What Exactly Are the Differences between Democrats and Republicans on Charter Schools?

According to this column by Carolyn Leith, not really all that much. I thought this is worth reading. The source is here

Last year, I wrote an open letter to Senator Patty Murray pleading with her to reconsider the lavish financial support charter schools were slated to receive in the soon to be re-authorized ESEA.

My argument:

The Supreme Court has found the Washington State Legislature in contempt for not fulfilling its duty to fully fund basic education.

The federal government made this situation even worse when it allowed aid to states to expire in 2012. This money was being used by states to keep our public schools running.

Given the precarious state of public school funding in Washington State, I’m confused by your willingness to include generous funding for charter schools in the ESEA.

Not only did the Supreme Court rule Washington State’s charter law unconstitutional, but charter schools have a track record for all kinds of financial scandals. Don’t believe me? Just google “charter school scandals” and take a look.

We can’t afford to have any dollars diverted from our classrooms. Any dollar lost to scandal is one not being spent on the 1 million public school students in Washington State.

The rest is history.

The ESEA sailed through Congress and with President Obama’s signature – became law as the ESSA.

In November, Patty Murray – supporter of the TPP and co-author of the ESSA – skated to another term with 59% of the vote.

The only kink was Trump’s victory and his selection of Betsy DeVos to be the new Secretary of Education. THAT was a buzz kill.

Suddenly, Democrats and progressives (whatever that means anymore) couldn’t stop talking about charters and the evils of privatization.

AWKWARD.

Here’s the thing: Democrats are just as into charter schools as Republicans. The only difference is the language they use to sell the idea to their supporters. Democrats talk about gaps while the Republicans complain about the public education monopoly.

Don’t believe me?

In September, President Obama’s Secretary of Education, John King, sent out a press release announcing $245 million in new grants for charter schools. $245 million !?!

“Ensuring that all students have access to an academically challenging and engaging education is critical to preparing them for college and career success,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “Innovative charter schools are continuously developing new and impactful practices to close achievement gaps and provide all students with the skills and abilities they need to thrive. We are proud to support these efforts along with strong charter school authorizing and accountability, particularly given these grantees’ commitment to communities facing steep academic challenges.”

(Did you see the word gaps?)

Selective Outrage

I’m done with Democrats who only activate their moral compasses when a Republican is President. I don’t have the time or patience to support an organization that puts scoring political points over principles.

Remember when Hillary Clinton made big headlines by trying to sell NEA members on the lesser of two evils argument that non-profit charters were a vast improvement over the garden variety charter school?

Think about it: The Democratic Party’s candidate for President of the United States, Hillary Clinton, was campaigning as a supporter of charter schools — to an audience full of teachers. You can’t be more pro-charter than that.

But now – with a Republican President and a potential Education Secretary who LOVES all things charter – Democrats and their progressive minions are beside themselves. Outraged, even.

Sorry to be a downer, but I can’t help wondering where all of these VERY concerned Democrats were a year ago.

Oh, I remember, they were in Congress, working with the charter lobby to re-write the ESSA, so privatization supporters could get EVERYTHING on their wish list.

It’s Worse Than You Think

Now, we come to the really bad part of the story. The ESSA – constructed in a bipartisan manner – is a doomsday device for public education AND it’s the law of the land.

Here are the ESSA’s three arms of destructio

  • Accountability measured designed to create turn-around schools which are ripe for charter conversion.
  • Innovative assessments to usher in online learning software, ELOs, and “anytime, any place learning”.
  • Infusion of big federal dollars so charters can push out resource starved public schools

It appears the school privatizing lobby – within the Democratic Party – was so sure of a Clinton victory, they rushed to pass the ESSA – never considering the possibility of a Clinton loss.

Well, it happened.

Instead of the happy face of privatization offered by the Democratic Party, we’re faced with a Betsy DeVos who can’t wait to push the red button and could care less about human suffering or the rubble left behind.

Charter Lobby Victory

The ESSA gave the charter lobby everything they wanted and then some. Take a look:

Specifically, changes to the Charter School Program (CSP) include the following:

The CSP now includes dedicated funding for the replication and expansion of high-performing charter schools. In addition, state grants can also be used for the same purpose.

The state grant program can now be administered by governors and charter support organizations in addition to state educational agencies.

The state grant program prioritizes funding to states that provide equitable resources to charter schools and that assist charters in accessing facilities.

The state grant program provides schools with additional spending flexibility for startup funds. For example, they will be allowed to use CSP funds to purchase a school bus and make minor facility improvements.

The state grant program includes new protections to ensure funds go to charter schools with autonomy and flexibility consistent with the definition of a charter school.

Charter school representatives must be included in Title I negotiated rule-making and must be included, like other stakeholders at the state and local level, in the implementation of many federal programs.

CSP recipients will have more flexibility to use a weighted lottery to increase access to charter schools for disadvantaged students. CSP grantees will also be permitted to use feeder patterns to prioritize students that attended earlier grades in the same network of charter schools.

And other provisions that affect charter schools include:

  • New and expanding charter schools are required to receive timely allocations of Title I allocations and to be “held harmless” in the same manner as other eligible Title I traditional public schools.
  • The highly qualified teacher requirement has been repealed. Charters are free to design personnel systems and hire staff that meet the unique needs of their school.
  • States are required to administer annual reading and math assessments in reading and math in grades 3-8, and once in high school. Science assessments are required once in each grade span: 3-5, 6-9 and 10-12.
  • States must hold all public schools accountable for improving student achievement of all students, as well as all subgroups of students.
  • Schools are also accountable for adjusted four year and extended cohort graduation rates.
  • LEAs have flexibility to use Title I funds for school improvement to increase the number of high-quality charter schools serving students attending failing schools.
  • New provisions to demonstrate compliance with the “supplement not supplant” requirement include additional flexibility in aligning federal program funds with their educational programs.

What can we learn from all of this?

Neoliberalism – and school privatization is straight out of the handbook – hurts people and the public institutions humans depend on.

The particular political leader pushing the neoliberal agenda doesn’t matter. Some will appear progressive, others conservative. It doesn’t matter.

Blind partisan loyalty is sucking the legitimacy out of our political process.

This has got to stop.

When your political team embraces part of the neoliberal agenda, you need to speak up and say “NO” – just as loudly as when the other team does.

Otherwise, we’ll continue to be rewarded with dumpster fires like the ESSA.

-Carolyn Leith

 

 

Where are all the 2016 Campaign Stickers and Signs?

Most 4-year election cycles, there are literally (and also figuratively) tons of presidential campaign stickers for the two main parties and also for others plastered on vehicles, walls, buttons, yard signs, and much more.

Not so far this year.

(Back in my day, when we actually DID sometimes (wellll, twice, both February 1958 iirc) walk to the store pulling a sled through snowdrifts taller than me, I actually recall playing with a spinning top labeled “Ike on Top” from either the 1952 or 1956 election. During the last two cycles that Obama was running, you would see stickers or signs for Obama-Biden; or Romney-Ryan; or McCain-Palin nearly everywhere you looked, walking or driving.

I just drove to South Carolina through NC, VA and DC and back over 4 days and found a grand total of THREE such election notices, only 6 weeks before election day, and all were in NC:

  • One red pickup truck with TRUMP-PENCE signs
  • One small TRUMP-PENCE road side sign
  • One CLINTON-KAINE illuminated bill board

That’s ALL. None others, at all, anywhere we went that I was looking.

Before this trip, here in DC I recall  seeing a grand total THREE bumper stickers. One  Johnston, one Stein, and one Hillary.

So that is a grand total of SIX stickers or signs that I’ve seen posted by actual people, so far, this election. Lots of emails (I still get some from Carson – remember him?)

And that’s after driving many hundreds of miles on interstates and local roads and in various towns in NC, VA, DC and a tiny bit in S, as well as walking a fair distance. Almost no open and visible signs from anybody supporting either candidate!

These must be truly the most unpopular American presidential candidates in my lifetime and perhaps ever.  I suspect that on both sides, a lot of people will be voting while holding their noses, and that will include me, and will mostly voting AGAINST someone. (If you didn’t know already, I’m mostly voting AGAINST Trump but not in favor of either of the 3rd-party candidates. So that means I’m voting for Clinton, because I can’t abide the idea that somebody as foolish and as dishonest as Trump would be the American president.

Clearly there are some Trump supporters who don’t care how many times he’s lied, or whom he has demeaned, or how much money he’s swindled out of the rest of us, or how absolutely unfit he is for any position of trust and leadership. All of those unimipeachable facts make him completely unacceptable to the vast majority of people, but there is a core group of Trump cult members who have been conned. Believe me, he is the very best con-man out there. The very best. A bigly con-man. I’ll tell you, he is a world-class shyster. the very best. So those who have been conned pick and choose whichever side of his self-contradictory programs he sort-of articulates, and ignore all the contradictory evidence.

And of course, he and his Breitbart-Fox Fake news media friends have been promoting the Big Lie that Hillary Clinton is the worst liar in the world and a heartless murderer to boot.

Concerning Secy Clinton, I’m not crazy about how the policies of Obama and the Clintons in foreign policy and on education appear to be almost indistinguishable from those of GWBush, even though GWB justified those interventionist and frankly essentially imperialist policies on much more know-nothing, knee-jerk, right-wing, grounds that simply aggravated tensions abroad, alienated enormous numbers of Moslems and others in the Middle East, and dissipated all the support Americans got when the US was attacked on 9-11-2001. The policies of GWB — which have to a great extent continued under Obama  — supported totally corrupt, ruthless, violent regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan (Al-Maliki and Karzai) and in reaction caused groups like the Taliban and ISIS/ISIL and its predecessors, the Sunni Uprising in Iraq, to seem like legitimate resistance fighters to millions of people there. Destabilizing Libya and Syria hasn’t exactly brought about progress, either, and now the US has its ostensibly strongest allies (Kurds and Turkey) fighting each other. Bringing about an enormous refugee problem that seems to have no solution. So Trump is correct that the policies of the last two presidential administrations in the Middle East have been failures on their own terms — but his would be even worse!

Just think: he advocates stealing ALL THE OIL from Iraq, Libya and elsewhere, and doing torture even worse than the illegal stuff that the CIA and US military did all along, and IIRC has even proposed using nuclear weapons over there! That would make the US into one of the worst perpetrators of brazen war crimes of all time, and would prompt millions or billions of people into rising up against the American presence everywhere in the world.

Starting wars and uprisings can sound like a good idea sometimes if you aren’t the ones in the middle of it as a combatant or civilian. Armed conflict is not fun, but if people feel that they really have no choice, they will do it.

The stuff about Clinton’s emails and Benghazi, to me, seem to be utterly bogus issues — but since they have been repeated over and over again by the rabid anti-Clintonites, they have achieved their goal of making Clinton looking more duplicitous than the average politician. I think she is considerably less so. While far from perfect, her record is WAAAYY cleaner than Trump — who sets world-class records for lying. Like the Meghan Trainor song,  “His lips are moving, so he’s lying, lying, lying” as well as cheating others out of their money and avoiding taxes.

Can anybody think of a good NO TRUMP sticker? I’ve tried, but unfortunately, almost nobody plays Contract Bridge any more, and in fact regular 52-cards-to-the-deck playing cards are virtually unknown to many children, so the phrase “No Trump” won’t mean much to many people. (If you play Spades instead of Bridge, then any Spade *always* trumps any other card, which is a different sort of joke…) In any case, it would be pretty easy to make a phrase about spades, clubs, diamonds, hearts, trumps, no-trumps, dummies, and jokers that many folks would see as merely insulting and offensive, or else would be simply incomprehensible.

I haven’t been able to think of anything clever and funny and carries a good message. If anybody can think of one, I’d love to hear it or see it, publicize it to my dozens of readers, and give you credit! Here’s what I’ve seen so far:

TWO HEARTS BEAT ONE NO TRUMP

one no trump

But they are pretty lame…

 

Vision vs Practice

One more article from Peter Greene, the best educational blogger I am aware of. I’m copying and pasting the entire thing.

=============================

Forest and Trees

Posted: 15 Sep 2016 10:24 AM PDT

Like many jobs in the world, particularly those that deal with humans, teaching requires focus on both forests and trees.

A teacher faces questions like these in the classroom:

What body of information do I need to convey to my students in a deep and integrated manner that best fits their pedagogical requirements and will most help them take their place as fully-actualized adults in the world?

What instructional techniques can best be used with this particular set of content-based objectives that also blend with and respect the cultural and personal backgrounds of my students while maintaining a whole child approach that helps achieve my global objectives?

But these questions are also part of the classroom world:

What’s the most efficient way to get these test papers passed back?

Do I have enough copies of this worksheet?

Can I get Chris to stop jabbing Pat with a pencil?

You can’t have one without the other. Focusing on the broad and deep concerns of education is like loving someone deeply and fully and never doing anything about it but sitting in your room and writing angsty poems. A broad vision without an action plan gets nothing done, achieves nothing for the students. But focus too intently on the nuts and bolts and you end up with a technician who completes tasks efficiently, even though the tasks have no real useful purpose behind them. You need a vision of how to get through the next year, and a plan for how to get through the next forty minutes.

Educational amateurs and neophytes often suffer from this balance problem. Beginning teachers may enter the classroom with Big Dreams about Touching the Future and Shaping Young Minds, but with no idea of how to get twenty-five teenagers to keep watching while the teacher writes on the board (chalk, white or smart). I’ve also seen new teachers arrive with stacks of unit plans and worksheets, ready to deploy them while moving briskly through the textbook, but with no idea of why they’re doing any of it except that it’s their idea of what teachers do. Each creates their own problems– one leads to students who ask “What the heck are we doing?” while the other prompts students to ask “Why the heck are we doing this?” And the teacher has no answer, and the class sinks further and further into the weeds.

The educational amateurs who push the reformy agenda have similar issues.

On the one hand we have visionaries who offer broad vague ideas, like we will lift up teachers so that they will raise expectations of students, who will rise and succeed, emerging from school well-educated and primed to succeed while also closing the achievement gap. All of which is pretty, but completely avoids the question of how, exactly, this will work. You are face to face in a classroom with a student who doesn’t understand what the first paragraph of “Call of the Wild” says– exactly how will you Higher Expect him into understanding. And you’re doing it in a room with thirty other students, some of which haven’t eaten in twenty-four hours, and the walls in the room are crumbling, and you don’t have enough copies of the book, so you’re looking at a projection of it on the stained and peeling wall in a neighborhood historically riven by all the stress that comes with being on the wrong side of poverty and systemic racism. What exactly will you do in the next fifteen minutes? Visionaries don’t have an answer. They just want you to keep your eyes on those higher expectations and big dreams etc etc etc. and when anyone brings up the “How do we spend the next forty minutes” question, visionaries level the accusation that folks lack vision and keep making excuses.

On the other hand, we have the technicians. These reformsters are excited because technology answers all the questions about how to manage tests and practice and worksheets and all the record-keeping. They know exactly what you’re going to do for the next forty minutes– have students log on to their program and pull up the next module of materials that have been selected by the AI and answer questions as the software process those answers so that you can see the data crunched on the monitor on your desk. Technicians are so excited about the efficiency and elegance of this system that they forget to ask if any of it actually is a good way to serve the educational needs of the students. They are so excited about the pipeline they’ve built that they never stop to consider that the solid, unyielding shape of that pipeline completely dictates what can pass through that pipeline, allowing curricular and pedagogical decisions to simply happen as a side-effect of the technical delivery system.

Visionaries build gorgeous golden imaginary productions without any means of transporting them into the world. Technicians build efficient systems for delivering things that don’t do anyone any good.

Teaming them up is not enough. They will fight. They will argue, and they will ultimately produce something that includes the worst of both worlds.

No, an actual teacher has to have both a vision and an understanding of how to make it real. A teacher must always balance a broad, deep view, and a detailed, granular one. A teacher must see forests and trees, as well as leaves and bark and full-scale ecosystems. When we tell reformsters that they should talk to actual classroom teachers, it’s invariably a reaction to their lack of a full scale of sight, their childlike belief that if you just concentrate really hard on the forest, the trees will take care of themselves– or vice versa.

Teaching is by no means the only profession where this sort of many-scales issue exists. In most professions, part of the training and the wisdom of experience is based on learning to see forests and trees and how they fit together. But in every other profession, it is widely understood that it takes a professional to see All That. It is in teaching that powerful amateurs continue to believe that since they once camped in a forest or they have this one tree they know really well, that makes them knowledgeable to act like a professional educator (and in some cases, qualified to wave a giant chainsaw around with abandon).

Like any metaphor, this one this limitations, and not everyone fits inside. But we’ll wait for another day to discuss the people who want to clear cut the forest and replace the trees with condos.

Charter School Profiteers Playing Dirty

Jersey Jazzman reports on how an charter-school entrepreneur in Pennsylvania tried to steer students his way by distributing a flyer painting students at the local public school as drug users. Definitely worth the read.

 

Are Charter Schools Public Institutions?

I don’t know a whole lot about the charter schools here in Brookland (a region of DC where I live). I’ve visited some charter schools in wards 1, 4, 7 and 8 while attempting to mentor new math teachers about 5 years ago, and found about as much variation in the charter schools that I visited as we have in the regular public schools.

I think it’s a shame that nearly all of the white parents in Brookland appear to have opted out of sending their kids to the neighborhood public schools here in Brookland (ie Noyes, Bunker Hill, Brookland, Burroughs). More diversity there would really help.

One important thing to consider is that the National Labor Relations Board no longer considers charter schools to be public institutions:

http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/266763/in-the-eyes-of-the-nlrb-charter-schools-are-private-not-public/

In the eyes of the NLRB, charter schools are private, not public

And while you can find the salary of every single DCPS employee with a little searching on the DCPS website, I have no idea where to find the corresponding information about any DC charter schools.

In PA, charter schools appear to try to keep such data private, and a report indicates that they spend much more on administration than do regular public schools:

https://www.psba.org/2016/08/psba-report-charter-school-transparency-accountability/

In New York City, the head of a small chain of charter schools – Eva Moskowitz – earns almost half-a-million dollars annually (look it up), and here in DC I have lost count of the number of charter schools have been shut down because of wholesale theft or fraud by their leaders. (eg

http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Dorothy-Height-Charter-School-Shutting-Down-292653401.html

Charter for Dorothy Height Charter School Revoked

And here is an article in The Progressive:

Guy on Randolph

Will Washington DC Elect a Paid Shill for a Charter School Chain to its Mostly Powerless School Board?

You may not be aware that one Jacque Patterson is running for an At-Large position on the nearly-powerless District of Columbia State Board of Education, and has already managed to con quite a few people into donating money to him. He may unfortunately even win, even though he is a paid flack for the Rocketship chain of charter schools.

(That’s the chain that is infamous for putting little kids in cubicles on computers and headphones with totally untrained, $15/hour assistants taking the place of most teachers…)

He’s running against Mary Lord, who actually has real expertise in education. One commenter on an article in the DC City Paper wrote,

“So this race features, on the one hand, one of the few incumbents on this board or any other elected office in this city that’s unquestionably qualified for her job. Someone who has actually been recognized by her colleagues across the country for her expertise, as the immediate past president of the National Association of State Boards of Education. Someone who can speak in intricate detail about the policies that this board is supposed to be weighing [ …]

“And on the other side we have a political hack who takes a crack at seemingly every open elected office in this city and has no apparent qualifications for the role other than having some cush[y] job at an unaccountable charter school. But hey, he raised a lot of money, so he must be qualified for the position!”

It would be bad policy in general for citizens anywhere to elect a paid operative of a powerful chain of charter schools to any city school board. (You know, conflict of interest…?) However, the Gates, Broad, Walton and Arnold foundations are spending lots and lots of money trying to take over local school boards by buying candidates and elections all over the country, because they really don’t like democracy. Local voices get in their way.

I think it’s worthwhile look into the background of the board of directors of the supposedly non-profit Rocketship, as reported on their own website. In reverse alphabetical order, we have:

  • Arra Yerganian: an executive in marketing, sales, and management for firms like Procter & Gamble and the University of Phoenix (which of course has been shown to be an enormous fraud)
  • Ralph Weber: a top commercial litigator (ie trial lawyer) for large corporations
  • Alex Terman:  went through the Broad Foundation’s two-year fake ‘residency’ to prepare people for senior management in public education; he specializes in financing charter schools
  • Greg Stanger: formerly financial officer or on the boards of Expedia, Netflix, and Kayak
  • Joey Sloter: has an MBA, did ‘strategic planning’ at Corning Glass; and with her apparently wealthy husband established a family foundation; is a big promoter of charter schools
  • Raymond Raven: orthopedic surgeon
  • Deborah McGriff: the  only actual veteran public school teacher and administrator in the bunch (NYC); went over to the dark side and joined the for-profit Edison Schools company in 1993; later, President of the Education Industry Association
  • Louis Jordan: former finance officer at Starbucks, Gap, Citibank, Dupont, etc; now owns a vineyard
  • Alex Hernandez: venture capitalist profiting from charter schools
  • Fred Ferrer: president of the Rocketship board; CEO of The Health Trust
  • Alex Criter: Retired CEO of an “enterprise software business” and a “venture capital partner”.

I should point out that in 1993, Jennifer Niles, the current DC Deputy Mayor for Education, was also a member of the Rocketship board of directors, according to their Form 990.

 

 

What Randi Weingarten of the AFT gets wrong

I’m going to repost in its entirety this article on Schools Matter about the double game that has been played by Randi Weingarten, the current president of the American Federation of Teachers.

(I remember the racist teachers’ strike of 1968 in New York City…)

======================================================

Weingarten Swaps History for Sophistry

Posted: 13 Aug 2016 06:49 AM PDT

Posted by Mark Naison yesterday.  

Mr. Ahern provides important corrections to Weingarten’s sketchy assessment of AFT’s first hundred years.  I am sorry to see he did not mention AFT’s seminal role in creating TURN in the late 1990s, a traitorous group that could not have been created without financial support from Eli Broad.

Lies My Union President Told Me
Sean Ahern

Letter to the American Educator re AFT President Randy Weingarten’s “Honoring Our Past and Inspiring Our Future” (http://www.aft.org/ae/summer2016/wws)


President Randy Weingarten’s “Honoring Our Past and Inspiring Our Future,” written on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the AFT is an exercise in “perception management.” Weingarten claims that she has “pored over historical documents from our archives” and concluded that the AFT “has been a vehicle to fight for positive change both in public schools and in society.” Further on she states her case even more explicitly:  “For 100 years, the AFT has worked to build power and use it for good.”

As a member of the UFT for the past 17 years, son of a UFT retiree, brother to a former UFT teacher and CSA principal, product of the NYC public school system (1959-1971) and father of three, all of whom graduated from NYC high schools, I proudly count myself as a witness to the last 50 years of UFT/AFT history.  Based on my experience and knowledge I challenge her very one-sided findings for failing to point out major examples of how the AFT has been a hindrance to “positive change both in public schools and in society.”

I do not write to honor Albert Shanker and those who followed the course he took. It is my hope that through a full review of our AFT history, rational and thoughtful working people, acting in their own class interests, will conduct an internal critique, identify the wrong turns, and bravely set a new course for our union. It is my hope that current and future generations will overcome the seemingly willful blindness that is found in Weingarten’s article.

Weingarten’s airbrushed history offers a textbook example of how to frame a narrative by omitting all evidence that contradicts her thesis.  This method is not one of historical inquiry seeking educational enlightenment.  It is the method used by a defense attorney to sway a judge or jury, guilt or innocence aside.

In business and politics this is the method used to win market share, frame political campaigns and control the hearts and minds of the people. 

The sociologist and historian James W. Loewen has critiqued this method when applied to global and US history textbooks in his widely read Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Book Got Wrong (1995, 2008).  It is a method that seeks to produce a generation that is misinformed, politically unaware, and lacking in self-knowledge and self-esteem.  It casts pedagogues as society’s thought police.

There is much in in AFT history that should be critically examined.  When the full story is told it should include honest and in-depth criticism of key positions taken since Albert Shanker ousted his former mentor and colleague David Selden and rose to the Presidency of the AFT over two generations ago.

The 1968 UFT strikes against community control, led by then UFT President Albert Shanker weeks after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., became arguably the longest hate strike in US history and was part and parcel of the “white” backlash and neo conservative/neo liberal counter revolution which we still suffer from today.  I was a high school student at the time in one of the community control districts where progressive teachers and students kept the school open during the strike.

With community control ended decentralization still afforded parents the power to elect local school boards.  Efforts by UFT members to interfere with minority parents voting in the 1973 District 1 school board elections on the Lower East Side were successfully overturned in Federal Court and upheld on appeal.

“In their complaint, filed on September 18, 1973, the Coalition for Education in District One, various unsuccessful candidates at the election and members of minority groups (Black, Hispanic and Chinese) challenged the validity of the election under the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as amended in 1970, 42 U.S.C. 1971, 1973 et seq.” http://bulk.resource.org/courts.gov/c/F2/495/495.F2d.1090.74-1296.74-1204.1017.1018.html

To be cited in violation of the 14th amendment and the 1965 Voting Rights Act hardly constitutes an “honor” to be conferred upon a supposedly liberal northern city and a largely “socialist” union leadership that prided itself on its support for civil rights in the 50’s and early 60’s.  I attended public school in this district from 1959 – 1971.  Weingarten apparently missed this case while she “pored over” the AFT archives.

The median salary for a NYC public school teacher in 2016, discounted for inflation and the extended day, is less than it was in 1973.  Add to that the explosive costs of education and housing and it is fair to conclude that a teacher with 7 years on the job today is worse off than their counterpart was over 40 years ago.  Top salary is now reached after 22 years on the job as opposed to 8 years in 1973. Even those few nearing retirement are just on par with their counterparts of 43 years ago.  I ask President Weingarten the simple question:  Who has the AFT been building “power” for? Surely the salary schedule is in the AFT archives and should figure in any assessment of the AFT’s “power” or lack thereof.

Jerald Podair in his Strike That Changed New York (2002) suggests a causal linkage between the 1968 strike and the decline in power, of both the UFT and the Black community.  Among his most striking and relevant observations is:

“…the Ocean Hill-Brownsville crisis had so damaged the UFT’s standing with black New York that Shanker, even if he had possessed the fire in the belly to attempt a cross-class interracial assault on the champions of fiscal austerity, would have found few friends there.  Black New Yorkers were as angry about the decimated schools as Shanker, but they viewed him, and the union he led, as an enemy…Community control in black neighborhoods was dead, replaced by a decentralization structure that gave the UFT more influence than black parents…the failure of the UFT and black citizens to work together to oppose school service cuts was as predictable as it was tragic.  The union would now cast its lot with the banks.  And the black community, politically marginalized, economically expendable and no longer in control of the language of “community” – would be unable to do anything about it.” (Pp194-195)

In the 1970s Shanker went on to become a leading national opponent of Affirmative Action, submitting a brief on Allan Bakke’s behalf.  The brief, submitted in the name of the AFT, is not mentioned by Weingarten though it is in the Shanker Papers and the AFT Papers that she claims to have “pored over.”

The current wave of “Education reform” was launched with the 1983 publication of A Nation At Risk: The Imperative For Educational Reform towards the end of Reagan’s second term.
For over 30 years the leadership of the AFT has been a partner in this latest wave of “education reform” and thereby maintained their “seat at the table” alongside the “reformers.”  This is a matter of public record.   When questions were raised that strongly contradicted the claims made by “A Nation At Risk” (see the Sandia Report, Bracey, Berliner and Bidell, Emery and Ohanian) the AFT and those closely associated with Shanker (including Diane Ravitch, then Assistant Secretary of Education in the Reagan Administration) chose to ignore and even suppress a devastating critique that potentially could have deflated the bubble of “reform” a generation ago (See http://projectcensored.org/3-the-sandia-report-on-education-a-perfect-lesson-in-censorship/ ).

Comfortably based on the education reformers  bogus critique of the state of public education and its politically motivated remedies, Shanker, Feldman and Weingarten are all on record in support of the “reforms” themselves: high standards for students and teachers, standardized curriculums, high stakes testing for students and teachers (for how else to measure whether the high standards are being met), charter schools (to counter the states monopoly over education and to give parents “choice”) and mayoral control in large urban systems serving predominantly Black, Latino and Asian students which has been the means through which “reform” was foisted upon school communities.

Most recently, the “reformers” and their corporate cabal attempted to hoist the AFT on its own petard.    It was only the death of Supreme Court Justice Scalia that averted a negative ruling in Vergara v California that would have done away with the agency shop. The stay of execution is only temporary, there are more cases to follow.  Is this what Weingarten means by “building power?”  Power for whom?  Power for what?

I challenge president Weingarten to go before any large urban local delegate assembly and defend the AFT’s record over 30 years in support of education “reform.”  Does she have the gall to tell us to our face that school closings, privatization, elimination of sports, the arts, electives, vocational programs, attacks on tenure and seniority, the disappearance of Black and Latino educators, increased segregation, high stakes testing and value added teacher assessments are to be viewed as “collateral damage,” and not the central defining features of a neo conservative/neo liberal, corporate led consensus on the proper role and direction for public education?  She wouldn’t do such a thing, so she redacts the record of AFT collaboration with the “reformers” and then presents herself as a teacher and student advocate.

Teachers and their unions face grave pressures and are in a more defensive posture than they were 50 years ago.  What power?  What positive changes have been brought about?  No doubt Weingarten and her supporters will point to the fact that teachers have a job with benefits and a defined benefit pension plan, a rarity now among US workers.  What is the message here? Do senior teachers shut up and thankfully crawl to the finish line? Do new and mid-career teachers count their lucky stars that they are not suffering the same hardships that the majority of our students, their families and communities face?  Is this then the real meaning of “professionalism;” to divide us from the rest of the working class?   Should the membership cast a blind eye to the AFT’s quisling response to the neo conservative/ neo liberal consensus on education, the U.S. empire and the economy so that at least some of  the so called “professionals,” (most importantly the paid staff and retainers at AFT Inc.) will be spared because the oligarchy has need of an ideological police?

The isolated individual, teacher, parent, student, may opt to save their own skin when no alternative option is in sight, but experience shows that this is a losing proposition for the large majority.  The greatest good for the greatest number comes not from dog eat dog competition, but from collaboration.  Acknowledgement of this historical fact has led working people at important moments to embrace the fundamental credo of solidarity and act accordingly.  Such a moment is upon us.

There is no defending the AFT record of betrayal of this credo and the self-destructive impact it has had on the membership and the communities we serve.  Weingarten simply casts a blind eye over what needs to be understood and corrected. If teachers applied this same method to reflect on our own classroom practice we would never learn a thing.

I urge the American Educator to open its pages to a real discussion of AFT history.  I urge my sister and brother educators to study and reflect upon AFT history.  As William Faulkner wrote, “the past is not over, it’s not even past.”

Peace,
Sean Ahern

Delegate to the UFT Delegate Assembly. Member of the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) caucus.  August 7, 2016

School choice? Or is it, “schools get to choose”?

A commenter on my blog wrote:

“School policies elevate some students and discourage others. It would most beneficial to our children if we could select a school based on what’s best for each child. When children, who love reading, writing and math, dread going to school because it’s dull an filled with policies that discourage higher-level thinking, it’s time to offer parents school choice with the ability for students to direct the $26,000 being paid for an average education and put it towards payment for and independant school. For middle income students, the independant schools will pick up the balance with financial aid. Just saying.”

I replied, and am now ‘revising and extending’ my remarks:

The average payment per pupil is nowhere near $26,000, it’s about half or less of that. Don’t forget that private schools (including parochial ones) only enroll a small fraction of the entire K-12 cohort in the US. There is absolutely no way they could absorb all of the ‘middle income students’ in America, and definitely could under no circumstances be able to ‘pick up the balance with financial aid’. If you are gonna be ‘saying’, then try saying something plausible.

Private schools, don’t forget, have the ability to pick and choose their students. Public schools do not have that privilege, unless they are a magnet-type school like Banneker SHS and School Without Walls HS in DC where my own kids went. Most charter school boosters will deny it, but charter schools can and do pick their student bodies. (but they have to be subtle about it)

Here’s any easy way to make sure your student body does NOT have the students from the most dysfunctional families:

Anybody who has had real contact with the poorest and most-down-and-out students in public schools can tell you of families where getting a parent or guardian to sign ANYTHING and also SHOW UP for an interview, is a completely impoossible goal to reach. Which means that the kids from the most-dysfunctional families won’t be applying to the highly-regarded charter schools here in DC like ELHaynes or Washington Latin or Yu Ying.

However, if a student from such a family DOES manage to pull him/herself together, write the application herself, coerce a guardian into both signing AND showing up, or arrange to change guardianship to an actually competent family member or friend, why, then that school has just managed to garner a real striver – somebody who is willing to work very hard to improver herself.

The ones who have already succumbed to despair, cynicism, or the allure of deeply criminal life and whose parents are missing in action?

Nope, no, practically never You won’t have those students even completing the application process. To the magnet schools or application charter schools. Problem neatly solved for the magnet schools and many charter schools.

The way we run education in this country seems to be a profoundly undemocratic way of running schools – and dare I say, a very umcharitable and un-Christian way as well if you define Christianity as being the precepts put forth in the Sermon on the Mount…

{Yeah, I don’t believe in any gods at all, but I was raised an Episcopalian Christian, and I certainly have read a lot of the Old and New Testaments, including a little bit in Hebrew. I know there are many, many highly incompatible versions of Christianity, including the ones who claim that Christ urges us to become rich and to cast stones against the unfortunate. (Seems to me those Christians pretty much ignore everything that is attributed to Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount, but one could easily define Christianity ]

And it all goes back to the utter hypocrisy of the stirring words of Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” – all written while he himself  held hundreds of captive men, women, and children enslaved and completely deprived of their Lives, their Liberty and any means of pursuing Happiness, unless they managed to escape somehow.

And where only a small minority of even the free white males could vote – those who were sufficiently wealthy. And where even teaching ANY African-American to read and write was a major criminal offense in many states!

It’s taken a lot of struggle over the past 240 years to get the right for all adults to vote, and the right for all children to go to school and get a good education, to be extended to ALL citizens. We still have forces finding new and interesting ways of denying darker-skinned and poorer citizens both of those rights. And when we see what conditions are like at Sidwell Friends School (where the Obama and Clinton kids attend(ed)) and at Hart Middle School (where only poor and working-class black families send their kids), the contrast in what we provide to kids for their Pursuit of Happiness is extremely stark.

Compare Charles Hart MS in far southeast Washington (over the Anacostia River on Mississippi Avenue in  Ward 8, the city’s poorest and most isolated region) which I tried to present here but ran into a snag with my computer. It’s a large building, about 150 meters long, but its entire ‘playground’ is a seldom-used asphalt basketball court. Nothing else.

Sidwell Friends’ upper Northwest middle-school campus covers almost three full city blocks, has tennis courts, a manicured football field, a soccer field atop a covered garage, and award-winning environmentally-conscious classroom buildings. And a very large chapel. And several other buildings. It lies between Cleveland Park and Tenleytown, two of the highest-priced, and nearly all-white, neighborhoods, of DC.

Children can watch the news on TV or whatever. They know the differences in how kids are treated. They aren’t stupid. They get the message that we, as a society, are sending.

(Disclosure: My brother went to Sidwell Friends over 50 years ago. I taught at a school like Hart in Anacostia called Moten MS, about 33 years ago. Night and day in terms of funding, classroom conditions, and wealth of families.)

 

 

 

Reprinting: How to earn gigabucks through charter schools

I’d like to repost this blog entry on how the very wealthy can become even wealthier by investing in charter schools. Here is the original link:

https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2013/05/15/how-to-earn-gigabucks-through-charter-schools/

 

What if we gave all American kids the type of education that was given to the Clinton, Obama and Trump children?

This is an excellent question, one that begs being asked every time I pass by places like Sidwell Friends, The Bullis School, or Saint Albans School in and around DC, and mentally compare those wonderful facilities with the DC public schools that I and my children attended, and in which I taught and continue to volunteer.

Bottom line: tuition and fees at those tony private schools is about three or four times what we as citizens spend on kids attending DC public or charter schools. For example, the middle school nearest my house (Brookland MS) has no playground…

I took this article from Education Week. It’s behind a paywall.

=================

What if America Spent Per Student What Clinton, Trump Paid for Private Schools?

By Andrew Ujifusa on July 27, 2016 7:22 AM

Philadelphia

In his speech last week at the Republican National Convention, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. noted that he and his siblings were fortunate to have options for their schooling: “We want all Americans to have those same opportunities.”

Fair enough. But Donald Trump Jr., along with his siblings and Hillary Clinton’s daughter Chelsea, went to private schools that weren’t cheap. And so have several other presidential hopefuls’ children, for that matter.

So we thought about the educational opportunity in monetary terms: How much would it cost to spend the same amount per public school student what it costs to send children to the same private schools attended by the offspring of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and his Democratic counterpart Hillary Clinton? And what if we tried to match the basic outlines of their children’s private school experience when it comes to teachers?

Fortunately, Michael Griffith, an independent school finance consultant, did his own analysis to try to answer those questions.

Outliers Out of Reach

First, Griffith compared the candidates’ private school tuition costs for the schools from which their children graduated to average per-student expenditures in public schools in the children’s home state: New York in three of the four Trump children’s case; California, in Tiffany Trump’s case; and the District of Columbia, in Chelsea Clinton’s case.

Average per-student spending at those schools attended by the five presidential candidates’ kids is $38,464. Nationwide, public school funding is $12,251 per student.

For the purposes of Griffith’s calculations, he used tuition costs at the Hill School in Pottstown, Pa., for Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr.; Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Conn. for Ivanka Trump; Viewpoint School for Tiffany Trump; and the Sidwell Friends School in the District of Columbia for Chelsea Clinton. (More on that somewhat tricky issue below.) Correction: We originally misidentified where Choate Rosemary Hall is located, although the error didn’t impact our description of Griffith’s analysis.

But let’s think long term about how that plays out over a child’s time at the elementary and secondary levels. The costs below would cover students’ entire educational careers at their respective schools.

private school tuition

The figures above are based on current annual costs, and not what Clinton and Trump actually paid themselves in tuition costs. And Griffith’s work requires some extrapolation: The private schools’ grade spans don’t necessarily match up with those in public schools. The Hill School, for example, where Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. went, enrolls grades 9-12. But Sidwell Friends enrolls pre-K-12.

We should also point out that Chelsea Clinton attended public school in Arkansas before Bill Clinton was elected president and she moved to Washington, where she enrolled in the Sidwell Friends private school. Given security and logistical concerns, it might make sense for a president to send his or her school-age child to private school. President Barack Obama’s daughters also enrolled in Sidwell Friends.

Even when it comes to tony private schools, the ones attended by Clinton and Trump’s children are up in the financial stratosphere. As of 2011, less than a fifth of all U.S. private schools charged more than $15,000 annually per student in tuition, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

private schools 2

Here’s some more context for that $38,464 figure: In 2014, the U.S. Census reported, the median income of a family with two or more school-age children (like Trump’s family) was $53,989. That’s the same as $54,970 in inflation-adjusted 2016 dollars. So the average private school tuition for the five children of the candidates would eat up 70 percent of such a median family’s budget.

Here are a couple of other statistics to consider:

  • Combined costs at the private schools attended by all four Trump children and Chelsea Clinton for some or all of their lives, in Griffith’s analysis, clocks in at $2.5 million over the course of their educational careers.
  • Combined costs for three New York state public school children (to match their Empire State counterparts Donald Jr., Eric, and Ivanka Trump), a California public school student (to match Tiffany Trump), and a District of Columbia public school student (to match Chelsea Clinton) clocks in at $1 million over their educational careers.

You can call that a gulf instead of a gap if you want.

Bring On the Teachers?

OK, but let’s think really big. What if we spent $38,464 on each public school student in the nation? What would be the total annual cost, and how much of a change would it be from current per-student spending levels?

Griffith has answers for that, too.

He has America spending $595 billion on K-12 from federal, state, and local sources. How much more would it be if we spent $38,464 on each student, instead of $12,251?

per student public vs private

e of $1.2 trillion. Does that dollar amount sound familiar? It might. That’s because in 2014, the entire student-loan debt of 40 million Americans was also estimated at $1.2 trillion. We’re not talking a few lint-covered quarters here.

Finally, Griffith looked at the average student-to-teacher ratio in the four private schools attended by Clinton and Trump’s children. It came out to about 7.4 students per teacher on average.

By contrast, the national ratio of students to teachers is about 16:1—there are 48.5 million public school students, and 3.1 million public school teachers. The sources for these figures are given below.

However, those ratios are not the same thing as average class size.

So how many more teachers would the nation have to hire to achieve that 7.4 students-per-teacher ratio like the one the Trump siblings and Chelsea Clinton enjoyed?

private vs public student teacher ratio

The nation would have to increase its teacher workforce by 120 percent, or add nearly 3.8 million new teachers, to match what the Trump children and Chelsea Clinton experienced, on average, in their schools. (Each figure in the graphic above represents about 48,420 teachers.)

Money and Opportunity

Griffith’s analysis is quantitative and not ultimately qualitative. And as you might expect, Griffith doesn’t say how that additional $1.2 trillion would be redirected to schools and added to their budgets. It’s pure theory.

For fiscal 2016, the Department of Defense’s budget is $573 billion. A President Clinton or Trump could zero out the Pentagon’s budget, redirect that entire pot of money to schools, and it would stillcover slightly less than half of the total new money needed to match the average per-student spending figure in the private schools we’ve discussed. That’s assuming, of course, that state and locals don’t pitch in at all.

There are a lot of other questions.

  • Many might want parents to have direct control over that new flood of money through vouchers or education savings accounts. How would redirecting some or all of those dollars straight to parents shake up the educational landscape?

Voucher programs and ESAs mostly, if not universally, aren’t large enough to cover tuition at the Hill School or Sidwell Friends—if many parents could use the $38,000 for a local and (likely) much cheaper private school, what could and would they do with the leftover cash?

School choice is certainly an issue Donald Trump has emphasized, on the few occasions when he’s spoken about education:

  • Where would the money go? Would much or most of it go towards hiring new teachers and drive down those student-to-teacher ratios we’ve discussed? Or there’s educational
    technology—would millions of students suddenly get handed a laptop, smartphone, tablet, and (what the heck) Google Glasses courtesy of his or her public school?
  • And as one would expect, the facilities at those private schools attended by the Clinton and Trump children are different than what studentsexperience in Detroit public schools. Per-student spending figures often don’t include school construction costs, but what if some districts wanted to create leafy, spacious campuses with swimming pools and amphitheaters?

Look at the campus map of the Hill School to the right. There’s a building for squash courts, an arts and crafts center, and a music house. The campus covers 200 acres.

hill school campus

  • Here’s a related issue: the enrollment size of the private schools in question. Sidwell Friends, for example, enrolls 1,149 students in pre-K-12. You can easily find public high schools alone where the enrollment matches or exceeds that figure. In 2010-11, the average enrollment of an American high school was 847 students, NCES reported, but California’s average high school enrollment was 1,463 students.
  • And some of the most straightforward yet crucial questions we can ask about this issue are: Would spending over $38,000 per student in public schools create a lot of progress, some, or not at all? And would that be an efficient use of taxpayer dollars?

That kind of per-student spending amount would truly test the arguments about whether inadequate school funding is what’s preventing better experiences and outcomes for students.

Of course, many in the K-12 field argue that creating strong educational opportunities for children is not solely, or even largely, about the financial resources provided to those children from their parents or government. But others say, particularly after the Great Recession, many districts and states don’t provide what their schools need, particularly for schools with large shares of students of color and those from relatively poor households. How would this kind of influx of money impact debates about socioeconomic and racial integration in schools?

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, Clinton’s pick for vice president, addressed school integration in his own experience during a speech last Saturday:

Additional Facts and Figures

A few more notes about Griffith’s data:

  • The private schools’ cost information comes from their websites. Per-student spending figures on public schools come from the National Education Association’s cost rankings and estimates for2015 and 2016.
  • He didn’t include private school tuition information for Barron Trump, Donald Trump’s youngest child—Griffith said this is because Barron is a minor.
  • Griffith used tuition information from the schools which the Clinton and Trump children graduated from, but as we noted above regarding Chelsea Clinton, the candidates’ children did not necessarily attend those schools all through their elementary and secondary careers. For example, Griffith used costs for Choate Rosemary Hall for Ivanka Trump, but noted that she switched to Choate from the Chapin School when she was 15. And Eric Trump also attended the Trinity School in New York City.
  • The tuition amounts in Griffith’s calculations are based on the cost for day students, not boarders.
  • Tuition for Viewpoint Schools, which Tiffany Trump attended, varies from student to student. Griffith calculated an average of the various tuition costs, assuming a student attended from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Assistant Editor Sarah D. Sparks contributed to this post.

 

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