Archives for category: Lies

Fiorina Rodov wanted to teach, and, as she writes, she believed the glowing claims about charter schools as beacons of hope for the neediest students. She saw “Waiting for ‘Superman'” and cheered for the kids who wanted to get into a charter. She believed the movie’s hype about the magic of charters. So she got in 2016 a job teaching in a charter school in Los Angeles.

There she learned the truth about charter schools, or at least the one where she was teaching.

The school was non-union. Teacher turnover was high every year. Student attrition was high.

But the chasm between the hype and reality became evident to me immediately upon starting work. There were high attrition rates of students and teachers. Over the summer, more than half the faculty resigned and were replaced by new teachers. About three-quarters of the students hadn’t returned either, and though new kids had registered, the enrollment wasn’t anywhere near what was needed in order to be fiscally stable, because funding was tied to enrollment. There were legal violations: The special education teacher had 43 students, though the law capped class sizes at 28. The overage made him fall behind on students’ individualized education plans (IEPs), making the school noncompliant on special education requirements.

Rodov also learned about the big-money forces promoting the charter myth. She was in L.A. for the election campaign between charter skeptic Steve Zimmer (chair of the LAUSD school board and former TFA) and charter zealot Nick Melvoin. The charter leaders across the city strongly supported Melvoin, of course.

I learned that billionaires fund local school board elections across America in order to accelerate charter school growth. In District 4 in Los Angeles, Steve Zimmer was financed by teachers’ unions while Nick Melvoin was reportedly bankrolled by California billionaires Eli Broad, Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings, and Gap clothing company co-founder Doris Fisher, as well as out-of-towners like former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Walmart heirs and siblings Jim and Alice Walton, and others in an expensive race...

Furthermore, CCSA [California Charter Schools Association] Advocates donated to an organization called Speak UP, which was a “strong opponent” of Zimmer, according to the Los Angeles Times, and whose co-founder and CEO Katie Braude resides in the Pacific Palisades, where the median home price is about $3.4 million. Braude helped launch the Palisades Charter School Complex, which sought to serve “all students in an ethnically and economically diverse student body,” according to her bio on the Speak UP website. But at Palisades Charter High School, “[w]hite students are 2.8 times as likely to be enrolled in at least one AP class as Black students,” while “Black students are 7 times as likely to be suspended as [w]hite students,” according to ProPublica. In 2016 and 2017, Black students were victims of hate crimes at Palisades Charter High School, and in 2020, a Black teacher sued the school for racial discrimination, wrongful termination, harassment and “intentional infliction of emotional distress.” According to the Pacific Palisades Patch, Pamela Magee, the school’s executive director and principal, responded to the teacher’s allegations via email, “PCHS is an equal opportunity employer, and we take allegations of discrimination seriously…”

Melvoin’s list of individual donations, according to the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, is filled with some of the same moguls who donated to CCSA Advocates, such as Eli Broad and Reed Hastings. It also includes then-co-chairman of Walt Disney Studios Alan F. Horn, president of the Emerson Collective Laurene Powell Jobs, and Martha L. Karsh and her husband Bruce Karsh, who at the time of the election was the chair of the Tribune Media Company, which then owned the Los Angeles Times. (Bruce Karsh stepped down from the Tribune in October 2017, five months after the school board election.)

The billionaires who fund school board races across the country also finance education reporting. The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, which was partly behind a $490 million plan reported in 2015 to enroll half of LAUSD’s students in charters by 2023, funded the Los Angeles Times’ reporting initiative Education Matters with the Baxter Family Foundation and the Wasserman Foundation, which also support charters. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Amazon (whose founder and former CEO—now executive chairman—Jeff Bezos also owns the Washington Post) fund the Seattle Times’ Education Lab. The Bezos Family Foundation, the Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, founded by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, fund Chalkbeat. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation fund Education Week and The 74, which owns the LA School Report. The Gates Foundation finances the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN), whose “Fixes” column in the New York Times covers education and other issues. And Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective owns the Atlantic, which has a robust education section.

The infusion of billionaire cash and media ownership helps to explain why the mainstream media seldom reports on the failures of charter schools or expose their lies and propaganda.

Rodov goes on to explain that her school was finally closed, but no one in the mainstream media in Los Angeles bothered to interview teachers about “the climate of terror at the school.”

She ends with the hope that Biden’s election will mean an end to favoritism towards charter schools and a beginning of focus on public schools, which are a vital democratic institution.

Those of us who are sick of charter school lies and propaganda share her hope. We will know in time whether Biden will keep his promise to cut off federal funding of for-profit charters, whether he will eliminate the $440 million federal Charter Schools Program (which Betsy DeVos used as her private slush fund), and whether he will make the strengthening of public schools his top education priority. Six percent of America’s students attend charter schools, and they are the darling of billionaires like Bill Gates, Reed Hastings, Laurene Powell Jobs, Charles Koch, Michael Bloomberg, and many more (I wrote a chapter in my recent book Slaying Goliath naming the billionaires and corporations that pour money into charter schools). Let the billionaires pay for them.

 

Richard P. Phelps recounts his experiences as the director of assessment for Michelle Rhee, chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools. Phelps was expected to expand the notorious IMPACT testing program, meant to evaluate teachers. Phelps visited hundreds of administrators and teachers and asked their advice about how to make the program better. They gave him good ideas, and he passed them on to top staff as recommendations. The professionals’ advice was rejected by two top reformers.

Phelps’ article was posted on the blog of D.C. activist Valerie Jablow. She acknowledged its origin in this editor’s note:

[Ed. Note: In part 1 of this series, semi-retired educator Richard P. Phelps provided a first-hand account of what went down in DCPS as ed reformers in the early days of mayoral control pushed standardized tests; teacher evaluations based on those tests; and harsh school penalties. This second part looks at the cheating scandals that arose in the wake of such abusive practices. Such accounts are all the more important now that the DC auditor has just released a bombshell report of poor stewardship of DC’s education data. Both articles appeared in Nonpartisan Education Review in September 2020 and are reprinted here with permission. For this part, the author gratefully acknowledges the fact-checking assistance of retired DCPS teacher Erich Martel and DC school budget expert Mary Levy.]

Phelps came to realize that the “reformers” really didn’t care about improving education or helping children. They were padding their resumes, building their career prospects in the lavishly funded reform world.

Phelps writes:

Alas, much of the activity labelled “reform” was just for show, and for padding resumes. Numerous central office managers would later work for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Numerous others would work for entities supported by the Gates or aligned foundations, or in jurisdictions such as Louisiana, where ed reformers held political power. Most would be well paid.

Their genuine accomplishments, or lack thereof, while at DCPS seemed to matter little. What mattered was the appearance of accomplishment and, above all, loyalty to the group. That loyalty required going along to get along: complicity in maintaining the façade of success while withholding any public criticism of or disagreement with other in-group members.

Unfortunately, in the United States what is commonly showcased as education reform is neither a civic enterprise nor a popular movement. Neither parents, the public, nor school-level educators have any direct influence. Rather, at the national level, U.S. education reform is an elite, private club—a small group of tightly connected politicos and academics—a mutual admiration society dedicated to the career advancement, political influence, and financial benefit of its members, supported by a gaggle of wealthy foundations (e.g., Gates, Walton, Broad, Wallace, Hewlett, Smith-Richardson).

Despite their failures, the elites who led DCPS moved on to remunerative positions. The game goes on. And it’s not “for the children.”

Denisha Jones explains here what happened at a televised event in Pittsburgh when she asked candidate Joe Biden if he would eliminate standardized testing. Denisha is a highly accomplished woman and a champion for children.

Biden’s Broken Promise: Time to Opt Out! 

On December 14, 2019, I asked President Biden a question about standardized testing. Seeking the Democratic nomination, he had joined other presidential candidates at a Public Education Forum, the creation of a collective of organizations, including the Schott Foundation, Network for Public Education, and Journey for Justice, live-streamed and moderated by MSNBC.

I had all day to frame my question–Biden was last in the lineup. Given the widespread havoc that standardized testing has wreaked, I had to cover a lot of ground. I wanted to demonstrate the negative impact of standardized testing on teacher autonomyand early childhood education. I needed to emphasize the racist history of standardized testing to remind everyone how we got to this point.  

“If you are elected president, will you commit to ending the use of standardized tests in public schools?” I asked.   “Yes,” said Biden. He told me that I was preaching to the choir and assured me that he was well-informed about the over-reliance on standardized tests to evaluate teachers and students.  He agreed that we need to give teachers the power to determine the curriculum and build children’s confidence. 

“When testing is the measure of whether or not the student is successful…teaching to a standardized test makes no sense,” he said. The question went viral, with many educators hopeful that this dark cloud would finally evaporate under a Biden presidency.  At the time, I didn’t believe him, and though I voted for him, I had no faith that he would keep his promise to me and America’s teachers.

I knew that Democrats were too deeply aligned with neoliberal education reform policies to end standardized testing. Some thought otherwise, hoping for a positive influence from  Dr. Jill Biden, a teacher. Democratic presidents may publicly speak out against such assessments while filling their administration with people who support them.   I remembered that President Obama also had delivered a critique of testing and then ramped it up with his Race to the Top program.  Biden could have selected Dr. Leslie Fenwick, with a proven track record against standardized testing, as his Secretary of Education. Instead, he chose a moderate, unknown candidate, Miguel Cardona.  

I was right.

On February 22ndChalkbeat reported, “States must administer federally required standardized testing this year…” the administration announced. While schools will not be held accountable for scores and can administer the test online and shorten it, states will not receive an exemption through federal waivers. 

Of course, when Biden made his promise to me, we had no idea that COVID-19 would upend public education as we know it, plunging teachers, students, and families into the world of remote teaching and learning. Now would be the perfect time for Biden to make good on his promise. Last year’s tests were canceled. As the pandemic rages on and districts struggle to move from remote to hybrid and fully in-person, why should Biden insist on keeping the standardized tests he claimed made no sense in a pre-COVID world?

Everyone is asking me what we should do now. Fortunately, parents and students have an excellent tool at their disposal.They can opt out. 

I cannot imagine a more opportune time for parents to refuse to have their children participate in a standardized test.  The last thing our children need is the added pressure of a test that won’t count, but they are still required to take.  Our focus should be on helping children build the resilience they need, not just tosurvive the trauma from this pandemic but to thrive in this new education landscape.  Jesse Hagopian passionately reminds us,  

“While corporate education reformers prattle on about a need for more high-stakes testing to evaluate ‘learning loss,’ what students truly require is the redirection of the billions of dollars wasted on the testing-industrial complex toward supporting educators and students: to gain access to COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and vaccinations, as well as psychologists, nurses, social workers, trauma counselors, after-school programs, restorative justice coordinators, and more.”

Opting out of standardized testing is a parent’s choice and right, despite administrators’ push back. Pre-COVID 19, some schools tried to force children to sit and stare for hours while their classmates took the exam. Now that testing has gone virtual, some parents had to give up their right to opt out when they signed up for online schooling. They can make you logon to the testing platform, but no one can force your child to answer the questions.  

I am not alone in my calls for widespread opt out. On Thursday, February 25th, the recently resigned Chancellor of New York City Schools, Richard Carranza, called for parents to refuse the tests. NYC Opt Out and Integrate NYC hosted a town hall to strategize opting out of spring testing.  You can sign the Integrate NYC petition here

Opting out will not hurt schools, but it will hurt the testing corporations, desperate to prove that these assessments can survive in virtual schooling and protect their bottom line. Two years in a row without standardized testing would clear the way to finally dismantle this racist practice–the likely rationale forhis broken promise. The time has come to banish this obsolete relic of a painful past.  

For more information on the opt out movement, visit http://www.unitedoptoutnational.org/

You can also read my blog, Five Myths About the Standardized Testing and the Opt Out Movement

Full Text of My Question

Good afternoon. My name is Denisha Jones, and I am the Director of the Art of Teaching Program at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. Today I’m here representing the Network for Public Education Action, Defending the Early Years, the Badass Teachers Association, and The Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action National Steering Committee. 

Teaching has changed drastically over the last 20 years. Instead of being allowed to use their expertise to develop creative,engaging, culturally relevant lessons, teachers are often forced to use a scripted curriculum and move students along even when they need more time. Many teachers feel more like a test prep tutor than a teacher of children and are concerned that both teachers and students are evaluated too heavily based on test scores. Beginning in kindergarten, young children are losing time for play and discovery and instead forced into developmentally inappropriate academic instruction in an effort to get them prepared for tests. Although formal testing does not begin until 3rd grade, younger students are bombarded with practice tests that narrow the curriculum and often leave many of them hating school.

Given that standardized testing is rooted in a history of eugenics and racism, if you are elected president, will you commit to ending the use of standardized tests in public schools? 

VIDEO: Watch Biden’s response here

BIO

Denisha Jones is the Director of the Art of Teaching Program at Sarah Lawrence College. She is a former kindergarten teacher and preschool director who spent the past 17 years in teacher education.  Denisha is an education justice advocate and activist. She serves as the Co-Director for Defending the Early Years, the Assistant Executive Director for the Badass Teachers Association, an administrator for United Opt Out National, and the Network for Public Education board. Since 2017, she has served on the national Black Lives Matter at School steering committee. In 2020 she joined the organizing committee for Unite to Save Our Schools. Her first co-edited book, Black Lives Matter at School: An Uprising for Educational Justice, was published in December 2020 by Haymarket Books. She is an attorney.

Congressman Jamaal Bowman, experienced teacher and principal and teacher, was elected last November and now is a member of the House Education Committee. He was outraged by the announcement that the Biden administration demands a resumption of annual testing. He denounced it as “a big mistake.” He knows what kids need, and it’s not testing.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman on Tuesday joined progressive education experts in criticizing the Biden administration’s decision to mandate standardized testing in schools despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

“We have an obsession with arbitrary testing metrics above all else, even in the middle of a pandemic that’s dislodged every facet of American life.”
—Rep. Jamaal Bowman

Bowman (D-N.Y.)—a former teacher and principal—argued that “prioritizing testing in the middle of the pandemic is a big mistake.”

“It’s a mistake that reflects a broader problem in American education,” the first-term congressman said in a statement. “We have an obsession with arbitrary testing metrics above all else, even in the middle of a pandemic that’s dislodged every facet of American life. We’ve forgotten that testing is one useful tool, and should not be the goal of education in and of itself.”



Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters and board member of the Network for Public Education, responded to Biden’s broken promise about suspending the testing.

She wrote:

Today, Ian Rosenblum acting Asst. Sec. of the US Dept. of Education announced that states would NOT be given a waiver from administering standardized exams – though ten had already requested them, including New York.  Rosenblum is the formerly the Ed Asst. to Cuomo, and then worked at the pro-testing outfit Ed Trust, headed by John King.

His letter is here; article in Chalkbeat here.  The letter does say that the tests could be shortened, given over the summer (!) or even next fall. 

Surprising and depressing that they would make this announcement before Miguel Cardona, appointed as Secretary of Education, even took office, in the midst of a pandemic.  Check out the video here where Biden promised at an AFT forum that he would end mandated standardized testing.  Watch his answer here. Makes you wonder who is really running the show at the Dept of Education.

If states have to give these exams remotely, watch out for the surveillance spyware schools will ask to install on your children’s devices.  Best advice is to refuse and opt out of these exams altogether.

Leonie Haimson 

Executive Director
Class Size Matters

124 Waverly Pl.

New York, NY 10011
phone: 917-435-9329
leonie@classsizematters.org

www.classsizematters.org

The Biden administration chose a pro-testing advocate, Ian Rosenblum of Education Trust New York, to announce the decision that states must administer the federally mandated tests this spring. Miguel Cardona has not yet been confirmed as Secretary of Education nor has Cindy Marten been confirmed as Deputy Secretary. Who made this decision? Joe Biden? Jill Biden? Ian Rosenblum, who has not yet been confirmed as Deputy Assistant Secretary? (The Assistant Secretary has not even been announced.) Is the Obama administration back?

Joe Biden said unequivocally at a Public Education Forum in Pittsburgh when he was campaigning that he would end the federal mandate for standardized testing. Denisha Jones, lawyer, teacher educator, board member of Defending the Early Years, and the Network for Public Education, asked candidate Biden if he would end standardized testing. Watch his answer here.

This is hugely disappointing, first, because it is a broken promise; second, because it imposes standardized testing in the midst of a pandemic when access to education has been grossly uneven and unequal; third, because it diverts the attention of teachers and students to a meaningless exercise.

Please read this article that I wrote a few weeks ago for Valerie Strauss’s blog: What You Need to Know about Standardized Testing. It begins with the history of IQ testing, which was the forerunner to standardized testing, and shows its relationship to eugenics and racism.

In the middle, I summarize the pointlessness of the tests:

Politicians and the general public assume that tests are good because they provide valuable information. They think that the tests are necessary for equity among racial and ethnic groups.

This is wrong.

The tests are a measure, not a remedy.

The tests are administered to students annually in March and early April. Teachers are usually not allowed to see the questions. The test results are returned to the schools in August or September. The students have different teachers by then. Their new teachers see their students’ scores but they are not allowed to know which questions the students got right or wrong.

Thus, the teachers do not learn where the students need extra help or which lessons need to be reviewed.

All they receive is a score, so they learn where students ranked compared to one another and compared to students across the state and the nation.

This is of little value to teachers.

This would be like going to a doctor with a pain in your stomach. The doctor gives you a battery of tests and says she will have the results in six months. When the results are reported, the doctor tells you that you are in the 45th percentile compared to others with a similar pain, but she doesn’t prescribe any medication because the test doesn’t say what caused your pain or where it is situated.

The tests are a boon for the testing corporation. For teachers and students, they are worthless.

Standardized test scores are highly correlated with family income and education. The students from affluent families get the highest scores. Those from poor families get the lowest scores. This is the case on every standardized test, whether it is state, national, international, SAT, or ACT. Sometimes poor kids get high scores, and sometimes kids from wealthy families get low scores, but they are outliers. The standardized tests confer privilege on the already advantaged and stigmatize those who have the least. They are not and will never be, by their very nature, a means to advance equity.

In addition, standardized tests are normed on a bell curve. There will always be a bottom half and a top half. Achievement gaps will never close, because bell curves never close. That is their design. By contrast, anyone of legal age may get a driver’s license if they pass the required tests. Access to driver’s licenses are not based on a bell curve. If they were, about 35 to 40 percent of adults would never get a license to drive.

If you are a parent, you will learn nothing from your child’s test score. You don’t really care how he or she ranks compared to others of her age in the state or in another state. You want to know whether she is keeping up with her assignments, whether she participates in class, whether she understands the work, whether she is enthusiastic about school, how she gets along with her peers. The standardized tests won’t answer any of these questions.

So how can a parent find out what he or she wants to know? Ask your child’s teacher.

Who should write the tests? Teachers should write the tests, based on what they taught in class. They can get instant answers and know precisely what their students understood and what they did not understand. They can hold a conference with Johnny or Maria to go over what they missed in class and help them learn what they need to know.

But how will we know how we are doing as a city or a state or a nation? How will we know about achievement gaps and whether they are getting bigger or smaller?

All of that information is already available in the reports of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), plus much more. Scores are disaggregated by state, gender, race, disability status, poverty status, English-language proficiency, and much more. About 20 cities have volunteered to be assessed, and they get the same information.

As we approach the reauthorization of the Every Student Succeeds Act — the successor law to No Child Left Behind — it is important to know this history and this context. No high-performing nation in the world tests every students in grades 3 to 8 every year.

We can say with certainty that the No Child Left Behind program failed to meet its purpose of leaving no child behind.

We can say with certainty that the Race to the Top program did not succeed at raising the nation’s test scores “to the top.”

We can say with certainty that the Every Student Succeeds Act did not achieve its purpose of assuring that every student would succeed.

For the past 10 years, despite (or perhaps because of) this deluge of intrusive federal programs, scores on the NAEP have been flat. The federal laws and programs have come and gone and have had no impact on test scores, which was their purpose.

It is time to think differently. It is time to relax the heavy hand of federal regulation and to recall the original purposes of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act: to distribute funding to the neediest students and schools; to support the professional training of teachers; and to assure the civil rights of students.

The federal government should not mandate testing or tell schools how to “reform” themselves, because the federal government lacks the knowledge or know-how or experience to reform schools.

At this critical time, as we look beyond the terrible consequences of the pandemic, American schools face a severe teacher shortage. The federal government can help states raise funding to pay professional salaries to professional teachers. It can help pay for high-quality prekindergarten programs. It can underwrite the cost of meals for students and help pay for nurses in every school.

American education will improve when the federal government does what it does best and allows highly qualified teachers and well-resourced schools to do what they do best.

The Republicans who control the North Carolina legislature want to divert public funds to religious and private schools. This outright theft of public funds is cynically called a bill for “equity and opportunity,” although it will increase racial segregation, undermine equity, and subsidize students to attend schools of lesser quality than public schools.

At what point do these thieves of public money reveal their true motives and stop stealing the egalitarian language of public education? There is nothing egalitarian about their scheme to take money from public schools and transfer it to low-quality religious schools. Some of these schools will use racist textbooks. Some will exclude students whose parents are gay. Some will be attached to churches that teach snake-handling. Few will have certified teachers or meet any state standards. North Carolina Republicans don’t care about the future of their state. They prefer to subsidize low-quality schools instead of improving their public schools.


Kris Nordstrom of NC Policy Watch wrote this description of the legislation. It was shared with me by Public Schools First North Carolina:

HB32 would make five changes to the Opportunity Scholarship program:

1.     No prior public school enrollment requirement for entering second graders: Under current law, first-time voucher recipients had to previously been enrolled in a public school unless they are entering kindergarten or first grade. Under H32, applicants entering second grade would not have to have been previously enrolled in a public school. As a result, more vouchers will be provided to students who were already enrolled in a private school.

2.     Increase value of the voucher: Since its inception in FY 2014-15, the Opportunity Scholarship voucher has been capped at $4,200. Under HB32, the maximum voucher amount would be set to “70 percent of the average State per pupil allocation in the prior fiscal year.” The average state per pupil allocation is currently $6,586, implying a maximum voucher of more than $4,610 if, as proposed, this goes into effect for vouchers awarded in the 2022-23 school year. The maximum voucher value would then be bumped up to 80% of the average State per pupil allocation in the 2023-24 school year and beyond. This would permit vouchers of up to $5,269, given current state spending levels.

3.     Loosening of prior public school enrollment requirement in grades 3-12: HB32 would allow students entering grades 3-12 to also be eligible for a voucher even if they’re already enrolled in a private school, so long as they were in a public school in the preceding semester. For example, if a student started their school year in a public school, but transferred to a private school for the spring semester, they would still be eligible for a voucher in the subsequent school year. This change would first apply to vouchers awarded in the 2022-23 school year.

4.     Diversion of funds to marketing efforts: Since inception, the Opportunity Scholarship program has been overfunded. HB32 would divert $500,000 worth of unused funds to “a nonprofit corporation representing parents and families” to market the program in an effort to juice up demand. There are few (if any) organizations that would qualify for these funds beyond Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina. It is probably just a coincidence that PEFNC provided HB32 sponsor Rep. Hugh Blackwell with an all-expenses paid trip to Miami in 2012.

5.     Increase of administration funding. Under current law, the NC State Education Assistance Authority  may retain $1.5 million for administrating the Opportunity Scholarship program. Under HB32, they would be allowed to use up to 2.5% of appropriated funds. That equates to $2.1 million for FY 2021-22, rising to $3.6 million by FY 2027-28.

The bill also amends the state’s two other voucher programs: the Disabilities Grant voucher and Personal Education Savings Accounts vouchers.

The Disabilities Grant is a traditional voucher covering up to $8,000 per year for students with disabilities. Funds can be used for school tuition, as well as for related expenses such as therapy, tutoring and educational technology.

Under the Personal Education Savings Accounts, parents of qualifying children receive a debit card loaded with $9,000 to be spent on a wide range of education-related expenses.

HB32 makes the following changes:

1.     Merges the two programs and changes the name. The combined program would be called Personal Education Student Accounts.

2.     Expands eligibility. Currently, students must have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to qualify for either program. Under HB32, eligibility would also be extended to students with 504 plans, which broadens the allowable disabilities. Students would also be eligible even if they are already enrolled in college, so long as they are taking less than 12 credits per year.

3.     Different awards and carry-forward rules. If a student is affected by autism, hearing impairment, moderate or severe intellectual or developmental disability, multiple, permanent orthopedic impairments, or visual impairment, they qualify for a higher award amount and may carry-forward up to $4,500 of unspent funds to the next fiscal year. These students will get $17,000 on their debit cards. Other disabled students’ awards are based on a percentage of per-student funding provided in the prior year. Based on 2020-21 funding levels, the award would be $9,549. These students would not be permitted to carry forward unspent funds.

4.     Eligibility verification relaxed. Currently the State Education Assistance Authority is required to verify eligibility of 6% of applicants each year. That requirement would be removed under HB32.

5.     Additional skimming of funds by financial companies. HB32 would permit the charging of “transaction or merchant fees” of up to 2.5% of all spending.

6.     Forward-funds the program and creates guaranteed funding increases through FY 2031-32. Under HB32, appropriations for Personal Education Savings Accounts would be made to a reserve account to forward-fund vouchers in the subsequent fiscal year. Additionally, funding would increase $1 million annually through FY 2031-32, increasing total funding by 62%. Voucher programs are the only education programs with guaranteed funding increases beyond FY 2021-22.

Finally, the bill would permit county governments to contribute to either of the voucher programs. Counties would be able to appropriate up to $1,000 per every child in the county who receives a voucher and attends a private school in the county. These funds would be used to increase the size of student vouchers rather than increase the number of vouchers awarded.

Fiscal impact of Opportunity Scholarship changes

If HB32 becomes law, it would be the second consecutive year of rapid expansion of the Opportunity Scholarship program to divert additional state funding to students who were already planning to go to a private school. During the 2020 legislative session, the General Assembly expanded the program’s income eligibility requirements and removed limits on awards to students entering Kindergarten and first grade. These changes are expected to cost the state approximately $272 million over the next 10 years.

The changes proposed under H3B2 would add $159 million to these costs over the next nine years.

New Hampshire has a Republican Governor, Chris Sununu, who appointed the state Commissioner of Education, Frank Edelblut. The commissioner home-schooled his children. He hates public schools and would like to defund them. If you thought Betsy DeVos was bad because of her zeal for privatization, Edelblut is far worse.

At the first public hearing about Edelblut’s radical voucher plan, public turnout was huge and onerwhelmingly opposed to the destruction of public schools.

Members of the public registered resounding opposition to HB 20, a bill that would create a universal school voucher program, at a public hearing on Tuesday afternoon. Due to the unprecedented and historic turnout, with 85% of it in opposition, the House Education Committee recessed and will continue the hearing on Thursday, Feb. 11, to hear from all 131 people who had signed up to speak at the virtual hearing, and they are accepting additional registrations to testify for those who have not signed up already. 

About 30 people — including parents, educators, lawmakers, experts, and one student — testified over the course of four hours, and another 3,800 signed on to indicate their position on the bill: 600 in favor, 3,198 in opposition and five testifying as neutral, or not taking a position.

“That’s more than we’ve experienced in bills in the time I’ve been in the house,” Committee Chair Rick Ladd (R-Haverhill) said of the turnout. He has set aside the entire day on Thursday, February 11, for testimony, saying, “that’s the only way we’re going to get through this.” They’re expecting another record turnout on that day, and have said that they’re already receiving a flood of emails on the bill...

“This bill provides absolutely no oversight or accountability,” said Deborah Nelson, a Hanover resident and parent of grown children. “This bill almost certainly dismantles public education in New Hampshire, and I fear it opens us to ridicule. … it should be called the Dismantling Public Education Bill.” 

Vouchers won’t help kids who need it the most, said Monica Henson, interim superintendent for SAU 44 (Northwood, Nottingham, and Strafford). “The truth is that these accounts are subsidies to affluent families.”

Having regained control of the legislature, Republicans have made vouchers their top priority.


CONCORD
 — Proponents and opponents of “education freedom accounts” Tuesday debated if the bill would benefit students or special interests, and if it would provide greater educational opportunities or be an invitation to commit fraud.

A multi-hour public hearing before the House Education Committee drew testimony from as far away as Arizona and as close as Manchester as both sides turned out in force to make their case for or against House Bill 20, a priority of the Republican legislative leadership.

3,198 people signed in to oppose HB 20 while 600 people signed in support and five signed in as neutral. Due to high turn out, the hearing was recessed and will resume next Thursday, February 11.

The bill has the backing of Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, and Gov. Chris Sununu supports education choice or vouchers.

Many parents of students with special needs or disabilities supported the bill saying it would provide the flexibility to best suit their children’s needs, but educators and others said it would seriously jeopardize public education and drive up already high property taxes in property poor school districts with high poverty levels.

No one mentioned that students who enroll in private voucher schools abandon their federal IDEA rights and protection.

Others said the bill would allow the use of taxpayer dollars without any accountability or state oversight, taking that money away from public education, which needs more state money not less.“House Bill 20 undermines the public school system,” said Rep. Mary Heath, D-Manchester, who is also a former deputy education commissioner. “I am deeply troubled by the fact it takes money from our public schools when we already have a source of revenue for children through the scholarship program.”

That program is funded by business tax credits for companies and interest and dividends tax credits for individuals and is capped at $1 million a year.Heath said the voucher proposal would place an unconscionable burden on taxpayers.

Edelblut recently did a financial analysis indicating the cost to state and local property taxpayers would be minimal and would give school districts a three-year window to adjust their budgets to the loss of state aid when students leave public schools.

In his analysis, Edelblut claims it will save state taxpayers about $360 million to $390 million over 10 years by lowering public school costs.

He touted the program in light of the pandemic and its effect on children, but committee member Rep. David Luneau, D-Hopkinton, who chaired the Education Funding Commission which met last year, questioned what the program would do to help students who underperform in property poor districts, which the commission found to be the biggest driver of educational inequity.

Edelblut claimed the bill would close the performance gap between students from higher income families and low-income families, but Luneau disagreed.

Voucher studies have never reported a single instance where vouchers closed the gap between poor and rich kids. Typically, the students who leave public school to take vouchers lose ground compared to their peers in public schools.

Edelblut is either ignorant or lying.

Madison Cawthorn is a Republican member of Congress from North Carolina. He was elected last fall when he was only 24, the youngest person ever elected to Congress. He spoke at the Trump rally that preceded the violent siege of Congress on January 6. He is to the very far-right of the Republican Party. He uses a wheelchair due to an automobile accident that almost took his life. He is considered a rising star in the Republican Party, due to his good looks and his rightwing bona fides.

Here are a few things you should know about him, drawn from a profile in Salon.

He was home-schooled. “According to his own claims in a sworn deposition, his work experience as recently as two years before his congressional run was limited to a job at Chick-fil-A, along with a part-time gig in a district office of former Rep. Mark Meadows.” He claimed that he planned to enter the Naval Academy but that he lost his chance because of the accident that almost killed him, but he was rejected by the Naval Academy before his accident. He enrolled in Patrick Henry College but dropped out after a semester. He was a protege of Mark Meadows, but ran against Mark Meadows’ hand-picked successor and beat her.

Cawthorn’s relationship with Mark Meadows and the Meadows family has shaped some of the most formative moments of the young conservative’s life, including the 2014 car accident that left him partially paralyzed and in a wheelchair. Indeed, in the four years between 2013 and 2017, Meadows recommended Cawthorn for the U.S. Naval Academy; had his son, Blake Meadows, find a Florida attorney to handle Cawthorn’s insurance case; hired Cawthorn in his congressional office; and apparently played a role in helping Cawthorn gain admission to Patrick Henry College, which he attended for just one semester, before dropping out with a self-reported D average.

Cawthorn entered Patrick Henry College in the fall of 2016, where he quickly managed to get a bad reputation for preying on young women. “Last October, weeks before the general election, more than 150 of Cawthorn’s former fellow students at Patrick Henry — roughly half the school’s total student body — wrote a letter alleging that his during his brief stint there he had engaged in “sexually predatory behavior,” lied habitually and committed vandalism.

Cawthorn apparently has altered his resume to make claims about his achievements that don’t stand up to scrutiny. In an article in The Nation, Sarah Luterman wrote about his habit of inflating his role in the Paralympics. Cawthorn has said that he was training for the 2020 Paralympics Games, now delayed until 2021, but Luterman interviewed several accomplished paralympians, and they threw cold water on Cawthorn’s boasts.

Cawthorn frequently said on social media that he was “training” for the Paralympic Games. Technically, such a statement could be true—but only in the sense that I could be training for the Olympic Games. “It’s like a kid saying they want to play in the NBA when they’re on their fourth-grade basketball team,” said Amanda McGrory, a three-time Paralympian who has earned seven medals in track and field. Cawthorn stated on the Christian inspirational podcast The Heal, “I had an opportunity for the Paralympics for track and field.” He did not have that opportunity, nor does it appear he took any meaningful steps that would have led him there.

Paralympians are the best at what they do. Qualifying is a long, complicated process. In addition to being a Paralympian, McGrory is the archivist and collections curator for the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee. She told me: “You have to be involved in a team, usually your college or a local club. And then from there, you establish times at qualifying races, and then from there you get scouted.” Patrick Henry College, which Cawthorn attended for a semester before dropping out, doesn’t have a disabled sports program.

In addition to not being on a team, Cawthorn does not appear to have competed in any qualifying races. Robert Kozarek, a former elite wheelchair marathoner, said he would have met Cawthorn at some point if he had been serious competition. Kozarek himself never qualified for the Paralympic Games. “The community itself is small. There’s probably 50 [elite wheelchair racers] in the entire country, and we see each other four, five, six times a year, at least.”

Cawthorn is a worthy addition to the Republican Party’s growing number of extremists, who feel they can say anything and get away with it. Unfortunately, the Republican leadership appointed him to the House Education and Labor Committee, despite his lack of formal education and character.

The House Republican conference just indulged in a sick joke: It assigned Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to the House Education and Labor Committee. Rep. Greene has identified with the bizarre QAnon conspiracy theorists who believe that Democrats and large sectors of the federal government are controlled by a Satanic ring of pedophiles. She has endorsed the vile claim that the massacres at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, and at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, were staged or “false flag” operations, intended to build political support for gun control.

Andrew Ujifusa of Education Week reports:

A Washington Post story on Jan. 22 highlighted how, in response to a 2018 comment on Facebook that recent school shootings weren’t real, now-U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said, “That’s all true.” She expressed a similar sentiment about the 2018 shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Facebook in a separate comment that year that the social-media site later removed. 

Several advocacy groups that support robust gun-control measures, including March For Our Lives-Parkland, Moms Demand Action, and Everytown for Gun Safety have called on Greene to resign in light of those comments, the Post reported. 

Greene also has made national headlines for months due to her support for QAnon, the name used for a range of conspiracy theories that have been termed a domestic terrorist threat by the FBI.

In response to questions from Education Week about Rep. Greene’s education priorities and concerns about her past comments on school shootings, spokesman Nick Dyer did not address her comments on the shootings.

“Congresswoman Greene is excited to join the House Education and Labor Committee. Rep. Greene is ready to get to work to reopen every school in America, expand school choice, protect homeschooling, champion religious freedom for student and teachers, and prevent men and boys from unfairly competing with women and girls in sports,” Dyer said in an email.

Earlier this month, Greene announced her support for legislation that would require schools to prevent “biological males” from competing in women’s sports, in order to demonstrate compliance with federal Title IX law...

A relatively large share of the Republicans slated to join the committee are freshmen. In fact, out of 24 total GOP members due to join the committee, 11 just started their first terms in Congress; go here for the list of new members about to join the panel. (Republicans announced new appointments to the committee on Monday, but technically they won’t be official until the GOP conference and full House approves them.)

Another prominent GOP freshman on the list is Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., who spoke at Trump’s Jan. 6 rally in front of the White House shortly before a mob attacked the U.S. Capitol as lawmakers were voting to certify the presidential election results.