Archive for the ‘public schools’ 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?”

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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?