Home > Uncategorized > Stan Karp’s Rethinking Schools Post Full of Chilling Reminders of the Past, Ominous Predictions for the Future

Stan Karp’s Rethinking Schools Post Full of Chilling Reminders of the Past, Ominous Predictions for the Future

Rethinking Schools editor Stan Karp wrote a post yesterday that is full of chilling reminders from the past and ominous predictions for the future.

In case any public school advocates had forgotten, Mr. Karp offers a scathing recounting of how the Democrats responded to the economic meltdown in 2008 where the relatively scarce funds allocated for public education were used to leverage the ill-starred ideas of “reformers” who hoped to privatize public education by sustaining the test-and-punish models put in place as part of No Child Left Behind. By the time the Obama administration came to an end, public schools were funded more parsimoniously than they had been for decades and the funding mechanisms did not move in the direction of greater equity:

Even as the economy recovered in the years after 2009, the vise of austerity continued to squeeze schools. A recent report from the Shanker Institute documented a 25-year decline in the percentage of personal income that went to state and local taxes.What school finance experts call “effort” — the share of state economies devoted to supporting K–12 education — decreased sharply through 2012 and hasn’t recovered. “This was not an accident or random confluence of events,” the Shanker Institute report noted. “It was — and still is — due in no small part to policymakers’ refusal to raise sufficient revenue to fund public services, including education.”

Expanded federal aid could be used as a lever to increase the “effort” and fairness of state school funding systems. But federal and state policy decisions have instead steadily eroded the funding mechanisms that support public education and left it increasingly vulnerable to repeated crises, with disproportionate impact on high-poverty districts most dependent on state and federal aid.

As bad as things were in response to the 2008 meltdown, they promise to be even worse this time around because the Congress has turned over a massive amount of spending authority to Betsy DeVos…. and in case you think she couldn’t wreak havoc on public education, here’s a reminder of what she’s done without any money at her disposal and what she will be able to do once she has some:

The CARES Act gives her the power to waive Title I funding regulations, which govern the largest federal education program supporting children from low-income families. It also allows her to suspend Title II rules defining professional development and Title IV requirements to “provide students with a well-rounded education” including the arts, mental health services, and training on trauma-informed practices — all crucially important in the current crisis. The CARES Act specifically allows schools to shift money from these areas to purchase “digital devices.” By early April, 28 states had received waivers to reallocate ESSA spending…

DeVos has a long and notorious record of using agency guidance and regulatory action to undermine equity. One of her first acts after being confirmed as secretary was to support the repeal of protections for transgender students, including their right to choose restrooms. She was sued for rolling back protections against predatory lenders at for-profit colleges and threatened with jail by a federal judge for “intentionally flouting” a court order to stop collection proceedings for such loans. DeVos rescinded sexual assault guidance issued under Title IX, a move the National Women’s Law Center said would have a “devastating” impact, and in May released new guidance that weakened protections for victims of sexual harassment and assault. She proposed allowing schools to use federal “student enrichment funds” to purchase guns and used a school safety commission formed in the wake of the Parkland school shootings to recommend repeal of regulations on school discipline practices that were rooted in civil rights concerns. Similarly, DeVos tried to rescind Obama-era rules that required districts to track racial disparities in special education classification rates, an effort a federal judge blocked as “arbitrary and capricious.” In April, DeVos relaxed oversight and accreditation rules for higher education online programs at a time when the pandemic was massively expanding the scale of such programs.

What could go wrong?

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