Archives for the month of: September, 2020

In case you missed our Zoom conversation, this is the link to my discussion with Steve Suitts about his new book about the segregationist origins of “school choice.”

His book is Overturning Brown: The Segregationist Legacy of the Modern School Choice Movement.

Leonie Haimson reports that Success Academy is dropping plans to open three new high schools because it doesn’t have enough students.

Parent activist Brooke Parker wrote the report as a guest blogger.

No waiting lists. Not enough students.

Jack Hassard, a professor of science education, scoffs at Trump’s claim that California could avoid forest fires by raking leaves on the forest floor. The cause of the raging fires, he writes, is climate change. Trump has declared that climate change is a hoax so he can’t admit what scientists agree is a growing environmental crisis.

This interesting post quotes Trump’s exchange with California officials. It’s painful to read because Trump is so clearly stupid.

By the way, Governor Newsom pointed out that the federal government owns 57% of California’s forest. The state owns less than 5%. If Trump wants leaf-raking, he should hire people to do it on federal lands.

From the Sacramento Bee:

Trump ignored the fact that the federal government manages much of the forested land in the West. Of the 33 million acres of forest in California, roughly 57% is owned and managed by the U.S. Forest Service or federal Bureau of Land Management, according to a report by the state’s Little Hoover Commission. State and local governments control only 3%, while the rest is private.

Read more here: https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/fires/article245727925.html#storylink=cpy

Peter Greene learned that Arne Duncan has accepted a position as chair of the board of an edu-biz called FullBloom. He continues to be a partner at billionaire Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective.

He quotes the owner of the biz:

Here’s what CEO Jeffrey Cohen has to say about the momentous acquisition:

“Having a thought leader like Arne help guide our decisions through this time of unprecedented educational disruption is vital as we work to ensure both the safety and engagement of our students,” said CEO Jeffrey Cohen. “We are delighted to welcome Arne to the board. This appointment makes us better as an organization because we know he will hold us to the highest standards when it comes to producing results for the children and clients we serve.”

Arne is the right guy to lead a company during a period of “unprecedented educational disruption.” That was his specialty when he was Secretary of Education: Disruption.

Greene goes on to explain what FullBloom is and what it does. Your head will spin with mergers and acquisitions. All this money is made near and around education by entrepreneurs but it bypasses teachers.

Kendall Deas, a political scientist at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, has worked in the field of economic evelopment. In a recent article, he warned the leaders of the state that investing in food schools will do more for the state than corporate tax breaks.

He is responding to a recent study by @GoodJobsFirst showing that South Carolina had cut education by $423 million to subsidize corporations.

Deas begins:

When I was in graduate school I worked for an economic development group that recruited companies to the metro Atlanta area. And time and again when executives would visit, this question would be among the first they’d ask:

“How good are the schools?”

It was very clear to me then that the quality of schools matters a great deal when it comes to attracting investment and jobs.

I’m now back in my native South Carolina where I am an educator and advocate for public education. And I am concerned about the subpar, uneven quality of our state’s public schools.; U.S. News and World Report, for example, ranks South Carolina’s schools No. 43 among the 50 states.

The state’s “Corridor of Shame.” a nickname given to a string of rural, impoverished and poor-performing school districts along South Carolina’s Interstate 95 corridor, serves as a stark reminder that much work needs to be done to improve our national standing in education.

This region of the state, with flat farmland and remnants of industries that have relocated overseas, needs to attract jobs — and it also needs employers who want to invest in our future. But by disinvesting in their school systems many South Carolina counties are undermining their ability to compete.

To revitalize these economies we need to invest in traditional public schools — yet this need to improve the quality of our public education system is too often ignored by state political leadership.

We have growth in some areas. And when jobs grow, people move in — and that means more families with school-age children. But then we abate the companies’ taxes, which puts stress on the tax base we need to keep our schools modern and healthy.

A SEVERE PROBLEM

Until now we did not know how severe this disinvestment has become.

Under state law counties award massive economic subsidies and tax incentives — even though school districts lose the most revenue. Last year these corporate tax breaks cost South Carolina public schools $423 million, an astonishing increase of $99 million from FY 2017.

This fact was revealed recently by Good Jobs First — a nonprofit think tank — along with the South Carolina Education Association; they found that millions in property tax abatements have been granted to companies like Boeing, BMW, Volvo, Amazon and dozens of other businesses operating in the state.

The biggest aggregate losers were Berkeley County ($54 million) and Greenville County ($41 million); meanwhile, poorer counties such as Orangeburg, Dorchester, Calhoun, Greenwood and Barnwell lost more than $2,000 per pupil.

Good schools attract good jobs.

David Von Drehle is a regular opinion writer for the Washington Post. In this column, he describes the lack of ideas in the Republican Party. Their only goal is power. They didn’t even bother to write a party platform. Whatever Trump wants, that’s what they want. No discussion, no debate, no dissent. Their goals in capturing six seats on the Supreme Court are negative: to roll back abortion. To roll back Obamacare. To roll back any gains for civil rights. To roll back the New Deal.

Drehle writes:

“The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run,” declared the self-destructive Captain Ahab, concerning his pursuit of Moby Dick. The elusive white whale of Republican politics is abortion rights. For nearly 50 years, over oceans of campaign speeches and seas of television ads, GOP candidates have promised to fill the Supreme Court with enough harpooners to slay the beast.

With the chance to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a pioneer of women’s rights, mere weeks before a presidential election, the Republican Ahabs are lowering boats and putting their backs into one more try. Four years ago, they used their Senate majority to preserve a 5-to-4 conservative advantage on the court by blocking President Barack Obama’s pick in the final year of his second term. Now they spy the chance to grab a 6-to-3 margin.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) might want to flip ahead to the final chapters to see how this story ends. Or I could just tell him: Ahab is last seen being dragged by the whale into the fatal briny.

One of three things could come of this. Cooler heads might prevail — but what’s the chance of that these days? The other two alternatives both bristle with disaster for the GOP.

The GOP might actually spear its whale, by creating a majority of justices willing to undo the reproductive autonomy that has been affirmed and reaffirmed in earlier court opinions. The number of new supporters this would win for the Republican Party is approximately zero. They already have, as their rock-solid base, all the voters who genuinely believe that human life begins at conception — not as a scientific proposition (obviously true), but as a moral law. That the single zygote cell formed when a microscopic sperm cell fertilizes an ovum is as much a person as you and me.

As a former zygote myself, I understand the principle. I also understand that an entity composed of many trillions of cells is relevant to these matters. “Overturning Roe v. Wade,” as the campaign shorthand goes, would compromise the rights of every woman with a zygote in her body. By the same life-at-conception logic, a number of contraceptive methods could potentially be banned, including IUDs and the so-called morning-after pill. Never in U.S. history has there been a comparable rollback of officially recognized rights.

While gaining zero voters, the GOP stands to lose millions of them. Generations of women — and the men who love them — have factored reproductive freedoms into their world views. A qualified right to abortion is recognized even in Italy, home to the antiabortion Roman Catholic church. Among those who would lose autonomy are many women, and their men, who have loyally voted Republican year after year while quietly depending on these rights. Democrats aren’t the only ones who experience unwanted pregnancies.

The third alternative fits the cynical spirit of McConnell’s power play. Elected Republicans could grab the seat to the delight of their antiabortion base, while quietly counting on the justices not to do anything radically unpopular. A fact you won’t find in Republican campaign ads is that all federal protections of abortion rights are the products of Republican-dominated courts. The last time the Supreme Court had a majority appointed by Democratic presidents was 1969.

When Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, six of the court’s nine justices were appointed by Republican presidents. Five of the six were in favor. In 1992, the court explicitly reconsidered whether a qualified right to abortion exists. By then, eight of the nine justices were Republican appointees.

How did the GOP keep its grip on the abortion issue despite this history? By denouncing those justices as the wrong kind of Republicans and pledging to find more reliable ones. Over time, the party has replaced the supposedly squishy justices with rock-ribbed conservatives approved by Federalist Society gatekeepers. If six such stalwarts should fail to deliver the long-promised repeal, it will be obvious that abortion rights are here to stay and Republican rhetoric to the contrary is baloney.

The GOP cupboard would then be entirely bare. The party of fiscal discipline has become the party of trillion-dollar deficits. The party of free trade has become the party of Trump tariffs. The party of limited government has become the party of executive orders. The party of Reagan has become the party of resentment. When the hollowness of its antiabortion rhetoric is confirmed, the Republican Party will stand for nothing, on a platform they don’t even bother to write.

There’s an old saying: When you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything. A suitable epitaph for the party of McConnell in the age of Trump.

Dr. Jennifer McCormick, state superintendent of education in Indiana, is a hero of public education. She has steadfastly sided with public schools and defied her own party’s embrace of charters and vouchers.

Blogger Steve Hinnefeld reports that Superintendent McCormick has endorsed Democratic candidates who support public schools instead of members of her own party aligned with the Mitch Daniels-Mike Pence privatization agenda.

Hinnefeld writes:

There was a time when Indiana Republicans supported public schools; at least, they supported their local public schools. The shift came in 2011, when Gov. Mitch Daniels got the GOP-controlled legislature to adopt school vouchers and expand charter schools. Today, many Hoosier Republicans have come very close to embracing the late economist Milton Friedman’s vision of a “universal” voucher program of unrestricted state support for private schools.

But McCormick, former superintendent of Indiana’s Yorktown school district, has been an outspoken advocate for public schools. Every time she spoke out for public school districts, you could see Republicans edging further away. When she announced in 2018 that she wouldn’t seek re-election, she implied that she was being elbowed aside. Legislators promptly changed the law so Indiana’s governor will appoint the state’s next chief education officer, starting in 2021.

Yes, support for public schools used to be bipartisan. Indiana has a long tradition of valuing public schools. But party leaders followed the Pied Piper, Milton Friedman, and determined to promote private school choice while defunding the public schools that enroll the vast majority of the state’s children.

Meanwhile, Hinnefeld writes, McCormick has endorsed Democrats because they, like her, believe in the importance of public schools.

I hereby add Jennifer McCormick to the Honor Roll of the blog, for her principled support of public schools and the common good and for her uncommon courage.

Betsy DeVos lost the biggest fight of her tenure as Secretary of Education. Federal judges consistently rejected her legally binding rule requiring states to give private schools a share of the $13 billion Congress allocated for public schools and for needy students in private schools. DeVos wanted private schools to get a share of the federal money without regard to the need of their students. The judges said no.

After fighting for her position, DeVos admitted defeat and decided not to appeal the court decisions.

Some states have already given federal funds to private schools, using DeVos’ formula, and it is not clear whether that money will be clawed back.

Charter schools also received a share of the $13 billion in CARES funds, which they qualified for as “public schools.” Many charter and private schools also applied for and received millions of dollars from the Paycheck Protection Program (public schools were not eligible for PPP). A study by Good Jobs Inc. determined that charter and private schools obtained SIX TIMES as much federal relief money as public schools.

In this brief video, Dr. Leslie Fenwick, former dean of the College of Education at Howard University, explains why the “schemes” of corporate reformers always fail. She doesn’t hold back about charters, vouchers, Broad superintendents, and Teach for America.

The video is part of a series of hundreds of interviews of educators, conducted by former teacher Bob Greenberg. He calls his series the Brainwaves Video Anthology. After you watch Dr. Fenwick’s wonderful interview, you should browse his collection. It’s very impressive.

Fred Klonsky writes here about Illinois’ inequitable flat tax. Black and brown communities have paid $4 billion more than they would have if the state had a progressive income tax.