Posted in Article Medleys, reform, SchoolShootings, Teaching Career, vouchers

2018 Medley #6

‘Ed-Reform’ is Bipartisan, Teacher Pay,
School Shootings, Vouchers 


Betsy DeVos Didn’t Say Anything in Her Viral 60 Minutes Clip That Democrats Haven’t Supported for Years

Education reform, which, in Indiana has resulted in the loss of public revenue to parochial, private, and charter schools, is not a Republican-only phenomenon. Democrats have participated in the slow, steady, dismantling of public education in the U.S.

Starting with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) (which is not necessarily the start of the privatization movement), the Democrats have thrown their weight behind privatization. 92% of Democrats in the U.S. House voted “Aye” for the bill, as did 94% of Democrats in the Senate.

In keeping with that tradition, when it came time to replace the damaging law, the Obama administration replace the bill, with Race to the Top (RttT), which continued many of the damaging effects of NCLB.

In the last presidential election, there was little or no discussion at all of K-12 education because the two parties weren’t that far apart on the issue. The Republicans came out in favor of “choice” in their platform (p.32)

We will continue our fight for school choice until all parents can find good, safe schools for their children. To protect religious liberty we will ensure that faith-based institutions, especially those that are vital parts of underserved neighborhoods, do not face discrimination by government.

I assume by their behavior that to Indiana Republicans, “discrimination by government” means refusing to give private religious schools public tax dollars. So, to rectify that, nearly a half billion dollars of public tax revenue has been spent on Indiana vouchers since 2011, and more than $150 million in the current 2017-2018 school year.

Democrats weren’t quite as “free-market” oriented, opting for “public” charter schools and saying nothing about school vouchers.

Democrats are committed to providing parents with high-quality public school options and expanding these options for low-income youth. We support democratically governed, great neighborhood public schools and high-quality public charter schools, and we will help them disseminate best practices to other school leaders and educators. Democrats oppose for-profit charter schools focused on making a profit off of public resources.

K-12 education was rarely if ever mentioned during any of the candidate debates.

Perhaps Democrats haven’t been quite as bad as Republicans, but in this article for Slate, Ben Mathis-Lilley, explains how Democrats have also done their best to damage public education…

The bad news for Democrats who found DeVos’ performance appalling is that these principles have been a crucial part of their party’s education policy for 17 years. Broadly speaking, the regime of compelling competition between schools by creating charter-school or school-choice programs and by rewarding those whose students do well on standardized tests was launched at a federal level by the No Child Left Behind Act; the NCLB was co-sponsored by Ted Kennedy and passed the Senate in 2001 with 87 votes. When Barack Obama became president, he created the Race to the Top program, which the Washington Post described at the time as a “competition for $4.35 billion in grants” that would “ease limits on charter schools” and “tie teacher pay to student achievement,” i.e. direct extra funds to already-successful schools.


Indiana teacher pay shrinking

Isn’t it time for teachers in Indiana to speak up?

Average teacher salaries in Indiana have declined by over 15 percent in the past 15 years after adjusting for inflation. That’s according to an interactive analysis produced last week by Alvin Chang of Vox, drawing on data from the National Education Association.

Indiana’s pay cuts, Chang writes, are “worse than the nation as a whole, where teachers have had their pay cut by an average of 3 percent when we adjust for inflation. And since 2010, teachers in Indiana had their pay cut by 9.7 percent.”

They’re also worse than in West Virginia, where low pay and a lack of raises touched off a two-week teacher strike that pushed state officials to approve a 5-percent raise for educators. Clearly, lagging teacher pay is an issue across the country. The West Virginia strike could be a harbinger of things to come. Kentucky or Oklahoma could be next.


Justice Department’s School Safety Plan Puts Black, Brown Students In Danger, Critics Say

This is what happens when you focus on symptoms rather than causes. We need better policing of who can get and who owns guns in our society…better limitations on the kind of guns, sizes of magazines, and quantities of ammunition that people are allowed to buy…and better support services for people in need.

“The decision to funnel more money into the militarization of our schools and policing of young people is really problematic,” Kaitlin Banner, deputy project director at the liberal nonprofit Advancement Project, told HuffPost. When states or the federal government encourage school districts to increase the presence of police in the schools, the officers end up mostly in schools that serve children of color, who bear the brunt of the tougher security policies, she said.

“We’re similarly concerned about bringing more guns and weapons into the school environment,” Banner said.

White House vows to arm teachers

The POTUS realized that we ought to raise the age for gun purchases (we already have a higher age for handguns, why not for rifles?). Then – NRA – and he changed his mind. The NRA is a tool of the gun manufacturing industry interested only in the number of guns sold, not the safety of American citizens.

The White House on Sunday vowed to help provide “rigorous firearms training” to some schoolteachers and formally endorsed a bill to tighten the federal background checks system, but backed off President Donald Trump’s earlier call to raise the minimum age to purchase some guns to 21 years old from 18 years old.

Responding directly to last month’s gun massacre at a Florida high school, the administration rolled out a series of policy proposals that focus largely on mental health and school safety initiatives. The idea of arming some teachers has been controversial and has drawn sharp opposition from the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers lobby, among other groups.

Many of the student survivors have urged Washington to toughen restrictions on gun purchases, but such measures are fiercely opposed by the National Rifle Association, and the Trump plan does not include any substantial changes to gun laws.

Schools Should Use Walkouts in Protest of Gun Violence as a Teaching Moment

Today’s walkout is an example of informed citizenry. Learn from it…

School administrators owe it to their students to examine their reaction to young peoples’ self-expression and to ask how they can help build on this moment of protest as an educational experience. As the Supreme Court observed in Brown v. Board of Education, education is “the very foundation of good citizenship.” Public school is the place where students experience and interact with government, learn through discussion and debate with other students from differing backgrounds, and build the foundation for participation in a democratic society. Rather than seeking to silence students’ political engagement and quashing their desire for conversation, schools can approach this moment as an opportunity for learning about civic action.


School vouchers are not a proven strategy for improving student achievement

In case you missed this…vouchers don’t work to improve education and are simply a way to transfer public funds into private and religious hands. This report is from 2017.

School “failure” is almost always the result of high poverty, lack of opportunities, and out-of-school factors. Vouchers can’t solve those issues.

The lack of evidence that vouchers significantly improve student achievement (test scores), coupled with the evidence of a modest, at best, impact on educational attainment (graduation rates), suggests that an ideological preference for education markets over equity and public accountability is what is driving the push to expand voucher programs. Ideology is not a compelling enough reason to switch to vouchers, given the risks. These risks include increased school segregation; the loss of a common, secular educational experience; and the possibility that the flow of inexperienced young teachers filling the lower-paying jobs in private schools will dry up once the security and benefits offered to more experienced teachers in public schools disappear.

Here are two excellent editorials about Indiana’s ever-expanding, wide-ranging voucher plan.

Cost-benefit stats show failures of voucher plan

Our state gives money to private schools which do not have to follow the same rules as public schools giving them an advantage. Yet, when they still “fail” the state “waives” their responsibility.

Nearly $13 million in voucher money flowed to schools receiving a D or F on state report cards. The Indiana State Board of Education just last week granted a waiver to Ambassador Christian Academy, a “D” school. The state board agreed a majority of students showed academic growth over the last school year, even though the same board proposed new accountability rules for public schools that will not give credit for academic growth.

Voucher use rises to record high

Indiana’s voucher plan was originally sold as a way to help poor children “escape from failing schools.” No longer. More and more middle income parents are using vouchers without trying public schools. It has become an entitlement program for religion.

Indiana’s school voucher system continues to grow, with the state spending $153 million for the 2017-18 academic year – a record for the program – to help more than 35,000 students attend private schools.

A report on the 7-year-old voucher program – also known as school choice – shows a 3.4 percent increase over the previous year in the number of students taking part. It also shows the cost to Indiana public schools continues to rise.

State numbers mirror data from Allen County, where voucher numbers are up in three of the county’s four public school districts.

Allen County has 6,215 voucher students, up from 6,209 last year. The estimated cost to public school districts in the county rose by more than $500,000 to $25.8 million in 2017, according to the report.



Posted in Burris, Constitution, NPE, Quotes, SchoolShootings, TeacherShortage, Testing, vouchers

Listen to This #2

Random Quotes…


Tests Can’t Measure the True Strength of Schools And Other Reasons Your Kids Aren’t Numbers

Datamongers don’t seem to understand that schools are more than just test-prep facilities. When “reformers” claim that public schools are “failing” they referring to the poverty-related problems which cause low test scores…not the quality of the education students receive.

If we really want to improve the education of our children, we might consider importing ideas from successful countries (most of whom imported ideas from American researchers). One of the most useful ideas would reverse a trend in the U.S….that of spending more of our education money on wealthy children than on poor children.

From Stu Egan at Caffeinated Rage

The fact that West Forsyth is recognized as a high-performing school and that our students pursue worthwhile post-secondary endeavors speaks incredibly well, but our students are more than achievers in academics. It’s because they succeed in being good people that helps set this school apart.


We don’t have to do this, you know

“Reformist” legislators are anxious for highly qualified, well-trained, and therefore, expensive, educators to quit. The destruction of the profession of education means no more unions and lower wages.

From Peter Greene at Curmudgucation

We do not have a teacher shortage. We have a shortage of states and districts willing to make the job attractive enough to recruit and retain teachers.


When “Big Data” Goes to School

When was the last time you saw an actual public school teacher get excited about giving a standardized test and analyzing the data?

Most teachers get excited about seeing the “light” of understanding in their students. Most teachers are excited when they pique their students’ interests.

Data is for computers. Relationships are for people.

From Alfie Kohn

An individual’s enthusiasm about the employment of “data” in education is directly proportional to his or her distance from actual students.

…Those scores may be lousy representations of learning – and, indeed, egregiously misleading. But, by gum, they sure are readily available.


The Horace Mann League Honors Carol Burris as Outstanding Friend of Public Education: This is What She Said

Carol Burris is the Executive Director of the Network for Public Education.

…and yeah, Jeb Bush, she’s talking to you!

From Carol Burris

When I hear someone define a system of community schools, governed by unpaid volunteers elected by their neighbors as a “government-run, unionized, politicized, monopolies”– there is one thing I know for sure about the speaker—he does not want to improve that system, he does not want to compete with that system, he wants to destroy it.


Bang Bang Sanity

Jim Wright has written a series of twelve blogs entries about school shootings. The latest is Bang Bang Crazy, Part 12: Excuses, Excuses.

Bang Bang Sanity, on the other hand, is his single post about what we ought to do about gun violence. He wants us to require gun owners to act responsibly or pay the consequences. There are no “gun accidents,” he says. There is only negligence. Is it an accident when a four-year-old shoots his two-year-old brother with a gun left on the kitchen table? No, it’s negligence on the part of the gun owner.

Negligence and irresponsible behaviors need consequences. I agree.

He thinks that background checks, gun-free zones, banning high-capacity magazines or assault weapons, won’t “do a damned thing.” That horse, he said, “is out of the barn.” I disagree. Part of responsibility includes society’s responsibility to take steps to correct the mistakes of the past. We have bans on drunk driving, but it still happens. We have bans on using illegal drugs, yet they are still being used. The fact that people will break the laws is no excuse not to put them in place…and that should include consequences for gun owners, manufacturers (including the NRA, the lobbying arm of the gun industry), and sellers.

From Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station

We hold people who sell alcohol responsible, at least in some aspects, for enabling drunken driving. We hold auto manufacturers responsible, at least in some aspects, for the safety of their product. We hold state licensing agencies responsible for administration of standards. We hold the drivers themselves responsible for their actions. We set rules and limits and we work to improve them every single day.

And we, both left and right, drivers and non-drivers, drinkers and non-drinkers and reformed drinkers, engage in reasonable dialog and conversation without hysteria or accusations that the other side is coming to take either our booze or our cars.

But what we don’t do is say stupid shit like, well now you retards, there’s just nothing we can do about drunk people and/or crazy drivers who kill people with cars, uh, uh, uh. Hey, every once in a while crazy people drive buses through pre-schools. Dead kids, that’s just the price you pay for freedom to drive…

More than half of U. S. gun owners do not safely store their guns

This quote means that 45% of gun owners with children under 18 years old DO NOT store their guns safely (in a locked gun safe, cabinet or case, locked in a gun rack, or secured with a trigger lock)!

What are the consequences for this behavior?

Slightly more than half, or 55 percent, of gun owners with children under 18 reported storing all of their guns safely.

‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens

The satirical site, The Onion, posts the article, “No Way to Prevent This,” Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens,” whenever there’s a mass shooting. The title is the quote.


A Lesson On Know-Nothingness

From Sheila Kennedy

When knowledge and expertise are devalued, when empirical evidence is scorned, when the weighty and complex search for meaning that characterizes serious religiosity is replaced with superstition, rejection of reason and fear of the Other, the know-nothings have won.


Military Families Deserve Fully Funded Public Schools, Not Harmful Voucher Schemes

This bill, introduced by the U.S. Congressman representing my district, doesn’t surprise me. He is as far right in his politics as you can be without actually taking up a torch and marching with David Duke in Charlottesville, Va.

According to Politics the Work, his votes in congress consistently oppose…

  • taxing businesses
  • environmental protection
  • financial sector regulation
  • gun control
  • public health
  • increasing revenues
  • taxing the wealthy
  • women’s rights.

With this bill we can add that he also opposes…

  • support for public education

The sad thing is that, in this part of the country, Jim Banks (R-IN) is representative of the majority of his constituents.

From Americans United for Separation of Church and State

The bill provides relatively no accountability or oversight mechanisms. For families wishing to participate, it requires only that parents state that they will use the funds to “provide the child with instruction in, at minimum, the fields of reading, language, mathematics, science, and social studies.” And the funds can be used for a wide variety of programs, including for an unaccredited private school or for homeschooling expenses.

The bill also explicitly prohibits the federal or state government from exercising any oversight over the program. Basically, this bill sends the message that federal dollars should be given to families and then the government should back off and have no say over how those taxpayer dollars are actually spent.

Posted in Arizona, Article Medleys, California, Charters, Iowa, New York, Pennsylvania, Privatization, Purdue, Texas, Utah, vouchers

2018 Medley #4: Privatization and Push-Back

Pastors in Texas; Privatization at Purdue; Charters in Pennsylvania, Arizona, New York, California, and Utah; Push-Back in Iowa


Voucher opposition article of faith for pastor

A small group of Texas pastors has come to the aid of public school students focusing on fighting vouchers, and the separation of church and state. The Pastors for Texas Children (PTC) have grown to become a force in the Lone Star State and lead a coalition of public education advocates to push back against the forces of privatization.

Other states have copied the PTC model, In Oklahoma, the Pastors for Oklahoma Kids has started advocating for public education.

Numbers of pastors and educators have started similar groups in other states, including Indiana.

We can’t afford multiple, parallel, state funded, systems of education in Indiana. The state should fund the public schools. Period.

“I am a Baptist Christian. I have certain convictions that have shaped my experience of God, faith, church and – frankly – I don’t want my tax dollars supporting religious programs that I don’t agree with, any more than my friends of other faith traditions don’t want their tax dollars supporting religious programs that might adhere to my own beliefs,” he said.

…The powerful case offered by Johnson and Pastors for Texas Children, however, could have many rethinking the blurring line between government and Indiana’s church-based schools.


Keep Purdue Public: Tell the HLC to Vote NO on Purdue-Kaplan Deal

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has organized a petition campaign in opposition to Purdue’s acquisition of Kaplan University, a for-profit company. This new aspect of Purdue’s university system will be named Purdue University Global.

The problem according to the AAUP is that, under a move by Governor Holcomb, all this would be exempt from public open records laws. This, says AAUP, does what most privatization schemes does…it favors shareholders over students.

Senators Sherrod Brown and Dick Durbin are concerned about the predatory history of for-profit colleges and urge transparency.

According to AAUP,

The Purdue-Kaplan deal puts Kaplan shareholders over Purdue students.

  • Pays 12.5% of revenue to Kaplan after operating costs are met
  • Pays Kaplan an “efficiency payment” of 20% of any cuts in operating cost

The Purdue-Kaplan deal takes resources from a public university and gives them to a private corporation.

  • Gives tax revenues and Indiana’s scholarship money, like the 21st Century Scholars Program, to a private corporation
  • Establishes a “public-benefit corporation” operated by and for the profit of Kaplan




How a loophole let charter schools ‘buy’ buildings and still collect rent from state

A charter school buys its building, then rents it to itself. The rent, of course, is reimbursed by the state. The school’s CEO calls it “a great perk.”

Like many charter schools, Executive Education Academy spends a good chunk of its budget on rent, some of which is later reimbursed by the state. That’s allowed, as long as the school doesn’t own its building, which Executive Academy doesn’t — technically.

The school at 555 Union Blvd., Allentown, is owned by the Executive Education Academy Charter School Foundation, a nonprofit set up solely to support the school. The school used to pay about $2.2 million a year in rent to a private landlord and get $100,000 back from the state.

Now the school will pay $2.3 million a year in rent to its foundation, which bought the building last summer, and still be able to apply for reimbursements from the state.

“That’s not the reason why we would do this, but that’s a great perk for a charter school,” said Robert Lysek, the school’s CEO. “I hate to say ‘it is what it is,’ but it kind of is.”


Sudden closure of charter school renews calls for stricter oversight

Read this story about how charter schools enrich their executives and end up closing in the middle of the school year, leaving parents and students scrambling for a new school (Note: Naturally, they often end up back at the stable, traditional, and open to all, public schools).

The lack of public oversight often leaves parents and children with few options. Whose choice?

The issue of charter schools funneling payments through entities owned by executives is not unique to Discovery Creemos.

A study by GCI last year found 77 percent of charter schools engage in business transactions involving their owners, board members or their families, a practice known as “self-dealing” or “related-party transactions.”


New York education officials move to block rules allowing some charter schools to certify their own teachers

The bottom line for corporate owned, privatized schools, is profit, not children. In-house training would allow those schools to hire cheaper, and therefore, more profitable, teachers…oh, and they wouldn’t have to worry about that pesky teachers union, either.

The regulations allow SUNY-authorized charter schools to certify teachers who complete the equivalent of a month of classroom instruction and practice teaching for 40 hours — compared to at least 100 hours under the state’s certification route, according to the lawsuit. And unlike teachers on a traditional certification route, they are not required to earn a master’s degree or take all of the state’s certification exams.


Teachers Say They had No Idea Sacramento Charter School was Shutting Down

When my local school district decided to close four elementary schools (three of which I had worked in!) due to funding shortfalls and declining enrollment, local members of the school board held town meetings all across the district to hear from citizens and explain why they wanted to do what they were going to do. The process took an entire year…and many voters were against the plan. If they chose to, those voters were able to exercise their displeasure with the plan during the following school board election.

Unfortunately, parents who patronize charter schools, and teachers who work in such schools, have no such electoral protection. Parents, students, and teachers, have no “choice” when a charter school closes. The money is gone. The students’ educational year is disrupted. Teachers are out of a job.

Parents began looking for transcripts and were trying to get their kids transferred to new schools. Teachers were waiting for stipends and belongings from their classrooms.

While reading a prepared statement, Contreras-Douglas got emotional. She insisted staff was aware of the school’s low enrollment and financial troubles before shutting down Wednesday.

“Several meetings with teaching staff were conducted to specifically address this issue throughout the school year,” Contreras-Douglas said.

But teachers say they didn’t have any idea the school was closing until it happened.


Tribune Editorial: Charter schools need state board’s oversight

Public schools have locally elected and locally based school boards. The schools are subject to the financial oversight of both the local school board and the state department of education.

Charter schools ought to have the same public oversight.

This legislation speaks to the bigger issue of what we want charters to be. When they first came into being, the intent of charters was to be laboratories where alternative approaches could be tested without the interference of public-school bureaucracies. Many have succeeded doing exactly that.

But some ideologues are trying to use charters as the leading edge of an educational disruption movement with the intent of dismantling the public school system and the teachers union, replacing it with a marketplace where every parent goes shopping for schools. In that view, the state school board represents market suppression.


Iowa public school advocates fight for funding amid cries for ‘choice’

Thousands of Iowans are pushing back against “school-choice” in Iowa.

A grassroots group made up of Iowa public school parents and activists is fighting what organizers say is an onslaught from lawmakers intent on eroding the state’s public education system.

Iowans for Public Education was formed online in November 2016 after Republicans won majorities in both the Iowa House and Senate. It has since grown to more than 12,500 followers.

The group organized a Teachers Rally last February that brought thousands to the Iowa Capitol grounds to oppose changes to Iowa’s collective bargaining law. It has launched petitions and letter-writing campaigns.

Posted in Charters, Children'sLiterature, Choice, Finland, Privatization, Quotes, Segregation, Shock Doctrine, TeacherShortage, vouchers

Listen to This #1: Don’t be a Malfoy!

Random quotes…


From a sign at the Women’s March, January 20, 2018, in Oklahoma City. Published in The Oklahoma Observer, February 2018.

In a world full of Malfoys, be a Hermoine.


Crippled Puerto Rico Offered School Privatization as Quick Fix for Woes

America’s inadequate response to the hurricane damage done to Puerto Rico has opened the door to the vulture capitalists who have decided that the solution should include school privatization – because it worked so well in Chile and New Orleans.

It’s time to reread The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein.

Whose interest is being served by privatizing the schools of Puerto Rico? I guarantee, it’s not the students.

From Steven Singer

Corporate school reform is not about making better schools. If it was, you would see plans like this being proposed in Beverly Hills and rich white neighborhoods across the country.

But somehow that never happens.

These schemes only show up in poor communities populated predominantly by people of color.

How the Shock Doctrine works.


Oklahoma pastor: Standing in the gap for our school children

“reformers” don’t mention that the “choice” of attending a school on a voucher belongs to the school, not the student; the “choice” in the management of a charter school belongs to the corporate board of directors, not the voters through an elected school board.

From Rev. Clark Frailey

…children in public schools deserve the choice not to be marketed and sold as investments in profiteering schemes.


Charter Schools Are Driving Segregation in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

The nation has reneged on the promise of Brown vs. Board of Education, and has stopped trying to integrate public schools. Corporate school “reform” has brought on more segregation. I’d say it was an unintended consequence, but…

From Roslyn Arlin Mickelson, UNC Charlotte’s Chancellor’s Professor and professor of Sociology, Public Policy and Women’s and Gender Studies at UNC Charlotte, quoted by The Civil Rights Project at UCLA

…Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools were once the nation’s bellwether for successful desegregation. Today, the district exemplifies how charter schools can impede districts’ efforts to resist re-segregation…This research has important implications not only for schools and communities in the Charlotte Mecklenburg region, but for the national debate over the growth and role of charter schools in our nation’s education system.


ALEC and Indiana’s Voucher Program

Millions of Indiana’s tax dollars are going to subsidize parents who wish to send their children to a religious school. Vouchers are no longer directed towards the poor. Voucher recipients no longer have to “try” the public schools or have come from a “failing” public school. And voucher schools can choose their students. These tax dollars are spent with no public oversight.

From Sheila Kennedy

Indiana’s voucher program has “become increasingly affluent and white,” which shouldn’t surprise us, since these schools “set their own admission standards and can reject students for any reason.”


No school until age seven: Finland’s education lessons for the future

We can’t duplicate Finland’s educational system in the U.S. for a variety of reasons, but we can learn from them…

From Kristiina Volmari from the Finnish National Agency for Education

We want our teachers to focus on learning, not testing. We do not, at all, believe in ranking students and ranking schools…


Teacher Burnout or Demoralization? What’s the Difference and Why it Matters

The teacher shortage; this is why.

From Doris Santoro in NEA Today

This teacher was not burned out. This woman was saying ‘I can’t teach the way I know I’m supposed to be teaching.’ The profession had changed. This isn’t burnout. This is demoralization.


New Jersey Orders Closure of Trenton Charter School


Instead of trying to “fix” education by privatizing public schools and throwing money to private and privately run schools that don’t do any better than neighborhood public schools, we should be doing a better job of supporting local public schools.

Privatization of public education is an example of policy makers refusing to accept their share of  responsibility for supporting the children of our nation. Improving the lives of our young people is not the sole responsibility of public schools…nor should it be.

From Russ Walsh

…Learning happens best in consistent, predictable environments. The disruption that often accompanies the charter sector is antithetical to learning. Adults in charge need to stop looking for quick fixes like charter schools and vouchers and get down to the serious work of addressing income inequity, segregation, and the wise investment of funds and educational expertise in the public schools.

Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Privatization, reform, Religion, SchoolShootings, TeacherShortage, vouchers

2018 Medley #3

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


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Posted in Accountability, Article Medleys, Charters, Choice, Preschool, vouchers

2018 Medley #2

Choice, Accountability, Preschool


Americans United for Separation of Church and State supports keeping public money in public schools. Here are two articles about so-called “school-choice”.

Don’t Fall For the School Choice Week Hype: Private School Vouchers Are Bad For Everyone

Starting this week, proponents of private school voucher schemes will be touting National School Choice Week – but what they won’t be touting is all the ways that vouchers harm public education and religious freedom.

We’re Fighting Private School Voucher Programs To Keep Public Money In Public Schools

Public schools are open to all students regardless of race, religion or ability. They are a unifying force in our society. Private school vouchers undermine our public schools by funneling desperately needed public resources away from them to fund the education of a few students at private, religious schools.

Selling Choice

Supporters of so-called “school-choice” generally neglect to tell parents that the school chooses the student, not the other way around.

…what people support in voucher policy is not what voucher fans are prepared to offer. Voucher programs don’t offer nearly enough money for families to send their children to top private schools– assuming those schools are even interested in accepting their child in the first place. Private schools are not flinging wide their doors to enroll students that offer any sort of expensive challenge (or they may discriminate for other reasons), and while voucher advocates can brand themselves champions of choice till the cows come home, the fact remains that it is the schools that get to choose– not the parents. And while folks from many subgroups (minorities, millennials, rural folks) say yes to major changes in public schools, the only major change to come from vouchers would be public schools that are more strapped for resources. Meanwhile, the voucher schools are accountable to nobody– if you think they need changes, you are welcome to just walk out the door. Shut your mouth and vote with your feet.

Weekly Privatization Report 1-22-2018

In the Public Interest provides information about privatization throughout the country. In this week’s edition they report on a charter school that “chooses” to exclude a student due to medical issues.

13) Arizona: A Phoenix mother is suing a public charter school that she says illegally turned away her daughter because she had Type 1 diabetes. “‘Everybody was on the same page,’ says Kohnke. ‘It seemed like it was only the principal that saw the stuff and was like, “No, no, no, no.” Kohnke says the principal sent her away with a yellow Post-it note with a list of other schools. ‘Once she handed me this I was like, OK, so I kind of understood where we were standing at that point,’ says Kohnke.”

School choice reality much less appealing

Can we afford to fully fund a dual system of education? Phyllis Bush, a co-founder of both the Network for Public Education (NPE) and Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (NEIFPE), explains what’s wrong with “school choice”.

The expansion of choice is creating two separate school systems. In this parallel system, one pathway will be for those who can afford quality choices. The other pathway will be an underfunded, separate-but-unequal road, marked by poverty and by ZIP codes. As most people know, public schools are required to accept all students, while “choice schools” have the option of choosing the students who fit their agenda. Choice schools are allowed to reject students with behavior issues, students with low scores, students with disabilities, and students who don’t speak English.

The probable result of this further expansion of choice schools will be that the children with the most difficulties will be housed in the least well-financed schools. Sadly, many legislators have chosen to be willfully unaware of the consequences of “school choice.”

School choice no substitute for well-funded schools

Instead of funding a dual system of schools by using public funds to pay for private schools, religious schools, and privately run charter schools, states should fully funded public schools, based on the needs of the students. This would allow every public school to provide an excellent education for their students.

The mantra for privatization is that students of poverty deserve an equal chance for a better school. The deception here is that it’s not the parents who choose, it’s the charters and private Schools who choose. The neediest and most underperforming students are not being selected or kept by charters and private schools. In fact, more than half of all vouchers go to students already in private schools, not the poorest from public schools. Private schools are allowed to discriminate in their selection/retention of students resulting in intensified segregation — all with public tax dollars.

What do schools need to provide their students? Fully funded, fully supported education with wrap-around services where needed. Here’s an excellent model still waiting for implementation:


Public schools are not responsible for the child poverty rate in the communities they serve. Legislators and policy makers have abdicated their responsibility for childhood poverty and dumped it on schools. When the schools are unable to overcome the effects of poverty they get labeled as failures.

All community stakeholders must accept their share of responsibility and be held accountable for the success or failure of schools – including legislators and policy makers.

Test-and-Punish Just Hangs on as Failed Education Strategy

…If our society were intent on helping the children who have been left behind, we would invest in ameliorating poverty and in supporting the hard working teachers in the schools in our poorest communities. Things like reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program would help! The ESSA plans being submitted to the Department of Education aren’t having much impact at all. The old, made-over NCLB jacket is slowly slipping to the back of the closet.


Why Are Our Most Important Teachers Paid the Least?

Increasing access to high quality preschool is on the ESSA list of things-to-do. Yet, we still consider the job of preschool teacher to be akin to that of babysitter – and preschool salaries show it.

Preschool is important. We need to invest in well trained teachers. We need to invest in our future.

…But if teachers are crucial to high-quality preschool, they are also its most neglected component. Even as investment in early-childhood education soars, teachers like Kelly continue to earn as little as $28,500 a year on average, a valuation that puts them on par with file clerks and switchboard operators, but well below K-12 teachers, who, according to the most recent national survey, earn roughly $53,100 a year. According to a recent briefing from the Economic Policy Institute, a majority of preschool teachers are low-income women of color with no more than a high-school diploma. Only 15 percent of them receive employer-sponsored health insurance, and depending on which state they are in, nearly half belong to families that rely on public assistance. “Teaching preschoolers is every bit as complicated and important as teaching any of the K-12 grades, if not more so,” says Marcy Whitebook, a director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California, Berkeley. “But we still treat preschool teachers like babysitters. We want them to ameliorate poverty even as they live in it themselves.”

Posted in Comprehension, DeVos, Facebook, Politicians, poverty, Privatization, reading, special education, Taxes, Testing, vouchers

2017 Medley #33

Republicans, Facebook, Testing, Poverty, Reading Comprehension, Vouchers, IDEA


The Republican tax bill punishes American families who use public schools

Incentives for parents who send their children to private schools, but none for public school parents.

That means that the “school tuition” that parents of public school kids are paying, in the form of state and local taxes, isn’t deductible from their federal taxes, and public schools themselves will have less money to spend on kids. But rich families who can afford private school get a brand new tax break. That’s a win for the 10%.

The Republican War on Children

No health insurance for poor children…tax incentives for wealthy children.

Let me ask you a question; take your time in answering it. Would you be willing to take health care away from a thousand children with the bad luck to have been born into low-income families so that you could give millions of extra dollars to just one wealthy heir?

You might think that this question is silly, hypothetical and has an obvious answer. But it’s not at all hypothetical, and the answer apparently isn’t obvious. For it’s a literal description of the choice Republicans in Congress seem to be making as you read this.


The False Paradise of School Privatization

Why did Facebook suspend Steven Singer’s (Gadfly On The Wall Blog) Facebook account for the second time in two months?

The first time was when he published School Choice is a Lie. It Does Not Mean More Options. It Means Less. This time it’s for The False Paradise of School Privatization. Could it be there’s someone working for Facebook who doesn’t like the politics of public education?

If you haven’t had a chance to read Singer’s post, The False Paradise of School Privatization, be sure to do so. Then, when you’ve finished that, check out Two Theories Why Facebook Keeps Blocking Me When I Write About School Privatization.

One person’s paradise is another person’s Hell.

So the idea of designing one system that fits all is essentially bound to fail.

But doesn’t that support the charter and voucher school ideal? They are marketed, after all, as “school choice.” They allegedly give parents and children a choice about which schools to attend.

Unfortunately, this is just a marketing term.

Charter and voucher schools don’t actually provide more choice. They provide less.

Think about it.

Who gets to choose whether you attend one of these schools? Not you.

Certainly you have to apply, but it’s totally up to the charter or voucher school operators whether they want to accept you.

It is the public school system that gives you choice. You decide to live in a certain community – you get to go to that community’s schools. Period.


PIRLS: The effect of phonics, poverty, and pleasure reading.

The last half of my 35 year teaching career was spent working with students who had difficulties with reading. I worked in rural schools with small, but significant numbers of low-income students. We knew then, and we know now, that child poverty is the main factor in low school achievement. We also know that factors associated with poverty, like low birth weight, poor nutrition, exposure to environmental toxins, and lack of health care, have an impact on a child’s learning. These out-of-school factors are rarely discussed when politicians and policy makers blame schools and teachers for low student achievement.

You may have read about the recent release of the PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) scores along with much pearl-clutching because of the nation’s poor performance. Most reporters focus on comparing scores of American students with students in other countries (We fall somewhere in the middle). Rarely is the impact of poverty noted.

Stephen Krashen continues to educate.

Kevin Courtney is right about the negative influence of poverty on PIRLS tests; two of our studies confirm this. He is also right in rejecting phonics instruction as the force responsible for the recent improvement in PIRLS scores: Studies show that intensive phonics instruction only improves performance on tests in which children have to pronounce words presented in a list. Heavy phonics does not contribute to performance on tests of reading comprehension. In fact, several scholars have concluded that knowledge of phonics rules, beyond the simplest ones, is acquired from reading.

For Further Reading: 

Valerie Strauss has a guest post from James Harvey, executive director of the National Superintendents Roundtable which gives the PIRLS tests a more nuanced analysis.

Also from Valerie Strauss – Ten things you need to know about international assessments


The Reading Achievement Gap: Why Do Poor Students Lag Behind Rich Students in Reading Development?

This article was published in 2015 by Richard Allington. Here he reinforces the need for access to books for low-income children.

Students from lower-income families experience summer reading loss because they don’t read much, if at all, during the summer months. Students from middle-class families, on the other hand, are far more likely to read during this same summer period. Low-income students don’t read during the summer months because they don’t own any books, and they live in neighborhoods where there are few, if any, places to purchase books. Middle-class students have bedroom libraries and live in neighborhoods where children’s books are readily available, even in the grocery stores where their parents shop. Middle-class kids are more likely to live in a neighborhood where one can find a child-friendly public library than is the case with children living in low-income areas. These children live in neighborhoods best described as book deserts.

Historically, low-income students relied primarily on schools as sources for the books they read. Ironically, too many high-poverty schools have small libraries, and there are too many classrooms that have no classroom library for kids to select books to read. Too many high-poverty schools ban library books (and textbooks) from leaving the building (fear of loss of the books, I’m usually told). However, even with fewer books in their schools and more restrictive book-lending policies, these kids do get most of the books they read from the schools they attend. But not during the summer months when school is not in session!


How To Get Your Mind To Read (Daniel Willingham)

Reading teachers understand that students’ comprehension improves when teachers activate prior knowledge before having students read a passage (or before they read aloud). What happens, however, when students don’t have the knowledge they need?

…students who score well on reading tests are those with broad knowledge; they usually know at least a little about the topics of the passages on the test. One experiment tested 11th graders’ general knowledge with questions from science (“pneumonia affects which part of the body?”), history (“which American president resigned because of the Watergate scandal?”), as well as the arts, civics, geography, athletics and literature. Scores on this general knowledge test were highly associated with reading test scores.

Current education practices show that reading comprehension is misunderstood. It’s treated like a general skill that can be applied with equal success to all texts. Rather, comprehension is intimately intertwined with knowledge. That suggests three significant changes in schooling.


Voucher Programs and the Constitutional Ethic

Acceptance of a voucher by a private school should be subject to that school’s compliance with certain basic requirements. At a minimum, school buildings should meet relevant code requirements and fire safety standards; teachers should be able to offer evidence that they are equipped to teach their subject matter; and the school should both teach and model foundational constitutional values and behaviors. Ideally, schools receiving public funds should not be permitted to discriminate on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation (religious schools have a constitutional right to discriminate on the basis of religion in certain situations, although they do not have a right to do so on the taxpayer’s dime) and should be required to afford both students and staff at least a minimum of due process. At present, we are unaware of any voucher program that requires these commitm


DeVos Won’t Publicize a School Voucher Downside, But It’s Leaking Out Anyway

DeVos admits that students who attend private schools lose their rights under IDEA.

DeVos seems to forget that she’s the Secretary of Education for the entire United States, not just for private and privately owned schools.

There’s another key issue at stake in the conversation about vouchers for students with disabilities — one Jennifer and Joe asked DeVos about during their private conversation.

Do students with disabilities lose their rights to a fair and appropriate education — a guarantee under the 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act — if they use vouchers to attend private schools?

Yes, DeVos said.

“She answered point blank,” Joe said.