Archives for category: Equity

This may be the best article about education that you will read all year. It is as good an explanation as you will find of “the Finnish miracle.”

As Chaltain explains, the success of the schools is only one part of the picture. For the sixth year in a row, Finland has been named “the happiest country in the world,” based on these metrics: “healthy life expectancy, GDP per capita, social support, low corruption, generosity in a community where people look after each other and freedom to make key life decisions.

The secret to happiness: “Taking a holistic view of the well-being of all the components of a society and its members makes for better life evaluations and happier countries.”

Sam Chaltain writes:

I spent last week in Finland, the small Scandinavian country that, for educators, has become a Mecca of sorts. And while I was there, a surprising thing happened:

I came for the schools.

I stayed for the library.

It’s hard not to be aware of the schools, which have experienced a dramatic metamorphosis over the past half-century.

For much of the early 20th century, Finland was agrarian and underdeveloped, with a GDP per capita trailing other Nordic countries by 30 to 40 percent in 1900. But in 1917, Finland declared its independence from Russia, and insisted that women be heavily represented in its first parliament.

As a result, the new nation prioritized a whole slate of policies that have helped support the development over time of a society that values and protects children. Free preschool programs enroll 98 percent of children in the country. Compulsory education begins at the age of seven, and after nine years of comprehensive schooling, during which there is no tracking by ability, students choose whether to enroll in an academic or a vocational high school. The graduation rate is nearly 95 percent.

Finland’s deep investments in the welfare of all people impact every aspect of public life. “It seems to me that people in Finland are more secure and less anxious than Americans because there is a threshold below which they won’t fall,” said Linda Cook, a political scientist at Brown University who has studied European welfare states. “Even if they face unemployment or illness, Finns will have some payments from the state, public health care and education.”

On our tour of schools in Helsinki and Turku (the current and former capitals), we saw evidence of both the “Finnish Miracle,” and features far less miraculous.

In every location, the atmosphere in the rooms and hallways were marked by an orderly, active hum, the kind that emerges only when everyone knows one’s role, responsibility and contribution. Classes are just four or five hours a day, and as many as one-third of the courses Finnish students take are non-academic.

Lest a visitor decide that any one of these solutions would solve their country’s own problems, our host for the week — Ari Koski of Turku University — warned us that “a Finnish system doesn’t work in any school outside Finland. Everything influences everything else — and if you take one piece out, it doesn’t work anymore.”

Of those influences, Koski believes Finland’s teacher preparation program is the most important. Only eight universities are permitted to prepare teachers, and admission to these programs is highly competitive: less than one of every ten applicants is accepted.

You can imagine my surprise, then, when almost every classroom lesson I observed was . . . OK. As one of my traveling colleagues said, “I feel like I’ve seen this movie before.” And that’s because we have seen it before — teacher-driven, content-heavy, “sit and get” instruction.

Where’s the miracle in that?

Then I remembered that the goal of the Finnish system is equity — as in, choose any school, anywhere, and it will be of a certain quality — and that they have actually achieved it.

In other words, Finland’s goal is not to spark the creation of spectacular schools — it’s to ensure an entire country of good ones.

Its miracle, therefore, flows from its integration, not its innovation.

Whereas its schools may not be hotbeds of innovative teaching, the newest public library in its capital city may be the most spectacular model for the future of learning that I have ever seen.

It’s known simply as Oodi. It opened in 2018 — a gift to the Finnish people to honor a century of independence. And it is a beautiful, vibrant, multigenerational civic hub for creativity and connection.

“Oodi is what you want it to be,” explains its website. “Meet friends, search for information, immerse yourself in a book or work. Create something new in a studio or an Urban Workshop — seven days a week, from early in the morning till late in the evening.

“Oodi is a meeting place, a house of reading and a diverse urban experience. Oodi provides its visitors with knowledge, new skills and stories, and is an easy place to access for learning, relaxation and work.”

It is, in other words, the ideal “school” of the future — a living meeting place of discovery that is open to all….

Please open the link and read the rest of this wonderful post. The secret of Finland’s success is not its schools; nor even its wonderful new library. It’s the nation’s determination to ensure that everyone does well.

Compare the Finnish approach to what is happening here:

In education: competition, standardization, winners and losers, privatization, state-funded religious schools, charters and vouchers; schools without nurses. The search for silver bullets, innovation, miracles.

In society: high income inequality, high wealth inequality, many people in poverty, many people without healthcare, many homeless people.

What are our politicians talking about: critical race theory, drag queens, trans kids, book banning, censorship, making people work for any government assistance.

Do you see a pattern here?

Michael Mulgrew of the United Federation of Teachers released a statement calling for charter school accountability. Charter schools have a well-funded lobbying operation in New York. Their lobby has won significant victories, like forcing the City of New York to pay for private rentals for charters, even when the charter corporation owns the building! You can be sure the lobbyists will be working overtime to kill every accountability measure proposed here.

A sponsored message from the United Federation of Teachers

It’s time to hold charter schools accountable

By Michael Mulgrew

Now that the overdue state budget has been resolved, it’s time for the Legislature to turn its attention to a major issue in state education policy — the lack of accountability and transparency in the state’s charter schools.

Charter schools in New York State received more than $3 billion a year in taxpayer dollars without any real accountability about how they spend the public money or repercussions when many act like private schools and exclude the state’s most vulnerable students.

It’s time for Albany to pass a legislative package to bring real oversight to the charter sector.

The Accountability and Transparency bill, sponsored by Sen. Brad Holman-Sigal and Assembly Member Michael Benedetto, would require charters to demonstrate actual financial need in order to get free public space or rental subsidies.

Charters would have to disclose their assets, and any school with $1 million or more would be ineligible for such assistance. The bill would also cap the salaries of charter officials.

In addition, the measure would ensure that charter schools enroll and retain the same percentage of the most vulnerable children — English language learners and special education students, among others — as the public school district where they are located.

The bill would withhold funding from charters that fail to enroll appropriate numbers of these students, and meeting these targets would become a key component of any charter renewal decisions. Repeated failure to meet reporting requirements would be grounds for termination of a charter.

The Grade Expansion bill, sponsored by Sen. Shelley Mayer and Assembly Member Benedetto, would prevent charters from expanding their grade levels without any substantial review of their operations.

Under current law, charters originally authorized to offer kindergarten to fifth grade can add middle school grades, and even eventually high school levels, by simply applying for a revision of their current authorization. Under this bill, each expansion would require the same level of scrutiny as a new authorization.

The Charter Authorizer bill, sponsored by Sen. John Liu and Assembly Member Benedetto, would address the current imbalance between charter school authorizers that allows some schools to evade strict licensing standards.

Under current law, the state’s Board of Regents, local school districts, and the State University of New York (SUNY) can all authorize the creation of a charter school, but only the Regents can actually issue a charter.

When the Regents review a charter request, they can order changes in the charter’s operating plan to ensure that the school meets the needs of its students and complies with state law. In most circumstances, no charter will actually be issued until the charter’s sponsors meet the Regents’ requirements.

But the SUNY Trustees are in effect permitted to disregard the Regents’ demands and have allowed the renewal of charters with high numbers of uncertified teachers or low numbers of students with disabilities or English language learners.

The charter school movement began with bold promises of remaking the educational landscape. The reality is that charters’ “success” has mostly come at the expense of public school children and families.

Some charter chains have built up huge reserves from private donations, pay inappropriate salaries to their executives, and yet still demand public space and resources. These demands are particularly infuriating from charters that manage to evade requirements to enroll the neediest students even as they divert huge resources from public institutions.

Charter schools claim to be public schools and suck up huge sums of public money. But real public schools serve all students, and meet stringent requirements of law and regulation. It’s time to start holding charter schools to the same standards.

Greg B. is a regular commenter on the blog. He lives in Ohio. He is deeply knowledgeable about German history and literature. I enjoy his comments.

He wrote:

As much as many Americans crow about being the land of the free, etc., they don’t like to do the work of being citizens, much less engaged. With citizenship comes responsibility. When one is engaged with the history of this nation, one understands that the enslavement of Africans who were transported here and their descendants literally built this country. While we learn about elites, it was enslaving Americans that created capitalism and wealth for whites around the world. The descendants of those whites have benefitted immeasurably from the status quo and keeping status regardless of quo. Even those who weren’t direct descendants, yes even people who immigrated to the US in the 19th through 21st century have benefitted by virtue of not having immediately identifiable physical traits.

Those who continue to complain that they didn’t benefit from racism, who claim merit got them to where they are, conveniently forget that a large portion of the population never ever gets the chance to prove merit. And if they can, they are not promoted, they are paid less, and they are segregated to live in certain areas. Those who claim merit are scared of real competition; they like the game rigged, one that gives them advantages before they even start playing and excludes everyone else. They may claim equal opportunity, but they see in “woke” a threat to their status. Even poor whites in West Virginia and Utah don’t realize they’re being played as pawns.

For Black History Month, I reread a classic on enslavement and found these two nuggets that help explain it all: “The willingness of many white southerners to unite around the idea of hanging on to racial power made the South a swing region, and white southerners a defined interest group, willing to join whichever national party was willing to cater to its demands.” And, “…the unbending anger of former Confederates against Reconstruction morphed into their grandchildren’s suspicion of the New Deal, and the insistence of the part of white southern Democrats that measures against the Depression could do nothing to alleviate black poverty or lessen white supremacy.” That’s what they want to keep up.

Nostalgia for “The Lost Cause” and deep-seated racism keep white southerners tethered to a political party that keeps them poor.

Let’s start at the beginning.

The Founding Fathers did not mention the word “education” in the Constitution. They left it as a state responsibility. However, the Founding Fathers did not ignore education. They drafted and approved the Northwest Ordinances of 1785 and 1787. These documents assured that new states would enter the United States on an equal footing with existing states. The Northwest Ordinance of 1785 declared that new towns would consist of 36 plots. One plot—#16, in the center of town—was to be set aside for a public school. Nothing was said about setting aside a plot for religious schools or private schools. Those were left to private discretion. (To learn more on this topic, read Derek Black’s Schoolhouse Burning; Black is a professor of law.)

The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 forever banned slavery in the new states. And it included this provision: “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

Those today who seek to divert public funding to religious and private schools are repudiating the intentions of the Foundding Fathers.

The following tweets seem closer to understanding the wishes of the Founding Fathers than do the legislators of Arizona, Ohio, and other states that are using public funds to subsidize religious and private schools.

The editorial boards of the Orlando Sentinel and the South Florida Sun Sentinel published this commentary on Governor DeSantis’ campaign to demonize being “woke.” What does it mean to be woke? It means being aware of systemic injustice. Did systemic injustices occur in the past? Yes. Do they occur now? Yes. Should we banish teaching or learning about systemic injustices, as DeSantis demands? No. That would mean teaching lies. Can we blame teachers or schools for the drop in scores on NAEP (the National Assessment of Educational Progress) when politicians like DeSantis require teachers to teach their students lies?

The editorial says it’s good to be woke:

Have you noticed? Gov. Ron DeSantis doesn’t smile enough. His brand is anger, especially at anything he can ridicule as “woke.”

Disney is “woke.” Diversity is “woke.” His obsession to cleanse Florida classrooms of discussions of racism was the “Stop W.O.K.E. Act.”

He took over New College of Florida because it was “woke.” He suspended Tampa State Attorney Andrew Warren because his policies were “woke.”
Florida “is where woke goes to die,” he says. This four-letter word has lost much of its punch, purely from overuse.

But it really doesn’t matter whether people have any idea of what “woke” means — just that it sounds bad.

But what does it mean, really?

‘Systemic injustices’

As good an answer as any came from DeSantis’ general counsel, under questioning from Warren’s attorney in federal court.

“The belief there are systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them,” lawyer Ryan Newman replied, adding that DeSantis doesn’t share that belief.

He doesn’t? No society is without injustices. To pretend that ours is is ludicrous.

The term “woke” originated in Black culture almost a century ago. According to the Legal Defense Fund, it became an “in-group signal urging Black people to be aware of the systems that harm and otherwise put us at a disadvantage.”

Those are precisely the systems that DeSantis pretends don’t exist, and that he doesn’t want Florida schoolchildren and college students to learn anything about. His hijacking of the word “woke” is ironic, to say the least.

Obnoxious objectives

His objectives, like that of copycat Republican politicians, are threefold. One is to cater to bigoted and resentful white voters. Donald J. Trump taught them the effectiveness of that. No. 2: Breed a generation of future voters who will have learned nothing about racism’s history or continuing consequences.

The third objective, not quite so transparent but equally pernicious, is to desensitize the nation’s courts to systemic economic and political injustices, many of which afflict poor white people just as much as Black people. The Florida Supreme Court bought into this when it purged diversity guidelines from the Florida Bar’s continuing education criteria.

There hasn’t been such a cynical disinformation campaign since the Daughters of the Confederacy set out more than a century ago to reinvent the Civil War and Reconstruction. In that distorted looking glass, slavery had nothing to do with the war; it was the South fighting for freedom and the North fighting against it. That’s how children were to be taught.

Writing in The New York Times, Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. described how the Daughters suppressed textbooks to the extent of rejecting any that described slaveholders as cruel. Slavery, wrote the Daughters’ historian, “was an education that taught the negro self-control, obedience and perseverance.”

“Undertaken by apologists for the former Confederacy with an energy and alacrity that was astonishing in its vehemence and reach, in an era defined by print culture, politicians and amateur historians joined forces to police the historical profession,” Gates wrote. “The so-called Lost Cause movement was, in effect, a take-no-prisoners social media war.”

The racism didn’t go away when the South lost the war and slaves were freed. It fostered sharecropping — slavery by another means. It rationalized Jim Crow laws, lynchings, inferior schools and a denial of the right to vote that persisted until 1965. It led to federal housing policies that confined Black people to urban ghettos. It was evident when Social Security initially excluded domestic and farm workers on the fiction that it would be too difficult to collect the taxes.

It remains glaring today in the statistic that Black Americans, who account for 13% of the population, are 27% of the people shot and killed by police. It was evident when the Tennessee House of Representatives expelled two Black members over a gun violence protest in their chamber, but not the Caucasian legislator who protested with them. It is apparent in the increasing re-segregation of public schools; profound racial disparities in income, health and mortality; and the persistence of fair housing and fair employment violations.

Exposure is essential

The remedy for injustice begins with exposure. It is essential. To conceal it is to be complicit in the injustice.

To teach American history through rose-colored glasses, as DeSantis intends, is to ignore the heroism and sacrifices that every generation has made toward fulfilling the belief that “all men are created equal.” That so many Americans have risen so often to that challenge speaks well of our nation, not poorly.

A federal judge has temporarily blocked one of DeSantis’ schemes — the law allowing educators and private businesses to be sued for making students and employees feel guilty about racism — but the destruction of the schools and universities goes on.

It’s up to the voters whether that continues. It’s better to be “woke” than silent any day.

The Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board includes Editor-in-Chief Julie , Opinion Editor Krys Fluker and Viewpoints Editor Jay Reddick. The Sun Sentinel Editorial Board consists of Editorial Page Editor Steve Bousquet, Deputy Editorial Page Editor Dan Sweeney, and Anderson. Send letters to

© 2023 Orlando Sentinel

This is one of the most disturbing articles I have read in recent memory. A prosperous county in Michigan elected a slate of evangelical rightwing fanatics to run their local government. The new majority replaced a conservative Republican board that was known for fiscal responsibility and moderate politics. The spark that lit the rebellion was a mask mandate for children during the pandemic.

The article was written by Greg Jaffe and Patrick Marley in the Washington Post:

WEST OLIVE, Mich. — The eight new members of the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners had run for office promising to “thwart tyranny” in their lakeside Michigan community of 300,000 people.

In this case the oppressive force they aimed to thwart was the county government they now ran. It was early January, their first day in charge. An American flag held down a spot at the front of the board’s windowless meeting room. Sea-foam green carpet covered the floor.

The new commissioners, all Republicans, swore their oaths of office on family Bibles. And then the firings began. Gone was the lawyer who had represented Ottawa County for 40 years. Gone was the county administrator who oversaw a staff of 1,800. To run the health department, they voted to install a service manager from a local HVAC company who had gained prominence as a critic of mask mandates.

As the session entered its fourth hour, Sylvia Rhodea, the board’s new vice chair, put forward a motion to change the motto that sat atop the county’s website and graced its official stationery. “Whereas the vision statement of ‘Where You Belong’ has been used to promote the divisive Marxist ideology of the race, equity movement,” Rhodea said.

And so began a new era for Ottawa County. Across America, county governments provided services so essential that they were often an afterthought. Their employees paved roads, built parks, collected taxes and maintained property records. In an era when Americans had never seemed more divided and distrustful, county governments, at their best, helped define what remains of the common good.

Ottawa County stood out for a different reason. It was becoming a case study in what happens when one of the building blocks of American democracy is consumed by ideological battles over race, religion and American history.

Rhodea’s resolution continued on for 20 “whereases,” connecting the current motto to a broader effort that she said aimed to “divide people by race,” reduce their “personal agency,” and teach them to “hate America and doubt the goodness of her people.”

Her proposed alternative, she said, sought to unite county residents around America’s “true history” as a “land of systemic opportunity built on the Constitution, Christianity and capitalism.’”

She flipped to her resolution’s final page and leaned closer to the mic. “Now, therefore, let it be resolved that the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners establishes a new county vision statement and motto of ‘Where Freedom Rings.’”

The commission’s lone Democrat gazed out in disbelief. A few seats away, the commission’s new chair savored the moment. “There’s just some really beautiful language in this,” he said, before calling for a vote on the resolution. It passed easily.
A cheer went up in the room, which on this morning was about three-fourths full, but in the coming weeks it would be packed with so many angry people calling each other “fascists,” “communists,” “Christian nationalists” and “racists” that the county would have to open an overflow room down the hall.

The Brown Decision was released by the U.S. Supreme Court on May 17, 1954, precisely sixty-nine years ago. It was a historic decision in many ways. It was the beginning of the end of de jure segregation in every aspect of American society. Of course, de facto segregation persists in schools, housing, and in many aspects of life. It would have been impossible to imagine in 1954 that the nation would elect a Black man as President in 2008 and again in 2012.

The decision was unanimous. America could not claim to be a nation of freedom, liberty, democracy, and equality when people of color were excluded from full participation in every aspect of public life and walled off from the mainstream of American society in their private lives. Segregation and discrimination were hallmarks of the American way. Black people were not only restricted in the right to vote, were not only underrepresented in legislatures and other decision-making bodies, but were excluded from restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, public transport, public beaches, and from all other places of public accommodation, as well as private commerce. Segregation was imposed by law in the South and some border states, and by custom in northern, western, and midwestern states.

The Brown Decision struck a blow against this cruel reign of prejudice and bigotry in American life. We are far, very far, from fulfilling the promise of the Brown Decision. To make progress, we must be willing to look deeply into the roots of systemic racism and dismantle the structures that condemn disproportionate numbers of Black families to live in poverty and in segregated neighborhoods. A number of Republican-led states have made such inquiries illegal.

The present movement for vouchers, which is strongest in Republican-dominated states, will not move us closer to the egalitarian goals of the Brown Decision. Vouchers are inherently a divisive concept. They encourage people to congregate with people just like themselves. Heightened segregation along lines of race, religion, social class, and ethnicity are a predictable result of vouchers.

The voucher movement began as a hostile response to the Brown decision, led by racist governors, members of Congress, legislatures, White Citizens Councils, parents who did not want their children to attend schools with Black children, and white supremacists who wanted to protect their “way of life.” They refused to comply with the Supreme Court decision. They called Earl Warren a Communist. They engaged in “massive resistance.” They quickly figured out that they could fund private academies for whites only, and some Southern states did. And they figured out that they could offer “vouchers” or “scholarships” to white students to attend white private and religious schools.

I recommend three books about the history of the ties between segregationists, the religious right, and vouchers. I reviewed all three in an article called “The Dark History of School Choice” in The New York Review of Books. Although it is behind a paywall, you can read one article for free or subscribe for a modest fee.

The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism, by Katherine Stewart

Overturning Brown: The Segregationist Legacy of the Modern School Choice Movement, by Steve Suitts

Schoolhouse Burning: Public Education and the Assault on American Democracy, by Derek W. Black

In addition, I recommend Nancy MacLean’s superb Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America. It links the voucher moment to the Koch brothers and other libertarians, including Milton Friedman. I reviewed it in the same journal. MacLean is the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University.

Nancy MacLean wrote the following article for The Washington Post nearly two years ago. In the past two years, the voucher movement has gained even more ground in Republican-dominated states. If it is behind a paywall, you can read it here.

She wrote:

The year 2021 has proved a landmark for the “school choice” cause — a movement committed to the idea of providing public money for parents to use to pay for private schooling.

Republican control of a majority of state legislatures, combined with pandemic learning disruptions, set the stage for multiple victories. Seven states have created new school choice programs, and 11 others have expanded current programs through laws that offer taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schooling and authorize tax credits and educational savings accounts that incentivize parents moving their children out of public schools.

On its face, this new legislation may sound like a win for families seeking more school options. But the roots of the school choice movement are more sinister.

White Southerners first fought for “freedom of choice” in the mid-1950s as a means of defying the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, which mandated the desegregation of public schools. Their goal was to create pathways for White families to remove their children from classrooms facing integration.

Prominent libertarians then took advantage of this idea, seeing it not only as a means of providing private options, but also as a tool in their crusade to dismantle public schools altogether. This history reveals that rather than giving families more school options, school choice became a tool intended to give most families far fewer in the end.

School choice had its roots in a crucial detail of the Brown decision: The ruling only applied to public schools. White Southerners viewed this as a loophole for evading desegregated schools.

In 1955 and 1956, conservative White leaders in Virginia devised a regionwide strategy of “massive resistance” to the high court’s desegregation mandate that hinged on state-funded school vouchers. The State Board of Education provided vouchers, then called tuition grants, of $250 ($2,514 in 2021 dollars) to parents who wanted to keep their children from attending integrated schools. The resistance leaders understood that most Southern White families could not afford private school tuition — and many who could afford it lacked the ideological commitment to segregation to justify the cost. The vouchers, combined with private donations to the new schools in counties facing desegregation mandates, would enable all but a handful of the poorest Whites to evade compliance.

Other Southern states soon adopted voucher programs like the one in Virginia to facilitate the creation of private schools called “segregation academies,” despite opposition from Black families and civil rights leaders. Oliver Hill, an NAACP attorney key to the Virginia case against “separate but equal” education that was folded into Brown, explained their position this way: “No one in a democratic society has a right to have his private prejudices financed at public expense.”

Despite such objections, key conservative and libertarian thinkers and foundations, including economists Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek, Human Events editor Felix Morley and publisher Henry Regnery, backed the White Southern cause. They recognized that White Southerners’ push for “freedom of choice” presented an opportunity to advance their goal of privatizing government services and resources, starting with primary and secondary education. They barely, if ever, addressed racism and segregation; instead, they spoke of freedom (implicitly, White freedom).

Friedman began promoting “educational freedom” in 1955, just as Southern states prepared to resist Brown. And he praised the Virginia voucher plan in his 1962 book, “Capitalism and Freedom,” holding it up as a model for school choice everywhere. “Whether the school is integrated or not,” he wrote, should have no bearing on eligibility for the vouchers. In other words, he knew the program was designed to fund segregation academies and saw it as no barrier to receiving state financing.

Friedman was far from alone. His fellow libertarians, including those on the staff of the William Volker Fund, a leading funder on the right, saw no problem with state governments providing tax subsidies to White families who chose segregation academies, even as these states disenfranchised Black voters, blocking them from having a say in these policies.

Libertarians understood that while abolishing the social safety net and other policies constructed during the Progressive era and the New Deal was wildly unpopular, even among White Southerners, school choice could win converts.

These conservative and libertarian thinkers offered up ostensibly race-neutral arguments in favor of the tax subsidies for private schooling sought by white supremacists. In doing so, they taught defenders of segregation a crucial new tactic — abandon overtly racist rationales and instead tout liberty, competition and market choice while embracing an anti-government stance. These race-neutral rationales for private school subsidies gave segregationists a justification that could survive court review — and did, for more than a decade before the Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional.

When challenged, Friedman and his allies denied that they were motivated by racial bigotry. Yet, they had enough in common ideologically with the segregationists for the partnership to work. Both groups placed a premium on the liberty of those who had long profited from white-supremacist policies and sought to shield their freedom of action from the courts, liberal government policies and civil rights activists.

Crucially, freedom wasn’t the ultimate goal for either group of voucher supporters. White Southerners wielded colorblind language about freedom of choice to help preserve racial segregation and to keep Black children from schools with more resources.

Friedman, too, was interested in far more than school choice. He and his libertarian allies saw vouchers as a temporary first step on the path to school privatization. He didn’t intend for governments to subsidize private education forever. Rather, once the public schools were gone, Friedman envisioned parents eventually shouldering the full cost of private schooling without support from taxpayers. Only in some “charity” cases might governments still provide funding for tuition.

Friedman first articulated this outlook in his 1955 manifesto, but he clung to it for half a century, explaining in 2004, “In my ideal world, government would not be responsible for providing education any more than it is for providing food and clothing.” Four months before his death in 2006, when he spoke to a meeting of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), he was especially frank. Addressing how to give parents control of their children’s education, Friedman said, “The ideal way would be to abolish the public school system and eliminate all the taxes that pay for it.”

Today, the ultrawealthy backers of school choice are cagey about this long-term goal, knowing that care is required to win the support of parents who want the best for their children. Indeed, in a sad irony, decades after helping to impede Brown’s implementation, school choice advocates on the right targeted families of color for what one libertarian legal strategist called “forging nontraditional alliances.” They won over some parents of color, who came to see vouchers and charter schools as a way to escape the racial and class inequalities that stemmed from White flight out of urban centers and the Supreme Court’s willingness to allow White Americans to avoid integrating schools.

But the history behind vouchers reveals that the rhetoric of “choice” and “freedom” stands in stark contrast to the real goals sought by conservative and libertarian advocates. The system they dream of would produce staggering inequalities, far more severe than the disparities that already exist today. Wealthy and upper-middle-class families would have their pick of schools, while those with far fewer resources — disproportionately families of color — might struggle to pay to educate their children, leaving them with far fewer options or dependent on private charity. Instead of offering an improvement over underfunded schools, school choice might lead to something far worse.

As Maya Angelou wisely counseled in another context, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” If we fail to recognize the right’s true end game for public education, it could soon be too late to reverse course.

Update: According to Future-Ed, citing pro-voucher EdChoice (which used to be the Milton and Rose Friedman Foundation), “Currently, 32 states provide an estimated $4 billion in subsidies to some 690,000 students through tuition vouchers, education savings accounts, and tax-credit scholarships.” Several Republican-led states are considering or have already universal vouchers, which would subsidize the tuition of all students in private schools, including the children of wealthy families. Currently, most students who use vouchers were already enrolled in private and religious schools. In one state alone, Florida, the added cost of vouchers might be as much as $4 billion a year, just for the children already in private schools.

Today was a big day in the Florida legislature, where GOP legislators are busy banning and defunding whatever they don’t like. DEI is the WOKE enemy of the moment. Professors who teach about racism or sexism need not apply.

TALLAHASSEE — As Gov. Ron DeSantis and his allies target “woke” ideology, the Florida House on Wednesday gave final approval to a bill that includes preventing colleges and universities from spending money on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

The bill (SB 266), which now will go to DeSantis, touched off a fierce debate about Florida’s higher-education system and campus speech.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion, like so many other terms adopted by the woke left, is being used as a club to silence things, to say that if you don’t agree with them, you are somehow racist or homophobic or whatever other word that you want to use to criticize people,” said Rep. Randy Fine, R-Brevard County. “The fact of the matter is these terms have been hijacked by those who want to use them to bully and use them to shut down debate, to actually do the opposite of what these words are supposed to do.”

But bill critics said diversity, equity and inclusion efforts are important and that the legislation will drive away top faculty members and students.

Helen Gym is a brilliant, eloquent progressive candidate for Mayor of Philadelphia. She is an activist and a member of the City Council. I enthusiastically endorse her candidacy. I have known her for a dozen years and am repeatedly impressed by her values, her energy, and her passion for justice. Philadelphia schools have suffered grievously due to budget cuts imposed by the state. A decade ago, two young children died because their schools had no nurse. Helen thinks that every school should have a nurse and counselors. In the suburbs, such services are taken for granted. But not in Philadelphia, where public schools and their students have been shortchanged for years.

Will Bunch is a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, who has followed the mayoral race closely. He sums up the reasons why she is the right person at the right time. Her election would bring hope to Philadelphia. This election could be a turning point for this great but neglected city.

He writes:

Philly needs a bullhorn mayor to slice through decades of status quo baloney

In a crowded Philly mayoral race, Helen Gym is fighting for the city’s poor and neglected. No wonder status quo elites are so desperate to stop her.

Philadelphia City Councilmembers Helen Gym, Jamie Gauthier, and Kendra Brooks walk with protesters following the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June 2022. Steven M. Falk / MCT

It was one of those raw late April afternoons in Philadelphia where the weather in the far corner of Love Park — unrelentingly grey, windy, occasional drizzle — seemed to match the grim civic mood looming over the City Hall tower in the background. At the supposed 12:45 p.m. start time for this Helen-Gym-for-mayor campaign rally, just a few folks milled around and chatted with the candidate in her bright red coat, carrying a reusable Target shopping bag, and you briefly wonder if you got the time or place wrong.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a blue-clad army of about 50 supporters — young and old, Black, brown and white, including members of the teachers’ union that has endorsed Gym, carrying signs that read “The Wealth To Fix Our City Exists!” — crossed JFK Boulevard all at once, and it was showtime. Over the next half-hour, speakers from the various Jenga blocks of Philly’s shaky civil society reimagined the city as it could be. A librarian from South Philly spoke about the dream of reopening on the weekends as a community refuge. An instructor and union leader from the Community College of Philadelphia imagined the benefits of free tuition.

“When I say, “Moral!,” chanted emcee Elisa King, a minister and counselor at CCP, “you say, “Budget!’” — driving home the rally’s theme that City Hall needs to focus on restoring vital services, not more incremental tax cuts.

When the 55-year-old former city council member finally got the microphone, the spring sun had seared through the layer of clouds. Gym declared her idea of a moral budget “is not defined by the corporate-backed interests, the developers and the status-quo electeds, bureaucrats and wealthy individuals who have long tried to buy this campaign with their tired ideas and their technocratic solutions.” The crowd whooped. “Those candidates have played it safe all their lives.”

The only remaining progressive in a May 16 primary field whittled down to five or six major candidates defined her rivals’ ideas as “just too small for this moment. They’re talking about safety that’s only defined by policing. They’re talking about development only in terms defined by the tax cuts and those people who get to benefit. They manage crisis — we’re here to end them!” Almost on cue, a passing dump truck on the boulevard tooted its horn loudly in support.

It’s fitting that the race to pick the 100th mayor of America’s founding city is also arguably its most consequential in decades, perhaps since the divisive Frank Rizzo era. That’s because the coronavirus also attacked the civic immune system that had allowed the city’s leaders to ignore the warning symptoms of the nation’s highest rate of deep poverty and unacceptable schools housed in unsafe buildings while touting the surface glitz of Philadelphia’s comeback … for tourists, and handful of gentrifying neighborhoods. Now, a spike in gun violence and related dysfunction has put the nation’s sixth-biggest city at a crossroads.

I might be The Inquirer’s national columnist but I’ve watched this local election closely — not just because I work and pay taxes and ride the troubled subways here (or because my two adult offspring live here) but also because what Philadelphia voters decide in little more than two weeks will say a lot about how America is going to solve its urban problems, especially persistent poverty. In this (sort of) post-pandemic era, comparable cities such as Boston, Chicago, and L.A. have rejected old-school police-union fearmongering for young, progressive mayors who see how issues like attacking climate change or youth unemployment can bring real change.

It’s not at all clear yet whether Philadelphia has the courage or boldness to follow its sister cities down that fresh pathway. I’ve watched both televised debates and have been somewhat taken aback with how most of the major candidates have crafted a message around not new ideas but “leadership.” What they are really offering, in essence, is a pledge to restore some presence and personality to City Hall that’s been missing during the shockingly absent Jim Kenney administration, but with little evidence they’d change the status quo policies of minor tax cuts or FOP-endorsed policing that coincided with decline.

In the debates and on the campaign trail, Gym has set herself apart as the only candidate who fully grasps the root problems in the most desperate neighborhoods — and who wants to go big to actually address them. How many times can we hire more cops or return to “stop-and-frisk” policing with the same tired results? That’s why Gym is the leader in pushing for trained responders to replace cops on mental-health calls — hugely successful where it’s been tried — and is the only candidate who agrees with the majority of Philadelphians who twice elected Larry Krasner as DA, that some criminal-justice reforms were long overdue.

Elite critics of some of Gym’s bigger and bolder ideas — going all-out in fixing unsafe school buildings, or guaranteed employment for adults under 30 — call them unrealistic pie in the sky. Most everyday voters know what matters most about a political leaders is less about the budgetary small print and more about who and what they are willing to fight for. And in her seven years as an at-large city council member, Gym has fought for what cynics had written off as lost causes, and won a strikingly high percentage of the time.

A ”fair workweek” ordinance that mandates essential workers have predictable schedules. Long-overdue eviction protections for the city’s beleaguered tenants. A return to local control of the Philadelphia School District while fighting to restore school nurses and counselors. A push to get lead out of school drinking water. No wonder that after her first term on council, The Inquirer Editorial Board hailed her as “a savvy, passionate and progressive leader.”

Things are a lot different now that Gym is running for mayor. While she’s been endorsed by the influential Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and a panoply of other unions and progressive groups, many of the city’s elites — even some who’ve been somewhat supportive of her council work — seem dead-set on preventing her from running Philly. Some of that is with a budgetary magnifying glass, but much of it centers on attacking her personality and blocking her ideas. Yes, she changed her mind on charter schools after founding one — but who wouldn’t after watching them become a negative drain on public education? Of course it was a mistake to protest the Union League and go there just days later, but is that a big-enough reason to punish Gym — and the city — by voting for someone who doesn’t share your values?

“I think it’s about making things about individuals and reducing it to isolated incidences rather than looking at a track record that holds steady over time,” Gym told me Wednesday after her rally. “The way to marginalize real movements for change is to hyper-individualize faults within imperfect people. I mean, I’m not perfect — I make mistakes and all of that — but I think the difference with me is I have a 20-year-plus track record of standing alongside communities.”

One truism about politics is that a lot of times you can gauge a candidate by the enemies they make. The Chamber of Commerce crowd and their handmaidens aren’t fighting Gym because of her mistakes but because of the things that she gets right. There’s a reason that many of Philadelphia’s most essential yet underheard folks — the teachers and librarians and social workers — don’t just think that Gym is the best among a large field of candidates, but truly believe that her election in 2023 is a matter of civic life-or-death.

“She is rising to the moment, which is a moment of crisis for our city,” Stan Shapiro, vice-chair of Philly Neighborhood Networksand a former City Council staffer, told me before the rally. “It’s not a time for the status quo, for business as usual, for just keeping the lights on. There aren’t enough lights. There aren’t enough rec centers. There aren’t enough health centers.”

One of the other straw-man arguments from Gym’s critics centers on how she’s carried a bullhorn to protest in the streets on behalf of Philly’s kids, or its underserved people, or the moment when — the horror! — she was willing to get detained in Harrisburg to dramatize how state Republicans won’t invest in education. We’ve had decades of “conveners” and glad-handers on the second floor of City Hall with too little to show for it. It’s time to try a bullhorn mayor, a real fighter. In a race with many candidates, there is only one that truly matters.

Politico reported that rightwing cultural warriors lost most school board elections, despite their big-money backers. Voters in Illinois and Wisconsin were not swayed by fear-mongering about critical race theory, LGBT issues, and other spurious claims of the extremists. These results should encourage the Democratic Party to challenge the attacks on public schools in the 2024 elections. An aggressive defense of public schools is good politics.

Amid all the attention on this month’s elections in Wisconsin and Illinois, one outcome with major implications for 2024 flew under the national radar: School board candidates who ran culture-war campaigns flamed out.

Democrats and teachers’ unions boasted candidates they backed in Midwestern suburbs trounced their opponents in the once-sleepy races. The winning record, they said, was particularly noticeable in elections where conservative candidates emphasized agendas packed with race, gender identity and parental involvement in classrooms.

While there’s no official overall tally of school board results in states that held an array of elections on April 4, two conservative national education groups did not dispute that their candidates posted a losing record. Liberals are now making the case that their winning bids for school board seats in Illinois and Wisconsin show they can beat back Republican attacks on divisive education issues.

The results could also serve as a renewed warning to Republican presidential hopefuls like Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis: General election voters are less interested in crusades against critical race theory and transgender students than they are in funding schools and ensuring they are safe.

“Where culture war issues were being waged by some school board candidates, those issues fell flat with voters,” said Kim Anderson, executive director of the National Education Association labor union. “The takeaway for us is that parents and community members and voters want candidates who are focused on strengthening our public schools, not abandoning them.”

The results from the Milwaukee and Chicago areas are hardly the last word on the matter. Thousands more local school elections are set for later this year in some two dozen states. They are often low turnout, low profile, and officially nonpartisan affairs, and conservatives say they are competing aggressively.

“We lost more than we won” earlier this month, said Ryan Girdusky, founder of the conservative 1776 Project political action committee, which has ties to GOP megadonor and billionaire Richard Uihlein and endorsed an array of school board candidates this spring and during the 2022 midterms.

“But we didn’t lose everything. We didn’t get obliterated,” Girdusky told POLITICO of his group’s performance. “We still pulled our weight through, and we just have to keep on pushing forward on this.”

Labor groups and Democratic operatives are nevertheless flexing over the defeat of candidates they opposed during races that took place near Chicago, which received hundreds of thousands of dollars in support from state Democrats and the attention of Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker, and in Wisconsin. Conservative board hopefuls also saw mixed results in Missouri and Oklahoma.

Democrats hope the spring school election season validates their playbook: Coordinate with local party officials, educator unions and allied community members to identify and support candidates who wield an affirming pro-public education message — and depict competitors as hard-right extremists.

Yet despite victories in one reliably blue state and one notorious battleground, liberals are still confronting Republican momentum this year that could resemble November’s stalemated midterm results for schools and keep the state of education divided along partisan lines.

Conservative states are already carrying out sharp restrictions on classroom lessons, LGBTQ students, and library books. And they are beginning to refine their message to appeal to moderates.

Trump, DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and other Republican presidential hopefuls are leaning on school-based wedge issues to court primary voters in a crowded White House campaign.

Open the link. The wedge issues are working against the Republicans. Most people know and like their tearchers and their public schools.