Archives for category: School Choice

Politicians in New York City and New York State eagerly seek the endorsement of the ultra-orthodox Hasidic community because it tends to vote as a bloc, favoring whoever supports their interests. One of their highest goals is to make sure that their religious schools are free of any state mandates. Andrew Yang has emerged as the leading defender of the yeshivas and their “right” not to provide a secular education.

An investigation of yeshivas by New York City officials that started in 2015 wasn’t completed until 2019. The investigation was prompted as a result of complaints by a group of yeshiva graduates called YAFFED (Young Advocates for Fair Education), led by Naftuli Moser. YAFFED said that some yeshivas failed to teach basic secular subjects such as English, science, and mathematics, leaving their students unprepared to enter secular society. YAFFED accused Mayor de Blasio of slowing down the investigation to placate his allies in the politically powerful Orthodox Jewish community.

In 2018, the New York Times ran an opinion piece by a graduate of a yeshiva complaining that all of his schooling had been taught in Yiddish or Hebrew, leaving him with no skills for the modern economy.

I was raised in New York’s Hasidic community and educated in its schools. At my yeshiva elementary school, I received robust instruction in Talmudic discourse and Jewish religious law, but not a word about history, geography, science, literature, art or most other subjects required by New York State law. I received rudimentary instruction in English and arithmetic — an afterthought after a long day of religious studies — but by high school, secular studies were dispensed with altogether.

The language of instruction was, for the most part, Yiddish. English, our teachers would remind us, was profane.

During my senior year of high school, a common sight in our study hall was of students learning to sign their names in English, practicing for their marriage license. For many, it was the first time writing their names in anything but Yiddish or Hebrew.

When I was in my 20s, already a father of three, I had no marketable skills, despite 18 years of schooling. I could rely only on an ill-paid position as a teacher of religious studies at the local boys’ yeshiva, which required no special training or certification. As our family grew steadily — birth control, or even basic sexual education, wasn’t part of the curriculum — my then-wife and I struggled, even with food stamps, Medicaid and Section 8 housing vouchers, which are officially factored into the budgets of many of New York’s Hasidic families.

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, reported that the yeshivas “receive hundreds of millions of dollars in government funding, through federal programs like Title I and Head Start and state programs like Academic Intervention Services and universal pre-K. For New York City’s yeshivas, $120 million comes from the state-funded, city-run Child Care and Development Block Grant subsidy program: nearly a quarter of the allocation to the entire city.”

When the state or city says that the yeshivas should provide an education for their students that is “substantially equivalent” to secular education, their leaders cry “separation of church and state!” But, inconsistently, their representatives in the legislature actively lobby for tuition tax credits and vouchers. They want the state’s money but not its oversight of the education they provide.

Politico reported in 2019:

Only two out of 28 yeshivas investigated by the city’s Department of Education were deemed to be providing an education “substantially equivalent“ to that given at secular public schools, with another nine on their way to providing it, according to the city’s report on the long-delayed investigation into failing yeshivas.

The group Young Advocates for Fair Education, or YAFFED, lodged complaints against 39 yeshivas it deemed failing in 2015, which is when the city ostensibly began its investigation. After years of delay, the city narrowed its scope to only 28 of the schools. The DOE finished its visits to those schools this year, according to a letter schools Chancellor Richard Carranza sent to Shannon Tahoe, the interim state education commissioner, on

Out of those 28 schools, the DOE said only two were found to be substantially equivalent to legally mandated secular education standards; nine schools were found to be moving toward substantial equivalency; 12 were cited as “developing in their provision of substantially equivalent instruction,” and another five were deemed “underdeveloped in demonstrating or providing evidence of substantially equivalent instruction.

Some yeshivas refused to allow the investigators to enter.

Now comes an election for Mayor in 2021, and Andrew Yang is a prominent candidate.

Yang has made a point of siding with the Orthodox community and defending their “right” to ignore state curriculum standards (e.g., teaching secular subjects like mathematics and science in English, not Hebrew or yiddish). Consequently, he has become a favorite among the leaders of the Ultra-Orthodox community. Yang has made a point of his support for parent’s freedom to choose any kind of education they want.

As other candidates danced around the subject, Yang offered a blunt defense of the embattled Jewish private schools. “I do not think we should be prescribing a curriculum unless that curriculum can be demonstrated to have improved impact on people’s career trajectories and prospects,” Yang said.

He added, pointing to his own month-long Bible course at a Westchester prep school: “I do not see why we somehow are prioritizing secular over faith-based learning.”

The stance rankled some education advocates, who pointed to a 2019 report that found just a fraction of yeshivas were providing students with adequate secular instruction. Other observers described the comments, which echoed a similar answer recently given to The Forward by Yang, as a transparent attempt to curry favor with the Hasidic voting bloc.

This is a transparently disingenuous response, since studying the Bible as literature for a month is very different from religious indoctrination and studying almost all subjects in Hebrew or Yiddish. Certainly this does not prepare young people to enter the modern economy with the skills they need. (Apparently, Yang attended public high school in Somers, New York, in Westchester County, then the private Phillips Exeter in Massachusetts.)

“It’s like a horse race where one horse comes from last to near the top,” one leader in the Orthodox community, who asked for anonymity in order to speak candidly, told Gothamist. While Eric Adams and Scott Stringer were previously seen as the front-runner candidates, “nobody expected we’d even look at this guy,” the source added of Yang. “All of a sudden it’s ‘Whew!’ He’s certainly in that first tier pool of candidates.”

On Twitter, both the Satmar and Bobov, two of Brooklyn’s most influential Hasidic dynasties, have referred to Yang’s comments as “refreshing.” The head of New York government relations for Agudath Israel, an umbrella organization for Haredi Orthodox synagogues, also commended the candidate on Thursday.

The recent comments mark a shift from an answer Yang gave to Politico last month, in which he suggested that schools not meeting baseline standards should be investigated. In the time since, the outlet noted, the campaign has hired the Borough Park District Leader David Schwartz as director of Jewish Community Outreach.

“The things he’s saying echo with great precision what the pro-yeshiva groups are saying,” another source in the Orthodox community told Gothamist. “He’s very carefully putting these talking points out there.”

Yang defended his stance at a forum moderated by Randi Weingarten:

Gracie Mansion hopeful Andrew Yang on Thursday mounted an extraordinary defense of the Big Apple’s embattled yeshiva schools, telling a Jewish mayoral forum that the city has little business “prescribing” secular curriculum to the religious institutions.

Yang made the comments during a virtual New York City mayoral forum hosted by the New York Jewish Agenda after moderator Randi Weingarten asked him: “As mayor, how would you ensure that every child receives what the New York state Constitution calls a sound basic education on secular topics, including not just the public schools, but including the yeshivas and other religious schools.”

“When I looked at the yeshiva question, Randi, the first thing I wanted to see were — what were the outcomes, what is the data,” Yang responded.

The tech entrepreneur and a leading Democratic front-runner in the mayoral race, continued, “I do not think we should be prescribing a curriculum unless that curriculum can be demonstrated to have improved impact on people’s career trajectories and prospects afterwards.”

Yang’s remarks fly in the face of a damning 2019 report by the Department of Educationon yeshiva schools in the city that found that just two of 28 provided adequate secular education to their students.

“If a school is delivering the same outcomes, like, I do not think we should be prescribing rigid curricula,” said Yang who then spoke of his experience in high school.

“I will also say that when I was in public school we studied the Bible for a month. Bible as literature,” he said. “If it was good enough for my public school, I do not see why we somehow are prioritizing secular over faith-based learning.”

Andrew Yang is a cynical opportunist.

Three former state superintendents of education in Indiana wrote a joint letter opposing the Republican plan to expand vouchers.

Jennifer McCormick, Glenda Ritz and Suellen Reed Goddard released a letter criticizing the proposals for diverting funding away from traditional public school students.

House Bill 1005 seeks to expand the eligibility of who can receive a school voucher and would create the “education scholarship program” to allow some families funding for education services outside of public school.

The House is expected to take up the bill for final vote Tuesday.

Reed Goddard took part in a virtual event Monday with the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, a non-profit organization that opposes legislation to fund private school vouchers. Goddard urged people to call their elected officials to oppose the House bill and other legislation. 

“Now is not the time to divert any of our funding from public education where about 94% of our students are educated,” she said. “We are in the throes of a pandemic which challenges technology, teaching techniques, students and parents support and workforce issues.”

Goddard and others fear Gov. Eric Holcomb’s modest increase for K-12 funding in his two-year budget proposal will be erased by legislation expanded choice options if they become law.

Here is the text of the letter signed by the three former state chiefs:

An Opposition Letter from Public School Supporters
to Members of the Indiana General Assembly and Governor Holcomb

In support of the 94% of Indiana students who attend public schools, we strongly oppose House Bill 1005, Senate Bill 412 and Senate Bill 413. Education Scholarship Accounts will divert adequate and equitable funding away from public school students and open the door to unacceptable practices. Hoosiers all lose when children are not well educated and public tax dollars are not accounted for responsibly. 

In Indiana communities, public schools have been and will continue to be the hub for vital services supporting the well-being of the whole child. Passing HB 1005, SB 412 or SB 413 would divert significant monies away from public schools, enhance the opportunity for a lack of oversight related to the intended educational purpose of such funds, further exacerbate insufficiencies tied to Indiana’s teacher compensation, and increase the risk to student growth, proficiency, and well-being. 

Indiana’s most vulnerable youth and families deserve a per-pupil funding level that promotes adequate and equitable funding. Unfortunately, the language of HB 1005 gives advantages to families with high incomes and adds disadvantages for our most vulnerable by shifting risks. HB 1005, if passed, will defeat the spirit of the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act and run counter to the initial rhetoric behind Indiana’s school choice.

Even with the amendment, HB 1005 would result in 94% of Indiana’s students receiving less than the tuition support increase of $377 million over two years that Gov. Holcomb’s proposed. Teacher compensation, support staff pay, COVID-19 academic and operational-related costs, student support service demands, constantly changing graduation and accountability requirements, and K-12 workforce development efforts certainly deserve the funding necessary to serve Hoosier students. 

We firmly oppose HB 1005, SB 412 and SB 413. We firmly support the adequate and equitable funding of our Indiana’s public schools representing 94% of Hoosier students and families. 

Dr. Suellen Reed Goddard
1993-2009 Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction

Glenda Ritz
2013-2017 Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction

Dr. Jennifer McCormick
2018-2021 Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction. 

The following organizations support this letter:

Indiana Coalition for Public Education
AFT Indiana
Indiana Association of Career and Technical Education Districts (IACTED)
Indiana Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (IACTE)
Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents
Indiana Council of Administrators of Special Education (ICASE)
Indiana Parent-Teacher Association (PTA)
Indiana Small and Rural Schools Association
Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA)
Indiana Urban Schools Association

Can anyone explain why the Republicans in the legislature want to harm the public schools that enroll 94% of the children of the state? Did the Republicans familiarize themselves with the research on vouchers, which consistently finds a “significantly negative effect” on academic achievement for students who leave public schools for voucher schools? Why do they want to undermine the quality of their state’s public schools?



SB 48 Will Be Heard at 3:30 p.m. on 2/17/21 in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education Your Voice is Needed!
What you can do . . .
1) Make calls and/or send emails – We are urging all those connected to Pastors for Florida Children to contact the members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and encourage them to vote “NO” on this bill! We are hoping to flood their offices with calls/emails up until the committee discussion on SB 48 at 3:30 p.m. on 2/17. If you live within the districts of any of the Senators on the subcommittee, be sure to indicate that in your call/email. Ask your family members, friends and colleagues to contact them as well. Below is some more information as well as talking points about the bill: 
SB 48 is moving through the legislative process and will divert more tax dollars away from public schools and further remove public oversight, transparency and accountability. If passed, SB 48 would expand eligibility for school-voucher programs, consolidate existing choice programs and allow parents to use taxpayer-backed education savings accounts for private schools and other costs.
Private schools that take state scholarships also do not have to meet state standards for teacher qualifications, facilities, curriculum or finances. Also, within the last calendar year, evidence has been presented that private schools that accept state money are currently able to discriminate against some of the state’s students without any repercussions.
SB 48 will outsource the oversight of Florida’s $1 billion voucher program to private organizations that will profit from the program expansion. There is no local oversight from elected officials and private organization audits are also reduced from annually to every three years.
The almost 3 million schoolchildren in Florida deserve better! Every child in Florida deserves to have access to a high quality education as is mandated by the Florida Constitution. 
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education Members and Contact Information:Chair Doug Broxson (R)broxson.doug@flsenate.gov850-487-5001@DougBroxson
Vice Chair Manny Diaz (R) — *Bill Sponsordiaz.manny@flsenate.gov850-487-5036@SenMannyDiazJr
Sen. Janet Cruz (D)cruz.janet@flsenate.gov850-487-5018@SenJanetCruz
Sen. Audrey Gibson (D)gibson.audrey@flsenate.gov850-487-5006@SenAudrey2eet
Sen. Joe Gruters (R)gruters.joe@flsenate.gov850-487-5023@JoeGruters
Sen. Travis Hutson (R)hutson.travis.web@flsenate.gov850-487-5007@TravisJHutson
Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (R)passidomo.kathleen@flsenate.gov850-487-5028@Kathleen4SWFL
Sen. Tina Polsky (D)polsky.tina@flsenate.gov850-487-5029@TinaPolsky
Sen. Tom Wright (R)wright.tom.web@flsenate.gov850-487-5014@SenTomWright
2) Get Educated – The League of Women Voters of Florida hosted a Lunch & Learn program dedicated solely to the detriments that this legislation will cause, featuring Rev. Rachel Gunter Shapard, one of the co-founders of Pastors for Florida Children. If you would like to view it to learn more about SB 48 click here. If you were not able to attend the webinar hosted by Public Funds Public Schools entitled “Fighting Voucher Legislation in 2021: An Update on State Voucher Bills and Tools to Oppose Them,” you can view the recording here. The webinar featured representatives of Public Funds Public Schools (PFPS), the Network for Public Education (NPE), and the National Coalition for Public Education (NCPE). It is worth your time!
3) Write an Op-Ed – if you are a writer, we need you! It is imperative that we tell the other side of the story. Privatizers are bringing in parents and students who have benefited from vouchers to testify before legislative committees, but the problem is that private school students only represent 10% of the school-age population in Florida. We need to help amplify the stories of students who attended voucher schools and due to a negative experience had to return to public schools, or of public schools that are in underfunded that are doing incredible work, but need more resources to make a truly transformative impact. Contact us if you would like to write an Op-Ed. 
4) Make a connection – If you know of students who have utilized a voucher “scholarship” who had a negative experience and had to return to a public school, please connect us to them! Now more than ever it is imperative to share the other side of the story. 
Sincerely,
Rev. James T. GoldenChair, Social Action Committee,Florida African Methodist Episcopal Church
Rev. Joyce Lieberman Executive/Stated Clerk,Synod of South Atlantic – Presbyterian Church (USA)
Rev. Rachel Gunter ShapardRegional Vice President, Together for Hope – Black BeltContact us:pastorsforflchildren@gmail.com ‌  ‌
Pastors for Florida Children | PO Box 488 Bradenton, FL 34206 Phone: Unsubscribe johnson.cfj@gmail.comUpdate Profile | Customer Contact Data NoticeSent by pastorsforflchildren@gmail.com powered byTry email marketing for free today!

— 
Charles Foster Johnson, Pastor, Bread Fellowship of Fort WorthExecutive Director, Pastors for Texas ChildrenP.O. Box 471155Fort Worth, TX 76147
(c)210-379-1066
www.pastorsfortexaschildren.comwww.charlesfosterjohnson.com

This article was written by Swedish teacher Filippa Mannerheim and translated by retired Swedish educator Sara Hjelm. It appeared in the Swedish publication EXPRESSEN.

Mannerheim expresses her outrage at the corruption and inequity that have flowed from the Swedish policy of privatization. Her articles are a warning to those of us in the United States, as many states are now considering legislation to copy the Swedish free-market model, allowing anyone–including for-profit enterprises–to supply educational services to student.

Politicians let schools sink into a swamp of corruption 

Published 8 Feb 2021 

High school teacher Filippa Mannerheim. 

The Swedish Parliament. 

Photo: OLLE SPORRONG

Teacher Filippa Mannerheim sparked a great debate with her indictment against Swedish parliamentary politicians about the market school. 

All parties – except M and KD have responded – and Mannerheim is now writing her closing remarks. 

This is a cultural article, where writers can express personal opinions and make assessments of works of art. 

DEBT DEBATE. 

There was once a farmer who was terribly hard of hearing, something he was ashamed of. One day, while standing carving on an ax handle, he saw the surveyor coming walking on the road. “First he probably asks what I do and then I answer ‘Ax handle'”, the old man thought. Then he asks if he can borrow my mare and then I say: “The riders have ridden her back off”. And when he asks about my old echo, I answer “She is completely ruined and holds neither weather nor water.”  

– Good day! said the surveyor.  

“Ax shaft,” replied the old man.  

This story my father read to me when I was a child and I remember that we laughed a lot at the old man’s determined but damned answers. That the saga is now revived within me again, after 40 years, is no coincidence.  

After reading the six (non) answers from our parliamentary parties after my article “I accuse…!”, I am saddened by school policy. What is positive is that our Riksdag politicians have answers to all my questions. What is negative is that their answers rarely have to do with the questions.  

The Center Party proudly claims (after three months of reflection, while their formulations have gone back and forth between communicators and party leadership), that they at least want to increase freedom of choice and transparency in Swedish schools, but then make proposals that lead to the exact opposite – slippery as eels in their struggle to defend the corporations’ dividends. The Liberals write an answer so full of empty phrases that I have already forgotten what the message was. I think there was something about teachers being very important. 

The Social Democrats and the Green Party agree with me in substance but unfortunately can do nothing, “very boring, really.” The Western Party is outraged, the Sweden Democrats, as usual, blame the immigrants and the 

Moderates and Christian Democrats don’t bother to even put together an answer. Probably they have none.  

– Swedish schools are in deep crisis! Politicians, you must act! 

– Good day, ax handle, little friend. 

What exactly is politics for our politicians? I ask myself. Is it a polished, trembling index finger in the air, or is it a sincere description of the problem and a long-term and well-thought-out vision of what Sweden can become, based on knowledge, a sense of responsibility and an honest will to improve our society?  

Who knows? Not me anyway.  

In another fairy tale I recently read with my 

students, HC Andersen lets the little child 

shout the obvious: “The emperor is naked!” 

Many of us are shouting now, but without our 

rulers hearing us.  

Photo: CSABA BENE PERLENBERG / 

But this is not a fairytale. This is 2021 in a  small but extreme country in the north, where the majority of our parliamentary parties have made it clear to us voters that the Swedish school market, with its destructive consequences, will remain. The limited companies’ expansion at the expense of the municipal school, the unfair school choice system, the extreme and skewed construction of school fees that are running Swedish schools at the bottom, grade inflation, a rejected principle of openness and an increasingly segregated school system – all this we must continue to live with.  

This was not what we thought of the free school reform!  

Nevertheless, the majority of our political parties are determined to continue on the path that has led Swedish, tax-financed schools deeper and deeper into the dunes of corruption. The partners’ profits are too important to be legislated away. At the same time, meaningless messages are drummed out to voters as pale, Orwellian mantras: “All schools must be good!” “Free schools are good!”  

– Good day, ax handle.  

The fact remains: We are the only country in the world with this school model. No party, neither right-wing nor left-wing parties in the rest of the world, pushes the idea of ​​free establishment for commercial companies, an almost unlimited profit, lack of democratic transparency about how tax money is used and free for profit companies to choose and reject which children to teach. The Swedish school system is rigged.  

Several bourgeois opinion leaders and leading writers have happily begun to raise their voices against the market school. Even the Liberals have very recently expressed concern about venture capitalists as school owners. It gives a certain hope. But the fact that an overwhelming majority of our parliamentary parties cannot unanimously express that they are prepared to take responsibility and do something about the problems is nothing but outrageous. They simply do not want to stop being the only country in the world that prioritizes foreign venture capitalists over the country’s children.  

But Swedish schools are not the private property of politicians or limited companies to milk money and power out of. The schools belongs to us. The Swedish people. We pay for the party.  

In the 2022 election, we voters have the opportunity to use our votes wisely with the socially important school issue in focus. If we vote for a party that does not want to change the school system but only pretends to poke at it for the sake of visibility, the system will remain. And it will leave huge traces in our Swedish society.  

Parliamentary politician: I have nothing more to add in the matter. 

My accusation remains.  

By Filippa Mannerheim 

Filippa Mannerheim is a high school teacher of Swedish and history, as well as a writer and school debater.

The following article was written by Swedish high school teacher Filippa Mannherheim and translated by retired Swedish educator Sara Hjelm. It appeared in the Swedish publication Expressen. Sweden adopted a free-market system of schooling in the early 1990s, and the results have increased segregation without improving the quality of education or access to good schools. The free-market model, she writes, began with extravagant promises but has turned into a bonanza for entrepreneurs and profiteers.

Swedish education is a shame – you politicians have failed

Published 17 Nov 2020 at 06.15, updated 18 Nov at 10.05

Teacher and school debater Filippa Mannerheim.Photo: Press

Teacher and school debater Filippa Mannerheim today publishes an open letter on Expressen’s culture page to Sweden’s Riksdag politicians. “It is time to merge across party lines and stop the expansion of limited companies,” she writes.

This is a cultural article, where writers can express personal opinions and make assessments of works of art.


Parliamentary politicians!

I am a Swedish citizen. I am a teacher. I’m a parent. And I am deeply concerned about the future of Swedish schools. 

The Swedish school has been subjected to a world-unique experiment. In the rest of the world, it is unreasonable for limited companies to make unregulated profits on tax money. Despite this, we in Sweden donate hundreds of millions of kronor to shareholders in company groups year after year – money that was intended for our children’s education.

With the deregulation of the 1990s, the ambition was to create thriving, independent schools, foundations, parent cooperatives and small limited company schools with educational alternatives. Today, this vision has turned into an uncontrollable market where venture capital companies are expanding and devouring tax money at breakneck speed. 

The business model is simple: you buy smaller independent schools and incorporate them into the growing groups and then make a profit by targeting marketing to easy-to-teach, independent students, through special dress codes, requirements for high tempo and great drive or through English as a study language. With a sold-out, simpler student base, the corporation schools can reduce salaries, teacher density, resource staff and – to attract even more lucrative student customers – sprinkle with joy-ratings to show the school’s “high results”.

When the profitable students have been absorbed by the independent school, the municipal school is left with a more difficult student base and with the overall responsibility for all the municipality’s students. And when the municipal school’s student allowance must be increased due to the task becoming more demanding, the independent schools ‘student allowance is also increased and the groups’ profits can increase even more. A bomb-proof business model for venture capital companies but a devastating tax waste for the Swedish citizens. 

You, politicians, have made our common school a wet dream for venture capital companies.

Because while the school giant Academedia, now listed on the stock exchange, makes a profit of SEK 556 million before tax, the size of the children’s groups in the preschool increases and greatly exceeds the National Agency for Education’s benchmarks. While the International English School (IES) presents a profit of 254 million, many children are in classrooms without teaching materials and are taught by foreign teachers without Swedish qualification or by qualified teachers who earn SEK 3,000 less a month than their municipal colleagues. While schools and colleges are sounding the alarm about declining knowledge results, joy grades are rising, as grades have become a competitive tool on the market. While the independent school giants receive a rent discount for establishing themselves in the municipalities, children with diagnoses or a mother tongue other than Swedish are rejected, as they are more expensive to teach.

Before the National Agency for Education made all statistics about individual schools secret – because it became a “trade secret” – all this information was available to us. Today it does not do that anymore, which threatens our democracy. 

I accuse you of that.

Swedish schools bleed at the same time as resources are available. But the tax money that was intended to go to student support, small groups, more teachers, more resource staff, teaching materials and smaller classes ends up in tax havens instead. 

You, politicians, have made our common school a wet dream for venture capital companies. It’s shameful. It’s sad. It is unworthy of a knowledge nation. 

After Chile abolished profit-driven independent schools four years ago, we are left alone in the world with our school system. Denmark, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, England all have independent schools but profits are prohibited or strictly regulated. If the rest of the world can have well-functioning independent schools for parents to choose from, without the owners being allowed to pick out millions in profits – why can’t we? 

The company magnates have the money. Nine politicians have the power. I have, apart from my furious despair over the state of affairs, only my pen and my conviction that the truth about Sweden’s school system must emerge.

I’m accusing …! was written by Émile Zola and published January 13, 1898. Zola turned in the letter to the President of France and took a stand for the Jewish officer Alfred Dreyfus who had been convicted of high treason.

Parliamentary politicians. This letter has become long and it is time to summarize: 

I accuse you, the Social Democrats! Your party name is a pathetic remnant from the time when you defended an equal school – for all children from all walks of life. Today you have voluntarily put your gag on one of Sweden’s most important issues – the marketing school. It is not democracy but its exact opposite: it is political pity.

I accuse you, the Moderates! You are talking about more controls, even though it obviously does not help against the corruption-like elements that the market school has produced, where joy grades, instead of education, have become a competitive tool in the fight for the most easily taught students. You have with your nonchalance betrayed our nation and its youngest citizens.

I accuse you, Liberals. You call yourself a “school party” and claim that teachers should be authorities in the classrooms. At the same time, you have turned children and parents into school customers and “grade shoppers” and teachers into servile sellers of grades, with the task of keeping customers happy for their own school’s survival. The system is morally corrupt and you are partly responsible. 

I accuse you, the Christian Democrats. Your reluctance to see how the interest in profit hits the school is depressing. You earn money when you should serve our children. To you, I have only one thing to say: Drive the traders out of the temple!

I accuse you, the Green Party. In 2013, your congress voted no to welfare gains. After that, your school policy has consisted of hand hearts on Youtube, despite the fact that you held the post of Minister of Education. Your contribution on the school grounds has been an unfunded “Read-write-count-guarantee” and a struggle for more sex and cohabitation education, while the school falls. 

I accuse you, the Sweden Democrats. You talk about assimilation, community and security. Yet you support a school system that increases segregation and allows jihadist schools run by people with links to Islamism and violent extremism and schools with religious indoctrination of children. And after a special lunch at Riche, you turned to the issue of banning profiteering and sat yourself on lap in the independent school lobby. 

I accuse you, the Left Party. You have been passive and have not even indicated that you would like to overthrow the government on this issue. The school groups’ profit-taking and expansion is a matter of destiny for our country and no matter how outrageous alone you are here in Sweden, you have the rest of the world on your side. Overthrow the government! This issue is not negotiable.

I accuse you, Center Party! You put venture capital companies’ right to millions in profits ahead of future generations and call Sweden’s principle of openness – the foundation of our democracy – a “hot pursuit of free enterprise”. You let your friends in business management legally steal our taxes – millions that were meant for education. You pose shamelessly with the groups great in photo, without being ashamed. You have let Sweden down. 

Knowledge, education and upbringing should be at the center of this socially important activity – not money.

My questions to you politicians are the following: What will happen to Sweden when more and more children do not get the education they need? When foreign venture capital companies gain more and more influence over the school and we citizens lose both transparency and the principle of openness? When tax money, through independent school groups, ends up in the pockets of fundamentalists and shareholders in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Malta? What opportunities will we have to govern the school in a democratic way when the power of foreign owners over our education system increases through the expansion of the school groups? 

One last reflection. Whatever it may now be worth to you: Schools are not just buildings with children and teachers inside. Schools are not just childcare while parents work. The school is a common community building, where we adults prepare future generations for the future. Knowledge, education and upbringing should be at the center of this socially important activity – not money. 

If we demolish this common building, which you, politicians, are well on your way to doing, society will also fall to pieces, slowly but surely. Your society, just like mine. Your children’s society, just like my children’s society. 

Parliamentary politicians. The time has come. It is time to merge across party lines and stop the expansion of venture companies and take back the tax millions and education to the Swedish people.

While we still can. 

By Filippa Mannerheim

Filippa Mannerheim is a high school teacher of Swedish and history, and a school debater.

Writing in ohiocapital.com, Jeanne Melvin and Denis Smith denounced the central role that the Thomas B. Fordham Institute plays in directing education policy in Ohio. TBF is the think tank of the Ohio Republican Party; that party has controlled the state in recent years. It is curious that TBF directs education policy in Ohio since TBF is based in Washington, D.C.

Melvin is a parent activist, and Smith worked for the Ohio Department of Education.

In Ohio, TBF has been a strong advocate for high-stakes testing and school privatization. It has pushed charter schools and other conservative reforms in Ohio.

As the article says, TBF is an advocacy organization, not a think tank. Its policy positions are aligned with other conservative organizations, still promoting the failed reforms of the past two decades, unable to imagine schools that are not subject to high-stakes testing, unable to imagine schools that are not governed by carrots-and-sticks. TBF is also a charter school authorizer and collects a percentage of the state revenue for every student who enrolls in one of their charter schools. Many of their charter schools have failed. Most charter schools in Ohio are rated low-performing by the state.

Randall Balmer is one of Iowa’s most accomplished sons. After growing up in Iowa and attending its public schools, he went on to success as a historian, author, and professor, now at Dartmouth College. In addition to writing award-winning books about religion, he wrote a biography of President Jimmy Carter and won an Emmy for a three-part PBS series on the Evangelical church.

He wrote a compelling editorial warning Iowans against the Republicans’ plans to introduce a sweeping choice plan, which will divert students and funding from community public schools. He called school choice a “mirage.”

He began with plain truths:

As a graduate of Iowa public schools, I was saddened to read about the governor’s “school choice” proposal. Public education is one of our nation’s best ideas, and the persistent attempts on the part of politicians to undermine it with the misleading rhetoric of “choice” represents a real threat to the future of democracy.

The Republicans who control the North Carolina legislature want to divert public funds to religious and private schools. This outright theft of public funds is cynically called a bill for “equity and opportunity,” although it will increase racial segregation, undermine equity, and subsidize students to attend schools of lesser quality than public schools.

At what point do these thieves of public money reveal their true motives and stop stealing the egalitarian language of public education? There is nothing egalitarian about their scheme to take money from public schools and transfer it to low-quality religious schools. Some of these schools will use racist textbooks. Some will exclude students whose parents are gay. Some will be attached to churches that teach snake-handling. Few will have certified teachers or meet any state standards. North Carolina Republicans don’t care about the future of their state. They prefer to subsidize low-quality schools instead of improving their public schools.


Kris Nordstrom of NC Policy Watch wrote this description of the legislation. It was shared with me by Public Schools First North Carolina:

HB32 would make five changes to the Opportunity Scholarship program:

1.     No prior public school enrollment requirement for entering second graders: Under current law, first-time voucher recipients had to previously been enrolled in a public school unless they are entering kindergarten or first grade. Under H32, applicants entering second grade would not have to have been previously enrolled in a public school. As a result, more vouchers will be provided to students who were already enrolled in a private school.

2.     Increase value of the voucher: Since its inception in FY 2014-15, the Opportunity Scholarship voucher has been capped at $4,200. Under HB32, the maximum voucher amount would be set to “70 percent of the average State per pupil allocation in the prior fiscal year.” The average state per pupil allocation is currently $6,586, implying a maximum voucher of more than $4,610 if, as proposed, this goes into effect for vouchers awarded in the 2022-23 school year. The maximum voucher value would then be bumped up to 80% of the average State per pupil allocation in the 2023-24 school year and beyond. This would permit vouchers of up to $5,269, given current state spending levels.

3.     Loosening of prior public school enrollment requirement in grades 3-12: HB32 would allow students entering grades 3-12 to also be eligible for a voucher even if they’re already enrolled in a private school, so long as they were in a public school in the preceding semester. For example, if a student started their school year in a public school, but transferred to a private school for the spring semester, they would still be eligible for a voucher in the subsequent school year. This change would first apply to vouchers awarded in the 2022-23 school year.

4.     Diversion of funds to marketing efforts: Since inception, the Opportunity Scholarship program has been overfunded. HB32 would divert $500,000 worth of unused funds to “a nonprofit corporation representing parents and families” to market the program in an effort to juice up demand. There are few (if any) organizations that would qualify for these funds beyond Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina. It is probably just a coincidence that PEFNC provided HB32 sponsor Rep. Hugh Blackwell with an all-expenses paid trip to Miami in 2012.

5.     Increase of administration funding. Under current law, the NC State Education Assistance Authority  may retain $1.5 million for administrating the Opportunity Scholarship program. Under HB32, they would be allowed to use up to 2.5% of appropriated funds. That equates to $2.1 million for FY 2021-22, rising to $3.6 million by FY 2027-28.

The bill also amends the state’s two other voucher programs: the Disabilities Grant voucher and Personal Education Savings Accounts vouchers.

The Disabilities Grant is a traditional voucher covering up to $8,000 per year for students with disabilities. Funds can be used for school tuition, as well as for related expenses such as therapy, tutoring and educational technology.

Under the Personal Education Savings Accounts, parents of qualifying children receive a debit card loaded with $9,000 to be spent on a wide range of education-related expenses.

HB32 makes the following changes:

1.     Merges the two programs and changes the name. The combined program would be called Personal Education Student Accounts.

2.     Expands eligibility. Currently, students must have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to qualify for either program. Under HB32, eligibility would also be extended to students with 504 plans, which broadens the allowable disabilities. Students would also be eligible even if they are already enrolled in college, so long as they are taking less than 12 credits per year.

3.     Different awards and carry-forward rules. If a student is affected by autism, hearing impairment, moderate or severe intellectual or developmental disability, multiple, permanent orthopedic impairments, or visual impairment, they qualify for a higher award amount and may carry-forward up to $4,500 of unspent funds to the next fiscal year. These students will get $17,000 on their debit cards. Other disabled students’ awards are based on a percentage of per-student funding provided in the prior year. Based on 2020-21 funding levels, the award would be $9,549. These students would not be permitted to carry forward unspent funds.

4.     Eligibility verification relaxed. Currently the State Education Assistance Authority is required to verify eligibility of 6% of applicants each year. That requirement would be removed under HB32.

5.     Additional skimming of funds by financial companies. HB32 would permit the charging of “transaction or merchant fees” of up to 2.5% of all spending.

6.     Forward-funds the program and creates guaranteed funding increases through FY 2031-32. Under HB32, appropriations for Personal Education Savings Accounts would be made to a reserve account to forward-fund vouchers in the subsequent fiscal year. Additionally, funding would increase $1 million annually through FY 2031-32, increasing total funding by 62%. Voucher programs are the only education programs with guaranteed funding increases beyond FY 2021-22.

Finally, the bill would permit county governments to contribute to either of the voucher programs. Counties would be able to appropriate up to $1,000 per every child in the county who receives a voucher and attends a private school in the county. These funds would be used to increase the size of student vouchers rather than increase the number of vouchers awarded.

Fiscal impact of Opportunity Scholarship changes

If HB32 becomes law, it would be the second consecutive year of rapid expansion of the Opportunity Scholarship program to divert additional state funding to students who were already planning to go to a private school. During the 2020 legislative session, the General Assembly expanded the program’s income eligibility requirements and removed limits on awards to students entering Kindergarten and first grade. These changes are expected to cost the state approximately $272 million over the next 10 years.

The changes proposed under H3B2 would add $159 million to these costs over the next nine years.

John Thompson, retired teacher and historian in Oklahoma, reviews law professor Derek Black’s recent book, Schoolhouse Burning.

Derek Black’s new book,Schoolhouse Burning: Public Education and the Assault on American Democracy, combines the best principles of the historical research that I was taught in the 1970s with the best of recent scholarship. Overall, the result is a surprisingly hopeful overview. Unfortunately, it offers an analysis of contemporary history which is more pessimistic.Black makes the case that at the end of the 1700s, and after the Civil War, Americans saw education as a right of citizenship. That explains why access to the 19th century American education system was second only to that of Prussia.

In 1972, however, the Supreme Court denied that education was a fundamental right, and that contributed to today’s argument that education is a private choice, not a public good. Black reminds us that “Schools are not roads.” But, today, the outcome of the battle for public education is unclear.

Black explains that federal grants to education began in the 1700s, but then the South criminalized education for blacks. Schoolhouse Burning doesn’t downplay the evils of slavery and racism which denied education to people of color. But, despite efforts by slave owners who knew the quest for knowledge was a huge threat to their system, enslaved persons passed “secret knowledge” to each other, 

Moreover, “Between 1865 and 1868, the nation embarked on the most aggressive education project before or since…” By 1867, 600 schools and 600 Sabbath Schools provided education services to former slaves. And, freedmen spent over $1 million on their educations through 1870, with 30,000 students paying tuition. Moreover, during Reconstruction, Congress demanded that states revise their constitutions, and provide education; Southern states acceded as they rejoined the nation.

According to Black, Congress’ effort to base readmission after the civil war created a “baseline” where “states could expand education rights, but they could not retract them.” Even the terrible 1899 ruling in Cummings v Richmond Co. Board of Education had a “silver lining.” Black notes, “wereas attacks on public education were the centerpiece of the assault on black citizenship, the right to education … nonetheless lived on.”

After the last decade of bipartisan denigration of education, Black has had to wrestle with the question whether African Americans were right to focus on education, as opposed to housing and jobs. He still believes the answer is “yes” because “public education has always represented the idea of America, not its reality.”

During the 1980s, the Reagan administration launched an assault on government as a whole, as well public schools. Those who would privatize schools and other institutions have shown remarkable political savvy in demonizing teachers and “government schools.” So “those who would fight to save public education are playing catch-up with opponents who have no intention of playing fair.”

Koch brothers, for instance, treated education as the “lowest hanging fruit for policy change.” Radical individualist-libertarians have advanced their own economic self-interest over public welfare. This market-driven approach “incentivizes insatiable, base human instincts.”

Black also speaks the truths that too many education supporters have been reluctant to express. He writes, “The assault on public education happened because of the general discontent with public education.” Because of its flaws and the ways it has been broken in many places, too many Democrats bought the argument for charter schools that “if its public dollars, its public education” Moreover, “It was Arne Duncan, not Betsy DeVos who fueled the fire” attacking tenure, and mandating test-driven accountability. Due to both the Great Recession and Duncan’s “reforms,” from 2009 to 2012, schools lost 300,000 teaching positions. Also, the number of students pursuing teaching degrees has dropped 30%.

Of course, the Trump administration stepped up the assault on the already-weaken public school system.  The administration’s most notable victory was tax deductions and credit for private schools. And, “Betsy DeVos even hinted she might ‘try to use the widespread pandemic-driven shutdown to create a path to national school vouchers.’”

Although Black’s research was conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic, he added a few final thoughts on the additional threats it produced. For instance, online learning can be spun as “a shining panacea,” replacing schoolhouses.

So, Black is not saying public education will be better off in five years. Too many Americans have not been taught to distinguish fact from fiction. And as more Americans lose faith in government, opponents are positioned to exploit those feelings. Black admits, “Public education could go out with a whimper, not a bang.” So, “I do not know how many additional losses our schools can take on top of the last ones.”

But Black does know about historic successes. His history can serve as a “pleasant reminder of silver linings – silver linings that, when added together could reveal enduring truths.”

Today, as in other frightening times, liberal democracy “is not as stable and robust as the world thought.” Political norms have declined but he still believes “the average American won’t let go of public education.” Black thus concludes, “I believe education will survive, not that it already has.”

The Tennessee legislature passed a voucher law. It was declared unconstitutional by lower courts.

However the State Supreme Court will revisit the issue. Voucher advocates are hopeful.

Think of all the low-cost, low-quality religious schools that will drain public dollars away from the state’s public schools.

Vouchers will not only take money away from the public schools, they will lower the overall quality of education in the state. Not a good way to build a better future.