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Has the NYTimes Seen the Light? Diane Ravitch Sees Progress in Op Ed by Miriam Pawel

January 16, 2019 Leave a comment

From my perspective, it is heartening to see the LA teachers strike making national news despite the headline grabbing government shutdown and the ongoing political bickering that accompanies it. But, as noted in earlier posts on this issue, the LA strike HAS national ramifications for it ISN’T about wages and working conditions in a lone district. The LA strike is about an ongoing battle within the Democratic Party about privatization of public services: between the “Reform/Reinventing Government” wing of the party that has embraced the idea that the private sector should take over more and more government functions and the “Roosevelt” wing of the party who sees a strong government as necessary to eliminate poverty and racism and eliminate the distortions in our economy that have emerged since Reagan proposed that “government is the problem”.

Thus far, the NYTimes has reliably taken the side of the “Reform/Reinventing Government” wing of the democrats, going so far as to reject countless articles on the ills of privatization from Diane Ravitch. But in a post yesterday, Ms. Ravitch pointed to an op ed article by fellow education historian Miriam Pawel as evidence that MAYBE the Times has seen the light! In “Whats Really at Stake in the Los Angeles Teachers Strike”, Ms. Pawel describes the recent history of public education in California in general and Los Angeles in particular, tracing the decline in public school quality to the passage of Proposition 13… and tracing the passage of THAT law to racism:

In the fall of 1978, after years of bitter battles to desegregate Los Angeles classrooms, 1,000 buses carried more than 40,000 students to new schools. Within six months, the nation’s second-largest school district lost 30,000 students, a good chunk of its white enrollment. The busing stopped; the divisions deepened.

Those racial fault lines had helped fuel the tax revolt that led to Proposition 13, the sweeping tax-cut measure that passed overwhelmingly in June 1978. The state lost more than a quarter of its total revenue.School districts’ ability to raise funds was crippled; their budgets shrank for the first time since the Depression. State government assumed control of allocating money to schools, which centralized decision-making in Sacramento.

Public education in California has never recovered, nowhere with more devastating impact than in Los Angeles, where a district now mostly low-income and Latino has failed generations of children most in need of help.The decades of frustration and impotence have boiled over in a strike with no clear endgame and huge long-term implications. The underlying question is: Can California ever have great public schools again?

As Ms. Pawel goes on to note, the problems whose roots can be found in Proposition 13 got even worse when deregulated charter schools were offered as the “solution”. These schools siphon funds away from public schools, which creates a cycle Ms. Powell describes in one paragraph:

It’s a vicious cycle: The more overcrowded and burdened the regular schools, the easier for charters to recruit students. The more students the district loses, the less money, and the worse its finances. The more the district gives charters space in traditional schools, the more overcrowded the regular classrooms.

And because billionaire Eli Broad spent millions to elect a pro-charter school board who, in turn, appointed a business-minded Superintendent with no experience, LA finds itself mired in a strike… a strike unlike any witnessed by a veteran mediator:

“In my 17 years working with labor unions, I have been called on to help settle countless bargaining disputes in mediation,” wrote Vern Gates, the union-appointed member of the fact-finding panel called in to help mediate the Los Angeles stalemate last month. “I have never seen an employer that was intent on its own demise.”

Like President Trump and the Tea Party wing who want to diminish the effectiveness of government, the LA school board seems to be intent on ruining what is left of the public school system in Los Angeles. Ms. Pawel concludes her op ed with this sobering description of what is at stake:

This strike comes at a pivotal moment for California schools, amid recent glimmers of hope. Demographic shifts have realigned those who vote with those who rely on public services like schools. Voters approved state tax increases to support education in 2012, and again in 2016. In the most recent election, 95 of 112 school bond issues passed, a total of over $15 billion. The revised state formula drives more money into districts with more low-income students and English learners. Total state school aid increased by $23 billion over the past five years, and Governor Newsom has proposed another increase.

If Los Angeles teachers can build on those gains, the victory will embolden others to push for more, just as teachers on the rainy picket lines this week draw inspiration from the successful #RedforEd movements around the country. The high stakes have drawn support from so many quarters, from the Rev. James Lawson, the 90-year-old civil rights icon, to a “Tacos for Teachers” campaign to fund food on the picket lines.

If this fight for public education in Los Angeles fails, it will consign the luster of California schools to an ever more distant memory.

From my perspective, it IS heartening that voters in California have supported tax increases to upgrade their schools and their legislature is sending more of those funds to economically deprived districts. But if those districts, like LA, use their funds to expand privatization Los Angeles schools will lose their luster forever… and the billionaires will prevail… the Winners WILL Take All.

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Georgia Columnist Offers Good Synopsis of ALEC’s Anti-Democratic (and Racist) Ploys

January 7, 2019 Leave a comment

Marietta Daily Journal columnist Keven Foley recently offered an insightful op ed describing how elected officials supported by ALEC undercut public schools and, in doing so, undercut democracy and support racism.

In the column Mr. Foley provides background on how ALEC legislation offering tax credits drained resources away from public schools and how ALEC-like local legislation limited the taxes wealthy non-parent had to pay. He then described how the recent mid-terms brought two candidates into office as school board members and then quoted from a letter-to-the-editor written by an ALEC legislator and offered his reaction to their letter as follows:

“Two Grinches are coming to the Cobb Board of Education and their names are Charisse Davis and Jaha Howard,” began Mrs. Ehrhart. “My fervent warning to the good folks of Cobb-ville is to bolt the doors and guard their pocketbooks lest the BOE’s newest members attempt a late-night smash-and-grab in the name of educational funding … they too are looking to rob taxpayers through a millage rate increase while simultaneously snatching the rug of security out from under our seniors and stuffing it up the chimney. That’s a double punch to the gut.”

Are you picking up what Mrs. Ehrhart is putting down? “Smash-and-grab,” “rob,” “punch,” all words evoking crime and stoking fear. It doesn’t take a dog to understand the whistle she’s blowing.

Mr. Foley is right: it DOESN’T take a dog to understand the whistle she’s blowing…. though it might take an especially perceptive dog to understand the whistle ALEC is blowing when it seeks to privatize public schools… This old dog, though, isn’t fooled!

 

Washington Post Editorial Board Concludes that the Trump Administration Favors GUN Rights Over CIVIL Rights

January 1, 2019 Comments off

Our local newspaper often reprints editorials from the Washington Post, and a reprinted editorial earlier this week summarized the recent report from the Trump administration on gun violence in schools that I wrote about earlier in December… and it did so in a far more forceful and eloquent fashion. Like me, the editorial board of the Washington Post was appalled and perplexed about the Commission on School Violence’s recommendation that a federal policy that protects minority students from unfair discipline be scrapped. But the Post emphasized the disconnect between gun violence and the civil rights issue of uneven disciplinary treatment between students of color and white males:

Most school shootings are committed by white males. That didn’t stop the commission, which includes three other Cabinet members, from recommending a rollback of guidance issued in 2014 to curb racial disparities in discipline.Black students, starting from preschool, are more often disciplined in school and receive harsher punishments than white students for comparable offenses. The 2014 guidance — which was formally rescinded by DeVos and acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker — properly prodded schools to examine disproportionate discipline rates for black students and reminded schools they can be held accountable for violations of federal civil rights laws.

The guidance was non-binding and, as Rep. Robert “Bobby” Scott of Virginia, ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee who will become committee chair next year, rightly pointed out, had absolutely no connection to school shootings.

“Rather than confronting the role of guns in gun violence, the Trump administration blames school shootings on civil rights enforcement,” he said in a statement.

Why was this included in the Commission report while any mention of gun control was omitted? The answer can be found in the final word of the Washington Post’s editorial:

But using school shootings that have been perpetrated by angry young white men to justify punishing black schoolchildren disproportionately is particularly base.

And this recommendation, conflating civil rights with gun violence in schools, appeals to Mr. Trump’s base while overlooking the real problems that contribute to shootings in schools. The “distract and divide” strategy continues….

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In Privatization Debate, it’s the Walton’s Billions vs the NAACP’s Principles

December 26, 2018 Comments off

A recent AP article in that appeared in the Chattanooga Times Free Press described the ongoing debate that is raging in the black community between the NAACP and (presumably) grassroots organizations consisting of parents whose children are enrolled in deregulated for profit charter schools. The lines of the debate have been delineated in several posts in this blog, but here’s how they are outlined in the AP report:

The Walton family, as one of the leading supporters of America’s charter school movement, is spreading its financial support to prominent and like-minded black leaders, from grassroots groups focused on education to mainstream national organizations such as the United Negro College Fund and Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, according to an Associated Press analysis of tax filings and nonprofit grants data….

While some black leaders see charters as a safer, better alternative in their communities, a deep rift of opinion was exposed by a 2016 call for a moratorium on charters by the NAACP, a longtime skeptic that expressed concerns about school privatization, transparency and accountability issues. The Black Lives Matter movement is also among those that have demanded charter school growth be curbed.

One of the big problems in determining who is on which side and who is on the right side is the source of funding for these various groups. As noted in the first paragraph, the Walton family, whose primary motivation appears to be profit, is underwriting what are described as “grassroots groups” along with “mainstream national organizations” making it difficult to know the extent to which these groups are truly speaking their own minds as opposed to the minds of their financial backers.

Another major complication from my perspective is that the engaged parents, those who want and expect the best from their public schools, will do whatever they can to get the best education for their children. And, if their neighborhood school falls short of their standards and a charter school seems better for their child, it is difficult for me to stand in the way of them doing what they believe is best for their child. As a by-stander or as a school superintendent I think it would be problematic to tell them that they should sacrifice the well-being of their child based and instead join with those who are seeking funding reforms so that all of the children in their “short-of-the-standard” neighborhood school can benefit.

Since the non-engaged parents are those most likely to be trapped in single-parent roles, trapped in low wage employment, and incapable of having the time rescources needed to advocate for their children and their children’s neighborhood schools, it is incumbent on principled groups like the NAACP, Black Lives Matter, and hopefully  mainstream national organizations who are not compromised by the lavish funds showered on them by the likes of the Waltons, to advocate for the social justice issue of equitable school funding.

Misrepresentation of “Obama Era Policy” Exemplifies Why Our Nation is Divided

December 24, 2018 Comments off

My daily Google feed invariably provides me with one blatant example of right wing propaganda a week, and this morning’s doozy from the “One America News Network” is pasted below in it’s entirety with egregious misrepresentations in bold italics:

Trump Administration Revokes Obama-Era Policy Urging Public Schools To Be Lenient On Students Of Color

OAN Newsroom
8:15 PM PT – Sat. Dec. 22, 2018

The Trump Administration scraps another Obama-era policy urging public schools to be more lenient with students of color.

The Education and Justice departments on Friday removed the 2014 rule, which the Federal School Safety Commission claims may have actually made schools less safe.

This comes after the prior administration issued guidelines, claiming students of color are disproportionately impacted by suspensions and expulsions,allegedly leading to the “school-to-prison” pipeline.

The Commission, however, claimed the policy tied the hands of teachers and administrators and ultimately decided disciplining students is best left to school officials.

The so-called “Obama-era policy” did NOT urge “public schools to be more lenient with students of color.” The purpose of the policy, as noted in a fact sheet prepared by Democratic Congressmen, was to remind schools that “Under Titles IV and VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, schools have legal obligations to administer student discipline without discriminating on the base of race, color, or national origin.

The “Obama-era policy” provided unassailable data demonstrating that a disproportionate number of students of color were suspended and expelled from school. This is not a “claim”… it is a FACT that cannot be altered any more than the time of the sunrise and sunset can be altered.

Similarly it is a fact that a disproportionate number of students of color have been arrested in school and placed in programs that increase the probability that they will end up in prison.

Finally, as written in this blog on more than one occasion and noted repeatedly in the mainstream and progressive news sites, none of the school shooters were minority students. None. The Federal Commission on School Safety was created by Betsy DeVos in the wake of the shootings in Florida and was charged with developing policies and guidelines that would address the horrific mass shootings that plague public schools. Given that NONE of these shootings were perpetrated by students of color it is hard to see how the elimination of a Civil Rights directive addresses this problem.

After reading this misleading and inaccurate report from a news agency, I wondered who was behind the agency and what their purpose might be. When clicked on “about” link at the bottom of the web page, I found that the “One America News Network” was actually an arm of the Herring Networks and when I entered their name into Goolge I eventually found my way to this Wikipedia post describing “One America News Network”. Here’s what I found:

One America News Network (OANN), also referred to as One America News(OAN), is an American right-wing[1] pay television news channel launched on July 4, 2013 owned by Herring Networks, Inc. The network is headquartered in San Diego, California, and operates a news bureau in Washington, D.C.[2] and New York City.

Originally launched with the intention of targeting a conservative and center-right audience,[3][4] OAN states a goal of delivering credible national and international news coverage throughout the day while its prime time political talk shows illustrate a conservative perspective.[5][6][7] According to The Washington Post, the channel has risen to greater prominence due to its pro-Trumpcoverage.[8] The channel has been noted for promoting falsehoods and conspiracy theories.[9][10]

If you want to know WHY this group is promoting the idea that the “Obama era policy” was designed to urge public schools to be more lenient with students of color.I encourage you to read the comment section… but only after pouring yourself a strong cup of coffee. You will see that racism is alive and well among the readers of OAN….

 

Portland OR’s Hears a Cautionary Tale About Good Guys With Guns… and Illustrates How Costs WILL Shift in the Future

December 17, 2018 Comments off

Elise Herron’s Willamette Week story of the harrowing experience of a Beaverton school district student who was accused of stealing a calculator illustrates everything that is wrong with “hardening” schools… and the fiscal realities facing Portland Schools in their effort to secure more police is even more harrowing!

The description of an incident that involved Gregory McKelvey, a student of color, when he attended middle school in Beaverton OR, a suburb of Portland, opens the story:

“He got a warrant to investigate me for a stolen calculator,” McKelvey writes, “that I didn’t steal. He kicked down my door after school one day with eight other cops in riot gear with guns drawn on my Grandma.”

McKelvey alleges he and his grandmother were held at gunpoint as officers trashed his room and confiscated belongings. He says he spent the next few years “always terrified” at school.

It also led to Mr. McKelvey becoming an anti-SRO activist.. for good reason:

“The problem is, for many people, that cop is not a good guy,” McKelvey says. “I think that a lot of white people and white parents that hear these stories think that it’s just so outlandish and outrageous that it couldn’t be possible because it doesn’t happen to their kids. But it happens to so many kids that the stories are just going to continue to flood in.”

McKelvey hopes that sharing about his experiences with his school resource officer will shed light on how police presence affects students of color.

“The focus on the calculator I know seems outrageous,” McKelvey says, “but I would prefer the focus to be on years long intimidation of the threat of arrest [students of color experience] when white kids don’t have to deal with that. They get detention.”

As bad as Mr. McKelvey’s experiences were, the decision of the Portland School Board to spend $1,000,000 to add more nine SROs is even worse. Prior to this year, the POLICE budgeted the SROs. By assuming the fiscal responsibility for the SROs the Portland School Board is spending precious resources on enforcement instead of using those funds to provide more counsellors, more mental health workers, and more support for students. In effect, fear has trumped love in Portland. No wonder students of color are angry.

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Researchers Find America’s Sad Secret: Racial Fear Works as a Political Strategy

October 25, 2018 Comments off

As often noted in this blog, the differences between Democrats and Republicans are slight when it comes to the privatization agenda of major donors. Both parties favor some form of “choice” as the “solution” to our “failing” public schools. The GOP wants to choice to be completely open, to include parochial schools, and to be driven solely by the marketplace. They wholeheartedly endorse Milton Friendman’s idea of vouchers. The Democratic Party casts the idea of “choice” in the context of their notion that market forces can make government better by promoting competition which, in turn, introduces innovation. Their “voucher lite” approach began by encouraging public school districts to sponsor their own charter schools but quickly devolved into avoiding any blocking of for profit K-12 schools and a willingness to deregulate to encourage competition.

But there is one area where the Democratic Party is morally superior to the GOP, and that is in the debates about race. For decades the GOP sent coded messages that associated government spending with race and of late the party’s nominal leader, President Trump, and his strategists have dropped all pretenses on race, using a caravan of Honduran refugees as a ploy to drum up support for his party in the upcoming midterms. During the time when the GOP used Welfare Queens, Willie Horton, and anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric the Democratic Party promoted an African American to the head of their ticket and continue to promote Affirmative Action programs and a safety net that, while tattered, is still defended.

Last month, Eric Levitz of the New York Magazine wrote an article that was titled– or, I believe MIS-titled “Study: You Can Get Whites to Oppose Welfare With This One Weird Trick”. The “weird trick” according to a study by sociologists at Stanford and UC Berkeley is this:

(If you) Get white Americans focused on their racial fears and resentments,a lot of them will vote against the blacks instead of the plutocrats — and some will even come to believe that welfare programs don’t redistribute resources from the wealthy to working people, but rather, from diligent whites to indolent minorities. 

Mr. Levitz then describes how the researchers went about gathering evidence to “prove” the validity of America’s dirty little secret: Racial Fear wins out over reason and facts and economic disparity. He then goes on to note how one political party, the GOP, used this dirty little secret to win elections at all levels of government since 1972.

He concludes his essay with this:

Many pundits attribute the sorry state of American politics in 2018 to the “polarization” of the electorate; to a partisan tribalism that has led voters to prioritize the triumph of their team over progress on broadly popular policy goals. Such commentators would do well to ask who benefits from the fact that tribal conflict inhibits the passage of majoritarian policies in the United States — and to consider the possibility that voters did not polarize themselves.

The “broadly popular policy goals” he references are the desire for higher taxes on the top 1% and the desire for universal health care… both of which have been pushed to the background because of the misperception that if taxes are increased on the rich the main beneficiaries will be minorities and if health care is increased the costs will be picked up primarily by “had working whites”.

But here’s what Mr. Levitz should have pointed out: the use of race to promote “the triumph of their team” plays to the basest instincts in humanity and ignites an animus that is difficult if not impossible to offset with reason. And he should not have characterized the use of racial fear as a “weird trick”… he should have called it what it is: morally reprehensible.