THE INDIANA CONNECTION
More possibilities for U.S. Secretary of Education…
Tony Bennett left Indiana, after losing his race for Superintendent of Public Instruction to Glenda Ritz, and went to work as the Education Commissioner in Florida. He resigned after evidence surfaced that he colluded with charter school operators to change school ratings in favor of the privately run schools. He also was charged with misusing public resources for political purposes…something he and other Republicans consistently blamed teachers for doing during the campaign.
If he’s appointed U.S. Secretary of Education we can be sure that he will support more privatization. How would he differ from recent Secretaries of Education? While he is no friend to public education, Bennett, if selected, would join Terrell Bell and Rod Paige as the only Secretaries of Education to have actually spent time teaching in America’s K-12 public schools.
Messer has never set foot in a classroom other than as a student, but has been active in “reform” groups in Indiana, most notably, Hoosiers for Economic Growth and School Choice Indiana. He favors charter and private school vouchers over public education.
These two, along with names previously mentioned, Ben Carson and Williamson Evers, would do their best to destroy the public schools in America in favor of private school vouchers and charter schools.
Indiana’s former school’s chief Tony Bennett and U.S. Rep. Luke Messer are two names swirling around Washington, D.C. as possible picks by President-elect Donald Trump to be the Secretary of Education, according to journalists and policy advisors at a forum Monday.
The new Superintendent-elect in Indiana claims to be against vouchers, too much testing, and the A-F grading system. During the election Jennifer McCormick denied that the money she got from former Tony Bennett supporters would determine her policies, and that, as a Republican, she can convince Republican legislators to favor public school needs over private schools and vouchers.
Outgoing Superintendent, Glenda Ritz, spent her tumultuous four years in office working against the Republican attack on public education. She fought against the A-F grading system, privatization, the junk-science behind teacher evaluation schemes, and the misuse and overuse of testing, and was punished by the Vice-President-elect and the legislature. Now that McCormick has defeated Ritz, we’ll see if she is willing and able to stand up to the piles of money pouring into legislative campaign coffers from pro-privatization organizations.
She’s skeptical of the money Indiana spends on private school vouchers. She doesn’t like that schools are rated based on a single A-F grade. And on the campaign trail, she distanced herself from Tony Bennett, the GOP schools chief who lost to Ritz in 2012 and left a controversial legacy that included tying teacher pay and school ratings to standardized test scores.
NO EXPERIENCE. NO CLUE.
President-elect Trump obviously knows very little about public education, and what he knows has been twisted by “reformers” and the erroneous “common knowledge.” For example, he believes that “our students perform near the bottom of the pack for major large advanced countries.” This is demonstrably false.
As a group, American students scored “average” among OECD nations in Reading and Science, and “below average” in math. In total score the United States did better than 49% of other countries among the 61 nations and 4 (Chinese) cities who administered the PISA…not the best score in the world, but definitely not “the bottom of the pack.”
When student social class is taken into account, the U.S. does a lot better. Nearly all the OECD countries have lower child poverty rates than the U.S. and poverty is what drives down test scores. When low poverty American students are compared with low poverty students in other nations, the U.S. moves to a much higher level on international rankings. Poverty has been ignored or dismissed when discussing U.S. student achievement, but “social class inequality is greater in the United States than in any of the countries with which we can reasonably be compared, [so] the relative performance of U.S. adolescents is better than it appears when countries’ national average performance is conventionally compared.”
Privatization inevitably results in a class-based education system where underfunded public schools will be left with the hardest and most expensive to teach students.
Public education will be improved by investing in, and improving the lives of the students living in poverty, not in closing public schools.
And education is a matter that is largely left to states and localities. Trump has indicated that he would leave education to the states and localities to a even greater extent than ESSA does. However, at the same time, he has said things such as that he wants to abolish Common Core, which is a state matter. He has no record of governing (he has never held office), has no demonstrated expertise or knowledge of policy, is unpredictable, is, and is especially interested in amassing power. Education does not appear to be much on his radar screen. So some of what happens will depend upon his education-related appointments, but otherwise, who knows how much he will leave education to states and localities and how much he will want to control himself? Who knows what he will do?
THE DUMBING DOWN OF THE AMERICAN VOTER
John Merrow discusses how the test-and-punish education of the last four decades has led to the lower ability of American students to problem solve. He blames the resulting lack of problem solving skills for the election of Donald Trump after a campaign of “xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, nativism, anti-intellectualism and denial of science…”
The election of Donald Trump to the highest office in the land, after a campaign of xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, nativism, anti-intellectualism and denial of science, is proof positive that we are now paying the price for having denied generations of children an education built on inquiry and respect for truth.
The country can survive four years of Donald Trump, but our democracy cannot afford schools that fail to respect and nurture our children. It is within our power to create schools that ask of each child “How are you intelligent?” and then allow and encourage them to follow their passion. If we fail to change our schools, we will elect a succession of Donald Trumps, and that will be the end of the American experiment.
The Trump administration promises to increase vouchers and charters. Will that help improve student achievement, or just help improve the corporate bottom line?
In an article published earlier this month, Business Insider observed: “We just got even more evidence supporting the theory that charter schools are America’s new subprime mortgages.” The magazine wrote: The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released the results of a damning audit of the charter school industry which found that charter schools’ relationships with their management organizations pose a significant risk to the aim of the Department of Education.
The findings in the audit, specifically in regard to charter school relationships with CMOs, echo the findings of a 2015 study that warned of an impending bubble similar to that of the subprime-mortgage crisis one of the authors, Preston C. Green III, told Business Insider.
With more than 6,700 charter schools spread across 42 states and the District of Columbia, fraudulent activities associated with the publicly funded, but privately owned, charter school industry have become the fodder for almost daily news stories.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
What can educators and concerned citizens do to counteract the damage already done to our students by the hateful language of the past campaign?
In the articles below we hear from authors, librarians, and an educator who encourage us to 1) help children learn to be understanding and tolerant of differences, 2) help adults examine their own motivations, and 3) remind us all to continue to resist the cash-driven effort to privatize public education.
Therefore we, the undersigned children’s book authors and illustrators, do publicly affirm our commitment to using our talents and varied forms of artistic expression to help eliminate the fear that takes root in the human heart amid lack of familiarity and understanding of others; the type of fear that feeds stereotypes, bitterness, racism and hatred; the type of fear that so often leads to tragic violence and senseless death.
So let’s start communicating in clear, non-bullshitty ways. Here are my expectations for White people in the field (and to be even clearer, I am a White woman, and much of this I’m writing down to hold myself accountable).
Second of all, if it’s okay with you, some of us are going to keep Resisting. Common Core was always only a highly visible symptom of a bigger problem– the destruction and privatization of American public education. And that issue is still ongoing, has in fact gathered steam, despite its occasional set-backs, because it is fueled by the most powerful force in 21st century politics– giant heaping piles of money.