Archive for the ‘public schools’ Category

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.

 

 

Federal Budget to Cut After-School and Summer Programs?

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017
California elementary school with after-school program

California elementary school with after-school program

Keep in mind the $9 billion education cuts proposed by the president and Superintendent of the U.S. Department of Education, Betsy DeVos, and the Department of Agriculture cuts to school meal funds proposed by Sonny Perdue. These cuts are sitting on the table for all to see while Congress comes up with an actual budget funding bill.

The Committee on Education, Health and Human Services, and Labor, chaired by Republican Virginia Foxx-North Carolina, has designed a bill which passed by committee vote and passed the Appropriations Committee vote on July 12, 2017. It is unlikely to pass a full floor vote, nor in the Senate.

Still the action rattles the education community because some unfortunate version will pass. It cuts $2.4 billion from several sections of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the latest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

From Title II-A it eliminates funds to reduce class size, provide professional development, recruit and retain teachers, and provide mentoring services to school districts across the country.

It takes money from Title I services to needy schools.

Most objectionable to districts that try to improve achievement levels and graduation rates are funds being slashed from the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21stCCLC) – part of ESSA – that provide for after-school services, summer programs, including meals, to low-income neighborhood schools.

The president and the Budget Director, Mick Mulvaney, insist that the programs are not boosting student achievement. Likewise, the bill claims to eliminate duplicative or ineffective programs and reduce funds to others. Evidence for such statements is rare or non-existent, like voter fraud.

Looking at current research, The Hechinger Report, Covering Innovation and Inequality in Education, focuses on 21st Century Community Learning Center sites in Mississippi’s poor neighborhoods. The document blames the cuts from the Department of Agriculture (USDA) that provide meals as well as the reduction of service funds for 21st CCLC that will lead to cognitive delays from malnutrition as well as no homework help, tutoring, or recreation supervision which means, of course, there will be no growth.

The Texas Education Agency’s evaluation of fifteen 21st Century Community Learning Center sites found higher test scores from grades 9-12 program participants and improved progression through grades. In middle schools, they found fewer disciplinary problems, better attendance and behavior, higher promotion and graduation rates. For details see “Texas study” .pdf in The Hechinger Report, found in the paragraph under subtitle “Related: How does Mississippi really compare…”.

The California Department of Education’s “Independent State-wide Evaluation of After-School Programs” shows reduced juvenile crime rate, higher graduation rates, and improved test scores. To see the details click here and to choose ACES 12/2012 from a list of studies click here.

Take Care Schools has data for California schools. Four hundred programs across the state serve 100,000 California students at 21stCCLC sites and other after-school programs agreed to by voters in an initiative promoted by former Governor Arnold Schwarznegger. California spends 4 times as much from state funds than it receives from the federal government. The problem is that, like in many states, the monies are divided: elementary and middle school programs are funded by state money. Any high school monies for after-school and summer programs come from the federal budget.

Click here for more analysis of California, Texas, and other state after-school programs.

If those funds disappear, anyone can realize that the progress low-income neighborhood schools are focusing on – student achievement, promotion, graduation rates – will be affected.

Do we want 18-year-olds standing on street corners, wandering from low-pay job to job, putting strain on their family or worse as we’ve all seen. Only because the president and his cohorts seem to think that taking all the $$ away, rather than fixing and improving the services, is the solution. Is that so?

 

 

 

Remind Me of Effects of Poverty on Children in School 

Friday, July 7th, 2017
 California high school in region of poverty

California high school in region of poverty

A good thing for schools occurred in the Supreme Court this month. A decision keeps intact the constitutional provision by thirty-nine states to refuse to use funds for vouchers to private and parochial schools. Although the decision allowed funds to refurbish a parochial school’s day care playground, it was a narrow provision that safeguards the states from their voucher prohibition.

In addition, if you didn’t read about an American Federation of Teachers’ poll, 74% of U.S. voters oppose the president’s budget proposal, of which 54% strongly oppose, and of which 48% were Trump voters. The NAACP (2016 national conference) passed a resolution to support a moratorium on charter school expansion. Too many conflicting reports suggested a slow-down.

Upcoming on July 19, Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, is the keynote speaker at American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) conference in Denver, Colorado. Interesting to see if there are any revisions in her voucher, civil rights, and budget policies. In August 2017, if the members of Congress do take a recess (some news articles suggest perhaps not) to their home states, it is up to teachers and administrators to hold firm against the president’s budget and voucher agenda. (from www.reclaimourschools.com, 6/30/2017 email)

With the status of school funds legislation and event attendance in mind, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) has issued a report, The Geography of Child Poverty in California, by Sarah Bohn and Caroline Danielson, February 2017. Every state might replicate the report if not already available. Children of school age are affected by poverty from the day they are born. Of the 1.9 million United States children in poverty, 754,000 live in California. “These adverse circumstances [true in every state] lead to long-term physical, social, and behavioral consequences affecting future education and economic well-being.” p. 1 “Summary,” Geography of Child Poverty.

The major points in the report, although referring to California numbers, affect children in regions of the entire country:

  • One quarter of children live in poverty. This includes Latino, African-American, children of immigrant, young, and single parents. Interventions should focus on these groups.
  • In most poor families, at least one parent works.
  • Coping with housing cost and maintaining work and enough money resources differ in the regions of the state. In some areas, housing cost exceeds more than half of earnings. In others, families manage only by living in over-crowded housing.
  • Safety net programs can help reduce child poverty. However, the impact is better in low cost regions. Poor families in high-earning areas (earn more, but pay more for housing) cannot receive safety net benefits because the requirements don’t take into account the high cost of living.

To correct these facts the state must account for geographic differences in order to adopt approaches that will provide children with economic security. For each geographic region, changes in the housing burden on poor families, safety net adjustments, and employment leading to economic security are the goals.

Looking at Congress and California legislature, there is some hope. The House of Representatives on June 22, 2017 passed HR2353, “Strengthening Career and Technology Education for the 21st Century Act.” The bill will support education in culinary arts, HVAC repair, health care, pre-law, and Emergency Medical Training. Sounds good for every student, especially those who don’t immediately aim for college. However, the bill is now in committee in the Senate, so who knows?

In the California Assembly bill AB 1520 “Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Task Force” has passed and is now in the Senate. The legislation provides a task force to look at the problems identified by the PPIC report. The questions are: How long before it becomes actual legislation and is signed by the governor? How long before results are seen from the task force?

May you keep in mind the number and percent of your state’s population that must overcome the long- term circumstances that impoverish families. It’s a systemic problem. Unless government focuses on where poor children live, addresses those entrenched circumstances of poverty, and surmounts them, every child will not manage to do well enough to be lifted out of poverty and succeed in school and post-school.

 

What does Climate Change Have to Do with School?

Sunday, June 11th, 2017

Every public school teacher and administrator is gritting their teeth when reading the latest about the national budget.

One, Education Secretary DeVos continues to speak in favor of vouchers and sidesteps questions about preventing and ending discrimination (AAUW Action Alert 6/7/2017). She disregards taxpayer preferences. She agrees to allot significant public funds, formerly for public schools, to private and religious. Refusal to acknowledge the special issues of civil rights for disability, economic status, educational achievement, special education, and LGBT students seems to be the Secretary’s pattern.

Two, moving Education Department’s oversight of more than $1 trillion in student debt to the Treasury Department because the president wants to defund the agency by almost 50% (NYT, 5/28/2017) is unsatisfactory.

Another worrisome factor for schools is ICE deportations across the country. In addition, health care proposals in Congress that will affect 5 million children if they lose Medicaid eligibility (and miss school because they are sick) is unacceptable.

Then, the president declines to uphold the Paris Accords, unwilling to recognize the need for responding to climate change because of cost. Saving money is a short-term measure, destroying the world we stand on is a long time away for the current administration.

How do teachers explain the temptation to say, “don’t worry” vs. the necessity to teach about saving the environment? Not to discount the fact that many students in coal-mining, chemical manufacturing, oil producing and refining areas of the country are only concerned about their family’s jobs, not about evidence that the industries are polluting the rivers and oceans, are warming the Earth from burning fossil fuel and emitting carbon gases into the air.

From research into the problem, it is determined that the younger the students are, the easier it is to begin with understanding how earth’s climate system works, and as they get older, the students are more likely to accept new ideas, question conflicting understandings, and resolve the dilemmas.

Usually a teacher needs more resources besides the science text books your school distributes. Go to the internet. It is loaded with ways to strengthen understanding. To help teachers, several handbooks and information from Ohio State University explain principles of Climate Literacy:

-understands the essential principles of Earth’s climate system,

-knows how to assess scientifically credible information about climate,

-communicates about climate and climate change in a meaningful way, and

-is able to make informed and responsible decisions with regard to actions that may affect climate.

Another site, called Population Education, is useful to teachers to strengthen the relation of a young student with the environment. Remember there are plenty of library books to read about the forest, ocean, seasons, plants and animals, such as old favorites, The Happy Day by Ruth Krauss or The Last Forest by Laurie Glick. For upper elementary grade students, lessons provide ways they can begin to help the world: ways to recycle, to reduce energy consumption, to reduce the classroom’s carbon footprint.

Three sites that seem most valuable are provided on the February 2013 blog at Concordia University, Portland, Oregon:

NASA’s Climate Kids is produced by the Earth Science Community Team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, and is exciting in its design for young students.

Climate Change Education has a terrific curriculum for grades 4-5, especially Protect Your Climate-16 Lessons. It is organized by the Bay Area Quality Management District, California

Another is called Journey North, first introducing young students to movements of the earth, moon, and sun. Older students learn about plant, animal, insect migration. Lots of visuals animate the program, supported by the Annenberg Foundation.

As Americans have discovered after the president’s announcement, every state, county. city, and school district can insist on reducing global warming and pollution, protect animal life, and change the culture war over climate change.

Start now; “in a while” is too late.