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Posts Tagged ‘funding equity’

PISA results are in… And Neither the “Reformers” or Politicians Will Like Researchers’ Conclusions

December 7, 2016 Leave a comment

Amanda Ripley’s NYTimes Upshot article on the PISA results will not go over well with the “reform” crowd or the politicians who fail to face the facts on equitable funding. The PISA tests, (Programme for International Student Assessment) is an international study of 15-year-old school pupils’ scholastic performance on mathematics, science, and reading.conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It has been given every three years since 2003 and the results of the assessments are publicized a year later. During the intervening years, statisticians and psyshometricians analyze the results and draw conclusions about the effectiveness of various national strategies for improving schools… and the findings are not particularly helpful for the “reformers”. Here’s why: the only piece of good news in the results was an improvement in equity where: “One in every three disadvantaged American teenagers beat the odds in science, achieving results in the top quarter of students from similar backgrounds worldwide.” But Ms Ripley could not link this to anything associated with the “reform” movement. Her synopsis of the PISA analysis was:

Generally speaking, the smartest countries tend to be those that have acted to make teaching more prestigious and selective; directed more resources to their neediest children; enrolled most children in high-quality preschools; helped schools establish cultures of constant improvement; and applied rigorous, consistent standards across all classrooms.

Of all those lessons learned, the United States has employed only one at scale: A majority of states recently adopted more consistent and challenging learning goals, known as the Common Core State Standards, for reading and math. These standards were in place for only a year in many states, so Mr. Schleicher did not expect them to boost America’s PISA scores just yet. (In addition, America’s PISA sample included students living in states that have declined to adopt the new standards altogether.)

So Ms. Ripley concludes that the US has only employed one of the proven methods “at scale”… and then goes on to note that this “at scale” improvement was NOT adopted by all the States and had not been adopted in time for it to have any impact on the test results. So what DID result in the improvement of the performance by our disadvantaged students? We know it was’t more money… we know it wasn’t an effort to make teaching a more selecting and honored profession…. we know it wasn’t an upgrade of our virtually non-existent preschool program… and it wasn’t the Common Core. Is it possible that our teachers are doing a better job out of sheer pride in the craft? I believe that is the case, but that idea will never see the light of day in the NYTimes because it contradicts the “reform” narrative that teachers are the problem and more money isn’t needed.

Despite Ms. Ripley’s misplaced enthusiasm for the Common Core and failure to acknowledge the good work of teachers in our country, she does draw the right conclusion at the end of her article:

As we drift toward a world in which more good jobs will require Americans to think critically — and to repeatedly prove their abilities before and after they are hired — it is hard to imagine a more pressing national problem. “Your president-elect has promised to make America great again,” (PISA administrator) Mr. Schleicher said. But he warned, “He won’t be able to do that without fixing education.”

And the fix Mr. Trump is proposing has nothing to do with the need to make teaching more prestigious and selective; to direct more resources to their neediest children; to enroll most children in high-quality preschools; to help schools establish cultures of constant improvement; or to apply rigorous, consistent standards across all classrooms. The PISA results in 2018 will likely reflect his efforts… and they are unlikely to show that we are on the right track.

 

Who Pays for “Tax Incentives”? WE Do!

December 5, 2016 Leave a comment

The following is an op ed piece I am submitting to our local newspaper, the Valley News. It is an updated version of an earlier post I wrote title Tax Racket. 

When someone pays a government official to get a contract, it’s called “bribery”. When the government pays a business to maintain its existing operations or to help it relocate in it’s community, it’s called an “economic development”.

 

When an individual gets assistance from the government, its called “welfare”. When a business gets assistance from the government, its called “an incentive package”.

 

Several years ago I personally witnessed a case study that illustrates how this pro-business Newspeak permeates the reporting in the media to the detriment of public funded organizations. In 2002 I moved from Upstate New York where I worked for five years as superintendent of schools to the Burlington, Vermont area. The district I led in New York included East Fishkill, a town where IBM had a large manufacturing presence. In 1999, IBM announced that “in response to market conditions” they needed to modernize their facilities and eliminate jobs. AS a result they were either going to downsize or close their plant in Upstate New York and upgrade their operations to Essex Junction, Vermont, or downsize or close the plant in Essex Junction and upgrade their operations in Upstate New York. The governments in both states and the local town governments fell all over themselves to develop an “incentive package” that would expand IBM’s presence. New York’s Governor Pataki, citing the need to “invest in the future”, put together a sweeter package than Vermont’s Governor Dean. As a result, IBM upgraded its operations in Upstate New York and downsize its operations in Essex Junction.

 

The results were favorable for IBM and its shareholders. The incentive packages offered in both Vermont and New York reduced IBM’s State taxes, and both Essex Junction and East Fishkill lowered IBM’s local taxes. And, as they indicated from the outset, IBM’ experienced a net reduction in its workforce. As a result of these cuts in taxes and personnel, IBM’s profits increased. But the governments’ incentives included more than tax breaks. Both New York State and the town of East Fishkill paid to upgrade the highways and the infrastructure around the IBM plant. At the same time, the Governor of Vermont, in an effort to demonstrate his State’s commitment to IBM, made the completion of the Circumferential Highway that served IBM a priority and pledged to review the electrical rates charged to IBM. These were both investments in the future that were needed in “response to the market conditions”.

 

The results were not favorable for taxpayers in either New York or Vermont. The results were especially onerous for local taxpayers. The New York State incentive package provided IBM with $475 million in “tax benefits”. The $475 million “tax incentive” IBM received from New York State was, in effect, a $475 million cash gift from the state. It represented $475 million that could not be available to upgrade schools, to provide high speed internet to rural areas, or fix roads. The New York State package also included a PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) agreement that reduced the assessed valuation of the IBM facilities in East Fishkill. This effectively shifted the local tax burden from the IBM plant in East Fishkill to small businesses and homeowners in that town. The downsizing of the IBM plant in Vermont had the same effect in Essex. It lowered IBM’s tax payments to state and local governments and shifted the local tax burden in Essex from the IBM plant to small businesses and local property owners.

 

This case study illustrates the lose-lose proposition State and local government officials face when a major local employer seeks “tax relief”. If, in their zeal to seek and retain businesses, our elected officials give corporations large sums of money, money that ultimately comes from taxpayers. If the elected officials fail to respond to the requests for relief or lose to a competing community, they are voted out of office.

 

This case study also illustrates how the media’s use of the euphemistic language obscures the burden taxpayers assume, because when elected officials say they are “business friendly” it means money is shifted from taxpayers to corporations. As a public school superintendent I would cringe whenever I read of that a corporation threatened to relocate because of “difficult economic conditions” or “over-regulation”. In my 29 years of experience as a Superintendent I cannot recall a time when the school districts I led didn’t face the same “difficult economic conditions” and the same “government regulations” as the private sector. Like the private sector over the past four decades, school districts faced spiraling health insurance costs, high energy and utility costs, increased costs for hiring, training, and retaining good employees, and a complicated array of local, State and federal regulations. Unlike businesses, however, school districts cannot threaten to leave town, cannot threaten to send their jobs overseas, or downsize. Indeed, the opposite is true. When the IBM PILOT agreement was struck the school board needed to make budget cuts to soften the impact to local taxpayers by deferring the acquisition of technology, increasing class sizes, and deferring some maintenance projects.

 

So when I read about the “incentive packages” Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence offered to Carrier, I realized that I helped pay for these incentives out of my own pocket and realized that the property taxpayers in Indianapolis paid an even higher price. So the next time you read about the high cost of welfare, recall that over a decade ago IBM received hundreds of millions in welfare from New York and asked Vermont to provide new roads and lower electrical rates,

 

And one last request: please alert me if you EVER hear of ANY State giving a school district a $475 million tax incentive to help upgrade their facilities.

 

An Open Letter to Two New Republican Governors: Scott and Sununu

December 4, 2016 Leave a comment

An Open Letter to Governors-elect Sununu and Scott-

The following is my attempt at satire: a letter directed to two newly elected Governors in Vermont and New Hampshire. While I have no reason to think Governor-elect Scott could enact these proposals, it is entirely possible Governor-elect Sununu might! Here’s the letter:

As you begin your term of office you each have a golden opportunity to change the course of public education in your respective states. This is especially the case now that states have broader discretion on the use of federal funds for education thanks to the passage of Every Student Succeeds Act by Congress. And given President-elect Trump’s nominees for Secretary of Education and Attorney General you’ll probably get even more leeway in spending. And to provide even more opportunity for change, each of you each of you will be able to appoint new State Board members and the heads of your education departments. The stars are aligned for you to make some big changes in the direction of public schools in your states!

 

In an effort to help you capitalize on this opportunity, I am offering a modest proposal on actions you can take to replace stolid “government schools” managed by elected school boards with agile and efficient “free enterprise schools” managed by MBAs with a deep understanding of market fundamentals.

 

First, you need to replace your current chief education officers with business leaders or philanthropists. Anyone with a background in public education will be incapable of implementing the kind of market-based program needed to truly reform “government schools”. An educator will be reluctant to use technology to disrupt the traditional classroom instruction that requires human interaction and will be inclined to work with and listen to the unionized teachers. An entrepreneur or philanthropist will see the value of running schools like a business. If you really want to be bold, you might replace the entire State Board and state department with an education management company. They have worked effectively in Michigan and in several urban areas and there is no reason to think they couldn’t do an equally effective job managing a state department.

 

Second, you need introduce legislation that will give all parents choice when it comes to selecting their schools. Instead of requiring students to attend a “government school” in their community, give parents the flexibility to enroll their children in a virtual school, a religiously affiliated school, a non-profit school, or a private for-profit school of their choice. After all, you aren’t forced to buy your groceries at a single “government store” or eat at only one “government restaurant”. Why should the children in your state be compelled to attend a “government school” in their town that functions like a monopoly?

 

Third, you need to cap education spending. Everyone knows schools have plenty of money! By cutting the budget you will force the market-based “free enterprise schools” to respond by hiring lower wage employees and using technology to help students prepare for the standardized tests whose scores will help parents decide which school is best for their child. To help the “free enterprise schools” in their efforts to secure the low-wage help they need you’ll probably need to introduce right-to-work legislation to bring an end to the unions who drive up the costs of “government schools”.

 

Fourth, you need to enact legislation to eliminate school districts and superintendents. These elected boards and administrators exist solely to enforce government regulations. We don’t have elected boards or high-priced administrators overseeing or enforcing government regulations on private businesses. If consumers don’t like the service they get from a business, they stay away from it and eventually it closes. The same thing will happen with “free enterprise schools”. If a school doesn’t give the kind of services parents are seeking, they will eventually go out of business. And if the parents sue the failing “free enterprise school” for poor performance the CEO can follow our President-elect’s lead and settle with them for a small fraction of the potential award.

 

In looking at these recommendations you might be concerned about displacing employees in school districts and elected officials on school boards. There is no need for concern. The teachers in “government schools” will be happy to work for the “free enterprise schools” even if the wages and benefits are lower. And if they don’t want the jobs, there are thousands of recent graduates who would welcome the work. Those aspiring educators may not have college degrees or the teaching certificate issued by the government, but that is a small price to pay to create the kind of deregulated environment public education needs. As for the displaced elected board members, they can devote their free time and boundless energy volunteering in the “enterprise schools” or the many sectarian schools that will benefit from the voucher plans you enact.

 

In looking at these recommendations you might also be concerned about legal action if special education students are shortchanged or if funding inequities occur because some communities raise additional funds to augment the state vouchers so their residents can attend fancier schools. You have no need to worry! Jeff Sessions, Mr. Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, views special education as “…the single most irritating problem for teachers throughout America today” and as Alabama Attorney General he fought to retain a funding mechanism that the State Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional because it underfunded the poorest school districts in the state. Given his record, he is unlikely to block you if you move forward with any voucher plan and if Congress is so inclined he may even support legislation that would allow you to use special education funds to help reduce the need for additional taxes.

 

With deregulation, privatization, and free market ideas at the forefront in government today, the sky is the limit when it comes to making wholesale changes in public education. If you need any help drafting the laws needed to accomplish these ideas, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has some off-the-shelf legislation that will enable you to take prompt action. My advice to you is to act quickly before the public catches on to the direction privatization and deregulation is leading us.

Trump XVI – Make Americas Schools Great Again

December 3, 2016 Leave a comment

I wrote a letter to the editor of our local newspaper, the Valley News, and in the email that included the letter I indicated a willingness to submit an op ed piece. The editor asked for a submission and I ended up writing three different pieces. Herewith is the one I decided to submit. I’m going to send the other two today after I proofread them one more time. The others are less wonky: one is a satirical letter to the Governors, which my wife thought some people might take seriously… and the other was a reworking of the Tax Racket post I wrote years ago. I’m not sure that any will be published but am now convinced that the very least I can do is continue blogging about the impact Mr. T

President-elect Trump ran for office as a businessman who would bring his acumen to bear on the operation of the government. As part of his plan to make government run more efficiently, Mr. Trump championed the idea of privatizing public schools and freeing the privatized schools from onerous regulations. In this way he would break up the “monopoly” of “government schools”. Given his campaign rhetoric, it is not surprising that Mr. Trump selected billionaire philanthropist Betsy DeVos to serve as Secretary of Education. Ms. DeVos supports vouchers and the privatization and deregulation of public schools and post-secondary institutions as well.

 

As one who cherishes public education and one who witnessed how they changed the lives of children from all walks of life during my 38 years as a teacher and administrator, I am deeply concerned about the damage Ms. DeVos could inflict on public schools. I am especially concerned because the education platforms of President-elect Trump and the Republican party are in alignment with Mr. DeVos’ thinking. Here are some areas where changes might occur in education policy in the coming months, changes that would help Mr. Trump, the Republican Party, and Ms. DeVos realize their goals:

 

  • Portablity” of K-12 federal funds: With Congress now under Republican control and Mr. Trump seeking funds to keep his promise of providing $20,000,000,000 “of existing federal dollars” to fund a new voucher program to give parents choice, there is speculation that Congress might re-open the debate on the use of federal funds. The Republican party, Mr. Trump, and Ms. DeVos would like to see federal money for low income and handicapped children “follow the child” to “whatever school” works best for them. In their minds those schools include religious and private schools that are not required to follow the same regulations as “government schools”. If that issue is re-opened, Ms. DeVos might have an opportunity to craft regulations that mirror the language in the Republican platform, which seeks a voucher-like program that could direct funds to schools that are not governed by school boards.

 

  • Flexibility” in the use of federal funds: The original intent of federal legislation in the 1960s was to supplement the funding of districts serving needy children. To ensure that the federal funds were spent in accordance with that intent, federal regulations govern the use of those funds. Many school boards, administrators, and state and federal politicians find these regulations as cumbersome and controlling. In the name of “flexibility”, Congress could empower States to use these funds any way they wished. Doing so, however, could have a dis-equalizing impact since there is no assurance States would use the funds to help schools serving children raised in poverty.

 

  • Expansion of de-regulated for-profit post-secondary education: Given the President-elect’s experience in operating a for-profit post secondary university (sic), the Republican party’s advocacy for “new systems of learning to compete with traditional four-year schools”, and their platform calling for college accreditation to be “de-coupled from federal financing”, Ms. DeVos is likely to write regulations that facilitate the expansion of for-profit post-secondary schools. Those schools might include institutions like Mr. Trump’s University as well as on-line institutions that could take the place of traditional four-year colleges.

 

  • A shift in the Department’s stance on social, civil rights issues: Over the past several years the United States Department of Education issued directives on issues like the disciplining of handicapped children, bullying, transgender rights, and athletic equity. Many of those directives are contrary to positions taken by Mr. Trump, Ms. DeVos, and the Republican Party. Some of the directives in place may be replaced or rescinded and others will be amended to reflect the philosophy of Ms. DeVos. Also, it is likely the Office of Civil rights will make different choices about the cases they pursue and will be likely to reach different conclusions when they do investigate a case.

 

These policy shifts will change public education in subtle and, in some cases, imperceptible ways. But as Mother Jones writer Dave Gilson notes in an article on Donald Trump’s views about public education, a subtle change in terminology can change public’s perception of schools over time: In a 2002 speech at the Heritage Foundation, Dick DeVos (the husband of Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos) advocated a shift in how conservatives talk about America’s schools. “‘Public schools’ is such a misnomer today that I really hate to use it,” he said. “I’ve begun to use the word ‘government schools’ or ‘government-run schools’ to describe what we used to call public schools because it’s a better descriptor of what they are.At the time, you might have been hard pressed to find a prominent Republican politician willing to use such a loaded term. Fourteen years later, the president-elect is talking about our “failing government schools.”

 

As Ms. DeVos takes over as Secretary of Education, I expect to hear frequent laments about “failing government schools”. I also expect to hear more about “giving parents and students more choices”, about States “needing more flexibility”, about the need to eliminate “regulations that strangle innovation”, and about the need for competition in public education the same way we have competition in the marketplace.

 

I sincerely hope I am wrong, but I do not expect to hear praise for the hard work of public school teachers, or praise for the long hours elected school boards commit to operating those “government” schools, or hear about the struggles many children face outside of the school and the efforts schools make to help children face those struggles. And I certainly don’t expect to hear that “fixing” the “failing schools” is a complicated problem that will require a coordinated effort by the community at large. And finally, I don’t expect to hear that more money is needed to Make American Schools Great Again.

Trump XV – Choosing Corporate Welfare Over Public Investment

December 2, 2016 Leave a comment

The newspapers the past two days have been full of news about the jobs Mr. Trump saved in Indiana by getting Carrier to pledge to keep one of its factories operating in Indiana. But an op ed piece by Christian Weller in today’s NYDaily News points out the wrongheaded approach Mr. Trump used to save these jobs.

Not all specifics are yet known, but the deal — the fulfillment of a crucial promise made by Trump during his presidential campaign — appears costly. Indiana state government, where Mike Pence is still governor, offered some tax incentives for Carrier to stay. These may well have been sweetened with additional, albeit vaguer, promises of future help from the federal government.

Tax giveaways are politically expedient, but they tend to be wasteful. Even though agreements often promise to put decent jobs first, there is nothing to force companies like Carrier to actually spend the money on jobs rather than on, say, bonuses for executives.

And even if Carrier made an ironclad pledge to keep all those rank-and-file jobs for now, governments have no mechanism to ensure such jobs will stay for a long period of time. This means that Carrier could choose to move the jobs to Mexico next year, and still keep its benefits. This would especially be the case if Trump cannot deliver on his promises of slashing taxes and rolling back regulations, for instance.

Mr. Weller didn’t delve into the “trickle down” effect of the tax incentives and tax cuts that made it possible to retain Carrier. As noted in one of my earlier posts, offering “tax relief” is a losing proposition. In their zeal to seek and retain Carrier’s jobs, Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence effectively gave their parent corporation a large sums of money, money that ultimately comes from taxpayers. Mr, Trump and Mr. Pence did this because if they failed to respond to the requests for relief or lost to Mexico in a race-to-the-bottom for wages they could be voted out of office.

Who loses in these “tax relief” efforts? The rank and file tax payers who must backfill the revenues lost when Carrier is given a break on its property taxes and pay for the “incentive package” that Carrier receives— an incentive package that is offered unconditionally. And if the taxpayers DON’T want to see their taxes raised or cannot raise their taxes any higher they are forced to limit public services like the maintenance of roads, the policing of their communities, and– yes– the operation of their public schools.

Mr. Weller explains the impact near the end of his op ed piece:

States already engage in plenty of this corporate welfare. Do we need more of it?

Spending more money on ineffective retention deals leaves less money to invest in good policy. Better uses of the funds would be improving infrastructure, beefing up access to fast broadband and lowering the costs of higher education.

Trump will claim he wants to do all those other things, too — but the public purse is limited. To govern is to choose. America needs more infrastructure spending for good jobs in the future. The Carrier deal and others likely coming down the pike could tie the new administration’s hands.

The business community is watching this scenario VERY carefully…. and if this de facto extortion works for Carrier it will be attempted frequently in the coming months. Here’s hoping Mr. Trump makes better choices on how to spend scarce taxpayer funds in the future.

Trump XIV – Another Distressing Cabinet Pick: HHS Nominee a Staunch Opponent of Medicare, Obamacare

November 30, 2016 Leave a comment

Today’s NYTimes editorial indicates what low income Americans are likely to face in the future: “Tom Price: A Radical Choice for Health Secretary”… and it isn’t a pretty picture:

Mr. Price, a Republican from Georgia, is a fierce opponent of the Affordable Care Act, the 2010 health reform law, and beyond that, supports plans to slash Medicareand Medicaid, which cover tens of millions of elderly, disabled and low-income Americans. He is against a woman’s right to choose and has backed legislation to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding.

…The detailed legislation he introduced most recently in 2015 would destroy the reform law and is a good indication of his philosophy in managing the nation’s largest health programs: cut benefits and leave millions with no health care at all.

His bill would, among other things, roll back the federally financed expansion of Medicaid in 31 states and the District of Columbia, taking coverage away from 14 million poor people. It would severely cut federal subsidies that help individuals and families buy policies on government-run health exchanges. The reduced subsidies would make it hard, if not impossible, for millions to afford the coverage they have gotten since the Affordable Care Act went into effect. And the bill would no longer require insurers to cover addiction treatment, birth control, maternity care, prescription drugs and other essential medical services.

Beyond his commitment to tearing apart the health care law, Mr. Price, who leads the House Budget Committee, published a budget proposallast year that would convert Medicaid into a block grant to state governments. This would reduce federal spending on the program by 34 percent by 2025, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Such a cut would inevitably cause states to offer fewer benefits and reduce the number of people covered, far beyond the 14 million who would lose their coverage if Medicaid expansion is rolled back.

So… keeping score for those who missed earlier blog posts we now have three appointees to Cabinet positions whose actions will punish those who earn least and reward those who earn the most. I always believed America was Great because she looked after those in need and lent a helping hand to anyone who was trying to work their way up. Now we have a President-elect who is making appointments that seem to do the opposite.

Trump XIII – Jeff Sessions’ Selection as AG Will Undo Decades of Efforts to Promote Equal Opportunity for All

November 30, 2016 Leave a comment

James DeVinne’s recent post in yesterday’s Occupy Democrats blog offered a disheartening analysis of the public education record of President-elect Trump’s nominee Jeff Sessions. While Occupy Democrats is unarguably biased in its reporting, it did not have to dig very deeply to find a host of disturbing reports about Mr. Sessions record as Alabama’s Attorney General nor his public statements on issues that would affect public education.

As was widely reported when Mr. Trump nominated Jeff Sessions, his nomination to be Federal Judge was rejected by his own party in 1986 when various incidents of outright racism were brought to light at that time. Among the incidents cited at the time he was nominated was his unsuccessful effort to charge three civil rights workers who’d helped boost black voting registration in Alabama with voter fraud in the early 1980s… an issue the current Attorney General has addressed in the opposite fashion over the past eight years and an issue that is likely to rear its head in the coming four years.

My concerns about Mr. Sessions, though, are not purely political. They have to do with his perspectives on education for handicapped children and funding for public schools. In a lengthy speech bemoaning the regulations that strangle public education, he specifically cited those that supposedly limit the ability of teachers to discipline students in their classrooms. The Occupy Democrats article included a link to The Daily Kos which included this direct quote from Sessions’ speech:

… we have created a complex system of federal regulations and laws that have created lawsuit after lawsuit, special treatment for certain children, and that are a big factor in accelerating the decline in civility and discipline in classrooms all over America. I say that very sincerely.

Teachers I have been talking to have shared stories with me. I have been in 15 schools around Alabama this year. I have talked to them about a lot of subjects. I ask them about this subject in every school I go to, and I am told in every school that this is a major problem for them. In fact, it may be the single most irritating problem for teachers throughout America today.

The “complex system” he referenced in the speech was the one associated with special education, a law that requires a free and appropriate education for all children in the least restrictive environment. Prior to the passage of that law, students who were severely handicapped were often warehoused in facilities that separated them from other children. Students with milder handicaps were often undiagnosed and left behind in school or forced to find ways to accommodate on their own. If their parents were affluent they could often get tutoring paid for by their parents. Otherwise, they often dropped out altogether or created discipline problems that led to their expulsion. Having led public school districts for 29 years and consulted for five years since retiring I know that educating children with special needs is complicated and is expensive. But I also know that it provides support for roughly 15% of the population that would otherwise fail in school. Leaving roughly one-seventh of the children behind would not only be a moral problem, it would also be an economic one. It is far easier and economic to provide intervention at an early age than to treat these failed students when they become adults.

Worse than his identification of educating handicapped children as potentially “…the single most irritating problem for teachers throughout America today” was Mr. Sessions reaction to a lawsuit brought on behalf of the parents of those children in 30 of the poorest districts in Alabama. Here’s a summary of Mr. Sessions reaction to that lawsuit as reported in the NYTimes: 

Nearly 30 of Alabama’s poorest school districts, with support from disability rights groups, civil rights organizations and the American Civil Liberties Union, filed suit against the state. The most vocal critics of school reform, including the far-right activist Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, warned that it would bring “socialism” to Alabama.

After nearly three years of litigation, Judge Eugene W. Reese of the Alabama Circuit Court found the inequitable funding unconstitutional and ordered the state to come up with a system to remedy the inequity.

Attorney General Sessions led the battle against the decision. He argued that Judge Reese had overreached. It was a familiar war cry on the segregationist right: An activist court was usurping the power of the state’s duly elected officials to solve the problem on their own. For the next two years, Mr. Sessions sought to discredit Judge Reese and overturn his ruling. In one of the twists of austerity budgeting in the mid-1990s, Mr. Sessions had laid off 70 lawyers in the attorney general’s office, and had to find outside counsel to handle the case. Lawyers working on contract for the office were to be paid no more than $85 per hour, but for the challenge to the equity case, the fee cap was lifted.

Mr. Sessions was lauded by fellow Republicans for his efforts. They saw funding inequities as part of the natural order of things, not as a problem to be remedied. And any remedy would entail either the redistribution of funds from wealthier to poorer districts or an increase in taxes. Both positions ran against the small-government, privatization dogma that Mr. Sessions promoted.

SO now we have a pro-privatization pro-voucher Secretary of Education paired with an Attorney General who views the regulations associated with the provision of special education as ““…the single most irritating problem for teachers throughout America today” and funding inequities as “…part of the natural order of things”. It appears that we are going to Make America Great Again by using ESSA to effectively repeal Brown vs. Board of Education and 94-142 with no effort on the part of the Attorney General to make sure that States follow federal mandates to the contrary. Maybe after three years the voters will see what they have wrought in electing Mr. Trump and realize that government WAS doing good on their behalf and doing it well despite the fact that they were starved for resources.