Category Archives: Religion

2019 Medley #9

Pre-School, Vouchers and Low Test Scores,
Billionaires Aren’t Helping,
DeVos Funds Charters,
Teacher Career Penalty, Praying in Safety

INVESTING IN THE FUTURE

Two reports endorse investment in early childhood education

Truthfully, neither of these reports tells us anything new (see also Untangling the Evidence on Preschool Effectiveness: Insights for Policymakers). What they do tell us, however, is that states aren’t investing in early childhood education the way they should…too many tax breaks for the wealthy and for corporations (Corporations are people, my friend.”) to be able to afford any investment in something so lacking in a quick return on investment as early childhood education.

The supermajority in Indiana still hasn’t been able to figure out how to help their friends profit from the state’s pilot program in pre-school…a “pilot” now in its sixth year.

A pair of reports released this week offered supporting arguments for one of Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s top priorities: increasing investment in early childhood education.

Both reports, one by a group of law enforcement officials and another by leading business executives, use data from the Illinois State Department of Education that shows roughly three-fourths of all students entering kindergarten in Illinois lack necessary school readiness skills in at least one of three critical areas – social-emotional development, literacy or math. Only about a quarter of all new kindergarteners demonstrate school readiness in all three categories.

What Preschool Isn’t: Waterford UPSTART and Any Other Online Program!

Yes…we’re trying this in Indiana, too. Indiana is nothing if not consistent. We’ll try anything which will spend public dollars on privately run “schools,” especially high-tech corporate run virtual schools. Even virtual schools for pre-schoolers.

Does it even matter to them that the research on screen time shows that too much is detrimental to children?

Ask any early childhood expert about the purpose of pre-school and she will tell you that learning letters, sitting at a computer, and getting a leg up on academics are only a small part of what makes a good pre-school. Physical, social, and emotional development should be part of the curriculum. There should also be room for the child’s creativity to develop…for the child to play, freely, without adult interference. The emphasis should be on PRE-, not school (see Six Principles to Guide Policy).

Any tax money that goes to “virtual pre-schools” is worse than a waste of money.

I wonder if these individuals don’t understand early childhood education. Have they read the research?

Sitting young children in front of screens to learn will likely have bad long-term repercussions. We already know that more screen time doesn’t help older children in school. We also understand that teens are too glued to screens and with social media have become increasingly depressed and anxious.

So there’s little doubt that pushing preschoolers to do their learning on computers is a huge mistake.

VOUCHERS — STILL FAILING AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

Do voucher students’ scores bounce back after initial declines? New research says no

Another favorite of the privatization crowd is vouchers…a simple plan to divert public tax dollars into private religious schools.

First, they said that vouchers were necessary to help poor children of color “escape” “failing” public schools. Once they learned that vouchers wouldn’t solve the deeper societal problems of poverty they changed the purpose of vouchers to “choice.” Now, Indiana’s voucher system is a private school entitlement for white middle-class families.

Schools that accept vouchers are no better than public schools and they drain tax dollars from the public treasury for the support of religious organizations.

Your tax dollars are going…

…instead of going to support your underfunded neighborhood public school.

New research on a closely watched school voucher program finds that it hurts students’ math test scores — and that those scores don’t bounce back, even years later.

That’s the grim conclusion of the latest study, released Tuesday, looking at Louisiana students who used a voucher to attend a private school. It echoes research out of IndianaOhio, and Washington, D.C. showing that vouchers reduce students’ math test scores and keep them down for two years or more.

Together, they rebut some initial research suggesting that the declines in test scores would be short-lived, diminishing a common talking point for voucher proponents.

BILLIONAIRE INTERFERENCE IN PUBLIC EDUCATION: UNDEMOCRATIC

Who Should Pay for Public Education?

The Gates Familly Foundation dumps millions of dollars into public education trying experiment after experiment using public school students as the guinea pigs. Is this based on Bill Gates’s vast experience as an educator? Is it based on research done by a university’s education department under the leadership of Melinda Gates? No. It’s because they have money. Money, according to the Gates Foundation, gives them the knowledge and the right to turn public education into philanthropist-based education.

Do Bill and Melinda Gates have ulterior motives for spending their dollars on public schools? I can’t answer that. Perhaps their motives are sincere and they really do want to improve public schools. No matter what their motives, however, that’s not how public education should function in a democracy. Our elected representatives on local school boards should determine the curriculum for our schools. If Bill and Melinda Gates and their billionaire peers want to help improve public education they should pay their taxes.

So yes, we should propose raising taxes to more adequately fund public schools, so they don’t have to apply for grants from foundations that will want control over aspects of their core work. Underfunding public education (and the rise of the Billionaire Social Entrepreneur Class) have pushed many public schools into a corner: they need more money to accomplish the things they want to be doing. The things they know will help their students flourish.

Schools can become dependent on grants. Teachers these days are often forced to Donors-Choose even basic supplies. We have abandoned truly adequate public education funding in favor of piecemeal begging and co-opting our principles for much-needed money. Public institutions, from roads, fire-fighting, hospitals and libraries to the military, need public funding. Because we all depend on them.

DEAR CHARTERS, HERE’S MONEY. LOVE BETSY

Charter networks KIPP and IDEA win big federal grants to fund ambitious growth plans

Betsy DeVos, who purchased her cabinet position from American politicians, has directed her U.S. Education Department to spend millions on charter schools. A charter school advocate said of the gift…

“In many states and cities, it’s potentially the only source of start-up dollars that schools receive…”

Maybe that’s because the local community doesn’t need, want, or isn’t willing to pay for another school.

“The U.S. Department of Education has not, in our opinion, been a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars in regard to its management of the Charter Schools Program,” wrote Carol Burris and Jeff Bryant, the Network for Public Education report’s authors.

“If there are any instances of waste, fraud or abuse, the Department will certainly address them, but this so-called study was funded and promoted by those who have a political agenda against charters and its ‘results’ need to be taken with a grain of salt,” Liz Hill, a Department of Education spokesperson, said in an email.

Nina Rees, the president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said federal grants are a crucial source of funding for start-up schools and that closures of ineffective schools are signs that the charter model is working.

“In many states and cities it’s potentially the only source of start-up dollars that schools receive,” she said. “When you first open a school, unless you come into the work with your own money, you don’t have any way of paying for certain things.”

THE PENALTY FOR CHOOSING TO TEACH

The teacher weekly wage penalty hit 21.4 percent in 2018, a record high

Let’s admit it. Many of America’s teachers make enough money to live on. The average teacher’s salary in Indiana is more than $50,000. When adjusted for local cost of living it’s even higher. Any minimum wage worker in the U.S. would love to have a job at even half that rate, so what are teachers complaining about?

First, that’s just an average, and the average is dropping. One reason it’s dropping is that Indiana no longer allows salary schedules for teachers. If you start your school teaching career at about $38,000 you’ll stay at that salary until your school system can find money to give you a raise. In Indiana, the cost of living has increased faster than the increases in funding by the General Assembly. Since 1999 Indiana adjusted teacher salaries have dropped more than 15%.

Second, while teachers don’t go into education expecting to become rich, they also expect to earn more than minimum wage. How much do teachers make compared to other workers with the same training? According to this article, it’s about 20% less nationwide, even higher in Indiana. Where will we find people to teach in our public school classrooms if we don’t pay them a competitive wage?

A shortage of teachers harms students, teachers, and the public education system as a whole. Lack of sufficient, qualified teachers and staff instability threaten students’ ability to learn and reduce teachers’ effectiveness, and high teacher turnover consumes economic resources that could be better deployed elsewhere. The teacher shortage makes it more difficult to build a solid reputation for teaching and to professionalize it, which further contributes to perpetuating the shortage. In addition, the fact that the shortage is distributed so unevenly among students of different socioeconomic backgrounds challenges the U.S. education system’s goal of providing a sound education equitably to all children.

(((DISINTEGRATING BEFORE OUR EYES)))

Once We Were Free: Mourning the era of American Jewish freedom

I…want you to understand how it felt to find a safe harbor after thousands of years and build lives and generations there—and then watch it begin to disintegrate before our eyes.

This isn’t about public education. It’s about the increase in religious and racial violence in the United States.

Jewish baby boomers have grown up in a nation (nearly) free from religious persecution. Many of our grandparents and parents had to leave their homes in Europe to escape pogroms and mass murder. Many faced discrimination when they came to the U.S. in housing and jobs, but over the years, and generations, things improved for us.

Growing up in liberal Jewish America I learned about centuries of discrimination and persecution, yet I was assured that the Jewish people had now found a safe haven in America.

The last six months have brought an abrupt end to the image of America as being a safe-haven for its Jewish citizens. What follows are the thoughts of one mother who mourns the loss of Jewish safety in America.

I know some readers never experienced freedom in America. I know there are people who grew up in an America that enslaved their ancestors, an America that brought their community smallpox and genocide, an America that put their grandmothers in internment camps, that deported their parents. An America that stole from them, hurt them, killed them. They ask me: How can you complain? Why should we care that you once knew freedom and lost it, when we have never been free. To those readers: I stand with you unequivocally. I know you never had the America I once did. I will fight beside you to build an America where all of us had the freedom I once had. None of our children should pray behind armed guards. All of us, all of our kids should be safe, prosperous, and free. I want to hear all of your stories, all the ways America hurt you and took freedom from you. But I also want you to understand how it felt to find a safe harbor after thousands of years and build lives and generations there—and then watch it begin to disintegrate before our eyes. All of our voices should be heard. All of us deserve a new era of freedom, prosperity, and safety. I hope what we build in the coming years makes us freer than all of our grandmothers’ wildest dreams. I believe we must come together and fight for the America that seemed so close we could taste it just a few years ago. We must fight for all of us, for every American to have lives so free we can’t even begin to imagine them yet. Hope still lives here, somewhere, even if it feels far away today.

⛪️💲🚌

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Filed under Article Medleys, Billionaires, Charters, DeVos, Early Childhood, Gates, Preschool, Public Ed, Religion, SchoolFunding, TeacherSalary, Teaching Career, vouchers

2019 Medley #3

Third-Grade Flunk Laws, NCLB, School Libraries, Second Amendment, First Amendment, Segregation in Indiana, Losers in the White House

THIRD GRADE FLUNK LAWS

Third Grade Flunk Laws–and (Un)intended Consequences

States (and schools…and teachers) continue to retain children in third grade (and in other grades) simply because they can’t read at an arbitrarily determined “level.”

Retention in grade doesn’t help children “catch up.” It doesn’t give kids “another year to grow.” It doesn’t help and often hurts

This post by Nancy Flanagan discusses the unintended consequences of using an “intervention” strategy that doesn’t work.

[For more information on Retention in Grade, click HERE.]

Now we are witnessing the other consequences of the Third Grade Threat—pushing inappropriate instruction down to kindergarten, as anxious districts fear that students who are not reading at grade level (a murky goal, to begin with) will embarrass the district when letters go out to parents of third graders who are supposed to be retained. Because it’s the law.

Who’s to blame when students lag behind (arbitrary) literacy benchmarks, for whatever reason, from learning in a second language, an identified disability or merely being a late-bloomer? Teachers, of course.

 

NCLB: DEVELOPMENTALLY INAPPROPRIATE

How NCLB is Still Destroying Reading for Children 

NCLB gave us Reading First and testing, testing, testing. This was followed by Race to the Top which continued to punish schools for societal failures. Bill Gates jumped in with Common Core, a reverse programmed curriculum forcing developmentally inappropriate instruction on students in the early grades.

This hypervigilant push for children to read before first grade is not working.

Bring back kindergarten! Quit repetitively testing children! Get those play kitchens and sand tables out of the closet!

Don’t only say that kindergarten shouldn’t be the new first grade! Bring back kindergarten! Get rid of NCLB once and for all!

SCHOOL LIBRARIES SUFFER FROM UNDERFUNDING

U.S. Public Schools Have Lost Nearly 20% Of Their Librarians Since 2000

Here’s one more way that we’re shortchanging our future.

The shortage in public school librarian employment — which saw the most dramatic drop following the Great Recession of 2008 and hasn’t recovered since — has hit districts serving minorities the hardest. Among all the districts that have retained all their librarians since 2005, 75% are white, Education Week reports. On the other end of the scale, student populations in the 20 districts that lost the most librarians in the same time comprised 78% students of color.

In other words, while U.S. employment rates are back up in the wake of the Great Recession, the public school librarian sector has not rebounded, and the nation’s collective failure to rebuild its public information infrastructure is hitting minorities the hardest.

 

WE CANNOT AFFORD PARALLEL SCHOOL SYSTEMS

Charter Schools Are Pushing Public Education to the Breaking Point

When striking Los Angeles teachers won their demand to call for a halt to charter school expansions in California, they set off a domino effect, and now teachers in other large urban districts are making the same demand.

Unchecked charter school growth is also bleeding into 2020 election campaigns. Recently, New York magazine columnist Jonathan Chait berated Democratic Massachusetts Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren for having opposed a ballot initiative in her home state in 2016 that would have raised a cap on the number of charter schools. “There may be no state in America that can more clearly showcase the clear success of charter schools than [Massachusetts],” declared Chait.

But while Chait and other charter school fans claim Massachusetts as a charter school model, the deeper reality is that charters are driving Boston’s public education system to the financial brink.

As the Boston Globe recently reported, the city is experiencing an economic boom, but its schools resemble “an economically depressed industrial center.” The state’s unfair funding formula is part of the problem, but an ever-expanding charter school industry also imposes a huge financial drain.

WHAT KIND OF COUNTRY KILLS ITS OWN CHILDREN…

Since Parkland

It’s time for commonsense gun laws. The Second Amendment is no more important than the First Amendment. We freely accept accommodations and exceptions to the First in the form of libel and slander laws. It’s time we tweak the Second Amendment so that our children can grow to adulthood.

12 months
1,200 American kids killed by guns
1,200 stories about the lives they led, reported by teen journalists across the country

 

NON-CHRISTIANS DON’T MATTER TO JUSTICES

With Alabama Execution Case, Supreme Court Declares That Only Christianity Matters

…and speaking of the First Amendment, we have some educating to do. We need to teach certain members of the Supreme Court that religious accommodations are not only for Christians. Perhaps they believe that America is a Christian Nation (hint: it’s not). In any case, the five “conservative” justices ruled that a Muslim was not allowed access to his preferred spiritual leader before he was executed. You would think that the First Amendment mattered as much to “conservatives” as the Second…

I’m not asking you to feel sympathy for a man who raped and murdered a child. I’m asking you to be outraged by a Supreme Court blatantly and publicly stating that only Christianity matters. This decision spells disaster for minority religious believers and non-believers alike. Our heartfelt beliefs, our core values, are without value to the majority of this Court. Where exemptions are granted, it will be to Christians. Their beliefs are important enough to the right wing majority that they warrant protection. The equally strongly held moral values of Muslims, or Hindus, or Jews, or atheists are to be dismissed if they cause even the slightest inconvenience to the state.

We knew we were facing a tough battle with this Supreme Court. We had no clue just how hard it would become so quickly.

SEGREGATION IN INDIANA

1920s decisions shaped racial landscape

Blogger Steve Hinnefeld provides an excellent history lesson on segregation in Indiana.

But Indiana schools are still segregated by race, ethnicity and family income, according to a 2017 study and data visualization by the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University. The legacy of the 1920s lives on.

 

LOSERS ARE AS LOSERS DO

Finally, the President’s eldest son has about as much verbal self-control as his father. Speaking at a Presidential rally against black and brown immigration, the “first son” called teachers “losers” who indoctrinate their students in socialism.

My response to that are the following socialist benefits Americans enjoy: the U.S. Military, oil subsidies, farm subsidies, social security, Medicare, public roadways and waterways, municipal water systems, public libraries, police and fire departments, the postal service, public trash pickup and landfills, congressional health care, veterans’ health care, public parks, the court system, state and city-run beaches, unemployment insurance, the national weather service, and NASA. [For more see HERE.]

Here are two excellent responses to Junior’s idiocy.

Commentary: Trump Jr., losers are as losers do

We have a trust-fund baby like the president’s son, one not even smart enough to stay away from meetings where people planned lawbreaking, calling other hard-working Americans losers.

That by itself is enough to trigger a gag reflex.

Then there’s the gratuitous nonsense about socialism. Coming from a guy whose family members are soaking up millions of tax dollars as they vacation every third day at one Trump property after another and leave the nation’s citizenry with the bill, that’s so rich it’s gooey.

Finally, there’s the muddle-headed and mean-spirited goofiness of whining about indoctrination at a Donald Trump rally.

Young Trump complained about indoctrination at an event where a Trump supporter assaulted a BBC cameraman and where anyone who doesn’t chant agreement with everything the leader says or shouts is threatened, beat up or kicked out.

But that’s the way it is with folks like Trump Junior.

Diary Of A Socialist Indoctrinator

Principal McBossface held me over a minute after the meeting to let me know that he’s aware I’m running behind on my Socialist Indoctrination and to remind me that it’s super-critical that I get up to speed. I’m really feeling the pressure.

📝📚🚌

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Filed under Article Medleys, Charters, GunControl, library, NCLB, Politics, Racism, reading first, Religion, retention, SchoolShootings, Segregation

2019 Medley #2

N.J. Charters, “Bible Literacy” Courses,
Teacher Shortage, Kg Readiness,
IN General Assembly, L.A. Strike, Vouchers, Science Facts, Happy Birthday Jackie Robinson!

FALSE PROMISES

Broken Promises: Camden’s “Renaissance” Charter Schools

We keep looking for ways to fix public schools, but it’s just as important for us look for ways to fix inequity and poverty. Our schools are just a mirror, reflecting the societal conditions our policy-makers, and we the voters, are unable or unwilling to correct. Until we focus on the source of the problem — that some people are given rights and privileges denied to others — we’ll continue to fail.

[emphasis in original]

Students who enter charter school lotteries are not equivalent to students who don’t. Plenty of research backs this up (see the lit review in this paper for a good summary of this research). Combine this with the high attrition rates in many “successful” charters, and the high suspension rates at many more, and you have a system designed to separate students by critical family characteristics that do not show up in student enrollment data.

…It’s important to note that the Camden City Public Schools do not have the luxury of setting caps on enrollments, deciding which grades to serve, or not enrolling students who move in after the kindergarten year. Everyone in Camden must get a seat at a CCPS school. But only a lucky subset of students get to attend a renaissance school.

 

“BIBLE LITERACY” COURSES

The Threat Behind Public School ‘Bible Literacy’ Courses

Not all of America’s public school students are Christian. Not all Christians in the United States use the same translation of The Bible. When we try to include religious texts in school we run up against the problem of whose version of the text to use, which religious texts should be included, and which religions or sects to include. Teachers who teach such courses need to be well-versed in the law making sure they don’t express a preference for one religion, sect, religious text, or version of a religious text over another.

This is one of the reasons that the First Amendment separates church from state. Madison, the author of the first amendment, grew to recognize the need for the separation of church and state through…

…his own personal experiences in Virginia, where Anglicanism was the officially established creed and any attempt to spread another religion in public could lead to a jail term.

Early in 1774, Madison learned that several Baptist preachers were behind bars in a nearby county for public preaching. On Jan. 24, an enraged Madison wrote to his friend William Bradford in Philadelphia about the situation…Madison wrote. “This vexes me the most of anything whatever. There are at this time in the adjacent County not less than 5 or 6 well meaning men in close Gaol [jail] for publishing their religious Sentiments which in the main are very orthodox. I have neither the patience to hear talk or think anything relative to this matter, for I have squabbled and scolded abused and ridiculed so long about it, to so little purpose that I am without common patience. So I leave you to pity me and pray for Liberty of Conscience to revive among us.”

The current crop of Bible-in-public-school bills does nothing more than attempt to inject religion into public schools. Indiana State Senator Dennis Kruse, in his bill, SB 373, makes it especially plain that this is his goal since his bill adds “creation science” into the mix.

Often, these courses are just a cover to bring a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible into public schools. Essentially, they’re Sunday School lessons masquerading as legitimate instruction.

…Let’s not be misled: Barton, the backers of Project Blitz and other far-right groups behind this new push aren’t interested in truly objective classes about the Bible in public schools. They want classes that indoctrinate children in a specific religious perspective – theirs.

NO TEACHER SHORTAGE

There Is No Teacher Shortage

This post by Peter Greene (the first of two in here) explains that the teacher shortage is the result of stagnant working conditions and lack of respect for teachers.

For almost twenty years (at least) the profession has been insulted and downgraded. Reformy idea after reformy idea has been based on the notion that teachers can’t be trusted, that teachers can’t do their job, that teachers won’t do their jobs unless threatened. Teachers have been straining to lift the huge weight of education, and instead of showing up to help, wave after wave of policy maker, politician and wealthy dilettante have shown up to holler, “What’s wrong with you, slacker! Let me tell you how it’s supposed to be done.” And in the meantime, teachers have seen their job defined down to Get These Kids Ready For A Bad Standardized Test.

And pay has stagnated or, in some states, been inching backwards. And not just pay, but financial support for schools themselves so that teachers must not only make do with low pay, but they must also make do with bare bones support for their workplace.

And because we’ve been doing this for two decades, every single person who could be a potential new teacher has grown up thinking that this constant disrespect, this job of glorified clerk and test prep guide, is the normal status quo for a teacher.

 

KINDERGARTEN READINESS MAY NOT MEAN WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS

MD: Failing Five Year Olds

When I began teaching my first class of third graders (after a half year of teaching kindergarten) I discovered that the achievement range of my 38 students was much larger than I had imagined. Some students were reading several years above grade level, and some were reading one or two years below grade level. One student in particular, John*, was reading at a pre-primer level. In retrospect it was plain that this child was a candidate for special education, but, as a first-year teacher in a system with minimal provisions for special needs children (at least at that time), I was responsible for figuring out what to do to help him learn to read.

What should a teacher do with a child reading at a pre-primer level in third grade? I decided that I would do the same for him as I did for the students who were reading several grade levels above average. I would provide material at his level. That meant that John wouldn’t be exposed to grade-level reading material. In other words, I changed the curriculum to fit his needs, rather than make a futile attempt to force him into a curriculum in which he would fail, become frustrated, and learn to hate reading. The latter is what many schools have forced teachers to do since No Child Left Behind.

* not his real name

…it is not a five year old’s job to be ready for kindergarten– it is kindergarten’s job to be ready for the five year olds. If a test shows that the majority of littles are not “ready” for your kindergarten program, then the littles are not the problem– your kindergarten, or maybe your readiness test, is the problem…if you still think that children raised in poor families have “too many” needs, then maybe start asking how you can ameliorate the problems of poverty that are getting in the way.

NO VOTER INPUT FOR EDUCATION POLICY IN INDIANA

Bill gives governor unusual power over schools

I wrote about a related issue in this bill last week. This bill, should it become law, would mean that the State Superintendent of Public Instruction would be an appointed position beginning in 2021, rather than a position voted on by the citizens. Since members of the State Board of Education are also appointed, the voters will have no direct input in the state’s education policy except through the governor.

Governor Holcomb will be the one to appoint the Secretary of Education which means that of the eleven members of the SBOE, nine will be appointed by the Governor and one each by the Speaker of the House, and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.

With HB 1005, Indiana would become one of 15 states where the governor appoints the chief state school officer. The most common procedure – used in 21 states — is for the state board of education to appoint the chief state school officer.

Indiana’s governor appoints members of the state board of education; so, with approval of the bill, the governor will control both the setting and administering of education policy.

In states where the governor appoints the chief state school officer, the governor has total power to appoint state board members in only Iowa, Maine, New Jersey and Virginia. In other states, board members are elected; or they are chosen by the governor but confirmed by the legislature.

The House approved the measure Thursday by a vote of 70-29, with most of the yes votes coming from Republicans and most of the no votes from Democrats. It rejected a Democratic-sponsored amendment to require the secretary of education to have experience in education.

L.A. TEACHERS STRIKE FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Los Angeles teachers went on strike for our schools – and the country

Americans still prioritize now over future. We have cut funding for public schools through actual reductions and through the transference of tax funds from public schools to charter and voucher schools. Indiana, for example, paid $154 million to school voucher schools. The actual cost of charter schools is much more difficult to find, but a Duke University study of charters’ impact on North Carolina schools determined that

…charter school growth results in a “large and negative fiscal impact” on the districts evaluated.

and

…the findings are consistent with previous studies and show that charter growth generally results in a lower quality of education for students who remain in a district’s traditional public schools.

The Los Angeles teachers who went on strike earlier this month didn’t strike only for more pay and benefits. They were offered a 6% increase before the strike. They accepted a 6% increase to end the strike. What they gained were improvements to the learning conditions of the students in the form of lowered class sizes and much-needed wraparound services.

It was clear, however, that part of the problem with funding in Los Angeles and California, as well as in other parts of the country, is that money is being diverted from public schools to privately run charter schools. States can’t afford to support multiple school systems.

We believe every student, however challenged, ought to have access to success. And we know that in our classes with more than 40 students, there are often five or 10 with special needs and another 10 or 15 still learning English as a second language while as many as half or two-thirds are homeless or in foster care or in a continual state of crisis. Students collapse in class from hunger and stress and fatigue and depression.

Overcrowded classrooms are a brutal expression that our students don’t matter. They are someone else’s kids – and all too often they are no one’s kids. No one except the dedicated teachers who every day give a damn about them. And we’re going to keep giving a damn and hope that one day those in power give a damn.

 

ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL

Side effects in education: Winners and losers in school voucher programs

One size does not fit all. Some teaching methods work for some children, other methods work for other students. Some schools are better for some students, other schools are better for others.

Think about this in terms of the evaluation of teachers, for example. Teacher A might be able to help student A, who is homeless, adjust to school, while Teacher B may not. But Teacher B’s classes usually have higher test scores. If you were the parent of student A which teacher would you want for your child?

As much as we might want to seek a perfect solution for all students, one student’s medicine may very well be another one’s poison. As students’ characteristics and education treatments interact, negative side effects may occur. Funding private schools with public dollars probably does not affect all students positively in a uniform fashion. To date, studies of school voucher programs have found their effects to vary among different populations of students.

Moreover, besides the side effects resulting from the interactions between students’ characteristics and education treatments, side effects also occur because of the broad range of desirable and potentially competing education outcomes. So far, evidence of the effects of voucher programs has been limited to a narrow set of outcomes such as academic achievement. Little, if any, empirical evidence has been collected concerning other equally important outcomes of schooling, such as preparing students for civic engagement and betterment of a shared society (Abowitz & Stitzlein, 2018; Labaree, 2018). Thus, we do not know their effects, negative or positive, on other important outcomes. It is, however, reasonable to believe that voucher programs and other forms of privatization of education can have negative side effects on individual students, the public school system, and the society (Labaree, 2018).

A WARNING

The most disturbing news yet

I recently saw a discussion on social media where someone stated…

“Science is facts. Theory is not yet science.”

After a quick facepalm, I responded with the article, “Just a Theory”: 7 Misused Science Words. This didn’t work, of course, because the person in question had been “educated” at a “Bible Institute.” He was obviously mistaught basic science concepts.

This is what we are up against. When the effects of climate change are no longer deniable, these same people will, at that point, point to “god” and claim we are being punished for allowing gay marriage, transgender soldiers, unisex bathrooms, or some such nonsense. Until that time, they will go along with the right-wing talking point denying climate change claiming it’s just a conspiracy to get more money for scientists.

In the meantime, there are places where insects are disappearing and the entire food chain is at risk. Those places shouldn’t be taken as exceptions, but rather as warnings.

“I don’t think most people have a systems view of the natural world,” he said. “But it’s all connected and when the invertebrates are declining the entire food web is going to suffer and degrade. It is a system-wide effect.”

…We are part of a complex web of interdependencies, and it’s also a non-linear dynamical system. There’s a word for when parts of such a system show a pattern of failure: it’s called catastrophe. By the time you notice it, it’s too late to stop it.

JACKIE ROBINSON – JANUARY 31, 1919

Tomorrow is Jackie Robinson’s 100th birthday.

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” — Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson Tribute: Baseball Hall of Fame.

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2018 Medley #24

Online Preschool, Children’s Screen Time,
Religion in School, Segregation,
Diverting Public Money to Privatization

 
ONLINE PRESCHOOL – AN OXYMORON

Should Your Three-Year-Old Attend Online School?

If you read only one blog entry from this medley, it should be this one.

The latest “reform” insanity is online preschool.

By preschool, I mean a developmentally appropriate environment where young children can experience social interaction, develop an understanding of literature by being read to, and have direct contact with the real world.

Developmentally appropriate does not mean that three- and four-year-olds do so-called “academic” work on worksheets or computers. It means approaching instruction based on research into how children develop and grow. Preschoolers need clay and water-tables, not worksheets. They need blocks, watercolors, and dress up clothes, not tablets and calculators. They need climbers, sandboxes, and slides, not standardized tests and “performance assessments.” They need to experience the world with their whole bodies and all of their senses.

Why then, would anyone think that young children would benefit from something called an “online preschool?”

We have tried it in Indiana. The legislature wasted $1 million for an online preschool…the same legislature that is filled with lawyers, businessmen, and career politicians who know nothing about early childhood education.

Peter Greene takes on online preschools in this post…including UPSTART, the program in use in Indiana.

Never mind that everything we know says this approach is wrong. Much research says that early academic gains are lost by third grade; some research says that pre-school academics actually make for worse long-term results. If most of your 5-year-olds are not ready for kindergarten, the problem is with your kindergarten, not your 5-year-olds.

Turning to technology does not help. A study released earlier this year by the School of Education at the University of California, Irvine, found that most “educational” apps aimed at children five and younger were developmentally inappropriate, ignoring what we know about how littles actually learn.

 

CHILD DEVELOPMENT AND TECHNOLOGY

“Disruption” Using Technology is Dangerous to Child Development and Public Education

Nancy Bailey discusses “disruption,” technology, and how “reformers” are finding new ways to damage the learning process.

Early childhood teachers express concern that tech is invading preschool education. We know that free play is the heart of learning.

But programs, like Waterford Early Learning, advertise online instruction including assessment for K-2. Their Upstart program advertises, At-home, online kindergarten readiness program that gives 4- and 5-year-old children early reading, math, and science lessons.

Technology is directed towards babies too! What will it mean to a child’s development if they stare at screens instead of picture books?

Defending the Early Years recently introduced a toolkit to help parents of young children navigate the use of technology with children. “Young Children in the Digital Age: A Parent’s Guide,” written by Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Ed.D., describes the kinds of learning experiences that will help them develop to be curious, engaged learners…

 

SOLVING THE SCREEN TIME PROBLEM FOR YOUR LITTLE ONE

Young Children in the Digital Age: A Parent’s Guide

Nancy Carlsson-Paige, senior advisor to Defending the Early Years, has written a guide for parents who are struggling with technology issues for their children. The Parent’s Guide is an easy to read summary of what young children need and how much screen time is appropriate. It includes tips on how to put the concepts into practice.

Many parents find it hard to make decisions about screen time for their kids because advice comes from different directions and often conflicts. In the field of child development, we have decades of theory and research that can be very helpful as a guide for screen and digital device use with young kids. These ideas can be a resource for you to depend on when you are trying to figure out about any screen, app, or digital device your child might want to use.

 

READING, NOT RELIGION, IN SCHOOL

Counterpoint: Don’t preach, teach

We live in a pluralistic society…and the founders decided that every citizen has the right to their own religious beliefs. The nation’s judicial system, charged with interpreting the Constitution, has taught us that government must remain neutral in religious questions. To that end, public schools are not allowed to indoctrinate children in a particular religion. Some teachers and administrators try, but, while they believe they are doing “the work of the Lord” they are actually breaking the law of the land.

While teaching about religion is allowed, and beneficial, there are places for religious preaching in American life…the home…the church, not the public school.

The reason for this becomes clear when you stop and think about the mandate of public education in a pluralistic society. Public schools should give all kids an equal sense of belonging and respect their rights. In the United States, where religious freedom is woven into our cultural and historical DNA, thousands of religions have flourished — and a growing number of Americans choose no faith at all. School boards, principals and teachers must embrace this reality, and this means they must not be in the business of deciding which religious beliefs matter for students, and which don’t. Decisions about when, where, how and if we pray are among the most intimate and personal ones we make. They are for families and individuals to decide.

 

SEGREGATION YESTERDAY. SEGREGATION TODAY…

We can draw school zones to make classrooms less segregated. This is how well your district does.

This is a long, but fascinating look at why and how our schools are still so segregated. You can even use the interactive chart to see how segregated your local school system is.

Will humans ever lose the “us” vs. “them” attitude. Americans haven’t lost it yet. People still move their families in order to get away from, and reduce the fear of “the other.” Sadly, we’re not yet mature enough to understand that we are all one people…on one planet.

Once you look at the school attendance zones this way, it becomes clearer why these lines are drawn the way they are. Groups with political clout — mainly wealthier, whiter communities — have pushed policies that help white families live in heavily white areas and attend heavily white schools.

We see this in city after city, state after state.

And often the attendance zones are gerrymandered to put white students in classrooms that are even whiter than the communities they live in.

The result is that schools today are re-segregating. In fact, schools in the South are as segregated now as they were about 50 years ago, not long after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.

 

INDIANA, GET OUT OF THE PRIVATE SCHOOL BUSINESS

Public schools’ struggle correlates directly to state voucher support

Thanks to Tony Lux, former local superintendent in Indiana, for this list of ways Indiana has neglected its public schools, and how the state’s voucher program has damaged public education.

• Since 2010, the total state budget has risen 17 percent.

• Since 2010, the consumer price index (cost of living) has risen 17 percent.

• Since 2010, the education budget has only risen 10 percent.

• Vouchers cost $150 million a year, and the cost is diverted from public school funding, resulting in an actual 7 percent increase in public school funding. (More than half the Indiana voucher recipients never attended public schools.)

• Without vouchers, every public school would get an additional $150 per student.

• Property tax caps have resulted in millions of dollars lost for many school districts.

• Public schools in poor communities annually experience a 10 percent to 60 percent property tax shortfall, equaling tens of millions of lost dollars for some.

• Remedies for lost revenue are no longer provided by the state. Districts now depend on local referendums.

• Lost property taxes that pay for school debt, construction and transportation must be replaced from state dollars intended for student instruction.

• A portion of state tuition support called the “complexity index” provides special funding to meet the needs of the poorest students. Not only has the complexity index dollar amount been decreased to “equalize” the dollars per student among all schools, but the state has decreased the number of students qualifying – for some schools – by half.

• Forbes magazine points out that Indiana is ill advisedly attempting to fund three systems of schools – traditional public, charters and vouchers – with the same budget it once used for only traditional public schools.

• The “money follows the student” mantra for charter school students creates a loss of school funding that is significantly and disproportionately more damaging than the simple sum of the dollars. If a district loses 100 students, the loss can be spread over 12 grades. A classroom still needs a teacher if it has 25 students instead of 30, but the district has lost $600,000 in funding.

• Of the 20 schools or districts receiving the highest per-pupil funding, 18 are charter schools, none of which are required to report profit taking.

• Since 2010, teacher salaries have dropped 16 percent.

There needs to be an end to the expectation that the only solution for schools, especially those in the poorest communities, in response to uncontrollable losses of revenue, is to cut, cut, cut programs, teachers, support staff and salaries regardless of the negative effect on students.

 

INTERESTING EXTRAS FROM THE WORLD OF SCIENCE

Kindergarten difficulties may predict academic achievement across primary grades

Identifying factors that predict academic difficulties during elementary school should help inform efforts to help children who may be at risk. New research suggests that children’s executive functions may be a particularly important risk factor for such difficulties.

Humpback whale songs undergo a ‘cultural revolution’ every few years

Like any fad, the songs of humpback whales don’t stick around for long. Every few years, males swap their chorus of squeaks and groans for a brand new one. Now, scientists have figured out how these “cultural revolutions” take place.

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Filed under Article Medleys, Child Development, EdTech, OnlineLearning, Preschool, Privatization, Religion, Science, ScreenTime, Segregation, vouchers

2018 Medley #16

Not Our Kids, Merging DOE and DOL,
Rising Above, My Youthful Promise,
The AMA and Gun Control, Fomenting Hate

SELFISHNESS IS THE NEW RELIGION

Fox Nails The Problem: These Aren’t Our Kids

Brian Kilmeade, one of the vilest humans on TV, reminded us what Fox News and the Trump Universe was all about when he explained that immigrant children aren’t worth getting all bent out of shape about since they’re “not our kids.” This is just another example of the “F**k you, I’ve got mine” attitude in the U.S. It’s an unfortunately common attitude about immigrants…and a common attitude about some of our fellow citizens as well (see The Price of an Incompetent President).

It’s also the same attitude which sends billions of tax dollars to voucher and charter schools at the expense of neighborhood public schools.

…understanding this aspect of tribalism explains a huge number of our problems in education.

We are happy to spend money on our kids. But those other ones, the children of Those People– these aren’t our kids, and we don’t want to spend money on them.

It’s not a new problem. Segregated schools were all about white folks saying, “I don’t want to spend my tax dollars on schools for these black kids, because these are not our kids.” They don’t belong to our group, our tribe, our family. If they want money for decent schools, then let them get that money from their own people.

These aren’t our kids. We have to take care of our own. I’ve got mine, Jack.

EDUCATION IS FOR CHILDREN

Why Merging DOE with DOL is Wrong! Education is for Children, NOT Corporations

Republicans have been trying to get rid of the US Department of Education since the day it was formed…one more way they show their hatred of public education.

Their view of education is as a pipeline for corporate workers. Contrast that with schools in Finland (go to minute 4:00) where students achieve at a much higher rate,

But school is about finding your happiness, finding a way to learn what makes you happy.

In the U.S. the schools are about passing the test, and getting a job. Individual teachers are concerned with their students finding happiness, of course, but the current test-and-punish status quo makes that difficult.

That’s sad, because, as a fellow teacher once told me, “Children are 25% of our population, and 100% of our future.”

While a good government should forecast the kinds of jobs that will be available in the future, its focus should be on the students themselves, and what will help them make the best career choice. It should be about helping students realize their interests and their hopes for the future.

That focus should include how to help young people get to college without incurring terrible debt.

We should quit trying to fund two education systems, charters and public schools, and shore up one dynamic public school system that serves the diverse needs of everyone.

Helping children find their way in a difficult and changing world is reasonable. Steering children into jobs that meet the needs of a corrupt government, that does not treasure the dreams of its children, is not the America we believe in.

RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO LOWER YOURSELF

Some Suggestions on How to Engage People Online Without Losing Your Mind

I discovered Michelle Martin’s blog last week. In this post she gives some hints on how to treat others with respect, even when we disagree. Be better than what you despise.

[emphasis in original]

“The Left” is not a monolithic group of God-haters, who despise the military and cops, and seek to destroy the American way of life. And “the Right” is not a monolithic group of white supremacists who hate all immigrants, women, people of color, Muslims and members of LGBTQ+ communities. But (and this is an important but) many politicians want us to think that. In this sense, we all need to become resisters.

    • Resist the temptation to demonize.
    • Resist the temptation to demoralize.
    • Resist the temptation to stereotype.

I NEVER FULFILLED MY YOUTHFUL PROMISE…THANK GOODNESS

“You’re a Doctor? I Thought You Were Stupid”: Stellar Grad Speech by Indy ER Physician

I can’t imagine anyone in my high school or college classes who would have mistaken me for someone who was smart. I was a poor student, unmotivated, and not likely to be on anyone’s list of most likely to succeed. In high school I was told that I needed to try harder…put forth some effort.

I was only accepted in college because I was a passable musician, but even that didn’t last and I barely made it through my first year, and was told that once I graduated (assuming I got that far) I should find something else to do.

I did graduate, eventually, and began my career selling sheet music. Then things changed, but that’s a story for another time.

In contrast to my unremarkable beginnings, I finally found some success at the other end of the classroom…as a teacher. Perhaps it’s because I was able to understand those who were unmotivated and not likely to succeed…

I found this graduation speech oddly reminiscent of my own academic history.

I got an F in high school chemistry, and an F in algebra and a bunch of C’s, a couple D’s and if it weren’t for gym and kings court singers, I doubt I would have gotten any A’s. Any kings court singers here? I was the jester in the madrigal dinner. I did a few other things. I was in junior spec, Reviewing the Situation, 1981 baby. I played trumpet in band — actually I was second to the last trumpet — which means I played exactly two notes in every song. Blaaamp blaaammp. Nobody ever saw my name on some academic kudos report sent out by the school and no parent ever uttered the words:

“Louis Profeta made honor roll, why can’t you?”

And if I had to apply to college today at Indiana University, I would not get in.

THE AMA’S COMMON SENSE PROPOSAL

Frustrated AMA adopts sweeping policies to cut gun violence

Yet another professional group which has to deal with gun violence has come out with a list of rational gun-control proposals which the NRA will probably claim is trying to “take away your guns!”

Actually, that’s true. The AMA’s proposals will take away your guns if you’ve been found guilty of domestic violence or stalking, if you’re suicidal or if you’re someone who has threatened violence.

In the same way you can lose your drivers license if you’ve become a danger behind the wheel to society at large, you should lose your right to own a gun if you’re a danger to society.

AMA delegates voted to adopt several of nearly a dozen gun-related proposals presented by doctor groups that are part of the AMA’s membership. They agreed to:

— Support any bans on the purchase or possession of guns and ammunition by people under 21.

— Back laws that would require licensing and safety courses for gun owners and registration of all firearms.

— Press for legislation that would allow relatives of suicidal people or those who have threatened imminent violence to seek court-ordered removal of guns from the home.

— Encourage better training for physicians in how to recognize patients at risk for suicide.

— Push to eliminate loopholes in laws preventing the purchase or possession of guns by people found guilty of domestic violence, including expanding such measures to cover convicted stalkers.

ORGANIZED RELIGION — STILL FOMENTING HATE

Global Uptick in Government Restrictions on Religion in 2016

Lest you think I believe that it’s only Americans who are selfish and tribal, here are results from a recent Pew Survey reminding us how much humans hate “the other.”

Restrictions on religion around the world continued to climb in 2016, according to Pew Research Center’s ninth annual study of global restrictions on religion. This marks the second year in a row of increases in the overall level of restrictions imposed either by governments or by private actors (groups and individuals) in the 198 countries examined in the study.

The share of countries with “high” or “very high” levels of government restrictions – that is, laws, policies and actions by officials that restrict religious beliefs and practices – rose from 25% in 2015 to 28% in 2016. This is the largest percentage of countries to have high or very high levels of government restrictions since 2013, and falls just below the 10-year peak of 29% in 2012.

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Filed under Article Medleys, Immigrants, Personal History, Religion, SchoolShootings, US DOE

The Lord Hates a Lying Tongue

A response to those who claim school shootings are because we’ve “removed God from school.”

A few hours after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida I saw the following in my Facebook feed…

WE INTERRUPT THIS POST TO ADD…

This…

I was finished writing this and was just about to post it when I was distracted by an article from the Washington Post about the Florida House of Representatives.

The day after they rejected an assault weapons ban and passed a resolution against pornography, the Florida House of Representatives voted to require all public schools to display the state motto: In God We Trust.

Rep. Kim Daniels (R), who runs a ministry, said it would help provide needed “light” in the state’s schools, according to the Tampa Bay Times. It quoted her as saying: “He is not a Republican or a Democrat. He is not black or white. He is the light, and our schools need light in them like never before.”

While telling other House members why she thought it was important to pass the legislation, she said: “We cannot put God in a closet when the issues we face are bigger than us.”

Presumably, the members of the Florida House believe having “God” displayed in the school would have stopped Nikolas Cruz from killing 17 people. The vote on the bill was 97-10. House members applauded after it was passed.

Question: How many of those 97 House members received campaign contributions from the NRA?

HAS GOD BEEN BANNED FROM SCHOOLS?

The meme above claims that God is not allowed in school. It implies that since the Supreme Court banned school (government) sponsored prayer in public schools, God has somehow been removed.

First of all, I think most conservative Christians – for example, someone who might have posted such a meme – believe their God is everywhere. If that’s the case, then no act by mere humans can remove God. Do they believe that the U.S. Supreme Court has the power to eliminate their God from a particular location? I doubt it.

Do they believe that God ignores children and ceases to watch over them the moment they enter a public school? The children, after all, aren’t the ones who made the decision stopping government sponsored prayer. Why should they be punished?

What about school shootings at parochial schools? The Supreme Court decision didn’t force private religious schools to stop praying with their students. Was God not allowed in the Christian university near Oakland in 2012 where seven people were killed? What about the shooting at the Apostolic Revival Center and Christian School in Fort Myers, Florida, or the Agape Christian Academy in Pine Hills, Florida? Were those schools stripped of their God by the SCOTUS? Was there no prayer allowed in any of those schools? Were the children and young adults who attended those schools somehow unworthy of their God’s protection?

Churches, too. The nine people who died at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston S.C. and the twenty-six people who died at the Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas were surely under God’s protection. How did that happen?

Apparently “allowing” God and prayer in a building won’t stop bullets.

PRAYER IS ALLOWED!

That meme is false. Prayer IS allowed in public schools as long as it doesn’t disrupt the educational process.

Students can pray before or after school, before they eat, before they take a test, at recess, or during a time when they are working on their own as long as they don’t interrupt the learning process or harass other students with aggressive proselytization.

Students can express their religious beliefs in their school work, as long as their work fulfills the requirements of the assignment. In other words, if I assign a science experiment dealing with the nature of sound, I would not expect to see information about my students’ religious beliefs. On the other hand, if I ask the students to write about something important to them, their religious beliefs might be an appropriate topic.

Schools are governmental institutions. Teachers and administrators, as agents of a governmental institution, may not lead students in prayer.

Simply put, individual, non-disruptive prayer is allowed in public schools. Government sponsored prayer is not.

Read that again.

Individual, non-disruptive prayer is allowed in public schools. Government sponsored prayer is not.

As I wrote last month in Public School Prayer and the Constitution – Conflict in Louisiana

…every child, in every public school in America, already has the right to pray whenever they want to as long as they don’t disrupt the learning process and as long as they don’t harass their fellow students.

According to the Joint Statement of Current Law and Religion in the Public Schools, a document signed by 35 religious and civic groups,

Students have the right to pray individually or in groups or to discuss their religious views with their peers so long as they are not disruptive…

[Note: The Joint Statement clearly explains what sorts of things are and are not allowed. Teachers who are interested in exploring the subject further should also read A Teacher’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools.]

And according to A Parent’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools from the First Amendment Center,

Didn’t the Supreme Court rule against student prayer in public schools?

No. The Supreme Court has struck down state sponsored or state-organized prayer in public schools. The Court has interpreted the First Amendment to mean that government must be neutral among religions and between religion and nonreligion. This means that school officials may not organize, mandate, or participate in student religious activities, including prayer…

It seems, then, that God has not been banned from public schools. Students’ private, non-disruptive prayers have not been banned from public schools. The meme at the top of this post is misleading at best, and, at worst, a lie. The repeated deaths of school children is not about prayer (or lack thereof), but about the fact that, in the U.S. we simply don’t care about our nation’s children.

A LIE

I’ve read that not telling the truth, or “bearing false witness” is something to be avoided. People who perpetuate the lie that God and prayer are somehow “not allowed” in public schools should research that topic, I think.

They might start with Proverbs 6:16-19.

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UPDATE: See also James Kirylo: God Never Left Our Public Schools

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2018 Medley #3

School Shootings, Religion in School, Teacher Shortage, Reform, Charters, Vouchers

GUN VIOLENCE

Wake Up, America! You Have a School Shooting Problem!

Since this blog post of Steven Singer’s was posted less than a week ago, we’ve had yet another school shooting…this one in Los Angeles. And we have heard talk of a Trump/Russia/NRA connection

What has been done to curb gun violence in the US since Newtown (2012)? Columbine (1999)?

“Thoughts and prayers…” Absolutely nothing.

According to an FBI study that looked at incidents from 2000-2013, nearly one quarter of all U.S. shootings took place at schools. And they’re on the rise.

Yet this latest incident barely raised an eyebrow in the collective consciousness.

Hardly anyone even attempted to offer a solution.

The reason?

Since Sandy Hook, we’ve effectively given up.

In December of 2012 a gunman walked in to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 20 children and six adults, and we did nothing.

We stood by after the murder of elementary kids and couldn’t get up the collective energy to do one damn thing to stop things like this from happening again.

No new regulations.

No assault weapons ban.

No gun buyback programs.

NOTHING.

CHURCH AND STATE

Local School to Train Teachers After Church/State Violations

Last Monday (1/29/2018), I posted Public School Prayer and the Constitution – Conflict in Louisiana which dealt with a lawsuit against a school for violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

This case from Michigan, deals with the same sort of thing. Here, however, school authorities have made a commitment to teach their teachers about the law.

Here are three more publications, each endorsed by a variety of religious and civic groups, which will give you a good background on how to handle religion in public schools.

Once teachers, administrators, and other school employees know what the law requires, there should be no excuse for mixing education and proselytization in public schools. This information ought to be mandatory at the beginning of every school year.

A suit may still be filed over the Bible study before school starts, but this is a good development overall. And it needs to be replicated nationwide. These problems are so pervasive all over the country that the Department of Education should force all public schools to have a mandatory in-service day to train teachers and administrators on what the law says they can and cannot do within the parameters of the First Amendment.

REFORM/TEACHER SHORTAGE

Cycle of frustration

The constant drumbeat of so-called “education reform” has been that public schools are “failing.” “School failure” really means societal failure. It’s odd, isn’t it, that America’s “failing” public schools are located in high poverty areas…and all the “bad teachers” are teaching at those schools while America’s schools for the middle class and wealthy are excelling. It’s odd because out of school factors contribute to school achievement much more than teachers do…yet policy makers don’t accept responsibility for societal failure which leads to “school failure.”

The national attack on public education which began in earnest in 2001 with the passage of No Child Left Behind (though school privatization has long been a right-wing/libertarian dream) has done nothing but disrupt and damage public schools around the country. Part of the attack, especially here in Indiana, has been against public school teachers and their unions.

The current attempt to improve educational achievement by lowering standards for becoming a teacher, is a direct result of the attacks on teachers.

[Note: the amendment discussed in this editorial has not yet been passed into law (as of Feb 2, 2018).]

The pattern in Indiana education policy has become all too familiar:

1. Pass a law to disrupt public education in the pursuit of “reform.”

2. Express dismay over the repercussions of the new law without acknowledging what caused them.

3. Pass another law to “fix” the problems created, doing additional harm to public schools.

The most recent example surfaced Wednesday when a last-minute amendment was added to a bill to allow public schools to fill up to 10 percent of staff with unlicensed teachers. Why is this necessary? Because some school districts are struggling to hire faculty in the face of teacher shortages. Why are there shortages? Because laws regarding teacher evaluations, tenure and collective bargaining have made the field less attractive.

REFORM

The Sad Impact of Corporate School Reform on Students with Emotional/Behavioral Disabilities

Thanks to Nancy Bailey for her continuing attention to the damage that so-called education “reform” causes students with disabilities.

School choice is not going to do anything to fix these problems.

  • Charters and most private schools have a record of pushing kids with emotional/behavioral difficulties out.
  • As taxpayers we don’t know what takes place with children who are home schooled.
  • How does one address the mental health needs of students who sit in front of screens for school? Too much tech exacerbates mental health problems!

We need strong public schools, schools with resources that will address the needs of children and teens.

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS

Nationwide Charter School Expansion Slowing Down

Some reasons for the slow-down of charter school expansion…

1. Charter teachers have begun to unionize. One reason for developing charter schools was to “bust the teachers unions.”

2. “Failing” charter schools are simply converting to voucher accepting private schools to continue to receive public tax dollars.

3. Charter schools have suffered from an excessive number of scandals resulting in bad publicity.

Diverting public tax dollars to charters (and vouchers) has been a waste of money. Instead we should be working to increase resources and achievement at real public schools.

Put simply, charters are not subject to the same instructional, operational, fiscal, accounting or conflict of interest rules as traditional public schools. Therefore, in most states it’s perfectly legal for a charter school operator to give his brother the instructional contract, his sister the maintenance contract and his uncle the textbook contract. He can replace the teachers with computer programs and apps, while his own privately held company rents and leases the school building at a hefty markup – all with public money.

And somehow that’s still called a “public” school.

We have to face this simple fact: Charters took off not because they were a good idea to help kids learn, but because they were an excellent way to make a lot of money off of the government. It was a way to steal money meant to help children.

Largest Charter School Fail Ever Doesn’t Faze ‘School Choice’ Fans

The failure of this “school choice” was mostly ignored during “school choice” week.

In the run up to what was billed as “record breaking celebrations” of charter schools and other forms of “school choice,” there was a serious bump in the road when news outlets in Ohio reported the largest charter school closure ever in that state, and perhaps the nation, had suddenly sent over 12,000 students and their families scrambling to find new schools midyear.

…“My kids went to bed last night crying,” said a Cincinnati mom whose children attended the school.

“To just rip them out of the environment they are most used to,” complained another mom whose children had attended the school for eight years. “They have relationships with their teachers,” she said in a news video posted on the ECOT Facebook page.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

How Mike Pence expanded Indiana’s controversial voucher program when he was governor

More and more money for private schools coming out of public tax dollars…which eats into money for the public schools.

Where does the money go? To whom are the private schools accountable? Where is the public oversight? Answers – No one knows…no one…and there is none.

Pence, who describes his religious beliefs as evangelical, removed the cap on the number of students who could qualify for a voucher to a private school, increased the limits on qualifying family income, and removed Daniel’s stipulation that the student had to try the public school first.

No longer was money being saved as a small number of students transferred from public to private schools. Now middle-income families already using private schools were having their tuition paid for, at least partially, by the state.

A QUICK PEEK

There are always many more articles I’d like to post than I have room for (I try to keep the Medleys to between 4 and 8 articles). Here, then, are some that I recommend…without comments.

Study Finds Recession-Era Education Cuts Significantly Impacted Student Outcomes: How Many Constitutional Rights Were Violated?

…a 20 percent increase in per-pupil spending each year for all 12 years of public school for children from poor families leads to about 0.9 more completed years of education, 25 percent higher earnings, and a 20 percentage-point reduction in the annual incidence of adult poverty; we find no effects for children from non-poor families. The magnitudes of these effects are sufficiently large to eliminate between two-thirds and all of the gaps in these adult outcomes between those raised in poor families and those raised in non-poor families.

‘Distressed’ schools lost funding

No wonder Gary and Muncie community schools are distressed. Both Indiana school districts have had their budgets cut dramatically over the past decade. It’s not surprising they’ve struggled to pay the bills.

Trump’s Judges: The GOP’s Slow Poison for Democracy, and the Planet

Lawyer Richard Ayres has been fighting for the environment in federal courts for nearly five decades, but he says he’s never seen an onslaught on basic environmental protections like the one coming out of the Trump White House. Still, something scares Ayres even more than the determination of the Trump team to dismantle President Barack Obama’s climate change initiatives, shrink federally protected lands, weaken smog standards, scale back habitat for rare species, and expand drilling into the Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

What most unnerves Ayres and other veteran environmental lawyers and legal experts is the unprecedented opportunity President Trump has to fill the federal judiciary with anti-regulatory, pro-business appointees.

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