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I endorse Maya Wiley for the Democratic candidate for Mayor of New York City.

There are many candidates in the Democratic primary for Mayor of New York City. Whoever is chosen will be the next mayor because the city is 3/4 Democrat and the Republican field is weak (Michael Bloomberg spent $100 million of his own money to win the mayoralty as a Republican and one of his top priorities was to persuade the state legislature to give him total control of the public schools).

My first choice initially was Scott Stringer, the City Comptroller, who has deep experience as a citywide official. Stringer was endorsed by the United Federation of Teachers because of his strong support for public schools. But his chances began to fade when a woman stepped forward to accuse him of groping her twenty years earlier.

Then two men emerged at the top of the polls: Andrew Yang and Eric Adams. Both have received large donations from GOP billionaires who support more charter schools.

The next top contender was Kathryn Garcia, a longtime city bureaucrat who has competence and experience. She was endorsed by the New York Times and the Daily News. With all of Garcia’s plans for change, the one area where she is weakest is education. Thanks to Bloomberg, NYC has mayoral control of the schools. Garcia has promised to lift the cap on charter schools (New York City already has nearly 300), to protect the elite public high schools, and to open more of them. she has shown little or no interest in helping the 88% of students who are in the public schools for which she would be responsible. She is a graduate of the city’s public schools, but treats them as an afterthought. For this reason, I cannot support her.

I endorse Maya Wiley. Wiley is a civil rights lawyer whose values and vision align with my own. She is not beholden to billionaires or the powerful real estate industry. In the debates, she shined as a fearless and principled advocate who did not defer to the front runners. She is committed to improving the lives of children, families, and communities. She is opposed to lifting the charter cap. A Mayor with a clear vision can hire outstanding talent to manage the city’s huge bureaucracy. What matters most is that she has a clear vision, grounded in a commitment to the public good.

Matt Barnum of Chalkbeat reports on a research study that concluded that most state takeovers of low-performing districts were unsuccessful. Local school boards, it was believed, must be the cause of low test scores because they lacked oversight.

The study was written by Beth E. Schueler and Joshua Bleiberg and released by the Annenberg Insttitute.

State officials have taken for granted that the state education department knows better than local school boards how to run school districts. Yet, as the study shows, most have either made no difference or failed. In most cases, the districts that were “taken over” consisted of mostly black and brown children, whose communities lose a democratic institution and as well as a route to political power.

Barnum writes:

Now, a new national study casts significant doubt on the idea that states, at least, are better positioned to run schools than locally elected officials. Overall, researchers found little evidence that districts see test scores rise as a result of being taken over. If anything, state control had slightly negative effects on students.

Frankly, it was always a silly idea to think that state education departments were staffed by top-flight educators. They are working in schools and districts. Most people who work in state education departments (and the U.S. Department of Education) are administrators and bureaucrats, not educators.

Barnum goes on to summarize the study:

The paper is the most comprehensive accounting to date of a strategy that has appealed to policymakers in many states but also brought fierce blowback. The study doesn’t suggest that takeovers never succeed on academic grounds — there are clearexamples where they have.

But the successes appear to be more exception than rule, and the uneven academic results bring into sharp relief the costs of state takeover: the loss of democratic institutions, disproportionately in Black communities.

“These policies are very harmful to communities in terms of their political power,” said Domingo Morel, a Rutgers University political scientist who has studied and criticized state takeovers. “And then what the state says is going to improve — this research shows it’s not doing that either.”

The new study focuses on the 35 school districts from across the country that were taken over by states between 2011 and 2016. These takeovers often happened in small cities and the vast majority of affected students were Black or Hispanic and from low-income families…

To find out what happened next, Schueler and coauthor Joshua Bleiberg of Brown University used national test score data to compare districts that were taken over to seemingly similar districts in the same state that retained local control.

In the first few years of the takeover, the schools generally saw dips in English test scores. By year four, there was no effect one way or the other. In math, there were no clear effects at all.“The punchline is, we really don’t see evidence that takeover is benefitting student outcomes, at least in the short term,” said Schueler.

Many states, Barnum reports, have cooled on the idea of state takeovers, although there are two big exceptions: Providence, Rhode Island, which has already fired its new superintendent because his deputy had a bad habit of massaging boys’ feet without their permission. And Texas is eager to take control of the Houston Independent School District because it has one high school with very low scores, and a disproportionately high number of students needing special education and living in poverty. The students in both districts are majority black and brown.

An anonymous tipster at the Internal Revenue Service gave Pro Publica the tax returns of America’s richest people. This act was illegal. But it showed how little the billionaires paid, in some years, nothing at all.

The Washington Post, which is owned by billionaire Jefff Bezos, published the story without pulling punches.

The wealthiest Americans — including Warren Buffett, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos — paid little in federal income taxes at times in recent years despite soaring fortunes, according to Internal Revenue Service data obtained by ProPublica.

The release of the records sent shock waves through Washington, with the federal government referring the unauthorized disclosure to investigators and some Democrats saying the revelations affirmed their long-held view that the richest Americans are able to shield much of their wealth from taxation.

The information published Tuesday shows how billionaires are able to legally reduce their tax burden, highlighting how the American tax system can hit ordinary wage earners harder than the richest people in the country. That’s often because the richest Americans tend to have their wealth tied up in stocks and real estate, allowing them to avoid taxes on unrealized profits….

ProPublica analyzed the data by focusing on the soaring fortunes of the country’s wealthiest people in recent years and asserted they were paying a “true tax rate” of just 3.4 percent. The news organization came up with that rate by calculating estimates of the value of their stock portfolios and other assets and then how much they paid in federal income taxes. That is not how tax rates are normally measured.

The core issue for many of these billionaires is how their income grows compared with how their wealth grows. The U.S. tax system focuses on income, not what is known as unrealized gains from unsold stocks, real estate or other assets….

Biden has rejected a so-called wealth tax, such as the one proposed during the presidential campaign by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), which would institute a tax on unsold assets for the ultrarich.

Biden has also proposed raising taxes on corporations, a number of which pay little if any corporate income taxes, according to some estimates. The president has also pushed to require wealthy people to pay taxes on all previously untaxed capital gains when they die, a change from current policy.

Another way of taxing wealth has been floated by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who has proposed an annual tax on unrealized gains on stocks and bonds for wealthy individuals.

Warren said the new details about wealthy taxpayers supported her proposal for an annual tax on assets above $50 million for ultrarich individuals, undercutting criticism that valuing nonliquid investments would be too complex. Those people appear to hold the majority of their wealth in public-company stock, which is easy to value, she said.

“What this shows is, actually, it’s not that hard to value hundreds of billions of dollars of wealth and tax it on an annual basis,” Warren said…

The IRS publishes a report on the taxes paid by the top 400 taxpayers based on adjusted gross income. The most recent version, which uses anonymous data, showed that in 2014 these richest Americans paid an average 23.13 percent federal income tax rate…

The records, though, purport to show Buffett, head of Berkshire Hathaway, as having paid $23.7 million in federal income taxes on total income of $125 million from 2014 to 2018, which would indicate a personal income tax rate of 19 percent. ProPublica estimated that Buffett saw his wealth soar by $24.3 billion during that period and so his “true tax rate” was 0.10 percent.

Buffett has in the past called for tougher restrictions on the wealthy to prevent them avoiding taxes.

Likewise, Musk, chief executive of Tesla, paid $455 million on $1.52 billion in income during the same period, when his wealth grew by $13.9 billion, accounting for a “true tax rate” of 3.27 percent, according to ProPublica.

Bezos, chief executive of Amazon and the owner of The Washington Post, paid $973 million in taxes on $4.22 billion in income, as his wealth soared by $99 billion, resulting in a 0.98 percent “true tax rate.”

Salon writes that the two leading candidates in the New York City Democratic mayoral primary—Andrew Yang and Eric Adams—are funded by major supporters of the Republican Party: billionaire Dan Loeb and Chicago-based Ken Griffin. Loeb was chairman of the board of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter chain.

Readers of this blog know why rightwing billionaires buy politicians. Charters and school privatization. Why do people like Dan Loeb, Ken Griffin, the Walton, and Charles Koch care so much about the issue. They believe that the private sector is always superior to the public sector. They know that 90% of charter schools are non-union and more of them will break the nation’s strongest unions in a shrinking segment of the workforce.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez endorsed civil rights lawyer Maya Wiley. Wiley is the only candidate who has openly opposed charter school expansion.

The New York Times and the Daily News endorsed Kathryn Garcia, who was most recently was Commissioner of the Department of Sanitation and is known for her competence. Although she is a graduate of the NYC public schools, she supports lifting the cap on charter schools. The city currently has nearly 300 charters that enroll 12% of the city’s children.

Big secret: Many public schools have longer wait lists than charters.

Paxton Smith, valedictorian of the class of 2021 at Lake Highlands High School in Texas, has received national attention for her three minute address at the graduation ceremonies. She had submitted her original speech to school authorities–about the media–and it was approved. But when the time came to speak, she whipped out a different speech, about the so-called “Heartbeat Bill,” which is the most restrictive abortion bill in the nation. Texas does not permit abortions after six weeks, before women know they are pregnant, even in cases of rape and incest.

A new generation of young people is coming along, and they will change America for the better.

Duke University’s Children’s Law Clinic published a substantive critique (some might say a scathing critique) of the state’s voucher program. Despite the fact that there is no evidence of benefit to the students who use the voucher, despite the lack of demand for vouchers, despite the program’s many weaknesses, the state’s General Assembly wants to put more money into the voucher program.

The report begins:

A new report from Duke University’s Children’s Law Clinic outlines the many ways in which North Carolina’s largest school voucher program continues to suffer from glaring policy weaknesses. These policy weaknesses increase the likelihood that voucher students are receiving an inferior education than their peers in public schools, delivering a bad deal to students and residents alike.

The report – an update to a 2017 study – finds that the Opportunity Scholarship voucher program:

  • Is poorly designed to promote better academic outcomes for students;
  • Fails to provide the public or policymakers with useful information on whether voucher students are making academic progress or falling behind;
  • Demand for the program has fallen short of the General Assembly’s projections, resulting in unused funds in every year since the program’s inception;
  • Nearly all voucher students (92 percent) are attending religious schools, more than three quarters of which use a biblically-based curriculum presenting concepts that directly contradict the state’s educational standards;
  • The NC State Education Administration Authority (SEAA), which administers the program, has provided the General Assembly with a method to evaluate the program’s academic effectiveness, but the General Assembly has failed to act on the recommendations;
  • Unlike many other states, North Carolina places no requirements on voucher schools in terms of accreditation, curriculum, teacher licensure, or accountability;
  • A lack of financial monitoring creates risks for students and nearby public schools that must absorb students when private schools fail; and
  • Voucher schools are allowed to discriminate against students and their families on the basis of religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity…

Rather than address the program’s many shortcomings, House and Senate leaders are competing to expand these unaccountable programs. Their solution to lack of demand is to loosen eligibility requirements, expand subsidies to families who never intended to enroll in public school, and spend $500,000 per year on marketing.

Peter Smagorinsky recently retired as Distinguished Research Professor in Language and Literacy Education at The University of Georgia.. His plans in retirement are ambitious, to say the least. I hope they include writing more essays like this one. I almost burst my stitches laughing out loud. As a citizen of Georgia, he is deeply knowledgeable about Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene’s thinking about the needs of education.

He begins:

Marjorie Taylor Greene now represents my home state of Georgia in the U.S. Congress. Unfortunately, radical far-left transgender communists in the Deep State have revoked her appointment on the Education and Labor Committee. To make up for this regrettable decision, I have developed in her honor The Greene New Deal for Education. It will finally help answer the question originally posed by George W. Bush: “Is our children learning?” Or more to the point, “What is our children learning?”

The Greene New Deal will emphasize the teaching of science. The sheeple have had their minds warped by fake “science experts” who say that “global warming” is increasing fires. That’s ridiculous. It snowed in Minnesota last January. As the real winner of the stolen election, President Donald J. Trump, has told us, dead leaves are the primary cause of forest fires.

This points to a simple plan of action: rake the forest floors down to the dirt. The Greene New Deal includes prison education. Rather than funding Operation Clean Sweep with some socialist taxation hoax, this plan issues inmates rakes at their own expense, and has them do “experiential learning.”

But that’s only the earth-bound part of the problem. George Soros’s space lasers still leave our forests vulnerable to giant fire-beams ignited by a massive space menorah. In the Greene New Deal Science Curriculum, students will work on ways to extinguish these lasers with gigantic space-based hoses, which will double as crucial weapons in the Space Force.

Gender studies are a major emphasis of the curriculum. In contrast to the propaganda spread by the Antifa-inspired Me Too movement, students will memorize Mrs. Greene’s finding that white men are the most oppressed group in the U.S. Our children and youth will learn about the challenges that white men face in society, and how to help them finally have equal opportunities for success…

Carol Burris writes in this article, which appeared on Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” blog, about the corruption and misuse of federal dollars in North Carolina. Although President Biden committed to eliminating federal support for for-profit charter schools, the wasteful and politically tainted federal Charter Schools Program received $400 million this year, the same as last year, including payments to for-profit schools. The federal government should not be spending money for private entrepreneurs to compete with public schools, nor should it fund “white flight” academies, as it does in North Carolina.

North Carolina’s private Hobgood Academy opened its doors in September of 1970. For decades, the overwhelmingly White private school, located near a public school whose students are overwhelmingly Black (90 percent), served as a haven for White families willing to pay tuition rather than send their children to an integrated public school.

However, the privilege of segregation came with a cost — $5,000 a year in tuition that parents decided taxpayers should assume. As North Carolina teacher Justin Parmenter explains here, the academy’s parents created a Google site called “Let’s Charter Hobgood” to band together and convert the private academy to a charter school. In what looks like an attempt to allay any fears that the charter might be forced to integrate, the following was posted: “No current law forces any diversity whether it be by age, sex, race, creed.” After three attempts, parents pulled it off, and Hobgood Academy became a charter school.

How North Carolina’s charter schools are used to resist integration is well documented, as more predominantly White charter schools pop up in integrated or majority-minority school districts. For example, a 2017 study — by researchers Helen F. Ladd, John B. Holbein and Charles T. Clotfelter of Duke University — found the state’s charter schools “increasingly serving the interests of relatively able White students in racially imbalanced schools” with the number of students in predominantly White charter schools nearly doubling as the number of minority students concentrated in charters that were more than 90 percent minority.

It is no surprise that one year after Hobgood’s conversion to a charter, this overwhelming White school’s demographics still looked nothing like the local public school. Yet the school was generously rewarded with a half-million-dollar U.S. Department of Education Charter Schools Program (CSP) grant.

Is the federal charter schools program financing white-flight academies?

In 2018, the federal Charter Schools Program awarded a grant of $26.6 million to North Carolina to support “high-quality schools focused on meeting the needs of educationally disadvantaged students.”

Thirty of the 42 charter schools that to date have received CSP grants via the North Carolina Department of Education have reported demographic information. Of those schools, more than one-third (11) have significant overrepresentation of White students or a significant underrepresentation of Black students compared with the population of the public school district in which they are located.

In addition to Hobgood, here are four examples of other schools that got the money:

The Community Public Charter is located on the grounds of its landlord, the Community Pentecostal Center. The school was started by the Rev. Eddie McGinnis, who serves as senior pastor. Disregarding the country’s constitutional separation of church and state, the website of the Pentecostal Center lists the charter school as one of its ministries, providing a link for students to enroll.

During 2019, the year in which the school was awarded its Charter School Program grant of $250,000, 95 percent of the school’s students were White, compared with its integrated public school district, Gaston, where only 53 percent of the students are White.
The Community School of Davidson, like Hobgood, was formerly a secular private school run in a Baptist church. Now a charter school, it received a $700,000 CSP grant to expand. The year it received its grant, 84 percent of its students were White compared with 27 percent of the students in its public school district, Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

White students comprise only 35 percent of the Forsyth County school district. A Charter School Program expansion grant awardee, the Arts Based School located in the district, has twice as large a percentage of White enrollees (71 percent). The charter school requires parents to send lunch, provide transportation and volunteer one hour a week for the school. Only 11.7 percent of the students are economically disadvantaged, compared with more than 62 percent of the district.

Socioeconomic segregation and North Carolina CSP awardees
The Arts Based School’s stratification points to another pattern: how many of the awardees dramatically underserve students who are poor. Of the 29 CSP awardees for which the percentage of economically disadvantaged students was reported on the North Carolina’s Department of Education report card website, 90 percent (26) had at least a 10-point gap between their economically disadvantaged students (students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch) and those of the district. In all but three (23), that gap exceeded 20 points. In fact, 45 percent of the awardees (13 of the 29) had gaps between the economically disadvantaged students served by the charter schools and their public school districts exceeding 40 points.

Only 5 percent of the students at Bradford Preparatory School and 11 percent of the students at Queen City STEM, both of which received a CSP expansion grant, are economically disadvantaged, compared with over 51 percent of the students attending Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools.

The Tillery Charter Academy in Montgomery County ($250,000 grant), in which Black/Latinx students are substantially underrepresented, has a 43 percent gap between its economically disadvantaged students and the school district’s. At the Community Public Charter, one of the highly segregated charter schools discussed in the section above, the gap exceeds 51 percent. In the former white-flight academy, Hobgood, the gap is more than 71 percent when compared to the poor Halifax County schools, where over 90 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

Students with disabilities

Included in the category of educationally disadvantaged students are students with disabilities. Twenty of the 28 awardee schools (71 percent) with 2020 data served a lower percentage of students with disabilities than their public school district. In 11 cases, the difference was 5 percent or greater.

The Queen City STEM School is part of TMSA, the self-designated “premier public charter school district.” Only 2.78 percent of its students had disabilities, yet it received an $800,000 grant to expand. There was a 6.99-point difference in the percentage of students with disabilities between the for-profit run Torchlight Academy and the public school district in which it is located. It is likely that its harsh no-excuses discipline code that includes corporal punishment discourages students with disabilities from enrolling.

Segregation by design?

Although each awardee has promised to increase its number of educationally disadvantaged students, the policies and practices used by many seem designed to ensure that little progress will be made.
University of Colorado Boulder Professor Kevin Welner and doctoral candidate Wagma Mommandi researched the ways that charter schools influence the makeup of their student bodies, which they describe in their upcoming book, “School’s Choice: How Charter Schools Control Access and Shape Their Enrollment.” Mommandi and Welner documented 13 different approaches — from marketing decisions to push-out discipline. “In the hands of unscrupulous operators, charter schools can become a devastating tool for exclusion and segregation,” Welner said.
Catered lunches

One of the categories identified by Mommandi and Welner was whether the school participated in the National School Lunch Program.

Ninety-five percent of all publicly funded K-12 U.S. schools, including charter schools, participate in the National School Lunch Program. Rates of reimbursement increase slightly as the proportion of eligible students increases.

Despite the near-universal participation in the program, 24 of the 35 open grantee schools do not participate in the National Lunch Program and made it clear in their application that they have no plans to apply. Instead, they claimed, their schools have their own equivalent program to provide for students in need.
We took a closer look.

Achievement Charter Academy (ACA) received a $400,000 CSP grant. It was previously a private school, operated by a mother-and-daughter team that previously ran a private school. The school stated in its application: “ACA will not participate in the National School Lunch program for reimbursement. To provide parents autonomy in food choice, ACA will purchase $50 gift cards from Food Lion. Parents who qualify for FRL can choose to receive one gift card per month per child instead of catered lunches and pack lunch daily.”
The small amount doled out is substantially less than what the National Lunch Program would provide. Equally concerning is the fact that the child would bring a low-cost lunch from home even as classmates eat catered lunches.

This concern was expressed by one of the reviewers of the school’s grant application: “Will all students have an option of purchasing lunch from the MyHotLunchBox or other local vendors? If not, how will the school ensure that EDS students who qualify to receive this lunch are not easily identified by peers as receiving this service?”
The percentage of students who are economically disadvantaged at ACA is not published on the report card website. However, in its first year of operation as a charter, 77 percent of ACA’s students were White compared to 44 percent of the home district, Harnett County Schools.

A lack of a solid plan to provide an alternative lunch or breakfast to students in need was often cited in other reviews of North Carolina’s successful CSP grant proposals. A few examples are listed below.

• “The application’s lunch plan needs to include more assurances that all students will receive affordable and nutritious meals. Presently, the plan identifies an ‘intent’ rather than a clear explanation for how the meals will meet the EDS population’s needs.” The Exploris School. Economically Disadvantaged gap: 26.12 percent.• “The applicant does not provide any additional details of how the school will offer food service to all students, nor do they outline a plan to collect free and reduced-price lunch information.” Hobgood Charter School. Economically Disadvantaged gap: 71 percent.• “The $25,000 revenue from the current hot lunch plan may not be enough to cover the cost of providing lunch for the increased educationally disadvantaged enrollment.” Bradford Preparatory Academy. Economically Disadvantaged gap: 46 percent.

Bradford Preparatory Academy, in its application, explained that it caters lunches from Jimmy Johns and Panda Express. “All lunches remaining after 12:15 p.m. are given to students or staff without lunches that day, so they don’t go to waste.”

Lack of transportation

A second and equally important factor in attracting disadvantaged students is transportation, which is another access-shaping concern raised by Mommandi and Welner in their coming book.
Several of the North Carolina grantees are located in rural counties. Others are in White neighborhoods within integrated school districts. Without a robust transportation plan to bring disadvantaged students to the school, diversity is unlikely.

Nearly all applicants had weak plans for transportation that relied on carpooling, very limited bus service and cluster stops that would still necessitate parents driving long distances to drop children off. Comments by reviewers included:

The Exploris Charter School relies on parents to provide transportation — either individually or through carpooling. Its transportation policy on its website says the following: “We have chosen to focus our resources on teacher quality and a safe facility, rather than providing transportation for students on school buses.”
In summaries of the application, reviewers noted that while the school was looking into purchasing one or two vans, they would be used for field trips, not daily transportation.

• “The Applicant proposes to implement cluster stops to eliminate transportation barriers. Is applicant confident that families will be able to get their student(s) to the cluster stop in order to catch the bus to school?” Lake Lure Classical Academy. Economically Disadvantaged gap: 52.3 percent.• “The applicant’s transportation plan relies primarily upon carpool to transport students to and from school. The applicant provides no data to indicate that this will be sufficient, particularly for ED students.” Cardinal Charter Academy at Wendall Falls, a Charter Schools USA school. Economically Disadvantaged gap: 13.2 percent.

Expected donations

Not included in the federal Charter School Program application was an inquiry regarding whether parents were expected to donate time or money to the school, which also presents challenges for low-income parents. Therefore, we searched awardees’ websites and handbooks to answer that question. In several cases, the answer was yes.

The Cardinal Charter Academy, run by for-profit Charter Schools USA, requires parents to volunteer a minimum of 20 hours a year for one student and 30 for two or more students. “Each family is required to complete a minimum of 20 hours (30 if you have 2+ students) each school year. If they cannot meet that requirement, the website says they can “buy out” of their obligation by providing $20 gift cards for every hour they cannot complete.

Grantee ArtSpace Charter School also requires families to “complete 20 hours of volunteer time per family each year.”

Two Rivers Charter School encourages all parents and staff to make a donation. In addition, all parents are expected to commit to a minimum of four hours per month after submitting to a background check.

For families who are working multiple low-paying jobs to make ends meet, such expectations can drive them away.

For-profit charter operators

Only nonprofit charter schools may receive CSP grants, and the Education Department issues strict guidelines regarding those operated by for-profits. Those guidelines, however, did not discourage the North Carolina Department of Education from giving CSP grants to four charters operated for profit.

The executive director of Torchlight Academy, which received a $500,000 grant, is Donnie McQueen. His wife, Cynthia, is the principal of the school. McQueen is also the executive manager of Torchlight Academy Schools, LLC, the for-profit management company (EMO) that manages not only Torchlight Academy but another soon to be opened CSP grantee, Elaine Riddick Charter School.

McQueen operates the school with a sweeps contract — a contract by which all revenue goes to his EMO, which also owns the building. From the school’s 2017 audit: “As part of the consideration received under the agreement, TAS also provides the facility in which the school operates. The fee for these services are [sic] 100 percent of all revenues received by the school.”

From hiring his wife as principal to every aspect of the school’s day-to-day operations, McQueen’s company controls it all, including student discipline, according to the contract.

Torchlight Academy, a majority-minority school, is a no-excuse charter school that uses corporal punishment as reported by the school on page 10 of its application for the grant. Families must sign a behavioral compact that says students agree to “accepting the consequences from Torchlight Academy staff.”

Torchlight Academy’s grant application provides little in the way of strategy on how it will increase the number of educationally disadvantaged students in a school where educationally disadvantaged students are already overrepresented and where more than 1 in 4 students have been chronically absent during the past three years. Its largest budget item for the project is “professional fees and contractual services” ($510,000), all of which would be provided by the for-profit entity.

In addition to Torchlight Schools, the national for-profit chains Charter Schools USA, Charter One, and National Heritage Academies will run grantee schools. To learn more about these for-profits and their contracts, read a report by the Network for Public Education here.

Why did these charter schools receive CSP grants?

It is likely that some of North Carolina’s grantees are sincere in their desire to expand enrollment to include more disadvantaged students. But the evidence is clear from applications and school websites that many of the awardees are engaged in practices known to keep minority and disadvantaged students out.

This was not lost on some of the application reviewers. In commenting on the Exploris School’s application, one reviewer noted: “It is difficult to understand why The Exploris School will need $600K to support an average increase of only 34 ED students per year. Given the large amount of the funding request, it appears that much of it will ultimately benefit The Exploris School’s non educationally disadvantaged students.”

The above is one of many critiques of applications that questioned the goals and strategies of the applications. Yet the grant was awarded.

What should the Biden administration do?

Each of the awards was signed by David Machado, director of the Office of Charter Schools in North Carolina. He is the administrator of the grant and the former director of Lincoln Charter School.
Machado signed off on his former school’s award of $700,000 to expand its educationally disadvantaged school population, even though “the applicant indicated that they are currently at capacity for grades K-8 at the Lincolnton and Denver campuses, and the Denver campus is also at capacity for grades 9-12.” The gap between the economically disadvantaged population of Machado’s former charter school (6.3 percent) and the district where it is located is 44 percent.

It is easy to blame Betsy DeVos for giving a $26.6 million grant to a state whose charter sector has come under repeated fire for increasing segregation in an already segregated school system.
Now the Biden administration and Secretary Miguel Cardona own the grant. Indeed, they own the whole flawed Charter Schools Program. Biden’s just-released proposed budget suggests flat funding for the program despite its well-known problems.

Will the administration continue to send funds to schools that physically discipline students or make their parents pay the school with gift cards when they cannot volunteer? Will it fund the mission of a White Pentecostal Church and expand schools that snub the National Lunch Program?

The Every Student Succeeds Act, which authorizes the CSP program, allows the secretary of education to “terminate or reduce the amount of the grant” [see Section 4303] following a mandated review in year three by the department. Will Education Secretary Miguel Cardona continue to fund schools whose existence has been based on avoiding those ideals?

This article by Marisa Iati in the Washington Post is a good layperson’s guide to the furor over “critical race theory” and teaching about race and racism in the schools. As I read the article, I was gratified to see the reference to the late legal scholar Derrick Bell. For just a moment, I felt like a Forrest Gump of American history because Derrick and I became friends in the mid-1980s and in personal meetings, we debated whether racism was more or less vitriolic than it had been in the past. I believed the Brown decision changed everything and that racism would eventually be reduced to an insignificant ember. He argued that the Brown decision was gratifying but changed very little, and that racism was as virulent as ever even though it was less respectable. In retrospect, I feel that I was a naive optimist and that he was prescient. After the Trump presidency, it is clear that racism remains a potent force in American life.

I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts that very few, if any, elected officials ever read anything that Derrick Bell wrote. Why are they so exercised about “critical race theory?” They (especially the Trumpian Republicans) want American youth to be indoctrinated in a sanitized version of American history, where they learn about slavery and Jim Crow as bad and aberrant things that happened long ago. For them, the only way to teach American history is through its stated ideals, of a nation where everyone is equal and has the same opportunity to succeed, if they work hard.

Derrick Bell was right but the Republicans prefer not to acknowledge that the debate about racism ever occurred.

The article in The Washington Post begins:

The latest front in the culture wars over how U.S. students should learn history and civics is the concept of critical race theory, an intellectual tool set for examining systemic racism. With roots in academia, the framework has become a flash point as Republican officials across the country seek to prevent it from being taught in schools.

In reality, there is no consensus on whether or how much critical race theory informs schools’ heightened focus on race. Most teachers do not use the term “critical race theory” with students, and they generally do not ask them to read the work of legal scholars who use that framework.

Some lessons and anti-racism efforts, however, reflect foundational themes of critical race theory, particularly that racism in the United States is systemic. The New York Times’s landmark 1619 Project, which addresses slavery’s role in shaping the nation, also has an associated school curriculum.

What is critical race theory?

At least five Republican-led state legislatures have passed bans on critical race theory or related topics in recent months, and conservatives in roughly nine other states are pressing for similar measures. Some teachers have said they worry that the legislation will have a chilling effect on robust conversations, or could even put their jobs at risk, at a time when the nation is embroiled in a reckoning on race relations.

Critical race theory is an academic framework centered on the idea that racism is systemic, and not just demonstrated by individual people with prejudices. The theory holds that racial inequality is woven into legal systems and negatively affects people of color in their schools, doctors’ offices, the criminal justice system and countless other parts of life.

The writings that coalesced into critical race theory date from the 1970s, when the late Harvard Law School professor Derrick Bell expressed frustration with what he saw as the limitations of the civil rights movement. He and other legal scholars — including Kimberlé Crenshaw, Richard Delgado and Mari Matsuda, among others — contended that civil rights laws and court victories had not actually managed to eradicate racial injustice.

Khiara Bridges, author of “Critical Race Theory: A Primer,” said traditional civil rights discourse maintained that racism would end when people stopped thinking about race. The dissenting scholars, she said, rejected that conclusion and believed race consciousness was necessary to overcoming racial stratification. Critical race theory emerged as an organized field in 1989, when academics gathered for the first Workshop on Critical Race Theory.

This way of thinking “compels us to confront critically the most explosive issue in American civilization: the historical centrality and complicity of law in upholding white supremacy,” some of the founding scholars wrote in 1995 in “Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings that Formed the Movement.”

While critical race theory does not have a set of doctrines, its scholars say they aim to overturn what they characterize as a bond between law and racial power. Critical race theory holds that race is a social construction upheld by legal systems and that racism is banal and common. Under this framework, George Floyd’s killing and Black Americans’ higher mortality rate from covid-19 are not aberrations, Bridges said.

“Critical race theory is an effort really to move beyond the focus on finding fault by impugning racist motives, racist bias, racist prejudice, racist animus and hatred to individuals, and looking at the ways in which racial inequality is embedded in structures in ways of which we are very often unaware,” said Kendall Thomas, co-editor of “Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement.”

What are the criticisms of critical race theory?

Critics of this intellectual framework often contend that it is divisive and even racist to examine the role of race in U.S. systems and structures. Opponents also argue that critical race theory is a Marxist framework that suggests the nation is inherently evil and that White people should feel guilty for their skin color.

On May 14, several Republican members of Congress introduced a bill banning the teaching of critical race theory in federal institutions and a resolution highlighting “the dangers” of teaching the theory in schools. In statements accompanying the announcement, the representatives said critical race theory promotes discrimination and stokes division.

“I grew up attending segregated schools in the Jim Crow South during a time when people were treated differently based on the color of their skin,” wrote Rep. Burgess Owens (R-Utah). “Critical Race Theory preserves this way of thinking and undermines civil rights, constitutionally guaranteed equal protection before the law, and U.S. institutions at large.”

The 1776 Project PAC, a new political action committee established to back school board candidates who oppose critical race theory, alleges that adherents to this framework are trying to remake the United States to reject capitalism and the nation’s founding principles. The PAC contends that critical race theory is “hostile to white people.”

While critical race theory is not characteristically Marxist, there is a loose connection. Scholars of “critical legal studies,” a precursor to critical race theory, included neo-Marxists “and other varieties of oppositionists in law schools,” according to “Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement.” Critical race theorists diverged from critical legal studies scholars to focus on studying race, Bridges said.

Some critical race theorists also believe that racism endures because it is profitable and that fighting racism therefore must mean opposing capitalism, Bridges said — but that opinion is far from universal within the field.

Critical race theorists disagree about whether the United States can overcome racism. While some believe racial discrimination will always exist, Bridges said others are more optimistic. Thomas said in his understanding, critical race theory maintains that racism “does not have to define our future if we have the will and the courage to reckon with it.”

Rather than encouraging White people to feel guilty, Thomas said critical race theorists aim to shift focus away from individual people’s bad actions and toward how systems uphold racial disparities.

What do conservatives mean when they use the term ‘critical race theory’?

Although the phrase “critical race theory” refers to an area of academic study, its common usage has diverged from its exact meaning. Conservative activists and politicians now use the term as a catchall phrase for nearly any examination of systemic racism in the present. Critical race theory is often portrayed as the basis of race-conscious policies, diversity trainings and education about racism, regardless of how much the academic concept actually affects those efforts.

In a public presentation this month, a member of Utah’s state school board offered a long list of words that she said were euphemisms for critical race theory, including “social justice,” “culturally responsive” and “critical self-reflection.”

The Heritage Foundation, a right-leaning think tank, recently attributed a range of events to critical race theory: property destruction and violence during the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, efforts to fire a Yale University professor amid a Halloween costume controversy, two White actresses stating that they would not play mixed-race characters, and the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17. They reasoned that critical race theory makes race the primary lens through which people see the world and reimagines the United States as divided by factions that are pitted against each other.

Christopher Rufo, a prominent opponent of critical race theory, in March acknowledged intentionally using the term to describe a range of race-related topics and conjure a negative association.
“We have successfully frozen their brand — ‘critical race theory’ — into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions,” wrote Rufo, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. “We will eventually turn it toxic, as we put all of the various cultural insanities under that brand category. The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think ‘critical race theory.’”

What does critical race theory have to do with schools?

Since the murder of George Floyd by a police officer last year, schools across the country have been overhauling their curriculums to address systemic racism and seek to make classrooms more equitable. Among other efforts, districts are instituting anti-bias training for teachers and requiring that history lessons include the experiences of marginalized groups.

Conservative politicians have pushed back on these attempts to talk about race more often. Critics say teachers are trying to “rewrite history” and should not consider race when interacting with students. Proponents counter that discussing race creates more inclusive schools and helps students overcome systemic barriers restricting their achievement.

Academic critical race theorists do not necessarily agree on whether schools are promoting critical race theory. Bridges said she would not characterize the increased focus on diversity and multiculturalism as critical race theory, while Thomas said critical race theory “is defined by this more expansive view of history now taught in classrooms.”

What is the status of efforts to ban critical race theory?

In September, President Donald Trump directed federal agencies to cease any trainings related to critical race theory, White privilege or other forms of what he called “propaganda.” A federal judge later blocked the directive on First Amendment grounds, and President Biden rescinded the ban after he took office.

The anti-critical race theory movement is now focused on classrooms, with Senate Republicans criticizing the Biden administration in April for pushing for federal funding for U.S. history programs that “reflect the diversity” of all students. Most efforts to stop the teaching of systemic racism have played out in state legislatures, at least a dozen of which have taken up the issue in recent months.

Republican-led legislatures in Arkansas, Idaho, Tennessee, Texas and Oklahoma have passed bans, with some restricting the teaching of critical race theory in public colleges, in addition to lower-level classrooms. A teacher at Oklahoma City Community College said this week that the race theory class she has taught for six years was canceled because of her state’s new law. A spokesman for the college confirmed that the class has been paused while administrators evaluate the legislation’s ramifications.

Republican lawmakers, governors, prosecutors and political candidates are also pressing the issue in a range of other states, from Utah to New Hampshire. While some bills name critical race theory, others reference “divisive concepts” or race-related guilt.

“Let me be clear, there’s no room in our classrooms for things like critical race theory,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said in March at a news conference. “Teaching kids to hate their country and to hate each other is not worth one red cent of taxpayer money.”

In Utah, Democratic members of the state’s House walked off the floor to protest a resolution recommending the state review school curriculums that address how racism influences American politics, culture and law.

“What this is about is an attempt or first step in assuring that my history and the history of many people of color are not taught in our school system in the state of Utah,” Rep. Sandra Hollins, the only Black member of Utah’s legislature, told the Associated Press at the time.

The American Civil Liberties Union characterized the bans as an attempt to silence teachers and students and impose a version of American history “that erases the legacy of discrimination and lived experiences of Black and Brown people.”

“Our country needs to acknowledge its history of systemic racism and reckon with present day impacts of racial discrimination — this includes being able to teach and talk about these concepts in our schools,” the ACLU wrote.

These attempts to restrict the teaching of critical race theory and broader lessons about racism are likely to face legal challenges focused on the constitutional right to free speech, and it is unclear how courts will rule.

Laura Meckler and Hannah Natanson contributed to this report.

NCBT Teacher Justin Parmenter writes here about the reaction of the Republican-controlled Legislature to their rampant fear that teachers might try to indoctrinate students into radical views of American history and society, like discussing shameful episodes in the past. The legislators want patriotic history that makes students proud to be Americans.

First they passed a law requiring teachers to make public their lesson plans to prove that they are not “indoctrinating” students.

Parmenter begins:

Last month the NC House of Representatives passed a law entitled “An Act to Ensure Academic Transparency” which would require teachers to post their lesson plans and details about all instructional materials online for public review. 

In defense of their support for the new legislation, which passed almost entirely along partisan lines, some Republican legislators cited the need to prevent indoctrination of North Carolina students.  

Iredell County Representative Jeffrey McNeely said, “Hopefully we’re just gonna teach the kids. We’re not gonna try to indoctrinate ’em or teach ’em in a certain way to make ’em believe something other than the facts.”

At its meeting today, the North Carolina State Board of Education reviewed glossaries and unpacking documents related to new state social studies standards which will be implemented in school year 2021-22. (Unpacking documents are overarching documents intended to help teachers understand how the standards should be taught).

During the discussion, board member Amy White expressed her view that the standards unpacking documents needed to ensure North Carolina teachers are teaching their students that America is a great nation.

Is that true? Is it indoctrination?