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A recent state audit of Epic Charter Schools documented many financial problems. As a result, the state’s Virtual Charter School Board has initiated a contract termination process in which Epic will have a chance to present its case against closure. The board voted 3-1.

The one board member who voted no was Phyllis Shepherd. It turns out that she is related to the founder of the Epic charter school. She had wished him “happy birthday” and “happy anniversary” on social media posts and signed it “Aunt Phyllis.”

One member of the board was missing:

Absent at Tuesday’s meeting was board member Mathew Hamrick, who was censured and stripped of his seat on a newly formed audit committee by a majority vote of his fellow board members in September.

Hamrick was accused of intentionally avoiding public votes by the board in 2019 and 2020 on matters seeking to unmask Epic’s use of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to date budgeted for student learning that Epic, the largest online school operator, is keeping private and for going rogue on the board’s official position in a legal battle over Epic Charter Schools’ spending records.

In late July, Hamrick signed an affidavit on behalf of Epic’s for-profit operator, which is shielding Epic’s Learning Fund spending records — and in direct opposition to the official position of the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board.

Hamrick ran for Senate District 45 during a 2017 special election but was defeated in the Republican primary. Records from the Oklahoma Ethics Commission show that Epic co-founder and co-owner of Epic Youth Services charter school management company David Chaney contributed to Hamrick’s 2017 campaign.

On Monday, the Oklahoma State Board of Education, which accredits all public schools in Oklahoma, voted unanimously to demand back $11.2 million in taxpayer funds based on the investigative audit by the State Auditor and Inspector’s Office.

Peter Greene writes about a new push to expand charters in Maine by the same-old group that has failed in the past to disrupt the state’s devotion to public schools. Wake up, Maine! Don’t be fooled. They want you to divert money from public schools to privately managed schools run by entrepreneurs and corporate chains.

He begins:

Maine has suffered through its own brands of education disruption. Most notably, they became the target for a bunch folks who wanted to use Maine as a proof of concept state for proficiency based learning grafted onto standards based grading. At best they showed that a poorly implemented and underfunded disruption of this sort is disastrous; at worst, they showed that re-organizing education around the needs of data miners is a terrible idea. However you slice it, Maine’s little experiment failed hard.

But what education in Maine hasn’t had to deal with much is the rise of charter schools. The charter industry hasn’t infected Maine as badly as, say, Ohio or Indiana. There are ten charters, with fewer than a total of 3,000 students enrolled. There are plenty of possible explanations, not the least of which is that once you get away from Theme Park Maine on the coast, Maine is pretty rural (I have an old friend who used to describe his central Maine high school as fifteen miles and an hour and a half away from the nearest rival). But that limited role for charteristas may be about to change.

Like every state where charters are legal, Maine has a group that promotes, advocates, lobbies and generally cheerleads for the charter industry– the Maine Association for Charter Schools, whose stated purpose is to promote “high-quality options for all children within Maine’s public education system.” But last year the legislature indefinitely extended a charter school cap

So what’s a chartery education disruption group to do? 

How about renaming yourself? And rebranding yourself with a whole new mission by declaring yourself the leaders of the state’s education community?

So let’s meet a fun new group launched just a few months ago. It’s the Education Action Forum of Maine and it is, well– from their About Us page:

The Education Action Forum of Maine operated for twenty years as the Maine Association for Charter Schools. On June 17, 2020, the MACS board voted to change the name and expand its mission to adapt to the realities influencing the education landscape in Maine.Think of them as the Pandemic Down East Opportunist Society. Also from their About Us…

The time is ripe for an organization, such as ours, to provide leadership to assist the education system to move forward safely, and to develop strategies to restructure the system in ways unimaginable before the pandemic struck. 
It takes its “inspiration” from “analogous” groups like the Mind Trust of Indianapolis and Education Evolving in Minnesota. I’ve written about the Mind Trust before (you can read about them here and here), and they are the same old disruptor model. Declare the public schools a mess, and then declare yourself “leaders” in the education space by virtue of the fact that 1) you say so and 2) you have collected some money and political connections. Mind Trust was, in fact, saying a couple of years ago that they wanted to scale up their model to other states. 

So when EAFoM says that they are “designed to amplify the voices of families, students and teachers,” you can take that with a few tons of salt. When they talk about “restructuring the education system,” assume they mean dismantling and privatizing the public system. And when they say they are looking to develop some “critical partnerships,” pay attention to the people they partner with.

Steve Hinnefeld, a regular commentator on education in Indiana, regrets that Amy Coney Barrett was not asked about vouchers during her hearings.

He notes that she served on the board of a Catholic school in Indiana that received state voucher funds and that openly discriminated against same-sex families.

Barrett served from 2015-17 on the board of Trinity School at Greenlawn, a South Bend Catholic school, the New York Times reported. Trinity had a policy during Barrett’s time on the board that effectively prohibited same-sex couples from enrolling their children in the school, according to the Times.

That would seem to cast doubt on Barrett’s claim in her confirmation hearing that she had “never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference” and would not do so. It also raises policy questions about whether publicly funded institutions should practice discrimination.

A government agency that has long been trusted as nonpartisan relies on public trust for the information it releases. When that agency is the Centers for Disease Control, public trust is essential to persuading the public that its advisories represent the work of scientists, unaffected by political considerations. This article by ProPublica describes how the Trump administration persistently interfered in CDC guidelines in an attempt to convince the public that the pandemic was no big deal and that the administration was doing a fabulous job in handling it.

It begins:

At 7:47 a.m. on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, Dr. Jay Butler pounded out a grim email to colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Butler, then the head of the agency’s coronavirus response, and his team had been trying to craft guidance to help Americans return safely to worship amid worries that two of its greatest comforts — the chanting of prayers and singing of hymns — could launch a deadly virus into the air with each breath.

The week before, the CDC had published its investigation of an outbreak at an Arkansas church that had resulted in four deaths. The agency’s scientific journal recently had detailed a superspreader event in which 52 of the 61 singers at a 2½-hour choir practice developed COVID-19. Two died.

Butler, an infectious disease specialist with more than three decades of experience, seemed the ideal person to lead the effort. Trained as one of the CDC’s elite disease detectives, he’d helped the FBI investigate the anthrax attacks, and he’d led the distribution of vaccines during the H1N1 flu pandemic when demand far outstripped supply.

But days earlier, Butler and his team had suddenly found themselves on President Donald Trump’s front burner when the president began publicly agitating for churches to reopen. That Thursday, Trump had announced that the CDC would release safety guidelines for them “very soon.” He accused Democratic governors of disrespecting churches, and deemed houses of worship “essential services.”

Butler’s team rushed to finalize the guidance for churches, synagogues and mosques that Trump’s aides had shelved in April after battling the CDC over the language. In reviewing a raft of last-minute edits from the White House, Butler’s team rejected those that conflicted with CDC research, including a worrisome suggestion to delete a line that urged congregations to “consider suspending or at least decreasing” the use of choirs.

On Friday, Trump’s aides called the CDC repeatedly about the guidance, according to emails. “Why is it not up?” they demanded until it was posted on the CDC website that afternoon.

The next day, a furious call came from the office of the vice president: The White House suggestions were not optional. The CDC’s failure to use them was insubordinate, according to emails at the time.

Fifteen minutes later, one of Butler’s deputies had the agency’s text replaced with the White House version, the emails show. The danger of singing wasn’t mentioned.

Early that Sunday morning, as Americans across the country prepared excitedly to return to houses of worship, Butler, a churchgoer himself, poured his anguish and anger into an email to a few colleagues.

“I am very troubled on this Sunday morning that there will be people who will get sick and perhaps die because of what we were forced to do,” he wrote.

When the next history of the CDC is written, 2020 will emerge as perhaps the darkest chapter in its 74 years, rivaled only by its involvement in the infamous Tuskegee experiment, in which federal doctors withheld medicine from poor Black men with syphilis, then tracked their descent into blindness, insanity and death.

With more than 216,000 people dead this year, most Americans know the low points of the current chapter already. A vaunted agency that was once the global gold standard of public health has, with breathtaking speed, become a target of anger, scorn and even pity.

How could an agency that eradicated smallpox globally and wiped out polio in the United States have fallen so far?

ProPublica obtained hundreds of emails and other internal government documents and interviewed more than 30 CDC employees, contractors and Trump administration officials who witnessed or were involved in key moments of the crisis. Although news organizations around the world have chronicled the CDC’s stumbles in real time, ProPublica’s reporting affords the most comprehensive inside look at the escalating tensions, paranoia and pained discussions that unfolded behind the walls of CDC’s Atlanta headquarters. And it sheds new light on the botched COVID-19 tests, the unprecedented political interference in public health policy, and the capitulations of some of the world’s top public health leaders.

Senior CDC staff describe waging battles that are as much about protecting science from the White House as protecting the public from COVID-19. It is a war that they have, more often than not, lost.

Please open the link and read it all.

The Wall Street Journal reports that more than 1,000 current and former officials at the Centers for Disease Control denounced the Trump administration’s response to COVID-19.

More than 1,000 current and former officers of an elite disease-fighting program at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have signed an open letter expressing dismay at the nation’s public-health response to the Covid-19 pandemic and calling for the federal agency to play a more central role.

“The absence of national leadership on Covid-19 is unprecedented and dangerous,” said the letter, signed by current and former officers of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service of outbreak investigators. “CDC should be at the forefront of a successful response to this global public health emergency.”

Signers included two former CDC directors: Jeffrey Koplan, who led the agency under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and Tom Frieden, who served under President Barack Obama.

All of the signatories were writing to “express our concern about the ominous politicization and silencing of the nation’s health protection agency” during the current pandemic, said their letter, which was published Friday in the Epidemiology Monitor, a newsletter for epidemiologists.

“CDC has today, as it has every day during its 74-year history, provided the best available information and recommendations to the American public,” the agency said in a response to the letter. “Since January, more than 5,200 CDC personnel have dedicated themselves to protecting the health of the American people.”

Long regarded as the world’s premier public health agency, the CDC normally plays a leading role globally in a response to epidemics.

The Trump administration has been deeply involved at times in the shaping of scientific recommendations at the CDC during the pandemic, raising objections to guidelines for reopening churches and schools and for wearing masks, The Wall Street Journal reported. An administration spokesman said that “the CDC occupies a critical seat on the (coronavirus) task force, which is made up of public health leaders with an array of valuable expertise.”

Katherine Stewart and I were invited by the Massachusetts Historical Society to discuss the assault on public schools by the religious right, libertarians, billionaires, and entrepreneurs.

Stewart is the author of an important new book called The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism.

Since Massachusetts was the birthplace of public schools, it was a fitting venue for our conversation.

Webinar recorded 30 September 2020 — Will Public Education Survive?: A Look at the Threats to Education Systems from Privatization and Religious Nationalism with Katherine Stewart and Diane Ravitch, New York University The rise of the Religious Right has coincided with the privatization movement in public schools. While some may feel that this is coincidental, there is reason to believe there is a directly causal relationship between these two factors. Two scholars, from different disciplines, will discuss how their work comes together to help explain the history and current state of efforts to diminish, if not dismantle, the American public education system. Katherine Stewart has written on the rise and increasing power of the Religious Right in her book The Power Worshipers. She will be joined by Diane Ravitch who has written extensively on education and, in her recent book Slaying Goliath, explores the history of the school privatization movement and the efforts to oppose it.

URL

The children of prominent politicians are causing mighty waves. Kellyanne Conway’s daughter Claudia has one million followers on TikTok, Twitter and other social media outlets, where she regularly excoriates Trump and her parents. The niece of Donald Trump, Mary Trump, wrote a bestseller about the dysfunctional family that produced The Donald and regularly appears on cable news to denounce his policies.

But the latest shocker is this article in Vanity Fair by Caroline Rose Guiliani, daughter of Trump’s personal attorney and former Mayor of New York City. She argues with her father’s political views and urges readers to vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Caroline is a political activist, and she speaks out eloquently against her father and his famous client.

The article is titled: “Rudy Guiliani Is My Father. Please, Everyone, Vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”

She writes:

I have a difficult confession—something I usually save for at least the second date. My father is Rudy Giuliani. We are multiverses apart, politically and otherwise. I’ve spent a lifetime forging an identity in the arts separate from my last name, so publicly declaring myself as a “Giuliani” feels counterintuitive, but I’ve come to realize that none of us can afford to be silent right now. The stakes are too high. I accept that most people will start reading this piece because you saw the headline with my father’s name. But now that you’re here, I’d like to tell you how urgent I think this moment is.

To anyone who feels overwhelmed or apathetic about this election, there is nothing I relate to more than desperation to escape corrosive political discourse. As a child, I saw firsthand the kind of cruel, selfish politics that Donald Trump has now inflicted on our country. It made me want to run as far away from them as possible. But trust me when I tell you: Running away does not solve the problem. We have to stand and fight. The only way to end this nightmare is to vote. There is hope on the horizon, but we’ll only grasp it if we elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

Around the age of 12, I would occasionally get into debates with my father, probably before I was emotionally equipped to handle such carnage. It was disheartening to feel how little power I had to change his mind, no matter how logical and above-my-pay-grade my arguments were. He always found a way to justify his party line, whatever it was at the time. Even though he was considered socially moderate for a Republican back in the day, we still often butted heads. When I tried to explain my belief that you don’t get to be considered benevolent on LGBTQ+ rights just because you have gay friends but don’t support gay marriage, I distinctly remember him firing back with an intensity fit for an opposing politican rather than one’s child. To be clear, I’m not sharing this anecdote to complain or criticize. I had an extremely privileged childhood and am grateful for everything I was given, including real-world lessons and complicated experiences like these. The point is to illustrate one of the many reasons I have a fraught relationship with politics, like so many of us do.

Even when there was an occasional flash of connection in these disagreements with my dad, it felt like nothing changed for the better, so I would retreat again until another issue I couldn’t stay silent on surfaced. Over the years other subjects like racial sensitivity (or lack thereof), sexism, policing, and the social safety net have all risen to this boiling point in me. It felt important to speak my mind, and I’m glad we at least managed to communicate at all. But the chasm was painful nonetheless, and has gotten exponentially more so in Trump’s era of chest-thumping partisan tribalism. I imagine many Americans can relate to the helpless feeling this confrontation cycle created in me, but we are not helpless. I may not be able to change my father’s mind, but together, we can vote this toxic administration out of office.

Trump and his enablers have used his presidency to stoke the injustice that already permeated our society, taking it to dramatically new, Bond-villain heights. I am a filmmaker in the LGBTQ+ community who tells stories about mental health, sexuality, and other stigmatized issues, and my goal is to humanize people and foster empathy. So I hope you’ll believe me when I say that another Trump term (a term, itself, that makes me cringe) will irrevocably harm the LGBTQ+ community, among many others. His administration asked the Supreme Court to let businesses fire people for being gay or trans, pushed a regulation to let health care providers refuse services to people who are LGTBQ+, and banned trans people from serving their country in the military.

Women, immigrants, people with disabilities, and people of color are all also under attack by Trump’s inhumane policies—and by his judicial appointments, including, probably, Amy Coney Barrett. Trump’s administration has torn families apart in more ways than I even imagined were possible, from ripping children from their parents at the border to mishandling the coronavirus, which has resulted in over 215,000 in the U.S. dying, many thousands of them without their loved ones near. Faced with preventable deaths during a pandemic that Trump downplayed and ignored, rhetoric that has fed deep-seated, systemic racism, and chaos in the White House, it’s no surprise that so many Americans feel as hopeless and overwhelmed as I did growing up. But if we refuse to face our political reality, we don’t stand a chance of changing it.

I like the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., for many reasons. I like the research it produces. But I most admire the fact that it is not sustained by the usual billionaires. It follows the facts.

In a recent report, EPI found that teachers pay a wage penalty for choosing teaching as their profession. They are paid about 20% less than others with similar levels of education. This makes it hard to attract new teachers and hard to hold on to teachers. If billionaire-funded “reformers” had spent their time advocating for higher wages for teachers, instead of spinning their wheels about phony evaluations based on student test scores (which have failed everywhere to improve teacher quality) or on merit pay (which has consistently failed for at least a century), they might have actually helped improve the schools. Their bogus efforts have undermined teacher morale and actually reduced the supply of people entering what is one of our most important professions.

The report begins:

As we have shown in our more than a decade and a half of work on the topic, there has been a long-trending erosion of teacher wages and compensation relative to other college graduates.1 Simply put, teachers are paid less (in wages and compensation) than other college-educated workers with similar experience and other characteristics, and this financial penalty discourages college students from entering the teaching profession and makes it difficult for school districts to keep current teachers in the classroom.

This report was produced in collaboration with the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics at the University of California, Berkeley.

Teacher compensation is not just an issue of staffing: Effective teachers are the most important school-based determinant of student educational performance. To promote children’s success in school, schools must retain credentialed teachers and ensure that teaching remains an attractive career option for college-bound students. Our previous report (Allegretto and Mishel 2019) explains in more detail why providing teachers with a decent middle-class living commensurate with other professionals with similar education is not simply a matter of fairness but necessary to enhance student and economic performance.

We provide this update to our long-standing series on the teacher wage and compensation penalty as the U.S. continues to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic consequences. While the data in this paper are through 2019 and thus predate the pandemic, our analysis may provide useful insights as schools struggle to reopen. As a country we have yet to make the necessary investments, and pass the needed policies and procedures (e.g., universal mask requirements and testing, tracing, and isolating protocols) that would allow us to achieve some semblance of normalcy. Teachers and other school staff will continue the business of educating students in these trying times. They and their unions will play a critical role in moving forward in an effective and safe environment.

Key findings

  • The teacher wage penalty has grown substantially since the mid-1990s. The teacher wage penalty is how much less, in percentage terms, public school teachers are paid in weekly wages relative to other college-educated workers (after accounting for factors known to affect earnings such as education, experience, and state residence). The regression-adjusted teaching wage penaltywas 6.0% in 1996. In 2019, the penalty was 19.2%, reflecting a 2.8 percentage-point improvement compared with a penalty of 22.0% a year earlier.
  • The teacher wage penalty declined in the wake of recent teacher strikes but only time and more data will reveal whether teachers’ actions led to a decline and a turning point. The lessening of the teaching penalty from 22.0% in 2018 to 19.2% in 2019 may reflect pay raises enacted in the wake of widespread strikes and other actions by teachers in 2018 and 2019, particularly in some of the states where teacher pay lagged the most. Unfortunately, the data we have to date are not sufficient to allow us to identify the geographic locus of the improvements in teacher wages and benefits and any association with the recent wave of teacher protests and strikes. Only time will tell if this single data point marks a turning point in teacher pay.
  • The wage premium that women teachers experienced in the 1960s and 1970s has been replaced by a significant wage penalty. As noted in our previous research, women teachers enjoyed a 14.7% wage premium in 1960, meaning they were paid 14.7% more than comparably educated and experienced women in other occupations. In 2019, women teachers were earning 13.2% less in weekly wages than their nonteaching counterparts were—a 27.9 percentage-point swing over the last six decades.
  • The wage penalty for men in teaching is much larger than it is for women in the profession, and it too has worsened considerably. The teacher wage penalty for men was 16.6% in 1979. In 2019, male teachers earned 30.2% less than similar male college graduates who chose a different profession. This explains, to a large degree, why only one in four teachers are men.
  • While teacher wage penalties have worsened over time, some of the increase may be attributable to a tradeoff school districts make between pay and benefits. In other words, school districts may not be giving teachers raises but are instead offering stable or slightly better benefits, such that benefits make up a larger share of the overall compensation package for teachers than for other professionals. In 2019, nonwage benefits made up a greater share of total compensation for teachers (29.3%) than for other professionals (21.4%). In 2004, nonwage benefits share of compensation was 20.7% for teachers and 18.7% for other professionals.
  • The benefits advantage of teachers has not been enough to offset the growing wage penalty. The teacher total compensation penalty was 10.2% in 2019 (composed of a 19.2% wage penalty offset by a 9.0% benefits advantage). The bottom line is that the teacher total compensation penalty grew by 7.5 percentage points from 1993 to 2019.
  • The teacher wage penalty exceeds 20% in 21 states and in the District of Columbia. Teacher weekly wage penalties for each state, computed using pooled 2014–2019 data, range from 2.0% in Wyoming to 32.7% in Virginia. In 21 states and the District of Columbia teachers are paid less than 80 cents on the dollar earned by similar college-educated workers.

Donald Trump, as everyone knows, got the best of socialized medicine when he was hospitalized at Walter Reed. He received drugs not available to the general public. One, in particular, was effective, apparently, and he called it a “miracle cure.” It is not currently available to the public; it has not yet been approved by the FDA. But if it is approved, the problems of availability, affordability, and distribution are immense, https://www.wired.com/story/trumps-miracle-cure-for-covid-is-a-logistical-nightmare/as described in this article in Wired.

It’s likely that the Food and Drug Administration will authorize these therapies for emergency use any day now. Before that happens, though, three simple questions must be answered if we’re to avoid turmoil and confusion: Who will be eligible to receive these treatments and have access to them? Where will the therapies be administered? And how muchwill they cost?

No one, certainly not Trump, has figured out the answers to these questions.

K. Sabeel Rahman, president of the think tank Demos, proposes wisely in The Atlantic that the way to fix our nation’s economy and restore equity is to reverse decades of privatization and instead invest in public infrastructure. This would not only create millions of jobs but would restore the balance between the public and private spheres, which are dramatically skewed in favor of the haves and against the have-nots. I wish he said more about the privatization of public schools, but he does not fail to mention the subject.

He begins:

When I refer to public infrastructure, I mean something much more expansive than roads and bridges; I mean the full range of goods, services, and investments needed for communities to thrive: physical utilities such as water, parks, and transit; basics such as housing, child care, and health care; and economic safety-net supports such as food stamps and unemployment insurance. But under America’s reigning ideology, public infrastructure like this is seen as costly, inefficient, outdated, and low-quality, while private alternatives are valorized as more dynamic, efficient, and modern. This ideology is also highly racialized. Universal services open to a multiracial public are vilified, coded in dog-whistle politics as an undeserved giveaway to communities of color at the expense of white constituents. The result has been a systematic defunding of public infrastructure since the 1970s.

Now under the extreme pressures of the pandemic and the economic collapse, the true costs of this underinvestment have become appallingly clear. As the country looks at how to respond to both the recent demands for racial justice and the needs of survival and rebuilding from the COVID-19 crisis, any recovery agenda will have to overcome these ideological and institutional attacks on the idea of public infrastructure, and commit to investing more dollars into our public infrastructure, dismantling racialized barriers to access, and embracing an economic narrative that defends these public goods.

On an economic score alone, massive investments in public infrastructure would pay off. Every dollar invested in transit infrastructure generates at least $3.70 in returns through new jobs, reduced congestion, and increased productivity, without accounting for the environmental and health benefits. For each dollar invested in early-childhood education, the result is $8.60 worth of economic benefit largely through reductions in crime and poverty. A universal health-care system would save Americans more than $2 trillion in health-care costs (even accounting for the increased public expenditure that would be needed) while securing access to life-saving care for more than 30 million Americans. The fact that federal and state governments fail to make these investments is not a matter of limited resources, but rather of skewed priorities. The 2017 Trump tax cuts of $1.9 trillion sent most of its gains to corporations and the wealthiest Americans; the United States has spent more than $820 billion on the Iraq War since 2003, and hundreds of billions every year to fund the prison-industrial complex.

Any 21st-century civil-rights and economic agenda must involve a massive shift in our public investments. The human cost of the failure to invest in these crucial social goods falls disproportionately on Black and brown communities. In the midst of the current economic crisis, more than a quarter of Black and Latino households report missing their last rent payment, and more than one-fifth of Black and Latino households are food insecure. Our public-investment decisions reflect who and what we value: Too often, the decision to underinvest in public infrastructure has stemmed from a desire to restrict access to those  goods and services for people of color, in an attempt to preserve the benefits of public infrastructure for wealthier and whiter communities.