant (statistical significance helps to quantify if results are likely due to chance or  other factors).

The District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) was created by Congress in 2004 to provide tuition vouchers to low-income parents who want their child to attend a private school. This is the only federally funded program in the country.

The program selected students to receive scholarships using a lottery process in 2012, 2013, and 2014, which allowed for an experimental design that compared outcomes for a treatment group (995 students selected through the lottery to receive offers of scholarships) and a control group (776 students not selected to receive offers of scholarships) (source).
This table shows the impact of the program after one year (source).

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There have been numerous studies conducted recently on the effectiveness of vouchers, data is consistent that children from low-income families who attend private schools on vouchers do not perform better. According to Rios (2017):
  • A November 2015 study of Indiana’s voucher program determined that students who attended private school through the program scored lower on math and reading tests than kids in public school.
  • In Louisiana, students who attend private schools through the voucher program showed significant drops in both math and reading in the first two years of the program’s operation, according to a February 2016 study by researchers at the Education Research Alliance of New Orleans.
  • Researchers at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank, concluded in a July 2016 study of Ohio’s voucher program that students who took part in the voucher program fared worse academically than those who attended public schools (Rios, 2017).

All this comes on the heels of this administration posturing to dump $1.4 billion into more federally funded voucher programs. Mrs. DeVos had few things to say about the findings of the DC study.  She has long argued that vouchers help poor children escape from failing public schools. In defending the DC program, she said,  it is part of an expansive school-choice market in the nation’s capital that includes a robust public charter school sector. She added, When school choice policies are fully implemented, there should not be differences in achievement among the various types of schools (Brown, 2017).

I guess she didn’t read the study.

Opponents of vouchers read it, and were quick to stand behind the study.

  • Martin West, a professor of education at Harvard, said the D.C. study adds to an emerging pattern of research showing declines in student achievement among voucher recipients, a departure from an earlier wave of research (Brown, 2017).
  • Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA.), who sits on the Senate Education Committee, said that given the findings of the study,  DeVos should “finally abandon her reckless plans to privatize public schools across the country” (Brown, 2017).
  • Bobby Scott (D-VA.), serving as ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, slammed the DC voucher program in a statement to the Associated Press. “We know that these failed programs drain public schools of limited resources,” he said, “only to deliver broken promises of academic success to parents and students” (Rios, 2017).

According to the website for the Opportunity Scholarship Program, the OSP – offers scholarships – sometimes called vouchers – to low income children in the District of Columbia to attend a participating D.C. private school of their choice.  Ninety seven percent of participating children awarded scholarships are African-American and Hispanic, with an average income for participating families less than $22,000 per year. Nowhere does it say how successful the program is, because it isn’t. Nor does it say how students are better served, because they aren’t.

DeVos continues to sell the federal voucher program, and so far it’s working because she’s still talking. She wants to replicate the ineffective DC voucher program and take it on the road. The pricetag? $1.4 billion.

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A snake oil salesman knowingly sells fraudulent goods or who is himself (or herself) a fraud, quack, or charlatan.

These are my reflections for today.

5/6/17

Teachers of the year celebrate Trump

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Every other year in the long standing tradition of honoring teachers of the year and the national teacher of the year, the title would have been (insert president’s name) celebrates teachers of the year. But in the true narcissistic fashion of the current president, this was an abhorrent reversal.

As many news media outlets are reporting, this is how the 2017 Teacher of the Year celebration went down on Thursday compared to tradition:

  • In the past, the teacher of the year had an opportunity to speak. This year only Trump spoke.
  • In the past, the president spoke with the teachers. This year Trump hardly spoke with the teachers.
  • In the past, family members joined the teachers at the celebration. This year they were relegated to a separate room.
  • In the past, the celebration was either in the East room or the Rose Garden. This year the teachers were invited inside the Oval Office where Trump had them stand around his desk.
  • Trump introduced the teacher of the year, Sydney Chaffee, from Codman Academy Charter Public School in Dorchester, Massachusetts as the other teachers applauded. Trump handed her the trophy while remaining seated at his desk.
  • In the past, the teacher of the year gives remarks. This year Chaffee was not invited to give remarks.

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In stark contrast, Obama met with the 2016 teachers in the East Room where he gave a speech praising them and calling for more federal funding for public education. In his speech, Obama said, “So for seven years, I’ve stood in the White House with America’s finest public servants and private-sector innovators and our best advocates and our best athletes and our best artists, and I have to tell you there are few moments that make me prouder than this event when I stand alongside our nation’s best educators” (source).

In 2004, George W. Bush met with teachers in the Rose Garden where he spoke of the tradition of presenting the award to the teachers every year since Harry Truman. Bush said, “When you’re in the company of some of the nation’s finest citizens, our greatest teachers, you’re in the company of people who give their hearts and their careers to improving the lives of children. You’re in the company of the best of our country (source).

In his words to the teachers on Thursday, Mr. Trump said, “When you go home, I hope you all say that your trip to the White House was something very special.  I know Melania has been working with you now for quite a while.  She is a tremendous fan of wonderful teachers.  But she’s worked very hard and we’re having some special times here.  This is Melania’s birthday and you were very nice to sing happy birthday, even though we’re celebrating you” (source).

If only the President quoted inspiring words from Helen Caldicott for example who said, “Teachers, I believe, are the most responsible and important members of society because their professional efforts affect the fate of the earth” (source). If only he had the respect to stand to present the award and address these teachers, commending them for their hard work, diligence, and undying commitment to the children in their schools. Rather, seated in a chair, the best Trump could muster was to say, “You’re all great, great teachers” (source).

This week, Trump was also quoted as saying of the presidency, “This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier” (source).

How hard is it for the President to stand before a group of committed teachers from across this great nation and commend them for their hard work and determination? Even his speechwriters could have come up with something to say. My guess is they were never asked to do so.

These are my reflections for today.

4/29/17

Segregation Then and Now

*This is the first in a series of blogs about segregation in public schools. A more apt title for this series might be The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The seeds of segregation were planted in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson of 1896 when the  Supreme Court upheld state racial segregation laws for public facilities under the credo of “separate but equal”.  This applied to public facilities, transportation, and schools, and remained uncontested until the 1950s when black families who were frustrated with the quality of the schools their children were attending decided to do something about it.

Black parents in New Orleans had grown increasingly unhappy with the poor educational support given to their children, who constituted nearly 60% of the city’s student population. Oliver Bush lived in New Orleans with his eight children. He was an insurance salesman with the all-black Louisiana Industrial Life Insurance Company and president of the Maccarty Parent Teacher Association. In 1952 Bush encouraged thirty five African American students and their parents to file a lawsuit in the Eastern District of Louisiana seeking desegregation of the New Orleans Public Schools. Mr. Bush agreed to allow his son Earl be the lead plaintiff (Middleton, 2011). This became known as Bush v. Orleans Parish School Board. Bush was supported by the Legal Defense and Educational Fund of the NAACP.  (Middleton, 2011).
“The lawsuit challenged segregation itself, claiming that Louisiana’s state statutes and constitutional provisions mandating school segregation violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.” (p. 329). Equal protection requires states to guarantee the same rights, privileges, and protections to all citizens.
The Bush case didn’t make it off the ground as it was withdrawn at the suggestion of Thurgood Marshall, who was serving as the lead counsel with the Legal Defense and Educational Fund.  Marshall  wanted to wait for the Supreme Court ruling on the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case.

In the Brown case,  plaintiffs argued separate was not, in fact, equal. Schools did not provide the same facilities, trained teachers, or curriculum. Marshall once said, “Equal means getting the same thing at the same time and in the same place” (as cited in Byrne, 2005, p. 211).

The Brown case was actually five cases grouped together to go before the Supreme Court, arguing that separate was not equal.  Oliver Brown of Topeka, Kansas was an African American man whose daughter Linda faced a long commute to school every day. Brown was a welder and World War II veteran who served as an assistant pastor at his local church. When the Supreme Court consolidated the cases in 1952, Brown’s name appeared in the title, some say because it came first alphabetically.

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On May 17, 1954 in the landmark Brown v. Board decision, the US Supreme Court unanimously ruled segregation of public schools was unconstitutional (source).

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“We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal” (source).

Marshall predicted the end of segregation would come by the fall of 1955. He wasn’t even close.  Some districts in the South voted to close schools rather than desegregate. In other districts segregationist academies opened. These academies were private schools established for white families who wished to avoid having their children enrolled in desegregated schools.  In Louisiana, voters approved an amendment requiring segregation in order to “promote and protect public health, morals, better education and the peace and good order in the State, and not because of race” (Middleton, 2011, p. 330).

As a result of the lack of compliance, the  Supreme Court was forced to consider the stalled desegregation of schools. In what became known as Brown II, the court addressed the concern of when schools had to desegregate. The decision came on May 31, 1955.

“Chief Justice at the time, the Honorable Earl Warren put a lot of pressure on local school districts and the courts which originally heard segregation cases to change and align their communities to fulfill their decision in favor of Brown. According to the Supreme Court’s revisit to Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, district courts and school administrators were to implement the doctrine the Supreme Court had decided upon in its first Brown decision. Chief Justice Warren urged certain localities to act on the new principles without delay and to move toward complete compliance with them “with all deliberate speed” (source).

Still with no desegregation in New Orleans resulting from the Brown II decision, Oliver Bush approached the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) asking them to comply with Brown, but got nothing. So Mr. Bush reopened his lawsuit. In February 1956, the case went before the Eastern District, this time the court agreed with the plaintiff in that the OPSB was violating the Constitution. Judge J. Skelly Wright ordered the OPSB to desegregate but imposed no date by which the law would be enforced (source).

In 1959, now three years after this decision, with no movement towards desegregation, Judge Wright ordered the OPSB to present a plan to desegregate within one year or by May 16, 1960 (Middleton, 2011, p . 330). Still the OPSB did not comply and Judge Wright finally imposed his own plan allowing all first graders to choose to attend their home school which would go into effect in September of 1960.

~~~

Six years after the Supreme Court ruled on Brown, public schools in the US, especially in the South, continued to resist the ruling to desegregate. Most people assume the Brown decision was an open and shut case and segregation was history. If it were only that easy.

These are my reflections for today.

April 1, 2017

References:                                                                                                                                                     Byrne, D. Ed. (2005). Brown v. Board of Education: Its impact on public education 1954-2004.  New York: Word for Word Publishing co., Inc.

Middleton, T. (2011). Norman Rockwell’s The problem we all live with: Teaching Bush v. Orleans Parish School Board. Social Education (75)6. 329-333.

Transparency in the Education Budget

While the first budget to come out of this administration is likely to face much scrutiny in Congress, it is important to understand the priorities  of this administration  when it comes to public education:

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Here are the proposed cuts:

Grants to states for teacher training
– $2.4 billion

Grants to colleges for teacher preparation
– $43 million

Impact Aid
– $66 million

Special Education
No Change

College Work-Study
Reduce “significantly”

Upward Bound & Related TRIO Programs
– $200 million

SEOG program for low-income college students
– $732 million

Pell Reserves
– $3.9 billion

Here are the proposed additions:

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School Choice
+ $1.4 billion

Title I Portability
+ $1 billion

Charter Schools (50% above the current level)
+ $168 million

Private school choice (allowing public money used for private  or parochial schools)
+ $250 million

The proposed budget cuts programs which support teacher training, after school programs, and grants for low-income first generation college students. The budged also adds an additional $1 billion for Title I, however the funds would encourage districts to adopt a controversial form of choice: Allowing local, state and federal funds to follow children to whichever public school they choose.

This administration wants to reduce or eliminate programs which support students seeking a quality education, while allowing public money to be used for private or religious education. While much of this will be hashed out in Congress, the priorities are very clear. Stay tuned. More to come on the budget.

These are my reflections for today.

3/25/17