Archives for category: Missouri

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.

There are very few unionized workers in Missouri, but nonetheless voters rejected a law passed by the Legislature to cripple labor unions. The legislature passed the law in 2017, the labor movement gathered enough signatures to force a referendum, which was decided yesterday. The vote was overwhelming, 63% opposing the law. In politics, 63% is a landslide.

Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect explains what happened:

Kuttner on TAP

Labor’s Astonishing Missouri Win—and the Opening It Portends. Ohio’s razor-thin vote for an open House seat got most of the headlines, but the bigger story was the defeat of a right-to-work ballot proposition in supposedly right-wing Missouri.

The bill to make Missouri America’s 28th state with a “right to work” law was passed by the legislature in 2017 and signed by then–Republican Governor Eric Greitens. But the labor movement qualified a ballot initiative overturning the measure, and it passed by a margin of 2 to 1, including in very conservative parts of a state carried overwhelmingly by Trump.

The “right to work” option was added to labor law by the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act. Passed by the Republican 80th Congress over President Truman’s veto (he denounced it as a “slave labor act”), Taft-Hartley allows states to pass laws permitting workers to opt out of paying union dues even when a majority of workers sign union cards.

The name “right to work” was always a fraud. Even in states without such laws, anybody can take a job at a unionized facility. Workers merely have to join, or if they don’t want to join, to pay dues after they are hired.

“Right to work” makes it much harder to organize in such states. Until the last few decades, these measures were largely confined to the anti-union South and Mountain West. Lately, they have been enacted in Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin. In the past decade, they’ve been beaten with ballot initiatives in California and Ohio.

The Missouri vote not only extends and intensifies that success in a supposedly far more conservative state. It shows the latent appeal of pocketbook issues and trade unionism even in Trump country. It shows that the labor movement may be down, but it is far from out.

In Missouri, just 8.7 percent of workers are members of unions. But most working families know someone with a union job and they know the difference a union can make.

The right to have a union signals concern for the forgotten working class. By trying to crush labor, Missouri Republicans signaled not individual rights—the usual pitch for the misnamed “right to work” law—but their contempt for working people, who got the message.

The Missouri outcome also bodes well for the re-election of Senator Claire McCaskill, one of the supposedly endangered Democrats up this fall. More importantly, it signals the resurgence of the labor movement—and reminds Democrats that progressive economics are the indispensable ingredient for success on the beaten-down American heartland. ~ ROBERT KUTTNER

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During the tenure of former Governor Eric Greitens, Missouri had no state school board because the legislature refused to confirm his appointees. The new governor appointed new members and at last there is a quorum. Yesterday they had a meeting to renew charter schools, which are allowed only in St. Louis and Kansas City. Five charters were renewed despite their middling performance.

Typically, the board has judged charter performance against the performance of the district, but the charters said this was unfair.

Charlie Shields, president of the state board, said that it was time to review charter school laws.

“Shields was critical of the performance of the St. Louis charter schools renewed Thursday, arguing that they do not convincingly outperform St. Louis Public Schools. He said the state Legislature allowed charter schools to operate in Missouri on the premise that charter schools would be easy to open, but poor-performing charter schools should be easy to close.”

St. Louis was taken over by the state because of low performance and is hoping to have local control restored. Yet charter schools do not outperform the district, and charter leaders say that it’s unfair to expect them to do so. Once again, we see reformers moving the goal posts and lowering expectations.

Whiners. Remember when we were told that charter schools would “save poor kids from failing public schools” and would “close the achievement gap.” They don’t and they haven’t. They fight to survive because they want to.

Under Republican control, don’t expect Missouri to set meaningful accountability standards for charters.

The question now is:

“Who will save poor kids from failing charters?”