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School Choice is Good For America; round 4


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Kids wanting to learn math and science are potentially dangerous?  Are teachers afraid of all the ballpoint pens in the student's pocket protectors?  Of being assaulted with a slide rule?  

More than half of Indiana school districts oppose choice expansion. Will it matter? https://www.indystar.com/story/news/education/2021/03/29/more-than-half-indiana-districts-united-against-choice

School Board Mocks Parents Who Support Reopening: 'They Want Their Babysitters Back' https://reason.com/2021/02/18/oakley-union-schools-babysitters-reopening-video-meeting/  

How To Succeed In School Without Really Trying: https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/how-to-succeed-in-school-without-really-trying-baltimore/

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We live in a time when people are losing faith in institutions. This story from Baltimore offers a vivid illustration of why:

A shocking discovery out of a Baltimore City high school, where Project Baltimore has found hundreds of students are failing. It’s a school where a student who passed three classes in four years, ranks near the top half of his class with a 0.13 grade point average.

Tiffany France thought her son would receive his diploma this coming June. But after four years of high school, France just learned, her 17-year-old must start over. He’s been moved back to ninth grade.

“He’s stressed and I am too. I told him I’m probably going to start crying. I don’t know what to do for him,” France told Project Baltimore. “Why would he do three more years in school? He didn’t fail, the school failed him. The school failed at their job. They failed. They failed, that’s the problem here. They failed. They failed. He didn’t deserve that.”

France’s son attends Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts in west Baltimore. His transcripts show he’s passed just three classes in four years, earning 2.5 credits, placing him in ninth grade. But France says she didn’t know that until February. She has three children and works three jobs. She thought her oldest son was doing well because even though he failed most of his classes, he was being promoted. His transcripts show he failed Spanish I and Algebra I but was promoted to Spanish II and Algebra II. He also failed English II but was passed on to English III.

“I’m just assuming that if you are passing, that you have the proper things to go to the next grade and the right grades, you have the right credits,” said France.

As we dig deeper into her son’s records, we can see in his first three years at Augusta Fells, he failed 22 classes and was late or absent 272 days. But in those three years, only one teacher requested a parent conference, which France says never happened. No one from the school told France her son was failing and not going to class.

Read it all. You can say that Tiffany France ought to have been more on top of things with her kid’s grades, but she’s right to say that if the school was passing him, there is a basic trust that every parent has to have in their children’s school — and this school violated it.

This is how the school advertises itself on its website:

Screen-Shot-2021-03-04-at-4.39.16-PM.png

 

Of course, the Augusta Fells Savage Institute lied. If this kid was near the top half of his class with an 0.13 GPA, think about those lower! Does any learning happen in this school?

Clearly not, but I bet Woke Inc. can explain why. It’s probably on account of racism!

Maybe the Augusta Fells Savage Institute leaders need to rebrand themselves as at the forefront of woke pedagogy. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in collaboration with a number of California educational institutions, have produced Equitable Math, a guide to teach “anti-racist mathematics.” In what ways does mathematics instruction uphold white supremacy? Well, check out the guide:

EvbBWbbXEAAewux-e1614897310320.jpg

 

Perhaps Tiffany France’s ire at her son’s school is misdirected. Perhaps the school was practicing antiracism by not holding him to perfection on his classroom attendance, and his classwork.

Sarcasm over. The thing is, sensible middle class parents of all races are not going to subject their kids to this kind of garbage pedagogy. They are going to move to school districts where their kids are taught actual math, or put them in private school. It’s going to be the children of the poor, especially the racial minority poor, who suffer the most.

 

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Teachers’ Unions Make the Case for School Choice: https://www.cato.org/commentary/teachers-unions-make-case-school-choice

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Extended public‐school closures and one‐size‐fits‐all school systems have provided free advertising for school choice over the past year. Parents across the country are increasingly tired of fights between school‐district leaders and teachers’ unions over whether classrooms should open for in‐person instruction. And as their children’s learning continues to suffer, they are increasingly desperate for more options. Their desperation might just make school choice more popular, even after the pandemic is behind us.

One key factor driving parental exasperation is the obvious contrast between what public schools have done during this period and what private schools have done. While public schools in many cities remain closed, private schools and daycare centers have been fighting to safely reopen their doors for months. In fact, private schools in Kentucky went all the way to the Supreme Court to fight for the right to provide in‐person services to their customers. A private school in Sacramento County, Calif., even rebranded itself as a “daycare” by training its employees as child‐care workers in an attempt to get around the government’s arbitrary closure rules. Nationwide and state‐specific data confirm that private schools have been substantially more likely to reopen in‐person than nearby public schools. And four rigorous studies have each found that public‐school districts with stronger teachers’ unions have been significantly less likely to reopen in person.

Even more frustrating, there is no major medical reason for this disparity. In fact, keeping schools closed for in‐person instruction flies in the face of the science. Last month, Center for Disease Control (CDC) researchers reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that “the preponderance of available evidence from the fall school semester has been reassuring” and that “there has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission.” In New York City, for example, the latest positivity rate reported in schools was less than a tenth of the positivity rate in the overall community. Additional studies from other countries — including SwedenIrelandNorway, and Singapore — similarly suggest schools are not major contributors of community spread. UNICEF also reported that “data from 191 countries show no consistent association between school reopening status and COVID-19 infection rates.”

Yet certain examples of public-school behavior are particularly egregious even by these standards. For instance, while some public K–12 providers insisted on keeping classrooms fully remote, they were opening the same school buildings for in-person childcare services and charging families hundreds of dollars per child per week out of pocket. If the schools could reopen for in-person childcare services, why couldn’t they open for in-person learning? And more recently, a Chicago Teachers Union board member was caught vacationing in Puerto Rico while rallying teachers on social media to not return to work in person. But if was safe enough to travel to another country and vacation in person, then why wasn’t it safe enough to return to work in person?

Of course, some high-risk teachers have real health concerns and are looking for good-faith ways to make schools safer for them to be in. Unfortunately, unions have largely taken an all-or-nothing approach to their demands for reopening. In fact, many teachers' unions across the country have been fighting to remain closed since the start of the pandemic. The public-school monopoly sought to protect itself at the expense of families as soon as the lockdowns began last March. The Oregon Education Association successfully lobbied that same month to make it illegal for families to switch to virtual charter schools. The Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators lobbied for the same thing that month to prevent desperate families from taking their children's education dollars to schools that had years of experience operating virtually. California took similar action by passing a bill that effectively prevented families from taking their children's education dollars to public charter schools.

That’s not the only evidence that some teachers’ unions often prioritize politics and power over the needs of families. Take a look at some of their demands. In their report on safely reopening schools, the Los Angeles teachers’ union called for things unrelated to reopening schools, such as defunding the police, Medicare-for-All, a wealth tax, and a ban on charter schools. At least ten teachers’ unions joined with the Democratic Socialists of America to hold a “National Day of Resistance” to “Demand Safe Schools” on two occasions in less than a year. Included in their list of demands, in addition to more funding and staffing, were police-free schools, rent cancelation, unemployment benefits for all, and a ban on standardized tests and new charter schools.

Meanwhile, families have been left scrambling for nearly a year now and many children are falling behind academicallymentally, and physically. After all this, parents are beginning to realize that it is time for a change in the relationship between students and schools. They’ve recognized that it does not make any sense to fund closed school buildings when we can fund students directly instead. Think of it this way: If a grocery store doesn’t reopen, families can take their money elsewhere. If a school doesn’t reopen, families should similarly be able to take their children’s taxpayer-funded education dollars elsewhere. After all, education funding is supposed to be meant for educating children, not for protecting a particular institution.

Recent nationwide polling from RealClearOpinion Research found that support for the concept of school choice jumped ten percentage points in just a few months — from 67 percent in April to 77 percent in August 2020 — among families with children in the public-school system last year. Another national survey conducted by Morning Consult found that support for several types of school choice — education savings accounts, vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, and charter schools — all surged between the spring and fall of 2020. The same national poll found that 81 percent of the general public — and 86 percent of parents of school-aged children — now support funding students directly through education savings accounts.

These initiatives allow families to take a portion of their children’s K–12 education dollars, which would have otherwise automatically funneled to their residentially assigned public-school district, to cover the costs associated with any approved education provider, such as private schooling, tutoring, homeschooling, microschooling, and “pandemic pods.” And, of course, families would still be able to take all of their children’s education dollars to their residentially assigned public school if they prefer.

It isn't just voters who are changing their minds. Legislators in at least 23 states have introduced bills in the past two months to fund students instead of systems. Five of these states — ArizonaIowaIndianaWest Virginia, and Kansas — have already passed school-choice bills out of a chamber, and three others — FloridaMissouri, and South Dakota — have passed bills out of committees.

Language in some of this new legislation also suggests that the push to fund students instead of systems is the direct result of the inability or unwillingness of some teachers' unions and school systems to reopen in person. Legislators in states including UtahMaryland, and Illinois introduced bills to allow families to take their children's education dollars elsewhere if their public schools didn't reopen in person. The proposal to fund students directly in Georgia includes several eligibility categories — one of which happens to be for students assigned to public schools without full-time in-person instruction. Congressman Dan Bishop also introduced federal legislation to allow families to take some of their children's K–12 education dollars to private providers if their public schools don't reopen in person.

Families are also fighting back in other ways. Parents are filing lawsuits against school districts over their inadequate reopening plans. Others are pushing to recall school-board members.

The good news is that teachers' unions and others who oppose safe in-person instruction have done more to advance school choice in the past year than anyone could have ever imagined. The pandemic has revealed the main problem with K–12 education: There is a massive power imbalance between the public school system and individual families.

Families have always gotten the short end of the stick on K–12 education. But it's more obvious now than ever, and families are figuring out they're getting a bad deal. The only way that we're ever going to fix that uneven power dynamic is to give families real options by funding students directly.

It's about time we get our priorities right and fund students, not systems.

 

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The Education Establishment Fears You Might Teach Your Kids Unapproved Ideas

https://reason.com/2021/03/17/the-education-establishment-fears-you-might-teach-your-kids-unapproved-ideas/

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With families opting out of the faltering public schools in ever-growing numbers, the establishment's attacks on competing education offerings continues apace. Now, a retired teacher insists that private schools may become terrorist training camps. The over-the-top argument is the latest attempt to reinterpret the refreshing viewpoint diversity offered by chosen educational offerings as a danger to the American way of life.

"[T]he American public school is where we learn to be Americans," argues one-time journalism teacher Susan Johnson in a Charleston Gazette-Mail column. "In public schools, the public decides the curriculum. The public votes to elect school boards who decide the facts our children will be taught. We leave high school and enter college or the workforce with a common set of civic norms and agreed-upon facts that are derived from reason, critical thinking and the scientific method."

Johnson contrasts values taught in government institutions with what she sees as nefarious alternatives.

"In charter schools, a private board decides the curriculum. Same for private schools. One board might teach that the earth is flat. Another might teach that the pope is infallible; another might teach he is the anti-Christ," Johnson writes. "Many children are homeschooled using private instructional programs — some that are online — that are marketed for particular religious and political persuasions."

Oh, no! To what dire fate could all of these independently selected curricula lead? 

Invoking fearful visions of fundamentalist Islamic schools training terrorists, she asks, "are we very far away from schools like that in America? Proud Boy Academy? Boogaloo Boot Camp?"

This is bang-your-head-on-the-desk silliness, rooted in a fundamental misrepresentation of what public schools are all about. Just last year, The New York Times' Dana Goldstein marveled at the contrasting ideological spin in textbooks crafted for public schools in California and Texas: "The books have the same publisher. They credit the same authors. But they are customized for students in different states, and their contents sometimes diverge in ways that reflect the nation's deepest partisan divides… [C]lassroom materials are not only shaded by politics, but are also helping to shape a generation of future voters."

If this conflict of interpretations is what Johnson means by "a common set of civic norms and agreed-upon facts" the schools in which she taught must use words in extremely unusual ways. Or maybe she's shading the fact that public school curricula are constant sources of struggle over emphasis and ideological content among people with "particular religious and political persuasions."

In truth, disagreements over what kids are taught in public schools are so common that the Cato Institute maintains an online map in an effort to track the various battles. The introduction notes: "Americans are diverse – ethnically, religiously, ideologically – but all must pay for public schools. The intention is good: to bring people together and foster social harmony. But rather than build bridges, public schooling often forces people into wrenching conflict."

 

Johnson probably knows this — she taught in those schools. Her silly warning that private schools might divert kids into the boogaloo movement is the latest expression of establishment fears that the state is losing its grip on young minds.

"A very large proportion of homeschooling parents are ideologically committed to isolating their children from the majority culture and indoctrinating them in views and values that are in serious conflict with that culture," Harvard Law School's Elizabeth Bartholet huffed last year in a high-profile Arizona Law Review article. Bartholet, who favors a "presumptive ban" on homeschooling, went on to argue that "[p]olicymakers should impose greater restrictions on private schools for many of the same reasons that they should restrict homeschooling."

Once again, it's fair to ask which "majority culture" Bartholet favors: that in California textbooks, or in those of Texas? But that would be missing the point. In less florid language, the Harvard professor preceded the retired teacher in advocating a state monopoly over what children are taught.

"The idea that only government schools can (or should) make people 'American' is a dangerously statist notion that should be rejected," the Home School Legal Defense Association's Michael Donnelly told me via email. "Freedom of education is at the heart of our founding principles of self-governance and liberty. In a free society education should not be one place and one system that seeks to create servile citizens. Rather, education is about helping all learners to achieve their fullest individual potential."

Despite the objections of Johnson, Bartholet, and company, freedom of education is enjoying a boom. In fact, while interest in education choice has been growing for years, (fueling experiments in charter schools, vouchers, tax credits, and homeschooling) it has really taken off in the past 12 months because of the abject failures of the public schooling establishment to effectively teach children during the pandemic.

"COVID-19 has created a strange natural experiment in American education: Families who would have never otherwise considered taking their kids out of school feel desperate enough to try it," Emma Green wrote in The Atlantic last September. 

"Comprehensive national data aren't available yet, but reporting by NPR and our member stations, along with media reports from around the country, shows enrollment declines in dozens of school districts across 20 states," NPR reported in October.

And families, by and large, like their new options.

"Private school and traditional homeschool parents remain more positive about their children's progress compared to district school parents," according to February polling by EdChoice. The numbers remain stronger for homeschoolers and private schoolers than for district school families across academic learning, educational development, and social development.

Undoubtedly, many of the families choosing new educational options are teaching their kids ideas of which Johnson and company disapprove. But as children learn perhaps conflicting ways "to be Americans" that they can hash out in healthy discussion and debate, they're wonderfully free of force-fed lessons crafted by smug defenders of establishment-approved versions of the truth.

 

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More than half of Indiana school districts oppose choice expansion. Will it matter?

https://www.indystar.com/story/news/education/2021/03/29/more-than-half-indiana-districts-united-against-choice-expansion/6971630002/

(Note: Story is behind a paywall)

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Alexandra Cappucci and Allison Larty know that if they want to teach their students at Shortridge High School to become advocates, then they need to model that behavior. So Cappucci, Larty and about a dozen other members of Indiana Teachers Organizing for Action packed up their “classrooms” and headed to the Indiana Statehouse last Thursday.

It was going to be a big day for education in Indiana.

The Senate’s subcommittee on school funding was holding a hearing Thursday afternoon, seeking input on how the state should spend more than $15 billion in public education funding over the next two years.

More than half of the state's school districts had already come out against the House's spending proposal that includes a massive expansion of private school choice programs and 50 people would sign up to testify before the subcommittee – advocating for everything from more money for low-income students in public schools to an expansion of the state’s private school voucher program. 

So, by 8 a.m., Cappucci, Larty and their colleagues were setting up their laptops for a “teach in.” Indianapolis Public Schools was already scheduled for a virtual learning week so instead of teaching from home, they spent the day teaching from the north atrium on the Statehouse’s second floor.

“Why not teach from the Statehouse and do our thing here?” Larty said. “We’re creating a visible presence here but we’re also making our students aware.

...

Sorry Ms. Larty, making your students politically "aware" is not your job.  Teaching them is.    And let's be clear, the ISTA/NEA is opposed to any state expansion of vouchers because it threatens the jobs of its government school employee members.  There is no other logical reason, full stop.

 

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Legislators Override Kentucky Governor's Veto of School Choice Bill

https://reason.com/2021/03/30/legislators-override-kentucky-governors-veto-of-school-choice-bill/

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Lawmakers in Kentucky successfully overrode Gov. Andy Beshear's veto of a school choice bill, opening several avenues for families in the state to pursue a better education for their children.

The new law, originally House Bill 563, allows students in Kentucky public schools to switch school districts, and it creates a new tax-advantaged education savings program for families to use for private school tuition, to pay for tutoring, or to cover other educational expenses. The most controversial part of the proposal was the creation of a $25 million scholarship fund—to be filled by donations from private businesses, for which they would receive state tax credits—that students in Kentucky's largest counties can tap to help pay for private school tuition.

In vetoing the bill last week, Beshear, a Democrat, repeated tired arguments from teachers unions and public school superintendents who fear the erosion of their monopoly control over the state's education spending.

Thankfully, the Republican-controlled state legislature wasn't listening. The state House voted 51-42 on Monday evening to override Beshear's veto and the state Senate followed suit with a vote of 23-14 shortly afterward. (In Kentucky, overriding a veto does not require a supermajority vote.)

"Lawmakers ultimately did the right thing for students, and for the first time, Kentucky families will have access to the schooling options they deserve to find the best fit for their kids," says Robert Enlow, president and CEO of EdChoice, an organization that backed the bill.

With the passage of the first school choice bill in state history, Kentucky is now the 28th state with some form of school choice, according to the American Federation for Children, a nonprofit that supports school choice.

There may soon be more. The Wall Street Journal notes on Tuesday that more than 50 school choice bills have been introduced in different states this year, with the uptick in legislative interest likely a direct result of teachers unions' unwillingness to reopen schools as the COVID-19 pandemic abates.

Beshear's veto demonstrated how the public school establishment continues to exert political pressure on states that try to give families more educational options. But the Kentucky legislature's swift reversal suggests that the tide is turning.

A vote for Freedom is always a good thing.

 

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School Choice Is on The Move. Is It Too Late?

https://www.cato.org/blog/school-choice-move-it-too-late

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Yesterday featured some very attractive bookends if you are an admirer of educational freedom. In the morning, it was announced that West Virginia governor Jim Justice had signed into law the state’s first education savings account program. Then last night, the Kentucky legislature overturned Governor Andy Beshear’s veto of that state’s education savings account bill.

Two states that had no private school choice programs before were on the freedom map, and there is likely more choice coming, with progress being made in Georgia, Indiana, Montana, Arizona, and many other states. But is it too little, too late, to make sure there are still diverse private schools from which to choose?

There is little doubt that a lot of the fuel powering the choice drive has come from COVID-19, which has illustrated to just about everyone how fundamentally impossible it is for a single school or district to provide what every, diverse family needs or wants. Specifically with COVID, the focus has been on diverse health threats, varied student responsiveness to online learning, and differing family and teacher tolerances for risk. Moving beyond the current crisis, children have always had individual learning needs and interests, families have always had diverse values, and so on.

Unfortunately, private schools have suffered for over a century from a chronic threat to their health that has been the underlying condition in numerous COVID-19 losses: they have had to compete against “free” public schools that receive large taxpayer subsidies. And as the chart below shows, such subsidies have been growing for decades.

...

Given the massive problem of having to convince people to pay twice for education – first taxes for public schools, then tuition – it is not surprising that the nation has lost at least 133 private schools, enrolling around 21,000 students, due to the economic effects of COVID-19. Most had been suffering from serious financial ailments long before that.

....

Of course, yawning funding disadvantage is not the only reason some private schools have gone out of business. Obviously, individual schools have seen scandals, or population changes, or just poor performance, but all start with frail health when their much larger public siblings have taken almost all the nourishment from Day One.

Thankfully, it is not too late for choice to expand and, in so doing, enable many private options to survive and even thrive. While we have likely lost hundreds of private schools (the 133 count is a baseline of reported and confirmed COVID‐connected closures) tens‐of‐thousands remain. The key to their long‐term health – and the health of a free, diverse society – is to do exactly what we see many states working toward right now: give families control of education dollars, and let private schools live or die based on whether families choose them.

 

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Teachers Unions Use Political Clout To Keep Classrooms Closed

https://reason.com/2021/05/07/teachers-unions-use-political-clout-to-keep-classrooms-closed/

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As it turns out, the late teachers' union president, Al Shanker, probably didn't utter the revealing quotation often attributed to him: "When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of schoolchildren." Nevertheless, it's doubtful the likely misquotation will vanish completely because it captures the essence of union-controlled public-school systems.

We know it's true. Students are not the priority but serve as a prop by which district officials and teachers' unions arm-twist taxpayers for money. Nothing has illuminated this better than the unions' foot-dragging response to school closings. They absolutely, positively want schools to reopen—but only after officials agree to a laundry list of demands that have little to do with "the children."

Now that public schools finally are moving toward a return to classroom learning, teachers' unions are getting more demanding. As The Sacramento Bee reported, "school employees are seeking extra pay, safety measures, and child care assistance to offset the challenges imposed by the coronavirus pandemic." The "extra challenges" are the ones faced by school employees, not the schools' supposed customers.

I've been reading teachers' union statements and it's hard to see where the disputed Shanker quotation got anything wrong. "As millions of working families…have been forced to leave home for work and scramble to find childcare throughout the pandemic, it's become more clear than ever that we as a society must do more to provide affordable childcare options for families with children too young for school," said a United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) statement.

Some Los Angeles teachers have started a petition calling for teachers with young children to continue working remotely and for subsidized childcare by the fall, according to a recent Politico report. I re-read the California Teachers' Association's lengthy position on reopenings from earlier this year. Peel away the blather and it all comes down to this simple statement: "CTA believes all schools will need additional funding."

CTA argued that California needs a "thoughtful, long-term view of how dollars are allocated to schools for reopening because this is not a two- or three-month endeavor." Charter schools and private schools—including the one that Gov. Gavin Newsom's children attend—have worked tirelessly to get students and teachers back to school, but CTA didn't see that happening until the state chipped in more dollars for various benefits and safeguards.

These not only include "proper ventilation and testing," but "additional funding for social and emotional support for students and staff, technical assistance and broadband support for students, and supplemental support for students with special needs and English Language Learners." The statement said that the reopening plan must be mindful of "equity concerns" and the impact of reopened schools on poor and minority families.

I'd be more sympathetic to these demands if the public schools did an even tolerable job of providing distance learning, but many news stories detailed the plodding and incompetent way that traditional public schools—as opposed to private ones and public charters—transitioned to Zoom-based teaching.

The public funds government monopolies regardless of how well they perform (and generally provides even more money when they fail), so public schools had few incentives to master pandemic challenges. After the shift to distance learning, students had far more failing grades and school districts essentially blamed the students.

At least the public-school establishmentarians should stop prattling about the need to slow down reopenings because of concerns about the poor. "Pandemic-related school closures are deepening educational inequality in the United States by severely impairing the academic progress of children from low-income neighborhoods," according to a Yale News report on a study from a Yale University economist. Myriad reports have documented the disparate impacts of distance learning on poor kids.

A new poll shows that the governor enjoys high approval ratings for his handling of the school situation, yet he essentially gave the teachers' union the veto power over reopening plans by requiring that school districts come to an agreement with local collective-bargaining units. That gave districts with powerful unions—typically urban districts with a poor student population—outsized influence, as one Bee columnist explained.

Thanks to that union-friendly decision, California public schools still are a long way from fully reopening. A new Los Angeles Times district-by-district analysis found that only 52 percent of the state's elementary school students and 37 percent of secondary school students have returned to the classroom. But don't worry—teachers and other school employees still are being paid and accruing pensions, and soon might get free childcare.

The public school system is a travesty that does not—and cannot—put students first. The only answer is competition, so that parents and students can take their business elsewhere. Yet Newsom signed a package of union-backed legislation that makes it harder for charter schools to start up and expand. Why? When schoolchildren make campaign contributions, you'll have your answer.

 

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Don’t Be Fooled: Teachers’ Unions Remain a Public Menace

https://www.nationalreview.com/2021/05/dont-be-fooled-teachers-unions-remain-a-public-menace/

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As the school year draws to a close, many of the people who spent the past year inflicting needless harm on America’s children are seeking to rehabilitate their images and turn the page. Union-backed school boards did everything in their power to keep schools closed, but now they pretend like they wanted full-time in-person learning all along.

 

One reason is that many public schools, such as those in Fairfax County, Va., have suffered a dramatic drop in enrollment, and they need to persuade families to come back. Many families won’t. Another reason is that many families actually listened to unions’ anti-science rationale for keeping schools closed and are now hesitant to return, causing logistical, administrative, and financial problems for the fall.

However, the most egregious whitewashing is coming from Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who announced yesterday that she wants schools to reopen fully this coming fall. But nobody has done more over the past year to inflict harm on children than Weingarten, National Education Association President Becky Pringle, and their fellow union bosses. The intentional damage they’ve caused to the health, emotional and physical wellness, and education of our nation’s children should never be forgotten or forgiven.

Weingarten’s attempts to change the narrative are coming in the form of speeches and television appearances to advocate full-time school . . . next fall. Nobody should buy it. First, even for next year, her full-time posture includes several anti-science preconditions, such as distancing and smaller classes. These are the same excuses teachers’ unions leaned on this year to keep the school doors locked. But it’s mostly an attempt to conceal the role they played over the past year in advocating against the needs of kids.

Documents acquired by the watchdog group Americans for Public Trust this month showed the intimate level of involvement that powerful teachers’ unions had in approving scientific guidance on school reopenings just this February. A flood of emails and phone calls between the Biden White House, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, and union bosses demonstrated exactly who was approving scientific guidance. It wasn’t scientists or public-health experts.

At a time when the American Academy of Pediatrics and countless epidemiologists and medical experts were publicly begging authorities to issue guidance that would permit apprehensive districts to open their doors, our health leaders were relying on major political donors such as Weingarten instead. The unions helped write the guidance and then used it as an excuse to keep schools closed.

See, it’s harder to lobby for billions of dollars in relief for closed schools if schools are open. And that was the end goal here. Not the welfare of little children, but raw political power. And it went full circle as the unions ramped up political donations by the millions to purchase acquiescence from Congress. It’s corrupt from top to bottom.

Teachers’ unions are a public menace. And it’s time for them to lose their ability to organize against children, parents, and communities. It’s time to stop allowing them to use our children as hostages for ransom money that never makes it down to its intended recipients: teachers.

See, this is not an attack on teachers. Far from it. Teachers have been poorly served by these unions as well. Teachers are underpaid and undervalued, with limited resources. This is true. The American Federation of Teachers was established in 1917. The National Education Association was established in 1857. They are some of the most prolific spenders in American politics, spending over $65 million in the last election cycle alone. And yet their constituents have become a byword for underpaid professionals.

What exactly are teachers getting from these organizations other than a bad reputation and a sizable chunk of their still-modest paychecks taken away to fuel political donations? One hundred sixty-four years of lobbying for practically nothing. Because of seniority rules, bad teachers can make more than good teachers, and schools have few financial incentives available to encourage more of the latter. Money meant for teachers ends up funneled into massive administrative bureaucracies and little else. The unions have one job, and they are always failing at it.

Parents in even well-off districts still need to supply classrooms. Students are graduating without basic knowledge that was considered rudimentary one generation ago. Teachers remain historically underpaid. But this is considered “success” for unions — so long as political cash flows to the bosses.

My children’s teachers are great. Our school is a good public school. It’s why we moved to our home. But it is administered by a union-picked school board and superintendent set on holding it back from its full potential. The union that picked our county’s school board wants to keep a system where wealthy people have access to the best public schools while poor children do not because they have no choice.

This past year has shown people across the political spectrum exactly who these unions are. They are selfish leaders in cosmopolitan bubbles who view children and parents as a nuisance rather than as the beneficiaries of schooling. They are willing to demand vaccine prioritization ahead of sick and vulnerable populations, and then after receiving vaccines, they shrug their shoulders with indifference as they still refuse to back reopening. People likely died because of this, but to these unions, it’s just business.

At the beginning of the pandemic, everyone was working with little information or knowledge. We had to be extra cautious and make risk-averse decisions for the public good. Shutting schools down was a no-brainer. But over the past year, we have accumulated a wealth of data, public-health expertise, and real-world experimentation. The evidence showed that schools do not drive community spread, that children are statistically safe from the effects of COVID-19, and that many early precautions were mostly proven unnecessary.

Nevertheless, unions mobilized against in-person instruction. They lobbied to keep kids at home and ignored the crisis within a crisis where children were suffering from rising depression, anxiety, learning loss, nutrition and exercise loss, socialization loss, and even suicide. Children were being victimized by the millions. Think about that being your legacy: harming children.

More than half the country showed us what was possible when unions were not standing in the school door. Half of the country’s students were in school full-time, five days a week, with minimal problems simply because their community wasn’t led by unions. Private schools just down the street from shuttered public schools struggled to keep up with the demand for their services as thousands of families fled the public system.

This has to stop. There are 50.7 million public-school students in the U.S., or at least there were. Becky Pringle and Randi Weingarten lobby against their needs every day. Against children. That is their legacy.

If we want to reward great teachers, if we want all children to access great schools, if we want to give kids what they need to thrive and inherit a great nation, we must give the power back to the parents. And we must never forget or forgive the unions for what they intentionally did to our children this past year.

Greed and avarice.

 

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59 minutes ago, Muda69 said:

Don’t Be Fooled: Teachers’ Unions Remain a Public Menace

https://www.nationalreview.com/2021/05/dont-be-fooled-teachers-unions-remain-a-public-menace/

Greed and avarice.

 

Half of my students came back to the building after spring break, and since then two staff members and a student have had COVID, resulting in a week of virtual learning and one of the grades being on virtual learning for the rest of the year. 

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Private virtual schools coming to Indiana for first time after state board gives OK

https://www.indystar.com/story/news/education/2021/06/02/indiana-private-schools-could-soon-include-virtual-option/7497425002/

Quote

Update, 9:15 a.m.: Hoosier families have a new schooling option: virtual private schools. 

The Indiana State Board of Education awarded probationary accreditation to two virtual private schools — a first for the state — during Wednesday's meeting. The recommendations were included on the board's consent agenda and the vote on the entire agenda, which included various items, was taken without discussion. 

Earlier, 5:20 a.m.: For years, Indiana has been a leader in the school choice movement with a veritable buffet of educational options for its families.

But there’s something Indiana hasn’t had – until, possibly, now. The State Board of Education is set to vote on the creation of two new private, virtual schools Wednesday morning.

The Indiana Department of Education is recommending the schools – one focused on college prep, one religious – for provisional accreditation. They would be Indiana’s first state-accredited nonpublic virtual schools, if approved. While accreditation is voluntary for nonpublic schools, it is required to participate in the state’s private school voucher program.

Both GEO Focus Academy and FaithPrep intend to participate in the voucher program, according to the recommendation memos from the department, allowing eligible families to receive publicly-funded scholarships to cover the cost of tuition. State lawmakers recently expanded the program, making more Hoosier families eligible and allowing for larger scholarships for wealthier families than the program allowed for previously.

If, after two years of operations, the schools are meeting all requirements set out by state law and state board policy, the schools will be considered for full accreditation from the state.

“The schools have met the threshold necessary to receive provisional accreditation, and as part of the accreditation process, IDOE will continue monitoring the schools,” said Holly Lawson, spokesperson for the department. “The schools’ instructional mode do not conflict with Indiana law or the legal standards necessary for accreditation.”

Should they be approved, GFA and FaithPrep will join a crop of new virtual learning programs in the state. Several virtual schools have operated throughout the state for the last several years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a new generation of online education, albeit most of those affiliated with existing public schools – both charter and traditional.

When schools across Indiana closed last spring, it forced nearly every student in the state into online learning. Many schools continued to operate that way into the fall, either through fully-remote or hybrid learning models, or at least gave students the option to remain online. Many students did make the choice to continue with online learning and, Kevin Teasley said, he expects many to continue expecting a virtual option, even as schools ease back toward “more normal” operations as vaccinations increase and the restrictions of the pandemic subside.

“Parents have indicated over the past year that they’re interested in virtual and there are a lot of parents who are not coming back to traditional (school),” said Teasley. He’s the founder and president of the GEO Foundation, the manager of four Indiana charter schools. If the application is approved Wednesday, GEO Focus Academy, will be his fifth school in the state.

“You either get in the business of serving those kids who are not coming, or you lose out,” he said. “I want to make sure we can serve these kids.”

....

And Indiana’s experience with virtual schools pre-pandemic, were rocky. Poor performance of students was just one problem. Several schools being accused of fraud was another.

Teasley said he’s aware of the bad reputation that virtual schools had before the pandemic. He doesn’t want to go down that road.

“I think it’s going to be a good opportunity for students in Indiana,” he said, “but if it turns out to be something other than excellent, I won’t hesitate to shut it down.

“I’ve certainly learned from all of the debacles of other virtual schools in the state of Indiana and I don’t want to be one of those guys. I want to make sure we’re providing the highest quality opportunity.”

Both the GFA and FaithPrep applications are expected to be voted on during Wednesday morning’s meeting of the state board.

More school choices for Hoosier families is good thing.

 

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https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2021/05/07/sand-m07.html

From the Article:

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Seth Andrew, a senior advisor to former President Barack Obama in the Office of Education Technology, was arrested last Tuesday on charges he stole more than $200,000 from Democracy Prep Public Schools, a network of charter schools he founded in 2005.

Andrew is accused of stealing the amount to obtain a lower interest rate on his $2 million Manhattan apartment. Accusations include one count each of wire fraud, money laundering and making a false statement to a bank. Through his lawyer, Andrew has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which carry maximum penalties ranging from 20 to 30 years in prison. He was released on bail after the arrest.

When Democracy Prep was initially founded, an agreement was reached between it and the New York State Board of Regents specifying that the charter network had to maintain an escrow account that could only be accessed in the event of the school dissolving. According to reporting in the New York Times, Andrew still received a salary from Democracy Prep when he began working for the US Department of Education in 2013 before leaving the position in November 2016.

While he formally cut ties with Democracy Prep in January 2017, Andrew still had access to the escrow accounts. In obtaining the reduced interest rate and closing out the escrow accounts, Andrew falsely claimed that he was still a key executive with Democracy Prep. In addition to using the funds for a reduced mortgage rate on his Manhattan apartment, he also diverted additional funds to a new “civic organization” under his control, according to prosecutors.

While the case of Andrew has received significant attention due to his high-profile relationship with the Obama administration, it is only the latest in an endless series of charter school fraud cases, many of which involve amounts dwarfing the sums stolen by the former Obama advisor. Since their inception in the early 1990s and particularly during their aggressive expansion under the Obama administration, charter schools have been natural magnets for financial crimes.

Only last summer, 52-year-old Janis Buckner, with the Community Preparatory Academy in Los Angeles, pled guilty to embezzling more than $3.1 million in school funds for her personal use, including private school tuition for her children, theme park tickets, Louis Vuitton handbags and three residential properties she paid for in the Southern Los Angeles area. The Community Preparatory Academy has unsurprisingly been the focus of investigations over inadequate teacher training, misassignment of teachers outside their subject areas and high ratios of substitute teachers.

In February 2021, the two founders of the charter Incito Schools in Goodyear, Arizona, April Black and Amanda Jellson, were indicted by the Arizona Attorney General’s office after stealing more than $500,000 from the Maricopa County Superintendent’s Office. The pair allegedly falsified teacher pay stubs to receive state funding boosts and would then use the funds however they saw fit.

Also in February, an Australian man and his Southern California business partner pled guilty to diverting more than $50 million in education funds to start-up companies and their own real estate interests. The pair, along with several staff members at the 19-campus A3 Education charter school network, illegally obtained state funding by falsely enrolling students. Prosecutors allege that the network embezzled a total of $215 million in state funding.

The fact that A3 and other such charter schools in California were able to get away with such wide-scale fraud for years was due to oversight at the local and state levels which ranged from inadequate to nonexistent.

In California, charter school auditors are only required to be accountants in good standing with the California Board of Accountancy and do not require any special training or certification as financial auditors. Moreover, those designated as auditors do not have the ability to compel school management to release any specific financial information and are largely reliant upon what school administrators decide to show them. If the school does not like the way an audit is conducted, it can terminate that auditor’s services at its discretion.

The first US charter school law was passed in Montana in 1991. This came only a few years after former American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Albert Shanker—a dedicated anticommunist and former mentor to current AFT head Randi Weingarten—endorsed charter schools as a new “educational experiment” in which nominally public schools could be free from regulations.

Shanker’s endorsement was part and parcel of the AFT’s open retreat in the face of US government initiatives begun in the early 1980s, especially the Reagan administration’s infamous “A Nation at Risk” report of 1983. The report was a major broadside in the attack by US capitalism against public education and against public school teachers in particular, stating, “the educational foundations of our society are eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.”

Following this report, a flood of education reform measures have been implemented under both Republican and Democratic administrations, all of which had as their end goal the demonization of public school teachers and promotion of charter schools and other privatization schemes. These included Bill Clinton’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act and Improving America’s Schools Act, combined with with the implementation of new national standards and standardized testing.

Building on the momentum of “A Nation at Risk,” Clinton’s initiatives introduced school choice for students in Title I schools where children from low-income families make up at least 40 percent of enrollment. They also mandated funding reductions for those lower performing schools that didn’t meet established standards for improvement. Clinton’s programs also introduced federal funding for districts that wished to establish charter schools, making the first federal promotion of private charter schools a product of a Democratic presidential administration.

This agenda was continued with the Bush administration’s “No Child Left Behind” Act, which had been crafted by the late Democratic senator from Massachusetts, Edward Kennedy. Taking the Clinton administration’s attack on public education even further, No Child Left Behind punished “failing” schools not simply by withholding funds but also by allowing for the complete replacement of administration and staff, as well as the ability to convert failing schools into charter operations.

In implementing this reactionary school privatization legislation, the US government received the wholehearted support of the corporate media and growing layers of middle class academics who promoted this policy on the basis of fraudulent arguments that this would advance identity politics-based “equity.” Such tendencies are even more pronounced today.

The Obama administration kept in place “No Child Left Behind,” leading to the “restructuring” of approximately 6,000 schools nationwide by 2012. Obama put a further squeeze on public schools through his “Race to the Top Initiative” launched in 2009, which seized upon the 2008 financial crisis to dangle small amounts of funding before schools to facilitate further charterization and privatization.

Under the Obama administration, there was a net loss of more than 300,000 school workers nationwide while student populations drastically increased, creating vastly overcrowded classrooms throughout the US. By 2012, 42 out of 50 states had passed legislation authorizing charter schools, a figure that has since risen to 45 out of 50. The Obama administration also created the Common Core standards, which aimed to reduce options for children to study arts and humanities on campuses in favor of math, science and basic English.

In addition to continuing the pro-charter policies of Obama and Bush, Trump and his Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, aided by the US Supreme Court’s decision to overrule the first amendment, allowed for financial aid for students attending religious schools. DeVos, an open advocate of charter schools and religious schools in particular, defended the reintroduction of child labor during her tenure and also said that the mission of schools was to create “God’s kingdom.”

These decades-long attacks on teachers and public education provoked the mass teachers’ strikes across the US and internationally from 2018–19, which were the spearhead of a global resurgence of the class struggle. In the US, Democratic politicians duplicitously claimed their opposition to charter schools while the teachers unions made rotten deals behind teachers’ backs so that the assault could once again resume.

The COVID-19 pandemic that began in early 2020 provided that very opportunity. In March and April of last year, after the markets experienced their largest drops since the Wall Street Crash of 1929, more than 1.44 million educators lost their jobs, including 779,000 public school teachers. While hundreds of thousands of teachers lost their jobs, trillions were handed over to the banks and large corporations. Since March 2020, the wealth of the country’s billionaires increased by more than $1.6 trillion, or 55 percent. The amount thus gained during 13 months of the pandemic was a third of the total wealth accrued by US billionaires during the last 31 years.

While the Trump administration initiated the push to prematurely reopen schools last June, the Biden administration has deepened this reckless policy. School sites across the US are the primary source of transmission in numerous states. The school reopening policy received the active assistance of the teacher unions, who, without exception, told teachers that they had no choice but to return back to classrooms.

With schools across the US nearing summer vacations, the Biden administration aims to resume the Obama administration’s privatization program. To that end, numerous figures who held positions in Obama’s education department have, or will soon have, similar positions under Biden.

Education Week magazine reported last week that Biden is expected to soon nominate Roberto Rodriguez for the position of Assistant Secretary of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development in the Department of Education. Under Obama, Rodriguez had boasted that Race to the Top produced “big and lasting change,” highlighting the initiative’s advancement of Common Core standards. After serving in the Obama White House, Rodriguez became CEO of an organization known as Teach Plus, which used $27 million in grants from the Gates and Walton Foundations to lobby against teacher seniority rules and other protections.

Carmel Martin also now holds the same position under Biden as she did under Obama, Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy. As a staff member to the late Senator Kennedy, Martin had been instrumental in drafting No Child Left Behind. Under Obama, she also helped craft Race to the Top and Common Core.

In a clear indication that the accelerated growth of charter schools are now clearly on the Biden administration’s agenda, acting Assistant Secretary of Education Ian Rosenblum remarked that schools must conduct standardized testing by the end of the academic year. This has no other purpose but to drive fraudulent school accountability schemes and further open the door to the growth of private charter schools.

 

School choice at work. 

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3 hours ago, Muda69 said:

I give evidence; you give baseless accusations. 

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