Archive for the ‘charters’ Category

2019 – Change for Schools?

Saturday, February 23rd, 2019
Why strikes continue

Why strikes continue

Scarcely a month in 2019 has passed by before teachers have continued to stand up and go forth for change. Fortunately, district administration and negotiators react quickly. The longest so far has been the Los Angeles UTLA strike that lasted six days. The biggest concession for L.A. was to put a state cap on charter schools and voucher payouts.

The West Virginia state legislature backed down when teachers walked out for two days (second time in less than a year) over starting charters and a voucher plan for tuition to private school.

Denver teachers struck for three days and the most contentious negotiation was over the status of ProComp which provides incentives and bonuses over the base pay. The plan sounds good in theory, motivating teachers to work to improve the education in low-performing schools, but the plan needed revision.

Oakland, California, teachers began a strike on Thursday, February 21, 2019, when negotiations stopped over salary increases in a region where the cost of living is among the highest in the state. The quandary is that the district is going broke. Fury over which schools to close because of student demographic losses adds to the tension. Only close the low-performing schools in the flat lands or close high-performing schools in the hills? It’s a mystery how the disparate issues, all involving money, will be solved. No agreement as of this post.

At the same time, what does the president say about education in the State of the Union address on January 28? “To help support working parents, the time has come to pass school choice for America’s children.” Then he went on about socialism. It doesn’t appear that he is on the same wavelength as teachers across the country.

Further, in support of the president at the border wall in El Paso, Texas, on February 11, DJT Jr came out with “You don’t have to be indoctrinated by these loser teachers that are trying to sell you on socialism from birth.” What kind of school did he go to?

In the meantime, the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee has approved HR 8- Bipartisan Background Check Act of 2019, authored by Mike Thompson (CA), just in time to remember the mass high school shooting in Parkland, Florida. In the Senate a similar bill to require background checks for all gun purchases, S 42-Background Check Expansion Act, authored by Christopher Murphy (CN), is still in the Senate Judiciary Committee. One hopes with a bipartisan effort the bill will make it to the House floor for a vote, and the Senate will do the same. See Every Town for Gun Safety research on why the legislation is needed.

The House of Representatives Labor and Education Committee under Chairman Bobby Scott (VA) has held hearings for a HR 865, the $100 billion Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2019. The Senate has S 266, a similar bill, in committee. The legislation’s funds are mainly to address infrastructure repair in the country’s, on average, 44-year-old schools and, also, for districts that are under-funded predominantly in high poverty areas.

Since the 116th Congress has begun, actions by Betsy DeVos, Superintendent of Education, have come to the House Labor and Education Committee’s attention, including decisions for taxpayer money to prop up failing for-profit colleges because she rescinded the actions that The Council for Independent Colleges and Schools can take to pull money from such schools. The superintendent is also likely to be questioned about policies she rescinded that are meant to protect minority students from excessive suspension and from placement in special education.

‘To rescind’ has been an action verb well-used by Ms. DeVos, but let’s hope that positive actions for students will occur with the oversight of the House of Representatives Labor and Education Committee.

 

L.A. Strikes During National School Choice Week

Saturday, January 26th, 2019
Los Angeles teachers strike

Los Angeles teachers strike

Is this a joke? This year’s National School Choice Week (NSCW) – January 20-26, 2019 – to supposedly celebrate with thousands of events for the many choices that parents and students have for their education is not what it seems. For Take Care Schools, the first clue is that Betsy DeVos, charter and voucher advocate, is a firm long-time supporter.

The website states it wants to celebrate traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling. When searching for schools only in the California Bay Area, full of a diverse education selection, I did not find any traditional or magnet public schools highlighted, but plenty of charters, private, and religious schools. Not surprising since the president, Andrew Campanella, of the NSCW organization, while desiring to celebrate the good in schools, is a proponent of choosing charters and using vouchers.

It turns out NSCW is “a carefully crafted public relations campaign designed to remind lawmakers of the financial muscle of its sponsors” with dances, cheers, and signature yellow scarves for free (Carol Burris, Network for Public Education). With further examination by Media Matters in 2016, the last time any organizations were listed on the website, it was funded by conservative groups like American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Gleason Family Foundation, Cato Institute, Freedom Foundation, and Heritage Foundation, to name a few. For 2019 the website doesn’t list its funders.

The joke, coincidence or not, is that the celebratory week comes just as Los Angeles Unified School District endured a serious six-day strike that ended Wednesday, January 23, and the federal government has been shut down. Federal funds for schools were on hold until January 25, when it looks like the government will open for the time being.

The Los Angeles Unified School District strike comes not long after strikes last year in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona and may be followed by striking teachers in Denver, CO and Oakland, CA.

What is the strike result? The negotiating team used strategies from Bargaining for the Common Good and involved parents and the community which led to good outcomes. First, teachers will get a 6% raise over two years; class size will be reduced, especially in high school English and Math classes; a nurse at every school five days a week; more counselors (1:500 students) and a librarian five days a week for every high school. Working groups will be formed to address the lack of resources for Special Education and excessive standardized testing (to be cut in half).

In addition, schools will curtail and revise ‘random search’ procedures which lead to fear in schools. The district will replace the industrial look of many schools by planting green areas, thought to have a therapeutic effect on the atmosphere in schools. In addition, Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, will support the Schools and Communities First initiative to be placed on the November 2020 ballot in which commercial property taxes will be revised in response to 1978 Proposition 13 regulations.

The most interesting effect of the strike is that legislation will be taken to the State legislature to put a cap on the number of charter schools allowed in California. Especially important to traditional public school teachers are the large number of charters in Los Angeles. The charter schools remaining will be ordered to show a degree of transparency in the demographics, funds over and above the school district, and results of standardized testing. (Information is taken from several sources but check out details in the LA Times.)

When these changes take effect in the second largest school district in the country, let’s hope that next year every single student in Los Angeles and California will wear the NCSW yellow scarf to celebrate the beginning of victory for improvements. The scarves are free, just order them. The organizations supporting National School Choice Week pay for them.

 

What’s Up with Charters Now?

Thursday, August 23rd, 2018

Did you know that even in San Francisco in 1850, just after California had submitted documents to Congress to become a state – a free state, the Afro-American journalist J. Holland Townsend wrote about the efforts of San Francisco’s small black community to fight against pro-slavery officials who wanted to exclude one of its top students from the city high school because of her race? In his argument he said, “a common school system educates all sons and daughters alike.” See The African American Press.

And that’s the argument still today in 2018 – should not any school – public neighborhood, charter, private, parochial, magnet, inter-district choice, intra-district choice, conventional voucher, tax-credit voucher, educational savings account voucher, home schooling – be a high-quality choice for any son or daughter?

Think about New Orleans, Louisiana, where all schools are charter since Hurricane Katrina. From the Netroots Nation Conference, August 2-4, 2018, at a session titled “Hurricane Lessons: What We’ve Learned From Post-Katrina Disaster Capitalism in NOLA Schools,” parents feel they have little voice; the schools neglect the most disadvantaged student; teachers are treated as dispensable and part-time; and families are not guaranteed access to neighborhood public schools. Instead, the administrators used an investment strategy, closing schools or handing them to charter school management groups.

Found in twelve major cities, an organization called Journey for Justice Alliance, with concerns about education opportunities for all students, drives each community to tackle district school closures and privatization – especially where minority students like Afro-Americans and Latinos are most affected.

Similarly, Joe Mathews, in Zócalo/Public Square, an on-line journal, addresses the problem for California schools in “California Sticks Its Schoolkids’ Futures in a Vice.” Although California is in no way like the complete breakdown in New Orleans after the 2005 hurricane, money is a major reason that California is not credibly pursuing strategies to make all schools high-quality schools from which to choose.

Teacher retirement benefit costs and obligations are escalating. The California birth rate is going down which means fewer students even though funding is available at a higher level. Pressure builds to use money measures to address social problems like a shortage of college graduates, the inequality in schools and districts that leave poorer students lagging academically, and issues of equity and discipline. Dysfunction remains with the longtime complex tax system from Prop 13 and education funding formula from Prop 98. Until the legislature takes on revision of those two measures, students will be stuck in a mess.

On the plus side, a proposal from Unite LA and UCLA/IDEA titled “We Choose ALL: Building a System of Excellent Public Education” looks at the education fiscal problems in the state and supports the idea that there is “no real choice unless each child has a high-quality neighborhood public school among the choices available.” Dr. Sylvia Rousseau, USC. She advocates the community school as the best chance to reach all the stakeholders, labor, and philanthropists affected by educational opportunity.

Of the eleven educators contributing to the proposal, none are for or against charter schools, but concerned about the long-term changes from the original idea of a charter to introduce a place where the student not successful in his/her other school may find success in the innovative plan of a particular charter.

To overcome the problems stated above in New Orleans charter schools, the the proposal advocates a sense of public purpose – that any school must develop student citizens that learn to collaborate, not compete only.

In addition, any school that a parent chooses for their child must support the child’s welfare, early childhood education, equitable funding for high-quality teaching, well-prepared and supported teachers, and a school organized for in-depth student and teacher learning.

As a philanthropist, basketball player LeBron James is establishing I Promise School in his hometown Akron, Ohio. A community-based school design, it opens right now, Fall 2018. Unfortunately, each school doesn’t have a philanthropist like Mr. James, but the Unite LA/UCLA IDEA proposal has been taken up by the California State Department of Education.

The hope is that the entire state can benefit, fiscally, academically, and civilly by changes in the way to make the parent’s and student’s choice of school, one of many, all high-quality.