Archive

Posts Tagged ‘vicious cycle of poverty’

Derrell Bradford’s Thoughtful Insights on the Benefits of Choice

March 29, 2017 Leave a comment

When I saw a link to an article in the pro-choice, pro-voucher publication The 74 that countered the compelling arguments advanced by NYTimes writer Nichole Hannah-Jones, I was tempted to skip it, believing it would be a shallow and infuriating screed that reinforced the often simplistic positions taken by writers on that website. After reading the article by Derrell Bradford, though, I find myself needing to re-frame and re-calibrate my opposition to choice… particularly in urban settings. And even more surprisingly, I found myself agreeing with Mr. Bradford’s argument in favor of choice that was derived from a quote by Rod Paige, George W. Bush’s appointee to Secretary of Education who launched the “choice” movement embedded in NCLB that ultimately led us to Betsy DeVos:

Former secretary of education Rod Paige once offered that the country’s public schools have two incredible powers. The first is mandatory attendance: you will go to school; and the second is mandatory assignment: you will go to this school.

And even though state constitutional language varies on the kind and caliber of education a child will receive under these edicts, what’s certain is this: When a public institution can conscript you into a school with a long track record of underperformance, the egalitarian spirit of education, available to all, paid for by taxpayers and free at the point of delivery, is not only not served, it is subverted. The moment the state and public schools can force you into something that will likely inhibit your ability to be free and equal in the future — as is the case with children of color in underperforming public schools — you don’t control them anymore.

As noted in many earlier posts, I have long believed that exclusionary zoning and the economic segregation that results from that practice are the root cause of inequality or opportunity and the primary reason that social mobility is thwarted. Equal opportunity is impossible in our current world where children born into a particular zip code benefit from well-funded schools attended by classmates whose parents have college degrees while other children are effectively penalized by being born into a different zip code where schools cannot be well-funded and their classmates are from less educated backgrounds.

From my perspective, there are two ways to work around this issue: one is to provide more funding to less affluent districts and the other is to eliminate attendance zones within districts and between districts.

Providing equitable funding would make certain that if you are required to attend this school in an under-resourced district you can be confident that it has the same resources as that school in a fully-resourced district.  But providing equitable funding would require an increase in taxes and a redistribution of funds. Both of these are an anathema to voters who have been convinced that “throwing money” at schools is not the solution and it is “unfair” to ask those who worked hard for their earnings to “give money” to those who are “takers”.

Eliminating attendance zones between school districts and within school districts would also help eliminate the differences between this school and that school… but doing so would require a means of transporting students to the school of their choice and require some form of a lottery to ensure equitable opportunity. This poses a logistical challenge in all cases, a geographical challenge in some cases, and would result in diminished real estate values in those neighborhoods and communities where affluent residents live. In short, this, too, is unlikely to occur.

This unwillingness to pay more taxes or to allow mobility between and within districts led to the work around called “choice”. By abandoning the requirement that students are assigned to this school based on attendance zones or district boundaries, and creating “charter schools” that can draw from any part of the city or region, parents are able to enroll children in the “school of their choice”. Since the number of charter schools was limited, the schools themselves got the”choice” of students, and they often avoided choosing those children with special needs or those children whose parents failed to submit detailed paperwork. In other words, parents could only go to that school if they and their children passed muster… hardly the egalitarian model Rod Paige envisioned and hardly the egalitarian model The 74 suggests would emerge if schools competed with each other.

This “choice” workaround is based on the paradigm that “schooling” is a commodity and “schools” are enterprises that like shopping malls where consumers can go to whatever store they wish. And like that paradigm, the high-end shopping malls and grocery stores are used by the affluent while those without resources have no malls whatsoever and are forced to buy groceries from bodegas with limited elections.

In the end both Mr. Bradford and Ms. Hannah-Jones are engaged in fantastical thinking. Mr. Bradford believes that unregulated capitalism is inherently fair and there is virtue in selfishness. Ms. Hannah-Jones, like me, believes that in a democracy people will ultimately seek a solution that is fair to all, one that will require those with means to willingly share with those who have less opportunity due solely to accidents of birth. I hope the democracy minded voters will prevail.

 

Supreme Court Decides in Favor of Special Education Parent, Sets Stage for More Downshifting of Costs, Public School Budget Increases

March 25, 2017 Leave a comment

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court unanimously supported the parents of an autistic child who unilaterally withdrew their child from school and sought tuition reimbursement. In what will surely become a landmark case for public education, Politico writer Caitlin Emma reported that the judges all concurred that “school districts must go the extra mile to accommodate students with disabilities“, overturning the 1982 Supreme Court ruling that individualized education plans must provide “some educational benefit”. Ms. Emma offered some details on the Chief Justice Roberts’ written decision:

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court that a “child’s education program must be appropriately ambitious in light of his circumstances, just as advancement from grade to grade is appropriately ambitious for most children in the regular classroom.”

“The goals may differ, but every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives. This standard is more demanding than the ‘merely more than de minimis’ test applied by the Tenth Circuit.”

Roberts declined to interpret that FAPE provision or elaborate on “appropriate” — “mindful that Congress has not materially changed the statutory definition of a FAPE since Rowley was decided.”

But he said the requirement must be “an educational program reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.”

During the years I served as a school administrator I witnessed the advent of PL 94-142 and subsequent court fights over what the term “Free and Appropriate Education” (FAPE) meant. At the same time I heard endless excuses from the US Congress as to why they could not find the promised funding necessary for schools to implement the laws and regulations that mandated FAPE. In 1982, when the Rowley case was decided, districts had some degree of clarity on what they were required to provide to students with special needs: they needed to demonstrate that a child was receiving some educational benefit from the IEP developed in team meetings with parents. Because this was a low bar, over the years many parents pushed to change this standard, to no avail until the Endrew v. Douglas County case decided on Wednesday.

The consequences of this decision will take some time to work their way through the system. Students’ IEPs are reviewed annually and many 2017-18 plans are already adopted. It will take time for parent advocacy networks to gear up and time for school district attorneys to get a clear picture of what this will mean for the development of future IEPs. The budgetary and educational impacts of this bill will likely occur in 2018-19 onward, but here are three budgetary predictions I will offer:

  1. The Federal government is more likely to change the definition of FAPE than it is to provide the 40% funding promised when 94-142 was passed: Given the budget presented by President Trump in accordance with the GOP platform, I do not see any possibility of an increase in funding for Special Education. Indeed, given the broad outlines of the budget thus far, it is more likely that the current budget will be frozen or possibly diminished.
  2. The State budgets for the coming year will not include additional funding to help underwrite the costs district will incur: Given that the GOP controls 35 of the States and they are universally intent on containing taxes and spending, it is unlikely that they will find room in their future budgets to accommodate the additional spending that will inevitably result from this decision. Moreover, given the nascent movement that directs more state funds toward de-regulated charters, homeschool students, or students enrolled in sectarian schools, the pool of funds available for public schools is likely to diminish without the additional burden of providing expanded programs for special needs students.
  3. Local budgets will be required to absorb all of the budgetary impact that results from this decision: If, as a result of this decision, more students are placed in specialized programs like the one Endrew sought, their tuition costs will accelerate and local taxes will increase or programs will be compromised. If, as a result of this decision, districts decide to independently or collaboratively develop specialized programs, the additional costs for those programs will be drawn from local taxes or programs will be compromised.

Given those budgetary predictions and the impact of the State’s movement that allocates more funds for parents whose children attend de-regulated charters, are homeschooled, or enrolled in sectarian schools, the diminishment of funds and resultant diminishment of offerings for regular education students will likely result in flight from public schools.

There will be exceptions to this flight from public education, however. Affluent communities who value their schools and want the best for all students enrolled in the schools and already pay higher taxes may not experience higher costs. Many of these districts are already providing programs for special needs children that are, in Judge Robert’s words,  “…reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.”  Districts offering programs that already meet this standard will not feel the same pressures as districts who strictly adhered to the de minimus standard set by Rowley. Those districts, whose barrier to entry is the need to qualify for a mortgage on an expensive home, will continue to thrive.

The districts who will suffer the most and experience the most flight will be those with limited tax bases who serve low income children. As costs are shifted downward and mandates for special education and costs escalate, their budgets will become increasingly tight and they will be forced to cut programs. As programs diminish, the parents who are most engaged in their children’s education will withdraw and the district will be serving the most difficult population: children raised in poverty whose parents are also struggling.

I do believe the Supreme Court did the right thing in this case. I wholeheartedly concur with Judge Roberts’ assertion that a child’s education program must be appropriately ambitious in light of his circumstances”. My fear is that while the courts will continue to rule in favor of children and parents, the legislature will continue to shirk it’s responsibility to provide the means for ALL districts to provide an appropriately ambitious program for ALL children. I would love to be proven wrong.

 

Thomas Edsall Describes the Vicious Circle of Poverty, Fails to Describe the Best Way Out

March 24, 2017 Leave a comment

In his NYTimes column yesterday, Thomas Edsall offered an insightful and thorough description of the vicious circle of poverty with graphs, research citations, raw data, and paragraphs like this that summarize his findings:

The result is a vicious circle: family disruption perpetuates disadvantage by creating barriers to the development of cognitive and noncognitive skills, which in turn sharply reduces access to college. The lack of higher education decreases life chances, including the likelihood of achieving adequate material resources and a stable family structure for the next generation.

The factors that contribute to “family disruption” are being born to a single parent, being born to a mother who lacks a high school degree, and being born into a household that is below the poverty line.  Mr. Edsall offers evidence that those factors are increasing substantially among less educated populous, noting particularly the non marital birthrate which has jumped among mothers with a high school education level or less but remained steady among college educated parents. This circumstance of birth, in turn, leads to better lives for children born into college-educated married families:

The authors of the “Diverging Patterns” paper — Shelly Lundberg and Jenna Stearns of the University of California-Santa Barbara, and Robert A. Pollak of Washington University in St. Louis – make the case that

there are good reasons to think that children are key to the socioeconomic differences in marriage behavior.

For college graduates, they argue, “marriage has become the commitment device that supports intensive joint investments in children,” a cooperative “joint project of raising economically successful children.” In contrast, they write,

the expected returns to child investments by parents with limited resources and uncertain futures may be lower than for more educated parents with greater and more secure investment capabilities.

At the conclusion of his article, Mr. Edsall draws a series of conclusions, which are summarized below:

First, the spectrum of noncognitive skills and character strengths are a major factor in American class stratification.

Second, neither religious leaders nor practicing politicians nor government employees have found the levers that actually make disadvantaged families more durable or functional.

For liberals and the Democratic Party, the continued failure of government initiatives to achieve measurable gains in the acquisition of valuable noncognitive skills by disadvantaged youngsters constitutes a major liability.

Advocates for the disadvantaged must also highlight and capitalize on the many demonstrably effective antipoverty solutions already well known to the academic, research and nonprofit communities. Without better funded and better crafted organization and advocacy on behalf of the poor, the propaganda and accusations now emanating from the right will ineluctably reshape the law of the land — and once institutionalized, such “remedies” could prove staggeringly difficult to reverse.

For public schools, these translate into the following action steps:

  • Schools need to emphasize noncognitive skills and character strengths. These have long been a part of the “hidden curriculum” that is implicit in codes of conduct and the timely submission of homework, term papers, etc.
  • Schools need to work collaboratively with religious leaders, practicing politicians, and other government employees to identify intervention strategies that have promise. This is easier said than done in the hostile environment that exists today where much of the political capital is spent on shifting the blame and most of the agencies expend much of their efforts fighting for increasingly scarce tax dollars.
  • The media need to emphasize the pointlessness of gathering data that measures “non cognitive skills”. If the public and politicians have learned anything from the “school reform” movement it should be thiscollecting data for the purpose of “measuring performance” of groups of students is pointless and will always lead to the same result. Whenever time is a fixed part of the measurement of anything (e.g. by the time a student enters “x” grade or is “y” years old), the students who have the strongest start in life— in the development of cognitive and non cognitive skills— will always do better. As noted in earlier posts, when I began my career as a public school administrator in the mid-1970s the state of Pennsylvania administered a test to all students and determined that there was a high correlation between test scores and a mother’s education and father’s occupation based on a metric that scaled work from professional careers to laborers. Mr. Edsall breathlessly reported the same findings— forty years later.
  • Intervention programs need to begin MUCH earlier: It is clear that nurturance is crucially important for both the acquisition of non cognitive and cognitive skills. It is also clear that mothers who were not raised in an environment where nurturance was present are challenged to provide that kind of environment without support.
  • Only government programs can provide those programs. That is “Government is the solution, NOT the problem”. Mr. Edsall is correct in his final point: “Advocates for the disadvantaged must also highlight and capitalize on the many demonstrably effective antipoverty solutions already well known to the academic, research and nonprofit communities.” And here’s my hunch: when those advocates highlight the successful programs they will find that the only way to bring those programs to scale is to provide money raised through taxes to make them government programs. As noted frequently in this blog, before we can restore our faith in the ability of anyone to climb out of poverty we need to restore our faith in the ability of government to provide programs for those in poverty. We need to recognize that part of being a citizen in this country is to help those in need and share the fruits of our good fortune.

 

GOP Budget Analysis: Housing and Urban Development Cuts Devastate Cities, Hurt Children

March 19, 2017 Leave a comment

With the GOP in control of the House, Senate, and White House, their President has an opportunity to advance a budget that accomplishes everything set forth the GOP platform, and, as NYTimes writer Yamiche Alcindor related in an article that appeared on Thursday, cities are going to suffer mightily as a result. Here’s Mr. Alcindor’s overview of the HUD budget cuts:

Mr. Trump spent months on the campaign trail promising to fix “broken” inner cities, appealing to African-Americans with the question, “What do you have to lose?”

In terms of money, the answer turns out to be: plenty. Mr. Trump would cut the budget of the Department of Housing and Urban Development by 13 percent and eliminate programs like the Community Development Block Grant, which cities have used to fund programs like Meals on Wheels as well as homeless shelters and neighborhood revitalization initiatives.

His budget proposal would eliminate the Commerce Department’s Minority Business Development Agency, the Education Department’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which run before- and after-school programs, as well as low-income heating assistance, community services block grants and the HOME Investment Partnership, which helps state and local governments build, buy and rehabilitate affordable housing.

It would cut funding for rental assistance and job training. In fact, the budget reaches deep into every agency to cut programs for the urban poor. Even the Department of Energy’s small weatherization program to help insulate the houses of the poor — obscure to even seasoned government watchers — would be eliminated.

Using the city of Baltimore as an example of the adverse impact, Mr. Alcindor offers some specific examples of the impact these cuts would have on one city. He quotes Karen D. Stokes, the chief executive officer of Strong City Baltimore, on the citizens who benefit from her program: “These are people who are trying to better themselves. They are here trying to become productive citizens. There is nobody here looking for a handout.”

Even GOP leaders are wary of these cuts, viewing them as contradictory to the message conservatives are trying to send and ultimately do not help solve some of the intractable problems he faced as the mayor of a small city:

Scott Smith, a Republican who was mayor of Mesa, Ariz., for six years, said the Community Development Block Grant program lined up with the ideals of small-government conservatives by providing communities flexible money. Mr. Smith said he used the funds to operate a shelter for dozens of homeless veterans with mental health issues.

“If you cut home grants, you still will have people struggling to get housing,” he said. “If you cut Community Development Block Grant programs, you will still have the homeless veteran.”

This just in, Mr. Smith: your political party no longer cares about “people struggling to get housing” or “the homeless veteran“… They are looking out for their donors who are “makers” and not those who are taking from them to enroll in programs that help those who “… are here trying to become productive citizens”. 

A Deeper Dive into the Trump-GOP Budget: $$$ for Wars, Cuts for Peace, Poverty Programs, and Children

March 17, 2017 Leave a comment

David IngoldChloe WhiteakerMichael Keller and Hannah Recht, three Bloomberg writers, posted an article Thursday that identified 19 agencies that would be completely eliminated and “at least 61 other programs” that would lose funding altogether in the Trump-GOP budget. They also identify those programs that stand to gain from the cuts. The verbiage in the article itself is as spare as the spending will be for social programs:

U.S. President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal includes massive cuts across most of the federal government. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture face unprecedented discretionary funding cuts in excess of 25 percent, as Trump attempts to boost the military and national security.

Trump’s budget also proposes eliminating discretionary funding altogether for at least 19 agencies and 61 other programs. Plans for new NASA missions, climate change research, aid for low-income families and funding for commercial flights to rural airports would all be on the chopping block. Trump says many of these programs are inefficient or duplicative. All this could change; Trump will deliver a final budget in May and Congress would have to approve the cuts—something they have often resisted in the past.

The cuts to the EPA should be no surprise to anyone given the GOP platform. The GOP does not want anyone to sacrifice their truck or SUVs, their 72 degree homes, or the use of fossil fuels to provide electricity. The EPA, on the other hand, exists to defend the environment against degradation.

The cuts to agriculture seem surprising at first glance. But an examination of the programs listed in the Bloomberg article indicate three programs that will be eliminated as part those cuts:

Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program

◦ Provides funding for clean drinking water, sanitary sewage disposal and storm-water drainage programs in rural areas.

Rural Business and Cooperative Service’s discretionary programs

◦ Provides financial assistance for economic development programs in rural communities, including renewable energy and biofuel initiatives.

McGovern-Dole International Food for Education Program

◦ Supports education, child development and food security initiatives in low-income, food-deficit countries around the world.

These cuts are consistent with the GOP’s desire to deregulate everything and oppose any federal efforts to move away from fossil fuels in favor of clean energy initiatives. They also show the GOPs desire to move away from any efforts toward international governance, towards sharing the largesse of our nation with other countries around the world in the same way the party opposes sharing the largesse of the wealthiest individuals with those who are most in need in our nation.

The cuts to education programs were described broadly in an earlier post. Here are some specific education programs that will be completely unfunded:

Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants

◦ Provides grants to non-profit organizations that recruit and provide professional enhancement for teachers and principals.

21st Century Community Learning Centers

◦ Supports community learning centers that provide before-and after-school programs for children, particularly those in high-poverty areas.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant

◦ Provides need-based grants of up to $4,000 to low-income undergraduates for postsecondary education.

Striving Readers

◦ Helps states fund literacy programs for children, birth through grade 12, including those with disabilities and limited English.

Teacher Quality Partnership

◦ Funds initiatives aimed at improving the quality of new teachers through better development and recruiting methods.

Impact Aid Support Payments for Federal Property

◦ Provides funding to school districts that have a diminished tax base due to federal property ownership in the district.

As the underscored and italicized sections indicate, three of these programs are targeted for low income and/or disabled and immigrant students with the other two targeted for new teachers who often serve those same students. The cuts to Health and Human Services programs reinforce the GOPs intent to move away from international governance and providing a safety net for those living in poverty:

Fogarty International Center

◦ Supports global health research initiatives, including infectious disease research in developing countries.

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

◦ Provides assistance to low income families to help pay for their home’s energy bills and some energy-related maintenance.

Community Services Block Grant

◦ Funds projects aimed at reducing poverty in communities, including projects focused on education, nutrition, employment and housing.

And the Housing and Urban Development cuts amplify the GOPs intent to shred the safety net for those in poverty:

Community Development Block Grant Program

◦ Funds programs that assist low-income people with housing issues, including the elimination of urban blight and other community programs.

HOME Investment Partnerships Program

◦ Provides block grants to state and local governments to create affordable housing solutions for low-income households.

Choice Neighborhoods

◦ Funds programs to replace distressed public housing and promotes investment for neighborhood improvement.

Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program

◦ Funds nonprofit organizations that build new housing for low-income families through sweat equity and volunteer labor.

Section 4 Capacity Building for Community Development and Affordable Housing

◦ Works with nonprofit groups to fund community development and affordable housing initiatives aimed at low-income families.

And wait… there are even MORE cuts that impact education and children raised in poverty.

  • NASA’s Office of Education a program that “Supports education in public elementary and secondary schools and informal settings, coordinates and disseminates findings of NASA research projects” is cut completely;
  • The National Endowment for the Arts, an agency that supports programs in public schools across the country;
  • The National Endowment for Humanities, an agency that provides grants to public school teachers and schools themselves;
  • The Institute of Museum and Library Services, an agency that “…supports libraries and museums through research, policy development and grant making”;
  • The Corporation for National and Community Service, an agency that funds “…thousands of volunteer organizations across the country and runs AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and the Social Innovation Fund”;
  • The Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation an agency that assists organizations who strive to revitalize rural, urban and suburban communities and help individuals secure access to affordable housing;
  • The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, an agency that “…coordinates with federal agencies to prevent and end homelessness.

And on top of all of those programs and agencies the budget completely eliminates four regional commissions, the Appalachian, Delta Regional, Denali, and Northern Border Regional, that offer support to those in those geographic areas who need government help to develop businesses in 24 states where jobs are difficult to find.

And low income individuals seeking legal assistance will no longer have the Legal Services Corporation to turn to… and last, but not least, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting will no longer receive any federal support if this budget is adopted.

One only needs to look at the GOP platform to see the source of the thinking behind this budget. If more money needs to be spent on war and the budget needs to be balanced, something needs to be cut because it is a given in the GOP platform that taxes cannot be increased. Since the GOP is opposed to “handouts” for those in poverty, is opposed to international organizations who strive for peace, and is opposed to regulations of any kind—especially those that support clean air and clean water, this is what the GOP has to offer. And make no mistake: this IS the GOP’s budget, not President Trump’s.

 

President Trump’s Budget, Designed by GOP Austerians, Cuts Programs for Poor

March 16, 2017 Leave a comment

As President Trump’s budget specifics become clearer, it is evident that children raised in poverty and college students trying to rise out of poverty will be short-changed while those paying tuition to enroll their children in sectarian schools will benefit. In the meantime, the Office of Civil Rights awaits old on its funding levels— which promise to be diminished given the size of the USDOE cuts the President proposes.

Washington Post writers’ Emma Brown and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel article on the President’s education budget proposal flag his decision to cut programs that support low-income Americans in order to fund his highest public education priority: choice.

The Trump administration is seeking to cut $9.2 billion — or 13.5 percent — from the Education Department’s budget, a dramatic downsizing that would reduce or eliminate grants for teacher training, after-school programs and aid to ­low-income and first-generation college students.

Along with the cuts, among the steepest the agency has ever sustained, the administration is also proposing to shift $1.4 billion toward one of President Trump’s key priorities: Expanding charter schools, private-school vouchers and other alternatives to traditional public schools. His $59 billion education budget for 2018 would include an unprecedented federal investment in such “school choice” initiatives, signaling a push to reshape K-12 education in America.

The president is proposing a $168 million increase for charter schools — 50 percent above the current level — and a new $250 million private-school choice program, which would probably provide vouchers for families to use at private or parochial schools.

Trump also wants an additional $1 billion for Title I, a $15 billion grant program for schools with high concentrations of poor children. The new funds would be used to encourage districts to adopt a controversial form of choice: Allowing local, state and federal funds to follow children to whichever public school they choose.

Brown and Douglas-Gabriel note that these priorities will likely be rebuffed by Democrats and may even find some pushback from the GOP, who rejected the notion of Title One portability when they considered ESSA legislation in 2015.

But the bigger question to me is whether and when colleges and universities and business leaders will speak out against this slashing of funds for college attendance. As Brown and Douglas-Gabriel write:

A host of programs aimed at ­low-income students are slated for cuts. Federal work-study funds that help students work their way through college would be reduced “significantly.” The proposal also calls for nearly $200 million in cuts to federal TRIO and Gear Up programs, which help disadvantaged students in middle and high schools prepare for college.

The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, a $732 million program that provided aid to 1.6 million students in the 2014-15 academic year, is also on the chopping block.

Rather than pour those savings into Pell Grants — which the document describes as a better way to deliver need-based aid — the budget maintains the current funding level for Pell grants and calls for the “cancellation” of $3.9 billion in Pell reserves, money that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle had hoped would be used to help students take summer classes.

Employers who are bemoaning the limited skills in the job pool and colleges who rely on students who access these grants should be joining public schools and community colleges in decrying these cuts. As should Mr. Trump’s voters who, presumably, were hoping to gain access to better schooling so they could earn more money.

And among the many mice in the woodpile of cuts is this gem:

In addition, it would shrink or kill 20 programs the administration deemed duplicative or outside the scope of the agency. They include $43 million in grants to colleges for teacher preparation and $66 million in “impact aid” to offset tax revenue losses that communities face when they have federal property within their bounds. 

That impact aid goes mainly to school districts that have military bases. Speaking from my experience as Superintendent when a base closed in the district, the loss of that impact aid was devastating. Local taxpayers either had to dig deeper in their pockets to offset the lost revenues or local parents had to sacrifice class size or programs. Knowing the thinking of the austerity budget crowd, though, I imagine they would suggest that paying teachers less should also be on the table… for implicit in all of these budget cuts is the notion of a race to the bottom for wages in academia and public eduction because “that’s the way businesses would handle it.”

And even with all of these cuts, there are still some to come, and minorities are holding their breath to see what happens next, because:

The budget summary also is silent on the department’s Office for Civil Rights, which many in the civil rights community fear will be targeted for deep cuts.

The President’s budget is clearly devastating for public education, but it is also devastating to the environment, to the State Department’s ability to achieve settlements, and the safety net that supports those born into poverty. There was a time when a President would propose a budget designed to unite people in our country and across the world. Mr. Trump’s budget, with it’s emphasis on military spending and law enforcement and it’s de-emphasis on peace-making, protecting the environment, and helping the needy reinforces the divisive campaign he ran. Here’s hoping the American public will begin  to turn away from division and see the benefits of unity.

 

NH Commissioner Frank Edelblut and US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos: Peas in a Pod

March 16, 2017 1 comment

Earlier this week Valley News reporter Rob Wolfe wrote an article describing his fruitless efforts to get the names of the anonymous donors to the Croydon School Board’s legal fund, in large measure because he believed that former gubernatorial candidate and current Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut might have donated to that cause. Andre Volinsky, one of five Executive Council members who pass judgement on appointments by the Governor and one of two who opposed Mr. Edleblut’s appointment, was also interested in determining if Mr. Edelblut made a contribution, particularly since his predecessor and the State School Board were the ones who initiated the suit against the Croydon’s School Board’s decision to use public funds to send students to a private Montessori School instead of a nearby public school.

Today, the Valley News’ Rob Wolfe reported that Mr. Edleblut sent an email to Mr. Volinsky acknowledging that he had made a $1,000 anonymous contribution to the GoFundMe campaign launched by the Croydon School Board to help pay their legal expenses. He wrote:

Volinsky, a sharp critic of Edelblut’s during the confirmation process for education commissioner, emailed Edelblut on Wednesday morning to ask that he make public whether he had contributed to Croydon and, if he had, explain why he had not disclosed the donation previously.

“I contributed $1,000 to the Croydon legal defense fund,” Edelblut said in reply. “The contribution was made anonymously. I prefer the focus to stay on the cause and not draw attention to myself.”

Edelblut could not immediately be reached on Wednesday night.

“It’s taken far too long to disclose this,” Volinsky said in an interview on Wednesday evening, “and it’s only happened upon my demand. And that’s not how we do government in New Hampshire.”

Volinsky said as education commissioner, Edelblut could be in position to influence the lawsuit, which is overseen by the state Attorney General’s Office.

“The public has a right to know that he was one of Croydon’s financial benefactors in the Croydon lawsuit,” Volinsky said, “and it would have been good of him and the Underwoods” — Ian Underwood and Jody Underwood, the latter being a Croydon School Board member — “who testified on his behalf on Jan. 31, to have revealed his financial relationship to them at that hearing.”

Although Edelblut did not specify to Volinsky when he contributed the money to Croydon’s online fundraising campaign, all anonymous $1,000 donations listed on the School Board’s GoFundMe page are dated at least seven months ago, before Edelblut’s nomination as commissioner. During the same period, Edelblut was mounting an unsuccessful bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

As I noted in my earlier post on this issue, based on what has transpired at the federal level, I felt that if Mr. Edelblut was a donor to the “Croydon” cause he might as well acknowledge it. After all, his donations to a lawsuit defending a district trying to issue de facto vouchers would be no different than Betsy DeVos’ generous donations to various voucher plans and, like DeVos, he would have the full support of his boss– who eagerly awaits the chance to sign off on the “Croydon bill” which will loosen the use of local taxes for private schools. Furthermore, in all probability, Edelblut would still have the support of the three executive counselors who voted in favor of his appointment since the vote fell along partisan lines and Mr. Edelblut’s lack of qualifications and full support of vouchers was never an issue during his hearings. By avoiding the question he appeared to be acknowledging some degree of shame or embarrassment relative to his support for the Croydon case or might have been fearful that some might see the donation as unethical given that he was, at that time, trying to get legislation passed on behalf of the district. In the end, even though Mr. Edelblut did not want his evasiveness on this question to be the issue, his lack of forthrightness did not help him establish credibility among public school leaders and board members who are wary of his intentions.

In the meantime, it is now clearer than ever that Mr. Edelblut is a small bore version of Betsy DeVos: a privatizing proselytizing wolf in charge of the public school henhouse…. and the students, especially those who do not have the resources to “choose” where they want to attend school, will eventually pay the price.