Archive for the ‘vouchers’ 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?”

 

 

 

64 Years After Brown v Board of Education

Friday, May 18th, 2018
Linda Brown Thompson 1945-2018

Linda Brown Thompson 1945-2018

May 17, 2018, is the 64th year since the Supreme Court of the United States decided in Brown v Board of Education in Topeka on May 17, 1954, that separate schools based on race are inherently and fundamentally unequal in the education opportunities and resources they provide. Laws legislated since the Civil War were found unconstitutional.

After years of turmoil including the nine high school students who entered Central High in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957, the Boston desegregation by busing fights from 1974-88, and similar desegregation struggles in Los Angeles, San Jose, California, and many other cities, what is the status of integration in public schools in 2018?

There is no longer de jure segregation from explicit discriminatory law, but instead de facto segregation which refers to patterns of racial separation in major cities in the United States. What has happened?

In 2018 research finds more segregation than in 1968. Seventy-five percent of black students attend poorly funded schools; with poorly maintained facilities; and punitive discipline, leading to high rates of suspension and expulsion.

In addition, it is well-documented that black and other minority students are residentially segregated. They attend schools in high-poverty areas that are given fewer resources and less per pupil spending. The teachers are less well-trained and paid less. Fewer high level academic courses are offered. An example is Manual HS in Denver and Cherry Creek HS in the Denver area.

The massive resistance by state and district school boards in the past has changed to seemingly inoffensive offers of ‘school choice’ – U. S. Superintendent of Education Betsy DeVos’ favorite phrase. In reality that means private school vouchers, also called education savings accounts and tuition tax credits, that take money away from already underserved public schools in an effort to give students a supposed chance at academic success. Another tool is the increased number of charter schools, almost 3 million students in 2018, many in highly segregated communities. Charter schools can succeed, but often are discriminatory and do not provide the achievement advertised.

Take Care Schools has offered information about programs that help low-income students in high-poverty areas succeed, but mainly they are programs for boys. It’s time to pass on statistics about black girls – after all, Oliver Brown of Brown v Board of Education wanted better education opportunities for his daughter, Linda Brown Thompson, who died on March 25, 2018, at 75.

According to research compiled by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) black students are five times more likely to attend high-poverty schools and three times more likely to live in high-poverty neighborhoods. Besides the multitude of problems with the facilities and academics at these schools, black girl students are up to six times more likely to be disciplined by suspension or expulsion than boy or girl students of any other race or ethnicity. Furthermore, since these schools lack the necessary resources for a full range of math and science classes, black girls are underrepresented in AP STEM – only 5% are in math and science, while 78% are enrolled in basic math and science.

Although women who attend college do well in science and math courses, only ¼ of black women go on to obtain a college degree and those are more likely to need student loans and have difficulty paying them back.

This is a question for the current U. S. Superintendent of Education who, despite the numbers, is issuing decrees to make it harder to complete school without debt.

Watch the progress on overcoming poverty in Congress with the National Defense Authorization Act, which seems innocuous, but is a voucher system for military families. It is opposed by the National Military Family Association and the Military Officers Association of America. (Education Insider-NEA May 13, 2018.) We should hope the bill goes down.

On the other hand, the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, May 15, 2018, reminds us that inequalities exist in schools when students are tracked according to what are seen as their abilities. Garfield High School in Seattle, Washington has a curriculum called Honors for All to overcome that bias.

The Krause Center for Innovation’s program for teachers, a hands-on technology infused model for mathematics instruction, called FAME (Faculty Academy for Mathematics Excellence) has developed a revised model for grade 4 and 5 teachers who after the summer session take back the instructional model to their students – the idea is to improve math knowledge for all students, not just the gifted.

Even today with a vast number of concerns for this country’s stability, integration in public schools remains one of the most important obligations of our time. Innovation or diversified funding won’t make public school equal, although there’s always a ray of hope: Georgia State in a suburb of Atlanta has shown innovation to increase graduation of black students. However, where communities are integrated the health of black students is better, the poverty rate is lower, and incarceration declines. Moreover, living in diverse neighborhoods reduces the prejudice of white students and the community.

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Community Schools? 

Thursday, May 11th, 2017
small island school perfect for community school

small island school perfect for community school

Let’s concentrate on the news about the president’s proposed FY 2018 budget and, not yet signed into law, AHCA which passed in the House of Representatives and now goes to the Senate.

What jumps out to an educator is the decline in $9 billion in funds allocated to the U. S. Department of Education with no outcry from the administration’s cabinet member, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Next, the decline in funds in the AHCA plan for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) which immediately, if it becomes law, affects the health and readiness to succeed for students from pre-K to 12th grade.

If $1 billion of the budget is diverted from existing programs to voucher-type programs, then after-school programs, class size, professional development, Pell grants are likely to go. (Note, however, Ms. DeVos has said year-round Pell Grant funding will be restored, but she has decided to roll back loan protections for borrowers. New York Times, “Graduates Meet DeVos with their Backs Turned” by Erica L. Green, May 11, 2017) If Medicaid becomes block grants with not enough money for a state to provide for all residents, the vulnerable are the victims and so, money will be diverted from education funds to provide for insurance for those with pre-existing condition, for children, for the elderly – children helped to stay alive, but no school. Is that not juggling until the balls drop? See NEA Education Insider, May 7, 2017.

Because of apprehension about possible disasters to public school education, establishment of well-defined and implemented “community schools” may help to overcome fears. In fact, states, districts, and even local communities have found ways to consolidate resources and people to ameliorate education problems, especially in low-income neighborhoods. In fact, Randi Weingarten, AFT president, escorted Betsy DeVos to see a community school in Dayton, Ohio.

However, many school districts have health centers or preschools or after-school programs or attendance clerks, nurses, and counselors or a public library attached to a school, but are not organized to be proficient and productive.

What are the ‘best practices’ model for community schools?

Two national organizations can help a school or district or region establish a community school: the Coalition for Community Schools, housed at the Institute for Educational Leadership, and The Children’s Aid Society of the National Center for Community Schools. Both organizations are standards-driven and use evidence-based strategies to promote equity and educational excellence, as noted on the websites.

The models are set to devise and implement four components to ensure a good community school. Focusing on Academics, think tutoring, homework centers, arts and music programs, academic challenge games, student government. For Health, think an open gym, dental and mental health centers, intramural sport programs, and an on-site clinic. For Community Resources, think advisory councils, services located at or near the school, community partners who seek funding. For Family, think ESL or GED or literacy classes, fitness, homework help for parents in school, adult sports. The options are endless to make the parents, community, and students think of the school as the resource for all.

The models instituted in Erie, Pennsylvania; New York City; Oxnard, California; and Flint, Michigan call for a coordinator to oversee and foster relentless support for the school community. The payoff is a place where education is valued and supported.

The hard part is the persistent under-funding, especially in low-income regions, and to secure state level fiscal equity and funding adequacy. Reading about New York City’s initiative, first call is to make efficient leverage of current and new public funding; second, use the district’s financial department knowledge to search for foundation grant funding; third, as many Harlem Children’s Zone community schools do, look to the private sector to broker partners and funding.

The end outcome is to achieve sustainability for community schools, and that is why the FY 2018 budget and AHCA are unnerving.