Posts Tagged ‘funding equity’

NYTimes Report on Mike Pence’s Education Record is Appalling!

July 20, 2016 Leave a comment

Kate Zernicke’s article in todays NYTimes describing Mike Pence’s record as a Governor is appallingly inaccurate and unfair. Misleadingly titled “Mike Pence’s Record on Education is One of Turmoil and Mixed Results”, the article describes only turmoil and no positive results for children whatsoever, unless you count the passage of a $15 million dollar preschool program serving a handful of poor children in five counties as “positive”. Worse, instead of seeking quotes from the large number of voters who supported Glenda Ritz, the “anti-reform” candidate who defeated Tony Bennett, his favored candidate for State Superintendent, the Times got quotes from Joy Pullmann, described as “ education research fellow with the libertarian Heartland Institute“, an organization funded by anti-environmentalists who staunchly oppose public funding for anything and favor Milton Friedman’s magical market solutions for everything. Thus, instead of criticisms of how poorly charters perform, how Mr. Bennett was involved in a financial scandal involving charter schools, and how students raised in poverty are woefully underserved in Indiana readers got complaints about “the fact” that charters are over-regulated because they are required to administer the same tests as public schools, that insufficient public funds are going into the pockets of profiteers and religiously affiliated schools, and that he ultimately accepted the “strings” attached to an $80,000,000 federal grant that would nearly quadruple the funding for pre-school.

Pence’s policies, which are those of the ultra-right reformers, failed children attending public schools in the state pushing more and more middle class students out and starving the poor children who remained. To state otherwise is misleading and dishonest… but since the Times seems to have bought into the basic premise of the “soft reformers” like those endorsed by the presumptive Democrat candidate, they seem reluctant to point out where the privatization “solution” offered by reformers will ultimately lead.

And here’s whats even worse: Pence would be one of those who would champion ESSA since it gives more control to States and loosens the federal “strings” that require things like supplement-vs-supplant. As one who hoped for a robust debate on privatized deregulated schools and the federal role on education I am saddened to see that this will not be on either party’s agenda for the coming months… and even sadder for the children raised in poverty who’ll be neglected as a result.

Three Year Turnaround Timetable Unrealistic, Underscores Inherent Flaws in “Reform”

July 19, 2016 Leave a comment

An article by Kate Taylor in today’s NYTimes explicitly emphasized the fantastical notion that “failing schools” can be “turned around” in three years and implicitly highlighted the flaws in the “reformer’s” notion that grading schools will help school improvement.

The notion that a “failing school” can miraculously change in three years is rebutted by Megan Hester, a principal associate at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, an organization that is working closely with community organizations involved in the turnaround effort. She said,

“There’s no school improvement initiative in the country that shows long-term success that showed improvement within two or three years.”

Giving schools the time they might need… “is at odds with the political cycle and the political attention span.”

But politics is everything in NYC schools and since mayors are elected every four years and it took Mr. de Blasio a year to get his leadership team in place he needed to set a three year timetable. In my judgment, the mayor missed a teachable moment and picked the wrong battle at the outset. In his first months in office he could have taken on the wrongheaded idea that labelling schools as “failing” based on test scores when the effects of poverty account for nearly all the variance in those scores. He could have emphasized that when a school is labelled as “failing” it is difficult to recruit students and even more difficult to recruit teachers. And while the article points out these realities, it does not explicitly link the realities to the flawed idea of classifying the schools as “failing”, an idea the “reformers” love because it enables them to close the schools and replace them with for-profit charters that repackage the schools, draw engaged parents and hire new teachers, but make no difference whatsoever when it comes to test scores or graduation rates.

Improving schools and addressing the effects of poverty takes time and requires more resources. That combination is a poison pill for politicians… but it is the only medicine that will cure the ills of public education in urban areas. Until a politician is willing to explain this to voters and voters are willing to listen the vicious cycle of “failing” schools for children raised in poverty will continue.

Fordham Foundation Finds Flaws in Ohio’s Voucher Program

July 17, 2016 Leave a comment

Last week the Columbus Dispatch released a story that reported on the findings of a Fordham Foundation study:

…according to new study that found many students who used vouchers to attend private schools fared worse on state reading and math tests compared with their peers in public schools.

Chad Aldis, vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which commissioned the report and supports vouchers, called the results “disappointing,” but he cautioned that researchers looked at a limited number of students and raised questions that warrant further exploration…

In an effort to make lemonade out of the “disappointing” findings, Mr. Aldis offered this preposterous conclusion:

The report also found “modest” improvements in achievement among public school students who were eligible for a voucher but declined to use one, suggesting competition created by the program might have spurred improvements in the public schools.

“For years, voucher critics have argued that students staying in public schools were hurt by voucher programs,” Aldis said. “It’s heartening to see that healthy competition can improve achievement.”

“Healthy competition” had nothing to do with the disparity. In fact the “modest improvements” experienced by the students who remained in public schools is even more astonishing given that during the time the study was underway per pupil spending on public schools declined by 6.8%!

Maybe it’s time for the Fordham Foundation and other conservative think tanks to look at the results of voucher programs in urban areas and determine that they have made no difference whatsoever. At the same time, they might look at the impact supplemental services make in schools serving children raised in poverty and conclude that more spending in those areas might be worthwhile.

Charles Blow Speaks the Truth on Racism: We ALL Own the Problem Because We Refuse to Raise Taxes

July 14, 2016 Leave a comment

Charles Blow’s column in today’s NYTimes is the first one I’ve read that speaks the blunt truth about what is needed to address the racism in our culture.

Interpersonal racism, when it exists, is only one part of the equation. Another part is systemic, structurally racist policies, and yet another is class conflict between the police and the poorest, most dangerous communities they patrol, and between those who are better off and those who are not. That strand is nearly absent from this conversation altogether….

(T)his issue is about everyone. We have areas of concentrated poverty in our cities in part because of a long legacy of discriminatory urban policies. We don’t sufficiently address the effects of that legacy, in part because it is rooted in a myth of racial pathology and endemic poor choice. We choose to be blind to the policy choices our politicians have made — and that many have benefited from, while others suffered — while simultaneously holding firmly to the belief that all of our own successes and comforts are simply the result of our and our families’ drive, ambition and resourcefulness. Other people lack physical comforts because they lack our character strength.

Mr. Blow offers lengthy quotes from the police chiefs in Dallas where five police were assassinated protecting Black Lives Matter demonstrators and Baton Rouge where police murdered an unarmed black man. Both chiefs lamented the low pay their police forces receive and the increased expectations placed on the police because social services and schools are short-changed. Blow concludes with this indictment:

You may think that you are not a part of this, but you are wrong. That’s just a lie that your willful ignorance and purposeful blindness perpetuates, to protect your conscience. This is absolutely about you, many, many of you. There are more bloody hands than meet the eye.

Mr. Blow is absolutely right. We need more resources for under-resourced communities and under-resourced families. We need to dig into our pockets and pay more taxes. We need to stop being resentful of public employees who have benefits and pensions that the “free market” denies to most employees and ensure that all Americans get health care and social security. We need to ensure that everyone has the food, clothing, and shelter they need even if it reduces the profits of the corporations.

Unfortunately neither Presidential candidate is advocating this… one wants to build walls and one wants to have more “conversations”… We don’t need walls or talk: we need higher taxes at all levels.

Economic and Racial Desegregation in NYC: One Area Where Incrementalism Makes Sense

July 6, 2016 1 comment

As one who believes that racial and socio-economic desegregation are needed for schools to succeed, and one who is extremely disappointed in the direction our schools are headed in this regard, I was heartened to read Elizabeth Harris’ article in today’s NYTimes on the small bore grassroots efforts underway in NYC to change the demographics in city schools. Ms. Harris’ article is not as derisive as it’s headline,”Small Steps But No Major Push to Integrate New York’s Schools”. Instead of decrying the lack of a “major push”, Ms. Harris offers a rationale for the way Chancellor Farina and Mayor de Blasio are approaching the issue of economic and racial diversity. Given the hand they were both dealt, over a decade of school choice and zoning policies that promote gentrification and a disproportionate number of economically disadvantaged children in public schools, Ms. Farina and Mr. de Blasio are using small bore “controlled choice” and “affordable housing” initiatives. In an early paragraph Ms. Harris describes the “givens” in NYC public education:

In a system in which about 75 percent of students are poor and nearly 70 percent are black or Hispanic, these efforts depend on some degree of local socioeconomic diversity. In gentrifying sections of Brooklyn, rich and poor live near one another, as they do in parts of Manhattan where public housing projects are next to expensive apartment buildings. But in most city school districts, where poor children live near other poor children, no such diversity exists. There, meaningful integration would require major intervention. 

Some politicians, particularly those representing sections of town where gentrification has not occurred, want the kind of major intervention needed to ensure “meaningful integration”. But “major intervention, like bussing children from, say, Park Slope or the Upper East Side to the Bronx or unilaterally redrawing district attendance zones to force 75-25 splits in demographics, will not achieve the kind of “meaningful integration” desired by pragmatic progressives like Ms. Farina and Mr. de Blasio.

It took 12 years for Mayor Bloomberg to institute the convoluted school-choice system in place and he did it incrementally and persistently. If Ms. Farina and Mr. de Blasio are given the same amount of time, it is conceivable that they can use “choice” and “affordable housing” to achieve “meaningful integration” to increase the opportunities for all children in the district, particularly if they receive the finding they need to provide wraparound services to the neediest children in the city.

And here is one point that Ms. Harris failed to acknowledge: unlike their predecessor, both Ms. Farina and Mr. de Blasio have identified diversity as necessary and good and both leaders are taking steps to increase diversity as a result. Instead of blaming teachers and unions for the “failure” of public schools, they are implicitly acknowledging that the environment of children plays a role in their success and improvement of schools requires an overall improvement in the quality of life for ALL children in the city. Here’s hoping Ms. Farina and Mr. de Blasio stay the course and get the funding they need to move forward.

Works Socialist Website Report on PA Schools Pulls No Punches

June 23, 2016 Leave a comment

This post draws from a June 14 post on the World Socialist Website that described the budget crisis in Erie, PA. Titled “Pennsylvania School District Prepares to End Education Past Eighth Grade”, the post by Jason Melanovski summarizes the dilemma Erie faces in balancing its budget:

The district is currently facing a deficit of more than $10.3 million. Over $6 million in cuts have already been decided upon, leaving $4.3 million more to be cut. As a result, Superintendent Dr. Jay Badams has proposed to close all four of the city’s public high schools. Erie residents wishing to obtain an education past eighth grade would be forced to attend a charter school or travel to schools in other districts outside the city. The school district would only provide “limited transportation” to students who chose to attend a public school outside the district.

This action is not only in conformance with state law, it has already been taken by two other PA districts outside of Pittsburgh, Wilkinsburg and Duquesne. And just in case a reader thinks that Erie might be able to find other places to cut, Mr. Melanovski recounts the other cuts needed given the shortfall in state funds and the erosion of the local tax base:

Among the cuts already approved are the elimination of all art and music classes, sports and extracurricular activities, and full-day kindergarten. School libraries at all grade levels would also be closed.

Unlike many other anti-“reform” columnists, Mr. Melanovski does not hold back the it comes to criticizing the source of this budget cutting:

The potential closing of all of Erie’s public high schools is a result of the ongoing nationwide attack on public education, carried out by both capitalist political parties. The Obama administration has deepened this onslaught under its “Race to the Top” educational program. “Education reform,” as promoted by both politicians and corporate-funded foundations, blames teachers for the shortcomings in public education and seeks to turn education into a new source of profit for investors, charter school administrators and other private companies and consultants looking to enrich themselves with public funds. Several major cities in the United States, such as New Orleans, no longer have any public schools at all.

In one paragraph Mr. Melanovski captures both the purpose and the result of NCLB and RTTT which is embodied in the budget problems in Erie. And in his concluding paragraph, he has a scathing indictment of the Democrat party, the supposed champion of the working class:

The destitution of public education in Erie has received cynical responses from politicians in both major political parties, such as Democratic State Senator Sean Wiley, who stated, “There is no greater responsibility of the Pennsylvania General Assembly than to invest in the future of this Commonwealth and that future begins and ends in public education.”

This responsibility is apparently not shared by the State Senator’s own political party, as Pennsylvania, historically one of the most heavily Democratic states in the country, has seen state funding of K-12 education drop from 50 percent in 1972 to less than 35 percent today.

I’ve written several posts about PA, the State where I grew up and held my earliest jobs in public education. When I returned for my reunion in West Chester a few months ago I was astonished at the appearance of the newly renovated high school and the athletic fields that surrounded it. West Chester, an affluent bedroom community of Wilmington DE and metropolitan Philadelphia, has a strong tax base and lots of parents who are willing to pay high property taxes to ensure their children have an opportunity to advance. They won’t be cutting art and music classes, sports and extracurricular activities, and full-day kindergarten any time soon, nor will they be closing their school libraries… and the problems of Erie, Wilkinsburg and Duquesne are the furthest thing from their minds. And I daresay some residents of my hometown probably say that THEY are willing to invest in the future for THEIR children and Erie taxpayers should be willing to do the same. But Melanovski offers the sad reality:

Like many American cities, Erie has suffered greatly from the corporate policy of deindustrialization and suffers from high levels of poverty. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, over 80 percent of the approximately 12,000 students who attend Erie schools come from low-income families, making it one of the poorest districts in the state.

The district has also been hit by the decline of state funding to public schools. Under the state’s formula, public schools are guaranteed the same level of funding as in previous years, even if they lose students. Erie’s public school student population has remained relatively stable, while the percentage of students living in low-income houses has greatly increased, thus leaving it unable to rely on local property taxes to increase funding that it is not receiving from the state.

Erie parents, like many parents in American cities, would like to spend more on schooling… but they can’t. They need a helping hand. Here’s hoping they get it.

Diane Ravitch’s Posts Yesterday: Democratic Governance of Public Schools Is At Risk

June 16, 2016 Leave a comment

I read all of Diane Ravitch’s posts yesterday and found one common theme: democratic governance of public education works but is in peril. A summary of the several of the posts illustrates how this is so:

  • One post covered the ongoing struggle in NYS over whether the mayor should control the schools or not. As Ms. Ravitch notes, even though Mayor de Blasio is willing to push back against the effort in Albany to expand charters, the notion of the mayor controlling the schools is an anethema and there is no evidence whatsoever that it leads to the improvement of student performance as measured by standardized achievement tests scores.
  • Two posts dealt with Eli Broad’s second iteration of a “plan” to bring Great Public Schools Now (GPSN) to Los Angeles. The original plan explicitly called for the replacement of all democratically governed public schools with deregulated private schools overseen by businessmen…. and she suggests several things that are likely to go wrong if that happened.
  • One post dealt with a recent NYTimes article suggesting the best way for Liberia to introduce a high quality public education was the introduction of deregulated for-profit charters. Ms. Ravitch noted that the writer of this articles funded by— you guessed it— a group of tech billionaires who stand to profit when 200 million poor third world children are eventually enrolled. While the governance of Liberia is kleptocratic and dictatorial, the introduction of equally kleptocratic and dictatorial for-profit charters does not seem to be the direction to move if one hopes to see democracy eventually flourish.
  • Two posts deal with TX cities (Houston and Dallas) where pro-democracy board members have virtually recaptured control of the school boards where pro-privatization forces were in control. In both cases pivotal elections are on the horizon and the future of public education hangs in the balance. In both cases, privatization has not yielded the results expected… unsurprising given the tendency of those who impose business models on schooling tend to focus on the “incompetent teachers” while ignoring the challenges of poverty.
  • One post deals with a group of Idaho students who put together a video being circulated on social media that undercuts the PR campaign of the pro-privatization Albertson Foundation.

As a Superintendent for 29 years, I know that democracy is painfully slow and seemingly incapable of seizing the opportunities that technology makes possible.  I also know from experience that there are inherent inefficiencies in the way publicly governed organizations function… but I also know that privately operated organizations and bureaucracies have the same inefficiencies. Running schools like a business, replacing the plodding democratic operation with supposedly “nimble” business model, has not resulted in any improvement whatsoever to our schools. We haven’t succeeded in improving our so-called “failing schools” because we haven’t made the investment needed to make them as successful as our “elite public schools”. Until we get full and complete engagement of all parents in the education process, full funding for all public schools, and a strong safety net for children raised in poverty we can expect schools to fall short of the standards set for them.