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charter schools

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charter schools

schoolsI admit that since the election I’ve generally seen fit to be somewhat measured when it comes to education issues. The Trumpkins won’t really be able to literally destroy public education, will they? As it turns out, they really do damn well plan to try.

The budget includes increases for the charter school fund, a new program for private school choice, and incentives for states to make sure some Title I dollars for low-income students follow them as they move among schools. The $1.4 billion in new dollars for school choice eventually will ramp up to $20 billion, the budget says, matching the amount Trump pledged to spend on school choice during his campaign.
“We will give our children the right to attend the school of their choice, one where they will be taught to love our country and its values,” Trump pledged at a rally in Nashville Wednesday evening.
The department overall would see cuts of $9 billion, which amounts to 13 percent of its “discretionary” budget (the part not including mandatory higher-education spending).
(The 74)

Don’t count on Congress changing this much. Plenty of Democrats there remain fans of the school deformer movement, despite the proven failure and corruption of its agenda. They will probably mitigate the cuts to public school spending somewhat, but won’t change the privatization initiatives to speak of.
Here’s where some hope that we can avoid total disaster comes from. (Don’t get me wrong, there will be plenty of opposition in urban districts, too.)


Trump voters got well and truly suckered, Part 15

by Dan Burns on February 20, 2017 · 0 comments

devos2Though it’s certainly possible, we probably can’t count on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos getting caught up in this Russia thing.

Levy’s observations are confirmed by my report on how the “school choice” issue, so beloved by big-money Republicans, is hitting opposition from red state rural Americans. Rural schools across the country face formidable problems including high dropout rates, low academic performance, and lousy funding. None of these problems will be solved by creating more charter schools and using vouchers to siphon off even more students and resources. In fact, that option will only make things worse.
So the unprecedented opposition to DeVos is more about a struggle over the soul—at least an education soul—of America. And regardless of how the vote turns out, this fight is not about to end.
(Jeff Bryant/OurFuture.org)


Jeffco-Students-protest“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.”  George Orwell


In what has become the newest front-line in America’s on-going Culture War, students in Jefferson County, Colorado, walked out of five different schools in the last week in protest over their school board’s recent heavy-handed actions. Teachers have been angered about a new ‘performance-based’ system for awarding raises to educators, while students are angry about a proposed Curriculum Committee that calls for promoting only ‘positive aspects’ of U.S. history and American heritage while de-emphasizing or avoiding historical material that encourages or condones “civil disorder, social strife, or disregard of the law.”


In particular, students are horrified by an attempt by the Jefferson County School Board to use the proposed Curriculum Committee to ‘whitewash’ American history, including Colorado history, by expurgating or bowdlerizing certain historical events such as cover-ups of environmental crimes at Rocky Flats, Colorado, and the 1914 Ludlow Massacre of striking coal miners and their families.


In what has become the largest and longest protest of its kind, nearly 1000 students have joined in a fourth day of continuing protests that are being organized via Facebook and other social media.


The protests culminate a long period of mounting tensions in the school district after a majority of three conservative candidates were elected as a slate to the five-member Jefferson County School Board last November. Among other announced changes, including expanded support for charter schools, conservative members stated the board would implement a new ‘pay-for-performance’ compensation model for teachers that more closely adheres to a ‘market-based’ compensation model. That model would pay teachers based on performance evaluations and the market-value of their job, rather than on acquired skills, tenure and seniority.


The former Superintendent of Schools, 12-year veteran Cindy Stevenson, resigned from her post mere days after the Nov. 5 election that saw the conservative sweep, stating that her work was being impeded by the new board. A little more than two weeks ago, on September 9, in a unanimous vote of 180 union and non-union representatives, Jefferson County teachers issued a vote of ‘no-confidence’ in newly-elected School Board President Ken Witt. The no-confidence vote was taken after the board’s conservative majority in late August moved independently to restrict pay raises for 89 teachers deemed ‘partially effective’ or ‘ineffective’ in their jobs after rejecting an independent review that found the district’s teacher evaluation system too flawed to set salaries fairly.


Last Friday, September 19, two Jefferson County schools were forced to close due to more than 50 teachers calling in sick or taking a day of vacation. The following Monday, 100 students at Evergreen High School left their classes abruptly to protest the board’s actions at the school’s administration building, prompting similar protests at other county schools in the following days.

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More On Progressives And Education

by Dan Burns on March 3, 2011 · 1 comment

One reason, probably the biggest, that progressives always seem to be on the defensive when it comes to the debate over education, is that we don’t agree among ourselves, on a lot of the issues related to it.  The conservative agenda is simple:  bash (based on lies), push for privatization (that is, greedhead profiteering), replace any emphasis on rational, humane thought with one on implanting rote and right-wing dogma, etc.  This state of affairs makes both messaging and coordinated action a lot easier for them.  As do their foolishness and shamelessness, but I digress.

Take, for example, charter and alternative schools.  Plenty of progressives revile them, but they have “bipartisan support,” overall.  (Yes, I’m suspicious of the “Center for Education Reform,” too, but that particular page serves my purpose, here.)  So, is there any chance of achieving some kind of progressive “unity,” more or less, on the issue?

More below the fold
In a report released last September, MN State Auditor Rebecca Otto went after one alternative school.  This Minneapolis Star Tribune article, which to my astonishment has not been archived to pay-per-view as of the date of this diary, is easier reading:

Otto’s report arrives amid rising skepticism of management and financial practices at a range of nontraditional education providers, from charter schools to schools for dropouts.

Despite serving almost 150,000 full- or part-time students, the state’s 300-plus taxpayer-funded alternative programs operate with little monitoring, and their finances face much less scrutiny than those of school districts and charter schools, she said. Alternative learning centers operate outside the conventional school system, and are designed to serve students who have been expelled or otherwise have trouble succeeding in conventional classrooms.

My understanding is that charter and alternative schools were originally intended to deal with the needs of kids facing special challenges, and that many are doing a good job of precisely that.  I would be the last to suggest not supporting those.  But apparently, somewhere along the line, too many have fallen into the hands of the incompetent and/or the profiteers.  Many of the for-profit schools are actually pulling the most advantaged students from the public system, making their shareholders a lot of money while entirely perverting their orignal intent.  And the market fundamentalists and delusional ideologues responsible for that mess need to be broken and driven like swine.

I think a general degree of loose agreement can be reached, that there is a place for charter and alternative schools, as described in the previous paragraph, as long as they are non-profit and well-regulated, in deed as well as word.  And properly funded.*  But getting there in real life, in our current socio-political environment…it’s worth working toward, but success will be as challenging as all the other issues facing our educational system, thanks primarily to the political power of idiot conservatives.

*Just noting that claims, beloved of the righties, that there is no connection between education spending and outcomes, are irrelevant bs.  The bottom line is that, except for a handful of the swankiest private academies, none of our schools are being provided with adequate resources to fully succeed, given the obstacles provided by our poverty-ridden, anti-intellectual culture. Warmongering still has to be a higher priority, you know.

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When St. Paul Public Schools Superintendent Valeria Silva posted the district’s new Strong Schools, Strong Communities plan on the SPPS website February 1st, the immediate reaction was strong parental and public outcry.  While Silva defends the proposal as a pro-student, community-building endeavor

We believe, the changes we are making will reconnect many students to the communities where they live – truly making the schools the heart of our community.

in reality it is a budget-trimming maneuver that ends access to or slates closure of many district magnate and charter schools  for students city-wide, as well as effectively ends true open enrollment options in St. Paul, particularly for students in low-income neighborhoods of the city (where “neighborhood school” performances tend to be low and choices limited).

A top priority of the plan is to cut transportation outside narrowly-defined “neighborhood school zones,” leaving an island of poor students trapped at less-desirable schools near their housing. Silva and SPPS also hope to transplant quality schools from their current locations to alternative facilities where the highest percentage of enrolled students live-this often means pulling a high-quality charter or magnet school from the transportation zone of a low-income neighborhood thus making it inaccessible to students who tend to have less options for mobility.  
MPR news put this question to its online readers today: Should cash-strapped schools end mandatory busing?, citing Chuck Marohn’s Strong Towns Blog, in which Marohn calls for the abolition of Minnesota’s mandatory busing statute. What Marohn doesn’t address is that public school busing is about much more than, as he calls it, “door to door” service and provisions for isolated rural farm kids. It’s also about providing equal opportunity to students across the educational spectrum, and granting true access to the pioneering Open Enrollment program that Minnesota schools trail-blazed.

And if the heated debate at St. Paul school board meetings, the parental protest at work on local Facebook pages and community groups, or the crummy precedent of other U.S. school districts attempting the same sort of penny-pinching school shuffle are indicators, the answer is: No. We should not end mandatory busing. Find the cash to fund quality public education for everyone-in the classroom and on the bus.

Upcoming Community Information Sessions on SPPS “Strong Schools, Srong Communities” Proposal:

Thur., Feb. 10, 7-8:30 p.m., Humboldt High School

Mon., Feb. 14, 7-8:30 p.m., Harding High School


Chartering A Course for Privatized Public Education

by BlueCollar Daughter on January 22, 2011 · 0 comments

Yesterday U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan spent time in Minneapolis talking school reform with business leaders at a Chamber of Commerce lunch. Noting that Minnesota schools currently have one of the largest achievement gaps between white/higher income kids and their minority/lower income peers, Duncan called for the state to get onboard to embrace controversial educational legislation–in the form of alternative teacher licensure and reauthorization of the failing federal No Child Left Behind initiative.

Discussions like these are happening all over the country, in Minnesota public school districts
and in just about every other state , as gutted education budgets are allowing our education system to crumble. Concerned parents and professional educators see an insidious decline in the quality of public education, while taxpayer funds and political support are being siphoned into less-desirable “alternative” educational experiences.
Both in MN and elsewhwere, charter school growth is exploding as the economy declines, a point of concern for traditional school educators and progressives who see this trend as a movment toward quasi-privatization–and one that gives advantage to a privileged class of student while often leaving lower-income and high needs students to flounder in under-funded, poorly-staffed traditional schools:

“Charter schools are publicly funded schools, and we need to make sure students of all backgrounds have access to them,” said study co-author Erica Frankenberg, an education professor at Pennsylvania State University.

Oakland Unified School District has seen a major expansion of charters over the past decade, when it spent years under state control because of financial mismanagement. The district is now home to more than 30 charter schools.

Betty Olson-Jones, head of the Oakland teachers union, complains many charters recruit top students and get rid of poor performers, boosting the schools’ test scores and saddling traditional schools with a disproportionate number of students with disabilities, behavior problems and poor English language skills.

“You end up with schools that are filled with kids that are really struggling, Olson-Jones said.”

Some analysts have gone so far as to see the charter school trend as a union-busting technique, since charter schools typically do ont offer union-represented employment to their teachers.  

It has also been questioned if the GOP and religious right are using charter schools as a back door way to expand some conservative states’ voucher systems into a use of public money for parochial school programs.

Critics of the new trends in education funding support MN laedership pursuit of federal Race to the Top
educational funding to help struggling traditional public schools. Gov. Mark Dayton is also a proponent of Race to the Top, and has said he plans to pursue these funds if Congress approves a third round of RTT funding.