Archive for the ‘public schools’ Category

What Has the DOE Done this Month? 

Saturday, September 29th, 2018

mailDo you remember? On September 28, 1979, Congress under President Carter established the United States Department of Education. Lots of change since then at the DOE.

Just beginning this month, Betsy DeVos, the current Superintendent, has proposed that students defrauded by for-profit colleges “show they have fallen into hopeless financial straits or prove that their colleges knowingly deceived them.” Erica L. Green, The New York Times, “DeVos Proposes Curtailing Loan Forgiveness for Defrauded Students,” July 26, 2018. The proposal, worked out by the education department, now stocked with for-profit executives and criticized as releasing the industry from oversight, is set to go into effect by July 2019.

Next, DeVos is finalizing policies to reshape the Obama guidelines which were seen to better specify the procedures to address sexual misconduct on school campuses, especially colleges and universities.  Now, the policies will strengthen the rights of students accused of sexual harassment, rape, and assault. At the same time, the rules will reduce liability for institutions, but encourage greater victim support. Surprising, since the policies narrow the definition of sexual harassment.

Take Care Schools outlined this proposal last fall when the Obama letter was rescinded. Considering the conflict in the Senate this week about the very issue of sexual misconduct and how it is viewed when each side has a completely different vision, the policy DeVos wants will continue to be inflammatory.

Last, Betsy DeVos has offered another ludicrous proposal as part of the deliberations of the Commission on School Safety. Although she said the commission was not going to consider gun issues, the proposal would allow schools to use taxpayer $$ to buy guns and pay for firearms training to teachers and staff. Her department team is examining an obscure federal policy to get around the Congress’ legislation that no taxpayer funds can be used to purchase arms, ammunition, or firearms training for schools.

What to do with Congressional funds instead? Think about protocols (which have been developed by the DOE) that address “school climate.” For instance, how to respond to student outbursts of belligerence, how to penalize without suspending or expelling. Unfortunately, there is no requirement that schools implement the protocols, nor funding to do so yet.

What about funding for more mental health services? According to numbers in the September 28, 2018 Alliance to Reclaim our Schools (AROS) newsletter, New York City, for example, has only one counselor for every 407 students. If you want school safety, reduce the school to prison numbers, and prevent school shootings, it’s a no-brainer that more counselors and psychologists available are necessary.

How about implementing ‘threat assessment teams’ in schools? Virginia K-12 schools have such teams. There are good results that show fewer student threats to injure others. Besides federal gun safety and control legislation, these reforms can provide school safety.

Why no funding support for these issues? The Schott Foundation for Public Education has figured that between 2005-2017, the United States has spent $580 billion on public school education, but the net worth of the 400 richest Americans is $1.5 trillion.

Does that make sense? No wonder Colorado has an initiative on the November ballot to raise corporate taxes and personal income tax for people making more than $150,000 and use the $1.6 billion for public schools. No wonder Maryland has a measure on the November ballot to use additional dollars raised from gambling industry funds for public schools. No wonder an Arizona initiative is on the ballot to overturn education savings accounts that allow families to draw on public school funds to pay tuition to private schools.

Another AROS newsletter (September 21, 2018) reports that the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has found that one/half of the states in the union provide fewer total dollars to education than in 2008, the start of the Great Recession. In the meantime, the Senate passed the FY2019 appropriation bill and sent it to the House of Representatives for a vote. It only slightly increases funds to Title I, IDEA, and Pell Grants, still a big gap in funding since 2010.

For explanation, download and read Confronting the Education Debt to learn how, even with the U.S. increase to 51 million public schools, one in five students live in poverty.

Seems to Take Care Schools, the DOE should be working on how to implement the true school climate and safety issues that will increase academic success in school. Congress better implement policies and funding to decrease the number of impoverished communities.

 

 

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.

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?”

 

 

 

Education Issues for the Summer Solstice

Friday, June 22nd, 2018
Author of original GEEA

Author of original GEEA

On the longest day of the year 2018, the president manages to throw another shadow on education policy in the United States.

On Thursday, June 21, 2018, President Trump announced his desire to combine the Education and Labor Departments to form the Department of Education and the Workforce.

The Office of Management and Budget said the proposal would “allow the Federal government to address the educational and skill needs of American students and workers in a coordinated way, eliminating duplication of effort.” Tucker Higgins, CNBC, 6/21/18

To teachers, this consolidation would further undermine the work of Title IX as well as loosen enforcement in the education department’s Office of Civil Rights.

As recounted in TakeCare post 10/27/17, Title IX has opened doors for girls and women from classrooms to the playing fields. But despite the 46 years of tremendous progress since enactment, challenges to equity in education still exist. So, keep your eye on Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) who recently reintroduced the Patsy T. Mink and Louise M. Slaughter Gender Equity in Education Act (GEEA) of 2018 to ensure schools and educational institutions comply with this landmark civil rights law.

At a time when the U.S. Department of Education has taken action to roll back Title IX protections for students, GEEA would help address sex discrimination and ensure compliance with Title IX in all areas of education. Mission & Action, AAUW newsletter, 6/21/18

In the meantime, the Federal Commission on School Safety, chaired by U.S. Department of Education Superintendent Betsy DeVos, is not examining the reasons for gun violence in schools, but has made its goal to repeal guidance by the Obama administration on school discipline, ratings for video games, and media coverage of school shootings. In disbelief about the proposal, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said, “So you’re studying gun violence but not considering the role of guns? An interesting concept.” NEA Insider, 6/10/18.

Furthermore, there continues to be re-segregation in all our public schools by location and denial of equal opportunities. Congress has spent its time this past spring arguing over tax changes that leave school districts and states in constant turmoil over funding. But, Congress has not been working on projects that would increase wages and stabilize low-income communities. The consolidation of the Education and Labor Departments is likely to cause more disruption to Title I monies which are designed to support students in low-income neighborhoods to succeed and improve their education opportunities.

In fact, the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP), another program important for children in low-income families, is being considered for a shift from the Agriculture Department to a vaguely defined ‘mega-agency’. This shift will also cause disruption in the progress of impoverished children. Fortunately, the budget delivered to Congress by Betsy DeVos was rejected which would have slashed education funding further and used what was left for vouchers to private/parochial and charter schools.

Speaking of charter schools,, researchers find that those in urban areas serve mostly black students, and charter schools in outlying suburban areas serve a super majority of white students. Again, re-segregation by location, although the clear evidence from research shows that integrated school students tend to score higher on standardized tests – still the model for judging school success – and are more likely to go to college and move to integrated settings later in life. Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, 6/19/18

Now, as final worry – what is going to happen to all the children sitting in detention camps waiting to be re-united with their families? In the president’s executive order on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, those children aren’t the first priority. Children that cross the border illegally or for asylum won’t be separated, but those already here are not part of the order. Neither of the two immigration laws in front of the House of Representatives as of Thursday, June 21, – the Goodlatte bill didn’t pass – will remove the trauma for these children and you can be sure no money will be set aside for future trauma treatment.

And what about the DREAMERS – will those students ever emerge from the shadows to spend a summer solstice day living in health and peace?

 

 

 

What’s Up, What’s Down in Education

Friday, March 30th, 2018
West Virginia teachers' strike

West Virginia teachers’ strike

We begin with the words about our controversial Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. After her stumbling interview on 60 Minutes, Sunday, March 18, 2018, she was, among the least unpleasant thoughts, called “incompetent and dangerous” by The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (post 3/23/18).

Be that as it may, neither DeVos nor Trump got what they expected when Congress passed the FY 2018 Omnibus Spending Bill, March 25, 2018, to allocate money to nearly everything in the country. DeVos’ pet project to cut Title II funds which provide federal money for professional development and smaller class sizes was increased. In fact, most commentators say that Congress did what it wanted, not what the current administration wanted.

For education, Title I, IDEA, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Career and Technology Education (CTE), Impact Aid, Pell grants, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) received more money than was scheduled in the 2018 budget. Even the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) Act, which sunset years ago, was re-authorized.

And who would believe it, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention was given funds to study gun violence prevention. In addition, federal funds earmarked for school safety programs are prohibited from using the money to buy firearms and/or train teachers to use them in schools. We say that students calling out have made some change happen.

Heads up! The 19th Anniversary of the shooting bedlam at Columbine High School comes up April 20, 2018, and the marches and calling out will be for legislation to order universal background checks, ban assault weapons and hefty bullet magazines, and universal Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) actions by which family members may ask for an order to remove guns from a dangerous situation or person. For more see Every Town for Gun Safety’s paper on ERPO.

DACA, however, was not legislated, but the bill’s authors say there is time to get it passed. Judges in New York City and San Francisco have stopped by injunction the president’s September 2017 roll back of the Obama policy to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation. We hope this holds true because this blog and the news media will keep it up front when election season arrives.

What else is happening this month or coming soon? Strikes of course. Beginning February 22, West Virginia’s teacher union led to a 5% better salary nine days later – March 2. The Peoria People’s Project with aid from Peoria Federation of Teachers called back on February 23, 2018, for the same access to excellent public schools as other richer areas of the city.

Will Oklahoma teachers go on strike? Negotiators have until Monday, April 2, 2018, to raise salary and benefits. Arizona teachers threaten to walk out over salary raises, restoration of cuts to school funding, and stopping tax cuts until per-pupil spending reaches the national average. Chicago teachers and parents are unhappy about the difficult problem of public school closings they call “privatization and gentrification.”

Moreover, Janus v. AFSCME comes up before the United States Supreme Court over the same issue that was fought over in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. To recall, the issue was should teachers pay their fair share of dues, not to PACs or to support candidates, but to support negotiations for every teacher in the school district whether a union member or not. The difference in the Janus case is that corporations are trying to bust unions by making “right to work” the policy. In other words, an employee does not have to pay a yearly fee to the union, but still get the benefits.

Let’s end this post with good news about the Schott Foundation’s “Loving Cities Index.” The report describes twenty-four community and school-based supports that provide children with equal opportunities to thrive and succeed. Under CARE the report looks for cities with good food sources, clean air, health insurance, for example. Under STABILITY the report looks for consistent Early Childhood Education programs, alternatives to expulsion, and anti-bullying programs among others in the community. Under COMMITMENT to support the student the report searches for public transportation, affordable housing, banking services and more. Last, CAPACITY in the city is measured, for example, by number of experienced teachers, well-resourced schools, and strong high school curriculums.

Find out more about the “Loving Cities Index” that will make your community safe, schools well-provided for, and healthy to live in.