Posts Tagged ‘funding equity’

Public Schools Part of “American Carnage”

January 21, 2017 Leave a comment

Washington Post eduction reporter Valerie Strauss noted in her blog that public education WAS mentioned in President Trump’s speech, citing this excerpt:

At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction, that a nation exists to serve its citizens. Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families and good jobs for themselves. These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public.

But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge; and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.

This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

She followed it with this question:

Public schools deprive students of all knowledge?

My question is: “We have an education system flush with cash?” If we have so much cash floating around, why have over 40 states had lawsuits filed because of funding inequities?


Obama’s Failure to Write “Supplement versus Supplant” Guidelines Gives Trump and Republican Governors a Gift

January 19, 2017 Leave a comment

I just read in this brief Politico article that the Obama administration failed to write “…proposed regulations under the Every Student Succeeds Act meant to ensure that poor and minority students get their fair share of state and local education funding.” 

I’m not ready to jump to too many conclusions… but… I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this opens the door for the possibility of ALL Federal dollars— including those for handicapped children— being lumped into a block grant that States could use as they wish. One thing is certain, it DOES open the door for States to dump Federal dollars formerly earmarked for schools serving children poverty into their general funds that can then be used to lower taxes for everyone… including those living in the most affluent communities. This is a sad ending to the Obama administration’s already flawed education legacy.

Martin Luther King Junior’s Other Speech

January 16, 2017 1 comment

On the annual holiday commemorating civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Junior, we often hear excerpts from his inspirational “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in August 1963. That speech captured the uplifting spirit of the movement to end racial discrimination and, some contend, contributed to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 roughly six months later. Unless this year is different from the past, though, we are likely to overlook one of Dr. King’s most challenging and thought provoking speeches.

Dr. King’s activism did not end with the passage of the Civil Rights bill, nor did his oratory end with the “I Have A Dream” speech. Over the last four years of his lifetime Dr. King became an outspoken advocate for peace and economic justice for all citizens in the world. In April 1967, Dr. King gave a speech at Riverside Baptist Church that is as relevant today as it was in 1967. Called the “Beyond Vietnam” speech, his address to a group called the Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam included this admonition:

When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

This warning seems particularly pertinent today, because the “giant triplets” have not been conquered and our devotion to “machines and computers, profit motives and property rights” is stronger than ever.

Racism, the first “giant triplet”, is with us more than ever. Over the past several decades we’ve witnessed a re-segregation of our schools and neighborhoods and observed a decline in civility in our public discourse on race issues. Worse, we just concluded an election where 14 states enacted voter suppression laws, some of which federal courts eliminated because they unfairly limited the participation of African American voters. And the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck instituted in 27 states to address “voter fraud” may have prevented over 7,000,000 African American, Asian, and Hispanics from voting.

The extreme materialism Dr. King referenced is our consumer culture that is driven by our belief that “more” is “better”, that possessions— i.e. property rights— are more important than human relationships. To change this perspective, Dr. King advocated a “true revolution of values”, a “shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society”. Looking at his world in 1967, Dr. King urged a chance in perspective:

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

Fifty years later we continue to value things more than people, continue to live in a world and a country that has a glaring contrast of poverty and wealth, and continue to ally with “landed gentry” whose governing principles are antithetical to ours.

And militarism, the third “giant triplet”, dominates our globe today as much as it did in 1967. In identifying the changes needed to achieve his “true revolution of values” Dr, King wrote:

A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

Fifty years after this speech, our nation still spends more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift; and many would argue that as a result we are getting ever closer to the spiritual death Dr. King foretold. One of the primary reasons Dr. King decided to oppose the war in Vietnam was the realization that the resources needed to fight poverty were being spent on the military. The situation is no different today. The money spent on fifteen years of war in Afghanistan and fourteen years in Iraq is compounding our debt problems and taking resources away from “programs that contribute to social uplift”.

Were Dr. King alive today I expect he would be discouraged to see the backsliding that has occurred in race issues, frustrated to see how we continue to accept huge disparities in wealth and place a premium on “things”, and disheartened to see how much money we spend on the military. But I also expect he would urge us to seek the same solution he advocated fifty years ago:

Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism…

(O)ur loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing — embracing and unconditional love for all mankind… When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality…

When I recently read Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech I was struck by its prescience and its applicability to our times. But I was also struck by the sense that the speech has been “overlooked” because it’s message is as unsettling today as it was in 1967. Lyndon Johnson, the President of the United States who fought hard to pass the Civil Rights legislation four years earlier, felt betrayed by Dr. King’s opposition to a war the President felt was justified. And Dr. King’s colleagues in the Civil Rights movement also questioned his decision to take a stand on the War in Vietnam, fearing that his focus on the Anti-War issue diverted attention away from their cause. “And 0ver 160 newspapers wrote editorials condemning Dr. King for his “Beyond Vietnam” speech.

As we commemorate Dr. King this year on the eve of the inauguration of a Presidential campaign that divided our country, I believe the overarching message of Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech is crucial. As we passionately debate contentious issues in the coming years we need to heed Dr. King’s words from fifty years ago:

We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. And history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate.

Note: This appeared as an op ed in today’s edition of the Valley News


Is Our President-elect’s Simple But Wrong Thinking Trickling Down? I Fear the Answer is “Yes”

January 13, 2017 Leave a comment

Our local newspaper, the Valley News, reported on a group of disgruntled taxpayers who filed a petition for a warrant article seeking the ouster of the local Superintendent on the grounds that he has proposed budgets that are too high. As Tim Camerato writes in his article titled “Taxpayers Unhappy with School Budget Call on Board to Fire Mascoma Superintendent”,

A group of Mascoma Valley residents is calling on the School Board to fire Superintendent Patrick Andrew and find a replacement who would propose lower budgets.

Thirty-six voters from Grafton, Canaan and Dorchester signed a Town Meeting warrant article that asks the board to search for a superintendent “who will take action to bring the runaway Mascoma Valley Regional School District budget under control.”

The warrant article cleared the 25-signature threshold needed to make the March ballot, but the district-wide vote will only be advisory, according to Andrew. The School Board has the sole authority for hiring and firing administrators.

It’s not clear why the warrant article was crafted this year to target Andrew, who has been superintendent since 2012. While he presents a draft budget each year, it’s the School Board and the district’s Budget Committee that work to craft a final proposal.

The thirty-six voters who signed this petition should be gently told that the budget that voters consider is one that is adopted by the School Board, in most cases following several open public meetings and at least one public forum. If these thirty-six voters— or any voters in any town— want to “bring the runaway budget” under control they have three means of doing so:

  • They can run for the school board and if the electorate supports their thinking they will hold a seat on the group that ultimately adopts the budget the voters approve
  • They can find someone in their town or region who shares their views and get them to run for the board as well or instead of them running
  • They can show up at the meetings the School Board convenes when they are reviewing the proposed budget and offer their insights as to how the budget could be cut

The thirty-six voters, though, think that changing one person— the Superintendent— will somehow result in lower budget proposals. This is the kind of wishful thinking that many of President-elect Trump’s supporters engaged in this past November when they voted for him on the pretext that his business acumen and sheer will power would bring Congress to heel and reduce their taxes without requiring any sacrifice on their part or any compromises to the services they and their neighbors receive from the government.

Here’s the reality of democracy. No one man or woman can change things quickly… but every man or women’s vote counts and any man or woman can run for office and work to make the kinds of changes they want to see. And because every voice must be heard in a democracy and every alternative and opinion given careful consideration, democratic institutions move slowly.

It took Mascoma school district more than a decade to get upgrades to their schools… and it will take more than a decade to pay for those upgrades. The thirty-six disgruntled voters probably opposed the decision to upgrade the schools and are now trying to “get their money back”… They are clearly upset with the funding mechanism in place in their district and want to see that changed… but the fast, easy and wrong direction is the one they are taking. My hunch is their resolution will be soundly defeated at the District Meeting, but in the meantime they will generate a lot of divisive anger in the towns. THAT is the trickle down from the 2016 election and the behavior of the President-elect.

Supreme Court’s Review of Special Education Case Yields Astonishingly Naive Reactions from Justices

January 12, 2017 Leave a comment

I blogged earlier this month about the Supreme Court’s decision to hear a case involving a special education student’s IEP in Colorado and after reading today’s NYTimes article on this issue am compelled to revisit the case given the astonishingly naive reaction of several of the justices to the case. For example, Adam Liptak reports that Judge Alioto reacted to the case as follows:

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said the court was being asked to choose among several finely shaded formulations. “What is frustrating about this case and about this statute is that we have a blizzard of words,” he said.

My reaction having dealt with special education litigation for decades? You’re surprised that this statute has resulted in cases that yield a “blizzard of words”? Give your local Superintendent or local Director of  Special Education a call…. they can give you scores of similar cases! 

And here’s another Justice’s reaction:

Justice Stephen G. Breyer said that a new standard might also invite costly litigation. “If we suddenly adopt a new standard, all over the country we’ll have judges and lawyers and people interpreting it differently,” he said. “I foresee taking the money that ought to go to the children and spending it on lawsuits and lawyers and all kinds of things that are extraneous.”

My reaction is: Where have you been? We are already living under a litigious cloud and spending money that “ought to go to the children” on “lawsuits and lawyers and all kinds of things that are extraneous. Again, your local Superintendent or local Director of  Special Education can give you scores of examples! 

And then there was this paragraph:

Several justices expressed concerns about the potential financial burdens on school districts. “Is there any place to discuss the cost that would be incurred for, say, severely disabled students?” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy asked.

Maybe I’ve been too close to the budgeting issues over the past several decades, but I’d have to respond to this in the same way: Where have you been? The legislature has not fully funded this law since it was written and as a result districts ALREADY have a financial burden! Again, your local Superintendent, local Director of  Special Education, and local business manager can give you all kinds of facts and figures! 

And last, but not least, I want to be completely clear that I am on the side of the parents’ attorney on this issue: public schools should be required “to provide substantially equal educational opportunities” to disabled children and the costs to do so should not be a mitigating factor. I’d even take it a step further to say that  public schools should be required “to provide substantially equal educational opportunities” to ALL children and the costs to do so should not be a mitigating factor. But the Supreme Court justices probably think this is already the case…. and if they believe this they should contact their local Superintendent who would set them straight.

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An Open Letter to President Obama on His Encore Career

January 11, 2017 1 comment

Dear President Obama-

I listened to your farewell speech last night realizing that it will be at least another four years before I hear such an eloquent, thoughtful, measured, and reasonable voice speaking under the Presidential Seal. At the same time, I realized that our nation will miss more than your oratorical skills. They will miss having an exemplar for calm, lucid and passionate leadership, an example of a politician who strives for compromise and advocates for the good that government can do if it is funded and if the public is engaged.

But I also realize that your career as a public figure is far from over and sense that you still have the fire in your belly to speak for the voiceless and promote the unity our nation needs. With that assumption in place, I humbly offer two suggestions for paths you should pursue: one short term and one long term.

In the short term, your party needs to clarify it’s vision. Today the Democrat party is the “not-Republican party”. AS a result, it is unclear what the party is FOR, apart from being pro-choice and pro-LGBT rights. The Democrat party seems unwilling to be unapologetically FOR government regulation, FOR redistribution of wealth, FOR racial and economic justice, FOR worker’s rights, or FOR guaranteed health care for EVERYONE without the intermediation of the profiteering health insurance and without the provisions assuring pharmaceutical industries a piece of the action. And because the Democrat party failed to accept the label of “liberals” who supported “government regulation”, our country has fallen under the spell of an illiberal salesperson who now has the full support of a party beholden to amoral billionaires who want to strip government controls to increase their bottom lines. I trust you to develop a set of principles for your party to embrace going forward and trust that those principles will reflect the ideals you set forth in your speech last evening.

In the long term our country needs the voice of a civil rights advocate like Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior. We need a leader who will speak against what Dr. King called “the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism”. In his speech at the Riverside Church fifty years ago, Dr. King spoke against these three forces, which he believed were tearing our country apart. Like you, Dr. King saw the force of the ballot box as the means of defeating these corrosive elements and, after the passage of the Civil Rights bill in 1964, he spent the last four years of his life dedicated to fighting the poverty of resources and the poverty of spirit that arose from the gross disparities in wealth in our country. You could provide our country with the kind of moral clarity Dr. King offered. In doing so, you could seal your legacy as a leader who sought high-minded unity in the face of bigotry, greed, and perpetual war.

I wish you had a Congress that was willing to work with you. I wish you led a party that had the courage to speak out against racism, greed, and war. And I wish that those who are suffering at the hands of the creative destruction of capitalism understood that the cause of their problems is not too much government but too little. If you help define your party’s mission and purpose and continue to speak out for all that is good in our country, maybe the next President who is elected will have what you lacked… and if that occurs, our country will be stronger and more united than ever.

Stuart Greene Assesses Impact of NCLB, ESSA Mindset on Equity and Finds Them Wanting

January 8, 2017 Leave a comment

Stuart Greene, an is associate professor of English and Africana Studies at the University of Notre Dame, wrote a blog post for the Oxford University Press assessing the effectiveness of NCLB in addressing the gross inequities it sought to remedy. He concludes that the law fell far short of it’s intended goal:

The 8 January, 2017 is the fifteenth anniversary of NCLB, so it is worth revisiting NCLB’s promise to address the needs of historically underserved students.  Schools are resegregating, (e.g. Kozol, 2005), students living in poverty are socially isolated in schools located in the nation’s poorest neighborhoods, and funding is inadequate. The reality is that many students are left behind and do not have access to the kinds of opportunities to participate in a democracy as citizens who might be better positioned to navigate the very policies and laws that have historically marginalized students of color.

Citing the work of Gloria Ladson-Billings Stuart frames the learning deficits of black, Latinx and other underserved students as an education debt, a debt that has accumulated over decades of Jim Crow policies and cannot be readily repaid when under-resourced schools that are unresponsive to the communities they serve are expected to make up these deeply seated learning deficits. By focussing on the roles of schools, NCLB “…shifted attention away from social, political, and economic problems surrounding, outlining, and running through such schools.” He goes on to assert that:

The same holds true for those who embrace school choice, which fails to address the devastating effects of neo-liberal policies on inner cities throughout the United States.  It is not trivial to observe that race matters in discussing policies that affect children’s life chances.  And this means confronting what the authors of the Schott Foundation for Public Education report (2015) describe as an “insurmountable chasm of denied educational opportunities” for youth of color who find themselves mired in a school-to-prison pipeline.

Mr. Stuart does not see any difference between the NCLB mindset and that of ESSA. Both assume that equity of opportunity is in place and/or immaterial and, in doing so, both place an undue responsibility on the schools. He concludes his post with this:

To reinvigorate the notion of equity and re-imagine schools, it is important to underscore (a) the equitable distribution of material, emotional, and economic resources to ensure that children have the capacity to direct the course of their own lives in healthy, safe environments in and out of school; (b) the value of inclusion in making critical decisions about the processes underlying the distribution of these resources; (c) the importance of developing measures of assessment that account for what it means to teach for social justice and challenges the limits of assessment rooted in the nation’s economic well being; and (d) the need to leverage the law to center justice as a value in education.

Restated, Stuart is seeking equity, local empowerment, meaningful assessments, and economic justice. As it stands now, neither NCLB, RTTT, or ESSA address any of those issues directly and all three arguably sidestep them. Those of us who see this as a gross injustice need to keep calling our politicians at the State and national level to bring about the changes needed to ensure that no child IS left behind.