Archives for the month of: July, 2020

A judge in South Carolina granted a temporary restraining order to stop the governor from giving $32 million of the state’s $48 million in coronavirus relief to pay for vouchers.

Governor McMaster wanted to use coronavirus relief aid to pay the tuition of 5,000 kids in private schools while stiffing the 800,000 kids in public schools.

It is not clear why pandemic relief money should be diverted to vouchers when it was intended to protect the health of students.

Not so fast, governor. A judge hit the pause button, at least temporarily, on Republican Gov. Henry McMaster’s plan to put $32 million in federal COVID-19 aid toward helping parents with private school tuition this year. As reported by The Post and Courier’s Jamie Lovegrove, Orangeburg attorney Skyler Hutto filed a motion in court claiming that the effort to give public funds for private school tuition goes against the state constitution. Judge Edgar Dickson granted Hutto — who is the son of longtime Democratic state Sen. Brad Hutto — a temporary restraining order in the matter. As Free Times was going to press, court arguments were set to be heard in the matter this week. As reported by Lovegrove, Hutto filed the suit on behalf of a public educator from Orangeburg and cited a section of the state constitution that says, “No money shall be paid from public funds nor shall the credit of the State or any of its political subdivisions be used for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.”

Meanwhile, McMaster’s office insists the governor’s plan is proper. “Working families in South Carolina are struggling to make ends meet during this pandemic and every parent should have the opportunity to choose the educational instruction that best suits their child’s needs,” McMaster spokesman Brian Symmes said. “Federal coronavirus relief cannot, and should not, be denied to any citizen in need.”

Convoluted logic.

Most people thought that the Paycheck Protection Program would help small businesses survive the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. They were surprised to learn that charter schools, which never lost government funding, scooped up some of the $660 billion.

Guy Brandenburg posted the list of D.C. charter schools that picked up some dough from the PPP.

Many of the D.C. charters are backed by the billionaire Walton family.

Jan Resseger takes Trump and DeVos to task for ignoring the needs of students and adults in their headlong rush to reopen schools to prop up the economy in time for the election.

In contrast to Obama, who reacted to the Newtown massacre with compassion, our current leaders are indifferent to the risks they seek to impose on other people’s children.

Resseger cites some of the best articles that describe the disparate impact of the pandemic.

Ellie Mystal wrote in The Nation:

“We have not gotten anything right when it comes to caring for our children. We were not getting things right before the coronavirus pandemic; we did not get things right at the outset of the crisis; and as we hurtle towards the fall, we are on the verge of getting things dangerously, irreparably wrong again… It didn’t have to be this way. If we had successfully done the work of stopping the spread of the virus, as has been done in other countries, we wouldn’t have to pick which poison to expose our kids to… Meanwhile, just last week, President Donald Trump worried that CDC guidelines for protecting our children were too ‘expensive.’… And so, we are here. I wouldn’t let my children eat candy handed out by this administration. There are snakes with better parental instincts than these people.”

What’s missing from the Trump-DeVos response is empathy and simple decency.

John Merrow has tried to figure out what will be need to open schools safely. He concludes that it will take lots of effort and energy and cooperation.

What is needed is space, time, personnel, and resources.

He suggests creative ways to get what is needed.

Here are his thoughts about space. Open the link to read about his other ideas.

Two priorities cannot be compromised or negotiated: 1) Keep everyone safe, with frequent testing, social distancing, and adequate PPE; and 2) Create genuine learning opportunities, rather than simply replicating semesters, work sheets, 50-minute periods, and everything else that schools routinely do. Quite literally, everything else should be on the table, subject to change.

Serious ‘out of the box’ thinking begins with re-examining how schools traditionally use both time and space.

Start with space. No public school was designed for social distancing, and very few public schools have enough extra room–like the gym–to create safe spaces, even with the reduced ‘3 foot spacing’ recommended by the nation’s pediatricians. That’s why many school districts (including New York City) have announced plans for a ‘hybrid’ approach in which all students are at home at least part of the time, while other districts (including Los Angeles and San Diego) have announced that all instruction will be remote for the first half of the school year.

But there’s an important alternative: find new spaces and convert them for instruction. Spaces that are empty at least part of the day are everywhere: Houses of worship, meeting rooms at the local Y or Boys & Girls Club, theaters, and–because of the recession–vacant storefronts and offices. It will take some political leadership, but the 3rd Grade could meet at the Y, the 5th Grade at the Methodist Church, the 9th Grade at what used to be a shoe store, and so on.

Jamaal Bowman, a New York City Democrat who is virtually certain to be elected to Congress in the fall, likes this idea. He told Politico that he “would use alternative learning spaces to maximize the amount of face-to-face learning children have with a teacher and would demand substantial investments from our federal government so our school district can hire more teachers. I would also encourage cities to repurpose unused spaces like theaters, office spaces, and design spaces to classrooms.”

Superintendents I have communicated with raised the issue of liability in any new spaces, clearly a problem but not an insoluble one; it should be addressed in federal legislation now being discussed in Congress.

By dramatically expanding the spaces available for instruction, social distancing becomes possible and schools are now safe places to be. What’s more, everyone goes to school at the same time: no split days with noon starts, and so forth.

David Berliner has devoted his life to the study of education. He has achieved the pinnacle of his profession as a researcher and statistician. He is currently Regents Professor Emeritus at the College of Education at Arizona State University. His list of honors is too long to mention. I welcome his original contributions to the blog and am honored to present them to you. His title for this post is: “Learning Losses Associated with the ‘Required Curriculum’ Can Be Easily Offset by Gains in Learning in the ‘Not-Required Curriculum.'”


Parents currently worry that their children have not or will not learn enough by participating in the non-standard styles of schooling associated with our pandemic. Some worry, particularly, that their children will not test well if they miss too much of what we have come to regard as “regular” schooling. The regular or standard school curriculum differs slightly by state, but it is what teachers try to deliver in each grade. It is the curriculum designed to prepare children for their states’ tests, and for the SATs and ACTs taken near the end of high school.

The pandemic also has teachers and administrators worrying about safety, and the arrangements needed for instruction as our crisis continues: In-class? On-line? Hybrid? What? Educators are afraid that the reputation of their schools could suffer, if their students don’t test well because of missed schooling, or because instruction appears not to be as effective on-line as it is when it occurs in classrooms, the historic and preferred mode of delivering instruction. In addition, a reduction in test scores could easily reduce housing values in the school catchment area, eventually changing the pool of students that they work with. Worry, worry, everywhere, and no solution apparent.

But much of this worrying can easily be relieved. Think of it this way: If we stop worrying about learning the “required stuff” in the ordinary, test-prep oriented curricula now in place in most American schools and districts, and instead started thinking about learning, just learning good stuff, the problem disappears. The issue for every parent and every educator should be about students learning. Period (cf. Westheimer, 2020).

Learning, growing, forming beliefs that are factually based, gaining deep insights into particular subject matters, extending ones’ horizons, and mastering something complex is really what is important. Surely, we can all agree that there is a plethora of ‘stuff’ worth learning out there, things that are of interest, utility, or beauty. Much of this is not found in the standard/ordinary school curriculum. If we can accept that there are countless worthwhile things to learn that are not in the accepted/normal/required/test-prep school curriculum, we might worry less about our students, as long as they are learning many of these other acceptable things. Actually, some of these other things may not just be acceptable, but quite desirable to learn.

I simply can’t get as distressed, as so many others do, when we believe kids are missing the “proper” time in their development to learn gerunds and the role of apostrophes, long division and simple algebra, or the date the constitution was signed. These certainly may all be worthy goals in our youths’ passage to a competent adulthood through our public schools. But what if a good part of the thinking and learning they are engaged in during these unusual times is, instead, based on a project the student chooses, or is assigned and willingly accepts? What if they had a topic to study and become highly knowledgeable about? And what if students must eventually report on their project or topic of study?

Even first graders are quite capable of learning sophisticated information about, say, dinosaurs. In fact, many of them do this spontaneously, and are quite capable of knowing more about dinosaurs and the lives they led than the vast majority of adults (Chi and Koeske, 1983). Sophisticated domain knowledge, the knowledge of experts, can easily be learned in a child’s study of rainfall, global warming, dog breeding, or a hundred other topics. What if our children began to learn these other good things, as well as whatever on-line instruction a teacher or school provides during the pandemic? Would America’s children lose anything? Or, might our students actually gain from such experiences?

On-line contact with their classroom teacher is likely not to be for the six hours per day that the child experiences during regular classroom instruction. But on-line contact about projects or topical areas will allow teachers to individually assist, tutor, critique, and advise on each project or topical area studied. After a semester or a school year, the child should be ready to present a project or topical inquiry to an audience of peers, teachers, and parents.

The beauty of these kinds of inquiries is that there would be little down time for students during education in this time of pandemic. Students will be learning about something of interest to them, though just not necessarily everything that is in the state required curriculum for their age group. Since not everyone is likely to have access to the full, required curriculum for their grade, the validity of any test scores at that grade level is greatly compromised and thus of little use. No attention should be given to invalid tests of the “required stuff” for students of a certain age and grade. But I certainly do want a way for students to learn “good stuff,” when limited in their getting access to the “required stuff”. Learning something in depth, and sharing it with others, may be an excellent replacement to the losses in learning the “required stuff” that are likely to occur in this pandemic.

Let us take a closer look at project based learning. Imagine if one or a few students had some months to turn in a project on whether: the climate is changing in their community, the air or water in their community is breathable or drinkable, their schools are adequately funded, their food is safe to eat, or a robot could be built to help the school cafeteria staff. Or the students investigated the causes of homelessness or asthma, or the need for public transportation in their community. There exists an endless supply of challenging projects, local and otherwise, worthy of study. Many will be appropriate for a particular age group, and some will require sustained effort over a moderately long time period to master the material at an age appropriate level.

A project not only teaches an individual, but if done with another it can substantially remove the feelings of loneliness that many of our students are feeling because of virus-caused school shutdowns. Moreover, two things are frequently noticed when students present their research projects or topical research to peers, teachers, and parents. First, students show evidence that they have learned how to organize and reorganize their ideas to prepare presentations from which others could learn. Second, their presentations regularly demonstrated that deep learning in the domain of study had taken place. The remarkable educator Debbie Meier (1995) describes successful schools where this has happened on a regular basis. The schools she describes didn’t wait for a crisis to incorporate the idea that children can direct their own learning with some adult scaffolding. Her experience and the testimony of others who studied her schools, convincingly established that students can and do dig deeply and happily into subject matter that they want to learn and share with others!

Topics to study. What if students negotiated with their teachers a topic: Birds, automobiles, penguins, glaciers, honey bees, artificial intelligence, the civil rights movement, internment camps during WWII, comets, and so forth. The topics investigated by a particular student might be of interest for them, or even assigned. The students’ job is to become expert in that topic and present a talk on that topic at the end of the school year, conveying to their classmates and others what is exciting and important to know about that topic. A version of how this approach might work schoolwide and across grades is described by Kieran Egan (2011), a most creative philosopher of education.

If learning from projects and topical studies as I have described was made more salient in the educational experiences of our youth, while the ordinary/standard curriculum was taught whenever and however it could be taught, what might happen?

We actually have some data related to this kind of arrangement. It comes from a classic, long-term, highly creative study conducted many years ago (Aikin, 1942). As the push to standardize the American curriculum gained traction, history has forgotten this study. But it is still quite instructive.

Students in 30 unique high schools, “progressive” schools, were studied. These 30 schools had agreed to let their students take a non-standard curriculum. The students studied some of what the school wanted them to, as current on-line instruction is meant to do. But these students also received high-school credits for choosing to study, think, write about, and to build, almost anything they wanted. The high school gave them credits for doing some highly unusual, self-determined projects and papers, few of which would have been approved had these students been subject to the standard high school curriculum of their time.

The students of these progressive schools, taking a very non-standard high school curriculum, went on to about 300 colleges and universities that had agreed to monitor and document their progress and achievements. They were also to monitor students’ deficits as well, since they had not been “properly prepared” for their college experience. They clearly had not studied the regular, standard, state sanctioned curriculum, so how could they compete in college?

From Aiken (1942) and the High School Journal (November-December, 1942), we learn that when each of the progressive school graduates was matched with a traditional school graduate who shared many similar background characteristics, the graduates of “progressive” schools showed: more leadership; joined and led more clubs; were rated as thinking more clearly; demonstrated a better understanding of democracy; had greater interest in good books, music, and art; got slightly better grades in college than those from traditional schools; and won more academic honors (e.g. Phi Beta Kappa, and honor roll designations). A special sub-study of the graduates of the six most progressive schools, what traditionalists thought of as the “wildest”, revealed that those students were superior to their peers from the other progressive schools! Thus, they scored well above the traditionally educated students on all the indices used for comparison. These poor students, deprived of the regular curriculum, achieved the highest college grades, and were rated the highest in intellectual drive, highest in thinking ability, and highest in extracurricular activity participation.

All I have written on this topic, above, now comes to this: The scholars reporting on the 8-year study said that the belief that students must have a prescribed school curriculum is not tenable. Studying almost anything in depth and breadth, with some (but not necessarily a lot of) teacher support, and reporting it out, prepares a child for the highest levels of scholarship at the next levels of their learning. There were no apparent negative effects from studying “this”, instead of “that”, if it was studied well. Learning seriously, deeply, and sharing that knowledge through papers and presentations (perhaps with power-points and YouTubes, maybe via film, television, music or art,) to one’s peers, parents, and the school faculty, apparently has no long-term ill effects, when compared to learning the “required” curriculum.

So to all the worried parents, teachers, and school administrators concerned that our youth will not learn about gerunds and the role of apostrophes, or long division and simple algebra, or the date the constitution was signed, “on time,” relax! Let us instead make sure our children are learning though projects and topics that capture their fancy during the time they have open. That should more than suffice for what they might miss of the traditional curriculum.

Aikin, W. (1942). The Story of the Eight-Year Study. New York: Harper.

Chi, M. T. H., & Koeske, R. D. (1983). Network representation of a child’s dinosaur knowledge. Developmental Psychology, 19(1), 29–39. https://doi.org/1031037/0012-1649.19.1.29

Egan, K. (2011). Learning in Depth. A Simple Innovation That Can Transform Schooling. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Meier, D. (1995). The power of their ideas: Lessons from a small school in Harlem. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

The High School Journal, Nov.-Dec., 1942), 25 (7), 305-309.

Westheimer, J. (2020, March 21). Westheimer: Forget trying
to be your kid’s substitute school teacher during
COVID-19. Ottawa, Canada: Ottawa Citizen.

Happy birthday, Gerard Manley Hopkins.

When I was a student at Wellesley College, I would sometimes take solitary walks around Lake Waban and think deep thoughts. As I walked, trampling the leaves, I would often recite out loud Gerard Manley Hopkins’ beautiful poem, “Spring and Fall to a Young Child.”

This description of Hopkins appeared on Garrison Keillor’s “The Writers’ Almanac.” Today is a big day, because it is also the birthday of Beatrix Potter (“The Tale of Peter Rabbit”), Jacqueline Kennedy, Karl Popper, and Earl Tupper, the inventor of Tupperware.

Today is the birthday of English poet and Jesuit priest Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844) (books by this author), born in Stratford, Essex. He won a poetry prize in grammar school and then received a grant to study at Balliol College, Oxford, where he studied Classics and continued to write poetry. His academic record was outstanding, earning him the approbation of one of his masters, who called him “the star of Balliol.”

While he was at Oxford, Hopkins (who had been raised in the Anglican Church) converted to Roman Catholicism. His experience was so profound that he decided to become a Jesuit priest in 1868, and he burned all his poetry, feeling it was not befitting his profession as a clergyman. He did continue to keep a journal, however, and in 1875, he returned to poetry. He was living in Wales, and found its landscape and its language inspirational. When five Franciscan nuns died in a shipwreck, he was moved to write a long poem, The Wreck of the Deutschland.

Once he was ordained in 1877, he worked as a parish priest in the slums of Manchester, Liverpool, and Glasgow. He lived in Dublin from 1884 until his death of typhoid fever in 1889. Overworked, exhausted, and unwell, he wasn’t happy there, and his poetry reflects his unhappiness. Called the “terrible sonnets,” they show the poet’s struggles with spiritual and artistic matters.

Most of his poetry wasn’t published in his lifetime, and it was so innovative that most people who did get to read it didn’t understand it. As he wrote in a letter to Burns, “No doubt, my poetry errs on the side of oddness …” But it influenced such 20th-century poets as W.H. Auden, Dylan Thomas, and Charles Wright.

Here is one of my favorite poems, “Spring and Fall to a Young Child”:

Márgarét, are you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves, líke the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

David Dayen writes a post called Unsanitized for The American Prospect. Here is today’s report:


First Response
The HEALS Act — a $1 trillion piece of legislation so comically in hock to corporate interests that one of the initials in the acronym stands for “liability protection” — was released yesterday. This was done in a super annoying format where separate committee chairs released their own titles (Finance; Appropriations; Small Business), but you can mostly piece everything together.

Here’s what we’ve got:

Unemployment: Increased unemployment insurance immediately falls from $600 a week to $200. This extension runs until the end of the year. Combined with what the states offer, that’s on average a cut from $921 to $521 (around 43 percent), according to an analysis from the Century Foundation. Allegedly, after two months, states will figure out how to individually replace 70 percent of lost wages and offers that, with a cap of $500 from the government in that equation. The cap means that everyone will have lower support from unemployment under this plan.

I highly doubt that states will figure this out, given the technical hurdles and the underfunded systems (which do get a $2 billion boost here), and in that instance they just stick with the $200 a week addition. Also everyone gets a note saying they are required to take a suitable job if offered. Also the federal stipend counts as income for purposes of determining eligibility for other federal benefits.

This only affects those on standard unemployment, not “Pandemic Unemployment Assistance” for freelance and gig workers and independent contractors. That was already extended to the end of the year in the CARES Act. However, the HEALS Act tightens eligibility to make it as hard to stay on assistance as possible. The whole thing is appalling.

Second stimulus: This is pretty much exactly the same as the CARES Act, with $1,200 for adults and $500 for dependents (not just children, in a switch from CARES), up to $75,000 in personal income (based on last year) and then a sliding scale that phases out completely under $100,000. One cheerful note: “The rebates are protected from bank garnishment or levy by private creditors or debt collectors.” This is something near and dear to us at Unsanitized, as we broke the news that creditors, including banks, could grab stimulus checks to offset old debts. It’s gratifying that Congress is finally getting around to making sure survival money goes to survival.
Read all of our Unsanitized reports here

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Business tax credits: The “employee retention tax credit” sounds boring but this is a pretty large bonus for businesses that could cost as much as $100 billion. It was in the CARES Act but this provision allows more companies to use it. There’s also a tax credit for hiring unemployed workers and a “safe and healthy workplace” tax credit for expenses like testing, PPE, and cleaning supplies (this is Lysol’s big moment; move over, Amazon).

Health care: There’s $118 billion in new money for hospitals, testing, contact tracing, treatment, and vaccines. The Medicare Part B premium for 2021 would be frozen. Telehealth waivers would be extended to facilitate contactless medical care. There’s a bunch of what seems like for-show assistance to nursing homes, including “strike teams” and better reporting. A good health rundown here.

Schools: As previously reported, there’s $105 billion for education, split between K-12 and higher ed with a substantial portion of it only for those schools that reopen in the fall. Amazingly that’s all the money there is for state and local government, and I’d gather all of it covers increased costs for social distancing measures. The $150 billion previously released in the CARES Act, which previously was only for increased COVID costs, can now go toward covering revenue shortfalls, with many restrictions. But that’s not new money. The House Democratic Heroes Act had nearly $1 trillion for state and local government.

Random appropriations: Includes $20 billion for farmers, $29 billion for defense (a slush fund for defense contractors and the F-35), a $1.8 billion earmark for a new FBI headquarters that just so happens to be near a Trump hotel, $10 billion for a very sketchy “airport improvement program” (I think they’re just paying off airports to stay open), and about $3 billion for tenant rental assistance, a drop in the ocean of what will be needed. There’s also $5.3 billion more to use the Defense Production Act to require certain manufacturing.

Coupons!: Expensing of restaurant business meals goes up from 50 percent to 100 percent. Because you want to be doing business in the middle of a restaurant during the pandemic.

Small business grants: There’s a “Second Draw” PPP loan enabled for smaller businesses (under 300 employees) with a 50 percent drop or more in revenue during the crisis. There are also new “Recovery Sector” 20-year loans at a 1 percent interest rate, also for hard-hit industries. Section 113 of this title makes 501(c)(6) organizations eligible for regular PPP loans; this is the K Street bailout that’s also in the House bill. The math is weird, but it looks like $157 billion in new money, on top of the remaining $120 billion-plus. (There’s already massive lobbying over these plans to pry them open for bigger businesses)

Liability protection: This has been well-documented, it’s a five-year blanket release from a “flood” of business liability lawsuits that don’t exist.

Student loans: After the deferral deadline in the CARES Act runs out on October 1, you can only defer student loan payments if you have no income. Otherwise there’s a 10 percent income-based repayment option.
The Trust Act: we reported last week that a Mitt Romney-created process to inevitably cut Social Security and Medicare would be in the bill. It is.
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Here’s what’s missing: There’s no extension of the eviction moratorium, no money for the postal service or the November elections, no hazard pay for essential workers, no OSHA standards for workplaces, no money to shore up pensions, no funds for people who lost employer-sponsored health insurance, no increase to food stamp benefits. And none of the $1 trillion in new money for state and local government.

It’s in some ways a waste to lay this out, as now we move to the negotiating stage. But all of the above being off the table frames the corners of the debate. Nearly the entire framework of the Heroes Act was thrown out. Democrats have some leverage because rank and file Republicans really don’t want to pass this bill at all. But what will they be able to claw back as a result? And doesn’t that put the CARES Act in a different context, as whatever emerges is likely to be very inadequate?

One final indignity: the Republican baseline may include (it’s completely unclear) the repeal of leverage requirements for banks put in place under the Dodd-Frank Act. This is a straight handout to Wall Street. What’s notable here is that this was the signature contribution to Dodd-Frank from endangered incumbent Susan Collins, who I’ve been told argued against this but was rebuffed. There’s no way McConnell does this if Collins had a chance of winning; you don’t strip a Senator’s biggest policy achievement of the last decade in the middle of a tight election if you think she’s going to win. The signal I get is that McConnell knows he’s beat, and the strategy for the next six months is just to steal whatever’s not bolted down on behalf of corporate America.

Open the link here to read Randi Weingarten’s speech to the AFT Convention.

Here is a summary from the AFT:

Weingarten’s State of the Union address zeroed in on the three crises facing America—a public health crisis, an economic crisis and a long-overdue reckoning with racism. She detailed how these crises are being made worse by President Trump and emphasized the urgency of the November elections, not only to defeat Trump but to elect Joe Biden and reimagine America.

“Activism and elections build the power necessary to create a better life, a voice at work and a voice in our democracy. Activism changes the narrative, elections change policy, and, together, they change lives,” said Weingarten.

Weingarten honored the 200 AFT members who have died in the line of duty, and the hundreds of thousands who have protected, cared for, engaged and fed our communities during the pandemic. But those efforts have been met with reckless inaction by the Trump administration and some state officials who have failed to provide either a plan or adequate resources as community spread has skyrocketed.

While safety and education needs are front and center in many of America’s 16,000 school districts, and states such as New York have curbed the virus and published strong reopening plans, Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have embraced virus denialism and waged a weekslong campaign to force reopening with threats and bluster.

In her speech, Weingarten unveiled a resolution passed by the AFT’s 45-member executive council backing locally authorized “safety strikes”—on a case-by-case basis and as a last resort—to ensure safety amid the absence of urgency by federal and some state officials to tackle the coronavirus surge.

“Let’s be clear,” Weingarten told delegates. “Just as we have done with our healthcare workers, we will fight on all fronts for the safety of our students and their educators. But if the authorities don’t get it right, and they don’t protect the safety and health of those we represent and those we serve, nothing is off the table—not advocacy or protests, negotiations, grievances or lawsuits, or, if necessary as a last resort, safety strikes.”

Weingarten said the union’s members want to return to school buildings for the sake of their kids’ learning—and the well-being of families—but only if conditions are safe. And that requires planning and hundreds of billions of dollars in resources the Senate and the administration have refused to provide.

Mercedes Schneider was absolutely delighted to learn that ProPublica created a search engine so that anyone could learn where the federal $660 billion or so was spent.

Mercedes is a master at following the money, and she guides you here to show that you can do it too!

She writes:

During the coronavirus pandemic, with the federal government offering Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to businesses and nonprofit organizations, ProPublica has once again delivered a marvelous search engine enabling the public to easily investigate which companies and nonprofits have received federal money in the form of loans ranging from $150K to $10M, including charter and private schools and other education organizations.

Public schools were not eligible to apply for PPP, but that did not stop charters, which claim to be public schools (but aren’t) from taking what they could get, without regard to need.

One can use the ProPublica PPP search engine to verify, for example, that Democracy Prep Louisiana Charter School received between $350K and $1M on April 28, 2020, from Sterling National Bank in order to retain zero jobs.

Mercedes also noted that the elite private school Sidwell Friends in D.C. (where the Obama girls attended school) received a forgivable loan of $5-10 million.

PPP was a vast sum of money ($660 billion). Those on the know feathered their nests. But public schools, faced with demands to reopen and diminishing state taxes, were not eligible. Public schools received $13.2 billion from the CARES act, which Betsy DeVos ordered them to share with charter schools and private schools. The charters got vastly more money than public schools, first from the CARES act, then from the $660 billion PPP.

Smells fishy. Looks bad. Are charter schools public schools? If they are, they should not have sought and received PPP.

Laurie Roberts is a columnist for the Arizona Republic who has written frequently about frauds in the charter and voucher sectors. When I was writing Slaying Goliath, I found her reporting and her sharp to be invaluable. She read Carol Burris’s article about the Network for Public Education study of charters that double dipped in two different pots of federal funding, and she thought that their greed was ridiculous.

As Congress considers the next economic stimulus package, it’s worth mentioning that America’s charter schools snagged at least $925 million in emergency funding from the Paycheck Protection Program, according to an analysis by Network for Public Education.

In Arizona, 100 charter school operations bagged anywhere from $40 million to nearly $100 million in emergency funding, the analysis of U.S. Small Business Administration records shows.

That’s a lot of stimulation, economically speaking. Especially when you consider that the losses at publicly funded charter schools are largely a figment of the federal government’s imagination.

Unlike small businesses that saw their operations fall off a cliff when COVID-19 hit, Arizona taxpayers fund Arizona’s charter schools.

Charters already getting state, federal aid

Not only have charter operators received their regular per-student allotments of state money, they are eligible for a share of the hundreds of millions of dollars in CARES Act funding that is being pumped into public schools to cover added costs due to COVID-19 and budget shortfalls.

So, what losses?

The Arizona Charter Schools Association sent me a statement saying charter schools were concerned this spring that the coronavirus would lead to state budget cuts, requiring them to lay off teachers.

“Charter schools have not only faced questions about the uncertainty of the state budget, but also seen steep declines in charitable fundraising and programs such as before-and after-care – which are important revenue sources for our schools and students,” the statement said. “These federal funds have provided financial assistance to eligible recipients, as Congress intended.”

No word on how many of those schools returned the money when those state budget cuts didn’t happen.

Roberts notes that more than 400 charter schools had the decency not to apply for money they didn’t need.

But:

Among the 100 charters that went for the windfall was – surprise! – American Virtual Academy. The management company, which runs Primavera Online School, snagged somewhere between $2 million and $5 million in PPP money.

This is the same company whose CEO, Damian Creamer, managed to pay himself a combined $10.1 million in 2017 and 2018 out of taxpayer money set aside to educate students. Never mind that fewer than a third of his students couldn’t read or do math at grade level or that nearly half were dropping out.

Creamer’s education technology company, StrongMind, also scored a $2 million to $5 million forgivable loan from the PPP program, according to The Arizona Republic’s Lily Altavena. Meanwhile, Verano Learning Partners, which was founded by Creamer and lists the same address as American Virtual and StrongMind, snagged a PPP payout of $150,000 to $350,000.