Archives for the month of: January, 2023

Governor Ron DeSantis hates the fact that there is a progressive public college called New College that openly teaches diversity, equity, inclusion, feminist studies, ethnic studies, and gay studies. That’s WOKE, and he vowed to crush anything WOKE.

He named 6 conservatives to the 13-member board, and the board of the state university system added another, meaning that Rightwingers are in charge. A hard-right board needs a hard-right president, and they got one.

Their first meeting was this afternoon, and they are expected to appoint former State Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran as the new president. From the following story, it appears that no one bothered to let the current president of the New College know that she was being shown the door.

DeSantis is showing how to stamp out ideas he doesn’t like, with power, not subtlety. Is he a fascist or is he pretending?

A new board of trustees at New College of Florida intends to name Richard Corcoran as its next President.

Corcoran, a former House Speaker, served as Gov. Ron DeSantis’ first Education Commissioner.

Carlos Trujillo, president and founder of Continental Strategy, revealed the plans in a letter to clients and colleges.

“We are beyond excited to announce that one of our Partners, former Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, will be returning to higher education to serve as the Interim — and hopeful permanent — President of the New College of Florida, in Sarasota,” Trujillo wrote.

“This move comes as part of Gov. DeSantis ongoing work to refocus the university on providing the most value to its students and their parents.”

Corcoran was a founding partner for the consulting firm.

The news comes hours before the first board meeting since DeSantis appointed six new trustees on the 13-member board. The State University System Board of Governors also appointed a new trustee with a similar conservative think tank background.

Of note, work of Corcoran’s apparent hire comes before any news of current President Patricia Okker’s future with the school. Eddie Speir, co-founder of Inspiration Academy, wrote a blog post this weekend promising to call for Okker to be renamed as interim President and to terminate all faculty and staff before deciding who still fit in the new vision for the college.

While Florida’s Sunshine Law requires all decisions by the board to be made in publicly noticed meetings, Trujillo treats the matter like a done deal.

“The selection of Richard distinguishes our firm as a leader in innovation and strategic solutions for the clients we serve. We look forward to finding new synergies that can better serve our current clients and ensure their goals are made a reality,” his letter reads.

The Miami Herald reported today on Governor DeSantis’ plans to cleanse higher education in the state. Conservatives are creating “civics” institutes as a vehicle for patriotic indoctrination, not as a means to think critically about how to improve democracy. Censorship, which DeSantis practices, would be condemned in any genuine civics class.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday announced a package of major reforms to Florida’s higher education system, including tighter controls on faculty tenure, the establishment of “civics institutes” at three universities and prohibitions on diversity, equity and inclusion programs.

Speaking at a news conference in Bradenton, the governor unveiled a plan that would allow university boards of trustees and presidents to conduct reviews of tenured faculty members “at any time,” in addition to the periodic reviews that now take place. Regarding university presidents in particular, he proposes “reestablishing their authority over the hiring process.”

Currently, according to a flier distributed by the governor’s staff, “faculty committees can tie the hands of university presidents and bind them to only consider a small pool of recommended candidates.”

And under a heading in the flier that reads “Education not indoctrination,” he proposes changes in standards and course content “to ensure higher education is rooted in the values of liberty and western tradition.” His plan would require schools to “prioritize graduating students with degrees that lead to high-wage jobs, not degrees designed to further a political agenda.”

The proposal also would prohibit state schools from “supporting campus activities or programs that promote divisive concepts like DEI and CRT.” The letters refer to diversity, equity and inclusion programs and critical race theory.

In addition, he proposes establishing “world-class civics institutes” at the University of Florida, Florida International University and Florida State University. The institutes, according to the flier, would develop courses and curricula “that can be used to educate the next generation on the values of liberty and constitutionalism.”

The flier included information on the governor’s higher education budget proposals as well. He proposes $100 million for “recruitment and retention of highly qualified faculty at state universities” and $15 million for faculty and student recruitment at New College of Florida, where he recently appointed six conservative members to the board of trustees.

The New College board meets Tuesday for the first time since the appointments.

Read more at: https://www.miamiherald.com/article271870522.html#storylink=cpy

Republicans in Texas are obsessed with voter fraud. Trump won the state in 2020, as did the Republican Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and other statewide offices. Apparently Republican legislators think it’s suspicious that Democratic candidates won any votes at all. So they are launching a fusillade of bills to make it harder to vote.

Michael Hardy of The Texas Monthly reports:

For decades, Texas has maintained one of the worst voter-turnout rates in the country. Less than 61 percent of eligible Texans voted in the 2020 presidential election, placing us forty-third out of fifty states. (In Minnesota, the highest-turnout state, nearly 80 percent of eligible voters participated.) In November, 42.5 percent of eligible Texans cast ballots in the midterm election, placing us thirty-ninth in the nation. Embarrassed by these dismal figures, Texas political leaders will spend the Eighty-eighth Legislature passing laws to encourage more participation in the democratic process.

Just kidding! Instead of removing obstacles to voting, Republican legislators are introducing a slew of new bills that could disrupt elections and further depress turnout. GOP lawmakers say the bills are designed to prevent fraud and ensure election integrity. But several of the proposals—such as a bill by Republican representative Bryan Slaton, of Royse City, that would shorten the early-voting period from two weeks to one week—have no obvious rationale other than to make voting less convenient. (Slaton did not respond to an interview request.) Indeed, this and many other bills seem to proceed from the assumption that too many Texans are taking advantage of their constitutional right to select their leaders. Narrowing the franchise has long been a national Republican priority, although politicians are seldom as explicit as former president Donald Trump, who warned that 2020 voting reforms proposed by congressional Democrats would lead to “levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

Trump’s concern was probably unfounded. There’s no consensus among political scientists on whether higher turnout benefits one party over another. Indeed, rising turnout in recent Texas elections has simply led to more Republican victories. The Texas GOP, it would appear, has little to fear from more election participation. But that doesn’t seem to have dampened the party’s enthusiasm for making it harder to vote. On the contrary: fueled by Trump’s false claims of a stolen election, Texas Republicans have become obsessed with the specter of voter fraud. Attorney General Ken Paxton has spent at least $2.2 million on an Ahab-like quest to find incidents of voter fraud. Between January 2020 and September 2022, he opened nearly four hundred investigations into potential election crimes yet secured only five election-related convictions.

In 2021, Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 1, a far-reaching “election integrity and security” package, into law. The measure prohibited 24-hour voting and drive-through voting, pandemic-inspired innovations in Harris County that drove up turnout in 2020. It also imposed confusing new vote-by-mail requirements, including forcing each voter to write the ID number with which they registered to vote—either their driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number—on the ballot. (If they forgot which ID they used to register and picked the wrong one, they were out of luck.) Failure to meet the new requirements led to an unprecedented 12 percent of mail-in ballots being rejected in last year’s primary. (The rejection rate fell for the general election, as Texas voters learned to include both their driver’s license and Social Security numbers.) The bill, Abbott proclaimed in 2021, would “make it easier to vote and harder to cheat.” The same year, Texas secretary of state John Scott launched a “full forensic audit” of the 2020 presidential election in four large Texas counties. The audit, which wrapped up in December 2022, found significant administrative dysfunction in Harris County, but no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Scott, who resigned in December after a little more than a year on the job, has urged “Stop the Steal” activists to accept President Biden’s victory in 2020, blaming their concerns on “a lack of information.”

But as noted philosopher Donald Rumsfeld liked to say, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Just as Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction was an article of faith in the Bush White House, the existence of widespread election fraud has become an article of faith for many in the Texas GOP. To cite just one example, Republican representative Steve Toth, of the Woodlands, author of a bill requiring unique electronic codes for absentee ballots, has accused Democrats of using paper ballots to commit voter fraud and defended MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s crusade to prove that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. At its summer convention, the Texas GOP adopted a platform calling President Joe Biden’s victory illegitimate and urging politicians to focus on “election integrity.” To this end, Republican lawmakers have filed more than a dozen bills designed to root out supposed electoral chicanery. To be sure, Democrats have filed plenty of their own election bills, most of them intended to encourage voter registration and make it easier to cast a ballot. But with Republicans controlling the House, Senate, and Governor’s Mansion, there is little chance of the Democratic bills becoming law. Nor will every Republican-authored bill ultimately pass.

With those caveats out of the way, here’s a preview of the major voting bills filed so far in the Eighty-eighth Legislature.

HB 52 & HB 1243 / SB 166

Authors: Representatives David Spiller (R-Jacksboro) and Cole Hefner (R-Mount Pleasant) / Senator Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola)

Purpose: Increases penalty for voter fraud from a Class A misdemeanor to a felony.

Background: In 2021, Governor Abbott signed SB 1, the controversial voting bill that Democrats attempted to block by fleeing to Washington, D.C. The bill eventually passed, but not before a conference committee added a provision lowering the offense of voting illegally from a second-degree felony to a Class A misdemeanor. Less than a month later, after receiving blowback from fellow Republicans, Abbott called on lawmakers to make voter fraud a felony again. These bills answer his call. Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to a year in jail, while a second-degree felony is punishable by up to twenty years in prison.

HB 125

Author: Representative Bryan Slaton (R-Royse City)

Purpose: Requires district attorneys, under penalty of removal from office, to enforce state election laws.

Background: Republicans have accused the Democratic district attorneys in large cities such as Dallas and Austin of failing to pursue election fraud with sufficient vigor. Attorney General Ken Paxton has sought to prosecute election cases himself, but in September, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that he must receive permission from local prosecutors to pursue such cases.

HB 161

Author: Representative Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands)

Purpose: Requires each absentee ballot to include a unique electronic code to verify its authenticity.

Background: For years, right-wing activists have claimed that voting by mail is uniquely vulnerable to election fraud. Former president Trump urged his supporters to vote in person, and he cast efforts to encourage voting by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic as a way for Democrats to steal the election. This bill appears designed to prevent voters from photocopying absentee ballots—a phenomenon for which there is no evidence.

HB 549 / SB 220

Authors: Representative Valoree Swanson (R-Spring) / Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston)

Purpose: Establishes a cadre of “election marshals”—law enforcement officers appointed by the Secretary of State to investigate election fraud. Calls for regional task forces of judges to adjudicate allegations of election fraud on and before Election Day.

Background: This bill is one of numerous GOP proposals in the current Legislature inspired by Florida governor Ron DeSantis. In this case, the new office of election marshal appears modeled after Florida’s Office of Election Crimes and Security, which has charged 20 Floridians (out of 11 million voters in 2020) with voting illegally since it was established last year. The Texas bill prohibits judges from overseeing election challenges in their own counties, apparently under the assumption that these judges would be biased against the candidates challenging the election.

Open the link and read about more bills that are supposedly necessary to protect “election integrity” but whose actual result will suppress the vote by confusing voters and making the process of voting more complicated than at present.

Libby Stanford of Education Week reports on the sudden explosion of voucher legislation in Republican-controlled states. She quotes a spokesman for the Heritage Foundation, who says that school choice is expanding because of parent dissatisfaction with public schools.

But this acceleration is not a consequence of parental dissatisfaction, as the spokesman claims. It is the result of a well-organized, well-orchestrated, lavishly-funded campaign to defame public schools, led by the religious right and such organizations as the Koch network, the Heritage Foundation, The American Legislative Exchange Council, Betsy DeVos’ American Federation for Children, and the front groups they fund, such as Moms for Liberty and Parents Defending Freedom. ALEC undoubtedly prepared model legislation and handed it out to their far-right allies in state legislatures.

None of these funders or their puppet groups are mentioned in the article. It is no accident that multiple red states are debating bills to enact vouchers for private and religious groups or that 75-80% of the voucher funding in every state will end up in the bank accounts of families whose children never attended public schools. The legislation should be characterized as a handout to families whose children never attended public school.

It doesn’t take much digging to understand that the crusade against “critical race theory” (which is taught in graduate classes in law and education, not in K-12), against any mention of homosexuality, against “dangerous” books in school libraries, against fictional children who need litter boxes in the classroom because they think they are cats or dogs—is absurd propaganda designed to discredit public schools and pave the way for public funding of religious schools, which freely discriminate against students and families and openly indoctrinate their students into their dogma.

Instead of identifying the Heritage Foundation as a major player in the war to destroy public education, Stanford quotes its spokesman, who spouts the line that school choice is the result of parent dissatisfaction. What she does not mention is that voucher supporters maneuver to avoid public referenda because they know the public is opposed to vouchers. Right wingers go to great lengths to avoid the word “vouchers” and to quash referenda, because they are afraid of the voters.

Students and teachers from East High School in Salt Lake City walk out of school to protest the HB15 voucher bill, on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023. Several years of pandemic restrictions and curriculum battles have emboldened longtime advocates of funneling public funds to private and religious schools in statehouses throughout the country.

Students and teachers from East High School in Salt Lake City walk out of school on Jan. 25, 2023, to protest legislation that would create private-school vouchers in the state. Several years of pandemic restrictions and curriculum battles have emboldened longtime advocates of funneling public funds to private and religious schools in statehouses throughout the country.

Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP

Stanford begins:

Emboldened by frustrations with pandemic-era policies and battles over what schools are teaching, conservative parents and politicians have accelerated a push for school choice policies that would funnel public funds into private schools.

Though school choice has been debated for decades, the movement is in a unique moment as advocates use parent concerns over COVID-era mask requirements; curriculum addressing race, gender, and sexuality; and library book content to bolster their argument that families should have more options outside of traditional public schools. And the school choice proposals states are considering—and, in some cases, have already passed—are more sweeping than previous iterations.

Already this year, lawmakers in at least 11 states—Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Virginia—have introduced and, in some cases, passed school choice bills. Although they vary in scope, many of the bills would establish or expand private school voucher and education savings account programs that give families public funds to pay for tuition at private schools, cover the costs of homeschooling, or pay for other schooling expenses.

The resurgence of school choice action shouldn’t come as a surprise. During the 2022 midterm election cycle, 19 Republican gubernatorial candidates advocated for school choice, mostly in the form of vouchers and education savings accounts, on campaign websites. This year, seven governors so far have talked about school choice policies in their state of the state addresses, according to the Education Commission of the States.

The policies are a result of parents’ declining satisfaction with schools following the pandemic, said Jonathan Butcher, an education policy analyst for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that advocates for school choice policies.

John Thompson, a retired teacher and historian in Oklahoma, has written frequently about events in his state for this blog. Here, he describes the political coercion that determined right-wingers are promoting in Oklahoma and calling it “choice.” From his description, some Republican legislators are worried about “liberal indoctrination,” transgender students using the “wrong” bathroom, litter boxes for children who think they are cats (this seems to be a QAnon idea), and the danger of “social-emotional learning.” Apparently students in Oklahoma have no social or emotional issues.

Ryan Walters, Oklahoma’s newly elected, extreme rightwing Secretary of Education, first says that “the state should have the ‘most comprehensive school choice in the country.’” Secondly, Walters pushes the rightwing Michigan-based Hillsdale College curriculum; he doesn’t want to allow schools to choose to retain research-based curriculums that he identifies as “liberal indoctrination.” As Clark Frailey, executive director of Pastors for Oklahoma Kids, says, Walters seems to be pushing for “Christian Dominionism,” which is “based on the philosophy that Christianity is at the core of America’s foundation and all institutions need to align with that viewpoint. If people won’t convert, then a government religion must be forced upon them.”

Two voucher programs for private schools and homeschools have been filed. The most interesting one is Sen. Shane Jett’s Oklahoma Parent Empowerment Act for Kids (PEAK). Even extremely conservative Republicans legislators worry that vouchers would undermine the finances of their rural schools. Jett seems to be offering a carrot and a stick to those vulnerable constituencies. He would impose vouchers only in counties with a population of more than 10,000 people. But, vouchers would be offered in counties with fewer than 10,000 residents if they are served by a “trigger district.”

The Oklahoman then reports:

Jett defined a “trigger district” as a public school system that allows or tolerates House Bill 1775 violations, use of school bathrooms according to gender identity, anthropomorphic behavior known as “furries,” disparagement of the oil and gas industry, lesson plans promoting social-emotional learning and animal rights activism, among other topics.

In other words, the bill would coerce schools into “choosing” to comply with the entire extremist agenda. But that begs the question about how educators would choose to deal with today’s threats to public education. Republican Sen. Adam Pugh’s newly revealed plan for school improvement was based on meetings with 200 public school superintendents; every college president in Oklahoma; and “hundreds, if not thousands” teachers and parents and advocacy groups.  Based on these listening sessions, Pugh did not propose vouchers.

Pugh’s plan would raise teacher pay so the minimum starting salary was $40,000, “with graduated raises to the minimum salary schedule based on longevity.” The estimated cost would be $241 million, which is less than the cost of Sen. Julie Daniels’ voucher bill ($275 million). They would  also create an “Oklahoma Teacher Corps” and a teacher mentoring system;  provide certain teachers at least 12 weeks of maternity leave; update the school funding formula, and pass Pugh’s seven other constructive reforms. 

As Pugh explained, “I hope this plan will demonstrate to teachers that we’re serious about the work that you do, and we appreciate how you pour your heart and your soul into educating kids, as we need you to stay in the classroom, and we need more of you.”

But, the Stillwater News Press offers an equally important response:

While that offers us a bit of a sigh of relief, Oklahomans should be aware that the push [to] move taxpayer money into private schools isn’t going anywhere. It’s a well-funded campaign and the state’s administrators and board members have been handpicked to make that a top priority.

I’m afraid I agree with the Stillwater News. Pugh’s bills raise hope. But Oklahoma Republicans will continue to coerce schools into compliance with their extremist privatization and Christian Dominionism ideologies – and call it “choice.”

On the other hand, more Republicans sound like they are getting fed up by Walters and his minions. This week, the Secretary of Education was supposed to present a budget to a legislative subcommittee for planning purposes, but a letter obtained by the Tulsa World shows that Walters seems to be prioritizing “ridding public education of ‘liberal indoctrination.’” Walters’ “spokesman” said he “has requested additional information on diversity, equity, inclusion programs (DEI) to fully understand the extent of indoctrination happening in higher education.”

The letter said:

Please provide a full outline and review of every dollar that has been spent over the last 10 years on diversity, equity, inclusion. Additionally, I want an overview of your staffing and the colleges underneath your oversight as the Chancellor of Oklahoma Higher Regents within every DEI program … and expenditures,” Walters wrote on letterhead of the Office of the Secretary of Education. “Lastly, please provide a copy of the materials that are being used in any of these programs.”

Neither has Walters followed legislative norms for presenting a public education budget. As Nondoc reported, Walters said he instituted a hiring freeze and a spending freeze for the State Department of Education when he took office and all related decisions require his approval. And, in addition to demanding vouchers, he has insisted on any teacher pay raise being performance-based. Above all, Walters said he would be bringing a completely different budget than the one his predecessor drafted. 

Republican Toni Hasenbeck (R-Elgin) responded saying, “district superintendents had expressed concern for ‘the next four years’” because of Walters’ campaign comments. Rep. Dell Kerbs, (R-Shawnee) commented, “I don’t need elevator speeches. I need details.” Subcommittee Chairman Mark McBride (R-Moore) understood the argument that performance pay could be a part of teacher pay, but he said that Walters’ plan went too far. And then he tried to get Walters back to the normative procedures which the subcommittee follows for helping craft funding priorities.

McBride “interrupted Walters,” and asked, “Are you saying the budget will totally change — you’re presenting a budget that’s not going to be the same budget, and you’re going to totally change it?”

Nondoc reported that “McBride seemed confused and paused for a moment.” When Walters tried to change the subject, [McBride] interrupted him and asked why Walters was presenting a budget that would not exist in a week. Walters again changed the subject and, as Nondoc reported, “McBride interrupted him again, asking him to stay on topic presenting monetary figures rather than discussing policy and slipping into “campaign rhetoric.” McBride said, “With all due respect, I need the performance review for last year. That’s what you’re here to present.” Then, after that interruption, Walters stopped his presentation.

 After the meeting, Matt Langston, Walters’s “spokesman” (a paid GOP consultant based in Texas) said, “Not one person in Oklahoma is surprised that Democrats are unhappy with the political theater that was orchestrated today.” According to Langston:

They do not want transparency, accountability or even basic reform because they are used to playing in the shadows. Union bosses, whining and liberal tears will not stop education reform, and the superintendent is looking forward to next week’s actual budget hearing.

Stay tuned! When Walters reveals his budget, chaos and vitriol will increase, and we’ll see whether Walters really believes he can implement his promise or “suggestion,” that “received some pushback from lawmakers in 2022,” a ten-year plan to reject all federal spending on education

Jan Resseger understands that legislators don’t know what teachers do all day. This ignorance enables them to echo outlandish insults about teachers and to write laws to solve non-existent problems. Legislators need to spend time in their local public schools to inform themselves and dispel the myths.

She writes:

Political attacks on teachers seem to be everywhere. Fanatical critics charge that teachers destroy white children’s self esteem by honestly acknowledging racism, and worse, they accuse teachers of “grooming” children. Public schoolteachers are the collateral damage in a widespread political campaign to discredit public schooling and promote privatization. As the new year begins, I have been grateful to prominent news commentators for calling out the scapegoating of schoolteachers.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s retired editorial page director, Brent Larkin devoted a weekly column to exploring what’s been happening in Ohio politics: “A large number of odious types in elected life are so obsessed with demonizing public schoolteachers that it interferes with these legislators’ ability to deal with real problems.” Larkin quotes Scott DiMauro, president of the Ohio Education Association: “When you have people deliberately fostering distrust, it has a devastating impact on educator morale… There are just so many challenges in terms of inequity of resources, discipline, poverty and culture-war attacks that have been very deliberately orchestrated by people on the right.'” Larkin concludes: “Great teachers are to be treasured. The way they’re treated speaks volumes about where we’re headed.”

The Washington Post’s culture critic, Robin Givhan wonders: “Who will remain when educators tire of picking their way through a political obstacle course of ginned-up outrage over bathrooms and manufactured controversies about racial justice?… Who will educate children when teachers finally become fed up with dodging bullets—or taking bullets—in service to someone else’s child?… It’s no secret that they’re underpaid for all the duties they perform… The United States has lost 370,000 teachers since the start of the pandemic… Critics have been punishing a them from all sides. The country asks public school teachers to carry this nation’s future on their backs, and then we force them to walk through a field of land mines.”

John Merrow, the retired education reporter for the PBS NewsHour recently wrote: “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, teachers are about three times as likely as other U.S. workers to moonlight… However, if you factor in part-time jobs within the school system, like coaching, teaching evening classes, or even driving a school bus, then an astonishing 59% of teachers are working part-time to supplement what they earn as full time teachers, according to the Economic Policy Institute… Teacher salaries have not kept up with inflation… and according to Education Week, ‘Teachers are also working under a ‘pay penalty,’ an economic concept meaning they earn lower weekly wages and receive lower overall compensation for their work than similar college-educated peers…'”

Data confirm Merrow’s concerns. In last summer’s most recent report from the Economic Policy Institute on the need to raise teachers’ salaries, Sylvia Allegretto reported the serious and growing disparity in the wages for teachers and other comparably educated college graduates: “Inflation-adjusted average weekly wages of teachers have been relatively flat since 1996. The average weekly wages of public school teachers (adjusted only for inflation) increased just $29 from 1996 to 2021, from $1,319 to $1,348 (in 2021 dollars). In contrast, inflation-adjusted weekly wages of other college graduates rose from $1,564 to $2,009 over the same period—a $445 increase.”

Bloomberg adds that one consequence of low pay on top of a barrage of controversy about what and how teachers teach is the growing shortage of teachers: “Overall, the U.S. job market ended 2022 at a near record for growth but one area in particular underscores how some parts of the economy still lag far behind pre-pandemic levels… The slow crawl is largely due to one industry—education—making up more than half of the jobs lost… (T)here has been a mass exodus of educators, leaving school districts with mounting vacancies to fill.”

There is clearly a tragic disconnect between the needs of America’s public schools and the resources legislators across the states are providing. Why? Part of the cause, of course, is the ideologically driven campaign the news commentators have noticed. Far right groups like the Bradley Foundation, EdChoice, Americans for Prosperity and the Goldwater Institute are pursuing a lavishly funded lobbying campaign—with model laws written and distributed by the American Legislative Exchange Council—to encourage legislators to privatize the whole educational enterprise.

Something else, however, has made our legislators increasingly susceptible to the ideology of the lobbyists and school privatizers. For several hours in December, as I watched a televised hearing of the Ohio House Education Committee, I was struck by so many lawmakers who seemed to define the role of teachers as mechanical producers of standardized test scores—and who conceptualize schools as merely an assembly line turning out workers who will help attract business and manufacturing to Ohio. I listened to a conversation filled with standardized test scores—numbers, percentages, and supposed trends measured by numbers. The only time human beings appeared in the discussion of education was when legislators blamed teachers for the numbers. It is not surprising that the same Ohio legislators are trying to transform the Ohio Department of Education into a new Department of Education and the Workforce.

In Ohio and across every state, aggregate standardized test scores dropped during the school closures and remote learning during COVID-19, but as I watched the televised hearing, the legislators seemed furious that teachers had not quickly come up with a different set of test-score production methods and turned the scores around. They seemed to believe that teachers should have been able to erase students’ emotional struggles during the return to schooling after COVID disruptions. Several declared that putting the governor in charge of education would take care of the problem and make teachers accountable.

As I watched the hearing, I realized again something that I already knew: Many of the people who make public education policy at the state level don’t know what teachers do. Few people on that committee seemed to grasp that teaching school is a complex and difficult job.

Watching the members of the Ohio House of Representatives discuss their concerns about our public schools made me think about David Berliner’s description of teaching. Berliner is Regents’ Professor of Education, Emeritus, at Arizona State University. He has also taught at the Universities of Arizona and Massachusetts, at Teachers College and Stanford University. Berliner comments on the human complexity of teaching as he contrasts the work of teachers and doctors:

“A physician usually works with one patient at a time, while a teacher serves 25, 30 or in places like Los Angeles and other large cities, they may be serving 35 or more youngsters simultaneously. Many of these students don’t speak English well. Typically anywhere from 5-15% will show emotional and/or cognitive disabilities. Most are poor, and many reside in single parent families… Many patients seek out their physicians, choosing to be in their office. On the other hand, many students seek to be out-of-class…. I always wonder how physicians would fare if 30 or so kids… showed up for medical treatment all at once, and then left 50 minutes later, healed or not! And suppose this chaotic scene was immediately followed by thirty or more different kids… also in need of personal attention. And they too stayed about 50 minutes…. Imagine waves of these patients hitting a physicians’ office five or six times a day!”

Berliner continues: “(T)eachers have been found to make about .7 decisions per minute during interactive teaching. Another researcher estimated that teachers’ decisions numbered about 1,500 per day. Decision fatigue is among the many reasons teachers are tired after what some critics call a short work day, forgetting or ignoring the enormous amount of time needed for preparation, for grading papers and homework, and for filling out bureaucratic forms and attending school meetings. In fact, it takes about 10 years for teachers to hit their maximum ability….”

Watching our legislators also made me think about the late Mike Rose’s definition of good teaching. Rose taught college students how to teach and he spent a good part of his career visiting classes to observe and document what excellent teachers do. Rose’s very best book, Possible Lives, is the story of his observations of excellent teaching as he spent three years observing public school classrooms across the United States: “Some of the teachers I visited were new, and some had taught for decades. Some organized their classrooms with desks in rows, and others turned their rooms into hives of activity. Some were real performers, and some were serious and proper. For all the variation, however, the classrooms shared certain qualities… The classrooms were safe. They provided physical safety…. but there was also safety from insult and diminishment…. Intimately related to safety is respect…. Talking about safety and respect leads to a consideration of authority…. A teacher’s authority came not just with age or with the role, but from multiple sources—knowing the subject, appreciating students’ backgrounds, and providing a safe and respectful space. And even in traditionally run classrooms, authority was distributed…. These classrooms, then, were places of expectation and responsibility…. Overall the students I talked to, from primary-grade children to graduating seniors, had the sense that their teachers had their best interests at heart and their classrooms were good places to be.”

I wish the people who make the laws which allocate and distribute state funding for public schools, were required to spend one day every year visiting a public school to watch what teachers do. In fact, I wish every state legislator were required to undertake the challenge of teaching in a public elementary, middle or high school for at least half of one school day every year.

For Immediate Release: For more information, contact: Carol Burris, NPE Executive Director, 718-577-3276, cburris@networkforpubliceducation.org

PRO-VOUCHER SPECIAL INTERESTS WORK TO FUNNEL PUBLIC FUNDS INTO UNACCOUNTABLE AND EXTREMIST NETWORKS

The Network for Public Education (NPE) calls for the immediate cessation of ESA voucher payments to homeschoolers and all other non-school-based “individualized” instruction programs based on the discovery of an online homeschooling network whose primary purpose is to teach young children to be Nazis. According to the report in the Huffington Post, its numbers thus far are in the thousands, but the greater threat is how its existence exposes the dangers of publicly-subsidized vouchers designed to fund extremist beliefs.  Such programs, including so-called micro-schools, operate with almost no curricular supervision or public fiscal oversight, allowing them to legally indoctrinate children with a distorted hate-filled curriculum directly supported by public funds.

NPE President Diane Ravitch stated, “Our nation fought a World War to defeat Nazism. Public funds should not be used to propagate hatred of our fellow citizens. Public education exists to foster mutual respect among all citizens. Our public dollars should be used to teach the shared values of democracy, especially the rule of law, the equality of every person, the importance of free and fair elections, and the value of education in pursuing a life of dignity and purpose.”

Seven states now fund programs solely supervised by families with no control over whether a sound academic curriculum is taught. Eight states have introduced legislation that would either start or expand such programs. 

“These ESA voucher programs, which are mislabeled as scholarships and saving accounts, have been subject to fraud and abuse,” said Dr. Carol Burris, NPE executive director. “NPE has long held concerns that funded at-home programs might teach children misinformation or a radical curriculum of hate. This Neo-Nazi homeschool network now confirms our deepest fears.”

Many ESA voucher laws do not require the parent to present evidence that the student has learned anything to receive thousands of dollars in public funds.

In states that have adopted voucher plans, the academic results for students who left public schools are “disastrous,” says Josh Cowen, a professor at Michigan State University and a veteran voucher researcher. In addition, 75-80% of voucher funding goes to students already enrolled in private or religious schools. 

NPE also calls on every state to carefully review its homeschool laws. Eleven states do not require homeschoolers to report that their child is homeschooled, making a mockery of state compulsory education laws. No states have laws that would prevent the teaching of hate curricula.

“As more states adopt laws that fund unregulated radical schooling arrangements, we must ensure that children’s emotional and physical well-being are guarded. While we cannot protect children from those parents who would fill their minds and hearts with hate, we can at least ensure that our tax dollars are not supporting such instruction,” Burris concluded.

The use of public funds to support extremist and anti-social agendas, unfortunately, has a long track record for the privatization community, especially as today’s unpopular modern school vouchers being pushed in legislatures across the country have evolved from the segregationist reaction to the Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court ruling.

The Network for Public Education (NPE) was founded in 2013 by Diane Ravitch and Anthony Cody. Its mission is to protect, preserve, promote, and strengthen public schools for current and future generations of students. We share information and research on vital issues that concern the future of public education. For more information, please visit: networkforpubliceducation.org

This post appeared on the Network for Public Education blog. It shows the common theme of vouchers in other states: They subsidize the students who are already enrolled in private schools. The legislation was signed into law by Governor Kim Reynolds.

Ed Tibbetts: Few Iowa families will have more choices with GOP ‘school choice’ plan

Ed Tibbetts substacks at Along the Mississippi. In this op-ed for the Iowa Capital Dispatch, he looks at the true cost of Kim Reynolds’ voucher plan.

He writes:

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds says her plan to use taxpayer money to pay for private schooling gives people a choice to educate their kids where they want.

But that’s not what her plan says. Just look at the details: Only certain families with kids in public schools will get that choice.

What this plan really does is pay people who already are sending their kids to private schools.

Like many voucher programs, this one really sticks it to rural taxpayers.

Forty-one counties in Iowa have no private schools, according to the group Common Good Iowa. Another 23 counties only have one private school.

What choice do those kids and their parents have?

Not much.

What Reynolds’ plan really does is take their tax money and send it to families who live somewhere else.

But while this program may have an impact on taxpayers, its impact on students will be meager.

Rural or urban, though, even the governor’s own proposal acknowledges relatively few people will get this money. About 33,000 Iowa kids go to private schools now, and the governor says when her plan is phased in, that number will nudge up to about 38,000.

That’s not much of a change: Just 5,000 kids.

Meanwhile, approximately 500,000 Iowa kids will remain in underfunded public schools.

Do the math: Her plan only pays for 1% of Iowa kids to go from public to private school, but the costs balloon to roughly $340 million a year when phased in – or 9% of the basic state aid going to public schools now.

And like the several voucher plans being rocketed through red state legislatures right now, the Iowa plan is being fast-tracked–quick, before the voters notice!

The plan also is being moved quickly. That’s because the governor knows the longer this lingers, the better people will be able to grasp the consequences. The longer a light is shined on it, the more people realize this plan isn’t supposed to enable them to make a choice, but to pay for people who already have made it.

In the meantime, it sucks money away from the vast majority of public-school students who will remain in classrooms where districts already struggle with rising costs while the state turns a blind eye; in schools where our state spends less per pupil than most other states in the country; in schools where teachers whose salaries lag will eventually go to places where their skills are better rewarded and they aren’t scorned in service of the culture wars.

Read the full piece here. 

You can view the post at this link : https://networkforpubliceducation.org/blog-content/ed-tibbetts-few-iowa-families-will-have-more-choices-with-gop-school-choice-plan/

Keith Benson is a teacher in Camden, New Jersey. He is also President of the Camden Educators Association, an author, and a member of the board of the Network for Public Education. He wrote the following article for the Newark Star-Ledger. He reminds us that when Republican governors and ideologues talk about “parental rights,” they assume that only white parents have parental rights. Black parents too have parental rights, and black and white and Latino and Asian students—all students— have the right to learn accurate, factual history.

To make sense of America’s fixation with the (non)existence of critical race theory (CRT) in schools and the ways by which CRT became a partisan flashpoint, we must consider this phenomenon as a contemporary manifestation of what Emory University professor Carol Anderson calls, “white rage.”

With corporate news media refusing to unequivocally point out that CRT, a complex legal theory, is not taught in K-12 schools but is taught in some graduate schools of education and law schools, allowed predominantly white grievants and Republican politicians to shapeshift CRT into anything American history-adjacent that offended their whitewashed sensibilities.

Republican lawmakers like Ron DeSantis and Glen Youngkin, along with a host of conservative pundits, Greg Abbott (Texas), and Sarah Huckabee Sanders (Arkansas), and astroturf “parent groups,” don’t want American children – which does include Black children – to learn, and in some cases making it illegal to be taught this history at all.

The decrying of CRT is part of a long American tradition of white backlash that is aided by a well-funded conservative messaging apparatus skilled in amplifying white rage for political gain based on misinformation in efforts to protect whiteness and the societal benefits it provides white Americans.

By exhaustively covering anti-CRT rallies at suburban school board meetings following President Joe Biden’s convincing defeat of Donald Trump in 2020, mass media platformed white grievance in response to an imaginary issue.

A complicit media apparatus, however, is not the only bad actor advancing CRT propaganda. As the organized effort attacking CRT is also bolstered by some of the same education reform advocates who champion school choice as the answer for, ironically, urban Black parents to receive a “better” education.

White backlash, the concept that greater equity achieved through increased political representation or economic opportunity for non-white ethnic groups results in a loss of social status among white Americans, has been ubiquitous throughout our nation’s history.

The passing of the Second Amendment, the amendment conservatives hold so dear – that they are willing to sacrifice the lives of students and school staff to preserve it in its entirety – was passed to pacify slave states by permitting them to arm militias consisting exclusively of white men, to crush efforts by enslaved Black people, if they chose to fight for their freedom as exhibited in the Stono Rebellion (1739) and Haitian Revolution (1791).

The enacting of Black Codes immediately following Emancipation and the formation of the Ku Klux Klan, the nation’s first terrorist organization, founded soon after Black Americans gained access to the franchise; the establishment of school choice resulting from the Brown (1954) decision where white parents refused to integrate southern public schools, and instead began an alternative schooling system in protest of white tax dollars going toward educating Black children are not examples of CRT, but historic examples of how white rage impacts our society today.

In its place, Republican lawmakers are calling for the teaching of white supremacist “classical” “patriotic” history and social studies curriculum that uncritically celebrates American history that lionizes the “founding fathers,” and uncritically champions capitalism.

Aside from conservatives and lawmakers’ commitment to derail students’ understanding of history, is the collection of individual groups like the Center on Educational Excellence, National Charter School Alliance, and National Parents Union who supported those Republican governors’ rise to power in advocacy, or in their silence against lawmakers’ campaign of miseducation

For decades, education reform advocates, consisting primarily of wealthy ideologues and representatives from the business community, publicly lamented the shortcomings in public education as evidenced by test scores and graduation rates.

They argued that privatizing education in the form of school vouchers, charter schooling, online education, and now homeschooling are answers to “underperforming” public schools — a message targeted principally toward Black parents.

While much could be unpacked regarding the nonsensical nature of that argument, through massive funding of “think tanks” and foundations, combined with sustained lobbying of lawmakers of both parties, the goal of shifting collective responsibility of educating all of America’s children through its public schools to that of a private endeavor where parents focus only on what impacts their child directly, has been achieved.

Significant expanses of the country see their public institutions deliberately dismantled and replaced with more voucher and corporate charter schools.

Where is the prominent pushback from the reform community from the likes of KIPP, Teach For America, the Broad Foundation, Democrats for Education Reform, and National Charter Schools Conference, to the deliberate miseducation of America’s students, including the Black students to whom these organizations appealed for decades?

As Republican lawmakers endeavor to pass more choice legislation while simultaneously mandating the whitewashing of American history, we have to ask: Do Black parents have a choice in the type of history their child will learn, or is the concern for Black parents’ choice matter only to conservatives and reformers when weaponized to attack public education?

Keith E. Benson is the author of Education Reform and Gentrification in the Age of #CamdenRising: Public Education and Urban Redevelopment in Camden, NJ (2018) available on Peter Lang Publishing at www.peterlang.com. He is the President of the Camden Education Association, a board member of the Network for Public Education and co-founder of Working Together, LLC.

Christopher Mathias wrote at Huffington Post about a group called Dissident Homeschool that provides resources for parents who want to teach their children to be Nazis. Through research and inquiry, he found the names of the couple who administer the site. Many of the states enacting voucher plans include payments for homeschooling. If you live in one of those states, your tax dollars might be subsidizing the training of Nazis.

Please read the entire article. It’s too long to repost in its entirety. It is awful that parents would do this, and worse that it is subsidized by public funds in many state voucher plans.

Mathias writes:

On Nov. 5, 2021, a married couple calling themselves “Mr. and Mrs. Saxon” appeared on the neo-Nazi podcast “Achtung Amerikaner” to plug a new project: a social media channel dedicated to helping American parents home-school their children.

“We are so deeply invested into making sure that that child becomes a wonderful Nazi,” Mrs. Saxon told the podcast’s host. “And by home-schooling, we’re going to get that done.”

The Saxons said they launched the “Dissident Homeschool” channel on Telegram after years of searching for and developing “Nazi-approved material” for their own home-schooled children — material they were eager to share.

The Dissident Homeschool channel — which now has nearly 2,500 subscribers — is replete with this material, including ready-made lesson plans authored by the Saxons on various subjects, like Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee (a “grand role model for young, white men”) and Martin Luther King Jr. (“the antithesis of our civilization and our people”).

There are copywork assignments available for parents to print out, so that their children can learn cursive by writing out quotes from Adolf Hitler. There are recommended reading lists with bits of advice like “do not give them Jewish media content,” and there are tips for ensuring that home-schooling parents are in “full compliance with the law” so that “the state” doesn’t interfere.

The Saxons also frequently update their followers on their progress home-schooling their own children. In one since-deleted post to Telegram, they posted an audio message of their kids shouting “Sieg Heil” — the German phrase for “hail victory” that was used by the Nazis.

Over the past year, the Dissident Homeschool channel has become a community for like-minded fascists who see home schooling as integral to whites wresting control of America. The Saxons created this community while hiding behind a fake last name, but HuffPost has reviewed evidence indicating they are Logan and Katja Lawrence of Upper Sandusky, Ohio. Logan, until earlier this week, worked for his family’s insurance company while Katja taught the kids at home.

The Anonymous Comrades Collective, a group of anti-fascist researchers, first uncovered evidence suggesting the Lawrences are behind Dissident Homeschool. HuffPost has verified the collective’s research.

The Lawrences did not respond to repeated requests for comment made via phone calls, text messages and emails. A HuffPost reporter also left a message in the Dissident Homeschool channel asking Mr. and Mrs. Saxon for comment about the Anonymous Comrades Collective’s research. That message was immediately deleted by the channel’s administrators, who then disabled the channel’s comment and chat functions.

A short time later, Katja Lawrence deleted her Facebook page.

Although the Lawrences will now surely face some public scorn and accountability, it’s likely their neo-Nazi curriculum is legal. A concerted, decades-long campaign by right-wing Christian groups to deregulate home schooling has afforded parents wide latitude in how they teach their kids — even if that means indoctrinating them with explicit fascism.

Meanwhile major right-wing figures are increasingly promoting home schooling as a way to save children from alleged “wokeness” — or liberal ideas about race and gender — in public and private schools. As extreme as the Dissident Homeschool channel is, the propaganda it shares targeting the American education system is just a more explicit and crass articulation of talking points made by Fox News hosts or by major figures in the Republican Party.

“Without homeschooling our children,” Mrs. Saxon once wrote, “our children are left defenseless to the schools and the Gay Afro Zionist scum that run them….”

Nazi Groomers

A post from Dissident Homeschool, a channel on Telegram where neo-Nazis learn to indoctrinate their children.

Mr. and Mrs. Saxon appeared to be thrilled to see their Dissident Homeschool channel gain a larger following. When the channel reached 1,000 subscribers, Mrs. Saxon posted a Nazi-era photo from Germany of uniformed schoolchildren throwing up fascist salutes. “It fills my heart with joy to know there is such a strong base of homeschoolers and homeschool-interested national socialists,” she wrote to mark the occasion. “Hail victory.”

Mrs. Saxon does the bulk of the posting in Dissident Homeschool, and developed extensive lesson plans that other neo-Nazi parents could use for their children. These lesson plans — about Christopher Columbus, the history of Thanksgiving and German Appreciation Day, as well as a “math assignment” about “crime statistics” that is meant to teach kids which “demographics to be cautious around” — are deeply racist.

One lesson plan about Martin Luther King Jr. tells parents to teach their kids that the revered civil rights leader was “a degenerate anti-white criminal whose life’s work was to make it impossible for white communities to protect their own way of life and keep their people safe from black crime.”

“Typically speaking,” Mrs. Saxon wrote in a post, “whites build societies whereas blacks destroy them.”

Included in the lesson plan is a copywork assignment for parents to print out, so that their kids can practice cursive while writing out a racist quote by George Lincoln Rockwell, the infamous American neo-Nazi.