We have been debating gun control on the blog. I live in the city, so I want no one to have a gun but police and active duty military.

Our beloved reader, Duane, is a hunter, and he defends all kinds of guns, including semi-automatics.

Here is a true story. Just reported.

Just read this. A woman driving to work. A man runs a red light and smashes into the woman’s car. Man’s car rolls over. Man jumps out with his AR-15 and shoots woman dead.

The Education Law Center reminds us that the California Supreme Court made the right decision on teacher tenure (Vergara) but passed up a chance to make funding equitable across the state. One would think that there should be a right to go to a public school that is adequately and equitably funded. But not yet.

CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT GOES 1 FOR 2: ENDS TENURE CASE, BUT TURNS AWAY CHALLENGE TO INADEQUATE SCHOOL FUNDING

On August 23, the California Supreme Court denied petitions for review in two cases asking the courts to declare state education laws unconstitutional. Campaign for Quality Education (CQE) and Robles-Wong v. State claimed the state’s school funding system violated the state constitution, and Vergara v. State challenged laws on teacher tenure, dismissal, and seniority.

Education Law Center, joined by civil rights organizations, filed amicus (friend of the court) briefs in both cases, arguing that the Supreme Court deny review — and effectively end — the Vergara tenure case and accept review in CQE Robles-Wong to allow the school funding case to proceed to trial.

In a 4-3 decision in CQE Robles-Wong, the Court denied review of lower court rulings and, instead, affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the complaints for “fail[ure] to state a claim for which judicial relief may be accorded,” thereby denying plaintiffs a trial on the merits of their claims.

The Court majority denied review without comment. But, three Justices would have accepted the case for review, two of whom wrote strong dissents. In his dissent, Justice Liu wrote,

It is regrettable that this court, having recognized education as a fundamental right in a landmark decision 45 years ago (Serrano v. Priest), should now decline to address the substantive meaning of that right. The schoolchildren of California deserve to know whether their fundamental right to education is a paper promise or a real guarantee.

In Vergara, the Court denied review of the Court of Appeal decision, which found plaintiffs had failed to show a causal connection between the challenged statutes and an alleged inferior educational opportunity. The civil rights brief opposed the Vergara plaintiffs’ claims and explained to the courts that fair and sufficient funding is essential to providing a high quality teacher workforce in California’s school districts. The brief also recounted the expansive research showing that adequate educational resources yield better results for students.

“The California Supreme Court got it right in denying review in Vergara,” said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director and a leading education rights litigator. “The media attention on Vergara, however, overshadowed Robles Wong, a ruling with far more impact on the educational opportunities afforded California’s public school children.”

Mr. Sciarra added that, “in Robles Wong, the Supreme Court allowed an Appellate Court ruling to stand which effectively holds that public school children cannot vindicate their fundamental right to an education under the California constitution in the California courts. The ruling also prevents courts from hearing evidence and deciding on the constitutionality of California’s school finance system — among the most inadequate in the nation.”

California has the largest public education system in the nation, serving over 6 million K-12 students—one in eight U.S. students. Nearly half of those students qualify for federal free and reduced priced lunch, the benchmark for student poverty.

Education Law Center Press Contact:
Molly A. Hunter
Education Justice, Director
mhunter@edlawcenter.org
973-624-1815, x 19

Alan Singer reports that ETS is adapting its teacher certification. It will replace students with avatars. Computer representations of real students.

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/11692858

Why? Pearson is doing it. That’s competition for you. A race to the bottom. Like network television.

There are many reasons to object to th idea of teaching avatars. One is that the essence of teaching is interaction. The teacher and students connecting, responding, reacting. Teaching avatars is like acting without a audience. It can be done, but the actors are at their best when they feel the audience response.

Peter Piazza earned his doctorate in 2015 and wrote his doctoral dissertation about the activities of Oregon-based Stand for Children in Massachusetts. He is now working as a professional researcher. SFC is an organization that started out as an advocate for children, but then received millions from corporations and foundations to fight teachers’ unions and advocate for charter schools.

Piazza wrote this summation of his research for the blog:

Stand for Children: Misadventures in Massachusetts

In the upcoming school year, a new law restricting teacher job security will become effective in Massachusetts, after having taken a winding road to its fruition that was at best nonsensical and at worst deeply undemocratic. Better known as the Stand for Children compromise law, MA 2315 prohibits public schools from using seniority as the primary factor in teacher personnel decisions, ending a long tradition that had allowed districts to make these kinds of decisions themselves, through the collective bargaining process.

The law was originally proposed by Stand as a ballot question that would have had even more far reaching consequences for teachers. Then, Stand and the state’s largest teachers’ union worked out a compromise bill in private negotiations with their lawyers. That bill was passed through the state legislature in order to remove the original (and worse) proposal from the ballot in 2012.

I tried to follow as many of the twists and turns as I could in my doctoral dissertation, relying most heavily on interviews to reconstruct a deliberately obscure policymaking process. Much of this story will be frustratingly familiar to public education advocates-

• As others have noted on this blog (here and here) and elsewhere (see here, here and here), Stand was initially created as a genuine grassroots advocacy group. Following Race to the Top and Citizens United, the group abruptly turned away from local level membership and towards big money grants from national foundations, especially – of course – Gates and Walton (2010, 2011). Research found that in 2010 Stand’s Leadership Center – its 501(c)3 wing – was among the top 5 recipients of grants from venture philanthropy in educational advocacy.

• In Massachusetts, Stand, a registered 501(c)4 group, began accepting large donations around 2009 from “dark money” sources, including a shadowy but extremely influential organization called Strategic Grant Partners. Local donors to Stand’s (c)3 wing also included The Boston Foundation, a prominent Boston donor that launched the state’s Race to the Top Coalition which continues to advocate for neoliberal reform, and Bain Capital. Because (c)4’s don’t have to disclose their donors, however, it’s hard to trace the money all the way through. Reporting, however, has linked Stand’s MA office to the usual suspects of hedge-fund managers and investment bankers. In all, it was widely believed that Stand had nearly $10 million to spend on the ballot initiative, though, the group saved some money in compromise, ultimately spending a little more than $850,000, according to state campaign finance records.

• Long-time members in the state left publicly, in an open letter expressing both critique and confusion regarding Stand’s new direction. Without an active base of volunteers, most of the money spent on the campaign went to paid signature gatherers or lobbyists.

• Even worse: Stand’s national CEO, Jonah Edelman – the son of Marian Wright Edelman – told everyone on YouTube that the organization would bring its anti-union agenda to states like Massachusetts. After passing restrictions on job security in Illinois, Edelman referred to teachers unions when he infamously trumpeted that Stand was able to “jam this proposal down their throats.” He then stated baldly that “our hope and our expectation is to use this as a catalyst to very quickly make similar changes in other very entrenched states.”

But, in the Massachusetts example at least, there are potential sources of hope for public education advocates –

• Stand was almost completely conflicted within every major level of the organization. National leaders wanted a quick win, state leaders wanted more time to build relationships, and Stand’s community organizers genuinely wanted to do good community organizing.

Here’s my best short summary of the whole process: As told to me by a state level leader at Stand, “the original Great Teachers Great Schools campaign plan was over a three year time period. So we had the intention of building a coalition around it, spending a significant amount of time lobbying on it.” This would have lined them up to try to pass a traditional bill through the state house in 2014.

Then, the organization abruptly changed its plans, deciding instead to pursue a ballot question for the 2012 election. Another state level leader told me that this decision was made “basically five weeks” before the deadline for filing ballot measures. Potential allies in the business community and even their own staff assumed that the decision to go with the ballot question was likely driven by national leadership because the state office “wasn’t big enough to tell national ‘here’s the deal’.”

Then, amazingly, it turned again. When the campaign for the ballot question wasn’t going well – because Stand hadn’t built a state coalition of any kind – national leadership put clear and direct pressure on state leadership. As reported by a former staff member, during a visit from national in the winter of 2012 staff were “told explicitly that we need to win the campaign or essentially the Massachusetts chapter is going to cease to exist.” Thus, the compromise.

• Absent a major outreach effort, Stand had a very limited number of local allies. Only a few spoke at the legislative hearing for the ballot question, including (of course) a local investment banker; a parent and teacher member of Stand, each of whom had joined the campaign after it started; and a Boston city councilor, who would later – in his mayoral campaign – return a half-million dollar donation from Stand, stating that he did not want to accept money from outside special interest groups.

• The media praised the compromise as a big victory for Stand, but they largely got it wrong. Instead, the organization found itself almost completely isolated in the state. Likely allies in the business community balked at a partnership “because of that national-local issue, you don’t know who you’re talking to.” Community organizers told me that principals wouldn’t return their calls. When I asked Stand leaders what they might have done differently, they responded frankly: “I would have drafted the ballot question with more time. We drafted it in no time.” Without a chance to build a broader coalition, the organization was largely left standing on its own.

• In the compromise, they gave up a lot. More dramatic changes to teacher tenure and collective bargaining were removed from the compromise law, with the restrictions on seniority – not tenure – the only major parts that remained and even those were watered down. The compromised also pushed the effective start date from 2013 to the 2016-2017 school year.

In the end, this all contributed to a process that was troublingly undemocratic. Contrary to how they might be portrayed more broadly, state leaders and community organizers at Stand wanted to organize parents and teachers in Boston schools and wanted to work on other issues completely unrelated to the ballot campaign. They just couldn’t. Under pressure from national leadership, community organizers went out instead to find “folks that would be predisposed to arguing in favor of this anyways whether they had something substantive to say or not and get them on board” often by “giving a 30-second pitch to somebody at Stop & Shop” and getting them to sign an apple-shaped card.

Grad students are often asked to name/label things. I called this “neo-democracy” – an umbrella term for cases like this where big money and high-stakes pressure lead to shallow forms of democratic engagement at the local level, an increasingly common occurrence as neoliberal advocacy groups – like Stand, StudentsFirst and DFER among others – gain influence over state policy.

That’s the bad part, of course. But, it can be reversed, and it is every day by the many, many people who work to bringing public voice to public education. What can’t be reversed, at least not any time soon, is Stand’s reputation in Massachusetts. As others have noted, Stand hasn’t been very active in Massachusetts since. But, this wasn’t a page out of the astro-turf playbook. It was an unintended consequence of a clumsy advocacy process led by heavy-handed “direction” from the national level. And, it suggests that these kinds of groups may not be the smooth operators they appear to be, that without relationships and meaningful connections to the local level, money can of course buy something, but it may only be a flash in the pan.

Leonie Haimson has written a stunning article about stories in the New York Times that promote investments of Bill Gates without acknowledging that the writer’s outside organization is funded by the Gates Foundation.

She refers in amazing detail to two laudatory articles about Bridge International Academies, the corporation that is providing for-profit schools in poor countries in Africa and elsewhere. Gates is an investor in BIA. The Gates Foundation supports the organization that supports the journalist. BIA is encouraging countries like Kenya and Liberia to outsource their responsibility for primary school education to the corporation, which charges the families about $6 a month. Haimson points out that when the cost of uniforms and supplies and food are included, the total is far higher, and represents about a quarter of the family income. If there is more than one child, the cost may be 2/3 of the family income. You can be sure that the business is highly profitable, and it relieves the country of the necessity of building universal free public education.

The article goes into detail about the research on both sides of the issue, which is not reflected in the Times’ coverage.

Other articles in the New York Times have praised the “flipped classroom,” a favorite of Bill Gates, and edTech schools that Gates endorses.

I hope the Public Editor of the New York Times reads this timely and important critique of their coverage.

T.C. Weber, who blogs as Dad Gone Wild, writes about the latest problem in Nashville.

The pro-public school/anti-charter forces won a resounding victory at the elections recently. Their candidates won handily.

But then the new superintendent of schools stunned everyone by hiring as his chief of staff a woman who had been actively involved in the charter movement in Washington state and elsewhere. She scrubbed the charter stuff off her resume, but the Internet is forever, and she couldn’t hide her long history as a supporter of the very policies that Nashville voters had just decisively rejected.

Jana Carlisle was executive director of the Partnership for Learning, which advocated for charters in Washington State, even though voters had rejected them three times. The initiative was finally passed, by less than 1%, in 2012, after Bill Gates and his fellow billionaires poured nearly $20 million into their campaign, a sum that overwhelmed the League of Women Voters, PTAs, teachers’ unions, and the NAACP. Carlisle made a statement about implementation of the charter law soon after its passage. The statement (which I copied on my cellphone) has now been removed from the Internet. Here it is:

PFL: Testimony to state board on charter schools, accountability

On November 8, 2012, Jana Carlisle, executive director of the Partnership for Learning, testified at the State Board of Education’s meeting in Vancouver on public charter school implementation and the state’s new Accountability Index.

Her comments are as follows:

“Good Afternoon. My name is Dr. Jana Carlisle and I’m here representing the Washington Roundtable’s education foundation, the Partnership for Learning.

I’m here today to reinforce the importance of the State Board of Education’s role in providing guidance and oversight to local school boards wishing to become charter school authorizers, as well as to the smooth and quality functioning of the state’s public charter school application, approval, and annual review processes. The founding member organizations of the Washington Coalition for Public Charter Schools include the League of Education Voters, Stand for Children, Democrats for Education Reform, and the Partnership and Roundtable. Our groups are committed to supporting effective implementation of and leadership for public charter schools in Washington state. To do so, we are interested in collaborating with the State Board and its staff, the Commission, and a broad base of stakeholders that include parents, students, educators, and elected and agency leaders. As is the case with the SBE, our implementation conversations have already commenced. We are eager to work closely with you and the SBE staff during the coming months and years to ensure that the intent of the initiative – which includes giving priority to opening public charter schools that serve at-risk student populations or students from low-performing public schools – is realized.

Today you have also talked about what to include in the Accountability Index. The WRT and Partnership for Learning strongly believe that a performance-based accountability system is absolutely essential to ensure our state’s implementation of a 21st Century education system and to secure support for adequately funding basic education. We believe that Washington’s accountability system must include: 1) transparent and accessible district and school report cards that include scale scores and status updates on meeting the outcomes delineated below; 2) a statewide growth-based accountability index that establishes key school performance indicators, targets, and the line between success and failure; and 3) statewide capacity and authority for incenting and rewarding school innovation; for establishing timelines for progress to occur; and for supporting, intervening in, and taking over struggling schools.

We believe that a 21st Century statewide education system – and thus the index’s indicator – in Washington will result in the following:

1. Closing student achievement gaps among students in K-12 mathematics, English Language Arts, science, and social studies – based on actual performance and growth measures.
2. Increasing overall academic achievement for all student groups for K-12 mathematics, English Language Arts, science, and social studies – based on actual performance and growth measures.
3. Increasing the overall graduation rate of high school students – documented in terms of four- and five-year rates – and the college and career readiness graduation rate.
4. Reducing remedial rates in two-year colleges and in four-year universities.
5. Increasing four-year post-secondary participation within one year of students’ high school graduation.
6. Increasing two-year post-secondary participation within one year of students’ high school graduation.
7. Increasing two- and four-year post-secondary graduation rates.
8. Increasing participation rate in post-secondary STEM programs (this includes workforce training, industry certification, and/or credit bearing two- and four-year postsecondary coursework).”

© PARTNERSHIP FOR LEARNING | 520 PIKE STREET, SUITE 1212 SEATTLE, WA 98101
INFO@PARTNERSHIP4LEARNING.ORG | P: (206) 625.9655 | F: (206) 447.0502 | PRIVACY POLICY AND TERMS

You can also read about the work of the Partnership on the website of the rightwing PIE Network.

Look, if someone wants to work for the charter movement, that’s fine, that’s their right. But they shouldn’t apply to work in a district that rejects charters while scrubbing their resume to hide their sympathies. That’s not honest.

Peter Greene received a notice from the Center for Education Reform, which has led the fight against public schools for almost 25 years, promising a reward to the charter school that created a video showing how great charter schools are. This was in response to John Oliver’s devastating critique of the charlatans who have profited off the deregulation of public money for nonpublic schools.

Right after the John Oliver piece appeared, the CER asked its followers to write Oliver and tweet him to tell him he was wrong. Apparently this didn’t do the job, so now it is offering a prize of $100,000 for a video showing the awesomeness of privately managed schools.

Greene writes:

I, too, would be interested to see what opportunities charters offer that wouldn’t exist without charters. Perhaps some videos will highlight charter-only perks like “getting away from Those Children” or “enjoying a constantly churning staff of underpaid unretained teachers” or “the delightful mystery of what exactly is being done with our tax dollars” or “the warm glow of knowing that we’ve helped some investors make a buck or ten” or even “the suspense of never knowing when my school might suddenly close.” Please, somebody, make that video…The “Our School Is Great” video is a common genre. Public schools all across the country make them– for free– all the time. But it’s completely in keeping with the charter school industry that, having failed to raise a groundswell of grass roots anger over the Oliver piece (which is now over a week old and yet the righteous indignation over it seems largely confined to people who make their living shilling for charters), the charter cheerleading squad must now pay somebody to stand up for them and help them fight back against this PR disaster.

When I read the CER announcement (I am on the CER mailing list), I was aghast that a school-related organization had that kind of spare money to hold a contest. The Network for Public Education certainly doesn’t. That kind of money represents a large percentage of our annual budget. It must be nice to have that kind of money. But I feel far better having the right principles, even though it doesn’t enhance our bank account. It is good to wake up every day knowing that you are on the right side of history, fighting to create better schools for all. I feel sorry for people fighting for better schools for a few kids, while sucking resources out of the schools that enroll the majority o kids. This is akin to providing 50 life vests for a ship that holds 1,500 passengers. The donor can feel proud of saving 50 lives, while ignoring the other 1,450 passengers. I want a safer ship, a well-trained pilot and crew, and life vests for all.

Larry Miller is an editor at Rethinking Schools. He taught in the Milwaukee Public Schools for 17 years. He was elected to the Milwaukee school board in 2009.

Governor Scott Walker is doing his best to eliminate public education in Milwaukee by expanding vouchers and charters, even though the public schools are more successful than either of the privatized alternatives.

In this entertaining post, Miller cites some of Donald Trump’s most outrageous statements. He notes that Alberta Darling, who is Governor Walker’s ally in seeking to destroy public education, is support the “racist buffoon” candidate for the Presidency.

Troy LaRaviere took the job as principal of Blaine Elementary School, which was already a respected and successful school, and promised to make it the #1 rated neighborhood school in the city within six years. He did it. He also courted trouble by publicly criticizing Mayor Rahm Emanuel for his harmful education policy that favored charters over public schools. And he courted more trouble by endorsing Bernie Sanders and becoming a Sanders delegate at the Democratic National Convention. But his greatest transgressions were his repeated critiques of the high-level mismanagement of the school system under mayoral control.

In this post, he announces his resignation, explains the methods he used at Blaine to achieve success, and once again blasts Rahm.

Troy, I know you have a great future ahead of you. I hope another big district is wise enough to hire you.

If Rahm Emanuel were wise, he would ask you to become Superintendent of Schools and help every elementary school in the city.

Phi Delta Kappa released its annual poll today. Nothing new except that Gallup is no longer the polling company. No headlines. The only obvious conclusion: the American public is confused about why we have schools and what they should be doing and whether they are doing it well.

The public doesn’t agree on what the purpose of public schools is. 45% says it is to teach academics. About a quarter think they should teach career readiness. Another quarter think they should prepare students for citizenship.

Just to be clear, the reason that public schools were first established and treated as a community responsibility was to prepare good citizens to sustain our society into the future. There are many subdivisions under the goal of preparing to be good citizens, which would include the academic skills needed to read, write, think critically, be informed about issues in science and history, and be in good health. Somehow, the central purpose has been lowered in status. When people lose sight of the central purpose of education, then they fall prey to bogus claims about choice, charters, and vouchers, about which sector can do a better job of teaching academic skills or career skills. We have public schools as a public responsibility to teach young people to become active and informed citizens. All the rest follows.

In reading through the inconclusive public opinion on almost every subject, one question caught my attention because of its wording:

Q. Charter schools are public schools that are run without many of the state regulations placed on other public schools. Do you think it’s better for charter schools to meet the same educational standards as other public schools or to set their own educational standards?

The answer was a split decision. 48% said meet the same standards, 46% said no.

The question assumes that charter schools are public schools.

But charter schools are NOT public schools. Whenever charter operators are sued, their defense is that they are not public schools. They are privately managed schools that receive public funding. As the NLRB ruled last week, and as federal courts have ruled, charter schools are not held to the same standards as public schools because they are NOT “state actors.” Public schools are state actors. Charters themselves plead that they are not public schools. In 2010, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a charter operator in Arizona ran a private nonprofit corporation, not an agency of the state, in response to a lawsuit by a former teacher. In 2011, the staff at the New Media Technology Charter School wanted to form a union. They appealed to state law. The charter owner, however, said the school was not public and was not governed by state law; he said it was a private school subject to the NLRB. In the same year, teachers at the Chicago Math & Science Academy also wanted to form a union. There, too, the charter operator rebuffed them by saying the school was a “private” entity, not a public school, and was not subject to state law. (See pp. 163-164 of Reign of Error). Charter schools are run by private entities that receive government contracts. The receipt of public funds does not make an entity public. If it did, then every major defense contractor would be public, not private.

The answer is troubling as well as the question. If nearly half of the respondents think that charter schools do not have to meet the same standards as public schools, what is it they believe? Do they believe that charter schools should not be held accountable for student test scores? Do they think that charter schools should be judged by some other metric?

I have been reading PDK polls for years. I learned nothing new from this one, other than that the public has lost sight of why we have public schools. That may be the consequence of propaganda from the privatizers. If there is no agreement on why we pay taxes to support public schools, then any alternative will do, including schools run by churches and schools run by foreign nationals.

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