Archives for the month of: November, 2018

The Trump administration released an ominous report on climate change in the middle of the Thanksgiving weekend, on a Friday at 2 pm. It hoped to bury the consensus of 17 federal agencies. But the facts won’t stay buried, no matter how much politicians try.

The Washington Post published an editorial, summarizing the report’s ominous warnings.

IF YOU did not hear about the major new federal climate change report, the Trump administration will be pleased. The report was released the day after Thanksgiving — when many people were distracted — probably because it contradicts practically everything President Trump has said and done on global warming. The Fourth National Climate Assessment is yet another reminder that reality will catch up to the United States, no matter how much the president tries to ignore and deny it.

The world is heating up, and there are no “credible natural explanations for this amount of warming.” U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions have decreased a bit lately. But they need to go down much further and faster to avoid dire consequences.

Already, the nation is seeing “intensifying droughts, increasing heavy downpours, reducing snowpack,” as well as “declines in surface water quality.” Without a course change, increasingly depleted groundwater, rising seas and other effects will make it more difficult to farm and provide enough water for large cities.

Foodborne and waterborne diseases will spread. Disease-carrying ticks and mosquitoes will be more common. Extreme heat will cause more deaths. Wildfires and insect infestations will overwhelm U.S. forests. Sea ice will melt and coral reef ecosystems will dissolve. Power outages and fuel shortages will be more frequent. Roads and bridges will swamp. Pipelines will become unsafe. Waterside property will be increasingly unusable. Fisheries will dwindle.

“Even if significant emissions reductions occur, many of the effects from sea level rise over this century — and particularly through mid-century — are already locked in due to historical emissions,” the report explains, underscoring the necessity for coastal communities to prepare. On the horizon is “the potential need for millions of people and billions of dollars of coastal infrastructure to be relocated.”

Critics of acting on climate change often cite the possible economic costs. But not acting has costs, too. The experts expect “substantial net damage to the U.S. economy throughout this century,” finding that “with continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century — more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states.”

And the damage will be long-lasting. “The climate change resulting from human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide will persist for decades to millennia. Self-reinforcing cycles within the climate system have the potential to accelerate human-induced change and even shift Earth’s climate system into new states that are very different from those experienced in the recent past,” the report notes.

The White House responded to the report by misrepresenting scientists’ work and promising “fuller information” in the next analysis. Cooking the next report will not change the facts. Mr. Trump and the Republican Party have been negligent stewards of the country’s irreplaceable resources. Future Americans will not forgive or forget what these “leaders” did to them. Playing games with report release schedules won’t change that.

Lisa Guisbond, executive director of Citizens for Public Schools in Massachusetts, reports that the state of Massachusetts is set to compel the public schools of New Bedford to divert $15 million to a low-performing charter school that wants to triple its enrollment.

Two years ago, the voters of Massachusetts decisively voted against a measure to lift the cap on charter schools. The elected officials of New Bedford do not want the charter in their small city to grow from 450 to nearly 1,200 students. As we have seen time and again, democracy is an impediment to the voracious charter industry. As we learned in an earlier post, local leaders fear that the charter expansion will set back the progress that the New Bedford public schools have made in recent years. In this curious episode, the public schools are more successful than the charter that wants to expand.

She writes:

“The request by Alma del Mar charter school in New Bedford to add 1,188 seats to its current enrollment of 450 is mind-boggling. Such an expansion is exactly what voters in New Bedford and nearly every other community statewide said they opposed.

“Thanks to a vigorous grass-roots campaign, Massachusetts residents who cast ballots in 2016 had learned the basics of the charter school system: Privately run schools that have found ways to include some students and exclude others drain public funds away from schools that educate all children…

“While current Massachusetts charter regulations do allow for more charter school seats in New Bedford, the community has no appetite for what Alma del Mar is serving. The people elected to represent the views of the community—city councilors, school committee members, state representatives, and New Bedford’s mayor—have forcefully opposed this expansion as well as a smaller proposal from the Global Learning charter school to increase its enrollment by 100.

“It is easy to understand their opposition: Why shift $15 million from schools that educate all children to private operations that do not perform as well as many of the public schools, and do not dazzle in any way?

“Claims that Alma del Mar, which enrolls students in kindergarten through grade 5, is somehow exceptional are dubious. Even the state’s own narrow accountability system finds Alma del Mar is not meeting targets, while more than half of the elementary schools in New Bedford are meeting theirs. New Bedford Public Schools have far more certified teachers in their classrooms; last year more than 94 percent of the teachers in New Bedford Public Schools were fully certified, compared with fewer than 63 percent of the teachers at Alma del Mar. Also last year, Alma del Mar sought to send some of its students to public schools for courses the charter school was unable to offer…

“The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, not the New Bedford community, will decide the fate of Alma del Mar’s expansion as well as the fate of all the students who would be forced to withstand the devastating repercussions of New Bedford losing so much state aid for public education.”

Arthur Goldstein is pretty damned angry at Mayor DeBlasio. The city just loaded billions of dollars of tax breaks onto Amazon and multibillionaire Jeff Bezos, even giving Amazon one of the Department of Education’s buildings in Queens. But Goldstein’s students are crammed into crowded classrooms.

Where are the city’s priorities?

I’m shocked that the city has space to turn over to Amazon but can barely find any for schools. I suppose it’s an extraordinary privilege to be able to provide Jeff Bezos a new helipad, while rolling out the red carpet for thousands of high-paid workers, who may or may not even live here. From my perspective, teaching 34 students in half a classroom, I’m not particularly concerned about where the world’s richest man parks his business, let alone his helicopter.

I’ve been working at Francis Lewis High School in central Queens since 1993, and I can’t recall a time when we’ve been so pressed for space. While I bemoan my half room, some of my colleagues are teaching in windowless converted book storage rooms. After years of complaints, admin found a way to air-condition them. Despite this, the air quality is still sub-standard, according to recent tests conducted by UFT….

It’s all about priorities, and the city that so long claimed to place children first is failing spectacularly to do so. In three or four years our school will have an annex, but who’s to say the DOE won’t just dump another thousand kids on us so we’re as overcrowded as ever?
There might be a time to lavish billions in subsidies on Jeff Bezos, but that time is most certainly not now. Our schools and our kids are more important, by far, than bragging rights for Amazon.

Is this fair?

Amazon recently announced that Long Island City in Queens, New York (a part of New York City) will be the site of one of its new headquarters. This will be an expensive “gift” to New York City, which has pledged huge tax breaks and incentives to woo Amazon. It will also create a burden on already strained public services, not only transportation, but public schools.

Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters, and Sabina Omerhodzic, a Long Island City resident and a member of the Community Education Council in District 30, warn that Long Island City is not ready. The public schools are already overcrowded.

They write:

The plan to provide Amazon up to $3 billion in city and state tax cuts and other subsidies to site one of their new headquarters in Long Island City leaves the children who are living there in the lurch. The booming community is already severely short on school seats, a problem that Amazon’s move to the area will only exacerbate given recent trends, Department of Education projections, and the details of the Amazon deal that have been released.

The only zoned elementary school in Long Island City, PS 78, is already at 135% capacity, and more than 70 children who were zoned to the school were put on the waitlist for kindergarten last spring, while classes for numerous pre-K kids are being housed in trailers.

There are plans for two small elementary schools of about 600 seats each to be created as part of a huge 5,000-housing unit Hunters Point South development, but these schools are likely to be immediately overcrowded the day they open. There are already three sections of kindergarten students attending class in an incubation site at a nearby pre-K center, waiting to attend the first elementary school, which will not be completed until 2021.

An already-planned middle school had been proposed to be built on city-owned land as part of a mixed-use 1,000-unit project, but this area is now to be incorporated into the Amazon development. Contrary to Mayor de Blasio’s claims, the memorandum of understanding with Amazon includes no new school for the neighborhood. Instead, the MOU merely says that the company will pay for this middle school already in the city’s capital plan – but moved to another location, as yet undetermined. As Chalkbeat NY explained, “The company agreed to house a 600-seat intermediate school on or near its Long Island City campus, replacing a school that had already been planned in a residential building nearby.”

From 2006 to 2017, more than 20,000 residential units were built in Long Island City. A study found that 12,533 apartments in 41 separate developments were built in the community between 2010 and 2016 – not just the highest number in New York City, but more than any other neighborhood in the entire nation….

Another part of the deal includes Amazon making payments in lieu of taxes into an infrastructure fund that, starting 11 years after the deal, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) can spend on nearly any sort of use, “including but not limited to streets, sidewalks, utility relocations, environmental remediation, public open space, transportation, schools and signage,” according to the MOU.

And to add the most grievous insult to injury, the city now plans to give Amazon a large DOE office building, one that community members have been fighting to convert into much-needed schools and a community center instead. A petition, now with more than 1,500 signatures, to the mayor and local elected officials was posted last year by the Long Island City Coalition.

This is not the first time the community’s needs for schools have gone entirely ignored. In 2008, EDC re-zoned city-owned land for the Hunters Point South project without any plan to create a single new school, ignoring the thousand or so children who were likely to inhabit these new apartments. It took a concerted organizing effort of Long Island City parents and elected officials in 2015 for the city to agree to belatedly include two small schools in the plans.

We’ve seen this poor planning repeatedly, wherever new residential developments are springing up. The Amazon deal is but a particularly egregious example of how the city’s policies are driven by the interests of the real estate industry and private corporations while the educational needs of our children are too often overlooked. As many education advocates, parents and community leaders have pointed out, the school planning process in New York City is broken, resulting in more than half a million students crammed into overcrowded schools and classrooms, with the problem likely to get worse as the city’s population continues to grow.

Read the whole thing to learn how poorly the city of New York has planned for the arrival of thousands of people who are employed by Amazon and expect to put their children into public schools.

Ivanka Trump and Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, visited Wilder Elementary School to learn about the future of workforce preparation, which of course involves selling iPads to children in a K-6 school!

However, they did not speak to high school students in Wilder, Idaho, who are thoroughly disgusted with (de)personalized learning. Several protested the fraud that Wilder officials were selling to Ivanka and said they were not allowed to speak up.

So instead, they walked outside, stood in the cold for hours and told members of the local media they are concerned about Wilder’s reliance on technology, worry about the district’s low test scores and fear the education they are receiving in Wilder won’t prepare them for college or life after high school.

Nadia, a Wilder sophomore, wanted to make sure the public heard both sides of the iPad story.

“We came out to tell you guys what’s really going on with our school,” Nadia said. “We are not really learning anything. The teachers are not allowed to teach anything. We are learning on iPads all day and we have to wait at least a week or so to get a test unlocked. And a lot of kids have been falling behind and then they cover that up and say everyone’s on target.”

Thomas, a Wilder 11thgrader, agreed with Nadia.

“There are a lot of things going wrong at this school and every time we try to speak out about it we are shut down and kept quiet,” he said.

Thomas and Nadia said they walked out of class once they realized the school was about to be locked down for the visit. They said they were unsure if they would be allowed to return to school.

Student achievement data shows that Wilder lags behind the state average in several academic indicators. This fall, the State Department of Education identified Wilder Middle School as one of the lowest-performing schools in Idaho. At Wilder Elementary, where Trump and Cook checked in Tuesday, just 26.7 percent of students scored “proficient” on math Idaho Standards Achievement Test in 2017-18. At Wilder High School, the go-on rate in 2017 was 25 percent, well below the state average of 45 percent, according to Idaho EdTrends.

Several readers of the blog have discussed visiting Finnish schools.

I offered to put them in touch with a knowledgeable person.

You can contact William Doyle, an author who has spent a year in Finland on a Fulbright Fellowship. His own child attended Finnish schools.

He has kindly offered to communicate with anyone interested in planning a trip.

Write him at

State Superintendent-elect Tony Thurmond urges a halt to new charters unless there was new funding provided for them. He recognized, as few charter advocates do, that opening charters without funding them harms existing public schools.

The charter industry, which opposes any accountability, transparency, or regulation, spent nearly $40 million trying to stop Thurmond.

Ivanka Trump visited the Wilder Elementary School in Wilder, Idaho, accompanied by Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, to tout technology in schools and Apple products.

Tim Cook is openly gay. I wonder if he asked Ivanka about the Trump administration’s demonization of transgender students.

Never before have we had a president who used Twitter to reveal the workings of his mind, his rages, resentments, bitterness.

Here is this morning’s illustrated Tweet, imagining his many enemies in prison, locked up, jailed for daring to cross him.

These are the dreams of a despot.

The newly elected Governor Of Tennessee, Bill Lee, has selected the former director of Betsy DeVos’s Tennessee Federation for Children as his education Policy Advisor.

DeVos founded the American Federation for Children, which has numerous state affiliates.

The DeVos groups advocate for public funding of religious schools, homeschooling, cyberschooling, and anything other than public schooling.

If the people of Tennessee want to keep their public schools, they will have to persuade their state legislators to oppose the new Governor’s education agenda.

The linked article in Chalkbeat says that students in voucher schools get lower test scores, which is true. It also says that kids who use vouchers have higher graduation rates, which is not true, because the dropout rate from voucher schools is very high, and the “graduation rate” does not include the large number that left and returned to public school. If it did, the voucher schools would have a far lower graduation rate than local public schools. The first such study, from Milwaukee, reported that 44% of the voucher students dropped out to return to public schools, but were not included in the denominator when the voucher schools’ graduation rate was calculated. Only the survivors were counted.