Archives for the month of: August, 2020

Our regular commenter Bob Shepherd writes about the familiarity of the spectacle at the Trump National Convention:

The Style of the Trump Fascist Spectacle (Known in Previous Years as the Republican National Convention)

Did Albert Speer design this convention? Where was Leni Riefenstahl to film this Triumph of the Trumpian Will?

Flags and marble, shot from below to make them as imposing as possible. The First Lady delivering her address in what looked like a Russian military uniform.

Our wannabe Stalin made very clear in this spectacle who he is and what he stands for. Here, a few of the parallels between the RNC remade by Trump and other spectacles put on by dictators like Stalin:

1. Ultranationalism. Military bands playing jingoistic patriotic tunes, flags, flags, flags.

2. Pretend kindness from Great Leader. Staged events showing He Who Shines More Orange than the Sun deigning to extend mercy to ordinary persons, representative “citizens.” Fall in line, and you, too, can benefit from Great Leader’s largess!

3. Nepotism. A parade of Great Leader’s vile spawn. Dictators can’t trust anyone except family, so, of course, this. The apple doesn’t fall far.

4. Cult of personality. All Trump, all the time. Trump’s name in fireworks above the Washington Monument.

5. Baldfaced lying. Telling lies that are completely blatant because those around him don’t dare contradict him. This always gives autocrats a big thrill. President: Grass is pink. Yes, Mr. President, very pink.

6. The myth of the return to the golden age. All this make America great again bs. Right out of Hitler’s playbook–hearkening back to a glorious Aryan past that only he can restore.

7. Appropriation of national symbols to the leader.

8. Fascist imagery, architecture, and design. Lots and lots of “from below” shots to make the setting seem even more grand, more monumental, more fascist. The new stark and very white Rose Garden, Trump’s pointing to the now Whiter House during his speech and saying, “Great house. Not a house but a home. [e.g., MY HOME] I’m here, and they aren’t. And what color is it?”

9. Great Leader as the sole platform, the sole font of policy. For the first time in its history, the Republican National Convention put forward no new campaign platform. Appropriate, of course, because under Trump, the Party platform is whatever Great Leader happens to have said six seconds ago, even if it’s exactly the opposite of what he said seven seconds ago. (Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.)

10. The impassioned speech by Great Leader about the enemy within and the necessity of crushing that enemy in order to achieve a return to greatness. Biden the Socialist (LOL), the terrorists in the streets.

We’ve seen this film before.

The state auditor in Arizona made a weird decision. She decided that the charter schools that applied for and received $100 million in federal funds from the Paycheck Protection Program didn’t really take federal funds at all.

What?

Craig Harris of the Arizona Republic writes:

Arizona charter schools that received up to $100 million in federal Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans can keep the money and not have any of their state funding cut, the Arizona Auditor General’s Office has determined.

At issue is a rarely enforced state charter school law that prohibits taxpayers from paying “twice to educate the same pupils.”

The law requires a school that has been twice compensated to have their base-level funding reduced by an equal amount if additional federal or state monies received by the school were “intended for the basic maintenance and operations of the school.”

But Auditor General Lindsey Perry concluded the state law “does not apply to loan proceeds charter schools” obtained through the federal PPP program.

Her office ruled the loans — despite being 100% forgivable with minimal justification to show that the money was needed — were not “monies received from a federal or state agency” as described in state law.

Walter Stroup is chair of the department of STEM education and teacher development and an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. In 2014, as a professor at the University of Texas, he publicly testified that the state was wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on standardized testing because the only thing that was measured was skill at passing standardized tests. This was hugely embarrassing to Pearson, which had a $500 million contract with the state of Texas. Recently Professor Stroup sent a letter to the Houston Chronicle, supporting its editorial calling for a pause in standardized testing For 2020-21.

I asked if I could post his response here.

He wrote:

[Response to July 22, 2020 “Editorial: What Gov. Abbott should do about STAAR testing this year for Texas schools.”]

As researchers and longtime education advocates, we support the conclusions of the July 22, 2020 “Editorial: What Gov. Abbott should do about STAAR testing this year for Texas schools.” Before our school system can run as normal, it will need to learn to walk again. And we shouldn’t keep objects in its way that may make it stumble.

We agree that state-mandated standardized exams should be the “last thing” student and teachers need to worry about. But that’s not enough. To support our schools and teachers, the next question has to be: if not STAAR, then what?

There is indeed a substantial body of research showing that current tests are “invalid indicators of student progress and ineffective in closing the so-called educational achievement gap.” We also agree with Commissioner Morath that we need shared measures of student progress if we are all to be held accountable for the educational outcomes in our schools.

To start our thinking about what might come next, we should ask whether STAAR tests are useful to teachers – the first responders of our school system. For that matter, are the products from one of the largest non-high-stakes test vendors in Texas, Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), useful to teachers?

We believe the answer is a resounding, No.

Although well intended, these tests measure the wrong kind of growth. Not only does this make them the wrong kind of tool to evaluate student achievement and institutional quality, it also means the tests themselves have become an instrument in preserving inequities in students’ educational outcomes.

When it comes to test development and scoring, two kinds of growth can be assessed.

“Growth” can be evaluated relative to achievement – how much students have learned. Or “growth” can be evaluated on a scale similar to measurements of height. Just as children get taller with age, they also get generally better at certain kinds of problem-solving tasks.

It makes a world of difference which kind we use if we want to help schools recover.

The first kind of growth – in achievement – is the only kind for which schools can, and should, be held accountable. We send children to school because we know that’s where we learned to read, write and do mathematics and we want the same for our children. Tests, to be useful in improving student outcomes, must be highly sensitive to differences in what schools do – sensitive to good teaching.

Unfortunately, current test development methodologies give us tests that behave, in almost every significant sense, like measures of biological growth, not measures of achievement.

If we buy a thermometer to measure temperature, put it in a pot of hot water, and the numbers barely change, that’s a problem. If we buy a box of these thermometers that all do the same thing, then that makes it a bigger problem. Our current box of tests has been shown to have very little sensitivity to temperature change — to differences in the quality of instruction.

When it comes to the issue of what kind of growth is being assessed by current tests, the evidence is equally clear. The grade-related growth curves the test vendor NWEA shares on its web site are remarkably similar to curves pediatricians use to chart children’s height.

Age-related or grade-related mental growth metrics can’t be used to improve educational outcomes – they simply aren’t meant to help us become mentally “taller.” Compounding the problem, they have a long history of lending support to oppressive ideologies and practices. In effect, tests fully intended to help address structural inequalities in our educational system end up having the opposite effect: keeping groups of students in the same relative position year-after-year, and across subject areas.

What are the alternatives?

Here are just some of the possibilities. Pattern-based items (PBIs) provide up to eight times more achievement-specific information per question than current items and have been deployed at scale across Texas. Performance-based assessments are being used in New Hampshire. “Badges” are being used in a number of industries as part of digital credentialing programs. Portfolio-based assessment has a long history of use in a wide array of educational settings.

The last time our legislators gathered in Austin, they passed a bill, HB-3906, directing the Texas Education Agency to “establish a pilot program” in which participating school districts would “administer to students integrated formative assessment instruments for subjects or courses for a grade level subject to assessment.” Now is the time to pilot alternative assessments that will help schools and teachers do what they do best – educate our children.

Walter Stroup has his home in Austin, Texas and is chair of the department of STEM education and teacher development and an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

Anthony Petrosino is associate dean for research and outreach in Southern Methodist University’s Simmons School.
Link to Editorial we were responding to:

Related links (links are also in the text above):

What was published in the Houston Chronicle

An Op-Ed in Dallas Morning News discussing research on current tests

NWEA’s growth curve

CDC growth curves used by pediatricians

Peter Greene reviews a new charter school study from the Brookings Institution that exhibits near total ignorance of the perils of privatization. Any time that a study rests its case on DFER data, its a clue that it should not be taken seriously. DFER (Democrats for Education Reform) is an organization created by hedge fund managers to lobby for charter schools. Their “studies” and polling data supply talking points to advance their cause. Similarly, when a study cites Albert Shanker’s initial advocacy for charter schools but fails to acknowledge that he abandoned charters and concluded they were indistinguishable from vouchers, the author has done a slipshod job.

Charter schools began thirty years ago. The research on them has repeatedly demonstrated that some get higher test scores, some get lower test scores, but on average they have produced no amazing innovations, no secret sauce. The Brookings author doesn’t know that. She seems to think that charters have discovered remarkable innovations and those innovations should be replicated by public schools.

Her grand notion that charters will teach public schools how to succeed, he argues, is absurd.

He writes:

Since the [charter] movement is largely premised on the notion of unleashing free market forces–well, in that context, this proposal makes as much sense as telling MacDonald’s that they have to show Wendy’s how to make fries.

And:

There is zero reason to think that the charter world, populated primarily by education amateurs, knows anything that public school systems don’t already know. Charter success rests primarily on creaming student population (and the families thereof), pushing out students who won’t comply or are too hard to educate, extending school hours, drilling tests like crazy, having teachers work 80 hour weeks, and generally finding ways to keep out students with special needs that they don’t want to deal with. None of these ideas represent new approaches that folks in public education haven’t thought of.

And:

If charters were pioneering super-effective new strategies, we would already know. There is a well-developed grapevine in the public education world. If there were a charter that was accomplishing edu-miracles, teachers all over would be talking about it. Teachers who left that charter would take the secret sauce recipe with them, and pretty soon it would be being shared across the country. After decades of existence, charters do not have a reputation in the education world for being awesome–and there’s a reason for that. Puff pieces and PR pushes may work on the general public and provide fine marketing, but that’s not what sells other teachers.

Short answer– if charters knew something really awesome and impressive, public school teachers would already know and already be copying it.

Maybe the author of this paper should meet with Andre Perry, who led charters in New Orleans and left disillusioned. He is also at Brookings.

The most important concern about reopening schools is the health and safety of students and staff. The Trump administration has adamantly refused to provide funding to states and cities to enable them to make schools as safe as they should be.

As a result, Newsweek reports, significant numbers of teachers are quitting. This is a blow to students and schools across the nation.

It was hard to recruit teachers before the pandemic. How will these teachers be replaced?

Veteran K-12 teachers in states across the U.S. are resigning and retiring at higher rates as schools begin reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic this fall, with educators citing the stress tied to remote learning, technical difficulties and COVID-19 health concerns.

Several teachers who recently resigned, retired or opted out of their jobs ahead of pandemic reopening efforts say leaving their kids has been hard, but remote learning has made their jobs too difficult. One Florida teacher said she became paranoid due to the constant requirement of being live-streamed to dozens of students throughout all hours of the day. And an Arizona high school science teacher said he resigned from a job he loves after his district voted to return students to in-person classroom learning—creating a health risk he and many other teachers say they aren’t willing to take.

In New York State, teacher retirements are up 20 percent from 2019, according to data from the New York State Teacher Retirement System. About 650 teachers filed for retirement between July and early August alone.

A number of K-12 teachers said much of the joy they received from personal interaction with students has been undermined or eliminated altogether by teaching through a computer screen rather than a classroom.

“I had to consider the health of my family. I am a science teacher. We gather evidence and we make decisions. If there is competing data, we look at both and weigh them,” Kevin Fairhurst, who resigned from his teaching position at Arizona’s Queen Creek Unified School District on August 13, told Healthline. “The data from the experts in our health field suggested we should not yet be teaching in person because of the potential for this to cause more outbreaks.”

Fairhurst is among nine of 17 science teachers at two of the district’s high schools who have quit in the past few months. Students and teachers at school districts around the country receive daily temperature checks and are required to wear masks—even on recess playgrounds—as administrators are aiming to eliminate the chance of spreading COVID-19.

Trump’s schedule for this week is a reminder that Michael Cohen, his former “fixer,” now a felon, wrote in the foreword to his new book Disliyal that Trump has no friends. It’s also a reminder that Trump never works. He watches TV, he golfs, he tweets, he lunches with lackeys.

SNEAK PEEK … THE PRESIDENT’S WEEK AHEAD: Monday: TRUMP will have lunch with VP MIKE PENCE and will meet with Attorney General BILL BARR and acting DHS Secretary CHAD WOLF. Tuesday: TRUMP will travel to Kenosha, Wis. Wednesday: TRUMP will travel to Wilmington, N.C., to speak about “designating Wilmington, NC as an American World War II Heritage City.” Thursday: TRUMP will have lunch with Secretary of State MIKE POMPEO.

This tribute to a great political critic appeared in Garrison Keillor’s “The Writers’ Almanac.” Molly Ivins is sorely missed today. We can only imagine what she would have written about Trump and Pence and the other idiots running the government.

It’s the birthday of the journalist and humorist who said, “The thing about democracy, beloveds, is that it is not neat, orderly, or quiet. It requires a certain relish for confusion.” Molly Ivins (books by this author), born in Monterey, California (1944) and raised in Houston, Texas. She went to Smith and to Columbia’s School of Journalism and spent years covering the police beat for the Minneapolis Tribune (the first woman to do so) before moving back to Texas, the setting and subject of much of her life’s writing.

Ivins especially liked to poke fun at the Texas Legislature, which she referred to as “the Lege.” She gave George W. Bush the nickname “Shrub” and also referred to him as a post turtle (based on an old joke: the turtle didn’t get there itself, doesn’t belong there, and needs help getting out of the dilemma). She had actually known President Bush since they were teenagers in Houston. She poked fun at Democrats, too, and said about Bill Clinton: “If left to my own devices, I’d spend all my time pointing out that he’s weaker than bus-station chili. But the man is so constantly subjected to such hideous and unfair abuse that I wind up standing up for him on the general principle that some fairness should be applied. Besides, no one but a fool or a Republican ever took him for a liberal.” Clinton later said that Molly Ivins “was good when she praised me and painfully good when she criticized me.”

Her fiery liberal columns caused a lot of debate in Texas, with newspaper readers always writing in to complain. One time, she wrote about the Republican congressman from Dallas: “If his IQ slips any lower we’ll have to water him twice a day.” It generated a storm of controversy, and the paper she wrote for decided to use it to their advantage, to boost readership. They started placing advertisements on billboards all over Dallas that said, “Molly Ivins can’t say that … can she?” She used the line as the title of her first book (published in 1991).

She went on to write several best-selling books, including Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush — which was actually written and published in 2000, before George W. Bush had been elected to the White House. Ivins later said, “The next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please, pay attention.”

Molly Ivins died of breast cancer in 2007 at the age of 62. She once wrote: “Having breast cancer is massive amounts of no fun. First they mutilate you; then they poison you; then they burn you. I have been on blind dates better than that.”

Molly Ivins once said: “I am not anti-gun. I’m pro-knife. Consider the merits of the knife. In the first place, you have to catch up with
someone in order to stab him. A general substitution of knives for guns would promote physical fitness. We’d turn into a whole nation of great runners. Plus, knives don’t ricochet. And people are seldom killed while cleaning their knives.”

This story by Stephen Castle appeared in the New York Times:

LONDON — When pupils return to Southend High School For Boys next week, the cafeteria will serve takeout food only and lunch will be eaten outside. Lessons will stretch to two-and-a-half hours to reduce the need to switch classrooms. And new equipment has been bought to spray the sports changing rooms with disinfectant.

“By and large, we are pretty ready to roll,” said Robin Bevan, the school’s head teacher, or principal, as he prepared to welcome 1,300 young people to a building about 40 miles east of London, constructed around a century ago without social distancing in mind.

But there is only so much anyone can do.

“The question, ‘Will schools be safe?’ is a slightly crazy question because nothing in life is safe,” said Mr. Bevan. “The real question is, ‘How far have you reduced the risk?’”

Britain is at a critical moment in its handling of the coronavirus pandemic as millions of pupils return to the classrooms, many for the first time since March, when the country went into lockdown.

The resumption of schooling will be crucial for young people who have fallen behind in their studies, and the government hopes it will spur economic recovery by allowing parents to return to work in deserted town and city centers.

But the move also risks a new spike in infections, as young people and teachers mix together. And overseeing the process is an existential political test for the embattled education secretary, Gavin Williamson, who presided over the chaotic awarding of examination results this summer.

“It’s a very, very, difficult situation where you are genuinely trying to balance the needs of a younger generation with the health needs of society,” said Becky Francis, chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, a research institute.

Few deny that children need to be back in school and that those from poorer backgrounds with inadequate internet access or none at all have suffered the most, deepening the country’s socio-economic divide. Policymakers worry about the psychological impact on children of the lockdown and, in some cases, their increased exposure to domestic abuse.

“There is a great deal of good will from schools, the majority of parents and most kids, keen to get back” Ms. Francis said, adding that, without a return, there is a risk of “seeing a generation of children blighted by the knock-on effects of Covid.”

Even during the lockdown schools remained open to children of essential workers and those deemed vulnerable. But not too many parents took advantage of it, and a government plan to get all younger pupils in England back before the summer break fell apart.

This time, there is cautious optimism that, despite nervousness among some parents, most children will attend, as they have done in Scotland, where schools reopened earlier in the month.

But the relationship between the government and teachers is fraught. In June, Prime Minister Boris Johnson attacked “left-wing” trade unions, accusing them of obstructing a return to the classroom.

For their part, teachers’ leaders accuse the government of serial incompetence. Repeatedly, they say, they have pointed out practical concerns, been brushed aside, then proved right.

Studies suggest that children are less susceptible to Covid-19 than adults. But there is a bigger risk to teachers and to the families of pupils who may unwittingly carry the virus, particularly people with existing medical conditions.

At Mr. Bevan’s school, pupils will sit facing forward, with groups of students kept together in “bubbles” and staggered start and finishing times for lessons. But in schools for younger children or those with special needs, that is not practical. So head teachers have had to do their best.

“At a time when the government has been dithering, what local school leaders have done is work out a pragmatic solution in their setting,” Mr. Bevan said.

It is a message echoed by Jules White, organizer of a campaign for more resources for schools and called WorthLess?

“Schools are well prepared, we do know how to follow guidance, but there are a lot of factors. If you have 30 children in a classroom, the idea that you can always have two-meter distancing — well, that isn’t going to happen,” said Mr. White, who is head teacher of Tanbridge House School in West Sussex, in the south of England.

“You can mitigate risk by having desks forward facing, having separate equipment,” Mr. White added. “The job of teachers and head teachers is to make people feel safe.”

At his school, two cleaners will work during the school day, rather than after it, to improve hygiene around the clock. Hand sanitizer has been bought at a cost of £3,500, about $4,500, and drama, sports and other extracurricular activities have been put on hold.

But Covid-19, he added, is “a multi-headed monster,” he said. “You hit one thing and another comes up.”

The IDEA charter chain hopes to double its enrollment in Texas. This is the free-spending chain that planned to lease a private jet for $2 million a year but backed off after bad publicity; that flies its executives and their families in first-class; that bought premium box seats for professional basketball games; that pays its executives exorbitant salaries; that has received more than $200 million in federal funding from Betsy DeVos.

If the expansion plan goes forward, the IDEA enrollment will grow from 50,000 to nearly 100,000; its annual budget will grow from half a billion to one billion. This is larger than the budget of the University of Texas at Austin. Just in the past five years, IDEA’s budget has tripled.

One state representative called for an audit, but was careful to praise the organization that is gobbling up public dollars and sucking the life out of community public schools.

STATE REPRESENTATIVE TERRY CANALES CALLS FOR COMPREHENSIVE STATE AUDIT OF IDEA PUBLIC SCHOOLS

For Immediate Release
August 18, 2020
Contact: Curtis Smith
(512) 463-0426 office

AUSTIN, TX – In a letter addressed to Commissioner Mike Morath of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and Texas First Assistant State Auditor Lisa Collier, State Representative Terry Canales calls for a comprehensive and multi-agency audit of the IDEA Public Schools (IDEA) after recent disclosures of lavish expenditures for its executives. These disclosures included leasing of a private jet solely for the use of top IDEA officials and their families, chauffeured limousines, advertisements during the Super Bowl and World Series, travel expenses of over $14 million, and many more similar expenditures.

IDEA receives approximately half a billion dollars a year from the State of Texas to educate students. It has plans to almost double its enrollment to 97,000 students and add 27 new campuses by the end of 2021. If approved, state funding could double to approximately $1 billion annually. Additional state oversight is needed to ensure that state dollars are spent for their intended purpose and to prevent questionable use of state funds in the future.

“As public servants, the State has an obligation to ensure that taxpayer dollars are used for their intended purposes, and the recent disclosures of the expenditures at IDEA are alarming—to say the least,” said Rep. Canales. “Texas must ensure that our tax dollars are not being used for purchases like private jets and Super Bowl advertisements. I believe IDEA’s recent actions have raised clear and pressing concerns surrounding IDEA’s financial decisions. Other contracts, state agencies, and even universities that receive far fewer state dollars than IDEA receive more state oversight. So, given IDEA’s questionable expenditures, a financial audit of IDEA only makes sense,” continued Canales. “Let me be clear, I do not believe any of our neighborhood schools are at issue here. I salute the hardworking teachers and students of IDEA, and I wholeheartedly support the work that they are doing. I believe this issue is solely at the executive level of the school district.” said Rep. Canales.

A state audit conducted jointly by the Office of the State Auditor and TEA may ensure that public funds are used efficiently for their intended purpose and may improve public trust. An audit also may reveal the need for possible legislative changes to increase oversight and reduce risk to the State of Texas. For more information, contact the Office of State Representative Terry Canales.

Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, is the Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and a member of the Sunset Advisory Commission. Rep. Canales represents House District 40 in Hidalgo County, which includes portions or all of Edinburg, Elsa, Faysville, La Blanca, Linn, Lópezville, McAllen, Pharr and Weslaco. He may be reached at his House District Office in Edinburg at (956) 383-0860 or at the Capitol at (512) 463-0426.

Is Commissioner Mike Morath in IDEA’s pocket? Stay tuned.

In this article in the New York Daily News, constitutional lawyer Derek Black explains how Betsy DeVos used her authority as Secretary of Educatiin to send federal dollars intended for public schools to elite private schools and religious schools. Black’s new book, “School House Burning,” is an outstanding read.

He writes:

Betsy DeVos’ agenda to expand private education has floundered for three years. In 2017, public schools’ financial hole was too deep for either party in Congress to consider digging it deeper. But since March of this year, amidst a pandemic that has killed more than 170,000 Americans, cratered the economy and underlined the importance of public education, the U.S. secretary of education has made more headway than in the last three years combined.

Naively, Congress assumed that DeVos would put coronavirus response ahead of her ideological agenda. They were wrong, and now she is on the verge of turning the education policy world upside down.

In its first year, the administration proposed cutting and eliminating several public education programs and redirecting the money to school choice, including private schools. On top of that, it wanted a new tax credit program to fund private school tuition. Neither party took the proposal seriously. As Republican Sen. Roy Blunt remarked, “This is a difficult budget request to defend.” The story repeated itself each year since.

But in the rush to respond to COVID, DeVos saw an opening to exploit, and Congress gave her an unintentional assist. On its face, the CARES Act was all about the crisis. It doled out the biggest chunk of education money to public schools based on poverty. It put aside a smaller chunk for DeVos and states to spend on the evolving needs of distance learning and places hit the hardest by COVID.

Within days, DeVos was talking about spending her funds on “microgrants” that would operate like vouchers to fund private school tuition and services. Even if it flew in the face of congressional intent, the discretionary nature of the funds made it hard for anyone to stop her.

Next, DeVos threw 50 years of rules regarding how to allocate federal education dollars out the window. Normally, public schools share their federal poverty aid with private schools based on the number of low-income students that private schools enroll. The CARES Act said those same rules apply to COVID funds, but DeVos told public schools to share the money based on private schools’ total enrollment instead, which is overwhelmingly comprised of middle and upper-income students. And rather than back down in the face of overwhelming opposition, she doubled down, transforming her initial policy guidance into an actual federal rule.

For many school districts, that meant spending four, five and six times as much on private school students than ever before.

Unsurprisingly, states and individuals sued and a federal court blocked the rule last week.
As positive COVID cases continued to rise in July, DeVos then created the predicate to move even larger sums of money to private schools.

She demanded that public schools reopen fully and threatened to terminate their federal funding if they did not. While she lacked the authority to carry out the threat, she did begin shifting the narrative. The problem wasn’t COVID; the problem was public schools. And if they couldn’t do their job, private schools purportedly could.

A week after DeVos’ demand, friendly governors started following her lead. The CARES Act had given governors their own discretionary funds to respond to COVID. Like DeVos, they turned it into a slush fund to carry out the pre-existing agenda for private school vouchers. South Carolina’s governor announced that nearly three-quarters of his funds would go to vouchers.

The narrative shift was so effective that the Senate is reversing itself. The first version of its new COVID bill would condition two-thirds of public schools’ money on them physically reopening. A newer version also diverts 10% of the aid to private schools. Lamar Alexander, the chair of the Senate’s education committee, is also pushing a $5 billion tax credit bill similar to the one that DeVos proposed in her first year.

On the pretext of responding to a crisis, Betsy DeVos is trying to transform public education. If she gets what she wants, the effects will remain long after she’s gone — on American families and the nation itself.

Black is author of “Schoolhouse Burning: Public Education and the Assault on American Democracy.”