Archives for category: Missouri

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the PAC called American Federation for Children, started by Betsy DeVos, is supporting pro-charter Republican candidates in Missouri. We frequently get comments from charter advocates who insist that charters are progressive but it is hard to sustain that idea when the money to expand them comes from plutocrats like DeVos and the Waltons.

JEFFERSON CITY — A political action committee supporting state Sen. Andrew Koenig accepted $50,000 last week from a Washington, D.C., group that supports expanding charter schools, according to state ethics commission records.

Including the contribution to Koenig, the American Federation for Children, formerly chaired by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, has poured $670,000 into Missouri races this year after legislators have continued to block efforts to allow more charter school options in the state.

By comparison, the group spent $200,000 in Missouri in all of 2018, the year of the last general election.

While proponents view charters as innovative alternatives to public schools, critics say the operations drain money from local districts. The issue is one of the most hotly contested in the Legislature, with a coalition of Republicans and Democrats scuttling recent expansion efforts.

Koenig is locked in a tight reelection race against state Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, in a legislative district that includes all or parts of Ballwin, Chesterfield, Kirkwood, Sunset Hills, Valley Park and other municipalities.

The 15th Senate District also includes some of the highest-rated public school districts in the state, covering all or parts of the Kirkwood, Lindbergh, Valley Park, Rockwood, Parkway, Mehlville and Hancock Place school districts.

Currently, charter schools only operate in St. Louis and Kansas City. A proposal this year would have allowed the schools to operate in any charter county — St. Louis, Jefferson, St. Charles and Jackson counties — or in any city with more than 30,000 residents.

In an amazingly alarming move, the state of Missouri plans to lower standards for substitute teachers.

One superintendent of a rural district has floated the idea of bringing in National Guard units as substitute teachers. Matt Davis, superintendent of Eldon, Missouri, schools, made the suggestion to Gov. Mike Parson in a July meeting, according to a report in the Fulton Sun.

On Tuesday, the Missouri board of education made it easier to become a substitute teacher under an emergency rule, although the change was in the works before the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead of the previous requirement of 60 hours of college credit, eligible substitute teachers must now hold a high school diploma, complete a 20-hour online training course and pass a background check.

In other words, Missouri doesn’t care about the quality of teachers. Any warm body will do.

The most horrifying statement of the week:

In a radio interview, Governor Mike Parson stressed the importance of getting schools open regardless of the risks:

“These kids have got to get back to school,” Parson told Cox. “They’re at the lowest risk possible. And if they do get COVID-19, which they will — and they will when they go to school — they’re not going to the hospitals. They’re not going to have to sit in doctor’s offices. They’re going to go home and they’re going to get over it….”

Parson’s comment on the coronavirus signaled that the decision to send all children back to school would be justified even in a scenario in which all of them became infected with the coronavirus.

He also opposes a mask mandate.

Governor Parsons simply doesn’t give a damn about the children, their families, or school staff. They can get the deadly disease and he doesn’t care.

This is a great opinion article by Tony Messenger, a regular columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which is one of the nation’s great newspapers. It is an Open Letter addressed to Missouri’s Suburban Moms and written in the voice of the state Republican party. This is the party that loves women so much that it voted to eliminate all abortions, even in the case of rape, incest, or a threat to the survival of the mother. The GOP loves the unborn but ignores the born.

For starters:

First off, and this is really important: We didn’t raise your taxes. As you save to send your children to college, it’s important to us to allow you to spend your hard-earned money the way you want to. Of course, that doesn’t mean college isn’t going to get more expensive. Because we are so committed to never, ever raising taxes, Missouri is among the lowest-funded higher education systems in the country. And that’s why the Board of Curators of the University of Missouri voted to raise tuition 5 percent starting next year. Some might call that a back-door tax increase. Not us.

Speaking of college, if you are sending your daughter to a university in the state — public or private — we want you to know about our efforts to change the federal Title IX regulations meant to protect her from sexual assault or discrimination. We fell just short in our effort to gut those Obama-era regulations this year, but rest assured, we’ll be back at it next year.

It is a wonderful satire that isn’t funny because it is so true.

 

 

This is a story about a high school in Missouri that should have been on the U.S. News list of the best high schools in America. The teachers are dedicated. Many of the kids are beating the odds against them. They are hard-working. They have grit and perseverance. They will make great contributions to society.

Ray Hartmann of the Riverfront Times tells an inspiring story of students, teachers, and administrators at Normandy High School who are succeeding despite the mainstream narrative that writes them off.

Ninety-seven percent of its students are black, and a stunning 92 percent of the 3,100 kids residing in the district’s 23 municipalities are poor enough to qualify for free and reduced student lunches. The median household income in the district is $30,100, and the median home value is $69,700.

Perhaps even more daunting…the district has a 40 percent “mobility rate.” That means, unlike your Claytons and Ladues, nearly half of the kids in the district are either homeless or moving between homes in the school year.

Many people look at these numbers, writes Hartmann, and think “failing school.” But when he visited, he saw a different story.

He saw teachers who care about students, and students who are proud of their school.

He attended graduation ceremonies and wrote about two students.

Meet Kayvion Calvert, one of the privileged few. Thanks to his own initiative — and to the fact that he went to a high school that cared about him and afforded him the chance to make the most of his abilities — Kayvion is off to Alabama A&M University to major in political science and minor in secondary education, with a résumé that’s almost ridiculously impressive.

He was class president as a senior, serving all four years in student government. He was also a four-year member of the school choir, a passion he pursued while singing in both the choir at his church and another one in the community, as well as acting in drama club productions.

Obviously, Kayvion Calvert is not your average kid. And, admittedly, maybe it helped that he didn’t come from just any public school district.

Then there’s Gabrielle Brown, Kayvion’s classmate. She was class valedictorian, with a GPA of 3.96. But, in fairness, she too was a bit privileged: Not only did her high school launch her to a college scholarship in computer science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, but it provided an opportunity to supplement her high school studies in an associate degree program at St. Louis Community College-Florissant Valley.

So, in addition to graduating as class valedictorian, Gabrielle is already a member of the Phi Theta Kappa college honor society, which honors students at two-year colleges. She was also a member of the high school band. And she had an internship at Centene.

You could forgive Gabrielle if she were a little boastful about all this. But she’s not, deflecting credit to the fact that she was one of the fortunate ones who attended a high school that, in an email, she termed “a critical factor” in her success.

“At my school, you establish so many connections and develop so many relationships, you meet people from so many diverse backgrounds it’s honestly astonishing,” she wrote. “The people you meet don’t just fade out of your life, either. They are present and encourage you [to] continue on your road of success.

“When I was little, going to my elementary school as a child, they had programs to help children succeed. Whether the child was advanced or a little behind, they are capable of supporting children on a more personal level and really connect with them. They influenced me to become the person I am today, and I intend to continue giving back.”

That’s not your everyday loyalty from a high school student. But kids like Gabrielle and Kayvion didn’t go to your everyday privileged high school.

No, they graduated from Normandy. Yes, the same Normandy Schools Collaborative often presented as the symbol of all that’s wrong with public education in St. Louis and the nation.

Why isn’t this heroic school on the U.S. News list as one of the best high schools in the nation, instead of all those public schools in affluent neighborhoods and charter schools that cherrypick their students?

 

Reed Hastings, the billionaire founder of Netflix, funded anti-abortion Republicans in Missouri as a way to win their votes for charter school  legislation. Hastings likes to portray himself as a “progressive.” What kind of progressive would fund a total ban on all abortions, including abortions related to rape, incest, and the health of the mother?

New York (CNN Business)Netflix has taken a stance against a restrictive abortion bill in Georgia. But its CEO Reed Hastings has been donating to lawmakers who passed one of the country’s most controversial abortion laws.

Over the last 10 months, Hastings donated $143,000 to 73 Republicans who voted for a Missouri abortion ban. And in November, Hastings donated $2,600, the maximum donation amount, to Missouri Governor Mike Parson, who signed a bill on May 24 prohibiting abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy.
A newsletter, Popular Information, first reported the publicly available data through the Missouri Ethics Commission.
The recent trend of donating to Missouri Republicans is unusual for Hastings, who has a pattern of donating to Democrats over the past two decades. He’s donated to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry, as well as to larger Democratic committees. Over the past 10 months, Hastings also donated $10,700 to various Missouri Democrats.
A source close to Hastings told CNN Business that Netflix’s CEO donated the money for education purposes.
“All of these personal donations from Reed, on both sides of the aisle, were made in support of a specific piece of legislation aimed at improving the availability and quality of charter schools in Missouri,” said the source. “Reed’s private support of educational causes is well known and these personal donations stem directly from that.”
Missouri legislators were evaluating House Bill 581, sponsored by Representative Rebecca Roeber, a Republican. A very similar bill was also circulating in the Senate. Hastings gave the maximum donation, $2,600, to Roeber two times last year to support her after the primary and general elections. The bill would have increased perks for charter schools, but it ultimately failed.
Hastings’ last contribution to Missouri politicians was in February, according to the Missouri Ethics Commission. The bill was dropped from the calendar by May. Hastings declined to comment for this article.
In addition to Hastings’ support for the charter school bill, Netflix also took up a particular interest in Missouri. The company hired a lobbying firm a few months ago to work in Missouri, noted Dan Auble, senior researcher with the Center for Responsive Politics.
“They are undertaking a concerted campaign here,” he said, “Whatever it is that Hastings and Netflix are trying to get done — or stop — in Missouri it is clear they will have the ear of legislators to make their case.”
It is shocking that Hastings would risk women’s lives for the sake of his pet hobby: the privatization of public schools.
Will he next partner with Betsy DeVos to promote school choice?

 

 

The editorial board of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published a powerful editorial in opposition to the expansion of charters into the suburbs. They are currently limited to Missouri’s two biggest cities, St. Louis and Kansas City. The editorial warns that the introduction of charters would threaten the quality and viability of some of the state’s best public school districts. The Republican-sponsored bill to add charters does not include any new funding and allows for renewal of low-performing charter schools.

Besides, charters in the two urban districts have produced meager results. Why have more of what doesn’t work?

The editorial recounts the dismal charter record:

“Some high-profile disasters have resulted from lack of oversight and accountability for charter schools. In 2012, Missouri shut down six Imagine charter schools in St. Louis. Students consistently performed worse on state tests than those attending St. Louis Public Schools while Virginia-based Imagine reaped huge profits from a real estate business.

“About half of the 30-plus charter schools that have opened in St. Louis since 2000 have been shut down for academic or financial failure. That’s hardly a success model worth emulating.

”Nationally, the picture looks even worse. The federal government has wasted up to $1 billion on charter schools that never opened or opened and then closed because of mismanagement or other reasons, according to the Network for Public Education advocacy group.”

Why wreak havoc on successful schools by injecting charters, whose track record in Missouri is poor?

 

The legislature in Missouri is considering bills for charters and vouchers, which will defund public schools.

if you live in Missouri, contact your legislator and express your support for yourcomm7nity’s Public s hoops.

The Walton Family Foundation gave a grant of nearly $1 million to St. Louis University, “To develop education policy.”

As is well established, the Waltons have certain goals: privatization of public schools and elimination of teachers unions.

There are legislative proposals currently for vouchers in the House and Senate.

Here come the Waltons, Missouri!

Tom Ultican has been chronicling the advance of the DPE (Destroy Public Education) Movement. He attended the recent conference of the Network for Public Education, where he heard from leaders of the Kansas City (Missouri) school district and realized that it was suffering from the DPE strategy.

He wrote this post about the deliberate and heedless destruction of what was once a vibrant school district.

The city and the school district were, to begin with, victimized by white flight. Subsidized by federal housing policies, whites abandoned the city. Responding to a court order, the state poured huge sums into magnet schools in hopes of luring white students back, but it didn’t work.

Then the DPE moved in, like vultures, to feast on the carcass of the remaining public schools.

Ultican describes the rapid turnover in leaders, beginning with John Covington, who was placed in Kansas City by Eli Broad. Covington closed numerous schools to make way for school choice and charters. He didn’t stay long, however, because he got a call from the Great Eli himself, telling him to go to Detroit to run the Education Achievement Authority. That was a massive and costly failure.

At present, as he shows (based on the presentation of state data at NPE), the Kansas City school district has only 14,216 students. The charter in the districts, each of them considered a “school district,” has almost as many students. There are currently 20 (20!) separate local education agencies operating in what was once the Kansas City school district (each charter is its own local education agency). Twenty school districts competing for students.

This is expensive, as he shows. The Kansas City district spends more than double what is spent in the similar-size Springfield, Mo., district.

A sad footnote to this tale of harm inflicted on children and public schools is that much of it is funded by the local Kauffman foundation, whose namesake would likely be appalled to see what is being done with the money he left behind:

Ewing Marion Kauffman was a graduate of public schools. Before his death in 1993 he spent money and time promoting public schools. He was an eagle scout and he established the Kansas City Royal baseball team. He would undoubtedly hate the idea that the $2 billion foundation he established is now being used to undermine public education in his city.

Kauffman Foundation money was used to bring CEE-Trust to Kansas City. It was a Bill Gates funded spin off from Indianapolis’s proto-type privatizing organization The Mind Trust. The CEE-Trust mandate was to implement the portfolio theory of education reform. When local’s got wind of a backroom deal that had given CEE-Trust a $385,000 state contract to create a plan for KCPS things went south. A 2017 Chalkbeat Article says, “In 2013, a plan to reshape Kansas City’s schools was essentially run out of town.” It became so bad that CEE-Trust changed its name to Education Cities.

Now the same local-national money combination is funding a new group, SmartschoolKC, with the same portfolio district agenda. The new collaboration is funded by the Kauffman Foundation, the Hall Family Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation.

The portfolio model posits treating schools like stock holdings and trimming the failures by privatizing them or closing them. The instrument for measuring failure is the wholly inappropriate standardized test. This model inevitably leads to an ever more privatized system that strips parents and taxpayers of their democratic rights. Objections to the portfolio model include:

It creates constant churn and disruption. The last thing students in struggling neighborhoods need is more uncertainty.

Democratically operated schools in a community are the foundation of American democracy. Promoters of the portfolio model reject the civic value of these democracy incubators.
Parents and taxpayer no longer have an elected board that they can hold accountable for school operations.