Recent Posts

war on public schools

school3This first one summarizes a lot of material on a reality that even many who are pro-public schools just do not seem to want to face. That is, the ultimate goal of the deformers really is to dumb down future generations of voters so that they will buy into continued kleptocratic, war pig rule, as far too many of their parents and grandparents do now.
 

After five years of research and the publication of The One Percent Solution, (University of Oregon Prof. Gordon) Lafer concluded that by lobbying to make changes like increasing class sizes, pushing for online instruction, lowering accreditation requirements for teachers, replacing public schools with privately-run charters, getting rid of publicly elected school boards and a host of other tactics, Big Business was aiming to dismantle public education.
 
The grand plan was even more ambitious. These titans of business wished to completely change the way Americans and their children viewed their life potential. Transforming education was the key.
 
The lobbyists and associations perfected cover stories to keep the public from knowing their real objectives. Step one was to raise fears about an American educational crisis that did not, in fact, exist. Lafer notes, for example, that the reading and math scores of American students have remained largely unchanged for forty years. Nonetheless, the corporate-backed alarmists worked to convince the public that the school system was in dire condition.
(Institute for New Economic Thinking)

(Two weeks ago) Congress released funds, held up for years, that support public schools in rural communities.
 
Federal lawmakers failed to reauthorize funding for the Secure Rural Schools Act (SRS) in 2015, leaving more than 4,400 rural schools that are on or near federally protected lands short on critical funding.
 
SRS was introduced in 2000 to replace taxes and timber sales revenue. But funding for the program expired in December 2015, and the last payments were delivered in March 2016.
(Education Votes)

{ 0 comments }

abanschoolTwo items.
 

“I thought this just happened to me.”
 
That’s the refrain from dozens of teachers who reached out to NPR — via email and social media — in response to our investigative story about serious problems with a federal grant program that, they say, have left them unfairly saddled with thousands of dollars of debts they shouldn’t have to pay.
(MPR)

Surprising results from a new survey of teachers reveal the depth of “financial strain” classroom professionals face. These include high levels of college debt, stagnation of already subpar pay, increasing housing and childcare costs, rising health insurance premiums and prescription costs, and escalating out-of-pocket expenses for their own classroom supplies.
 
More than half of the respondents resorted to second jobs to try to close the gap between what their teaching jobs paid versus their actual cost of living.
 
The revelation teachers are financially struggling wasn’t what was surprising about the survey. Recent news of teacher “red-state rebellions” in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona have brought great depths of attention to the economic plight of teachers who are walking off the job in Republican dominated states because of years of education funding cuts. No, what was surprising about this survey was the teachers weren’t in a red state at all; they were in true-blue Vermont.
 
The sad truth is financial austerity that has driven governments at all levels to skimp on education has had plenty of compliance, if not downright support, from centrist Democrats who’ve spent most of their political capital on pressing an agenda of “school reform” and “choice” rather than pressing for increased funding and support that schools and teachers need.
(Jeff Bryant/OurFuture.org)

{ 0 comments }

abanschoolThis one is full of good – indeed, essential – advice.
 

While progressives lament their recent failure in an Illinois primary to knock out Dan Lipinski – a conservative, anti-abortion, Congressional Democrat who voted against the Affordable Care Act – they mostly fail to note where and how they won elsewhere in the state…
 
These victors had a number of things in common, including endorsements from labor unions and progressive advocacy organizations. But another startling commonality among at least three of the four candidates was a strong support for public schools – Ortiz, Ramirez, and Johnson all made increased funding for public schools key stances in their races. Ortiz and Johnson are public school teachers, and Ramirez pledged to “protect our public-school system from corporate interests which attack teachers and students to destabilize public neighborhood schools and profit from privatizing education.”
 
Contrast the victors’ strong stances for public schools to Lipinski’s failed challenger, Marie Newman, whose education platform was about “education that leads to real jobs” – a position suitable for a Republican candidate to run on.
(Jeff Bryant/OurFuture.org)

And plenty of GOPers seem to be going out of their way to make themselves vulnerable on this. That will likely also be the case here in Minnesota.
 

A little more than a year ago, Betsy DeVos assumed her post as secretary of education, eager to roll out the first-ever national school voucher program. But that was before reality came crashing in (March 23).
 
Congress, in its omnibus spending bill, rebuked the proposal by DeVos and President Trump to redirect scarce public dollars from public schools to private schools with a voucher scheme. Trump and DeVos pursued their voucher plan despite volumes of research that shows vouchers do not work, that they undermine accountability to parents and taxpayers, and that they have failed to provide opportunity to all of our students. Lawmakers did not include in the spending bill the $250 million private school voucher initiative the president and DeVos sought, as well as their $1 billion program designed to promote charters, on-line schools and home schooling.
 
That Trump and DeVos were unable to get their priority funded in a Republican-controlled Congress speaks to the distrust of the American public, 90 percent of whose children attend public schools…
 
The rejection of DeVos by Congress notwithstanding, there are several gubernatorial candidates who want to pursue her voucher agenda.
(Education Votes)

{ 0 comments }

Praise for St. Paul teachers

by Dan Burns on February 21, 2018 · 0 comments

schoolsThe author of this, Jeff Bryant, is a leading pro-public schools researcher and writer.
 

St. Paul teachers want to do “phenomenal things” for their students. At least that’s what Nick Faber of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers tells me. But what’s been holding back him and his fellow educators are the same obstacles to progress in many of our communities: a culture of financial austerity combined with a political lack of will to tax corporations and the wealthy.
 
But Faber and his union brothers and sisters may have just taught progressives a valuable lesson in how to take on those impediments and win, not just for students and schools but for the common good of our communities.
(OurFuture.org)

{ 0 comments }

School privatization stuff

by Dan Burns on February 15, 2018 · 0 comments

abanschoolA couple of recent items. Regarding this first one, I’m not ready to declare victory, yet. (Neither, I’m sure, is the author.) But it is encouraging.
 

Charter schools used to be seen as the hot new concept in education.

 
But that fad seems to have jumped the shark.

 
For two decades since the first charter school law was passed in Minnesota, they’ve grown at about 6 to 7 percent nationally.
 
But for the last three years, that growth has dropped each year – from 7 to 5 to 2 percent.
(gadflyonthewallblog)

The next one is long and involved, but should be read in full if you’re into contemporary education issues in Minnesota, at all. And why wouldn’t you be?
 

If education reform is a political game, and it is, then it looks like the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) is winning. Here’s why.
 
On February 13, the union held an informational picket line, meant to rally members and raise public awareness of the issues MFT says it is fighting for. That includes clean buildings, less testing, and smaller class sizes. 1,000 people showed up to walk the picket line in freezing, late afternoon temperatures. They hoisted signs and banged on drums while passing vehicles honked and waved in support…
 
It comes amid contract negotiations between MFT and the Minneapolis schools. According to a Star Tribune article, the district would like to hold mediation sessions over typical business items such as wages and benefits. Across the table, however, the union, like its counterpart in St. Paul, is attempting to use its contract as a way to advocate for the “schools Minneapolis kids deserve.” Labor laws in the United States favor management on this one, with precedent given to restricting union negotiations to boilerplate contract issues.
 
But there is a growing trend of labor groups embracing “social justice unionism,” where the contract becomes a way to reframe the failure narrative dogging public schools. In cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, St. Paul, and now, Minneapolis, this movement has pushed back against the plutocrat supported assumption that schools and teachers are failing kids.

 
On February 7, almost one week before the MFT rally drew one thousand supporters, the local education reform outfit, Minnesota Comeback, held their own rally at Minneapolis’s Capri Theater. This was billed as a quarterly gathering for the group’s community members and was a much more sparsely attended, subdued affair than MFT’s more celebratory one.
(Bright Light Small City)

{ 0 comments }

More education stuff in the time of Trump

by Dan Burns on January 29, 2018 · 0 comments

abanschoolOne about predators, and one about deformers. Not that there’s fundamentally much difference to speak of between the two.
 

President Trump ran on promises to “drain the swamp” of special interests and corporate lobbyists in Washington, DC, but higher education policy in his administration is a quagmire of Okefenokee proportions.
 
Just to review the latest developments to emerge from the dismal places in his administration:
 
– His Department of Education contracted with a college student loan service company with financial ties to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos,
 
– His Department of Justice sided with a college loan service firm that a state attorney general says has violated college student loan debt forgiveness rules, and
 
– His Department of Veterans Affairs gave a reprieve to a for-profit college that also has ties to personnel deep in the muck of DoEd headquarters in L’Enfant Plaza.
 
These developments continue the trend in the Trump administration, and with Republicans on Capitol Hill in general, to favor the interests of the predatory college loan and for-profit college industries at the expense of students, families, and the American taxpayer.
(Jeff Bryant/OurFuture.org)

(January 18), after 17 years of operation, the school came to a spectacular end, and many of Filichia’s concerns suddenly seemed prophetic. (Lager and ECOT officials did not reply to repeated requests for comment.) Despite years of critics raising similar concerns, the school’s demise happened quickly, after two Ohio Department of Education reviews from 2016 and 2017 found that ECOT had overbilled taxpayers by $80 million for thousands of students it couldn’t show were meeting the department’s enrollment standards. As a result, last summer the state ordered the school to begin paying back almost $4 million per month in school funds, which ECOT claimed it was unable to do. Then, last week, the school’s charter sponsor, the Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West, claiming concern that ECOT wouldn’t have the funds to last out the year, suddenly announced plans to drop the school. Many of ECOT’s 12,000 current students learned on the nightly news or read in newspapers that unless an emergency deal could be worked out, the institution was in imminent danger of folding up before the start of next semester, set to begin on January 22, leaving many parents confused and panicking, with only days to choose a new school and get their child enrolled…
 
Now, with ECOT imploding, some state politicians have floated the idea that Lager, who has made millions in profits off the school and come a long way from the Waffle House, should be personally held responsible for paying back some of the $80 million owed to the state. But while the coming days will reveal if the political will or mechanisms exist to make this happen, it’s unclear how he might ever be held accountable—because the real scandal is that ECOT grew up legally, with the support of state politicians and national GOP power brokers, and that in many ways it has served as a model for schools like it across the country. Now, the same districts ECOT pulled its funds from are scrambling to find a way to take in its former students, and Ohio is facing a reckoning, after nearly two decades when the state became one of the country’s freest laboratories for pro-charter policies. “Why did it take a generation and a half of kids to go through this crappy system for us to do something about it,” Stephen Dyer, a former Ohio state representative asked me in exasperation in December. “The reason is because a lot of money came in.”
(Mother Jones)

{ 0 comments }

abanschoolA couple of items.
 

The initial pages provide boilerplate information for parents about federally required testing and its ties to Minnesota’s notoriously rigorous and independent academic standards. (Minnesota is only one of a handful of states, for example, that require all high school students to take Algebra 2 in order to graduate.) But on the last page of the form, a paragraph all in bold type pulls out every scare tactic in the book:
 
“I understand that by signing this form, my student will receive a score of ‘not proficient’ and waives the opportunity to receive a college-ready score that could save him/her time and money by not having to take remedial, non-credit courses at a Minnesota State college or university.”
 
Any parents still resisting are then served a final dose of guilt. Those who choose to opt out, the form warns, may deprive not only themselves but their whole school district of “valuable information” that could cause a potential drag on any local or state attempts to “equitably distribute resources.”
(The Progressive)

The word “alternative” implies a choice. But in an era when the freedom to pick your school is trumpeted by advocates and politicians, students don’t choose the alternative schools to which districts send them for breaking the rules: They’re sentenced to them. Of 39 state education departments that responded to a ProPublica survey last year, 29, or about three-quarters, said school districts could transfer students involuntarily to alternative programs for disciplinary reasons.
 
Like Logan, thousands of students are involuntarily reassigned to these schools each year, often for a seemingly minor offense, and never get back on track, a ProPublica investigation has found. Alternative schools are often located in crumbling buildings or trailers, with classes taught largely by computers and little in the way of counseling services or extracurricular activities.
(ProPublica)

{ 0 comments }

abanschoolThere is a pretty substantial body of research now showing that the charter movement for the most part hasn’t worked, isn’t working, and won’t work.
 

This month the, NPE (Network for Public Education) released a stunning report called “Charters and Consequences.” NPE Executive Director Carol Burris stated, “… nearly every day brings a story, often reported only in local newspapers, about charter mismanagement, failure, nepotism or outright theft and fraud.” About the report she writes, “This report … is the result of a year-long exploration of the effects of charter schools and the issues that surround them.”
 
This 50-page report’s conclusion is shared on the last page:
 

“For all of the reasons above and more, the Network for Public Education regards charter schools as a failed experiment that our organization cannot support. If the strength of charter schools is the freedom to innovate, then that same freedom can be offered to public schools by the district or the state.

(Tultican)

The latest School Performance Scores for the state of Louisiana are in. And that makes now a pretty good time to finally come to terms with the fallacy of the miracle in New Orleans.
 
For the first time in more than a decade all public schools in Orleans Parish were lumped together in the state performance rankings—no separation of Recovery School District (RSD) campuses from Orleans Parish School Board campuses. We suppose that makes sense with the impending “return” of schools to “local control.” Though, we suspect that the actual reason for the grouping is far more disturbing. With the state department of education finally getting ready to return schools it snatched from local control back in 2005, grouping all these schools together in this year’s performance rankings is an early tip-off to the fact the state education department, the RSD and the “reform” advocates are ready to wash their hands.
 
We can almost hear them saying, “Sure, we have had your schools under our control for 12 years. And, yep, we joyfully and willingly turned them over to outside, for-profit organizations to operate so we didn’t have to bother. Uhhh, yeah, our oversight of those charter operators was marginal at best. Of course, those operators made beaucoup money off the backs of some of the most underserved and disenfranchised public school children in Louisiana. Why do you think we snatched the schools to begin with? Sorry, no, we really didn’t improve educational outcomes for the community. But real soon, we will be giving them back with the caveat that they all remain under the control of charter management operators; and they will be your problem.”
(AlterNet)

{ 0 comments }

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)

{ 0 comments }

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)

{ 0 comments }