Archives for the month of: March, 2018


Hovernor Doug Ducey is one of those extremist libertarians who opposes government regulations. That’s why he loves charter schools and vouchers. That’s why charters in Arizona are not covered by laws against nepotism or conflicts of interest. That’s the ALEC way: the fewer regulations, the better for business.

Gov. Ducey lured Uber to Arizona to tests its driverless car. Why would Uber want to stay in California where the state regulates such tests (but not charter schools!)?

So Uber was given the green light and one of its driverless cars killed a pedestrian. 

The governor suspended the testing.

Do you think he learned anything?

I doubt it.


I announced a few weeks ago that I would slow down the blogging because I am writing a new book.

You may have noticed that my resolve weakened.

But it was not just a matter of resolve.

In the next few weeks, I am wrapping up my lecture schedule, and not planning to accept new dates. It is hard to write when I don’t have solid and continuous blocks of time to do it. Blogging is easy. Writing a book is not.

Here is my schedule. I am speaking at the University of Washington in Seattle on April 4.

On April 11, I am speaking for the Lannan Foundation in Santa Fe along with teacher Jesse Hagopian (from Garfield High School in Seattle).

On April 18, I am speaking at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo (this is a makeup date for a lecture that was scheduled for early March, but canceled when a major snowstorm grounded all fights out of New York City).

That’s it. That’s when my slate goes blank, and I turn my full attention to the book.

Given my disposition and self-knowledge, I will still post something every day. But fewer and shorter entries. Don’t stop reading.


Our blog Poet seeks to understand greatness:

“The Maestro”

Chetty picked his VAMdolin
At Nobel-chasing speed
Duncan played the basket rim
And Rhee, she played the rheed

Coleman played his Core-o-net
Moskowitz, the lyre
Billy Gates played tête-à-tête
With Duncan and with higher

Sanders beat his cattle drum
Devalue Added Model
Pseudo-science weighted sum
Mathturbated twaddle

John King played the slide VAMbone
But Maestro was Obama
Who hired the band and set the tone
For Betsy’s Grizzly drama

(William Sanders, an economist, applied his
“cattle growth model” to students to create teacher VAM)


The Washington Post writes here about Oklahoma’s abysmal treatment of teachers and a decade of budget cuts. 

Teachers are working second jobs to make ends meet. Some have to resort to food pantries at the church to feed their families. It is amazing that anyone wants to teach in a state that treats teachers so disrespectfully.

“Oklahoma teachers are among the nation’s lowest paid, and ­despite the governor and lawmakers approving a $6,100 raise this week, educators pledge to walk out Monday if their full demands — including restoration of budget cuts — are not met. For a decade, little has been done to address the plight of the state’s teachers. It is a situation that has forced many to take second jobs, rely on food pantries and donate their plasma to pay the bills.

“The revolt in Oklahoma comes amid a wave of teacher protests that have no recent parallel in the United States. In West Virginia, educators stayed out for nine tense days before winning a pay raise. In Arizona, teachers are threatening to strike unless the state gives them a 20 percent salary increase. In Kentucky, educators shut down at least 20 school systems Friday as they converged on the state capitol to protest pension reforms. “Don’t make us go West Virginia on you,” one protester’s sign read.

“Earlier this year, educators in Oklahoma turned heartbroken — and desperate — as the legislature failed to boost their salaries. Then, about 1,000 miles to the east, West Virginia’s teachers walked off the job, and leveraged a 5 percent raise after shutting down schools. Suddenly, whispers about the possibility of a strike in Oklahoma grew to a full-throated roar, even as teachers agonized over whether they should leave their students behind.

“We had been talking about it forever,” said Randi Cowan, a third-grade teacher in Tulsa who earned $33,746 last year and lives in a home built by Habitat for Humanity. “But then somebody else did it and . . . it just ignited our fire.”

“As in West Virginia, educators in Oklahoma have reached a breaking point, fed up with stagnant wages and cuts to education funding. The idea of a walkout began to gain traction in mid-February after a proposed salary increase failed to win enough support among lawmakers. A ­superintendent circulated a petition asking colleagues if they would support a teacher walkout.

“Then a 25-year-old social studies teacher, inspired by what happened in West Virginia, began a Facebook group titled “Oklahoma Teacher Walkout — The Time is Now!” It has ballooned to 70,000 members, including educators from Oklahoma and West Virginia and supportive parents.

“Educators — backed by the state’s teachers unions — demanded a $10,000 raise for themselves and a $5,000 raise for support personnel. They are also asking the state to restore budget cuts and boost spending on schools by $200 million over three years. If they do not get what they want by Monday, teachers in about 140 school districts — including some of the state’s largest — plan to walk off the job.

“In 2016, Oklahoma ranked 49th in teacher pay — lower even than West Virginia, which was 48th. The average compensation package of an Oklahoma teacher was $45,276 a year, according to the National Education Association, a figure that includes a high-priced health plan and other benefits. That’s far less than educators in neighboring states, making it difficult — for many districts, impossible — to find and keep qualified teachers.

“Oklahoma’s 2016 teacher of the year, Shawn Sheehan, decamped for Texas last year, joining many other teachers who sought higher-paying jobs…

“The state’s funding crisis began at least a decade ago when the recession hit, leading lawmakers to take a cleaver to education spending. Even after the state’s economy recovered, long-standing tax cuts and plunging oil prices constrained state revenue and depleted education funding. In this deeply conservative state, lawmakers have resisted raising taxes — and doing so requires a three-quarters majority of the legislature.

Adjusted for inflation, the amount the state spends per student has fallen nearly 30 percent over the past decade, according to the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.”

Thank you, West Virginia teachers for showing the way.

Teachers of Oklahoma, you have our support and admiration!


Eric Blanc wrote a comprehensive and excellent article in Jacobin about the dire condition of public schools in Oklahoma. Given the legislature’s indifference, even hostility, to public schools, he says it is Oklahoma’s turn to strike.

State legislators haven’t been able to find enough money to pay for public schools, but they have found it easy to divert money from their resource-starved public schools to pay for charter schools.

Blanc says that the purposeful gutting of public schools has been the project of free market fundamentalists. But it did not start with them.

I urge you to read the whole article. Here is an excerpt.

He writes:


Demanding major increases in pay and school funding, Oklahoman educators are set to strike on April 2. The similarities with West Virginia are obvious. In a Republican-dominated state with a decimated education system and a ban on public employee collective bargaining, an indignant workforce teetering on the edge of poverty has initiated a powerful rank-and-file upsurge. But history never repeats itself exactly. To strike and win, Oklahoma workers will have to overcome a range of distinct challenges and obstacles.

Years of austerity have devastated Oklahoma’s education system, as well as its public services and infrastructure. Since 2008, per-pupil instructional funding has been cut by 28 percent — by far the worst reduction in the whole country. As a result, a fifth of Oklahoma’s school districts have been forced to reduce the school week to four days.

Textbooks are scarce and scandalously out of date. Innumerable arts, languages, and sports courses or programs have been eliminated. Class sizes are enormous. A legislative deal to lower class sizes — won by a four-day strike in April 1990 — was subsequently ditched because of a funding shortage. Many of Oklahoma’s 695,000 students are obliged to sit on the floor in class.

The gutting of public education has been accompanied by a push for vouchers and, especially, the spread of charter schools. There are now twenty-eight charter school districts and fifty-eight charter schools across Oklahoma. “Is the government purposively neglecting our public schools to give an edge to private and charter schools?” asked Mickey Miller, a Tulsa teacher and rank-and-file leader. For Christy Cox — a middle-school teacher in Norman who has had to work the night shift at Chili’s to supplement her low wages — reversing these school cuts is her main motivation to strike: “The kids aren’t getting what they need. It’s really crazy. Though the media doesn’t talk about this as much as salaries, I feel that funding our schools is the primary issue.”

Pay, of course, is also a central grievance. Oklahoma’s public school teachers and staff haven’t gotten a raise in ten years – and state workers have waited nearly as long. Public school teacher pay is the forty-eighth worst in the nation. Like in West Virginia, many teachers are unwilling or unable to work in these conditions. Roughly two thousand teaching positions are currently filled by emergency-certified staff with no teaching degrees and little training. Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA), the state’s main teachers’ union, explains that “our teacher shortage has reached catastrophic levels because it’s so easy for teachers to move to Texas or Arkansas, or even to another profession, and make much more money.”

Those teachers and staff who stay in state are often forced to work multiple jobs. Micky Miller’s experience is not atypical. During the day, Miller teaches at Booker T. Washington high school in Tulsa. After the school day is over, he works until 7:30 PM at the airport, loading and unloading bags from Delta airplanes. From there, he goes on to his third job, coaching kids at the Tulsa Soccer Club. “I have a master’s degree, and I have to work three jobs just to make ends meet,” he noted. “It’s very difficult to live this way.”

The roots of this crisis are not hard to find. Taxes have not been raised by the Oklahoma legislature since 1990. Due to a right-wing 1992 anti-tax initiative, a supermajority of 75 percent of legislators is now needed to impose new taxes. Yet the need for a supermajority was not a major political issue until very recently, since there has been a strong bipartisan consensus in favor of cutting taxes. Some of the first major tax breaks for the rich and corporations began in 2004 under Democratic governor Brad Henry and a Democratic-led Senate. One recent study estimates that $1 billion in state revenue has been lost yearly due to the giveaways pushed through since the early 2000s.

Republicans swept into the state government in 2010 and promptly accelerated this one-sided class war. Governor Mary Fallin and the Republican legislature have slashed income taxes for the rich. They have also passed huge breaks for the oil and gas companies — not a minor issue in a state that is the third-largest producer of natural gas and fifth-largest producer of crude oil in the country. Even the fiscal fallout of the 2014 oil bust did not lead the administration to reverse course….


Please click on the link link and keep reading.



Yesterday I posted Rick Hess’s article chastising his fellow reformers for their celebration of D.C.’s “success” as a model, which led to their embarrassment when the falsification of graduation data was revealed.

John Merrow posted a lengthy comment following Hess’s article, which is worth reading.

He wriites:

Rick Hess has, sadly, been singing the praises of ‘school reform’ from the beginning. That he’s acknowledging error now is laudable, but it’s inaccurate, unfair, and disingenuous to suggest that no one has called attention to the fraud of the ‘test and punish’ approach championed by Rhee and Henderson.

Below are nine citations of my own work (#8 with Mary Levy). If readers of this note have time for only a few, please review #1, “Michelle Rhee’s Reign of Error,” #4, “The Premature Celebration of Henderson’s 5-year Anniversary,” and #8, “A Complete History of the DC Reform Fiasco,” written with Mary Levy.

(I also write about this in my new book, “Addicted to Reform: A 12-Step Program to Rescue Public Education.” If you are wondering who and what public education needs to be rescued FROM, well, let me say that Rick Hess, Checker Finn, Mike Petrilli, the Fordham Foundation, Tom Toch, Education Next, Democrats for Education Reform, and the big testing companies are on the list.)

I believe that Hess and other apologists owe far more than an apology to the THOUSANDS of DC students who were lied to about their progress, and to the teachers who were vilified and driven out of their chosen field.

Right now Hess and others of his tribe ought to be working overtime to persuade Mayor Bowser, who shows no visible signs of having learned from this tragedy, to change course.

Yes, the failure of the Washington Post’s editorial page is regrettable, but I doubt that strong editorials would have been enough to drown out the hymns of praise from Hess, Arne Duncan, the big foundations, and local philanthropists.

That repentant apologists like Rick Hess and unrepentant ones like Tom Toch continue to dine out on and parade their supposed expertise is beyond ironic.



Scott Walker is a puppet of the Koch brothers and has laid waste to education in what was once a great state for K-12 and higher education.

Vouchers, charters, budget cuts, attacks on unions. The whole package.

But now he is running scared.

Here is why.

Let’s hope it is true and work to make it true.


There is no end to the ridicule heaped on the MSD students for daring to criticize the NRA.

TV talk show host Laura Ingraham laughed at MSD student David Hogg after he was rejected by four California universities (Are they nuts?)

But David Hogg responded with a tweet listing her sponsors and they started withdrawing from her show.

He should have reported her for bullying.

Real adults don’t pick on kids.

Politico says:

ADVERTISERS DROP LAURA INGRAHAM’S SHOW AFTER JAB AT PARKLAND STUDENT: A handful of companies have dropped their advertisements from Laura Ingraham’s Fox News program after the host used Twitter to mock David Hogg, a survivor of the Florida school shooting last month and now an outspoken gun control advocate. The companies include Nutrish, celebrity cook Rachael Ray’s dog food company; TripAdvisor, the American travel website; and Wayfair, the online home-goods store. Ingraham tweeted on Wednesday, “David Hogg Rejected By Four Colleges To Which He Applied and whines about it.” Hogg responded by listing Ingraham’s advertisers and calling for a boycott. Ingraham issued an apology on Thursday: “On reflection, in the spirit of Holy Week, I apologize for any upset or hurt my tweet caused him or any of the brave victims of Parkland,” she said. More.

I posted earlier today about Chris Christie’s poison pill for Newark, having approved in advance of his retirement an additional 7,000 charter spaces on the basis of a long waiting list.

Rutgers Professor Julia Sass Rubin explains that the current charter schools have openings, and the wait list is a myth:

If current patterns hold, many of the Newark charter school seats approved by Governor Christie are unlikely to be filled by Newark residents because there appears to be an oversupply of charter seats for the level of demand in Newark.

Over the last four years, Newark residents have filled only about 80% of the approved seats in Newark charter schools. This may have been a factor in the Christie Administration’s decision to close several Newark charter schools last year, as doing so would create more demand for the remaining charter schools.

This pattern of weak demand for charter schools is also seen in other New Jersey cities with large charter enrollments.

The data showing a gap between supply and demand throws into question the claims of a 35,000 student waitlist that the NJ charter industry has used to push back against any slow down in approvals. The 35,000 figure is self-reported and unverified. It is created by the charter school trade association. If a student’s family applies to 10 charter schools, the waitlist would count her as ten students. Analysis of specific individual charter waitlists also confirms that they may include students who have moved away or who applied in prior years and are no longer interested.

Mark Weber and I will be releasing a second charter school research report next month that goes into greater detail on these and related issues.

Teachers in many districts in Kentucky closed down public schools in response to the Republican attack on their pensions. 

Schools in eight Kentucky school districts were closed Friday as teachers across the state protested Republican changes to their pension system, CBS News reports.

In Lexington and Louisville — the state’s two largest school districts — hundreds of teachers took sick days or refused to show up for work after state lawmakers passed a bill changing the structure of pension benefits for future teachers.

The strike may be hard for reformers and the libertarians in the GOP to understand: the teachers in Kentucky are not striking for themselves but for their profession.

This wildcat strike follows weeks of protest by teachers to the Legislature and the Governor.

CNN says that the legislature pulled a bait-and-switch, dropping the original bill against which teachers were protesting and putting the changes into a bill about sewage services. Was that a direct insult to teachers?

The action in Kentucky follows the wildcat strike in West Virginia and precedes the likely walkout in Oklahoma, scheduled for Monday April 2. Teachers in Oklahoma demand higher pay (pay in Oklahoma is at or near the worst in the nation despite a booming energy industry in the state that gets huge tax breaks).

These strikes and walkouts are happening in states where unions are not strong. In fact, Kentucky,  West Virginia, and Oklahoma are “right to work” states.

Note to reformers: If the Janus decision goes against the unions, you will still have to contend with the power of organized teachers. No matter what law is passed, teachers who are underpaid and disrespected have the power to walk out. There are not enough TFA scabs in the nation to replace them all.

No teachers, no schools.