Archive for the ‘public schools’ Category

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.

 

 

 

Turn Up the Noise

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

 

Emma Gonzalez after Florida high school shooting

Emma Gonzalez after Florida high school shooting

Since the Take Care Schools’ post, January 30, 2018, Congress has passed a two-year Budget Control Act that rolls back the indefensible caps of 2011 and which increases the funding for domestic programs like education by $131 billion over the two years. So, programs like Title I, II, and IDEA (Individual Disability Education Act) will actually increase and target students most in need.

With decent news, there is always unfortunate news. The most troubling is Congress’ inability to agree on good legislation to continue Differed Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The four proposals recently rejected mean that the reform will expire on March 5, 2018, unless the federal court decisions will force the Supreme Court’s conservative members to think twice before adding to the immigration problem. If a solution isn’t found, one-quarter of DACA recipients – parents with children – will all be in a bind, and 9 thousand DACA teachers will leave their jobs. How many additional students will be affected? Does at least 225 thousand ring a bell?

Congress has only moved the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (S 1917) out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in February. The bill has two components facing juvenile offenders. For teen-age inmates, who while serving get their education in jail, it asks for no solitary confinement, and that mandatory incarceration sentences not be imposed on offenders with little or no criminal history. If you want every student to succeed, wouldn’t that legislation help? Next would be decent rehabilitation in every state.

The most recent concern to raise its head once again is the issue of gun safety, the legislation that propels Congress to hide their heads in the ever-shifting sand. Another high school is attacked by a mentally unhealthy teen-ager with a Smith and Wesson M&P AR-15, a semi-automatic style weapon of combat. He may have thought he was in a war, but a deranged person should never have had a gun. It’s not only a matter of improving mental health help; it’s a matter of gun safety. Many bills have been on the Congressional floor, all to be rejected. One would think that after the near murder of a member of the House of Representatives, more Congress persons’ brains would start thinking. Not so far. As AROS (Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools) states, embedding more security measures and law enforcement surveillance isn’t enough. Each community must rethink the resources that assure safety and support. And above all, address the root causes, that is, the quantity and ease of gun purchase. Pass gun safety measures.

Let us end with some happier news about the youngest students’ future in school. In California, Early Childhood Education is supported by organizations like Kids in Common’s Children’s Summit, Grail Family Services, and Silicon Valley Children’s Network that are planning spring family engagement professional development and an Early Childhood Leadership Program, each of which promotes the idea of health and family support for the youngest children who must succeed in their small communities that soon become large, diverse school communities.

Whether in California or any state in the country, relish the bit of good news, but turn up the noise for the rights of all school children.

 

Black History Month

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

img7458270 (1)At the end of the sixth month of the 2017-2018 fiscal year Congress is still spending its energy on stop gap, short term measures to fund the government which, among other needs, means the government prevents adequate investment in public education.

Who is most affected by these quick fix solutions? The disability, special education, English Language Learners, and especially programs, like Title I, for low-income students.

And now February is Black History Month which has been a time to learn about famous black Americans in history. This year in Seattle, a project called Black Lives Matter in Schools is making three demands of the school system:

  • substitute the ‘restorative justice’ discipline model for ‘zero tolerance’
  • hire more black teachers
  • develop a sufficient black history and ethnic studies program K-12

Let’s look at discipline. An example can be seen in District U46 south of Chicago. Of 6% black students in a 39,000-pupil district, 26% of those black students got out-of-school suspensions in 2016-2017. Fifty-one percent (2500 black students) received discipline referrals. That seems biased when only twenty-four percent of the Latino students, another minority group and the largest part of the district school population, received discipline referrals. Besides having professional development in cultural awareness, training about racial bias, and a goal to support all demographic groups, the district would benefit by trying a different model of disciplinary treatment, like ‘restorative justice.’

As for a goal of hiring more black teachers, studies show that even one black teacher in grades 3-5 for low-income black boys reduces the likelihood of dropping out and increases the rate of high school graduation and expectation to attend college. Right now, the percent of black teachers in the country is declining sharply.

School districts where I taught spent resources on Black History Month books about famous names for their libraries. Some even developed curriculum for each grade. But considering the current problems that seem to focus on civil rights and racial bias in the news, at least in middle and high school, a more detailed study about the history of slavery and civil rights after the Civil War to present day is the curriculum that matters.

Will this actually happen?

In the past year under Superintendent Betsy DeVos of the United States Department of Education (DOE), $19.2 million has been cut from federal education programs, including college-study programs. At the same time, $250 million of the DOE budget was given over for private school vouchers. In addition, $22 million has been eliminated for teacher training, among other programs.

Right now, Kenneth Marcus has been nominated for Assistant Secretary of the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in the Department of Education and has met with the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Senate committee for confirmation. Although he founded the Louis D. Brandeis Center, a civil rights group, his focus was on opposing any anti-Semitism on campuses. OK, but what about other groups who are being discriminated against? In his previous role as Acting Assistant Secretary at OCR from 2002 to 2004, he helped develop regulations governing single-sex education that relied on sex stereotypes. In his Senate hearing he agreed with DeVos’ revisions of student sexual harassment protections under Title IX regulations and other civil rights laws for students – a continuing problem in the DOE.

Think about the broad Congressional support for Every Student Succeeds Act which has only reached one year since it became law and look at the numbers reported above. The issue to ensure every student succeeds is to budget adequate funds for all public education students in states and local districts. Furthermore, Congress must raise the caps on domestic funding, especially to support education, not just defense funding.

How else to deliver sustainable community schools for black or any student in need?

 

 

 

High and Low

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017
a desert high school with undocumented students

a desert high school with undocumented students

Since the last Take Care Schools post, the new tax legislation, signed into law by the president on December 23, 2017, is on the highest shelf of the “to-worry-about” list for every teacher, administrator, and parent with a child or children in public school – from pre-school to college.

Above all, lowering state, sales, and local tax deductions to $10,000 remained in the legislation. Since tax money is what state and local communities deploy to fund schools, this change in revenue in high or low tax states will lead to unfortunate choices for education, transportation, and public safety. In other words, according to the GOP, lower taxes per worker means more money in his/her paycheck, but if state and local budget choices must be made because of lower tax revenue, some of those jobs may disappear. Will that work? Let’s see.

Those well-to-do enough, and who prefer private school education, can deduct up to $10,000 from taxes to 529 college savings plans, which now can be used for K-12 private and parochial fees, and they can deduct donations made to school voucher projects organized by the state. All these loopholes help wealthy taxpayers, but not the public schools.

Also, separate legislation to change aspects of the latest Every Students Succeeds Act, sends $253 million in grants to expand charter schools with the Expanding Opportunities Through Quality Charter School Program. While it’s true that some charter schools have excellent models that support children who need a different approach to learning, only $52 million (just one-fifth!) of the funds are to reach 17 non-profit charter management organizations for replication and expansion of high quality programs. For example, Environmental Charter, Fortune School of Education, and Voices College-bound Language Academics in California, plus others across the country.

In addition, the Republicans on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce are rewriting the law that protected higher education students from for-profit predatory colleges’ loan repayments for useless degrees. Two Obama law regulations called assurance of “gainful employment” and “borrower defense” will be repealed and blocked from re-adoption. Other benefits for colleges and obstacles to for-profit colleges are being revised also. See “Education Bill Sweeps Away Obama Rules” by Erica L. Green, New York Times, December 13, 2017.

Consider the 365,000 high school students and the 241,000 college students of the 1.2 million eligible Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy (DACA)  who came into this country with their undocumented parents. The president has left it up to Congress to consider a bill by March 5, 2018, or up to 800,000 will be subject to deportation, including twenty thousand teachers. According to the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, to replace the teachers will cost at a minimum $350 million to school districts and local taxpayers.

Recall that the Supreme Court of the United States, 35 years ago in Plyler v Doe said the State can’t deny free public education to any student residing in the country, citizen or undocumented. The DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act) of 2017, establishing the right to residency for children, by Durbin and Lindsey Graham – SB 1615/HR3440 – is supported by 86% of Americans, including ¾ of the most conservative GOP in a survey by ABC News/Washington Post on November 17, 2017.

Last and not least, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has been given funds until mid-January, but it must be re-authorized to support the children at the lowest level of learning – early childhood education.

What can you do? Call and email your members of Congress – it’s helped before, so don’t let them get away with inaction. Reach for the high shelf and stoop to the lowest shelf to make DACA and CHIP happen. For the future ….

 

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.