Archive for January, 2020

Misuse of Taxpayers Money by Parents is NOT “An Attack on Children”

January 30, 2020 Comments off

In this report about a snafu by the Arizona State Department of Education, Cronkite News focused on the DOE’s mistakes more than the more substantial issue of the parents’ abuse of taxpayers funds for children.

It seems that the Arizona legislature was so intent on offering unregulated choice to parents that it completely overlooked the possibility that some parents might abuse the money they got or accumulate it in their de facto bank accounts. The response of the choice advocate in the last paragraph, though, took the cake! He characterizes any questions about the parents use of these funds as ” an attack on children.” If a teacher or principal failed to use funds for their intended purpose I don’t imagine taxpayers would be at all happy.

Good News in Massachusetts: A Commitment to Funding Equity Paid Off

January 29, 2020 Comments off

Earlier this month, Bloomberg News reporter Andrea Gabor wrote an article describing the recent implementation of Massachusetts’ financing bill  titled:

School Wars Are Over in Massachusetts. Everybody Won.

The subtitle of the article elaborates on the heading with even MORE good news from this blogger’s perspective:

A bipartisan agreement to boost financing, especially for poor districts,                                                                    marks a retreat from top-down reforms and the spread of charter schools.

From my perspective, the two headlines and the accompanying article underscore the reality that bipartisanship is the only avenue for accomplishing the kinds of funding equity every State constitution aspires to. In her essay, Ms. Gabor describes how a bi-partisan 1993 bill established rigorous standards for all schools and provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund an equity formula. It goes on to describe how a tax cut in the early 2000s undercut the funding required to maintain the equity elements of the formula and the Obama stimulus compelled the state to replace it’s holistic standards for ones based almost solely on standardized tests. Once the recent ESSA legislation gave the states some degree of flexibility in setting standards, the Democratic Massachusetts legislature passed a bill the Republican Governor signed that effectively replicated the accountability and funding put in place in 1993. Ms. Gabor concludes her article with this synopsis of the legislation passed last years, with the especially heartening information about the bill highlighted:

After two decades of reforms that focused on expanding standardized tests and charter schools with disappointing results — scores mostly declined on the latest NAEP test — a few states, including Michigan and Rhode Island, are looking to Massachusetts as a model. Unfortunately, they are trying to achieve improvement via tests and state intervention in underperforming districts without the extra funding that made Massachusetts successful.

Ultimately, it is voters who will have to press legislators to spend more on schools and to distribute the money to communities with the fewest resources. Just months before passage of the Massachusetts law, 58 percent of the state’s voters said they were willing to pay higher taxes to reduce education disparities and a majority said they would give up some funding in their own districts if it meant more money for the most disadvantaged communities.

I find it hard to believe that a majority of any state’s voters would be so cold hearted that they would not be willing to share their wealth with those less fortunate. I hope that those running for office in 2020 will address this need in the forthcoming elections at all levels of government.

NY Post Editorial Decries Relativism, Promotes Relgion

January 27, 2020 Comments off

This NY Post op ed article describes the “secret sauce” of Catholic schools… and it isn’t anything that can be replicated in public schools. The author, an administrator who oversees Catholic schools in the Bronx, suggests that the sectarian values enforced in their schools makes them superior to public schools whose values are relativistic. The article supports this assertion by comparing the incarceration rates of its graduates to those of public schools without acknowledging that their admission criteria might skew that data giving a casual reader the sense that relativistic values are inexorably linked to incarceration rates.

The article seems to imply that public funds should be used to support schools that base their curriculum on sectarian values, assuming that all sectarian values are (ahem) as liberal and open as Catholicism. I’ll leave debates on the openness of Catholicism to religious bloggers… but would ask those seeking funding for sectarian schools if Madrasses should be funded and, if not, what the basis for the denial of funding should be?

Orlando Sentinel Calls Out Unregulated Charters for Anti-LGBT Discrimination

January 26, 2020 Comments off

The Orlando Sentinel’s Scott Maxwell describes the ever-expanding list of deplorable consequences that result from the increase in the number of deregulated charter schools in Florida. In an op ed article titled “Not welcome: Gay students, parents are denied service in Florida’s publicly funded voucher schools“, Mr. Maxwell offers this synopsis of mismanagement that results from Florida’s commitment to deregulating its public schools:

In their “Schools without Rules” series, reporters found voucher schools forging safety reports, using factually incorrect curriculum and hiring unqualified teachers — some who hadn’t even finished high school.

Yes, high school dropouts teaching school … underwritten with public money.

They found voucher schools that stiffed teachers out of paychecks and some that shut down in the middle of the school year, stranding students.

Berate public schools all you want. There will never be a day when you take your child to a public school only to find it’s gone out of business.

The reporters found administrators accused of fraud, teachers accused of abuse, loads of problems — all of it swept under the rug by politicians who demonize public schools while promoting “school choice.”

Mr. Maxwell notes that while charter schools lack regulations for accountability the public schools must continue to meet state guidelines. The result is that the press— the “enemy of the state” in the parlance of the current POTUS and his party, which controls Florida at this point— is the only source for uncovering and reporting mismanagement in the otherwise unregulated schools. The most egregious findings, though, have less to do with financial and hiring practices. They have to do with discrimination:

Some voucher schools do great jobs. And many welcome all children, regardless of race, faith or sexual orientation. This includes some Christian and faith-based schools that not only welcome LGBT students but teach students that discrimination against anyone is wrong.

But others discriminate — not only against LGBT students, but also students with even mild disabilities.

If these kids were denied admission because they were black, it would be illegal — and politicians would be outraged.

But Florida green-lights discrimination against LGBT citizens. In hiring. In housing. And yes, in schooling.

And Gov. Ron DeSantis and leaders in the Republican-controlled Legislature are fine with it.

They say the state doesn’t directly fund discrimination, since parents choose the schools. But the state chooses which schools are allowed to take the vouchers.

The politicians also say people of faith should be free to discriminate if that’s part of their belief system.

People used to make similar arguments for racial discrimination. In defending a 1965 ban on interracial marriage, a Virginia judge declared in 1965 that God “did not intend for the races to mix.

Discrimination was wrong then. It is wrong now.

It’s especially wrong when underwritten with tax dollars.

Mr. Maxwell has reported on this anti-LGBT discrimination before… and the rebuttal he received was astonishing and discouraging:

When I first wrote about this issue last year and identified schools that refused to accept LGBT students, Step Up For Students — the nonprofit that made about $18 million administrating vouchers that year — went on the attack, claiming I was trying to hurt “disadvantaged children.”

The group’s president, Doug Tuthill, penned an op-ed that tried to downplay the issue, claiming Step Up found only 38 schools with anti-gay discrimination policies.

Oh… Presumably if there are “only” 38 schools discriminating it’s an acceptable practice. And even more mystifying is how discrimination against students based on their handicaps ISN’T hurting “disadvantaged children”… but maybe Mr. Tuthill means economically disadvantaged children. Presumably it is OK to discriminate against LGBT students and handicapped students as long as one doesn’t discriminate based on economic background.

Mr. Maxwell sums up what these pro-voucher organizations need to do if they are going to accept public funds:

What Step Up should do is back legislative efforts to ban discrimination against the disabled, against LGBT families, against people of different faiths — against anyone.

And they should welcome more accountability and standards in general, to make sure children are actually being educated at these publicly funded schools — just as Florida already demands of traditional schools.

Prom Attendance, Participation in Graduation Depends on Hair Style in Texas

January 24, 2020 Comments off

Of many reports that are all over Facebook, I chose this one from the Washington Post to provide an overview of a predicament a Trinidad-Amrican student faces. Here’s the headline:

Student will be barred from graduation

unless he cuts his dreadlocks, school says

Nene, who just retired from the Houston Rockets, wore dreads as does Houston wideout DeAndre Hopkins… Maybe the school might invite one of them to speak at commencement about the freedom to wear ones hair in whatever style they wish. If not, maybe they could invite the coaches of those teams to speak out for individual liberty. When athletes, music performers, and even businessmen and politicians can wear dreads, why can’t students? The double standard is not lost on them…. and if the schools are teaching students to follow-rules-for-the-sake-of-following-rules they just might be missing a key point in a democracy.

Ministry’s Gift Relieving Lunch Debt Double Edged Sword

January 24, 2020 Comments off

The Alabama Ministry group who offered to pay off the lunch debt in the “relatively affluent” school district described in this article is a clear benefit to the local taxpayers and an even clearer benefit to the children who could not afford to pay for their meals. But there is a shadow side to this gesture. It can lead voters to the conclusion that charity can fill the void in providing meals for every child when the government’s tax revenues fall short. Instead of using moral suasion to help a targeted group of children it would be far more helpful to far more students if the Ministry groups helped their congregations see that by supporting more government spending on schools and social safety nets they could do even greater good.

This McSweeneys Article Would be Funnier if it Weren’t So Close to the Truth

January 23, 2020 Comments off

The banks love Betsy DeVos… Those who owe fly-by-night for profit colleges? Not so much!

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