Archives for category: Supporting public schools

Governor Gregg Abbott went all in and all out to pass vouchers, so that public money would fund religious schools, private schools, and homeschools. His proposal passed in the State Senate.

But it in trouble in the House of Representatives, where rural Republicans are standing with urban Democrats against vouchers for nonpublic schools. The House today passed the Herrero Amendment, prohibiting public funding for vouchers.

The Pastors for Texas Children have worked tirelessly to protect public funding for public schools. Five million children attend public schools. Three hundred thousand students are enrolled in private schools. they issued the following statement about today’s events:



CONTACT: Rev. Charles Foster Johnson



Herrero Amendment Blocking Voucher Funding Passes Overwhelmingly


The Herrero Amendment prohibiting tax money for private school vouchers passed the Texas House of Representatives this afternoon on an 86-52 vote.

The Texas House has once again repudiated a private school voucher program, as they have many times over the past 25 years.

This rejection of vouchers is particularly powerful because Gov. Greg Abbott made the passage of a voucher policy an “emergency item” this legislative session, and personally lobbied House members on the chamber floor to advance it.

“Texans abhor private school vouchers,” said the Rev. Charles Foster Johnson, Founder and Executive Director of Pastors for Texans Children. “For public dollars to be diverted to subsidize the private education of affluent children and to pay for religious education, particularly that contrary to one’s own, is fundamentally unjust.”

“Unfortunately, Gov. Abbott has tied up the entire legislature this session, at the cost of millions of tax dollars, for in his own petty personal political agenda.”

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

Using public tax dollars, taken from our 5.4 million Texas schoolchildren, to underwrite the private education of a few, is an egregious moral violation.

We find it particularly troubling for public funding to advance and establish religious programs in private schools. This is a clear violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and God’s Moral Law.

Pastors for Texas Children is grateful that the Texas House of Representatives once again stood firm for the true Texas conservative value of universal education for all Texas schoolchildren, provided and protected by the public.



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

PO Box 471155 – Fort Worth, Texas 76147

Educate Nevada Now is a pro-student, pro-public school organization funded by the Rogers Foundation.

It released its positions—support or oppose—on bills under consideration by the state legislature.

Its statement about vouchers is clear and strong:

Expanding Private School Vouchers

ENN opposes any bill that seeks to expand controversial private school vouchers. These schemes go by various names, “Choice Scholarships,” “Opportunity Scholarships” or “Education Savings Accounts.” Regardless of their name, voucher measures rely on taxpayer dollars but have little to no accountability, and they permit schools to discriminate for almost any reason (religion or lack thereof, LGBTQ status, inability to pay, student needs or outcomes). In other states that closely track student outcomes, voucher students often perform the same or worse than their public school peers. We OPPOSE any effort to expand access or spend taxpayer funds on these harmful programs because public dollars should go to public schools.

We urge you to speak up and OPPOSE:

AB 385 – (Assem. Hafen) Allocates $60 million to private school vouchers and expands eligibility.

SB 200 – (Sen. Hammond) Re-enacts a recently repealed universal voucher program, which would eventually result in every private school student eligible for taxpayer dollars, even the wealthiest.

SB 220 (Sen. Gansert, et al) Expanding funding and eligibility for private school vouchers, expanding the tax credit sources.

About Educate Nevada Now

The Rogers Foundation, a Nevada leader in support of public education, joined with local, state and national partners to launch Educate Nevada Now (ENN) in 2015. The organization is committed to school finance reform and improved educational opportunities and outcomes for all Nevada public school children, especially English language learners, gifted and talented students, students with disabilities or other special needs, and low-income students.

More information about ENN can be found at

Against all predictions, Brandon Johnson was elected Mayor of Chicago!

Right up to the last minute, the polls showed Paul Vallas with a lead of 2-5 points. Vallas ran as a law-and-order candidate. He raised money from Betsy DeZvos and other billionaires, including Ken Griffen. Vallas outspent Johnson. Vallas has a long history of privatizing schools.

Johnson ran on a platform of investing in education and social services to improve people’s lives.

No one expected this upset!

This is great news for the people of Chicago!

Julie Vassilatos, a parent activist and blogger in Chicago, writes here about the case for Brandon Johnson. She and others have written passionately against Paul Vallas, but here she explains why Brandon Johnson is well prepared to serve as Mayor. Because of his knowledge and experience, he not only knows the city’s budgetary issues well, but he is able to address the root causes of crime and the real needs of students.

She writes:

Friends, so many of us have been carrying on about the dangers of Paul Vallas so incessantly, you’d be forgiven for thinking that he’s running for mayor of Chicago unopposed.

But Vallas does have an opponent—one who is talented, thoughtful, experienced, and a real true Chicagoan raising his family on the west side: Brandon Johnson.

Johnson is getting a lot of heat from Vallas and his supporters right now. No lesser a personage than Darren Bailey, defeated far-right candidate for IL governor and unofficial endorser of Vallas, has announced that if Johnson is elected, it will be a “dark day” for Chicago. Yes. A dark day indeed. Get it?

I’m pretty sure Darren Bailey fans get it.

Then there’s FOP president/disgraced cop John Catanzara, who foresees that 1000 cops will walk off the job if Johnson wins, and there will be blood in the streets.

Vallas himself, who routinely speaks of Johnson in kind of Godzilla terms, has called him and the CTU a destructive force wreaking devastation on the city.

In addition to its coded race language, this election has rather inflated rhetoric.

I’m trying to keep mine toned down, or at least backed up by evidence. While it’s hard to pin “generational” devastation on Johnson or the CTU, it’s actually possible to do this for Vallas. He has set many destructive policies in motion in urban areas globally that have left decades of harm in their wake. Also financial calamity. But I and many others have told you all this over and over again. And this post is not about that guy.

This post is about Brandon Johnson.

Truth to tell, at the outset of the race I was slow to warm up to Johnson the candidate. But then I remembered that he was at the front lines of a struggle I will never forget—the 2013 mass school closures. So many folks did all we could do to try and stop that, well, generationally damaging policy. And those who led the way in that effort? I’d probably follow them into a fire.

But what about Brandon Johnson now? What are his credentials? Haven’t you, like me, read all that stuff about how he has no experience? How he’s never managed a budget? How he seems (unfathomably) to like crime and together with CTU wants our city to be unsafe, because….because….well, because reasons?

Well, maybe we need to look a little deeper than the media/social media blah blah blah.

In a recent mayoral forum Vallas asserted that “Brandon has run nothing.” Since Vallas hasn’t really lived here much I guess he may not know that Johnson has served on the Cook County Board of Commissioners since 2018 and has managed a great deal, including the $8.75B Cook County budget. The Cook County Board has wide ranging responsibilities, and if you’ve always wondered but never known what the Board does, you should take this time to educate yourself, starting at the Cook County Board website. Here’s a basic summary:

The Cook County Board of Commissioners oversees County operations and approves the budget of elected County officials including the Assessor, Board of Review Commissioners, County Clerk, Clerk of the Circuit Court, Recorder of Deeds, Sheriff, States Attorney and Treasurer.

The Commissioners also serve as the Board of the Cook County Forest Preserve District, a special purpose taxing district. The Board also sets policy, levies taxes, passes ordinances, approves all county purchases over $10,000, and adopts the annual budget for the entire county government.

That 2023 Cook County Budget was praised by the Civic Federation:

The Civic Federation supports the Cook County FY2023 Executive Budget Recommendation of $8.75 billion because it reflects strong financial management and puts the County in a good position moving forward post-pandemic. The County’s FY2023 proposed budget includes a strong level of reserves and positive revenue projections, without any increases in taxes or fees.

The budget gap is smaller than it’s been in years, supplemental payments to the pension fund have been made for the eighth year in a row, and the County’s fiscal position is “strong…following robust revenue performance and built-up reserves.” And observe that there are in this budget, no tax increases. (Here I note we can be grateful to Board President Toni Preckwinkle who has shepherded this budget for 13 years. And I note further, she has endorsed Johnson.)

Now let’s review the budgets Vallas has overseen.

In Philadelphia, Vallas managed a $2B budget and left a surprise $73M deficit on his way out the door. In the Louisiana Recovery District his budget was $176M. He got an extra $1.8B to work with from FEMA, and before he was done with the NOLA job he wandered repeatedly over to Haiti, missing weeks at a time of work in New Orleans (that’s beside the point, but I just thought you should know). And in Bridgeport CT, his budget was $232M. Of course he was pushed out of that job before he could really do much financial damage there.

For those of you keeping score, Vallas hasn’t ever drafted, managed, or implemented a budget even close to the size that Brandon Johnson has worked with as a member of the Cook County Board.

Before his County Board days, Johnson was a teacher. He taught middle school social studies at Jenner from 2007 to 2010 (years when most of his students were able to watch, right from school windows, wrecking balls demolishing their homes as the city brought down public housing), and then at Westinghouse for a year. He then became a CTU organizer and the leader of its Black Caucus. In those years he had a front row view on lots of turmoil in the district: school closures and turnarounds via the failed Renaissance 2010 initiative, the loss of Black teachers in the classroom as a result of closures and CPS policy choices, the 2012 teacher strike, the 2013 mass school closures, a churn of district CEOs, some of whom ended up in prison, illegal special education cuts, and rapid charter expansion.

While Johnson was organizing teachers and collaborating with parents in response to district policies that were crushing schools and services (and I do mean that literally, with at least one occasion of bulldozers bringing down a school library on a day when parents were instead expecting a meeting), he lived the experience of the folks who’ve been at the mercy of “education reform” for decades. He saw first hand what disinvestment has done to CPS students—resulting in teacher cuts, special ed cuts, after-school cuts, nursing cuts, and the whittling away of libraries, down to only 90 remaining in a total of 513 schools. He’s seen the violent legacy of closing the community anchor that is a public school. He’s watched, along with all of us, poor choices at the top—everything from grifting, self-dealing, and bribery, to no-bid contracts and cronyism—and how those things bust budgets and destroy trust. He stood with community members on a hunger strike to save a school, then joined in it himself. He’s seen the negative academic and social impacts of excessive testing, privatization, and vouchers. He’s seen these things from the perspective of 25,000 teachers and hundreds of thousands of public school families.

Vallas, meanwhile, has been the man who set those policies. He set them in motion right here in Chicago in 1995, and traveled the country and globe continuing to implement them from then until now.

He may talk a good game about Doing It All For The Children, but the fact of the matter is, Vallas has never had to stick around and watch the long term impacts of his policy decisions on The Children. Those impacts have caused years of student protests in Chile. Have kept special ed kids struggling for spots in schools in New Orleans. Have left Philadelphia in “constant crisis mode.” Led directly to our own CPS budget crisis.

Brandon Johnson has large scale urban management experience with a Board that’s closing budget gaps and overseeing a vast array of county services. He manages a bigger budget right now than Vallas ever has. And Johnson has face-to-face, personal experience with the folks who live and work and raise their children in Chicago. His years as a teacher and with CTU have given him the perspective of individuals and families on a hyper-local basis. His work has encompassed both the broad span of countywide planning and management, and the particular lens on particular people and particular struggles.

Brandon Johnson is obviously qualified for the job.

You can check out how his qualifications and vision work themselves into a platform on his website. It’s practical and passionate and outlines a vision for the city that benefits everyone, even those struggling folks who never seem to catch a break from city leaders.

Johnson understands we cannot solve violence without dealing with its root causes; more policing, surveilling, and arresting alone won’t do the trick. We can’t fix the schools without listening to communities, parents, and educators; we must reject the failed status quo of Vallas’s “education reform.” And we can’t expect our teachers and police to solve poverty and homelessness all on their own.

The choice we have before us, it seems to me, is whether we’re going to listen to the incessant hype about a “fix-it man”—who has never fixed anything. Or dig a little deeper ourselves and see that the mayor we need has been here all along, working to make our city better for his entire career, with poise and passion.

Are we going to listen to voices that allude to “dark days” and blood baths in the streets? Or are we going to listen to a man who has a vision for his city rooted in love and practical experience?

You pick, Chicago.

Steven Singer, a teacher in Pennsylvania, explains here why he thinks charter schools should be abolished. They drain resources from the public schools. They are free to choose the students they want and exclude those they don’t want. They don’t produce better results than public schools. They close at alarming rates. They have been the source of many scandals. Some operate for profit.

Why do we need charter schools, he asks? We don’t.

Cecily Riesenberg, a teacher at Caprock High School in Amarillo, Texas, wrote an opinion article for the Amarillo Globe-News. She explained why vouchers will benefit the most affluent families and offer low-quality schools to most other students.

She wrote:

Both sides of the aisle agree that education needs reform. At first glance, vouchers seem like a great solution. Who wouldn’t think that parents should have “freedom,” and “choices,” and that more “competition” will make the market stronger. But that simply isn’t what the data shows.

Data shows that vouchers benefit the wealthy who need it the least, hurt the disadvantaged the most, abuse taxpayer dollars, and erase the separation between church and state. Vouchers act like a discount for wealthy students already in private schools. Picture a country club that won’t allow any new members, but now their current members get to use taxpayer money to subsidize part of their dues. Not only is everyone else stuck at the public pool, but now we’re all paying for a few people to go to the country club, and we have less money to maintain or upgrade the public pool. That’s how vouchers work in the states that have them.

There are three kinds of private schools. The first type are elite, exclusive, “country-club” schools that don’t want or need more students and won’t accept vouchers at all. These schools are able to stay elite because of their exclusivity. Then there are new private schools that pop up after states implement vouchers. New private schools don’t focus on quality education at all – they use taxpayer money to market themselves to attract more students and take more public money. After a few months, families realize these schools can’t offer what they were selling. Students withdraw, but the school keeps the money. Most of these schools close within four years, but not until after they’ve made a profit, and the students are left further behind. The third type of private schools are subprime schools that need taxpayer money just to stay afloat. These schools have a 40% failure rate.

Vouchers only offer the illusion of choice.

Many states have tried vouchers, the data shows they failed and abused public resources. Not only do charters and private schools in Arizona, Indiana, Ohio, and Louisiana, have worse educational outcomes than public schools, but when so many programs receive public money, it’s impossible to monitor where the money goes in the same way that public schools are held accountable. In Arizona, for example, an audit showed that parents were using taxpayer dollars to buy kayaks and take vacations. We can’t claim to value fiscal responsibility and support a shady cash grab for corporate charters, “service providers,” and bank fees.

Rural areas will be harmed the most by vouchers, because there aren’t enough students to make opening new schools profitable. But rural public schools would still lose enrollment and funding as some parents use vouchers for homeschooling or online schooling. Again, the quality of these options is almost always lower than public schools.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Governor Abbott are always ready to listen to their wealthy donors and the corporations that are lined up like vultures to make a buck. Recently, Governor Abbott has been on a whirlwind tour of private Christian schools to sell his agenda. He even came to Amarillo on March 2nd to speak at San Jacinto Christian Academy, a tiny school that serves less than 400 students. But the governor refused an invitation to tour Amarillo ISD public schools and listen to the tens of thousands of teachers, students, and parents who would be harmed by vouchers. Even if San Jacinto offered a world-class education, they would never have the capacity to serve a significant number of Amarillo’s students.

There are answers on how to actually reform education. We can follow the lead of countries like Finland that consistently rank high on international measures of reading and math skills. Finland doesn’t have vouchers. They don’t even have private schools. There, every school is public and wellfunded. Every student can get a quality education from their neighborhood school, and every student has an equal opportunity to achieve. Finland attracts the best and brightest to the teaching profession by requiring a masters degree and paying them as much as doctors or lawyers. Finnish teachers are empowered, respected, and trusted – essentially the opposite of how teachers are treated in Texas.

Imagine Texas as a state that consistently ranks higher in education than other states and countries, where students excel academically and socially, and find fulfilling careers post-graduation. We can get there, but it will not be by following Governor Abbott’s orders. The governor’s orders will only lead to the wealthy donor class pocketing taxpayer money while the average student falls further behind.

We know what works. So why don’t politicians want to do it? Simple – it’s impossible to monetize and profit from this approach the way they can with vouchers.

Reach out to your state senators and representatives to let them know that public schools are the bedrock of our communities. We need to make them stronger instead of tearing them down and selling them for parts.

The right to public education is enshrined in our constitution. We have to guarantee that right to every child, regardless of race, income, or zip code, and the best way to do that is by fully funding public schools.

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, asks you to show your support for #AbbottElementary, the delightful weekly show that favorably portrays the real life of teachers, students, and public schools. The show was written, produced by, and stars the amazingly talented @QuintaBrunson.

Carol writes:

ABC’s award-winning sitcom Abbott Elementary is the story of a wonderful group of teachers who stick with a challenging Philadelphia public school because they love teaching and kids. In recent episodes, it has been critical of the effects of charter schools.

It seems hard to believe it, but “Ed Reformers” are attacking its creator, Quinta Brunson, on Twitter.

Please stand up for Abbott Elementary & Ms Brunson by copying and tweeting the Tweets below. The show and its producers need to know you stand for truth-telling and for public schools.

Thank you @AbbottElemABC & @quintabrunson for yr amazing show that dares to tell truth abt how charters hurt public schools. Love the show. Keep up the great work! I love #AbbottElementary

How small @JeanneAllen & @edreform look trying to suppress @AbbottElemABC from criticizing the charter system by lying about @quintabrunson. I love #AbbottElementary

When @AbbottElemABC critiques Pa billionaire trying to undermine public schools w/charters, @edreform goes on the attack. Pathetic to go after a beloved show & its beloved creator/star @quintabrunson. Gotta say it. I love #AbbottElementary.

You can read about the show’s critique of charters here and the Jeanne Allen controversy here including the Tweets in which Brunson pushes back.

Thanks for all you do,Image

Carol Burris

Network for Public Education

Executive Director

A friend in South Carolina sent me this public statement by a fearless district superintendent. He asked questions that most state legislators cannot answer. He knows that vouchers will subsidize the tuition of students already in private schools, and that private schools retain the right to refuse any student they don’t want.

J.R. Green, Ph.D, superintendent of the Fairfield County district sent out this letter:

Do the Advocates of “School choice” really believe in “School choice?”

Recently the South Carolina Senate passed S.39, a controversial voucher legislation that proposes to provide parents up to $6,000/year of state money to attend a private school. At full implementation by year three, the voucher program will cost approximately $90 million/year. Proponents of the legislation suggest that school vouchers empower parents to select the school that best fits the needs of their children. But does this legislation actually empower parents, or private schools that will ultimately benefit from the infusion of state revenue? The undisputed fact is that S.39 will provide private schools with state revenue, yet allow those same private schools to pick and choose the students they elect to serve. In essence, we are providing private schools with public money, without a commitment to serving the public student.

I respect any parent’s right to choose the educational option they see is best for their child. However, receiving public funding should obligate these institutions to serve all public school students, just as public schools are required to do. Private schools who receive this funding should not be allowed to deny students because they are Exceptional Education students, failed to meet qualifying scores on entrance exams, level of parent participation, etc. All students who request admission should be accepted. Amendments were offered during the debate of S.39 that would ban discrimination based on religion or disability. Those amendments were rejected and as a result would allow a private school receiving state revenue to deny a student because of an intellectual disability or physical handicap. This is the current reality for private schools in South Carolina, and I respect their right to restrict enrollment, as long as the school is being funded with private money. However, the acceptance of state money must require a different standard. During the senate subcommittee hearing debating the voucher legislation last year I shared the published admission criteria for a local private school. The school clearly outlined the following:

• Does not provide a program of study and support for students with learning disability, an IEP, or 504 plan.

• Married students, pregnant students, and or biological parents will not be allowed to attend.

• Reserves the right to reject any application for admission or employment and further reserves the right to terminate any association with students if it determines that such association is incompatible with the aims and purpose of the school

This clearly represents private school “choice” not parental “choice.”

Finally, since the Education Accountability Act of 1998, the general assembly has touted the benefits and necessity to administer yearly assessments to public school students. These assessments have been advertised as the key to improving education outcomes in South Carolina, and essential to ensuring the public can readily measure the return on the education investment. I’m perplexed as to why the private schools that would receive public funding would not participate in the same system of accountability? Why would these schools not be required to administer the same state assessments, and publish their data just as public schools are required to do? If this system of accountability is necessary and appropriate for public schools, it should be necessary and appropriate for private schools accepting public funding.

Although I think the legislation is unconstitutional, and represents little value to improving student outcomes, if the South Carolina General Assembly is committed to making school vouchers a reality, these schools must be accessible to all students, and accountable to the public just as public schools. Let participating schools open up their doors to all students, administer and publish the same assessments as public schools, and let the chips fall as they may.

J.R. Green, Ph.D.


Fairfield County Schools

Bravo, Dr. Green!

I had the pleasure of speaking by Zoom to a meeting of the Pastors for Florida Children. The event was reported by Baptist Global News.

The morning session was also addressed by Baptist minister and retired Arkansas Judge Wendell Griffen. Although we have never met, our messages were in synch: Do not let the authoritarian Governor Ron DeSantis intimidate you!

Baptist minister and retired Arkansas judge Wendell Griffen stood before an audience of faith leaders and education advocates in Tallahassee, Fla., March 9, pointed to his lapel and dared Gov. Ron DeSantis to have him apprehended for being politically and racially aware.

“I wore a ‘woke’ button on purpose. I want to get arrested for being woke. I plead guilty to being woke. I want to be convicted of being woke,” Griffen said during a prayer breakfast sponsored by Pastors for Florida Children.

Wendell Griffen

Griffen, a BNG columnist and pastor of New Millennium Church in Little Rock, urged the in-person and virtual interfaith and multiracial audience to be equally defiant of Florida’s political leaders. “Be a community of prophets but teach as one and correct, confront, organize, interact, defy, dissent, disrupt.”

Jewish, Christian and Muslim participants who prayed ahead of the speeches by Griffen and education historian Diane Ravitch focused on DeSantis’ prohibition of books that teach about racial injustice and inclusion….

Please open the link and read his bold, wise, and brave advice.

Ravitch opened with a double-barreled barrage at DeSantis’ efforts to dismantle freedom of inquiry in public schools.

“I write a daily blog, and I find that it’s being overwhelmed by the bad news from Florida,” she said. “There doesn’t seem to be anything good coming from your elected officials. If anything, it seems to be building a more and more authoritarian empire to control the thinking of everybody in the state.”

She said DeSantis seems to be going out of his way to disprove Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous saying that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

“Your governor and your legislature are trying to flatten that arc so that it does not bend
towards justice,” she declared.

Current political events in Florida do not impact public schools alone, Ravitch said. “Florida today is at the very apex of a movement to turn the clock back a century, to turn the clock back on religious freedom, on racial justice and on all the evolution we have experienced over this past century to make ours a more just society. Your governor is creating a model of thought control and calling it freedom. Every time I see him standing in front of a banner that says ‘freedom,’ I’m reminded of George Orwell’s 1984, where freedom equals slavery.”

The conservative attack on the concept of “woke” is another sign of burgeoning authoritarianism, she said.

“We have to redeem that word. It means being awake — awake to injustice, awake to history, awake to all the things that are wrong in our society and that have been wrong over the centuries. And his (DeSantis’) idea of woke is simply to eliminate critical thinking about history and even knowledge of history. And this is very dangerous.”

And that’s only the beginning.

Steve teaches in Polk County, Florida. He left a comment about where to find a wealth of choices: in public school. Choice advocates claim that public schools are one-size-fits-all. Nothing could be further from the truth. Charter schools and voucher schools are one-size-fits-all. They may exclude students they don’t want, for any reason. They may have a religious core that appeals to one-size. Home-schooling? You can’t get any more one-size-fits-all than learning at home. If you want indoctrination, go to a religious school; if you want education, go to a public school.

Do you want choices? Go to a public school!

Steve writes:

You want choice? Here, in the seventh largest school district in the state, you can choose AP, college-dual enrollment, Cambridge, ACCEL or International Baccalaureate for academics.

You can enter a career academy for aeronautics, health fields, architecture, criminal justice, education, culinary, graphics, CAD/CAM, engineering, legal studies, design, veterinary science, finance, biotechnology, construction. and others.

There are outstanding fine arts programs, with graduates going on to Broadway, television, and the tourism entertainment industry.

Play sports? The state lets you transfer to any school you want. You could join the state champion football team or state champion girls basketball team.

Want something hands on, such as, diesel mechanic, HVAC, auto repair, IT, or welding? Two public vo-tech high schools offer those programs.

All this choice is available in the public system.

So, the issue isn’t choice at all. This is about what vouchers have always been about since the days of massive resistance in Virginia.