Archives for category: School Choice

We have all been guessing about what President-Elect Joe Biden will do in education. Will he keep his campaign promises and set federal policy on a new direction, away from No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, ESSA, high-stakes testing, and school choice, or will he stick with the stale and destructive status quo?

No one knows for sure but many have tried to divine his intentions by the composition of his transition team for education. At first glance, it is worrisome that so many of its members come from the Race to the Top era. But Valerie Strauss offers a different perspective on the transition team’s purpose and significance.

She writes:

Now that President-elect Joe Biden has named a 20-person education transition team, the education world is trying to glean insight from its makeup as to what the next president will do to try to improve America’s public schools.


Some progressives are worried that the list of members is heavy with former members of the Obama administration, whose controversial education policies ultimately alienated teachers’ unions, parents and members of Congress from both major political parties. Some conservatives are concerned that four of the team’s members come from national teachers’ unions. And others wonder what it means that Biden chose Linda Darling-Hammond — the first Black woman to serve as president of the California Board of Education and an expert on educational equity and teacher quality — to lead the team.


When it comes to policy, such concerns are probably misplaced. This transition team is not charged with writing big policy papers or selecting a new education secretary. The campaign set Biden’s education agenda, and there is a separate, smaller committee working on domestic policy.


The transition team’s charge is largely about reimagining the Education Department, which has been run for nearly four years by Betsy DeVos, whose top priority was pushing alternatives to public school districts and encouraging states to use public money to fund private and religious school education. She also focused on reversing a number of Obama administration initiatives in civil rights and other areas.


Biden has promised to focus on the public schools that educate the vast majority of America’s schoolchildren and to take steps to address the inequity that has long existed in the education system — and his proposals speak to a divergence from the Obama agenda.


Subgroups on the transition team are tackling different areas, including K-12, higher education and a covid-19 response that would allow schools to safely reopen — an urgent priority for Biden. Step No. 1, according to one person familiar with the process (who spoke on the condition of anonymity) is to “figure out what damage she [DeVos] did and then stand up a department.”


The selection of the transition team does speak to some basic Biden priorities. He picked people who have expertise in their field; most of the 20 on the transition team were involved in the Education Department in either the Obama or Clinton administration. He won’t, for example, hire a neurosurgeon to run a department that deals with housing, like Trump did with Ben Carson. Biden promised to hire a teacher as education secretary, not someone who never went to a public school, like DeVos.


As Kevin Welner, the director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said, the “obvious reason” there are so many former Obama administration education officials on the Biden team is that they are working “on crafting remedies for the Trump-DeVos reversals — to restore guidances and executive orders that the current administration changed or eliminated.”
The inclusion of four union leaders — three from the American Federation of Teachers and one from the National Education Association — underscores Biden’s long connections with the labor movement and shows he is not expecting to break those ties.


In fact, two of the names reported to be under consideration for Biden’s education secretary are Lily Eskelsen García, former president of the National Education Association, which is the largest union in the country; and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. (The appointment of one of these women raises some questions: Would a Republican-led Senate confirm a labor leader? Would Biden appoint one as acting if it won’t?)


The Biden team has been floating a number of names for education secretary, a job that many thought would go to Darling-Hammond before she said recently that she didn’t want it.


She is as highly regarded in the education world as just about anyone; among other things, she is the founder of the Stanford University Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, founder of the California-based Learning Policy Institute think tank, founding director of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, and a former president of the American Educational Research Association.


Darling-Hammond was also Obama’s education transition chief after his 2008 presidential win. It was a time when serious flaws with the K-12 No Child Left Behind law had emerged, including an unhealthy emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing and mandates that were unachievable.


Obama had said during the 2008 campaign he thought kids took too many standardized tests, telling the American Federation of Teachers, “Creativity has been drained from classrooms as too many teachers are forced to teach fill-in-the-bubble tests.” And many public school advocates believed he would support their agenda of de-emphasizing the tests that had become routine under No Child Left Behind.


But Obama had quietly embraced a group called Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) — started by some New York hedge-fund managers — who wanted to reform schools along business principles and who were antagonistic toward the teachers’ unions. Columns began appearing in numerous publications accusing Darling-Hammond of being too close to the unions.


Obama wound up tapping Arne Duncan, a reformer in the DFER mold, as education secretary. Duncan, the former chief of Chicago schools, pushed the evaluation of teachers by student standardized test scores, the adoption by states of Common Core State Standards and the expansion of charter schools. The result was that students took many more standardized tests and some states created cockamamie evaluation systems that saw teachers evaluated by the test scores of students they didn’t have. The Common Core, which started with bipartisan support, saw a rushed implementation that helped lead to opposition to it.


By 2014, the National Education Association called for Duncan’s resignation and the AFT said he should change policy or resign. Congress eventually rewrote the No Child Left Behind law, taking away some of the federal power that Duncan had exercised in education policy and giving it to the states.


The 2008 education transition team that Darling-Hammond headed included some progressive thinkers in education who wrote deep policy papers that focused on educational equity and other transformative issues. Duncan ignored them, going his own way. In 2008, the makeup of the presidential transition team had no effect on policy.


Through his tenure as vice president, though, Biden did not publicly discuss the Obama-Duncan education changes. It appears that he was not a big supporter; his wife, Jill Biden, a community college educator, is a longtime member of the NEA, and the AFT’s Weingarten has said when the AFT was not getting along with the Obama administration, Biden was “our north star” and our “go-to guy who always listened to us.”


Biden sought out Darling-Hammond to run his transition team because of her expertise in education and in part as a signal about what he hopes to prioritize in education, according to people familiar with the decision who spoke on the condition of anonymity.


Biden and his team made a number of promises about education during the campaign, including increasing federal funds for the poorest students as well as for students with special needs, raising the salaries of teachers, making community college free and implementing college debt forgiveness. His proposals would cost hundreds of billions of dollars to implement; meeting his promise to “fully fund” the federal law protecting students with special needs alone could cost $40 billion or more.


It is more than highly unlikely that there will be federal funding available to do everything he promised, but public education advocates say they are hopeful that he will stick to his promise to concentrate on publicly funded school districts and not school choice, like DeVos, or standardized testing, like Duncan.


All the signs at the moment indicate that Biden’s education agenda will be significantly different from Duncan’s (and certainly DeVos’s) and start to address the issue of educational equity in ways that Darling-Hammond has always thought were important, including how public schools are funded. Stay tuned.

Leonie Haimson has a weekly radio show called “Talk Out of School” on WBAI in New York City. She invited Denisha Jones and me to discuss the election results and their implications for education, on the day after the election.

Denisha is a lawyer, an early childhood education advocate, and a professor. She is also a member of the board of Network for Public Education.

Here is our discussion.


Chalkbeat reports that the privatizers at “Democrats” for Education Reform have identified their candidates for Biden’s Secretary of Education. They are three big-city superintendents who have worked harmoniously with charter schools.

DFER is an organization of hedge fund managers and financiers who are supporters of charter schools, merit pay, high-stakes testing, and value-added evaluation of teachers. In 2008, DFER successfully advocated for the appointment of Arne Duncan, a supporter of their goals.

Democrats for Education Reform is coordinating a behind-the-scenes push for Chicago schools chief Janice Jackson, the head of Baltimore schools Sonja Brookins Santelises, or Philadelphia superintendent William Hite, according to an email sent to supporters Monday by the group’s presidentShavar Jeffries and obtained by Chalkbeat. All three, Jeffries wrote, would represent a “‘big tent’ approach to education policy making….”

DFER was an influential actor in policy during the Obama administration, but those policies have mostly proved ineffective and/or rejected by teachers. In light of Betsy DeVos’ fierce advocacy for charter schools, DFER’s agenda is out-of-step with the Democratic Party.

In general, though, DFER has found some of its favored policies moving further from the Democratic Party’s mainstream. As a presidential candidate, Biden has proposed a slew of new federal restrictions on charter schools and been critical of standardized testing — a clear shift from the Obama administration, which promoted the growth of charter schools and teacher evaluations linked to test scores. 

“It is certainly the Biden plan,” the campaign’s policy director Stef Feldman said at a recent event, describing the candidate’s agenda for schools. “The vice president is pretty committed to the concept that we need to be investing in our public neighborhood schools and we can’t be diverting funding away from them.”

A number of factors have driven the shift within the Democratic party — including disillusionment with Obama-era reforms, the increased political strength of teachers and their unions, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who is highly unpopular among Democrats and became a figurehead for school choice.

This shifting ground is reflected in DFER’s recent policy agenda, which was signed onto by a few civil rights groups; the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank; and major charter school organizations, including the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. The document emphasizes areas of likely agreement with a Biden administration, including expanding access to early childhood education, increasing federal funding for low-income students and students with disabilities, and raising teacher pay. Charter schools get only a brief mention in a section about “choices in quality public schools.”

The Center for American Progress is not a “progressive” think tank. It has long advocated the Obama-era education policies that align with DFER.


Laurel Demkovich writes here about the election in Washington State for state superintendent. The incumbent Chris Reykdal faces a challenger who supports charter schools and vouchers. The Democratic Party is supporting Reykdal, the Republican Party is supporting his opponent, Maia Espinosa. Washington State has no voucher program; it has a small number of charters, established after four state referenda that were funded by Bill Gates and his billionaire friends. The only evaluation of the charters, by CREDO at Stanford, concluded that they did not get different results than similar students in public schools.

I strongly urge the voters in Washington State to vote for Reykdal.

Demkovich writes:

With less than a week before Election Day, partisan ties in the nonpartisan superintendent of public instruction race have become clear.

Incumbent Chris Reykdal, backed by the state Democratic Party, is facing challenger Maia Espinoza, backed by the state Republican Party, for his spot as the state’s chief schools official.

Worried they might lose control of education policy if Reykdal loses, prominent Democrats, including Gov. Jay Inslee and U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, held a news conference this week to “sound the alarm” on Espinoza’s plans they say would cut funding to public schools.

Jayapal called Espinoza the “Betsy DeVos of Washington” – referring to the Secretary of Education’s support for school choice and voucher programs.

The state Democratic Party has donated $105,000 into Reykdal’s campaign in the last week.

Republicans and Espinoza want to return to the status quo and not upend public schools, state GOP Rep. Drew Stokesbary said in a news conference.

“Why is anybody afraid of a Hispanic mother of three who cares about kids across the state as our superintendent of public instruction?” added state Sen. Mark Schoesler, of Ritzville. “This would be a superintendent of public instruction that is not a slave to the union bosses.”

Meanwhile, the state Republican Party contributed $10,000 to Espinoza in the past week.

Accusations from both sides about the other candidate’s plan and background have circulated throughout the campaign, but what’s true? The Spokesman-Review took a look.

Claim: Espinoza’s plans for a COVID-19 relief package for parents would drain $2.5 billion from public school funds.

Source: Inslee, Jayapal and other Democrats at a Monday news conference.

Truthfulness: Could be true, but Espinoza said she doesn’t have a specific plan for where the money would come from.

Analysis: Democrats claimed Monday that Espinoza would cut public school funding by $2.5 billion. The claim likely comes from Espinoza’s proposal early in the pandemic to give parents $2,500 per student, which she said would help with technology costs or supplies.

Inslee argued Monday the cut would result in a loss of funding of teachers and negatively affect class sizes. “This is inexcusable in our state,” he said.

Espinoza admitted she was not sure where the money for the stipends would come from and that it would ultimately be up to the Legislature. She did suggest school districts look at ways they are not spending money as students are not in school, such as on transportation or utilities.

The funding could look different in each district, she said.

“I firmly believe the dollars belong to the students, not the system,” Espinoza said.

Claim: Espinoza supports school choice and voucher programs.

Source: Inslee, Jayapal and other Democrats at a Monday news conference

Truthfulness: True.

Analysis: Espinoza has been open about supporting school choice, something she said would improve inequities in school districts. She hasn’t been clear, however, on what that would look like.

Democrats accused Espinoza of supporting what Jayapal called a “corrupt and very dangerous DeVos-Trump privatization agenda.”

Espinoza said she has no affiliation with what’s happening federally and does not have any support from DeVos or Trump. She said she does support school choice, however, adding she does not think giving parents options is bad.

She told the Associated Press she supports more funding for charter schools, as well as testing a broader private school voucher system statewide.

“Parents will always choose what is best for their kid,” she told The Spokesman-Review in June.

Claim: Espinoza has a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction.

Source: Espinoza voters guide statement

Truthfulness: Mostly false, as of now.

Analysis: In her voters guide statement for both the primary and the general elections, Espinoza claimed to have a master’s degree from Western Governors University, an online program. She does not include the year she received it.

Espinoza has recently come out to say she is finishing up the degree now, after Reykdal repeatedly claimed she did not yet have it. In a Monday news conference, Espinoza said the term ends at the end of this month and her thesis has been turned in.

In a Washington State Wire virtual debate on Sept. 17, Espinoza said she had finished all of her classes and only needed to finish her thesis. At the time, she called it a “nonissue.”https://673019f85b97b964fcb917033e0d5c08.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

At a League of Women Voters virtual debate from Oct. 6, Reykdal said he had concerns about Espinoza’s lack of transparency.

Claim: Espinoza’s organization, the Center for Latino Leadership, is a nonprofit with 501©3 tax exemption.

Source: Center for Latino Leadership website

Truthfulness: False.

Analysis: The Center for Latino Leadership, which Espinoza founded, claims on its website to be “an incorporated, nonprofit organization in Washington State operating under section 501©3 of the Internal Revenue Code.”

The organization does not actually have the federal tax-exempt status, according to the Associated Press.

The tax exemption allows public charities that serve the public interest to be exempt from paying federal income tax and to collect tax-deductible contributions from donors. Those organizations are then prohibited from making profits or participating in expressly political activities.

Espinoza told the Associated Press she never claimed donations were tax deductible and that the organization has been trying to apply for 501©3 status for years but had issues with its accounting firm.

“It’s been a process for sure, but we’ve been diligent in operating as a C3,” Espinoza said in an email to the Associated Press.

In a Monday news conference, she told reporters the 501©3 status is just a stricter form of a nonprofit but her organization has always acted as if they have the tax-exemption.

“This has nothing to do with the great work we’ve done,” she said. “In no way have I misrepresented.”

Claim: Espinoza is a teacher.

Source: Espinoza’s voters guide statement.

Truthfulness: Only if you use a broader definition of “teacher.”

Analysis: Espinoza, who states in her voters guide statement that she is a school teacher, is not a licensed teacher, but she did previously teach music at her daughter’s private school one day a week for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

When asked about her teaching experience in an Oct. 12 debate, Espinoza said she was a paid, hourly teacher.

“I really got to experience and appreciate the demands put on teachers,” Espinoza said.


Laurel Demkovich’s reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

Since 2010, North Carolina has been controlled by radical Tea Party extremists intent on privatizing and monetizing every public service. They have passed numerous laws to authorize school privatization (charters and vouchers) and to punish public school teachers.

Stuart Egan, NBCT teacher in North Carolina, urges the vast majority of the public who send their children to public schools to vote for pro-public school candidates. He specifically urges a vote for Jen Mangrum, who is running for State Superintendent.

Stuart Egan describes what’s at stake in this post:

Long before Mark Johnson was elected state superintendent, people like Phil Berger and those he controlled began to institute “reforms” into public education without fear of reprisal.

Those reforms turned a once progressive state system of public education into one of regression. Eliminating longevity pay, taking away graduate degree pay and career status from newer teachers, revamping the salary scales,  and cutting teacher assistants were just a few of the actions taken to “reform” public education.

What Berger and others also started in 2011 and continue to champion today is making North Carolina the literal working laboratory for ALEC-inspired reforms that are targeting the vitality of public schools and enabling a variety of privatization initiatives that are padding the pockets of many at the expense of taxpayers.

In fact, in under a decade, NC has become the nation’s Petri Dish for harmful educational reforms.

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These “reforms” are not original – just maybe some adjustments to make them especially “effective” in North Carolina.

All of these so-called “reforms” have failed wherever they were implemented. It’s time to turn out the privatizers and entrepreneurs and vote for legislators who are dedicated to public schools.

Vote for Jen Mangrum for State Superintendent!

Peter Greene says that Secretary DeVos should either “help or hush,” which is certainly more civil than, say, help or shut up.

DeVos has threatened to cut off funding to schools that don’t open fully, but fortunately she lacks the authority to shut any school for not following her orders. She spends her time campaigning for charters and vouchers, and has nothing to offer the public schools that the vast majority of students attend.

Greene describes two events where DeVos touted her privatization agenda.

Then he wrote:

While you’ve been out slamming public schools at events like the two above, you’ve made it clear what your interest is–promoting school vouchers. You keep plugging your scholarship tax credit plan, and keep insisting that the pandemic underlines how badly families need choice, as if one of the available choices were a school that is completely immune from the covid spread. 

It’s seems hard to believe that you could make people more angry at you than they already were (I understand that you don’t care–I’m just saying). But here we are with the school house on fire, and the head of education is using it as an opportunity to sell her personal brand of asbestos gloves.

I suppose it should be clear after all these years that we can’t expect any help from you for public education. And it’s a sign of the times that it makes sense to type a sentence like “the United States secretary of education cannot be expected to support public education in the United States.” So sure– no guidance, no assistance, not even a sympathetic pat on the shoulder or a half-hearted attaboy. Certainly not a “These are really difficult times– what can we on the federal level do to help you?”

But if you’re not going to help, can you at least hush? If you are not going to be part of any sort of movement to help public schools, can you at least not be out in the front lines of people trying to attack it? Is that really so much to ask? Just, you know, hush. Just let the people who are actually doing the work of public education in this country have one fewer voices bussing in their ear declaring that they stink and they’re failing and we should be giving them less support and instead buying everyone a pair of these asbestos gloves. 

Either pitch in and help us get through this, or, if you can’t bring yourself to so that, just sit down and hush. 

States like Montana have a strong tradition of rugged individualism. That tradition is now in conflict with the need for public health measures. This story in the Los Angeles Times is a fascinating read. A doctor in small-town Montana is a leader of the anti-masking rebellion. So far, she’s winning.

WHITEFISH, MONT. — When Steve Qunell won a seat on the City Council last year in this town of 8,000, he figured he’d be dealing with potholes and affordable housing.

Instead, he finds himself at the center of a raging debate over how to fight the coronavirus, which is surging in Montana like never before.

The state’s governor, Steve Bullock, a Democrat who is in the final stretch of a tight U.S. Senate race and has been reluctant to impose restrictions that could hurt his campaign, called on the hardest-hit counties to consider shutting bars and enforcing a statewide mask mandate.

There was little appetite for that in conservative Flathead County, where the health board has been dominated by an outspoken doctor who argues that the pandemic is a hoax.

That left the Whitefish City Council.

“We are the last line of defense,” Qunell, a 49-year-old high school social studies teacher, told his fellow council members during an online public meeting this week. “Are we going to lead? Or are we just going to follow the nonbelievers in the county?”

Places like Whitefish once could afford to view the pandemic as a distant big-city problem. Through mid-September, sparsely populated Montana had a death toll of 140.

But that figure has doubled over the last five weeks as a new wave of infections sweeps the country. More than 85,000 cases were reported nationwide Friday, the most in a single day since the pandemic began. 

The worst outbreaks are in the rural Midwest and Rocky Mountains. With 4,693 new cases over the last week, Montana had the country’s third-highest infection rate, trailing only the Dakotas.

The rise in Montana has overwhelmed efforts to conduct contact tracing and strained health systems across the state.

And as events in Whitefish show, efforts to stem exponential increases are pushing up against a culture that prides itself on rugged independence and freedom from government rules.

Early in the pandemic, Whitefish, a gateway to ski areas and Glacier National Park, moved more decisively than many other communities to contain the virus. 

Last spring, the City Council ordered hotels and short-term rental properties to take in only essential workers — a requirement that remained in place until the end of May.

Whitefish was also one of the first cities in Montana to make people wear masks — though the governor soon issued a mandate statewide.

Still, from the beginning, there was strong local opposition to such restrictions. 

Leading the resistance was Dr. Annie Bukacek, a 62-year-old internist known for her far-right views and opposition to vaccination.

Flathead County commissioners appointed her to the county health board last December after dismissing two other doctors with more public health experience — changes the commissioners said were meant to increase the diversity of views.

Bukacek became a hero of anti-lockdown activists across the country last spring after she delivered a speech to a local church congregation alleging that the federal government was exaggerating the coronavirus death toll.

“People are being terrorized by fearmongers into relinquishing cherished freedoms,” she told members of the Liberty Fellowship. 

She wore a lab coat and stethoscope for her presentation, which has been viewed more than 860,000 times on YouTube.

The congregation is led by Chuck Baldwin, who is described by the Montana Human Rights Network as “the unofficial reverend of the militia movement.” He has defied state orders by continuing to hold in-person services. 

Bukacek and a small group of allies protest outside schools and government buildings a few times each week to demand an end to mask requirements and other state restrictions they equate to martial law.

Their message struck some as plausible last summer as cases and deaths remained low, even as more tourists than expected visited Whitefish and the national park.

Eventually though it became clear that Flathead County, population 100,000, would not avoid the kind of suffering that so many other parts of the country had experienced. 

The first major outbreak in Whitefish struck a nursing home in August, infecting 43 of the 52 patients — and ultimately killing 13 of them. 

The county’s biggest hospital, the Kalispell Regional Medical Center, soon started seeing more admissions to its coronavirus ward. 

Erica Lengacher, a 46-year-old critical-care nurse who works nights in the ward, could cope with the stress of watching patients dying. That was part of the job.

Harder to deal with was the indifference that opponents of basic safety measures seemed to have for victims of the pandemic. 

“I just felt deep, deep sadness that while I saw patients suffer and die, there was a sense that our community had moved on and didn’t really care,” she said.

“I realize that there’s a historic tension between public health and individual liberties,” she said. “But a good portion of our community is flouting the state mask mandate, and I still can’t get my head around how this has become so politicized and divisive.”

The number of patients on the coronavirus ward has hovered around 29 in recent days, but managers are recruiting more nurses in case things get worse.

Recent outbreaks in Flathead County — where the total number of people known to have been infected doubled to more than 2,800 over the last three weeks — have been traced to large gatherings at four churches, four weddings, three political events and two trade shows.

This week the county health department advised residents to stay at home as much as possible and limit contacts outside their families to no more than six people a week, each for 15 minutes or less. The recommendations have been widely disregarded.

Tamalee St. James Robinson, the interim county health officer, said in an interview that she has the authority to make such measures mandatory but that more rules would be useless because officials were refusing to enforce those already in place.

The county prosecutor, Travis Ahner, said he was focused on crime and didn’t see a point in cracking down on businesses for mask violations.

For their part, the county commissioners released a statement this month supporting “the Constitutional rights of Montanans to make choices about personal protections for themselves.”

“Where does that leave me, just me out there?” Robinson asked.

As for the county health board, Bukacek prevailed in the latest battle over whether to limit social gatherings.

“Statistically, for practical purposes, COVID in Montana has 100% survival,” she said last week during an online public meeting of the board.

“No, it doesn’t!” shouted Dr. Jeffrey Tjaden, a local infectious disease specialist who attended to warn that without immediate action things were likely to get much worse.

A minute later, he interrupted her again to say that he was so fed up with her presentation that he was logging off.

“I’m not saying that the people who died didn’t matter,” she said after he was gone.

At the end of the night, the board members were left with a single proposal: no gatherings of more than 500 people.

They rejected it with a 5-to-3 vote.

That prompted criticism from the governor, who said he was disappointed that the board ignored experts and that “some are trying to politicize this virus” over protecting health and safety. 

“The message was presented loud and clear that if the virus spread is not controlled in the Flathead area, schools will have to close, parents will be out of the workforce, businesses will be hurt and the hospital will run out of bed capacity,” Bullock told reporters.

This week, he announced that state investigators had conducted spot checks on more than a dozen businesses in Flathead County and that authorities will ask a judge to temporarily shut down five establishments deemed “egregious violators” for flouting mask requirements and social distancing standards.

The biggest looming threat may be winter, because the virus spreads most easily when people are indoors.

In Whitefish, temperatures plunged Friday as the season’s first major snowstorm hit.

“It’s time for action, and it has unfortunately fallen to us,” Qunell told his colleagues at this week’s City Council meeting.

The city manager suggested writing a letter to the health board encouraging it to act. A councilman said another letter to businesses might persuade them to cooperate. 

Qunell didn’t see the point.

“The county’s not going to do anything no matter what letters we write,” he said.

He wanted the council to vote to close bars by 10 p.m. — before they usually get crowded and rowdy — and limit restaurants to 25% of capacity. 

But the only thing the council decided was to meet again Monday to consider imposing limits during Halloween weekend, when Whitefish traditionally puts on a popular downtown bar crawl. 

In an interview, Qunell said Whitefish must find a balance between protecting citizens and the economy that has eluded national, state and county leaders. 

“There’s been a failure of leadership from the very highest levels,” he said. “The responsibility keeps getting pushed downhill, and it’s ended up in our laps.”

Betsy DeVos traveled to Kentucky to sell her used goods (schmattes is the Yiddish term): charter schools and vouchers.

For DeVos, a pandemic is the perfect time to push school privatization. Day in, day out, for 30 years or so, DeVos has been promoting charters and vouchers.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – School choice supporters should “insist” that state and federal policymakers back measures like public charter schools and scholarship tax credits amid the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Monday…

“I know in all of the years that I have advocated for state-level policy empower parents, never before have we had an environment like we have today, and so I believe that now is the time to raise voices more loudly than ever before and to insist on policy changes that need to take place….”

David Patterson, communications director for the Kentucky Education Association, said DeVos should focus on helping public school districts weather the COVID-19 pandemic, which has “spiked to its highest peak ever” in the state.

“Instead, she drops in for a day to push a political agenda that has been proven disastrous in states and school systems all across the country,” Patterson said in a statement. “Betsy DeVos has a habit of visiting Kentucky and discussing education without ever actually meeting with the public educators who teach 88 percent of all K-12 students across the commonwealth.”

Never before has the United States had a Secretary of Education who despises public schools.

When Kentucky had a Republican Governor, Matt Bevin, DeVos showed up to sell privatization. Bevin got a charter law passed, but he couldn’t get funding. Vouchers went nowhere.

Now Kentucky has a Democratic Governor, Andy Beshear, who was elected by teachers and public school parents.

Sorry, Betsy, time is running out. Your merchandise is old. It’s not innovative. Its time stamp is dated and past due. Go back to Michigan.

Bill Phillis, founder of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Advocacy, is a retired state superintendent in the state. He has focused like a laser on the importance of funding public education equitably and adequately. He writes here about the staggering cost of privatizing public money to pay for charters, virtual charters, and vouchers. This is money deducted from the public schools, which outperform both charters and vouchers and the failing virtual charter industry.

He writes:




The direct state subsidies to private schools and school choice programs will cost taxpayers $751,894,805 in FY 21 and FY 22; additionally, $2,352, 881,306 will be deducted from school districts for vouchers and charters





The total direct state budget appropriations in HB 166 for private school subsidies, charter and voucher programs in FY 21 and FY 22 are $751,894,805. $344,027,972 of the appropriations is in the General Revenue section of the budget and the rest is in non-General Revenue sections. This $751,894,805 is in addition to $2,352,881,306 that will be deducted from school districts, assuming that about the same amount is deducted in FY 22 as in FY 21.


Therefore the grand total of taxpayer revenue for private schools and school choice programs in FY 21 and FY 22 will be $3,104,776,111. The cost of transportation that is incurred by school districts for school choice programs is in addition.


The FY 21 and FY 22 direct state appropriation line items in HB 166 for private school subsidies, and voucher and charter school programs are listed here.


**flows through districts from a direct state subsidy
The direct state subsidies to private schools and school choice programs will cost taxpayers $751,894,805 in FY 21 and FY 22; additionally, $2,352, 881,306 will be deducted from school districts for vouchers and charters

The total direct state budget appropriations in HB 166 for private school subsidies, charter and voucher programs in FY 21 and FY 22 are $751,894,805. $344,027,972 of the appropriations is in the General Revenue section of the budget and the rest is in non-General Revenue sections. This $751,894,805 is in addition to $2,352,881,306 that will be deducted from school districts, assuming that about the same amount is deducted in FY 22 as in FY 21.

Therefore the grand total of taxpayer revenue for private schools and school choice programs in FY 21 and FY 22 will be $3,104,776,111. The cost of transportation that is incurred by school districts for school choice programs is in addition.

The FY 21 and FY 22 direct state appropriation line items in HB 166 for private school subsidies, and voucher and charter school programs are listed here.

**flows through districts from a direct state subsidy

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute released a report on Ohio charters, claiming that they were very successful. (TBF is a rightwing organization that supports charters and vouchers.) The Columbus Dispatch wrote that the report demonstrated that charter schools in Ohio are more successful than the state’s public schools. But Stephen Dyer reviewed the report and concluded that its findings are based on cherrypicking schools and manipulating data. In fact, he writes, Ohio’s charter sector continues to be low-performing compared to the state’s public schools, whose students lose funding to charters. The state has recently taken almost $900 million annually from its public schools to pay for a mediocre charter sector.

Dyer is a former state legislator who has written often about the charter industry. He is now Director of Government Relations, Communications and Marketing at the Ohio Education Association. (I served on the board of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation/Institute from 1998-2009).

He writes:

Fordham Strikes Again

Cherry picking schools; manipulating data; grasping at straws

Look, the Fordham Institute has been improving lately, calling for more charter school oversight and talking a good game. But I guess sometimes old habits die hard, and in Ohio – the cradle of the for-profit charter school movement – those habits tend to linger especially long.

Take the group’s latest report – The Impact of Ohio Charter Schools on Student Outcomes, 2016-2019 – is yet another attempt to make Ohio’s famously poor performing charter school sector seem not quite as bad (though I give them kudos for admitting the obvious – that for-profit operators don’t do a good job educating kids and we need continued tougher oversight of the sector).

But folks, really. On the whole, Ohio charter schools are not very good. For example, of all the potential A-F grades charters could have received since that system was adopted in the 2012-2013 school year, Ohio charter schools have received more Fs than all other grades combined.

So how could the Fordham report claim, as the Columbus Dispatch headline writers put it: “Students at Ohio charter schools show greater academic gains”?

Simple.

Fordham ignored all but a fraction of the Ohio charter schools in operation during the FY16-FY19 school years, including Ohio’s scandalously poor performing e-schools (yes, ECOT was still running then), the state’s nationally embarrassing dropout recovery charter schools (which have difficulty graduating even 10 percent of their students in 8 years), and the state’s special education schools – some of whom have been cited for habitually billing taxpayers for students they never had.

In other words, they only looked at the best possible charter clusters in the state. And even though they essentially ignored the worst actors in the state (effectively ignoring how more than ½ of all charter students perform), the “performance gains” they point to are not impressive.

For example, “Students attending charter schools from grades 4 to 8 improved from the 30th percentile on state math and English language arts exams to about the 40th percentile. High school students showed little or no gains on end-of-course exams.”

Really? A not-even-10-percentile improvement? And none in high school? That’s it?

How about this: “Attending a charter school in high school had no impact on the likelihood a student would receive a diploma.”

So we spend $828 million a year sending state money to charters that could go to kids in local public schools to have literally zero impact on attaining a diploma?

Egad.

Another problem: the report says charter students have better attendance rates. No word on whether the fact all charter students must be bused by local school districts, which in turn don’t have to bus district students, had any impact on that metric.

(Hint: it does.)

The report found better performance from charter students in at least one of the math or English standardized tests in 5 of Ohio’s 8 major urban districts (Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown). Only in Columbus did they outperform the district in both reading and math.

The report ignores that ECOT took more kids from Columbus in these years than any other charter school in Columbus. And, of course, those kids did far worse than Columbus students.

But even cherry picking students. And data. And methodology, Fordham only found slightly better performance in one of two tests the study examined (again, Ohio requires tests in many subjects, but I digress) in 5 urban districts, better performance in both tests in 1 and no better performance in Cincinnati and Toledo, which lost about $500 million in state revenue to charters during these 4 years the study examined.

Of course, the study also ignored that about ½ of all charter school students do NOT come from the major urban districts, including large percentages of students in many of the brick and mortar schools Fordham examined for this study. For example, about 30 percent of Breakthrough Schools students in Cleveland don’t come from Cleveland. Yet Breakthrough’s performance is always only compared with Cleveland.

Ohio charter school performance isn’t complicated. Overall, it’s really not good, especially when you look at the approximately 50 percent of students who attend online, dropout recovery or special needs schools. Are there exceptions? Of course. But here’s what the most recent data tell us:

  • More than 34% of Ohio public school graduates have a college degree within 6 years. Just 12.7% of charter school graduates do
  • More than 58% of Ohio public school graduates are enrolled in college within two years; only 37.2% of Ohio charter school graduates are.

Why is this important? Because if charter schools performed the same as Ohio’s public schools, 750 more charter school students would have college degrees. Why does that matter? Because a college degree will allow you to make about $1 million more during your lifetime than not having it. So it can be said that Ohio charter schools are costing Ohioans about $750 million in potential earnings, just from one class of students!

Some more:

  • The average dropout recovery charter school has less than 0.5% of its students earning an industry recognized credential within 9 years and less than 0.2% of those students earn at least 3 dual enrollment credits within 4 years.
  • In 52 of the state’s 68 dropout recovery charter schools, no kids earned at least 3 dual enrollment credits within 4 years
  • In 33 of the state’s 68 dropout recovery charter schools, no kids earned an industry recognized credential within 9 years!
  • In more than 1 in 5 Ohio charter schools, more than 15% of their teachers teach outside their accredited subjects
  • The median percentage of inexperienced teachers in Ohio charter schools is 34.1%. The median in an Ohio public school building is 6%.

During the time period this report examined, nearly $4 billion in state money was transferred from kids in local public school districts to Ohio’s privately run charter schools. And even if you look at the very best slice of the mud pie that is Ohio’s charter school sector, you get perhaps modest gains – not even 10 percentiles worth though – in a few of the schools.

But that didn’t stop Fordham from excitedly declaring at the beginning of its report that this study demonstrates that “Ohio’s brick-and-mortar charters have proven themselves capable of providing quality options—and it’s time to give families across the state similar opportunities.” Or that “high-quality” charters should be expanded.

One more dirty little secret about “high-quality” charters? Historically, the “high-quality” school buildings in Ohio’s major urban districts actually outperform the “high-quality” charter schools in those districts.

So maybe the answer, especially during this pandemic, is expanding “high-quality” local public school buildings, or investing at least some of the $828 million currently being sent to Ohio’s mostly poor performing charter schools back to local public schools so they have a better shot at being dubbed “high quality”, thereby expanding the number of “high-quality” options for students?

Just a thought…