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Posts Tagged ‘DeVos’

ESSA and the “Death of the Compassionate Democracy”

March 18, 2019 Leave a comment

NYTimes columnist Margaret Renkyl offers a scary and scathing insight into the synergistic efforts of the religious right and pro-business libertarians to undermine democracy in Tennessee in the name of God and mammon. In so doing she describes how the notorious Koch brothers use the causes of the religious right to help advance their goals, which are described in Nancy Maclean’s book “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America”as follows:

According to Dr. MacLean, the Koch network’s goal — and the goal of all legislators in thrall to the Kochs’ PACs — is to weaken unions, suppress voter turnout, privatize public education, undercut climate science, roll back existing environmental protections, dismantle the social safety net and, of course, stack the courts with sympathetic judges.To enact that unpopular agenda, they’ve had to make common cause with the religious right.

And so we have a world where religious zealots who presumably believe in the teachings of Jesus are stripping poor people of medical coverage, relegating their children to substandard schools, and subjecting all of their fellow citizens to polluted air and water… all in the name increasing the bottom line of corporations.

Ms. Renkyl’s column is full of excellent insights, but it’s closing paragraph overlooks one reality that is most unsettling:

For all its often-empty swagger, the Tennessee General Assembly has made one thing very clear: If Americans don’t start paying closer attention to what’s happening in statehouses across the country, the republic may never recover.

The one reality that Ms. Renkyl overlooks is that Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, the champion of the bi-partisan disaster known as ESSA, has enabled states like Tennessee to set their own standards for education and, in so doing, effectively support the notion that STATES should be able to define curriculum standards… and if Ms. Renkyl doesn’t think that the Koch brothers are willing to throw science education standards, reading lists, and literacy under the bus in the name of free enterprise she is not paying attention herself.

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A Predictable Meltdown Results When a Former Investor in For-Profit Schools Oversees the Dismantling of Regulations Governing Those Schools

March 8, 2019 Leave a comment

NYTimes reporters Stacy Cowley and Erica Green describe the rapid meltdown of a college chain that resulted when Betsy DeVos aggressively deregulated post secondary schools in the name of giving “new life” to an industry that was “on its heels” during the Obama administration. And why was it on its heels? Because, as the Obama administration’s Department of Education recognized, the profiteers who operated private (mostly proprietary) colleges misled students who went deeply in debt to get the education they understood they needed to be successful in the global economy. The students never got their degrees because the colleges did not have the wherewithal to provide the education they promised. When the Obama administration fined the colleges to help pay back either the students’ personal loans or the government who provided loans for the schools the profiteering colleges either went out of business or transferred their ownership to a different entity. The winners in all of this were the investors and the college administrators who received unseemly high salaries. The losers were the students who hoped to better themselves only to find themselves deep in debt. I am certain that the laissez faire capitalists will shrug their shoulders and say that’s the way the market works: caveat emptor! One can only hope that every disaffected student will at least learn that the policy of deregulation— UNDER-governing— is the problem and not the government itself. But that unit was probably not included in the introductory economics courses offered.

In Chicago, Black Families Leave, White Families Arrive, NYTimes Wonders Why. The Answer? The Degradation of Public Schools

February 26, 2019 Comments off

Today’s NYTimes has a lengthy analysis of the forthcoming mayoral election written by Monica Davis headlined: “Chicago, Seeking a New Mayor, Sees Many Black Residents Voting With Their Feet“. The reasons given for this outmigration are myriad, with the best synopsis offered in this paragraph:

“People are frustrated and they’re saying, ‘We’ve just had enough. No more mayors for the 1 percent. This city belongs to all of us, not just the people who live in the Gold Coast,’” Sharon Fairley, a former federal prosecutor who also led an agency that oversees Chicago police, said of the hurdles facing the next mayor. “The biggest challenge that anyone coming into this position now is facing is generating a feeling of inclusiveness.”

One of the actions that undoubtedly contributes to the disenfranchisement of African American was the mayor’s decision to close 50 neighborhood schools and compel children to board buses to attend schools in parts of town where they felt unwelcome. They felt unwelcome not because the schools were predominantly white or middle class, but because the schools were often in neighborhoods where different gangs controlled the streets and where it was impossible for parents to regularly monitor their children’s performance.

Nothing reinforces a lack of inclusiveness like closing a neighborhood school, shunting children to a distant school where they are unwelcome, and stripping the schools of elective programs and support services. Yet the school closure issue barely registered in the lengthy article, warranting only these two passing comments:

Downtown Chicago is booming, its skyline dotted with construction cranes. Yet residents only a few miles to the south and west still wrestle with entrenched gang violence, miserable job prospects and shuttered schools — some of the still-being-identified forces, experts say, that are pushing black Chicagoans to pack up and get out.

Before his announcement, he was facing a wide field of people who said they would challenge him, as well as criticism over a tenure that included conflicts over police conduct, street violence and the closings of schools on the city’s South and West Sides. And Mr. Emanuel’s policies have remained a focal point for criticism from some who now hope to succeed him.

If you want to send a message to voters and residents that they don’t matter and that the political leaders are looking out for the 1% at the expense of everyone else; underfund schools and close those that are underperforming…. and that formula for reform is precisely what is generating a feeling of despair and a lack of inclusiveness in our nation today.

Cory Booker Has Background, Talent to be President. Too Bad He Opposes Public Education

February 6, 2019 Comments off

For those who follow politics but do not appreciate the devastating impact of privatization, Cory Booker seems like a candidate for President in the mold of Barack Obama: an articulate African American with his roots in urban reform and a steady ascent up the political ladder. But there is one other area where Cory Booker has an unsettling resemblance to Barack Obama: his desire to privatize public education and, consequently, his embrace of ideas akin to those of Betsy DeVos and— yes— Arne Duncan.

For those readers who believe that a Cory Booker candidacy would improve the state of public schools, I urge you to read and bookmark this article by Jacobin’s Eric Blanc. The title, “Cory Booker Hates Pulic Schools” gives you some idea of the contents.

The US Expansion of Pre-Schools Provides an Opportunity to Get Funding Formulas Right

February 1, 2019 Comments off

A recent article in the Economist titled “Republicans and Democrats Are Taking Early Education More Seriously” describes the recent consensus that is emerging among politicians in both parties that public schooling needs to extend to younger children. Here;s the paragraph that describes this phenomenon:

The share of three- and four-year-olds enrolled in pre-school has not changed much in two decades. While the average country in the OECD, a club of rich nations, enrolls 80% of its three- and four-year-old children in school, America enrolls just 54%, lagging behind Chile and Mexico.This is true despite abundant evidence of the benefits of early education, especially for disadvantaged children. High-quality pre-school programmes can have lasting benefits, including improving the odds of graduating from school, earning more and staying away from drugs and out of prison. For parents there are gains, too: when their children are in day care, they can work.

In the shadows of a government shutdown and chaotic governance generally, one achievement of President Donald Trump’s administration has gone unnoticed. In 2018 Congress approved more than $5.2bn in “child care and development block grants”, which subsidise child care for low-income families, nearly doubling available funding and indicating a rare example of bipartisan collaboration. Head Start, a federal programme that educates poor children before they enter kindergarten, has also received more funding.

The article, while extolling both the Trump administration’s additional funding that the widespread support for funding at the state levels does NOT look at how that funding will be allocated. If they had examined this, they would find that politicians in both parties are using this expansion of schooling to younger students to promote either vouchers of privatization models for schools. By doing so, they can sidestep the need for government funded buildings, the hiring of teachers at union wages, and the pushback they are likely to encounter if they shift young children out of existing privately operated pre-schools into public pre-schools. If our federal, state, and local governments wanted to do this right, instead of using the expansion of schooling to younger students as an opportunity to privatize they could use it as an opportunity to get the funding for public education more equitable.

Progressive-minded voters need to look closely at how seemingly progressive issues like the expansion of pre-school are being formulated. As I’ve blogged about earlier, the expansion of these programs could well be a means of introducing vouchers into the public schools… an idea I am certain Betsy DeVos has come up with.

Koch Brothers Plan to Disrupt Public Education, the “Lowest Hanging Fruit”

January 30, 2019 Comments off

The Koch brothers are the most disreputable of all the “reformers”, blatantly seeking profit at the expense of those who were unfortunate enough to be born into families where there wasn’t a billion dollars per year in trust funds…

Meanwhile… in the USDOE, Ms. DeVos is contemplating undoing the supplement vs. supplant language… From where I sit this is related to the Koch takeover: it reinforces the notion that efforts to provide equity is “government overreach” and the regulations that accompany federal dollars are onerous and interfere with innovation… just merge those dollars into local budgets, lower taxes, and use more technology that can be managed by low-wage paraprofessionals… and bingo: the low hanging fruit is picked!

via Koch Brothers Plan to Disrupt Public Education, the “Lowest Hanging Fruit”

DeVos Revisiting Supplement vs. Supplant… A Story that Will be Buried But One that will Undercut School Funding Nationwide

January 30, 2019 Comments off

There is so much happening with the ongoing investigation of the President, the aftershocks to the month long government shutdown, the ongoing debate about the need for a wall, and the severe weather that results from climate change that the USDOE’s intent to review the supplement versus supplant language can get pushed off the stage altogether. Here’s a report from Politico earlier this week on the USDOE’s decision to revisit the “supplement vs. supplant” issue:

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION TAKES ON ‘SUPPLEMENT, NOT SUPPLANT’: The Education Department is out with proposed guidance under the Every Student Succeeds Act that DeVos said makes clear to districts that they have “significant flexibility” when it comes to spending.

At issue is a requirement known as “supplement, not supplant.” The requirement was meant to ensure that poor and minority students get their fair share of state and local education funding by requiring that the federal education funds enhance, but not replace, state and local funds.

The department says the requirement “had become restrictive and burdensome.” Now, “in order to comply, a school district need only show that its methodology to allocate state and local resources to schools does not take into account a school’s Title I status,” the department said in a statement. “For many school districts, the requirement can be met using the school district’s current methodology for allocating state and local resources.”

In previous years, when Title I funding was “…more restrictive and burdensome”, districts had to demonstrate that the federal funds targeted for students raised in poverty were, in fact, spent on those students. In my experience as a Superintendent, this DID require a lot of complicated bookkeeping and there were some occasions where auditors from the USDOE could be picky, but these accounting rigors did ensure that federal funds did not displace the local funds. This strict segregation of federal funds from local and state funds meant that ALL districts— including those serving affluent students— would raise their voices in support of federal funds that were earmarked for children raised in poverty and especially those funds that were earmarked for disabled children.

Those who want the federal government to stay out of education often fail to acknowledge why the federal government got INTO education to begin with. The federal government was advocated for the voiceless children raised in poverty and shunted out of the public schools due to their race or disabilities. Most elected officials at the state and local levels ignored the needs of these children and because their parents did not have the ears of the officials their children suffered in underfunded and sub-standard facilities. The War on Poverty and the Disability Rights movements injected federal funds into public education and with those funds came the so-called “restrictive and burdensome” regulations that anti-public education voters despise.

This just in: government regulations protect the poor and disabled children from underfunded and substandard schools in the same way government regulation protect all citizens from pollution and foul water. Yes, government regulations can be “restrictive and burdensome”, but that is a small price to pay for a just and equitable public education system.