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10/12/2017 – Betsy DeVos’s Attack On Public Education Is Just Beginning

THIS WEEK: DeVos Doesn’t Need Congress … Puerto Rican Debt Holder Funds Charter Schools … Charter School Ripoff … Virginia Governor’s Race … Choice Spread Segregation

TOP STORY

Betsy DeVos’s Attack On Public Education Is Just Beginning

By Jeff Bryant

“With less than a year in office, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is already having the narrative of her impact on the nation’s public schools recast from someone with the power to “single-handedly decimate our public education system” to someone who is capable of only incremental change or who is completely ineffectual altogether. Don’t believe this shift in the storyline.”
Read more …

NEWS AND VIEWS

Three Ways Betsy DeVos Could Push School Choice Without Congress

Education Week

“U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ school choice agenda has run into roadblocks on Capitol Hill. But, from her perch at the department, she has other levers to get states and districts to offer kids more schooling options, without help from anyone in Congress … Federal officials can give applicants a leg-up if they pitch something choice related, or maybe even if they are a charter school, or part of a district that’s home to a voucher program … DeVos can give speeches on the virtues of choice, and travel to schools and districts where she thinks choice is making a positive difference … DeVos is probably going to get moving on … adopting a weighted student-funding formula [that] could make it easier for districts to operate school choice programs.”
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The Hedge Funder Who Secretly Bought $1 Billion In Puerto Rican Debt Is Also A Secret Backer of Charter Schools

Alternet

“Billionaire hedge funder Seth Klarman is … one of the largest holders of Puerto Rico’s skyrocketing public debt … When officials in Massachusetts forced a secretive political organization to reveal its donors, Klarman’s name topped the list. Of the more than $15 million Families for Excellent Schools spent pushing last November’s failed ballot initiative to increase the number of the state’s charter schools, $3.3 million came from Klarman, the most from any single individual … The lesson here is that the growing crisis caused by charter schools in school districts nationwide is very much a manufactured one. It’s Naomi Klein’s ‘disaster capitalism’ at a slower pace.”
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For-Profit Schools Get State Dollars For Dropouts Who Rarely Drop In

ProPublica

“U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has championed charters and for-profit education, contending in congressional testimony that school choice can lower absenteeism and dropout rates. But … a ProPublica-USA Today investigation found, the drop-outs rarely drop in – and if they do, they don’t stay long … Such schools aggressively recruit as many students as possible, and sometimes count them even after they stop showing up, a practice that can generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer-paid revenue for empty desks. Auditors have accused for-profit dropout recovery schools in Ohio, Illinois, and Florida of improperly collecting public money for vanished students.”
Read more …

Future Of Public Education In Virginia At Stake In Governor’s Race

The Washington Post

“The outcome of Virginia’s race for governor, the country’s marquee statewide election this year, will have widespread significance for the state’s roughly 1.29 million schoolchildren … The contest pits Republican Ed Gillespie, who has received more than $100,000 in donations from the family of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, against Democrat Ralph Northam, who has accepted at least $465,000 from teachers unions … Gillespie and Northam both … diverge sharply when it comes to public charter schools and using tax dollars to help parents pay tuition at private schools.”
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What Does DeVos’s Charter School Expansion Hold? Look To Minnesota

The Progressive

“The U.S. Department of Education announced plans to shower a whopping $253 million in grants to expand charter schools in a handful of states, buoying the nation’s ‘school choice’ market … But if we follow the money to Minnesota, set to receive a huge chunk of this federal jackpot, we see how it is dangerous to our students, our schools, and the future of public education for all … Getting rid of the deduction would ‘decimate public education … Funding school choice pits privately managed, publicly (and privately) funded charter schools against public school districts – especially when the charter schools are allowed to serve racially and economically isolated populations. As a result, Minnesota has an increasingly racially segregated school landscape.”
Read more …

Betsy DeVos’s Attack On Public Education Is Just Beginning

With less than a year in office, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is already having the narrative of her impact on the nation’s public schools recast from someone with the power to “single-handedly decimate our public education system” to someone who is capable of only incremental change or who is completely ineffectual altogether.

Don’t believe this shift in the storyline.

First consider how many times media reports trumpeting efforts by the President Trump administration to act more responsibly have quickly changed, within days or even hours, to news reports of the continued fecklessness of the White House. Similarly, news stories about Trump being completely ineffectual at accomplishing his agenda are constantly counterbalanced with stories of his continued success at radically altering the nation.

Likewise, we can judge any attempts to recast DeVos into a more diminished role as short-term and mistaken interpretations of events.

For instance, one popular stab at remaking the DeVos image is to credit her with achieving an “evolution” in thinking about her influence at the helm of the education department.

 

Education policy observers, from Beltway think tanks to prominent news outlets, have used DeVos’s recent speech at Harvard University as evidence of some newfound “restraint” in her approach to radically alter the nation’s education landscape from one dominated by public institutions to a “market place” of privately owned providers getting public funds to compete against neighborhood schools.

Writing at his blog at Education Week, conservative education pundit Rick Hess cites passages from DeVos’s Harvard speech to claim she had transitioned from someone intent on using her leadership role to push through an agenda for “school choice” – the term most often used to describe expansion of privately operated education providers – to someone who will “tread carefully” in using her powers.

Similarly, Lauren Camera, the education reporter for U.S. New & World Reports, cites the same speech to credit DeVos with “a natural recalibration of expectations that can occur when one steps into a position and better understands the political realities that can constrain agendas.”

In addition to these “she ain’t so bad” portrayals of DeVos, there has been a rash of reports on the apparent inability of her agenda to gain support in Congress. The House rejected the proposals of DeVos and Trump for more federal spending to boost school choice, and the Senate also rejected the Trump administration’s funding for more school choice ventures.

Reports like these have lulled education policy poohbahs into believing DeVos and her agenda have been effectively neutered by Congressional opposition.

In fact, a recent survey of education policy elites – current and former government officials and bureaucrats and Beltway apparatchiks – finds these “Insiders are skeptical that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will effectively advance any policies during her tenure at the Department of Education.”

Over 50 percent of survey respondents believe DeVos will have no success in expanding charter schools, private school vouchers, tax credits (to expand vouchers), public school choice, or virtual schools.

These conclusions about the supposed ineffectiveness of DeVos should be treated with a great deal of skepticism.

First, as seasoned education reporter at Education Week Alyson Klein explains, “from her perch at the department, [DeVos] has other levers to get states and districts to offer kids more schooling options, without help from anyone in Congress.”

With the more than $1 billion in federal grants at her disposal every year, DeVoa can incentivize school choice programs. Klein writes, “Federal officials can give applicants a leg-up if they pitch something choice related, or maybe even if they are a charter school, or part of a district that’s home to a voucher program.”

Further, Klein says, DeVos can use her media leverage – due to her being the most controversial of Trump’s Cabinet officials – to ” give speeches on the virtues of choice, and travel to schools and districts where she thinks choice is making a positive difference.”

And DeVos can use an obscure provision in the new federal education law, called the weighted student-funding pilot, to “allow districts to combine federal, state, and local dollars into a single funding stream tied to individual students.” Klein explains, “Adopting a weighted student-funding formula could make it easier for districts to operate school choice programs, since money would be tied to individual students and could therefore follow them to charter or virtual public schools.”

Any speculation that DeVos is somehow backing off her intent to impose school choice on communities or softening her approach to privatizing schools is further cast into doubt by her Department’s recently published “priorities” document that makes clear what her tenure will continue to focus on at the expense of all other possible goals.

The document lists 11 priorities for use in federal discretionary grant programs under her rule. Priority No. 1 deals with school choice. The document specifically proposes giving priority to projects that seek to increase the proportion of students with access to “educational choice.”

In the document, the word “choice” and its variations – “choose” and “option” – occurs 22 times.

On the other hand, “equity,” something many would want at the top of the list, is not a priority at all. Its mention occurs twice, once in a footnote and the other parenthetically. The issue of school funding is also mostly ignored, mentioned only three times. When the subject does occur, it is de-prioritized. “Increased Federal funding cannot be a stand-in for increased learning,” the document declares. “We will focus less on discrete funding streams and more on innovative problem solving.”

There is no mention of the need to work toward racial integration of schools or rectify the harms of segregation.

Clearly, those trying to recast the narrative of DeVos from the potent force originally described in the media into the weakened warrior currently in fashion are seeing the trees and not the forest.

As my colleague at The Progressive Jennifer Berkshire writes, DeVos’s strategy to transform American schools from universal access to a competitive marketplace is a “long game” approach in which every momentary defeat will result in her dedication to the cause to grow even more fervent.=

“[DeVos] gives every indication of being quite pleased with the progress she’s making,” Berkshire contends. “’Hasten slowly,’ is how DeVos described her family’s motto in a recent interview. DeVos’ own family, and the one she married into, have sought to impose their vision of a country free of unions and dependence on government, including ‘government schools,’ for two generations. Now, after decades of slow hastening, they’re almost there.”

10/5/2015 – New Federal Grant Feeds Charter School Gravy Train In New Mexico

THIS WEEK: Teachers Fear Scary SCOTUS Case … Puerto Rican Student Refugees … Crazy Roy Moore … Making Student Absences Count … GOP Tax Proposal May Hit Schools

TOP STORY

New Federal Grant Feeds Charter School Gravy Train In New Mexico

By Jeff Bryant

“When the U.S. Department of Education recently announced its list of recipients of over a quarter billion dollars in federally funded grants to charter schools, charter management organizations, and charter development agencies, charter skeptics cast a suspicious eye at some of the grantees … [A] state recipient that deserves scrutiny but may get overlooked is New Mexico, with an award of over $22.5 million … The award seems questionable based on the academic performance of charter schools in the state and the lack of transparency and accountability of its charter sector.”
Read more …

NEWS AND VIEWS

A Primer On The Supreme Court Case That Teachers’ Unions Have Been Fearing

Education Week

“The U.S. Supreme Court officially agreed to review a case on public-employee union fees that could potentially deliver a harsh blow to the nation’s teachers’ unions … About half of states allow unions to charge fees, known as ‘agency’ or ‘shop’ fees, to people who don’t join the union … The new case is called Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31 … Mark Janus argues that he should not be forced to pay monthly union fees to keep his job … With Justice Neil M. Gorsuch now on the court, there’s a good chance agency fees will be deemed unconstitutional … The unions will lose out on a major source of revenue, and will likely see a big dip in membership.”
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U.S. Schools Brace For An Influx Of Students From Puerto Rico

NPR

“After Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico, students who can’t return to school may need to continue their education on the mainland. Some of the largest school districts in Florida, plus major cities like New York City and Chicago, are preparing for the possibility of an influx of students … In Massachusetts … Springfield public schools … has dealt with helping a large influx of students previously … The school typically gets Somali refugees or sometimes has to deal with placing students when a charter school closes.”
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Preschool A Nazi-Like Institution For Brainwashing Children Into Being Liberal: Alabama Republican Roy Moore

The Star

“[Roy] Moore won the Republicans’ Alabama primary for Jeff Sessions’s old Senate seat … If he beats Democratic lawyer Doug Jones in the December general election, the man … will become by far the most ideologically extreme member of the Republican caucus … Some of his extreme views have remained largely unknown. Such as his deep antagonism toward preschool … He argued … ‘social liberals like Hillary Clinton … understand … when the mind of a young child is subjected to state control before fundamental concepts and basic beliefs are formulated, the child is much more likely to learn a liberal social and political philosophy … Totalitarian regimes like those of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin knew well the value of a ‘youth corps.’”
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Student Absences Are About To Have Higher Stakes In Most States. Will Cheating Follow?

Chalkbeat

“Schools across the country are about to be held accountable for student attendance – attaching stakes to a measure that previously had much less significance and increasing the risk that schools will try to manipulate that data … 36 states plan to use chronic absenteeism to measure schools under ESSA, the federal education law … One way for schools to improve their chronic absenteeism marks is to add support that helps students to show up to school … But past experience with evaluation systems suggests that a small number of schools will resort to unscrupulous means … There should be some protections against manipulation of attendance data. But it’s unclear to what extent states have those safeguards in place.”
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Why Spending On Schools Could Take A Hit Through The GOP Tax Proposal

Education Week

“The GOP framework for overhauling taxes … could have a very significant impact on education spending … The elimination of the state and local tax deduction … would put very significant pressure on state and local governments to reduce the tax burden they place on individuals. That, in turn, would likely cut down on tax revenue available to public schools. That’s particularly true in many states in the northeast where per-pupil expenditures from state and local sources are relatively high … Getting rid of the deduction would ‘decimate public education.'”
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New Federal Grant Feeds Charter School Gravy Train In New Mexico

When the U.S. Department of Education recently announced its list of recipients of over a quarter billion dollars in federally funded grants to charter schools, charter management organizations, and charter development agencies, charter skeptics cast a suspicious eye at some of the grantees, and for good reason.

Previous targets for federal charter grants have resembled a “black hole” for taxpayer money with little tracking and accountability for how funds have been spent spent. In the past 26 years, the federal government has sent over $4 billion to charters, with the money often going to “ghost schools” that never opened or quickly failed.

In 2015, charter skeptics denounced the stunning selection of Ohio for a $71 million federal chart grant, despite the state’s charter school program being one of the most reviled and ridiculed in the nation.

This year’s list of state recipients raises eyebrows as well.

One of the larger grants is going to Indiana, whose charter schools generally underperform the public schools in the state. Nearly half of the Hoosier state’s charters receive poor or failing grades, and the state recently closed one of its online charter schools after six straight years of failure.

Another state recipient, Mississippi, won a federal grant that was curiously timed to coincide with the state’s decision, pending the governor’s approval, to take over the Jackson school district and likely hand control of the schools to a charter management group.

Another state recipient that deserves scrutiny but may get overlooked is New Mexico, with an award of over $22.5 million for the New Mexico Charter School Program. The award seems questionable based on the academic performance of charter schools in the state and the lack of transparency and accountability of its charter sector.

First, some important context about K-12 education in the Land of Enchantment: Nearly 30 percent of New Mexico’s children live in poverty, and the education achievement gap between whites and minorities is one of the worst in the nation.

U.S. News & World Reports notes, New Mexico places 48th in the magazine’s ranking of Best States for education, and the state’s high school graduation rate of 71 percent in 2016 was significantly lower than the national average of 82 percent. Education Week’s well-respected “Quality Counts” annual report card on state school performance ranked New Mexico 49th in the nation in its’ 2017 report, down from 32nd in 2011.

New Mexico lawmakers have responded to these challenges by cutting the resources schools need.

According to a state-based child advocacy group, per-pupil spending in the state is 7 percent lower in 2017 than it was in 2008. New Mexico is also “one of 19 states” that cut general aid for schools in 2017, with spending falling 1.7 percent. “Only seven states made deeper cuts than New Mexico.”

New Mexico’s school funding situation has grown so dire, bond rating agency Moody’s Investors Service recently reduced the credit outlook for two-thirds of the school districts in the state, and parent and advocacy groups have sued the state for failing to meet constitutional obligations to provide education opportunities to all students.

To fill a deficit gap in the state’s most recent budget, Republican Governor Susana Martinez tapped $46 million in local school district reserves while rejecting any proposed tax increases.

Given the state’s grim education funding situation, it would seem foolhardy to ramp up a parallel system of charter schools that further stretches education dollars, but New Mexico has doubled-down on the charter money drain by tilting spending advantages to the sector.

A study conducted by a state legislative committee last year found that charter schools in the state receive 15 percent more funding per student than regular public schools, because of state loopholes that work in the charters’ favor. Another loophole has ensured that charter schools have received 46 percent of public-school funding increases over the past seven years even though they serve only 7 percent of the student population. The findings prompted at least one Democratic state lawmaker to call for a moratorium on new charters.

The funding advantages charter schools have in New Mexico have not resulted in better academic outcomes, according to the study, with district schools outperforming the charter schools in a number of key categories, despite their higher percentages of economically disadvantaged students and English language learners.

The state’s three virtual charter schools, which all have ties to private, for-profit corporations, also have funding advantages over regular public schools – including access to transportation and capital outlay funds, even though they don’t have building and facilities costs, and students log in from their homes. Students attending the state’s online charter connected to education multinational Pearson Education fare worse than students across the state on standardized tests. The school fell from a C to an F in the state’s most recent A-F grading system.

Despite the problems charter schools pose to the state, poorly performing charters are rarely closed, and high performing charters do not share best practices with district schools, according to the committee report referenced above.

Even charter industry organizations warn that New Mexico’s oversight of charter school academic performance is inadequate. Citing a report by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, the Albuquerque Journal describes the state’s means for holding schools accountable for academic performance as “minimally developed.”

As evidence of the “the loosely defined ‘standard’ for renewal in the state,” the news outlet notes, the state’s education commission recently renewed six charters, “though none met their charter goals or received an A or B state grade.”

In addition to the fiscal and academic problems charters pose to the state, recent findings from a state auditor’s report reveal glaring problems with financial accountability.

By auditor Tim Keller’s reckoning, the New Mexico Public Education Department has no account of what happened to $20 million allotted for charter school administrative costs over a five-year period.

Keller’s review claims “a widespread inadequacy of tracking” throughout the charter school financial system has left gaping holes that are potentially exploitable or mismanaged by charter operators.

Keller’s warning is warranted based on numerous anecdotes.

In 2015, a commission of the state’s education department shut down a charter in the Saint Theresa schools district, accusing the founder of the school of “improper spending, fraudulent enrollment numbers, incomplete record keeping, and numerous conflicts of interests.”

More recently, another investigation by auditor Keller found that about half a million dollars were diverted from an Albuquerque elementary charter school into a former employee’s personal bank account during a six-year period. Altogether over $700,000 is unaccounted for, and several charter school employees may be indicted.

The school had been subject to financial audits by an “independent auditor” for years, according to the Albuquerque Journal. But Keller’s office was tipped off to the alleged embezzlement when a vendor reported a “suspicious tax form” to the auditor’s hotline.

The haphazard way this case came to light indicates that the incidents of fraud and mismanagement in New Mexico charter schools are likely the tip of an iceberg of charter school financial malfeasance in the state.

The rash of problems that plague New Mexico charter schools should ring alarm bells among staff members at the U.S. Department of Education, but instead federal officials decided to reward the behavior with its $22 million grant.

“How much of the $22 million headed to our state for charters will actually help the students?” asks Charles Goodmacher, the Government and Media Relations Director of the state’s education association in an email. “Especially in light of our insufficiently funded education budget, when teachers see hundreds of thousands of dollars disappear, we are disheartened.”

Indeed, we all should be.

9/28/1917 – 60 Years After Little Rock, Its Legacy Lives On In Jackson, Mississippi

THIS WEEK: DeVos Ends Assault Protections … DeVos Is Unpopular … Unions Boost Learning … Hungry Students… Online School Stories

TOP STORY

60 Years After Little Rock, Its Legacy Lives On In Jackson, Mississippi

By Jeff Bryant

“This week’s 60th anniversary of the ‘Little Rock Nine,’ named for the African American students who braved violent backlash and racist insults from whites to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957, is prompting a wave of articles on the struggle for racial justice in American public education … But the story of Little Rock should not be confined to past tense, and its lesson is really pretty clear and simple.”
Read more …

NEWS AND VIEWS

DeVos Withdraws Obama-Era Guidance On Campus Sexual Assault

The Washington Post

“DeVos … rescinded the Obama-era guidance to schools on how to deal with sexual assault on campus, reversing course on federal policy that has played an important role in driving schools to do more to protect sexual assault victims … Sexual assault survivors hailed Obama’s administration for providing them with long-overdue protections … with the number of sexual violence cases under investigation … going from 55 in May 2014 to 344 as of July 12, 2017 … The most controversial part of the Obama-era guidance was that the outcome of investigations should rely on the preponderance of the evidence … DeVos has said that some innocent men were falsely accused under the standard.”
Read more …

Betsy DeVos Viewed Unfavorably By 40 Percent Of Voters, New Poll Says

Education Week

“Just 11% said they had a very favorable view of DeVos, while 17% had a somewhat favorable view of her … 11% said they had a somewhat unfavorable view of the education secretary, in addition to the 29% who viewed her very unfavorably… Just 15% of Democrats viewed her favorably, while 47% of Republicans did so.”
Read more …

When Charter Schools Unionize, Students Learn More, Study Finds

Chalkbeat

“Far from harming student achievement, unionization of charter schools actually boosts test scores … The analysis … highlights the limited evidence for the idea that not having unionized teachers helps charter schools succeed – even though that is a major aspect of the charter-school movement, as most charters are not unionized … Unionization increased students’ annual math test scores, and those gains persisted for at least 3 years. The students who started at the lowest achievement levels seemed to benefit the most … The estimated impact on English scores was positive, but small and not statistically significant.”
Read more …

Study Shows Kids’ Test Scores Drop When Their Food Stamps Run Out

Talk Poverty

“Kids’ test scores dropped at times of the month when nutrition benefits had run out. Put another way, access to SNAP substantially improves students’ academic performance – but only when there are actually enough benefits for families to be able to eat … Nearly half of participating families run out before the end of the month. That means many students who receive SNAP see their academic performance dip every single month, and then rebound once their families receive more benefits … This new research adds to a wealth of evidence that hunger hampers kids’ ability to learn, holds back their development of social skills, and leads to behavioral problems.”
Read more …

Beware The Back-To-School Stories Celebrating Online Education

The Progressive

Jeff Bryant writes, “This year, there’s a certain type of ‘back-to-school’ news story you’re bound to see in local newspapers. … Stories typically start with: ‘[Student A] goes to school in her pajamas, and [student B] often does her lessons with a pet dog or cat on her lap.’ Instead of attending ‘typical schools,’ these students get their education via a computer connected to the internet … The internet-based schools have different names – cyber, virtual, online – but the gist of these stories is that ‘thousands of students head back to class without leaving their homes,’ and it’s all good … On balance, these schools are not for the vast majority of families, and often provide loopholes for bad actors to make a buck off the public taxpayer.”
Read more …

60 Years After Little Rock, Its Legacy Lives On In Jackson, Mississippi

This week’s 60th anniversary of the “Little Rock Nine,” named for the African American students who braved violent backlash and racist insults from whites to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957, is prompting a wave of articles on the struggle for racial justice in American public education.

But while news outlets recall valiant efforts to integrate schools in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s – and then frame those efforts as mostly futile given the resurgence of segregation today – black communities, and now brown ones too, still have little control of their education destinies for very specific reasons.

Attempts to call out these reasons are all too rare.

“Decades after ‘Little Rock Nine,’ school segregation lingers,” reports the Associated Press, as if segregation is some sort of residue from a toxic spill or a pungent odor left long after taking out the trash.

The events from Little Rock are presented to us in the abstract as “images” and “symbols” from the past, and we’re told the lessons to be learned from the events are about “how hard and difficult desegregation has been” and how “the debates remain complex, progress uneven, [and] answers elusive,” writes The Guardian.

But the story of Little Rock should not be confined to past tense, and its lesson is really pretty clear and simple.

As I reported about Little Rock a year ago, the fight for racial justice in its schools has never ended.

The rationale to keep black students in the schools “where they belong” evolved into a rhetoric about the need to “reform” the district’s schools along lines conceived by white politicians and the state’s economic power base of private foundations and wealthy businesses.

instead of using Jim Crow and white flight, or housing and highways, the new segregationists have other tools at their disposal.

I quoted local experts and government officials who explain how funding cuts to the district enacted by state lawmakers undermined the schools and left them strapped of necessary resources. The schools’ beleaguered conditions led to a state takeover of the district and the introduction of an aggressive charter school sector to compete with local public schools for resources and students.

I cited local observers and reporters who identify the powerful Walton Family Foundation, the philanthropic organization connected to the family that owns the Walmart retail chain, as the controlling force governing Little Rock schools, rather than the citizens of Little Rock.

The truth of Little Rock repeats itself over and over in communities throughout the South and across the country.

More recently, I was in Jackson, Mississippi, researching a story about the current effort of the state to take over the local school district there, much in the same way Little Rock schools were taken over. Jackson is similar to Little Rock in that it is a school district populated predominantly by non-white students.

For two days, the Mississippi Department of Education staged a series of meetings that illustrated once again how white elites continue to define education opportunities for black and brown communities.

The racial symbolism of the events was inescapable.

MDE officials, who were predominantly white, presented their case in a room limited in seating and closed to the public over an hour prior to the meeting’s announced start time. Members of the State Accreditation Commission and the State Board of Education, who were predominantly white, decided the fate of Jackson schools in separate closed-door sessions completely sequestered from public view.

Some 100 local citizens, who were predominantly black, were relegated to an auditorium, where they watched events unfold on a live stream video that was often interrupted and garbled during transmission, and then they waited for hours to have decisions announced to them.

Local school officials, who had had a mere seven school days to muster a defense, presented detailed documentation of their recent and ongoing efforts to correct problems in the district, but the thick binders they presented were generally left unread on the meeting room tables as commission and board members convened in closed chambers to cast their votes.

Should the governor agree that Jackson schools are in a state of “extreme emergency,” as the state contends, the district’s school board is dissolved, the superintendent is dismissed, and an appointed conservator, reporting directly to the state Board of Education, is put in place to oversee the schools. In fact, the conservator has already been chosen.

The day the State Accreditation Committee decided to recommend takeover – a necessary step before proceeding to the Board of Education’s hearing the next day – Jackson’s recently elected progressive mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba told those gathered on the sidewalk outside of MDE headquarters that they had just witnessed a “perfunctory exercise” in which “every commissioner who stepped into that room had already reached a decision.”

He declared “the burden of proof” in the state’s case “was not met.” And he called for ‘turn[ing] the page in Mississippi” and departing from the state’s history of denying black communities control of their schools. “We will not stand silently as they rob our children of an education.”

“This takes away the rights of the community,” local attorney and Jackson Public School parent Dorsey Carson said after the State Board of Education had made its recommendations for state takeover. “JPS parents were locked out of the process,” he told a small crowd gathered on the sidewalk after the board’s announcement. “Parents and children do not have a voice.”

It’s telling that while national news outlets issued their Little Rock retrospectives, none devoted even minimal reporting to the story happening in Jackson now.

Communities like Little Rock and Jackson show us that the rhetoric justifying white control of education for communities of color may have changed over the last 60 years, from calls for cultural purity and patriotism in the past to proclamations today about the need for “innovation” and “options.” But the results are the same: Black and brown communities still aren’t in control of where and how their children go to school because white people in charge of the system refuse to let them have it.

 

9/14/2017 – Betsy DeVos’s Back To School Message At Odds With What Parents Want

THIS WEEK: What Parents Want … DeVos Drops Student Protections … DACA Students … Charters’ Costs… U.S. Teachers Shorted

TOP STORY

Betsy DeVos’s Back To School Message At Odds With What Parents Want

By Jeff Bryant

“Betsy DeVos is traveling cross-country in a bus to spread a very different message completely at odds with the hope, anticipation, and resolve parents and their communities feel about public education. Just how far at odds DeVos’s views about public education are with the average American parent’s views became apparent in a new survey released during her bus tour.”
Read more …

NEWS AND VIEWS

Parents Prefer Good Neighborhood Schools Over More Choice, Poll Finds

Education Week

“Most parents like their public school and want to support teachers, whom they trust more than anyone else to make choices for education … Over 70% of parents said they would prefer a good quality neighborhood public school for their children over the ability to have more choice of what schools they can send their children to. Separated by race, 76% of white parents wanted good neighborhood schools – compared to just 60 percent of African-American parents and 66 percent of Hispanic parents … Most parents also disapprove of reducing spending on traditional public schools and using the funds to increase spending on charter schools.”
Read more …

DeVos’s Plans For Title IX Will Impact K-12 Schools, Too

The Progressive

“Betsy DeVos recently caused a firestorm, including some praise, for pledging to walk back Obama-era policies regarding campus sexual assault … What has received less attention is the importance of Title IX for K-12 students … 137 K-12 school districts across the country are currently under investigation by the federal Office of Civil Rights for Title IX ‘sexual-violence complaints.’ In comparison, 246 higher education sites are now being investigated for similar complaints … In an atmosphere of stepping back from a more robust enforcement plan … ‘K-12 schools are going to fall even further behind in terms of Title IX compliance.'”
Read more …

Counting DACA Students

The Hechinger Report

“The Migration Policy Institute … estimates that 365,000 high school students across the United States were eligible for DACA status, and that another 241,000 of DACA-eligible students were enrolled in college. Together, that’s roughly half, or 51 percent, of the DACA-eligible population of nearly 1.2 million … A much larger number of DACA-eligible people, over 130,000, had completed some college, but were no longer enrolled. Some of those, roughly 25,000 young adults, had earned two-year associate’s degrees.”
Read more …

Study Highlights Long-Term Costs Of Charter School Expansion

The Inquirer

“School districts may be able to reduce some expenses when more of their students enroll in charters, but they still face significant financial costs long after those students have gone … Those continuing expenses include pension costs and making required payments to bondholders for facilities … ‘Increasing charter school choices to a community does not occur without a significant fiscal impact’ … Districts with growing charter enrollments need more money to maintain the same level of services to their remaining students … While the fiscal impact varied, districts were not able to cut expenses to break even.”
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Teachers’ Pay Lags Furthest Behind Other Professionals In U.S., Study Finds

Education Week

“Young college graduates have a lot less incentive to become K-12 teachers in the United States than in other countries … from the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation … American educators … trail those with similar education levels in other professions more than teachers in any other OECD country … U.S. teachers make less than 60 cents on every dollar made by others with their education level, the biggest gap of any OECD country … U.S. teachers work longer hours than their international counterparts. In America … a 7th grade teacher puts in 1,366 hours at school each year, including more than 980 hours of teaching … nearly 270 more hours of teaching than the international average. Teachers working with historically disadvantaged students face an even bigger gap.”
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Editorial Note: EON is taking a week off and will return on September 28

Betsy DeVos’s Back To School Message At Odds With What Parents Want

While the vast majority of American parents are addressing Back to School season by buying supplies, readying their children, and joining with other families in preparing for a hopefully successful new year, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is traveling cross-country in a bus to spread a very different message completely at odds with the hope, anticipation, and resolve parents and their communities feel about public education.

Just how far at odds DeVos’s views about public education are with the average American parent’s views became apparent in a new survey released during her bus tour.

DeVos, who says she fully supports “great public schools,” christened her bus tour with the theme “Rethinking Schools,” which somewhat assumes there’s something wrong with public schools to begin with. Her stated purpose for the tour is to promote “innovation” in our education system, which seems fine itself.

But in the first stop of the tour in Wyoming, DeVos’s strongest comments were aimed at the the negative message  she’s been spreading about public schools ever since she was nominated.

As education journalist Valerie Strauss reports on her at the Washington Post, DeVos’s remarks to an audience of  public school school children were anything but an upbeat message. Instead of raising their hopes for the year, she said “most students” are starting the new year at schools that are “a mundane malaise that dampens dreams, dims horizons, and denies futures.”

She contrasted an idealized version of the pioneering spirit that settled the West to the “education system” she rejects – “There’s no such thing,” she said – despite the historic role of public schools in settling the West.

In Colorado, DeVos visited a private school known for specializing in educating children with autism. As a state based media outlet reports, DeVos’s tour chose the school because of its “role in the landmark Supreme Court case” that led to raising the standard schools must meet to educate students with disabilities.

“During her comments,” the reporter writes, “DeVos did criticize ‘artificial barriers schools create to meet the needs of students.’ She did not identify those barriers.”

A barrier DeVos could have identified is the fact that the federal government has never lived up to its legal obligation to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. While Congress authorized the federal government to pay 40 percent of each state’s obligations to educate children with disabilities, current levels of federal spending are less than half that. And the budget President Trump and DeVos have proposed in no way addresses for this chronic shortfall.

Then in Nebraska, DeVos chose to visit more private schools – one supported by a local wealthy foundation, and the other a Catholic school – which seems to suggest her notion of rethinking schools is to reconceive them as private schools.

While DeVos’s bus tour paints a bleak and failing portrait of our nation’s public schools, a new survey reveals that parents’ attitudes toward public education are very different

As Education Week reports, the national poll, conducted by Hart Research Associates, finds, “Most parents like their public school and want to support teachers, whom they trust more than anyone else to make choices for education.” The survey was conducted for the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second largest teachers’ union.

Contrasting to DeVos’s message about public schools as being “a mundane malaise,” 73 percent of parents responding to the poll “said their public school was ‘excellent or good,’ 20 percent said it was ‘adequate,’ and just 7 percent said their public school was ‘not so good or poor.'”

In contrast to DeVos’s promoting more expansions of private schools and charter schools, the poll found, “Over 70 percent of parents said they would prefer a good quality neighborhood public school for their children over the ability to have more choice of what schools they can send their children to.”

In contrast to DeVos’s proposals to keep our schools inadequately funded, “most parents” responding to the survey “disapprove of reducing spending on traditional public schools and using the funds to increase spending on charter schools.”

Given the results of the survey, there’s little surprise members of Congress are not exactly rallying around the DeVos agenda for public education. Even Republicans on Capitol Hill are generally rejecting most of her budget cuts and her plans to send more public funding to private schools. Yet, at the same time, Congress seems to have no plans to enact the stronger support for neighborhood public schools parents prefer.

What’s not at all clear is where we go now from this place where we have a presidential administration horribly out of step with the people, a population which seems fairly unified on its priorities, and a Congress in a “mundane malaise” about  the conflicted agenda.

9/7/2017 – Betsy DeVos’s Silence On DACA Says Everything About Her Support Of Education Opportunity

THIS WEEK: Recessions Hurt Learning … Warning To Texas Schools … Trump Fuels For-Profits … Michigan’s Charter Gamble … St. Louis Schools

TOP STORY

Betsy DeVos’s Silence On DACA Says Everything About Her Support Of Education Opportunity

By Jeff Bryant

“DeVos proclaims her agenda is to ‘focus everything about education on individual students,’ but if she really cared about the welfare of students she would speak out about what her boss President Trump is doing to hundreds of thousands of undocumented students whose fate he has cast to the wind by ordering an end to the Obama-era program shielding young undocumented immigrants from deportation … Yet, as of this writing, neither DeVos or her Department of Education have issued a statement addressing the plight of these students.”
Read more …

NEWS AND VIEWS

The Great Recession Decimated The Economy. It Also Hurt Student Learning, According To Pioneering New Study

Chalkbeat

“As the Great Recession was sending economic shockwaves through the country, it was also hurting student learning … Each year students spent in school during the recession hurt their reading and math test scores … Test scores generally declined the most in districts serving more disadvantaged students. More affluent districts, with many white students or few students with disabilities, for example, often went unharmed … Achievement dropped more in schools that had to lay off a large number of staff and had their funding slashed – a finding consistent with a string of recent research showing that spending more on schools benefits students.”
Read more …

From New Orleans, Warnings For Texas About School Privatization

Alternet

New Orleans parent activists Ashana Bigard writes, “What happened in [New Orleans] and to its schools serves as a cautionary tale to residents of Houston … Be wary of elites with big plans … All parts of your community must be allowed to participate fully in the rebuilding of their own city … Don’t let your teachers get swept away … Be wary of people who say ‘it’s all about the children’ … Learn from what happened in New Orleans.”
Read more …

Trump And DeVos Fuel A For-Profit College Comeback

Politico

“For-profit colleges are winning their battle to dismantle Obama-era restrictions as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rolls back regulations, grants reprieves to schools at risk of losing their federal funding and stocks her agency with industry insiders … The industry has been dogged by allegations of predatory sales techniques and poor outcomes that left tens of thousands of students drowning in debt while the schools raked in billions from federal student loans and grants. President Barack Obama sought to curb those abuses … For-profit colleges are notching wins behind the scenes, as Education Department regulators scale back their enforcement of the industry and decide individual cases in ways that favor the industry.”
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Michigan Gambled On Charter Schools. Its Children Lost.

The New York Times Magazine

“Michigan’s aggressively free-market approach to schools has resulted in one of the most deregulated educational environments in the country, a laboratory in which consumer choice and a shifting landscape of supply and demand … were pitched as ways to improve life in the classroom for the state’s 1.5 million public-school students … Hundreds of nonprofit public charters have become potential financial assets to outside entities, inevitably complicating their broader social missions … Increasing charter-school enrollment in a school district does little to improve achievement gaps. And in unregulated educational sectors like Michigan’s, there’s evidence that charters have actually increased inequality.”
Read more …

The Sad Story Of Public Education In St. Louis

The Washington Post

Jeff Bryant writes, “The story of St. Louis’s schools is … a story about an American ideal and what and who gutted that ideal. It’s also a story that merits important attention today as prominent education policy leaders, such as U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, contend conversations about education should not even include the subjects of buildings and systems … But the grand schools St. Louis built for its children caution that the permanency of schools as buildings and institutions is worth defending.”
Read more …

Betsy DeVos’s Silence On DACA Says Everything About Her Support Of Education Opportunity

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos proclaims her agenda is to “focus everything about education on individual students,” but if she really cared about the welfare of students she would speak out about what her boss President Trump is doing to hundreds of thousands of undocumented students whose fate he has cast to the wind by ordering an end to the Obama-era program shielding young undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Trump’s decision to cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, also has an immediate impact on thousands of teachers whose DACA deferral made it possible for them to enroll in teacher preparation programs, earn certification, and gain employment in schools. For students with undocumented parents, cancelling DACA throws them into a state of fear that while they’re in school their mother or father could be deported. Many DACA beneficiaries, often called “Dreamers,” have become parents and now face the prospect of being ripped away from their children and families. Further, Trump’s action to crack down on DACA recipients has a chilling effect on all immigrant students – full citizens and otherwise – who fear they, or a friend or family member of theirs, are next to be targeted by the heavy rule of the Trump administration.

Yet, as of this writing, neither DeVos or her Department of Education have issued a statement addressing the plight of these students. Indeed, the last time DeVos spoke about DACA, she said, “Undocumented immigrants shouldn’t worry about the Trump administration’s support for educational opportunities.”

Of course, the impact of Trump’s decision to end DACA goes way beyond students and public schools. The number of undocumented immigrants eligible for DACA far exceeds the 800,000 currently enrolled in the program and is likely over 2 million, according to data cited by an article in USA Today. And ending DACA is a big hit to the nation’s economy, taking away a huge chunk of skilled workers, reducing tax revenues by hundreds of billions, and costing government more billions in the costs of deportations.

But DACA “is inextricably tied to education,” experts at the Migration Policy Institute explain, “as applicants must have at least a high school diploma or its equivalent or be enrolled in school.”

MPI’s analysis finds tens of thousands of DACA eligible students around the country are still in the school pipeline for the program. Of the nearly 1.2 million children and youth who were eligible for DACA in 2014, 365,000 were in middle and high school and 241,000 were in college. Over 250,000 school-age children have become DACA-eligible since President Obama began the program in 2012. And numerous news outlets cite an analysis by the National Immigration Law Center estimating that 65,000 undocumented youth graduate from high school each year.

As many as 20,000 Dreamers work as teachers, reports Univision.

“It’s impossible to know the exact number of teachers with DACA because the federal government does not track that information,” the Univision reporter explains, but he cites estimates for 2016 of 5,000 in California, 2,000 each in New York and Texas, and “sizable populations” in at least seven other states.

“These teachers bring extra value to immigrant communities because they know the community’s stressors,” the article quotes an NEA official. “They contribute with their culture, their language, their personal experience. Students and families trust these teachers.”

A national coalition of education leaders has urged Trump to protect DACA-protected students, the Washington Post reports, saying that ending DACA would create uncertainty for their students, ratchet up stress in schools, and discourage students from enrolling in schools and colleges and showing up for classes.

“It seems that this administration is trying to go above and beyond to target, intimidate, and create fear among our immigrant families and communities of color,” writes National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia on her personal blog. “As educators and NEA members, defending DACA is personal. This is about our students and our colleagues.”

Teachers unions are taking the lead in defending their colleagues and their students.

Shortly after Trump’s announcement, which came through Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the American Federation of Teachers issued a statement pledging its support for cities and school districts – including New York City, Chicago, and elsewhere – that have become “sanctuaries” for undocumented immigrants.

AFT vowed to provide “know your rights” advice to schools on how to handle an Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid and lesson plans to address the health and emotional needs of students affected by canceling DACA. AFT also urges governments at all levels “to reaffirm that children cannot be barred from enrolling in public schools based on their immigration status or their parents’.”

NEA is also providing educators resources and tools for supporting Dreamers, including guidance on legal status and employment and steps for dealing with acts of racism and hate.

So where’s DeVos?

DeVos has said all along that her emphasis would be on the interests of students and parents. She has long maintained that giving them more choice will ensure more education opportunities and better education outcomes. Now she is part of a regime taking away one of the most precious opportunities students and parents have – the opportunity to live, go to school, and have a future in the country they grew up in. And there’s little sign she cares about that kind of education opportunity at all.