Latest News and Comment from Education

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Charter Schools Are Pushing Public Education to the Brink

Charter Schools Are Pushing Public Education to the Brink

Charter Schools Are Pushing Public Education to the Brink

When striking Los Angeles teachers won their demand to call for a halt to charter school expansions in California, they set off a domino effect, and now teachers in other large urban districts are making the same demand.
Unchecked charter school growth is also bleeding into 2020 election campaigns. Recently, New York magazine columnist Jonathan Chait berated Democratic Massachusetts Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren for having opposed a ballot initiative in her home state in 2016 that would have raised a cap on the number of charter schools. “There may be no state in America that can more clearly showcase the clear success of charter schools than [Massachusetts],” declared Chait.
But while Chait and other charter school fans claim Massachusetts as a charter school model, the deeper reality is that charters are driving Boston’s public education system to the financial brink.
As the Boston Globe recently reported, the city is experiencing an economic boom, but its schools resemble “an economically depressed industrial center.” The state’s unfair funding formula is part of the problem, but an ever-expanding charter school industry also imposes a huge financial drain.
Charter School Money Sucks
“Two decades ago, state educational aid covered almost a third of Boston’s school expenses,” writes Globe reporter James Vaznis. Today, “city officials anticipate that in just a few years every penny from the state will instead go toward charter-school costs of Boston students. Boston is slated to receive $220 million in state education aid; about $167 million will cover charter- CONTINUE READING: Charter Schools Are Pushing Public Education to the Brink

Cory Booker Has a Betsy DeVos Problem – Mother Jones

Cory Booker Has a Betsy DeVos Problem – Mother Jones

Cory Booker Has a Betsy DeVos Problem
“I became a pariah in Democratic circles for taking on the party orthodoxy on education.”

In the spring of 2012, Cory Booker delivered the keynote address at the third annual School Choice Policy Summit at a Westin hotel in Jersey City, New Jersey. For a half hour, the then-Newark mayor told hundreds of attendees dining in the hotel ballroom that the traditional public school system “still chokes out the potential of millions of children…Your destiny is determined by the zip code you’re born into, [and] some children by law are locked into schools that fail their genius.” The most promising solution, he said, was one aligned with the sweeping educational reform he was currently undertaking in Newark that was replacing failing neighborhood schools with publicly funded, privately managed charters that students could opt into based on their desires and needs.
Booker’s address that evening was notable for a number of reasons. He was one of the only Democrats speaking in a lineup that included Louisiana GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal and Fox News commentator Juan Williams. The school choice plan he championed had become a plank of the Republican platform, while many of his fellow Democrats, who generally preferred direct investment in public education and enjoyed political backing from teachers’ unions, opposed it.
And then there was the group that organized the event. His appearance that evening was at the invitation of the American Federation for Children, a group chaired by Betsy DeVos. Booker told attendees he’d been involved with AFC “in its most nascent stages,” and his relationship with the DeVos family dated back to his days on Newark’s city council. DeVos, a Republican megadonor, had become known as one of the fiercest proponents of school choice—especially of for-profit charter schools and voucher programs that would allow students to use public funds to attend private schools. She also addressed the group that evening, and in a press release announcing the event’s speakers, DeVos, who had served with Booker on the board of AFC’s predecessor organization, said she was “proud and honored” to include Booker in the “committed group of education leaders who have courageously stood up to put the interests of children first by supporting expanded educational options for families.”
Nearly seven years later, Cory Booker has announced he would like to be the Democratic candidate for president in 2020, and Betsy DeVos is in her CONTINUE READING: Cory Booker Has a Betsy DeVos Problem – Mother Jones

Judge Orders District to Arbitrate Its Refusal to Implement Our Restructured Salary Schedule - Sacramento City Teachers Association

Judge Orders District to Arbitrate Its Refusal to Implement Our Restructured Salary Schedule - Sacramento City Teachers Association


Upholds SCTA Motion to Compel Sac City to Honor Arbitration Clause of our Contract
Sacramento (February 6, 2019): In a huge legal victory, the Sacramento County Superior Court late this afternoon granted the Union’s motion to force the District to arbitrate the parties’ ongoing salary dispute.
The court ruled that the issue was “not even a close call” and that the dispute must be presented to a labor arbitrator because that is what the parties’ collective bargaining agreement requires. This puts the parties right back where we were in mid-November 2018, when the District abruptly called off arbitration and instead sued us over the salary dispute, in a thinly veiled effort to delay the inevitable. The whole dispute could have been resolved months ago.
With this victory, an experienced labor arbitrator can resolve the dispute, and the District’s lawsuit is stayed.
The District’s gambit, in other words, failed spectacularly. It also undoubtedly came at considerable financial cost to the District, which sees no problem paying hefty legal fees to its outside attorneys even as it pleads financial distress to its teachers and pupils.
“It’s a clear victory. It’s a shame that the District frivolously spent precious resources on attorneys,” said David Fisher, president of SCTA, “rather than using those resources in our classrooms.”
Judge Orders District to Arbitrate Its Refusal to Implement Our Restructured Salary Schedule - Sacramento City Teachers Association

What I will never forget about the State of the Union - Lily's Blackboard

What I will never forget about the State of the Union - Lily's Blackboard

What I will never forget about the State of the Union

So, yes, I was in the House gallery to hear Donald Trump’s surreal State of the Union address. But no, it was certainly not by his invitation. I was invited by the most powerful woman in the United States of America, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who single-handedly stopped the most powerful man in the United States of America, Donald Trump, from prolonging a cruel and dangerous government shutdown. 

I sat in the gallery and watched one side of the room stand and applaud like robots at almost every sentence Donald Trump uttered, no matter how bizarre or self-serving. I waited to hear anything on education, especially with state after state, from West Virginia to Oklahoma to Arizona and North Carolina, and districts like Los Angeleswhere educators were massing in the streets along with parents, advocates and community allies to demand that educators be listened to and that our students be valued.
Then it came. His plan for education. With a nod to Betsy DeVos he said, “To help support working parents, the time has come to pass school choice for America’s children.”
One side rose on cue to applaud. One side sat silent. He gave one sentence. Nothing on funding.  Nothing on protecting students from discrimination. Nothing on support for health or social-emotional learning or the arts or STEM or making it affordable for a teacher to pay off a student loan…
One sentence. And a nod to Betsy DeVos.
After the address, we were invited back to the Speaker’s reception room where she sat with us and spoke with us – educators, unionists, doctors, transgender soldiers, immigrants, victims of gun violence… and she just talked about how what she was seeing was different from any other administration. That what we had just heard about immigrants and women’s health and about how “wasting time” looking into the accusations of corruption within this administration CONTINUE READING: What I will never forget about the State of the Union - Lily's Blackboard

Teachers At Four Chicago Charter School Campuses Walk Out | PopularResistance.Org

Teachers At Four Chicago Charter School Campuses Walk Out | PopularResistance.Org


With contract talks stalled after nine months of negotiations, 175 teachers at four Civitas campuses, part of Chicago International Charter School (CICS), walked out on strike Tuesday at 6 a.m. Teachers and staff are seeking raises, smaller class sizes, a reduction in healthcare costs and more support staff including social workers.
The talks broke down over the demand for 8 percent raises in the first year. CICS says it would accept the proposal only by eliminating crucial support staff, like social workers and counselors.
The four schools—ChicagoQuest, Northtown, Wrightwood and Ralph Ellison schools—are managed by Civitas Education Partners and have an enrollment of about 2,200 students. This walkout is the second strike of charter teachers in the US; the first took place at Acero Charter Schools, also in Chicago, last December. Charter schools are publicly-funded by taxpayers but privately managed.
CICS has kept the schools open with non-union strikebreakers and school administrators, according to the Sun Times. The charter operator said there would be “enough adults in the building to ensure that students are safe,” and students will be in “online learning, recreational and arts activities.”
Justifying this decision, Civitas CEO LeeAndra Khan said, “Our first responsibility is the safety and well-being of each of the 2,200 students who attend our four schools. If teachers go on strike, it is simply too great a burden on the families of those students to close our schools when many families will struggle to find alternative care for their children.”
Civitas is a subgroup of the CICS chain of charters. Four of CICS 17 campuses CONTINUE READING: Teachers At Four Chicago Charter School Campuses Walk Out | PopularResistance.Org

#BlackLivesMatterAtSchool Twitter Chat: A national conversation on this week of action & the demand for #CounselorsNotCops – Black Lives Matter At School

#BlackLivesMatterAtSchool Twitter Chat: A national conversation on this week of action & the demand for #CounselorsNotCops – Black Lives Matter At School

#BlackLivesMatterAtSchool Twitter Chat: A national conversation on this week of action & the demand for #CounselorsNotCops

e are excited to announce the national #BlackLivesMatterAtSchool twitter chat at 9pm Eastern/6pm Pacific so we can learn about all the protests, lesson plans, & forums you all have participated in. There are so many stories from the classroom and beyond to share about powerful antiracist teaching and advocacy–and we want to hear them all and learn from each other.
Yet there are also many recent stories of police brutalizing students in school. #BlackLivesMatterAtSchool will be joining Dignity in Schools to hold a #CounselorsNotCops Twitter chat on Thursday, February 7th at 9pm Eastern/6pm Pacific. Use the two hashtags to join the conversation.
“Fund Counselors Not Cops” became the fourth demand of the Black Lives Matter At School movement this year because of educators and students experience with police in schools–and a powerful report on the many negative impacts of the policing of Black and Brown students in school.
In the last several weeks alone, there have been some egregious instances of criminalizing Black youth and horrific acts of police brutality. According to the Huffington Post, on January 15, 2019, at East Middle School in Binghamton in upstate New York, four 12-year old girls were strip-searched after being accused of acting too “giddy” and suspected of being under the influence of drugs. Later, no drugs were found in their system after being subjected to the humiliation and degradation of an invasive process. 
On January 25 at L.W. Higgins High School in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, a high school senior had an altercation with a Jefferson Parish Deputy that left his face bloody and swollen according to his mother. In Chicago, Illinois, on Tuesday, January 29, 2019, student Dnigma Howard, was tasered by a police officer in school. In a video captured of the assault, one can see the officer tasing Dnigma while she was on the ground. Then, on Tuesday, February 5th, a video was released of a police officer assaulting a Black girl at Hazleton Area High School in Pennsylvania.  
We have so much to talk about, so join us for a conversation on these important topics and more!

Defining ‘High-Quality’ Curriculum | Teacher in a strange land

Defining ‘High-Quality’ Curriculum | Teacher in a strange land

Defining ‘High-Quality’ Curriculum

Hey, remember when Bill Gates and his disciples were pushing the Common Core and every day there was another info piece published in Ed World saying, emphatically and even snippily, that these were STANDARDS, not a CURRICULUM?
Remember those assurances that a national consensus on standards and reliable, aligned assessments evaluating student mastery of those core standards were merely a conceptual framework–the beginning and the end of their Grand Master National Make-Schools-Better plan. Remember when they claimed school districts and individual teachers were free to craft their own curricula? Because teachers knew the kids (duh) and how best to teach them to reach those standards–providing students continued to do well on the tests, of course.
Well, that was then. The headline now is ‘Gates Giving Millions to Train Teachers on High-Quality Curriculum,’ closing the instructional cycle: Standards—Curriculum—Assessments.
Grantees will work to improve how teachers are taught to use and modify existing series that are well aligned to state learning standards.
So–teachers won’t be using hand-selected materials or instructional activities they find relevant or engaging to their students’ lives. They won’t have the authority to ditch packaged materials that don’t work for their kids and create something that does. They will merely be trained—my least favorite word, when it comes to authentic CONTINUE READING: Defining ‘High-Quality’ Curriculum | Teacher in a strange land

Will Booker’s Track Record on Education Be a Problem for his 2020 Campaign? - NJ Spotlight

Will Booker’s Track Record on Education Be a Problem for his 2020 Campaign? - NJ Spotlight


His vision for improving education has included charter schools and merit pay for teachers — views that are out of fashion for many Democrats

Sen. Cory Booker is running for president — and bringing a lengthy record on education with him.

The former mayor of Newark announced his plans Friday, joining a growing group of Democratic hopefuls. One way he stands out from that crowd: He’s spent much of his career promoting a specific vision for improving education that includes charter schools and merit pay for teachers — views that in recent years have gone out of fashion with many Democrats.

On Friday, Booker vowed to run “the boldest pro-public school teacher campaign there is,” noting he’s previously been endorsed by New Jersey’s teachers unions.

But at a time when teachers across the country are pushing for higher salaries and against charter schools, Booker’s record on education is sure to draw a skeptical eye from unions and public school advocates. And his past work alongside Betsy DeVos may make its way into campaign attack ads from his Democratic opponents, even though he voted against her as U.S. education secretary.

Here’s what you should know about Booker’s education track record, including the dramatic overhaul of schools in Newark he oversaw as mayor.

A lot like Barack Obama’s vision…

Booker, who first ran for Newark mayor in 2002, gained prominence at a time when both Democrats and Republicans were endorsing what became known as “education reform”: a constellation of policies that included school choice, including through privately managed charter schools; accountability for low-performing schools; and ratings for teachers that weighed student test scores.

Booker was among the strongest local evangelists of the movement, which drew criticism from teachers unions and community groups who understood that its goals could be at odds with their own. He even became a leading figure for Democrats for Education Reform, a group that worked to advance the reform agenda among elected officials and successfully influenced President Barack Obama’s education platform.

Booker has championed policies that reward highly rated teachers and remove those with poor ratings.

And he’s been a vocal critic of teachers unions along the way, something that could be problematic as he tries to run a pro-teacher campaign.

“Ten years ago when I talked about school choice, I was literally tarred and feathered,” Booker said in 2008, urging Democratic office holders to “have the political will to stand up against these phenomenally powerful interests.”

“I was literally brought into a broom closet by a union and told I would never win office if I kept talking about charters,” he said.

… and like the Betsy Devos vision too

Like every Senate Democrat (and two Republicans), Booker voted against President Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of education in 2017. But unlike his colleagues, he appeared to have a close connection with Betsy DeVos.

That connection stems from one issue where Booker has also gone further than most Democrats: school vouchers. In 2001, he spoke at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, praising private school vouchers, something most progressives opposed then and now.

Booker served with DeVos on the board of directors of the Alliance for School Choice (now known as the American Federation for Children Growth Fund). He also spoke at gatherings of the American Federation for Children, an organization DeVos chaired, in 2012 and again in 2016.

“The mission of this organization is aligned with the mission of our nation,” he said in 2016.

The American Federation of Children has CONTINUE READING: Will Booker’s Track Record on Education Be a Problem for his 2020 Campaign? - NJ Spotlight

CURMUDGUCATION: DC: Charter Leaders Make The Big Bucks

CURMUDGUCATION: DC: Charter Leaders Make The Big Bucks

DC: Charter Leaders Make The Big Bucks

It's a phenomenon noted in many urban education-scapes. The leaders (CEO, Education Visionary, Grand High Muckity Muck, whatever) of a charter operation makes far more money than a) the local public school superintendent responsible for far more students and b) the teachers who work within the charter. But a recent Washington City Paper article by Rachel Cohen lays out some stark examples.

The article starts with Lisa Koenig who left the lawyering biz to teach at a charter. She note that her first year teaching assistant salary was less than her year-end bonus as a lawyer. Koenig stuck with it for seven years, but at one point she asked to see the salary schedule so she could evaluate some further education choices she was considering (would the additional education debt be balance by salary increases). Her charter said no, she could not see that. In fact:

“There are 120 schools but you can’t just call them up and learn their salary schedules,” she says. “It puts us in a position where we can’t make informed choices about where we work. Charter schools are free markets for all the parents and kids, but screw those teachers.”

That kind of information isn't available to anybody, because even though DC charters are funded with taxpayer dollars, they are not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests. As the DC public schools for budget information and they have to tell you. But DC charters, as with most charters in the US, can just say "Nunyabiznis."

Nor is anybody trying to find out. The charters don't attempt to figure out what average charter CONTINUE READING: 
CURMUDGUCATION: DC: Charter Leaders Make The Big Bucks

I'm asked from time to time (mostly, I think, because some people are curious but reluctant to ask) what it's like to be in my particular spot in life. Retired from teaching, sixty-one years old, raising two babies about thirty years after I raised two other babies-- as my wife and I have said at various times over the last decade, we are kind of off the map here.

So my honest answer is that I'm figuring out what it's like, trying to grow into it. But here's what I know, and I promise, beyond this navel gazing, there's a point about education.
When you first have kids, everyone tells you to focus, to pay attention, to enjoy this time because it goes by so fast. You sort of get it, but not really-- not until you've turned around the world a couple of times and suddenly your babies are gone and your full-grown human offspring have arrived.

With the twins, I can feel all the usual things-- the checking and rechecking of the developmental mileposts and getting anxious when it seems as if, maybe, they're lagging. And there is no doubt in my mind that this is far, far worse than it was thirty years ago. I already knew that-- I spent the tail end of my career teaching students who were pulled out to a high-tension stretched-thin level of anxiety driven by the certainty that they had to be on The Path or their lives would be desolate and disastrous. It's not their fault. Their parents are panicked, and why not-- there CONTINUE READING:

Striking Schoolteachers Have Changed the National Conversation about Our Public Schools | janresseger #REDFORED

Striking Schoolteachers Have Changed the National Conversation about Our Public Schools | janresseger

Striking Schoolteachers Have Changed the National Conversation about Our Public Schools

The editor of Current AffairsNathan Robinson offers a profound critique of President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s signature education policy, Race to the Top.  Race to the Top epitomized neoliberalism—“meritocratic, technocratic, and capitalistic, meaning that it (1) sees competition as good and winning competitions as proof of desert, (2) defers to policy experts over the actual people affected by policies, (3) views productivity and success within the marketplace as a measure of the good.”
Robinson reminds us that Race to the Top, “gave $4.3 billion in funding to U.S. schools through a novel mechanism: Instead of giving out the aid based on how much a state’s schools needed it, the Department of Education awarded it through a competition.  Applications ‘were graded on a 500-point scale according to the rigor of the reforms proposed and their compatibility with four administration priorities: developing common standards and assessments; improving teacher training, evaluation, and retention policies; creating better data systems; and adopting preferred school turnaround strategies.’… The Obama administration also wanted states to adopt policies favorable to charter schools. Education secretary Arne Duncan said explicitly that, ‘States that do not have public charter laws or put artificial caps on the growth of charter schools will jeopardize their applications under the Race to the Top Fund.'”
Robinson condemns the Obama-Duncan strategy: “There is something deeply objectionable about nearly every part of Race to the Top.  First, the very idea of having states scramble to compete for federal funds means that children are given additional support based on how good their state legislatures are at pleasing the president, rather than how much those children need support.  Michigan got no Race to the Top money, and Detroit’s schools didn’t see a penny of this $4.3 billion, because it didn’t win the ‘race.’  This ‘fight to the death’ CONTINUE READING: Striking Schoolteachers Have Changed the National Conversation about Our Public Schools | janresseger