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
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.
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.
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.
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.