Archives for category: Inequity

In this post, Bill Moyers conducts an important interview with investigative journalist Anne Nelson, who talks about her new book, SHADOW NETWORK: MEDIA, MONEY, AND THE SECRET HUB OF THE RADICAL RIGHT.

Read this and you will understand the dark forces that are undermining our democracy and our democratic institutions, including our public schools.

BILL MOYERS: Let me begin with the most current part of the story, which comes just a little bit after your book is published when the conservative movement is facing a very decisive encounter with the very forces it’s been trying to defeat now for 40 years. How do you think the shadow network reads the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court? What are they making of it?

ANNE NELSON: Well, I think that they consider it a great triumph and a kind of culmination of 40 years of effort. And I demure a bit at the term conservative because this is, for me, the radical right. It is so far to the right of mainstream American public opinion that I feel that it’s in a different category both in terms of its ideology and its tactics. But they decided way back in the day of Paul Weyrich, one of the architects of the movement that they–

BILL MOYERS: In the early 1970s, right?

ANNE NELSON: We’re going back to the ’70s and even earlier, because he was active on the Barry Goldwater campaign. And he was frustrated time and again by moderates in the Republican Party and people who were willing to work with Democrats to advance policy and solutions to public problems. And he created organizations and tactics that he openly declared should destroy the regime, as he called it, which would be the U.S. government as we’ve known it for the last century.

BILL MOYERS: Paul Weyrich is the man I remember saying–

PAUL WEYRICH: I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populous goes down.

BILL MOYERS: He was essentially saying, as a newly anointed leader of the religious right, what their philosophy was. The fewer people vote, the better their chance.

ANNE NELSON: That’s right. And from the beginning, in terms of their electoral tactics, it has been a matter of weaponizing certain churches and pastors and really exerting tremendous pressure on them to use churches as instruments of a radical right ideology. And then using similar tactics to suppress votes for Democrats, especially in key battleground states.

BILL MOYERS: So that’s why you conclude in your book they were to the right of the Republican Party. They were not just an offshoot of the Republican Party. They were not just fundraisers for the Republican Party, but they were ideologically and organizationally taking the Republican Party far to the right.

ANNE NELSON: Absolutely, and somewhat to my surprise, I found that their prototype was the Southern Baptist Convention, where they decided that in order to move it to the right, they had to use questionable tactics to elevate their supporters to key positions of influence and purge the Southern Baptist Convention of moderates in the seminaries and in the colleges and among the pastors. And it was a fairly ruthless process, and once these tactics were developed, they applied it to the Republican Party. And you had the same kind of tactics going on of purging moderates, some of whom had been in office for years.

BILL MOYERS: I should point out to some of our younger listeners and readers that the Southern Baptist Convention at the time and still today was the largest Protestant denomination in America. You know, something like it eventually reached 16 and a half million members scattered throughout the South and the West. We’ll come back to them in a moment. What do you think about the NEW YORK TIMES’ assessment that Amy Coney Barrett represents a new conservativism rooted in faith. That’s how their headline described a three-page portrait of her life and career. Does that make sense to you?

ANNE NELSON: Not entirely, because as a conservative Catholic, she follows in the footsteps of others such as Brett Kavanaugh and Antonin Scalia. So that’s not very new. And what I look at in my book SHADOW NETWORK is how these interlocking organizations support each other. The book is about the Council for National Policy– a radical right-wing organization that is very secretive, and it brings together big donors like the DeVos family and oil interests from Texas and Oklahoma and political operatives. And, for example, members include the leadership of the Federalist Society. Well, Amy Coney Barrett was a member of the Federalist Society for a number of years and is still a speaker at their events. It includes the head of Hillsdale College, which is one of their campus partners. Amy Coney Barrett was commencement speaker for Hillsdale College this year. So, there are all of these organizations that have been turning their wheels to promote her really for several years going back. She appeared on previous lists of potential nominees for the Supreme Court, and I don’t believe she would have been included in those lists had she not confirmed to their traditional idea of an activist judge.

BILL MOYERS: They knew what they were looking for.

ANNE NELSON: And I should add that one of the most powerful components in the Council for National Policy is the anti-abortion movement. Organizations such as the Susan B. Anthony List and Concerned Women for America and other interests, which are anti-environmentalist interests from the fossil fuels industry. So, I think that we’ve seen a roadmap of what to expect moving forward.

BILL MOYERS: Tell me, who does make up the Council for National Policy?

ANNE NELSON: So, the Council for National Policy has traditionally been around 400 members. From the beginning, it’s included people with big money, a lot of them from the Texas and Oklahoma oil industries, but also the DeVos family of Michigan from the Amway fortune, and Betsy DeVos, of course. So, it has the big money to pay for things. It’s got the leaders of so-called grassroots organizations. Now, I say so-called, because they do not spring from the grassroots the way that you would expect from the name. They are organized with a great deal of money from the top down. So, for example, the National Rifle Association– their leadership is part of the CNP. They get money from the donors, they organize their millions of members, and you combine these with the strategists and the media owners. And I spend a lot of time in my book talking about the power of fundamentalist and conservative radio in swing states. Things that people on the East Coast overlook to a terrible degree. And the same thing with fundamentalist broadcasting, which has really several of these broadcasters — the Christian Broadcasting Network, the Trinity Broadcasting Network have really turned into outlets replicating the messaging from this organization. So, you have them interlocking and interacting and each supporting each other’s function. And I should explain something here, which is that they represent historically a white, Protestant, I’m sorry, but male-dominated patriarchy–

BILL MOYERS: No, that’s okay.

ANNE NELSON: And I have to say that demographically its time has passed. The United States has become more diverse religiously, ethnically, and racially. And they recognize that their core positions are not supported by the majority of Americans. So, they went to the limit, pulled out all the stops to get Trump elected by a tiny margin, but they doubt that they can do that again. The signs are not good. What they can do is make their hold on the federal courts concrete through the Supreme Court, and therefore, get majorities in cases like gerrymandering, voter suppression, and their political activation of the churches with tax-exempt status. And further their hold on power through the courts.

BILL MOYERS: So which part of the shadow network do you think chose, mentored, and groomed Amy Coney Barrett for this moment?

ANNE NELSON: Well, I have to speculate here. But I would see a fairly straight line from her position to Leonard Leo’s. Now, Leonard Leo is a very conservative Catholic. He was the operational figure of the Federalist Society for a number of years, and recently he shifted from that position to an even more activist position. Amy Coney Barrett was already a member of the Federalist Society. The Federalist Society has a pipeline through the lower federal courts, which she benefited from. So, in terms of this Catholic interaction they would be quite close to each other. Another key figure is Carrie Severino, who is from the Judicial Crisis Network, which was co-founded by Leonard Leo. And again, very right-wing Catholics who have tended to be overlooked while people focus on the fundamentalist Protestants. But Ralph Reed, who has been somebody who’s been active with the fundamentalist politicization for decades declared openly years ago that the next step to their campaign was to enlist the Catholic vote. And they’ve been aggressively doing that in recent years.

BILL MOYERS: And then there’s Don McGahn who was for three years Donald Trump’s chief White House counsel, graduate of Notre Dame, admirer of Amy Coney Barrett, who was scouting himself for recruits to bring up, train, groom, and put into the mix for potential Supreme Court justices. And I read that he was highly enthusiastic about her, had talked to Leo and that they had you had both these White House and legal forces behind her, knowing that she was one of them.

[The interview continues. I urge you to open the link and read it in full to understand the secret network that is currently running the federal government and selecting justices for the Supreme Court.]

There was a time long ago when public schools were thriving, and Catholic schools were also thriving. They were not in competition for students or money. But as our financial demands began pressing on both sectors, Catholic schools began closing and struggling to survive. Among rightwing ideologues, it became conventional to proclaim Catholic schools as “better” than public schools because they were free to kick out the students they didn’t want.

Mollie Wilson O’Reilly, an editor at Commonweal, calls on certain tabloids (i.e. Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post) to stop using Catholic schools to shame public schools. She hearkens back to that long-ago ethic when the different sectors served different populations and knew it.

The Post is unlikely to cease its attacks on the city’s public schools, because Murdoch loves school choice and lionizes charter schools. The Post eagerly prints press releases from Success Academy without ever bothering to fact-check or to acknowledge that SA is an exemplar of high attrition rates and high teacher-turnover rates.

O’Reilly writes (and this is only part of her article):

I can’t comment on the soundness of the decisions being made by the New York City Department of Education. But I know who I see using the pandemic to stuff their pockets, and it isn’t fat-cat maintenance workers. The Post’s implication that public-school educators are unconcerned with their students’ wellbeing is disgraceful. And while it is true that Catholic schools can be a lifeline for students served poorly by public education, I have also known families who have moved their children out of Catholic schools because the public system provides—is required to provide—services for learning disabilities and other special needs that Catholic schools can’t always accommodate. “Putting education first” is not as simple as it sounds.

Catholics should be standing in solidarity with all our neighbors as we do our best to cope with this crisis. We degrade our witness when we allow Catholic schools to be used in a propaganda campaign against public services—or against an honest reckoning with the facts. As the 2020 election approaches, conservatives are eager to exploit the Catholic school success story to advance the claim—let’s call it what it is, a conspiracy theory—that liberals are dishonestly playing up the threat of COVID-19 to make President Donald Trump look bad.

The truth is, my kids and their schoolmates are part of a broad experiment to find out whether masks and distancing and all the other safeguards in place are enough to prevent the spread of the virus. All of us, public and private, parents, teachers, and administrators, are looking for the best way forward in a highly unstable situation. That situation is not the fault of teachers’ unions, or lazy public-school janitors, or even (despite his many sins) Bill de Blasio. It is a direct consequence of the reprehensible failure of the Trump administration to protect Americans from COVID-19. We are all still scrambling, months after schools first shut down in March, because we have inadequate testing and tracing, no national recovery plan, and a president who undermines public trust and sneers at his opponent for wearing a mask. The real scandal we’re all facing isn’t the lack of a functional school system. It’s the lack of a functional federal government.

Fred Klonsky writes here about Illinois’ inequitable flat tax. Black and brown communities have paid $4 billion more than they would have if the state had a progressive income tax.

This may be the most important article you read this year. The pandemic has exacerbated the huge inequality gaps that existed before the virus struck. Now we see millions of our fellow citizens out of work and sinking into poverty. Wealth inequality and income inequality are growing larger and more damaging by the day.

Venture capitalist Nick Hanauer and Seattle labor leader David Rolf demonstrate the vast transfer of wealth from the bottom 90% of our society to the top 1%. This is not good for our society. In fact, it’s horrible for our society because it creates widespread despair and hopelessness, as well as blighting the lives of our fellow citizens.

Here is a small part of the article. Open it and read it all.

They begin:

Like many of the virus’s hardest hit victims, the United States went into the COVID-19 pandemic wracked by preexisting conditions. A fraying public health infrastructure, inadequate medical supplies, an employer-based health insurance system perversely unsuited to the moment—these and other afflictions are surely contributing to the death toll. But in addressing the causes and consequences of this pandemic—and its cruelly uneven impact—the elephant in the room is extreme income inequality.

How big is this elephant? A staggering $50 trillion. That is how much the upward redistribution of income has cost American workers over the past several decades.

This is not some back-of-the-napkin approximation. According to a groundbreaking new working paper by Carter C. Price and Kathryn Edwards of the RAND Corporation, had the more equitable income distributions of the three decades following World War II (1945 through 1974) merely held steady, the aggregate annual income of Americans earning below the 90th percentile would have been $2.5 trillion higher in the year 2018 alone. That is an amount equal to nearly 12 percent of GDP—enough to more than double median income—enough to pay every single working American in the bottom nine deciles an additional $1,144 a month. Every month. Every single year.

Price and Edwards calculate that the cumulative tab for our four-decade-long experiment in radical inequality had grown to over $47 trillion from 1975 through 2018. At a recent pace of about $2.5 trillion a year, that number we estimate crossed the $50 trillion mark by early 2020. That’s $50 trillion that would have gone into the paychecks of working Americans had inequality held constant—$50 trillion that would have built a far larger and more prosperous economy—$50 trillion that would have enabled the vast majority of Americans to enter this pandemic far more healthy, resilient, and financially secure.

As the RAND report [whose research was funded by the Fair Work Center which co-author David Rolf is a board member of] demonstrates, a rising tide most definitely did not lift all boats. It didn’t even lift most of them, as nearly all of the benefits of growth these past 45 years were captured by those at the very top. And as the American economy grows radically unequal it is holding back economic growth itself.

The National Education Policy Center posted this notification about #ScholarStrike, inviting higher education professionals to speak out together against racial violence and injustice. I joined. Will you?

Today and tomorrow, scholars at colleges across America will follow in the footsteps of the NBA, Major League Baseball and celebrities in speaking out against racial violence and unjust policing in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The effort, which is to include actions such as devoting class time to discussions of racial injustice, was started by a tweet from Anthea Butler, a professor of religious and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

“I would be down as a professor to follow the NBA and Strike for a few days to protest police violence in America,” Professor Butler wrote in her initial tweet.

The movement has since spread, via social media, to a diverse array of institutions and academic fields, including education. Although in-person demonstrations may occur, they may be impractical due to the pervasiveness of online learning.

The subjects of policing and race are particularly relevant to education scholars, given that the discriminatory law enforcement practices experienced by communities of color typically start in childhood and even occur within schools. “Systemic violence and disparate school discipline policies hinder equitable, just, and safe schooling,” according to Law and Order in School, an NEPC brief published in 2017 and authored by professors Janelle Scott, Michele Moses, Kara Finnigan, Tina Trujillo, and Darrell Jackson. “Research demonstrates that Black and Latinx students experience police violence and school discipline unequally,” the authors write. “Punitive educational and criminal justice policies disproportionately affect students, families, and communities of color, as well as the teachers and schools that serve them.”

Anticipating the current movement, the 2017 brief suggests addressing racially disparate school policing and discipline with such actions as redirecting funds for school police officers to expenditures such as guidance counseling, advanced and enrichment courses and other practices shown to “improve student engagement and social connectivity.”

For more information on #ScholarStrike, go to Butler’s Twitter profile.

NEPC resources on equity and social justice.

The Washington Post published a story about the millions of students who are effectively denied an education during the pandemic because their family can’t afford to pay for access to the Internet.

The Post called the situation “a national crisis.” It is.

The Internet has become as essential as free water and air. Why isn’t it a public utility, regulated by the FCC and free to all?

When you turn on a radio, you get free access to AM and FM stations. Why not free access to the Internet? There may be a good reason, but I haven’t heard it.

Here is the story:


A national crisis’: As coronavirus forces many schools online this fall, millions of disconnected students are being left behind

Before the pandemic, it was called “the homework gap,” because of the growing number of teachers who assigned homework that required Internet access. Now, as the pandemic forces many schools to switch to remote learning, disconnected students will miss more than homework. They’ll miss all of school.

For all the talk of Generation Z’s Internet savvy, a stunning number of young people are locked out of virtual classes because they lack high-speed Internet service at home. In 2018, nearly 17 million children lived in homes without high-speed Internet, and more than 7 million did not have computers at home, according to a report prepared by a coalition of civil rights and education groups that analyzed census data for that year.

The issue affects a disproportionately high percentage of Black, Latino and Native American households — with nearly one-third of students lacking high-speed Internet at home. Students in Southern states and in rural communities also were particularly overrepresented. In Mississippi and Arkansas, about 40 percent of students lacked high-speed Internet.

After the closures prompted by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, school systems rushed to buy and distribute laptops and WiFi hot spots to students, and service providers offered discounts to low-income families, efforts that made a dent in the numbers.

Education advocates say Congress could deliver an easy fix as part of a coronavirus relief package by expanding an existing program that helps schools and libraries get Internet service. But those hopes collapsed alongside talks between Congress and the White House on a new relief package. With talks deadlocked, President Trump issued an executive order for coronavirus relief. It provides nothing for K-12 public schools. The consequences of the gap between those who have access to virtual learning and those who do not could be felt for years to come.

“It’s dire,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), who has pushed to increase funding that subsidizes the cost of Internet service for schools and libraries. Her district contains parts of rural Virginia that are not served by Internet service providers. “We are generationally committing to significant divides in our communities over what kind of education our children are getting.”

Internet access is so central to children’s education that allowing students to go without it is like sending them to classrooms without textbooks, said Jordana Barton, who studies the digital divide in Texas as a community development adviser for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. So many students being without Internet service is “a travesty,” she said.
“Before the pandemic, I thought that the homework gap was so serious that Internet should be provided by the schools,” she said.
America is about to start online learning, Round 2. For millions of students, it won’t be any better.

Educators have long seen access to high-speed Internet as essential — not optional — for students. Now, the pandemic has forced many schools to start classes remotely, and the problem has taken on new urgency. Because the Internet is essential to gaining access to virtual instruction, a failure to provide the service to students is akin to barring them from school altogether.

“It’s going back to the old days where we blocked people from going to schools to be able to learn to read,” said Pedro Martinez, the superintendent of the San Antonio Independent School District in Texas. More than half of families in Martinez’s district do not have high-speed Internet service at home. “It’s like us saying, ‘You can’t come into class. You can’t come to school.’ ”

Maryland resident Haydee Berdejo, 18, does not have high-speed Internet at home in Baltimore and can get online only with a smartphone. When her magnet high school, Baltimore City College, shut down in mid-March, she spent her school days hunched over the phone, where she had difficulty hearing her teachers.

Berdejo, who is from Mexico and still learning English, said the setup made bridging the language gap even more difficult. At times, the screen was fuzzy. And though her classes are mostly taught in English, with the schools closed, she no longer has access to a translator.

She said she is anxious about the coming school year because she has had little opportunity to practice English. “I’m worried I won’t be able to participate in class or answer a question from the teacher, because I won’t know what they’re saying to me,” she said in Spanish.

Even as many students start school without high-speed Internet service at home, Congress and the Federal Communications Commission have done little to help school systems meet that need. Many have given up hope that help is coming and have instead appealed to charities, philanthropists and the Internet service providers themselves, hoping for donations or discounts. Susan Enfield, the superintendent of the Highline Public Schools in Washington state, set up a program to allow more-affluent families to “sponsor” low-income households by paying their Internet bills.

Though some service providers offer discounts to low-income families, service is still out of reach for those who have poor credit or unpaid bills. And even the discounted rate can be too much — especially for families struggling with job losses.

In Baltimore, the school system helped set up 7,000 families with Internet Essentials, a program that provides low-cost Internet service to qualifying households. The first two months of the program were free. But last month, the school system realized that if it didn’t pay the $650,000 bill, many of those families would lose service.

“I was not going to stand by and let 14,000 students not be able to log on because of a bill we knew needed to be paid,” said Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Sonja Santelises. “It’s yet one more thing that, in serving children and families, schools are being asked to do.”
The lack of a national strategy has left superintendents to devise solutions on their own. And that means whether students get connected often depends on the charisma of a superintendent and the generosity of the surrounding community, Santelises said.

“It is the leaders who are trying to do deals, who are trying to negotiate, trying to leverage money here, leverage money there,” Santelises said. “If we are relying on the individual negotiation capacity of Sonja Santelises or any other sitting superintendent to make sure families have WiFi, that is problematic, and it is a split, and it is symptomatic of a much larger issue.”

A long-standing program run by the Federal Communications Commission that subsidizes Internet service for schools and libraries is of little help to students during the pandemic. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told schools they can use the funding only for Internet service at their campuses — even when schools have been shut down. Pai has said that the law does not allow the money to be used for providing domestic Internet service and that he does not have the authority to do otherwise.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, the sole Democrat on the panel, disagrees — as do congressional Democrats and school leaders across the country. She accused the commission of failing to act to address what she called “a national crisis.”

“The FCC is sticking its head in the sand or looking the other way and doing everything it can to ignore this,” Rosenworcel said. “This is something we can fix — and we should.”

Schools and students have been left to find solutions on their own. The parking lots of schools, libraries and fast-food restaurants that offer free WiFi have become de facto classrooms for many students. Other school systems equipped buses with WiFi hot spots and parked them in underserved neighborhoods. In some school systems, such as Baltimore, officials just paid the bills of hundreds of families out of their own budgets to keep the households online.

But none of the improvised solutions are sustainable or scalable, and they often rely on the ability of school officials to court philanthropists and negotiate with Internet service providers.

Cleveland public schools CEO Eric Gordon said he hopes the pandemic will force lawmakers to rethink how they view the Internet. He said two-thirds of households in his district can connect to the Internet only by cellphone, which is inadequate for virtual classes.
“It’s just time we recognize that the Internet has become a utility in the same way electricity became a public utility,” Gordon said.

Bryan Akins, the principal of Keota High School in rural southeast Oklahoma, said many of his families do not have a reliable cellular signal — let alone high-speed Internet. Companies see little incentive to lay broadband lines in places where they will not get many customers, or they pass the expense to customers, charging more to those who live in far-flung communities. The school’s switch-over to remote learning in the spring posed “a big problem,” Akins said.

“My teachers can teach virtually, but my students can’t access it virtually,” Akins said. Instead, staffers in the high-poverty district delivered homework along with weekly grocery packages. “Now you’re relying on the parent to help teach, or the student to teach themselves.”

But although connectivity challenges are often viewed as a rural problem, many students in urban districts also lack high-speed Internet service at home. In some cases, this is because they live in neighborhoods that — like many rural communities — do not have the infrastructure. In many others, the barrier is the expense, even though many service providers offer low-income families steeply discounted Internet service. Families that are facing financial turmoil in the recession may opt to drop the Internet.

Jaclyn Trapp, who is to start 10th grade at MC2STEM High School in Cleveland, shares a Chromebook with a little brother and with three stepsiblings who visit on weekends. When the pandemic hit, her mother and stepfather, both interior house painters, took a huge hit financially as work dried up. So they canceled their home Internet service, which had cost around $60 a month.

Jaclyn began using her phone as a hot spot — but soon she was out of data. Finally, the family struck a deal with an upstairs neighbor who agreed to allow the family to use his WiFi if they split the bill. But the signal, which has to travel to their downstairs apartment, is slow and unreliable.

“Without the Internet and not going to school, it’s really hard to do schoolwork,” Jaclyn said.

Moriah Balingit is an education reporter for The Washington Post, where she has worked since 2014. She previously covered crime, city hall and crime in city hall at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Congress appropriated $13.2 billion for public schools to help them weather the coronavirus pandemic, which is causing cuts and layoffs.

South Carolina received $48 million in CARES funds.

Governor Henry McMaster has allotted $32 million of that total to underwrite vouchers for private schools.

Dr. Thomasena Adams, an educator and resident of Orangeburg, South Carolina, filed suit to block the Governor’s action. The lawsuit says the governor is giving a disproportionate amount of money to the 5,000 students who use vouchers, while shorting the 800,000 in public schools.

A circuit court judge in Orangeburg signed a temporary restraining order to block disbursement of the $32 million to voucher students.

Under the governor’s plan, students in Orangeburg public schools will receive $473 each, while voucher students will receive $6,500 each.

In recent days, the public learned that Jeff Bezos’ net worth has soared to more than $170 billion. Bill Gates trails Bezos at “only” $114 billion. The Walton family is in the same range ($150 billion among three of them). This vast accumulation of wealth by a very tiny number of people distorts the entire economy, especially since it contrasts with millions of people who are unemployed, homeless, and living in deep poverty. Is this the America we love? Is this the America that we want?

G.F. Brandenburg has reposted an essay here about the “looting of America” by the super-rich.

To change this imbalance which eats away at the soul of our society, we need the courage to write a new tax code. I don’t know how to write a tax code but I know what inequity looks like. It looks like what we have today.

Time to recommend an important book: The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger.

This is a powerful editorial written by the editorial board of the York Dispatch.

The Republican-controlled legislature has imposed a funding system that is literally forcing the school district to starve in order to survive.

It is an outrage.

This should be a cover story in every national magazine. It isn’t, because it’s all too common.

When we starve our schools, we destroy the education of the children who attend them.

The editorial says:

York City School District is trapped in a death spiral.

It’s stuck under years-long state management that limits how money can be spent. Charter schools are annually sucking more than $25 million from its budget. Miserly state lawmakers foist the responsibility for funding public education on local officials, thereby fostering a system that rewards students in rich communities and punishes those in poor ones. And York City taxpayers are fed up with paying taxes that are up to double what’s paid in richer districts with more valuable property.

It’s no wonder that, under these conditions, York City Superintendent Andrea Berry presented a slash-and-burn budget for the 2020-21 school year containing $6.2 million in cuts. And, sadly, it’s no surprise the district’s school board went even further, last week approving a budget that axed 44 positions, including 32 teachers.

And, even so, York City’s 2020-21 budget still boosted taxes. That’s how bad things really are.

Really, what choice did district officials have?

York City school officials are trapped in a budgetary spiral that’s plagued poor, largely minority communities throughout the U.S. for decades. Under-represented at the statehouse, their calls for funding reform fall flat.

Like anything stuck in a trap, eventually the grisly choice of gnawing off one’s leg is the last, best available option.

Easily available metrics, such as test scores, drive the moneyed classes from the city, exacerbating blight and crashing property values.

The poverty increases the demand for not-for-profits, which, in turn, remove more property from the tax rolls.

And, all the while, Republicans in the state Legislature tout the myth of “school choice,” a particularly insidious bit of libertarian conservative dogma — concocted in response to the integration of Southern schools — that conspires to privatize the American school system and funnel taxpayer dollars to religious institutions.

The results will be devastating for York City’s students and society at large.

Interested in the performing arts? Too bad.

Hoping to grow from an introduction in the humanities? Those options are even more limited now.

Programs such as these are, in a very real sense, the foundation of a well-rounded education, one that prepares students to take their place as active citizens in a representative republic. But, more often than not, society has decided that the liberal arts aren’t for poor kids.

Make no mistake, York City’s plight is one destroying urban districts throughout the country. Just ask Connecticut Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher, who, in 2016, wrote a blistering ruling that attacked the very foundation of the system under which public schools are funded in this country.

His 90-page ruling was an indictment of the disparity between rich districts and poor ones that the U.S. funding model breeds.

“So change must come. The state has to accept that the schools are its blessing and its burden, and if it cannot be wise, it must at least be sensible,” Moukawsher wrote.

And yet, with the inherent systemic flaws well-established, school districts such as York City remain trapped and must eat itself just to survive.

Officials there had little choice this past week.

But the fact that they were left without any other options is neither moral nor just.

Thanks to Peter Greene for sharing this blistering but accurate editorial.

Tomorrow night, Andre Perry and I will talk about his new book Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Lives in a ZOOM discussion sponsored by the Network for Public Education. We can accommodate only 100 people, so please sign up early. If you don’t get into the first 100, the discussion will be live-streamed on NPE’s Facebook page and archived on its website.

Andre Perry was a charter school leader in New Orleans. He has since rethought the impact of charter schools on children, families, teachers, and communities.

I look forward to meeting him, virtually, and talking about what he learned. I hope you will sign up and join us.

Andre Perry writes, in a piece co-published by the Hechinger Report:

Defunding the police won’t mean much if we keep defunding schools that serve Black children and allowing a school choice movement rooted in anti-Blackness to thrive

A national uprising for racial justice and a pandemic killing disproportionately more Black people have made the call to action clear: We must dismantle the structures that generate racial disparities. Education activists have joined that call by demanding that districts defund police in schools. School boards are listening. The Los Angeles Board of Education last week voted to cut funding to its school police force by 35 percent, amounting to a $25 million reduction.

Calls to defund the police, whether in schools or in our cities, are just one part of what must become a larger movement to end taxpayer funding for institutions that are anti-Black at their core. But as millions of protestors across the country call for monies to be redirected from police to institutions that propel economic and social growth, democracy and unity, school choice advocates are holding fast to their sordid legacy of defunding already under-resourced traditional public schools that serve Black children.

Last week choice advocates won a legal battle that is out of step with the current march toward racial justice and democracy.

On June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue that a program that grants tax credits to “those who donate to organizations that award scholarships for private school tuition” cannot prohibit families from using such scholarships for tuition at private religious schools. The scholarship tax credits were passed by the Montana legislature in 2015, but the program was effectively modified a year later when Montana’s Department of Revenue barred the scholarships from being used at religiously affiliated institutions. In support of its decision, the department cited the Montana Constitution’s Blaine Amendment, which prohibits the state from allocating public dollars to any school “controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination.” Kendra Espinoza and two other parents took the state to court; the case eventually reached the Supreme Court.

In a 5-4 decision, the Court’s conservative majority found that barring religious organizations from a “public benefit” was unconstitutional. “A state need not subsidize private education,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority. “But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”

There are several states with similar tax credit programs; this ruling could open the door to more religious schools accessing state dollars from voucher-like programs

The Black Lives Matter uprising should turn its sights to these states.

Voucher programs have largely failed at delivering better educational outcomes, and they prevent us from removing the barriers that stand in the way of quality for public schools. By diverting tax revenue and students away from school districts, states remove much-needed dollars that support a vital necessity of neighborhoods and society: public schools in which people of different religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, socioeconomic classes and genders can learn basic national principles of justice, fairness, tolerance and the common good. Vouchers support private institutions which do not have to make room for this kind of inclusion.

Public schools are not the problem. Racism is. Parents don’t need escape hatches; we need states to remove the structures that inhibit public school districts that serve Black and Brown children.

Voucher advocates use the words “choice,” “freedom” and “liberty” to promote their programs, but their use of these words is as fraudulent as that of the slave owners who signed the U.S. Constitution. The original supporters of vouchers were unabashed in proclaiming that the sole reason for these grant programs was to maintain racial segregation. After the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision struck down “separate but equal” educational systems, various state governments used public funds to facilitate the choice of many white people to send their children to private schools.

Shortly after the Brown decision was announced, Virginia Gov. Thomas Stanley was of one of many white leaders to look for a work-around. Thomas established a 32-member Commission on Public Education to study the effects of the Supreme Court decision and make recommendations that would, in essence, nullify the Court’s ruling. The group, known as the Gray Commission after its chair, state Sen. Garland Gray, met its mandate.

The Gray Commission’s 1955 Report to the Governor argued that “compulsory integration should be resisted by all proper means in our power.” It included suggestions such as using public funds to “prevent enforced integration by providing for the payment of tuition grants for the education of those children whose parents object to their attendance at mixed schools.” Across the South, many families chose private segregation academies, many faith-based, moving resources away from local districts. Ever since, choice movements in this country have been tied and rooted to anti-Blackness.

Combined with racist housing policies, the concept of school choice has often been a weapon against Black people’s pursuit of quality and justice in public schooling. The collective choice of the majority of white Americans to opt out of integrated school systems, by sending their kids to private schools or by drawing district maps that continue racial and socio-economic segregation in the suburbs or exurbs, has resulted in $23 billion less funding for schools predominated by people of color than for majority white schools.

Even charter schools, many launched as a way to better serve Black children, have been used as a tool for segregation or have been strategically concentrated in Black districts to defund traditional district schools. Many charters embedded racist disciplinary practices that helped drive the school to prison pipeline.

Just last week, the nation’s largest charter chain, KIPP, jettisoned its iconic slogan, “Work hard, be nice,” which it acknowledged “diminishes the significant effort required to dismantle systemic racism, places value on being compliant and submissive, supports the illusion of meritocracy, and does not align with our vision of students being free to create the future that they want.”

Voucher advocates, on the other hand, have celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision and doubled down on rhetoric around choice that fails to recognize the need for the communal good provided by public education and that is short on any acknowledgement that the promotion of individualism has hurt public schools that Black students attend. Choice advocates will say that Black parents should have the same options as white families, but they do not concede the cost of white choices on Black schools — and democracy itself. While public systems should not eclipse individual rights or needs, institutions like public schools that benefit the common good facilitate individual growth and societal stability. Exclusion, which private schools inherently facilitate, has distorted how people view public institutions. Private doesn’t mean better — for students or society. Filtering out students isn’t a reform we should be adopting.

At the precipice of change, we have an opportunity to do more than create escape hatches. We can actually get at the sources of inequality — anti-Black policies and practices within supposedly democratic systems. We don’t know what kind of choices traditional districts serving a majority of Black students could offer, because states have underfunded them for decades. White Americans who wave the banner of choice are promoting racism and getting in the way of real educational reform. And choice is blocking equity in public schools.

Andre Perry is a fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of “Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Cities.”

This story about vouchers was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for Hechinger’s newsletter.