Education Opportunity Network

Education Opportunity Network -

12/14/2017 – Is Betsy DeVos About To Pump Up The School-To-Prison Pipeline?

THIS WEEK: Tax Plan Hurts Schools … Vouchers Spread Religious Indoctrination … Who’s Pushing ‘Portfolio’ Model? … Educators Oppose Choice … Pre-K Pays Off

TOP STORY

Is Betsy DeVos About To Pump Up The School-To-Prison Pipeline?

By Jeff Bryant

“The Trump administration’s repeal of Obama-era guidelines allowing transgender students to use the school bathroom of their preference was just the beginning of a long list of regulatory reversals including efforts to ensure school discipline practices don’t discriminate against students by race or disability and disproportionally push students into a school-to-prison pipeline.'”
Read more …

NEWS AND VIEWS

Does The 2017 Tax Reform Bill Help Private Schools And Hurt Public Schools?

Snopes

“Changes proposed in the 2017 tax reform bill working its way through Congress will have palpable repercussions in many areas of American life, including education … Repealing the state and local tax (SALT) deduction … would have adverse impact on public schools … The SALT deduction and local tax rates are so interlinked that the former amounts to a federal subsidy … Private schools would fare much better. A revision of Section 529 of the existing federal tax code extends the applicability of so-called 529 plans (tax-exempt savings accounts covering higher education expenses) to tuitions for K-12 private and parochial schools, as well as the costs of homeschooling … The benefits could be significant for well-to-do families who send their children to private schools.”
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Voucher Schools Championed By Betsy DeVos Can Teach Whatever They Want. Turns Out They Teach Lies.

HuffPost

“Fundamentalist religious schools… are among thousands in the United States that participate in private school choice programs, which most often come in the form of state-level voucher or tax credit scholarships … There are thousands of kids receiving an extremist and ultraconservative education at the expense of taxpayers … About 75 percent of voucher schools across the country are religious … Most states have little oversight on the curriculum used in schools that participate in private school choice programs. Some states have zero regulations on the topic … With taxpayers footing the bill for religious private schools, the separation of church and state, a cornerstone of American democracy, becomes a murky line.”
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A ‘Portfolio’ Of Schools? How A Nationwide Effort To Disrupt Urban School Districts Is Gaining Traction

Chalkbeat

“A growing number of philanthropists, advocates, and policymakers say the way to improve schools is to upend the traditional school district … They want to see more charter schools and more district schools run like charter schools … Those ideas make up what’s known as the ‘portfolio model’ for managing schools, and its advocates are making a significant mark on a number of American school districts … A loosely connected network of nonprofit groups is working to reshape the way their school districts function. Their national scope has gone mostly unexamined.”
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Many Educators Skeptical Of School Choice, Including Conservatives, Survey Shows

Education Week

“Classroom teachers, principals, and district superintendents are highly skeptical of vouchers, charter schools, and tax-credit scholarships. And that includes many who voted for President Donald Trump, and even some who teach at private schools… A plurality of those surveyed – 45% – ‘fully oppose’ charter schools, while another 26% ‘somewhat oppose’ them. And 58% don’t support using government funds to help students cover the cost of private school, while 19% said they ‘somewhat oppose’ vouchers. Meanwhile, about half oppose or ‘somewhat oppose’ tax-credit scholarships, which give individuals and corporations a tax break for donating to scholarship-granting organizations.”
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Does Preschool Pay Off? Tulsa Says Yes

NPR

“Researchers were able to show that Tulsa’s pre-K program has significant, positive effects on students’ outcomes and well-being through middle school … Why is this study a big deal? Because it’s the first long-term study of a universal pre-K program that shows how kids benefit. Middle school students who were in pre-K years earlier have higher math test scores, are more likely to enroll in honors courses, and are noticeably less likely to have been retained in grade … The long-term benefits of the Tulsa program exceed the short-term costs by at least two to one in current dollars.”
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Is Betsy DeVos About To Pump Up The School-To-Prison Pipeline?

It now looks like the Trump administration’s repeal of Obama-era guidelines allowing transgender students to use the school bathroom of their preference was just the beginning of a long list of regulatory reversals including efforts to ensure school discipline practices don’t discriminate against students by race or disability and disproportionally push students into a school-to-prison pipeline.

Recently, Politico broke the news that officials in Trump’s department of education led by Secretary Betsy DeVos seem ready to scrap Obama-era guidance that compel schools to end zero-tolerance discipline policies and curb widespread tendencies to use out-of-school suspensions disproportionally on black and brown school children and students with disabilities.

In a meeting coordinated by rightwing think tanks, according to Education Week, high-level officials in DeVos’s department heard a one-sided presentation by critics of the Obama guidelines and gave little indication of wanting to get all sides of the debate.

Alarmed by the news that the Trump administration might end valuable civil rights protections for their students, concerned teachers generated an outpouring of 500 emails demanding their voices be heard, according to education media outlet The 74. Nine of those teachers organized by teacher-created advocacy group Educators for Excellence flew to D.C. to meet with education department officials to argue for maintaining the discipline guidelines.

No doubt, these teachers reminded DeVos and her department that discipline guidelines put in place by the Obama administration were for very good reasons.

Civil and youth rights advocates have long argued that school discipline practices were out of control and leading to negative life consequences for students, especially among black and brown student populations and students with learning disabilities.

Studies have long shown a high correlation of harsh, zero-tolerance discipline practices and out-of-school suspensions to eventual involvement in the criminal justice system. A 2011 study by the Council of State Governments Justice Center found that being suspended or expelled from school made a student nearly three times more likely to come into contact with the juvenile justice system within the next year.

A 2015 report from the UCLA Civil Rights Project found that out-of-school suspensions are disproportionally used on students of color and students with disabilities. In the most recent year with available data, 16 percent of black students and 7 percent of Latino students were suspended, while the rate for white students was 5 percent. Students with disabilities had suspension rates that were two to three times their peers.

As harsh, discriminatory discipline policies proliferated, counselors and other support staff have become scarcer. According to a recent study from the Center for American Progress, nearly 35 million children in the U.S. live with emotional and psychological trauma, yet “only a fraction of these students—approximately 8 million of them—have access to a school psychologist. Even fewer students have access to a social worker. Across the nation, only 63 percent of public schools even offer all students a counselor.”

The Obama administration began to take action to curb the use of harsh, discriminatory discipline practices in 2014, The Atlantic reports, when Attorney General Eric Holder and-Education Secretary Arne Duncan the Obmama administration’s first set of discipline guidelines that urged an end to zero-tolerance policies, called attention to the disproportionate use of suspensions and expulsions on students of color and students with disabilities, and urged schools to seek alternatives practices.

As a result of these guidelines, The Atlantic article explains, many large school districts – including Los Angeles, Denver, Baltimore, Miami, and Bridgeport, Connecticut – put into place discipline practices designed to move away from using suspensions and expulsions and emphasize positive behavior interventions, such as restorative justice, which focuses on repairing harm and engaging all stakeholders in the behavior issues. Other schools have invested in additional supports, including school counselors and interventions targeting the emotions and feelings that cause misbehavior instead of on the behavior itself.

The impact of these guidelines is not yet clear. Stark disparities still exist in how out-of-school suspensions are disproportionally aimed at marginalized students. And nearly every day brings a news report spotlighting an incident of overly harsh response to a school behavior situation.

Yet educators in many places report that alternative practices prompted by the Obama guidelines are better than what they were using. And in many situations when alternatives to suspensions don’t seem to work, there’s often an implementation problem, such as a lack of training, an unwillingness to follow the model with fidelity, or a lack of time in the school day to address misbehavior in more constructive ways.

Nevertheless, DeVos and her department seem intent on undermining the Obama protections put into place. The rationale for regulation cutting is that the rules may be “unnecessary” or overly “costly.” But they’re only unnecessary and costly when they don’t apply to you.

12/7/2017 – Republican War On Learning Takes Aim At Higher Education

THIS WEEK: Charter Schools Segregate … Charter Naming Rights … CHIP Endangered … Schools Need Net Neutrality … Record Graduation Rates

TOP STORY

Republican War On Learning Takes Aim At Higher Education

By Jeff Bryant

“Like recent tax bills passed by the GOP-controlled House and Senate, [a] proposed rewrite of the Higher Education Act (HEA) will have the effect of further constricting learning opportunities for students, adding to the costs students and families take on for education, and steering more public money for learning to private businesses … A primary purpose of the remake … is to address the ‘skills gap’ … The so-called skills gap is a myth, and a college degree in liberal arts or other non-technical subjects is as relevant as it ever was … ‘One of the biggest winners in the new higher-education legislation is the for-profit college industry.'”
Read more …

NEWS AND VIEWS

U.S. Charter Schools Put Growing Numbers in Racial Isolation

Associated Press

“National enrollment data shows that charters are vastly over-represented among schools where minorities study in the most extreme racial isolation … Those levels of segregation correspond with low achievement levels at schools of all kinds … Schools that enroll 99% minorities – both charters and traditional public schools – on average have fewer students reaching state standards for proficiency in reading and math … Charter schools, which are funded publicly and run privately, enroll more than 2.7 million nationwide, a number that has tripled over the last decade.”
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KIPP Houston, BBVA Compass Reach $1.8M Deal For Campus Naming Rights

Houston Chronicle

“Leaders of KIPP Houston [charter school] and BBVA Compass [a bank] … celebrated a $1.8 million naming-rights agreement that will help fund the charter network’s newest campus. Under the deal … the campus of KIPP Nexus on Houston’s northwest side will be called BBVA Compass Opportunity Campus. The agreement marks the first time a KIPP network has sold naming rights to a campus, continuing a slow-moving trend of schools selling naming rights to facilities as a way to generate revenue … Said Mike Feinberg, co-founder of the KIPP charter school network … ‘If people have a problem with that, I would simply say, Get over it.'”
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The CHIP Program Is Beloved. Why Is Its Funding In Danger?

The New York Times

” CHIP, that covers nearly nine million children whose parents earn too much for Medicaid, but not enough to afford other coverage … is now in limbo … Its federal funds ran out on Sept. 30, and Congress has not agreed on a plan to renew the roughly $14 billion a year it spends on the program … Congressional leaders may provide some temporary relief to a handful of states that expect to exhaust their CHIP funds before the end of this year. It would be tucked into a short-term spending bill intended to avert a government shutdown … States are weighing whether to freeze enrollment in CHIP, shut down their programs or find money from other sources … The House passed a bill to extend the CHIP program. But most Democrats voted against it because the legislation would have cut funds for other public health programs and ended insurance coverage for several hundred thousand people who had failed to pay their share of premiums for insurance purchased under the Affordable Care Act.”
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Without Net Neutrality, How Would Internet Companies Treat K-12 Districts?

EdWeek Market Brief

“One of the main fears that school officials have about curtailing “net neutrality” is that internet service companies will have new powers to throttle or block the flow of online content that serves as academic lifeblood for many districts … Net neutrality’s strongest backers point to instances over the past 10-15 years where internet service providers were accused of slowing or derailing content coming from various sources to internet users … Districts need access to content without ‘having gatekeepers dictate what services are available online.'”
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U.S. Graduation Rate Hits New All-Time High, With Gains In All Student Groups

Education Week

“The national high school graduation rate has risen to a new all-time high: 84%, the fifth straight year of increases … nearly a whole point higher than the one for the previous year’s class … All groups of students showed improvements, a notable feat. The graduation rates for black students and for students who are learning English each rose 1.8 percentage points in one year. The rates for low-income students and Hispanic students each rose 1.5 points since the previous year. Students with disabilities saw a gain of nearly a full percentage point.”
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Republican War On Learning Takes Aim At Higher Education

New tax bills Congress just passed with zero input or support from Democrats hit higher education hard, but new legislation House Republicans are crafting will likely worsen the damage.

As The Wall Street Journal reports [paywall], the House education committee recently gave a preview to its new legislation, a long overdue reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). Like recent tax bills passed by the GOP-controlled House and Senate, this proposed rewrite of HEA will have the effect of further constricting learning opportunities for students, adding to the costs students and families take on for education, and steering more public money for learning to private businesses.

Days after the House and Senate passed their tax bills and the Journal broke its story about new legislation being drafted in the House, Moody’s Investor Services, the esteemed bond rating firm, announced it was “revising the 2018 outlook for US higher education to negative from stable.” Among the rationales Moody’s gave for its decision was “looming changes in federal policy or funding.”

Taxing Higher Ed

Between the dueling GOP tax bills in Congress, the House version is decidedly more damaging to higher ed. But in nearly every instance, the purpose of the proposed changes to existing tax law in both bills seems to be aimed solely at finding revenue sources from higher ed, to offset huge tax deductions given to wealthy families and corporations, rather than to improving learning opportunities for students or lowering the costs of colleges to individuals and families.

For instance, the House bill would make college employees whose spouses or children attend their employer institutions tuition-free report the tuition benefit as taxable income. And employer-provided education assistance would also become taxable, whereas it’s currently tax-exempt up to $5,250 per year.

Similarly, while the Senate plan continues to allow a deduction for student loan interest on federal tax returns, the House plan would eliminate the deduction. While the Senate plan continues to not count college tuition waivers as taxable income, a common benefit for students enrolled in graduate programs, the House version would.

“Any tax changes to tuition support for graduate students could also negatively impact graduate enrollment and research levels since research is a key component of many graduate programs,” notes Moody’s in its ratings announcement.

Both bills apply a 1.4 percent excise tax to private school endowments. In the Hose bill, the tax kicks in when the account is valued at $250,000 per full-time student. The Senate raised that level to $500,000 per student. Colleges that will likely be hit with taxes on their endowments insist their investments are being used to help support tuition costs for low-income students who attend their institutions and for facility improvements.

Both bills also take away tax deductions for interest paid on “advance bonds” colleges use to refund their debts at more manageable levels, and the House version also eliminates tax-exempt private activity bonds that lower the cost of building for colleges. This change was another negative influence on Moody’s downgrade.

Remaking Higher Education

But while GOP tax plans resemble deliberate attempts to strip money away from colleges and universities, without providing any benefit to students and families, new legislation being introduced by House Republicans is arguably worse. If the Higher Education Act rewrite the Republican House proposes resembles what eventually passes, it will remake higher education along very narrow perceived needs of the “work force,” limit financial supports for students, and give advantages to for-profit private providers.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, a primary purpose of the remake of the Higher Education Act being introduced by House Republicans – branded the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act –is to address the “skills gap” that supposedly exists between what colleges teach and what employers need.

The Journal quotes North Carolina Republican Representative Virginia Foxx, chairwoman of the committee that drafted the proposal, claiming that because much of what colleges and universities teach is “irrelevant” to employers, federal programs should be more supportive of apprenticeships and programs that have come to be called “competency based” education, a nebulous new buzzword often used to describe education that emphasizes the learning of discrete skills rather than broad realms of knowledge.

Political leaders have grown fond of using recent reports finding there are 6 million unfilled jobs in America as proof that higher education no longer aligns with the needs of employers, but those pronouncements about unfilled jobs fail to note, as this report by NPR does, that much of the problem lies with employers inflating their required qualifications and scrimping on wages. As numerous studies show, the so-called skills gap is a myth, and a college degree in liberal arts or other non-technical subjects is as relevant as it ever was.

Likely, what Foxx and other Republicans call a need to teach relevant skills generally means steering more students into for-profit education programs that promise quick employment without ever fulfilling that pledge.

For-Profits Are ‘Winners’

As the Journal reports, “One of the biggest winners in the new higher-education legislation is the for-profit college industry, which faced new regulations under the Obama administration. The rollback of those regulations has been under way since President Donald Trump took office. The reauthorization proposal goes a step further by prohibiting future action by the Education Department on what is known as the gainful-employment regulation.”

The gainful employment requirement is basically a check on schools that claim to provide degree programs that lead to employment to actually live up to that pledge. More often than not, for-profit institutions don’t.

“Blocking the gainful employment rule means that more students will enroll in programs that will ruin their financial futures,” writes David Halperin in the Huffington Post.

Students in these for-profit college programs, he explains, are often people on the edge of desperation  – veterans, single mothers, immigrants, and low-income students from disadvantaged communities who are lured into these programs by “false promises” about landing a great job.

“Many will enroll in programs that aren’t strong enough to help them succeed,” Halperin says. “Even if these students graduate – and many don’t – and even if they get the job they dreamed of – and many won’t – they may not earn enough to pay down their loans, because the tuition was just too high.”

Borrowers Are ‘Losers’

While for-profit providers are “winners” in the Republicans’ proposed bill, the big “losers,” according to the Journal, are student borrowers, especially those wanting to take advantage of the federal government’s public service loan forgiveness program, which allows borrowers who work for nonprofits or government agencies to have their remaining loan balances dropped after they make 10 years of payments. These borrowers, except those grandfathered into the program, would lose this tax advantage.

Other losers include students who run up larger debts to complete their advanced degree programs and student loan debt holders who end up in professional careers that are not top payers.

For students who run up larger debts, such as graduate students in advanced degree programs, the bill proposes “unspecified limits for borrowing by graduate students and parents of college students.” The Journal reports, “The change could cut into enrollment and potentially siphon off billions of dollars a year from universities.” This need to find financial resources for college would tend to, again, go to for-profit lending institutions.

The bill would also, according to the Chronicle, “scale back” the breaks given to student loan debt holders in the federal government’s income-based repayment plans. Student borrowers who want to benefit from the federal government’s income-based repayment program will see their current basis of 10 or 15 percent of discretionary income changed to 15 percent of discretionary incomes. Rather than getting debt forgiveness after 20 or 25 years, college student loan holders, under the new bill, would have debt forgiveness based on as long as it takes “to cover the amount they would have paid under a 10-year standard repayment plan,” according to the Journal. That will increase long-term indebtedness.

War Without End

“There is a long road ahead,” politico reports, regarding the revision of the Higher Education Act. “The Senate won’t start its rewrite until next year. But the upper chamber’s process has already gotten off to a more bipartisan start, with the Senate education committee holding a friendly hearing on simplifying the application for federal student aid and talking about working together on the rewrite.”

Nevertheless, it’s clear the Republican “war on learning” being waged at all levels of education, including higher ed, didn’t end with the tax bills.

11/30/2017 – GOP War On Learning Continues In Senate Tax Plan, State Funding Cuts

THIS WEEK: States Shorting Schools … NOLA Reform Myth … Breaking Schools … Hurting Teachers Unions … Reform Ate Democrats

TOP STORY

GOP War On Learning Continues In Senate Tax Plan, State Funding Cuts

By Jeff Bryant

“As the Republican-controlled Congress continues to advance tax plans that slash funding from public education, a new report reveals how state and local government officials, especially where GOP leadership dominates, have continued a decade-long campaign to keep school funding below levels that preceded the Great Recession … Perhaps, the whole strategy behind GOP tax plans and budget cuts boils down to a short-term need to cut education in order to offset the large cuts Republicans are providing to wealthy families and corporations. But next year’s mid-term elections – in which a third of the Senate, 36 governors, and three quarters of states’ legislators are up for re-election – will give the rest of us a chance to speak up.”
Read more …

NEWS AND VIEWS

K-12 Spending in Most States Still Far Below Pre-Recession Levels, Report Says

Education Week

“Overall K-12 spending in at least 29 states is still less than what it was before the housing industry collapsed in 2007… While housing values have somewhat rebounded in some areas, people aren’t spending at the levels they used to, and websites such as Amazon continue to siphon off a large portion of sales tax revenue. In at least 12 states … school spending cuts were especially alarming … ‘State level cuts have real and damaging consequences for local school districts.'”
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Faking The Grade

New Orleans Tribune

“The latest School Performance Scores for the state of Louisiana are in. And that makes now a pretty good time to finally come to terms with the fallacy of the miracle in New Orleans … We have known for quite some time now that the miracle was really a myth and that this reform and its purveyors, along with the state, the RSD and the charter operations to which they have given our public school students, our facilities and our money were failing our children and our communities … It’s been 12 years since our schools were hijacked. And 12 years later, many of them are performing just as poorly as they were before they were stolen … This brings us to the bogus notion of school ‘choice’ that reformers have held up as a blessing for parents and students, when, in fact, the only entities that exercise any real choice in admissions have been the charter schools—not parents, not students.”
Read more …

Here’s Why Two Indiana School Systems Went Broke. And Others Are In Danger.

IndyStar

“In the rush to overhaul education, [Indiana] lawmakers abandoned decades of commitment to the traditional public school system, pushing forward even as districts started closing schools, cutting programs and losing teachers. They developed a system that encourages free-market competition with other public schools, charter schools and private ones – creating a sink-or-swim mentality that already has helped push Gary and Muncie schools into such a deep financial crisis that the state was forced to take them over … School leaders across the state, though, say the way Indiana funds them only deepens the disparity in education between wealthy and impoverished areas … The state knowingly destabilized traditional public school funding, crippling some urban and rural school districts and creating a system of winners and losers that shows no sign of slowing. Statewide, the big question now is how many more school districts are headed toward the precipice.”
Read more …

Gutting Wisconsin Teachers Unions Hurt Students, Study Finds

Chalkbeat

“Weakening unions led to declines in test scores, particularly in math and science. The effects were fairly large, comparable to sharply increasing class sizes. And the harm was not evenly distributed: Schools that started out furthest behind were hurt the most, while higher achieving schools saw no impact … The law led to big cuts in teacher compensation, particularly for veteran teachers and especially in health insurance and retirement benefits … There was also a spike in teacher retirement immediately following the law’s passage. As compensation drops, it may become harder for district and teachers to recruit and keep teachers. An increase in retirement also reduces teacher experience, which has been linked to effectiveness … ‘High-performing schools filled vacancies from teacher retirements by poaching high-quality teachers from low-performing schools through attractive compensation schemes.'”
Read more …

How Education Reform Ate The Democratic Party

The Baffler

Jennifer Berkshire writes, “To begin to chronicle the origin of the Democrats’ war on their own – the public school teachers and their unions that provide the troops and the dough in each new campaign cycle to elect the Democrats – is to enter murky territory. The Clintons were early adopters … Redistribution and government intervention were out; investment and public-private partnerships were the way to go … This new cult of education wasn’t grounded in John Dewey’s vision of education-as-democracy, or in the recent civil-rights battles … Teachers unions were impeding progress … Following the political demonology pioneered by Arkansas’ first couple, neoliberal policy innovators routinely cast teachers as self-interested dunderheads, impeding progress, civil rights advancement, even global economic competitiveness … Today’s Democratic school reformers – a team heavy on billionaires, pols on the move, and paid advocates … got their start as Bill Clinton’s policy shop, branded as the intellectual home for New Democrats … Four decades after the neo-Democrats set their sights on the education bureaucracy, the journey has reached its predictable destination: with a paler version of what the right has been offering all along.”
Read more …

GOP War On Learning Continues In Senate Tax Plan, State Funding Cuts

As the Republican-controlled Congress continues to advance tax plans that slash funding from public education, a new report reveals how state and local government officials, especially where GOP leadership dominates, have continued a decade-long campaign to keep school funding below levels that preceded the Great Recession.

There’s little doubt that deep and persistent cuts to education take a toll on student learning opportunities and end the American Dream for millions of young people, especially those who are not white or who are at the bottom of the economic ladder.

Research studies often show a strong correlation between increased education spending and improved student achievement – finding, for instance, that states forced by court order to increase education spending consequently experienced gains in student achievement. And surveys show Americans are generally willing to pay higher taxes for education.

Yet efforts to cut education continue unabated at all levels of government, especially where Republicans have full control.

Taxing Schools Rather Than the Rich

The tax plan Senate Republicans are likely to pass this week has little to recommend over the House version.

The plan would double to $500 the $250 deduction teachers get for purchasing school supplies with their own money, rather than eliminate the deduction as the House version does. And while the House would eliminate deductions for student loan interest, college tuition and expenses, and tax breaks used by university employees and graduate students, the Senate proposal would preserve them.

But many other features of the Senate plan would deeply harm students and schools.

Both the Senate and House bills propose an excise tax on private college endowments with assets of more than $100,000 per student. Endowment funds are used to help pay for academic programs, campus facilities, and student services, private college leaders and advocates say.

The biggest threats to local schools in both plans are their proposals to end federal deductions for state and local taxes (SALT) that households take when they itemize. The House plan limits the pain with a $10,000 ceiling, but the Senate plan does away with the deduction altogether.

Any reduction to the SALT federal subsidy will imperil the largest sources of school funding to education by eliminating the federal tax benefit to schools, discouraging new state and local tax initiatives to support schools, and pressuring state and local officials to cut local taxes to appease tax payers who can no longer deduct those taxes from their federal returns.

Another feature of the House bill that the Senate also proposes would increase how much schools pay for long-term debt by eliminating a tax exemption school districts get when they refinance their debts at lower interest rates using certain types of bonds.

According to Education Week, in the most recent year reported, districts carried $409 billion in long-term debt – a rate of $8,465 per student – and paid $17 billion in interest on those loans. Taking away any ability to write off some of that interest as a tax exemption would decrease money districts have to pay for teachers and student learning opportunities.

‘Punishing Decade for School Funding’

New GOP federal tax plans compound the harm state and local government leaders have done to public schools and students.

As a new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains, for the latest year with data available, 29 states currently spend less money per student than they did in 2008. Although some of the 29 states cited by the report have increased education spending lately, the increases haven’t brought back spending levels to what they were nearly a decade ago.

The cuts to K-12 spending have “serious consequences,” CBPP authors contend, including crippling efforts to hire and retain the best teachers, reduce class sizes, expand learning time, and provide high-quality early childhood education.

Of the 10 states that have cut state and local education spending the most – Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, Nevada, Georgia, Idaho, Alabama, Oklahoma, Michigan, and Utah (in descending order from 25 percent to 8.6 percent) – all have had a Republican “trifecta” in charge, including a Republican governor and Republican majorities in both chambers of the state legislature.

Unfortunately, some states where the Democratic party dominates have cut education spending too, although nowhere near the levels of the above-mentioned states where the GOP rules. But another analysis has found Democratic governors have a much stronger tendency to increase school district funding, especially for districts with high proportions of Black and Hispanic students.

“Electing a Democratic governor led to an increase of about $500 per student for districts with a majority of black and Hispanic students,” Chalkbeat reports. “Similarly, the study finds that Democratic governors targeted additional money to colleges and universities that serve more students of color.”

Long-Term Harm

The Republican war on learning will have long term negative consequences to the nation.

While the House tax plan’s cut to SALT deductions would “put nearly 250,000 education jobs at risk,” according to analysts at the National Education Association, the Senate plan to end the deduction would plunge the dagger deeper, potentially leading to a loss of $370 billion in state and local tax revenue over 10 years, the NEA calculates, and endangering 370,000 education jobs.

Changes to higher-education tax benefits in the House tax plan “would cost students and families more than $71 billion over the next decade,” The Washington Post reports.

“Our country’s future depends heavily on the quality of its schools,” the authors of the CBPP study argue. The decade-long effort to cut K-12 school funding they chart “risk(s) undermining schools’ capacity to develop the intelligence and creativity of the next generation of workers and entrepreneurs.”

Perhaps, the whole strategy behind GOP tax plans and budget cuts boils down to a short-term need to cut education in order to offset the large cuts Republicans are providing to wealthy families and corporations.

But next year’s mid-term elections – in which a third of the Senate, 36 governors, and three quarters of states’ legislators are up for re-election – will give the rest of us a chance to speak up.

11/16/2017 – The Republican Tax Plan Is A Declaration Of War On Learning

THIS WEEK: Vouchers With No Oversight … Charter Marketing … Better Tests Myth … Zero-Sum Ed … De-Personaliozed Learning

TOP STORY

The Republican Tax Plan Is A Declaration Of War On Learning

By Jeff Bryant

“What the Republicans propose in their tax plans is not just a raid on education-related budget items for the sake of fiscal efficiency; their plans are part of a strategic offensive against the very idea that all children and youth have a right to a free and high-quality education … The transformation they want would make the nation collectively dumber and much more dependent on profit-making businesses for scarcer services with far fewer opportunities for citizens to better themselves through education. We must reject that future.”
Read more …

NEWS AND VIEWS

‘There Is No Oversight’: Private-School Vouchers Can Leave Parents On Their Own

Education Week

“When families use a voucher to enroll in private school, they give up, knowingly or not, most of the protections that federal law requires for special education students. If a private school decides not to admit a student, or to ask a student to leave, there’s little legal recourse for parents to challenge those decisions … Despite a bulging roster of Florida students attending private schools with the state’s help, there’s scant data and information available to show how they do … Private schools receiving state aid don’t have to track or tell the state how many students graduate from their schools, nor how many are bullied, expelled, or drop out – some of the most basic measures of student success. Private schools do not receive letter grades based on how well students perform on state standardized tests as their public school peers do, and they are not required to be accredited by an independent agency.”
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The Super Wealthy Oxycontin Family Supports School Privatization With Tactics Similar To Those That Fueled the Opioid Epidemic

Alternet

“As a copywriter at a medical advertising agency, Arthur Sackler devised strategies to promote drugs like Librium and Valium. Now, some of those same strategies are now being used with the aim of promoting charter schools. Jonathan Sackler, Arthur’s nephew, is a well-known name in the education reform movement … The Sackler ‘special sauce’ is vertical integration … The marketing of OxyContin was ‘unprecedented … and was … aggressive and inappropriate’ … The description … will sound familiar to anyone who has witnessed one of the no-expenses-spared charter school rallies that are a specialty of Sackler-funded organizations … There is the dizzying array of astroturf front groups all created for the purpose of demanding more charter schools.”
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Better Tests Don’t Lead To Better Teaching, Study Finds

The Hechinger Report

“Researchers … found that a more demanding test didn’t help improve the quality of the teacher’s instruction. A teacher’s test-prep lessons were generally of lower instructional quality than when the same teacher wasn’t prepping students for the test …The quality gap between a teacher’s regular lessons and her test-prep lessons was largest in a school district where the teaching quality was the highest … Instructional quality sank a lot when these excellent teachers were delivering test-prep lessons. In districts with lower teaching quality … test-prep lessons weren’t much worse. But they didn’t raise instructional quality.'”
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Lessons From North Carolina: How Charter Schools Force ‘Zero-Sum’ Education

The Progressive

Jeff Bryant writes, “In [Betsy] DeVos’s brave new world where ‘money follows the child’ from one school to another, schools and communities will increasingly see education as a zero-sum affair, where every student gained is a plus in the financial ledger and every student lost is a minus … The truth is, education has always been a zero-sum game … In the post-Civil War years, white conservatives were generally opposed to public schools … The landmark Supreme Court Brown v Board decision was the turning point in extending education opportunities to African American students …The ideology driving charter school expansions … takes emphasis away from a unified and equitable system of education.”
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The Case(s) Against Personalized Learning

Education Week

“Dozens of companies now tout a wide range of software, platforms, and apps as transformative tools for personalizing student learning … Many critics believe that personalized learning boils down to kids working alone on software, an approach they say ignores the crucial social aspects of learning … What’s marketed as ‘personalized learning’ amounts to little more than breaking knowledge and ideas down into ‘itty-bitty parts,’ then using extrinsic rewards to ‘march kids through a series of decontextualized skills they had no meaningful role in choosing’ … ‘When Facebook promises personalization …it’s really about massive data collection.'”
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The Republican Tax Plan Is A Declaration Of War On Learning

“Top-down class warfare” is what economist Paul Krugman calls the new Republican tax plans being drawn up in Congress, because both plans in the House and Senate propose “huge tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy” and eliminate scores of “credits and exemptions that mainly benefit the middle class.” The heaviest casualties are likely to be on the public education front.

As Krugman explains, Republicans intend to knock off many current tax deductions for higher education expenses, but the extent of the carnage in the plans will extinguish learning opportunities at every age and stage of young people’s lives.

What the Republicans propose in their tax plans is not just a raid on education-related budget items for the sake of fiscal efficiency; their plans are part of a strategic offensive against the very idea that all children and youth have a right to a free and high-quality education.

The Assault Starts Early

The assault Republicans are coordinating starts very early in children’s lives.

Federal assistance for child care, once brandished as a priority of the Trump administration, is not on the agenda. As Think Progress reports, the plan in the House rolls back some “existing child care benefits in the tax code” and fails to expand a child care tax credit.

Even though the plans are still being negotiated, there’s little doubt “a lot of families” will see their taxes increased if the Republicans become law, says Kevin Drum at Mother Jones. Those increased taxes mean less money for parents to provide their children with academic and physical education opportunities outside school, including music lessons, sports, and summer camp.

The Republican tax plans also foretell funding crises down the road for federal programs that support children and families.

As economists at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities explain, these schemes are part of a “two-step fiscal agenda” to cut taxes for the rich to drive up the deficit and then justify deeper funding cuts to programs in the future.

Among the “eventual victims” CBPP predicts are programs for health, tuition, and education, particularly the Head Start program providing learning opportunities for low-income four- and five-year olds. Funding already passed by Republicans provides “little or no increase” for Head Start, so as expenses increase, the lack of new tax revenues available to Head Start will necessitate further cuts and fewer children served.

K-12 Carnage

Republican tax plans will have the “biggest direct impact” on local schools through their repeal of deductions taxpayers can claim on state and local taxes (known as SALT), according to Education Week. “The House version, would allow a tax deduction for up to $10,000 of local property taxes but eliminate deductions for state and local income and sales taxes from federal tax returns. While the Senate bill repeals both property tax and income and sales tax deductions.”

Ending the SALT deduction would immediately close a spigot of federal dollars to local coffers that pay for schools, I report. But an even worse, repealing the deduction will eventually increase voter pushback against any new local tax increases for schools and put pressure on local governments to cut taxes that are vital to children’s education.

Analysts at the National Education Association calculate that repealing the SALT deduction may “put nearly 250,000 education jobs at risk.” Job cuts of this magnitude will result in fewer services for special needs kids and those who don’t speak English well, larger class sizes with less individual attention to students, and shuttered libraries, athletic programs, and courses in arts and world languages.

Another egregious detail in the House plan is to end the $250 tax deduction teachers and other educators get for spending their personal money on classroom supplies, Education Week reports.

Since 2002, educators have been able to claim the deduction even when they don’t make enough money to itemize their tax returns. Over 3.7 million tax returns claimed this deduction in the previous year available.

As I report, the $250 deduction doesn’t even begin to compensate what educators fork out from their own pockets for their kids. The most recent survey found teachers spend nearly $500 on average, and 1 in 10 spends $1,000 or more. Now they won’t even get the $250 subtraction, if the House Republicans have their way.

The original Senate bill included a rollback of the deduction too, but GOP Senators did an about-face and instead propose to double the deduction to $500, Education Week reports. The EdWeek reporter suspects the change may be an attempt to woo the support of Maine Senator Susan Collins who “helped introduce the $250 educator deduction into the tax code.”

Openings for Privatizers

In addition to the harm done to public schools and educators by eliminating deductions and rolling back revenues, both Republican plans offer new initiatives to redirect public tax dollars to privately operated education providers.

The House plan would allow parents to extend the tax advantages they get from 529 college-savings plans to use up to $10,000 annually for tuition in private K-12 schools. As The New York Times reports, the 529 extension will cost the federal government $600 million in revenue in 2018-19 and save rich folks $30,000 per child if they make large deposits in these tax-free accounts when their children are born.

Rather than providing a way for low-income parents to send their kids to private schools, the 529 extension is more of a coupon program for parents who can already afford the tuition.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who adamantly promotes private options like charter schools and voucher programs, called this proposal “a good step forward,” according to The Washington Post, and the school choice advocacy group she co-founded and ran, the American Federation for Children, “praised the idea.”

Two more proposals that could get slipped into the Senate tax bill, Education Week reports, would redirect more tax dollars to private schools, including religion based schools.

One proposal establishes a charitable deduction “for certain qualified tuition and related expenses relating to qualified religious instruction.”

The other proposal “would add a tax credit for corporate and individual contributions to state non-profit organizations” that provide school vouchers to help low-income to middle class families with K-12 children send their kids to private schools.

These tax credit programs  have proven to be yet another way to benefit wealthier folks by diverting funds from public schools that need the resources to hire teachers and fund programs.

Higher Ed Heist

The Republican assault on learning opportunities doesn’t stop after students complete high school and attempt to pursue higher education.

As Krugman explains in his Times op-ed, if the Republicans have their way, students taking out loans to help pay college tuition would no longer be able to deduct the interest payments on those loans. Student who get help from an employer to pay for tuition or other expenses, would have the contribution considered taxable income in the House bill. Students who get free or reduced tuition because their parents are university employees will also have to report that break as taxable income. And graduate students who have tuition waived as part of their degree programs would have to report that as taxable income.

The tax increase for graduate students is a full body blow to those who we are expecting to be the nation’s future leaders, entrepreneurs, teachers, and artists. If this measure passes, according to a report from NPR, the 145,000 grad students who received a tuition reduction in the most recent year available are looking at tax increases of as much as 300 to 400 percent.

The House tax plan will make these students’ education unaffordable.

A War to What Ends?

“These proposals would undermine funding for our public schools, colleges and universities,” declare 43 education organizations in a letter of opposition to the tax bills currently being considered in Congress.

“What makes these tax proposals even more problematic,” the letter continues, “is that, at the same time Congress is considering this reckless legislation, it is also negotiating a spending bill that will likely require cuts in the same programs the tax bill will harm.”

The proposed changes, the letter argues, “would undermine funding for education across the education continuum.”

Opposing the specific measures in these tax plans is important, but it’s essential to call out the intentions behind them.

As Eduardo Porter writes for The New York Times, the goal of the Republican tax plan has very little to do with sound economics. It’s about “transforming America.”

Based on how the Republicans treat education in their tax plans, the transformation they want would make the nation collectively dumber and much more dependent on profit-making businesses for scarcer services with far fewer opportunities for citizens to better themselves through education.

We must reject that future.

11/9/2017 – Did Support For Education Save The Democrats’ Bacon In The Virginia Governor’s Race?

THIS WEEK: Stealth School Vouchers … Puerto Rico Privatization … Silicon Valley Fail … Tests Screw Teacher Evaluations … For-Profit College Dropouts

TOP STORY

Did Support For Education Save The Democrats’ Bacon In The Virginia Governor’s Race?

By Jeff Bryant

“Ralph Northam’s big win for the Democratic party in the Virginia governor’s election is being hailed as a ‘rebuke of President Trump.’ But it’s also a rebuke of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos … In the Virginia governor’s contest, education was the voters’ “top concern,” according to at least one poll … Northam was backed by teachers unions while Gillespie got financial backing from the DeVos family … Northam got education right not only by differing from Betsy DeVos but also by distancing his views from some views held by Democrats too, especially those Democrats aligned with leftover policy ideas from the Barack Obama presidential administration.”
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NEWS AND VIEWS

The GOP Has A New Vehicle For School Choice, But Are The Wealthy At The Wheel?

Education Week

“The House GOP’s plan to overhaul the tax code includes a provision that would allow 529 college savings plans to be used for K-12 expenses, including private school tuition … The average value of the savings account was $19,800 … in 2015 … 57% of account holders were from households making $100,000 to $250,000 annually … For wealthier families that can save for both K-12 and higher education, ‘it’s just a giveaway.'”
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Puerto Ricans Fear Schools Will Be Privatized In The Wake of Hurricane Maria

The Intercept

“[A] guerrilla campaign to open schools is running headlong into a separate effort from the top, to use the storm to accomplish the long-standing goal of privatizing Puerto Rico’s public schools, using New Orleans post-Katrina as a model … Puerto Rico’s Public-Private Partnerships Authority director spoke optimistically about leveraging federal money with companies interested in privatizing public infrastructure … Puerto Rico’s Education Department is purposefully putting off opening of schools to justify permanent closures down the road. The department has not clearly defined its criteria for determining whether a school is ready to open … Schools have been operating without authorization, desperate to restore order and provide children with food and learning opportunities.”
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Silicon Valley Tried To Reinvent Schools. Now It’s Rebooting

Bloomberg

“The education system is one of the few industries that has resisted technological reinvention. It’s not for a lack of capital. [Facebook’s Mark] Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Netflix Inc.’s Reed Hastings, Salesforce.com Inc.’s Marc Benioff and many others have poured money into reform efforts, with mixed results … Venture investors spent $2.35 billion on education-technology startups globally last year … But companies haven’t come up with a formula students will embrace or that can be deployed efficiently and profitably. The hype around online education has largely dissipated as dropout rates skyrocketed.”
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Using Test Scores Tends To Lower Teacher-Evaluation Ratings, Study Shows

Education Week

“States and districts have waffled on whether and how student achievement should be incorporated into a teacher’s rating. Should value-added scores – which aim to isolate how much a teacher has contributed to a student’s learning, as measured by tests – be a part of the calculation?… A new study [finds] … when value-added scores are incorporated into evaluations, the ratings tend to go down. And the more weight a system puts on value-added scoring, the lower the scores are likely to be … That’s because value-added scores tend to be relative measures … ‘Everybody can’t be good with value added.'”
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Federal Data Shows 3.9 Million Students Dropped Out Of College With Debt In 2015 And 2016

The Hechinger Report

“3.9 million undergraduates with federal student loan debt dropped out during fiscal years 2015 and 2016 … More than 900,000 of these students dropped out of for-profit universities. That’s 23% of all the indebted dropouts, even though only 10% of all undergraduate students attend for-profit schools … Almost 2.5 million … had attended public institutions … But the public sector’s share of dropouts exactly matches its share of the student population: 64% Private nonprofit colleges seem to be doing a better job, accounting for 13% of the dropouts while educating a quarter of all U.S. undergraduates… The Trump Administration has delayed and sought to ease regulations of for-profit universities.”
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Did Support For Education Save The Democrats’ Bacon In The Virginia Governor’s Race?

Ralph Northam’s big win for the Democratic party in the Virginia governor’s election is being hailed as a “rebuke of President Trump.” But it’s also a rebuke of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

The race, which was called a “bellwether” and a “must win” for Democrats, is a teachable moment for Democratic party operatives heading into 2018. But the race appeared to stay close the whole time, with RealClear Politics rating it a “toss up” less than a week away from the vote. So what helped Northam pull it out?

Most analysts in the media have focused on the campaign tactics employed in the race, especially when the campaign for Ed Gillespie, the Republican, took a Trumpist turn and decided to demonize immigrants, defend Confederate monuments, and portray Northam as soft on crime. But the Virginia race suggests candidates running in swing states will have to get the issues right rather than the rhetoric.

In state and local elections education is a top issue, sometimes the top issue. Education is the number one or two priority in most city, county, and state budgets and is a concern for literally every single voter, including adults with no school-aged children who pay taxes to support local schools and rely on the quality of those institutions to bolster their property values and anchor their neighborhoods.

In the Virginia governor’s contest, education was the voters’ “top concern,” according to at least one poll.

Education became a strong theme for both candidates in the campaign, with Democratic supporters of Northam frequently tying Gillespie to DeVos, including American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten calling him “a clone of Betsy DeVos.”

But Northam differed significantly from Gillespie on the issues as well as the image. Northam generally disagreed with Gillespie’s call to expand the number of charter schools in the state and favored instead more investment in traditional public schools. Northam also opposed Gillespie’s proposal for education savings accounts that allow parents who pull their children from public schools to direct that funding to private school tuition or other “education expenditures.”

As a result, Northam was backed by teachers unions while Gillespie got financial backing from the DeVos family – who expect their lavish cash donations to Republicans to result in support for charter schools and voucher programs that send public money to private schools – and from conservative groups, including those backed by the Koch brothers, that pounded on Northam for his opposition to “school choice.”

So education was a defining issue in the race, and where the candidates stood mattered a lot. But it’s also important to note Northam got education right not only by differing from Betsy DeVos but also by distancing his views from some views held by Democrats too, especially those Democrats aligned with leftover policy ideas from the Barack Obama presidential administration.

As Virginia-based parent and education activist Rachel Levy observed during the Democratic primary contest between Northam and his rival Tom Perriello, Northam had “a record of supporting public education in Virginia,” while Perriello seemed to be content to simply align his views on education policy to those held over from the Obama presidential administration. Big mistake.

After Northam’s primary contest victory, Levy wrote for The Progressive, “Perhaps like so many Democrats, Perriello hasn’t spent much time getting to know the issue … His loss reflects a disconnect between public education defenders and otherwise-progressive politicians who have not yet gotten the memo that defending public schools is a key value for progressive voters.”

So to a great extent, Northam took on DeVos and her policy ideas by “breaking from Barack Obama,” writes Graham Vyse for New Republic. “Northam represents a distinct departure from Obama’s emphasis on charter schools, support for high-stakes standardized tests, and tense relations with teachers unions,” Vyse explains.

Calling Northam’s victory in Virginia a clear indicator of the Democratic Party’s shift on education may be “premature,” as Vyse says. “But with DeVos making ‘school choice’ like charters and private school vouchers increasingly toxic for Democrats, there’s certainly room for a stronger defense of public education on the left.”

Northam made the stronger defense and did so by departing from Obama’s education orthodoxy. And he won partially because of that. Now who’s next?