Archives for the month of: November, 2019

Imagine this: an emergency room nurse gives birth to a premature baby. She gets a bill for $898,984 from her employer. She thought she had insurance coverage. Her employer says she didn’t sign up in time for the baby. What is she to do?

ProPublica gets involved.

This obviously is not an education issue. But it is an issue about what kind of society we are.

“Lauren Bard opened the hospital bill this month and her body went numb. In bold block letters it said, “AMOUNT DUE: $898,984.57.”

“Last fall, Bard’s daughter, Sadie, had arrived about three months prematurely; and as a nurse herself, Bard knew the costs for Sadie’s care would be high. But she’d assumed the bulk would be covered by the organization that owned the hospital where she worked: Dignity Health, whose marketing motto is “Hello humankindness.”

“She would be wrong.

“Bard, 30, had been caught up in an unforgiving trend. As health care costs continue to rise, employers are shifting the expense to their workers — cutting back on what they’ll cover or pumping up premiums and out-of-pocket costs. But a premature baby, delivered with gaspingly high medical claims, creates a sort of benefits bomb, the kind an employer — especially one funding its own benefits — might look for a way to dodge altogether….

“Bard’s saga began, traumatically, when she gave birth to Sadie at just 26 weeks on Sept. 21, 2018, at the University of California, Irvine Medical Center in Southern California. Weighing less than a pound and a half, tiny enough to fit into Bard’s cupped hands, Sadie was rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit. Three days after her birth, Bard called Anthem Blue Cross, which administers her health plan, to start coverage. Anthem and UC Irvine’s billing department assured her that Sadie was covered, Bard said.

”But Dignity’s plan, like many, requires employees to enroll newborns within 31 days through its website, or they won’t be covered — something Bard said she didn’t know at the time.

“Meanwhile, believing that everything with her health benefits was on track, Bard spent nine of those first 31 days recovering in her own hospital bed and then had to return to the emergency room because of a subsequent infection. She spent as much time as she could in the neonatal intensive care unit, where Sadie, in an incubator, attached to tubes and wires, battled a host of critical ailments related to extremely premature birth. At times, doctors gave her a 50-50 chance of survival.

“Right from birth she was a fighter,” Bard said.

“Then, eight days past the 31-day deadline, UC Irvine’s billing department alerted Bard to a problem with Sadie’s coverage. Anthem was saying it could not process the claims for the baby, who was still in the NICU.

“Bard, an emergency room nurse at St. Bernardine Medical Center in San Bernardino, called Dignity’s benefits department and made a sickening discovery. Sadie wasn’t enrolled in its health plan. It was too late, she was told, she could no longer add her baby.

”Dignity bills itself as the fifth-largest health system in the country, with services in 21 states. The massive nonprofit self-funds its benefits, meaning it bears the cost of bills like Sadie’s. And it doesn’t appear to be short on cash. In 2018, the organization reported $6.6 billion in net assets and paid its CEO $11.9 million in reportable compensation, according to tax filings. That same year, more than two dozen Dignity executives earned more than $1 million in compensation, records show.”

Bard was facing bankruptcy when ProPublica found out about her dire situation.

One reason I am posting this story is because I was moved by the injustice of it. Another is because a reader in the South chastised me for writing an appeal on behalf of the Southern Poverty Law Center. He sent me the SPLC 990 form for the IRS, showing that it has nearly $500 million in assets. There are many worthy organizations that need crowd-funding. ProPublica is one of them.

Jack Hassard taught science and science teachers for many years.

He clings to the old-fashioned idea that “facts are facts.” 

He is offended by the idea of “alternative facts” or the charges of “fake news” used to discredit anyone that Dear Leader disagrees with.

A fact is verifiable. An opinion is not.

He writes:

As science teachers, we think of facts as a repeatable observations or measurements. In short, they can be verified.

For instance, observations and measurements are dependent upon the observers and instruments used to make the measurements.

The Uncertainty Principle

There are limitations in our ability to observe.

There are limitations in our ability to observe. Werner Heisenberg worked out this idea in 1927. He proposed the Uncertainty Principle. The Uncertainty Principle meant that there was a limit to measuring very small particles in the quantum world. Moreover, Heisenberg said that there was always an uncertainty if one measures the momentum and the position of particles.

In the same vein, the classical world that we live in, there are still limitations to our ability to describe and measure. For example, if we say that the temperature outside is 35º C, the temperature can be verified. However, you could ask where was the temperature taken, in full sunlight or in the shade. What kind of instrument did you use.

In any of these cases, the statement can be considered a fact (and not an opinion). But, if you said that it’s very hot outside. That’s an opinion. Another person could say the temperature is fine with me. That’s another opinion.

Pay attention. Facts are facts. A dictator tries to control what is fact and what is opinion. Hold to truth.

I never thought about sitting down and writing out my “rules for life,” but Peter Greene did.

They are good as anything I could write, actually better, so I share them here with you.

The New York Times reported on a huge merger of newspapers.

In August, Gannett, the parent company of USA Today and more than 100 other dailies, and New Media Investment Group, the owner of the newspaper chain GateHouse Media, announced their intention to join forces. Over the next two months, the plan breezed through the regulatory process, winning approvals from the Justice Department and the European Union. Last week, shareholders at the two companies voted yea. And now one in five daily papers in the United States has the same owner, under the Gannett name, according to figures provided by researchers at the University of North Carolina.

The combined company will have its headquarters in Gannett’s home base, McLean, Va., and will be led by Michael E. Reed, the New Media chief executive since 2006. The job puts him in charge of more than 260 dailies — from small papers like The Tuscaloosa News in Alabama to big ones like The Detroit Free Press.

GateHouse’s acquisition of Gannett, a cash-and-stock transaction valued at roughly $1.2 billion, was intended to give the combined companies an annual savings of some $300 million. Mr. Reed said the bulk of the savings “is not going to come from editorial,” meaning newsrooms would be largely spared.

Pressed to say more, Mr. Reed added: “I can’t give you an exact number, but almost nothing. I mean, just for context, there’s 24,000 employees in the two companies, and a significant portion of the cost reductions are going to come from things other than people. But, obviously, people’s a part of this as well. Out of 24,000 people in the company, there’s about 2,500 that are actually writing stories every day. So it’s a small number, relative to 24,000. So there’s so much opportunity beyond the newsroom for us to go get these efficiencies.”

Paul Bascobert, the chief executive of the former Gannett who will hold that same title for the new Gannett’s operating company, seconded that statement, saying the company’s mission “is to connect, protect and celebrate local communities.”

“And the core of that is great local journalism,” he added. “That’s the engine that has gotten us to the place we are today, and that’s the engine that’s going to carry us forward.”

Newspaper executives have sung this tune before, only to end up making aggressive cuts in an industry that has struggled since the one-two punch of the recession more than 10 years ago and the rise of digital media. Twenty-five percent of newsroom employees were laid off between 2008 and 2018, according to the Pew Research Center.

GateHouse and Gannett have both cut newsroom employees in recent years. GateHouse consolidated some business functions at a center in Austin, Texas, resulting in layoffs elsewhere, and laid off more than 100 newsroom employees in the spring. Gannett has let go dozens of journalists, including prominent sportswriters and a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist.

Mr. Reed and Mr. Bascobert, who spoke with The New York Times at the USA Today office in Midtown Manhattan, said the savings they had in mind amounted to 8 percent of annual costs. “So it’s not an overwhelming number — very achievable,” Mr. Reed said.

The News Guild, which represents journalists at many of the company’s newspapers, has been critical of the merger. The union “intends to hold managers of the new Gannett to the promises they have made,” the News Guild president, Bernie Lunzer, said in a statement. “We will continue to demand that they fund high-quality journalism.”

Mr. Reed said he would make newsroom decisions with the help of data that tracked reader interest and the output of journalists. “The ability to measure production at the reporter level allows us to get stronger and healthier and do more quality local journalism with the same amount of resources, potentially,” he said.

He seemed aware that his stats-based approach to newsroom management was not likely to sit well with the union. “The Guild would fight me on that, and say, ‘We should do business like it’s 1950,’” Mr. Reed said, adding, “I frankly think the Guild’s a big problem, and until we can get them to sit at a table and have a real discussion about where the world is today, there’s going to be inefficiencies….”

The merger raises another question: What does it mean that the beleaguered newspaper industry, considered essential to democracy, is controlled by ever fewer corporations, many of them with a focus on finance rather than covering the news?

The supersize version of Gannett has a byzantine corporate structure. It will be managed, under an agreement that lasts two more years, by Fortress Investment Group, a private equity firm in Manhattan. Fortress was the entity that controlled New Media Investment Group, the parent of GateHouse Media.

Fortress, in turn, is owned by SoftBank, the Tokyo conglomerate founded by Masayoshi Son, a brash executive who had a friendly meeting with Donald J. Trump in December 2016, when Mr. Trump was the president-elect. (Mr. Son was also a driving force behind the all-but-final megamerger of Sprint, a SoftBank-controlled company, and T-Mobile; that deal won regulatory approval after a lobbying campaign that included company executives staying at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.)

Iris Chyi, a professor at the University of Texas School of Journalism, expressed concern that the newspaper business was in fewer corporate hands. “From a media economics perspective, more competition is always better,” Ms. Chyi said. “We don’t want a company to have way too much power.”

Another large newspaper chain, MediaNews Group, is owned by a hedge fund, Alden Global Capital. Gannett resisted MediaNews Group’s bid to buy it earlier this year. On Tuesday, Tribune Company, a publicly owned major chain, announced that Alden had purchased a 25 percent stake in it. McClatchy, another major chain, said last week that it risked insolvency.

Mr. Reed grew up in Elmira, N.Y., and was once a delivery boy for The Star-Gazette there — the descendant of The Elmira Gazette bought by Frank E. Gannett in 1906. It was the first publication in what would become a newspaper empire.

Now a part-time resident of the Rochester, N.Y., area, Mr. Reed noted that the new incarnation of Gannett would have two publications in that part of the world: The Daily Messenger, in Canandaigua, formerly a GateHouse publication, and The Democrat and Chronicle, a longtime Gannett daily in Rochester.

“I think both products get stronger,” he said, “because now we’re going to be able to share those resources.”

When he spoke of how Gannett would manage the neighboring papers, he mentioned the newsroom. “Do we need two people covering the Rochester Red Wings?” he asked, referring to the minor-league baseball franchise. “So that’s where we potentially redeploy assets.”

 

A message about this merger from the publisher of ProPublica, which publishes investigative journalism:

 

Not Shutting Up

BY RICHARD TOFEL

Welcome to Not Shutting Up, a newsletter from ProPublica’s president, Dick Tofel. You’re receiving this because you’ve supported ProPublica’s journalism; we’re grateful for that, and we hope to give you some context on how our newsroom works. If this email was forwarded to you, you can sign up to receive it here.

Dear ProPublicans,I know I’ve written to you before about the business crisis in local news, but it has accelerated significantly in the last couple of weeks, and I think you need to understand how and what it means.Here’s what’s happened in just the last 10 days:

    • Two local newspaper chains, GateHouse and Gannett, completed their merger, and the surviving company controls one-fifth of all the daily newspapers in the United States, including the Arizona Republic, Providence Journal and Austin American-Statesman. These newspapers have already been cut back so far that their average news staff — across 260 papers — is fewer than 20 people, and fewer than 10 reporters per city. In the aftermath of the merger, the company plans $300 million in cuts, with at least one leading observer estimating that the cuts will eventually come to $400 million.
    • Hedge funds, which seek high returns in a short amount of time and measure those returns solely in dollars, now effectively control all of the nation’s largest newspaper chains, either through stock or debt holdings. The second largest company, Digital First Media, is controlled by Alden Global Capital. Alden this week bought 25% of the stock of Tribune Publishing, publisher of the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and New York Daily News among others, becoming its largest shareholder as well. Alden is best known in newspapers for having gutted the Denver Post and San Jose Mercury News.
    • McClatchy, whose properties include the Miami Herald and Charlotte Observer, announced that it owes a pension contribution next year of about $125 million, but it will only have about $20 million in cash to make that payment. The company has shrunk to the point that it has 2,800 employees whose work must generate enough to fund 24,000 pensions. That’s not possible.
  • Meanwhile, important new research from the Knight Foundation (disclosure: a ProPublica funder) and Gallup finds that most people erroneously believe that local news organizations are doing well financially. One bright spot: When told this is incorrect, a majority expressed willingness to support a local news nonprofit.

What, you may ask — you should ask, we certainly do — is ProPublica doing about this? Here, I think, the recent very bad news is somewhat leavened by some hopeful signs.

This week, our own first local newsroom, ProPublica Illinois, published an extraordinary story about the horrifying use of isolation rooms for children as young as 5 years old in schools across the state. This story was the fruit of a collaboration between two ProPublica Illinois reporters and one from the Chicago Tribune, and it was published by both organizations. Yesterday, the state took emergency action to ban the practice. If you have not already read the story, I urge you to do so, as well as this month’s moving and insightful ProPublica Illinois story about the racial legacy of the town of Anna.

Also this week, we published the latest installments in continuing series from our Local Reporting Network partners concerning the concentration of political power in New Jerseyand a major environmental threat in Louisiana.

And we’re in the early stages of our forthcoming initiative in partnership with The Texas Tribune; we posted many of the jobs for it this week.

So that’s what we’re doing. We’re working on possible plans to do more.

What, I hope you might ask, can you do to support local journalism? Beyond continuing your engagement with us, for which we are always deeply grateful, if you still have a local news outlet you think provides you with important facts and perspective on your community, don’t just assume its immortality. Subscribe if you can; donate what you can if that’s possible.

These are tough times for local reporting in this country, and, with hedge funds calling the tune, tougher times lie ahead. You should expect us to do our part to make this a high priority. I hope some of you can do the same.

Regards, Dick

 

 

Tom Ultican writes here that the i-Ready program is “Outcomes Based Education” in a new dress.

It is, he writes, a fake innovation.

He writes:

i-Ready sells digital math and English lessons to school districts. It provides diagnostic testing which recommends interventions for struggling students that it then provides. i-Ready’s pedagogy embraces competency based education (CBE) a theory promoted by the US Department of Education and blended learning theory also financially supported by the federal government. CBE is the latest name for an education theory that failed in both the 1970’s and 1990’s. Blended learning theory is an experiment with almost no research supporting it but lots of research pointing to its health risks. Students dislike i-Ready.

June 2018, I wrote “i-Ready Magnificent Marketing Terrible Teaching.” It received decent traffic for the first four days, but strangely the traffic never slowed. This year, it is my most accessed article averaging over 700 hits per month.

Curriculum Associates and Bad Education Philosophy

The Massachusetts based company Curriculum Associates (CA) distributes i-Ready and its related testing services. When founded in 1969, it was providing worksheets in support of Mastery Learning curriculum which is similar to today’s CBE. They are the same failed theories delivered by different mediums. CBE and Mastery Learning theory also go by many other names including outcome based education; performance based education; standards based education; high performance learning; transformational education and break-the-mold schools, among others.

Read on for the full story.

 

Evgeny Morozov writes about the political and social implications of technology.

In this fascinating article, Morozov reveals and condemns the moral and intellectual vacuity of the leaders of the tech sector.

For all the growing skepticism about Silicon Valley, many still believe that the digital revolution has a serious intellectual dimension, hashed out at conferences like Ted, online salons like Edge.org, publications like Wired, and institutions like the MIT Media Lab. The ideas of the digerati might be wrong, they might be overly utopian, but, at least, they are sincere.

The Epstein scandal – including the latest revelation that Epstein might have channeled up to $8m (some of it, apparently, on behalf of Bill Gates) to the MIT Media Lab, while its executives were fully aware of his problematic background – has cast the digerati in a very different light. It has already led to the resignation of the lab’s director, Joi Ito.

This, however, is not only a story of individuals gone rogue. The ugly collective picture of the techno-elites that emerges from the Epstein scandal reveals them as a bunch of morally bankrupt opportunists. To treat their ideas as genuine but wrong is too generous; the only genuine thing about them is their fakeness. Big tech and its apologists do produce the big thoughts – alas, mostly accidental byproducts of them chasing the big bucks.

It wasn’t meant to be that way. Back in 1991, John Brockman – the world’s most successful digital impresario, and, until recently, my literary agent – was touting the emergence of the “third culture” that would finally replace the technophobic literary intellectuals with those coming from the world of science and technology. “The emergence of the third culture introduces new modes of intellectual discourse and reaffirms the pre-eminence of America in the realm of important ideas,” wrote Brockman in a much-discussed essay.

Please read the rest of this article.

John Thompson is a historian and a retired teacher in Oklahoma.

He writes:

I have very strong, positive and negative feelings about Natalie Wexler’s The Knowledge Gap: The Hidden Cause of America’s Broken Education System and How to Fix It. For better and/or the worse, the Oklahoma State Department of Education has committed to what Wexler calls science-based reading instruction and what many experts see as another push for phonics, paired with an assault on so-called “Progressivism.”

My big worry is the way that some of her hypotheses are being appropriated by privatizers in their latest attacks on public schools.

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ISBN=0735213550/theatla05-20/
https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/08/the-radical-case-for-teaching-kids-stuff/592765/

And since former Chief for Change Janet Baressi, who pushed for the retention of 3rd graders based on their reading scores, is running for Congress, Oklahoma educators need to participate in an evidence-based evaluation of Wexler’s book and respond to many of her sources, out-of-state think tanks seeking to restore the test and punish policies we’ve repealed or made less destructive.

Surely we can agree that that corporate school reform has damaged reading instruction, especially for our poorest children, by narrowing the curriculum and expanding test prep.  Wexler notes, “The amount of time spent on social studies and science has plummeted—especially in schools where test scores are low.” Teachers are forced to “focus on a ‘skill of the week,’” robbing students of opportunities to learn the background knowledge necessary to read for comprehension.

The best parts of The Knowledge Gap, I believe, are not its analyses of research; even though I lack the expertise to prove it, my sense is that Wexler oversimplifies when interpreting how academic research applies to policy. (For instance, I’ve long admired Dan Willingham, who she often cites, and I would be surprised if he were to claim that adopting methods based on his cognitive research, alone, would produce such transformative gains.)

I most respect Wexler’s insights that come from tutoring or watching children in class. For instance, she shows how divorced Common Core is from reality (which is my wording, not Wexler’s). She describes a 1st grader who was supposed to “draw conclusions” using “a dense article describing Brazil,” but who thought her assignment was to “draw clowns.”

Wexler does a great job, joining teachers and parents, in criticizing “test prep.” However, she then adds, teachers “haven’t focused on the more fundamental problem.” And that foreshadows the problems with The Knowledge Gap. Its targets include the decades of progressivism and the “antipathy” of educators who refuse to see the evidence she cites with “their own eyes.”

After criticizing No Child Left Behind for driving social studies from the curriculum, Wexler places equal or greater blame on progressive orthodoxy. She writes, “Perhaps the most powerful belief teachers absorb during their training is that education should be a natural, pleasurable, process and that learning or (heaven forbid) memorizing is inherently boring and soul-destroying.”

Given the extreme damage done to our poorest children of color by accountability-driven, market-driven reformers who have long slandered classroom teachers, I was most upset by Wexler’s attack on my colleagues:

”Today’s child-centered progressive educators – and the many who have unconsciously absorbed the movement’s shibboleths – sincerely want our education system to function as an engine of social and economic mobility.  … But by denying less privileged children access to knowledge, they are doing just as much to perpetuate existing inequities as their distant cousins who invented tracking: the social efficiency progressives.”

(And as a former social historian, I’m annoyed by the linkage of today’s child-centered progressives with social efficiency progressives; its corporate school reform that is rooted in Taylorism and social efficiency progressivism.)

At times, Wexler sounds like a lawyer parsing words carefully in defense of her client, corporate school reformers trying to blame educators for the failure of their agenda. For instance, she verges on ridiculing educators who prioritize “critical thinking” and “learning to learn,” but her precise argument is that “foregrounding” such skills is the problem.

Then, such nuance may be followed by a broad assertion like, “What the vast majority of educators, reformers, commentators, and government officials still haven’t realized is that elementary school is where the real problem has been hiding, in plain sight.” I wish she had mentioned social scientists as members of the majority who don’t accept her hypothesis.

Wexler critiques Common Core literacy standards which, she says, “have in many ways made a bad situation worse.” In the majority of classrooms, she concludes, “the results can be disastrous” because teachers “may put impenetrable text in front of kids and just let them struggle. Or, perhaps, draw clowns.”

Wexler also defends Common Core advocates like David Coleman, for instance, saying that his vision was “not necessarily incompatible” with E.D. Hirsch’s. Rather than provide real world evidence for such an implausible assertion, she shifts some of the blame to the 3/4ths of teachers who “believe incorrectly” that Common Core calls for “texts on individualized reading levels and skills over content.” Even if that blanket statement isn’t inaccurate, where did that belief come from – teachers’ misreading of Common Core or the mandates they received by administrators complying with the main thrust of an experiment that hadn’t been thought through?

I wish Wexler would acknowledge how the real harm of Common Core came from the combination of complex, confusing, untested standards with high stakes testing – even punishing individual teachers, children, and GED test takers in inappropriate and ill-conceived punitive systems. Had she done so, perhaps Wexler would have realized that the supposed sins of the “status quo” were the predictable results of test and punish, market-driven reforms, not the perverse stubbornness of educators.

Often, Wexler is fair to classroom teachers, such as those in an urban district who have long had to deal with a “significant reform initiative” every three months. She says that figuring out both how to teach and what to teach which is “a nearly impossible task.” And she agrees that Common Core made that ordeal worse.

But, Wexler notes that teachers have denied that it’s realistic to expect struggling students to read at grade level as Common Core requires. She offers some anecdotes in support of her dubious suggestion that it is possible to do that at scale. She also adds, implausibly, “perhaps it’s only unrealistic because of the content-adverse approach they have championed is what is holding those students back.” And that leads to the type of statement that offends us teachers who have dedicated our lives to our students, “millions of kids  … are only waiting for someone to actually teach them something to unlock their potential.”

Moreover, raising standards and teaching for reading comprehension is much more difficult in a society where only 32% of students could identify Civil War dates within fifty years. And Wexler acknowledges that high learning standards have not worked because the time it would take to master them would require students to attend school until grade 21 or 22. But she seems to mostly blame the lack of knowledge on progressive orthodoxy for not teaching elementary social studies and for social studies pushing history out of the curriculum.

So, Wexler praises the international systems that use a “detailed national curriculum along with tests based on it,” and she wants to add essay questions to standardized tests. Wexler blames the lack of such a curriculum and tests on “politics.” Her solution would be better writing instruction.

When it comes to edu-politics, Wexler tends to be more sympathetic to reformers than to practitioners. When Diane Ravitch told her that “poverty is a bigger problem than curriculum,” she could have studied the social science which backs up Ravitch. It sounds to me that that she claims that poor Michelle Rhee couldn’t tackle the need for curriculum because she would have then been beat up by Ravitch.

But when Wexler complains about Lucy Calkins, “just one of several prominent balanced literacy gurus,” she’ll make statements like, “The only problem for Calkins …” Wexler then indicated that part of that problem was Calkins’ rejection of scripted lessons. Rather than lengthen this review by addressing that issue, I’ll respond to a worrisome pattern in The Knowledge Gap. Never in my decades of experience have I seen problems or solutions that come from only one source, and I never had to satisfy Joel Klein while transforming much of New York City’s education system.

I became more suspicious of Wexler’s recommendations near the end of her book where she describes Washoe County, NV, which in 2011 just sought to teach the 18% of standards that are on the test. Those “power standards” were called “jackpot standards” by teachers who complied with them. She praised the grassroots effort to customize the program.

She acknowledges the role of Fordham and others in pushing Common Core and she acknowledges problems with Common Core. But she mostly trusts their complaints about implementation. So, it becomes a part of her theme of failed implementation by educators deserves more blame.

Next, Wexler seems to be reporting on the facts on the ground that explain why reformers failed. She describes posters embraced by reformers proclaiming to elementary students, “TRY HARD!,”  “No fear!,” and “Believe!” She seems disdainful of their efforts to stop the “3rd grade PARCC worry chain,” and “leaving our fears outside.” As she approaches the chapter “Scaling Up: Can It Be Done?,” Wexler concludes that section by reporting on a dynamic charter teacher who leaves her high-challenge class.

But the optimism in Wexler’s final chapters seems to be based the narratives presented by Klein and his “devotees” like John King and John White. She points out the success of a kid who had been in the “dumb group” but who flourished when using the package, “Wit and Wisdom.” Her greatest hope seems to be the Core Knowledge Learning Arts program (CKLA), and she says that thousands of schools use it, but she offers no research-based evidence of its successes.

https://dianeravitch.net/2019/11/10/john-thompson-how-billionaire-reformers-messed-up-the-public-schools-of-tulsa/
https://www.tulsakids.com/is-ckla-the-best-way-to-teach-children-to-read/
https://fordhaminstitute.org/national/commentary/curriculum-advocates-prepare-long-hard-struggle?mc_cid=1972e93aed&mc_eid=3095764e3b

The book closes without evidence that CKLA is can be scaled up. Scouring her footnotes, I found no support for her analysis except for Fordham Institute advocates. Interestingly, after Wexler (and Emily Hanford) participated in the Research Ed conference last week, Fordham’s Mike Petrilli came out with an even tougher strategy for implementing Wexler’s agenda. He proposes a Vergara-style lawsuit against states that don’t provide “scientifically based reading instruction.” The head of a think tank that specializes in spreading junk science, Petrilli, believes:

Putting the defenders of whole language and balanced literacy on trial would be its own form of justice—one that might even lead education schools nationwide to get religion on the science of reading.

And when Billionaires Boys Club’s lobbyists, especially from Fordham, return to Oklahoma to promote the Chief for Change’s Baressi’s and other teacher-bashers’ memes, I hope legislators will listen to Tulsa teachers who despise CKLA.

https://fordhaminstitute.org/national/commentary/curriculum-advocates-prepare-long-hard-struggle?mc_cid=1972e93aed&mc_eid=3095764e3b

Many people have written to me to complain about an article that appeared Wednesday on the front page of the New York Times, saying it was pro-charter propaganda. The article claims that black and brown parents are offended that the Democratic candidates (with the exception of Cory Booker, now polling at 1%) have turned their backs on charter schools.

This is not true. Black parents in Little Rock, Arkansas, are fighting at this very moment to stop the Walton-controlled state government from controlling their district and re-segregating it with charter schools. Jitu Brown and his allies fought to keep Rahm Emanuel from closing Walter Dyett High School, the last open enrollment public high school on the South Side of Chicago; they launched a 34-day hunger strike, and Rahm backed down. Jitu Brown’s Journey for Justice Alliance has organized black parents in 25 cities to fight to improve their neighborhood public schools rather than let them be taken over by corporate charter chains. Black parents in many other districts–think  Detroit–are disillusioned with the failed promises of charter schools. Eve Ewing wrote a terrific book (Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side) about resistance by parents, grandparents, students, and teachers in the black community to Rahm Emanuel’s mass closings of public schools to make way for charter schools; Ewing called their response “institutional mourning.” When Puerto Rico teetered on the verge of bankruptcy, parents, teachers, and students rallied against efforts to turn the Island’s public schools over to charter chains.

The article’s claim that “hundreds of thousands” of students are on “waiting lists” to enroll in charters links to a five-year-old press release by a charter advocacy group, the National Alliance for Charter Schools. In fact, there has never been verification of any “wait list” for charters. Although there are surely charters that do have wait lists, just as there are public schools that have long wait lists, there is no evidence that hundreds of thousands of students are clamoring to gain admission to charters. That claim appears to be a marketing ploy. Earlier this year, a member of the Los Angeles school board revealed that 80% of the charters in that city have empty seats. Just this past week, a well-established Boston charter announced that it was closing one campus and consolidating its other two because of declining enrollments. Four of Bill Gates’ charter schools in Washington State have closed due to low enrollments. The only effort to verify the claim of “waiting lists” was carried out by Isaiah Thompson, a public radio reporter in Boston; his review showed that the list contained many duplications, even triplications, since many students applied to more than one school, and the same lists held the names of students who had already enrolled in a charter school or a public school.

Perhaps the Times will now interview Dr./Rev. Anika Whitfield in Little Rock to learn about the struggles of Grassroots Arkansas to block the Walton campaign to destroy their public schools. Perhaps its reporters will interview Jitu Brown to hear from a genuine civil rights leader who is not funded by the Waltons or the Bradley Foundation or Betsy DeVos. Perhaps they will dig into the data in Ohio, where 2/3 of the state’s charter schools were rated either D or F by the state in 2018, and where the state’s biggest cyber charter went into bankruptcy earlier this year after draining away over $1 billion from public schools’ coffers. Perhaps they will cover the news from New Orleans, the only all-charter district in the nation, where the state just posted its school scores and reported that 49% of the charters in New Orleans are rated either D or F. Perhaps they will cover the numerous real estate scandals that have enabled unscrupulous charter operators to fleece taxpayers.

Fairness requires that the New York Times take a closer look at this issue, not by interviewing advocates for the charter industry but by trying to understand why so many Democrats, especially progressives, have abandoned the charter crusade. Why, as the Times asked in July, have charter schools lost their luster?  (I asked the same question last April.) [Editor’s note: I added these two links to refer to use of the term “lost their luster.”] Why have the number of new charters plummeted nationally despite the expenditure of $440 million a year by the federal government and even more by foundations like Gates, Broad, DeVos, Bloomberg, Koch, and Walton. Maybe it was disappointment in their lackluster, often very poor, academic performance. Or maybe it was the almost daily revelations of waste, fraud, and abuse that occurs when public money is handed to entrepreneurs without any accountability of oversight.

The question that must be answered is whether it is just and sensible to create two publicly funded school systems, instead of appropriately funding the public schools that enroll 47 million students, almost 90% of all students. It serves the interests of billionaires to keep people fighting about governance and structure, but it serves the interest of our society to invest in great public schools for everyone.

 

ON TAP Today from the American Prospect

NOVEMBER 27, 2019

Kuttner on TAP

The Times: In the Tank on Charter Schools. The Times ran an overwrought and overwritten front-page story Wednesday under the breathless headline, “Minority Voters Feel Betrayed Over Schools.” Betrayed? The headline on the jump page where the story continues is even more exaggerated: “Minority Voters Chafe as Democrats’ Charter School Support Wanes.”

The piece reads as if it were dictated by the charter school lobby. Read the story very carefully, if you bother to read to the end, and you will learn that some black and Hispanic voters see charters as a good alternative to public schools, while others are concerned that charters, which serve only a fraction of minority kids, drain resources from the larger number of kids in public schools, as the Prospecthas documented.

And if you read all the way to paragraph 38 (!), you will learn that according to a poll by Education Next, a journal that supports charters, black opinion on charter schools is in fact evenly divided, 47 percent supportive to 47 percent opposed. But that kind of nuance doesn’t get your story on the front page, while quoting fervent charter school activists and making unsupported generalizations does.

Other 2017 polling by Peter Hart Associates showed that large majorities of voters, black and white, oppose shifting funds from public schools to charters. Black parents were opposed, 64 to 36. Hart’s Guy Molyneux says there’s no evidence that these views have changed.

Does the Times have fact-checkers? Editors? Do they hold writers accountable?

Back to school!

Robert Kuttner’s new book is The Stakes: 2020 and the Survival of American Democracy.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is a day when we pause and give thanks to whatever deity we worship (or not) for the blessings we enjoy: our freedom, our family, our friends, and our good fortune to live in a democracy where we are all responsible for making it better for our brothers and sisters.

I want to share with you a profound speech delivered by our good friend Rev. Dr. Charles Foster Johnson about religious liberty and the public schools and the future of our democracy.

Charlie Johnson is the founder and leader of Pastors for Texas Children. PTC has led the fight against vouchers in Texas and has helped like-minded religious leaders in other states form their own organizations to support religious liberty and public schools. I never expected, at this late chapter in my life, to discover that I have a dear friend who is a Baptist minister in my home state of Texas. I admire his courage, his intellect, and his passion for the common good. Needless to say, he is on the honor roll of this blog, and I name him as a hero of the Resistance in my forthcoming book Slaying Goliath. I can’t think of a better way for you to spend a few free minutes on this day than to read this wonderful speech.

This is the only post you will receive today. Enjoy the day. Read this speech.

 

J.M. Dawson Lecture on Religious Liberty

“Religious Liberty, the Public School, and the Soul of America”

Baylor University

October 7, 2019

 

     I am deeply honored to deliver the J.M. Dawson Lecture on the Separation of Church and State, and I am humbled to offer a few remarks in the name and legacy of this remarkable Baptist leader and great American on the bedrock principle of religious liberty and its practical corollary, the separation of the church and the state in public affairs.

 

     When I spoke recently with my oldest granddaughter Corley, who is age 10, she asked me what I was doing. I told her I was preparing a sermon for my friends at Baylor University on “Religious Liberty, the Public School, and the Soul of America.” She said, “Papa Charlie, you always use the biggest words… what does all that mean?”

 

     I learned a long time ago that if the preacher can’t explain a concept to a child, then he or she doesn’t quite get it either. So, I drew a breath and said something like this, “Sweetie, God made us free people. No one can make you love God. No one can prevent you from loving God. It is our choice. All faith in God is voluntary. It is your decision. No one can make that decision for you. Not your parents, not your friends, not the president or the police or the law or the government. Only you.”

 

     Then this granddaughter of two Baptist preachers on her mama and her daddy’s side (she doesn’t have a chance) said, “I know, Papa Charlie! We talked about that at church. And, we talked about that at school too.”

 

Religious Liberty

 

     Throughout our lives, we have had a sustained theological critique of the Enlightenment and its emphasis on the individual. This project of correction, as I understand it, notes that the philosophical framework through which the modern sensibility has been shaped places undue importance on the autonomy of the individual and gives inadequate attention to the influence of community. There has been something of a robust debate about this dialectic between the individual and the community, about the historically baptist and catholic understandings of authority and epistemology, and the cultural, moral, and theological implications of these respective worldviews. This university has been a key participant in this debate. Some of you here today have contributed significantly to it.

 

     It certainly makes sense to me. As a pastor for over 40 years, I have abundantly observed folks who believe all reality begins and ends with themselves, and who exercise little submission to anyone or anything but themselves. We have this psychological and spiritual dysfunction on vivid display in our highest leaders today. We have certainly paid a high price for this narcissism. We like the immortal figure of Greek mythology, fixate on ourselves, and die in the process.

 

     But, we do not have to fall for the myth of autonomous individualism to affirm the irreducible and inviolate freedom of the human conscience. In this day of mass society, where corporate conglomerates monitor our every thought, news networks disseminate state propaganda, media machines determine our daily consumption, and pastors become mouthpieces for Caesar, that we need a recovery of individual freedom. Isn’t it the day and time for us to reaffirm the power and freedom of the individual, and to call for a new assertion of individual rights and responsibilities, and to inculcate all over again in our students and congregants an individual and personal decision-making power?

 

     Forgive the patriarchal references, but I remember Will Campbell saying at Mississippi College in 1978 something to this effect: “I am less free than my daddy, my daddy was less free than my granddaddy, and my granddaddy was less free than my great-granddaddy.” I had no clue then what on earth he meant by such a cryptic remark. But I do now. And so do you.

 

     We today are like the Grand Inquisitor of Dostoevsky’s famous story who has Christ arrested for cursing humanity with freedom. The Inquisitor concluded that Christ made a strategic error in not turning stones to bread, not casting himself off the pinnacle of the Temple, not ruling over the kingdoms of this world, for these things would have sealed his leadership and people would have followed him. But instead, Christ remained free, and gave us the burden of freedom. The Grand Inquisitor says, “anyone who can appease a man’s conscience can take his freedom away from him.” No kidding. We see it every day.

 

     God has created human freedom as a reflection of God’s own freedom, God’s own non-contingency, as the theologians would put it. The individual liberty accorded every person is a work of God in Creation, and an integral feature of human worth and dignity.

 

      A core component of this freedom is at work in the realm of religion. Religious liberty and is the right and choice of the human—the “inalienable” right, as Jefferson immortally put it—to worship God according to the compulsion of his or her own individual conscience, or not to worship God at all.

 

     To say the term “religious freedom” is to speak a paradox of immense power and implication. The very impulse of religion is submission to a power outside oneself, to cast oneself in categorical terms upon God in a posture of what Schleiermacher called “absolute dependence.” The project of any religious concern is the relinquishment of one’s own autonomy to the hegemony of God.  

  

     In a sinful world, full of idols that vie for our submission, the individual made in the image of God is the only entity competent to make this decision. Christ quoted the Psalmist in his reply to Satan in the temptation in the wilderness, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.” This is the great baptist understanding. There is no other legitimate and competent authority other than the individual to make a religious decision. This is what we mean when we speak of “soul competency,” as E.Y. Mullins put it:

     “Religious liberty excludes the imposition of religious creeds by ecclesiastical authority. Confessions of faith by individuals or groups of men [and woman], voluntarily framed and set forth as containing the essentials of what men [or women] believe to be the Gospel are all right. They are merely one way of witnessing to the truth. But when they are laid upon men’s [or women’s] consciences by ecclesiastical command, or by a form of human authority, they become a shadow between the soul and God, an intolerable yoke, impertinence, and a tyranny.” (“The Baptist Conception of Religious Liberty,” 1923)

     Therefore, all religious activity must be strictly voluntary on the part of the individual. There can be no coercion in these matters, and certainly no collusion with the state in them. In fact, no institution whether the church or the state, possesses any competency to make any religious decision on behalf of an individual. Virginia baptist preacher John Leland put it this way:

 

“Let every man speak freely without fear, maintain the principles that he believes, worship according to his own faith, either on God, three Gods, no God, or twenty Gods; and let government protect him in so doing, i.e., see that he meets with no personal abuse, or loss of property, from his religious opinions.”

 

     The corollary to this God-given religious liberty is the principle of the strict separation of the church from the state. In our work in Pastors for Texas Children, we refer to religious liberty as a gift from God to all people, and note that James Madison did not make it up. God did. Madison took an eternal spiritual truth that God authored and wrote it down in an extraordinary sentence that comprises the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

 

     Leland’s influence over James Madison is well-known by everyone in this room today. When Madison learned that Leland might challenge him for his seat in the House of Representatives, Madison forged a compromise with Leland that resulted in the popular baptist preacher standing down from his electoral challenge in exchange for Madison’s championing of the principle of church/state separation. And the rest, as we say, is history.

 

     It is not an overstatement to say that religious liberty is the principle upon which our nation was founded. A free church in a free state. And long before America came along the first pastor of the church told his congregation at Galatia, “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand fast, therefore, and do not submit to a yoke of slavery.”

 

     Corley, my ten year old granddaughter, knows this. She learned it at church. And she learned it at school.

 

 

The Public School

 

     The public school is the building block of American democracy. It is the cornerstone of our national life. It was determined at the outset of our Republic that the American experiment might have a chance of succeeding if we educated all our children in a public trust—not just those fortunate enough by reason of their class and station to receive an education.

 

     In 1785 John Adams said, 

 

“The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.”

 

Clearly, this founding father of our Republic saw public education as central to our social contract and fundamental to the provision of the common good.

 

     Universal education is a moral mandate rooted in the faith tradition. In the creation story itself, God brought all of creation to the human to see what the human would name it. This “naming” impulse is education. It is central to the first charge God gives to the human, “to be fruitful and multiply, replenish the earth, and subdue it.”   

  

     The first schools in America were founded by faith communities.  Shortly thereafter, at the dawn of our Republic, people of faith realized that an educated populace was essential for the preservation of democracy and self-governance.  Therefore, public education for all children in America was birthed out of a moral sensibility. That conviction was encoded in constitutions of the respective states as our nation expanded westward. Virtually every state constitution has a mandate for public education.  Our own Texas State Constitution in Article 7, Section 1, says this: 

“A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.”

     For these reasons of profound moral and religious motivation, public school educators often are faith leaders themselves. They serve as pastors, ministers, elders, deacons, Sunday school teachers, youth and children’s leaders, committee chairpersons, mission and music directors, accompanists, and many other ministry positions in the life of the church.

 

     It is axiomatic among congregational pastors that the persons we turn to for religious instruction of our children are our public school teachers. Furthermore, it is common for a local church pastor’s spouse to teach in the nearby public school.  This has been a time-honored clergy couple vocational package for decades.  Our sons and daughters are employed in the public schools as coaches, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and custodians.

 

     Public schools are filled with many people of faith. These teachers, principals, and school staff bow their heads in our houses of worship with us, serve and fellowship alongside us, and model their faith in schools and classrooms, following the spirit of 1 Peter 4:10, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

 

     This is why an affirmation of universal and public education can be found in the denominational documents of all faiths.  It is a universal human right accorded every child be virtue of being on God’s planet.

 

     Schools and churches remain inextricably bound together in every community. 90% of our children in our churches attend public schools. The rest attend all the other models of education, whether private, online, and home schools. We appropriately affirm all these models of education.  Indeed, our congregations are comprised of leaders in all these diverse school models.

 

     We see the local public school and its classroom as a center of God’s love.  Education is a gift from Almighty God accorded to every human being regardless of race, religion, economic status, and special need.  The public school, unlike the private school, receives and accepts every single child that shows up on its steps, and meets that child’s needs as sensitively and lovingly as possible. 

 

     Our loved ones and fellow church members do not leave God at the door of the school house as they go about their daily duties.  They carry the love and grace of God with them every hour of every day.  Indeed, they show love, unconditional acceptance, and physical assistance to children who have special needs, come from emotionally deprived circumstances, and suffer the ill-effects of crushing poverty. It’s what a teacher does.  It’s a calling before God.

 

     My own daughter-in-law, who is a public school educator, did not get the memo that God has been taken out of our schools.  She takes the longsuffering love that she showers on our grandchildren into the classroom with her, and pours it out on children from the community all day long. Corley is not the only recipient of it. All the children in her classroom receive it.

 

     Our neighborhood and community public schools are the primary vehicles for perpetuating civil society, promoting human equality, strengthening our economy, and ensuring continued democratic reform in our nation and world. 

 

     The public school is the proving ground for religious liberty and the principle of church/state separation. Here our children witness firsthand that their own religious experience is not given preference over anyone else’s. Here they see early on the tremendous power of voluntary and personal faith, that faith is something expressed and brokered by them—not by some official institutional leader. To use a familiar term, they discover their own individual priesthood.

 

     Public education advances moral and civic values through early investments to give every student a fair shot and the tools needed to pursue a more prosperous, self-sufficient future. These investments reap significant long-term economic dividends and savings generated from fewer societal problems, benefiting all of us.

 

     By investing in public education, we invest in the future of 50 million American schoolchildren. This basic investment is the key to a child’s future economic mobility, the financial stability of families, and our long-term economic prosperity. We know, because it is well-documented, the direct correlation between education achievement and economic viability.

 

     As we have noted, our spouses and church members routinely teach in our public schools. Often in our towns, the public school district is the chief employer and economic generator of our communities.  As goes the financial health of our public schools, goes the financial health of our churches.  The school is the center of vitality and meaningful, life-enriching activity for our people.  One only need look at the importance of Friday Night Football for folks to see this.

 

     It is the public schools that serve all children. Not just those of economic means, or whose parents are engaged, or who are from stable homes, or who perform well academically. But, all.

 

     Over 60 percent of Texas schoolchildren are economically disadvantaged. Public schools cannot be expected to overcome the challenges created by rising poverty, and especially when they are educating more students with less money. The last thing these poor neighborhoods need is to be stripped of their remaining vitality.  

 

     Texas ranks near the bottom in per-pupil spending nationwide. Bear with a brief history of Texas education policy. In 2011, devastating funding cuts forced school districts to lay off teachers, increase class sizes, and reduce pre-kindergarten programs. In 2013, Texas legislators restored only a portion of the cuts — about 60 percent —leaving a gaping deficit in education funding. In 2015, schools also had to accommodate for student growth, totaling 300,000 more students than in 2011. In 2017, House Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock’s proposal to infuse $3 billion new dollars into the public education system was pulled from the floor by that good man because he didn’t have the votes to pass it. Only in this year’s session did we finally get $6.5 billion new dollars for our children’s public education—and only after Texas voters retired some key legislators who oppose public education in the 2018 elections.

 

     These are profound moral, Biblical, constitutional, and economic reasons for universal education paid for by the public. The case for quality public education is overwhelming.

 

     So, we wonder what the real agenda is in our legislative assault on public schools? We have witnessed firsthand the cruel attack on our public education system as a “monstrosity.” We are more than a little outraged to hear from some of our elected officials that our public schools are “Godless.”  We have heard with our own ears loose talk of our schools as “failed” and our teachers as “incompetent.” Then, when our own Texas legislature began churning out bills designed specifically to demoralize teachers—vouchers, unlimited charter school expansion, opportunity school districts, tuition tax credits, A-F school rating, parent trigger—our good faith pastoral nature to give benefit of the doubt began to cave to the unpleasant conclusion of something more insidious unfolding before our eyes:  the intentional dismantling of the Constitutionally mandated public trust of universal education.

 

     The privatization of the public trust of universal education is a thinly veiled disguise to turn the local public school into a profit center for the personal financial gain of a few. State legislatures all over our country are being pressured by rich interests to divert already stretched dollars from our public schools to fund private and charter schools.  We know that the private schools are not asking for this support; they do not want government interference and intrusion into their private assemblies. That is the reason they established the private school in the first place.

 

     We are deeply troubled by the government expansion and entitlement programs undergirding privatization policies.  Private school vouchers and so-called “school choice” initiatives are nothing but government giveaway programs with no accountability or oversight.  Absent are the myriad stewardship measures the public schools must submit to give account for how state dollars are being spent.  We hear about these overwrought accountability rules from our family and church members all the time.

 

     We decry the expansion of unlimited charter schools as a replacement for our traditional community and neighborhood public schools, the avalanche of burdensome assessment measures our teachers and students are subjected to, and the de-professionalization of teaching through low wages and bad conditions.

 

     We must prioritize the adequate funding of our institutions of public education for the benefit of all Texans. Up until the 86th Legislative session, the previous Texas legislatures have seen contentious fights over public education policy and the dramatic cuts to public school funding. This must stop now.

 

The Soul of America

 

     There are two competing visions for the soul of our nation: one weakens the public and one strengthens it. On one side, there is a drive to de-fund public education, de-professionalize teaching, misuse test scores to declare schools as failing, and institute paths to privatize schools in the name of school reform. These privatization schemes take the form of private school vouchers, for-profit virtual schools, and corporate chain charter schools that do not serve all students equally.

 

     The other vision is to provide adequate funding for all schools, implement high quality and full day pre-kindergarten instructional programs that start our youngest learners on their path to educational success, raise the bar with higher standards and more respect for the teaching profession, focus on a rich instructional program instead of a narrow overemphasis on testing, and engage community partners in support for neighborhood schools and the children and families they serve.

 

     Those advocating the privatization of public schools have attacked the public education system and falsely labeled neighborhood schools as failures. This arbitrary judgment has been exposed as a cynical strategy to divert public education monies for private purposes, and has brought advocates like Pastors for Children to the fight against privatization and in support of initiatives that tell the true story about the value of our public schools.

 

     The “choice” that corporate chain charters claim to offer parents and students is illusory. It is really these private operators who exercise their own freedom to choose which students they will recruit and retain and which students they will exclude or filter out. And the latter group disproportionately includes Hispanics, African-Americans, English Language Learners, students with disabilities, and students who are at risk because of disciplinary or academic difficulties.  These children are our neighbors too.

 

     The private school voucher, regardless of the euphemism by which it is falsely named, will not begin to cover the cost of a private education that even approximates the quality of the education that poor child receives in the traditional public school.  Quality private education costs far more than what the voucher covers.  Furthermore, there is no transportation allotment attached to the voucher. One surely notices that private schools are not located in poor neighborhoods.  How would the poor child get to the private school even with a voucher?

 

     As we have said, the poorest children among us attend public schools.  They are the places these children are taught, fed, affirmed, and loved.  62% of the 5.4 million schoolchildren in Texas attend public schools.  Private schools do not exist to care for poor children in this way, nor do they intend to accept the influx of poor children into their schools through vouchers. That is the very reason private schools are private in the first place.  It is as morally wrong for the State of Texas to divert already stretched public dollars for underwriting the religious mission of private church and parochial schools, as it is for the state to require intrusive accountability measures for the private schools that receive that public money. Let private schools remain private, public schools remain public.

 

     The chief objection we have to vouchers is the inherent religious liberty violations of them. The Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the State of Texas, Article 1, Section 6 and 7 states this:  “No man shall be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry against his consent. No money shall be appropriated, or drawn from the Treasury for the benefit of any sect, or religious society, theological or religious seminary; nor shall property belonging to the State be appropriated for any such purposes.”  Clearly, using tax dollars for religious private schools violates this principle. 

 

     Do Texas Christians really want their tax money to fund Muslim private schools?  By last count, we have eleven madrassas in the state of Texas.  Do Muslim folks want their money underwriting Baptist church schools? Do Texas Baptists really want their tax money to fund Roman Catholic schools that teach the infallibility of the Pope?  Do Texas Catholics really want their tax money funding Baptist schools that teach children the priesthood of all believers?

 

     Let us rededicate ourselves to these children in our public education system. Rather than again fixating on controversial, unproven policies that further impair our public schools, let us reclaim our collective will to pursue proposals that give our schools the support they need to prepare our children for the economy they will inherit, and create.

 

     Pastors for Children are mobilizing congregational leaders to do precisely this. We have three objectives in our work:  1) Get the congregation involved in assistance ministries in your local neighborhood school, always under the authority of the school principal and in deference to God’s gift of church/state separation; 2.) Get congregational leaders engaged in public education advocacy by bringing your influence to bear on state legislators who shape education policy for our children; and 3.) Engage in electoral races not to endorse candidates, but to endorse the justice provision of quality public education for all children.

 

     We are now in six states: Texas, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Florida. We have held meetings and conversations with faith leaders in a dozen other states where we will soon plant our work.

 

     Let’s provide our children the education that our community provided us. Their future, and ours, depends on it. Let us rededicate ourselves to these children in our public education system. We have an absolute and total obligation to our children. Not just the few. Not just the privileged. Not just our own. All children. 

 

   The great equalizer in American life is the neighborhood public school. It is the laboratory for our democracy. It is the teller of our national history and story. It is the training ground for citizenship in this great land. It is the discovery zone where our children uncover their own God-given talent, realize their own significance, understand the power of their own individuality, and locate their own place within the larger world of their community. It is the social and communal context where the values of our faith are incarnated. It is the meeting place for the widening diversity of our American life. The public school is the shared space where we nurture civic virtue, cultivate mutual respect, practice tolerance across racial, class, gender, political, and religious lines, and preserve and protect God’s Common Good.

 

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the firing of a charter school founder who had written an essay that offended some students and/or teachers at his charters, who accused him of “white supremacy.” At the time, I commented in response to my own post that Steven Wilson of Ascend should be more sympathetic to teacher “due process rights” (tenure) in light of what happened to him.

Checker Finn and Rick Hess wrote about this situation and blamed it on “woke” reformers. They concluded it was time to “stand up” against this sort of injustice.

Peter Greene writes that Finn and Hess made the case for teacher tenure. Steven Wilson and future Wilsons won’t be saved by expecting anyone to “stand up” for them. No one will.

http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2019/11/finn-and-hess-accidentally-argue-for.html