Ed News, Friday, September 30, 2016 Edition


A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

  “Our education system often teaches us how to conform 
  more than how to wonder and venture.” 

― Debasish Mridha

LAUSD Supt. Proposes an Ambitious Strategic Plan
LAUSD Supt. Michelle King ran her newly revised 3-year strategic plan by her board on Tuesday.  A story in Wednesday’s L.A. Timesoutlines some of her rather ambitious goals like a 100% graduation rate.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t No Child Left Behind aim for all students to be 100% proficient in math and English by 2014.  Tell me again how successful that was.  King has some other, more realistic goals, that are mentioned in the article.  She should stick to ones that have some semblance of achievement.  Don’t get me wrong, setting goals is a very good idea but they need to be reasonable or you are just setting yourself up for failure.  “Her plan includes a push to increase popular school options such as magnets,” the piece reports, “and dual-language programs, as well as modest gains on standardized tests and in the graduation rate year to year.”  That’s more like it.
School Police Taser Students
Here’s a rather disturbing story.  Any idea how many times students have been tasered by campus police in the past 5 years?  THE HUFFINGTON POST, in conjunction with THE HECHINGER REPORT has a disquieting account titled “Set to Stun” outlining how many and what types of incidents have prompted the use of the electroshock weapon.  It begins with two students fighting in the hallway of a North Carolina high school.  “This is one of at least 84 incidents of children being Tasered,” the story reveals, “or shot with a stun gun by a school police officer since September 2011, according to media reports tracked by The Huffington Post. The number is a gross underestimation because not every incident is reported, and no state or federal organization track how often children are zapped at schools.  The children, who were all hit by a Taser or stun gun by school-based police officers, also called school resource officers, were 12 to 19 years old when the incidents occurred.”              In a follow-up to the above story, THE HECHINGER REPORT describes 4 additional incidents of students being struck with stun-guns since August.  “There is little official data on how often school police have used Tasers on students at school.  The use of these devices have resulted in devastating physical effects,” it explains.  “In 2013, Texas high school student Noe Nino de Rivera was stunned at school after trying to break up a school fight, according to reports from his attorney.  After the Taser was fired, Nino de Rivera fell to the ground, hit his head and spent nearly two months in a medically induced coma.”
Teach for America
Nancy Bailey on her NANCY BAILEY’S EDUCATION BLOGraises a number of questions about Teach for America.  You can probably guess what her position is on the group by her title: “Do Americans Hate Teachers, Or Are They Duped by Teach for America?”  She notes that TFA collects almost $300 million a year from government and corporate/philanthropic sources.  “Teach for America would be better as Teacher Aides for America.  Those interested in teaching,” she suggests, “could spend time working under the supervision of real teachers.  They could then return to college to earn a legitimate education degree before being permitted to teach.  But they should not earn the right to lead a class without being fully prepared.  They should not replace the career teacher.  Think what it would be like for America’s public school students, if all of the TFA donors got behind real career teachers.  What a wonderful world it would be!”  Bailey includes a link to a “long, long list” of donors to TFA from the group’s own financial statement which you can also find by clicking here.  Take a minute and scroll through the 29 page document.  The donor list begins on p. 4 and runs all the way to the end.
Charter Schools, Choice & Corporate “Reform”
CAPITAL & MAIN profiles another one of those billionaire philanthropists who has nothing better to do than throw millions of dollars into the corporate “reform,” choice and charter movement.  This time it focuses on Doris Fisher, co-founder of the Gap “Even if some of the charter schools Fisher champions have been a success,”it counters, “she’s secretly supported efforts that critics regard as undermining the success of the public school system and teachers.  A recent investigation by California Hedge Clippers, a coalition of community groups and unions, found that Fisher was one of a number of wealthy Californians who in 2012 used a dark money network involving out-of-state organizations linked to the conservative Koch brothers to shield their donations to controversial campaign efforts that year.  The money was used to oppose Proposition 30, a tax on high-income Californians to fund public schools and public safety, and support Proposition 32, which, among other things, would have severely limited the ability of organized labor, including teachers unions, to raise money for state and local races.”             The always dynamic Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, uncovers the close ties between L.A. billionaire Eli Broad and the Walton Foundation of Arkansas (and Walmart fame) as the former, through his foundation, continues his push to charterize up to 50% of the LAUSD.  Broad took a lot of flak for being the poster child of the effort so he went underground and created a front group, Great Public Schools Now, to promote his agenda.  Schneider is on top of this subterfuge and points out the group’s secretive funding, going so far as to issue a challenge for them to make their funders public.  “Like Walton, Broad expands choice, and it funds corporate-reform-minded organizations,” she notes, “that can provide the minions and leadership transplanting necessary to transform a traditional school district into a decentralized, under-regulated, market-fed, billionaire-directed farce.”             El Camino Real Charter High School (LAUSD) is in the midst of a controversy involving several administrators who made use of the school’s credit card for “numerous seemingly exorbitant personal and/or improper expenses” according to an independent investigative report authorized by the district.  On Wednesday, one group of parents and teachers protested in front of the school against the people involved in the alleged mismanagement and lack of oversight while another group of staff members gathered in support.  TheL.A. Daily News has the details about the problems at the school and the two counter demonstrations.              Award-winning New York principal (now retired), Carol Burris, who is currently the executive director of the Network for Public Education (NPE), presents the second of her 4-part exposè on the state of charter schools in California.  This one is headlined “Why California’s Charter Sector is Called ‘The Wild West'” and appears on Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post. If includes some introductory remarks by Strauss. who starts off with a list of some of the problems facing charters in the Golden State.  “Although the original intent of the independent charters may well have been to scoop up at-risk kids and give them a second chance,”Burris writes, “the lack of criteria for student placement, along with inadequate regulations have led to obvious abuses.  There are now far too many independent learning charter schools whose operators, some with no background or expertise in education, make substantial salaries, while cash-strapped districts grab students and revenue from other districts miles away.  Worst of all, the students who need the most support and daily guidance from adults are in charters that do not require much contact at all.”  If you missed Part 1 of Burris’ series or if you just wish to review it again, click here.  The entire series will become part of an extended national report on charter schools to be published by the NPE next year. [Ed. note: I can’t wait.  It should be a doozy!]               On Wednesday, the U.S. Dept. of Education announced the awarding of $245 million in grants, as part of its Charter Schools Program (CSP), to 8 state departments of education (including California) and 15 charter school management organizations (3 are headquartered in California).  The press release discussing the awards can be found on the U.S. Department of Educationwebsite.  Diane Ravitch’s blog was nonplussed, to say the least, about the continued granting of federal taxpayer dollars to the charter sector.             If Diane Ravitch is not happy with all the federal money going to charters (see above), how is she going to react to an Eli Broad front group handing out grants to charters in L.A. under the guise of improving “public education” in the city?  A story in today’s L.A. Times reports how the Great Public Schools Now organization is distributing grants to fund new (charter) campuses in the LAUSD.  “The organization was born out of a confidentially circulated plan, obtained by The Times, that envisioned pulling half the students from the nation’s second-largest school system into charter schools.” it mentions.  “Charters operate independently of L.A. Unified and their growth to date — with about 16% of district enrollment — is one important factor contributing to the district’s budget woes because education dollars follow the students. . . . Wednesday’s announcement marks the second installment of grants.  Earlier, the group awarded funds to Teach for America, an enrichment program and a charter school.”               The Nevada Supreme Court ruled yesterday on a 4-2 vote that the state voucher program’s funding formula is unconstitutional and should remain blocked.  The Reno Gazette-Journal has details about the decision that saw both sides claiming victory.  “The ruling says the program authorized last spring by the Nevada Legislature did not have its own dedicated funding source,” the piece notes, “and is contradicting the Nevada Constitution by drawing on money allocated for public schools in the state’s Distributive School Account.”               Gov. Brown vetoed SB 739 yesterday and AB 709 today.  Both bills attempted to inject some much needed transparency and accountability into the burgeoning charter industry in California.  An item on Valerie Strauss’ column for The Washington Post describes both measures and why Brown rejected them.  “An alliance of business and political leaders in the state had urged Brown to sign Assembly Bill 709, which would have required that all charters be transparent about how they spend public funds, and would have barred charter school board members and their relatives from profiting from their schools,” she writes.  “The bill also would have insisted that charter schools be subject to the state’s laws involving conflict of interest, open meetings and open records.  Brown’s veto message said that he had vetoed a similar bill in 2014 and that he felt that the new legislation went too far in telling charters how to operate.  On Thursday, he voted Senate Bill 739, which was narrower than AB 709.  It sought to prevent financially troubled school districts from authorizing charter schools to operate in other school districts that haven’t approved them.”  Interestingly, Strauss includes both veto messages Brown penned rejecting the measures.  Diane Ravitch was disgusted by Brown’s decisions.  “He has succumbed to the privatization movement,” she complains bitterly, “those who would destroy our communities and the public education system.
Election 2016
If you are not enamored of either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton’s education policies, what are your options?  What about Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson?  Politico caught up with the former governor of New Mexico and asked about those policies.  His responses, unfortunately, require a subscription but Diane Ravitch’s blog, comes through again and provides them for your to peruse.  She headlines her piece “Don’t Vote for Gary Johnson.”
Chicago Teachers Set Oct. 11 Strike Date
With their previous contract expired in June, 2015, the 27,000 member Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) Wednesday set an Oct. 11 strike date if a tentative agreement is not reached with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the nation’s third-largest school district.  TheChicago Tribune has the latest developments and reviews some of the key issues on the negotiating table .  “The CTU is required to give 10 days’ notice before a walkout,” it points out, “and a strike remains only a threat that the union can use for leverage in ongoing talks.  Even with a strike date set, the union could opt to stay on the job if negotiations show progress.”  The union last went out on strike for 7 days in 2012.
Single-Gender Schools
When the 2016-17 school year began in August, the LAUSD had 2 new single-gender schools, the first such campuses in almost 20 years.  EDUCATION WEEK takes up the often controversial issue in an article titled “Single-Gender Schools Prove Best for Some Students.”  It focuses on one K-8 STEM school for girls in Dallas.  “Single-gender schools have long held appeal for students and parents who,” the story explains, “believe they provide a learning environment with fewer distractions and devoid of biases about what academic pursuits are best for boys or girls, but their numbers are relatively small.  Several urban districts, however, opened new single-gender public schools this school year, including three in Dallas, as a way to provide more options for families, attract parents who might otherwise leave for charter, private, or suburban schools, and increase access to specialized academic programs.”
“Walk-Ins” Slated Oct. 6 to Support Public Schools
You probably know what a “walk-out” is, but what about a “walk-in?”  The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS) is planning a series of nationwide “walk-ins” on Thursday, Oct. 6, in support of public schools.  This is the third such event organized by AROS.  They held similar gatherings on Feb. 17 and May 4 of this year.  You can find a 2-page leaflet on the organization’s website about the event by clicking here.  It contains a list of 27 cities, including Los Angeles and San Diego, that are planning to participate on Oct. 6.  “What are Walk Ins?” the flier asks.  Answer:  “Just that!  Parents, Teachers and students gather out front of their school 30-45 minutes before their duty-day starts.  They picket, have donuts, coffee, etc.. And then they all Walk-In together.  Given the never ending attacks on public education that many of our cities endure, this provides a positive action that that says that these are our schools and our communities. It also builds solidarity amongst our members as they will feel the power of collective action.”  You will find more information about The Alliance on their website.
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U.S. Supreme Court to Rule on Some Important Education Cases
And finally, the U.S. Supreme Court traditionally opens its new term on the first Monday in October which happens to arrive this Monday.  According to an analysis in EDUCATION WEEK, the eight justices (minus Antonin Scalia, who passed away unexpectedly in February–his seat remains unfilled) will face an active docket of cases dealing with some pivotal K-12 education topics including special ed, government aid to religious schools and gender issues.  “The Feb. 13 death of Scalia led the court to deadlock on several decisions last term,including a major case on whether teachers’ unions could continue to collect service fees from nonmembers.  Until that case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which included several school districts as nominal parties,” it points out, “the Supreme Court had gone five years without taking up any cases with public school districts or administrators as parties.  That is changing in earnest in the new term.”  Be sure to check out the sidebar titled “Education at the Supreme Court” which previews 4 specific cases before the court this term.

Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             

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