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Education

The tax plan and schools and how we got here

by Dan Burns on November 22, 2017 · 0 comments

abanschoolThere is a lot of good stuff out there about what the Party of Trump tax plans would mean for education. This is among the most effective that I’ve seen.
 

The House tax bill is an all-out attack on the future prosperity of America, not that any of the major news organizations are telling you that in plain English. Lost in the dense bureaucratic language of modern news reports is the simple fact that the House bill takes from striving students so that the already rich and major corporations can have more.
 
This bill is a long-term disaster in terms of what economists call opportunity costs. That term refers to a benefit that a person could have received, but gave up, to take another course of action. This tax bill gives up the future wealth from investing in brainpower in favor of permanent tax cuts for the already rich and corporations.
 
This tax bill should be called the Intellectual Destruction Initiative Outrageous Tax Savings Act, a.k.a. the IDIOTS Tax Act of 2017.
(DCReport.org)

This next one is not a pleasant, optimistic read. And it doesn’t acknowledge that a lot of elected Democrats are not all-in on school privatization, by any means. But it is a good history of how things got to where they are.
 

Today’s Democratic school reformers—a team heavy on billionaires, pols on the move, and paid advocates for whatever stripe of fix is being sold—depict their distaste for regulation, their zeal for free market solutions as au courant thinking. They rarely acknowledge their neoliberal antecedents. The self-described radical pragmatists at the Progressive Policy Institute, for instance, got their start as Bill Clinton’s policy shop, branded as the intellectual home for New Democrats. Before its current push for charter schools, PPI flogged welfare reform. In fact, David Osborne, the man so fond of likening teacher unions to arch segregationists in the south, served as Al Gore’s point person for “reinventing government.” Today the model for Osborne’s vision for reinventing public education is post-Katrina New Orleans—where 7,500 mostly Black school employees were fired en route to creating the nation’s first nearly all-charter-school-system, wiping out a pillar of the city’s Black middle class in the process.
(The Baffler)

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school3Namely, in Virginia. You know, the one even corporate media is calling a “game-changer,” because of just how big the butt-kicking laid on Republicans was.
 

But Northam differed significantly from Gillespie on the issues as well as the image. Northam generally disagreed with Gillespie’s call to expand the number of charter schools in the state and favored instead more investment in traditional public schools. Northam also opposed Gillespie’s proposal for education savings accounts that allow parents who pull their children from public schools to direct that funding to private school tuition or other “education expenditures.”
 
As a result, Northam was backed by teachers unions while Gillespie got financial backing from the DeVos family – who expect their lavish cash donations to Republicans to result in support for charter schools and voucher programs that send public money to private schools – and from conservative groups, including those backed by the Koch brothers, that pounded on Northam for his opposition to “school choice.”
 
So education was a defining issue in the race, and where the candidates stood mattered a lot. But it’s also important to note Northam got education right not only by differing from Betsy DeVos but also by distancing his views from some views held by Democrats too, especially those Democrats aligned with leftover policy ideas from the Barack Obama presidential administration.
(Jeff Bryant/OurFuture.org)

Speaking of DeVos, I too have seen where numerous outlets are reporting that she’s expected to quit soon. I’ll believe it when I see it. But it is true that like most Trumpkins she has an infantile need for instant gratification, and hasn’t been getting it. Of course if she does go while we can’t get anyone worse for a replacement, we would likely get someone just about as bad.
 
The text of the next article does include a range of viewpoints on its subject.
 

(Teacher Union Reform Network) shares some similarities with another growing labor effort—Bargaining for the Common Good—whereby unions partner with local allies to push for more community-oriented demands in their contract negotiations, such as less punitive school discipline policies and more equitable access to healthcare. Although unions have generally been legally restricted to bargaining over little more than wages and benefits, more locals are coming to think that ceding to this legal reality without a fight is neither the right thing to do, nor something unions can politically afford.
 
Like Bargaining for the Common Good, TURN members also believe teachers need to approach bargaining more creatively and boldly. Specifically, TURN wants to see unions negotiate over policies that “advance student learning,” such as reducing the number of standardized tests students must take while also pushing for new kinds of assessments that measure skills like creativity.
(In These Times)

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What’s bad for teachers unions is bad for kids

by Dan Burns on October 26, 2017 · 0 comments

school3This is written by someone who used to teach in Wisconsin, and it’s very effective.
 

Back in Wisconsin, I remember our negotiated contract became a handbook. The politicians told us we were now “free agents.” They said, “Go negotiate your own compensation!” But when I asked my superintendent what he could do for me. He said, “Nothing.” The law said we could negotiate for only our base salaries – and no increase could surpass inflation.
 
The law and the big-money ad campaign that went with it completely decimated morale in my district. We felt we were being blamed for everyone else’s problems. When they take your dignity, teaching isn’t fun anymore. As teachers retired, the districts wouldn’t hire anyone to replace them. The duties and workload increased for the rest of us.
 
It all hurt students in the end. I don’t think anyone even tries to deny it anymore.
(MinnPost)

This tells it like it is about “school choice.” It is full of supporting links and is absolutely definitive.
 

At every level, so-called “school choice” is a lie.

 

It’s about preserving the status quo for the wealthy while providing substandard services for the poor and middle class.

 

It’s a power grab by the business community to profitize public funds set aside to educate children.

 
And perhaps the easiest way to combat it is the simplest: stop calling it school choice.

 

Call it what it is – school privatization.
(gadflyonthewallblog)

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school2We’ll see whether the author of this is right, but it’s important as an awareness-raiser.
 

In other words, this should be fertile territory for Democrats. But the coming decimation of public sector unions also means that the Democrats will be more dependent than ever on corporate money, especially from the financial sector. Accept the growing influence of the party’s biggest donors, comprised of Wall Streeters, hedge funders and Silicon Valley elites, and you also get their cramped and narrow vision of what is possible. And the moneyed influencers within the Democratic Party share a vision of education—personalized, privatized, union free—that’s increasingly difficult to distinguish from the one DeVos espouses.
(AlterNet)

On September 28, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it would give a handful of states, including Minnesota, an “additional $253 million in grants to expand charter schools,” in order to spur on school choice–an education reform strategy long embraced by Democrats, Republicans and wealthy financiers…
 
Such announcements are often accompanied by cheerful talk of innovation and choice. The new federal funding is all about “seeing how we can continue to work with states to help ensure more students can learn in an environment that works for them,” according to DeVos. But this new funding will also support Minnesota’s increasingly segregated public and charter school landscape, as well as an exodus of money and students from union-staffed districts. (Charter school teachers and staff are mostly non-unionized, in Minnesota and beyond.)
(Bright Light Small City)

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schoolsThe (Education Secretary Betsy) DeVos bus tour didn’t exactly dominate the headlines. Not an impressive undertaking.
 

While DeVos’s bus tour paints a bleak and failing portrait of our nation’s public schools, a new survey reveals that parents’ attitudes toward public education are very different
 
As Education Week reports, the national poll, conducted by Hart Research Associates, finds, “Most parents like their public school and want to support teachers, whom they trust more than anyone else to make choices for education.” The survey was conducted for the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second largest teachers’ union.
 
Contrasting to DeVos’s message about public schools as being “a mundane malaise,” 73 percent of parents responding to the poll “said their public school was ‘excellent or good,’ 20 percent said it was ‘adequate,’ and just 7 percent said their public school was ‘not so good or poor.’”
 
In contrast to DeVos’s promoting more expansions of private schools and charter schools, the poll found, “Over 70 percent of parents said they would prefer a good quality neighborhood public school for their children over the ability to have more choice of what schools they can send their children to.”
(Education Opportunity Network)

Maybe, somehow, such poll results can convince legislators in Minnesota to do more about the following. But as long as the Party of Trump has majorities there, that’s wishful thinking.
 

The education achievement gap in Minnesota is a real and persistent problem. For example, the 2016 graduation rate among black students was 22 percent below that of white students, while the rate among American Indian students was 35.5 percent below. While the gap in graduation rates has narrowed in recent years, it is still large and troubling. In response, conservatives wring their hands, bemoaning the lack of progress in closing the gap, despite “all the money” that the state has spent on education. In fact, real per pupil state investment in E-12 education has declined over the last fifteen years, especially in the two central city school districts that have a disproportionate share of the state’s minority students.
(North Star Policy Institute)

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devosPerhaps politicians of both parties at least vaguely realize how unpopular an agenda of massive cuts and for-profit privatization would be.
 

However, (on September 6), DeVos got some bipartisan push back from federal lawmakers. A Senate sub-committee rejected two proposals that, if approved by Congress, would have helped DeVos to move forward with school privatization plans.
 
The panel rejected her requested $1 billion boost to the Title I program, which is designed to educate disadvantaged students. DeVos wanted to use that money to help local districts create or expand her privatization agenda which, in addition to vouchers, also includes charter schools run by for-profit companies. It also rejected a proposal to use a program within the U.S. Department of Education to nurture private school vouchers…
 
Speaking of after school programs, that same Senate subcommittee also rejected a Trump-DeVos request to eliminate federal funding to help cover the cost of such programs. Instead, the panel approved $1.2 billion for the 21st Century Community Learning Center. The House has approved similar funding.
(Education Votes)

Despite having been the birthplace of charters, Minnesota remains one of the best states overall for public schools. But that should be understood in context.
 

In six out of every seven Minnesota school districts, FY 2019 real per pupil state aid is projected to be lower and real per pupil property taxes are projected to be higher than in FY 2003; in nearly half of these districts, total per pupil revenue is projected to decline relative to FY 2003, as projected levy increases will not be sufficient to offset state aid reductions. Whatever increase in revenue did occur since FY 2003 among the remaining districts should be considered in the context of the increased concentration of special need students, increased testing, and other requirements that have been placed upon districts over the last sixteen years.
 
The conclusion is clear: while the financial circumstances of Minnesota school districts have improved in recent years, real per pupil state aid remains significantly below the FY 2003 level, both in aggregate and in the vast majority of districts. To the extent that real per pupil revenues have increased at all over the last sixteen years, the cost has been borne primarily by local property taxpayers.
(North Star Policy Institute)

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collegeThis has been causing a stir online, as it should.
 

While a majority of the public (55%) continues to say that colleges and universities have a positive effect on the way things are going in the country these days, Republicans express increasingly negative views.
 
A majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (58%) now say that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country, up from 45% last year. By contrast, most Democrats and Democratic leaners (72%) say colleges and universities have a positive effect, which is little changed from recent years.
(Pew Research)

That’s quite a swing. Some of it may have to do with Republicans who went to college now being unwilling to identify themselves as such, or even as “Republican-leaning,” due to entirely legitimate embarrassment, even shame, over being connected in any way with the pitiful, disastrous buffoon currently in the White House. (Though most will unfortunately continue to vote Republican, unless things get really awful.) Response bias is real, though its significance varies.
 

As for most of it, though, how much is because colleges purportedly “indoctrinate” atheism, feminism, socialism, and so on? And how much because they believe those who went to the fancy colleges are getting all the money? Especially when the college guy boss down at work is always full of sincere, regretful reasons why, though you’re a good worker and they really like you, they’ve only been able to come up with a total of $0.60/hr in raises, total, for the last four years?
 
I don’t claim to know the answer to that.
 
Comment below fold.
 
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Minnesota AG Swanson sues DeVos

by Dan Burns on July 7, 2017 · 0 comments

devosJust 19, so far? Hopefully more will get behind this righteous endeavor.
 

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson and officials from 17 other states and the District of Columbia say federal officials broke the law by delaying rules meant to protect federal student loan borrowers.
 
The lawsuit filed in federal district court Thursday says the U.S. Department of Education and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos violated the Administrative Procedure Act when they postponed rules set to take effect July 1.
 
The rules would have streamlined the process for students defrauded by their colleges to seek loan forgiveness. They also required colleges at risk of closure to provide a financial guarantee to cover potential losses to taxpayers.
(MPR)

A couple more education-related items:
 
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Vouchers, DeVos, and unions

by Dan Burns on June 26, 2017 · 0 comments

school3Three items.
 

More than 34,000 students are enrolled in Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program. That’s 3 percent of students statewide. In a recent investigation of the program, NPR found some private schools turning away children with disabilities and LGBTQ students, but it was impossible to say, at the time, whether those students who are using vouchers are any better off academically.
 
Researchers Mark Berends of the University of Notre Dame and R. Joseph Waddington of the University of Kentucky have spent years studying this question, and they’ve given NPR an early look at their findings…
 
When comparing these students’ achievement after the switch to their test scores the previous year, the researchers found:
 
Voucher students experienced “modest annual achievement losses” in math, especially in the first two years after leaving public school.
 
In English/language arts, voucher students showed no benefits.
(MPR)

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Teacher shortages and school “choice”

by Dan Burns on June 9, 2017 · 0 comments

abandonedOne wonders how many science teachers in particular are being hoovered up by for-profit charters.
 

The Chokio-Alberta School District, nestled in the agricultural belt 50 miles east of the South Dakota border, serves two rural communities with a combined population of just under 500. The district has about 150 students.
 
This past year, when Superintendent David Baukol hired Shaun McNally to teach 7th-12th grade science, he felt relief. A teacher shortage has left districts across the state scrambling to fill positions in math, science, technology, and special education, especially in rural areas.
 
But with only one science teacher for a combined middle-high school of 73 students, Baukol doesn’t know what he will do if McNally ever leaves. He was the only person to apply when the job was posted last year, which doesn’t breed confidence in anyone else coming along soon.
 
“We’re just barely holding on by a thread,” says Baukol. “If we had not had this science teacher apply, we would have been in dire straits. What would we have done without a science department?”
(City Pages)

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