Archives for category: Accountability

Jennifer Ramsey is a 17-year veteran teacher in Texas. She watched Donald Trump Jr. insult public schools and their teachers on national television, and she was outraged. She asks: What does he know about public education? We know he attended an elite and pricey boarding school (The Hill School in Pennsylvania), which costs $55,000 a year. But has he ever set foot in a public school?

Public education is a foundational institution in this great nation, promoting democracy by educating students to become active citizens. It is a truly American establishment. Unlike elite private schools, public schools do not pick and choose which Americans we teach. We teach students of all races, religions and economic levels. We teach brilliantly gifted students, as well as children with severe disabilities….

Does Donald Trump Jr. know that?

I will begin my 18th year teaching in a Texas public school. Unlike Donald Trump Jr., I know something about public education.

Public education is a foundational institution in this great nation, promoting democracy by educating students to become active citizens. It is a truly American establishment. Unlike elite private schools, public schools do not pick and choose which Americans we teach. We teach students of all races, religions and economic levels. We teach brilliantly gifted students, as well as children with severe disabilities.

As for Trump’s assertion that public schools are run for the benefit of teachers and administrators rather than for the students, again, I must ask: What does know about public education? Has he ever stepped foot in a public school?

Trump doesn’t know that in public schools, teachers spend hundreds of dollars out of their own pockets and hours beyond the workday preparing their classrooms to be fun and happy environments for the new group of American learners coming in. He doesn’t know that teachers help little ones learn the social skills they may be lacking at home, or how often teachers buy clothes for the little ones who are sent to school in clothes with holes and stains and too-small shoes.

Trump doesn’t know what it’s like to comfort a middle-school child whose mother beat him before he came to school, with his mouth still a bloody mess. Or what it’s like to try every single teacher strategy you know to reach the girl who is shut down, hates school and everyone in it — only to find out that her mother is selling her to grown men for drug money. He doesn’t know the heartbreak and real American life that teachers experience every day while interacting with their students.

Trump doesn’t know the love most teachers feel for their students. He doesn’t know our students are always “ours” — even years later. He doesn’t know how often teachers give their students lunch money, snacks, second chances, a shoulder to cry on and hugs. He doesn’t know the tears of pride and joy we cry when our students walk across the stage at graduation. He doesn’t know the anguish we feel when our students die.

The truth is that Trump and the public school bashers like him don’t know anything about public education. I am proud to be an American public school teacher, and I have heard enough of the un-American rhetoric that politicians and businessmen like him use to tear down a truly American establishment and condemn the millions of Americans working hard to care for the children of this nation.

This Indiana teacher wants you to know what Governor Mike Pence did to the public schools on his home state. He didn’t do it alone. He had the help of Republicans who control the legislature, and he built on the anti-public school record of his predecessor Mitch Daniels.

The New York Times reviewed Pence’s record on education, noting his support for charters and vouchers and his efforts to undermine State Superintendent Gloria Ritz, who received more votes than Pence in 2012. All the sources the Times quoted are conservatives.

But the Indiana teacher, who is self-described as a conservative, calls out Pence for his ongoing attacks on the teaching profession.

In Indiana, small, rural schools are shutting down because funding has been cut, families are moving out of district, and whole communities are losing jobs where school corporations are the largest employers.

Inner-city schools, like Indianapolis Public Schools, are urban nightmares as charter schools take away public school funding, yet only meet the needs of a fraction of the population.

Cities like Indy, Detroit, and Chicago are the poster-children for big government in education. The corporate rich and politicians get the money, and the urban poor, of which have a racial bias, receive a sub-standard education.

This is what Pence brings to the Republican Party ticket if he follows the path he’s paved in Indiana. If you don’t think education effects all parts of society, then education has benefitted you. If you know what the school-to prison pipeline is, then I don’t need to explain anymore.

One of the most powerful players in the corporate reform movement is Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), which represents the hedge fund managers who are eager to expand privately managed charters with public dollars.

Experienced journalist Alexander Russo writes here in the publication of the conservative American Enterprise Institute about the travails of DFER. From the outside, it appears that DFER is powerful for two reasons: its money (which seems to be endless) and its closeness to the Obama administration. President Obama took his cues from DFER, not the teachers’ unions. But Russo says that DFER is losing its grip and its sense of possibility. If it appears to be aimless and dispirited, it is.

The two issues that it fought for–charters and teacher evaluation by test scores–have not been the big successes that the hedge fund guys expected. Obama is leaving, and there is no certainty that Hillary will be as congenial as he was. She has a debt to the teachers’ unions, and Obama had none. On issue after issue, there have been no results–not for the agenda of privatizing the schools, nor for the fantasy of booting out all those “bad teachers.”

Money was never lacking, and the vision has all but disappeared. DFER exists because it continues to raise money, not because there is a groundswell of support for privatization and firing teachers based on test scores.

DFER’s long-time executive director Joe Williams has left to work for the Walton family.

Meanwhile, DFER’s real opposition is not the teachers’ unions but the parents and educators who are fighting back on their own dime. The grassroots opponents of corporate reform don’t have the money that DFER has, but they have passion, commitment, and the support of classroom teachers and scholars who oppose DFER’s goals. No one pays them. They (we) will outlast DFER because DFER will grow tired, tired of losing Friedrichs, tired of losing Vergara, tired of reading about the Opt Out movement, tired of being thrashed by bloggers like Mercedes Schneider and Peter Greene, tired of being vilified for their selfless investment in “reform,” tired of getting no returns on their investment.

The tortoise and the hare. Rabbit stew, anyone?

Jeff Bryant, writing for the Education Opportunity Network, reviews the many times that Democrats have said that Indiana Governor Mike Pence is an extremist, far out of the mainstream.

They will highlight his association with the Koch brothers, ALEC, and other far-right ideologues.

But the embarrassing fact is that Democrats endorse most of Pence’s views on education.

The fact is that Pence is squarely in the mainstream of education “reform,” the kind that is supported by a bipartisan coalition in D.C. and in the states.


What Pence adopted as his education policies resemble a hodge-podge of what is commonly referred to as “education reform.”

Indeed, organizations that espouse the reform agenda give Pence’s education record rave reviews.

“Mike Pence Is the Veep Education Reformers Need,” declares the Center for Education Reform. CER leader Jeanne Allen declares in her statement, “Mike Pence is a true pioneer of educational opportunity.”

Pro-reform American Federation for Children gushes, “Governor Pence is a longtime champion for educational choice, believing that every child, regardless of family income or ZIP code, deserves access to a quality education.”

At Forbes, reform cheerleader Maureen Sullivan’s list of “seven things” to know about Pence’s education stance reads like a checklist from the reform movement, including charter schools, standardized testing, merit pay for teachers, vouchers, and curriculum geared toward workforce preparation.

So, although Pence has strayed from reform orthodoxy at times – voting against the No Child Left Behind law passed under President Georg W. Bush and steering his state out of the Common Core (which he initially embraced) – he is generally recognized as an education reform leader, making him, in fact, aligned with many Democrats who’d never want to be caught dead supporting what Pence generally espouses.

For decades, both Democrats and Republicans have dined at the salad bar of education reform, with Democrats taking a heaping helping of charter schools but light on the vouchers please, and Republicans insisting on standardization but hold the Common Core now that we’ve gotten a taste of it.

Democrats eagerly sat alongside Republicans at the same education policy table in Indiana too. Most of the education policies Pence supported as governor have been a continuation of policies created by fellow Republicans – his predecessor Mitch Daniels and state superintendent Tony Bennett, who suffered a humiliating defeat during Pence’s tenure. But those policies often drew the praise of former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

In a visit to the state in 2011, Duncan and Bennett commended each other for their “efforts to overhaul education,” according to a local reporter.

In another visit to the sate a year later, Duncan “complimented,” according to a local news source, Bennett and Indiana’s leadership on the state’s expansion of charter schools and state takeovers of local schools – another popular item in the reform salad bar.

A New York Times article from 2013 lumps Duncan and Daniels, along with former Michigan Governor John Engler, together in the education policy arena, writing, “They all sympathize with many of the efforts of the so-called education reform movement.”

Will Democrats continue to embrace school choice, now that it is the heart of Trump and Pence’s education platform?

Our friend Bill Phillis of the Ohio Equity and Adequacy Coalition posted the following news:

On June 29 Geneva Area City Schools adopted a resolution to invoice the state for charter school deductions

School Treasurer Kevin Lillie’s message and the Board’s resolution were forwarded to over 30 public officials and media persons. The spreadsheet should be of particular interest.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

This is treasurer Kevin Lillie’s message:

At the regular meeting of the Geneva Area City Board of Education on June 29, 2016, the Board unanimously approved a Resolution to invoice the State of Ohio through the Ohio Department of Education for past charter school deductions consisting of state and local funding.  Please see the attached Resolution and invoice.  Over the past 16 fiscal years, $4,265,924.70 has been taken away from Geneva Area City Schools via State Foundation Settlement deductions and sent to under-performing charter schools.  What originally started as a five-year experiment, which was never completed or never evaluated for effectiveness, has turned into a monster at a tremendous waste of taxpayer funds and irreparable harm to Ohio’s school children.  Many of these charter schools are for-profit ventures, draining money from Ohio to outside individuals and greedy corporations whose only motive is to line their pockets with easy cash.  These charter schools lack oversight and regulation and are wrought with fraud and corruption.  How does one explain away the NCAA not accepting transcripts form a particular online charter school, or FBI raids on a chain of charters operated by a Turkish Islamic cleric which imports teachers from Turkey instead of hiring Ohio citizens (only a small part of the problems with these particular charters), or a Dayton-area charter school spending $4,167 per pupil to rent the building it uses from a sister company?  It is for these reasons that the Geneva Area City Board of Education has chosen to invoice the State of Ohio and ODE for the full amount of the charter school deductions.

These charter school deductions have drained needed funds from our District and districts all over Ohio.  These deductions along with state funding reductions over the past seven years have forced many districts like ours to cut teachers and support staff, increase class sizes, reduce course offerings, cut some student activity groups and sports, and institute pay to participate fees to keep other sports.  Meanwhile, much of the taxpayers’ money taken from our District and sent to charter schools is being used for fraudulent advertising, high administration salaries, and campaign contributions.  It is time to clean up the fraud and corruption in charters and stop wasting taxpayer funds.

Also attached are spreadsheets comparing the performance Geneva Area City Schools to the charter schools receiving our resident students.  I hope you will take the time to read the resolution and invoice and view the charter school comparisons.

Sincerely, 
  

Kevin Lillie, Treasurer/CFO
Geneva Area City Schools
135 S. Eagle St.
Geneva, OH 44041
Ph:  440-415-9304
Fax:  440-466-0908
Email:  kevin.lillie@genevaschools.org

Please note new email address:  kevin.lillie@genevaschools.org  

Here is the Board’s resolution.

I can’t copy and paste the Board’s resolution. Please read it. It is powerful.

It makes clear that Ohio’s charters have made the state the “laughing stock of the nation” and that the state’s charters perform below public schools and are rife with corruption and fraud.

This is one impressive school board!

In this post, EduShyster interviews Eunice Han, an economist who earned her Ph.D. at Harvard University and is now headed for the University of Utah.

Dr. Han studied the effects of unions on teacher quality and student achievement and concluded that unionization is good for teachers and students alike.

This goes against the common myth that unions are bad, bad, bad.

Han says that “highly unionized districts actually fire more bad teachers.”

And more: It’s pretty simple, really. By demanding higher salaries for teachers, unions give school districts a strong incentive to dismiss ineffective teachers before they get tenure. Highly unionized districts dismiss more bad teachers because it costs more to keep them.

Dr. Han found a natural experiment in the states that abolished collective bargaining.

Indiana, Idaho, Tennessee and Wisconsin all changed their laws in 2010-2011, dramatically restricting the collective bargaining power of public school teachers. After that, I was able to compare what happened in states where teachers’ bargaining rights were limited to states where there was no change. If you believe the argument that teachers unions protect bad teachers, we should have seen teacher quality rise in those states after the laws changed. Instead I found that the opposite happened. The new laws restricting bargaining rights in those four states reduced teacher salaries by about 9%. That’s a huge number. A 9% drop in teachers salaries is unheard of. Lower salaries mean that districts have less incentive to sort out better teachers, lowering the dismissal rate of underperforming teachers, which is what you saw happen in the those four states. Lower salaries also encouraged high-quality teachers to leave the teaching sector, which contributed to a decrease of teacher quality.

Send this link to Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, and any other reformers you can think of.

Andrew Rotherham, a key figure in the corporate reform movement, once worked in the Clinton White House. He has since gone on to found a consulting firm, Bellwether Education Partners, that represents many of the leading corporate reform groups.

Rotherham writes here that “education reform” (charter schools, high-stakes testing, and evaluation of teachers by test scores) is not dead. He writes to reassure his friends and allies in the corporate reform movement that Hillary will not abandon their ideas. No matter what the platform says, no matter what she told the AFT and the NEA, he says, you gotta believe that she still loves her friends in the corporate reform world.

The subtext is fear. Is she really going to expect charters to serve children with disabilities and English language learners, the charters wonder. Is she really going to listen to the hated teachers’ unions on the subject of education? Is she going to slow down the drive to privatize public schools? Is she going to stop closing schools in poor black and Hispanic neighborhoods?

Never mind that all the reformers’ pet priorities have failed. Never mind that growing numbers of parents are opting their children out of state tests. Never mind that VAM has improved no school anywhere. Never mind that charters seldom outperform public schools and have often provided a platform for theft, fraud, and greed, whether they operate for profit or not-for-profit. Never mind that the Obama “reform” policies have helped to create teacher shortages in many states.

A new study in Michigan finds that the proliferation of charter schools has undermined the fiscal viability of traditional public schools.

David Arsen, a professor at the College of Education at Michigan State University, discovered that school choice and especially charters were diverting resources from public school districts, leaving them in perilous condition.

“Which Districts Get Into Financial Trouble and Why: Michigan’s Story” asserts that “80 percent of the explained variation in district fiscal stress is due to changes in districts’ state funding, to enrollment changes including those associated with school choice policies, and to the enrollment of high-cost special education students.”

In other words, the fiscal failings of DPS that we just addressed had less to do with poor spending on the part of district — though we’re sure there was some of that — and more to do with statewide policies, such as those that promote competition, that put the traditional district at a disadvantage.

“Overwhelmingly, the biggest financial impact on school districts was the result of declining enrollment and revenue loss, especially where school choice and charters are most prevalent,” Arsen explained to education blogger Jennifer Berkshire (author of the website EduShyster) in a recent interview.

To read Jennifer Berkshire’s illuminating interview of David Arsen, open this link to her website.

Here is a portion of her interview:

David Arsen: The question we looked at was how much of this pattern of increasing financial distress among school districts in Michigan was due to things that local districts have control over as opposed to state-level policies that are out of the local districts’ control: teacher salaries, health benefits, class size, administrative spending. We also looked at an item that the conservative think tanks are big on: contracting out and privatization. We found that, overwhelmingly, the biggest financial impact on school districts was the result of declining enrollment and revenue loss, especially where school choice and charters are most prevalent. We looked at every school district in Michigan with at least 100 students and we followed them for nearly 20 years. The statistics are causal; we’re not just looking at correlation.

EduShyster: There’s a table in your paper which actually made me gasp aloud—which I’m pretty sure is a first. I’m talking, of course, about the chart where you show what happened to Michigan’s *central cities,* including Detroit, as charter schools really started to expand.

Arsen: We have districts getting into extreme fiscal distress because they’re losing revenue so fast. That table in our paper looked at the central cities statewide and their foundation revenue, which is both a function of per-pupil funding and enrollment. They had lost about 22% of their funding over a decade. If you put that in inflation adjusted terms, it means that they lost 46% of their revenue in a span ten years. With numbers like that, it doesn’t really matter if you can get the very best business managers—you can get a team of the very best business managers—and you’re going to have a hard time handling that kind of revenue loss. The emergency managers, incidentally, couldn’t do it. They had all the authority and they cut programs and salaries, but they couldn’t balance the budgets in Detroit and elsewhere, because it wasn’t about local decision making, it was about state policy. And when they made those cuts, more kids left and took their state funding with them.

EduShyster: As you followed the trajectory of these school districts, was there a *point of no return* that you could identify? A tipping point in lost enrollment and funding from which they just couldn’t recover?

Arsen: When we looked at the impact of charter schools we found that overall their effect on the finances of districts statewide was modest. Then we looked to see if there were nonlinear, or disproportionate, impacts in those districts where charters enrolled very high and sustained shares of resident students. And then the results got huge. We saw very significant and large impacts of charter penetration on district fund balances for different thresholds, whether there were 15, 20 or 25% of the students going to charter schools. That was really striking. At every one of those thresholds, the higher the charter penetration, the higher the adverse impact on district finances. They’re big jumps, and they’re all very significant statistically. What’s clear is that when the percentage gets up to the neighborhood of 20% or so, these are sizeable adverse impacts on district finances.

I thought we were finished with the grand affair of Melania Trump’s speech.

I was at the point where I stopped caring who wrote her speech and whether she knew she had lifted two paragraphs from Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech.

But then a friend sent me this very well-written article by Jeffrey Isaacs, a political science professor at the University of Indiana.

He makes a convincing argument that the plagiarism was not just an oversight, but an important insight into the mind of Donald Trump and the dysfunction of his campaign.

Here are the key points:

The first and most important reason why this plagiarism matters is because of what it demonstrates about the ethics, or rather the lack of ethics, of the Trump campaign itself: that the campaign plays fast and loose with the truth, and consistently acts as if it can say or do whatever it wants, simply deny responsibility, and then angrily maintain that its critics are always wrong and the fault is theirs. Trump is always right. His critics are always evil. The brouhaha over this plagiarized speech is simply a blatant example of this. Just deny the obvious, defensively maintain innocence, and then blame those who point out the obvious wrong-doing, claiming that they are liars, they are evil, they are self-interested. On this logic, it’s all Hillary Clinton’s fault! In any other sphere of life such behavior would be regarded as transparently self-serving and juvenile. And yet this is the modus operandi of the Trump campaign. The campaign rests on lies and innuendoes and provocations.

The second reason the plagiarism matters is because of what it demonstrates about the campaign as an organization: that the campaign is an organization only in the loosest of senses. It has no campaign manager in a proper sense; it has little clear structure; it has devoted little time and energy to fund-raising or building an electoral ground game; and it seems entirely driven by the whims and the ego of Trump himself, and by his small coterie of advisers who, like Paul Manafort, have an established track record of unscrupulous behavior. The Trump Presidential campaign is not being run in a professional manner. It has consistently proven unable to properly plan or to anticipate the likely effects of its own activities or to demonstrate even the most rudimentary form of political responsibility of the sort that many citizens of our highly mediated electoral democracy expect. The campaign is inept, and it consistently masks its ineptitude with bravado and threats.

And this brings me to the third reason why the plagiarism is important: the extent to which the entire campaign is an extension of Trump’s ego, and thus a perverse and tacky family affair rather than a serious coalition of diverse political people. Everywhere Trump goes his adult children follow. His children are touted as his key advisers. His sons serve as important campaign spokesmen. His 34 year-old daughter Ivanka — who seems like a nice enough person, but whose entire career has involved showcasing the Trump genes and the Trump brand — is presented to the public as his chief confidant and political genius, to the absurd extent of actually being mentioned as a possible Vice Presidential candidate. Every US President and Presidential candidate in recent history has had a family. In almost every case, these families included spouses, or children, who had demonstrated real accomplishment, on their own, in business or journalism or education or medicine or the law. In no case has a family ever played such an important role in a campaign’s operations and in its public presentation as Trump’s family plays in his campaign. We are talking about a bunch of people in their thirties, who were raised with silver spoons in their mouths, and who have all risen to “success” as acolytes of their wealthy father. The situation would be laughable were it not so frightening. Some of these young people might be fine individuals. Some seem quite clearly to be arrogant punks. This is the “brain trust” behind the Trump campaign? These are the faces of the Republican party?

Finally, there is Melania herself, the woman who spoke the plagiarized words in question. It is difficult to comment on this woman given the rampant sexism in our culture. That she is Slovenian, that she is a beautiful former model, that she is a much younger woman — these are things that are not relevant to any assessment of Melania Trump’s character, personality, or accomplishments. At the same time, it is impossible to completely ignore such things, in connection to her husband, given the fact that she is being escorted across the public stage as “the next First Lady of the US.” For Donald Trump uses women, and he has a history of seeking approbation for the beautiful woman he has been able to use as “eye candy.” And Melania Trump was being showcased as a way of promoting Trump’s own masculinity, before the Republican Party and before the entire world. Her prescribed role was a simple one: to look beautiful, to say some things about the “hard work” that brought her before our eyes, and to sing the praises of Donald. What else could anyone expect from her given the role she has long played in her husband’s public performances? If she was put in a difficult or compromising position by the campaign, or furnished with plagiarized words, that is unfortunate. And ultimately the campaign is about Trump and not about her. So some of the sympathy being expressed for Melania in the media is understandable. At the same time, she is Donald Trump’s wife, the woman who represents his sense of “family values” (his previous two buxom and blonde former-model ex-wives are things of the past, having served their roles as carriers of the Trump genes). And she is 46 years old. She is a grown woman. Is she not responsible for herself and for her own words? It is claimed in her promotional materials that she is an accomplished and dedicated business woman. Perhaps she is (though apparently when she met her future husband the multi-millionaire she was a 26 year-old model). It is also claimed that she is a graduate of University in Slovenia. She is not a university graduate. And indeed, while the locution, with its capitalized “U,” seems to imply that there exists a particular university from which she graduated, there is in fact no actual university being referenced here. University in Slovenia? That would be like me listing on my CV “University in United States.” Fast and loose with the truth she is — assuming that she has had anything to do with her own narrative on her own website.

Last night we were treated to a diatribe about how awful American public schools are by a young man who never attended a public school: Donald Trump, Jr.

These days, those who know the least are likely to spout off the most.

Mr. Trump Jr. went to a fancy private school with a tuition that is about equal to the median American annual salary.

William Doyle watched the speech and dashed off a comment:

In his speech at the Republican convention last night, Donald J. Trump
Jr. managed to mix up the subject of education so badly that he stated
it completely backwards from the truth.

Trump said, “You know why other countries do better in K-through-12?
They let parents choose where to send their own children to school.
That’s called competition. It’s called the free market.”

In fact, the nations that have introduced measures of so-called
“free-market choice” in their education systems — notably Sweden,
Chile, and most recently the UK — have experienced no improvement in
overall results, and have instead seen quality and equity decline.

By contrast, the superstars of global education, including Finland,
Canada, Japan, Singapore and South Korea, have largely single-model
national delivery systems of education that stress teacher
professionalism and autonomy, equity for all students, and the regular
testing and assessment of students by experienced teachers, not by bad
data created by wasteful and low-quality standardized tests.

If we want to Make America Great Again in education, we should be
inspired by their example.

—William Doyle is a Fulbright Scholar who lectures on global education
at the University of Eastern Finland, and spends several months a year
as a public school father of an 8-year old in Finland.

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