Posts Tagged ‘privatization’

Can Philadelphia Ever Be Freed from Charter Mania? It Depends on the School Board Developing a Spine

July 16, 2018 Leave a comment

Diane Ravitch wrote a post yesterday drawing on a commentary written by Lisa Haver and Deborah Grill, two activists in Philadelphia for In the commentary, Mss. Haver and Grill describe the machinations of the Philadelphia School Board who recently took control of charter schools in the city after politicians determined that School Reform Commission was failing in its mission to improve the schools after 17 years of oversight. I was hopeful that the newly installed School Board would insist that charter schools adhere to the same standards and regulations as public schools. But, alas, it appears that school board members are “negotiating” standards and regulations with charter operators behind closed doors, presumably based on the fact they negotiate with teachers behind closed doors. But negotiating standards and regulations are not the same as negotiating wages and working conditions. Nor are they the same as negotiating contracts with vendors who provide indirect services to schools and students. In short, there is no rationale for negotiating standards behind closed doors or negotiating them at all. If teachers and students in public schools have different standards than students in privately operated charters the playing field is clearly NOT level… and the students who attend schools with the lowest standards will clearly suffer. Here’s hoping the Philadelphia School Board develops a spine.


NC GOP Legislators Drastically Cut Public School Funding. Now They Point to Flight of Students as Proof that Choice is Necessary

July 15, 2018 Leave a comment

The Charlotte News and Observer Editorial Board wrote a scathing editorial this weekend excoriating the action of the NC legislature toward public education. The editorial opens noting that “Advocates of school choice are heartened by new numbers showing that nearly 1 in 5 North Carolina students are opting out of traditional public schools. Many children are instead attending charter schools or private schools or being educated at home.

These “advocates” of choice believe this shift in enrollment patterns is a positive trend because it is evidence that “…parents are gaining educational options for their children and traditional public schools are being sharpened by the competition.” The editorial board, however, sees through this argument:

But the truth is quite different. What’s happening in North Carolina is that a concerted effort by the Republican-controlled General Assembly is starving public schools of resources and encouraging the expansion of educational options that lack standards and oversight.

…There’s nothing wrong with school choice itself.There’s nothing wrong with school choice itself. Parents have chosen to send their children to private schools and religious schools since schools have existed. But it is wrong to encourage the expansion of school choice by making traditional public schools less effective and less attractive.

The latter is what has happened since Republicans took control after gaining majorities in the state House and Senate in 2011. The 100-school cap on charter schools was lifted and the resulting proliferation of charters in some districts is draining funding.

Meanwhile, despite much talk about raising teacher salaries, the legislature has favored tax cuts over investment in public education. Adjusted for inflation, per-pupil funding is less today than it was 10 years ago.But even as funding shrinks, the legislature is mandating smaller class sizes and putting letter grades on public schools. The grades only advertise the obvious: the greater the poverty, the lower the grade.

Educational options are fine, but the foundation of public education also must be protected. Fortunately public school teachers are taking steps to protect that foundation. The group Red4EDNC plans to form a “Teachers Congress” that will press for more school funding and slow the shift of traditional school funding to charter schools and vouchers.

If North Carolina is going to foster school choice, it should first ensure that choosing a traditional public school anywhere in the state is an excellent choice.

Given the caveat at the beginning of one of the paragraphs, “…there’s nothing wrong with school choice itself”, it’s possible that the editors at one time offered qualified support for offering options to parents. Indeed, given the disingenuous “civil rights” sales pitch offered by “reformers” it is probable that op ed pieces appeared on the pages of the paper promoting the virtues of “choice” by advocating “competition”.

It is heartening to see the editorial board expressing strident opposition to “choice” and to acknowledge that legislators who advocate choice among schools should first ensure that choosing a traditional public school anywhere in the state is an excellent choice. I only wish that editors in states who are beginning to redirect public school funds toward charter schools and choice would read this editorial and understand that any effort to expand charters and choice without expanding funding for schools across the board has the effect of diminishing funds for traditional public schools. If the pool of funds for public education does not expand at the same time as choices for public education expand traditional public education will suffer and privatization and profiteering will advance.


President Trump’s Supreme Court Pick Will Support the Tearing Down of the Wall Separating Church and State

July 10, 2018 Leave a comment

Yesterday’s Politico education post written by Kimberly Hefling provided an analysis of the views of the potential nominees for the Supreme Court in terms of public education policy. Ms. Hefling’s synopsis of Brett Kavanaugh, the judge now nominated to fill the vacancy created when Justice Kennedy retired, reads as follows:

Kavanaugh, who has one of the more lengthy legal records of all the candidates, cheered the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s efforts to reverse what Kavanaugh deemed the Supreme Court’s attempts at “erecting a strict wall of separation between church and state” — especially when it comes to schools — in an essay Kavanaugh wrote for the American Enterprise Institute in December.

He wrote that “a majority of the Court throughout his tenure and to this day has sought to cordon off public schools from state-sponsored religious prayer. But Rehnquist had much more success in ensuring that religious schools and religious institutions could participate as equals in society and in state benefits programs, receiving funding or benefits from the state so long as the funding was pursuant to a neutral program that, among other things, included religious and nonreligious institutions alike.”

Kavanaugh noted that “without the line of Rehnquist cases … we never would have seen” last year’s ruling in Trinity LutheranChurch of Columbia vs. Comer, which said that states cannot exclude religious institutions from state programs that have a purely secular intent.

He also predicted in 2000 that school vouchers would one day be upheld by the court. That came during an appearance on CNN’s “Burden of Proof,” in which he said a Supreme Court ruling that year that said federal funds could be used to buy computers for religious schools would lay the groundwork for such a future ruling, according to a transcript of the show.

The essay referenced in the first paragraph was a paean to former Supreme Court justice William Rehnquist, who Mr. Kavanaugh viewed with admiration, particularly when it came to his interpretation of the wall separating church and state. In his essay Mr. Kavanaugh wrote:

William Rehnquist… persuasively criticized the wall metaphor as “based on bad history” and “useless as a guide to judging.” Rehnquist said that the true meaning of the Establishment Clause can be seen only in its history…

…Rehnquist was central in changing the jurisprudence and convincing the Court that the wall metaphor was wrong as a matter of law and history. And that Rehnquist legacy continues, as we see in recent cases such as Town of Greece v. Galloway, which upheld the practice of prayer for local government meetings. And without the line of Rehnquist cases beginning with Mueller v. Allen, we never would have seen last term’s seven-to-two decision in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer. In that case, only two justices found an Establishment Clause problem in a state program that provided funds to schools, including religious schools, for playgrounds. There again, the Rehnquist legacy was at work.

Given Mr. Kavanaugh’s track record on issues involving separation of church and state and the mindset of the current Secretary of Education and Attorney General, it would not be surprising to see a case involving vouchers for religiously affiliated schools finding its way to the Supreme Court… and given the bent of many State governments when it comes to vouchers such a case will not be difficult to find.

Unlike Mr. Kavanaugh and his cohorts and the prevailing trend to erode the wall separating church and state, I do not believe the wall metaphor was based on bad history but rather common sense and the Founders antipathy for any unification of church and state. Indeed, many of the original settlers of our country were refugees from countries whose governments banned their religious liberty. In writing the constitution the last thing any of the Founders sought was a government that espoused any specific religious affiliation.

I fully expect Mr. Kavanaugh to be appointed. A former clerk for Justice Kennedy, Mr. Kavanaugh does not appear to be radical enough to warrant rejection and his views on church-and-state, while different from mine, are increasingly seen as “mainstream” for as Mr. Kavanaugh noted in his speech, Mr. Rehnquist did alter the prevailing sentiment on the wall metaphor. The only hope for reversing this trend is when a madrassa sues to seek equal protection under the law when a xenophobic state legislature denies them funding.

NPE Offers a Grading System for the States that Makes Sense

July 9, 2018 Leave a comment

The Network for Public Education (NPE), the public education advocacy group founded by Diane Ravitch, has used the letter grading system beloved of “reformers” to illustrate how states are performing in their efforts to resist two changes “reformers” are seeking: the expansion of deregulated charter schools and vouchers. In a brief overview of their work, the authors provide several paragraphs underscoring the overarching purpose of public education and offer this paragraph describing the effects of “reform” advocates who want to privatize the existing system of education and thereby undercut democratic local governance:

The attack on public education is also an attack on equal opportunity and civil rights. Although privatization advocates claim that private schools advance the quality of education, this is a tenuous argument to make in the face of the reality that too often there is little to no public accountability, fiscal transparency or maintenance of civil rights protections for students in privatized programs. History is replete with battles fought and sacrifices made to protect the civil rights and ensure the equality of opportunity for all students regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, disability or other immutable characteristics. The proliferation of privatization programs in the states and the redirecting of public resources for the benefit of a small percentage of the student population belies this principle of equality of opportunity for all students. Privatization in public schools weakens our democracy and often sacrifices the rights and opportunities of the majority for the presumed advantage of a small percentage of students.

They conclude with an overview of the purpose of their report card:

This report card… provides a vital accounting of each state’s democratic commitment to their public school students and their public schools, by holding it accountable for abandoning civil rights protections, transparency, accountability and adequate funding in a quest for “private” alternatives. It is designed to give citizens insight into the extent of privatization and its intended and unintended consequences for our students and our nation.

If critics of NPE’s findings— likely to be Red State legislators and Governors— argue that their grading system is too simplistic, they might want to look at the grading “systems” they use to conclude that public education is failing and their belief that “running schools like a business” is the solution.

Forbes’ Analysis of Impact of Influx of Puerto Rican Students Reflects Understanding of Expanded Mission of Public Schools

July 4, 2018 Comments off

Several months ago Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico, destroying thousands of homes and businesses and the infrastructure of the island. As a result, thousands of parents and students moved into the United States, flooding cities and regions with established Puerto Rican residents. A recent Forbes article by Maria Amante described the impact of this in-migration on the districts affected by influx of students. In doing so, Ms. Amante acknowledged that the the nation’s public schools are underfunded and are expected to take on responsibility for far more than education. In describing the funding situation, Ms. Amante matter-of-factly writes:

The (in-migration) has put a strain on school district resources, at least over the near term. Public schools are notoriously underfunded, and public investment in K-12 has declined in the majority of states in the last decade, according to a 2017 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

And in her description of the strain placed on schools, she writes:

School districts have multiple responsibilities. Not only are they entrusted with a child’s education, but to be successful in that task, they must also address a child’s health and welfare.Hurricane Maria thrust multiple traumas on the Puerto Rican students: not only did they live through a Category 4 hurricane, many saw their homes destroyed and were forced to relocate to a new, unfamiliar environment.

Our students have come with very similar experiences to refugee populations. The only thing they’d come with is the clothes on their back,” said Nadia Nashir, assistant superintendent of multilingual education at Buffalo Public Schools, where nearly 500 students from Puerto Rico relocated.

Almost nine months after Hurricane Maria, the migration continues. And classrooms and communities continue to welcome evacuees with open arms.

I was encouraged to see a mainstream publication like Forbes acknowledge that public schools are “notoriously underfunded” and are expected to take on the “health and welfare” of children as well as their education. This matter-of-fact statement could lay the groundwork for more funding for schools and the social services they partner with in an effort to support children.

I was also struck with the parallels between the de facto refugees and the many impoverished school children across our country who move from school to school and district to district because their parents are unable to afford housing. Like the Puerto Rican children, they often come to school with only the “clothes on their backs” and are constantly forced to “relocate to a new unfamiliar environment”. And, like the Puerto Rican children who survived Hurricane Maria, they are victims of education offered in schools that are “notoriously underfunded“, students who will never be helped by choices since their parents are homeless.

Unions Fight Against Two Trends: Cultural AND Political Trends

July 2, 2018 Comments off

Two articles illustrate the uphill battle unions will face in the coming years… a struggle that may well ultimately decide the well-being of workers across the entire country.

Umair Haque’s article “How American Collapse Was a Choice“, published in mid-June, postulated that five myths– myths about our culture— led our country to make bad choices when they formulated their policies. Those myths were:

  1. The myth of anarchy — ”that a society doesn’t need a government or a social contract or anything at all to bind it together, structure it, and connect it.
  2. The myth of self-reliance— Americans belief that they should be able to do it alone or they were worthless.
  3. The myth of competition. As Haque writes: “If it’s every person for themselves, if I cannot rely on you, then what is the only thing left that we can do? Compete. Outdo the next little atom. Grind him into dust. Batter him until he’s defeated.”
  4. The myth of punishment. Hague links competition and punishment, noting that like the Spartans and Romans, Americans believe that by “mercilessly punishing” those who fail to adhere to the standards set by the ruling class, they’d “end up virtuous”.
  5. The myth of the predator. Haque writes: “The great myth Americans are taught today is that human beings are born to be predators — and the biggest predator is the best thing of all to be.”

When these five myths undergird the cultural norms, organizations like unions face an uphill battle because they contradict each. And, as an article by Colleen Wilson of the website notes, the political forces are seizing on this cultural disconnect and the direction of the political winds after the Janus case to promote a flight from the union. The think tanks funded by predators create a death spiral for unions… a death spiral that will not be stopped until our cultural norms change.

Standardized Test Metrics and “Shooter Drills” Support Ethos of “Pure Capitalism”… and that Ethos Diminishes Kindness

June 29, 2018 Comments off

Medium blogger Umar Hague provides consistently thought-provoking posts about the source of our nation’s ill-being… and his post earlier this mont titled “The Origins of America’s Unique and Special Cruelty” was no exception. The picture at the top of the post, seen below, shows a group of school students hiding under bullet proof blankets during an active shooter drill.

In a paragraph near the beginning of the post, Mr. Haque poses this question:

What motivates the kind of spectacular, unique, unimiaginable, and gruesome cruelty that we see in America, which exists nowhere else in the world?

See that pic above? It’s kids huddling under bulletproof blankets, doing “active shooter drills”. That’s what I mean by “unique and spectacular cruelty”. No kid should — ever — have to be traumatized and victimized like that, and indeed, even kids in Pakistan and Iran aren’t.

My answer goes something like this. Americans, you must remember, grew up in the shadow of endless war. With two “sides” who championed atomic individualism, lionized competition and brutality, and despised weakness and fragility. And thus, America forgot — or maybe never evolved — the notion of a public interest. Each man for himself, everyone against everyone himself. So all there is left in America is extreme capitalism now. Few championed a more balanced, saner, healthier way of life, about a common good, about virtue, about a higher purpose. And in that way, America has become something like, ironically enough, a mirror image of its great enemy, the Soviet Union. It is a totalist society, run by and for one end — only a slightly different one: money.

And shooter drills are designed to instill fear and paranoia, two elements that support what Mr. Haque calls “Predatoy Capitalism”:

…because most of America is now managed by and predatory capital — even its healthcare, media, and education — there is little room, space, opportunity, chance to discuss and suggest and educate people about higher ideals, values, and purposes. For example, on the BBC, I can watch endless documentaries by academics on everything from Renaissance art to French literature — but in America, I’m stuck with Ancient Aliens, poverty porn, police-state reality shows. What is that going to teach me, show me, induce in me — except ignorance, paranoia, resentment, and spite?

The result is a kind of impoverishment we don’t often discuss. A lack, or deficit, of civilizing mechanisms. You see, in other countries, things like media, healthcare, and education, do more than just “provide a service”. Because they’re public goods, are also things that bind people together, connect them with history, bring out their better selves — not just their inner predator. Through them, by treating each other with care and respect as we share them, we learn what it is to be gentle, civilized. They educate us, in that way, about what is to be kind.

All spiritual paths talk about the need for us to love our neighbors as ourselves and treat each other the way we want to be treated. The Buddhist teachings take things a step further: they emphasize the need for people to avoid ingesting toxins, which not only include food but also media… for the Buddha realized that when individuals consume toxic news and engage in toxic conversation they are poisoning not only their own well-being, they are poisoning the well-being of the community. These are not the lessons we are teaching in our school… nor are the lessons that are currently available to the general public who perceive everything through the lens of predatory capitalism.

Which brings us to the ultimate reinforcement of the notion of predatory capitalism: standardized tests. Tests used to sort and select students and sort and select schools reinforce the concept that the only the fittest survive and the only way to get ahead is to position yourself so that you can get into the best schools possible and “beat out the competition” on some kind of metric like tests that presumably measure “intelligence”, or “aptitude”… and soon things like “emotional intelligence” and “grit”. Perform well on these assessments and you and/or your school will advance in the world… Perform badly, and you can stay at home and watch “Ancient Aliens, poverty porn, police-state reality shows.”