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Conservative Groups Who Oppose Immigration from Unsafe Central American Nations Advocate “Exit Path” From “Unsafe Schools”

September 11, 2018 Leave a comment

Here’s an excerpt from today’s Politico post on public education, which illustrates how choice charlatans will use fear to generate “customers” for their “product”:

CAN SCHOOL CHOICE PROMOTE SCHOOL SAFETY? Giving students in unsafe schools an “exit path” that includes the choice to attend a private school could better protect them and push public schools to become safer environments, a panel of school choice advocates convened by the conservative Heritage Foundation argued Monday.

The discussion comes on the heels of a June reportfrom the foundation that advocates for publicly funded scholarship programs. The programs would offer students who have been bullied or attend schools with high rates of violence the opportunity to transfer to a different school of their choice.It also urges policymakers to expand a federal program that currently allows such transfers for students who are victims of criminal offenses at school.

“Private schools must cater to the needs of their customers,” Corey DeAngelis, a policy analyst at the Cato Center for Educational Freedom, said during the event. “Parents aren’t going to send their kids to schools that are not very safe. On the other hand, public schools remain open whether they are safe or not.”

He said existing or proposed Education Savings Account programs could be expanded to include a “safety mechanism” that allows students who have experienced bullying to participate, without regard to family income.

The Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank, is floating a similar policy proposal. That plan would create state-level“Child Safety Account” programs “for parents who feel, for whatever reason, their child’s school is unsafe for their child. Tim Benson, a policy analyst for the institute, said Monday that “reasonable apprehension” by parents based on school safety statistics would be sufficient to tap into the program.

The hypocrisy of these conservative organizations who are at best silent about admitting immigrant children fleeing from narco-terrorists is appalling. And that hypocrisy is compounded by the notion that public school children who “suffer reasonable apprehension” would be allowed to change schools while we separate children from Central America who have had guns held to their heads from their parents at our border.

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Thanks to ESSA, Billionaire Reformers are “Going Local”, Making State and School Board Elections Crucial

September 7, 2018 Leave a comment

Yesterday, one of Diane Ravitch’s posts used Andrea Gabor’s recent Bloomberg op ed as a springboard to alert her readers to the change in tactics by the billionaire “reformers”. Here are the opening paragraphs of Ms. Gabor’s Bloomberg essay:

For two decades, the prevailing wisdom among education philanthropists and policymakers has been that the U.S. school system needs the guiding hand of centralized standard-setting to discipline ineffective teachers and bureaucrats. Much of that direction was guided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has spent billions since 2000 to influence both schools and education policy.

But as schools open this year, top-down national initiatives based on standardized testing and curricular uniformity are in retreat.

And what will take the place of “the guiding hand of centralized standard-setting”?

In the coming years, its K-12 philanthropy will concentrate on supporting what it calls “locally driven solutions” that originate among networks of 20 to 40 schools, according to Allan Golston, who leads the foundation’s U.S. operations, because they have “the power to improve outcomes for black, Latino, and low-income students and drive social and economic mobility.”

The billionaire “reformers” did not become billionaires by accident. They are all strategic thinkers who look at national political trends and try to get in front of them in developing their profiteering instincts. Sometime in the 1980s it dawned on some of the market-driven vulture-capitalist-hedge-funders that there was a huge “market” to be accessed in the public sector. With a surplus of teachers, especially at the elementary level, it might be possible to operate private schools at a profit if the operators of those schools could receive the same amount of taxpayer-raised money as public schools. After all, public schools had legacy costs (i.e. retirees, bonds, highly compensated veteran staff members, negotiated agreements with benefits and guaranteed step increases) that were baked into the per pupil costs. If someone opened a brand new school they could operate it for far less money than a public school! When computer-aided instruction emerged as a viable (albeit ineffective) means of “educating” children, the potential profit margins got even larger. The problem was how to get the door opened.

The privatizers access to public schools became a real possibility with the passage of NCLB. That law mandated the takeover of “failing schools” by the states. But by 2001, most states had gutted their departments of education making a “State takeover” impossible. The solution? Privatization! And by the mid to late 2000s states had identified lots of failing schools, most of them serving low income students. This was an ideal outcome for the privatizers, for they could establish beachheads in each state without alienating the affluent suburban parents. By the time suburban schools started “failing” in some states the privatizers had their nose under the tent and were working to pass state legislation that would win over parents who opted out of public education without further alienating the parents in affluent suburbs and communities who were happily funding outstanding public schools.

But here’s an important note to anyone reading this: because the billionaire investors in privatized schools ARE going local it is important to make certain the state legislatures and governor’s mansions are flipped ASAP. The GOP now has 33 governors and the GOP controls 34 legislatures compared to a paltry 13 by the democrats. With ESSA, the states and local school board races are more important than ever. It is a daunting task to flip a state once a single party controls both the executive and legislative branches… but unless several states change course ESSA will have accomplished the goals of the privatizers and public education will be on the run.

Betsy in Wonderland: DeVos Proposes Using ESSA Funds for Impoverished Schools to Buy Guns for Teachers

August 23, 2018 Comments off

I just read received a “Breaking News Alert” from the NYTimes that links to an article whose first paragraph describes an idea that could have come from the staff of the Onion:

The Education Department is considering whether to allow states to use federal funding to purchase guns for educators, according to multiple people with knowledge of the plan.

This is not only a completely absurd idea, it is dangerous, counterproductive, and, as the NYTimes article by Erica Green details, probably illegal. As Ms. Green notes, as it stands now, grants distributed by the Homeland Security Department intended for “school preparedness” cannot be used for the purchase of weapons and ammunition. Moreover, following the Parkland FL shootings Congress explicitly passed a rule “…prohibiting the use of grants for firearms or firearm training in the Stop School Violence Act, under which the Justice Department will grant funds to school districts.”

But given the composition of the commission on school safety, the schools that group has visited as part of its listening tour, and the President’s insistence that arming teachers is a viable means of preventing school school shootings, I am not surprised that this proposal is getting serious consideration. And where will the funds to arm teachers come from given these explicit guidelines forbidding their purchase?

(T)he department is eyeing a program in federal education law, the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants, that makes no mention of prohibiting weapons purchases. That omission would allow the education secretary, Betsy DeVos, to use her discretion to approve any state or district plans to use grant funding for firearms and firearm training, unless Congress clarifies the law or bans such funding through legislative action

The $1 billion student support program, part of the Every Student Succeeds Act, is intended for academic and enrichment opportunities in the country’s poorest schoolsand calls for school districts to use the money toward three goals: providing a well-rounded education, improving school conditions for learning and improving the use of technology for digital literacy.

So the scenario for funneling funds to schools for arms would go like this: the Federal government would allow states to have the discretion to use Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants to buy armaments for teachers instead of using those funds to provide a well-rounded education, improve school conditions for learning and improve the use of technology for digital literacy.

Somewhere in Washington DC a rabbit is late for a very important date…..

The Fruits of Deregulation? Caveat Emptor… and If Too Many Consumers Fail? Blame the Schools

August 19, 2018 Comments off

The headline of this post was the thought that came to me as I read Valerie Strauss’ recent Washington Post article about Betsy DeVos’ decision to hold students accountable for debts they incurred as a result of enrolling in for-profit schools who made false promises and used false information to lure them into enrolling. Here’s Ms. Strauss’ summary of Ms. DeVos’ proposal:

…on Wednesday, the U.S. Education Department followed up on its action in 2017, when it suspended two key rules from the Obama administration that were intended to protect students from predatory for-profit colleges. And the agency had promised to write its own regulations, which emerged this week.

The proposed rules require students to prove that schools knowingly deceived them if they want to qualify to have federal loans canceled. And the agency dropped a provision that allowed similar claims to be processed as a group. Instead, students will have to prove their claims individually.

The net effect of this rule change is cataclysmic for students who owe money to post-secondary institutions that defrauded them but VERY helpful to those who operated the schools and those who loaned money to the students.

And this is the fruit of deregulation: the buyers always pay the price and the bilkers and bankers walk away with money in their pockets. And the politicians’ solution? Blame the schools! If schools did a better job of educating students their graduates wouldn’t be falling for these scams. We need to require graduates to pass courses on consumerism!

 

DeVos’ USDOE Staff Called on their Attempts to Re-Write History

August 3, 2018 Comments off

In Betsy DeVos’ never ending quest to open the doors to fraudulent for-profit post secondary schools, she is re-writing not only the regulations that govern loan forgiveness but the history of how the loan forgiveness program was developed and implemented. Here’s an excerpt from this morning’s Politico education feed:

DEVOS PLAN ON STUDENT LOAN FRAUD CLAIMS CONTAINS ERRORS, GROUP SAYS: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ proposal to rein in federal loan forgiveness for defrauded students contains inaccurate statements about how the Education Department previously handled fraud claims, according to a consumer advocacy group. Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Lending says that emails and documents show that the Trump administration erroneously described how the department processed student fraud claims during the last two decades.

The Trump administration’s proposal, released last week, says it may require that borrowers default on their loans and face a collections action (like wage garnishment) before they’re allowed to apply for debt relief. Limiting the program to only those “defensive” claims, the administration said, would protect taxpayers and return to the department’s original practice that “persisted for 20 years.”

— Trump administration officials said it was the Obama administration in 2015 that upended longstanding department practice by allowing borrowers for the first time to make “affirmative” claims, meaning claims made outside of a collections proceeding. An official who briefed reporters on the proposal last week similarly said that the department only entertained “defensive” claims prior to 2015.

— But that’s not true, according to the Project on Predatory Student Lending. On Thursday, the group submitted a slew of department documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, that show how officials processed claims during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. The documents show that Between 1998 and 2015, the department approved loan discharges of borrowers based on “affirmative” claims, according to the documents made to the department.

— “I’m accustomed to the department taking positions that are intellectually dishonest, but this is just plain dishonest,” Eileen Connor, the project’s director of litigation, told Morning Education. “Can they rewrite a regulation? Yes. Can they rewrite history? No.”

Over the past several days I’ve read many articles on the effect of the President’s lies on policy making and trust in the government. When facts are altered for political purposes it is impossible to divine the truth… and faith replaces evidence. Mr. Trump’s most ardent and close-minded supporters believe what he and his administration say even when it is patently false… and democracy is suffering as a result.

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Attorney General Sessions Fuels Demand for Armed Teachers by Calling Public Schools a “Dangerous Situation”

August 3, 2018 Comments off

Here’s the report from Politico’s daily feed describing the Secretary of Education’s Task Force on School Safety’s “listening session” in Arkansas:

(US Attorney General Jeff) Sessions also said anyone who carries a gun in school for student protection deserves respect. “We have people who say, ‘I don’t want to carry a gun in a school,'” he said. “But the person who does is going by themselves into a very dangerous situation, not knowing what’s behind that door, and we expect them and ask them to place their lives on the line forstudents. They know that when they sign up, and we should always be respectful and appreciative of their service.”

With that statement, Mr. Sessions reinforces the notion that public schools are fraught with peril and danger and  implies that any teacher who doesn’t arm themselves is effectively placing themselves in peril. This is exactly the wrong message… unless you want to promote the idea that “public schools are failing and dangerous” making the choice to go elsewhere rational and necessary.

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Repeal of Obama Era Rule Penalizing Profiteering Post-Secondary Schools has $5,000,000,000 Price Tag

August 1, 2018 Comments off

As the headline for this post indicates, the Trump administration’s decision to eliminate the “gainful employment” metric for post-secondary education will come at a steep cost to taxpayers… something that at one time would be problematic for the GOP. Here’s Politico’s report on the issue from yesterday:

DEVOS’ ROLLBACK OF ‘GAINFUL’ RULE WILL COST BILLIONS, EDUCATION DEPARTMENT PROJECTS: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ plan to eliminate an Obama-era rule aimed at curbing abuses by for-profit colleges is expected to cost taxpayers nearly $5 billion, according to an Education Department analysis obtained by POLITICO.

DeVos in the coming weeks is expected to propose rescinding the “gainful employment” regulation that governs federal funding of for-profit schools and other career colleges. The policy, which cuts off aid to low-performing programs, was a centerpiece of the Obama administration’s crackdown on for-profit education companies.

The Trump administration, as part of a required budgetary analysis of its plan, has estimated that eliminating the rule will cost $4.7 billion over the next decade, according to documents reviewed by POLITICO.

The bulk of the increased cost is driven by an expected uptick in students using Pell grants to enroll in college programs that would have otherwise failed — or been on the verge of failing — under the Obama-era standards. Department officials also expect an increase in federal student loans to flow to for-profit schools following the elimination of the rule, according to the analysis.

On second thought, laying this kind of support for deregulation of profiteering education enterprises shouldn’t be associated with the Trump administration. Several states led by GOP Governors (most notably Ohio and Pennsylvania) and neoliberal Democrats (I’m looking at you, Andrew Cuomo) have given the green light to disreputable on-line enterprises and/or “reformers” whose track records are based on the exclusion of needy students and profits depend on the provision of free space.

But Ms. DeVos isn’t stopping her efforts to undo the student-consumer protection guidelines set forth by the Obama administration. Later in yesterday’s post Politico reported on the following changes on the horizon:

DEVOS PUTS MORE HIGHER ED RULEMAKING ON THE AGENDA: The Education Department plans to form a rulemaking committee in January to begin negotiations over revisions to federal rules on college accreditation and non-traditional education providers, as well as ways to ease restrictions on some federal funding of religious colleges. It’s part of the administration’s plans to overhaul a wide range of federal regulations governing higher education, about which the department unveiled new details this week.

The plan also includes further rollbacks of Obama-era policies. The department plans to rewrite “state authorization” rules that were aimed at prodding states to bolster their oversight of colleges. Officials are also considering changes to the federal definition of a “credit hour,” which the Obama administration said was needed to prevent colleges from awarding more credits and therefore receiving more financial aid dollars than they deserved.

Other proposals would upend long-standing federal regulations. The Trump administration said, for example, it plans to rewrite the federal requirement that online courses provide “regular and substantive interaction” between students and the instructor in order to receive funding. Michael has the full rundown.

If the Department of Education was the only agency being de-regulated it MIGHT be possible for a newly elected President and newly appointed agency head to undo the damage being done to consumers and citizens… but the scope of deregulation underway in THIS administration is breathtaking!