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NY Times Editors Excoriate Profiteers Preying on Veterans. When Will They editorialize Against PreK-12 Profiteers?

March 31, 2021 Leave a comment

Today’s NYTimes features an editorial titled “How to Stop Schools That Prey on Veterans“. The editorial expresses support for undoing everything the Trump-DeVos era did to deregulate profiteering at the expense of Veterans:

That means reversing, as quickly as possible, Trump-era rules that benefited the for-profit college industry at the expense of the public. Beyond that, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Education need to wield their existing authority to cut off federal funds to predatory schools.

But, as noted in a comment I left, why stop your critique at the post-secondary education? Why should ANY “for profit” institution receive government funds for pre-K-12 public education? Schools are a public good, not a commodity to be marketed like a refrigerator or automobile. As noted often in this blog, the NYTimes editors consistently champion the idea of “choice” as a panacea for “low performing” schools that are starved of resources… and they inevitably include predatory for-profit schools among the acceptable “choices” parents are encouraged to consider. K-12 schools that leave children in the lurch are at least as bad as the predatory for-profit colleges that leave veterans in the lurch. From the perspective of Donald Trump, Betsy DeVos, and the GOP, PreK-12 schools should be viewed as a commodity to be marketed to parent-consumers. And from their perspective, the unregulated marketplace will sort out the bad from the good. As for the parent-consumer? Caveat emptor!

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GA Has a Solution to the Shortage of Certified Special Education Teachers: Allow the Children to Register in Charter Schools if Parents Waive Their Rights. Expect More States to Follow Suit.

March 29, 2021 Comments off

Maureen Downey wrote at op ed piece for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution describing the concerns two Mercer College professors expressed regarding a piece of pending legislation in Georgia that would enable parents of special needs and 504 students to avail themselves of a scholarship program the State offers to parents enrolling in private schools under one condition: that they forfeit their special education and/or 504 rights. The professors elaborate on why that is a bad idea: 

This means that families would forgo their child’s right to being educated in the least restrictive environment, or the right to an IEP specific to their child’s needs and abilities. Beyond the major known components of IDEA are other rights that would be waived including: (a) the right to the stay-put provision in reference to as education placement issues, (b) extended school year services, (c) transition planning services, (d) the right to receive and education until the age of 22 if the student has not accumulated enough credits for graduation by their senior school year, and (d) all of the parent rights outlined in IDEA…

…(and) In essence, parents wouldn’t just be waiving their child’s rights to be educated under the protection of IDEA, they also would be waiving their own rights to fight for their child against inappropriate class placement, unfair and culturally biased assessment practices, discriminate discipline practices, and access for their child to an education program that includes teaching and training in skills beyond just academics.

Earlier in the article the two professors, Robbie J. Marsh, assistant professor of special education and Robert Helfenbein, associate dean for research and faculty affairs in the Tift College of Education at Mercer University, suggest two reasons parents of special needs students are considering leaving public schools: the lack of resources to help their children due to the persistent underfunding by the federal government and due to shortages in special education teachers. They write: 

48 states are now reporting shortages of special education teachers. This means that many students with disabilities are considered fortunate if they have access to a licensed special education teacher as either their regular teacher or teacher of record. This is only one of many issues schools are experiencing in attempting to better serve students with disabilities, so the idea of leaving the public schools and looking toward greener pastures in private schools can be very enticing…

IF the Georgia legislature wanted to help the children with special needs and their parents, instead of passing a law requiring them to waive their children’s entitlement to a free and appropriate education they would use the money they have earmarked to underwrite private (and in many cases for profit) schools to provide PUBLIC schools with the resources those children and parents are legally entitled to. Why use taxpayer dollars to underwrite schools who compel parents to sacrifice the education their children are legally entitled to while underfunding the public schools that should support them? Some states will do anything to make the system fail… even if it means special needs children and their parents have to pay the price. Georgia is the first state to try this gambit… it won’t be the last. 

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Public Schools are Getting Billions from the American Rescue Plan. Should Private Schools Get a Fair Share? Schumer and Weingarten Say Yes Given Safeguards THEY Contend Are in Rescue Plan… I’m Not So Sure

March 14, 2021 Comments off

The amount of money going to public education as a result of the Rescue Bill passed earlier this week is astonishing!  A Chalkbeat article by Matt Barnum reports that the colossal American Rescue Plan includes $128 billion for K-12 schools PLUS a number of other provisions that will provide support. Thats almost 30 times as much as President Obama allocated for his ill-conceived Race to the Top…. and this is on top of $70 billion schools already received as a result of the initial rescue package passed earlier. Mr. Barnum offers several examples of how much $128 billion works out to:

A few ways to think about that figure:

  • It is almost certainly the largest single federal outlay on K-12 education in U.S. history.

  • It’s nearly eight times what the federal government spends annually on the Title I program.

  • It’s more than twice what the federal government spends on education in a typical year.

  • It amounts to about 20% of all K-12 public operating spending in 2018, the most recent year with data available.

  • The three relief packages together add up to much more federal help than schools got during the Great Recession.

And how does that money get divvied up?

  • 90% of that goes to school districts. The Title I formula determines how much each district gets.

  • States get 5% of that to create resources to help schools address learning loss, another 1% help create summer school programs, and another 1% to help create after-school programs.

  • The U.S. Department of Education gets $800 million (less than 1%) to identify and support students who are homeless and also issue grants to states to do the same.

  • States can decide how to use the small share that’s left.

There’s a separate $2.58 billion going to states to support students with disabilities.

Lastly, $2.75 billion is set aside for private schools. This money, distributed by governors, is for those schools serving a “significant” number of students from low-income families.

It’s that last paragraph from Mr. Barnum’s article that led to some controversy as the American Rescue Plan wended its way through Congress, a $2.75 carve out that resulted from a bargain struck by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Nathan J. Diament, the executive director for public policy at the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, a bargain that Randi Weingarten supported… and a bargain that earmarked funds for private schools that was not included in the House version of the bill. In an article in today’s NYTimes, writer Erica Green describes the details of the bargain and the fallout that resulted, fallout because the amount Mr. Schumer included was nearly the same amount Betsy DeVos sought and the House fought to keep out of previous legislation. But in this case, Ms. Weingarten felt that providing a relatively small share of the funds to private schools was morally correct and politically acceptable given the clause requiring the funds be spent on “…schools serving a “significant” number of students from low-income families” would protect the money from going to schools serving affluent parents, which was a flaw in Betsy DeVos’ proposal. This notion was reinforced by Nathan Diament, who

…likened Mr. Schumer’s decision to Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s move more than a decade ago to include private schools in emergency relief funding if they served students displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

That, for me, was a most unsettling analogy… because the funding for Hurricane Katrina went to create charter schools– many of whom were for profit— that ultimately displaced public schools in that city.

The fact that the funds appear to be directed to public school systems is a clear victory for public education… but only if the public school systems use those funds to shore up their operations in the many ways possible given the relative flexibility in terms of how the money can be used. In the coming months, it will be imperative for all of the associations and unions serving public schools work harmoniously to ensure that the funds they receive are spent wisely— and to make sure the language regarding private school funding is followed.