Archives for category: Parents

The AFT commissioned a highly reputable polling form to find out how voters think about the big education issues. The poll was conducted after the election last November. Bottom line: Voters want better, well/resourced public schools; few are interested in the Republican agenda of fighting “wokeness,” censoring books, and choice.

New Polling Reveals GOP/McCarthy Schools Agenda Is Unpopular and at Odds with Parents’ Priorities

Latest Data Show Parents, Voters Reject Culture War Agenda, Support Academic Focus and Safe Schools Instead

WASHINGTON—The American Federation of Teachers today released new national polling that shows voters overwhelmingly reject House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s anti-school, culture war agenda. Instead, voters want to see political leaders prioritize what kids need to succeed in school: strong fundamental academic skills and safe and welcoming school environments. 

“The latest education poll tells us loud and clear: Voters, including parents, oppose McCarthy’s agenda to prioritize political fights in schools and instead support real solutions, like getting our kids and teachers what they need to recover and thrive,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. 

“Rather than reacting to MAGA-driven culture wars, voters overwhelmingly say they want lawmakers to get back to basics: to invest in public schools and get educators the resources they need to create safe and welcoming environments, boost academic skills and pave pathways to career, college and beyond.”

According to Geoff Garin, president of Hart Research Associates: “One key weakness of the culture war agenda is that voters and parents reject the idea that teachers today are pushing a ‘woke’ political agenda in the schools. Most have high confidence in teachers. Voters see the ‘culture war’ as a distraction from what’s important and believe that politicians who are pushing these issues are doing so for their own political benefit.”

Polling conducted by Hart Research Associates from Dec. 12-17, 2022, among 1,502 registered voters nationwide, including 558 public school parents, shows that support for and trust in public schools and teachers remains incredibly strong: 

  • 93 percent of respondents said improving public education is an important priority for government officials.
  • 66 percent said the government spends too little on education; 69 percent want to see more spending.
  • By 29 points, voters said their schools teach appropriate content, with an even greater trust in teachers.
  • Voters who prioritized education supported Democrats by 8 points.
  • Top education priorities for voters include providing:
    • students with strong fundamental academic skills; 
    • opportunities for all children to succeed, including through career and technical education and greater mental health supports, as examples; and 
    • a safe and welcoming environment for kids to learn.
  • According to voters, the most serious problems facing schools include:
    • teacher shortages;
    • inadequate funding; 
    • unsafe schools; and 
    • pandemic learning loss. (And, critically, voters and parents are looking forward to find solutions: by 85 percent to 15 percent, they want Congress to focus on improving schools through greater support, rather than through McCarthy’s investigation agenda.)

“COVID was terrible for everyone,” added Weingarten. “Educators and parents took on the challenges of teaching, learning and reconnecting and are now asking elected officials to focus on the building blocks of student success. Instead, legislators in 45 states have proposed hundreds of laws making that harder—laws seeking to ban books from school libraries; restrict what teachers can say about race, racism, LGBTQIA+ issues and American history; and limit the school activities in which transgender students can participate. Voters are saying that not only are these laws bad policy—they’re also bad politics.”

In state after state in the November midterms, voters elected pro-public education governors and school board candidates and rejected far-right attacks on teachers and vulnerable LGBTQIA+ students. 

The survey’s confidence interval is ±3.0 percentage points.

Click here for toplines, here for the poll memo and here for the poll slides.

https://www.aft.org/press-release/new-polling-reveals-gopmccarthy-schools-agenda-unpopular-and-odds-parents-priorities

Darcie Cimarusti served on the school board of Highland Park, New Jersey, from 2013 to 2022. She is the communications director of the Network for Public Education. This article appeared in the Bedford Gazette.

She writes:

I have been a local school board member since my daughters, now 11th-graders, were in second-grade. In that time, I have been involved in education policy discussions at the local, state and national levels on issues related to the rights of LGBTQ+ students, standardized testing and the privatization of public education. The rise of the so-called “parental rights” movement in public education has been one of the thorniest, most perplexing issues I have encountered.

There is no doubt that parents play a crucial role in the education of their children. Who would dare argue that they don’t? But in the face of the anti-critical race theory, anti-LGBTQ+, anti-social emotional learning, anti-diversity equity and inclusion juggernaut unleashed by heavily funded, right-leaning astroturf parent groups such as Moms for Liberty, it has become imperative that we have an honest discussion about how much say parents should have in what is (or is not) taught in our public schools.

My district, unlike many, is racially, ethnically and socioeconomically diverse, with 31 languages spoken in the homes of our students. Educating such a diverse student body presents many challenges and requires a nuanced approach to policy and practice that ensures all students have equal opportunities to learn, thrive and grow. While it is easy for school leaders to say they embrace diversity, equity and inclusion, it’s far too challenging to implement policies promoting those principles.

I have spent my time on the school board helping to develop systems that ensure decisions are made collaboratively and with as many voices at the decision-making table as possible. This means making space not only for administrators, teachers, parents and students but also ensuring that historically marginalized groups are represented.

Decisions that affect students should never be based on the whims of those with the most privilege or power and indeed not on who has the loudest voice in the room.

However, the latter has become the hallmark of parental rights activists. They attend meeting after meeting, berating, shouting down and even making death threats against school board members. During the pandemic, battles over masks erupted at podiums at far too many school board meetings across the country and quickly morphed into demands to ban books, censor curriculum and muzzle “woke” teachers that parents accused of “grooming” their children.

In the 2022 midterm elections, parental rights activists were on the ballot in numerous states. With the support and endorsement of Moms for Liberty, they ran campaigns to become school board members in districts in red, blue and purple states. Moms for Liberty operates county chapters that aim to serve as watchdogs “over all 13,000 school districts.” Chapters empower parents to “defend their parental rights” and “identify, recruit & train liberty-minded parents to run for school boards.”

The “anti-woke” agenda espoused by Moms for Liberty endorsed school board candidates who had the greatest successes in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis proudly declared the state being “where woke goes to die.” But in many other parts of the country, parental rights candidates lost their elections, with even conservative political operatives acknowledging that many of their campaigns were “too hyperbolic.”

Chaos has already erupted in several districts where they succeeded and won board majorities, with newly formed, inexperienced boards firing superintendents or forcing them to resign. One board voted to ban the teaching of critical race theory just hours after being sworn in.

After a decade of experience as a school board member, there’s one thing I can say for sure: The majority of parents, teachers and community members do not respond well to instability and disruption in their local public schools. When school boards run amok and rash decisions make headlines, communities work quickly to restore calm. If parental rights school board majorities continue to govern recklessly, they will undoubtedly face a backlash from voters.

Creating and implementing sound school policies and practices that respect and affirm all students requires collaboration. It does not allow for the divisive, polarizing rhetoric and impetuous, rash decision-making that have become the calling cards of the so-called parental rights movement.

In an impressive achievement for families and children, New Mexico passed an amendment to its state constitution guaranteeing free childcare to families that need it most. New Mexico is one of the poorest states in the nation. Free childcare will enable mothers to work to support their children. Unlike “reform” programs that emphasize standardized testing, New Mexico’s pioneering emphasis on child wellbeing really does put children first.

New Mexico in May became the first state to offer free child care to most of its residents. Now, after a November referendum, it’s also the first state to enshrine child care funding in its constitution, effectively making the service a universal right – and perhaps offering a model for how other states could serve their youngest residents and working parents.

Nationwide, the average cost of child care for families outpaced the rate of inflation in 2021, according to analysis from Child Care Aware of America. A low-income family should have to spend only 7% of its income on child care, per a federal benchmark based on an average of census data. But the national average cost of child care – $10,600 annually – is roughly 10% of a married-couple family’s average annual income and 35% of a single parent’s income, the analysis found…

The scheme – hatched by a willing governor, state lawmakers and determined child advocates – effectively makes child care free to families making up to 400% of the federal poverty level, or about $111,000 for a family of four. The state’s median household income is $51,243.

At its core, the program aims to provide a safe environment for children at a stage of critical brain growth and development. Further, saving caregivers money on child care lets them invest more in their families, from putting healthy food on the table to home ownership, a key official said….

More than 70% of state voters approved the proposition, which will be funded by oil and gas revenues.

There has been a strong will in New Mexico to improve its slice of the widely broken US child care system, mainly because it is one of the poorest states and consistently ranks among the worst for child well-being, state officials and child advocates say.

Child advocates some 12 years ago sparked the movement to get a permanent funding source for child care enshrined in the state’s constitution. It was a long-game strategy for a coalition of non-profit, grassroots groups, including New Mexico Voices For Children.

That organization in 2010 first brainstormed using funds from oil and gas production revenue to fund child care and early education, said Amber Wallin, its executive director….

Under Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, New Mexico has established a minimum wage for child care workers: Entry-level employees now earn $15 dollars an hour, and more experienced lead teachers earn $20 dollars an hour. The pay raises aim to help improve workforce retention; before the raises, workers could earn a higher wage working at a fast-food restaurant than providing child care, child advocates told CNN.

New Mexico also created the first state agency and cabinet post focused on early childhood education and care. Also, “we were the first state to set our cost of what we reimburse child providers for child care at the actual cost of delivering care, and we were the first state to make child care free for most families,” said Elizabeth Groginsky, the state’s first secretary for early childhood education.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is a time to reflect what we are grateful for.

What are you grateful for?

I am grateful for life. Last year, I had open heart surgery, and for the first five days after surgery, my life hung in the balance. Yet here I am, reading, writing, thinking, alive.

I am grateful for my dear family: My wife, Mary. My children, my grandchildren. I am blessed to be with and near people I love who love me.

I am grateful to live in America. Despite all the challenges our country faces, it’s still a wonderful place to live, where communities come together in bad times, and strangers act to help others.

I am grateful to live in a country where I can speak and write what I wish without fear of punishment.

I am grateful for the rise of a young generation whose idealism and vision will change our country for the better.

I am grateful for the dear friends at the Network for Public Education, whose advocacy and passion on behalf of democracy, public schools, their teachers and their teachers inspires me every day.

I am grateful for the educators who put students first, who work tirelessly for one of the nation’s most important and vital institutions.

I am grateful for the readers of this blog, many of whom have become good friends, without our having met in person. I am grateful too for what I learn every day from you.

If you have read this far, I want you to know that I don’t intend to post much this weekend. Maybe nothing at all.

Peter Greene was a teacher in Pennsylvania for 39 years. In this post, he covers Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano’s empty proposal for “parental rights.”

Greene writes:

Last week Doug Mastriano held a campaign event masquerading as a hearing for a parental rights bill so empty and vague that its only possible use could be as a campaign prop.

Mastriano signaled a whole year ago that he was going to wade into the whole “parental rights” thing with his own version of a “legislate the gay away” bill. Soon thereafter, he proposed SB 996, which was turned over to the State Government committee on January 4, 2022.

And yet, the time to hold a hearing on the bill is just before time to vote for Mastriano or his opponent for Pennsylvania’s governor’s seat.

The bill itself is a brief nothingburger. The Parental Rights Protection Act is 41 lines long. 6 lines give its name. 16 lines define the terms “commonwealth agency” and “non-commonwealth agency.” Section 3 in its entirety says:

I

(b) Infringement.–Neither a Commonwealth agency nor a non-Commonwealth agency may infringe upon the right under subsection (a) without demonstrating that the law or ordinance is narrowly tailored to meet a compelling governmental interest by the least restrictive means.

In 8 lines, we get the applicability of the law, and two lines to tell us that the law would take effect in 60 days.

The Mastriano campaign has maintained its unwillingness to speak to the press, and so has offered no clarification of the bill’s intent or function. But the parade of witnesses at the hearing brought the usual list of grievances–mask mandates, trans student using rest rooms, “pornographic” books in the school library, and “pronoun games.” The bill, absent any specifics, allows all of these folks to imagine that it would provide them some relief, without including any language that opponents could point to as objectionable….

More specific parental rights legislation has been proposed in Pennsylvania, such as HB 2813, which follows more closely the national template of other Don’t Say Gay bills forbidding discussion of “gender orientation and sexual identity.”

What would the bill actually do? Nobody really knows. Does this mean I can get satisfaction when my kid’s teacher shows a Disney movie when I don’t allow them in my home? Or when my kid has to use Chromebook and we are an Apple household? Will I be able to do something if the teacher mentions Jesus or God and we don’t do religion at our house? What would qualify as an infringement, and what could a parent who felt the law had been broken do? Call the police? File a lawsuit? Should they report the agency to the proper part of the state government–and if so, which department would that be? What penalty would be imposed?

I wonder if there are limits to parental rights? May they beat their children? May they chain them to their beds? May they force them to live in unsanitary conditions??

Pastors for Texas Kids is sponsoring two discussions TODAY about public schools, in Lubbock and Amarillo.

PUBLIC EDUCATION
AND YOU


Front Runners for Texas
Lt. Governor Q&A

Amarillo registration here: https://bit.ly/3QjZDyi
Lubbock registration here: https://bit.ly/3AcGTdb

Mike Collier is confirmed for both cities. No response from Dan Patrick after multiple messages to his staff.

Perhaps you thought the voucher fight was over in Arizona in 2018 when voters rejected vouchers by a decisive margin of 65-35%.

But no, the clear and overwhelming decision of the state’s voters did not deter the Christofascists who are determined to destroy public schools by transferring funding away from them to any form of non public schooling, be it religious, private, homeschooling or a business run by a fraudster.

Governor Doug Ducey signed a law creating a universal voucher plan on July 6. The new law will subtract $1 billion from the state’s public schools.

SOS Arizona is once again leading the fight against universal vouchers, led by Governor Ducey and championed by the Republican legislators. The dark money behind the voucher campaign comes from the usual suspects: the Koch machine and the Betsy DeVos combine.

If Save Our Schools Arizona and its supporters can secure 118,823 valid signatures before September 24, the voucher expansion law will be placed on hold until November 2024, when voters get a chance to express their views, as they did in 2018.

The stakes could not be higher – this is a referendum to decide the future of education in Arizona and across the nation.

You can see more about the SOS Arizona signature drive here: teamsosarizona.com.

Beth Lewis, the director of SOS Arizona, wrote to provide the context for the battle over vouchers:

Universal voucher expansion is the KEY issue driving right-wing politics in the US, and hardly anyone is talking about the well-moneyed, dangerous forces driving it. The AZ legislature’s myopic focus on pushing private school voucher expansion over any other piece of legislation for the past 6 years is enough to tell us that — not to mention the massive focus FOX News has placed on vouchers since the bill’s passage here in Arizona. Recently, Christopher Rufo admitted he created the CRT furor in order to advance universal vouchers.

We desperately need folks to plug in – people all over the state can get petitions at our hubs: teamsosarizona.com or sign up to volunteer: bit.ly/SVEvolunteer.

As you know, we are truly the tip of the spear when it comes to privatization. Betsy DeVos’ American Federation for Children is mobilizing (somewhat ineffectively) against our efforts, and the battle lines are drawn. It is evident that universal voucher expansion will become a pattern across the US, as Republican Governors are all declaring that every red state should adopt this policy. We have seen the dangers of private school vouchers first-hand here in Arizona, and our public school system has been starved in order to give credence to those who wish to privatize our public education system.

Charlie Kirk is partnering with an incredibly rightwing Evangelical church (Dream City Church) to open Turning Point Academies across Arizona. Here is the June article from Newsweek describing their plans to proliferate campuses across AZ and then the nation. It is no coincidence this plan was announced the same month the AZ state legislature passed universal vouchers.

Kirk recently spoke at Freedom Night hosted by Dream City Church, and this expose in the AZ Republic shows the hateful ideology against LGBTQ and trans youth Kirk and the Church spread. It’s terrifying – and infuriating to think this is where our taxpayer dollars are headed.

It is abundantly clear that special interests who favor extremist Christian Nationalism are driving the bus on these issues – and it makes sense. Private school vouchers are the perfect solution for building a long-term, endlessly replenishing base of voters who also favor Christian Nationalism.

We only have 42 more days to collect the signatures to put this bill on the 2024 ballot. We expect massive legal battles, as dark money will pour in and the usual suspects will challenge every signature. We are confident we will push back successfully and get the measure on the ballot – we must, as goes Arizona, so goes the nation.

You can help these fearless, intrepid volunteers by sending a contribution to: sosarizona.org/donate.

Leonie Haimson, executive director of the advocacy group Class Size Matters (and a board member of the Network for Public Education), reports that parents won their lawsuit against the City of New York and the Department of Education for budget cuts. The city rushed the process and failed to follow the procedures required by law.

As the opening of school draws near, principals are uncertain how to plan their budget. Have their budgets been cut or not? Are they laying off teachers or not?

Hello, Democrats! Wake up!

Journalist Jennifer Berkshire and historian Jack Schneider report that voters in school board elections are not falling for rightwing slanders of their public schools and teachers!

Democrats: your best strategy for the fall elections is to campaign aggressively for public schools.

Berkshire and Schneider write that Democrats were panicked by Glenn Youngkin’s election as Governor in Virginia, which they attributed to his attacks on “critical race theory” in the schools and his pandering to far-right fake parents’ groups. Steve Bannon (and Chris Rufo) claimed that the road to a takeover was by seizing control of local school boards and destroying public schools.

Berkshire and Schneider say that their campaign is failing. Even in Trump territory, voters are supporting their public schools and rejecting the crazies.

They write:

As it turns out, GOP candidates running on scorched-earth education platforms have fared quite poorly in school board elections. In places like Georgia, Montana, New Hampshire and New York, voters have rejected culture warriors running for school board, often doing so by wide margins. A recent Ballotpedia review of more than 400 school board contests in Missouri, Oklahoma and Wisconsin found that race, gender and COVID were indeed influential in determining election outcomes, but not in the way one might expect. As they found, candidates who ran in opposition to a “conflict issue” — sexual education curricula, for instance, or a focus on race in the district — were more likely to lose their races.

Cherokee County, Ga., a rural county northwest of Atlanta, offers an instructive example. The county’s schools made national headlines recently after ProPublica reported on a group of white parents protesting the hiring of a Black educator brought on to serve as the first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion officer. Yet voters in the county, which Trump won by nearly 70 percent in 2020, overwhelmingly rejected hardline candidates for school board. A self-proclaimed family values slate, backed by the national 1776 Project PAC, and which ran in opposition to critical race theory and school district equity plans, failed to pick up a single seat.

Voters in Coweta County, Ga., sent a similar message to another slate of candidates endorsed by the 1776 Project. All four challengers were bested by board incumbents in the May primary, while a fifth — a controversial incumbent who participated in the Jan. 6 insurrection and claimed that students were being indoctrinated with critical race theory through district-provided Chromebooks — was unseated by a landslide in a runoff election in June.

It isn’t that these deep red countries have suddenly begun to turn blue. Instead, the culture war approach is falling short because Americans have direct experiences that contradict what they’re hearing from candidates.

Please open the link and read the good news for yourself.

Georgia educator Anthony Downer announced a call for sponsors for a rally on July 23.

Hi y’all,

As we gather and reflect on this complicated holiday weekend, I think about how my students are processing their world. Like many of you, I’m motivated by my ancestors’ struggles. I wonder how we’re preparing our young scholar-leaders to fight for equality and liberty, for equity and liberation. The recent education laws in Georgia hinder educators like me from doing just this. So we must continue to organize.

Georgia Educators for Equity and Justice and other education organizations are planning a Rally for Education (name TBA) on Saturday 7/23 at a school in metro Atlanta (location and time TBA). The goal is to highlight the voices of educators as we prepare for the implementation of new education laws during the 2022-2023 school year. Educators from across the state will speak to the negative effects of these laws on our schools and scholars. As we know, while politicians limited public comment and signed into law their draconian restrictions on education, educators were performing their primary duties. Now that we have more time, we have more to say. See below the initial details.

When? Saturday 7/23, time TBA – Please complete this form to share your opinions.

Where? At a school, ground-zero for the implementation and impact of the new education laws

Who? Everyone who opposes the attacks on public education in Georgia – This is an opportunity for our communities to rally to protect educators and students’ education. If you are an educator who is interested in speaking OR would like to sponsor the rally, please complete this form.

We will meet on Wednesday, July 13 at 4 PM. More details about this meeting and the event to follow over the next week. As we continue planning, we are eager to include as many voices and encourage as much participation as possible. This rally belongs to all of us. Once again, if you plan on attending, want to speak, want to sponsor, or have some ideas and opinions, please complete this form. Spread the word to your comrades and communities and we will follow up with additional details. Onward!

Best,

Anthony Downer