The ED NEWS
A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues
Tuesday is the Consolidated Municipal and Special Election date for L.A. County. Polls are open from 7 am to 8 pm. Be sure to vote if you are registered and have not already cast your ballot.
And now to the news.
“I don’t teach. I just show them why to learn, what to learn,
how to learn, and the ultimate purpose of learning.”
UTLA President Re-elected
Bargaining unit members of United Teachers Los Angeles overwhelmingly returned Pres. Alex Caputo-Pearl to office for a second 3-year term. He received over 82% of the votes cast according to a story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times. A little over a quarter of the membership returned ballots. For preliminary UTLA election results see Tuesday’s “Ed News.” “Caputo-Pearl will have little time to savor his victory because the union is locked in another election struggle, over three of seven board seats on the L.A. Board of Education. The union and affiliated unions,” the article reports, “are expected to spend well over $1 million to retain a board that is generally pro-union. Supporters of charter schools are expected to pay even more to try to tip the balance.”
LAUSD School Board Races
The redqueeninla blog returns to reporting on the exorbitant amounts of outside money being poured into the 3 LAUSD school board races on Tuesday by the pro-charter corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies. A big chunk of the money is aimed at defeating incumbent board president Steve Zimmer in District 4 that stretches from the Westside to the West San Fernando Valley. The redqueen lists some of the billionaires by name and who specifically they are contributing to. “Sure our public school system has problems, but all is not unremitting disaster and there’s still a process intact for ordinary citizens to claw their way toward collective improvement. The moment we remove public transparency, accountability and control of our children’s education and our nation’s future,” the author cautions, “is the moment we sell our democracy downriver to plutocratic ‘special interests.’ That’s the future Zimmer’s opposition connives to establish. A public Education sector privatized for corporate ends. It’s no future for our children and it’s no future for our democracy either. . . . The stakes are that stark.” [Ed. note: You may need to click on the charts and graphs she includes or hit the “Zoom +” button to be able to read what they contain.] Peter Dreier, professsor of Politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College, weighs in on the billionaires who are using their outside financial influence to defeat board Pres. Steve Zimmer in a hotly contested LAUSD school board race (see above). Dreier’s commentary appears on THE HUFFINGTON POST and he names names and lists some of the organizations backing the challengers. “The corporate big-wigs are part of an effort that they and the media misleadingly call ‘school reform.’ What they’re really after,” he charges, “is not ‘reform’ (improving our schools for the sake of students) but ‘privatization’ (business control of public education). They think public schools should be run like corporations, with teachers as compliant workers, students as products, and the school budget as a source of profitable contracts and subsidies for textbook companies, consultants, and others engaged in the big business of education.” Diane Ravitch’ blog endorses candidates in two of the three LAUSD school board races ahead of the election on Tuesday. In District 2 she urges a vote for one of the two challengers against incumbent Monica Garcia and in District 4 she picks incumbent Steve Zimmer. “It seems every school board race in Los Angeles is a struggle for the existence of public education,” she observes. “That is because Eli Broad and his billionaire friends pour millions of dollars into local school board races (and Eli is one of the few billionaires who actually lives in Los Angeles) to try to control it.”
Betsy DeVos IS the Sec. of Education. There’s no arguing that fact. Whether she should be in that job is a whole other story. Since her appointment was announced in late November, the “Ed News” has highlighted a a myriad of items detailing her advocacy for charters, vouchers and choice, her lack of practical teaching experience and her dislike of traditional public schools, among other issues. TheCenter for American Progress (CAP), a progressive public policy and advocacy group, perused her financial disclosure forms during her Senate confirmation process and after and discovered some rather disturbing trends. An investigative piece on the organization’s website reveals a number of alarming investments she has, so far, not made any effort to divest herself from. “Overall, DeVos’ paperwork showcases an extensive web of investments, several of which raise eyebrows. . . . Unfortunately,” the piece points out, “senators could not ask DeVos any questions about what is in the OGE [Office of Government Ethics] paperwork during her confirmation hearing. In an unprecedented move that applied to no other Trump nominee, DeVos’ hearing went forward before the paperwork was finished. Members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, or HELP, never had a chance to ask about it.”
Trump and Education
Pres. Trump delivered his first speech to a join session of Congress on Tuesday night. He briefly mentioned education, calling it the “civil rights issue of our time,” which several previous presidents had also done. In addition, he repeated his campaign rhetoric regarding his plan to divert billions of federal taxpayer dollars ($20 billion) into a “tax credit scholarship program” (vouchers) for students to use at private or parochial schools. The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK reviews the speech and some of the other issues Trump raised. “The push for school choice is no surprise—it’s the education issue Trump talked about most often on the campaign trail,” it mentions. “And Trump picked an education secretary, Betsy DeVos, who spent decades advocating for expanding vouchers and charter schools.” Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, is troubled by the verbiage Pres. Trump used about education in his speech to the joint session of Congress on Tuesday night (see above). Bryant finds Trump’s proposals for school “choice” and vouchers to be rather dangerous as they could easily lead down the slippery slope of promoting religious fundamentalism at TAXPAYER EXPENSE. He describes some of the textbooks used in religious schools that voucher wielding students could be attending. Whatever happened to that founding fathers’ provision in the Constitution about separation of church and state? Want a peek at how this might look around the country? Of the roughly 2,300 private schools in Florida,” he points out, “more than 1,500 accept voucher money, and of these voucher-accepting schools, about 45 percent rely on them for at least half of their students. About 70 percent of these schools are religiously affiliated, ‘including some where religion is a central focus.’ Now, Trump wants to roll that out nationwide.” “This is an alarming post,” Diane Ravitch’s blog warns regarding Bryant’s story. “Read at your own peril. . . . Read the entire article. Ask yourself whether religious fundamentalism provides the kind of education that our nation’s children need to prepare for a complex world.” Ravitch is being rather kind in her admonition. Mike Klonsky’s SmallTalk Blog has an analysis of Trump’s speech to Congress. See if you can figure out what Klonsky thought of it from his title: “Trump’s Empty Statements on Education.” He picks up on a couple of the points Trump tried to make. “Trump’s vapid speech to the Joint Session of Congress last night revealed, among other things,” Klonsky complains, “that he is an educational know-nothing. As you might expect, the speech was void of any real vision for the future of public education or school reform. It amounted to little more than a sound-bite ad for market-driven schooling.” This is pretty telling. Today Pres. Trump made his first official visit to a school as president and it was to a CATHOLIC CAMPUS in Florida where over 85% of the 350 students are able to attend due to taxpayer provided vouchers. That’s a photo-opp fraught with meaning. Valerie Strauss discusses the trip prior to its taking place on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post. “Trump has repeatedly expressed his interest in expanding school choice,” she reminds readers, “which includes voucher and tax credit programs that use public dollars to fund tuition and other educational expenses at private and religious schools. Opponents say these programs violate the constitutional separation between church and state and harm traditional public education systems where the vast majority of America’s schoolchildren are enrolled. But they have grown substantially in the past decade, and DeVos has been a leader in the choice movement for decades.” The Politics K-12″ column for EDUCATION WEEK reports on Pres. Trump’s visit to a Florida Catholic school this morning which was his first stopover at a school as president (see above). He was accompanied by Betsy DeVos and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). “Symbolically, it’s telling that Trump picked a Catholic—not public—school for his first school visit,” it points out. “President Barack Obama, a charter fan, picked a charter in the District of Columbia for one of his earliest school tours, although he went to a Catholic school as president-elect, back in November of 2009. And President George W. Bush choose a public school in Tennessee.” Valerie Strauss follows up her blog about Pres. Trump’s visit to the Catholic school in Orlando, Florida, (see above) in her blog for The Washington Post. She describes what took place, who attended and what the message and meaning is of the stop. “Trump is the first sitting president to visit a Catholic school,” she mentions, “since Ronald Reagan visited St. Agatha Catholic School in the Archdiocese of Detroit on Oct. 10, 1984, years after he was elected.”
Public Attitudes About Education
California is unarguably a very progressive, blue state. Texas, on the other hand, is a deeply conservative, red state. The Texas Politics Project, which is a partnership between the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune, polled 1,200 registered voters in February about their attitudes on a number of general subjects. One question had to do with what steps could be taken that would be the “most effective in improving K-12 education?” The top choice selected by 21% of respondents was “Reducing the number of standardized tests students must take;” number 2 choice picked by 20% of respondents was “Increasing funding for the public school system.” Click on the boxes at the bottom of this bar graph to view a particular demographic breakdown of the numbers. The results are rather intriguing, particularly when you remember Texas is such a Republican state. Imagine what the findings might be here in California.
When you were working on your credential did the preparation program include any sort of training for working with students with disabilities? [Ed. note: That was a long time ago for me (1972), but to the best of my knowledge, my answer would be “no.”] A story inTHE HECHINGER REPORT finds that many teacher training programs even today offer little, if any, instruction in working with students with disabilities. “The need for teachers who have both the knowledge and the ability to teach special education students is more critical today than ever before,” it suggests. “A national push to take students with disabilities out of isolation means most now spend the majority of their days in general education classrooms, rather than in separate, special education classes. That means general education teachers are teaching more students with disabilities. But training programs are doing little to prepare teachers.” The article goes on to illustrate its point through the experiences of one middle school math educator in New Jersey who began teaching in 2012. Is your district facing a teacher shortage? Are there not enough newly credentialed educators in your state to meet the demand? Why not have that district create its own teacher preparation program? That’s exactly what the Las Virgenes Unified School District (Ventura County) is doing starting in the fall. Thanks to ALOED member Nancy Kuechle for sending along an article from The Acorn newspaper that describes just how the LVUSD is planning to develop a credential program of its own. “Educators currently receive their credentialing through the Ventura County Office of Education,” it spells out. “District Assistant Superintendent Clara Finneran said Las Virgenes has specific goals focused on reducing suspension and expulsion rates among students that don’t coincide with the VCOE.”
The Teaching Profession
Although it is not often included in state history standards, more and more teachers and districts are including units on the history of white nationalism in the U.S. In the past year or so, the country has seen an upsurge in hate crimes and the formation of hate groups. The author of an essay on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog is a history teacher at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. “Although white nationalism has always been a dominant, if not the dominant ideology in American history, white nationalists in the twenty-first century often embrace policies of voter restrictions, immigration restriction, segregation, flight from public schools, and the defunding of any public programs at any level that are perceived to transfer public funds to minority groups. Moreover,” he continues, “the current resurgence of white nationalism seems to be fueled by the prospect of a minority majority in the near future. Demographers have established that people of color will outnumber white Americans in about thirty years.” Marla Kilfoyle, executive director of the BATs (Badass Teachers Association) gets at the essence of the teaching profession in an impassioned defense of teachers. “The art of teaching cannot be confined to one definition for every school day. The art of teaching is different on different days,” she contends, “with different classes of students, and is different with individual students. The art of teaching does not exist in a silo of one word. One of the administrators who worked in my district said it best, ‘Teaching is the only profession where you have to make 30 decisions in a 40 minute period that can impact a child’s life.’ Teaching is not one thing or the other. Teaching is many things all at once.” Hear! Hear to that!
Proposal to Start School Day Later for California Teens
An editorial in Friday’s L.A. Times commented on a story in the Feb. 18th edition of the paper about a bill introduced in the California legislature that would allow the school day for middle and high school students to start sometime after 8:30 in the morning. The editorial prompted a single letter-to-the-editor that appears in yesterday’s Times. It is from a retired middle school teacher who worked at a school that began at 7:30. The author of the letter was in favor of the later start.
Intelligence Squared U.S. held a fascinating debate on Wednesday in Manhattan on the topic: “Charters Schools are Overrated.” Arguing in favor of that statement are Gary Mirron, professor of Education at Western Michigan University, and Julian Vasquez Heilig, professor of Educational Leadership at CSU Sacramento and co-founder of the NPE (Network for Public Education). [Ed. note: An ALOED colleague and I heard Dr. Heilig speak at Antioch University’s Culver City campus on February 16. See the Feb. 24, edition of the “Ed News.] Arguing against the statement are Jeanne Allen, chief executive officer of the Center for School Reform, and Gerard Robinson, a former Florida education commissioner and resident fellow of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). The “Charters & Choice” column for EDUCATION WEEK has a recap of the debate which includes a poll of viewers prior to and after the event about how they felt about the topic. “The debate comes at a time when expanding school choice, including charter schools, is shaping up to be the main agenda for K-12 under President Donald Trump,” it mentions,” who brought the issue up during his first formal address to Congress. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been one of the biggest champions for school choice for years, pouring millions of dollars from her family’s fortune into supporting charters, private school vouchers, and other forms of choice.” The winner of the debate was the side that changed the most minds among the online and live audience viewers. You can read the article and check out the before and after responses by clicking here and you can view a video (109:41 minutes) of the debate on the Intelligence Squared U.S. website. Vicki Cobb, President and founder of iNK Think Tank, Inc., and prolific author of nonfiction books for children, viewed the debate about charter schools (see above) and commented on it for THE HUFFINGTON POST. “My ‘lane’ is quality education for every child. So, I am interested in the problems and processes that go into starting a school from scratch. Republicans and education ‘reformers’ frame this as ‘choice’ and believe that choice is essential to the republic,” she suggests. “But, if you’re a parent that can be misleading. Even if your child is in a local public school, you have choices—you can send your child to another public school, or a magnet school, or get involved in contributing time and ideas to your own local school. For people of color in poor neighborhoods, charters represent a seductive alternative to the local school, which may have been labeled “failing.’” Friday pop quiz: How many states allow charter schools? Answer: 43 + the District of Columbia. Kentucky could soon become the 44th state as a bill to do just that is working its way through the state legislature according to an item in EDUCATION WEEK. Both houses of the Bluegrass state’s legislature and the governor’s office are controlled by the Republicans, so prospects are excellent that the bill will eventual become law. It now goes to the state Senate. “House Bill 520 would let local school boards and the mayors of Louisville and Lexington,” it explains, “contract with private groups to create charter schools in their communities. Each of these schools would be governed by an independent board of directors that must include two parents from the school’s students. The contracts would have to be renewed every five years.”
LAUSD Sues City Over Toxic Cleanup Costs
The LAUSD filed suit against the city Housing Authority in an attempt to recover costs of cleaning up lead and arsenic contamination at David Starr Jordan High School in Watts. An article in today’s L.A. Times reviews the situation and the latest legal action. “The district says that the contamination seeped into the soil from a neighboring parcel of land,” the piece explains, “that the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles bought in 2008 to develop. The school district says the school’s arsenic and lead levels are currently safe but that the housing authority needs to take responsibility for the work that’s already been done as well as for any future work. . . . The site was used for heavy industry from the 1930s to the 1970s. Scrap metal was stored there, and furnaces melted scrap iron for use in steel products.”
Supporting Public Schools
The “K-12 Contrarian” column for EDUCATION WEEK offers “Some Things You Can Do to Support Public Education Now.” It provides 5 concrete suggestions that counteract some of the arguments that our traditional public school system is “failing.” Here’s one idea from the list: “Get to know the issues—and especially learn your history.” “There are no shortcuts. Get involved. Make a commitment. Write a letter. Work to elect good people to the school board,” the author urges. “Get on the school board yourself. There can be no democracy without a good education system. It’s up to us to make sure everyone has access to one. It’s hard, slow, deliberate work protecting public education, but it’s worth it.”
Guns in Schools
Does Pres. Trump plan to end gun free zones around the nation’s schools? He promised he would do that during the campaign. Will he follow through and if so, when? Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG thinks that “is a bad idea” and gives 5 reasons why. “Children deserve a safe environment in which to learn,” he concludes simply. “Adding guns to our already overburdened public schools is throwing a match at an already explosive situation.” Be sure to check out the photo that leads off this piece–scary!
Students in Montebello Protest Proposed Staff Cuts
Hundreds of students in the Montebello Unified School District staged a walkout yesterday to protest proposed staff cuts for the district. Issues of corruption and mismanagement have plagued the district over the past several months and fiscal problems go back to the 1990s according to a story in today’s L.A. Times. “More than two decades ago, students walked out of schools in the Montebello Unified School District, protesting millions of dollars in budget cuts. On Thursday,” it begins, “history repeated itself, with hundreds rallying at the district office to protest hundreds of potential layoffs.”
And finally, in the Feb. 24th edition of the “Ed News” I indicated that another ALOED member and I attended a speech by Julian Vasquez Heilig at the Culver City campus of Antioch University on the wrong date. It should have read February 16th.