Archives for the month of: October, 2021

Bill Phillis is a retired state deputy commissioner of education who is dedicated to the preservation and improvement of public schools in Ohio. He has dedicated his retirement years to publicizing the harm that vouchers and charters do to public schools. He founded the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy. The Ohio State Constitution guarantees a uniform system of public schools, a commitment that the Republicans who control the state have repeatedly violated with impunity.

The latest gambit from the Republican privatizers called “the backpack bill,” symbolizing the idea that each child has a “backpack full of cash” to spend in any way their family chooses. They really need to see the wonderful documentary “Backpack Full of Cash.” You can rent the documentary and show it in your community.

Phillis writes:


The HB290 crusaders have produced and sent a fundraising mailer signed by one Aaron Baer to an undisclosed list of folks. The seven-page letter warns recipients that public schools are indoctrinating our children into radical anti-Christian ideology, “Critical Race Theory, and trans advocacy”. “They are being trained to hate America”, the letter says. They evidently combed through the classrooms of Ohio and found 4 students whose teachers were doing something that hinted at support for CRT or other controversial issues. They didn’t mention the 100,000 plus public school educators that are working selflessly to grow upstanding citizens.
The author of the letter makes such revealing statements as:

  • “…many of Ohio’s public schools have been failing our students for more than a generation.”
  • “…I initiated the Backpack Bill (HB290)…” (A couple legislators who sponsored the bill indicate they initiated the bill.)
  • “…The Backpack Bill ensures every Ohio student can have access to high quality education…”
  • The P.S. to the letter includes the statement, “Ohio students are trapped in failing public schools…”

The Backpack voucher campaigners are perpetuating the myth of the “failing public school monopoly” as a key plank in their campaign platform.

Public school advocates, who believe HB290 is too extreme to pass, need to wake up.

Follow the link to read the 8 Lies About Private School Vouchers

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Photo Credit: Jeanne Melvin

The No Child Left Behind Act Has Put The Nation At RiskVouchers Hurt Ohio

William L. Phillis | Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding | 614.228.6540 || http://ohiocoalition.orgSign up for our newsletter!

Alexandra Petri writes humorous articles for the Washington Post. She wrote this column in response to a furor in the governor’s race in Virginia. Democratic candidate Terry MacAuliffe asserted that parents should not tell teachers what to teach, and Republicans are outraged by his statement. They say that parents should have that power. Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin released a commercial featuring an angry mother complaining that her son in an AP class was required to read Beloved by Nobel Prize-winner Toni Morrison.

Petri writes:

Hello, everyone! We’re going to have a great year! Some minor, barely noticeable adjustments to the curriculum have taken place since Glenn Youngkin took office. This is a college-level class in which we’re supposed to be tackling challenging material. But you may remember the Glenn Youngkin commercial starring the mother who was trying to stop “Beloved” from being taught in her senior son’s AP English class on the grounds that he thought it was “disgusting and gross” and “gave up on it.” Anyway, he supported that kind of parental control over the curriculum, so we’ve had to tweak just a couple of things!

Below please find our reading list new and improved reading list after being forced to bend to every concern from a parent:

“The Odyssey” mutilation and abuse of alcohol, blood drinking

Brideshead Revisited” not sure what’s going on with that teddy bear; house named after something that should be saved for marriage

“The Handmaid’s Tale” everything about book was fine except its classification as ‘dystopia’

“The Catcher in the Rye” anti-Ronald Reagan somehow though we’re not sure how

“The Importance of Being Earnest” includes a disturbing scene where a baby is abandoned in a train station in a handbag and the people in the play regard this as the subject of mirth

“Candide” buttock cannibalism

“Don Quixote” makes fun of somebody for attacking a wind-or-solar-based energy source

“Great Expectations” convict presented sympathetically

“Les Miserables” see above

“King Lear” violence and it’s suggested that there are scenarios where parents actually do not know best

“The Sun Also Rises” offensive to flat-Earthers

“Death of a Salesman” features a White man to whom attention is not paid

Okay, well, I’m sure there are still some books we can agree on even if they aren’t at the college level! We can probably extricate meaning from these.

“Charlotte’s Web” valorizes someone who uses her hindquarters to communicate

“Matilda” suggests that the tyranny of school administrators can create a stultifying environment for their children

“Harold and the Purple Crayon” contains The Color Purple which we have been told is badStory continues below advertisementnull

“Clifford the Big Red Dog” communist???

“The Snowy Day” several concerns, most to do with CRT

“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” this gave my son a nightmare

Nope, sorry, we aren’t reading anymore. A parent complained that the books on the reading list transported them to different times and places against their will and forced them to imagine the lives of people different than themselves. This is like kidnapping and probably also brainwashing, and we can’t possibly read any texts that do this.

We’re looking forward to engaging with complex, challenging texts that will teach us to read critically, write compellingly and look at the world with new eyes sitting here staring at the wall thinking about what it might have been like to read books all semester long!

Check the candidates’ bona fides carefully.

Don’t be fooled!

People in the North Carolina Chapel Hill Carrboro School District should vote for these three pro-public school candidates in this order:

1. Riza Jenkins

2. George Griffin

3. Mike Sharp

This is very important. Read why here.

New Hampshire’s state motto is ”Live Free or Die.” For reasons explained in this article, New Hampshire became a magnet for libertarians whose goal was to abolish government. Last year, The New Republic published a delightful article by Patrick Blanchfield about Grafton, New Hampshire, a town that went libertarian and was soon overrun by a hungry and bold bear population. Certain conveniences are sacrificed in a town, and now a state, where the highest ideal for large numbers of people is the lowest possible taxes.

While Grafton strived to be a Free Town, free of regulations, with low taxes, and a limited government. other libertarians had a bigger dream: to turn NewHampshire into a Free State. The article cited here describes this project and attributes it to a young academic named Jason Sorens. His idea was that a relatively small number of libertarian activists could move to a small state, take over its government, and implement their ideas. it has happened in New Hampshire. The libertarians now control the Republican Party, which controls the state.

In 2003, libertarians formed the NH Liberty Alliance, which rates legislators based on their adherence to libertarian principles.

The Liberty Alliance has since shed its nonpartisan guise to become the dominant bloc within the House Republican caucus. This year, the alliance gave 150 representatives “A“ grades and another 45 received a “B” for voting as recommended on between 87 and 100 percent of 49 tracked bills. All were Republicans.

In fact, among House Republicans, only eight received the lowest score. In other words, 195 members of the caucus, which numbered 213 when the session began and 211 when it ended, aligned themselves closely with the alliance. The “nonpartisan” alliance has placed itself at the forefront of the partisan contest.

Meanwhile, of the 177 Democrats, 18 were given a “D” grade and 24 received an “F,” while the other 135 were graded “CT,” or “constitutional threat,” and “considered unfaithful to their oath of office to uphold the New Hampshire Constitution and the principle of liberty.”

Candidates endorsed by the Liberty Alliance have received financial support from national political committees — Make Liberty Win and Americans for Prosperity — which together spent some $1.4 million on New Hampshire legislative races in 2020.

Americans for Prosperity is the name of the Koch network.

“The liberty movement has made a lot of progress,” Sorens said, highlighting the reduction in both business and property taxes, repeal of the interest and dividends tax and introduction of an expansive school choice program in the last legislative session. He also pointed to legislation repealing the certificate of need process, granting the right to carry a firearm without a license, deregulating home-schooling, reforming civil asset forfeiture, restricting eminent domain, decriminalizing marijuana possession, allowing medicinal marijuana and easing regulation of micro- and nanobreweries.

Organized parent groups in Illinois are suing school boards, the state board of education and the Governor to remove mask mandates and other safety measures from the schools. They want their children to be unprotected from the coronavirus. They don’t want the pandemic to end. This is the latest from Illinois Families for Public Schools. The overwhelming majority of lawsuits against public health mandates have been turned down by the courts. Let’s hope this one loses too.

Action alert: Sign this petition to oppose lifting the mask mandate and other covid safety measures in IL schools!

Last week, a lawsuit was filed against 145 school districts including Chicago Public Schools, Governor Pritzker and ISBE by groups of parents at these districts to lift the mask mandate and other covid safety measures in the schools. Each group of parents gave Attorney Tom Devore $5000 totalling $725K donated to make our schools and communities unsafe. 

Parents in Algonquin launched a petition to say these parents do not represent them and they do not want the mask mandate and other safety measures lifted at their schools. They got over 1200 signatures over the weekend and are asking for support in signing and sharing with other parents and community members who want schools to remain safe. 

Sign and share this petition

Please sign and share this petition with other parents and community members who actually want this pandemic to end. Over 6.2 million children have tested positive for covid since the pandemic started and 1.1 million just in the first six-weeks of this school year. 

As much as we’d like this pandemic to be over, it’s simply not, and no amount of covid-denying magical thinking will change that. The vaccine will be available for school-aged children 5-11 very soon, so let’s keep our schools open safely now.

Here’s another recent relevant article on the topic of school board culture wars happening around the country: 

WBEZ: What it’s like to be on the front lines of the school board culture war

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court refused to overturn a vaccine mandate in Maine that does not allow religious exemptions.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch voted in the minority, contending that Maine’s failure to offer a religious exemption was based on religious bias.

In two previous cases, from anti-vaxxers at Indiana University and public school teachers in New York, the Supreme Court also upheld vaccine mandates. This suggests that the high court recognizes that public health in a global pandemic requires a strong governmental response to stop the spread of the disease and protect the public.

It also appears that lawsuits filed by police unions, firefighters’ unions, and other government employees are unlikely to succeed.

All of this is very good news for the vast majority of the public, which has been vaccinated and frankly doesn’t understand resistance to vaccine mandates.

A regular commenter on the blog, known as Chiara, reports the composition of West Virginia’s new board for authorizing charter schools. The legislature endorsed new charter schools in a state that has never had them. Several of them will be for-profits. Two will be virtual charters. There are three other entities that can authorize the privately run schools that are publicly funded.

Chiara wrote:

Here’s the oversight of West Virginia’s new charter sector: “Appointees are: former Greater Beckley Christian School head boys basketball coach Brian Helton; John Waltz, the vice president for enrollment management at West Virginia Wesleyan College Upshur County; Dewayne Duncan, a real estate developer in Kanawha County and former Republican candidate for Kanawha County Commission; Karen Bailey-Chapman, owner of public relations firm KB Advocacy in Jefferson County and a board member of the libertarian Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy; and Adam Kissel, a senior fellow at the Cardinal Institute. Kissel, a former deputy assistant secretary for higher education programs at the U.S. Department of Education for 16 months under former president Donald Trump, said he was excited to get to work on the new board.” Not a single person from a public school, nor anyone who supports public schools. Rigorously screened – only true believer ideological ed reformers are hired. These are the governance systems national ed reformers design and lobby for, so this must be how they envision the privatized systems they’re creating. Packed with fellow ed reform echo chambers, no dissent or different views permitted, and deliberate exclusion of anyone who comes out of a public school.

Naftuli Moster is the Founder and Executive Director of YAFFED, a nonprofit organization focused on improving secular education in ultra-Orthodox yeshivas. He is a graduate of a New York yeshiva, and he became convinced after he finished that he had been denied a full education. He blames officials in New York City and New York State for ignoring the needs of Yeshiva students to avoid offending politically powerful orthodox Jewish communities.

Moster writes:

Students in many ultra-Orthodox yeshivas face educational neglect. NYSED must stop the delays.

It may sound shocking in this day and age, but many ultra-Orthodox schools in New York are actively violating state law by providing little to no secular instruction in topics like English, math, science, and history—and New York officials have stalled and stymied action to address this educational neglect at every turn.

What started as an allegation by a small group of grassroots activists has since been confirmed by the New York City Department of Education, which found that 26 of the 28 yeshivas they investigated did not meet the minimum standards. Hasidic boys in elementary and middle school receive a maximum of 90 minutes of secular education a day, and in high school they receive none whatsoever. (Girls in these same communities tend to receive more secular education because they are barred from studying Talmud and because they are groomed to be the breadwinner, so their husbands can continue studying Torah.)

After years of considering a proposal to increase oversight of New York’s nonpublic schools—the first real chance at reform since this issue came to the fore in 2015 —the New York State Education Department (NYSED) balked. In May 2021, after intense pressure from private school entities, NYSED quietly disclosed to the Board of Regents that they would be scrapping proposed regulations, which had been under consideration since 2019 and would have increased oversight of the state’s nonpublic schools, ensuring that they provide students with a basic education. New regulations are supposed to be developed this fall, but since they were not discussed in the October Board of Regents monthly meeting, the timeline seems to be delayed once again.

This development is unacceptable. Since the alarm was first sounded about the lack of secular studies in Hasidic yeshivas, leaders of these same schools have taken every opportunity they can to smear advocates and spread misinformation about what really goes on in their institutions. Their tactics have contributed to the years of stalling of any meaningful reforms, leaving students to suffer the consequences of no real secular education, and limited college and career prospects.

And, this student population is on the rise. Our report shows how the Hasidic population only continues to grow, and with that, so does the impact of this issue. Hasidic students already make up 20.5 percent of the nonpublic school students in New York, with over 90,000 students enrolled in Hasidic schools in 2018-2019. In Brooklyn, it is projected that by 2030, 23 to 37 percent of all school-age children will be Hasidic.

This means that each passing year, more students will miss out on a basic education. Many finish their schooling with about the equivalent of a third or fourth-grade education and never learn even basic sciences or history. Where is the equity in that?

Of course, NYSED should follow through and develop meaningful regulations that would enforce subject matter requirements and time allotment standards. But NYSED cannot act as if, in the absence of new regulations, they are powerless to enforce any kind of educational standards. There are long-standing regulations about how to deal with complaints against nonpublic schools in New York. NYSED must use its existing authority to ensure that children attending ultra-Orthodox yeshivas are getting the education to which they are entitled under the New York State Constitution. A new school year is already underway, and there is no time to waste.

It is shameful that NYSED is failing to live up to its self-proclaimed vision to “provide leadership for a system that yields the best educated people in the world” out of fear they might upset private school leadership. The students themselves—the very people that NYSED is supposed to support—are bearing the brunt of this crisis. NYSED must step up to do the job they are entrusted to do, and that taxpayers pay them to do.

Betty Rosa, Commissioner of NYSED, has an opportunity to be a real leader here and ensure strong regulations are adopted. And, while policies are being crafted and revised, she must use NYSED’s existing authority to take any corrective actions necessary against schools that are failing their students. She can leave an indelible mark on New York State education policy, finally putting an end to the injustice ultra-Orthodox students have faced for generations.

After months of negotiations among Democrats over the fate of President Biden’s historic $3.5 trillion proposal, a compromise seems to have been reached (although nothing is certain). At the insistence of Democratic Senators Manchin and Sinema, the size of the ambitious plan has been cut in half. Many of its parts were cut away, including two years of free community college and 12 weeks of paid family leave for medical reasons (the U.S. is the only major nation that doesn’t provide it). Three Democratic members of the House killed the provision to lower prescription drugs. And of course the Republicans opposed everything.

This is how Harold Meyerson of The American Prospect described it.

World’s Biggest Half-Full, Half-Empty Glass

Biden’s bill is historically great and bitterly disappointing.

Well—had we not anticipated, had it never seemed, that the Democrats, having won control of Congress and the White House, would proceed to enact paid family leave, expansions of Medicare, a permanent Child Tax Credit, disincentives to fossil fuel use, the ability to negotiate down drug prices, and such—had we not counted on that, then today would be a day of unmitigated celebration. Instead, celebration of the groundbreaking social provisions that actually are in the bill President Biden outlined today—universal pre-K, child care subsidies, incentives for clean energy, commonsense tax reforms that will compel corporations to pay some taxes, and the like—has to be mitigated by the fate of the even more commonsense provisions that now lie on the cutting-room floor.

For me, the most absurd relegation to that floor has been killing the proposal to give Medicare the ability to bring down drug prices. Seldom is a serious change to social and economic policy backed by more than three-fourths of the public, but this one surely was. Reportedly, President Biden has persuaded Kyrsten Sinema to accept a deal so preposterously weak—one that enables Medicare to negotiate down the price of drugs whose patents have expired (that is, after the big drug companies have wrung out the lion’s share of profits on those drugs, and which simply incentivizes those companies to extend their patents)—that few Democrats on the Hill seem inclined to vote for it. (Its merits are so nonexistent that the provision was omitted from Biden’s bill.)

By opposing giving Medicare the capacity to stop Big Pharma from charging Americans vastly more for their medications than they charge the citizens of any other nation, Sinema and three House Democrats effectively killed the one provision of the proposed $3.5 trillion package that would have most reduced the cost of living, significantly slowed the pace of inflation, and quite possibly moved more swing votes into the Democrats’ column than any other.

Leading the resistance to this measure in the House was Scott Peters, the California Democrat whose North San Diego County district includes many of the biotech companies that reap fortunes from high drug prices. While Sinema and the two other House Democrats who joined with Peters can likely be successfully primaried, the economy of Peters’s district is so dependent on high drug prices that he might well survive such a challenge…

One provision of the PRO Act—which, taken as a whole, would have been a new Magna Carta for American workers—has made it into Biden’s bill. The provision requires employers to pay fines ranging from $50,000 to $100,000 when they commit unfair labor practices, such as firing employees for their pro-union activities. Under current law, there are effectively no penalties assessed on employers when they’re found guilty of such practices. By excluding the more fundamental provisions of the PRO Act from Biden’s bill, chiefly because they don’t fit under rules of reconciliation, the employer-employee playing field remains steeply tilted toward employers, but if these fines pass muster with the Senate parliamentarian (an open question), they do reduce that tilt by a decidedly modest margin.

As befits a half-empty, if also half-full, glass.


On October 27, the New York City Council Committee on Education held a hearing on a bill to reduce class size. The chairman of the committee is Mark Treyger, a former teacher. The city’s Department of Education opposes the bill, based on the strain on facilities (there is never a problem finding space for a new charter school).

I testified in favor of class size reduction, along with Regent Kathy Cashin (a former teacher, principal, and superintendent), as well as a number of parent advocates and Leonie Haimson, CEO of Class Size Matters.

Here is my statement, tailored to fit a 2-minute time limit.

I should have added this additional point.

Some people have said to me, “When I was in school, we had 40 or 50 kids in a class. Why do kids today need classes any smaller.?”

Answer: In those old days, schools operated on the principle of sink or swim. Those who couldn’t keep up either flunked or dropped out. Now we expect all students to finish high school. That can’t happen if class sizes are so large that children who struggle are overlooked.”