Elephant in the School Choice Room

Peter Greene explains what it is at Curmudgucation:

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CURMUDGUCATION

Magical Money And School Choice

Posted: 14 Jun 2019

Pennsylvania’s legislature is currently having Version 2,433,672,127 of the same argument that emerges every five minutes in the places where charter schools and public schools bump up against each other. The PA legislature just passed a suite of charter school bills addressing a variety of issues, but not the single issue that folks on all sides want to have addressed:

Absent from all four bills is any mention of the elephant-in-the-room issue when it comes to charter schools, namely how they are funded.

School districts complain that the bills to educate resident students who choose to attend a charter school are one of the largest expenditures in their budgets. According to the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, 37 cents of every new dollar that districts raised from property taxes in 2017-18 went to charter schools.

Charter schools, meanwhile, complain they are underfunded because the amounts they are paid are less than what a school district spends to educate their own students.

Public schools are getting hammered by the loss of public tax dollars that have been diverted from public school finances into charter and choice school accounts. Charters, having forgotten the era when they bragged that they could do more with less, complain that they are underfunded compared to public schools.

The problem here, as with several other choice-related issues, is in a false premise of modern school choice movement. That false premise is the assertion that we can fund multiple school districts for the same money we used to use to fund one single public system.

This is transparent baloney. When was the last time any school district said, “We are really strapped for funds. We had better open some new schools right away!” Never. Because everyone understands that operating multiple facilities with multiple staffs and multiple administrations and multiple overhead expenses– all that costs more than putting your operation under one roof.

But the choice pitch has always been some version of, “Your community can have twelve different schools with twelve different flavors of education in twelve different buildings with twelve different staffs– and it won’t cost you a nickel more than what you’re paying now!” This is carnival barker talk, the same kind of huckster pitch as “Why buy that used Kia? I’ll sell you a brand new Mercedes for the same price!”

Adding charters and choice increases educational costs in a community. Sometimes we’ve hid that by bringing in money from outside sources, like PTA bake sales to buy a public school office equipment, or pricey benefit dinners for charters, or increasing state and federal subsidies to help charters stay afloat.

But mostly school choice is the daylight savings time of education– if we just shuffle this money around in new and different ways, somehow there will be more of it.

This trick never works. And we talk all too rarely about why it never will.

The reasons for avoiding the financial elephant in the educational parlor are several. For some choice advocates, it’s a feature and not a bug. It is hard to look at, say, Florida’s legislature and not conclude that they are fully aware that they are starving public education and they’re perfectly happy about that, that the hope is that public education can be shrunk down to nothing. DeVosian dominionists like that idea as well; I’ve heard more than a few religious conservatives declare that it’s time for the church to take schools back from the government. Starve the government, starve the evil teachers’ union, shrink the whole public system until it can be drained out of the proverbial bathtub.

There are other choice advocates who are sincere believers in a hybrid system in which charters and public schools coexist, thrive, and help each other. But even among those folks, there’s nobody who has the political will to say to the public, “We want to expand our education system into a beautiful spread of shiny options, bringing freedom and choice and other swell things to education, but to do it will take a lot more money, so we’re going to have to raise your taxes to get it done.”

And so the lie persists, the false notion that we can education 100 students in either one school or in ten different schools, and it will cost exactly the same amount. Maybe if we pass the money through a different set of hands in an tax credit scholarship or some other kind of super-voucher, it will somehow multiply.

Of course, if money were no object for all students in education, we’d already have public schools so great that the subject of choice would never have come up in the first place. But the defining trait of US education has always been that we want a Mercedes at Kia prices, and Those Peoples’ Children should just use a bicycle. (and teachers should only have their wages raised when they reach the point that they’re actually embarrassing), and we definitely don’t need to talk about using money and resources to improve the societal conditions that create the environment in which education occurs.

Despite my reputation as a charter hater, I can actually imagine a world in which charters would be a useful addition to the educational landscape– but it would be a world without magic. The falsest promise that choice advocates have made is that somehow we can have a super-greater education system without having to actually pay for it. That kind of magical thinking is not going to help anybody except, of course, the hucksters with snake oil to sell.

Published in: on June 14, 2019 at 2:11 pm  Comments (6)  

The OTHER major problem with TFA…

…as Peter Greene explains, is that it pretends that total newbies with a trifling TWO WHOLE YEARS of experience and claims that they are now ready to run entire school districts and set educational policy for the whole country.

Not actual, experienced, teachers. Here is his post at Curmudgucation:

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Teach for America: The Other Big Problem

Posted: 03 Jun 2019 10:31 AM PDT

Teach for America’s most famously flawed premise is well known– five weeks of training makes you qualified to teach in a classroom. It’s an absurd premise that has been criticized and lampooned widely. It is followed closely in infamy by the notion that two years in a classroom are about providing the TFAer with an “experience,” or a resume-builder so they have a better shot at that law or MBA program they’re applying to. That premise has also been widely criticized.

There’s another TFA premise that is less remarked on but is perhaps, in the long run, far worse. From the TFA website:

To change our country’s education system, we need leaders challenging conventional wisdom and the status quo, working for the long term from both inside and outside the school system. Once you become an alum of TFA, you’ll bring an invaluable perspective to any career field in working to create opportunity for students and communities nationwide.

This is the other TFA premise– that two years in a classroom makes you qualified to run a school, or a school district, or a state education department. Two years in a classroom makes you qualified to be an education policy leader.

This is nuts.

First of all, two years in a classroom is nothing. For most folks it takes five to seven years to really get on your feet as a classroom teacher, to really have a solid sense of what you’re doing (and you will never, ever, reach a point at which you don’t have much more to learn about the work). The beginning two years are a challenge for anyone, and in the case of TFA, we’re talking about the first two years of a person who only prepped for the job for five weeks! So they are starting out behind the average traditional new teacher. And if they are teaching in, say, a charter where they are surrounded primarily by other newbies, or being coached and led by TFA staff who are alumni who only have two years in the classroom– well, the problems just compound. This is not the blind leading the blind– this is the blind being led down a cliffside path into the Grand Canyon by a blind guide who is riding on a disabled Roombah.

Second, I will totally give a large number of TFAers in the classroom credit for good intentions. Yes, some have joined up specifically to beef up their grad school application or give themselves an “experience,” but I believe that a significant number of TFAers entered the classroom hoping just what most traditional teachers hope– that they could do good and make a corner of the world a little better.

But what the heck has to be going on in your head if, after two years of classroom teaching, you’re thinking, “Yeah, I could totally run an entire school” or “I bet I could really fix this district if I were in charge” or “The education in this state would be so awesome if they put me in charge.” I told almost every student teacher I worked with, every first-year teacher I ever mentored, “It’s okay. If you don’t cry at some point during this year, that just means you don’t fully understand the situation.” How bad does your grasp have to be, how deep in the grip of Dunning-Kruger do you have to be, to look at your tiny little sliver of just-getting-your-feet-wet experience and think that you are ready to run the show? This is a level of delusion I find truly scary.

And yet. Part of TFA’s goal has always been to create the educational leaders who could turn the educational ship toward the course that their fully-amateur navigators had charted.

They’ve been successful. As a reminder, look at some of the alumni notables listed on TFA’s Wikipedia page:

Mike Feinberg (Houston ’92), KIPP Co-founder

Mike Johnston (Mississippi Delta ’97), Colorado state senator

Kevin Huffman (Houston ’92), Tennessee State Education Commissioner, April 2011 to January 2015

Michelle Rhee (Baltimore ’92), Former Chancellor of District of Columbia Public Schools and founder of The New Teacher Project and StudentsFirst

Alec Ross (Baltimore ’94), Senior Adviser for Innovation for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

John C. White (2010), Louisiana state superintendent of education since 2012

But there are plenty of lower-profile TFA alums out there. For instance, go to LittleSis and look through just some of the Teach for America alumni connections (while you’re at it, look at who funds and runs TFA). There’s a director of industry learning at McKinsey, a vice-president at the Boston Foundation, a guy who worked for NYC’s ed department and now works in charter school development, the chief academic officer at National Heritage Academies, a partner at Learn Capital. TFA’s own alumni page includes folks now working with The Mind Trust, KIPP, and the Walton Family Foundation.

Or consider the TFA Capitol Hill Fellows Program, one of the TFA initiatives that was designed to make sure that TFA has a voice in federal education policy.

The numbers are– well, if we look at just, say, TFA in Memphis, we find there are 410 TFA alumni in town. 250 are in a classroom, 24 are school leaders, and 6 lead a school system. With two whole years in a classroom under their belts, they lead an entire system.

TFA’s own national alum figures show that 34% are in a classroom and 84% “work in education or in fields that impact low-income communities”  which works out to half the TFAers believing that their two years in a low-income classroom qualifies them to do education or community work.

You can drill down and find the specific pictures anywhere in the country. What started me thinking about this was Lorain, Ohio, a story I’ve been following that involves a state-appointed all-powerful CEO. This is a guy with two years in a classroom, and yet he has since that time launched a charter school and served as a consultant for a major urban district before coming to Lorain to run the whole system. And he’s hired “turnaround principals” who are also TFA products, who are taking over administration of entire buildings based on their two years as a beginning teacher in a classroom. And all of these folks don’t need anybody to tell them anything because they are education experts.

This is nuts.

TFA’s drive to plant its seeds everywhere is one persistent symptom of the early days of modern reform, back before when Reformsters figured out that badmouthing public school teachers was counterproductive. After all– if a two-year classroom veteran makes a good principal or superintendent or state commissioner, why haven’t more places reached out to recruit ten or fifteen or twenty year veterans of public school classrooms for leadership or policy positions (yes, teachers are allowed to rise to principal or superintendent positions, but the state capitol doesn’t call very often). If two years in the classroom make you an education expert, then twenty years ought to make you a genius. Except, of course…

TFA education policy leaders and administrators are an expression of that reform idea that we don’t just need a parallel system of education, but we need to reject all educational expertise that already exists. It’s not that hard– any person with an ivy league degree could figure out not only how to teach, but how to run a school, a district, or a state. TFA, the Broad Academy, other alternative systems deliberately reject the educational expertise that exists and attempt to build their alternative system from scratch, trusting that their own amateur-hour wisdom renders all that came before moot.

“You had five weeks of training, so now you’re ready to take over a classroom,” was silly.

“I put in two years in a classroom, so now I’m ready to take over the whole operation,” is a higher level of delusion, and yet these deluded soldiers continue to make inroads like weeds, coming first through concrete cracked open for them by their rich and powerful patrons, and then, once through, bringing more of their crew to join them.

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Published in: on June 3, 2019 at 2:53 pm  Comments (2)  

My JHS Classmate Takes on Mango Mussolini and the Venal, Liberal NYC Elite that Enabled Him and Roy Cohn

I happened to be a classmate, about 57 years ago, with Frank Rich, who went on to become an excellent writer and drama critic. In this article, Rich cites chapter and verse to show how the generally liberal media, and many New York City politicians, enabled the rise of our corrupt and pro-fascist current president, and his enabler and role model, the venal and mendacious Roy Cohn.

A couple of quotes:

“Exhibit A of the Times’ credulousness is the puffy feature that put him on the media map in 1976. “He is tall, lean and blond, with dazzling white teeth, and he looks ever so much like Robert Redford,” read the lead. At this early date, Trump had only proposed ambitious projects, not built them or closed any of the requisite deals, but the profile christened him “New York’s No. 1 real estate promoter of the mid-1970’s” nonetheless. The article accepted Trump’s word that he was of Swedish descent, “publicity shy,” ranked first in his class at Wharton, made millions in unspecified land deals in California, was worth $200 million, and with his father owned 22,000 apartment units. None of this was remotely true, but the sexy brew of hyperbole and outright fantasy, having been certified by the paper of record, set the tone for much that was to come.”

and

“It was a given under Rosenthal’s editorship that the Times would bring up none of this [the fact that Roy Cohn, a closeted gay man, died of AIDS – gfb] to protect the criminally hypocritical Cohn, who had threatened closeted gay government officials with exposure in the McCarthy era and loudly fought gay rights ever since. Meanwhile, the star Times columnist William Safire had joined William Buckley Jr. and Barbara Walters among the three dozen celebrated character witnesses opposing Cohn’s disbarment. Trump, however, had distanced himself from his dying mentor, for a while dropping him altogether. “I can’t believe he’s doing this to me,” Cohn said. “Donald pisses ice water.” With the help of a new young factotum, Roger Stone, Cohn’s last favor for Trump may have been securing his sister Maryanne Trump Barry a federal judgeship from the Reagan administration in 1983 despite her having received the tepid Bar Association rating of “qualified.””

 

It’s really juicy stuff, extremely well-written, and will convince nobody who’s not already aware of the frauds and crimes of our current president.

Who Runs the “Well-Ordered Militia”? CONGRESS!

Inspired by an article in Sunday’s paper by Representative Jamie Raskin, I looked at the text of the first section US Constitution for the first time in many years.

Here’s the part that actually surprised me, where the writers specifically list the powers of Congress, and in this section they in NO way come anywhere near the idea of letting any wack job to go get concealed weapons to bring to a school, a party, a concert, or a church, or to overthrow the government, as our current NRA wack jobs and some Supreme Court members would have you believe. Instead, the Militia is specifically in order to “…execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions”.

(I write this as a person who grew up owning a 22-rifle, and who has hunted deer in the past with shotgun slugs, sometimes successfully. But I think that unless you are really planning on overthrowing the government, then those extremely dangerous machines should be registered, and those who own them should need to undergo both a competency test of some sort and (for obvious reasons) some form of vouching for his or her mental status as well. I mean, DUH!

These things can kill you!

The more deadly the weapon is, the more stringent should be the licensure.

Again, duh.

So here are sections 14-16 of the first Article if the Constitution:

“14: To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

“15: To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

“16: To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;…”

Published in: on May 16, 2019 at 10:27 pm  Comments (2)  

Lead Exposure in Childhood Leads to More Crime

This article cites four studies showing that being exposed to the element lead (Pb) causes increased levels of violence and crime about 20 years later.

However, treatments to mitigate the effects of lead exposure are very effective.

Published in: on May 16, 2019 at 7:26 am  Leave a Comment  

Firing day at a charter school

What a nightmare!

https://seattleducation.com/a-teachers-perspective/

Published in: on May 12, 2019 at 8:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

How to Destroy Public Education

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From truthdig
 [drilling beneath the headlines],Monday, April 22, 2019. SEE
https://www.truthdig.com/articles/the-true-a**merican-tragedy-is-playing-out-in-our-classrooms/
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Opinion
An American Tragedy Is Unfolding in Our Classrooms
Belle Chesler / TomDispatch
Three weeks ago, I sat in a cramped conference room in the large public high school where I teach in Beaverton, Oregon. I was listening to the principal deliver a scripted PowerPoint presentation on the $35 million budget deficit our district faces in the upcoming school year.

Teachers and staff members slumped in chairs. A thick funk of disappointment, resignation, hopelessness, and simmering anger clung to us. After all, we’ve been here before. We know the drill: expect layoffs, ballooning class sizes, diminished instructional time, and not enough resources. Accept that the teacher-student relationship – one that has the potential to be productive and sometimes even transformative – will become, at best, transactional. Bodies will be crammed into too-small spaces, resources will dwindle, and learning will suffer. These budgetary crises are by now cyclical and completely familiar. Yet the thought of weathering another of them is devastating.

This is the third time in my 14-year-career as a visual arts teacher that we’ve faced the upheaval, disruption, and chaos of just such a budget crisis. In 2012, the district experienced a massive shortfall that resulted in the firing of 344 teachers and bloated class sizes for those of us who were left. At one point, my Drawing I classroom studio – built to fit a maximum of 35 students – had more than 50 of them stuffed into it. We didn’t have enough chairs, tables, or spaces to draw, so we worked in the halls.

During that semester I taught six separate classes and was responsible for more than 250 students. Despite the pretense that real instruction was taking place, teachers like me were largely engaged in crowd management and little more. All of the meaningful parts of the job – connecting with students, providing one-on-one support, helping struggling class members to make social and intellectual breakthroughs, not to speak of creating a healthy classroom community – simply fell by the wayside.

I couldn’t remember my students’ names, was unable to keep up with the usual grading and assessments we’re supposed to do, and was overwhelmed by stress and anxiety. Worst of all, I was unable to provide the emotional support I normally try to give my students. I couldn’t listen because there wasn’t time.

On the drive to work, I was paralyzed by dread; on the drive home, cowed by feelings of failure. The experience of that year was demoralizing and humiliating. My love for my students, my passion for the subjects I teach, and ultimately my professional identity were all stripped from me. And what was lost for the students? Quality instruction and adult mentorship, as well as access to vital resources – not to mention a loss of faith in one of America’s supposedly bedrock institutions, the public school.

And keep in mind that what’s happening in my school and in Oregon’s schools more generally is anything but unique. According to the American Federation of Teachers, divestment in education is occurring in every single state in the nation, with 25 states spending less on education than they did before the recession of 2008. [SEE https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/decade-of-neglect-2018.pdf ] The refusal of individual states to prioritize spending on education coupled with the Trump administration’s proposed $7 billion in cuts to the Department of Education are already beginning to make the situation in our nation’s public schools untenable – for both students and teachers. [SEE https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-devos-testimony-st-0407-story.html ]
Sitting in that conference room, listening to my capable and dedicated boss describe our potential return to a distorted reality I remembered well made me recoil. Bracing myself for the soul-crushing grind of trying to convince students to buy into a system that will almost by definition fail to address, no less meet, their needs – to get them to show up each day even though there aren’t enough seats, supplies, or teachers to do the job – is an exercise in futility.
The truth of the matter is that a society that refuses to adequately invest in the education of its children is refusing to invest in the future. Think of it as nihilism on a grand scale.
Teachers as First Responders

Schools are loud, vital, chaotic places, unlike any other public space in America. Comprehensive public high schools reflect the socioeconomic, racial, religious, and cultural makeup of the population they serve. Each school has its own particular culture and ecosystem of rules, structures, core beliefs, and values. Each also has its own set of problems, specific to the population that walks through its doors each day. Coping with the complexity and magnitude of those problems makes the job of creating a thriving, equitable, and productive space for learning something akin to magical thinking. [SEE https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/01/what-school-funding-debates-ignore/551126/ ]

The reflexive blame now regularly heaped on schools, teachers, and students in this country is a misrepresentation of reality. The real reason we are being left behind our global peers when it comes to student achievement has to do with so much more than the failure to perform well on standardized tests. [SEE https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/02/15/u-s-students-internationally-math-science/  ]Our kids are struggling not because we’ve forgotten how to teach them or they’ve forgotten how to learn, but because the adults who run this society have largely decided that their collective future is not a priority. In reality, the tattered and rapidly deteriorating infrastructure of our national system of social services leaves schools and teachers as front-line first responders in what I’d call a national crisis of the soul. [SEE https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/3/11/18259789/trumps-2020-budget-proposal-cuts ]

So it’s no surprise to me that teachers, even in the reddest of states, have been walking out of their classrooms and demanding change. [SEE http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/02/red-for-ed-continues-where-teachers-are-set-to-strike-next.html  ]Such walkouts in Arizona, California, Colorado, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Washington, and West Virginia have reflected grievances more all-encompassing than the pleas for higher pay that have made the headlines. (And in so many states, they are still being paid less than a living wage.) [SEE http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/02/red-for-ed-continues-where-teachers-are-set-to-strike-next.html  ]Demands for just compensation are symbolic and easy for the public to grasp. The higher pay won through some of those walkouts represents an acknowledgement that teachers are being asked to do a seemingly impossible job in a society whose priorities are increasingly out of whack, amid the crumbling infrastructure of the public-school system itself.

The idea that the real world is somehow separate from the world inside our schools and that issues of inequality, poverty, mental health, addiction, and racism won’t impact the capacity of our students to thrive academically sets a dangerous precedent for measuring success. Assuming that the student living in a car, not a home, should be able to stay awake during a lecture, that the one returning from a week in a psychiatric ward should be able to instantly tackle a difficult math test, and that the one whose undocumented father was just picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers should have no problem concentrating as her teacher diagrams sentences in English is a grand delusion.

In fact, among the many demands of teachers and their unions during the strikes of the past year were calls for more financial support for comprehensive social services for students. [SEE https://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/teacherbeat/2019/03/two_more_statewide_teacher_protests.html  ] In Los Angeles, teachers fought for legal support for students in danger of deportation. In North Carolina [SEE https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2019/01/why-los-angeles-teachers-are-striking/580360/ ], teachers are planning a new round of strikes that will, among other things, demand Medicaid coverage expansion aimed at improving student health. [SEE https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2019/04/10/historic-strikes-protests-by-teachers-around-country-arent-over/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.644d8e23dd53 ] In Chicago, teachers included a call for affordable housing in their negotiations and so drew attention to the importance of supporting students both in and out of the classroom. [SEE https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2019/04/10/historic-strikes-protests-by-teachers-around-country-arent-over/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.644d8e23dd53 ]
If schools are expected to pick up the slack for the gaping holes in our social safety net, it follows that they should be designed and funded with that purpose in mind.  If teachers are supposed not only to teach but to act as counselors, therapists, and social workers, they should be paid salaries that reflect such weighty demands and should have access to resources that support such work.
Why Prioritizing School Funding Matters
There is a large disconnect between the lip service paid to supporting public schools and teachers and a visible reticence to adequately fund them. [SEEabout:blank ]Ask almost anyone – save Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos – if they support teachers and schools and the answer is probably “yes.” [SEE https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/betsy-devos-and-the-plan-to-break-public-schools ] Bring up the question of how to actually provide adequate financial support for education, however, and you’ll quickly find yourself mired in arguments about wasteful school spending, pension funds that drain resources, sub-par teachers, and bureaucratic bloat, as well as claims that you can’t just continue to throw money at a problem, that money is not the solution.
I’d argue that money certainly is part of the solution. In a capitalist society, money represents value and power. In America, when you put money into something, you give it meaning. Students are more than capable of grasping that when school funding is being cut, it’s because we as a society have decided that investing in public education doesn’t carry enough value or meaning.
The prioritization of spending on the military, as well as the emphasis of the Trump administration and congressional Republicans on a staggering tax cut for the rich, corporate tax evasion, and the dismantling of what’s left of the social safety net couldn’t send a louder message about how much of a priority the well-being of the majority of this nation’s kids actually is. [SEE http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176391/tomgram%3A_william_hartung%2C_the_pentagon_budget_as_corporate_welfare_for_weapons_makers  AND  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/06/business/economy/retailers-property-tax-dark-stores.html  ]https://www.cbpp.org/research/federal-tax/corporate-tax-cuts-mainly-benefit-shareholders-and-ceos-not-workers ] The 2019 federal budget invested $716 billion in national security, $686 billion of which has been earmarked for the Department of Defense (with even more staggering figures expected next year). [SEE https://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/fy2019/fy2019_Press_Release.pdf ] Compare that to the $59.9 billion in discretionary appropriations for the Department of Education and the expected future cuts to its budget. Point made, no?
However, since federal school contributions add up to only a small percentage of local and state education budgets, all blame can’t go there. In Oregon, for instance, restrictions placed on property taxes in the 1990s artificially limited such revenue, forcing the state to start relying heavily on income taxes to keep schools afloat. [SEE https://www.ocpp.org/2018/08/01/property-tax-limits-weaken-services-oregon/ ] Corporations are an important source of income for states. Yet, though corporate profits in the U.S. rose by $69.3 billion to an all-time high of more than $2 trillion in the third quarter of 2018, over the last 40 years the states’ share of income-tax revenue has fallen to half what it was in the 1970s. [SEE https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/corporate-profits ]
Take Nike, whose worldwide headquarters are located only a few miles from the high school where I teach. It stands as a shining example of a corporation that has profited handsomely from sheltering income abroad while evading local tax responsibilities. [SEEhttps://itep.org/fact-sheet-nike-and-tax-avoidance/] Nike has a special relationship with the state of Oregon, which taxes only the company’s local profits, not those earned elsewhere. Adding insult to injury, according to The Oregonian, by the end of 2017, Nike had put $12.2 billion of its earnings into offshore tax shelters. [SEE https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/nov/06/nike-tax-paradise-papers ] Had that money been repatriated, the company could have owed up to $4.1 billion in U.S. taxes, which means it has a modest hand in the monetary shortfalls that leave schools like mine in desperate straits.
In reality, Oregon’s economy is thriving and yet how little it all matters, since here we are again on the precipice of another crisis. [SEE https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/northwest/strong-oregon-economy-triggers-taxpayer-refund/ ]
In 1999, the state government formed a committee made up of educators, legislators, business leaders, and parents to create a reliable budgetary tool that would correlate school funding needs with student performance. This “Quality Education Model” set out a standard for what a “quality” education would look like for every student in Oregon. In the 20 years since then, the state legislature has reliably failed to meet the funding goals set out by that model. This year, it calls for $10.7 billion in education spending, while the state legislature’s joint ways and means committee recently released a budget that included spending of just $8.87 billion on the school system.[SEE https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/northwest/strong-oregon-economy-triggers-taxpayer-refund/  ] Such annual shortages of funds have, over time, helped create the present gaping hole in our public education system. And each year that hole grows larger.
Restoring Faith in Our Nation’s Institutions
Public schools represent one of the bedrock institutions of American democracy. Yet as a society we’ve stood aside as the very institutions that actually made America great were gutted and undermined by short-term thinking, corporate greed, and unconscionable disrespect for our collective future.

The truth is that there is money for education, for schools, for teachers, and for students. We just don’t choose to prioritize education spending and so send a loud-and-clear message to students that education doesn’t truly matter. And when you essentially defund education for more than 40 years, you leave kids with ever less faith in American institutions, which is a genuine tragedy.

On May 8, educators across the state of Oregon are planning to walk out of schools.  The action, a precursor to a strike, is a direct response to the inadequate funding in the upcoming state budget and a referendum on the continuing divestment in public education. Teachers like me will be stepping out of our classrooms not because we don’t want to teach, but because we do.
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Published in: on April 26, 2019 at 5:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

We’re Number One! (Or Else, We Are Tied for #1)

Folks like me who do not associate with any religion, are apparently now either the largest group in America or are statistically tied with Evangelicals. Here’s a graph where I colored the ‘No Religion’ plot as deep, thick purple. If this is correct, then the rise of us ‘nones’ has been amazing, as has been the decline of the ‘mainline’ protestants.

no religion is now number 1 (or tied)

The GSS is the General Social Survey out of the University of Chicago. You can look up the data for yourself at this link or else at this one. A professor by the name of Ryan Burge crunched the numbers and you can see his twitter page here.

(Obviously if you combine all Christian groups into one bucket, they far outnumber the Nones, but you can also argue that the policy differences between the various Christian sects are actually very large.)

Published in: on April 15, 2019 at 9:57 pm  Comments (2)  
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Did Restrictive Racial Housing Covenants in America Begin in Washington, DC?

I knew that my block of Randolph Street in NE DC at one point had legal, racially exclusive covenants built into the deeds of the houses, stating that the houses could never be purchased or rented by blacks, Jews, or Mexicans. I was glad that such restrictions have been swept away.

However, I didn’t realize that DC was sort of an epicenter of such racial redistributing and oppression of disfavored minorities. This article, which I found on the Ward 5 list-serve, takes the case of nearby Bloomingdale and shows how that nasty social cancer was developed and spread, with the government and white businessmen at all levels fostering it.
Kudos to the African-American folks who fought against it. It is sad that so many white folks agreed with this sort of nasty business for so long and failed to protest it alongside black people.
https://www.dcpolicycenter.org/publications/racially-restrictive-covenants-bloomingdale/

A quote from that article:

During the first half of the 20th century, the number of areas in which black people could live in D.C. shrank as new whites-only housing, playgrounds, and schools were developed. The growth of the federal government, and corresponding demand for new buildings and infrastructure, added to the problem.

Washington had not always been so spatially segregated. In fact, African American and white families had often lived in close proximity to one another throughout the 19th century, especially within the city’s urban core and in neighborhoods along the Potomac and Anacostia rivers. However, the city grew increasingly divided along racial lines through a series of city planning efforts.[4] D.C. did not legally assign neighborhoods to one racial group or another—a policy introduced in Baltimore in 1911 and copied by more than a dozen cities across the upper South—but nearly the same thing was accomplished by other means.[5]

 

By the way, my Brookland neighbor Jim Loewen is mentioned in the article: he wrote perhaps the best book in existence showing how “sundown towns” like Greenbelt and Chevy Chase were developed.
From another paper:
In its 1948 decision, Shelley v. Kramer, the U.S. Supreme Court held that racially restrictive covenants could not be enforced, but the practice of inserting such covenants into title documents remained common. Finally, in 1968, the Federal Fair Housing Act made the practice of writing racial covenants into deeds illegal. However, nearly seventy years after Shelley and 60 years after the Fair Housing Act, racially restrictive covenants remain common features of deeds. This may be for several reasons. First, since covenants run with the land, they become part of the land title in perpetuity. Second, the process to remove covenants is expensive and time-consuming. Third, the majority of owners may not be aware that their properties are subject to racially restrictive covenants.
You are probably aware that the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue began his career in real estate by enforcing the racist housing practices of his racist father.

Kentucky Wildcat Strike?

From : Schools Matter website

Kentucky Teachers Strike as Union Leaders Sit on Hands

Posted: 20 Mar 2019 08:32 AM PDT

The continuing waves of job actions across the country demonstrate the irrelevance of AFT and NEA top-heavy and top-down misleadership.  As Kentucky teachers and parents plan an execute sick-outs to shut down schools in protest of a toxic package of state legislation to rob schools and crush teacher voices, the union misleaders continue to urge teachers to go to work and, instead of striking, to send a delegation of beggars to the state capital to “lobby” corporate legislators.   Teachers are not having it.

From Nation of Change:

Don’t call what Kentucky teachers just did a “wildcat” labor action, at least not when you’re speaking with Tim Hall. Hall, a classroom teacher at Shawnee High School in Louisville, answered my phone call as he was driving to the state capitol in Frankfort to protest the latest slate of education-related bills being considered in the legislature. He and hundreds of other teachers in Jefferson County Public Schools, the state’s largest school district that includes Louisville, called in sick, prompting the district to close schools for over 100,000 students. 

Hundreds of those teachers joined Hall at the state capitol. It was the third time in a week and the second day in a row that enough JCPS teachers called out sick to trigger a full district shutdown. The sick-out spread to four other districts that also had to close. But neither the state teachers’ union nor the local union for Jefferson County had anything to do with organizing the action. In fact, union leaders urged teachers to show up for work, preferring instead to have districts send small teams of teachers to lobby state lawmakers. 

Yet Hall bristled at using “wildcat” to describe what JCPS teachers were doing. “I don’t like that word,” he said. “I think our concerns are reflective of teachers not only in JCPS but also across the state.” 

The Kentucky teachers’ actions are the latest in what has become a wave of teachers using their collective power to influence legislation in state governments, but the sick-out in Kentucky is also a sign of how teacher protests are evolving. 

Teachers who once saw labor actions as effective tactical responses to attacks on their financial well-being are now understanding that their labor power is part of a broader strategy to even the playing field in a political landscape that is increasingly unequal. And there’s strong evidence they’re having an impact. 

Teacher strikes are evolving 

The teachers, joined by parents and other public education activists, organized the sick-out action on social media sites including the Facebook page for JCPS Leads, which Hall helps facilitate. Teachers went back to work at one point, but then extended their protest to a fourth, fifth, and then a sixth day to ensure controversial bills were killed in the legislature. 

The roots of this year’s labor action are in last year’s statewide strike when teachers closed schools across the Bluegrass State to protest a new pension bill that would have put retirement earnings for new teachers at greater risk and shortchanged retirees and senior teachers. This year’s sick-out is different. 

First, teachers have a much broader array of targets for their protests. “We want a whole package of bills voted down,” Hall explained. 

Once again, a threat to teachers’ pensions, House Bill 525, has stirred the teachers’ ire because it would reduce the participation of educators on the state employee pension board. But two other bills go beyond wage-and-benefits grievances: House Bill 205 that would establish a statewide school voucher program giving tax breaks to those who donate to private school scholarships for special-needs and low-income students, and Senate Bill 250 that would take school principal hiring decisions away from local, site-based committees, which include teachers, and give the district superintendent sole responsibility for the hiring process – the bill applies to JCPS only. 

Hall sees all three bills as attacks on democracy. “They’re about taking away our ability to collaborate on how our schools operate,” he said. By removing educators from the pension board, ramping up a statewide voucher program, and undermining teachers’ influence on principal hiring, teachers are being pushed further out to the periphery of decision making, he explained, and in turn, are less able to make their voices heard as advocates for their schools and their students.

Also, there’s a good reason why Jefferson County teachers are taking it upon themselves to lead the labor action and go it alone in speaking out for their colleagues elsewhere in the state. Not only is JCPS the only district affected by the bill to change principal hiring; JCPS is also the only district currently under threat of state takeover. Proponents of charter schools and vouchers are generally seen as the most ardent backers of the takeover effort. 

And Hall and other teachers see all three bills as efforts to further undermine their participation in governance of their schools and usher in more state control and privatization of schools. 

A movement about democracy 

In taking their demands beyond economic grievances to include issues of governance and local community voice, the Kentucky teachers are joining a strong new trend in the teacher movement. 

When West Virginia teachers walked off the job last year and started what’s become known as RedForEd, they generally made wages and benefits the core of their grievances. But in their labor action this year, West Virginia teachers expanded their protests to include issues with privatization, specifically, to fight new legislation that would take public money from traditional districts and use it for charter schools and for private and religious school tuition. 

Also this year, teachers in Los Angeles and Oakland, California, made opposition to the unchecked growth of charter schools and their lack of transparency and accountability a centerpiece of the unions’ demands. 

Education journalists and “experts” have noticed this trend and described it as mostly a battle over funding for public schools vs. charter schools, voucher programs, and other forms of privatization. But that misses the broader argument teachers make that all education mandates that stem from top-down authority and big money interests are meant to rob teachers of having a voice in how schools are governed. 

Teachers are making RedForEd a fight not just for funding but also for political power. 

Teacher strikes work 

There’s evidence that the teachers’ change in strategy will work. 

Last year’s RedForEd protests clearly affected state legislation where the protests occurred. According to a new analysis, in four states where teachers walked off the job, state legislatures responded by increasing baseline state funding for schools by 3-19 percent. 

This year, teacher strikes in Los Angeles and Oakland led to calls from local governments for moratoriums on new charters and increased regulation of the industry. In response, California state lawmakers acted with “lightning speed” to enact new laws that require more transparency in charter school operations. 

How successful were the Kentucky teachers? As of this writing, on the final day of the legislative session, two of the three bills teachers targeted in their protests appear to be dead – the bill restructuring the state pension board and the bill creating a statewide school voucher program. The bill targeting the principal hiring process in JCPS appears to have passed in both chambers and will likely be signed by Governor Matt Bevin. 

Two out of three is not a bad batting average in a “red state” where Republicans hold a trifecta of strong majorities in both branches of the state legislature and the governor’s seat. And should the dead bills come back to life, Hall assures me, or similar bills spring up, teachers will return to the capitol. 

“We’re tired of being unsupported and messed with,” he said. “Teachers want to have fair ways for us to ensure the public education system continues to provide access to well-supported schools for

Published in: on March 20, 2019 at 5:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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