Archives for category: Charter Schools

Ron DeSantis, Governor of Florida, has pushed policies that are driving teachers out of their profession. He knows exactly what he is doing. He favors charter schools and voucher schools, where teachers have no job security, no pensions.

Teachers are leaving public schools. They are quitting. DeSantis is getting what he wants.

BOCA RATON, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) (Copyright © 2022 MetroDesk Media, LLC) — The Palm Beach County School District appears to be in desperate need of teachers as the new school year gets underway. The first day of school for students is August 10th. Several teachers tell BocaNewsNow.com that they — and their colleagues — are leaving their long-held positions due to what they call the politicization of teaching by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

“From ’Don’t Say Gay’ to other bizarre positions,” said one teacher who asked not be identified, ”teaching is no longer teaching. It’s politics. Politics should have no place in the classroom, unless it’s actually a class about politics.”

“We have elementary school students who have same-sex parents,” said another teacher at a Palm Beach County elementary school. ”Are we really not allowed to acknowledge that? If we get fired, we lose benefits. If we resign now, we get what we have. This is why so many teachers are leaving. The Governor got it wrong.”

While the school district has been transmitting email blasts — and taking to social media — to promote job fairs and open positions, a check of the actual ”help wanted” website reveals just how dire the situation appears to be. As of noon on July 31st, 2022, a search of the word ”teacher” on the official Palm Beach County School District employment website yielded 1,784 jobs. While we did not review each and every listing, a spot check of several listings suggests that the openings are real. They range from full-time gifted to part-time continuing education. They range from Eagles Landing Middle School in Boca Raton to schools in all parts of the county.

It’s not just teachers. Transportation Services is also in need of bus drivers. The need is so great that the school district is offering a $1000 signing bonus to new transportation department employees.

Carol Burris knows every detail of the U.S. Department of Education’s new regulations for charter schools. She has studied them closely and written about what they mean. They are a reasonable effort to create accountability for the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars a year on charter schools. The federal Charter Schools Program began in 1994 as a $4 million annual fund to start new charter schools. In the nearly three decades since then, the program has grown (in response to the powerful charter lobby) to $440 million a year. The program, until now, has been unregulated. It has been riddled with waste, fraud, and abuse. As two well-documented reports (see here and here) by the Network for Public Education demonstrated, a large number of charters received federal funding but never opened or closed soon after opening. While the original intent of the program was to jumpstart small, teacher-led or mom-and-pop charters, the program grew into a slush fund for big charter chains, grifters, and slick, for-profit entrepreneurs.

The U.S. Department of Education wisely decided it was time to set some rules. Federal funding comes with rules.

Billionaire Mike Bloomberg knows none of this context. He recently wrote (or one of his aides wrote) an uninformed article in the Washington Post about the Department’s new regulations for the Federal Charter School Program. He falsely claimed that the regulations were a “victory” for the charter industry, even though the charter industry fought the regulations vigorously. Bloomberg’s article was a lame attempt to put a happy face on a major defeat for the charter lobbyists.

Carol Burris responded:

Michael Bloomberg embarrassed himself with his recent op-ed published in the Washington Post entitled “Charter School Change is a Victory for Children.” It would appear that given the efforts and funding that his organization put into blocking Charter School Program reforms, he now feels the need to take an unearned victory lap.

Bloomberg begins his op-ed by thanking the Biden Administration for listening to parents and editorialists—like himself. After participating in the month-long hate fest that claimed the President was “at war with charter schools,” he and his allies at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools are likely eager to creep out of the doghouse.

In addition to its heated rhetoric insulting the President and telling Secretary Cardona to back off, the charter lobby deliberately spread misinformation regarding the U.S. Department of Education’s then-proposed Charter School Program reforms. They falsely claimed that over-enrollment in district schools and cooperation with a public school district were prerequisites to obtaining CSP funding. Bloomberg used his influence to write op-eds that parroted the campaign of misinformation.

As I explained here in the Washington Post Answer Sheet, neither claim was valid. Now, Bloomberg once again twists the truth with three additional false narratives in his recent op-ed.

The first is as follows.

“The Department of Education’s original proposal could have prevented public charter schools with long wait lists from expanding or replicating if the district schools were under-enrolled.”

This was inaccurate when he first wrote it and is still untrue. Under-enrollment was an example of one of the ways charter schools could demonstrate need. Waiting lists, special missions, and other ways to show need were always allowed. This was clarified by the Department long before the final regulations were published.

The second false claim in his op-ed is:

“It [proposed regulations] would have prioritized funding for public charter schools that enter into formal contracts with district schools, making charters dependent on the good will and good faith of schools that may see them as competitors.”

Mr. Bloomberg better check again.

Priority 2 (charter/district cooperation) is still in the regulations as an invitational priority this year. Invitational is one of three levels of priority. The proposed regulations never stated which level priority 2 would have. The priority, by being retained, also opens the door for priority 2 to become a higher priority in the coming years.

And finally:

“And it would have restricted public charters from receiving early implementation funding that can be crucial to the process of opening a school. The proposal was amended to prevent those outcomes.”

The amendment he refers to (see below) was a change without distinction. Those implementation funds cannot be used; therefore, the original restriction, for all intents and purposes, is still intact.

This is the minor change between the proposed and final regulations, as explained by the Department here.

“We amended Assurance (f) to remove the requirement that applicants provide an assurance that they will not “use or provide” implementation funds for a charter school until after the eligible applicant has received an approved charter and secured a facility so that applicants are required only to provide an assurance that they will not “use” implementation funds prior to receiving an approved charter and securing a facility.”

If the schools cannot use the funds, whether or not they are “provided” is irrelevant.

I do not know who penned this op-ed for Mr. Bloomberg. But I do know this. His buddies at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, likely with his financial support, spent a king’s ransom trying to get the U.S. Department of Education to scrap or delay the regulations. In the process, they alienated members of Congress, especially powerful House Appropriations Chair Rosa De Lauro, as well as members of the Department. Their campaign was relentless, nasty, and very expensive.

But in the world of Michael Bloomberg, the truth is flexible, and he can use the influence derived from his fortune to put in print whatever “truth” suits his purpose.

However, those of us who have followed this carefully know the deal. As charter devotee, Jeanne Allen tweeted to the National Alliance’s Nina Rees, who was also trying to claim victory, “You should probably read thoroughly the final CSP #charterschool rules. All 135 pages. Not only did nothing really change, but the explanations make it worse than it was to start.”

Jennifer Berkshire inquires into why so many Democratic leaders and pundits have refused to defend public schools, even though most parents are satisfied with their public schools. As the public schools are blamed for all the evils of modern life by extremists like Chris Rufo, Democrats refuse to stand up for the public schools. She explores why in this article.

Parents are not abandoning the public schools, but Democratic politicians are.

She begins:

Last spring, taking a break from waging conspiratorial campaigns against the republic, an assortment of luminaries associated with the Claremont Institute gathered to lay out a plan to foment a culture war against the nation’s schools. The Clubhouse event, entitled “Building A New Right: Red States vs. Wokeness,” featured a grab bag of Claremont fellows and friends. The star attraction was Manhattan Institute agitprop specialist Christopher Rufo, chief sower of the panics against critical race theory (CRT) and “grooming.”

In a now familiar exercise, Rufo sketched out his campaign to make CRT toxic as part of a larger propaganda war against public institutions. The ultimate goal, he explained, was essentially to do away with those institutions and redirect school funding to families and individuals based on their “values.” Rufo waxed apocalyptic about the scourge of “wokeness,” and yet he struck a hopeful note. After all, he reminded listeners, it had only taken the country a few years to go from the Black Panthers to Nixon.

In the ensuing months, Rufo’s propaganda campaign would grow increasingly lurid, but on this occasion, he urged his audience to raise the discussion to a higher level. Focus on “excellence,” he admonished them, and attack public schools for failing to meet that standard. Conservative communications guru David Reaboi, who helped seed a previous moral panic on the right against the sinister spread of Sharia law, weighed in with some messaging advice of his own: Go full bore against the teachers unions. Do damage.

Today, this coordinated plan to wage a public relations war against the nation’s public schools is an undeniable success. Forty-two states have moved to restrict teaching about oppression, race or gender. According to one estimate, more than one third of students in the country attend school in a state where educators are now subject to some kind of classroom gag order.

The achievement of Rufo and his allies is all the more astonishing, given the deep unpopularity of the policies they champion. Polls consistently show that voters across party lines are repelled by the GOP’s education extremism. Across the chasm of our current political divide, bipartisan majorities are largely in agreement that banning books and gagging teachers is bad.

And for all of the insurgent right’s bold rhetoric about mining parent outrage for electoral gold, the polls that matter most have shown remarkably poor results for candidates running on scorched-earth education platforms. In New Hampshire, New York, Montana, Georgia, Wisconsin and beyond, voters are rejectingright-wing culture warriors, often by wide margins—a movement that might be summed up as “keeping the crazy away from the kids.”

There’s just one problem, though: The leadership of the Democratic party doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo.

Valerie Strauss posted an article by Darcie Cimarusti about the spread of charter schools affiliated with Hillsdale College. Cimarusti is the communications director of the Network for Public Education. The Hillsdale charters, called Barney Schools, promise schools where students get a patriotic education untouched by “critical race theory” and safe from the dangers of sex education, with more than a touch of fundamentalist Christian theology.

She writes:

Hillsdale College is a small, nondenominational Christian school in Michigan with a satellite campus on Capitol Hill. Hillsdale President Larry Arnn headed former president Trump’s 1776 Commission, and last year Hillsdale College released a “1776 Curriculum” as a counter to the New York Times’ 1619 Project and its corresponding K-12 curriculum.

Hillsdale spreads the gospel of the right-wing through their K-12 curriculum and the Barney Charter School Initiative, which currently claims member schools in nine states across the country and “curriculum schools” in 19 states. The college’s mission to maintain “by precept and example the immemorial teachings and practices of the Christian faith” morphs into a call for “moral virtue” in their K-12 charter schools.


The school’s expanding K-12 footprint aligns with former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s admission that “greater Kingdom gain” is the ultimate outcome of the religious right’s school choice agenda. Hillsdale has made gains in this aim via charter schools, which are publicly funded but operated by entities outside traditional school districts.


Hillsdale does not “own, govern, manage, or profit from” the charter schools they work with, and they do not charge for their curriculum. But Florida-based Academica, the largest for-profit education management organization (EMO) in the nation, stands to make money on Hillsdale’s crusade.


Hillsdale’s classical charter school initiative was designed to turn the tide on what the college sees as “a hundred years of progressivism” in public education. Charter schools that contract with Hillsdale agree to center Western tradition in their K-12 curriculum, and to focus on the “four core disciplines of math, science, literature, and history.” Students must learn Latin and receive explicit instruction in phonics and grammar. The core disciplines are taught through the reading of primary source material and the “great books” which are also chosen to guide students’ moral development. Hillsdale’s curriculum not only narrows the course of study available to students, it rewrites American history, particularly when it comes to civil rights.

The American Legacy Academy (ALA) was recently approved to open in the Weld RE-4 School District in Colorado. According to ALA’s website, the charter school will offer a back-to-basics, classical education as a Hillsdale College curriculum school. The approval of the charter school is a victory for local culture warriors who have stormed board meetings with grievances over masks and critical race theory.

New, large housing developments are leading to significant population growth and a severe public school capacity problem in the Weld RE-4 district. Nevertheless, in November 2021 voters rejected a bond initiative to build new public schools, leaving district officials to lament that they “have a problem without a clear solution.”

Since the bond’s defeat, district employees and community members have been working together to educate the community and put together another bond proposal. A district survey showed that 70 percent of residents favored a “district-built, traditional or non-charter school” in RainDance, one of the new neighborhoods.

But the supporters of ALA and the for-profit charter chain Academica have different plans. Academica is working closely with ALA’s founding board to open the charter through its related organization, Academica Colorado. According to ALA’s application, Academica Colorado will provide comprehensive services to the charter school.

Working hand-in-hand with Academica, ALA tried to purchase the RainDance property from the district for $2.1 million to build a charter school. Craig Horton, executive director of Academica Colorado, was the first member of the public to speak in favor of the purchase at a recent board meeting, just before board members voted down the proposal. Horton stated: “We’re providing a tax-free solution for two elementary schools. You’re walking away from the ability to relieve overcrowding and save taxpayers up to $80 million by building two charter schools in place of two elementary schools.”

At the meeting, ALA supporters said they would only support the district’s bond effort if the charter is approved, essentially holding the education of the district’s students hostage.

However, there are parents in the district who want to see a neighborhood public school on the property, not a Hillsdale charter school affiliated with Academica. They, too, spoke out. Autumn Leopold and Kimberly Kee, who administer a private Facebook group called RE4 Families Want Schools For All, told a local reporter: “We really just want a compromise that works for everyone and serves the entire community.”

Conservative culture wars

What is playing out in the Weld RE-4 district is part of a greater conflict in the state. A recent poll of Colorado voters showed a growing split in support for charter schools. Only 36 percent of Democrats polled expressed support, compared to 79 percent of Republicans. Perhaps most telling are the reasons. Among the reasons Republicans say in the poll that they favor charter schools is because they don’t teach a left-wing agenda while some Democrats and Independents oppose charter schools because they see them as religious.

The entrance of ALA follows raucous school board meetings over mask mandates, critical race theory, and other hot-button cultural issues that have been playing out in Weld RE-4 for some time. Tensions ultimately boiled over, leading to an unsuccessful campaign led by local resident Luke Alles to oust two board members. Alles is the executive chair of Guardians of RE-4, a local group “founded by three patriot families” that is pushing for the ALA charter school to open.

The first link on the Guardians website resources page is to the Colorado Department of Education’s “Charter School FAQ.” Another leads to a recently released film titled “Whose Children Are They?” The documentary-style film was produced by Deborah Flora, a syndicated conservative Christian talk radio host and failed Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. When the film was released in March, Flora simultaneously announced that she was founding a new nonprofit, Parents United America, which she created to defend “parental rights” against “ideological state guardianship.”

The film is a veritable who’s who of the culture wars. Parents and teachers active in CRT battles are given voice, as are dozens more who claim public schools are grooming children through LGBTQ-infused curriculum and disadvantaging female athletes by allowing trans girls to compete in sports.

Representatives from organizations identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as hate or extremist groups make appearances, as do spokespeople for conservative Koch-funded groups, including the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit American Enterprise Institute.

The overarching narrative is that the ultimate villains are the teachers’ unions and the U.S. Department of Education. Conservative political activist and writer David Horowitz, [whose group is] considered an extremist group by SPLC, claims teacher unions have been infiltrated and are controlled by Communists. Public School Exit founder Alex Newman suggests that the Education Department was formed not only to teach Communist propaganda but to “de-Christianize” and “make the schools less patriotic.” The film claims this campaign began 100 years ago when progressives like John Dewey “intentionally undermined our education system.”

In early 2022, Fox News host Pete Hegseth launched a five-part series, “The MisEducation of America” on Fox Nation. The series shares the same themes, a similar format, and many of the same interview subjects as “Whose Children Are They?” “MisEducation,” which Hegseth claims is the most watched content on Fox Nation, supposedly “uncovers the secrets of the left’s educational agenda.”

In the fifth and final episode, titled “Our COVID- (16) 19 Moment,” the “experts” agree on this: the only path forward is for parents to remove children from the public school system and place them in Classical Christian Schools. If that’s not an option for families, they suggest a classical charter school.


Colorado

ALA will not be the first classical charter in Colorado. According to the 2019 Colorado Department of Education State of Charter Schools Triennial Report, 24 of the state’s 255 charter schools followed a classical curriculum in the 2018-19 school year.

Academica’s Craig Horton, a retired police officer, was a founding board member of a prominent classical charter, Liberty Common Charter School. Liberty’s headmaster Bob Shaffer is prominently featured in “Whose Children Are They?” — as is Kim Gilmartin, director of New School Development for Ascent Classical Academies.

Ascent, which is a Hillsdale College-affiliated CMO in Colorado, has two classical charter schools in the state, with ambitious plans to open several more.

Horton was also heavily involved in the formation of CIVICA Colorado, part of a national CMO CIVICA, which contracts with Academica. While CIVICA does not formally claim to be a classical charter, CIVICA principal Sheena McOuat stated: “I make sure a lot of politics that are in other schools, sex ed or critical race, they don’t come into my building and it aligns with a lot of people.” McOuat’s husband, Corey McOuat, is one of the founding board members of the American Legacy Academy.

The Colorado Department of Education, which recently revealed that it is struggling to spend down a $55 million dollar federal Charter School Program (CSP) award the state received in 2018, still went ahead and awarded CIVICA a $990,000 start-up grant. ALA hasn’t applied for CSP funds yet, but when representatives appeared before the Weld RE-4 board, they spoke confidently about access to a million-dollar grant.

Wyoming

The new Academica classical brand CIVICA is moving into Wyoming as well. Its Republican governor and legislature recently cleared the way for charter schools by passing legislation to take the decision out of the hands of local school districts and give it to a political body. The State Loan and Investment Board now has the ability to approve charters and is currently composed of Gov. Mark Gordon, Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, Auditor Kristi Racines, Treasurer Curt Meier, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Brian Schroeder. All of them are Republicans.

Horton, with the assistance of high-ranking state Republicans and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, is now attempting to open two new classical charters in Wyoming. The two schools — Wyoming Classical Academy and Cheyenne Classical Academy — which propose to open in the fall of 2023, will be Hillsdale College Member School Candidates.

Schroeder, the head of a private Christian school recently appointed state superintendent, attended a parent information meeting hosted by the Cheyenne Classical Academy at the Cheyenne Evangelical Free Church. He told the gathering of prospective charter school parents that “the evangelists of secularism saw two institutions, government and education, as the perfect twin vehicles through which they would remake society in their image.”

Conservative Christian Republicans are now positioning themselves, with the help of Academica and the charter lobby, to use taxpayer funds to challenge “the evangelists of secularism” with a national push for classical charter schools.

Meanwhile, the Weld RE-4 school board’s approval of American Legacy Academy’s application paves the way for two Hillsdale classical charter schools in the district. The schools will ultimately serve approximately 1,300 students, feeding them directly into the Hillsdale pipeline of conservative thinkers trying to “save the country.”

At scale, the approval could also add, at minimum, $580,000 a year to Academica’s bottom line. In the charter application, enrollment figures show that the two charters will serve 1,296 kids in total. In the draft contract between ALA and Academica, the base compensation is $450 per student. If 1,296 students are indeed enrolled, Academica would earn $583,200, not including earnings for facilities and other services

Florida is led by a Republican governor and legislature determined to crush public schools. The state is overrun by unregulated voucher schools, where teachers and principals need no certification. Some of these openly discriminate and indoctrinate. The Orlando Sentinel ran a series about the voucher schools called “schools without rules.”

Florida has a thriving charter industry, many of them operated by for-profit corporations.

Now the state has passed a new law making it easier to open new charter schools and suck money out of the public schools.

As this rampant privatization continues, Governor DeSantis keeps up a barrage of attacks on public schools and their teachers, accusing them of “indoctrinating” their students with anti-racist views and “grooming” children to be transgender.

The Houston Chronicle reports that a participant in the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol is likely to be elected to the Texas State Board of Education. She has pledged to fight “critical race theory” (i.e. teaching about racism) and to support charter schools.

Underscoring Texas lawmakers’ rightward lurch on education issues in recent years, the candidate likely to replace a moderate Republican on the State Board of Education in a district outside Houston is a right-wing activist who participated in protests at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

After winning the primary in March, the front-runner in the District 7 race is Julie Pickren, a former trustee for Alvin Independent School District. Pickren was voted off that board last year after her participation in the protest at the U.S. Capitol was revealed — the basis of a campaign against her by the Brazoria County NAACP.

Pickren is a former delegate to the GOP’s national and state conventions, her LinkedIn says, and on Facebook she blamed antifa, rather than Trump supporters, for violence during the Capitol riot, a claim that other Republicans have made without proof. She declined a request for an interview….

Republicans have moved further to the right on education issues in Texas over the past 18 months. Earlier this summer, Gov. Greg Abbott announced his support for private school vouchers and endorsed a “Parental Bill of Rights” to give parents more power over what and how their kids are taught in schools. Last year, the Legislature passed and Abbott signed a slew of conservative bills relating to education, including restrictions on how social studies can be taught and on transgender children playing school sports.

At the local level, school board politics have become increasingly heated, with often angry discussions over diversity and equity policies in the schools. Parent groups have organized PACs in opposition to what they view as progressive activism in education, raising substantial amounts of money to reshape local school boards around the state.

Next year’s State Board of Education is set to be more conservative, with Robinson leaving as well as two other Republicans who lost their March primaries to opponents supported by right-wing PACs. There are currently nine Republicans and six Democrats serving on the board.

The board’s core responsibilities include writing Texas’ public school curriculums, managing the permanent fund that backs debt taken out by schools, and deciding whether to allow new charter schools in the state; Pickren has said she supports adding more of them.

Moderate pushed out

The District 7 seat opened up last year, when the Legislature during redistricting moved incumbent Matt Robinson into a different district so he couldn’t run for re-election. Robinson, a doctor from Friendswood, has said he feels Republican political leaders in the state did this intentionally because they did not believe he was sufficiently supportive of charter schools and other conservative policy goals.

In a rare move in today’s increasingly polarized politics, Robinson is endorsing the Democrat in the race, Galveston ISD teacher Dan Hochman, to be his successor.

Why?

“Because he’s running against Julie Pickren. And she will be bad for public education,” Robinson said.

In lists of the most important issues to her campaign, Pickren has named ridding public schools of critical race theory, an academic theory that critics use as a catchall term to describe diversity and equity initiatives as well as discussion of systemic or historical racism. Pickren is also supportive of “parents rights” initiatives such as those espoused by Abbott.

“She is leading a fight, an assault on public education that’s going on right now. It’s not among all Republicans, but it’s among a good number and she’s kind of leading that fight. And the idea that critical race theory is going on in most schools and most districts, which is entirely false. So her overall approach is, in my view, anti-public education,” Robinson said…

Soul of public education

Hochman acknowledged that he’s facing an uphill climb in the race, as the district leans conservative. Pickren’s campaign has spent about $40,000 so far, while Hochman’s has spent about $10,000. Hochman said his campaign bank account currently had less than $100 in it…

“It really, truly is a fight for the soul of public education in the state of Texas, which is failing right now,” Hochman said of the race. Hochman added that he would oppose expansion of charter schools.

“I’m up against a woman who is clearly anti-public education. She’s being funded by the far right, whose agenda has been publicly clear that they want to dismantle public education and replace it with private schools and charter schools so they can push through a far-right Christian agenda in schooling. And that’s not like a conspiracy, that’s been pretty much out in the open.”

edward.mckinley@chron.com

Steven Singer asks a reasonable question: Why is a Gates-Funded, anti-union, pro-charter advocacy group part of Pennsylvania’s effort to end the teacher shortage?

That would be TeachPlus.

Singer begins:

So Pennsylvania has unveiled a new plan to stop the exodus with the help of an organization pushing the same policies that made teaching undesirable in the first place.

The state’s Department of Education (PDE) announced its plan to stop the state’s teacher exodus today.

One of the four people introducing the plan at the Harrisburg press conference was Laura Boyce, Pennsylvania executive director of Teach Plus.

Why is this surprising?

Teach Plus is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works to select and train teachers to push its political agenda.

What is that agenda?

Teach Plus has embraced the practice of widespread staff firings as a strategy for school improvement.

Teach Plus mandates that test scores be a significant part of teacher evaluation.

Teach Plus advocates against seniority and claims that unions stifle innovation.

Teach Plus has received more than $27 million from the Gates Foundation and substantial donations from the Walton Family Foundation.

How can an organization dedicated to the same ideas that prompted the exodus turn around and stop the evacuation!?

That’s like hiring a pyromaniac as a fire fighter!

Read on.

Arthur Camins is a lifelong educator and social justice activist. In this post, he explains why Democrats are wrong to pursue Republican voters with Republican themes instead of promoting policies that uplift the common good. Centrism has not helped the Democratic Party.

He writes:

Republicans lead. Democrats follow. And that makes all the difference. Libertarian and wealth-protecting Republican ideologues invest to influence and change most people’s normative ideas and values, whereas Democrats seek to discern and appeal to what voters already think. That has been the case for decades. It has been a triumph for conservatism and the protection of privilege. For Democrats, it remains a losing strategy to win elections, a disaster for a more equitable nation, or any hope of avoiding the worst effects of climate change.

The Republican’s route to power has been to shift public thinking toward several big ideas and implied values: Resources are scarce and therefore competition and inequity are natural and inevitable. Therefore, the pursuit of personal advancement is the only reasonable course of action. In that context, the advance of underrepresented minorities has been understood as coming at the expense of White people. The values message has been, “Look out for yourself because no one else will.” That dystopian message is designed to enable Republicans’ core idea: Financial regulation and taxes on wealth are a counterproductive limitation.

Responding to Republican inroads with white working class and lower-middle class voters in the Nixon and Reagan years, Democratic leadership, led in particular by Bill Clinton, pursued a different approach. They attempted to gain or retain political office by discerning how people already think and crafting appeals and policies to meet them. In pursuit of votes of the elusive undecided voters, Democrats picked up on conservative themes, ceding the war of ideas to Republicans.

For example, upon signing the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 and in an exchange with reporters on August 22, 1996, President Bill Clinton said, “The new bill restores America’s basic bargain of providing opportunity and demanding, in return, responsibility.”

Clinton was responding to Ronald Reagan’s characterization of minority welfare recipients as con artists eating steak and driving Cadillacs living off the tax contributions of hardworking, law-abiding white workers.

The theme was still very much in play in 2013 when in an economics speech at Knox College, President Obama declared:

“Here in America, we’ve never guaranteed success — that’s not what we do. More than in some other countries, we expect people to be self-reliant. Nobody is going to do something for you. We’ve tolerated a little more inequality for the sake of a more dynamic, more adaptable economy. That’s all for the good. But that idea has always been combined with a commitment to equality of opportunity to upward mobility — the idea that no matter how poor you started, if you’re willing to work hard and discipline yourself and defer gratification, you can make it, too. That’s the American idea.”

So, we have Democrats at the highest level parroting the conservative shibboleth that poverty is a problem of the failure of personal responsibility and self-discipline rather than racism and inequity built into the structure of our socio-economic system.

Mainstream Democratic response to the push for charter schools is yet another example of their acceptance of deeply conservative language and with it, its underlying ideology. Publicly supported alternatives to democratically governed public education have several roots: getting tax dollars for religiously based schools; support for schools to skirt the Supreme Court rulings against the segregationist separate-but-equal doctrine; acceptance of the idea that government-led bureaucracies cannot be reformed democratically; attempts to squeeze profit from K-12 schools at taxpayers’ expense; and last but not least, undermining the influence of strong public-sector unions. The tagline du-jour for all of this is the right to parental choice, the core of which is the idea that education is a personal consumer good rather than a shared society necessity.

The bipartisan education policy of the last forty years has been a response to insecurity. American schools predictably fail to live up to the absurd disingenuous or naïve promise that education can provide equity in a systemically inequitable society. For Republicans, such insecurity is an opportunity to sew fear and division while promoting their everyone-out-for-yourself dogma. Unfortunately, Democrats rather than challenge that core ideology, have settled for, “You can’t save everyone, so let’s save a few.”

Keep reading.

Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee invited Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, to open 100 charter schools in Tennessee. Arnn scaled it back to 50, but Hillsdale’s patriotic charters are not getting a warm welcome in the state. A third district rejected an “American Classical Academy.” It seems they like their local public schools and don’t want to divert money away from them. The teachers are their neighbors, and the school board knows them and respects them.

A charter school program tied to the controversial Hillsdale College suffered a third rejection by a Tennessee school board Tuesday night as the Clarksville-Montgomery County school board said it wanted nothing to do with the school pushed by Gov. Bill Lee.

With no debate, the Board of Education unanimously voted to reject the application of the Hillsdale-affiliated American Classical Academy. That follows similar votes by school boards in Rutherford County and Madison County.

The group could still appeal to the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission, which can override the local school board.

School board member Jimmie Garland said Lee needs to understand that local residents do not want a privately operated charter school siphoning taxpayer dollars from a school system that is already serving the community’s needs.

“I am asking him if he sends them here, that he pay for it — not the community, not the Clarksville-Montgomery County school system, not the 200,000-plus residents of Clarksville,” Garland told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

“We shouldn’t have to foot that bill.”

The community school board was aware of Arnn’s absurd and insulting claim that anyone can teach, and they didn’t like it.

The Rutherford County School Board in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, rejected the American Classical Academy by a vote of 6-1. The charter school is Art of a chain affiliated with Hillsdale College. Board members were steaming about the derisive comments about teachers and teacher-training colleges recently made by Hillsdale President Larry Arnn. Arnn said in the presence of Governor Bill Lee: “The teachers are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country.” Lee did not come to the defense of Tennessee’s 80,000 teachers or its teacher education programs. He praised Arnn’s “vision.”

Educators across the state paid attention. So did school boards. And that is why a charter school affiliated with Arnn’s college did not get a charter in Rutherford County.

That group is affiliated with Hillsdale College, whose president was recently caught on hidden camera badmouthing teachers and the colleges that train them.

Board chair Tiffany Johnson said the people who would have run the school had privately tried to distance themselves from Hillsdale and those remarks, but they decided not to show up to defend themselves.

“The comments that were made by the president of Hillsdale were deeply egregious,” Johnson told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

“We have wonderful teachers, remarkable educators. We have a fantastic system. What I saw, I didn’t like — and I gave them an opportunity to address them and lay out for us that they were not a part of those comments. So I had a commitment until shortly before the meeting that they were going to be here to address the board.”

American Classical Academy could now appeal to the Tennessee Public Charter Commission, which has the authority to override local school boards.

A review committee had recommended rejection of the application based on a number of factors, including lack of appropriate detail about how the school would serve special-education students and English language learners.

The group amended its application to distinguish itself from Hillsdale College, but reviewers concluded “the separation appears to be superficial.”

“The ties to Hillsdale have become increasingly problematic and heightened our review committee’s concerns of applicant intent due to comments recently made by Hillsdale’s president, Larry Arnn,.” reviewers wrote.