Archives for category: Minnesota

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.

“The 74,” a website founded by former television anchor Campbell Brown, reports that the Partnership for Educational Justice (an anti-Union, anti-tenure, anti-seniority advocacy group founded by Campbell Brown) had their day in court in New York yesterday, and possibly for additional days.

PEJ is seeking to eliminate teacher tenure on grounds that it discriminates against black and brown children and deprives them of their rights. The presumption is that if their teachers did not have tenure, the students would get higher test scores. The lawsuit was filed in 2014. Brown’s organization is bankrolling it (Betsy DeVos was a member of the PEJ board before she became Secretary of Education).

“The lawsuit takes aim at teacher seniority and tenure protections, charging that “last in, first out” rules governing layoffs and other aspects of tenure impinge on students’ constitutional right to a “sound basic education” by keeping “chronically ineffective teachers” in classrooms.

“Among the parent plaintiffs is Tauana Goins, whose daughter’s teacher at P.S. 106 allegedly bullied the girl and called her “a loser.” Goins told The 74 she believes tenure should be based on performance rather than seniority.

“On its website, PEJ contends that New York’s tenure laws amount to lifetime job protections that are so extensive, “schools have to navigate a nearly endless bureaucratic maze to replace even the worst-performing teachers.””

PEJ has pursued the same claim in Minnesota and New Jersey, thus far without success.

“In the New Jersey lawsuit, HG v. Harrington, six plaintiff parents argue that “last in, first out” rules prevent children in low-income school districts from receiving a “thorough and efficient education.” In May, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson threw out the case, contending the plaintiffs had failed to show how their children were harmed by the rules.

“I don’t see any link other than speculation and conjecture between the LIFO statute and the denial of a thorough and efficient education to these 12 children,” Jacobson said at the time.
The parents have since appealed that decision.”

PEJ is appealing.

Here is a curious twist in the story.

Campbell Brown originally became involved in the fight against unions and teacher tenure because she was convinced that they protected sexual predators in the classrooms of New York City. In 2012 and 2014, she wrote articles in Rupert Murdoch’s anti-public school Wall Street Journal about sexual predators in public schools.

The celebrated attorney David Boies agreed to lead the fight on behalf of PEJ because he agreed that tenure was harming the civil rights of minority children. Leave aside the fact that somewhere between 40-50% of beginning teachers don’t remain in teaching because of the demands of the job. The turnover is highest in poorest communities, where children need a stable and experienced corps of committed teachers. Removing tenure would likely increase teacher turnover, especially where the needs are greatest.

But here is the irony, given Campbell’s concern about sexual predators. In addition to representing PEJ, Boies also represented the celebrated sexual predator Harvey Weinstein.

According to reporting in the New York Times and The New Yorker, Boies hired a private investigator to protect Weinstein.

An article in the Times by Deborah Rhodes on November 9 said that Boies’ role in protecting Weinstein was “egregious.”

“The stories of sexual abuse swirling around the movie producer Harvey Weinstein offer so much not to like that it is hard to imagine much more to say about men behaving badly. But it turns out there is more. One of the nation’s most respected lawyers, David Boies, is among those whose work helped Mr. Weinstein try to conceal his abusive behavior.

“Mr. Boies personally signed a contract with a private investigation organization, Black Cube, to unearth, as the contract specified, “intelligence which will help the client’s efforts to completely stop the publication of a new negative article in a leading NY Newspaper.” The client was Mr. Weinstein. The contract also authorized investigators to look for material to discredit “harmful negative information” about Mr. Weinstein in a forthcoming book. Having Mr. Boies rather than Mr. Weinstein sign the contract had the advantage of protecting the resulting information under the attorney-client privilege, which would shield it from disclosure in subsequent disputes.

“What makes the involvement of Mr. Boies so egregious is not only that it helped Mr. Weinstein conceal his abuse and undermined the First Amendment interests of the press and the public. It is also that Mr. Boies’s representation posed a conflict of interest, because his firm, Boies Schiller Flexner, was representing The New York Times, the “leading NY Newspaper,” in libel litigation at the same time.”

(I can’t supply a link to the article because The NY Times website is not allowing me to copy the link. Google it. And google the New Yorker articles by Ronan Farrow about Boies and Weinstein.)

I guess people have different thresholds of tolerance when it comes to allegations about “sexual predators.” My understanding is that the United federation of Teachers has a zero tolerance policy for teachers who are sexual predators. But some process of review is necessary so that teachers’ careers are not destroyed by false accusations.

This story about Minnesota shows the good and the bad effects of school choice.

Betsy DeVos will read it with pleasure. She can now point to Minnesota as an exemplar of school choice, one that fulfills her goals.

Those who care about democratically controlled public schools that have civic obligations, such as diversity, will see it as a nightmare.

The charter schools of Minneapolis are highly segregated and proud of it. The most popular charter school is almost completely Asian. Other charters are almost completely black or overwhelmingly white.

Remember the Brown decision of 1954? Minnesota doesn’t.

The proliferation of charters has forced public schools to cut their budgets, their programs, their staff.

Governor Mark Dayton of Minnesota has become a hero of public education.

Despite the pleas of the entire corporate reform movement in Minnesota, Dayton vetoed a bill that would have created a pathway into teaching for uncertified teachers, legislation needed to maintain a teaching force for charter schools.

Earlier today, I posted a plea by the Network for Public Education Action Fund, addressed to Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton. It urged him to veto the state budget because it included a voucher proposal.

We made a boo-boo!

Governor Dayton vetoed the bill last Friday! Forgive my error. The outcome is great news.

So, retrospectively, we thank and congratulate Governor Dayton for his wisdom in supporting Minnesota’s public school and blocking efforts to divert public money to religious and private schools.

I am happy to name him to the honor roll of the blog for standing up for public education.

The Minnesota legislature passed legislation to create “education savings accounts” (vouchers) and attached it to the state budget.

Governor Mark Dayton, a Democrat, has said he will veto any legislation that divert public money to private schools.

The Network for Public Education Action Fund urges you to send a message of support to Governor Dayton and encourage him to stop this raid on public funding for public schools.

“Governor Dayton’s promise to veto any bill that has vouchers attached to it, is about to be put to the test. The Minnesota legislature is sending a $33 million tax credit scholarship proposal to his desk. Let Governor Dayton know that you want him to keep his promise and veto this proposal.

“Send your email to the Governor. We make it easy. Just click here​.​

“Opportunity scholarships are nothing more than vouchers in disguise. School choice proponents claim that vouchers will help low-income students, but voucher programs inevitably subsidize families that are able to afford private school tuition, leaving low-income students in public schools with fewer tax dollars available to fund the public education system as a whole. And this so-called credit gives 70% back to the donor–that means that all taxpayers are funding 70% of the voucher.”

Rob Levine describes in this post the concentration of corporate reformers on Minneapolis, where millions of dollars are pouring in to the city to turn it into the New Orleans of the north, a mecca for charter operators without public schools.

He writes:

In Minneapolis there are now 34 operating charter schools that enroll almost 12,000 students. In St. Paul there are now 37 operating charter schools enrolling more than 13,000 students. By comparison both districts currently enroll about 36,000 students. While it’s obviously true that students who enroll in a charter school in one city don’t necessarily hail from there, the numbers are a good benchmark.

The Walton Family Foundation has started 46% of all open charter schools in Minneapolis

And charter advocates are hard at work enlarging that total, in Minneapolis, at least. The charter advocacy and startup organization Charter School Partners (CSP – now Minnesota Comeback), is in the middle of a five year plan to open 20 new charter schools in Minneapolis. Last year Comeback announced that it had secured $30 million in commitments from philanthropies, which it plans to use to create “… 30,000 new rigorous and relevant seats – particularly for students of color and low-income students” by 2025 in Minneapolis.

Though it has existed for barely a year Comeback has already collected $1.4 million in grants from the Minneapolis,Joyce and WEM (Whitney MacMillan) foundations.

Whatever “rigorous and relevant” means, 30,000 new “seats” in a district that has a student population of about 36,000 students is essentially a plan to kill that public school district. As Alejandra Matos wrote in the Star Tribune a year ago, some Minneapolis education officials “…suspect Minnesota Comeback is out to undermine the traditional public school system by replacing it with a vast network of charter schools, like in New Orleans or Washington, D.C.”

How might that happen? In 2013 Moody’s Investors Services issued a report warning that charter schools could drain enough money from regular school districts to in effect create a mini death spiral. It warned that in response to lost revenue districts might “…cut academic and other programs, reducing service levels and thereby driving students to seek educational alternatives, including charter schools…”

It’s worth remembering that in 2016 the Minneapolis school district experienced an unexpected $20 million shortfall.

So the corporate reformers plan to add “30,000 new rigorous and relevant seats.” Where is the store that sells those seats? Can anyone buy one? Or are those high-quality seats sold only to charter operators?

Funny that so many evaluations show traditional public schools outperforming charter schools, even though the charters say they have a monopoly on those special chairs. Maybe it is because the traditional public schools are staffed by real teachers, not TFA.

A reader writes:

In Minneapolis, Minnesota all four pro public education, teacher endorsed school board candidates won, beating out two incumbents! The first Somali running for state office in the US won election to the MN State House. And the school referendum renewal passed by over 80%.

A reader sent this announcement:

CEHD Dean’s Office to CEHD-OFFICIAL 
November 7, 2016
Dear CEHD Faculty and Staff Members:
We are reaching out to you today with an important message related to one of our teacher licensure programs in our college.
The University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development’s alternative pathway to teaching program for Teach for America corps members will not be renewing the contract we have with TFA. This means that we will not admit new corps members to a 2017 cohort. Reasons for ending the partnership program include an unsustainable funding model for the program and dwindling numbers of corps members.<br 
Corps members currently in the TFA program who are part of the 2015 and 2016 cohorts will continue in their high-quality, University preparation to enable them to be recommended for teacher licensure in May 2017 and 2018, respectively. We appreciate the opportunity we have had to learn from the corps members and this partnership.
This decision will not impact the many other teacher licensure programs and pathways at the University of Minnesota. We are committed to providing multiple pathway programs to teaching. We believe that the best use of our limited resources in moving forward is to focus on innovative curriculum development and ways to prepare teachers in partnership with our K-12 colleagues. As a land-grant research institution, we are committed to working side-by-side with K-12 educators to ensure that teachers are prepared and then supported in their early years of teaching. We will work to prepare teachers who teach in multiple school settings—including rural and high-need schools—so they can meet the needs of Minnesota’s children.
Research indicates that programs such as the Minneapolis Residency Program (MRP), developed with Minneapolis Public Schools to grow their own talent pool of teachers; the Emotional Behavioral Disorder (EBD) Program for special education teaching aides, created with K-12 colleagues across several districts; and the Dual Language and Immersion licensure program for elementary teachers across multiple school districts are the most promising routes to preparing and retaining diverse, high-quality teachers.
If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to us (Deborah Dillon at
Jean K. Quam, CEHD Dean

Deborah R. Dillon, CEHD Associate Dean

College of Education and Human Development

University of Minnesota

104 Burton Hall

Minneapolis, MN. 55455

612 626-9252

Earlier today, I posted Mercedes Schneider’s report about Campbell Brown’s failed lawsuit in Minnesota, where she was trying to get another Vergara-style decision to abolish teacher tenure.

I noted that the judge who tossed the lawsuit said that Brown and her “Partnership for Educational Justice” failed to show a connection between low test scores.

But the state’s own filing against the lawsuit added another important point, which I overlooked. Charter schools are disproportionately represented among the state’s lowest scoring schools, and their teachers do not have tenure. That argument blew a huge hole in the claim of Brown and her PEJ that tenure “causes” low test scores.

Here is the quote that Mercedes drew from the state’s document:

“Plaintiffs Lack Standing. The State Defendants demonstrated in their initial memorandum that Plaintiffs lacked standing because their First Amended Complaint failed to identify a concrete, particularized, and actual or imminent “injury-in-fact,” fairly traceable to the teacher tenure laws. … Plaintiffs reiteration of their generalized grievances set forth in the First Amended Complaint do not alter this conclusion.

“Nor will this case remedy Plaintiffs’ alleged harms. … As Plaintiffs acknowledge, eliminating teacher tenure will not ensure Plaintiffs’ children never again receive a teacher they consider “ineffective.” … Furthermore, Plaintiffs also fail to address the causal deficiencies in their claims, including the fact that (1) it is speculative whether elimination of the teacher tenure laws would result in greater teacher “effectiveness” or higher district-wide test scores; and (2) that Minnesota Charter schools, which do not have tenure, are disproportionally represented among Minnesota’s lowest performing schools.”