Archives for the month of: October, 2020

If you live in Michigan and you want to stop the privatization of public school funding, the Network for Public Education Action urges you to support Sarah Schultz for the House of Representatives, District 98.

The Network for Public Education Action is proud to endorse Sarah Schultz for the Michigan state House District 98.

Sarah, who was born and raised in Flint, is married to a public school teacher. Sarah’s children attend public schools. She strongly supports increases in school funding.

Recently she quoted a Network for Public Education study while criticizing the charter sector, which she referred to as a “Wild West model where for-profit charters aren’t held accountable to the standards of public schools.”

She has also noted that her opponent has taken money from the DeVos family. Sarah is against school privatization. 

We urge your support for Sarah Schultz when you vote on November 3.

No candidate authorized this ad. It is paid for by Network for Public Education Action, New York, New York.

Nükhet Varlik, a historian at the University of South Carolina, studies the history of diseases and public health. In this article, she reveals that epidemics and pandemics seldom completely disappear. Only one epidemic–smallpox–has been eradicated. Many others survive.

She writes:

A combination of public health efforts to contain and mitigate the pandemic – from rigorous testing and contact tracing to social distancing and wearing masks – have been proven to help. Given that the virus has spread almost everywhere in the world, though, such measures alone can’t bring the pandemic to an end. All eyes are now turned to vaccine development, which is being pursued at unprecedented speed.

Yet experts tell us that even with a successful vaccine and effective treatment, COVID-19 may never go away. Even if the pandemic is curbed in one part of the world, it will likely continue in other places, causing infections elsewhere. And even if it is no longer an immediate pandemic-level threat, the coronavirus will likely become endemic – meaning slow, sustained transmission will persist. The coronavirus will continue to cause smaller outbreaks, much like seasonal flu.

The history of pandemics is full of such frustrating examples.

Whether bacterial, viral or parasitic, virtually every disease pathogen that has affected people over the last several thousand years is still with us, because it is nearly impossible to fully eradicate them.

The only disease that has been eradicated through vaccination is smallpoxMass vaccination campaigns led by the World Health Organization in the 1960s and 1970s were successful, and in 1980, smallpox was declared the first – and still, the only – human disease to be fully eradicated.

We can all do our part to reduce the danger of COVID-19 by wearing masks and social distancing. When there is a vaccine available, we should take it. It may never be completely eradicated, but we can protect ourselves and our communities by following the practices that scientists have agreed are effective.

A few days ago, I spoke to a statewide group of public education advocates in Texas, brought together by my friends at Pastors for Texas Children.

For some reason, Texas is ground-zero for the charter industry right now. Betsy DeVos has given over $250 million to the IDEA charter chain (the one that wanted to lease a private jet for its executives, and she recently gave $100 million to the State Commissioner Mike Morath to expand charter schools. Morath was in business; he was never an educator. Businessmen like competition; educators know that competition belongs on the sports field and is not a way to improve schools.

I did my due diligence comparing charter schools to public schools in Texas and this is what I found: charter schools have lower test scores than public schools; charter schools have lower graduation rates than public schools; charter school graduates enter college with lower GPAs than public schools; charters have no effect on test scores and a negative effect on earnings after school. All of these articles and studies were published on my blog.

So, why, I wondered are billionaires like John Walton, Tim Dunn, the Waltons, and DeVos expanding this low-performing sector? What smart businessman would continue to pour money into a failing enterprise?

Public schools are better than charter schools by every measure, but they are underfunded. The Legislature cut the school budget by $5.4 billion in 2011 and has still not restored that funding, even though enrollment has grown.

If competition worked, Milwaukee and Detroit would be the best districts in the nation. Milwaukee has had vouchers and charters for more than 20 years. Sadly, all three sectors perform about the same, and Milwaukee is one of the lowest performing districts in the nation.

I asked the Texas audience whether it would make sense to fund two or three different police or fire departments in the same community. Would that improve their performance? Of course not! It would be a duplication and triplication and would be wasteful. I remembered that in the early 19th century, New York City had multiple fire departments. They would race to the scene of the fire, then fight each other for the right to fight the fire while the buildings burned down.

The Pastors for Texas Children turned these thoughts into a delightful article.

Public schools are a public service. They should be properly funded because they are creating the future. The teachers of Texas and every other state are developing their future leaders and citizens. They are heroes and should be respected and professionally compensated.

Bill Phillis, founder of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Advocacy, is a retired state superintendent in the state. He has focused like a laser on the importance of funding public education equitably and adequately. He writes here about the staggering cost of privatizing public money to pay for charters, virtual charters, and vouchers. This is money deducted from the public schools, which outperform both charters and vouchers and the failing virtual charter industry.

He writes:




The direct state subsidies to private schools and school choice programs will cost taxpayers $751,894,805 in FY 21 and FY 22; additionally, $2,352, 881,306 will be deducted from school districts for vouchers and charters





The total direct state budget appropriations in HB 166 for private school subsidies, charter and voucher programs in FY 21 and FY 22 are $751,894,805. $344,027,972 of the appropriations is in the General Revenue section of the budget and the rest is in non-General Revenue sections. This $751,894,805 is in addition to $2,352,881,306 that will be deducted from school districts, assuming that about the same amount is deducted in FY 22 as in FY 21.


Therefore the grand total of taxpayer revenue for private schools and school choice programs in FY 21 and FY 22 will be $3,104,776,111. The cost of transportation that is incurred by school districts for school choice programs is in addition.


The FY 21 and FY 22 direct state appropriation line items in HB 166 for private school subsidies, and voucher and charter school programs are listed here.


**flows through districts from a direct state subsidy
The direct state subsidies to private schools and school choice programs will cost taxpayers $751,894,805 in FY 21 and FY 22; additionally, $2,352, 881,306 will be deducted from school districts for vouchers and charters

The total direct state budget appropriations in HB 166 for private school subsidies, charter and voucher programs in FY 21 and FY 22 are $751,894,805. $344,027,972 of the appropriations is in the General Revenue section of the budget and the rest is in non-General Revenue sections. This $751,894,805 is in addition to $2,352,881,306 that will be deducted from school districts, assuming that about the same amount is deducted in FY 22 as in FY 21.

Therefore the grand total of taxpayer revenue for private schools and school choice programs in FY 21 and FY 22 will be $3,104,776,111. The cost of transportation that is incurred by school districts for school choice programs is in addition.

The FY 21 and FY 22 direct state appropriation line items in HB 166 for private school subsidies, and voucher and charter school programs are listed here.

**flows through districts from a direct state subsidy

Derek Black, Jack Schneider, and Jennifer Berkshire wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer that the future of public education is on the ballot on November 3 (for the record, I got a credit for doing some minor editing).

Should Trump be re-elected, you can count on him and Betsy DeVos to continue their brazen assault on public schools and to continue their demand to transfer public funds to private and religious schools as well as to pour hundreds of millions of federal dollars into charter school expansion. Draining public dollars away from public school has been Betsy DeVos’s life work and she would have four more years to staff the U.S. Department of Education with likeminded ideologues who hate public schools.

The authors write:

When Trump selected Betsy DeVos as secretary of education, many took it as a sign that he wasn’t serious. After all, DeVos seemed to know little about public schools. But that was a product of her extremism. Over the last four years, she has been crystal clear that her primary interest in the public education system lies in dismantling it. For evidence, look no further than her proposed Education Freedom Scholarships plan, which would redirect $5 billion in taxpayer dollars to private schools.

Unmaking public education is a long-standing goal of libertarians and the religious right. Conservative economist Milton Friedman conceived of private school vouchers in 1955, and four decades later was still making the case for “a transition from a government to a market system.” As they see it, public education is a tax burden on the wealthy, an obstacle to religious instruction, and a hotbed for unionism. Rather than a public system controlled by democratic values, they’d prefer a private one governed by the free market. If they had their way, schools would operate like a welfare program for the poor while the rich would get the best education money could buy. The result would be entrenched inequality and even more concentrated segregation than now exists.

This extreme view has never caught on, largely because public education is a bedrock American institution. Many states created public education systems before the nation even existed. Massachusetts, for instance, was educating children in public schools long before tea was dumped in Boston Harbor. In 1787, the federal government explicitly mandated that the center plot of land in every new town in the territories — land that would become states like Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois — be reserved for schools, and that other plots be used to support those schools. After the Civil War, Congress doubled down on that commitment, requiring readmitted Confederate states, and all new states, to guarantee access to public education in their constitutions. In each of these foundational periods, leaders positioned public education at the very center of our democratic project.

The founders and their successors recognized that public education is essential to citizens’ ability to govern themselves, not to mention protect themselves from charlatans and demagogues. Public education is the surest guarantee of individual liberty, the founders understood — no less essential than a well-trained army to the survival of the nation. That’s why they recognized that the education of American citizens couldn’t be left to chance...

We are here to sound an alarm to Republicans and Democrats. The future of our nation’s public schools is at stake. And insofar as that is the case, the democracy envisioned by our founders — one with universal, tax-supported schooling at its core — hangs in the balance.

The Network for Public Education Action is proud to endorse Melissa Romano in her campaign to become Superintendent of Public Instruction in Montana.

Romano, a 16-year career elementary math teacher and the 2018 Montana Teacher of the Year, has been recognized as a leader in her field. 

This is Romano’s second race against opponent Elsie Arntzen. In 2016 Romano lost the election by a narrow 3% margin. Arntzen, a voucher supporter, was a state legislator prior to becoming State Superintendent. As a legislator she voted consistently for school choice legislation, and as Superintendent has continued to support school choice initiatives.

The Billings Gazette recently reported that school choice is a “line in the sand” for Romano. She has been endorsed by three prior State Superintendents who served from 1989-2017. In their endorsement of Romano, they accuse Arntzen of “attending private school rallies, applauding budget proposals that would cut millions from Montana’s public schools, mismanaging her office, and illegally diverting aid to private and for-profit schools.”

Romano is a strong supporter of a robust public preschool program, but opposed state funds flowing to private preschools.

Please be sure to cast your ballot for this career educator and public school supporter on November 3rd.

You can post this endorsement using this link.

No candidate authorized this ad. It is paid for by Network for Public Education Action, New York, New York.

The charter industry and the billionaires want to replace Scott Schmerelson with a charter employee. They want to buy control of the LAUSD school board.

Don’t let them! Stand with Scott, a veteran educator and a champion of public schools.

Tell the billionaires that the public schools of Los Angeles are not for sale!

During the last Trump-Biden debate, the moderator asked about the children separated from their parents. Trump said they were brought across the border by “coyotes,” and that they had never experienced such clean and pleasant surroundings. Biden expressed great remorse for the children who were wrenched from the arms of their parents (not “coyotes”) and left alone.

In my view, this cruel policy of separating parents from their children at the border should be prosecuted as a crime against humanity. International courts should press charges against Trump, Pence, Sessions, and anyone else who was responsible. The parents were deported, and the children were locked up, some of them in cages. Some of them were infants. Contrary to Trump’s claim in the debate, the Obama administration deported families; it did not separate the children from their parents and keep the children while the parents were deported.

The purpose of Trump’s inhumane policy was to discourage immigration by frightening them. The children were separated 2-3 years ago; private groups have been searching for their parents. The Trump administration has stood in their way and claims the parents don’t want the children they lost by force.

Now we know that 545 children are stranded here, and no one knows who or where their parents are. Some of these children are babies who do not know their names. Biden said it: this was “criminal.” Biden was right. The criminals should be prosecuted.


Dana Milbank is a regular writer for the Washington Post. He writes in this column about Mitch McConnell’s hypocrisy.

The Trump administration and House Democratic leaders are in striking range of a deal to send $1,200 stimulus checks to American families and to pump $2 trillion into the flagging economy.

But Rich Mitch is having none of it.

As The Post reported, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) — anti-Trump Republicans have taken to calling him “Rich Mitch” because of his $34 million net worth — told Republican colleagues Tuesday that he had warned the White House not to strike an agreement with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on a coronavirus relief package before the Nov. 3 election.

Who cares if tens of millions of Americans are in increasingly desperate straits? Even if negotiators reach agreement despite McConnell’s sabotage, he refused to commit to voting on it before the election.

Then, on Wednesday, McConnell had the chutzpah to stand on the Senate floor and claim he was looking out for the little guy. “Maybe coastal elites who can practically find a million dollars in their couch cushions are indifferent about whether we get an outcome here,” he said, alleging that “blue-state billionaires” are Democrats’ top priority — not “working families like the Kentuckians I represent.

Yet McConnell claims he’s fighting elites to “get an outcome” for working families. What outcome? Bankruptcy?

It’s a timely reminder, a dozen days before Election Day, that removing President Trump won’t repair dysfunction in Washington as long as McConnell remains in charge of the Senate.

Anya Kamenetz, education reporter for NPR, writes here about research findings that suggest the risk of reopening schools during the pandemic have been exaggerated.

Of course, there is good reason to be concerned because the U.S. Congress has not passed the funding needed by schools for safe reopening. Congress has bailed out major corporations, but allotted only $13.2 billion for the nation’s nearly 100,000 schools and more than 50 million students. Public schools were not allowed to request money from the $660 Billion Paycheck Protection Program, but charter schools, private schools, and religious schools were eligible to request PPP funding, and some received millions of dollars.

Kamenetz begins:

Despite widespread concerns, two new international studies show no consistent relationship between in-person K-12 schooling and the spread of the coronavirus. And a third study from the United States shows no elevated risk to childcare workers who stayed on the job.

Combined with anecdotal reports from a number of U.S. states where schools are open, as well as a crowdsourced dashboard of around 2,000 U.S. schools, some medical experts are saying it’s time to shift the discussion from the risks of opening K-12 schools to the risks of keeping them closed.

“As a pediatrician, I am really seeing the negative impacts of these school closures on children,” Dr. Danielle Dooley, a medical director at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., told NPR. She ticked off mental health problems, hunger, obesity due to inactivity, missing routine medical care and the risk of child abuse — on top of the loss of education. “Going to school is really vital for children. They get their meals in school, their physical activity, their health care, their education, of course.”

While agreeing that emerging data is encouraging, other experts said the United States as a whole has made little progress toward practices that would allow schools to make reopening safer — from rapid and regular testing, to contact tracing to identify the source of outbreaks, to reporting school-associated cases publicly, regularly and consistently.

“We are driving with the headlights off, and we’ve got kids in the car,” said Melinda Buntin, chair of the Department of Health Policy at Vanderbilt School of Medicine, who has argued for reopening schools with precautions.