Archives for category: Minneapolis

Yohuru Williams is Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of St. Thomas in St.Paul, Minnesota. He is a noted scholar of Black history. And he also serves on the board of the Network for Public Education.

Dean Williams writes here about the activism for social justice in Minneapolis-St.Paul, inspired by the words of the late Congressman and civil rights icon, John Lewis.

Earlier this September, in Minneapolis and St. Paul, a brave collection of principals and assistant principals banded together to take on the issue of equity and justice in education.

Lewis’s letter, though directed at Black Lives Matter activists in particular, encourages all of us to find ways to get into “good trouble, necessary trouble,” in order to advance the goals of justice.
The members of the alliance, now 159 strong, have branded themselves the “good trouble” coalition after the mantra of the late Congressman John Lewis, who, before passing away in July, wrote a final letter that sought to inspire a passion for activism around racial injustice.

In his last months of life, Lewis lamented the dangerous and deadly state of affairs in the United States: persistent unjust police violence against African Americans, the failed governmental response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and continued efforts to erode American democratic practice at the highest levels of government.

And Lewis’s letter, though directed at Black Lives Matter activists in particular, encourages all of us to find ways to get into “good trouble, necessary trouble,” in order to advance the goals of justice—especially in tackling the most urgent issues of racial inequality, climate change, mass incarceration, economic disparities, healthcare gaps, and political division.

He also invited young people to consider how they might transform the future through studying history as a means of understanding our enduring struggles to achieve lasting peace and equality.

It is ironic that Cong. Lewis urged young people to study history as a means to “lasting peace and equality,” even as Trump demands a reactionary revision of U.S. history to glorify its “leaders” (no doubt including the Confederates who rallied to preserve white supremacy) and diminish or remove the role of African Americans in that history.

Jan Resseger writes here about the decision by Minneapolis and other school districts to remove police from the schools.

She begins:

In the aftermath of the tragic police killing of George Floyd and the widespread protests of police brutality that have followed, the Schott Foundation for Public Education comments: “We want to lift up one ray of hope in this dark moment: The Minneapolis Board of Education made in important step… when it voted to sever its relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department… which until now had been the recipient of more than $1 million in education funds to put its officers in schools… The danger of police officers in schools—and their contribution to creating the school-to-prison pipeline that threatens so many children of color—is well documented and their removal has been a central demand of education justice organizations that Schott is proud to support….”

Several school districts have followed the lead of the Minneapolis Board of Education including the schools of Rochester, New York, and Portland, Oregon. It also looks as though the members of the Denver, Colorado Board of Education will vote to terminate the employment of police school resource officers, known everywhere these days as SROs.

(FORGIVE MY SENIOR MOMENT–BEING SO UPSET WITH THE DAY’S NEWS, I MISTAKENLY PLACED ST. PAUL IN THE WRONG STATE, WHEN I KNOW IT IS ONE OF THE TWIN CITIES OF MINNESOTA. I HAVE LEARNED TO OWN MY MISTAKES.)

The teachers of St. Paul, Minnesota, are on strike. Their number one demand is the expansion of mental health services and counseling for their students. The #Red4Ed movement continues, as teachers become first-line protectors of their students.

Teachers and support staff in Saint Paul, Minnesota, are on strike for the first time since 1946.

The union says students need more counseling and mental health support than the district and current staff can provide.

The strikers are demanding a mental health team at every school. The team would include social workers, psychologists, nurses, and behavior intervention specialists, in numbers proportional to the number of students in the school.

Despite marathon bargaining sessions over the weekend, the district made no real movement on the core issues. The union rejected the district’s last-minute offer to call off the strike and take the contract dispute to arbitration instead.

“There are so many kids with so many issues,” said middle school teacher Leah Van Dassor. “Kids are depressed because they have problems at home. They don’t have anyone to talk to.”

St. Paul Federation of Educators (SPFE) Vice President Erica Schatzlein sees a wide range of needs in her work as an elementary teacher with English language learners.

“A students that had a parent pass away, instead of acting out, becomes completely withdrawn,” she said. A newly homeless student “has a meltdown, and I have to evacuate the classroom.”

In addition to its mental health demands, the union is asking for more bilingual teacher’s aides and limits on class size for special education.

“It’s too bad that all these important social services fall on the shoulder of the schools, but they do,” said Van Dassor, who is also on the bargaining team. “We have to try to figure out a way to help.”

Rob Levine, a Resistance-to-Privatization blogger in Minneapolis, reports here on the failure of the Bush Foundation’s bold “teacher effectiveness” initiative, which cost $45 million. All wasted.

The foundation set bold goals. It did not meet any of them.

Levine writes:

Ten years ago the St Paul-based Bush Foundation embarked on what was at the time its most expensive and ambitious project ever: a 10-year, $45 million effort called the Teacher Effectiveness Initiative (TEI). The advent of the TEI coincided with the implementation of a new operating model at the foundation. Beginning in 2009 it would mostly would run its own programs, focusing on three main areas: .

  • “developing courageous leaders and engaging communities in solving problems”
  • “…supporting the self-determination of Native nations”
  • “…increasing the educational achievement of all students”

Bush foundation president Peter Hutchinson told a news conference that the initiative would “increase by 50 percent the number of students in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota who go to college.”

The Teacher Effectiveness Initiative was the foundation’s real-world application of its broad educational philosophy. Peter Hutchinson, the foundation’s president at the time, told a news conference announcing the plan that the initiative would “increase by 50 percent the number of students in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota who go to college.” How was this miraculous achievement to be done? By “[enabling] the redesign of teacher-preparation programs” at a range of higher educational institutions where teachers are educated in the three-state area.

The foundation also said that, through “Consistent, effective teaching” it would “close the achievement gap.” It would achieve these goals by “producing 25,000 new, effective teachers by 2018.”

Not only was the Bush Foundation going to do all these things, but they would prove it with metrics. It contracted with an organization called the Value Added Research Center (VARC) to expand its Value Added Model (VAM) to track test scores of students who were taught by teachers graduated from one of its programs. The foundation, which paid VARC more than $2 million for its work, would use those test scores to rate the teachers ‘produced’ – even giving $1,000 bonuses to the programs for each ‘effective’ teacher.

10 years later: Fewer students in college, ‘achievement gap’ unchanged

By just about any measure the Teacher Effectiveness Initiative was a failure. Some of the top-line goals were missed by wide margins. The promise of 50% more college students in the tri-state area over the 10 years of the project? In reality, in Minnesota alone the number of post-secondary students enrolled actually dropped from almost 450,000 in 2009 to 421,000 in 2017 – a decline of about six percent.

Just one more example of the complete and utter failure of the hoax of “reform,” which was always about privatization and union-busting, not improving schools or helping students.

 

Rob Levine, a critic of Ed Deform, created a website called edhivemn.com that tracks funding of education reform orgs in MN –  and it has a feature called Charter School Scandals of the Day

Levine created a graphic to demonstrate the damage that charters do to public schools. He focuses on the charter schools in Minneapolis, which are well funded and highly segregated. Defenders of charters in Minneapolis actually think that racial and ethnic segregation is a good thing. They think that as long as families choose segregation, it is okay. George Wallace would have agreed with them.

The cycle of destruction begins as the districts loses students and money to charters. The district must cut programs and increase class sizes. When they cut programs and class sizes grow, they lose more students to charters. The cycle continues until the district shrivels to insignificance or disappears.

Rob writes:

Though specifics vary, across the nation charter schools are draining the students and finances of public school districts, creating distress in many. In Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Foundation is trying this very strategy with its created entity, Minnesota Comeback, whose goal is 30,000 new charter seats in the city.

Does the Minneapolis Foundation want to destroy public schools in Minneapolis? Look at its partners: all the same “reform” groups that are working with DeVos, the Waltons, and the Koch brothers.

Rob’s graphic shows that tens of millions spent by “Reformers” to disrupt and destroy public schools in Minneapolis.

Last June, the New York Times published a gushing piece about the success of a segregated charter school in Minneapolis. The author, Conor Williams of the New America Foundation, worried that Betsy DeVos’s fervent advocacy for charter schools might persuade liberals and progressives that charter schools are simply another form of privatization (which is true). His goal was to persuade progressives that segregated, non-union charter schools are doing a great job on behalf of poor and minority students. His example was Hiawatha Academy in Minneapolis. Williams claimed that the “math and literacy proficiency rates for students learning English are more than double the statewide averages for that group.”

He asserted: “Hiawatha schools should be easy for the left to love. They’re full of progressive educators helping children of color from low-income families succeed. And yet, they’re charter schools.”

Whoops! Time for an update.

Rob Levine, charter school critic, recently offered a brief history of charter schools and exposed the sham of Conor Williams’ claims:

Success is a relative word, as Williams made clear; in this context he meant better student test scores than students in the same demographic throughout the state.

If Williams had written this a few years ago he would have been right in one respect:Conor Williams in the New York Times. In a few of those years Hiawatha test scores reached their zenith with proficiency rates that exceeded state overall averages. This was especially intriguing because of one peculiarity about Hiawatha schools – they are essentially single-race, with about 98% of its students being Hispanic/Latino.

At one time Hiawatha had passable test scores, but this story, like so many education reform stories, was not what it seemed. In recent years Hiawatha’s test scores have dropped steadily back down to earth, so that now they’re less than half of the state averages. For some reason national, and especially local media aren’t interested in that now.

If on his trip to Minneapolis correspondent Williams had wandered out the front door of Hiawatha Academy and sauntered just four blocks north he would haveEl Colegio come across El Colegio, another segregated charter school that is 100% Hispanic / Latino. El Colegio has had test score proficiencies ranging near zero for the past five years, including zero percent math proficiency in 2016 and zero percent reading proficiency in 2017. Yet it is a favorite of local philanthropies.

And so it goes with charter schools in the Twin Cities where an archipelago of deliberately segregated charter schools are being built in areas of concentrated racial poverty, all funded by a few local and national philanthropies, including the Minneapolis Foundation and the Walmart heirs at the Walton Family Foundation. And unlike Hiawatha, more than a few of these radically segregated schools have had test score proficiencies in the zero to 10% range for half a dozen years or more.

These are places that people like Williams seldom mention. Most charter schools perform roughly the same as comparable public schools on standardized tests. Yes, there are a few charter schools that do marginally better on standardized test scores than their statewide cohort. But they are the exception, not the rule.

How many times can charter advocates tell the same lies and get away with it?

As long as the Walton, Gates, Broad, Bloomberg, Hastings, and other billionaires keep pumping out the propaganda, and as long as the New York Times publishes their false claims, they will keep on hoaxing the public.

Funny, I read an obituary in the New York Times yesterday about William Helmand, who collected memorabilia about medical quackery, claims that this product or that product would cure anything and everything.

Mr. Helfand spent more than a half-century accumulating materials that hawked things like Bile Beans (“for Health, Figure & Charm”) and Docteur Rasurel’s Hygienic Undergarments. He gave much of his collection to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the New York Academy of Medicine and other institutions, helping them with exhibitions over the years.

He became something of an expert on the history of quackery and the methods of promoting it.

“It’s probably the second-oldest profession,” he said in a 2014 talk at the Institute Library in New Haven. “It was one of the easiest things to get into, because all you had to do was say ‘My product cures some serious disease,’ and you did not have to back it up…”

“We cannot always be sure of the motivation of the seller,” he told The Times in 2011. “It may be quackery to us, but he or she may have thought it could cure everything.”

As I read the obituary and scanned the beautiful posters, I kept thinking of charter school quackery.

Speaking of charter schools and privatization as the “cure” for ailing schooldistricts, you may want to tune in to this webinar at 3 pm today, where charter cheerleader Joe Nathan of Minnesota and voucher cheerleader Howard Fuller of the Now-defunct Black Alliance for Educational Options encourage listeners to get politically involved to support privatization. They make the hilarious claim that the resistance to charters is “well funded,” when the opposite is true. The federal government just handed out $399 million to spur more charters. The Walton Family Foundation gives out between $200-300 Million to charters every year. The charter industry is funded by a gaggle of billionaires, too numerous to list, including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Reed Hastings, Eli Broad, the Fisher Family, the DeVos Family, the Koch brothers, Michael Bloomberg, Paul Singer, Daniel Loeb, and Philip Anschutz.

If you listen, please take notes on who is funding the opposition to charters. If you find out, please let me know so the Network for Public Education can get some of that big money to counter the pro-privatization forces.

Ah, remember the old days of saving poor black kids from failing schools?

Here is a charter school in Philadelphia that won a renewal on the condition that it attempt to achieve greater racial diversity and get rid of financial conflicts of interest. The charter school is opposing the conditions on its renewal. Too onerous! So what if its schools are majority white in a district that is 14% white? So what if its owners and directors have conflicts of interest? Why should that matter?

The SRC approved the new charter on April 26 after originally denying it on Feb. 22. The conditions were significant – reducing the enrollment total by a third, requiring the school to give preference to students from nearby zip codes with high non-white populations, and changing policies to conform with various state laws.

Franklin Towne’s existing two schools, which enroll 2,100 students in grades K-12, are 70 and 83 percent white, although they are located in a diverse section of the city. In the School District overall, only 14 percent of students are white.

The SRC also imposed conditions on Franklin Towne’s operational structure, which the District’s Charter Schools Office, in evaluating the application, found rife with conflicts of interest among its schools, its boards, its management organization, and its landlord.

Why not just copy the Minneapolis-St. Paul model and have charter schools that are all white, and others that are all-black? Do you have a problem with that?

Charters are more segregated than public schools. We know that. Who will have the nerve to oppose it when the Founding Fathers of charters in Minneapolis-St. Paul think that segregation and non-union charters are just fine, even, well, “progressive.”

Apparently, if you are part of the charter movement, separate but equal is a swell doctrine.

Sarah Lahm is an independent journalist based in Minneapolis. Her work has appeared in The Progressive, In These Times and other local and national publications. She blogs about education at brightlightsmallcity.com.


Should progressives embrace charter schools?

This question came up again recently when Teach for America alum and apparent expert on school choice, Conor P. Williams, landed an op-ed in the June 3 New York Times. Williams, who is now an education policy analyst with the New America Foundation, used Minneapolis’s Hiawatha Academies charter school chain as a key example of why, in his opinion, liberal and progressive activists should indeed be pro-charter school.

In 2017, Hiawatha Academies, which operates five highly segregated charter schools in Minneapolis, received a federal school choice expansion grant worth over $1 million dollars, courtesy of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. The money has likely been absorbed into Hiawatha Academies’ expansion plans, as the charter network seeks to enroll “6.2% of the Minneapolis student population” in the coming years.

Being affiliated in any way with DeVos and her devotion to accountability-free school choice schemes is probably uncomfortable for a charter school network like Hiawatha Academies, which likes to bill itself as progressive. DeVos continues to not only staunchly defend a Wild West-style approach to public education, she is also heavily engaged in rolling back many federal education policies that are there to protect the nation’s most vulnerable students.

Frankly, it is becoming harder and harder to separate, or pretend to separate, school choice and the spread of segregated charter schools from Betsy DeVos.

Perhaps that is why many of the links in Williams’ op-ed are as stale as the very premise underlying his piece. His first paragraph includes a description of an elementary school in the Hiawatha Academies’ chain, complete with a charming image of a teacher standing before students in a colorful kindergarten classroom. This, Williams proclaims, is one of “Minnesota’s best public schools.” To support this, he links to a celebratory 2012 PR-laden article written by Minnesota based education writer, Beth Hawkins.

Hawkins’ piece was published in MinnPost, a local online news outlet. Here’s why that matters: Hawkins’ stint as an education reporter at MinnPost was funded by the Bush Foundation, one of many local philanthropic groups that has bestowed money, clout and endless public relations support on the growth of charter schools in Minnesota. Oh, and MinnPost was started and run for years by former Minneapolis Star Tribune publisher, Joel Kramer. (Hawkins has since become the national education correspondent for the reform-funded outlet, The 74.)

Here’s why that matters: Kramer’s two sons, Matt and Eli, are both heavily invested in the national and local education reform movement. While Matt was serving as the co-CEO of Teach for America, Eli was busy “growing” the Hiawatha Academies charter school network, which serves mostly Latino families in south Minneapolis. It would be fair to say that the Kramer family has close political and financial ties to elite education reform policy makers and financiers, in Minnesota and on the national stage.

Eli Kramer is leaving Hiawatha Academies. The charter school chain’s new executive director is Colette Owens, another Teach for America acolyte who received her administrative training through a reform-funded venture, the School Systems Leaders Fellowship. Kramer made over $170,000 annually as head of Hiawatha Academies’ five school sites; Owens’s salary has not been publicly disclosed. (For comparison purposes, Ed Graff, superintendent of the Minneapolis Public Schools and its 60+ sites, has a contract worth $225,000.)

The Hiawatha Academies’ site (Morris Park) profiled by Williams sits in one of the two Minneapolis Public Schools buildings purchased by the charter school chain nearly ten years ago, on its path to grow its market share. “Hiawatha schools should be easy for the left to love,” Williams insists, before promising (without any evidence) that the schools are “full of progressive educators helping children of color from low-income families succeed.”

Beneath the wince-worthy white savior aura of this argument lurk some actual facts worth exploring further. First, Minnesota’s charter schools do not have to follow the same desegregation laws as public schools. This means highly segregated charter schools, like Hiawatha Academies, have been allowed to flourish, creating artificially isolated sites that cater to one particular demographic. If this is progressive, it sure smacks of age-old segregationist policies that allowed for school vouchers and, eventually, charter schools in the face of federal desegregation lawsuits.

Hiawatha Academies’ Morris Park location, for example, sits in a south Minneapolis neighborhood where over 75 percent of residents are white, and the majority do not live in poverty. But you would never know this by reviewing the school’s demographic data.

According to the Minnesota Department of Education, 91 percent of Hiawatha Academies’ Morris Park students are Latino, and 88 percent live in poverty. Still, Williams insists that the charter network is “successfully” meeting these kids’ needs, and so, presumably, should be excused for being unnaturally racially and economically segregated. But what is the definition of success? If it is standardized test scores, then no, Hiawatha’s Morris Park students are not receiving an education that is “beating the odds,” as education reformers like to say.

Data actually show that test scores at Hiawatha Academies-Morris Park dropped in 2017 and are lower than those of a nearby Minneapolis public school site, Northrop Elementary. Another neighborhood public school, Lake Nokomis Community School, serves almost as many students in poverty and special education students as the Morris Park charter school, but also has twenty-four homeless or highly mobile students on its roster. The charter school had zero.

In his New York Times piece, Williams does acknowledge that Hiawatha Academies schools are staffed by non-union teachers. He also notes that many progressives may also “worry that charters foster segregation, siphon funding from traditional public schools and cater to policymakers’ obsession with standardized tests.” Rather than addressing any of these very real concerns, however, Williams continues on with his fantasy-like defense of charter schools in general and of Hiawatha Academies in particular.

Hiawatha Academies schools are staffed and run by progressives, he assures readers, and they are determined, in the words of outgoing director Eli Kramer, to “elevate the importance of identity, race consciousness” and “pride in self.” Williams then describes taking a walk through the charter chain’s high school, which will relocate this fall to a newly-built campus that has been funded in part by wealthy, Republican-aligned local venture capitalists and philanthropists, not to mention the Walton Family Foundation.

How progressive is that? Many Walmart employees live on food stamps, leaving plenty of profit left over for the Walton family to pour into the promotion of non-union charter schools.

To wrap up his defense of Hiawatha’s privately run, publicly (and privately funded) charter schools, Williams revives yet another stale debate. In trying to prop up Hiawatha’s racially and economically segregated charters, Williams mentions Robert Panning-Miller, who was president of the Minneapolis teachers union from 2007-2009. (Michelle Wiese, the current head of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, is a Latino woman who has helped push the union in a more progressive, social justice-oriented direction. Perhaps her brand of union leadership doesn’t fit into Williams’ narrative.)

Panning-Miller once called Eli and Matt Kramer emblems of a kind of “educational apartheid” for allegedly sending their own children to a private Montessori school (the Kramers’ alma mater) full of wood blocks, natural play areas and hands-on learning, while simultaneously profiting from a test score-driven charter school network for students of color who live in poverty (Hiawatha Academies). Panning-Miller also documented the tightly woven, Kramer-Teach for America cabal that has drawn attention nationwide, and received PR support from, again, Beth Hawkins.

Maybe Williams had to harken back to Panning-Miller’s 2014 critique of the Kramers and Hiawatha Academies because there are so few of them. There is almost no counter-narrative out there for anyone, progressive or not, who would like a more realistic examination of the role Hiawatha Academies and other such narrowly marketed charter schools are playing in the systematic attacks on public education in the United States. As I mentioned, the Kramer family once employed an education writer who continues to serve as a philanthropist-funded champion of school choice.

It is impossible, then, to join Connor P. Williams’ in his unbridled praise for charter schools without fully examining the “ecosystem” of funding, hype and political support that prop up such “schools of choice.” To embrace the racially and economically marginalized population of the Hiawatha Academies charter chain, which Williams tries but fails to defend, would be to also, presumably, embrace the nearly all-white charter schools that also exist in the Twin Cities.

Among these are the Twin Cities German Immersion School, Nova Classical Academy and Great River Montessori School. Is it somehow right for public dollars to be diverted from the public school system (both Minneapolis and St. Paul are facing double-digit deficits for the upcoming school year) to create portfolios of niche charter schools that selectively serve segregated populations of students?

Is that what it means to be a progressive or a liberal? No, it is not. Don’t let the kind of propaganda peddled by Williams and the Kramer family convince you otherwise.

Minneapolis blogger Sarah Lahm carefully read the “Master Plan” for Minneapolis, which goes into detail about the city of the future, and discovered that the master plan does not include any schools!

This could not have been an oversight. Schools are part of every community where there are families.

She writes:

“Minneapolis 2040 is a visioning document, designed to offer a planned-for picture of what the city will look like over the next 22 years (as part of the Met Council’s Thrive 2040 project). It has been in development since before 2014, and is now in the last stages of community input. By the end of 2018, the Minneapolis City Council will vote on the 2040 plan and the vision of Minneapolis it provides. After that, assuming the plan is accepted by the Council, it will be put into action via updates to the city’s zoning laws.

“The zoning laws will dictate how, exactly, Minneapolis will morph into the city depicted in the 2040 draft. (Zoning issues tend to really get people’s goat.) The vision is for a city with business nodes in multi-use neighborhoods, full of green space, access to transit, bike lanes, high density housing and…no schools, it would seem. A glance through the guiding principles and priorities behind the Minneapolis 2040 draft reveal virtually no mention of the city’s public education system, or education in general.

“The six guiding values for the Minneapolis 2040 will hopefully lead to “An inspiring City growing in equity, health, and opportunity,” according to a 2018 City Planning Commission press release. Those six values center around growth (boosting Minneapolis’s population and its tax base); livability (safe, green, healthy neighborhoods with access to amenities); economic competitiveness (including private/public sector innovation); health; equity and racial justice; and “good government.”

“These six values are expanded upon by a list of fourteen priorities, as identified by the Minneapolis City Council. The priorities offer more information about the values guiding the 2040 plan, but again make very little mention of public education and what role, if any, schools will play in this future version of Minneapolis.

“The emphasis seems to be more on turning Minneapolis into a “city without children,” in the words of writer Benjamin Schwarz. (He attributes this push to a “bevy of trend-conscious city planners, opportunistic real-estate developers, municipal officials eager to grow their cities’ tax bases, and entrepreneurial urban gurus that ballyhoo the national renaissance of what inevitably gets described as the Vibrant Urban Neighborhood.”)

“After the six guiding values and the fourteen priorities comes the ninety-seven (97!) goals of the 2040 draft plan. There is one goal that specifically touches on the importance of investing in children from birth to age 5, but beyond that…nothing.”

A city without children? A city without schools?

The New York Times published an opinion article yesterday by Conor P. Williams of the New America Foundation, in which Williams argues that liberals should love charter schools and ignore the fact that Betsy DeVos loves them too.

He selects one school in Minneapolis to make his point. Hiawatha Academies, where 95% of the students are Hispanic. The school is non-union, like most every charter school. Williams proposes Hiawatha as a charter very different from the views of Betsy DeVos. But he forgets to mention that DeVos just gave Hiawatha Academies $1.8 Million. Maybe not so out of step with Betsy as he pretends.

But even though it is segregated and non-union, writes Williams, liberals should love it because it is good for Hispanic children.

But liberals are critical of charters, and Williams doesn’t understand why.

“And now the teachers are being forced to respond to criticism from people who by most measures should be their allies. Robert Panning-Miller, the former president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, has called Hiawatha schools emblematic of a “corporate reform movement” that values “compliance and test scores over critical thinking” and criticized them as being part of an “apartheid education” movement, because their students are almost exclusively children of color.

“It’s true that nine out of 10 Hiawatha students are Hispanic. But if Hiawatha schools enroll a high number of minority students and English learners, that’s because they serve them well.”

Now why in the world would the leader of the state union reject a non-union school? Shouldn’t all schools be non-union?

Williams says certain liberals are picking on charters because they are part of the DeVos agenda.

“Progressive critics are taking advantage of the moment to tie charter-friendly Democrats to her toxic public image. On the day after President Trump’s inauguration, Valerie Strauss, a Washington Post education writer, accused Democratic reformers like Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, the former Newark mayor, of “advancing corporate education reform” through their support of school choice.”

Corey Booker is not only in favor of charters, he also supports vouchers. Is it possible for Booker to be completely aligned with DeVos’ school choice beliefs and still be a “liberal?”

Williams writes, “Progressives can ill afford this kind of sniping. The last thing the left needs right now is a war between teachers unions and liberal charter supporters.”

He does not explain why teachers unions should support non-union schools.

The New America Foundation has a long list of big donors. The biggest is Eric Schmidt ($4 Million), former CEO of Google. The second biggest is the Gates Foundation.

What Williams forgets to mention is that the biggest funder of charter schools is the far-right Walton Family Foundation, the far-right Anschutz Foundation, the far-right Koch Brothers, the Heritage Foundation, plus ALEC, plus every red state Governor and Legislature. The Waltons funded one of every four charters in Minnesota. This article is fundamentally dishonest.