In a case that could have national implications, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that the state has “…no legal obligation to provide a quality public education to students” in a school district that the state turned over to a charter school that has not improved its performance. This overturned a lower court decision that the State has a “broad compelling state interest in the provision of an education to all children.”
Kary L. Moss, executive director of the American Civil Liberties of Michigan who filed the suit on behalf of eight students of nearly 1,000 children attending K-12 public schools in Highland Park, MI, stated that “This ruling should outrage anyone who cares about our public education system. The court washes its hands and absolves the state of any responsibility in a district that has failed and continues to fail its children.”
The suit, which named as defendants the State of Michigan, its agencies charged with overseeing public education and the Highland Park School District, maintained that the state failed to take effective steps to ensure that students are reading at grade level.
“Let’s remember it was the state that turned the entire district over to a for-profit charter management company with no track record of success with low performing schools,” said Moss. “It is the state that has not enforced the law that requires literacy intervention to children not reading at grade level. It is the state’s responsibility to ensure and maintain a system of education that serves all children.”
Why could this have national implications? As noted in earlier posts, school districts in “failing districts” are often taken over by the State who, presumably, have the ability to overcome the effects of poverty more effectively than the local school boards and, increasingly, States look to privatization as the answer (e.g. Newark and Camden NJ; Philadelphia PA; Chicago IL, to name a few). If State’s are not responsible for providing a quality education, who is? Are parents in affluent districts the only ones who will have their children attending quality public schools? Will for-profit schools be allowed to continue to operate even if they fail to get results?
While I am not well versed in the structure of MI’s court set up, I have to assume their Supreme Court will have the find say on this… and I assume the MI State “…agencies charged with overseeing public education and the Highland Park School District” will continue to argue that they are not responsible for ensuring that every child gets a quality education.
Here’s my final question: how can the state defend it’s willingness deny a quality education to all children while at the same time wresting the control of “failing schools” from local boards who are more than willing to make every effort to achieve that goal?
Nick Kristoff’s column in today’s NYTimes poses this question: “Do Politicians Love Kids?“. My answer is: “Yes…. but… they love shareholders more!”
Kristoff’s column focuses on the need for universal prekindergarten, an issue he believes both parties can support. The column offers James Heckman’s research as evidence along with lots of statistics comparing our nation’s preschool programming with our “competitors”.
But, as noted in earlier posts on this issue, I believe Republicans and “school reform” advocates will use the expansion of prekindergarten as an opportunity to expand “choice” and expand the privatization movement that has burgeoned under NCLB, RTTT, and in urban districts under the control of business minded neo-liberal and/or conservative mayors. This led me to leave the following comment:
Given the Republican majority in the House and Senate and a handful of sympathetic neo-liberal Democrats here’s the likely pre-kindergarten scenario: vouchers. Instead of putting prekindergarten programs under the aegis of public school systems Republicans and “school reform” Democrats will advocate for “parental choice” and use the funds to open privatized programs instead of expanding the mission of “failed government schools”… and the shareholders of these programs will benefit while urban neighborhood schools and small rural schools wither.
Politicians love kids… but they love shareholders even more… because kids can’t vote or make campaign contributions but shareholders can.
A few weeks ago Time magazine hit the news stands with this horrific cover:
When the article came out progressive bloggers went ballistic and Facebook was full of links to send letters to the editors of Time to decry their cover, which stated (wrongly) that is was impossible to fire a teacher. Having written several posts on this topic, I clicked on the AFT’s link and sent a letter explaining the reality of the situation, namely that teachers have a probationary period that is typically three years and that some of the teachers who “opted out” of the profession were, in fact, counseled out. Because of this, the reality is that 98% of the teachers are doing well in their work even though this fact vexes politicians like Andrew Cuomo.
My daughter in Brooklyn who shares my frustration at the bashing of public education sent me a link to this blog post from Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post, who dedicated most of the space to a well researched letter to Time in response to their reprehensible cover. Written by Nancy F. Chewning, assistant principal of William Byrd High School in Roanoke, VA, the letter includes the following points, some of which I have not made in my earlier posts decrying the bashing of teachers:
- Aspiring teachers are held in low esteem on campuses
- Teachers make substantially less than others with an equal education
- The OECD reports that “American teachers work far longer hours than their counterparts abroad.”
- No other professions are held to a 100% standard- Only teachers!
- And this gem: “According to a new study from the Journal of Patient Safety, 440,000 people per year die from preventable medical errors. In fact, this study found that medical errors were the third leading cause of death in the United States today.” Are we closing hospitals because of this? Are doctors losing tenure because of this?
- The NEA [National Education Association] ranks 221st in terms of lobbying expenditures… WELL behind banks, military, and other professions— like doctors– who are not depicted as “Rotten Apples”
The letter describes the money teachers spend on their own supplies and to provide their students with food, school supplies, and clothing. It describes the time teachers spend advocating for their children outside of school. It describes the responsibilities teachers are asked to assume for the well-being of their children. And it describes the devastating impact poverty has on the children in Roanoke, VA, impact that is felt in every district that serves children who are raised in poverty across the country.
I wish some political leader in our country would stand up for public education and especially for the teachers who work tirelessly to help children raised in poverty…. but it’s easier to blame teachers than to blame poverty because “fixing” poverty requires the redistribution of wealth and (gasp) spending money on people in our country who are in need. Here’s hoping the silence about poverty ends as we consider who to elect for President in 2016.
One benefit of practicing Buddhism is that I learn to look at the world from other people’s perspective… and the looking at the 2014 election through the eyes of the editors of The Oklahoman is transformative to say the least. From their perspective, the lesson of the 2014 election is summarized in this paragraph:
In short, time and time again voters have rejected calls to increase taxes and spend more money on schools simply to spend more money. At the same time, they’ve rewarded politicians who support school choice and education reform. Last week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott was re-elected after expanding private school scholarships for low-income students, eliminating tenure and tying teacher pay to performance. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was re-elected after expanding vouchers and reforming collective bargaining.
Sadly for those of us who believe that the election had some silver linings (e.g. Torklason’s re-election in CA and Wolf replacing Corbett in PA), there’s some truth to the editors analysis of what happened across the country…
Educationvotes.org, the NEA’s blog site, came to a completely different conclusion! In a post titled “Ballot Measure Wins show Strong Support for Pro-Public Education policies Amanda Litvinov overlooked Scott and Walker’s re-elections and the “rejected calls to increase taxes and spend more money on schools” and focused instead on the “many voters who had the opportunity to vote on specific issues supported policies that are good for students and working families”. Thus, the votes to increase minimum wages was (I believe rightfully) viewed as a victory for public education. Also the widely predicted defeat of an absurd ballot initiative in MO was scored as “support for pubic education” as was a non-binding referendum to increase school spending in IL— an initiative that was NOT supported by the governor elect in that state. The NEA also viewed the voters rejection of funding private preK programs as a victory and also thought the as-yet-to-be-determined results from WA on a class size initiative was a “victory”. Hm-m-m-m… these “victories” wouldn’t make me happy to see some of my union dues being spent for political campaigns.
Finally, there is a report from ThinkProgress that banks are urging investors to buy stock in private, for-profit colleges since the Republicans have been elected. Here’s why:
The Higher Education Act needs to be renewed, and BMO’s Jeffrey Silber argued that a Republican Senate will produce a bill that is much friendlier to the companies that run for-profit schools, according to Buzzfeed. Credit Suisse wrote in Barron’s that the “diminished regulatory risk characteristics of a Republican-controlled electorate” makes student lending company stocks likely to rise in value because “Republicans have historically fought detrimental legislation originating from Congressional Democrats.”
Expensive deregulated for-profit colleges is good news for investors as well for banks who issue loans… but bad news for students who will be drawn into schools that fail to provide an education that prepares them for work and worse news for taxpayers who will inevitably have to bail out the banks when graduates and/or drop outs can’t make payments on their loans.
After reading the post election analysis from all angles, I’m more convinced than ever that Paul Simon was right: “Any Way You Look At It You Lose….”