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Friday, February 1, 2019

Mitchell Robinson: Cory Booker is a Hard Pass for this Democratic Educator | Eclectablog

Cory Booker is a Hard Pass for this Democratic Educator | Eclectablog

Cory Booker is a Hard Pass for this Democratic Educator

In what may be the least surprising political development of the past 2 years, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker recently announced his candidacy for President of the United States. Mr. Booker has been running for president seemingly forever. He’s been planning for this moment since he was a kid, and everything he’s ever done has been designed for just this moment.
And the time will never be better for Booker to run–because he’s the opposite of Trump in so many ways:
  • old vs. young
  • white vs. black
  • ugly vs. handsome
  • awkward v telegenic
  • dumb vs smart
  • hate v love
Perhaps more importantly, Cory Booker is the poster child for the craven, made-for-TV, ambitious political creature. He knows that Trump is the most unpopular opponent he’ll ever have the chance to run against, and that the GOP has now moved so far right that he can position himself as a “liberal” on plenty of issues. In a cartoon race, which this is shaping up to be, Booker is right out of central casting.
The only problem is that Booker is a pro-corporate, pro-privatization, pro-big pharma DINO (Democrat in name only) at a time when what’s needed is a true progressive to offer a real alternative to the lunacy on the far-right.
I really don’t want to be a single-issue voter, but education will almost always be the most CONTINUE READING: Cory Booker is a Hard Pass for this Democratic Educator | Eclectablog

America is falling out of love with billionaires, and it’s about time - Los Angeles Times

America is falling out of love with billionaires, and it’s about time - Los Angeles Times

America is falling out of love with billionaires, and it’s about time

Our emerging political debate over taxing the rich seems to be getting bogged down in details — how high a tax rate, should we tax income or wealth, etc., etc. But this fixation on nuts and bolts is obscuring what may be the most important aspect of the discussion: America is becoming fed up with its billionaires.
That sentiment is long overdue. It has begun to surface in the suggestion by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that the top marginal rate on high incomes shift back to what it was in the 1950s or 1960s, and in Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s proposal for a wealth tax on those with high net worth.
Since the Reagan administration, the political establishment has strived to convince Americans that extreme wealth in the hands of a small number of plutocrats is good for everyone. We’ve had the “trickle-down” theory, the rechristening of the wealthy as “job creators” and their categorization invariably as “self-made.” We’ve been told, via the simplistic Laffer Curve, that if you raise the tax rate you get less revenue.
The love of money as a possession ... [is] a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semicriminal, semi-pathological propensities.

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There are three main subtexts of these arguments, all of which show up in the email in-box whenever I write about wealth and taxation. First: The extreme wealth of the few creates wealth all along the income scale, for the masses. Second: It’s immoral — confiscatory — to soak the rich via taxation, at least above a certain level that never seems to be precisely defined. And third: If we torment the wealthy with taxes, they’ll pack up their wealth and leave us, whether for some more accommodating nation on Earth or some Ayn Randian paradise.
Experience has shown us that the first argument is simply untrue — extreme wealth begets only more inequality. The second argument begs the question of where reasonable taxation turns into confiscation, although the level of taxation of high incomes today is nowhere near as high as it was in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, when economic gains were shared much more equally with the working class. As for the third, Warren’s answers to capital flightinclude stepping up IRS enforcement resources, which have been eviscerated by political agents of the wealthy, and imposing an “exit tax” on any plutocrat renouncing his or her U.S. citizenship to evade U.S. taxes.

Why are billionaires beginning to be treated so skeptically?
One reason surely is the evidence that extreme wealth has a corrosive effect on the economy. Wealth inequality places immense resources in the hands of people unable to spend it productively, and keeps it out of the hands of those who would put it to use instantly, whether on staples or creature comforts that should be within the reach of everyone living in  CONTINUE READING: America is falling out of love with billionaires, and it’s about time - Los Angeles Times

Cory Booker is no friend of public education – Seattle Education

Cory Booker is no friend of public education – Seattle Education


Update on January 10, 2017:
We have come across additional information on Cory Booker’s predilection for the corporatization of public schools.
Booker was on the Alliance for School Choice (ASC) Board of Directors from 2004 to 2008 along with Betsy DeVos. Also note that John Walton of the Walton family was a founder of ASC.
To view the source of the document above, go to the program for the Alliance for School Choice Summit in 2008.
According to ALEC exposed:
The Alliance for School Choice (ASC) is a conservative 501(c)(3) non-profit group that promotes the school privatization agenda via the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and other avenues. It is affiliated with the 501(c)(4) advocacy group the American Federation for Children.[1] Former Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, who was charged with multiple crimes stemming from abuse of his office, is on staff at ASC as Senior Advisor to its Government Affairs Team.[2]
In the organization’s own words, ASC “is the nation’s vanguard organization for promoting, implementing, and enhancing K-12 educational choice. In collaboration with a host of national and state allies, we create opportunities for systemic and sustainable educational reform that puts parents in charge.”[3]
Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council
ASC is a member of ALEC’s Education Task ForceScott Jensen represented the organization on the task force as of July 2011 when he was ASC’s “National Consultant for State Projects” (ALEC also lists him as representing the 501(c)(4) wing of the group, American Federation for Children). Jonathan Nikkila, ASC’s Government Affairs Director, also represented the organization on the task force at that time.[4]
The Alliance for School Choice has generally been focused on defending voucher programs against lawsuits that claim they violate the First Amendment’s establishment clause (or roughly, the idea of CONTINUE READING: Cory Booker is no friend of public education – Seattle Education

Sacramento City Unified’s bond ratings downgraded | The Sacramento Bee

Sacramento City Unified’s bond ratings downgraded | The Sacramento Bee

Sac City Unified schools downgraded to near rock-bottom bond ratings amid budget crisis

Big Education Ape: UPDATE: Audit blasts Sac City Unified for budget mismanagement, warns of possible state takeover | The Sacramento Bee -

Amid a budget crisis, Sacramento City Unified School District bonds have been downgraded to near rock-bottom ratings, district officials said.

The rare low ratings from the Standard & Poor’s agency come weeks after the district announced it expects to run out of money by November 2019, after months of financial crisis.
S&P Global Ratings credit analyst Dan Kaplan said the magnitude of the district’s deficit was projected to grow over time. 
“The lowered rating reflects our view of the district’s weakened financial position, specifically, its forecasted negative fund balance and structural imbalance in fiscal 2020, which we think may continue to deteriorate over the next two years if sustainable expense reductions are not implemented,” Kaplan was quoted in the agency’s ratings action summary. 
Sacramento City officials said in a statement Wednesday that the new ratings indicate the district is at even more risk, and its interest payments will be higher for bonds issued under the downgrade.
“Increased interest rates and bond costs will create an increased burden for the taxpayers who voted to support bond initiatives for capital improvement projects,” the statement read. “The district must prioritize projects and consider whether bonds to pay for those projects should be issued in the near future given the financial risk involved.”
The downgrade will not have an impact on the district’s general fund, or interest rates on existing general obligation bonds.
According to Standard & Poor’s report, the agency downgraded the district’s general obligation rating four notches — from a midrange “A+” to “BBB.” The agency downgraded the district’s lease bonds two notches below “BBB” to a “BB+.”
Kaplan noted that the Financial Crisis and Management Assistance Team, an organization that provides financial analysis to school districts, issued a report to Sacramento City Unified saying it must immediately cut least $30 million from its budget. The district has identified only about a third in savings.
The ratings could drop even further if the district is unable to make significant reductions by the CONTINUE READING: Sacramento City Unified’s bond ratings downgraded | The Sacramento Bee

Big Education Ape: CA K-12 schools press Gavin Newsom for more funds | The Sacramento Bee #UTLA #REDFORED #UTLAStrong #StrikeReady #March4Ed #WeAreLA -

CURMUDGUCATION: How American Should American Schools Be?

CURMUDGUCATION: How American Should American Schools Be?

How American Should American Schools Be?

Part of the impetus behind modern education reform is the idea that more of the education system should be operated by businesses. Many merits and drawbacks of that approach continue to be debated, but one aspect is rarely discussed. Modern business is multinational, so we need to ask--how much control of our educational system do we want to send outside of U.S. borders?

Charter schools have been one path by which foreign nationals can become involved in the U.S. education system. The most notable example is the schools of the so-called Gulen charter chain. The Sunni imam Fethullah Gülen (who is almost always awarded the adjective "reclusive") moved to the U.S. in 1999 for medical treatment. Within a decade, he had created a wide-ranging group of charter schools. The chain has been used to issue H-1B visas to large numbers of Turkish nationals to come to teach; numerous reports claim that they are also expected to kick back part of their salary. The schools are also accused of funneling money to groups such as Gulen-linked construction companies. While some conservative critics worryabout Gulen schools as indoctrination centers, many others are concerned that the Gulen schools are using U.S. taxpayer dollars to fund a government in exile. At the very least, Gulen schools put U.S. students in the middle of a foreign power struggle; the Erdogan government has actively worked to undermine the chain, and the 2016 Turkish coup attempt was blamed on Gulen.

That's just one charter chain, but it's one of the largest chains in the country, with as many as 150  CONTINUE READING: CURMUDGUCATION: How American Should American Schools Be?

CURMUDGUCATION: Measuring Success: A Study in Contrasts

Two items tossed my feed this week that underline contrasting ideas about what constitutes success in  education.

First, let's go to the Jackson-Madison County school system of Tennessee. At JMCSS folks are pretty excited because they've made such strides with the addition of a unified curriculum. They know this worked because they have all sorts of growth data, much of it exceeding expectations.

Not on the same page.
Now, I don't want to gloss over the good parts here. Having some sort of planned curriculum is probably a good step (no district has "no curriculum," even if that curriculum is "whatever the teacher decides to do today"), and I'm sure that it probably helped. But we can't really tell, because all JCMSS has to say for itself is "We made test scores go up." And as every teacher knows, you can raise test scores without really teaching anything worthwhile except how to do better on standardized tests.

Nor is the "how they did it" part of the article very encouraging. Talking to Superintendent Jared Myracle (I swear I am not making that up):

“It’s a game changer,” he said. “Getting everyone on the same page, having everyone use the same approach is a huge thing.”

With a new, uniform curriculum, there is consistency across the district. He said that’s important because students at one school shouldn’t be learning differently than students at other schools, especially because families move across the district.

Sigh. So they found a super-duper one-size-fits-all program and jammed the entire teaching staff  CONTINUE READING:CURMUDGUCATION: Measuring Success: A Study in Contrasts

Educators Strike a Blow Against For-Profit Charter Schools - NEA Today

Educators Strike a Blow Against For-Profit Charter Schools - NEA Today

United and Determined, Educators Strike a Blow Against For-Profit Charter Schools

In his January 15 State of the State Address, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey seemed to acknowledge that his zealous pursuit of what he calls “choice and competition” in education was careening a little off course.
“We know improvements can be made,” Ducey said. “More transparency, more accountability, and granting financial review and oversight over taxpayer dollars.”
But, as EJ Montini pointed out in The Arizona Republic, Ducey, an ardent supporter of school privatization, couldn’t actually bring himself to attach the words “charter school” to that or any other sentence in his speech.
“You can’t begin to confront a problem when you can’t even speak its name,” Montini wrote. “If the governor really wants ‘more transparency’ and ‘more accountability,’ as he says, a good first step would be admitting where the problem lies. Just say it … charter schools.”
As catalogued in an investigative series by The Republic, the state’s for-profit charter sector is plagued by financial mismanagement, profiteering, and a mixed (at best) academic record.  Glossing over this reality, however, has become something of a time-consuming — and increasingly futile — task for pro-privatization lawmakers in the state and across the nation.
primavera online charter school
According to an investigation by the Arizona Republic, Primavera Online charter school has the third-highest dropout rate in the state and test scores that are below average. Despite this record, its CEO received an $8.8 million payout in 2017.
Although the rate of expansion has slowed somewhat in recent years, charter schools are deeply entrenched in the American education landscape. (There are approximately 7,000 charter schools spread across 44 states and the District of Columbia.) Some of these schools are generally CONTINUE READING: Educators Strike a Blow Against For-Profit Charter Schools - NEA Today

‘It’s absolutely terrible’: When a charter school closes, what happens to the kids? - The Washington Post

‘It’s absolutely terrible’: When a charter school closes, what happens to the kids? - The Washington Post

‘It’s absolutely terrible’: When a charter school closes, what happens to the kids?

When Kamilah Wheeler moved back to Southeast Washington two years ago, she didn’t want to enroll her children in the neighborhood public school.
So she turned to a charter school, landing on Washington Mathematics Science Technology Public Charter High for her daughter, an aspiring film director and math teacher.
But in March 2018, the District’s charter regulator — a board charged with overseeing the city’s publicly funded but privately operated charter schools — voted to shutter the campus because of mismanaged finances.
Wheeler had to find another school for her daughter’s senior year.
She selected National Collegiate Preparatory Public Charter High. Her younger son and a niece also started at the Southeast Washington school in August.
Then, it happened again: The D.C. Public Charter School Board voted last week to shut down National Collegiate at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year because of low performance.

Kamilah Wheeler speaks to the D.C. Public Charter School Board during a hearing about closing National Collegiate Preparatory Public Charter School. Her children attends the school. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)
That means Wheeler’s family is once again in education limbo.
“For my kids, it’s terrible,” Wheeler said. “It’s really frustrating because I do not believe in the system anymore.”
National Collegiate is one of three public charter schools the board in recent weeks voted to close because of poor performance. Democracy Prep Congress Heights and City Arts and Prep are expected to close at the end of this academic year, followed a year later by National Collegiate.
One of the District’s oldest and most prominent charter networks — Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy — announced last week that it would close its middle school campus in Columbia Heights for financial reasons. Its two high schools will merge on a single campus.
The closures — which leave more than 1,500 students scrambling for seats in other schools — highlight the turmoil that befalls children when the lights are permanently turned off in their classrooms. Students are often forced to leave behind friends and teachers they have grown up with. Parents are often stuck navigating CONTINUE READING: ‘It’s absolutely terrible’: When a charter school closes, what happens to the kids? - The Washington Post

To My Sisters and Brothers in UTLA - LA Progressive

To My Sisters and Brothers in UTLA - LA Progressive

To My Sisters and Brothers in UTLA

“Look up! Look down! L.A. is a union town! Look up! Look down! L.A. is a union town!”
I have said this many times to many people and I want to say it to you: I’ve never been so proud of my union. I don’t just mean our amazing leadership, all of whom are teachers and organizers, but also all of you, our rank and file.
81% turnout for the strike authorization vote and, of that, 98% for the “Yes”! Stunning!
I was chapter chair at my school in Watts during the ‘89 strike, and I don’t remember it being anywhere near this level of spirit. I couldn’t join you in striking this time because I retired in ‘05, but I was there as much as possible, and your spirit gave me more than I could have ever hoped to be able to contribute to you.
The ‘89 strike was over in nine striking days. Some predicted your strike would be over sooner because you were so unified; others said it would probably take more time because the stakes – saving public education from privitizers – were so high.
You did it in six days.

I miss getting on the train and calling out, “U.T.!” and hearing, “L.A.!” shouted back to me by a zillion voices from a zillion sisters and brothers in red t-shirts and high spirits.

Though I will always cherish the memories, these things I already miss: I miss getting on the train and calling out, “U.T.!” and hearing, “L.A.!” shouted back to me by a zillion voices from a zillion sisters and brothers in red t-shirts and high spirits. When I get on a train now with a handful of quiet people, I miss us being crammed together, chanting, into one solid Red-for-Ed mass, only to see a thick wall of red out the window when we come to the next station, sisters and brothers waiting to get on.
And the several times since when I get off the train at the Civic Center station and enter Grand Park with only a few fellow human beings around me, separate from me and mostly from each other, I miss being able to see that gorgeous redness rolling like a never-ending mighty river of energy, emerging from the depths of that concrete cave and flowing into the CONTINUE READING: To My Sisters and Brothers in UTLA - LA Progressive

John Thompson: Proposed closure of Centennial Mid-High offers lesson

Proposed closure of Centennial Mid-High offers lesson

Proposed closure of Centennial Mid-High offers lesson

Oklahoma Centennial

Many of us educators had always known the opening of Centennial Mid-High, surrounded by empty fields east of Kelley Avenue, was the most problematic part of MAPS for Kids. We combined the poorest half of a failing middle school, Hoover, with the poorest half of a struggling high school, John Marshall.
The predictable result was a mid-high that would almost certainly defy improvement efforts. As the social science explains, schools serving neighborhoods with high concentrations of generational poverty and low levels of social trust, where students have survived multiple traumas, cannot succeed without first laying a system of student support services.
As the Oklahoma City Public Schools Pathway to Greatness plan is debated, Centennial’s first year should be a reminder there are no shortcuts to greatness. School improvement requires loving and trusting relationships. It comes from the heart, not data alone.
Most Centennial students came from the North Highland, a neighborhood which resulted from Urban Renewal disruption of the city’s vibrant eastside African-American community. Now scholars like Richard Rothstein and journalists like Sam Anderson have shown how segregation by law undermined both the eastside’s black community and the Highland.

One decade ago

For the first few months of the 2008 school year, however, my fellow teachers and I happily ate our pessimism. We had a great start. A key leader was Tad (a pseudonym). A football player from the neighboring Millwood H.S., he had a firm, confident handshake. Watching him pick up litter in the hallway that he did not drop, I saw real hope for Centennial.
We soon learned that our initial good fortune had been possible because many seriously CONTINUE READING: Proposed closure of Centennial Mid-High offers lesson

Where Did the Money Go? U.S. GAO - K-12 Education: Challenges to Assessing Program Performance and Recent Efforts to Address Them

U.S. GAO - K-12 Education: Challenges to Assessing Program Performance and Recent Efforts to Address Them

Challenges to Assessing Program Performance and Recent Efforts to Address Them

The Department of Education provides billions of dollars in grants for programs to improve K-12 outcomes.
Do they work?
We found that Education faces challenges determining whether these programs work. Specifically, problems persist with:
Oversight. For example, some program grant files were missing descriptions of what grantees achieved.
Data quality. Education lacks assurance that some state-submitted data are accurate.
Capacity. A lack of qualified staff has impacted monitoring, and Education hasn’t updated hiring plans in years.
Study design. Measuring long-term outcomes can be difficult.

Oversight and monitoring. Weaknesses in Education's internal controls have hindered its oversight and monitoring of grantees and its assessments of K-12 program performance. In April 2017, GAO reported that Education's oversight of discretionary grants monitoring was limited. Some offices, including the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, did not consistently document required monitoring activities in official grant files. GAO recommended that Education establish and implement written supervisory review procedures for official grant files. In response, Education officials said they are developing a standard operating procedure for maintaining official grant records, which they plan to issue in early 2019.
Data quality. Persistent quality issues with K-12 data that grantees submit to Education have limited Education's ability to use those data to assess performance. In April 2017, GAO reported that Education lacks reasonable assurance that data submitted by grantees for its 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant program are accurate, and that these data may not be useful for decision making and reporting. GAO recommended that Education check the accuracy of federal-level data submitted by grantees. In response, Education officials said they modified and improved the agency's data system to perform these types of checks and reduce errors.
Capacity. Education's ability to oversee and monitor grantees, collect and report quality data, and use performance assessment information in decision making is directly related to its capacity and organizational resources. According to Education officials, capacity has been and remains a challenge to assessing K-12 program performance. In its 2016 report on the Rural Education Achievement Program, Education's Office of Inspector General (OIG) concluded that Education's inadequate monitoring of program grantees was partly due to its limited human capital capacity. In response, Education requested additional staff and implemented a risk-based approach for selecting grantees to monitor, according to Education officials cited in the OIG report.
Methodological limitations. Education has faced methodological limitations assessing program performance, including difficulties assessing the benefits of flexible grant programs, isolating program impact, and measuring long-term outcomes. Education officials told GAO that these types of methodological challenges are difficult to address, although Education has taken steps to mitigate them. For example, GAO reported in May 2014 on the difficulty Education faces in evaluating the effectiveness of the Promise Neighborhoods program in part because the program provides certain flexibilities to grantees. Partly in response to GAO's recommendation that Education develop a plan to conduct a national evaluation of the program, Education awarded a contract in fiscal year 2018 to develop options for evaluating the program's effect on student outcomes. In November 2018, Education officials stated that they intend to award a new contract in late fiscal year 2019 to evaluate the effectiveness of the program nationwide.

Why GAO Did This Study

Education plays a key role in supporting educational opportunities for K-12 students, including awarding grants and overseeing compliance with federal education laws. However, questions have been raised about how Education assesses program performance. Both GAO and Education's OIG have reported on various management and oversight issues related to Educations program performance. GAO was asked to review Education's K-12 program performance assessment activities and related barriers. This report describes challenges Education faces in assessing the performance of its K-12 programs, as well as steps it has taken to address them.
To identify challenges to program performance assessment and learn about how Education addressed these challenges, GAO examined documents from Education, reviewed prior GAO work on government-wide performance assessment activities and Education's K-12 programs, and interviewed Education officials. To identify specific examples of K-12 programs that illustrate each of the challenges, GAO reviewed prior related GAO reports and relevant Education OIG reports and considered the views of Education officials. Although these examples are not generalizable, they reflect a variety of K-12 programs and show a range of Education's actions in response to the challenges. GAO also reviewed relevant federal laws and regulations.
For more information, contact Jacqueline M. Nowicki at (617) 788-0580 or
U.S. GAO - K-12 Education: Challenges to Assessing Program Performance and Recent Efforts to Address Them