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Posts Tagged ‘privatization’

Flint, Michigan a Canary in the Coal Mine

November 7, 2019 Leave a comment

My stomach was churning after reading Erica Green’s article in today’s NYTimes about the Flint, Michigan public schools. The article describes how the school system has become overwhelmed with special education students as a result of the lead contamination in the public water supply, contamination that resulted when cost-cutting business-minded officials took over the governance of the town several years ago. Rather than address the root cause of some of the city’s problems, which would have cost millions of dollars in infrastructure upgrades but also created scores of jobs, the State’s overseers decided to privatize the water system. The result was devastating to the residents— particularly the residents who lived in poverty.

As I noted in a comment I left, Michigan’s schools are the fruits of the GOP leadership in the state and a harbinger of where we are headed if we continue down the path of adopting the plan to privatize public services. This article fails to emphasize is that the “problem children” in Flint schools are the result of a political decision to privatize the provision of drinking water to avoid paying for needed infrastructure upgrades.”School choice”– a privatization scheme if there ever was one– segregates “problem children” from those who behave well and play by the rules— the children of parents who can afford to pay for water. The GOP seems happy to live in a world of privatization where the victims of cost-cutting are segregated from those who can pay their way out. This is what the GOP wants when they decry the government and offer free-market “choice” as the solution for clean water, for schools, for health care, for retirement.

Flint is a canary in a coal mine. We would pay heed.

 

Warren Joins Sanders in Call to Ban For-Profit Charters, Use Wealth Tax to Fund Better Public Education

October 22, 2019 1 comment

As posted several weeks (or maybe MONTHS) ago, Bernie Sanders had separated himself from the pack of other presidential candidates by declaring his outright opposition to for-profit charters and his desire to use Federal funds to help level the playing field for public school financing. Now, according to a report by Bloomberg’s Misrelyna Egkolfopoulo, Elizabeth Warren has joined Bernie Sanders in the unreserved support for public schools… and doing him one better by offering a specific plan for funding her initiatives… and plan that calls for the transfer of $800,000,000,000 from the pockets of the top .1% to the neediest school districts. Oh… and Ms. Warren also threw down the gauntlet on those who are selling student data for commercial purposes:

Besides her vow to bar Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google from collecting student data to market products, Warren would ban the sharing, storing and sale of data with information identifying individual students to block educational technology companies and for-profit schools from selling their data to corporations. She would also tighten restrictions for companies that lobby school systems that receive federal funding.

And for-profit charter school operators will not be happy with her either:

Warren also would ban for-profit charter schools and halt federal funding to expand such schools, which she said have been an “abject failure.” She would toughen accountability requirements, direct the Internal Revenue Service to investigate any non-profit schools that break the law and expand enforcement of Justice Department whistle-blower actions for schools that commit fraud against taxpayers.

And finally, for teachers across the country, Ms. Warren would re-direct money to help increase their compensation and increase the ability of teachers’ unions to thrive.

The Massachusetts senator said she’d use some of the $450 billion in funding in her plan to increase teacher pay. She promised to replace DeVos with a former teacher and give public employees such as teachers more negotiating power while making it easier for them to join a union.

In a race to define differences among the various Democrat party aspirants, it is clear that Warren and Sanders have seized the highest ground possible in supporting democratically operated public schools. For the sake of the professionals who work in schools and the children who attend them, I hope one of them prevails in the primaries. We cannot afford another four years of the current underfunding and disrespect for public education.

Universal Free Lunch Program LOOKS LIKE A Good Idea… but COULD Be a Terrible One

October 19, 2019 Comments off

Common Dreams writer John Queally wrote a piece earlier this week supporting the proposal  advanced by Bernie Sanders and MN Representative Ilhan Omar that the US offer every child a free school lunch. This is an easy proposal to get behind for several obvious reasons, one of which was expressed in the subheading to the article:

“In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, no child should be turned away from a meal if they cannot afford it,” said Rep. Ilhan Omar.

It IS difficult to imagine how our country cannot provide free lunch to every child, especially when 1 in 5 children are going to bed hungry and a majority of students in many schools qualify for free and reduced meals. But there is one problem with offering a free lunch… and that is determining the contents of that meal. I’m listening to a book tape of Michelle Obama’s memoir and in it she describes the politics of school lunch, politics that have been in play for decades. The politics is not about Red and Blue: it’s about Green. The mega-corporations that grow and process food control what ends up on the trays of children because they can make cheap products that yield them big profits and result in result in over-sized children. Tater tots are easier to prepare, are more desirable to children, and yield higher profits for corporations than just plunking a potato on a child’s plate. The more food is processed, the greater opportunity for profits up and down the food chain, and the more likely it is that children’s diets will be compromised.

Universal free lunch is a good idea if and only if the lunch that is offered is healthy and well-balanced. Otherwise, it is unlikely to be contributing to the well-being of children though it may contribute to the bottom line of corporations.

 

The Downside of Adult Supervised Athletics: The Kids Want to Play, the Adults Want to Win

September 26, 2019 Comments off

In the early 1980s I read The Disappearance of Childhood by Neil Postman, a book that described how parents’ smothering attention was eliminating “childhood” as those in my generation experienced it. One of the sections of the book described how the emerging trend of adult managed athletic leagues displacing playground sports was eroding one of the important skills children learned on the playground: the art of arbitration. You see when we played pick-up baseball or football and playground basketball there were no officials to monitor us and no adults to tell us how to interpret the rules. We had no umpires or referees. We called our own balls-and-strikes in baseball, made decisions about pass interference on our own in football, and determined if contact in basketball was a charging violation or not in basketball. This meant that in some cases physical brawls broke out among 10-12 year olds, but by the time we reached middle school age the kids I played with all figured out that it was far better to resolve debates by setting our own rules.

A childhood friend who became a work colleague where I worked in Western Maryland for a decade posted an article from the Martinsburg WV Journal announcing that the remainder of the youth football league’s season would be cancelled. Why?

The following statement was released to The Journal in announcing the shutdown: “Attention to all parents/coaches/players in the TCYFL: Unfortunately, it has come to the point that because of the abuse, negativity and utter disrespect shown to our officials from parents, coaches and most recently from our players, the Eastern Panhandle Officials Association (EPOA) President stated today that the association will no longer schedule officials for our league games at any field.

“This means effective immediately all remaining games are canceled. This situation is troubling because of our 20-plus-year relationship with the association, but to be honest, this season has been really bad.

“The TCYFL board has reached out to the EPOA for a meeting hoping to establish severe universal field rules for parents/coaches and players to get us back on the field.”

In response to his post I wrote the following:

I’m sure you remember the pick-up games in Roslyn. Maybe it would be a blessing if we took adults out youth athletics and let the kids figure things out on their own. I fear we lost a lot when adults insisted on “organizing” leagues and taking over the fields where kids played pick-up sports. Kids liked the uniforms, the stadiums, and the attention they got. But I think you share my fond memories of playing football and baseball on the vacant lot across the street from the old football stadium in West Chester where we learned about sportsmanship and learned how to regulate ourselves…. We didn’t have spectators, uniforms, or paid officials. But we DID have a lot of fun!

Sadly, fun is the last thing children have when they play sports under the watchful gaze of parents who are invested in seeing their child succeed it puts undue pressure on them when they could be creating their own versions of football with friends or making up their own hybrid games like tennis-baseball or soccer-football. Playing little league baseball with full baseball regalia under the lights with an umpire dressed in a professional-like uniform gives the game a luster. But playing wiffle ball with three other kids in the backyard where a hit in the rosebush is an automatic double is better.

SRO Arrests 6 and 8 Year Old at Florida Charter School

September 23, 2019 Comments off

Newsweek reported that an SRO arrested a 6 and an 8 year old child at a Florida charter school. All I am say is that I hope the day never comes when this kind of thing is NOT newsworthy. The link to the article follows:

apple.news/AVYckp9SZRwOrEgJI0L-YNA

Red States Didn’t Cut As Many Services as Feared… but the Bipartisan Desire for Charter Schools Has Transformed the Debate on Public Schools

August 19, 2019 Comments off

Today’s NYTimes features an op ed article by Matt Grossmann, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University, that suggests that the GOP has not made as many adverse inroads into public services as Democrats and progressives feared. Mr. Grossman provides compelling data on the limited ability of conservatives to impose their full  agenda at the state level, in large measure because they have to provide balanced budgets. But he misses one big point: the bi-partisan support for charter schools has transformed the debate on public education. After recounting the challenges State GOP legislators faced in trying to cut popular programs, Mr. Grossman offers this summary of the successes the GOP experienced:

Surprisingly, the biggest Republican state success stories came in partnership with Democrats. After decades of tough-on-crime policies, conservative groups joined with liberal foundations to reform criminal justice in several states. Taking advantage of federal action by Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and (especially) Barack Obama, conservative legislators helped greatly expand charter schools. Early childhood education and alternative energy promotion also expanded nationwide, largely on a bipartisan basis.

Mr. Grossman overlooked a very significant shift that appears to have taken place as a result of the Democrats adopting the neoliberal idea that public schools should be operated independently of local school boards.

The bi-patrisan support for charter schools means the debate between those seeking governance of public education by locally ELECTED officials as opposed to governance by private UNELECTED boards is over. The debate is now about whether parents’ decisions about where their child attends school should be made as citizens seeking options for government funded services (i.e. charter “schools-of-choice” vs. traditional schools “assigned by the government”) or made as consumers able to choose from a wide array of products (i.e. vouchers). In short, the debate is no longer between attending the “government school” that is funded with state and/or local taxes or choosing from an array of charters approved by the local and/or State Board. The debate is now between choice and vouchers… allowing parents to take their “school tax allocation” and applying to whatever school they wish to attend— on line, nearby, or distant. It appears that there is bi-partisan support for the abandonment of the governance model that has been in place for decades whereby local communities fund schools overseen by elected school boards that their local resident children must attend. Mr. Grossman may not see this as consequential. As a retired public school administrator I do.

Where Democrats Land on Charter Schools is Less Important Than Where They Land on Testing

August 14, 2019 Comments off

I was heartened to read an American Prospect article last month by Rachel Cohen indicating that virtually all of the Democrats running for President have taken a position in opposition to for profit charters. The positions range from Bernie Sanders, who echoes the NAACP language verbatim, to Beto O’Rourke, who issued a squishy statement saying that “there is a place for public nonprofit charter schools, but private charter schools and voucher programs—not a single dime in my administration will go to them.” Even Cory Booker, the man who brought for profit schools to Newark, is equivocating on his pro-charter stance. Here’s a twitter post he issued:

Sen. Cory Booker speaks in Newton, IA: “I’m a guy who believes in public education and, in fact, I look at some of the charter laws that are written about this country and states like this and I find them really offensive.”

This is all good news… but in the end it dodges the real problem with public education, which is the accountability model that is based predominantly on standardized test results. As long as schools are sorted into “success” and “failure” bins based on their test scores the teachers in public schools will be compelled to teach to the test and the students in most schools in this nation will be subject to curricula and instruction based on passing a test or facing some kind of political consequence that will reinforce two faulty premises: that students can get better test scores if they and the teachers apply themselves; and, if students attain higher test scores they will be successful later in life. Neither of premises have any basis in reality… yet both of them are ingrained in the voters minds.

It would be especially heartening if one of the candidates for President emphasized this point… but I sense that because doing so would require them to question the whole basis for school accountability they will avoid the issue altogether and testing— and sorting— will continued unabated.