Archives for category: Charters

The AFT analyzed Trump’s education plan, the centerpiece of which is a block grant to the states of $20 billion. This is not new spending. This is a redirection of existing federal funding. As you might expect, it is a sham meant to privatize public schools, with no controls or accountability.

Randi Weingarten released this statement:

Want to know what Donald Trump’s plan to take away $20 billion meant for public school children really means? Since he didn’t do his homework, we did it for him. Trump’s $20 billion cut could:

Strip funding from up to 56,000 public schools—putting at risk the educations of nearly 21 million children;

End Title I funding—the most important funding source for high-poverty schools—and cut $5 billion used for other crucial resources, potentially hurting more than 8 million higher education students who rely on Pell Grants, 5 million English language learners in public schools, and millions of others;

Take away $12.7 billion that 5 million students with disabilities count on to fund their educations; and

Eliminate as many as 300,000 teacher jobs—leaving millions of students in larger classes with less support.

And what would he fund with all these budget cuts? Vouchers for 1.4 million or fewer students—up to the states’ discretion, because Trump would hand the money over as a block grant—leaving at the very least 10.5 million other low-income students in the cold, depriving them of vital services they need.

Trump’s plan would gut nearly 30 percent of the federal education budget and turn it into private school vouchers. News flash, Mr. Trump: There’s been a lot of research on this.

Private school voucher programs don’t work—not for the students who get them, and not for the students in public schools whose schools have been drained of funds. Private schools do not enforce all federal civil rights laws, do not adhere to religious freedom protections provided under the U.S. Constitution, and do not face the same public accountability standards that all public schools must meet, including those in Title IX, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—the very law that Congress just reauthorized in 2016.

Trump has no research or evidence to back up his ideas—just his ideology and zeal to destabilize public schools.

Help us push back against Donald Trump and his flawed ideology by becoming an AFT rapid responder today.

Trump’s speech on education this week repeats the same message the anti-public education zealots have been shilling for years. As far as we can tell, Trump never bothered talking to educators to find out what support they need in order to give every kid a great education. His rhetoric today was just one more sound bite from a reality TV star turned presidential nominee.

None of this comes as a surprise: Donald Trump has never shown any inclination to help our schools serve students. In the years I spent working in New York City, I never once saw him at a civic event, never saw him engaged in an effort to lift up public education. Now he wants to hand our public schools over to private businesses so they can make a profit—no surprise, from a man whose idea of education can best be summed up in Trump University, a fraudulent enterprise built to rip off hardworking students. As far as I’m concerned, his ideas on public education don’t earn a passing grade.

Help me send him that message.

In unity,


Randi Weingarten


AFT President

Paul Krugman puts the matter directly: Donald Trump is an ignoramus. His ignorance is hopeless because he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. He likes to tell people that he is smart. Anyone who says that he is smart is insecure, not smart. His ignorance is dangerous to the economy and to our national security. When he was asked in an interview who influences him on foreign policy and defense, he said he watches television. That’s scary.

 

Krugman writes:

 

“Truly, Donald Trump knows nothing. He is more ignorant about policy than you can possibly imagine, even when you take into account the fact that he is more ignorant than you can possibly imagine. But his ignorance isn’t as unique as it may seem: In many ways, he’s just doing a clumsy job of channeling nonsense widely popular in his party, and to some extent in the chattering classes more generally.

 
“Last week the presumptive Republican presidential nominee — hard to believe, but there it is — finally revealed his plan to make America great again. Basically, it involves running the country like a failing casino: he could, he asserted, “make a deal” with creditors that would reduce the debt burden if his outlandish promises of economic growth don’t work out.
“The reaction from everyone who knows anything about finance or economics was a mix of amazed horror and horrified amazement. One does not casually suggest throwing away America’s carefully cultivated reputation as the world’s most scrupulous debtor — a reputation that dates all the way back to Alexander Hamilton.”

 

Let’s bring the discussion to education. Trump has said very little about education. I watched the debates and some of his many speeches. This is all I heard. He says he will get rid of the Common Core, but the fact is that there is not much the federal government can do to roll it back. It is out there, propped up by the SAT, the ACT, Pearson, and Gates. He says he loves charters. He says he believes in local control.

 

I don’t believe he knows what Common Core is. I don’t believe he knows what charters are. I don’t think anyone has explained to him what public education is. I don’t think he has said anything about higher education or how to relieve the crushing student debt. I don’t think he has spent ten minutes thinking about education. Nothing he has said would lead you to think he is informed about the issues that concern readers of this blog or me.

 

Most of what he says seems to be off the cuff, drawn from his personal experience or observations. I don’t believe he knows anyone who went to public school or anyone who had to borrow to pay for college. I can’t be sure but his total silence on these subjects makes me think he has no views because he has never met anyone who talked about these matters. Certainly they are not part of his own privileged upbringing.

 

I ask myself why so many people voted in the primaries for a man who is boastful, a man who makes our-in-the-sky promises, a man who ridicules his opponents, a man who accused Ted Cruz’s father of involvement in the JFK assassination because he read it in the National Enquirer, a man who wants to make the 2016 election a referendum on Bill Clinton’s infidelities.

 

Trump is vulgar, crude, and childish. I recall when Anderson Cooper asked in a forum why he posted an unflattering picture of Cruz’s wife on Twitter. Trump’s response? “He did it first!” Cooper, to his credit, said, “With all due respect, sir, that’s the kind of answer I would expect to hear from a five-year-old on the playground.”

 

Trump lacks dignity and gravitas. He is like a carnival barker, imploring voters to buy a ticket and go inside to see impossible, unbelievable, wonderful, horrible sights. And people vote for him.

 

Why?

 

I wonder if they vote for a charlatan for the same reason they rush to sign up for charter schools. I wonder why legislators continue to pour hundreds of millions into an industry that does not produce the results that were promised. The public, the media, and the legislators are easily hoodwinked. They want to believe. They swallow empty promises. Even when presented with evidence that charters are no better and often worse than public schools, even when they learn of scandals and frauds, they believe.

 

Why the gullibility? Why the willingness to play three-card monte with a card shark? Why are so many so willing to be duped by a con man? Is there something in our national character that sets us up to be duped by a snake oil salesman?

 

Gullibility. That is why a businessman who has declared bankruptcy four times, a man who insults and ridicules anyone who challenges him, a man who will descend into the gutter whenever he wishes, is soon to be the Republican nominee for President of the United States.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to reader Jon Lubar for bringing this important article by Kern Alexander of the University of Illinois about the dangers of school choice to my attention. It appeared first in the Journal of Education Finance and was reprinted by the Horace Mann League. School choice is bad for society and bad for education, Alexander argues. Those who say that parents should choose assume that parents are making informed choices. We know that many parents choose truly dreadful voucher schools and charter schools. We know that parents will stay in those schools despite the school’s failure to meet the needs of their children. The usual argument against charters and vouchers, which I often make, is that they do not “save poor kids from failing schools” because they do not have higher test scores. Alexander does not even refer to test scores. He makes a principled argument, based on economics, sociology, psychology, and logic.

 

 

Here are a few excerpts:

 

 

The story goes that tuition voucher schools and charter schools are creatures of the spirit of capitalism1 and that public funding of them will increase competition, making all schools more efficient and academically better, especially public schools. For that theory to work it is hypothesized that parents as “rational people will make choices as to the education of their children in perfect markets.” In the realm of economics, this reasoning is called the “rational expectations hypothesis” or the “efficient markets hypothesis.”

 

 

The “efficient markets” notion applied to schools via parental choice means that parents will, in their wisdom, utilize public money to send their children to private schools and that ipso facto the education level of the nation rises commensurate with the level and intensity of competition among parents in choosing private, clerical and/or corporate charter schools. For the education level to rise requires, of course, that parents will make rational decisions relative to quality education. Essential to the concept is that parents have the knowledge necessary to make informed educational choices. In a perfect market, information is presumed to “flow like water–faster than water,”3 and it is necessary that those things irrelevant to quality education, or even detrimental to it, are not present in parental decision making. If parental choice is not based on quality education and instead the school choices are rooted in race, religion, wealth, ethnicity, etc., then you will have “imperfect competition.” Imperfect competition would result in the overall decline in the quality of education…..

 

 

Thus, the basic voucher and charter school theory is that the nation will improve its standard of living by having parents use public tax money to make choices of schools based on their own information, knowledge, and perceptions of educational reality. It assumes that parents know what constitutes quality education, and that they have rational expectations as to the quality of science programs, mathematics, reading, political thought, literature, and all the liberal arts.

 

 

However, unfortunately, experience indicates that parental choices are ensnared and limited by the parents’ own limited experiences, level of learning, ignorance, biases, and mythology on which they depend to make educational choices for their children and is, thus, in most cases, highly suspect.5 Such problems with rational choices are recognized by a school of economics known as “behavioral economics” that attempts to enter into the economic equation the actual motivations of individuals in the marketplace….

 

 

Behaviorists also argue that the summation of individual choices, in totality, cannot be relied upon to ensure the progress of mankind and the enhancement of the public good. The aggregate does not necessarily produce rationality; rather, it is more likely to result in inefficiency and inequality.6 The behaviorists maintain that forces, riding the rationale of the grail of competition, tend to warp the public good causing both inefficiency and inequality. Put simply, the public good is more than the sum of individual preferences and choices. The public good is beyond the exercise of self-interests. It is a great misunderstanding, indeed, a fallacy, to assume that people acting individually in their own self-interest can achieve the public good. We have known this since it was explained to us by Rousseau in 1758, as a cornBeerstone of democratic thought, that “personal interest is always in inverse ratio” to the common interest. Thus, a system where parents take public money and indulge their self-interests is highly problematic for the education policy of a state or nation.

 

 

Similar problems of quality and consumer protection exist in education. In education, as in medicine, imperfect information decreases and distorts the “effective degree of competition.”12 With education, the conditions of the marketplace do not exist. Parents are all, to a greater or lesser degree, ill informed about the qualifications of teachers, their expertise, certifications, and are usually poorly informed about the subject matter conveyed and the teaching techniques required. That is why states require public school teachers to follow strict and complex educational processes to be certified. Such, however, is not normally required of private voucher schools or charter schools.13 Therefore, parental choice and market competition in the realm of education, as in medicine, is uniquely suspect, and in the case of tuition vouchers and charter schools, is normally reduced to a condition of state subsidized legal segregation.

 

 

Government funding of vouchers and charter schools would, if widespread, contribute to social disunity and inequality. The Wall Street desire to make significant privatization incursions into the areas of public goods, human needs, health, education and welfare, and to correspondingly avoid government regulation is a strong laissez faire profit motivation. To deregulate these normally governmental functions leaves Wall Street in the enviable position of near total discretion in raising “transaction costs” that assure profit maximization…..

 

 

[Joseph] Stiglitz quotes Alexis de Tocqueville who said that the main element of the “peculiar genius of American society” is “self-interest properly understood.” The last two words, “properly understood,” are the key, says Stiglitz. According to Stiglitz, everyone possesses self-interest in the “narrow sense.” This “narrow sense” with regard to educational choice is usually exercised for reasons other than educational quality, the chief reasons being race, religion, economic and social status, and similarity with persons with comparable information, biases and prejudices. But Stiglitz interprets Tocqueville’s “properly understood” to mean a much broader and more desirable and moral objective, that of “appreciating” and paying attention to everyone else’s self-interest. In other words, the common welfare is, in fact, “a precondition for one’s own ultimate well being.”17 Such commonality in the advancement of the public good is lost by the narrow self-interest. School tuition vouchers and charter schools are the operational models for implementation of the “narrow self-interest.” It is easy to recognize, but difficult to justify.