"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

2016 Medley #12

Testing, Losing Our Way,
Vouchers, Charters, the Right-Wing


INAPPROPRIATE TESTS

The following passage has no link. It was posted on Facebook by my wife who supervises student teachers for Indiana University. The passage below is from one of her students, a student teacher, who can already see what damage we are doing to our children. This is what happens when lobbyists for testing companies buy legislators.
I guess I didn't realize how draining ISTEP was on students (especially those with disabilities) until I experienced it myself. Their patience, motivation to do any work, and stamina was extremely low. I tried my best to help keep students motivated/upbeat but it did not work very well. I really did not do a lot of teaching this past week which is sad to me because there are a ton of kids not getting services...it is painful to watch these kids struggle through these tests.... It's just really tough to see students not even come close to being able to accomplish what is expected of them. These tests are not designed with students with any sort of special need at all.

LOSING OUR WAY

America, You Great Unfinished Symphony

I read Bob Herbert's Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America last summer (2015). I had read an excerpt on Bill Moyer's web site and immediately got a copy. So far I've read it twice and both times I've been amazed at the insanity that is driving our nation to the brink of disaster.
  • We're sending our young men and women off to war without preparing for their return (not to mention that we're sending them off to war for no apparent reason).
  • We're letting our highways, bridges, and other necessary infrastructure deteriorate to a dangerous level because of tax inequality. We aren't collecting enough money to keep the country running (e.g. from large profitable companies paying no taxes such as Merck, Seagate, GM).
  • We're selling off our school system to people like Eva Moskowitz and companies like Pearson because the privatizers have sold American people the lie that our public schools are failing and only privatization can help.
  • ...much, much, more
The book review below (written by my daughter) asks
Why don’t we act? Why do we keep voting for candidates who don’t represent our interests? Herbert doesn’t have an answer for that–just a call to action that we keep refusing to take.
Click the link to read the whole review (at the original site, all ad revenue goes to fight cancer, so be sure to read it there). Then get a copy of Losing Our Way and read it. This is an important book.
Losing Our Way is just about the saddest book I’ve ever read. It took me well over a month to read it, even though it’s great, because I had to keep stopping so I wouldn’t sink into a terrible depression.

Losing Our Way is basically the story of everything that’s wrong with the United States today, from our failing infrastructure, to struggling schools, to wage stagnation and income inequality, to endless wars in the Middle East. Bob Herbert knows his stuff, and he doesn’t pull any punches. He illustrates the alarming statistics with stories of Americans, like the teenager who is struggling to finish high school while also working third shift to support her family, the woman whose back was broken in a bridge collapse in Minnesota, and the soldier whose legs were blown off by an IED in Afghanistan. Each story is alarming, depressing, and enlightening. I think a lot of Americans have felt for years that something was not quite right in the United States, and Herbert is able to connect the dots.
Here is Herbert's keynote address at this year's NPE National Conference in Raleigh.


PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

School Daze: Some Colo. Parents Are Demanding Taxpayer Money For Religious Education

Americans United for Separation of Church and State understands what the Indiana Supreme Court does not – that students have a right to a taxpayer funded education, not a taxpayer funded religious education. No other public service allows citizens to earmark their tax money for a privatized version of the service (although there are people who wish that weren't so).  We don't give vouchers for books and deduct that from the public library fund. We don't give vouchers for private security services and then shortchange city, county, and state police departments. People can't refuse to pay for public parks because they have a nice yard...or refuse to pay for road maintenance because they don't drive.

Public education should be no different.
The thing is, no parent is being denied a religious education for their child if that’s what they want. Just because they have to pay for that education themselves without government assistance doesn’t mean anyone is being treated unfairly.

Americans United opposes vouchers because they are so frequently government bailouts for religious schools. That’s what IJ is seeking in its lawsuit and while all students have the right to a quality public education, none have the right to publicly funded religious instruction.

Fortunately the Colorado Supreme Court has already weighed in on this matter. Let’s hope this latest attempt to force taxpayers to subsidize sectarian education is quickly dismissed.

Maryland’s Mistake: Vouchers Comes To The Free State

The Washington Post, owned by privatizer billionaire Jeff Bezos, was thrilled that the Democrats, who have a majority in the Maryland legislature, passed a voucher bill for their state. Apparently the Post thinks that the lead poisoning that started Freddie Gray on his way towards his death at the hands of the police could have been prevented had he gone to a private or parochial school.
Observed the newspaper, “They stressed the urgency of helping young black men in the city. Education…is key to better futures, and the unrest that followed the death of Freddie Gray last April shone new light on the shortcomings of the public school system and the injustice that does.”

Freddie Gray was a 25-year-old man who was arrested by Baltimore police in April of 2015 for possessing a switchblade. He received rough treatment in police custody and later died of a broken neck. Six police officers have been charged in his death. The legal cases against them are ongoing.

It’s clear this was a tragic incident. What’s not so clear is how vouchers might prevent it from happening in the future.
Public funds ought to go to public services which serve everyone. Voucher schools, too often, don't.
Instead of weakening public education by siphoning money away to private, religious schools that elevate preaching over teaching and retain the right to kick anyone out who doesn’t agree, Maryland lawmakers would have done better to focus on the public schools that need help. After all, these are the institutions that are educating the vast majority of Maryland’s young people.

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS

Charter School Begins Shutting Down—Students are Pushed Out

If you don't think "it's all about the money," think again.

Real public schools, belong to their community. Community public schools build a history of children and grandchildren attending the same school that parents and grandparents attended. There is stability in the teaching staff...teachers at such schools often spend their entire careers in one school. That stability and continuity is good for children and the community.

"reform" has given us instability in the form of charter schools which can, and often do, close at a moment's notice...charter schools which take the money and run...charter schools with no publicly elected school board, high teacher turnover, and profit for shareholders driving the bottom line.

Here we have a charter school which closed, leaving parents and children to scramble for a new school. This is the "free market" at work. A private school that can't make it closes and students are returned to the public school...which, by law, must take everyone. We should not be spending public funds on charter schools. We should be repairing and improving our community, neighborhood and small town schools instead.
Milwaukeeans were shocked to find out that the troubled North Point Lighthouse Charter School gave parents just a few days’ notice in February that it would shut down three grades before closing down entirely at the end of the school year.

But as the Shepherd can report exclusively, the school, chartered by the City of Milwaukee, will keep the state aid for the estimated 60 students who have been transferred from the school, even though they won’t finish the school year there.

How Charters Destabilize Public School Districts: Let Us Count the Ways

Charters don't succeed any better than real public schools. They have ways of avoiding hard-to-educate students. They have ways of avoiding the accountability that is required of real public schools. Patrons of charter schools can't go to a publicly accountable school board with questions or complaints.

Charters are private corporations taking our tax money and only sometimes using that money for the benefit of students.
Three recent press reports—from Nevada, Chicago, Illinois, and Massachusetts—document how expansion of charter schools is undermining the public schools that serve the majority of students including those with the greatest needs. The same theory of charter school expansion operates all three locations—competition, innovation, and growing opportunity for students who have been left behind. Instead all three recent articles describe diversion of desperately needed public tax dollars, destabilization of public schools, lack of regulation, and all sorts of ways that students with the greatest needs get left farther behind.


Charter schools exploit accountability loophole

Charters can legally work "behind closed doors." What could go wrong?
But the accountability promise made in 2001 counts for little when the authorizer is a private college or an appointed state board filled with a majority of charter-friendly members. When Ball State threatened to revoke charters for poor-performing schools, some charter operators simply shopped for another sponsor. Thus, Timothy L. Johnson Academy – formerly sponsored by Ball State – is now overseen by Trine University. In total, four schools facing the loss of their BSU charters operate today under private oversight.

How did Trine, Grace College and others determine that failing schools deserve a second chance? Only they know – Indiana law allowed the private schools to tap into millions of dollars in taxpayer-provided tuition support with no public oversight.

THE EXTREME RIGHT WING

Cruz is Right to Blame Public Schools for People Not Buying His Crackpot Ideas

What used to be "extreme right-wing" has now become mainstream.
This is funny for other reasons too. Really. It is. Because Ted Cruz is right about something. But he thinks it’s a bad thing when really, it’s good. Because it shows that the educational system works by teaching kids history and geography – the old “reading, writing and arithmetic.” But it also teaches kids to think for themselves.

Ted Cruz and his type call being taught to think “indoctrination,” when in fact is an immunization against indoctrination. The indoctrination Cruz is pushing with his “constitutional conservatism.”

As Thomas Jefferson said in a letter to Charles Yancey in 1816, “if a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be.”

Which is why Republicans hate public education with a purple passion.

Bruner: Pre-K Programs Are Federal Plot to Make Children Gay

This candidate for the Texas State School Board will likely be elected. She follows in the tradition of Don McLeroy who famously said, "Somebody's gotta stand up to experts..." because those same "experts" disagreed with his religious beliefs. There are way too many people who will vote for her because they believe that being educated corrupts you. [See Listen to Experts]
As with pretty much all of her other comments, she offers no evidence to back up any of her claims and we’re left to offer only wild guesses as to where in the world she got this one. Or where she got the one about President Obama working as a gay prostitute to finance a drug habit. Or the one about LBJ assassinating JFK. Or the one about baby dinosaurs starving themselves into extinction after they left Noah’s ark. Or that there are cobras sneaking into the country.

If you’re just finding out about Bruner, you probably think we’re making this up. But we’re not. Here’s our blog file on her to prove it.


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