Archive for the ‘National Education Association’ Category

The Future: Teachers and Unions

Saturday, July 21st, 2018
West Virginia Teacher's Strike

West Virginia Teacher’s Strike

This past Educator’s Spring 2018, after strikes in West Virginia, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Kentucky with weak unions, hampered by ‘right to work’ legislation, the slogan “enough is enough” won the day. Colorado walked out also, but the stronger unions in their state can collect ‘fair share’ fees.

Turns out a mid-April NPR/Ipsos poll found that three-quarters of Americans believe educators have the right to strike and only one in four feel teachers are paid fairly. Those numbers overruled the political establishment pushback from governors, legislators, and U. S. Superintendent Betsy DeVos which named the usual suspects: not enough money in the state budget, unions want everything, teachers disregard what’s best for students, to name the most often said.

Interesting that the states where teachers went on strike are bastions of conservative values and of teachers who do not usually rock the boat. But when you read stories about having to work second jobs, using ancient text books, scrambling to find sources for leftover crayons, and turning dried out markers into watercolor paints, teachers who have reaped the benefits from states where unions can negotiate with school districts root for the teachers in the states that don’t have that right.

However, if you’re oppressed long enough, the ‘people’ will rebel and stand up against legislators that finally do something when they realize they need those teachers’ votes in November if they wish to stay in power.

So, the union song “Which side are you on, boys?” is a good question for state legislators and governors as well as for the people striking. And “I’m sticking to the union” was the right choice for the teachers in those states.

On 6/27/2018 after the strikes were over and settled, the U. S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decided Janus v AFSCME. A worker who is employed by the school district, or hospital, or government facility can ‘opt out’ of paying ‘fair share’ fees to a union that represents and negotiates terms for every employee (whether the person joined the union or not). In other words, SCOTUS sided with calling ‘pay or not pay’ a free speech decision. It doesn’t matter whether a person pays ‘fair share’ fees to the union – that person can still benefit from the negotiations that a union makes with their employers.

Whether unions in the states named above will be able to maintain their wage and benefit settlements depends on how strong their teachers’ unions can stand behind them. The SCOTUS decision can mean fewer union members, but every teacher should hope they stick together.

Now that Janus v AFSCME has been decided, what other school-related issues are showing up this summer that teachers’ unions support or oppose?

In Washington D.C. the controversy continues about federally funded voucher programs that allow students to attend private schools with public money. Unions quote studies by the Institute for Educational Science’s National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance that continue to show lower gains in math (10%) and reading scores (3.8%) in schools receiving vouchers compared to public schools.

Think about the effects on the children that someday will be taught in U.S. public schools, when the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee in the FY2019 appropriations bill has endorsed long-term detention with their families. It undoes the Flores v Reno ruling that defines the amount of time children can be held in custody.

The Koch Brothers and DeVos Family has spent the summer funding the campaign to advertise the ‘opt out’ provision of SCOTUS’ Janus v AFSCME decision in the effort to limit union membership and influence.

However, last week, youth groups – the Center for Popular Democracy, Make the Road-New York, and Urban Youth Collective – gathered at the U. S. Department of Education for a “People’s Listening Session” to debate actions on Superintendent DeVos’ School Safety Commission. They called on the Education Secretary to maintain Obama-era guidelines aimed at addressing racial bias in school discipline policies and protested her decision to ignore any discussion of gun safety.

At the recent annual conventions of the National Education Association (June 30-July 5) and the American Federation of Teachers (July 13-15), teachers connected their workplace grievances and union organizing, including fights for economic equality, racial and gender equity, and sensible gun control.

Public schools are one of the few remaining institutions that are truly public. Teachers interface with the community, are entrusted to teach the values of democracy, to be catalysts for dissent and engines for economic equality. (The Alliance to Reclaim our Schools, July 17, 2018.)

“Which side are you on, boys? Which side are you on?”

 

 

 

Congress and Doing the Math

Sunday, November 26th, 2017
preparing students to be college or career ready

preparing students to be college or career ready

The ongoing news about the man who sexually compromised high school girls 40 years ago and is still running for the Alabama special election Senate seat makes one despair for women and girls. Will they ever get their chance for a decent education or job or any professional accomplishment?

Despite the above worry, are you rooting for improved education outcomes for female (and male) students and for the teachers whose profession is to make sure those kids actually graduate from high school prepared to benefit from the many higher education possibilities? You are faced with the foolhardy attempt by Congress to pass a tax bill.

If you’re really, really rich, or run an exceptionally large corporation, you may be happy or you may be discomforted by your luck compared to the rest of taxpayers. Why?

First of all, eliminating state and local tax deductions for the ordinary tax filer – which taxes, nationwide, cover an average of 46% of the funding for public schools – risk cuts to education funding of $370 billion in the next decade. (NEA’s Education Insider, 11/19/2017) The dominos will fall – JOBS for custodians to food prep workers to teachers to school district personnel.

Second, the House bill eliminates the measly $250 a year deduction for teacher’s purchase of school supplies for classroom instruction. That small amount is the last straw on the state/local tax deduction, property tax deduction, and medical expense deductions that will be eliminated and thus increase a teacher’s taxes due.

Next, students who have taken out loans to finish their higher education will not be able to deduct the interest on the loan for taxes due. In addition, of the $2500 deduction available to graduate students who get a tuition waiver or work for professors will be eliminated. So, tell me why the wealthy will be able to stash away $10,000 a year in tax-free accounts to pay for their child’s private school tuition?

In an end-run attempt to trash the Affordable Care Act, the individual mandate will be eliminated, thus 13 million Americans will likely lose benefits. Students in those families that can no longer afford insurance are doubly whacked with the reduction in state/local taxes to support school nurses and assistants. Furthermore, adopted students and their families are damaged if the adoption tax credit is eliminated.

Also, excluding mortgage interest deductions will affect all families, including teachers and students making less than $75000 a year. How can lack of affordable housing be reduced by eliminating such deductions and thus raising taxes?

Last, to make the bill work, any middle-class tax cuts still remaining will sunset in 10 years. (David Leonhardt, New York Times, 11/19/2017)

Take Care Schools thinks that members of Congress who will vote for this bill were not well-prepared for higher education mathematics, an important project for high schools, community colleges, and four-year institutions since 2013.

Improving Students’ College Math Readiness… by the Center for Analysis of Post-Secondary Education and Employment (CAPSEE) proposed instructional improvement in five independent strands of mathematical learning. The outcome is to produce math proficiency for all students before they enter the work force – including the government.

  • Conceptual understanding of when and why mathematics are important;
  • Procedural fluency to use procedures in the right way for the right purposes;
  • Strategic competence to present formulations that make sense;
  • Adaptive reasoning to use logic to explain mathematical relationships;
  • Productive disposition to believe sustained effort leads to benefits in life.

If mathematical learning is good for students, why is the Congress unable to formulate a tax bill that benefits the American public? Is it true, as Chris Collins (R-NY) says, his donors call for an action, any action, or don’t call for more money.

That is one reason, but hardly logical if you want to run a government that will do good for all Americans, not just the rich.

Perhaps Congressional members should do the right thing and listen to procedurally fluent graduates in statistics, percentages, and sensible formulations that may determine tax legislation that provides beneficial wealth distribution in the United States.

 

 

 

 

For and Against in October

Sunday, October 29th, 2017
Little Rock 9 walking to Central High

Little Rock 9 walking to Central High

On September 25, 1957, under terrible harassment and fear, the Little Rock 9 desegregated Central High School in Arkansas. Since then the civil rights laws for public schools have improved, but, 60 years later, schools still suffer from concentrated neighborhood segregation – where poverty, unemployment, and indecision among legislators leave much to improve students’ academic achievement.

As of October 8, two Pennsylvania Republican representatives formed a caucus to push for preservation of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, affecting not only college students and teachers, but fire fighters, police, and other public service providers.

Will a bill make it through congress? Will the president sign it? In the same month, Betsy DeVos, Superintendent of Education, has delayed the rules that provide oversight to protect students from predatory for-profit colleges that promise but don’t provide good education and leave students with huge loans to pay back. To top it off, DeVos picked Julian Schmoke, Jr, former dean of for-profit DeVry University to oversee the issue of fraud in higher education.

On October 16, Ms. DeVos went to Washington state to speak before the conservative Washington Policy Center, once again, about the value of for-profit charter choice and private school vouchers for needy “individual students.” This seems to be the solution for education’s poor “systems and buildings” instead of attention paid to the 90% of students in the 600,000 public schools in America. In fact, through the media her comments have been broadcast that parents choosing a school for their child is like choosing among myriad food trucks for a meal. Is that so?!?

On October 21, the Senate barely passed the FY 2018 budget resolution, 51-49, and on October 26, the House of Representatives passed the resolution 216-212. In the resolution non-defense discretionary funding is cut deeply – that means not only cuts to Medicare, but to education and to the Children’s Health Insurance Program which keeps students healthy enough to attend school. So far, no continuing resolution has come forward, and so five states plus Washington, DC will be scraping the empty CHIP funding barrel by the end of the year.

On October 25, Lily Eskelen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, and many others spoke before Congress about the need for a decision on DACA, the Dream Act. There isn’t any time to waste before members of the education community – from bus drivers, to students, students’ teachers, and colleagues – will be affected, and not well. Many teachers have said they can see the fear in their students’ eyes as a result of the president rescinding DACA.

On October 25, the Patsy T. Mink Gender Equity in Education Act of 2017 (GEEA) – so named for the Democratic representative from Hawaii who helped pass Title IX 45 years ago – is up to be passed to further expand Title IX provisions such as, establishing an Office of Gender Equity in the Department of Education; improvements for Title IX coordinators in schools on training and tech support; competitive grants to expand Title IX provisions in K-12, colleges, LEAs, and states.

Title IX and sexual harassment have been a big topic in the media lately, and usually one hears from another student – often female – who has been harassed or abused and how difficult and intimidating resolution can be. The most recent 2017 regulations address the heavy problem of investigating these incidents and providing the correct recourse. But, the new regulations have been intensely argued as too hard on the victim and too lenient on the accused. In fact, new congressional legislation to reverse by law some of the disruptive changes authorized by DeVos is called the Title IX Protection Act.

Besides the victim’s group End Rape on Campus, there is another group called FACE (Families Advocating for Campus Equality) which wants to make sure of the rights of the accused. There have been times where the accused’s case has been dismissed, but the student still pays the price of losing friends, being taunted, deciding to change college or drop out. Members of the victim’s group feel that the same happens on their side.

TakeCareSschools hopes that the appointment of Kenneth L. Marcus to the Office of Civil Rights in the DOE and the legislation providing an Office of Gender Equity can resolve the disparities on each side and still allow for equality of opportunity for an excellent education in college without fear of intolerance or aggression.

Just what the Little Rock 9 were striving for 60 years ago. Now, we are trying to address the right to an education free of harassment and fear, not only because of color, but because of U.S. status or gender.

 

 

Title IX and What is Causing Uproar for Schools

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

 Title IX

On Friday, September 22, 2017 Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced changes to Title IX procedures affecting sexual harassment and violence on college campuses. Her statement confirms suspicion that the U.S. Department of Education intends to roll back critical civil rights protections for students. A new “Dear Colleague” letter to all educational entities explicitly stated the two 2011 actions to be rescinded – the Obama administration actions to clarify procedures for investigations of sexual harassment and violence to students.

When educational environments are unsafe because of sexual harassment, assault, and violence, students can’t learn — and their right to an education free of discrimination is put at risk.

#1: Forty-eight percent of students in grades 7–12 still face sexual harassment.

#2: Girls still receive $1.2 million less in funding for high school sports than boys.

#3: Although approximately 20 percent of women are targets of attempted or completed sexual assault, 89 percent of college campuses disclosed zero reported incidences in 2015.

Title IX, part of a U.S. Education amendment in June 1972, signed by President Richard Nixon, states

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

Usually, the public thinks only of Title IX legislation affecting sports. It also affects classes offered to boys and girls, job discrimination in an educational institution, biased academic advantages and opportunities for scholarships, and sexual assault and harassment discrimination, especially on college campuses.

After Title IX regulations went into effect, women in sports increased 600%. However, the issues of sexual harassment showed numbers not so well improved. 8 in 10 boys and girls were still harassed, 25% very often. Girls were more likely to be harassed, 56% girls vs. 40% boys. See titleIX.info.

In 2011 regulations in a “Dear Colleague” letter explained in more explicit detail who and how Title IX would be implemented at all educational institutions. At that time, the criticism was that not enough victims’ complaints were pursued or decided. New regulations said the case would be decided by the preponderance of the evidence (POTE), the principal objective being to avoid use of federal monies to support sexual discrimination and provide protection against discrimination.

The argument about and the reason for the changes made September 22, 2017 are because Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, claims that the accused in a sexual discrimination case and decisions that come before a school’s administration are diminished unless legal counsel is hired and forced to sue. The Office of Civil Rights of the DOE wishes to change the regulations to more equally weigh the claims of the victim and the accused. To do so, the OCR has sent another “Dear Colleague” letter to require clear and convincing evidence that what happened, happened.

When this decision first came to light on September 7, 2017, National Education Association (NEA) president Lily Eskalon Garcia said, we “are appalled that the Department of Education has decided to weaken protections for students who survive campus sexual assault or harassment. This decision offends our collective conscience and conflicts with the basic values of equality, safety, and respect that we teach our students every day.” See USA Today link above.

It’s 45 years since Title IX regulations first went into effect. Speaking personally, my daughter was harassed in middle school and the administration knew the rules and handled the situation well. My son-in-law dealt with the issue as coach at the local high school.

Brett Sokolov, director of the Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA), has posted many interim measures used while a matter of harassment is investigated in 80% of the schools in the U.S. that have a Title IX coordinator. He notes that the need to improve is not the excuse to remove the moral, ethical, and legal obligations of any educational institution.

Remember nobody can be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. Claiming the need for clear and convincing evidence, rather than the preponderance of evidence may seem useful, but can overwhelm the investigation and decision.

In addition, such heavy-handed investigations and decisions interfere with getting help for the survivor so s/he can succeed equably in education – the purpose of Title IX.

For all things Title IX go to https://www.titleix.com/law/

 

 

 

 

 

Backing Away: the President’s Budget Proposal

Thursday, April 20th, 2017
diverse community of parents and children at a Colorado elementary

diverse community of parents and children at a Colorado elementary

A notice in the NEA Education Insider, April 9, 2017, reminds teachers that the President’s budget proposal  drops the “U.S. Department of Education funding by $9 billion or nearly 14 percent. The Trump/DeVos agenda calls for voucher schemes that provide billions of dollars for private schools while slashing funding for afterschool programs in public schools, Pell Grants, teacher professional development, and class size reduction.” In addition, such a budget would cut federal food programs for children and health care initiatives that keep children ready for school.

So to go along, three House of Representatives Republicans introduced bill HR 610 on January 23, 2017. It will begin the de-funding process of public schools and effectively start a school voucher system to be used by children ages 5 to 17.

The bill will do just what the president’s budget requests – revise the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 which is the nation’s educational law and provides equal opportunity in education. Compare the budget proposal above with the comprehensive program that covers needs for struggling learners, ESL classes, classes for minorities such as Native Americans, Rural Education, Education for the Homeless, School Safety (Gun-Free schools), Monitoring and Compliance and Federal Accountability Programs. The bill would also abolish the Nutritional Act of 2012 (No Hungry Kids Act) which provides nutritional standards in school breakfast and lunch. For our most vulnerable, this may be the ONLY nutritious food they have in a day. The bill has no wording whatsoever protecting special needs kids, no mention of IDEA and FAPE.

Moreover, to support Pell Grant defunding, on Tuesday, April 11, Betsy DeVos, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education and cabinet member of the current administration, withdrew an Obama administration Education Department policy that requires taking into account the past practices of college loan servicing companies before awarding contracts. It seems that Ms. DeVos is aiding the lenders to make money. There is abundant evidence that the industry doesn’t serve the college graduates and American families trying to get ahead. Rather Americans are burdened by unfair loan practices.

What’s the purpose? School “choice.”

Backing away from support for 86% of American children in public schools is to ensure money for school “choice,” especially with vouchers. Betsy DeVos has been looking at models to provide vouchers like the tax-credit model in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program which has been in effect since 2002. The program offers corporations and wealthy individuals a one-to-one credit on their taxes when they donate to one of several nonprofit “scholarship granting organizations” that have been established in the state for distributing vouchers. For example, a corporation that owes $50,000 in Florida taxes, can donate that entire amount to a scholarship program instead, depleting their tax bill to zero. Nearly 100,000 low-income students in Florida attend private, mostly religious schools, and could benefit from these vouchers. But, the voucher model also reduces state revenues by $50,000 from one corporate taxpayer (in the example), thus eliminating funding that could be used for the almost 3 million Florida public school students.

The research on improvement in student achievement by using vouchers to attend a recommended private or parochial school is not absolute, some school moves help, others don’t. However, The New York Times article by Dana Goldstein, April 12, 2017, “The Hidden Costs in Special Education School Vouchers” does expose features of vouchers that often don’t show better results. Parents must understand all the specifics of the voucher applied for. The protections for special education students from the 1975 federal civil rights law Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) may be waived once a scholarship voucher is accepted, as in the John M. McKay voucher program in Florida and, at least, seven other states.

On top of that problem, two assistants have been hired to the USDOE. The president hired Carlos G. Muñiz as general counsel to the Education Department. He is perhaps best known for representing Florida State University in a lawsuit brought by a student who accused the former star quarterback James Winston of raping her in 2012.

Ms. DeVos hired Candice E. Jackson, to be the acting assistant secretary for civil rights. She represented one of the women who attended a news conference before a presidential debate in October to impugn Mrs. Clinton’s treatment of sexual assault victims.

Title IX civil rights must be overseen for students of all ages, pre-K through college – the people for whom the President often reminds us he wants to assure a place in a great America – and then backs away from funding public schools and hires people to back his vision.

Take Care Schools urges you to call your representative and ask him/her to vote NO on House Bill 610 (HR 610).