Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation that will offer public money for the schooling of every student in the state, with no income limits. The state will pay tuition for private schools, religious schools, homeschooling or any other variety of schooling. Critics warned that this bill would be devastating for the state’s public schools. Voucher schools are completely unregulated. The students are not required to take state tests; the schools are not required to hire certified educators. Anything goes. Florida has tough accountability for public schools, but no accountability for voucher schools.

The Orlando Sentinel reported:

At a bill signing ceremony at a private boys high school in Miami, DeSantis described the legislation as “the largest expansion of education choice not only in the history of this state but in the history of these United States. That is a big deal.”

The controversial bill was celebrated by GOP leaders and parents who currently use the scholarships, but it also faces fierce criticism from those who say its price tag — estimates range from $210 million to $4 billion in the first year — will devastate public schools, which educate about 87% of Florida’s students.

Critics also argue an expansion will mean more public money spent on private, mostly religious, schools that operate without state oversight. Some of the schools hire teachers without college degrees and deny admission to certain children — most often those who don’t speak English fluently, have disabilities or are gay.

“Funneling this much in taxpayer dollars to private schools with no parameters to ensure accountability for student success is fiscally irresponsible and puts at risk the families and communities who utilize our state’s public schools and the services they provide,” said Sadaf Knight, CEO of the Florida Policy Institute, in a statement.
The think-tank opposes the expansion of Florida’s voucher programs and estimated the $4 billion hit to public schools.

Through its voucher programs, Florida currently provides scholarships to more than 252,000 children with disabilities or from low-income families.

Under the new law, the income guidelines are wiped out, though preference will be given to those from low and middle-income backgrounds. The result of the universal voucher law is that all of the 2.9 million public school-age children in Florida could opt for an “education savings account,” if they left public schools, and those already homeschooled or in private school could seek the money, too.

In 2017, the Orlando Sentinel published a prize-winning investigation of Florida’s voucher schools called “Schools Without Rules.” The series has been repeatedly updated. It’s worth subscribing to the newspaper to read the series.

I am thrilled to announce that Dr. Leslie T. Fenwick will speak at Wellesley College in the annual lecture series that I endowed. Admission to the lecture is free and open to the public. If you live within driving distance, be there. I will post the campus location before the lecture.

The Diane Silvers Ravitch ’60 Lecture

Living with Histories That We Do Not Know with Leslie Fenwick

Tuesday, April 11, 4 p.m. ET
Dr. Fenwick will draw on her sustained contribution to education policy research and groundbreaking findings from her recently published award-winning and bestselling book, Jim Crow’s Pink Slip. Dr. Fenwick’s research upends what we know and understand about Brown vs. Board of Education and details why the newly excavated history she shares is important to the nation’s racial justice and educational equity goals.

Livestreamed at

Dr. Leslie T. Fenwick, PhD, is a nationally-known education policy and leadership studies scholar who served as Dean of the Howard University School of Education for nearly a decade. A former Visiting Scholar and Visiting Fellow at Harvard University, Fenwick holds an invited appointment as a MCLC Senior Fellow at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point where she occasionally lectures about character leadership and ethics. Additionally, Fenwick served as an appointed member of the National Academy of Sciences committee that produced the first study about mayoral control of Washington DC Public Schools. Fenwick (who is a former urban school teacher and adminstrator) is regularly called upon to testify about educational equity and college access to the U.S. Senate, National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), U.S. Conference of Mayors, National Urban League, Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Education Writers Association (EWA), National Education Association (NEA), National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), and the National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE). Additionally, she has been an invited speaker at the National Press Club, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and the Washington Policy Seminar.

Dr. Fenwick is a contributor to the best-selling book, The Last Word: Controversy and Commentary in American Education. Her op-ed articles about education, the economy and urban development have appeared in the Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Education Week, The Huffington Post, and Diverse Issues in Higher Education. Her forthcoming book, Jim Crow’s Pink Slip: Public Policy and the Near Decimation of Black Educational Leadership after Brown, has been cited by the New York Times and Education Week and the Center for American Progress has referenced her research. She is co-founder of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) Urban Superintendents Academy and a past member of the Harvard University Principals Center Advisory Board.

Dr. Fenwick is a tenured professor of educational policy and leadership at Howard University. She earned her PhD from The Ohio State University where she was a Flescher Fellow and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia. She has served on the AACTE board of directors and EduTopia advisory board. Additionally, she is an appointed member of the Scholarly Advisory Committee for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Denver Post columnist Krista Kafer worries that crazy people now control the state GOP. The man who was just elected state chairman, Dave Williams, had his name legally changed to add “Let’s Go Brandon” as his middle name.

She writes:

After the Colorado GOP chose former state Rep. Dave Williams as party chair, many sane Republicans wonder if there is a place for them within the Colorado Republican Party. By sane, I mean rational, evidence-based thinkers who get, at a minimum, that Trump lost the 2020 election, vaccines save lives, and Trump’s repellent, mendacious style has hurt Republicans’ standing in a once purple state.

Williams, an election denier and conspiracy theorist, believes Trump won in 2020 sans evidence. He alleged without proof that 5,600 dead people voted in the 2020 Colorado election. Despite 300 years of vaccine science and millions of saved lives, Williams is a proud anti-vaxxer. Upon beating out six contenders for chair (all but one of the conspiracy theorists or tinfoil hat-lite variety), Williams stated, “Our party doesn’t have a brand problem. Our party has a problem with feckless leaders who are ashamed of you,” implying that GOP leaders lost because they were insufficiently Trumpist, an assertion belied by evidence that such candidates fared worse in Colorado and around the country.

Speaking of feckless, Williams tried and failed to have the tacky phrase “Let’s Go Brandon” added to his name on the ballot for the 2022 primary against Rep. Doug Lamborn.

Williams has vowed to be a “wartime leader” leaving many of us to wonder if mainstream Republicans are a battlefield target. Former Minority Leader of the Colorado House of Representatives Mark Waller queried Williams via social media about the future, “I have been called a RINO and told I no longer belong in our Party. I don’t believe the election was stolen, and I believe the events of January 6th were a disgrace to our Country and our Party. I am also a proud Republican who believes in our foundational principles. Please let me know if I have a place in our fractured Party.”

Some Republicans have determined that there is no place for the sane, and they do not want to be associated with the lunatic fringe. Popular center-right KOA radio host Mandy Connell and the former Republican University of Colorado Regent Sue Sharkey are no longer affiliated with the party. They are two of the more than 133 Republicans who changed their voter registration since Williams won, according to an analysis by 9 News reporter Marshall Zelinger.

As I noted in a previous column, Republicans have been lagging behind unaffiliated voters since 2014 and behind Democrats since 2017. Today, Republicans account for 24% of Colorado registered voters. If sane Republicans leave the party, the con artist-crackpot contingent will gain more influence and visibility, prompting the flight of other mainstream Republicans. Unmitigated, this could trap the Colorado GOP in a death spiral just when the party should be rebounding as Trump sinks into ignominious insignificance.

Colorado isn’t alone. In Michigan, the state GOP picked Kristina Karamo for party chair. A rabid conspiratorialist, she has yet to concede her loss in the Michigan secretary of state race. The Kansas and Idaho GOP chose election deniers to chair their state parties. In Arizona, former chief operating officer for Trump’s campaigns, Jeff DeWit, beat out other contenders with the endorsement of uber-Big Lie proponents like failed gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, state Sen. Wendy Rogers, and the former president. Fortunately, the contagion has not spread to other states.

The Mississippi Free Press reported recently on a failed effort in Mississippi to restore the public’s right to initiate and vote on statewide referenda.

Mississippi citizens will not be able to organize and vote on issues using ballot initiatives again any time soon after a Mississippi Senate leader allowed legislation that would have revived the option to die on calendar due to multiple concerns—including his fear that voters could use an initiative to repeal the state’s “right-to-work” law, which severely limits labor union organizing in the state.

The Mississippi Supreme Court nullified the ballot initiative process in a 2021 ruling that also killed a voter-approved medical marijuana law. Senate Concurrent Resolution 533, which lawmakers in the upper chamber passed on Feb. 9, would have restored a more limited version of the ballot initiative process.

The House made substantial modifications to the Senate’s bill, though, including removing a provision that said voters would not be able to “amend or repeal the constitutional guarantee that the right of any person to work shall not be denied or abridged on account of membership or nonmembership in any labor union or organization.” They also inserted a prohibition on using ballot initiatives to amend Mississippi’s highly restrictive abortion laws, which polls show most voters oppose.

After the House made its changes, Mississippi Senate Accountability, Efficiency, Transparency Committee Chairman John A. Polk could have sent the bill back to the Senate floor for concurrence or he could have called for a conference between the two chambers to iron out their differences. Instead, the Hattiesburg Republican allowed it to die on deadline Thursday.

Polk told the Mississippi Free Press he did not see a path to an agreement.

“We were so far apart. I don’t think there was any way we would ever get an agreement in conference,” the senator said.

The chairman said it “was disturbing to me” that House lawmakers removed language from the bill that would have prohibited voters from altering Mississippi’s right-to-work law.

“They took that out of the bill we sent, and that was disturbing to me because I’m not sure why they did it,” he said. “Mississippi needs and should be a right-to-work state.”

While supporters of right-to-work laws say they increase worker freedom by banning union membership requirements as a condition of employment, opponents argue that such laws lower wages and weaken worker protections by curtailing the ability of labor unions to organize.

Open the link and read the rest of the story.

Democracy is not alive and well in a state that refuses to acknowledge the will of the people but prefers to limit the voice of the public by gerrymandering control of the legislature.

Investigative reporter David Sirota reports here on what happened during Paul Vallas’ superintendency of the Chicago public schools.

When he led the Chicago school system, mayoral candidate Paul Vallas took actions that resulted in more than $1.5 billion being transferred out of the city’s budget-strapped public schools and to some of the wealthiest individuals and banks on the planet, a new report shows.

Now, Vallas is in an election runoff against Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson to lead the city of Chicago, with big support from wealthy investors and other corporate interests — including from executives at law firms and banks that benefited from the controversial financing methods he used as CEO of Chicago Public Schools from 1995 to 2001.

With less than two weeks left before the April 4 election — which polls show is a tight race — Vallas has faced little scrutiny over his tenure as the Chicago Public Schools chief, even though he helped create a slow-moving financial disaster for America’s fourth-largest school system.

With Vallas at the helm, Chicago Public Schools issued $666 million worth of so-called “payday loan” bonds, according to a report from the Action Center on Race and the Economy (ACRE).

The interest payments on the bonds totaled $1.5 billion. A 2016 analysis from the Texas Comptroller’s office found that the type of bonds Vallas issued can be three times more expensive than traditional bonds — meaning that Chicago Public Schools could have faced up to $1 billion in additional interest payments above a normal rate.

That $1 billion is almost exactly the budget shortfall that former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the current Ambassador to Japan, cited as justification to shutter 50 Chicago public schools a decade ago. Some of Emanuel’s largest donors, like Citadel hedge fund CEO Ken Griffin and executives at private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners, are currently backing Vallas.

“[Vallas] got Chicago Public Schools into really bad deals that we’re still paying for a quarter century after he left,” said Saqib Bhatti, the co-director of ACRE. “And the fact that his strongest base of support comes from Wall Street should in and of itself be a big red flag.”

Please open the link and read the rest of the story.

Florida passed legislation to offer vouchers to every student in the state, regardless of their income. Rich and poor are eligible for state largesse. Florida joins five other states with universal vouchers: West Virginia, Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa and Utah.

The Education Law Center predicted last month that the expansion of vouchers to all students, rich and poor, would cost the state at least $4 billion in the first year. Half of that amount would be a bonanza for students already in private schools.

Perhaps you remember the battle cry for vouchers over the past three decades: “vouchers will save poor children from failing public schools.” We now know that every part of this plea was mistaken. Vouchers do not produce academic gains for the poor children who transfer from public schools to private schools that accept them.

The overwhelming majority of recent, long-term studies report that vouchers have a negative effect on low-income children; most return to their public schools in need of remediation.

In state after state, most vouchers are claimed by students who never attended public schools. 75-80% of voucher recipients were already enrolled in private schools; their families are not poor.

The universal voucher program is a subsidy for the rich, at the expense of public schools.

Pennsylvania has 14 Cybercharters, which are very profitable to their owners. A new book reviews the outcomes of Cybercharters as compared to brick-and-mortar schools. Attending a Cybercharter has negative effects.

The following appeared in the Keystone Center for Charter Change, which is sponsored by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

Cyber versus Brick and Mortar: Achievement, Attainment, and Postsecondary Outcomes in Pennsylvania Charter High Schools

MIT Press by Sarah A. Cordes, Temple University, February 6, 2023 Abstract: The charter school sector has expanded beyond brick-and-mortar schools to cyber schools, where enrollment grew almost tenfold between 2015 and 2020. While a large literature documents the effects of charter schools on test scores, fewer studies explore impacts on attainment or postsecondary outcomes and there is almost no work exploring the consequences of cyber charter enrollment for these outcomes. In this paper, I examine the impacts of Pennsylvania’s charter high schools on student attendance, achievement, graduation, and postsecondary enrollment, distinguishing the impacts of brick-and-mortar from cyber schools. I find that brick-and-mortar charters have no or positive effects across outcomes, and that effects are concentrated in urban districts and among Black and economically disadvantaged students.

Click here for more.

By contrast, attending a cyber charter is associated with almost universally worse outcomes, with little evidence of heterogeneity. Students who enroll in a cyber charter at the beginning of 9th grade are 9.5 percentage points (pps) less likely to graduate, 16.8 pps less likely to enroll in college, and 15.2 pps less likely to persist in a postsecondary institution beyond one semester. These results suggest that additional regulation and oversight of cyber charter schools is warranted and also bring into question the efficacy of online education.

The state’s Cybercharters, as listed on the PA Dept of Education website:

21st Century Cyber CS

Achievement House CS

Agora Cyber CS

ASPIRA Bilingual Cyber CS

Central PA Digital Learning Foundation CS

Commonwealth Charter Academy CS

Esperanza Cyber CS

Insight PA Cyber CS

Pennsylvania Cyber CS

Pennsylvania Distance Learning CS

Pennsylvania Leadership CS

Pennsylvania Virtual CS

Reach Cyber CS

Susq-Cyber CS

Retired teacher Fred Klonsky notes that Arne Duncan endorsed Paul Vallas for mayor of Chicago. This is no surprise since the two previously worked closely together and their views about privatization are very similar. Duncan is best remembered for his failed “Race to the Top” program, which foisted charter schools on almost every state and the horrendous policy of judging teachers by the test scores of their students, as well as the imposition of the Commin Core standards. A decade after RTTT was launched, the national NAEP exams showed that it changed nothing, although it cost the feds $5 billions and the states and districts many more billions. For nothing.

The NAACP and other civil rights groups (the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; National Urban League; The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; National Council on Educating Black Children; Rainbow PUSH Coalition; and The Schott Foundation for Public Education) officially condemned Race to the Top for creating a competition among the states for federal funds, instead of funding the neediest students and districts so they could have experienced teachers, early childhood education, and reduced class sizes. The competition, they agreed, would bypass those who needed funding the most, while implementing harmful policies like school closings.

Klonsky writes:

To the surprise of absolutely nobody Arne Duncan endorsed his former boss at CPS, Paul Vallas, for mayor in an op-ed piece in the Chicago Tribune.

When Vallas was Richard Daley’s (2) CPS CEO, Duncan was his deputy chief of staff.

Duncan then went on to be picked by Barack Obama to run the Department of Education and Vallas went on to post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, destroying the public school system there by turning it into the largest privatized nearly entirely charter school system in the country.

If it weren’t for Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Secretary of Education, Duncan would still hold the title of the worst Secretary of Education ever.

Duncan’s notable achievement as Secretary of Education was the creation of Race to the Top.

Duncan’s idea was to pit states against states in a competition for limited federal education dollars.

It was educational cock fighting.

At the last convention of the National Education Association that I attended as an active teacher in 2011, the delegates voted to adopt a resolution condemning Duncan in what became known as 13 Things I Hate About Arne Duncan.

Among the union’s 13 criticisms are Duncan’s failure to adequately address “unrealistic” Adequate Yearly Progress requirements, focusing too closely on charter schools to the detriment of other types of schools, weighing in too heavily on local hiring decisions and failing to see the need for more encompassing change that helps all students and depends on shared responsibility by stakeholders, versus competitive grant programs that the NEA says “spur bad, inappropriate, and short-sighted state policy.”

To say that public school teachers detested the policies of Arne Duncan is an understatement.

Duncan and Vallas have always been brothers from another mother.

They worked hand in hand blowing up CPS.

When Vallas moved from Chicago to head the Recovery School District in New Orleans, Duncan applauded Hurricane Katrina for blowing up New Orleans schools.

Duncan said 2005’s Hurricane Katrina was “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans,” because it led to hiring Paul Vallas.

Vallas completed the job that Hurricane Katrina started.

Last year Duncan hinted that he might enter the race for Chicago Mayor. The voter response was underwhelming.

Now he’s endorsing his doppelgänger.

Open the link to enjoy Fred’s art.

Parent activist Leonie Haimson has a weekly radio show called “Talk out of School.” Tomorrow, Sunday, she will interview Cong. Jamaal Bowman, who has introduced legislation to change the federal mandate of annual standardized testing. Cong. Bowman was a middle school principal before he ran for Congress. He understands the daily work of educators.

Join us tomorrow Sunday at 7 pm EST on WBAI for #TalkoutofSchool when we’ll ask Rep. Jamaal Bowman about his new bill #MoreTeachingLessTesting & 2 PEP members, Tom Sheppard and Jessamyn Lee, about why they voted no on DOE budget at last week’s PEP meeting; also please call in!

WBAI 95.5 FM


NPR interviewed Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond about his new book, Poverty, by America. Desmond says that we can afford to eliminate poverty, if we want to. Income inequality is a driving force behind disinvestment in public services, he says.

Over 11% of the U.S. population — about one in nine people — lived below the federal poverty line in 2021. But Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond says neither that statistic, nor the federal poverty line itself, encapsulate the full picture of economic insecurity in America.

“There’s plenty of poverty above the poverty line as a lived experience,” Desmond says. “About one in three Americans live in a household that’s making $55,000 or less, and many of those folks aren’t officially considered poor. But what else do you call trying to raise three kids in Portland on $55,000?”

Growing up in a small town in Arizona, Desmond learned firsthand how economic insecurity could impact a family’s stress level. He remembers the gas being shut off and his family home being foreclosed on. Those hardships would later drive his research — specifically the question of how so much poverty could exist within a country as wealthy as the U.S….

His new book, Poverty, by America, studies various factors that contribute to economic inequality in the U.S., including housing segregation, predatory lending, the decline of unions and tax policies that favor the wealthy. Desmond says that affluent Americans, including many with progressive political views, benefit from corporate and government policies that keep people poor.

“Most government aid goes to families that need it the least,” Desmond says. “If you add up the amount that the government is dedicating to tax breaks — mortgage interest deduction, wealth transfer tax breaks, tax breaks we get on our retirement accounts, our health insurance, our college savings accounts — you learn that we are doing so much more to subsidize affluence than to alleviate poverty.”

Desmond says that the growing affluence of those at the top drives it’s unwillingness to invest in public services:

If you are a family of means, you have the incentive to rely less and less on the public sector. So we used to want to be free of bosses, but now we want to be free of bus drivers. We don’t want to take the bus. We don’t want to often enroll our kids in the public school system. We don’t need to play in the public park or swim in the public pool. We have our own clubs, our own schools. We have our own cars. And as we withdraw into the private opulence, we have less and less incentive to invest in public services…

This one statistic that I calculated just blew me away. So a recent study was published and it showed that if the top 1% of Americans just paid the taxes they owed, not paid more taxes, … we as a nation could raise an additional $175 billion every year. That is just about enough to pull everyone out of poverty, every parent, every child, every grandparent. So we clearly have the resources to do this. It is not hard.

Matthew Desmond is a MacArthur Fellow and a principal investigator of the Eviction Lab, a research project focusing on poverty, city life, housing insecurity, public policy, racial inequality and ethnography. (Barron Bixler/Penguin Random House)

This is a rough estimate. I arrive at this number by looking at everyone under the poverty line, calculating the average it would take to just bring them over the poverty line and adding that all up. It’s pretty equivalent to what we could earn by just enforcing fair taxes at the very top of the market. What else could we do with $175 billion? We could more than double our investment in affordable housing. We could reestablish the extended child tax credit that we rolled out during COVID. … [That]was basically a check for middle and low-income families with kids. That’s all it was. And that simple intervention cut child poverty almost in half in six months. We could bring that back again with $175 billion and still have money left over.