Archives for the month of: May, 2017

Betsy DeVos founded and funded the American Federation for Children, which advocates for vouchers.

AFC issued this statement today:

AFC Statement on Weingarten-Edelman Op-Ed

The American Federation for Children, the nation’s voice for educational choice, released the following statement in response to the Los Angeles Times op-ed from Randi Weingarten and Jonah Edelman.

Statement from Kevin P. Chavous, founding board member and executive counsel for the American Federation for Children:

Today’s op-ed by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, and Stand for Children President Jonah Edelman is a disservice to millions of parents and children across the nation who want nothing more than equal access to a quality education.

The op-ed is full of hyberbole and outright inaccuracies.

First, the headline is rich with irony. It is school choice–directly empowering parents to choose the best educational environment for their child–that is the most democratic of ideas. Rather than undermining public schools, choice helps public schools by virtue of having to compete with other options. Only among the K-12 establishment would competition be considered undermining public schools.

Second, the Administration’s FY 2018 budget proposal does not “siphon billions of dollars from public schools to fund private and religious school vouchers.” It is not “diverting $1 billion into voucher programs.” These are completely false statements. The Administration’s budget proposes $1.4 billion for school choice–$1.15 billion of which is for public school choice. Moreover, all but $250 million of these proposed resources would remain in public schools.

Third, the op-ed states “facts show that where vouchers have been into practice on a meaningful scale, they hurt student learning.” The op-ed also cites a recently released study of first year data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences saying it “adds to a growing body of education research that concludes vouchers may harm rather help student achievement.” These too are completely false statements.

Leaving aside the obvious fact that parents themselves have chosen to participate in private school choice programs, the body of research on these programs proves they work for children fortunate enough to participate.

Prior to the IES report, there have been 15 empirical studies examining academic outcomes for students participating in private school choice using random assignment, the “gold standard” of defensible social science:

• 10 found improved test scores for school choice participants
• 3 found no significant effect for school choice participants
• 2 found negative impact in the early years of study for school choice participants

21 studies examined school choice and how it impacts academic outcomes in public schools:

• 20 found that school choice improved public school academic outcomes
• 1 found no significant effect on academic outcomes from school choice

Finally, the School Superintendents Association “research” into states with existing tax credit scholarship programs and how some “donors have been able to make a profit off the backs of taxpayers and ultimately kids.” Perhaps Weingarten and Edelman are unaware of how tax credit scholarship programs work. Corporate and individual donors pay state taxes. They make a contribution to a local non-profit that provides scholarships for eligible children to attend a private school of their parents choice. They get a tax credit, they don’t make a profit. Parents and children across the nation would be fortunate indeed if the Administration and Congress were to adopt a federal tax credit because it would facilitate access to a quality education for another 1 million students–most of whom will graduate and go on to college as the body of research into these programs clearly demonstrates.

Take away the hyperbole and inaccuracies, what Randi Weingarten and Jonah Edelman truly oppose is giving parents, especially low-income parents, the ability to choose something other than their neighborhood traditional public school. While some of these neighborhood schools may be terrific schools, many are clearly not, which is why millions seek other options. The teachers’ unions oppose choice in education–period. The fact that organizations like Stand for Children and Democrats for Education Reform prefer to stand with the teachers’ unions rather than standing with the 3.5 million children in charter schools and private choice programs, and the millions more who desperately want access to better options, speaks volumes.

Randi Weingarten and Jonah Edelman co-wrote an article in today’s Los Angeles Times, standing strong against vouchers.

I still remember Jonah Edelman as the guy who bragged at the Aspen Ideas Festival that he had crushed the teachers’ union in Chicago by buying up all the best lobbyists and raising the bar for a strike to 75% of the membership. I remember that he went to Massachusetts and threatened a referendum unless the unions capitulated to his demands. Stand for Children was showered with millions by the Gates Foundation and other promoters of the corporate reform agenda. Edelman strongly supports charter schools, even though they promote racial segregation.

In the middle of a strong article against vouchers, this paragraph was dropped in:

We believe taxpayer money should support schools that are accountable to voters, open to all, nondenominational and transparent about students’ progress. Such schools — district and charter public schools — are part of what unites us as a country.

It is public schools that unites us as a country, not charter schools. We have seen a steady parade of scandals, frauds, abuses, waste of taxpayer dollars, exclusion of children with special needs, from the charter sector.

Charter schools should be subject to democratic control (an elected school board), should be financially transparent, and should have the same requirements for teachers as public schools. They should be required to accept all children who apply, in the order of their application. They should not be allowed to exclude ELLs and children with disabilities.

Charter schools exist to bust unions and undermine public schools. They are a form of privatization. They should not be put into the same boat as public schools because they are not public schools.

The currently popular means of establishing vouchers in the states where the state constitution forbids them is called an “education savings account.” The way it works is otherwise known as money laundering. Suppose Daddy Warbucks owes the state $200,000 in taxes. He gives the money to an independent organization that gives out money for private and religious schools. He gets a state tax credit and may actually make money on the deal if he also gets a federal tax credit.

Very clever. Daddy Warbucks makes a generous gift of money that should have gone to the state treasury to pay for public services. The independent organization collects millions of dollars to hand out as vouchers.

This particular game was created in Florida, where the state courts ruled vouchers unconstitutional, and the voters rejected an effort by Jeb Bush to alter the state constitution.

Now it is happening in Missouri, where the richest man in the state is Rex Sinquefield.

Rex has long been a hater of public schools. He stands to achieve his dream, undermining the public schools, and getting a hefty tax deduction too.

Jeff Bryant is trying to figure out what the purpose of school choice is.

“Another week, another round of evidence that providing parents with more “school choice,” especially the kind that lets them opt out of public schools, is not a very effective vehicle for ensuring students improve academically or that taxpayer dollars are spent more wisely.

“The latest evidence comes from a study of the voucher program in Washington, DC that allows parents to transfer their children from public to private schools at taxpayer expense.

“The study found that students “who attended a private school through the program performed worse on standardized tests than their public school counterparts who did not use the vouchers,” reports the New York Times.

“This study adds to others – from Ohio, Indiana, and Louisiana – finding that school vouchers have negative impacts on students.

“Despite these results, many proponents of school choice contend the purpose of school choice was never about generating better results. It’s about choice.

“The latest evidence comes from a study of the voucher program in Washington, DC that allows parents to transfer their children from public to private schools at taxpayer expense.

“The study found that students “who attended a private school through the program performed worse on standardized tests than their public school counterparts who did not use the vouchers,” reports the New York Times.

“This study adds to others – from Ohio, Indiana, and Louisiana – finding that school vouchers have negative impacts on students.

“Despite these results, many proponents of school choice contend the purpose of school choice was never about generating better results. It’s about choice for choice’s sake.

“Results Don’t Matter?

“That seems to be what US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos argues in her reaction to the news about the apparent failure of the DC voucher program. As the Washington Post reports, the report prompted her to say, “When school choice policies are fully implemented, there should not be differences in achievement among the various types of schools.”

So if choice doesn’t raise scores, what’s the point?

Jersey Jazzman, aka Mark Weber, experienced teacher and doctoral student at Rutgers, follows the claims of charter promoters in New Jersey, especially Newark. His latest post is simply “Facts About Newark Charter Schools.”

Bottom line: the charters do not enroll the same students as public schools. Why is that so hard for the media to understand?

I wasn’t going to refer to this article by Kyle Spencer in Politico magazine. It reads so much like promotional literature massaged by Eva’s public relations department that I thought it best to ignore its it. But several people sent it to me, so I couldn’t overlook it.

It is called “Paul Ryan’s Favorite Charter School.” It presents Eva Moskowitz as a “liberal Democrat” whose no-excuses charters produce miraculous results.

When she interviewed me, I told her to pay attention to student attrition. She didn’t.

When I pointed out that the same students who performed brilliantly on the state tests were unable to gain entry to the city’s highly selective exam schools until their third year of trying, she ignored that.

She fell hook, line, and sinker for Eva’s claim that the goal of schooling is to get high test scores, even at the risk of crushing the spirit of students with rules and sanctions.

Kyle Spencer knows that affluent parents don’t want their children in such a rigid atmosphere. But it seems to be just right for poor black children. That’s why Trump interviewed her for the job of Secretary of Education, and why Republicans like Paul Ryan love Eva. The patronizing rich usually believe that black children need a firm hand and swift justice.

Rochester Academy Charter School in New York boasts impressive test scores, as do most schools that select their students.

But is it a Gulen School connected to Fethullah Gulen’s national network?

One thing it is not is a neighborhood school or a community school.

Although three of the board’s seven members are Turkish, that is not conclusive evidence that the school is funneling money to Gulen for his political activities.

There are many reasons to object to diverting public dollars to religious and private schools. One reason is that every dollar that goes to a nonpublic school is subtracted from a public school. A vote for vouchers is a vote to defund public schools and impose budget cuts on them.

One of our readers is an avid supporter of school choice. When he asked why anyone objects to school choice, this was my reply:

“I object to paying for religious indoctrination in any faith including my own.

“I object to my tax dollars paying for schools that discriminate against children based on their race, their sexual orientation, or their disabilities.

“If the Supreme Court eliminates the state Blaine amendments and allows tax dollars to subsidize religious schools, expect that lawsuits will challenge their discriminatory admission policies, and states will begin demanding that their students take the same tests and meet the same standards as all publicly funded schools. Expect states to require the hiring of certified teachers in schools that take public money.

“The religious and private schools that want to protect their autonomy will not accept state money. Only the very marginal schools, those that can’t fill their seats, will take the money.”

What are your reasons for supporting or opposing tax dollars for private school choice?

A few years back, I went to Michigan to speak to a large group of superintendents, whose schools collectively enrolled half the students in the state. I learned from them about the pernicious effects of school choice. The state wiped out all district lines for purposes of enrollment. Students can enroll in any public school without regard to district lines, and schools are paid by the state based on numbers enrolled. Consequently, every district commits a portion of its budget to poaching students away from the neighboring districts. Each district spends about $100,000 each year on advertising, in hopes of getting more students and the money attached to them.

All this is background to Jennifer Berkshire’s incisive piece about how school choice promotes segregation. Jennifer recently visited Betsy DeVos’s hometown, Holland, Michigan, and was there to view the Tulip Time parade. As she watched the high school marching bands pass by, she saw a vivid portrait of segregation on display.

She writes:

“First, some background. During the endless runup to DeVos’ confirmation hearing last year, it was the Wild West-style school choice she’d pushed in Detroit that garnered most of the attention. But DeVos was also behind Michigan’s inter-district choice policies that, starting in 2000, *disrupted* neighborhood attendance zones, just as the proposed Trump/DeVos education budget seeks to do. In Michigan, school choice has become the new white flight as white families have fled their resident districts for schools and districts that are less diverse. The most dramatic example of this may be in DeVos’ own home town of Holland.

“The choice to segregate

“Since Michigan adopted the school choice policies DeVos is now pushing across the country, Holland’s white enrollment has dropped by more than 60%, as students decamped for public schools or charters in whiter communities nearby. The students who remain in the Holland Public Schools are now majority Hispanic and overwhelmingly poor—twice the schools’ poverty rate when Michigan’s school choice experiment began. Many of these students are the children of migrant farm workers who came to this part of the state to pick fruit; school choice enabled Holland’s white families to pick not to attend school with them. One in three students in Holland no longer attends school there, and since the money follows the child in the Mitten State, yet another DeVos priority, white flight has eaten the district’s finances too.

“In 2000, Holland had fifteen schools. Now it has just eight. Of nine Holland schools that once served elementary students, half have closed. By 2009, even the elementary school where DeVos’ mother once taught had been shuttered. As students flee for schools in communities like Zeeland, the future of Holland’s public schools looks increasingly dire. Already there are mutterings in this wealthy, Dutch-dominated community that the school population *doesn’t represent* Holland. And as DeVos well understands, a community that has little stake in its schools is unlikely to shell out money to pay for them…

“The Trump/DeVos education budget was made public on the 63rd anniversary of Brown vs. Board. DeVos’ vision isn’t just a retreat from Brown—it embodies the spirit that animated its opponents to set up segregation academies in Brown’s wake. The budget that bears her imprint would encourage and even incentivize white flight. We don’t have to speculate about where all this leads. The outcome of the kind of school choice policies that DeVos has pushed for decades in her home state and now wants every state to embrace has been starkly measurable segregation. And even that is an understatement. What I witnessed in DeVos’ hometown last week was extreme sorting on the basis of race and class. That the top education official in the country thinks this is a good thing is appalling.”

Folks, our Secretary of Education is encouraging racial and social segregation. She won’t stand in its way. She doesn’t care, she won’t act to stop it, she wants to subsidize it.

Were he alive, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would denounce her actions. How dare she and Trump claim they are advancing “the civil rights issue of out time!” They are reversing the progress made since 1954 with “all deliberate speed.”

Lina Lyons is president-elect of the Arizona School Boards Association.

She writes here about the spurious claim that school choice is the answer to all problems.

She says that the nevitable result of school choice will not be better education, but segregation by race, class, ethnicity, and socioeconomic.

Yet DeVos continues to evade any federal responsibility for promoting desegregation and evades any federal responsibility for discouraging discrimination.

She writes:

“Some parents don’t know best. There. I said it. Let’s face it, some parents aren’t present, some are abusive, and some are drug addicts. Then there are those who are trying their damnedest to provide for their children but their minimum wage jobs (without benefits) just don’t pay enough to make ends meet. Bottom line is, not all parents know how, or care enough to provide, the best they can for their children. Where that is the case, or, when hard working parents need a little help, it is up to all of us in a civil society, to ensure all children are safe and that their basic needs are met. As education reformer John Dewey said over a century ago, “What the best and wisest parent wants for his child, that must we want for all the children of the community. Anything less is unlovely, and left unchecked, destroys our democracy.”

“Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos evidently doesn’t agree. In recent testimony to Congress, no matter what question she was asked about how far states would be allowed to go in discriminating against certain types of students, she kept deflecting to “states rights” and “parental rights,” failing to say at any point in the testimony that she would ensure states receiving federal dollars would not discriminate. From watching her testimony, if she had been the Secretary of Education with Donald Trump as President back in the early 1960s, the Alabama National Guard would undoubtedly never have been called up to integrate the schools.

“This should surprise no one. After all, the entire school reform agenda is really about promoting survival of the fittest. Those who “have” and already do well, will be set up for even more success while those dealing with the challenges poverty presents, will continue to suffer. As far as Betsy DeVos is concerned, the U.S. Department of Education has no responsibility to protect students from discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual preference, gender identity. The hell with Brown vs. Board of Education, she will not step in to ensure states do the right thing for their students. As Jack Covey wrote recently to Diane Ravitch, to Betsy, “choice” is everything and parents should be able to send their children to a black-free, LGBT-free, or Muslim-free school on the taxpayer’s dime if they want to.

“Does that EVEN sound remotely like America to you? How can it be okay for our tax dollars to promote blatant discrimination? This is essentially state-sponsored discrimination. Yes, discrimination has always occurred via self-funded choice. The wealthy have always been able to keep their children away from the rest of us but, it was on their own dime. As it has always been with parents who stretched budgets to live in neighborhoods with the “best” school district as a way to ensure their child had the best chance.”

There were many reasons to oppose Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. Add another: she has no intention of using federal dollars to enforce the laws barring discrimination.