DeVos Undercuts Title IX, Withholding Funds Based on HER Definition

May 30, 2020 Leave a comment

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Yesterday we learned that Betsy DeVos was disregarding Title One by giving parochial schools serving affluent children the same allocation as public schools serving children raised in poverty— the children who were supposed to receive that aid. Today Ms. DeVos is withholding Title IX funds from Connecticut unless they deny transgender students the right to participate in sports based on their chosen gender, a choice Title IX entitles them to. Tomorrow? I’m looking for the federal government to funds education savings accounts for parochial school parents to use to enroll their children. That’s against the will of the State legislature you say? Against settled court cases? Betsy doesn’t care. She has the POTUS and maybe the SCOTUS on her side.

First Sue the Colleges… Then Go after K-12

May 29, 2020 Leave a comment

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If anyone wants to believe that a group of parents will not sue the public schools for an inferior education and want a tax rebate.. I have a bridge to sell you.

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Peter Greene’s Offers Clear Explanation of DeVos’ End Run

May 29, 2020 Leave a comment

In this Forbes article education writer Peter Greene offers a clear explanation of Betsy DeVos’ decision to allocate Title One funds to private and parochial schools in a fashion that robs from the poorest children and gives to the more affluent.

In the article Mr. Greene makes the same point I made in an earlier post: DeVos is essentially doing the same thing as Arne Duncan. Whereas Mr. Duncan used 4.5 billion to leverage changes that reinforced NCLB’a test and punish paradigm, Ms. DeVos has over three times as much to funnel funds to parochial schools. But UNLIKE Mr. Duncan case, Congress placed a constraint on how funds could be used, requiring that they be allocated by the Title One formula that sends more funds to underfunded schools. Ms. DeVos, however, read the law differently, claiming that they should be distributed to ALL schools on a per capita basis. As Mr. Greene notes in his concluding paragraph, this is clearly unfair:

Supporters of the DeVos view have argued that some of the private and religious schools serve some students from low-income families. But that’s beside the point—no one is arguing that the private and religious schools should be ignored entirely, and the law is clear that they should receive relief funds for the Title I students they serve. The question is whether or not the law should perform a reverse Robin Hood to serve even the most wealthy and privileged private school students.

But with bigger problems than the misappropriation of funds for poor children facing them and a AG who will do the bidding of the libertarian wing of the GOP I do not expect much to change… especially given the precedent set by the Obama administration.

The Federal Reserve May Rescue Public Schools if Congress Fails

May 28, 2020 Leave a comment

Our local Rotary Club often gets speakers from Dartmouth College and one Dartmouth professor we often hear from is David Blanchflower, an internationally renowned economist. Yesterday Professor Blanchflower offered a very sobering report on the state of the economy as a result of the pandemic, noting that the real unemployment rate is now approaching 25% and that non-college educated whites are in the depths of a despair unlike any he’s witnessed in his many years as an economic forecaster.

During the question and answer session that followed, I asked him how state and local governments and school districts can survive without more money from the federal government. His answer was very reassuring: the Federal Reserve could buy long term municipal bonds issued by State and local governments that would enable them to, in turn, keep schools from suffering staggering cuts and assure that public services would remain in place. He felt that the Federal Reserve would be inclined to do so because they realize that the alternative is horrific.

One of my fellow Rotarians asked what would happen to the deficit… and Professor Blanchflower analogized our current situation to that of an attack from a foreign country, posing this question: “If we were attacked by a foreign country that killed 100,000 people would we worry about the potential long term impact of deficit spending?” The answer is: “Of COURSE NOT!” Cold 19 has wreaked havoc on our economy the same way an advancing army from a foreign country would… and we need to inject lots of cash into the economy if we ever hope to have a smooth transition from what WAS “normal” to a NEW “normal” that will undoubtedly have a different landscape.

I came away with a good-new/bad-news summary. The good news is that state and local economies have a means of staying afloat even if Congress fails to act. The bad news is, any thoughts of things “going back to normal” are out the window…. and since “normal” wasn’t that great for lots of students MAYBE a new normal will be fairer, more just, and more equitable.

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Is Mitch McConnell Blocking State Aid to Enrich Vulture Funds and Bolster Corporate Control of the Economy?

May 27, 2020 Leave a comment

John Buell leaves it to the reader to connect the dots… but here’s what McConnell and the GOP want to see happen:

  • The federal government doesn’t bail out the states
  • States are forced to go through bankruptcy proceedings, a process that is not clearly defined on a national or, in some cases, even a state level.
  • State and local government functions that are now manned by union employees and therefore provide a decent wages, hours, working conditions, and benefits are eliminated and provided instead by private corporations who use the same employment strategies as Amazon and Walmart to milk profits.
  • The quality of life and quality of products deteriorates over time.

This is the world the GOP wants… and as Mr Buell points out they will see the American public on their “dream” through the “…moralistic reference to the profligacy of state governments” and the politics of resentment that accompany it.

Mr. Buell ends his essay with a different vision:

A robust safety net, debt relief, extended unemployment compensation, universal healthcare, assistance to routine state expenditures could spare us the most extreme possibilities. A more ambitious response would be a guarantee of a living wage job, to limit private capital’s inordinate control of the workplace and the job market and public banking to limit the power of the private banking community’s undemocratic Federal Reserve.

If no action is taken at the federal level before the end of November, expect the politics of division and resentment to play out at the state and local levels across the country as states and municipalities struggle to balance their budgets….

Source: Is Mitch McConnell Blocking State Aid to Enrich Vulture Funds and Bolster Corporate Control of the Economy?

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A ROUGH DRAFT FOR HS REFORM I: Blow Up High School by Offering Vouchers for Students…

May 26, 2020 Leave a comment

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the garden lately, and in doing so am spending a lot of time mulling over how to take advantage of the pandemic crisis to introduce some new ways of doing high school. Based on my personal and professional experience high schools are the worst part of the education system in our country. Here’s why:

  • TRACKING: High School drives the final nail into the equity coffin by segregating students into tracks based on how rapidly they’ve learned up to the point they enter ninth grade and how much control their parents wield.
  • COLLEGE OVER-VALUED: Students who aspire to college get 90% of the attention and time of guidance counselors and teachers because guidance counselors and teachers know how college works and see it as the only way to attain economic well-being.
  • CONTENT OVER-VALUED: There is an aphorism that elementary teachers teach children and secondary teachers teach subjects…. and high schools are set up to reinforce that aphorism. It is unrealistic for a high school teacher to know and care about the lives of 100+ students assigned to them in 4-5 classes but completely realistic for them to be well-versed in one subject area that they can teach to students and assess their progress using some kind of “objective test” that can be rapidly graded. This emphasis on content, in turn, can lead to a siloing whereby no single teacher gets to know and care about an individual student. And the cult of AP testing only exacerbates this emphasis on content over character development.
  • SOCIAL SKILLS UNDER-VALUED: Working on teams, getting along with people from other socio-economic, racial, and ethic groups, and developing healthy relationships with individuals are all part of the hidden curriculum in high schools… but, in many (if not most) cases, high schools are reinforcing tribalism instead of harmony.
  • PRACTICAL KNOWLEDGE UNDER-VALUED: There is a premium on the development of abstract skills like the ability to solve complex quadratic equations but no value placed on the ability to put together a nutritious meal from left-overs, to develop and manage a budget, or to complete the paperwork needed to buy a house, start a small business, or apply on-line for a job.

Here’s a solution to all of this: end high school once students pass a basic competency test and give them a voucher for education four the next four years or until the age of 20, whichever comes first. The competency test would be initially administered when teachers certify the student is ready, which ideally would be before the student’s 16ht birthday. The competency test would include:

  • The US Citizenship test: Clearly every graduate should know how the government works if they are to vote intelligently.
  • A Consumer Awareness test: A “consumer awareness” test could be developed by ETS– who would be happy to have a new assessment to replace the SAT which is being phased out. This test would help avoid the debt trap that currently ensnares millions in our country.
  • A Health and Nutrition test: Public schools ostensibly educate students about nutrition and health through the school lunch program and various mandated health courses but there are no high stakes tests associated with either area.

By giving STUDENTS the funds to pursue more education it will emphasize the importance of making prudent financial decisions and underscore the importance of developing a transition plan to go from a world where every hour is scheduled by adults to a world where the student is a self-regulated adult.

Two more elements of the blown up HS will follow in future posts:

  • Mandatory Community Service
  • The Development of a Individualized Post-Graduate Work Plan which includes a personal budget

Covid-19 Positive Consequence: NYC “Elite” High Schools Cannot Use Screens

May 25, 2020 Leave a comment

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This NYDaily News op ed piece by three social justice advocates describes one of the positive consequences of the pandemic: NY high schools will need to revamp their admissions criteria. Because schools were closed from March 15 onward and the Regents and other standardized tests were cancelled, all of the traditional means of selecting students for the elite high schools in the city will not be available for next years eighth grade students. This provides a once in a lifetime opportunity to change the current criteria in a fashion that will eliminate the de facto economic and racial segregation that results from the use of tests as the primary metric for admission. As the writers describe, such a change would benefit all high schools:

Reforming and eventually eliminating screened school admissions would do more than fix a deeply inequitable process. It would also improve student and school performance. While the evidence on peer effects and tracking is mixed, research generally finds that middle- and low-performing students benefit from learning with higher-achieving students. Siphoning the highest-achieving students into selective programs limits these interactions and draws resources — high-quality teachers and honors courses, for example — away from regular schools. What is more, as some evidence has shown, racially and economically diverse classroom settings benefit all students and reflect our country’s democratic values.

Change of this magnitude seemed politically impossible six months ago… but after the pandemic many ideas that seemed impossible are now being examined as realistic alternatives to the dominant paradigm.