Archives for category: Privatization

The Texas legislature refused to pass voucher legislation!

Governor Greg Abbott said that getting a voucher law was his #1 priority in this session of the legislature. Republicans have a supermajority in the legislature but rural Republicans and urban Democrats blocked the bill. He pressured every Republican to back his bill.

Once again, vouchers failed to pass!

In rural Texas, public schools are often the only school in town and the biggest employer. Public schools are the heart of the community. Parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins went to the public school. The teachers are well known and respected. Rural Republicans said no to vouchers.

The Pastors for Texas Children have worked diligently to stop vouchers in Texas. PTC issued this press release today:


No Vouchers In Texas!

The Texas House of Representatives has once again stopped a private school voucher program in Texas.

Rep. Ken King’s public education funding bill, HB 100, was saddled in the waning days of the session by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick with a one-hundred page Senate substitute calling for universal ESA vouchers. When the House refused to concur with the substitute, the bill was sent to conference committee where it died.

Although Gov. Greg Abbott made private school vouchers his #1 priority this legislative session, the House was crystal clear in their opposition to it. Three times throughout the session, they repudiated a voucher proposal.

First, the Herrero Amendment prohibiting tax money for private school vouchers passed the Texas House of Representatives during the budget debate on an 86-52 vote. Second, the House refused to grant the Public Education Committee permission to hold an impromptu meeting to push out Senate Bill 8 calling for a universal voucher. The final straw was when the committee failed to garner the votes to pass out SB 8. The plan died in committee.

That’s when the Senate, in a last-ditch effort, attached a comprehensive voucher program to HB 100 which would have provided much-needed funds for local public schools and well-deserved teacher pay increases.

Rep. King did not mince words: “Teacher pay raises held hostage to support an ESA plan. Teachers are punished over a political fight.”

This session’s rejection of vouchers is particularly powerful because Gov. Greg Abbott made the passage of a voucher policy an “emergency item” this legislative session, conducted a statewide campaign in anti-voucher House districts, and personally lobbied House members on the chamber floor to pass it.

“Vouchers are fundamentally unjust and inequitable,” said the Rev. Charles Foster Johnson, Founder and Executive Director of Pastors for Texans Children. “It is wrong for public tax dollars to be diverted to subsidize the private education of affluent children. To pay for religious education is an especially egregious violation of both the public trust and of God’s moral law of religious freedom.”

“Gov. Abbott has tied up the entire legislature this session, at the cost of millions of tax dollars, for his own petty personal political agenda. Sadly, his stated intention is to continue calling special legislative sessions until he bullies the House into submission.”

“There is only one way to deal with a bully: a firm, patient, courageous confrontation. Precisely what our morally oak-strong caucus of pro-public education rural Republican and urban Democratic House members can provide.”

The Texas State Constitution, in Article 7, Section 1, calls for the suitable provision for “public free schools.” There is no constitutional provision for public funding diverted to private schools.

Pastors for Texas Children is grateful that the Texas House of Representatives once again stood firm, as they have throughout the 30 year voucher debate in Texas, for the true conservative value of universal education for all Texas schoolchildren, provided and protected by the public.




Pastors for Texas Children mobilizes the faith community for public education ministry and advocacy.

PO Box 471155 – Fort Worth, Texas 76147

Carol Burris is the Executive Director of the Network for Public Education. She watched Secretary Cardona testify before various committees and was chagrined to see how ill-informed he was. She called to tell me what he said, and I was appalled by how poorly informed he was.

Why does he know so little about the defects of vouchers? Why has no one in the Department told him that most students who take vouchers are already enrolled in private and religious schools? Why has no one told him about the dismal academic performance of students who leave public schools to use a voucher? I suggest that his chief of staff invite Joshua Cowen of Michigan State University to brief the Secretary; clearly, no one in the Department has.

Why is he so ill-informed about the meaning of NAEP scores? How can he not know that “proficient” on NAEP is not grade level? Why does he not know that NAEP proficient represents solid academic performance? Why has no one told him that he is using fake data?

Why is he not speaking out loud and clear against vouchers, armed with facts and data? Why is he not speaking out against privatization of public schools? Why is he not speaking out against censorship? Why is he not speaking out against the Dark Money-funded astroturf groups like “Moms for Liberty,” whose main goal is smearing public schools? Why is the Federal Charter Schools Program still funding charter chains that are subsidized by billionaires?

He is a mild-mannered man, to be sure, but now is not the time to play nice when the enemies of public schools are using scorched earth tactics and lies. Now is the time for a well-informed, fearless voice to speak up for students, teachers, principals, and public schools. Now is the time to defend the nation’s public schools against the nefarious conspiracy to defame and defund them. Not with timidity, but with facts, accuracy, bold words, and actions.

Carol Burris writes:

Secretary of Education Cardona is a sincere and good man who cares about children and public education. However, his appearances before Congress to defend the Biden education budget have been serious disappointments. The Republican Party is now clearly on a mission to destroy public education. He must recognize the threat and lead with courage and facts. Unfortunately, he seems more interested in deflecting arguments and placating voucher proponents than facing the assault on public education head-on. 

During the April 18 budget hearing, the Republicans, who now control the committee, had four objectives: to slash education funding, to score political points at the expense of transgender students, to support vouchers, and to complain that student loan forgiveness was unfair. 

Although the Secretary pushed back on all four, his arguments were at times disappointingly uninformed. Whenever asked about proposed policies regarding including transgender students in sports, his responses were evasive and robotic. He objected to vouchers because they reduced funding for public schools but never mentioned that vouchers result in publicly funded discrimination. Overall, he missed valuable opportunities to seize the opportunity to lead with moral courage in defense of children, democracy, and public education.

Shortly into the discussion, the Secretary argued the case against budget cuts by disparaging the performance of our public schools and their students. He called NAEP reading levels “appalling” and “unacceptable,” falsely claiming that only 33% of students are reading at “grade level.”

As Diane explained in her blog on April 19, Secretary Cardona is flat-out wrong. As described on the website of the National Center for Education Statistics:

“It should be noted that the NAEP Proficient achievement level does not represent grade level proficiency as determined by other assessment standards (e.g., state or district assessments).”

He could have made far better (and more honest) arguments for why the budget should not be cut. A wealth of research shows the connection between funding and student performance. He could have explained how Title I funds help close the gap between resource-rich and resource-poor districts. He could have argued how important a well-educated citizenry is in preserving our democracy. Instead, he kept repeating that a “tsunami of jobs” was coming as though the only purpose of schooling was job training. 

Later on, Secretary Cardona defended the budget by citing the teacher shortage. However, he pivoted and argued that we did not have a teacher shortage problem but rather a “teacher respect problem,” with no explanation regarding how his budget would address that. 

I cringed when he said, “Research shows that the most influential factor in a child’s success is the teacher in front of the classroom.” No, Mr. Secretary, that is not what research shows. Research consistently shows that out-of-school factors like poverty far more influence variations in children’s academic outcomes than in-school factors. This is not to say that teacher quality does not matter—it is the most important in-school factor, but outside factors are more influential.

Sadly, Secretary Cardona’s incorrect assertion harkens back to Race to the Top thinking, resulting in ineffective and unpopular policies such as evaluating teachers by student test scores.  Much like his inaccurate remarks about NAEP scores, he used an argument from the Republican playbook–public schools and teachers are failing America’s students.

When he was recently grilled by the Education and Workforce committee on whether he favors vouchers, he still would not confront the issue head-on, repeating that he used school choice to go to a vocational high school. When pressed, he responded, “What I’m not in favor of, sir, is using dollars intended to elevate or raise the bar, as we call it, public school programming, so that the money goes to private school vouchers. What happens is, we’re already having a teacher shortage; if you start taking dollars away from the local public school, those schools are going to be worse.”

Vouchers indeed drain funding from public schools, but there are far more compelling reasons to oppose them, beginning with their ability to discriminate in admissions. A 2010 study published by his own department showed that 22% of students who got a SOAR voucher never used it. The top reasons included: no room in the private school, the school could not accommodate the child’s special needs, and the child did not pass the admissions test or did not want to be “left back.” Schools choose—an aspect of school choice that voucher proponents ignore. 

And he allowed Aaron Bean of Florida to cite 2011 SOAR graduation statistics from the American Heritage Foundation about the DC voucher program without challenging him with the findings of a 2019 Department of Education study of SOAR that showed voucher student declines in math scores and no improvement in reading when they move to a private school. The overwhelming majority of voucher students use them in the early years, making graduation rate comparisons a less meaningful statistic. Interestingly, the 2010 study found that students often left the SOAR system because there was no room for them in high schools. More than half of all voucher students who take a voucher do not continue in the SOAR voucher system. 

Was the Secretary poorly briefed? Or did he believe he would win over Republican committee members by using their arguments when defending the President’s budget?

Either way, one can only hope that when he meets with the Senate, he is better prepared and dares to say that public money belongs in public schools that educate every child.  We need a Secretary of Education that is willing to stand up, push back and use facts to dispute the Republican narrative that American education is broken, not a Secretary who reinforces it.

Nebraska was one of the few states that managed to resist privatization. But it is a well-known fact that the privatization industry cannot tolerate any state that devotes its resources to public schools open to all students. Nebraska had no charter schools, no vouchers, no Common Core, and no grounds for dissatisfaction: its scores on NAEP are strong.

But Nebraska is a red state, and the billionaires could not leave it be.The legislature passed a voucher bill, and Nebraska’s Stand for Children will fight to get it on a state referendum, as they are confident that Nebraskans will reject vouchers. That’s a good bet, as vouchers have never won a state referendum.


We have some very bad news to share with you, and there’s no way to sugarcoat it: Our legislature has passed Nebraska’s first school privatization bill.

Just a while ago, 33 senators voted to pass LB 753. But we aren’t deterred; we’re determined. Over 300,000 students attend a public school in Nebraska. And there are hundreds of thousands of Nebraskans who, like us, support public schools and will stand up for what’s right.

If you’re one of those Nebraskans (and we think you are), please support our work today for Give To Lincoln Day. A gift of $20 or more will send the school privatizers a strong message: NOT IN NEBRASKA.

Give Now

Right now, somewhere not in Nebraska, DeVos and other billionaires who backed this bill are undoubtedly celebrating. Our state was one of the last to fall for their privatization schemes.

And fall we will, if Governor Pillen signs LB 753 into law. The conventional notion that public dollars should be invested in the common good and in common schools will, at that point, only be true in North Dakota, where the governor recently vetoed an eerily similar piece of legislation.

While the mega-donors like DeVos break open their champagne, our team at Stand For Schools is still hard at work – fighting to advance public education in Nebraska for ALL and getting fired up for the Support Our Schools Nebraska effort.

Please support our work today with a gift of $20 or more for Give To Lincoln Day. We can honestly say we’ve never needed your help more than we do today. Our team is ready to win this fight – whether it’s in a courtroom or at the ballot box – but we can’t do it without you.

Help Us Fight Back

PS: You can read our organization’s full statement about the the Nebraska Legislature passing LB 753 here.

Copyright © 2023 Stand For Schools, All Rights Reserved

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 95166
Lincoln, NE 68509

Here is Stand for Schools statement, released today:

Today’s passage of LB 753 marks a dark new era for schooling in Nebraska.

The Legislature’s Education Committee considered proposals this year to make school lunches free, broadly prohibit discrimination, include student voices in curriculum decisions, and increase the poverty allowance in TEEOSA. But instead of improving the schools that serve 9 out of 10 children in our state, instead of addressing the needs of over300,000 students attending Nebraska public schools, 33 senators chose todayto prioritize giving tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations by sending tax dollars to unaccountable private schools.

They did so despite overwhelming and constantly mounting evidence that the implementation of tax-credit voucher schemes does not improve access to private schools or academic outcomes but rather marks the beginning of a devastating dismantling and defunding of public education, as it has in dozens of other states.

Policymakers who voted to pass LB 753 made the wrong choice. Statewide polling consistently shows a strong majority of Nebraskans firmly oppose school privatization measures. From Omaha to Ogallala, and Spencer to Sidney, Nebraskans take pride in our public schools because we know they are the head and heart of our urban and rural communities.

Like our fellow Nebraskans, Stand For Schools remains committed to a vision of public education that is welcoming to all students regardless of their race, religion, gender, or ability. Realizing that vision is neither easy nor politically expedient. It is, for instance, far easier to lean on out-of-state bill mills and think tanks than it is to grow our own nonpartisan solutions to nonpartisan Nebraska problems. It is far easier to demonize the education professionals who work hard in our public schools every day than it is to address crisis-level staff shortages by recruiting and retaining the qualified teachers and school psychologists our students need. It is far easier to restrict the ability of school districts to raise revenue than to finally, fully fund our K-12 public education system. And it is far easier to offload the duties of educating the next generation of Nebraskans to unaccountable private schools than to do the hard work of providing a free, fair, equitable, and excellent public school system that works for all.

Today, 33 senators chose what was easy over what was right. The consequences of their decision will be far-reaching and long-lasting. The hours the Legislature spent debating LB 735 will not compare to the years it will take to undo the damage done to public schools and the harm caused to students, their families, and their communities.

Thankfully, there are hundreds of thousands of Nebraskans who aren’t afraid of hard work, who are undeterred by today’s decision and determined to make it right. Stand For Schools is proud to join them. Together with the Support Our Schools Nebraska coalition, we will work to put LB 753 on the 2024 ballot and ensure voters’ voices are heard: Not in Nebraska.

Indiana blogger Steve Hinnefeld reports on the gains of the billionaire-funded school choice industry in the last session of the Indiana legislature. The Republican dominated state is all in for enriching both charters and vouchers, without any proof of success.

Hinnefeld writes:

Indiana’s private school voucher system was the big winner in the 2023 legislative session, but charter schools came in a close second. They secured sizeable increases in state funding to pay for facilities and transportation, along with – for the first time – a share of local property taxes.

As Amelia Pak-Harvey of Chalkbeat Indiana explains, the success followed an all-out lobbying and PR effort in which charter supporters teamed with voucher proponents. Advocates insist charter schools are public schools, and private schools certainly aren’t. But the joint effort was effective.

The Republican supermajority in the General Assembly rewarded charter schools with:

  • An increase to $1,400 from $1,250 per pupil in “charter and innovation network school grants,” intended to make up for the fact that charter schools haven’t been able to levy property taxes.
  • A new law that says school districts in four counties, Lake, Marion, St. Joseph and Vanderburgh, must share increases in their local property-tax revenue with charter schools.
  • A requirement that districts in the same four counties share with charter schools if their voters pass a referendum to raise property taxes to pay for operating expenses.
  • $25 million in fiscal year 2024 for facilities grants for charter schools. That’s in addition to the “charter and innovation school network grants” listed above.

All told, the budget and student funding formula will provide about $671 million in state funds over the next two years for brick-and-mortar charter schools and another $112 million for virtual charter schools. That doesn’t include the local property tax funding that charter schools in four counties will receive.

House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, said at the start of the session that expanding school choice would be a priority. Growing the voucher program was on the table from the start, but it wasn’t until the last day of the session that charter school funding bills took their final shape.

As Chalkbeat reported, a $500,000 campaign by charter supporters, including catchy TV and Facebook ads attributed to the Indiana Student Funding Alliance, certainly helped. The Institute for Quality Education, an Indianapolis organization that promotes vouchers and charter schools, helped pay for the ads. Its political action committee, Hoosiers for Quality Education, gave over $1.3 million to Republican campaigns in 2020-22. Another pro-charter group, Hoosiers for Great Public Schools, gave over $1 million. Arguably no other special interest did more to keep the Statehouse in solid GOP control.

Both PACs are largely funded by out-of-state billionaires: the Walton family of Arkansas for Hoosiers for Quality Education and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings for Hoosiers for Great Public Schools.

The Student Funding Alliance campaign initially focused on getting a share of a planned property-tax operating referendum for Indianapolis Public Schools. IPS dropped plans for the referendum, and the call for “parity” in school funding shifted to the legislature, where it had a ready audience.

Charter schools get about the same per-pupil state funding as district schools. They get more federal money. But they haven’t been able to raise money with property taxes. That will now change for charter schools in the four designated counties, and that’s two-thirds of the charters in the state. By my count, 56 of Indiana’s nearly 100 brick-and-mortar charter schools are in Indianapolis (Marion County) and nine are in Lake County.

In almost every other instance, government entities that levy property taxes – school districts, cities, counties, townships, etc. – can be held accountable via elections. If you don’t like how the school district is spending your tax dollars, you can vote out the school board. That won’t be the case with charter schools, which are privately operated nonprofits with appointed boards.

Expanding school choice was a key part of GOP legislators’ education program, but it wasn’t the only part. The supermajority also passed what the ACLU referred to as a “slate of hate”: laws to ban gender-affirming care for trans youth, set the stage for banning books and prosecuting school librarians, ban teaching about sex in early grades, and force schools to out trans kids to their parents.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency for the state’s public schools after the General Assembly passed a universal voucher bill.

Universal vouchers provide a public subsidy to every student in the state, no matter what their family income or where they go to school. In other states, most voucher recipients already are enrolled in private and religious schools. North Carolina adopted a plan that ensures public money for rich kids in private and religious schools.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper declared Monday that “public education in North Carolina is facing a state of emergency” in the face of “extreme legislation” being promoted by Republican state lawmakers.

In a video posted online Monday, Cooper said GOP lawmakers will “starve public education” and “drops an atomic bomb on public education” with plans to further cut taxes and increase funding for private school vouchers.

He said the public needs to speak out against the changes before they’re adopted in the state budget. “It’s clear that the Republican legislature is aiming to choke the life out of public education,” Cooper said. “I am declaring this state of emergency because you need to know what’s happening.

“If you care about public schools in North Carolina, it’s time to take immediate action and tell them to stop the damage that will set back our schools for a generation.”

Cooper’s speech comes as Republican legislative leaders are negotiating a state budget deal for the next two years. The GOP has a legislative supermajority, so it can adopt a spending plan and other legislation without needing Cooper’s support.

The governor will hold public events across the state in the days ahead to call on parents, educators and business leaders to speak against the GOP proposals, the Associated Press reported.

Read more at:

Here’s another version of the story that is not behind a paywall:

Cooper said extreme GOP legislation could cost the state’s public schools hundreds of millions of dollars, exacerbate a stubborn teacher shortage and bring political culture wars to classrooms.

He lashed out Senate Bill 406, a bill to expand the state’s school voucher program. Under the proposal, even the state’s wealthiest families would qualify for what are known as “opportunity scholarships” to help pay for private schools. The voucher program was created a decade ago to help low-income families escape low-performing districts and schools.

“Their private school voucher scheme will pour your tax money into private schools that are unaccountable to the public and can decide which students they won’t to keep out,” Cooper said. “They want to expand private school so that anyone, even a millionaire, can get taxpayer money for their children’s private academy tuition.”

Voucher critics complain that the private schools that receive taxpayer money engage in religious indoctrination and exclusion, discriminate against LGBTQ students and parents, and are not held accountable for academic outcomes the way charter schools and traditional public school are.

They also contend that vouchers divert money and other resources from already underfunded public schools. Under the proposed legislation, annual spending on private school vouchers would steadily increase until it reaches $500 million by the 2031-32 school year.

The voucher legislation was defended by turncoat legislator Tricia Cotham, who switched parties to give the hard-right Republicans a super-majority in both houses of the General Assembly:

Meanwhile, voucher supporters such as Rep. Tricia Cotham, a Republican from Mecklenburg County, contend that expanding the voucher program will help families that decide that public schools aren’t the best fit for their children. Cotham, a former Democrat who switched parties in March, co-sponsored a House bill with the same language.

On Monday, Cotham tweeted that Cooper is “advocating for systems rather than students themselves…”

Cooper also took aim at the Senate’s teacher pay raise proposal, which he said will only increase veteran teachers’ salaries $250 over two years. There are currently 5,000 teaching vacancies, he said.

“Two hundred and fifty bucks,” Cooper said. “That’s a slap in the face and it will make the teacher shortage worse.”

The Senate recently released a budget calling for a 4.5% average teacher pay raise over two years. The budget would bump starting teacher pay to $39,000 annually. First year teachers currently earn $37,000 a year.

Cooper’s budget includes an 18% teacher raise over the biennium. The budget approved by the House in April called for raises of 10.2% over the two-year budget cycle. Teachers would receive a 5.5% pay increase the first year, with the remainder coming in year two.

Cooper also said Republican lawmakers want to accelerate tax cuts that are projected to cut North Carolina’s state budget by almost 20%, which will hamstringing the state’s ability to pay for public education.

Governor Greg Gianforte of Montana—a hard-right Republican best known for punching out a journalist during his campaign—signed two charter school laws. Public education groups, including representatives of rural schools, are furious.

Retired teacher and librarian Dana Carmichael, who lives in Whitefish, Montana, explains “the real agenda” behind the charter legislation:

Critics of Montana public schools, are recycling student achievement boogeymen and offering charter schools as the solution. In cities where charter school enrollment is the highest, based on percentage of total school populations, there is no significant change in reading or math scores. In fact, Montana scores statewide are higher than these charters in New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans, San Antonio, Detroit, and D.C. If these charters are the benchmark, our public education exceeds it.

The largest communities in Montana already have alternative high schools and private schools. Public schools of all sizes also have access to Montana Digital Academy and other online course offerings. Scholarships are more prevalent than ever with legislative rules changes for private and corporate tax incentives for donations up to two million dollars….

Another article by “Rural Ed Voices” thinks charter schools can positively impact rural areas, and holds up Idaho charter schools as examples. They highlight a school created to teach native language as a shining star for the Shosone-Bannock tribe. But Montana tribes already have native language programs in public school classrooms. A STEM school is believed to be successful because they cut transportation and food service costs by attending four days per week. Sound familiar?

Many of our rural schools currently have four-day weeks. So why the big push for charter schools? The real agenda is to undermine the tenure protections and teachers’ retirement system, as charter schools would not participate in either of these systems. Our private schools already eschew these protections, which is why salaries lag behind their public employee counterparts.

Fewer rules and regulations might be what charter proponents want you to buy, but HB-562 wants to create a new government entity called the Community Choice School Commission, (p. 1, line 24). All seats would be appointed one for one by the governor, house majority and minority speakers, senate majority and minority speakers, and the state superintendent of schools. Notice how the majority of these appointees would be beholden to officials elected by individual voting districts?

And what of the existing Office of Public Instruction and the Board of Public Education? If state tax dollars are being used for charter schools capable of contracting with for-profit “entrepreneurial education” shouldn’t these schools be responsible to the current oversight structure of our public schools? Even our registered homeschools report to county superintendents.

If this rule is adopted by the Senate, I believe charter schools will become exclusive entities within our communities. But exclusivity does not mean better, as the charter experiment bears out in 44 other states. We know how to improve schools. Our local school boards have the power to create smaller class sizes at all grade levels and help raise standards of excellence for students and teachers. Private citizens can run for these boards or volunteer with early grades to help close gaps in reading and math skills. Let’s strengthen our communities to strengthen our schools.

Looking for a silver bullet to “fix” schools ignores the interconnectedness of communities. Schools mirror where they exist. The real solutions are to help families with jobs/wages that root them to the community and combat the poverty cycle too often to blame for trouble in the schools.

Investing in education is a good thing. Creating country club schools is not.

Despite her good advice and common sense, the legislature passed the two bills into law and the governor signed them.

The editorial boards of the Orlando Sentinel and the South Florida Sun Sentinel published this commentary on Governor DeSantis’ campaign to demonize being “woke.” What does it mean to be woke? It means being aware of systemic injustice. Did systemic injustices occur in the past? Yes. Do they occur now? Yes. Should we banish teaching or learning about systemic injustices, as DeSantis demands? No. That would mean teaching lies. Can we blame teachers or schools for the drop in scores on NAEP (the National Assessment of Educational Progress) when politicians like DeSantis require teachers to teach their students lies?

The editorial says it’s good to be woke:

Have you noticed? Gov. Ron DeSantis doesn’t smile enough. His brand is anger, especially at anything he can ridicule as “woke.”

Disney is “woke.” Diversity is “woke.” His obsession to cleanse Florida classrooms of discussions of racism was the “Stop W.O.K.E. Act.”

He took over New College of Florida because it was “woke.” He suspended Tampa State Attorney Andrew Warren because his policies were “woke.”
Florida “is where woke goes to die,” he says. This four-letter word has lost much of its punch, purely from overuse.

But it really doesn’t matter whether people have any idea of what “woke” means — just that it sounds bad.

But what does it mean, really?

‘Systemic injustices’

As good an answer as any came from DeSantis’ general counsel, under questioning from Warren’s attorney in federal court.

“The belief there are systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them,” lawyer Ryan Newman replied, adding that DeSantis doesn’t share that belief.

He doesn’t? No society is without injustices. To pretend that ours is is ludicrous.

The term “woke” originated in Black culture almost a century ago. According to the Legal Defense Fund, it became an “in-group signal urging Black people to be aware of the systems that harm and otherwise put us at a disadvantage.”

Those are precisely the systems that DeSantis pretends don’t exist, and that he doesn’t want Florida schoolchildren and college students to learn anything about. His hijacking of the word “woke” is ironic, to say the least.

Obnoxious objectives

His objectives, like that of copycat Republican politicians, are threefold. One is to cater to bigoted and resentful white voters. Donald J. Trump taught them the effectiveness of that. No. 2: Breed a generation of future voters who will have learned nothing about racism’s history or continuing consequences.

The third objective, not quite so transparent but equally pernicious, is to desensitize the nation’s courts to systemic economic and political injustices, many of which afflict poor white people just as much as Black people. The Florida Supreme Court bought into this when it purged diversity guidelines from the Florida Bar’s continuing education criteria.

There hasn’t been such a cynical disinformation campaign since the Daughters of the Confederacy set out more than a century ago to reinvent the Civil War and Reconstruction. In that distorted looking glass, slavery had nothing to do with the war; it was the South fighting for freedom and the North fighting against it. That’s how children were to be taught.

Writing in The New York Times, Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. described how the Daughters suppressed textbooks to the extent of rejecting any that described slaveholders as cruel. Slavery, wrote the Daughters’ historian, “was an education that taught the negro self-control, obedience and perseverance.”

“Undertaken by apologists for the former Confederacy with an energy and alacrity that was astonishing in its vehemence and reach, in an era defined by print culture, politicians and amateur historians joined forces to police the historical profession,” Gates wrote. “The so-called Lost Cause movement was, in effect, a take-no-prisoners social media war.”

The racism didn’t go away when the South lost the war and slaves were freed. It fostered sharecropping — slavery by another means. It rationalized Jim Crow laws, lynchings, inferior schools and a denial of the right to vote that persisted until 1965. It led to federal housing policies that confined Black people to urban ghettos. It was evident when Social Security initially excluded domestic and farm workers on the fiction that it would be too difficult to collect the taxes.

It remains glaring today in the statistic that Black Americans, who account for 13% of the population, are 27% of the people shot and killed by police. It was evident when the Tennessee House of Representatives expelled two Black members over a gun violence protest in their chamber, but not the Caucasian legislator who protested with them. It is apparent in the increasing re-segregation of public schools; profound racial disparities in income, health and mortality; and the persistence of fair housing and fair employment violations.

Exposure is essential

The remedy for injustice begins with exposure. It is essential. To conceal it is to be complicit in the injustice.

To teach American history through rose-colored glasses, as DeSantis intends, is to ignore the heroism and sacrifices that every generation has made toward fulfilling the belief that “all men are created equal.” That so many Americans have risen so often to that challenge speaks well of our nation, not poorly.

A federal judge has temporarily blocked one of DeSantis’ schemes — the law allowing educators and private businesses to be sued for making students and employees feel guilty about racism — but the destruction of the schools and universities goes on.

It’s up to the voters whether that continues. It’s better to be “woke” than silent any day.

The Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board includes Editor-in-Chief Julie , Opinion Editor Krys Fluker and Viewpoints Editor Jay Reddick. The Sun Sentinel Editorial Board consists of Editorial Page Editor Steve Bousquet, Deputy Editorial Page Editor Dan Sweeney, and Anderson. Send letters to

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Retired teacher Fred Klonsky points out the stark difference between national Democratic education policy and the views of Chicago’s new Mayor Brandon Johnson. He would love to see the party follow the lead of Mayor Johnson, who was a teacher in the public schools and an organizer for the Chicago Teachers Union.

The national Democratic Party was once a strong champion of public schools, it once understood the importance of resources and funding for needy students and schools, it was once skeptical about the value of standardized testing.

All of that changed, however, after the Reagan report “A Nation at Risk.” (In a recent article, James Harvey explained how that very consequential report was distorted with cherry-picked data to smear the nation’s public schools.)

Democratic governors jumped aboard the standards-and-testing bandwagon, led by Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas. When Clinton became president in 1993, his major education legislation was Goals 2000, which put the Democratic Party firmly into the standards-and-testing camp with Republicans. Clinton was a “third way” Democrat, and he also enthusiastically endorsed charter schools run by private entities. His Goals 2000 program included a small program to support charter start-ups. That little subsidy—$4-6 milllion—has grown to $440 million, which is a slush fund mainly for big charter chains that don’t need the money.

George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind legislation was supported by Democrats; it encompassed their own party’s stance, but had teeth. Obama’s Race to the Top rolled two decades of accountability/choice policy into one package. By 2008-2020, there was no difference between the two national parties on education. From Clinton in 1992 (with his call for national standards and testing) to NCLB to Race to the Top, the policies of the two parties were the same: testing, accountability, closing schools, choice. And let us not forget the Common Core, which was supposed to lift test scores everywhere while closing achievement gaps. It didn’t.

Democrats nationally are adrift, unmoored, while Republicans have seized on vouchers for religious and private schools that are completely unregulated and unaccountable. Despite evidence (Google “Josh Cowen vouchers”) that most vouchers are used by students who never attended public schools and that their academic results are harmful for public school kids who transfer into low-cost, low-quality private schools, red states are endorsing them.

Mayor Johnson of Chicago represents the abandoned Democratic tradition of investing in students, teachers, communities, and schools.

Fred Klonsky writes:

In his speech yesterday, Mayor Johnson addressed the issue of schools and education, an issue that as a retired career school teacher, is near and dear to my heart.

“Let’s create a public education system that resources children based on need and not just on numbers,” Johnson said.

I hope so.

Some have predicted that the election of Brandon to be mayor of a city with the fourth largest school district in the country might represent a shift in Democratic Party education policy.

Chicago under Mayors Daley and Emanuel gave the country Arne Duncan and Paul Vallas who together were the personifications of the worst kinds of top-down, one-size-fits-all curriculum, reliance on standardized testing as accountability and union busting.

Corporate school reform groups like Democrats for Education Reform and Stand for Children dominated the Democratic Party’s education agenda for two decades.

Joe Biden’s Department of Education has mostly been silent on these issues.

If Chicago’s election of Brandon Johnson does reflect a national shift, let alone a local one, it must do it in the face of a MAGA assault on free expression, historical truths and teacher rights.

None of this will be easy.

So, yes. I wish the Mayor the best and will do what I can to help.

The Brown Decision was released by the U.S. Supreme Court on May 17, 1954, precisely sixty-nine years ago. It was a historic decision in many ways. It was the beginning of the end of de jure segregation in every aspect of American society. Of course, de facto segregation persists in schools, housing, and in many aspects of life. It would have been impossible to imagine in 1954 that the nation would elect a Black man as President in 2008 and again in 2012.

The decision was unanimous. America could not claim to be a nation of freedom, liberty, democracy, and equality when people of color were excluded from full participation in every aspect of public life and walled off from the mainstream of American society in their private lives. Segregation and discrimination were hallmarks of the American way. Black people were not only restricted in the right to vote, were not only underrepresented in legislatures and other decision-making bodies, but were excluded from restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, public transport, public beaches, and from all other places of public accommodation, as well as private commerce. Segregation was imposed by law in the South and some border states, and by custom in northern, western, and midwestern states.

The Brown Decision struck a blow against this cruel reign of prejudice and bigotry in American life. We are far, very far, from fulfilling the promise of the Brown Decision. To make progress, we must be willing to look deeply into the roots of systemic racism and dismantle the structures that condemn disproportionate numbers of Black families to live in poverty and in segregated neighborhoods. A number of Republican-led states have made such inquiries illegal.

The present movement for vouchers, which is strongest in Republican-dominated states, will not move us closer to the egalitarian goals of the Brown Decision. Vouchers are inherently a divisive concept. They encourage people to congregate with people just like themselves. Heightened segregation along lines of race, religion, social class, and ethnicity are a predictable result of vouchers.

The voucher movement began as a hostile response to the Brown decision, led by racist governors, members of Congress, legislatures, White Citizens Councils, parents who did not want their children to attend schools with Black children, and white supremacists who wanted to protect their “way of life.” They refused to comply with the Supreme Court decision. They called Earl Warren a Communist. They engaged in “massive resistance.” They quickly figured out that they could fund private academies for whites only, and some Southern states did. And they figured out that they could offer “vouchers” or “scholarships” to white students to attend white private and religious schools.

I recommend three books about the history of the ties between segregationists, the religious right, and vouchers. I reviewed all three in an article called “The Dark History of School Choice” in The New York Review of Books. Although it is behind a paywall, you can read one article for free or subscribe for a modest fee.

The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism, by Katherine Stewart

Overturning Brown: The Segregationist Legacy of the Modern School Choice Movement, by Steve Suitts

Schoolhouse Burning: Public Education and the Assault on American Democracy, by Derek W. Black

In addition, I recommend Nancy MacLean’s superb Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America. It links the voucher moment to the Koch brothers and other libertarians, including Milton Friedman. I reviewed it in the same journal. MacLean is the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University.

Nancy MacLean wrote the following article for The Washington Post nearly two years ago. In the past two years, the voucher movement has gained even more ground in Republican-dominated states. If it is behind a paywall, you can read it here.

She wrote:

The year 2021 has proved a landmark for the “school choice” cause — a movement committed to the idea of providing public money for parents to use to pay for private schooling.

Republican control of a majority of state legislatures, combined with pandemic learning disruptions, set the stage for multiple victories. Seven states have created new school choice programs, and 11 others have expanded current programs through laws that offer taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schooling and authorize tax credits and educational savings accounts that incentivize parents moving their children out of public schools.

On its face, this new legislation may sound like a win for families seeking more school options. But the roots of the school choice movement are more sinister.

White Southerners first fought for “freedom of choice” in the mid-1950s as a means of defying the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, which mandated the desegregation of public schools. Their goal was to create pathways for White families to remove their children from classrooms facing integration.

Prominent libertarians then took advantage of this idea, seeing it not only as a means of providing private options, but also as a tool in their crusade to dismantle public schools altogether. This history reveals that rather than giving families more school options, school choice became a tool intended to give most families far fewer in the end.

School choice had its roots in a crucial detail of the Brown decision: The ruling only applied to public schools. White Southerners viewed this as a loophole for evading desegregated schools.

In 1955 and 1956, conservative White leaders in Virginia devised a regionwide strategy of “massive resistance” to the high court’s desegregation mandate that hinged on state-funded school vouchers. The State Board of Education provided vouchers, then called tuition grants, of $250 ($2,514 in 2021 dollars) to parents who wanted to keep their children from attending integrated schools. The resistance leaders understood that most Southern White families could not afford private school tuition — and many who could afford it lacked the ideological commitment to segregation to justify the cost. The vouchers, combined with private donations to the new schools in counties facing desegregation mandates, would enable all but a handful of the poorest Whites to evade compliance.

Other Southern states soon adopted voucher programs like the one in Virginia to facilitate the creation of private schools called “segregation academies,” despite opposition from Black families and civil rights leaders. Oliver Hill, an NAACP attorney key to the Virginia case against “separate but equal” education that was folded into Brown, explained their position this way: “No one in a democratic society has a right to have his private prejudices financed at public expense.”

Despite such objections, key conservative and libertarian thinkers and foundations, including economists Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek, Human Events editor Felix Morley and publisher Henry Regnery, backed the White Southern cause. They recognized that White Southerners’ push for “freedom of choice” presented an opportunity to advance their goal of privatizing government services and resources, starting with primary and secondary education. They barely, if ever, addressed racism and segregation; instead, they spoke of freedom (implicitly, White freedom).

Friedman began promoting “educational freedom” in 1955, just as Southern states prepared to resist Brown. And he praised the Virginia voucher plan in his 1962 book, “Capitalism and Freedom,” holding it up as a model for school choice everywhere. “Whether the school is integrated or not,” he wrote, should have no bearing on eligibility for the vouchers. In other words, he knew the program was designed to fund segregation academies and saw it as no barrier to receiving state financing.

Friedman was far from alone. His fellow libertarians, including those on the staff of the William Volker Fund, a leading funder on the right, saw no problem with state governments providing tax subsidies to White families who chose segregation academies, even as these states disenfranchised Black voters, blocking them from having a say in these policies.

Libertarians understood that while abolishing the social safety net and other policies constructed during the Progressive era and the New Deal was wildly unpopular, even among White Southerners, school choice could win converts.

These conservative and libertarian thinkers offered up ostensibly race-neutral arguments in favor of the tax subsidies for private schooling sought by white supremacists. In doing so, they taught defenders of segregation a crucial new tactic — abandon overtly racist rationales and instead tout liberty, competition and market choice while embracing an anti-government stance. These race-neutral rationales for private school subsidies gave segregationists a justification that could survive court review — and did, for more than a decade before the Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional.

When challenged, Friedman and his allies denied that they were motivated by racial bigotry. Yet, they had enough in common ideologically with the segregationists for the partnership to work. Both groups placed a premium on the liberty of those who had long profited from white-supremacist policies and sought to shield their freedom of action from the courts, liberal government policies and civil rights activists.

Crucially, freedom wasn’t the ultimate goal for either group of voucher supporters. White Southerners wielded colorblind language about freedom of choice to help preserve racial segregation and to keep Black children from schools with more resources.

Friedman, too, was interested in far more than school choice. He and his libertarian allies saw vouchers as a temporary first step on the path to school privatization. He didn’t intend for governments to subsidize private education forever. Rather, once the public schools were gone, Friedman envisioned parents eventually shouldering the full cost of private schooling without support from taxpayers. Only in some “charity” cases might governments still provide funding for tuition.

Friedman first articulated this outlook in his 1955 manifesto, but he clung to it for half a century, explaining in 2004, “In my ideal world, government would not be responsible for providing education any more than it is for providing food and clothing.” Four months before his death in 2006, when he spoke to a meeting of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), he was especially frank. Addressing how to give parents control of their children’s education, Friedman said, “The ideal way would be to abolish the public school system and eliminate all the taxes that pay for it.”

Today, the ultrawealthy backers of school choice are cagey about this long-term goal, knowing that care is required to win the support of parents who want the best for their children. Indeed, in a sad irony, decades after helping to impede Brown’s implementation, school choice advocates on the right targeted families of color for what one libertarian legal strategist called “forging nontraditional alliances.” They won over some parents of color, who came to see vouchers and charter schools as a way to escape the racial and class inequalities that stemmed from White flight out of urban centers and the Supreme Court’s willingness to allow White Americans to avoid integrating schools.

But the history behind vouchers reveals that the rhetoric of “choice” and “freedom” stands in stark contrast to the real goals sought by conservative and libertarian advocates. The system they dream of would produce staggering inequalities, far more severe than the disparities that already exist today. Wealthy and upper-middle-class families would have their pick of schools, while those with far fewer resources — disproportionately families of color — might struggle to pay to educate their children, leaving them with far fewer options or dependent on private charity. Instead of offering an improvement over underfunded schools, school choice might lead to something far worse.

As Maya Angelou wisely counseled in another context, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” If we fail to recognize the right’s true end game for public education, it could soon be too late to reverse course.

Update: According to Future-Ed, citing pro-voucher EdChoice (which used to be the Milton and Rose Friedman Foundation), “Currently, 32 states provide an estimated $4 billion in subsidies to some 690,000 students through tuition vouchers, education savings accounts, and tax-credit scholarships.” Several Republican-led states are considering or have already universal vouchers, which would subsidize the tuition of all students in private schools, including the children of wealthy families. Currently, most students who use vouchers were already enrolled in private and religious schools. In one state alone, Florida, the added cost of vouchers might be as much as $4 billion a year, just for the children already in private schools.

John Thompson, historian and former teacher, updates us on the state of education in Oklahoma. I reported a few months ago on a secret Republican poll showing that Oklahomans overwhelmingly oppose vouchers. Wouldn’t it be great if they held a state referendum? We know they won’t.

It is virtually impossible to understand the Oklahoma State Superintendent of Schools Ryan Walters recent rant against teachers unions without understanding the reason the American Federation of Teachers president, Randi Weingarten, has been targeted by MAGAs – and vice versa. Jonathan Mahler’s New York Times article about Randi Weingarten, The Most Dangerous Person in the World offers some – but not nearly enough – perspective on why teachers, unions, and schools are under such brutal, and fact-free, inter-connected assaults.

It took the threat of “arm-twisting” by Republican Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall to get Ryan Walters to speak to the House Appropriations and Budget Committee. Then, as the Tulsa World reports, “Tensions flared Monday as House lawmakers grilled Oklahoma’s controversial state superintendent.” He “called teachers’ unions ‘terrorist organizations’ and accused his predecessor of running the State Department of Education into the ground.” Walters said that Joy Hofmeister had left “an absolute dumpster fire.” Presumably that is why he fired 7 employees, had 37 resignations, and eliminated 17 positions.

As the Oklahoman reports:

Lawmakers were particularly concerned with whether the agency would meet deadlines to apply for federal grants this month.

The state Education Department, which recently lost its lead grant writer, manages about $100 million in competitive grants from the federal government and over $900 million in total federal funding.”

This prompted pushback by Republican Vice Chairperson Rep. Ryan Martinez, who, like McCall, supports most of the session’s anti-public education bills, complained about a lack of transparent actions by Walters:

“If we do not receive specific grants, if we do not apply for a certain grant or if those monies are not disbursed, guess who’s trying to find the money to make sure those programs don’t go away,” Martinez said. “It’s the people on this committee.”

Walters also “accused teacher unions of demanding extra government funds in exchange for their cooperation with reopening schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.” As Nondocexplains, he added, “I don’t negotiate with folks that are going to intentionally sabotage our kids. (…) You are hurting kids intentionally to shake down the federal government for money — that’s a terrorist organization in my book.”

Then, the Oklahoman reported, Walters’ “most incendiary comments prompted groans from Democrats before the meeting came to an abrupt end.” As Walters claimed, “Democrats want to strike out any mention of the Bible from our history,” Martinez “gaveled for adjournment amid vocal objections from the minority party to Walters’ comments.”

The latest performance by Walters should be seen in the context of the best parts of Jonathan Mahler’s New York Times article about Randi Weingarten, Mahler starts with former CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s charge that Weingarten is “the most dangerous person in the world.” Then he puts it in context with similar attacks on the teachers union, such as the previous claim that former AFT president Al Shanker said, “When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that’s when we start representing the interests of schoolchildren.” Mahler adds that the highly respected researcher, Richard Kahlenberg, found no evidence that Shanker ever said such a thing.

Mahler also added context to the claims rightwingers have made that teachers unions hurt students by keeping schools closed during the Covid pandemic. I wish he had been more explicit, but implicit in his narrative is a reminder that it made sense for public health institutions, like the Center for Disease Control, to consult with organizations with knowledge of diverse conditions in schools. He notes that while suburban parents were pushing for re-openings, poor and Black parents, and families with multi-generation households, opposed the early returns to in-person instruction.

The AFT plans that are now under attack came at times when deaths and/or new variants were surging. I would add Education Week’s explanation that yes, “the pandemic has massively disrupted students’ learning,” but the story is complicated. It explained, “Reading scores for students in cities (where the AFT is strongest) stayed constant, as did reading scores for students in the West of the country.”

Yes, Covid closures led to an unprecedented decline in test scores, especially for the poorest students. But Mahler, like so many other journalists, should have looked more deeply at propaganda dating back to the Reagan administration that inappropriately used NAEP test scores when arguing that public schools are broken.

First, as Jan Resseger and Diane Ravitch noted, Mahler made:

A common error among journalists, critics, and pundits who misunderstand the achievement levels of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). “Proficient” on NAEP is not grade level. “Proficient” on NAEP represents A level work, at worst an A-. Would you be upset to learn that “only” 40% of 8th graders are at A level in math and “only” 1/3 scored an A in reading?

Secondly, Mahler should have asked why the admittedly unprecedented (and expected) fall in NAEP scores during Covid followed a decade of stagnating or declining reading and math scores, that also disproportionately hurt low performing students. Like virtually every teacher I’ve worked with, I would argue that the pre-Covid decline was due, in large part, to test-driven, competition-driven corporate school reform. (I also suspect this is especially true of the dramatic drop in History outcomes due to instruction in that subject being pushed out of classrooms by pressure to teach-to-the test.) Had Mahler taken this into account, he likely would have understood why teachers resisted corporate reforms, and chosen his words more carefully, and would not have repeatedly labeled us as “leftists.”

Such an understanding would help explain why No Child Left Behind’s and Race to the Top’s focus on “disruptive” change prompted teachers to resist policies that undermined high-quality instruction, and undermined holistic learning, especially in high-poverty schools. It also explains why, for the benefit of teachers and students, Weingarten had to seek centrist compromises when resisting doomed-to-fail mandates by the Obama administration.

As Ravitch explains, it’s okay to disagree with Weingarten, but it makes no sense to compare her balanced approach to the rightwing zealotry of those who have attacked her so viciously. She also worries that the Times Magazine’s format and attempt to present both sides as political activists could put Weingarten in danger.

Education and education politics are political. Yes, the bipartisan corporate reforms, which a full range of educators resisted, is now “a shadow of itself;” that is due to both the inherent flaws in their reward and punish policies, and the pushback by those of us who were in schools and saw the damage it did to our students. Similarly, the CDC was correct in listening to educators and parents of students who attended schools where vaccines, social distancing and masks were, due to anti-science mandates, not implemented, especially after holidays when variants were surging.

But, Mahler and others who bend over backwards to treat the words of moderates like Weingarten, and rightwing extremists and their funders as equally true, should ask what will happen if the nation’s Ryan Walters and Mike Pompeos, and their funders succeed. Surely he understands that the argument that teachers and unions are terrorists is not equal to the counter arguments of education leaders like Weingarten, and those of us who are still fighting for what we believe is best for our schools and students.