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war on public 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.)
 
…READ MORE

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Opting out of the testing regime in Minnesota

by Dan Burns on March 15, 2017 · 0 comments

school2I don’t have a good handle yet on what I think Trump, DeVos, and their minions will be able to do to public education, other than that it won’t be good. Meanwhile, I’m noting some relevant items for this state.
 

In 2016, 2,227 high school juniors opted out of the MCA tests statewide. That’s just a drop in the bucket, compared to the 55,975 students who did take it. But it is more than three times the number of eleventh grade students–694–who opted out of the MCAs in 2015.

This is a startling jump, taking place in schools and cities as diverse as suburban St. Louis Park, rural Pine City and Minneapolis.
(Bright Light Small City)

And for pretty good reasons.

 

A state audit is highlighting several major flaws connected to Minnesota’s standardized testing landscape, and educators are calling for change.
 
“One thing is obvious after reading this report. The taxpayers are not getting their money’s worth from this sprawling system of state and local standardized testing,” said Denise Specht, a fourth-generation teacher who heads up Education Minnesota, which represents 80,000 educators from across the state.
 
The Office of the Legislative Auditor released its findings earlier this week. Educators have zeroed in on what they call four major flaws.
(Education Votes)

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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)

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MN lege: A new tactic for school voucher backers

by Dan Burns on February 2, 2017 · 0 comments

school2If you’re at all interested in this issue, and frankly you should be, you need to click and read the whole article.
 

In St. Paul, the OAK folks were also on hand to support the latest attempt to keep Minnesota taxpayer dollars in private hands, when it comes to education funding. Through a bill introduced by Republican Ron Kresha of northern Minnesota, lawmakers will be asked to provide a tax credit for individuals and corporations who make “equity and diversity donations” to private and religious school foundations.
 
Such donations are then supposed to be used as scholarships for kids withering away at miserable and/or secular public schools, but don’t call them vouchers (at least not yet). A school voucher, strictly speaking, draws money directly out of public education coffers, and directs it to private schools, including religious schools, in the form of reimbursement. A tax credit, or “neo-voucher,” on the other hand, allows taxpayers (corporate or individual) to avoid paying into the public education coffers in the first place.
(Bright Light Small City)

It will be interesting to see how this fares in the state Senate (assuming it gets that far, this session – could be a trial balloon, for now), where the MNPoT (Party of Trump) has a one-vote majority. Including whether it gets any DFL support there.
 

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Minnesota teachers dis DeVos

by Dan Burns on January 22, 2017 · 0 comments

devos2Solid.
 

Public school teachers scared s*itless by the prospect of Betsy DeVos becoming Secretary of Education filled the Internet with bear memes and rallied in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Brooklyn Park, and Eyota on Thursday as part of the national “Reclaim our Schools” protests.
 
DeVos is seen as a threat to public education because she’s a billionaire lobbyist whose career was built on expanding charter schools (typically underachieving and union busting) and routing taxpayer money to private schools (not subject to uniform standards of student performance). She has never attended or worked in a public school.
(City Pages)

Two significant points:
 
– The committee vote on DeVos has been postponed.
 

– Much more often than not, voters rejected the deformer agenda last November. Even in Georgia.
 

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Ed. Secretary pick is on fire for God in schools

by Dan Burns on December 9, 2016 · 0 comments

school3I’ll have more in-depth stuff about Trump and education, but for now I’m just noting this huge red flag regarding his cabinet pick. It’s an aspect of her agenda that I don’t think has been getting the attention that it should, what with the wretched, and disturbing, reality of Trump’s planned Cabinet of Deplorables on the whole.
 

Why did (Betsy DeVos) and her husband choose to get involved in the political battles over public education even though they did not send their kids to public schools and they financially support private Christian schools?
 
In a joint interview for “The Gathering,” a group focused on advancing Christian ideology through philanthropy, she and her husband said they decided to focus on reforming public education and funding for private education because the “Lord led us there” and “God led us.”
 
At that meeting, they were asked if it would not have been simpler to fund Christian schools directly rather than fund political efforts like vouchers to get more tax dollars to fund Christian schools, and she replied: “There are not enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the need in education versus what is spent every year on education in this country… So, our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s Kingdom,” adding that they want “to impact our culture [in ways] that may have great Kingdom gain in the long-run by changing the way we approach things.”
(Center for Media and Democracy)

I’m not a religion-basher. I am strongly against efforts to destroy public education, on right-wing religious grounds or otherwise.
 

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Trump loves the school deform movement

by Dan Burns on September 28, 2016 · 1 comment

abandonedThis first one is called “Is Donald Trump The Charter School Industry’s Worst Nightmare?” Let’s make sure he is. Does Trump’s vigorous support mean that all charters are evil? Of course not. Is it yet another strike for the deformers? You bet it is.
 

Presidential candidate Donald Trump likely just handed the charter school industry the worst sort of favor.
 
In unveiling his education plan, the Republican candidate proposed a $20 billion federal block grant to allow states to give vouchers to low-income students to attend whatever school they want.
 
The proposal is the most full-throated support for school choice ever issued by a presidential candidate in a general election campaign. It’s also the ill-conceived, grandiose and politically polarizing gesture that many charter school proponents feared most.
 
In a recent op-ed in USA Today, two prominent proponents of charter schools – David Osborne of the neoliberal, D.C.-based Progressive Policy Institute and Richard Whitmire, author of a laudatory biography of Michelle Rhee – warn of “two possible nightmares” that could befall the charter school industry during the presidential race. One nightmare is that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton allows “charters to drift from the Democratic agenda” by providing only nuanced or lukewarm support for the schools. The other nightmare is that Trump’s support for these schools “turns charters into a right-wing cause … that deep down only wants to fund vouchers.”
(Campaign for America’s Future)

A couple more items relevant to the impending election:
 
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Back to all-too-often underfunded public school

by Dan Burns on August 18, 2016 · 0 comments

abandoned2Though I was good at school I didn’t like it much, and always got bummed out at this time of year. Decades later I still experience a residual echo of that, now and then. Anyway:
 

Indeed, back to school supply lists are likely longer than ever before due to the simple reason that schools increasingly don’t have the funds to pay for items on the list. And because of persistently inadequate budgets that continue to dog our schools, you can be sure the longer your shopping list, the worse the funding situation is throughout your child’s school system.
 
Not only are school stockrooms increasingly bare of supplies, but teachers aren’t being adequately paid, class sizes are ballooning, programs are being cut and school buildings increasingly forego required maintenance.
(Campaign for America’s Future)

Two more relevant items:
 
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kaineI did a multiple-take when I saw the title (“Tim Kaine Loves Public Schools. So Does His Wife Anne, Who is Virginia’s Secretary of Education”), and my skepticism has not wholly dissipated, but we are talking Diane Ravitch.
 

(Kaine) is also a steadfast supporter of public education, even though he graduated from a Jesuit high school. His own children attended primarily black schools in Richmond. His wife is now Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virgina…
 
Better yet, Tim Kaine’s wife Anne is a long-time champion for children and for public schools. Reformers will not find an ally in her. She cares about children and has a deep commitment to improving their lives.
(Diane Ravitch)

 
Politically, is the Democratic Party acknowledging the anti-privatization backlash? More importantly, are they acknowledging it as a righteous thing? (Corporate Democrats certainly aren’t, but in the long run we don’t intend to give them much choice.) They’re obviously at least well aware of it. But follow-through is always the rub.
 

Champions of traditional public schools won a big victory at the Democratic Party’s final platform drafting session when they pushed the party to adopt new language criticizing charters that are privately run, unaccountable and often part of for-profit franchises.
 
In less than 10 minutes, charter critics presented and won near-unanimous approval for an amendment that said the party would only support “democratically governed” charters, referring to those run by elected school boards not appointed trustees. The amendment also added wording that charters “should not replace or destabilize traditional public schools,” which happens as taxpayer funds follow the students. And new language also criticized the schools for segregating districts, saying charters “must reflect their communities, and thus must accept and retain proportionate numbers of students of color, students with disabilities and English Language Learners in relation to their neighborhood public schools.”
(AlterNet)

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school2Over the years my email address has found its way onto a lot of lists. I rarely unsubscribe because they’re one of my data streams, albeit not the most efficient one to say the least, for what’s going on. I’ve been getting a lot, lately, about what belongs in the Democratic Party platform. (I’m of the belief that when it comes to the actual presidential election, the platform means about as much as the VP pick. That is, not a whole lot. But it’s not meaningless, either.) #1 is a measure opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (a noble effort, but unsuccessful). A strong anti-fracking statement is probably second (ditto). Single-payer health care pops up now and then. And a handful of others have appeared.
 
I have yet to get one to the effect that the Dem platform needs to feature a really strong, unequivocal statement supporting public schools, everywhere and always, in the face of relentless deformer assaults. Here’s what‘s in the July 1 draft, and it apparently wasn‘t touched during final pre-convention negotiations a few days ago. The term I‘d apply is “boilerplate.”
 

We will ensure there are great Pre-K-12 schools in every zip code. Democrats are committed to the federal government continuing to play a critical role in working towards an America where a world-class education is available to every child. Democrats believe that a strong public education system is an anchor of our democracy, a propeller of the economy, and the vehicle through which we help all children achieve their dreams. Public education must engage students to be critical thinkers and civic participants while addressing the wellbeing of the whole child.

Which isn’t surprising. Those of us working against corporate takeovers of public education have been winning in some ways, but not in others. Not enough to where too many electeds are about to stand on principle, regardless of where the money is coming from. We’ll just have to keep at it.
 
Update: It turns out that some worthy changes were made.
 

Unfortunately, the amendment process in Orlando did not consider adding a progressive vision for public education to the platform, but many of the specifics in the document shifted to the left, thanks mostly to supporters of the Sanders campaign joining with Clinton supporters to press for progressive change…
 
One way you can tell how much the document has been improved is by noticing the angry objections to the changes coming from centrist “reformers.”
(Campaign for America’s Future)

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