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9/29/2016 – Elizabeth Warren Clarifies The Charter Schools Debate

THIS WEEK: Structural Racism In Pre-K … No To School Cops … Kaepernick Effect … Important Governors Races … School Board Elections


Elizabeth Warren Clarifies The Charter Schools Debate

By Jeff Bryant

“This week, Massachusetts news outlets reported the state’s most prominent politician, and one of the nation’s most important progressive leaders, Senator Elizabeth Warren threw the supposedly progressive framing of charter schools into doubt when she announced officially her opposition to a ballot initiative in November to expand the number of charters in the Bay State … Warren has good cause to be concerned about expanding charter schools in her state.”
Read more …


Yes, Preschool Teachers Really Do Treat Black And White Children Totally Differently

The Huffington Post

“New research … shows that preschool teachers respond to their black and white students differently. Implicit biases – or unconscious stereotypes – might be at the root of these differences … The first half of the study used eye-tracking equipment to determine where teachers look when they are expecting student misconduct … Teachers tended to focus their eyes on black students … In the second half of the study, the educators read vignettes about a child’s misbehavior … White teachers tended to rate the behavior of the “black” children more mildly than black teachers, who tended to rate the misbehavior of black children more harshly.”
Read more …

Coalition Calls For End Of Police Presence In Schools

The Center For Public Integrity

“A coalition of family and civil-rights groups launched a national campaign … to ‘end the regular presence’ of police, armed security and truancy officers posted inside schools … Harsh disciplinary actions of police assigned to schools … have become increasingly controversial in recent years, creating worries that criminalization of minor indiscretions has created a counter-productive ‘school-to-prison pipeline’ … Federal officials have expressed concerns as well, but have stopped short of calling for removal of cops entirely … Arrests, ticketing, and rough physical contact fall most heavily on student with disabilities and students of color.”
Read more …

Patriotism And Protest Under Friday Night Lights

The Atlantic

“Across the country, students are sitting, kneeling, and dissenting from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and standing for the national anthem. Many of these acts coincide with [Colin] Kaepernick’s refusal to stand and show pride for what he described as ‘a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color’… It’s almost universally understood by school officials that they have to allow students to excuse themselves from these exercises … Still, the tension remains between knowing the law and obeying it.”
Read more …

Fresh Policy Leverage Waits As Governors’ Contests Heat Up

Education Week

“12 states will pick governors Nov. 8, and two-thirds of them will be new faces regardless of the partisan outcome … 6 governorships are held by Democrats, five by Republicans, and one (West Virginia) by an independent. That fluid situation and the Every Student Succeeds Act’s new grant of policy flexibility to the states may clear the way for a more activist stance on education policy by the nation’s governors … School funding, finance formulas, and accountability have dominated the debates.
Read more …

School Board Elections: Someone’s Paying Attention But It’s Not Us

The Second Line Education Blog

“According to Ballotpedia, ‘643 of America’s largest school districts by enrollment are holding elections for 2,041 seats. These elections will take place in 38 states. These districts collectively educated a total of 16,965,635 students during the 2013-2014 school year – 34% of all K-12 students in the United States’ … Big money, influence and government are paying attention. Parents are not … Outside donors have set up shop and are not looking to go anywhere anytime soon. The education of our children is seen as a lucrative commodity.”
Read more …

Elizabeth Warren Clarifies The Charter Schools Debate

Are charter schools a “progressive” idea for education? Some progressive sources would have you think so, but other progressives have challenged that framing.

This week, Massachusetts news outlets reported the state’s most prominent politician, and one of the nation’s most important progressive leaders, Senator Elizabeth Warren threw the supposedly progressive framing of charter schools into doubt when she announced officially her opposition to a ballot initiative in November to expand the number of charters in the Bay State.

The referendum, called Question 2, calls for lifting the cap on the number of charters allowed in the state, allowing for as many as 12 new charter schools per year.

In her statement, Warren explains that although some charter schools are “excellent,” her concern about Question 2 is about what “this specific proposal means for hundreds of thousands of children across our Commonwealth, especially those living in districts with tight budgets where every dime matters. Education is about creating opportunity for all our children, not about leaving many behind.”

In other words, Warren’s progressive values, which few would dispute she possesses, have persuaded her to reject a policy idea that may benefit some of her constituents but neglects, or even does potential harm, to the broader population.

Warren had signaled her potential opposition to Question 2 back in August when she told reporters, “I’m just concerned about the proposal and what it means for the children all across the Commonwealth … Public officials have a responsibility not just to a small subset of children but to all of the children, to make sure that they receive a first-rate education.”

Warren’s views about charter schools and other forms of “school choice” have been a matter of much speculation by school choice advocates because of a positive mention of school vouchers in a book she co-authored 13 years ago. But a recent conversation Warren had with education historian Diane Ravitch threw those speculations into doubt, when Ravitch reported on her personal blog that Warren is unlikely to fall in line with charter school doctrinaire.

Now we know Ravitch’s assertions were well founded.

A Drain On Local Schools

Warren has good cause to be concerned about expanding charter schools in her state.

Over 150 Massachusetts communities, at last count, have gone on record to oppose Question 2, no doubt due in large part due to the financial impact charter schools have on school district funding levels.

As a recent news source in Northampton reports, six nearby charter schools are projected to drain $2,279,216 from the district’s budget, which prompted the local council in that community to vote unanimously to oppose the ballot measure. Said one council member, “Public school districts across the state are losing more than $408 million [to charters] this year alone – a loss of funds that is undermining the ability of districts to provide all students with the educational services to which they are entitled.”

Charter proponents argue that local schools aren’t being financially harmed by charters because as students transfer from public schools to charters, the “money follows the child” and the cost of educating the transferring students merely moves from one education facility to another. But this argument is either profoundly ignorant of school finance or purposefully misleading.

Research studies have shown that the current model for financing charter schools harms the education of public school students. As a public school loses a percentage of its students to charters, the school can’t simply cut fixed costs for things like transportation and physical plant proportionally. It also can’t cut the costs of grade-level teaching staff proportionally. That would increase class sizes and leave the remaining students underserved. So instead, the school cuts a program or support service – a reading specialist, a special education teacher, a librarian, an art or music teacher – to offset the loss of funding.

For these reasons, and others, the introduction of charter schools into communities now invariably sparks division and resentment from parents who stay committed to public schools.

An Exclusionary Approach To Schooling

Charters, as they are currently conceived, are also concerning to anyone with progressive values because of the tendency of these schools to exclude certain students that are more difficult to teach.

Massachusetts charter schools in particular have had a history of cherry picking students.

For instance Bay State charters, compared to district schools, have a tendency to under-enroll students with disabilities; although there is some evidence the schools are making progress on this front. And in Boston and other urban centers in the state, charters tend to under-enroll students whose first language isn’t English.

Another exclusionary tactic charters often employ is to use harsh discipline codes and out-of-school suspensions to push out students who exhibit behavior problems or who struggle with school rules and academic work.

A 2014 article in the Boston Globe cited a report finding, “Boston charter schools are far more likely than traditional school systems to suspend students, usually for minor infractions such as violating dress codes or being disrespectful, a high-risk disciplinary action that could cause students to disengage from their classes … Of the 10 school systems in Massachusetts with the highest out-of-school suspension rates, all but one were charter schools.”

One Boston charter school had suspended 60 percent of its students.

Students who are frequently suspended are much more apt to leave, and once they leave, charter schools are not required to fill the empty seats with new students. As students progress from grade-level to grade-level, this allows charters to sort out “the chaff” among its students until the entering grade class is reduced to only those students who are more apt to score well on tests and eventually graduate. This filtering process shows up in the high student attrition at charters.

Based on recent research conducted by classroom teacher and PhD candidate Mark Weber, who blogs under the moniker of Jersey Jazzman, every Boston independent charter high school has a higher student attrition rate than their public school counterpoints as a whole, meaning that the freshman class that had enrolled in the school originally eroded in size by the time graduation rolled around. In one case, a charter school’s freshman class shrank by more than half by the time they were seniors.

A Favored Cause Of Big Money

Finally, Warren, who is best known for battling Wall Street and the interests of big finance, likely sees that these are the very same people funding the campaign to pass Question 2.

According to Louisiana public school teacher and author Mercedes Schneider, as of September 9, the effort in favor of Question 2 had raised roughly $17.8 million, with the largest amount of money coming from Walmart Arkansas billionaire siblings Jim and Alice Walton, who together contributed $1,835,000.

Another source of money to push for Question 2, according to Schneider, comes from “Massachusetts bankers and hedge funders” which have contributed a total of $437,410 to the campaign. “Twenty-four of the above hedge funders/bankers identified as employees of Fidelity Investments,” she notes.

Public broadcasting source WGBH reports other funders of the campaign for Question 2 include New York-based Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy and Education Reform Now Advocacy, which both have strong ties to the hedge fund industry. Those two groups, along with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, put in $6,240,000.

Other contributors to the campaign to pass Question 2 are decidedly more prone to back causes aligned to conservative Republicans rather than progressive Democrats. In an interview on her Edushyster blog, Jennifer Berkshire talks with political scientist Maurice Cunningham who explains that funding to support Question 2 is driven by “a handful of wealthy families that … largely give to Republicans, and they represent the financial industry.”

According to Cunningham, these funders are mostly “out of Bain, they’re out of Baupost, they’re out of High Fields Capital Management.” Other backers include “billionaire Seth Klarman … the largest GOP donor in New England” and Republican strategists Will Keyser and Jim Conroy.

Other contributors to the pro-charter initiative include corporations in the IT, manufacturing, healthcare, and pharmaceutical industries.

A Collision Course With Progressives

Adding to the financial industry’s support for charters is the full-throated support for charters coming from Republican politicians.

In a recent campaign address, presidential candidate Donald Trump called school choice the “civil rights cause of our time,” thereby adopting the rhetoric of establishment Republicans including his primary opponents Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Jeb Bush in support of charter school expansions.

Of course, Warren could have other reasons to oppose the expansion of charters in her state. And there are certainly many charter schools that adhere to the progressive ideals that originally motivated the creation of these schools.

But that’s not the point.

When advocates for charter schools decided to embrace a school choice financial model that cripples existing neighborhood schools, to adopt education practices that exclude and push out the most challenging students, and to join forces with the financial industry and right wing Republicans, they put their movement on a collision course with anyone who has progressive values.

Senator Warren’s opposition to Question 2 is proof the car wreck is happening.

9/22/2016 – Solutions To A Teacher Shortage Crisis Even Republicans Will Like

THIS WEEK: U.S. Way Behind On Pre-K … Spending On Higher-Ed Falls … Another Wall St. Rip-Off … Student Debt Relief … Charter Moratorium


Solutions To The Emerging Teacher Shortage Crisis Even Republicans Will Like

By Jeff Bryant

“A new report is making big headlines for showing that public schools across the nation are experiencing severe problems with teacher shortages that are apt to develop into a ‘crisis’ if left unaddressed … The report offers three broad recommendations to address shortages through policy changes related to teacher compensation, distribution and, retention … Only the fourth and final recommendation, to develop a national teacher supply market, would need to be carried out at the federal level.”
Read more …


On Early Ed, The U.S. Is Light Years Behind Other Industrialized Countries

U.S. News & World Report

“Out of 36 countries, the U.S. ranked 29 in enrollment rates for its 3- and 4-year-olds … 42% of 3-year-olds and 68% of 4-year-olds enrolled in early childhood or preschool programs in 2014 – far below the OECD average of 71% of 3-year-olds and 86% of 4-year-olds … The figures for the U.S. are nearly unchanged since 2005 … Affordable early childhood care has ballooned as a campaign issue recently as it’s become more and more expensive and as research builds regarding how impactful it can be in ensuring kids don’t fall behind.”
Read more …

As Economy Rebounds, State Funding For Higher Education Isn’t Bouncing Back

The Hechinger Report

“Higher ed funding remains stubbornly down since the beginning of the recession. Unlike after previous economic downturns, state spending on higher education has not bounced back as the economy rebounds. And in some states, a bigger and bigger share of what they do spend on public universities and colleges is going to such things as employee pensions, not instruction … More than seven years after … the end of the recession, states on average are spending 18% less per student on public higher education than they did in 2008 … This has helped push up by 33% the average annual published tuition at four-year colleges and universities.”
Read more …

Wall Street’s Latest Public Sector Rip-Off: Five Myths About Pay for Success


“Investment banks … have been aggressively promoting Pay for Success (also known as Social Impact Bonds) as a solution to intractable financial and political problems facing public education and other public services … By 2020, market size for impact investing will reach between $400 billion to $1 trillion … Pay for Success does not solve the historical failure to adequately fund public education or other social services … Because it costs more, Social Impact investing raises this debt burden while delaying it, thereby destabilizing the public system further. In this sense, Pay for Success is an elaborate form of public relations that makes a failure to address a public problem look like innovative action.”
Read more …

Soaring Student Debt Prompts Calls For Relief

The Wall Street Journal

“A tripling of student debt over the past decade to more than $1.3 trillion has unleashed a torrent of Washington lobbying from outside the education sector … Many industries argue that freeing up student debt, even for well-paid workers, would help the economy … The proposal with the most traction would allow employers to contribute up to $5,250 a year toward an employee’s student debt without it being taxed.
Read more …

Why The NAACP Moratorium On Charters Really Matters To Our Public Schools

The Huffington Post

Historian and university professor Yohuru Williams writes, “Advocates of charters attempt to dress up support for these schools as a matter of choice and thus consistent with the democratizing impulse … But they do so as part of an attempt to dismantle a well-funded and equitable system of public education open to all, which the NAACP fought hard to ensure … The Civil Rights Movement was about inclusivity, while those who appropriate its language to buttress corporate education reform do so largely in support of programs that promote exclusivity at the public’s expense.”
Read more …

Solutions To The Emerging Teacher Shortage Crisis Even Republicans Will Like

A new report is making big headlines for showing that public schools across the nation are experiencing severe problems with teacher shortages that are apt to develop into a “crisis” if left unaddressed.

The report from an education think tank called the Learning Policy Institute took off from last year’s widespread news stories that reported how schools were “struggling with shortages of teachers, particularly in math, science, and special education.”

Where this new report goes way beyond last year’s news stories is that it draws from a deep well of statistical validity, meticulous analysis, and wise counsel.

The report not only finds clear and credible evidence of teacher shortages; it provides a baseline definition of the term, identifies the factors driving the shortfalls, forecasts a continuing problem, and offers policy recommendations to shore up the existing teacher supply and attract new, well-qualified entrants.

Nevertheless, there are skeptics who remain unconvinced of the problem. Last year’s anecdotal reports on teacher shortages prompted harrumphs like this one in Forbes that argued it’s still “not clear … how large or prevalent the teacher shortage actually is.”

This year, many skeptics seem similarly unmoved. A reporter covering the LPI release for Education Week found an unconvinced source, Kate Walsh of the National Council on Teacher Quality, who claims, “Nobody has any national data that is justification for declaring a teacher shortage.”

I don’t think Walsh actually read the report, which indeed draws from several federal databases and numerous other quantitative studies and surveys.

Regardless of the evidence, studies finding deep and intractable problems in the teacher workforce always seem to draw the doubting crowd. Republicans, in particular, have always been resistant to the idea there is a teacher shortage. The reasons are somewhat mystifying (like why they hate passenger trains but have no problem flying on airplanes), because there are really very good reasons for Republicans and middle-of-the-roaders to embrace the reality of teacher shortages and press for solutions that are compatible with their values.

First, because Republicans are the party of business, solutions for teacher shortages should draw their interest since the problem is strongly tied to a tenant of business thinking: supply and demand.

As the LPI report explains, teacher shortages are driven by clear causes rooted in industry: a demand for teachers – as a result of efforts to return to pre-recession course offerings and class sizes and ever-increasing populations of students with specific kinds of learning needs – is outstripping supplies of teachers that have been diminished by declines in teacher preparation enrollments and high teacher attrition. As we Southerners are fond of saying, “It’s just that by-god simple.”

The problem of teacher shortages is also rooted in another element of business practice: distribution. As the LPI report explains, even if the supply of teachers increases, it may not help if those new and returning teachers aren’t available where they’re needed most, especially in schools serving low-income communities of color.

As the report states, “The major supports that were enacted in the 1960s and ʼ70s to underwrite preparation for teachers to go to high-need fields and high-need schools (under the National Defense and Education Act) ended in the 1980s, and have not been fully reinstated since then. While some federal grants are currently available, they are not designed to serve as an adequate incentive to candidates.”

Education policy leaders in Montgomery County Maryland and California, the report explains, have taken steps to successfully address that problem. These actions should be replicated elsewhere.

Here’s another aspect of the teacher shortage problem Republicans should love: It’s not just about money.

The number one factor negatively affecting the teacher supply is attrition, so the authors of the LPI report looked for the reasons why so many teachers are leaving their jobs.

What they found is that, contrary to popular notions, teachers aren’t leaving because they’re aging out of work or because they’re disgruntled with low pay. The largest portion of teachers leaving their jobs, 53 percent, does so voluntarily during their preretirement years. And only 18 percent of teachers leaving cite financial reasons as the main factor.

Instead, most teachers, 55 percent, leave their jobs due to “areas of dissatisfaction,” which “can range from physical conditions – such as class sizes, facilities, and classroom resources – to unhappiness with administrative practices – such as lack of support, classroom autonomy, or input to decisions – to policy issues, such as the effects of testing and accountability.”

Because teacher turnover is driven less by “student or teacher characteristics” and more by working circumstances, policy makers can make big positive changes by adding more administrative support, taking steps to improve the culture in schools, and giving teachers more time and opportunity to develop collegial relationships, collaborate with their peers, and have more decision-making input into school operations.

This is not to say the report ignores the impact salaries can have on teacher retention and recruitment. The authors cite examples from Connecticut and North Carolina where significant investment in higher teacher pay “solved perennial teacher shortages and created a strong supply of well-qualified teachers.”

(Interesting, North Carolina has since scaled back teacher compensation and is now among the worst states in “teacher attractiveness,” according to an interactive map that accompanies the report.)

But the most dramatic financial impact derived from addressing teacher shortages comes from the significant savings.

The report estimates that public schools waste more than $8 billion annually on replacement costs because of high teacher turnover.

“A comprehensive approach to reducing attrition,” the report states, “would effectively both lessen the demand for teacher hiring and save money that could be better spent on mentoring and other evidence-based approaches to supporting teacher development.”

Finally, we don’t have to wait for the federal government. Republicans should love that many efforts to address teacher shortages can happen at state and local levels of government.

The report offers three broad recommendations to address shortages through policy changes related to teacher compensation, distribution and, retention. These broad recommendations are broken down further into more focused efforts that could be applied at local levels. Only the fourth and final recommendation, to develop a national teacher supply market, would need to be carried out at the federal level.

Of course, the worst way to address the teacher shortage crisis is to lower the qualifications for instructors and reduce the quality of teaching.

Unfortunately, many states are taking that path. As Education Week recently reported, policy leaders and lawmakers in numerous states are following the advice from “conservatives and free-market lobbyists … to completely eliminate or scale back certification requirements, expand their Teach For America corps and other alternative routes into the profession, and allow superintendents to sidestep bargaining agreements.”

In Utah, schools can now hire teachers who have had no training whatsoever. In Wisconsin, lawmakers have proposed to let “anyone with s bachelor’s degree” teach core academic subjects in grades 6 – 12 and “any person with relevant experience – even a high school dropout“ teach other subjects in those grades.

In Maine and other states, lack of qualified teachers is prompting some school districts to turn to software for instruction, despite some studies showing computer-based instruction can have negative effects on student learning.

Once upon a time, the main reason to address teacher shortages and ensure an adequate supply of the most qualified teaching staff was because it would be what’s best for students.

But in today’s education policy world, driven mostly by financial austerity and ever more stringent demands for “accountability,” that reason no longer seems persuasive enough to spur action. Let’s hope these other reasons will.

9/15/2016 – Is Donald Trump The Charter School Industry’s Worst Nightmare?

THIS WEEK: Teacher Shortage Crisis … Wealth Gap In Schools … Limits On School Cops … Is Literacy A Right? … School Choice Guidance Needed


Is Donald Trump The Charter School Industry’s Worst Nightmare?

By Jeff Bryant

“In unveiling his education plan, the Republican candidate proposed a $20 billion federal block grant to allow states to give vouchers to low-income students to attend whatever school they want. The proposal is the most full-throated support for school choice ever issued by a presidential candidate in a general election campaign. It’s also an ill conceived, grandiose, and politically polarizing gesture that many charter school proponents feared most.”
Read more …


America Has A Teacher Shortage, And A New Study Says It’s Getting Worse

The Washington Post

“The U.S. is facing its first major teacher shortage since the 1990s … According to a new study … the shortfall is a result of increased demand for teachers as schools reinstate classes and programs axed during the Great Recession. It has been compounded by a dramatic decrease in the supply of new teachers entering the profession. Enrollment in teacher-preparation programs dropped … 35% … ‘U.S. classrooms were short approximately 60,000 teachers last year … Annual teacher shortages could increase to over 100,000 teachers by 2018 … Teacher attrition … remains high and is the single-biggest contributor to the shortage.”
Read more …

In Connecticut, A Wealth Gap Divides Neighboring Schools

The New York Times

“In Fairfield, a mostly white suburb where the median income is $120,000, 94% of students graduate from high school on time. In Bridgeport, the state’s most populous and one of its poorest cities, the graduation rate is 63% … Seemingly intractable contrasts like those last week led Judge Thomas G. Moukawsher to tell the state that it had 180 days in which to rethink almost its entire system of education … Across the country, school funding cases have often resulted in more money being funneled into poorer districts to help offset the effects of poverty on their students. That may well be the end result in Connecticut.”
Read more …

Obama Administration Pushes To Limit Police in Schools

U.S. News & World Report

“The Obama administration is pushing school districts to ensure that school discipline is being handled by trained educators, not by law enforcement officers … At any one time there are about 400 to 500 federally funded school resource officers nationwide. That’s out of the approximately 17,000 in place in schools around the country, or between 2 and 3% … The goal is to ensure that anyone who is in charge of discipline has the proper training, limits suspensions and expulsions and creates a more trusting environment between students and administrators.”
Read more …

Lawsuit Accuses Michigan Of Violating Detroit Students’ Rights


“A lawsuit filed on behalf of seven Detroit students on Tuesday accuses state officials of allowing high rates of illiteracy at several poorly functioning schools in the city, arguing it is a violation of the children’s constitutional rights … [It’s] the first federal case to argue that American children have a right to literacy under the U.S. Constitution. If the case is successful, it could result in court-mandated changes at some Detroit schools and encourage similar lawsuits in other parts of the country … The lawsuit, which seeks court approval to represent all students at the five schools in question, argued students had been denied their right to equal protection under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Read more …

Federal Report: Schools Need Clarity On Choice And Funding Issues

Education Week

“Officials often struggle to determine if students participating in school choice programs like vouchers and education savings accounts [ESAs] are receiving the ‘equitable services’ they are entitled to under federal law … The U.S. Department of Education has not provided guidance to states and districts on this issue … A majority of the vouchers and ESA programs have placed new requirements on participating private schools, such as entry-level requirements for teachers … Officials … in 4 states with such choice programs (Arizona, Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin) said those programs complicate their ability to provide required educational services to private school students.”
Read more …

Is Donald Trump The Charter School Industry’s Worst Nightmare?

Presidential candidate Donald Trump likely just handed the charter school industry the worst sort of favor.

In unveiling his education plan, the Republican candidate proposed a $20 billion federal block grant to allow states to give vouchers to low-income students to attend whatever school they want.

The proposal is the most full-throated support for school choice ever issued by a presidential candidate in a general election campaign. It’s also an ill conceived, grandiose, and politically polarizing gesture that many charter school proponents feared most.

In a recent op-ed in USA Today, two prominent proponents of charter schools – David Osborne of the neoliberal DC-based Progressive Policy Institute and Richard Whitmire, author of a laudatory biography of Michelle Rhee – warn of “two possible nightmares” that could befall the charter school industry during the presidential race. One nightmare is that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton allows “charters to drift from the Democratic agenda” by providing only nuanced or lukewarm support for the schools. The other nightmare is that Trump’s support for these schools “turns charters into a right-wing cause … that deep down only wants to fund vouchers.”

What the authors worry about seems to now be a certainty. Thanks to Trump’s proposed giveaway to these schools, the political left will quite probably regard conservative support for charters as an attempt to “gut public schools.”

By making his speech extolling the virtues of “school choice” at a charter school – and at this particular charter school – Trump firmly cemented charter schools, at least as they are currently conceived, firmly in the right wing political agenda.

First, Trump didn’t have to choose a charter school to make his pitch for school choice. He could have spoken at a genuine public school where the local community has embraced choice, such as a district magnet school or a school operated in a district “schools of choice” program.

It’s telling that the fact that many school districts already offer a form of choice within the public system doesn’t seem to interest him.

Also, he could have spoken at a private school that receives public taxpayer money, via vouchers, tax credits, or education savings accounts. That would at least have been more honest, since Trump’s likely intent is to direct public money to private pockets, like what happened with his fraudulent university and its ugly offspring.

(Perhaps Trump was reluctant to overtly endorse voucher programs because studies from Ohio, Louisiana, Indiana, and Wisconsin have shown students who use the vouchers to attend private schools actually perform worse on standardized tests than similar students who stay in public schools.)

Trump could also have chosen to appear at a charter school that represents the original intent of charters, which was to provide a school where teachers are primary decision makers and students come from a broad array of populations in the community.

But that’s not what Trump chose to do. As if to emphasize John Walton’s original intention to expand charter schools as a slippery slope toward universal privatization of public education, Trump chose a charter that represents in many ways what has become so problematic about these schools.

First, as a statement issued by left-leaning Progress Ohio explains, Trump chose to rail against the alleged failure of public schools at a charter school that is failing.

As the statement explains, the charter where Trump spoke, in Cleveland, Ohio, lags Cleveland public schools “on Overall Student Growth – a key indicator that measures students’ overall academic improvement.” On state assessment reports, the school earned a grade of “F” in growth, despite the fact the school receives more money per pupil than the average Cleveland school.

Worse still, the statement continues, the charter Trump visited is run by a for-profit company, Accel Schools Ohio, whose parent company is Panosophic. Panosophic is operated by Ron Packard, who formerly operated, according to an article posted by Alternet, K12 Inc., an all-online charter that “has been singled out as one of the biggest charter school boondoggles nationally.”

K12, Alternet reporter Steven Rosenfeld notes, has been repeatedly cited in studies for its subpar academic performance and has been subjected to state regulatory actions for alleged violations of “false claims, false advertising and unfair competition laws.”

Trump’s choice of Ohio for his speech is especially ironic. As Ohio based education blogger Jan Resseger writes, “I wonder if Donald Trump is aware that the lack of regulation of an out-of-control, for-profit charter school sector has, in Ohio, recently risen to the level of a scandal?”.

In one of her posts, she points to a recent report from a union baked charter watch dog that explains, in Ohio, “at least 108 of the 292 charter schools that have received federal CSP (Charter School Program) funding (37 percent) have either closed or never opened, totaling nearly $30 million. Of those that failed, at least 26 Ohio charter schools that received nearly $4 million in federal CSP funding apparently never even opened, and there are no available records to indicate that these public funds were returned.”

In another review of Trump’s speech, Washington Post education journalist and blogger Valerie Strauss points to a 2015 article in the Akron Beacon Journal whose observances of Ohio charter schools concludes, “No sector – not local governments, school districts, court systems, public universities or hospitals – misspends tax dollars like charter schools.”

How charter school proponents have responded to Trump’s proposal is telling. Instead of the well-coordinated, highly unified messaging we’re used to seeing from the charter school industry public relations machine, reactions have run the gamut from elated support, to tepid acceptance, to utter bewilderment.

The response to Trump’s address from the Clinton campaign was telling as well. In a briefing, campaign policy advisor Maya Harris likened Trump’s proposal to “his fraudulent ‘Trump University’” and denounced it as an effort to “gut nearly 30 percent of the federal education budget and turn it into private school vouchers [that] would decimate public schools.”

The danger, according to the statement, is the potential diversion of federal funds to “private or parochial schools.” What about the danger of sending funds to unregulated charters? There’s no hint of how the Clinton campaign stands on that. But neither is there a reassurance that support for charter schools is a potential point for consensus.

“In theory,” charter proponents Osborne and Whimire write, Trump and Clinton should agree on charters. Trump has given support for a version of school choice, and Clinton has at times been supportive of charter schools. But now it looks like the “bipartisan approach” the charter industry has relied on for years to cover up its true intent has been disrupted. And that’s the charter industry’s biggest nightmare of all.




9/8/2016 – Who Gains Most From School Choice?

THIS WEEK: Black Teachers Matter … Making Teachers Moonlight … Teacher Shortages Acute … How Charters End Afrocentric Education … How Charters Change Democrats


Who Gains Most From School Choice? Not Low-Income Students Of Color

By Jeff Bryant

“No doubt school choice will benefit some parents – just as any market-based system has some winners and some losers. But who really stands to gain most from choice and why? … To get a broad view on how the policy actually is working for parents, I talked with a school choice consultant.”
Read more …


Black Teachers Matter

Mother Jones

“Across the country, scores of schools have been closed, radically restructured, or replaced by charter schools. And in the process, the face of the teaching workforce has changed. In one of the most far-reaching consequences of the past decade’s wave of education reform, the nation has lost tens of thousands of experienced black teachers and principals … Many of these departures came as part of mass layoffs and closings in schools with low test scores, a policy promoted with federal and state dollars since 2002 … 26,000 African American teachers have disappeared from the nation’s public schools … All in the name of raising achievement among black students.”
Read more …

Teachers Are Working For Uber Just to Keep A Foothold In The Middle Class

The Nation

“Uber has promoted its teacher/driver initiative as an act of civic altruism … Yet … there’s a far more troubling reality … Teachers working in increasingly expensive locales … are forced into the lowest echelons of the gig economy … For Uber, the struggles of these economically challenged teachers represent a dual opportunity: a marketing coup as well as a ready labor force … Uber is hardly the first company to exploit the financial vulnerability of teachers – and the desperation of public schools more broadly – to score PR points.”
Read more …

Kids Going Back To School Won’t Be Greeted By Enough Teachers

Fast Company

“Wisconsin has struggled to attract new teachers after killing collective bargaining laws. New York’s Board of Regents chancellor characterized the state’s teacher shortage as ‘severe’ … Maine is facing the worst shortage of special ed teachers it can remember. To deal with teacher shortages, states like Kansas and Michigan have voted to lower licensing requirements … Texas, Oklahoma, and Illinois too. Some states and schools are considering ‘virtual’ classrooms or staffing … It’s clear that governments need to do something to make teaching a desirable profession once again.”
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The Afrocentric Education Crisis

American Prospect

“While the rise of charter schools may once have seemed a blessing to champions of Afrocentric education, it has brought with it a host of problems … Charters’ emphasis on standardized testing has jeopardized the standing and existence of numerous Afrocentric schools … Low-test scores have led to the closure of many Afrocentric charter schools … As many Afrocentric charter schools have closed down, other charter operators have begun to adopt some of their rhetoric in order to justify their own overwhelmingly black and brown student compositions … Large charter networks are ‘fooling the community with their rhetoric’ A school shouldn’t be considered ‘culturally specific’ merely because it creates a space for black students to learn together.
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How The Charter School Lobby Is Changing The Democratic Party

Los Angeles Times

Harold Meyerson writes, “At a time when Democrats and their party are, by virtually every index, moving left, a powerful center-right pressure group within the liberal universe has nonetheless sprung up … the charter school lobby … Charter advocates don’t need to win the high-visibility offices to prevail. By spending sufficiently to shift the composition of Democratic caucuses in legislatures, city councils, or school boards to the right … they can also impede unrelated progressive initiatives for greater environmental protections and worker rights … By making Democratic elected officials even more dependent on the mega-donations of the 1%, they make campaign finance reform all the harder to win.”
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Who Gains Most From School Choice? Not Low-Income Students Of Color

As parents and students reenter public schools for a new year, they’re hearing a lot about “school choice.”

Having “choice,” they’re told, lets parents send their kids to schools other than their assigned neighborhood school, such as a charter school, a magnet school, or, in some cases, even a school in another district.

No doubt school choice will benefit some parents – just as any market-based system has some winners and some losers. But who really stands to gain most from choice and why?

“We will rescue kids from failing schools by helping their parents send them to a safe school of their choice,” Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump declared at the Republican National Convention. Reporters at Education Week have noticed Trump’s campaign is “increasing focus” on the subject, and recently hired a policy expert, with a background in crafting education policy in Indiana, to “work on school choice issues.”

Although Trump is often known to stray from Republican orthodoxy, his positions on school choice are aligned completely with mainstream Republicans, such as Jeb Bush, who believe school choice creates a market-based education system, similar to commercial goods, where competition can improve product quality and consumer experience.

Democrats also pitch school choice as a policy prescription that will solve the problem of educating low-income black and brown children.

Specifically, this week The Atlantic has an interesting video report on how the Obama administration is advancing school choice as a solution to racially integrate public schools, and thereby give non-white school children access to the same education opportunities white students get.

Reporter Alia Wong explains how American schools are now more segregated than they were 50 years ago. Even though federally mandated integration policies, such as forced bussing of students to create more racially diverse schools, led to substantially better outcomes for all students in general, the nation has broadly retreated from that policy, with the complicity of “decades” of federal leadership.

However, according to Wong, US Secretary of Education John King has now “taken a firm stand on integrating schools” by backing any and all local efforts that make it easier for parents of black and brown students to send their children to schools outside their neighborhood where white kids go to school. This thinking also assumes there will be white parents who want a more diverse school environment and will seek out schools with more non-white students, even though research generally refutes this assumption.

Wong takes a skeptical look at how such a system is working in Washington, DC – a choice district where nearly 44 percent of the students attend charters – and comes away unconvinced of the Secretary’s theory.

Her skepticism is merited. A recent policy brief from the National Education Policy Center examines the research studies of school choice programs and finds, “The overall body of the research literature documents an unsettling degree of segregation – particularly in charter schools – by race and ethnicity, as well as by poverty, special needs, and English-learner status.”

But most choice programs are still relatively new, with the exception of a community such as Milwaukee, which has had a choice program for nearly 30 years. So could it be that the problem with choice isn’t the idea itself but the way choice is being implemented?

To answer that question, I recently looked at how choice operates in the city of Denver, which has put into place a school choice program that has been praised by choice advocates and Beltway think tanks as one of, if not the, best in the nation.

To get a broad view on how the policy actually is working for parents, I talked with a school choice consultant who serves predominantly families living in the district.

Laura Barr has operated her school choice consultancy for several years. Business is good. Her thriving practice has five employees and frequently contracts with various specialists. Her fee scale varies depending on the needs of the family and the time pressures involved, but charges can range as high as $2,750, she tells me in a phone conversation.

She got the idea of opening her business by “listening to parents stress about the choice process – literally hundreds of mommies were having difficulties with the system.”

Clients come to her, she says, because they really care about their children’s education but don’t understand all the options and the buzzwords that are used in describing various education practices.” Some families are relocating to Denver from other parts of the country, or other parts of the world, and may have their employers covering the costs of her services. Others, she says, simply want whatever “edge up they can get.”

She acknowledges, “Some of the best schools are really hard to get into.”

What about parents in Northeast Denver, an area generally populated with low-income families of color? “If anyone from Northeast Denver tries to get into a popular school in another part of town for the fall semester next year, they’re going to have a hard time,” she replies.

“It’s just kind of segregated,” she observes about the city’s school system. She recalls at least one white family wanting their child to go to a school “in the hood,” as she puts it. But many more white families are apt to want a gifted and talented or other kind of specialized program. “That’s another form of segregation,” she observes. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that.”

Barr contends the ultimate goal of creating more school choice is to transform the system to where universal access ensures quality schools for all children. Why wasn’t the “old way” of doing school providing that? “Any school ought to be able to serve every kid,” she believes, “but there’s not enough training and resources in the schools to do that.”

Certainly, you can’t criticize parents for wanting to navigate to the best of their abilities any system of education, whether it’s based on choice or not. But it’s hard to see how a system based on school choice – that so easily accentuates the advantages of the privileged – is going to benefit the whole community, especially those who are the most chronically under-served.




9/1/2016 – New Poll Finds Public Differs Sharply With Education Policies

THIS WEEK: Charters Are Not Public … Bounty Put On John Oliver … The Most Segregated Schools … School Spankings Widespread … Progress On Education Inequality


New Poll Finds Public Differs Sharply With Education Policies Emphasizing School Closures And Fiscal Austerity

By Jeff Bryant

“The new poll … has some startling findings that reveal how out of whack current education policy is from the prevailing opinions in the public. On topics that have been points of emphasis in the current education policy agenda, you’ll find public opinion that is sometimes starkly opposed or at least deeply divided or uncertain. On issues that seem especially important to Americans, you’ll notice either silence or indecision from policy leaders.”
Read more …


National Labor Relations Board Decides Charter Schools Are Private Corporations, Not Public Schools

The Washington Post

“As far as federal labor law is concerned … charter schools are not public schools but private corporations … Charters … supplant public schools, which are run by elected officials, with nonprofit and for-profit corporations that are run by unelected boards that are unaccountable to voters … Charter schools are still new … and courts and regulatory agencies are still wrestling with whether, and when, they should be considered private or public institutions … Charter advocates use those gray areas to their advantage..”
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A $100,000 Prize To Charter School That Best Counters Comic John Oliver’s Attack

Atlanta Journal & Constitution

“Comic John Oliver’s blistering monologue about charter schools that rip off students and taxpayers continues to rankle advocates of the popular education model … Now, it has inspired a contest for the best video rebuttal to the comic’s rant … ‘The Center for Education Reform … has launched a contest offering $100,000 to the charter school that produces the best video showing the value of charter schools to students, teachers and communities.’”
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The Most Segregating School-District Borders In America

The Atlantic

“A new report … ranked the country’s top 50 segregating school-district borders. More than 60% of these borders are in Rust Belt cities in upstate New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, eastern Wisconsin, and Illinois, which have suffered from patterns of disinvestment similar to those in Detroit … Research shows that students coming from profound disadvantage need even more resources from schools than their wealthier peers to achieve equal outcomes … In 1974, the U.S. Supreme Court heard … ruled that integration efforts were only permissible within school districts, not between them. That helped turn district borders across the U.S. into unbreakable … economic divides between school systems … a pattern encouraged by the property-tax-based school finance system.”
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Corporal Punishment Use Found In Schools in 21 States

Education Week

“More than 109,000 students were paddled, swatted, or otherwise physically punished in U.S. classrooms in 2013-14 … Corporal punishment stands out for the virtual nonexistence of training or detailed procedures on how to paddle children … The practice can leave students more vulnerable to injury and districts at greater risk of expensive lawsuits … Nationwide, students eligible for school meal programs – a proxy for low-income status – were more likely to attend schools that use corporal punishment than students who don’t qualify.”
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The Good News About Educational Inequality

The New York Times

“The enormous gap in academic performance between high- and low-income children has begun to narrow. Children entering kindergarten today are more equally prepared than they were in the late 1990s … The gap in school readiness narrowed because of relatively rapid improvements in the skills of low-income children, not because the skills of children from high-income families declined … It is unlikely, however, that preschool enrollment is the primary explanation. Although more poor children today attend preschool than in the 1990s … We suspect that in part this happened because of the widespread diffusion of a single powerful idea: that the first few years of a child’s life are the most consequential for cognitive development.
Read more …

New Poll Finds Public Differs Sharply With Education Policies Emphasizing School Closures And Fiscal Austerity

The nation’s increasingly polarized political divide is often described as a clash between a right and a left, but in the education policy arena, it’s increasingly clear the clash is between a bottom and a top.

That’s a conclusion you should come away with after viewing the results from the 48th annual PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools.

The new poll, the most recent of the longest continuously running survey of American attitudes toward public education, has some startling findings that reveal how out of whack current education policy is from the prevailing opinions in the public.

On topics that have been points of emphasis in the current education policy agenda, you’ll find public opinion that is sometimes starkly opposed or at least deeply divided or uncertain. On issues that seem especially important to Americans, you’ll notice either silence or indecision from policy leaders.

For instance, for years there’s been a drumbeat coming from politicians and policy leaders – Democrats and Republicans alike – to deal with schools with chronically poor results on standardized tests by shutting them down. Yet, according to the poll results, “Americans overwhelmingly prefer trying to improve failing public schools than closing them; the 70-point margin on this question is the largest of any in the survey.”

“This finding, perhaps more than any other, exemplifies the divide between the reform agenda of the past 16 years and the actual desires of the American public,” writes Joshua Starr, CEO of PDK International, who oversaw the survey.

Diving deeper into the data, you find differences of opinion on how to deal with struggling schools – principally, whether to keep the current staff or replace them, whether or not to provide the schools with more resources – with splits in opinion often correlated to demographics such as age, political party affiliation, and suburban, urban, and rural.

Yet, the simplicity of closing schools is what has appealed to education policy leaders. As Joan Richardson, editor-in-chief of The Kappan, PDK’s magazine, writes, “The number of schools that have closed in recent years is staggering. By one estimate, 70 large or mid-sized cities closed schools over the past decade, averaging 11 buildings per district. The number, of course, is far higher in some places. In Detroit, for example, more than 200 public schools have closed since 2000 because of rapidly declining enrollment. Chicago closed more than 40 buildings in the early 2000s and another 50 schools in 2013 in what was said to be the single largest mass closing in the country. New York City alone closed 140 schools since 2002.”

Also, public opposition to school closures clashes with the policy elite’s new infatuation with “school choice” and charter schools. The whole idea of school choice and the rollout of more charter schools is based on the market-based principle of making schools compete on the basis of test scores. As the lowest-performing schools are revealed to the market, parents are expected to “vote with their feet” (actually, with their access to reliable information and reasonable transportation) and choose the better-performing schools.

In the market-based model of school choice, school closures are a feature, not a bug, in the truest sense of the phrase. Leading charter school advocates tell us, in fact, that closing charters and interrupting more children’s education are really good things. According to reports from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, the number of charter school closures continues to increase every year. Advocates for these schools say the prevalence of their closures is “tough, necessary medicine.”

Indeed, charter school students and parents often protest any plans to close their schools, just as vehemently as public school parents protest when they learn their schools will be closed or replaced by charters. So there’s little doubt the popularity of the market-based model favored by many education policy elites will continue to clash with public opinion.

On other important education topics, the PDK poll finds the American public supports policy directions that education policy leaders have been near silent on, or even staunchly in opposition to.

For instance, on the issue of funding, according to the poll, for the 15th consecutive year, Americans say lack of funding is the No. 1 problem confronting local schools. On an open-response question, that included many other options, lack of funding was mentioned by 19 percent of respondents, significantly outpacing all the other choices, none of which scored in double-digits of percentage.

Also, according to the poll, a clear majority of respondents – 53 to 47 percent – support raising local property taxes to help improve their community’s public schools. Again, there are differences of opinion, often correlated to demographics and attitudes toward schools, but the general favorability toward funding schools clashes with the obvious lack of action at the leadership level to provide more money for schools.

“The economic recovery hasn’t reached America’s schools,” reports an article at the FiveThirtyEight blogsite, which points out that while “much of the debate over education in recent years, including on the campaign trail, has focused on expanding access to college and preschool,” the subject of “adequate funding for the years in between” has been mostly ignored.

More recent data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities present a troubling situation for schools in the year ahead, with 25 states still providing less funding to schools than in 2008 and local funding to schools down in 31 states. With funding for school construction and staffing showing downward trends, the blogpost concludes, “Even as education becomes increasingly important for success in today’s skill-based, global economy, many schools this year will have to serve more students with fewer resources.”

Instead of the continued austerity, according to the PDK poll, Americans want to see new tax money for schools spent on teachers (34 percent), including hiring more teachers or raising teacher salaries, or spending more money on supplies or technology (17 percent) or for infrastructure improvements and building new schools (8 percent).

For sure, the PDK poll finds there are plenty of education issues where the pubic seems deeply divided or where opinion remains muddled.

As many news outlets report, the poll finds that Americans are not the least bit united on what the purpose of education is – whether the focus should be on preparing students for work, preparing them for citizenship, or preparing them academically.

Americans continue to give schools in general relatively low marks, while rating schools in their own communities relatively high. And they continue to be deeply divided on how to govern charter schools.

But what’s completely clear is that education policies that have been mandated from Washington DC and state capitals are mostly at odds with the opinions of ordinary Americans.

Of course, real leadership in the public sphere sometimes means clashing with pervasive public opinion. That’s how advances in education coming from racial desegregation and the inclusion of Americans with disabilities into the school community happened. But in an era where big money from the wealthy increasingly fuels political campaigns and policy shops, it’s more important to highlight this stark divide between what Americans say they want from education policies versus what they get.