Category Archives: Privatization

Answers hiding in plain sight

Today’s editorial on the News Sentinel page of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette about Governor Holcomb’s Teacher Pay commission is generally favorable for an increase in salary for the state’s teachers. They argue that Indiana’s teacher salaries are generally lower than neighboring states and that there is a big variance in the pay of different Indiana districts.

State teacher compensation commission needs to come up with plan to increase pay scale

Indiana’s average pay is $50,218 a year, which is between $2,000-$10,000 less than teachers in neighboring states. Starting pay for teachers at some school districts in Indiana is less than $35,000. It is believed low pay is one reason there is a shortage of qualified teachers at many schools.

and

The highest average pay in the state was Hamilton Southeastern Schools at $64,983, while the lowest was Medora Schools at $37,221.

The chair of the commission is a retired Anthem Insurance executive, Michael Smith. The commission is filled with business executives, school administrators…oh, and one teacher. Hooray.

Indiana teacher pay was comparable to surrounding states until 2009, [Smith] said, and the commission is trying to discern what has changed since then.

What’s changed since then? Let me think…

This reminds me of the statements in 2015 of Bob Behning and Dennis Kruse, at that time chairs of the House and Senate Education committees, respectively, questioning why there was a teacher shortage in Indiana.

Indiana legislative committee to study teacher shortage (August 16, 2015)

The Republican chairmen of the House and Senate education committees had asked General Assembly leaders to approve having the legislative education study committee review what is causing the drop and how the state could respond.

Why is there a teacher shortage? Teachers know why.

Why have Indiana teacher salaries failed to keep pace since 2009 (actually much longer than that, but who’s counting)? Again, teachers likely know why.

CORRELATION DOES NOT IMPLY CAUSATION, BUT…

What has changed since 2009?

I admit that correlation does not imply causation but just consider Mitch Daniels, Tony Bennett, and the 2008-2012 Daniels administration…

As Governor, Mitch Daniels, with the help of then State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, a Daniels-heavy State Board of Education (run by Bennett), and a Republican supermajority in the Indiana House and Senate, declared war on public schools and public school teachers.

During the Daniels administration (and since) Indiana has seen bills and policies which,

  • required teachers to be evaluated in large part based on the achievement test scores of their students
  • establish an A-F grading scale for schools and school districts which had the effect of blaming teachers for all low student achievement without any attention being paid to out-of-school factors on student achievement.
  • restrict teacher collective bargaining to money only. No more bargaining for class size, teacher prep time, or hours of work.
  • weakened teacher job security. No longer did a teacher have due process if a district wanted to fire him/her. No longer would an impartial arbitrator listen to both sides and make a judgment.
  • allow anyone with a college degree to teach their subject in high school with no previous pedagogical training. Apparently, the State Board of Education believes that child development and classroom management skills taught in education schools aren’t necessary to begin the year teaching a group of teenagers.
  • restrict teacher contracts to a maximum of two years thereby imposing repeated bargaining on school districts at least every other year. 
  • changed the funding of public schools through the passage of a Daniels supported property tax cap which shifted school funding responsibilities to the General Assembly. Equitable funding of public schools was now up to the whims of the legislature.
  • reduce the importance of experience and education level as a factor in teacher salaries. 
  • expanded the 2001 charter school law making the increase of charter schools easier.
  • opened the door to, and regularly increased economic support for, vouchers…public tax dollars diverted to private schools.

Indiana Choice Scholarships

In 2011 the initial school voucher program in Indiana passed while Mitch Daniels was governor. In 2013 the Indiana General Assembly passed HB 1003, which amended the school voucher program by creating tax credits for those already enrolled in private school and expanding voucher eligibility.Mike Pence was governor and supported the changes. [1]

Indiana has seen a burst of new charter schools since 2011 law

The number of charter schools in Indiana has grown rapidly since a 2011 state law passed expanding authority to approve and oversee them to new sponsors, and the acceleration looks likely to continue over the next two years.

THE ANSWERS ARE IN PLAIN SIGHT

What has changed since 2009? The Teacher Pay Commission can find the answer in plain sight…though perhaps they could use a few more actual teachers at the table.

Why haven’t teacher salaries kept pace with our neighboring states?

  • When you have one pot of money for education, and you try to support three separate, and often competing school systems, something is going to be underfunded. In Indiana, it’s public schools and teacher salaries.

Why is there a teacher shortage?

  • When you underfund a profession, take away job security, and ignore the voices of actual practitioners, young people will choose other careers.

Now, what should we do with a nearly half-billion-dollar budget surplus?

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Filed under Charters, Mitch Daniels, Privatization, SchoolFunding, TeacherSalary, TeacherShortage, vouchers

2019 Medley #11 – Vouchers and the Wall Between Church and State

Vouchers; Government shouldn’t interfere with religious institutions, and church wallets shouldn’t be filled with government dollars.

There’s a reason that I’ve been quiet on this blog for the last month…posting only a Father’s Day remake of an annual call to fathers to read to their children, and a quick Medley in the middle of June.

Since mid-May, I have been somewhat self-absorbed dealing with a cancer diagnosis. This was followed by successful surgery, and now, recuperation. I have been assured that the offending cells have been totally removed and no new ones apparently remain. This is, of course, good news (though no guarantee of future events). Until the final pathology report, however, I was unsure of the future. Instead of commenting on public education issues, I was contemplating the very real possibility that cancer had spread into lymph nodes in my neck which would mean further treatment…chemotherapy and radiation.

As luck, and modern medicine, would have it, I was spared any additional treatment (for the time being, at least) and right now I can focus on recovering from the effects of surgery, a much more positive – if slightly uncomfortable – activity than worrying about putting my digital life in order.

I didn’t ignore the news about public schools entirely. There has been news about privatization through vouchers. People like Bill Gates and the Koch Brothers are still devising ways to monetize the education of our children (because wealth implies expertise in education, right?), but some main-stream publications are writing about the conflicts caused by mixing tax dollars with religious education. Also, in some places, public schools were supported and privatization wasn’t promoted…thank you Texas (I never thought I would say that!). But it’s not all flowers and chocolates…

VOUCHERS

The Supreme Court

First, two articles about the Supreme Court which will hear an appeal from Montana, whose state Supreme Court denied an end-run around giving tax money to religious schools. The case involves “tax-credit scholarships” which are essentially a way to launder money so that tax dollars can go to unregulated, unaccountable religious schools.

Until we repeal the First Amendment prohibiting the establishment of religion, the state shouldn’t be allowed to favor religious institutions with tax dollars.

There’s a difference between public and private. We don’t subsidize folks who want to use a country club instead of public parks. We don’t award vouchers so people can shop for books at Barnes and Noble instead of the public library. We don’t give tax credits to people who drive their own vehicles instead of using public transportation. We shouldn’t give any sort of tax credit/rebate/voucher for those who choose not to use public schools.

The Supreme Court Has Accepted A Case That Could Undermine Church-State Separation And Public Schools

AU President and CEO Rachel Laser said, “Montana taxpayers should never be forced to fund religious education – that’s a fundamental violation of religious freedom. The Montana Supreme Court’s decision protects both church-state separation and public education. It’s a double win.”

This Case Could Break The Wall Between Church And School

The case matters because it could open the door wide to the use of public tax dollars for private religious schools. The court could also drive a stake through the heart of voucher programs aimed at shuttling public funds to private religious schools, no matter how clever and convoluted the voucher scheme may be. That last possibility seems less likely, because, as with many issues beloved by the right, this is an issue that may be facing the friendliest court in many decades. This is definitely one case to watch for this summer.

Keep Tax Dollars and Religious Institutions Separate

Why does voucher money go to schools banning gay students? | Editorial

Private schools ought to be able to decide who sits in their classrooms (as students or teachers). Governments should not interfere with religious institutions’ ability to freely exercise their beliefs.

On the other hand, the government shouldn’t pay to support those beliefs.

In other words, we ought to keep government money out of the hands of religious institutions. Otherwise, religion might use government dollars to further their beliefs, thereby establishing state-supported religious institutions. Otherwise, government strings attached to government dollars might stifle the free exercise of religion.

That was Jefferson’s point in calling for a “wall of separation between Church and State.” Keeping the government’s hands off religion, and religion’s fingers out of the public treasury are better for both the church and the state.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republican legislators promote spending millions in tax dollars on tuition vouchers at unregulated private schools as providing opportunities for more choices for students. What they don’t mention is some of those private schools have policies that say they will not accept gay students and will expel any they discover who are enrolled. Florida should not be effectively sanctioning such discrimination, and companies that have been supporting the existing voucher program should think twice about it.

School vouchers threaten religious autonomy

An article from 2015 confirms this concept…

In states’ attempts to honor the separation of church and state, most private religious schools have fewer regulations to meet than their public school counterparts, which is an appropriate balance between the state interest in educating our children and respecting citizens’ First Amendment rights as long as parents or private foundations are paying the tuition and other education costs.

However, when the state subsidizes these educational costs, then this balance must shift to give the state mechanisms to oversee how the public tax dollars are being spent. Increasing government regulation over private religious schools threatens both their autonomy and their religious mission.

Indiana’s Catholic schools get millions in public money. Some lawmakers want that to stop.

And here we are in Indiana facing just such a problem. Do we prohibit private schools from choosing who their teachers should be, or do we refuse to allow public money to be used at a religious institution which discriminates?

When Cathedral High School fired a gay teacher last week over his same-sex marriage, it renewed a long-simmering debate about public money that goes to private schools in the form of taxpayer-funded scholarships.

The school, which has said it was forced by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to terminate the teacher or lose its status as a Catholic institution, has received more than $6 million from the state over the last six years through Indiana’s “choice scholarship” program.

Indiana began offering “choice scholarships” in 2011 to help low-income families afford a private education. It’s now the country’s largest such voucher program, directing more than $134 million to private schools last year.

Vouchers have been controversial since their inception, with critics saying they undermine the state’s public school system by siphoning students and money. In 2013, the state Supreme Court upheld the program as constitutional but that hasn’t stopped calls for reform.

“Again, we see a public institution engaged in an obvious act of discrimination because of sexual identity,” said Democratic Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, Indiana’s House minority leader, “but we do not have to sit by and watch this happen.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR

When The Wall Of Separation Comes Down

Here’s what’s going to happen. If you win the right to spend tax dollars on religious institutions (like, say, private schools), sooner or later you are going to be shocked to discover that your own tax dollars are supporting Sharia Law High School or Satan’s Own Academy. And that’s not going to be the end of it. Where resources are limited (there can only be, for instance, as many meeting opening prayers as there are meetings), some agency will have to pick winners and losers. Worst case scenario– you get a government agency empowered to screen churches and religions. You can paper over it, as Kenai Peninsula apparently did, by turning it into a lottery (but what does it mean that God apparently let Satan’s crew win that drawing).

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Republican Teachers: Tell legislators to support public education

Indiana’s Republican State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jennifer McCormick, was careful to speak in non-partisan terms when she visited Fort Wayne last week. She didn’t call out one specific party for its anti-public education legislation, even though everyone in Indiana knows that the Republicans are doing their best to privatize and skimp on funding for public education.

McCormick is a Republican.

McCormick’s predecessor, Glenda Ritz, was also a Republican before she ran for the Superintendent’s position in 2012. She took office, however, as a Democrat…and ran into the wall of the Republican Supermajority for everything she wanted to do for public schools in Indiana.

In the 2016 election, Ritz and McCormick had similar platforms. McCormick, however, said that she could get things done because she was a Republican. She could talk to the members of her own party and get them to understand what public schools and public school teachers needed. She tried, but she was also stopped by the Republican legislators.

It doesn’t take the logic of Spock to deduce that the Republicans in the Indiana legislature are against public education. For the last dozen years the Republicans in the Indiana House and Senate have introduced and passed legislation aimed at funding vouchers and charters, deprofessionalizing the teaching profession, and starving public education.

But Glenda Ritz was a Republican before she was a Democrat, and she supported public education…and Jennifer McCormick is a Republican and she supports public education. Obviously not all Republicans, then, want to privatize the public schools.

REPUBLICAN TEACHERS

As a retired teacher in northeast Indiana, it’s been clear to me that many, if not most, of my former colleagues, have been Republicans. As public school educators, I assume that the vast majority of those same colleagues have been supporters of public education. For them to be otherwise would indicate a serious case of cognitive dissonance.

Are Republican public school teachers the only party members who support public education? Again, I’m doubtful of that. Many of my students’ parents were also Republicans and they were, on the whole, very supportive of their children’s schools.

Perhaps it’s only those Republicans who have no connection to public schools who support the legislators who are so intent on funding vouchers and charters at the expense of the constitutionally mandated public schools.

Or maybe it’s something else…maybe it’s money.

FULL DISCLOSURE

I’m not a Republican. Nor am I a Democrat. I’m an ardent and enthusiastic Independent Education Voter. I understand that Democrats can be just as dangerous to public education as can Republicans.

Rahm Emanual in Chicago has worked hard during his tenure to privatize public education.

President Obama and his Education Secretary Arne Duncan continued the punishment of public education started by Bush II and No Child Left Behind. In some ways, Duncan was worse than current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

There is little doubt that campaign donations from pro-privatization organizations would transform at least some currently pro-public education Democrats into pro-privatization Democrats.

Because there’s a lot of evidence that it’s the money.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Hoosiers for Quality Education (H4QE), formerly Hoosiers for Economic Growth, is a pro-privatization group in Indiana. H4QE is funded by the DeVos family (American Federation for Children), Alice Walton (of the Walmart billions), and the Freedom Partners (The Koch Brothers). They support School Choice Indiana (aka The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, now known as EdChoice) (For more information on this convoluted set of relationships see Hoosier School Heist by Doug Martin). Suffice it to say — H4QE supports school privatization.

And they donate freely to Republicans during statewide elections.

H4QE donated $88,750 to Republicans on the House Education Committee

The Republican members of the House Education Committee received approximately $88,750 in 2018 campaign contributions from H4QE. Committee chair Bob Behning received $3000 and Chuck Goodrich got the largest donation, $36,000.

H4QE donated $99,500 to Republicans on the Senate Education and Career Development Committee

The members of the Senate Education and Career Development Committee received approximately $99,500 in 2016/2018 campaign contributions from H4QE. Committee chair Jeff Raatz pocketed a $9,000 donation. Member Linda Rogers accepted a whopping $50,000.

(On the other side, Democratic members of the House and Senate committees also received approximately $10,600 and $17,300 respectively from Indiana teachers’ unions, ISTA and IFT, a small amount compared to the privatizers.)

Republican members of those committees also received contributions from other groups such as Stand for Children, funded by the pro-privatization Walton Family and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations.

Privatizers donated $170,000 to Governor Eric Holcomb

Eric Holcomb, Governor of Indiana, also received 2016 contributions from privatizers…most notably the DeVos family. Holcomb received $15,000 from each of the following for a total of $90,000: American Federation for Children, Richard DeVos, Richard DeVos Jr (Betsy), Doug DeVos, Daniel DeVos, and Cheri DeVos-Vanderweide. Holcomb also received $50,000 from charter school operator Christel Dehaan, $100,000 from Jim Walton (of the Walton Family), and $20,000 from Walmart.

Is it possible that Republican politicians feel obligated to support privatization — vouchers and charters — because of the amount of money donated to their campaign coffers by pro-privatization groups and individuals?

One only has to look at the nomination and confirmation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to see how a billionaire donor can have an impact on the way politicians vote on issues.

WHICH CAME FIRST, DONATIONS OR IDEOLOGY?

When our local representative, Dave Heine, ran for the first time, he came to talk to our public education advocacy group, Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education. He was a Republican, but seemed very receptive to listening to us and agreed with us on many aspects of supporting public schools. In 2018, however, he joined ALEC, and received a $1000 campaign donation from H4QE. He votes in line with the Republican supermajority on public education legislation.

Would Rep. Heine have voted with the pro-privatization forces in the legislature if he had not gotten any campaign donations from privatizers? Which came first, the donation which has obligated him to support the positions of H4QE, or his willingness to defund public schools and deprofessionalize public school teachers?

In my corner of the state, the nine Republican House members and the five Republican Senators received 2016/2018 campaign contributions of $48,100 from H4QE.

HOW CAN WE FIGHT THE MILLIONS OF DOLLARS GOING TO PRIVATIZATION?

Millions statewide, that is…billions nationwide.

Public schools don’t have the resources to donate thousands of campaign dollars to compete with billionaire-funded organizations like H4QE, the Walton Family Foundation, the Gates Family Foundation, and the DeVos family. Neither do teachers’ unions. Neither do public school parents.

So what can Republican teachers, who still want to support the Republican party and vote for Republican candidates do? What should you do if you don’t want to vote for the Democratic candidate — assuming there even is one?

Become an Education voter. Learn the education positions of your candidates. If they support private school vouchers and charters, tell them your position…and tell them you expect them to support public schools if they’re elected.

Just because you vote for someone doesn’t mean that you have to accept everything they do.

Get to know your local legislators. Invite them into your classroom and let them see how public education works. Some Republican legislators have never set foot in a public school…never attended public school…never sent their children to public school. Tell them the stories from your school. Tell them how much you donate to your own classroom each year to help your students learn. Be an advocate for your students, your classroom, and your school.

Follow bills in the legislature. Pay attention to how your local Representatives and Senators vote. Let them know if you disapprove. Thank them when they support public education.

Support for public education doesn’t have to be partisan. Jennifer McCormick has proven that a Republican can support public schools. We need Republican citizens to support their public schools as well. We can change the balance if we work together.

🚌🐘🚌

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Filed under Charters, Duncan, Emanuel, IN Gen.Assembly, McCormick, Politics, Privatization, Public Ed, Ritz, vouchers

2019 Medley #8

Grade Level, Student Achievement,
Society’s Mirror, Teacher Shortages,
Charter Accountability,
Disenfranchising the Voters

CHILDREN DON’T EAT ON GRADE LEVEL

When Betsy DeVos “Likes” Your “Research”…

This post isn’t about reading, but Mitchell Robinson brings up important information we should remember.

Last month, third graders in Indiana took the IREAD-3, a reading achievement test. Those who fail to achieve the arbitrarily designated cut score must take the test again during the summer. Those who fail it again must repeat third grade.

The concept of grade level should be flexible, not based on an arbitrary cut score. It should reflect the average reading level of a child in a particular grade instead of a goal for every child to achieve on a given test day. We should teach children at their zone of proximal development — the level just beyond the child’s independent level, not at the level the test insists upon.

Would we like all children to be above average? Of course, but we can’t ignore the math which renders that impossible. Additionally, we can’t ignore the detrimental impact of poverty on school achievement. Our job, as teachers, is to analyze a child’s achievement and make our plans based on what will help him progress as quickly as possible. That means starting where the child is…not at some vague “grade-level” determined by an outside source.

By setting a cut score on a test, and using the test to determine grade placement, the state is ignoring this basic concept of academic achievement and development, usurping the professional judgment of the classroom teacher, and ignoring the best interests of children in a misguided quest to get a number with which to label teachers, schools and school districts.

I agree with Robinson when he says that we can set “goals as teachers for when we introduce various literacy concepts to our students.” We do that by understanding the reading process and observing our students. [emphasis in original]

Children don’t “read on grade level” anymore than they “eat on grade level” or “care about their friends on grade level.” Anyone who has actually helped a child learn how to read, or play a music instrument, or ride a bike, knows that kids will accomplish these goals “when they are ready.” Not by “grade level.”

So, kids will read when they have a need to read, and when what they are reading is relevant to their lives. Not when they are supposed to read as measured by their grade level. Can we set our own goals as teachers for when we introduce various literacy concepts to our students? Sure. And teachers do that, every day in every public school in the nation.

But the only thing that measuring reading by “grade level” does is make a lot of kids–and teachers–feel dumb when they are not, and turn reading into drudgery instead of the life-long pursuit of joy, knowledge, and enjoyment it’s meant to be.

FOOD IMPACTS ACHIEVEMENT

Food for thought: Students’ test scores rise a few weeks after families get food stamps

What’s this? Students learn better when they are well fed? Go figure!

…scores were highest around three weeks after families received benefits, and lowest at the beginning and end of that cycle. The differences were modest, but statistically significant.

It’s not fully clear why scores spike around that three-week mark, but the researchers suggest that the academic benefits of better access to food, like improved nutrition and reduced stress, take some time to accrue.

“Students with peak test performance (who received SNAP around two weeks prior to their test date) may have benefited from access to sufficient food resources and lowered stress not only on the day of the test but for the previous two weeks,” Gassman-Pines and Bellows write.

Source: Food Instability and Academic Achievement: A Quasi-Experiment Using SNAP Benefit Timing

SCHOOLS ARE THE MIRROR OF THE NATION

‘As society goes, school goes:’ New report details toll on schools in President Trump’s America

Children learn what they live. Guess what happens when they live in a society filled with hatred and bigotry…in a society where truth has no meaning…in a society where disagreements are solved by shooting those who you disagree with…

John Rogers and his colleagues (Michael Ishimoto, Alexander Kwako, Anthony Berryman, and Claudia Diera) at UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access surveyed a nationally representative sample of more than 500 public high school principals from across the country and found this:

* 89 percent reported that “incivility and contentiousness in the broader political environment has considerably affected their school community.”

* 83 percent of principals note these tensions are fueled by “untrustworthy or disputed information,” and over 90 percent report students sharing “hateful posts on social media.”

* Almost all principals rate the threat of gun violence as a major concern, and one in three principals report that their school received in the previous year threats of mass shooting or bombing or both.

There’s more: In schools with a sizable immigrant population, principals report the significant negative effects that federal immigration policy and its associated anti-immigrant rhetoric have on student performance and family stability.

And schools that are in the areas of the country hardest hit by the opioid crisis are directly affected by addiction, overdose, and family devastation.

Source: School and Society in the Age of Trump

TOMORROW’S TEACHERS

The teacher shortage is real, large and growing, and worse than we thought

The right-wing war on the teaching profession is succeeding. Fewer young people are going into education. The number of uncertified teachers is increasing. Class sizes will increase.

As might be expected, this has the greatest impact on high-poverty schools.

What can we do? Who will be tomorrow’s teachers? Will there still be a well staffed, local public school for our children and grandchildren?

Schools struggle to find and retain highly qualified individuals to teach, and this struggle is tougher in high-poverty schools…

Low teacher pay is reducing the attractiveness of teaching jobs, and is an even bigger problem in high-poverty schools…

The tough school environment is demoralizing to teachers, especially so in high-poverty schools…

Teachers—especially in high-poverty schools—aren’t getting the training, early career support, and professional development opportunities they need to succeed and this too is keeping them, or driving them, out of the profession…

THERE MUST BE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR CHARTERS, TOO

Weekly privatization report: Charter special ed failure in Louisiana

In the Public Interest‘s weekly privatization report for April 8, 2019, is all about charter schools. Fully ten of the fifteen education articles have to do with charters failing to do the job that taxpayers were giving them money to do. Charters should not be allowed to open in areas where an additional school isn’t needed. Charters must be fiscally and academically accountable, just like real public schools.

Louisiana officials are recommending to close a charter school amid allegations of financial mismanagement and a failure to provide proper special education services to the roughly 40 percent of enrolled students with disabilities.

DISENFRANCHISEMENT FOLLIES

Editorial: Republican legislators insult voters who support public schools

What does it say about a political party which wins elections by preventing citizens from voting…by arranging districts so that politicians choose their voters, not the other way around…and by going against the will of the voters to divert money from public institutions to privatization?

Republicans in Indiana tried this during the 2019 legislative session and didn’t get away with it. I don’t doubt that they will try again.

Pinellas County voters reapproved a special property tax in 2016 to improve teacher salaries and arts programs, not to subsidize charter schools. Miami-Dade voters approved a property tax increase last year to raise teacher salaries and hire more school resource officers, not to subsidize charter schools. Yet now Republicans in the Florida Legislature want to change the rules and force local school districts to share money from local tax increases with privately operated charter schools. Their efforts to undermine traditional public schools and ignore the intent of the voters know no boundaries.

💰📖🚌

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Filed under Achievement, Article Medleys, Charters, DeVos, Florida, IREAD-3, Legislatures, Privatization, Public Ed, reading, TeacherShortage, Testing

2019 Medley #5: Privatization

VOUCHERS

The Cost of Choice

Choice numbers

School privatization is once again on the block for the Indiana General Assembly. The House Budget bill includes increases for both charter schools and vouchers.

The “choice” for vouchers, as this article explains, belongs to the school, not necessarily the parent. If a private school chooses not to take your child because he is a behavior problem, she is not the right religion, or your family is not “the right fit,” then the school can “choose” not to accept your voucher.

The cost of school vouchers affects all schools in Indiana, not just the schools whose students go to voucher-accepting private schools. As Southwest Allen County Superintendent Phil Downs explains it,

The voucher money is not taken from the local school, it is taken out of the Tuition Support budget, (there is not a simple transfer of funds between the two schools) thereby decreasing the dollars for all public schools.

From a Fort Wayne Journal Gazette editorial…

“The (Department of Education) continues to be diligent in compiling and reviewing the trend data as it relates to the Choice Scholarship Program,” [Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick] told The Journal Gazette in an email statement. “Knowing the K-12 budget proposals are inadequate and given the House budget proposal adds an additional $18 million to the Choice Program, we are committed to the full transparency of data to better inform communities and policymakers. Our travels across Indiana have revealed a lot of confusion and questions from taxpayers regarding the intent, expense and impact of the program as it relates to our most vulnerable students.”

“This program continues to be a choice not for students, but for the schools receiving them,” said Krista Stockman, spokeswoman for Fort Wayne Community Schools. “If a (voucher) school doesn’t feel like accepting a student for whatever reason, they don’t have to. Oftentimes, that means students who are in need of special education services or special discipline aren’t welcome there. Often those families turn to us, and we’re happy to take them – because they are our children. Not all schools feel that way.”

DeVos: Let’s Voucherize the Nation

Betsy DeVos Backs $5 Billion in Tax Credits for School Choice

There are people who disagree with the Madison/Jefferson concept of the separation of church and state. They want your tax money to spend on their churches.

[I wonder how pro-voucher folks would handle a voucher for a school sponsored by the Church of Satan, a Jedi Church school, or a school run by Pastafarians?]

They believe that since they pay taxes they should be able to put their tax money anywhere they choose.

They can’t.

We don’t give taxpayers a voucher to use at Barnes and Noble if they don’t want to go to the public library. We don’t give taxpayers a voucher for the local country club because they don’t want to mix with the “riff-raff” at the public park. You can’t get a voucher for a private police force for your gated community. You can’t get a voucher simply because you choose to drive and not use public transportation. We don’t give vouchers for any other form of public service…just education.

Secretary DeVos is fond of calling vouchers a parental “choice.” That’s not always the case. It’s not the parents’ “choice,” because when a student doesn’t fit the criteria required by the private school (race, religion, achievement level, the cost to educate, the ability to pay extra for the difference between the voucher and tuition, to provide transportation, to pay for the uniforms), it’s the school that makes the choice.

While the program is meant to offer a more politically palatable alternative to budgetary proposals by the Trump administration to create a national voucher program by diverting federal funding from public schools, public school advocates denounced it as a backdoor way to generate voucher dollars if states choose to primarily use the program for private school tuition scholarships.

JoAnn Bartoletti, the executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, called the proposal “particularly tone deaf” as school leaders across the country struggle to retain teachers who are fed up with low pay and declining work conditions.

“Mobilizing behind a scheme to further starve public schools and nine in 10 American students of the resources they need is not only unresponsive but insulting, and it reflects this administration’s persistent disdain for public education,” she said.

Vouchers as Entitlement

Voucher program serves the top 20 percent

In 2011, Mitch Daniels, Tony Bennett, and other voucher supporters told us that vouchers were needed to help “save” poor children who were “trapped” in so-called “failing” schools. Indiana’s voucher plan is now, however, an entitlement for the middle class.

Over 1,300 households that participate in Indiana’s school voucher program have incomes over $100,000, according to the 2018-19 voucher report from the Indiana Department of Education.

That puts them in the top 20 percent of Hoosier households by income. So much for the argument that the voucher program, created in 2011, exists to help poor children “trapped” in low-performing schools.

Like previous state reports on the voucher program, the current report paints a picture of a program that primarily promotes religious education and serves tens of thousands of families that could afford private school tuition without help from the taxpayers.

School Vouchers are not to help “poor kids escape failing schools”

Indiana blogger Doug Masson comments on Indiana blogger Steve Hinnefeld post (above). The voucher plan wasn’t about saving poor children after all…[emphasis in original]

…the real intention of voucher supporters was and is: 1) hurt teacher’s unions; 2) subsidize religious education; and 3) redirect public education money to friends and well-wishers of voucher supporters. Also, a reminder: vouchers do not improve educational outcomes. I get so worked up about this because the traditional public school is an important part of what ties a community together — part of what turns a collection of individuals into a community. And community feels a little tough to come by these days. We shouldn’t be actively eroding it.

The Fight Over States’ Private School Voucher Proposals Is Heating Up

Legislatures bring up vouchers every year.

Private school vouchers are bad public policy for so many reasons, including the fact that they funnel desperately needed funds away from public schools to private, primarily religious education. Taxpayer dollars should fund public schools – which 90 percent of students in America attend – not unaccountable private schools that can limit who attends them. Nonetheless, there have been 121 bills filed this year in states across the country to expand or create new voucher programs. So far these bills have seen mixed results.

PRISONS AND SCHOOLS

Privatizing Public Services | Prisons and Schools

Published on the Knowing Better YouTube channel.

An interesting discussion on the privatization of prisons and (mostly charter) schools. If you don’t want to watch the entire video, the section on schools starts at 9:15.

Privatizing public services has rarely ever worked out for the taxpayer. We’ve looked at prisons, infrastructure, emergency services, and now schools, and it’s the same story every time. But every time we seem to think that this will be the one where it works.

You can only benefit from competition when you’re able to increase demand. which you’re not able to do for schools and I would hope you wouldn’t want to do for prisons, though they seem to find a way.

So the next time a politician tells you that “this time it’ll work, I promise,” hopefully now, you’ll know better.

CHARTERS

The Wild, Wild West of Charters

Ohio charter schools want more tax dollars

Charter school operators find out eventually that low student performance has more to do with the social, physical, economic, and political effects of poverty than it does with bad teachers and poor teaching. Years of neglect by municipal and state governments can’t be overcome by a few changes in technique and curricula. That’s why “a third of charter schools close their doors before they are a decade old.” Education is harder than they think…and it’s even harder when they are in it for the profit.

Ohio is home to some of the weakest charter laws in the country…and they’re asking for more money.

If there is no need for an additional school in a neighborhood, then there won’t be enough students to support one (see the video above). States can’t afford to support two parallel school systems when only one is needed.

…supporters of school districts, who often view themselves as competing with charters for students and dollars, scoff at that argument. The whole original justification for charter schools, they note, was that privately-run schools would get better results at less cost.

“It seems like the charter schools have figured out that it’s harder than they thought,” said Howard Fleeter, who analyzes finances and school funding for Ohio’s school, boards, school administrators and school business officials. “Now they want every last dime that school districts get.”

There’s also an accountability issue. The state has been fighting with several charter schools the last few years over what it calls overstated attendance counts, which then lead to more money going to schools than should. The battle over ECOT’s attendance and funding was the most public, though several fights with smaller schools are still ongoing.

The state also has a reputation nationally of having too few controls over charters and allowing profiteering managers to fill their pockets by offering low-quality schools. A few years ago, a national charter official referred to Ohio as the “Wild, Wild West” of the charter school world.

And four years ago, Stanford researchers found that Ohio’s charters performed far worse than traditional public schools, showing less academic growth than similar students in districts.

ICYMI: The Cost of Charter Schools

Report: The Cost of Charter Schools for Public School Districts

Charters are often called “public schools.” But, they don’t follow the same rules as public schools…they don’t have to accept all students…they don’t have the same requirements for teachers…and they aren’t run by publicly accountable school boards.

They also drain money from the local school districts. This report describes what happens when charters move into the neighborhood.

Reasonable people may disagree about education policy. What reasonable people should not do, however, is pretend that unregulated charter school expansion comes at no cost. For public officials to plan for community education needs in a rational manner, two policy innovations are critical:

  • First, each school district should produce an annual Economic Impact report assessing the cost of charter expansion in its community, and more targeted analyses should be a required component in the evaluation of new charter applications.
  • Secondly, public officials at both the local and state levels must be able to take these findings into account when deciding whether to authorize additional charter schools. Thus the state’s charter authorization law must be amended to empower elected officials to act as effective stewards of the community’s education budget in balancing the potential value of charter schools against the needs of traditional public school students.

FIGHTING BACK

The Oakland Teachers Strike Isn’t Just a Walk Out—It’s a Direct Challenge to Neoliberalism

The recent teachers strike in Oakland was about more than teacher salaries. It focused on the damage done to public education through privatization, underfunding, and school closures.

Yet press briefings by the Oakland Education Association (OEA)—the union representing the teachers—and a website created by a community supporter, show an extraordinary shift: a fusion of attention to racial and gender justice alongside labor’s mission to defend the dignity of work and workers. “It’s really, really exciting—a movement that is connecting the dots” observed Pauline Lipman, whose research on the racial significance of neoliberal school reform in Chicago helped inform the Chicago Teachers Union’s (CTU) widely-adopted template for union demands: “The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve.”

The Oakland school district, like the Chicago Public Schools and urban school systems in most blue states are, as CTU researcher Pavlyn Jankov explains, “broke on purpose.” Local and state politicians, in conjunction with the corporate elite, have refused to pursue progressive taxation for public services and public employee pensions. In Oakland, these actors have trapped the city and its school system in the pattern Jankov identifies as “a cycle of broken budgets and a dependence on financial instruments” that exploit residents.

💰⛪️📓

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2019 Medley #1

Avoiding Special Ed Students, Charters,
Teacher Strikes, Teacher Pay, Guns in the Classroom,
Cheating Low-Income Students, Myths About Teachers, Reading Wars, Science Fact

 
PRIVATIZATION: STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES NEED NOT APPLY

Charter Schools More Likely to Ignore Special Education Applicants, Study Finds

Public schools accept every child who enters. The money to educate those most expensive to educate students comes from public funds. When the legislature allows public funds to go to private corporations in the form of charter and vouchers, that makes it more difficult for the real public schools to fulfill its mission. We can’t afford to pay for three separate school systems.

Public tax money needs to go to public schools.

The study found that charter schools were 5.8 percentage points less likely to respond to a query claiming to be from a parent of a student with severe disabilities.

So-called “no-excuse” charter schools, which serve predominately low-income minority students in a strict, college-prep academic environment, were 10 percentage points less likely to respond.

 

PRIVATIZATION: PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE FOR THE RABBLE

How to Teach Virtue? Start with a Charter School.

Chester Finn doesn’t understand (or support) the purpose of public schools and thinks that charter schools, with their history of corruption and failure, are the places to inculcate students with values. Finn’s single year as a public school teacher apparently qualifies him to judge all public schools to be valueless.

Privatizer Michael Petrilli, also mentioned in the article, is president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute,  a stronghold of ed reformers most of whom have no experience in actual education other than as students. Petrilli himself has never taught in a public school or studied education. His college degree (from a public university) is in Political Science.

Let us hope that the era of public education ruled by edu-ignoramuses is coming to an end.

Yes. The title is sarcasm.

But the idea must be acknowledged. It sprang from the mind of one of most venerable Famous Educators, a hoary pillar of the never-ending education reform movement, Chester E. Finn, known to his fellow reformistas as ‘Checker.’ Checker is currently paterfamilias of the Thomas Fordham Institute group, one of whom, Michael Petrilli, recently suggested that the education reform movement has been so successful in accomplishing its goals that it was currently fading into media obscurity. As if.

I have never been a fan of Finn’s approach to school reform. (Click here, for example.) Finn, whose teaching career spanned one full year, is one of those private-school, private-colleges, wordsmithy edu-pundits who look down—way down—on fully public education, seeing it as a hopeless tax-funded entitlement program for subpar youth.

PRIVATIZATION: TEACHER STRIKES

Is The Los Angeles Teacher Strike A Different Kind Of Strike?

Peter Greene writing in Forbes explains to business readers that the Los Angeles teachers strike is different than strikes of the past.

Teachers are striking to save public schools…and against those who believe that we can afford two, or even three different publicly funded school systems.

Public tax funds need to go to public schools, not private corporations in the form of charters or vouchers.

Teachers in many school districts and many states across the country find themselves in the unusual position of working in an institution led by people who want to see that institution fail. Back in the day, teacher strikes were about how best to keep a school district healthy, but these modern walkouts are about the very idea that public schools should be kept healthy at all. UTLA demands for smaller classes, more support staff, safer schools, community schools, and charter school oversight are not about making their working conditions a little better, but about keeping public education alive and healthy.

 

INDIANA GENERAL ASSEMBLY WANTS SOMETHING FOR NOTHING

Lawmakers: Raise teacher pay by cutting elsewhere

I suppose we can’t really blame legislators for wanting something but not wanting to pay for it. Just like many Americans, they’re hesitant to invest in the common good. Someone may get something they (gasp!) don’t deserve.

We can’t have universal health care because we’d have to pay for it. We can’t repair our crumbling infrastructure because we’d have to pay for it. We can’t worry about climate change because it might cost money.

We’re Number One!!

Hardly. We’re a selfish lot. All our politicians claim that we’re “the greatest country in the world,” but are we? We’re not the wealthiest. We haven’t got the highest life expectancy, or the lowest infant mortality rate. There are other countries with fewer people living in poverty and other countries where people are happier.

On the other hand, our military spending is #1 in the world.

Perhaps if we spent a little more money on planning for our future, and less on blowing up other people, we’d be better off.

Indiana legislators want to give educators a raise, but they don’t want to pay for it. Their plan: Shame school districts into cutting spending elsewhere so they can target dollars to teachers.

Their tool for doing this is House Bill 1003, unveiled this week by House Republicans and presented Wednesday to the House Education Committee. It would “strongly encourage” districts to spend at least 85 percent of their state funds on instruction; it would subject them to public scrutiny if they don’t.

 

CONTROL GUNS, DON’T SPREAD THEM

When You Give a Teacher a Gun…

If you think we ought to be spending millions of tax dollars to arm teachers read this.

If you think teachers should have guns in school, you’re just wrong. It’s not “up for debate” any more than gravity.

If you’re a teacher who reads all of this and thinks, “Well, that’s not me. I’m different. I’ve had a gun for years. I’m a hunter, and a responsible gun owner. I’m all about gun safety. I was in the military. I just want to protect my students and colleagues”, then you are precisely the kind of person who should never be permitted to have a loaded weapon in a school. You’re exactly the sort of person that shouldn’t be allowed to carry a deadly weapon into a room full of children looking at you as someone who cares about their learning, and their well-being.

 

CHEATING LOW-INCOME STUDENTS

Kids In Disadvantaged Schools Don’t Need Tests To Tell Them They’re Being Cheated

They already know.

…I’ve never met a union official who believed schools in impoverished cities didn’t need improving. I never met anyone who works in a school or advocates for public education who was fine with the opportunity gap that plagues so many children in this country.

But I’ll set that aside and instead make this point: stories like the Trentonian’s give us clear evidence that kids who are in these schools themselves know full well what is going on. They are saying, with unmistakable clarity, that their instruction is unacceptably poor. They are telling us many of their peers have given up and have no interest in school.

What are multiple administrations of standardized tests going to tell us that these kids aren’t already telling us themselves?

 

CHALLENGING THE MYTHS ABOUT TEACHERS, PART 2

About that “Most public employee teachers are in these positions because they lack the talent to compete in the private sector” comment…

Greatest. Idea. Ever.

Put those people who believe that “those who can’t, teach” in a long term subbing position…in an underfunded school…with children who live in poverty…and then have their evaluation be based on test scores!

I could maybe respond by saying that the inherent ignorance displayed by this proves how valuable having an education really is and that the reasoning he/she attempts to use to put down teachers really is proof that public education is not respected as it should be.

Yet I will respond by saying that I would teach that person’s student if that was the case.

But first, I might ask this person if he/she would be willing to become a long-term substitute teacher in an underfunded school where many in the student population are affected by poverty and then have his/her name attached to the test scores.

Then I will just carry on – teaching.

 

THE READING WARS REDUX

Why The Reading Wars Will Never End

Peter Greene speaks truth. We haven’t learned how to quantify the skills of the human brain. Anyone who tells you that “this program will help every child read” is shoveling bullshit.

Every person who has ever tried to teach a group of six-year-olds to read understands that you have to use every tool you have.

The heart of the problem is that we don’t know how to tell what works. And that’s because we don’t have a method to “scientifically” measure how well someone reads.

Yes, we have tests. But testing and pedagogy of reading are mostly locked in a tautological embrace. I think decoding is The Thing, so I create a test that focuses on decoding, then implement classroom practices to improve decoding skills and voila– I scientifically prove that my decoding-based pedagogy works. Mostly what we’re busy proving is that particular sorts of practices prepare students for particular sorts of tests. Big whoop.

…Reading, as much as anything in education, demands that we measure what cannot be measured.

 

SCIENCE FACT

Come To Miami, Florida’s Sea Level and Sewage Capital

The United States stands alone in denying climate change. Its impact is already being felt around the world…take Florida, for example. Guess who is being hurt the worst…

As nuisance flooding increases, the wealthy are moving to higher ground, formerly less desirable areas – and pushing out low income residents. Climate gentrification creating a new generation of climate refugees.

 

🚌🏫📝

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2018 Top Ten: Medley #25

We’re coming to the end of another calendar year so it’s time for resolutions and “best of” lists. Here’s the list of this blog’s Top Ten Posts of the Year according to the number of hits each one received.

#10, MARCH 29

What’s Bugging Me Today: Testing Ignorance – RTFM

The Children’s Defense Fund released a report which revealed that they do not understand how tests work in general, and how the NAEP works, specifically. They claimed that 67% of America’s eighth-graders were reading “below grade level” which was not the case based on the proof they cited. Correctly reading the information they relied upon, we can conclude that 75% of America’s eighth graders are reading at or above “grade level.”

This means that the 67% of students who scored below proficient on the NAEP’s 8th-grade reading test were not honor students, not that they were “below grade level.” Students who are “proficient” are high achieving students. Students who are “basic” are average, and students who are “below basic” are the ones who are at risk of failure. 67% of students below “proficient” does not mean that 67% failed the test!

In fact, 76% of eighth graders scored at “Basic” or above on the NAEP nationally. That’s still not perfect…and some might argue that it’s not even acceptable, but it’s much better than the mistaken assumption that “67% of eighth graders score below grade level.”

 

#9, MARCH 4

Time for The Test! What Can One Teacher Do?

Each year teachers have to stop teaching to make time for intrusive state standardized tests. It’s a waste of time and doesn’t improve the learning process. Furthermore, the results of the tests are used in invalid and unreliable ways.

Understand that the increased importance of standardized tests — the fact that they are used to rate schools and teachers, as well as measure student knowledge accumulation — is based on invalid assumptions. As a professional, your job is to teach your students. If knowledge were all that was important in education then an understanding of child development, pedagogy, and psychology wouldn’t be necessary to teach (and yes, I know, there are people in the state who actually believe that). We know that’s not true. We know that one of the most important aspects of teaching and learning is the relationship between teacher and child. We know that well trained, caring teachers are better educators than computers.

 

#8, SEPTEMBER 14

Just in Case Someone’s Listening

After nearly 13 years of ranting against the corporate-led destruction of public education, I lament that not much has really changed.

The sad news is that things have gotten worse for public education since I started writing here in 2006. We’re still dealing with privatization, union busting, teacher scapegoating, the overuse and misuse of tests, and the lack of funding or support for public schools. When we add to that, a teacher shortage designed and implemented by those same “reformers,” the task of saving our schools seems overwhelming.

#7, JUNE 16

Fathers Day 2018: A Reminder to Read Aloud to Your Children

My annual Fathers Day post with the same message each year: 1) read aloud is important and 2) dads should do it!

Jim Trelease, in The Read Aloud Handbook reminded us [emphasis added]

In 1985, the commission [on Reading, organized by the National Academy of Education and the National Institute of Education and funded under the U.S. Department of Education] issued its report, Becoming a Nation of Readers. Among its primary findings, two simple declarations rang loud and clear:

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”

 

#6, OCTOBER 10

Education is NOT an Expense

Corporate reform is slowly changing public education into a consumer good. It’s not and shouldn’t be. It’s a public good. An investment in public education is an investment in our future.

Adding money to your IRA, 401k, 403b, or any other investment isn’t a personal expense; it’s an investment in your future.

Similarly, money spent on public education is an investment, not an expense. Roads, parks, public libraries, and public schools are all public benefits…they all contribute to the public good and the tax money we spend on them is an investment in our future. Through the public good, we guarantee the benefits of our society to those who follow us.

When it comes to education, there is a waiting time for the return on the public’s investment, but after that wait time, it’s clear that society benefits. For example, the G.I. bill after World War II was an investment in veterans which helped build prosperity after the war.

It is the same with public education. We may not always see an immediate positive impact, but, in the long run, an educated populace will earn more, produce more, and live better.

 

#5, JUNE 9

Privatization – Still Failing After All These Years

Privatizing public schools doesn’t help children. Learning doesn’t improve. The impact of poverty isn’t eliminated.

We cannot afford to fund three educational systems with public tax dollars. We need to return to one, publicly funded, public school system.

What about “failing” public schools?

What “privatizers” call a “failing” public school is, in fact, a “failing” municipality or state government. The answer to low achieving schools is not to take money and resources away in order to fund a second or third school system. The answer is to improve schools so that all students are well served.

Even so, America’s public schools perform well. We don’t have a “failing” school problem. We have a child poverty problem.

Public funds should be reserved for public schools.

 

#4, NOVEMBER 30

Hoosier Superintendents tell it like it is

Who would have thought that demoralizing teachers, cutting their salaries, eliminating benefits, and reducing job security would have a detrimental impact on the profession of teaching?

“I believe the teacher shortage is due to the climate of education and the lack of government support as well as district support for teachers. Teachers have not been listened to or given the respect necessary to want to pursue careers. In our particular district, the constant negativity has caused a rift between campuses, and the negativity has created a hostile climate in which to work.”

#3, AUGUST 3

LeBron James and the Promise of Public Schools

If we cared about the future, we would provide the same services to all schools that LeBron James is providing. These are the schools all children deserve.

LeBron James is a millionaire…but unlike others among the super-rich who stick their wallets into America’s education infrastructure, The LeBron James Family Foundation, along with community partners, is helping to fund a public school run by a public school system, and staffed with unionized public school teachers. The taxpayers are paying for the school, teachers, and the usual expenses just like they do for all public schools, while the Foundation and its partners are providing funds for building renovations, wraparound services, and other extras.

This kind of investment is what all our children need and deserve

 

#2, AUGUST 15

Back to School in America, 2018-2019 Indiana Edition

Underpaid. Overworked. Is it any wonder that there’s a serious teacher shortage in Indiana (and the rest of the U.S.)?

A teacher’s paid work day is only 7 or 8 hours long…but for the vast majority of teachers, the workday doesn’t begin when the students arrive, or end when they go home. Homework and after-hours work is part of everyday life for teachers. I have seen teachers stay at school 4 or 5 hours after the students leave, carry home hours of paperwork every night, or spend every weekend in their classroom, not trying to get ahead, but trying to keep up. I have been that teacher.

And each year the legislature adds something new…

THE #1 POST OF 2018, SEPTEMBER 27

Don’t Bother Me With Politics. I Just Want To Teach.

The turnout for the last election was higher than in previous midterm elections. Too many teachers, however, still voted for the Republican legislators for the Indiana legislature who have done their best to damage public education.

Many teachers from Indiana are one-issue voters. Unfortunately, the one-issue is not education. It’s time teachers stood up for their own profession and voted for the interests of their students.

Teachers must become the political voice for their students.

Teachers who don’t vote allow others to make decisions about what goes on in their classrooms. As the former first lady, Michelle Obama said this week, “Democracy continues, with or without you.” If you don’t vote, it goes on without you.

 

🎉🍾🎉

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