Peter Greene: What This Election Means for Schools

September 20, 2016 Leave a comment

Peter Greene’s assessment that ESSA “throws much of the power back to the state level” is accurate as is his observation that “…U.S. Department of Education and Congress are still arguing about it, which means there is ample opportunity for states to enter that spirited discussion.” There are two points that he doesn’t make, though: FIRST: as it stands now the majority of states would be arguing for the very things Trump wants and they’d be selling their voters on it by saying that the “Federal $$$ could be used to relieve the property tax burden” and help them “get rid of bad teachers”. SECOND: Neither the Democrat party nor HRC are doing enough to give the Education Department the support it needs to buck the supplant vs. supplement provision— which is the major bone of contention. It would be wonderful if the Dems and HRC stood up for the children raised in poverty who will lose out if states can use federal $$$ to lower taxes, which IS the direction they will go if they are allowed to do so. 

Peter Greene reflects here on the likely outcome of this election for the nation’s public schools, which enroll nearly 50 million children. If Trump is elected, we know what to expect: Trump’…

Source: Peter Greene: What This Election Means for Schools

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Frank Bruni Sees Through US News and World Report Rankings: Will He See Through Charter Myths Next?

September 19, 2016 Leave a comment

NYTimes columnist Frank Bruni devoted his Sunday column to debunking the the rankings published by the USNews and World Report, rankings that tend to overemphasize immaterial things like reputation, the size of the college’s endowment, and “selectivity” while under-emphasizing their ability to provide equitable access to veterans (the focus of Bruni’s recent columns on post secondary education) and minorities and first-time college attendees.

Much of Bruni’s column is devoted to the way colleges “game” the system USNews and World Report devised and the way USNews and World Report promotes its rankings to ensure the sale of its signature issues that do the rankings. But he overlooks an even worse result of the raking mania:, the ranking of high schools. The ranking idea is taking hold at the high school level because it reinforces the notion that public eduction should operate as an open marketplace where parents can choose high schools in the same fashion that they can “choose” colleges… and the choice of high schools is rapidly mirroring the “choice” of colleges: high schools serving to affluent and well-educated children and highly selective public high schools and chatter schools come out ahead of high schools that work diligently to provide an educational opportunity for all the children who attend. This, in turn, adds to the luster of these “high performing” schools and diminish the value and importance of the other schools.

Maybe in a future column Mr. Bruni will see the fruitlessness of the rankings game and focus on the need for ALL children to have the same opportunity as the children of well-educated parents raised in affluent communities.

The Battle Over ESSA Rules Isn’t Over By a Long Shot!

September 18, 2016 Leave a comment

As readers of this blog realize, I have long been dismayed over the passage of the misnomered “Every Student Succeeds Act” or ESSA. My primary concern over the passage of the bi-partisan bill was that it took public education off the table in the 2016 election and, for all intents and purposes, ensured the continuation of the test-and-punish reform movement that has dramatically increased the number of for-profit charter schools. But having read blurbs about the forthcoming change in Committee Chairs in the House like the one I read earlier this week in my daily Politico feed and countless articles about Senate Education Chair Lamar Alexander’s take on the rules proposed by the Obama administration I am getting the sickening feeling that the Republicans have once again hoodwinked the Democrats in crafting this bill… and if Mr. Trump gets elected it is conceivable that the gutting of public education will proceed at a breakneck pace.

Here are examples of the issues that are subject to different interpretations depending on who’s in the White House:

  • Portability of Federal Funds: Some of the Republican legislators seem to think there is a way the Education Department could give a green light to the use of federal funds for private schools— including those with Religious affiliations. After reading about Mr. Trump’s ideas about the Federal role in public education, it is evidence that should he be elected and the House and Senate remain in the hands of his party we can expect an interpretation of the ESSA bill that allows for vouchers… and if there is any pushback, he’ll make sure that such a clarifying bill is passed with or without the support of the Democrats.
  • Supplement versus Supplant: It is abundantly clear that the Republicans believe the ESSA law does NOT mandate that federal funds be used to supplement local funds. They do not see the federal role to be one of providing equalized opportunity. Rather, they are comfortable with federal funds being used to replace local funds and if that results in lower per pupil spending in districts serving poor children so be it.
  • Regulation of For Profit education enterprises: Appallingly, Virginia Foxx, the House Education Chair in Waiting, saw nothing wrong with ITT’s behavior and thought the Obama administration was wrong to close them down to be “totally arbitrary”.
  • More Tests, More Privatization, Less Regulation: This quote from Virginia Foxx gives me the idea that we will have more tests, more privatization, less regulation: “Having a Trump administration would be akin to having heaven on Earth” compared with “what we’ve gone through the last eight years” under the Obama administration. 

I am not completely pleased with Ms. Clinton’s neoliberal “reform” record on public education but I absolutely dread what will happen to my colleagues who work in public education should Mr. Trump’s “heaven on earth” agenda ever see daylight. His interpretations of ESSA are different from those perceived by the Democrats who supported ESSA and the actions he takes to impose his will on public education once he is in office will be irreversible for years to come. The election in November won’t be about ESSA: it will be about how ESSA is implemented… and as bad as it will be for those states where the legislatures are beholden to privatizers, it will be even worse if Mr. Trump is elected.

ESSA and ACA: The Consequences of Expecting States to Contribute

September 17, 2016 Leave a comment

Earlier this week, the Washington Post ran an article by Carolyn Y. Johnson that featured two maps that illustrated why the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) failed to help reduce the rate of uninsured Americans. One showing the percentage of individuals in a State who are covered by health insurance: imrs-php


The other map showed the states who chose to expand Medicaid, which was the means the ACA intended to use to expand health coverage:


I offer these maps to show what is likely to happen should the Republican’s notion of allowing federal funds to supplant local spending as compared to the Democrat’s notion of using federal funds for education to supplement local spending. I would expect many states to continue the practice of using Federal funds to increase the per pupil spending in the districts serving children raised in poverty, which would have the effect of increasing overall per pupil spending. Other States, though, may seize on the opportunity to supplant State funds to provide “relief to taxpayers” and thereby reduce the per pupil spending.

There was a time when a Republican President— Nixon, believe it or not— provided States with supplementary block grants to help them address problems like infrastructure. Schools also received these grants, some of which were competitive and open to all districts and some of which were targeted to lower income districts. Then President Reagan bundled these together into “block grants” and diminished their overall amount on the theory that STATES could make the better determination on how those funds should be apportioned. Over time, these supplementary block grants have, for the most part, disappeared entirely or diminished to the point where applying for them cost more than their value. In many cases the grants were implicitly designed to underwrite the costs of State Departments of Education, which had been decimated in most states.

When I look at these maps I imagine that in a few years IF the supplant concept is implemented we’ll see that spending for schools has diminished in the same states where Medicaid has been denied and we’ll see a decline in NAEP scores in those same states.

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Decrying State’s “Systemic and Deliberate Failure,” Detroit Students Demand Constitutional Right to Literacy

September 16, 2016 Leave a comment

Ho hum… another State that favors deregulated charter schools for poor children…. another lawsuit for equity… another decade or so before anything transpires… MAYBE someone will see how many of these cases there are and do something about it… 

A group of students at some of Detroit’s lowest performing schools have taken sharp aim at the state of Michigan, filing a lawsuit in federal court on Tuesday that accuses Gov. Rick Snyder and other state officials of “disinvestment in and deliberate indifference” to the schools, thus robbing the youth of their constitutional right to “the most basic building block of education: literacy.”

Source: Decrying State’s “Systemic and Deliberate Failure,” Detroit Students Demand Constitutional Right to Literacy

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Tulsa School Districts’ and Business’ Reaction to State Cuts: Flawed but Imperative

September 16, 2016 Leave a comment

Over the past several weeks, the daily Google Alerts on Education I receive have included multiple articles on the devastating cuts the Oklahoma State legislature made to public education. Several, like this one from earlier last week, described imaginative partnerships between schools and businesses that provide some funds to plug the gap.  While I have long been an advocate of public schools forgoing partnerships with businesses and other social service agencies, the mathematically reality is that gambits like the one developed between TTCU The Credit Union and the Union Public schools can only work for the short term, do not begin to fill the gaps created by State level cuts, and have a dis-equalizing effect on public school funding.

While the $105,000 raised for the Union School district by TTCU The Credit Union is helpful, it is only 2% of the funds lost due to budget cuts. In short, that amount of money cannot begin to restore the loss of $5.2 million in State funds that resulted in the elimination of 48 positions for the 2016-17 school year, including 25 teachers and 19 support workers. Moreover, since there is no assurance the same level of funds will be available in the next fiscal year it would be imprudent to use it to hire staff. It’s a short term fix for a problem that will remain for decades unless the budget is increased.

The biggest problem I find with this is the fact that the funds depend on credit card spending by parents. There are many students raised in poverty whose parents do not have swipe cards because they cannot deposit sufficient funds in the back to secure those cards. For districts serving parents who live paycheck-to-paycheck raising money with swipe cards is an impossibility.

Near the end of the article, Tim Lyons, CEO and president of TTCU, is quoted as follows:

“TTCU has been serving schools for more than 80 years. We were concerned about how the education funding crisis was impacting schools, and we wanted to do something about it. We’re grateful to be able to help.”

Mr. Lyons short term assistance to districts like Union is commendable. Here’s my hope: when the next election for State legislators takes place and/or the next budget is reviewed in Oklahoma City, I hope that he will band together with other businessmen to get the broad-based taxes in place to restore funding to public schools in his state.

Apple is Better Than DOS… and XQ is Better Than the Common Core

September 15, 2016 Leave a comment

Today’s NYTimes has an article by Elizabeth Harris describing the philanthropic approach being used by Powell Jobs, Steve Jobs widow. After reading the article I came away with a favorable impression. The idea of inviting individual schools to submit proposals for changing the HS paradigm makes a lot more sense than paying billions to create top-down reforms like the Common Core… but then Apple was always more imaginative than Microsoft… even though their imaginative tax sheltering is reprehensible. I’ll be eager to see how this small bore reform works as compared to the blunderbuss approach of most “reformers”.

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