Archives for the month of: January, 2020

Bill Raden of Capital & Main, a California-based political journal, interviewed me about the baleful effects of disruption (aka “reform”) on children, communities, schools and education. 

He asks about the source of the money behind disruption and about what California needs to do to rein in its reckless and feckless charter industry.  Naturally I thought about the billionaires and hedge fund managers who have used their money to disrupt education and to fund politicians who share their goals or want their campaign contributions.

He also asks about my hopes for the future, which is embedded in my critique of the status quo. I answer, take the profit out of the charter industry. Make local school districts the sole authorizer of charter schools. Require that charters collaborate—not compete—with public schools.

It would be a joyous day indeed if and when the vast resources of the charter industry were devoted to helping children, families, communities, and public schools rather than disrupting them.

At the end of the book, I propose a path forward to turn the  Disruptors into reformers. It begins with the recommendation that they lobby to pay higher taxes to support a higher minimum wage and greater investment in schools and social services.

By the way, if you want to know my specific recommendations for reform, read “Reign of Error,” which contains detailed, research-based actions that the billionaires and hedge fund managers could adopt if they really want to help children.

John Thompson, retired teacher and historian in Oklahoma, writes an open letter:


Open Letter to Enes Kanter

Mr. Kanter,

Thank you for your continued support of children, especially low-income and immigrant students in Oklahoma City. And thank you for your opposition to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. I live halfway between Dove Academy, a part of the charter Gülen chain, and the Raindrop Turkish American Cultural Center in Oklahoma City. I’m so thankful for the multicultural contributions of immigrants to Oklahoma City.

While I’m thrilled by the contributions of past and present Thunder NBA basketball players to Oklahoma City schools, I would ask you to please reconsider your application for the Enes Kanter School for Exceptional Learning charter school (EKSEL). Rather than open another charter, which will inevitably sow divisiveness and damage neighborhood schools serving our poorest children of color, I hope you will consider a proposal along the lines of the win-win education contribution of Lebron James.

The New York Times notes that the LeBron James’s I Promise School is:

Unlike other schools connected to celebrities, I Promise is not a charter school run by a private operator but a public school operated by the district. Its population is 60 percent black, 15 percent English-language learners and 29 percent special education students. Three-quarters of its families meet the low-income threshold.

Moreover, “the school negotiated with the Akron Education Association for an extra hour a day and an extended year to put into place programs intended to address students’ social and emotional needs.” And its first students “posted extraordinary results in their first set of district assessments. Ninety percent met or exceeded individual growth goals in reading and math, outpacing their peers across the district.”

Another New York Times report addressed an issue that must be acknowledged. The Times acknowledged Gülen charters often produce high test scores, as well as financial irregularities. It noted that not all critics of Gülen are “untainted by xenophobia.” But that has nothing to do with the reasons why we are urging you to consider the oversupply of charters in Oklahoma City.

As Atlantic Magazine’s Scott Beauchamp explained, there are reasons “completely unrelated to Islamic doctrine” why you should question the practices and the claims of Gülen charters. He recounts a long list of financial scandals, as well as legal efforts to keep the charter chain from revealing crucial information.

My reading of the scandals’ evidence is that the problem isn’t sectarianism but corporatism. I’m also convinced by the case made by Beauchamp that, “In other words, it isn’t the Gülen movement that makes Gülen charter schools so secretive. It’s the charter school movement itself.”

For instance, Oklahoma City’s Dove Academy charter was audited by the much-respected State Auditor & Inspector Gary Jones at the request of the State Department of Education. The Oklahoman reported the findings:

The Sky Foundation, which manages Dove Charter Schools, has collected about $3.182 million more in lease payments for use of the Dove Science Academy-OKC school site than it paid to originally purchase the property, auditors said.

We could find no legitimate purpose for the continued charging of lease payments above and beyond the purchase price of the facility,” auditors said.

My two decades teaching in the inner city brings up another, I believe greater, concern. The Oklahoman reported that EKSEL would highlight “reading, writing, math and science skills.” This may sound like a wonky distinction, but it is a key to whether the test scores of charters, like Dove Academy and other Gülen schools, reflect meaningful learning, or in-one-ear-out-the-other, skills-based instruction.

Our kids deserve holistic instruction in reading, writing, math and science.  If the focus is not on retention of background knowledge, critical thinking, and creativity, skills-driven instruction is likely to temporarily jack up bubble-in test scores. But there will be no reason to conclude that those “outcomes” will benefit students.

And that leads to a huge problem with charters, that are mostly non-union and often staffed with uncertified teachers. If teachers do not have due process rights, how will you know whether students are receiving the type of instruction which will improve their longterm life prospects? Without a collective bargaining agreement, what are the chances that your staff would dare blow the whistle on drill-and-kill instruction and test prep malpractice?

Sadly, this crucial issue leads to a related, negative result of charters. For nearly two decades, learning has been undermined by competition-driven policies, with test scores being the ammunition for the battle between traditional public schools and charters. Oklahoma City, like so many urban centers, has an over-supply of charters. Consequently, we cannot expand choice to benefit some students without hurting others.

One big reason for the damage is that neighborhood schools take everyone who walks through their doors. At best, charters only accept and retain as many high-challenge students as they think they can handle. They may deny they are “creaming” the easiest to educate students. But if you sponsor a charter, how will you know what is really happening? How will you know how much your school is increasing segregation?

Finally, I have more than three decades of experience playing pick-up basketball with students in Morocco, Mexico, and the U.S., so I appreciate your desire to also emphasize sports and extracurricular activities. You may not believe this, but my athletic skills weren’t the reason why I was usually picked first. Our kids want is trusting, loving relationships with adults. And given the magnitude of the challenges that Oklahoma City students bring to school, education must become a team effort.

So, let’s play a one-on-one game, and if I win, you will open a neighborhood school, staffed by certified, unionized teachers who will team up with counselors, social workers, and other mentors.

Just kidding! Or at least I’m joking about our competition. (Although I would like to explain how I taught Blake Griffin’s dad how to rebound. … Actually our high school’s coach, Tommy Griffin, played with me like I was a puppy, always prompting guffaws by the student-athletes. But when adults come together in a community effort, our kids feel valued, and they respond constructively.)

I urge you to seriously contemplate the question of how we can create meaningful, life-changing education opportunities. For over two decades, charter-driven reforms have imposed test and punish school cultures; the stress of testing has failed to ameliorate the stress of poverty. Charters have added to the extreme concentrations of the highest-poverty kids, who have survived the most trauma, in neighborhood schools. The stress of choice-driven segregation has failed to alleviate the stress of racial and economic segregation.

And Mr. Kanter, in the case of your proposal, the lack of transparency perpetuated by charters, will not contribute to the open collaboration by public schools and community partners that our underfunded Oklahoma City schools need.   

Bob Shepherd has worked as an editor, author, assessment developer, curriculum writer, and most recently a classroom teacher in Florida.

In this post, he reviews the review of my book SLAYING GOLIATH, which was written by journalist Annie Murphy Paul and published in the New York Times Book Review.

To summarize, he thought the review was uninformed and mean-spirited.

He writes:

On January 21, 2020, Annie Murphy Paul’s “review” of Diane Ravitch’s Slaying Goliathappeared in The New York Times. Being reviewed in the Times is a big deal.  Such a review affects public opinion and sales. That’s why a hatchet job done on a truly important book is truly irresponsible.

In her new book, education historian Ravitch presents a recent history of the popular resistance to an “Education Reform Movement” led by billionaires interested in

  • privatizing U.S. PreK-12 education via charter schools and vouchers,
  • foisting upon the country a single set of national “standards,”
  • busting teachers’ unions,
  • selling depersonalized education software, and
  • evaluating students, teachers, and schools based on high-stakes standardized tests.

Here’s Ms. Paul’s opening salvo:

“She came. She saw. She conquered.”

This opening is, of course, an allusion to the boast about his role in the Gallic Wars attributed to Julius Caesar by Appian, Plutarch, and Suetonius—Veni, vidi, vici (I came, I saw, I conquered). Caesar’s is doubtless the most famous boast in Western history, and the allusion is meant to be deflating. Technically, the term for what Ms. Paul is attempting here is bathos, a powerful rhetorical technique in which one plunges from the sublime into the ridiculous. She means to ridicule Ravitch as someone who sees herself as the great conqueror of the “Reform Movement.” Paul’s implication is that Ravitch’s book is an exercise in self-aggrandizement. That’s a pretty heavy (and nasty) charge with which to begin a review, don’t you think? I do.

And so the reader of Ms. Paul’s review is led, up front, to expect Ravitch’s book to be like Don the Con’s Art of the Deal. Trump’s book (if one can call it that; he didn’t write it) is ostensibly about how to become successful via negotiation, but it’s not, of course, about that. Like everything that comes from Trump’s mouth, this book is actually about Trump—about how great he is. It’s a work of pathological narcissism. Paul leads us to expect that Ravitch’s book, ostensibly about resistance to “Reform” or “Deform,” will actually be about Ravitch, a portrait of herself as conquering hero. But there’s a problem with Paul’s opening (and, as it turns out, her thesis): it’s false and therefore dishonest. Ravitch’s book tells the stories of and heaps praise upon a great many fighters in the Resistance movement, but the one she doesn’t tell us much about at all is the de facto leader, or chief among equals, of that Resistance, Ravitch herself. Throughout, she makes the gift to her readers of inspiring stories of ordinary heroes—students and parents and teachers who spoke truth to power and won. Ravitch’s book is overwhelmingly, clearly, about them. Ravitch rarely appears in her own book, and when she does, it is as someone cheering these others on. (Oligarchs don’t appreciate or understand spontaneously emerging, self-assembling grass roots movements like the Resistance because they think that the only way to get “Out of Many, One’ is via coercion or bribery by an authoritarian.)

As an English teacher, I must give Paul’s opening a D-. Why? Well, there’s a reading issue. Yes, I understand that journalist’s deadlines are tight, and there’s often little time to read the book, write the copy, and submit the piece, but seriously, reviewers are actually supposed to read the books they review. And then there’s the writing issue. One of the most common flaws of puerile writing is the inability to “kill one’s darlings,” as Arthur Quiller-Couch put it. Yes, Ms. Paul, you came up with a cute opening, but it was dishonest, and you or your editor should have put a line through it. Not having done so is, well, in a word, amateurish.

After a little de rigueur background on Ravitch, Paul goes on to attack her for

  • taking an “imperious” tone,
  • engaging in “empty sloganeering and ad hominem attacks,”
  • lacking “the subtle insight and informed judgment for which she was once known,” and
  • being interested primarily “in settling scores and in calling [people] out by name” and cataloguing “her vanquished foes.”

In other words, Ms. Paul makes against Ravitch, in a clearly imperious tone, a clearly ad hominem attack completely lacking in subtle insight and informed judgment.

Let’s consider, first, Ms. Paul’s lack of informed judgment. She blithely accuses Ravitch of “dismissing the call for a common standard as a corporate plot to create a uniform market for educational products” [sic; by “a common standard” Paul means “common standards”; is her reference to “a common standard” simply sloppy writing, or is it an attempt to be more Deformy than the next guy; one can’t tell]. If Ms. Paul had done a little background research, she would have learned that

  • Bill Gates, who made himself the wealthiest nonsovereign person in the world by leveraging ownership of the world’s most widely used personal computer operating system, was approached by Gene Wilhoit of the Council of Chief State School Officers and David Coleman, an education biz entrepreneur, and pitched the idea of a single set of national standards;
  • Gates enthusiastically endorsed the idea, paid for the development of these standards, and then paid out hundreds of millions of dollars (and influenced the spending of 4 trillion in taxpayer funds) to promote them; and
  • he did this, in his own words, so that with a single set of standards, “innovators” could “design tools that a lot of teachers could use.”

In other words, Gates believed that just as the standard Microsoft operating systems led to the creation of products like Word and Excel and other DOS- and then Windows-based PC software, a single set of standards would lead to products of which Gates would likewise approve. As Gates himself put it, a single set of national standards would mean that “[f]or the first time, there will be a large uniform base of customers eager to buy products that can help every kid learn.” Or, as the Gates enabler Joanne Weiss, Chief of Staff to Education Secretary Arne Duncan in charge of Race to the Top, put it:

The development of common standards and shared assessments radically alters the market for innovation in curriculum development, professional development, and formative assessments. Previously, these markets operated on a state-by-state basis, and often on a district-by-district basis. But the adoption of common standards and shared assessments means that education entrepreneurs will enjoy national markets where the best products can be taken to scale.

I give Weiss credit. She knew exactly what was going down.

So, Gates himself extolled as his purpose precisely the one that Ms. Paul tells us sprang totally from some lunatic imagining on the part of Diane Ravitch, and Gates’s messaging was parroted by his collection of official bobbleheads and action figures. Of course, having one set of national standards would create economies of scale that educational materials monopolists could exploit, enabling them to crowd out smaller competitors. Sound familiar? And Ms. Paul seems not to have noticed that the very corporate plotter who paid for the creation of this single bullet list of national “standards” also created a company, InBloom, the purpose of which was to serve as a gigantic national database of student test scores, grades, and other information. In other words, it would have served as a kind of national gradebook, and curriculum developers, in order to use it, would have had to pay to play, would have had to become “partners” with InBloom, making the Gates company, effectively, the gatekeeper of U.S. curricula. Fortunately, student privacy issues and heroic Resistance fighters like Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters killed that monster in its cradle….

Let’s consider the other charge she lays to Ravitch—a lack of subtle insight. Ms. Paul devotes much of her “review” to attacking Ravitch for giving to “Education Reformers” the title “Disrupters” and calling the opposition the Resistance, with a capital R. Paul is clearly quite incensed by this. One would expect a journalist to understand, having studied political movements and messaging, the value of giving names to movements and messages. But, of course, the education tyro Paul is imagining herself as some objective observer, above factionalism of the kind indulged in by mere mortals like Ravitch. Paul accuses Ravitch of treating the other side unfairly, of not telling their story. Here, again, Paul channels Trump, who infamously referred to the neo-Nazis and their opponents gathered in Charlottesville as the “good people on both sides.” This is the same kind of moronic distortion of a legitimate goal of reporting—that it be fair and balanced—that led journalists, for decades, to report, dutifully, the “two sides to the argument” about whether tobacco caused cancer, that leads them, today, to write as though there were actually two legitimate and opposing scientific views concerning whether anthropogenic climate change is real. Darn that Ida B. Wells, why couldn’t she have been more fair to the Ku Klux Klan? Why did she just report on the lynchings? Darn that Rachel Carson. Why couldn’t she have been more fair to the makers of DDT?  Darn that Greta Thunberg, why can’t she be more fair to Exxon and British Petroleum and Aramco? After all, it’s only the future of the planet at stake.

Putting on, again, my English teacher hat, I must point out another issue with Ms. Paul’s reading: she totally missed the genre of Ravitch’s book. Much of Diane Ravitch’s work over the past few decades is in the grand tradition of the muckraker, represented in our history by people like Lincoln Steffens, Julius Chambers, Nelly Bly, Helen Hunt Jackson, Henry Lloyd, Ambrose Bierce, Ida Tarbell, Upton Sinclair, Frank Norris, Jane Jacobs, Rachel Carson, and Ralph Nader. Ravitch’s job, her scary duty, is to call out those doing damage—the wealthy and the powerful—and to do so by name, but this is the very thing, the courageousness with which Ravitch call the powerful to account, to which Ms. Paul objects. (There are so many unintended ironies in Paul’s review that I can’t treat them all, alas.) Ms. Paul’s failure to understand the genre of the book she was reviewing leads her to a catastrophic failure of insight into what Ravitch accomplishes in this book—mapping a constellation of evils and showing how they can be righted….

Ms. Paul’s uniformed, vituperative, shallow, amateurish “review” is entitled “Diane Ravitch Declares the Death of Education Reform.” But, of course, in the book, Ravitch does no such thing. Nowhere in her book does Ravitch claim to have “conquered the forces of Disruption,” as Paul snidely suggests (to be fair, Paul might not be responsible for the headline; newspapers often have dedicated headline writer/editors who do that, but she makes the same spurious accusation in the body of her “review”). So, the “review” is not only wrong from the start; it is wrong before it starts. Slaying Goliath is a powerful reportfrom the beginnings of the battle for the preservation of our sacred democratic institutions from oligarchical control. It’s about schools, certainly, but it has resonances far beyond the classroom. Ms. Paul didn’t get that. But then, again, she didn’t get much about Ravitch’s book, it seems.

Please read Shepherd’s review in full. It is brilliant.

Thus far, the review by Ms. Paul is the only hostile review I have seen, though I don’t expect it will be the only one. It has been heartening to me to seethe outpouring of positive reviews from people who are or were classroom teachers. They are the experts about education whose views I most respect.

Superintendent Roger Leon of Newark proposed closing four Newark charter schools. He needs state approval. Suddenly anonymous posters appeared around the city criticizing his decision.  Mayor Ras Baraka defended Leon.

Mayor Ras Baraka is defending the Newark schools chief after anonymous flyers and posters appeared across the city attacking the superintendent’s call to close four charter schools.

In an online message posted Monday evening, Baraka called the posters criticizing Superintendent Roger León “tasteless and sophomoric” and “based on ignorance.” He also defended León’s call for the state to shutter the four charter schools, echoing León’s argument that the charters divert funding from traditional schools and fail to adequately serve students with special needs.

Baraka’s message and the mysterious posters warning “Your school could be next!” are the latest flareup in an escalating dispute over the four charter schools: M.E.T.S., People’s Prep, Roseville Community, and University Heights. The schools are up for renewal, a routine process in which charter schools must apply for state approval to continue operating.

Why anonymous fliers and posters?

We have all heard Trump’s boasts about our booming economy, but Jan Resseger points out those who are left bond as tax cuts fatten the 1%.

She begins:

Donald Trump has been at Davos this week exalting the United States’ soaring economy. While Trump brags about more people working, however, he neglects to mention the ongoing collapse of manufacturing and its replacement—gig and temporary employment—along with the paltry wages of many workers. Last week Paul Krugman more accurately described how many families are faring  in greater Cleveland, Ohio, where I live.  Krugman writes: “The other day a correspondent asked me a good question: What important issue aren’t we talking about? My answer, after some reflection, is the state of America’s children.”

The problem starts with today’s jobs and today’s low minimum wage, but Krugman explores a range of other ways the fraying social safety fails to support the poorest children: “What’s especially striking is the contrast between the way we treat our children and the way we treat our senior citizens. Social Security isn’t all that generous… but it doesn’t compare too badly with other countries’ retirement systems. Medicare actually spends lavishly compared with single-payer systems elsewhere. So America’s refusal to help children isn’t part of a broad opposition to government programs; we single out children for especially harsh treatment… The answer, I’d suggest, goes beyond the fact that children can’t vote; while seniors can and do. There has also been a poisonous interaction between racial antagonism and bad social analysis.” Krugman describes all the myths about social programs causing “a culture of dependency” among the poor, and he continues: “At this point, however, we know that cultural explanations of social collapse were all wrong. The sociologist William Julius Wilson argued long ago that social dysfunction in big cities was caused, not by culture, but by the disappearance of good jobs. And he has been vindicated by what happened to much of the American heartland, which suffered a… disappearance of good jobs and a similar surge in social dysfunction… Multiple studies have found that safety net programs for children have big long-term consequences.  Children who receive adequate nutrition and health care grow up to become healthier, more productive adults.”

Here are just some of the issues that have emerged in recent articles in my clipping file about the plight of America’s children.

At the top of the list is the persistence of family homelessness in America’s cities.  At the end of October, New York City’s Advocates for Children reported that for the fourth year in a row: “The data… from the New York State Education Department show that in the 2018-2019 school year, New York City district and charter schools identified 114,085, or one in ten, students as homeless.  More than 34,000 students were living in New York City’s shelters, and more than twice that number (73,750) were living ‘doubled-up’ in temporary housing situations with relatives, friends or others.” While the lack of affordable housing is most extreme in NYC, the problem is growing in other gentrifying cities. 

Read the rest of the post. It’s excellent, as always with Jan’s thoughtful critiques.

Linda Blackford, columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader, describes the long-standing extremist goal of privatizing public schools and shows how Republican legislators are determined to introduce vouchers, which would harm the community public schools that enroll 90% of the state’s students.

Fortunately, voters in Kentucky threw out DeVos disciple Matt Bevin and replaced him with Andy Beshear, a friend of public schools. I hope the legislature has enough Democrats to prevent the Republicans from overriding a veto.

She writes:

At the macro level, this is an attack on public education, which is foundational to our democracy, and by the way, is actually guaranteed in the Kentucky Constitution. There has always been a basic compact that everyone’s taxes support public school for everyone because they educate the children that private schools reject. (Not to mention many private schools in the South were only started to avoid desegregation.) If people really think more students should go to private schools, then they should help private schools raise more funds for scholarships, not try to game their state taxes. In Kentucky, the bill is being pushed heavily by a widespread network of Catholic schools, which could afford many, many more scholarships if they didn’t have to pay out so much money in clergy sex abuse scandals.

Of course, public schools, like private ones, could do a better job with some of their students, but the answer is not to further starve schools for funding, or siphon off a stream of students to private schools with little accountability or oversight. Public education is a public good that should be supported by the public, not diverted and destroyed by our elected public servants. Although he was himself educated privately, FDR in 1936 noted that his administration’s support of public education throughout the Great Depression “has given to this country a population more literate, more cultured, in the best sense of the word, more aware of the complexities of modern civilized life than ever before in our history.”

Public education is still the linchpin to prosperity for most of Kentucky’s population, but many legislators seem determined to starve it. Sending a few hundred kids to private school won’t make this state great. Supporting our public schools, from kindergarten to college, can.

Read more here:

This is good news from California. A large group of school districts are suing JUUL Labs from the damage that their vaping products are causing to students.


Anaheim Union High School District Files Suit Against JUUL Labs, Inc. for Creating the E-Cigarette Epidemic that Disrupts District-Wide Education


Anaheim, California – January 28, 2020 – Today, the Anaheim Union School District filed a lawsuit against JUUL Labs, Inc. for the company’s role in cultivating and fostering an e-cigarette epidemic that disrupts the education and learning environment across the District. The suit was filed in the Orange County Superior Court on January 27, 2020 (Case No. 30-2020-01126712-CU-MT-CXC).

Five districts, all members of a consortium of California school districts filing against JUUL, filed on Monday, January 27th, including the following: Rocklin Unified School District, Alcanes Union High School District, Monterey Peninsula Unified School District, Anaheim Union High School District, and Poway Unified School District. 

Ten more school districts in the consortium had filed prior to January 27th, including the following: Los Angeles Unified School District, San Diego Unified School District, Glendale Unified School District, Compton Unified School District, King City Union School District, Ceres Unified School District, Anaheim Elementary School District, Campbell Union High School District, Chico Unified School District, Davis Joint Unified School District, all against JUUL for the same negligence and nuisance claims. Together, the consortium of school districts serve more than 1 million California students. 

The lawsuit seeks injunction and abatement to stop the e-cigarette epidemic, which has severely impacted the school districts by interfering with normal school operations. The District also seeks compensatory damages to provide relief from the district’s financial losses as a result of students being absent from school, coordinating outreach and education programs regarding the health risks of vaping, and enforcement actions – such as vape detectors, video surveillance, and staff to monitor the school’s property in an effort to combat the e-cigarette crisis. 

“We are holding JUUL accountable for its role in affecting our youth, our schools, and families across the country due to irresponsible practices.” said District Superintendent Michael Matsuda, “JUUL has used deceptive practices to market to our students and create a nicotine addiction. They must be held responsible for their actions.”

Since entering the market in 2015, JUUL has dominated the e-cigarette industry and now controls over 70% of the market. Reports found that in 2018, 4.9 million middle and high school students used tobacco products, with 3.6 million of those students using e-cigarettes. From 2017 to 2018, youth e-cigarette users increased by 1.5 million. The lawsuit alleges that growth is largely based on JUUL’s market strategy, which is to target school-age children to ensure the continual growth of their consumer base. 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that the 2018 spike in nicotine vaping was the largest for any substance recorded in 44 years. The lawsuits allege that JUUL’s aggressive, strategic marketing and product designs not only created an addiction crisis among youth consumers, but also a widespread burden on school districts. 

Anaheim Union High School District is represented by John P. Fiske and Torri Sherlin of Baron & Budd, P.C. and Brian Panish and Rahul Ravipudi of Panish, Shea, & Boyle, LLP.

About the Anaheim Union High School District

The Anaheim Union High School District serves approximately 30,000 students in the communities of Anaheim, Cypress, Buena Park, La Palma, and Stanton.  For more information about AUHSD visit our website, subscribe to our YouTube channel, and follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

John Bautista

Public Information Officer 

Nancy Flanagan, retired teacher of music for 31 years in the public schools of Michigan, is also a respected blogger. Her blog, Teacher in a Strange Land, has long been a source of wisdom and reality. She writes with the authority acquired from her years in the classroom.

In this post, she writes a wonderful review of my new book SLAYING GOLIATH. Better yet, she sets it in the perspective of a decade-long debate in which the billionaires, allied with the power of the federal government, portrayed themselves as the Davids, fighting those all-powerful teachers’ unions and their members, who were the real Goliaths (said Goliath).

Is this a picture of David, slingshot in hand? The Waltons ($150 billion), the Koch brothers ($120 billion—now divided in half since the death of David Koch), billionaires Eli Broad, Betsy DeVos, Philip Anschutz, Michael Bloomberg, John Arnold, Bill Gates, on and on. The 1% is armed not with an axe or a spear but with the power of federal law, imposed by state governments.

Not only is the 1% the Goliath of the story, they are the Status Quo. Don’t believe them when they claim they are fighting the Status Quo. Nonsense. They own it. No social movement was ever created by the rich and powerful. Genuine social movements rebel against the rich and powerful. They emanate from the millions who were left behind and excluded.

Flanagan writes in her review:

Diane Ravitch’s book—Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance to Privatization and the Fight to Save America’s Public Schools—arrived at my house two days ago. Like all of her other volumes, this one is already highlighted, underlined and sticky-noted to a fare-thee-well. (Apologies to school librarians everywhere.)

Ravitch’s books are like that—they’re full of juicy, provocative information and the author tells it like she sees it. When she changes her mind, she tells you that, as well. Like The Death and Life of the Great American School System (2010) and Reign of Error (2013), Goliath is time-sensitive, including the most recent teacher strikes, elections and civic rebellions, and what they accomplished. Ravitch takes the temperature of the current education zeitgeist and finds reason for hope.

What’s happening to public education in America?

Ravitch is perhaps our keenest observer, and when it comes to strong, substantiated opinions, she doesn’t hold back. Absorbing a Ravitch book gives the reader a summation of facts, players and events that put disparate events and opinion into a comprehensive framework, a detailed portrait of right now.  Think of Death and Life as a warning, Reign of Error as blistering critique–and Goliath as we’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore…

In short, it’s a really good book. It would be invaluable to anyone who wants a rundown on how education policy has morphed, over the past two and a half decades, from a locally controlled, state-influenced institution subject to incremental,  community-driven change–to a thoroughly commercialized venture heavily influenced by would-be ‘innovators’ and a federal power-grab.

Ravitch has done us all a favor by tracing the dark roots and substantial financial support for chipping away at neighborhood schools and public education. As always, follow the money…

Ravitch provides plenty of information and examples of how the real Davids in this fight, the Resistors, are making headway, on dozens of fronts. She is unsparing in her criticism of those who would damage or destroy public education for private profit. This has not gone down well with those who have invested in reforms and trendy disruptions.

There are not many people—Disruptors, if you will—who have empowered school privatization and are now willing to admit that their ROI yields are unimpressive and propped up by shaky data. Especially since those who have been educating kids, doing the work all along—teachers and school leaders—could have told them what will and will not make a difference.  Resistors have studied school improvement, up close and personal, for more than a century. It can be done, but it won’t involve destruction. Just more hard work.

Diane Ravitch has re-framed the argument and provided evidence that the great ship of public education may be turning around. That is a great gift. Thank you.

Thank you, Nancy Flanagan. It means a lot to me to know that the real experts, the educators who spent their careers as teachers, find my book valuable. It helps me ignore the slings and arrows of pundits and Goliath’s minions.




Bill Phillis writes about the GOP’s pusillanimous capitulation to its masters and is prepared to sacrifice its public schools to satisfy DC-based Thomas B. Fordham Institute and ALEC, funded by CharlesKoch, the Waltons, and DeVos.

He writes:

School choice zealots seem to be driving the state education policy train
In spite of the harm being heaped on school districts due to corruption in the charter industry and the wild expansion of vouchers, the school choice zealots are in control. State officials seem powerless to establish rational Ohio education policy.
According to current media reports, the voucher “fix” being considered in the Ohio Senate, would lessen the harm to some school districts in the near term but would set the stage for a universal voucher system in the future. The local choice zealots and their big boy moneyed allies, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Fordham Foundation, are driving policy that undercuts the very foundation of the public common school. State officials seem to cower when confronted by the choice crowd.
Time to march on Columbus.
Before I saw Bill Phillis’ post, I tweeted an article about a temporary “fix” proposed by the GOP.
Jan Resseger wrote to me that the “fix” is a fraud and her own integrated, mixed-income district will be devastated.

She wrote:

I noticed you forwarded the Dispatch piece as though it will help anybody.  The Ohio Senate “solution” will simply leave in place all the damage from current year.  In CH-UH we have 478 percent growth in vouchers this year.  These kids will carry those vouchers out of our district’s budget each year until they graduate from high school. 

We’ll hope that this afternoon the House mitigates this in some way.  Leaves vouchers in place for now—but moratorium on their growth for a while.  Leaves flawed state report cards in place without a deadline to change them.  Expands income cap on the other kind of state funded vouchers.

The mess is embedded right in this so-called “solution.”


Politico Morning Education writes that Trump has chosen billionaire Betsy DeVos as a campaign surrogate, despite the fact that she is the most disliked member of his Cabinet. No doubt he hopes for DeVos campaign money but also wants to stick his thumb in the eye of teachers and supporters of public schools. DeVos campions charter schools and vouchers. She despises public schools.

DEVOS HITS THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL: Long a target for the left and protesters, DeVos is being deployed as a political asset for Trump. She will be among more than 80 surrogates campaigning for him at caucus locations across Iowa on Feb. 3, the campaign announced. Two days later, she’ll be with Vice President Mike Pence and senior White House aide Kellyanne Conway on Feb. 5 at a “Women for Trump” event in Camp Hill, Pa.

— Joining DeVos in the Hawkeye state will be several other agency heads, governors, and members of Congress and the state legislature, along with other campaign officials and advisers. Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. will also be on hand for what the campaign is calling an “unprecedented” surrogate operation.

— “This will be the strongest, best funded, and most organized presidential campaign in history,” said Brad Parscale, Trump 2020 campaign manager. “We are putting the Democrats on notice — good luck trying to keep up with this formidable reelection machine.”

— DeVos visited Iowa in March for a closed-door meeting in the state Capitol to pitch her proposal for Education Freedom Scholarships. Iowa Democrats at the time blasted the plan, saying it would undermine public education, the Des Moines Register reported, and the proposal hasn’t gotten traction on Capitol Hill.

— Iowa has a tax credit scholarship program, but it’s not considered a school choice leader. Its charter school law is considered weak, ranking in the bottom five of state laws for accountability, flexibility, funding equity and other metrics, according to a new report by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

HAPPENING TODAY: DeVos will join Pence in delivering remarks at the Wisconsin School Choice Student Showcase in celebration of National School Choice Week.