Archives for category: Special Education

The expose published by ProPublic and the Chicago Tribune about the isolation of students with disabilities in locked “quiet rooms” got immediate response from the Governor and the State Board of Education in Illinois.

This is known as seclusion.

The governor said he will introduce legislation to end and prohibit the barbaric practice. 

The Illinois State Board of Education announced Wednesday that it will take emergency action to end the seclusion of children alone behind locked doors at schools, saying the practice has been “misused and overused to a shocking extent.”

Responding to a Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois investigation published a day earlier, Gov. J.B. Pritzker called the isolation of children in the state “appalling” and said he directed the education agency to make emergency rules for schools. He will then work with legislators to make the rules into law, he said.

The rules would not totally ban the use of timeout rooms but would end isolation. The state board said children would be put in timeout only if a “trained adult” is in the room and the door is unlocked. Timeouts also must be used only for therapeutic reasons or to protect the safety of students and staff, the board said.

The board also said it will begin collecting data on all instances of timeout and physical restraint in Illinois schools and will investigate “known cases of isolated seclusion to take appropriate disciplinary and corrective action.” State officials had not previously monitored these practices.

H/T to Laura Chapman for alerting me to this important news.

ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune collaborated to produce this shocking investigation of the mistreatment and abuse of students with special needs in Illinois.

This is a story of shameful cruelty to children. Read it and weep.

THE SPACES have gentle names: The reflection room. The cool-down room. The calming room. The quiet room.

But shut inside them, in public schools across the state, children as young as 5 wail for their parents, scream in anger and beg to be let out.

The students, most of them with disabilities, scratch the windows or tear at the padded walls. They throw their bodies against locked doors. They wet their pants. Some children spend hours inside these rooms, missing class time. Through it all, adults stay outside the door, writing down what happens.

In Illinois, it’s legal for school employees to seclude students in a separate space — to put them in “isolated timeout” — if the students pose a safety threat to themselves or others. Yet every school day, workers isolate children for reasons that violate the law, an investigation by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois has found.

Children were sent to isolation after refusing to do classwork, for swearing, for spilling milk, for throwing Legos. School employees use isolated timeout for convenience, out of frustration or as punishment, sometimes referring to it as “serving time.”

For this investigation, ProPublica Illinois and the Tribune obtained and analyzed thousands of detailed records that state law requires schools to create whenever they use seclusion. The resulting database documents more than 20,000 incidents from the 2017-18 school year and through early December 2018.

Of those, about 12,000 included enough detail to determine what prompted the timeout. In more than a third of these incidents, school workers documented no safety reason for the seclusion…

No federal law regulates the use of seclusion, and Congress has debated off and on for years whether that should change. Last fall, a bill was introduced that would prohibit seclusion in public schools that receive federal funding. A U.S. House committee held a hearing on the issue in January, but there’s been no movement since.

Nineteen states prohibit secluding children in locked rooms; four of them ban any type of seclusion. But Illinois continues to rely on the practice. The last time the U.S. Department of Education calculated state-level seclusion totals, in 2013-14, Illinois ranked No. 1.

The story contains stories of children locked in small rooms, where they urinate on themselves, bang on the walls and doors and scratch them. Some of the children have serious mental or emotional disorders. Some are disobedient. None deserves to be treated with such inhumanity. Experts say that punitive “seclusion” is not only cruel but ineffective.

After reading this report, I asked ProPublica where seclusion has been banned.

This was the answer:

These four states ban any type of seclusion (Georgia, Hawaii, Nevada, Pennsylvania) and that these are the remaining 15 you’re looking for: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming (with varying levels of exceptions).

Thanks to ProPublica for shedding light on this horrible practice.

 

After Elizabeth Warren released her bold K-12 education plan, with massive funding increases for poor students (Title1) and for students with disabilities, the charter lobby reacted with outrage because she also announced that she would eliminate the federal Charter Schools Program. The CSP has been not only wasteful and ineffective but has been used by Betsy DeVos as her personal slush fund, to reward corporate charter chains and charter advocacy organizations.

Carol Burris and Kevin Welner explain here why Warren’s plan would benefit all needy students, including those enrolled in charter schools. Educators should welcome her plan, whether they are in public schools or charter schools.

Please share widely, tweet and distribute.

One charter school in the Chester-Upland district in Pennsylvania enrolls 60% of the district’s elementary schools. It is owned by one of the richest men in the state, a lawyer who was Republican Tom Corbett’s biggest campaign donor. That charter school, the Chester Community Charter School, has asked the county to turn all of the district’s elementary students over to charters. 

CCCS is not just any charter. It has received special treatment, despite its poor performance.

More than 4,300 students in kindergarten through eighth grade are already enrolled in Chester Community Charter, which is managed by CSMI. The for-profit education management company was founded by Vahan Gureghian, a Gladwyne lawyer and major Republican donor. It manages another charter school in Atlantic City that was placed on probation by the New Jersey Department of Education this year. A third charter in Camden was previously closed due to poor academic performance. 

In an earlier post, I described how CCCS made a deal in 2017 to win authorization until 2026, which is an unprecedented extension for any charter. In that post, I noted:

Its test scores are very low. Only 16.7% were proficient in English language arts, compared to a state average of 63%. Only 7% were proficient in mathematics, compared to a state average of 45%.

By most metrics, this charter school is a failing school, yet it gets preferential treatment. The scores in the charter school are below those of the remaining public schools in the district.

CCCS promised not to open a high school if it received a new extension. The decision was made by the court-appointed receiver for the district, which had been pushed into near-bankruptcy by CCCS; the receiver had been treasurer for the Corbett campaign. Just a coincidence, no doubt.

The Chester-Upland school district was hammered by a court decision that requires it to send large payments for students with special needs who enroll in cyber charters, even though the cyber charters provide minimal or no services to those students; the cyber charters are a voracious aspect of the state’s landscape, gobbling up full funding while failing to produce any academic gains for students or to meet any state standards.

Brick-and-mortar CCCS is so aggressive that it buses in students from Philadelphia, little children who ride a bus 2-3 hours each way to attend a failing charter school.

This latest move will strip the Chester-Upland District of more funding, leaving it with only a high school.

The charters are akin to a vulture, hollowing out the district and drawing students to low-performing charters with promises.

 

The board of Alabama’s first charter school, LEAD Academy, fired its principal, Nicole Ivey, and she is retaliating with a lawsuit that airs the school’s dirty laundry. 

Those named in the suit include Charlotte Meadows, the school’s founder and board president who is also running for the Alabama Legislature; Soner Tarim; owner of Unity School Services, an education service provider; Unity School Services; and each of the school’s board members: Ryan Cantrell, William Green and Lori White….

The suit claims LEAD’s objective is to “maximize school revenue and academic achievement by minimizing the presence of students with special needs.”

Prior to the enrollment application window opening, the suit claims Meadows expressed that she did not want special education children enrolled in the school. When it was explained to Meadows that the law prohibits discrimination against this group of children, the suit claims that Meadows responded that “We’re a charter school. We don’t have to follow the law,”: or words to that effect…”
Meadows, a former Montgomery County Board of Education president, is currently running for the Alabama House of Representatives District 74 seat. The lawsuit claims that Meadows actively ran her campaign out of the school’s finance office during hours of operation…
Prior to the school opening, the Montgomery Area Association of Realtors donated $200,000 to LEAD Academy. The suit claims half of that was put into a bank account that was solely managed by the school’s board president, Meadows, and one board member, White.

To Ivey’s knowledge at the time of her separation with the school, “none of the remaining $100,000 was expended to support the education programs at LEAD Academy,” the suit claims.

And then she gets to the nepotism and cronyism.

 

It is illegal for public schools to refuse admission to students with disabilities.

A charter school in Philadelphia admitted a six-year-old, then rejected her when the parent told the school the child had special needs.

 

An education advocacy group sued a Philadelphia charter school on Thursday, alleging it barred a 6-year-old from enrolling after learning she required services for attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder.

The Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School in July accepted the girl for first grade this fall, according to the lawsuit brought by the Education Law Center. But when she and her mother, Georgette Hand, went to the school later that month with her documents, Veronica Joyner, the school’s founder and chief administrative officer, said she could not enroll the child because of her special needs.

Joyner told Hand the school “did not have the class or teacher to provide the services required” by the girl’s Individualized Education Plan, which specifies how schools must meet her needs, according to the lawsuit filed in Common Pleas Court Thursday. The suit seeks to have the girl immediately enrolled at the charter and awarded “compensatory education services” for the time she was excluded from the school. It also asks the court to order the school to include students with disabilities, and to contract with a provider to train staff on inclusion and diversity.

Margie Wakelin, a staff attorney for the Education Law Center, called the case “explicit” discrimination.

Charter schools say they are “public schools,” but they act like private schools.

It has been widely reported that charter schools enroll fewer students with disabilities and few of the students they enroll have severe disabilities.

The California Teachers Association and the United Teachers of Los Angeles reviewed public records to document the enrollments of students with disabilities in charter schools in San Diego, Los Angeles, and Oakland.

The study is titled “State of Denial: California Charter Schools and Special Education Students.”

https://www.utla.net/news/new-study-reveals-privately-run-charter-schools-under-enroll-students-disabilities

The study found that charters enroll fewer students with disabilities than public schools. Charter enrollment is 11% compared to more that 14% in public schools. Furthermore, charters enroll fewer students with severe disabilities. They avoid the students who are most expensive to educate. Consequently these charter policies cost the three districts between $64 million to $97 million each year.

In some of the charter networks, fewer than 10% of students are entitled to special education services. One celebrated charter in Oakland, the American Indian Model Schools, known for its high test scores, has fewer than 3%. The 12 Rocketship charter schools enroll only 7.34% students with disabilities. The two charters created by former Governor Jerry Brown in Oakland enroll fewer than 10% of students with disabilities.

CONCLUSIONS:

Advocates for students with disabilities have long held that charter schools do not enroll, and therefore do not serve, students with disabilities at the same levels as public school districts—either in overall enrollment or level of need—which leads to a greater fiscal impact for public school districts.

Our analysis affirms these concerns for the first time in the three California school districts we examined. Because of the structure for funding special education in California—which arguably disincentivizes enrolling students with disabilities in charter schools by funding based on total enrollment, and not need—we have no reason to believe that similar results would not be borne out in other districts throughout the state.

These findings are particularly important at this point in time in California, when a growing body of evidence shows that the rapid growth of charter schools has led to growing fiscal impact for public school districts. As policymakers at all levels of government weigh how to best meet the needs of California students equitably, we hope they will take these findings into account.

CONSIDERATIONS FOR POLICYMAKERS

The aim of our report was to provide an in-depth analysis of special education enrollment to quantify the anecdotal evidence so often cited by public education advocates. However, our analysis affirms the need for policy changes brought forth by advocates that would begin to address the inequities described in this report. The following represent just a few of those proposals:

1. Increase Federal Funding for Special Education: Perhaps the most obvious solution to these inequities would be for the federal government to meet its original 1975 obligation to fund 40 percent of public special education costs. This language is already in federal statute and requires only the political will to push Congress to budget the necessary resources. Federal lawmakers should make the original promise the absolute floor, rather than the ceiling, of funding for students with disabilities.

2. Federal Civil Rights Monitoring: The Office of Civil Rights within the US Department of Education must independently and proactively monitor student access to and service within charter schools across the nation. While some states are capable of effectively monitoring their education systems for civil rights abuses, the federal government’s total abdication of this power to prioritize equity and access has not, and will not, lead to a safer and more responsive system for students and their families.

3. Accountability and Oversight by the CA Department of Education (CDE) and Authorizers:
The CDE should hold accountable both the charter schools that are underserving special education students, and the authorizers who are responsible for their oversight. This would not be the first time a state has moved to protect the rights of special education students, as the New York State Education Department’s Office of Special Education recently investigated and concluded the practices at Success Academy Charter Schools were violating the civil rights of special education students under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Both Success Academy and the New York City Department of Education (Success Academy’s authorizer) were held accountable and corrective action was required.8

4. Re-Examine California’s Model for Funding Special Education to Account for Special Education Enrollment Disparities Between Districts and Charter Schools: California’s system of allocating special education funding based on total student population counts, as opposed to targeted counts of students by special education eligibility categories, has led to harmful fiscal impacts for the school districts we studied due to charter schools significantly under-enrolling these students. We have no reason to believe the results would be different for other districts.
This funding model makes two critical assumptions: that need does not vary by network or location, and that all schools are open to serving all students. These assumptions require further serious investigation because the current system actively discourages charter schools from both identifying students with disabilities, and perversely incentivizes the creation of barriers to access through enrollment.

5. Require Charter Schools to Join the Same SELPA as the District in Which They Are Located:

California policymakers should return the responsibility of coordinating special education services for charter schools to local Special Education Local Plan Areas (SELPAs), and end the practice of allowing charter schools to opt-out of their local SELPA in favor of remote charter- only SELPAs that are sometimes hundreds of miles away.
As it stands, from a functional perspective, a student moving between schools within the same local area may have inconsistent accommodations and experiences due to schools belonging to different SELPAs. This undermines continuity of services, which is of utmost importance for special education students. This opt-out also undermines the fiscal stability of local school districts which, as our analysis found, are serving a disproportionately larger share of special education students without a larger share of funding.

6. Conduct Educational and Fiscal Impact Analyses When Considering New Charter School Petitions and Renewals: As fiduciaries of their local education agencies, and as elected officials entrusted to protect all students’ best interests, charter school authorizers must make economic and education impact analyses an essential part of both the charter school authorization and reauthorization processes. Elected officials, the authorizing body, and the public must have independent information about the impact of opening a new charter school in an established education community. Information should cover the full learning needs of all students, including essential topics regarding enrollment, retention, discipline, and the financial impact on the community and the neighborhood’s public schools. Districts must be allowed to use the findings of these impact reports as justification for denying new charter school petitions that will have an adverse fiscal impact on district programs and services.

7. Charter School Site-Based Special Education Committees: Coupled with both state and local governance oversight, charter operators themselves can take a proactive role to ensure they are open to and meeting the needs of all children in the community in which they operate. Each charter school campus should create a site-based special education committee. As those who spend the most time with special education students, both educators and parents are uniquely positioned to lead these committees.

 

The parents of a student in New Orleans were dismayed when they realized that their daughter would graduate from high school even though she could neither count nor read. She was surely entitled under federal law to extra help but she never got it. Now she is a statistic: a graduate. A victory for the all-charter system that failed her.

Dennis Lewis remembers the moment clearly. It was the beginning of the school year, and he was trying to convince his wife that their 18-year-old wasn’t getting the services she needed from her public high school in New Orleans. 

He pulled out a handful of coins from his pocket, and asked his daughter how much money he was holding. 

“Sure enough, she couldn’t count it,” he recalled.

 

The look on his wife’s face — who would die from an aneurysm just three days later — was devastating.

Denesha Gray had just started the 12th grade. A few months later, still unable to perform basic addition, she beamed as she walked across the stage and received her diploma from McDonogh 35 Senior High School.

Gray, who struggles with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and bipolar disorder, had been allowed to progress to this point despite several red flags. She couldn’t count money, and she read only as well as a second grader. The system also failed to provide her with the type of tailored education program that her diagnoses mandated until the very end of her high school career.

Gray’s story recalls a sad episode that was once held up as Exhibit A in the failure of New Orleans’ public schools — the story of Bridget Green, who, despite being her school’s valedictorian in 2003, could not pass the state’s graduate exit exam of basic skills.

But Gray graduated in 2018, after being educated almost exclusively in a school system that was held up after Hurricane Katrina as a laboratory for education reform.

Louisiana teacher and activist Lee Barrios posted this online comment in response to the article:

bit.ly/2KCE2k0

Just a sampling of not only how disastrous education reform has been for our public schools in general, but of the damage that continues to be done to the SPED children through pure neglect and, unfortunately, purposeful denial of every child’s right to a public education that meets their needs!  

Although this story thoroughly covers WHAT happened, as good journalistic reporting should, the public must now ask and demand the answer to WHY it is happening.  

Many of us (properly trained and experienced education experts) have been monitoring the progression of the educational experiment dubbed “reform.”  Our  children have been used as the guinea pigs for the experiment. There is no doubt as to WHY the experiment failed.  

As is true of all failed experiments, the hypothesis was flawed (an understatement).  It’s like an experiment based on the idea that if supplementing a cow’s feed with apple cider vinegar will result in increased milk production (true) that adding vinegar when watering our flowering plants will increase bloom. An adept scientist will know or learn enough about the components of the experiment FIRST to tell him from the start that the hypothesis is incorrect – worse than incorrect – it will kill the plant.  

Those who devised the various hypotheses of the educational experiment called reform include Presidents on down through the past few U.S. Secretaries of Education (Duncan, King, DeVos) to our State Superintendent John White.  And finally, placed in many of our classrooms are unqualified instructors (like Teach for America recruits) who are NOT qualified, properly trained or experienced educators.  It’s a fact.  Add to that lack of expertise along with the power and money of the backers of these experiments like  Bill Gates, the Waltons, and Jeb Bush bent on pushing their false theories.  Then quickly followed a long list of investors, politicians and charlatans and you have what we see today – our children, our public schools and our teachers “dying” – and many of us would say death by design. 

Many educators (and now parents) locally, nationally and even internationally have sounded the death knell for years. Our protests were particularly loud after Hurricane Katrina when the orchestrated takeover of New Orleans schools took place.

The volume increased in 2010 with the Race to the Top scheme pushed by Bobby Jindal.  We have been flailing our hands treading water ever since as John White was appointed State Superintendent via a waiver of qualifications by a corrupt or at least blind majority of BESE members whose campaigns were funded by millionaires and billionaires who succeeded in fooling the voting public that Might is Right!  

The single most important weapon used to facilitate the destruction of our public school system has been the use of our HIGH STAKES standardized test.  Imagine that.  One single test that combined with the disastrous Common Core Standards to which the test is aligned and the bogus unresearched  and unproven curriculum (that which is being taught in the classroom) has captured total control over our local school districts.  

And to make sure that the use of these three components of the experiment produce the desired results (privatization through school failure) an invalid accountability system was devised that has fooled the public into “believing” the results of John White’s manipulated and complicated formula of School Performance Scores. 

ALL FACTS folks.  We have the evidence. We have the proof which many of us allege to be fraud, malfeasance, and coercion.  But no one with the authority to conduct a full investigation has listened or taken action.  NO ONE!  It has been like standing at the bottom of the mountain warning that an avalanche is imminent but nobody in the restaurants and expensive homes below want to believe that the status quo is about to be disastrously broken!  Questioning if it could be possible that their lives are in danger of being changed forever.  

It too bad that the greatest victims have been our innocent children.  Let’s Stop!  This experiment is a failure!  

Lee P. Barrios, M.Ed., NBCT

Candidate – BESE District 1
La. Board of Elementary & Secondary Education

 

 

 

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
June 11, 2019
Contact: Owen Kilmer, SPLC
Owen.Kilmer@splcenter.org // (334) 956-8209
John McDonald, UCLA
JMcDonald@gseis.ucla.edu // (310) 206-0513

 

Report: Black students, students with disabilities among

most likely to be struck in schools practicing corporal punishment

 

Civil rights groups offer new insight into practice banned in majority of states

 

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Children attending the small percentage of the nation’s public schools that allow corporal punishment face a much greater likelihood of being struck than previously understood, with black students and students with disabilities among the most likely groups to be struck, according to a report released today by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California at Los Angeles’ Civil Rights Project.

 

The report – The Striking Outlier: The Persistent, Painful and Problematic Practice of Corporal Punishment in Schools – provides the clearest look yet at a practice outlawed in a majority of states and, even within states that legally permit the practice in schools, ban it in a host of other public settings for children and adults. The report includes a foreword by Derrick Johnson, president and chief executive of the NAACP.

 

The report found that at least one in every 20 children attending schools that practice corporal punishment were struck in 2013-14 and 2015-16. Black girls were more than three times as likely to be struck as white girls (5.2 percent vs.1.7 percent) during the 2013-14 school year. Black boys were nearly twice as likely as to be struck as white boys (14 percent vs. 7.5 percent).

 

Such racial disparities are trou­bling, because other research shows that black students do not misbehave more than white students. The report also found that in more than half of the schools practicing corporal punishment, students with disabilities were struck at higher rates than those without disabilities, raisingconcerns that they may have been struck for behaviors arising from their dis­ability.

 

“These findings show that corporal punishment disproportionately affects the nation’s most vulnerable students,” said Zoe Savitsky, SPLC deputy legal director. “It also destroys a child’s trust in educators, which damages learning relationships. Quite simply, corporal punishment doesn’t belong in schools, and states should bring schools in line with the many other institutions, from foster care to juvenile detention, that already ban the practice.”

 

The report recommends that states ban the practice in schools and that schools use evidenced-based discipline programs as alternatives to corporal punishment rather than punitive disciplinary measures, such as out-of-school suspension. 

 

“If an adult hit someone with a weapon, it’s considered aggravated assault. An educator using violence to discipline students, however, is considered corporal punishment, and we found it’s still happening over 100,000 times every year in public schools,” said report co-author Amir Whitaker, researcher with the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA. “Like other forms of discipline and state-supported violence, it’s disproportionately used on black students. The legacy of slavery and racial terror continues through its use, and decades of research finds the practice is extremely harmful to students.”

 

The report’s methodology differs from previous studies, which typically examine student populations at the state or school district level where corporal punishment was practiced – even when corporal punishment was only used in a small fraction of schools in those jurisdictions. That approach skews corporal punishment rates downward. This report only examined data from schools where corporal punishment was used, relying primarily on data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection from the 2013-14 school year.

 

Within the schools that practice corpo­ral punishment, the report found about 5.6 percent of stu­dents were struck during the 2013-14 school year. The rates in individual states, however, were as high as 9.3 percent (Mississippi), 7.5 percent (Arkansas) and 5.9 percent (Alabama).

 

What emerges is a picture of a practice that remains deeply entrenched in the South. Ten Southern states account for more than three-quar­ters of all corporal punishment in public schools. Just four of those states – Mis­sissippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Texas – account for more than 70 percent.

 

“There are far more effective and safer ways to manage a classroom,” said report co-author Dan Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA. “That is why most public schools in the United States ban the practice.

 

“This report demonstrates how in most states that still allow corporal punishment of children of color and those with disabilities are frequently struck. They bear the brunt of this outdated and ineffective practice compared to their white and nondisabled peers. Our documentation of the uneven and heavy-handed practice suggests that the use of corporal punishment is likely violating the civil rights of public school children throughout the South.”

 

Mis­sissippi alone is responsible for almost one-quarter of all corporal punishment. And nearly half (43.8 percent) of all black girls receiving corporal punishment in U.S. public schools in 2013-14 were in Mis­sissippi (4,716 black girls). No other state came close to eclipsing Mississippi’s corporal punishment rate of black girls.

 

Despite corporal punishment’s ubiquity in the South, a review of the law in five Southern states that allow the practice in schools (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi) found that these states not only prohibit adults from striking children in most other settings – such as child care centers, foster care settings and juvenile detention centers – but often describe corporal punishment as inappro­priate, abusive and unethical in such settings, the report found.

 

“This data should shock our conscience,” the NAACP’s Johnson writes in the report’s foreword. He adds: “[T]he impact of corporal punishment can be devastating on a student’s ability to learn and succeed. There are much more effective ways to promote positive behavior, ways that keep students safe and in the classroom.”

 

Thirty-one states have banned corporal punishment in schools, according to the report. In the remaining 19 states, there are nearly 8,000 schools within dis­tricts that practice it. Of those schools, how­ever, almost 45 percent do not use corporal punishment. This means that children attending different schools in the same district can have vastly different experiences when it comes to discipline. One school may use evidence-based practices that provide pos­itive, corrective consequences for students. But, at a nearby school, children engaging in the same mis­behavior may be struck despite research showing the practice to be ineffective and unsound for education.

 

###

 

The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Alabama with offices in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. For more information, visit www.splcenter.org.

 

 

 

 

 

Betsy DeVos was grilled yesterday in Congressional hearings about her budget proposals. She was repeatedly questioned about her desire to increase charter school funding from $440 million to $500 million a year. The Network for Public Education report on the waste, fraud, and abuse in this program was cited.

While increasing the charter budget, DeVos wants to cut $18 million from the Special Olympics, which benefits 272,000 children with disabilities. 

To put it mildly, her priorities are wacky. She wants to cut the budget of a successful and valuable program while heaping money on charters that are likely to never open or quickly close.

DeVos said the philanthropic community already funds the Special Olympics. The same is true of charters. Billionaires and Wall Street heap hundreds of millions on charters. The Waltons alone have spent more than a billion on charters. Why does the Federal government add hundreds of millions more?

To add insult to injury. She is proposing a 12% cut for the Department but a 15% increase in executive salaries.

Then there was this exchange, reported by Politico:

“— Another concern raised by Democrats was the department’s proposal to cut funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which funds aftercare. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) questioned DeVos about why she’s attempting again to cut a program that’s long had bipartisan support and has shown results. She noted that Congress had rebuffed the proposal last year, and instead gave the program a $10 million boost.

“— DeVos responded that the funds flowing out of the program aren’t necessarily getting to the centers that work really well and there aren’t great participation rates. She said the department’s budget focused on things “we really know are yielding results.””

If DeVos cared about results, the Department would cut funding new charters (many of which will never open, will close soon after they opened, will get poor results, or will cherrypick the students likeliest to succeed on tests), and eliminate all proposed funding to vouchers, which consistently get very poor results.

The only good thing about the DeVos heading was that Anthony Cody arrived early, sat directly behind DeVos, and scowled throughout her testimony, prominently featured on CSPAN. He was her Greek chorus.