Education Opportunity Network

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1/11/2018 – Why America’s School Funding Crisis Is A Race And Gender Justice Issue

THIS WEEK: Teacher Shortage Crisis … Vouchers Discriminate … Child Health Imperiled … Rural Schools Hurting … DeVos Harms College Students


Why America’s School Funding Crisis Is A Race And Gender Justice Issue

By Jeff Bryant

“At a time when wildly popular hashtag-driven campaigns are whipping up intense public fervor for the rights of black lives and women, now might be a good time to address how nonwhite children and women are being treated in our public school system.”
Read more …


As Teacher Shortages Plague Every State, Some Take Action


“All 50 states began the current school year short on teachers. And schools nationwide still are scrambling to fill positions in a range of subjects … Districts that can’t find a qualified teacher may stop offering a certain class or hire a rookie … Lawmakers in several states took action … States that have sought to increase the supply of teachers by changing their licensure rules to make it easier for people who didn’t complete a traditional teacher preparation program to enter the classroom … Other states have tried to increase the supply of teachers by making education degrees less expensive or shortening the time required to get one … Some states … are raising teacher salaries.”
Read more …

These Schools Get Millions Of Tax Dollars To Discriminate Against LGBTQ Students


“[Of the] private schools that receive taxpayer dollars through voucher or tax credit programs… at least 14% of religious schools take an active stance against LGBTQ staff and students. Some of these schools have policies on their websites generally broadcasting their opposition to same-sex marriage or even stating their belief that homosexuality is a sin on par with bestiality. Others have harsher policies … Many more of these schools belong to larger churches that preach anti-LGBTQ sentiment … Since President Donald Trump and his secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, have expressed the desire to use federal dollars to increase private school choice, it’s worth closely examining which students are served and which are not.”
Read more …

It’s Been 100 Days Since CHIP Funding Expired


“Congress let the funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program expire … that covers 9 million American children … Short-term CHIP extension that passed in December, which was supposed to last through March, could actually only guarantee the program would stay funded through January 19 … The price tag for extending CHIP for 5 years has shrunk dramatically. The CBO estimated the five-year extension Congress is considering now costs only $800 million, down from $8.3 billion … If Congress continues to leave CHIP unfunded, families have basically two options: enroll in ACA coverage or become uninsured. Health care could become unaffordable for millions of families, and they could be forced to skip needed appointments and treatments.”
Read more …

America’s Rural Schools Are Hurting And Wisconsin Shows Why

The Progressive

“Rural communities, already facing dying main streets, now contend with reduced services and eliminated public sector jobs that once anchored their towns. Students from rural school districts are especially struggling … Left behind are shrinking rural school districts, struggling to serve some of the state’s poorest children while relying on funding policies that place them further and further … The general policy responses of ‘choice’ and ‘flexibility,’ hurt rural America in uniquely damaging ways … As rural schools … reel in the wake of continued cuts … our political leaders seem intent on imposing more ‘quick and easy’ solutions. But the answer is … increased investment in these communities.”
Read more …

Betsy DeVos Harms Higher Ed More Than K-12 In 2017


Jeff Bryant writes, “The big surprise at the end of 2017 is that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been arguably worse for higher education than she has been for K-12… While protestors have dogged DeVos across the country to attack her support of ‘school choice’ and call her out for neglecting the civil rights of K-12 students, she has been far more effective at gutting regulations protecting the rights of college students and college student loan borrowers … These developments would seem to indicate that DeVos is much less a zealous advocate for a cause she personally espouses than she is a surrogate for the Republican party and its donors and lobbyists.”
Read more …

Why America’s School Funding Crisis Is A Race And Gender Justice Issue

Two news stories that recently went viral tell an important story about America today and the nation’s misbegotten values.

The first image comes from Baltimore, Maryland, where students and teachers recently had to wear coats, gloves, and blankets in classrooms because their schools weren’t adequately heated for winter weather. Pipes froze and burst and boilers broke down. About a third of schools were initially affected, and when an intense winter storm sent temperatures plunging further, the city had to close all schools.

The second image is a video from Vermillion Parish, Louisiana, showing a school teacher who politely questioned her school board about teacher pay and working conditions was escorted out of the meeting by an armed guard and then thrown to the floor, handcuffed, taken into police custody, and charged with a crime.

What each of these images has in common is a story about money and priorities.

In a nation that can afford to give businesses a $2.6 trillion tax cut and spend at least $4 trillion on endless wars in the Middle East, we can’t seem to be able to guarantee students that their classrooms will be heated nor promise teachers that they can depend on decent wages and reasonable working conditions.

That’s shameful for sure. But what these two images also convey is that the targets for the systemic abuse are blatantly selective.

Look closely at the images from Baltimore and you’ll see the skin colors of the school children are generally not white. Eighty percent of Baltimore city schools students are black, 10 percent are Latino, and only 9 percent are white.

Watch the video from Louisiana and you can’t help but notice the autocratic board members are predominantly male while the teacher and her colleagues speaking out in her support are mostly female

At a time when wildly popular hashtag-driven campaigns are whipping up intense public fervor for the rights of black lives and women, now might be a good time to address how nonwhite children and women are being treated in our public school system.

It’s About Race

It’s neither a mischaracterization or an exaggeration to point to the unheated Baltimore classrooms and claim their conditions are a national concern.

“Public school buildings are falling apart, and students are suffering for it,” reads the headline of a recent article in The Washington Post. The reporter, freelance journalist Rachel Cohen, points to a study way back in the 1990s that told us millions of students attended schools with structural problems, and thousands of students were in buildings with poor air quality. A more recent study by the American Society of Civil Engineers gave public schools a “D+” grade on it’s A-F national report card on the conditions of public school buildings. And a 2016 report estimated, “In total, the nation is underspending on school facilities by $46 billion — an annual shortfall of 32 percent.”

Not only is the problem national in scope, but as Cohen points out, “These problems disproportionately affect poor communities,” especially in older cities, where schools tend to be 60 to 70 years old. “Low-wealth jurisdictions such as Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Detroit face far greater challenges borrowing money and accessing capital investment,” she writes, “making it even harder to address needed repairs. And when repairs are deferred, the costs increase. As a result, students in affluent communities can enjoy higher-quality school buildings than those in lower-income districts.”

The blatant inequity of school facilities funding extends beyond buildings to programs and personnel.

A 2011 report from the federal government found, “More than 40 percent of low-income schools don’t get a fair share of state and local funds.” Consequently, as a more recent article from The Atlantic reports, “High-poverty districts spend 15.6 percent less per student than low-poverty districts do,” which translates to “fewer guidance counselors, tutors, and psychologists, lower-paid teachers, more dilapidated facilities, and bigger class sizes than wealthier districts.”

And Gender

In a district like Vermillion Parish, Louisiana, where the teacher, Deyshia Hargrave, was forcibly ejected from a board meeting, lack of funding adversely affects teachers’ working conditions too.

Listen closely to what Hargrave said, and you’ll hear her complaints are very specific. As Education Week reports, Hargrave questioned why the board increased the salary of the current superintendent by $38,000 while teachers and other district employees remained underpaid and overworked. “The teachers of this parish have not received a raise in ten years,” the local teachers’ union reports, and Hargrave tells the board her class sizes have swollen from 21 students to 29.

Press accounts of the incident differ on whether or not board president Anthony Fontana signaled for the officer to escort Hargrave out, and there’s so far been no explanation for why the officer threw Hargrave to the floor once they entered a hallway, but Fontana stated he was “100 percent” behind the officer’s actions, even though the video convinced city and board attorneys Hargrave was completely innocent of wrong doing and deserved no formal charges.

The video sparked widespread outrage, including some threatening violence against the board, according to USA Today. But one observation worth noting, by female board member Laura LeBeouf, was that, “What happened here tonight – the way the females are treated in Vermillion Parish … I have never seen a man removed from this room.” USA Today quotes LeBeouf saying, “When [Hargrave] realized she had to get out, she picked up her purse and walked out … Women in this parish are not getting the same treatment.”

It’s no secret that women across America have to deal with lower pay than men, for doing the same job, and women are vastly under-represented in political and business leadership.

This is especially true in public education where the vast majority of classroom teachers are female, while administration is dominated by males, and teachers receive salaries that are much lower than what other professionals with similar levels of education earn.

Not an ‘Education Only’ Issue

The problems that plague student learning conditions and teacher working conditions have become chronic and are growing more acute. But the issue shouldn’t be siloed as an “education only” concern.

This is not to say there aren’t important education ramifications at stake. Research consistently shows there is a direct correlation between what we spend on schools to how well our students perform on achievement tests and other measures. In states that were forced by court order to increase education spending, research shows students experienced gains in student achievement. Studies also show that higher teacher salaries tend to correlate with better student outcomes. And smaller class size reductions often correlate with improvements in student achievement.

But issues related to school funding should not be confined to dry statistical analysis but deserve also to be lifted to the higher ground of what is moral and just. If white male leaders need to be challenged about their views on race and gender, they also must be required to address the worsening conditions in our public schools and the plight of our classroom teachers.

12/21/2017 – Republican Tax Plan Opens Backdoor To Federally-Supported School Vouchers

THIS WEEK: Ending Internet Equity … Pushing Students Into Special Ed … Driving Out Black Children … #MeToo In Schools … Portfolio Model Flawed


Republican Tax Plan Opens Backdoor To Federally-Supported School Vouchers

By Jeff Bryant

“Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has insisted that her lifelong support for school vouchers and other forms of school privatization does not mean the Trump administration will ‘mandate’ these ‘school choice’ policies, but her Republican friends in Congress put into their tax plan new provisions that will have essentially the same impact as a federally-supported school voucher program and will redirect millions of dollars from public treasuries to private schools.'”
Read more …


From Neutrality To Inequality: Why The FCC Is Dismantling Equal Access And What It Could Mean For Education


“Faculty members who teach face-to-face may imagine that last week’s vote by the Federal Communications Commission to dismantle net neutrality doesn’t touch them … Unfortunately, they’re mistaken … Institutions offering online programs may be required to pay ISPs a premium … It’s possible that universities will be slapped with extra charges for using their relatively new cloud-based storage and services … Institutions that rely on low-cost connections may see their online content moved to a slow lane … Under the previous FCC rules, ISPs were prohibited from charging more in rural areas, but that protection has been removed … As web costs go up for colleges, the institutions may pass them along to the last in line – the nation’s students.”
Read more …

Education Department Seeks Rollback Of Special Education Racial-Disparity Rule

Education Week

“The U.S. Department of Education is proposing a two-year delay of a rule that would require states to take a stricter approach to identifying whether their districts have wide racial or ethnic disparities in special education … Under the rule, states still have some flexibility, but would have to use a ‘reasonable’ threshold of disproportionality … The Education Department is not sure how many districts will ultimately be affected. The department is in the process of … efforts throughout the government to ‘lower regulatory burdens on the American people,’ as President Donald Trump wrote in an executive order.”
Read more …

Thousands Of Black Students Leave Chicago For Other Segregated Districts

Chicago Reporter

“Chicago … is pushing out poor black families. In less than two decades, Chicago lost one-quarter of its black population, or more than 250,000 people … The school district, which was majority black for half a century, is on pace to become majority Latino … Many of the families fleeing the poorest pockets of Chicago venture no farther than the south suburbs or northwest Indiana. And their children end up in cash-strapped segregated schools like the ones they left behind … Often, the receiving school districts … were chronically underfunded. Research shows poor black students in Illinois perform worse academically in such districts … Chicago… closed neighborhood schools and mental health clinics; failed to rebuild public housing, dispersing thousands of poor black families across the region, and inadequately responded to gun violence, unemployment and foreclosures in black communities.”
Read more …

What Does #MeToo Mean For Schools After The Rollback Of Title IX?

The Progressive

“President Donald Trump … seems to do everything in his authority to enable sexual harassment, from endorsing candidate [Roy] Moore to reversing a rule that forbid federal contractors from keeping cases of sexual harassment secret. The Trump Administration’s promise to rollback of Title IX provisions for campus sexual assault victims fits right in line. This first comprehensive federal law to prohibit sex discrimination in schools protected not only college students but their younger peers in public K-12 schools too … Schools must step up to the fill the gap … Comprehensive sex education is not only essential to gender equality and school safety, but is foundational to an equal education for all.”
Read more …

A Former Superintendent Wonders: What’s Missing From The Discussion About The Portfolio Model?


Joshua Starr writes, “School reforms of the last two decades have pursued mainly structural solutions to instructional problems … We need to focus on the substance of what goes on in schools, not just the formal structures … It’s unhelpful for supporters of portfolio schools to make one-sided attacks on the unions, ignoring the essential protections they’ve given to generations of teachers … Leaders of that movement [should] be a little more humble, a lot more willing to adapt themselves to the values and wishes of community members, much less eager to prescribe structural solutions … for complex problems, and much more mindful of the need to ground school improvement in the everyday work of teaching and learning.”
Read more …

Editorial Note

EON is taking a break over the holidays. Watch for the next edition in your in-box on January 11.

Republican Tax Plan Opens Backdoor To Federally-Supported School Vouchers

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has insisted that her lifelong support for school vouchers and other forms of school privatization does not mean the Trump administration will “mandate” these “school choice” policies, but her Republican friends in Congress put into their tax plan new provisions that will have essentially the same impact as a federally-supported school voucher program and will redirect millions of dollars from public treasuries to private schools.

Republicans and DeVos know that school vouchers are generally unpopular with voters and have been voted down at the ballot box every time they’ve been attempted through referendum. Betsy DeVos and her husband blew millions in funding an attempt to pass a school vouchers measure in their home state of Michigan, only to see it go down to defeat.

Nevertheless, Congress, with DeVos’s blessing, is ramping up federal support for vouchers, with the only difference being, whereas vouchers distribute public education funds directly to parents to pay for private schools, these new schemes bring K-12 school vouchers in through the backdoor by using the tax code.

What Congress Did

One voucher-like scheme Republicans added to the tax code allows parents who have tax-free 529 college savings accounts to use that money – up to $10,000 a year per child – to pay for private K-12 school expenses, including tuition at religious schools.

This gives wealthy families – many who can already afford private school tuition – an option to have tax-free distributions to pay for K-12 expenses every year too.

Further, in the 33 states with tax deductions and credits to incentivize 529 savings, the extension lets private school families avoid state taxes too.

Kathryn Flynn at Forbes explains how this would work in a high-tax state like New York where up to $10,000 in 529 contributions is deductible from taxable income. “By depositing $10,000 to pay for a year of private school,” she writes, “a family with an annual income of $200,000 would see an upfront state tax savings of $665, which can be reinvested in the plan to grow tax-free.”

So while wealthy parents get a double dipping effect on their tax savings from this 529 extension, the rest of us bear the full tax burden of funding public schools for the vast majority of children. And more funds that could have gone to paying for public schools get redirected to private schools instead – just like with vouchers.

Profiting From ‘Donations’

Another voucher-like provision Republicans put into the tax code will not have as much immediate impact as the 529 extension but may have much more negative and wide-reaching effects long-term.

As an analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy explains, a loophole added to the tax bill in conference “reward[s] some of the nation’s wealthiest individuals with a strategy for padding their own bank accounts by ‘donating’ to support private K-12 schools.”

The loophole takes advantage of education tax-credit programs set up in many states. Education tax credit programs use a third party – often called a “scholarship granting organization” (SGO) – that is set up as a nonprofit by the state or by financial groups connected to the private school industry. Tax credits are issued by the state to private individuals, businesses, or corporations that make donations to the SGO. The money from the SGO is distributed to selected parents to use for private school tuition.

In eighteen states, education tax-credits programs return 50 percent or more, in tax savings, of what the donor gave. In eight of those states, the tax credits return 100 percent of the amount donated. High-income taxpayers taking advantages of these tax-credit programs can also take a federal charitable tax deduction on top of that. So depending on their tax situations, wealthy people can actually make a profit off their “donations” to private schools.

What Republicans did in their tax plan incentivizes more wealthy people to take advantage of this scheme. By capping state and local tax deductions to $10,000, the new tax legislation dramatically increases the attractiveness of giving to education tax-credit programs.

“The profits that could be generated by ‘donating’ would grow in most states,” ITEP finds, as well as the number of wealthy taxpayers eligible to take advantage of the tax advantages.

According to ITEP’s analysis, wealthy folks in at least ten states – Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia – will find it more lucrative to invest in education tax-credit programs than to donate to other charities.

Examples ITEP cites include high-income earners in Arizona, Georgia, Montana, and South Carolina being able to collect yearly profits as high as 37 percent of the amount donated, meaning donating $1 million to an education tax-credit programs would yield $1.37 million in tax savings.

And in the meantime, money that could have gone to paying taxes for public education gets redirected to private schools – just like vouchers.

Spreading Bad Education

It bears mentioning that these backdoor methods for funding school vouchers through the federal tax code not only rob public education of much needed funds; they also lead to generally bad education results

School vouchers have a generally lousy track record in benefiting individual students and creating systemic improvement.

Recent studies conducted in Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio, and Washington D.C. found students who use voucher programs are more apt to exhibit declines in academic achievement. Other studies in Indiana and Louisiana found the initial dips in achievement were temporary and students tended to catch up to their public-school peers.

But other studies of long-standing voucher programs have found they also pose serious risks to public education systems, including increased school segregation, additional administrative costs, more reliance on inexperienced teachers, and greater likelihood students who are the most costly and difficult to educate will be turned away or pushed out by private schools that are not obligated to serve all students.

So on balance, there’s simply no good argument for throwing new money and program administration at something like schools vouchers that have little to no prospects of producing widespread higher achievement but considerable risks of introducing negative results.

What’s also alarming is that vouchers and voucher-like schemes are eroding the nation’s historical separation between church and state and providing public funding of religious education that indoctrinates students in ideological, ahistorical, and nonfactual curriculum under-written by religiously fundamentalist institutions.

A Recent analysis by HuffPo education reporters found that 75 percent of voucher schools across the country that get taxpayer funds are religious schools, and 33 percent of the non-Catholic Christian schools use textbooks that teach, among other bizarre notions, that Satan created psychology, Manifest Destiny was about “spreading the gospel,” and slavery was “black immigration.”

It also bears mentioning that diverting funds from public schools to private institutions harms our children’s education when schools are forced to respond to the lost money by cutting staff and programs.

Shoe, Meet Other Foot

To be fair, Democrats have taken backdoors to push unpopular education policies as well.

Recall the fury Republicans expressed at the Obama administration’s efforts to encourage states to adopt Common Core Standards and other policy imperatives in order to receive federal grant money from Race to the Top and other education programs.

Complaints that the Obama administration was “overstepping” its authority and “dictating” education policies were countered by Education Secretary Arne Duncan insisting he hadn’t mandated anything at all and that states had adopted the new measures voluntarily.

Democrats in Congress knew that was not really the case but largely remained silent.

Now that Republicans are the ones leading the bait-and-switch game, however, there’s an added irony to the debate when the supposed upholders of “states’ rights” are the ones pushing federal incentives.

Betsy Devos’s current response to this situation is to put on her “radar screen” even more efforts to push school vouchers into federal statutes. And this time, with the backdoor to schools vouchers now wide open, we should take her at her word.

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


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 …


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


“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.”
Read more …

Voucher Schools Championed By Betsy DeVos Can Teach Whatever They Want. Turns Out They Teach Lies.


“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.”
Read more …

A ‘Portfolio’ Of Schools? How A Nationwide Effort To Disrupt Urban School Districts Is Gaining Traction


“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.”
Read more …

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.”
Read more …

Does Preschool Pay Off? Tulsa Says Yes


“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.”
Read more …

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


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 …


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.”
Read more …

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.”
Read more …

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


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


“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.”
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Gutting Wisconsin Teachers Unions Hurt Students, Study Finds


“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.'”
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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.”
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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.