Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Betsy DeVos is a Menace

Update: from KCTS' Facebook reply to my query:
"We can confirm that we will not be airing "School, Inc." on KCTS 9, while other PBS member stations may choose to air the film. We greatly appreciate your input, and thank you always for getting in touch."
end of update

First up to be aware of is this:
If you go to the website of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington that believes in privatizing the public education system, you will learn about a three-part documentary called “School Inc.,” which is narrated by the late director of the organization’s Center for Educational Freedom. The documentary has been called the magnum opus of Andrew Coulson, who was a researcher and author who promoted the idea that free markets and the profit motive would improve education in the United States. 

It is no surprise, then, that School Inc. — whose primary funders have the same educational beliefs as Coulson — would extol the virtues of privatized education and attack public education. What is surprising to some public education activists, however, is that the documentary is being shown on publicly funded PBS stations.

Uninformed viewers who see this very slickly produced program will learn about the glories of unregulated schooling, for-profit schools, teachers selling their lessons to students on the Internet.

What they will not see or hear is the other side of the story.
Don't know if KCTS is showing this - I don't see it on their schedule - but I sure hope not.

Probably the biggest news lately is DeVos' appearance before and what she said...and didn't say.
Last week, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos faced questions from the Senate Appropriations subcommittee regarding the Trump administration's education budget. It was not an easy day for her, as senators from both parties took issue with some of the suggested cuts. Republican Chairman Roy Blunt, R-Miss., bluntly called it "a difficult budget request to defend."
Perhaps the most controversial proposal in the budget was the $250 million increase in Department of Education funding to support private school choice.
But, with no specifics about how the department would run the program, lawmakers focused on whether the secretary would require participating private schools to prevent discrimination against LGBTQ students or follow the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the primary federal education law governing students with disabilities.
DeVos was not particularly forthcoming, repeatedly responding to both lines of questioning by saying, "Schools that receive federal funds must follow federal law." Attempts to get her to elaborate on what that would require were unsuccessful.
She made that statement fourteen times in answer to questions with no explanation.   What would it mean in practice:
Existing federal laws, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Title IX, do not apply to private schools in the same way they apply to public schools. The disabilities law requires that public schools provide extensive services to students with disabilities, but its requirements for private schools are much less demanding. There are good reasons for this distinction, since many private schools have neither the structure or revenue stream to meet such open-ended obligations. And it means DeVos could hold participating private schools to federal law without requiring the same supports public schools provide.
Federal law also provides some discrimination protections for LGBTQ students in public schools under Title XI, but those protections are not clear or extensive, and fall short of what some senators were asking DeVos to require. In addition, religious private schools can get waivers from Title XI, meaning DeVos could ensure schools "follow federal law" without delivering the requirements some senators were asking for.  
When senators pushed DeVos on how she would prevent discrimination where federal law is unclear, she clarified her position: "On areas where the law is unsettled, this department is not going to be issuing decrees. That is a matter for Congress and the courts to settle." Leaving aside the irony that legislators were asking DeVos to enforce laws they have not passed, there are good reasons for DeVos to minimize federal regulation of participating private schools. Increasing federal regulation could undermine the immediate and long-term benefits of private choice. In the short term, it could dissuade some schools from participating in a choice program, thereby limiting the options for families.
DeVos spoke recently to the National Association of Charter Schools but not to the Education Writers Association which has had the Secretary of Education speak before them since the post started.
The national seminar takes place this week at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. DeVos’s eight predecessors have spoken at EWA’s conference at some point during their tenure. The first education secretary, the former U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Shirley Hufstedler, was appointed by President Jimmy Carter in the fall of 1979 and addressed EWA members the following spring.
And the charter group's event?
"Secretary DeVos's participation in the National Charter Schools Conference continues a bipartisan tradition of having every sitting Department of Education Secretary since the conference's launch in 2000 appear at this premier annual gathering for the charter school movement," the release read.
The lineup for this year's conference includes a couple of other notable, philanthropic heavyweights, including Reed Hastings, the founder and CEO of Netflix, and Marc Sternberg, the education program director for the Walton Family Foundation.
In speaking to groups - usually friendly-to-her ones - here's what DeVos has said:
DeVos, a Michigan billionaire who has publicly called traditional public education a “dead end,” says all parents should have educational choices for their children.  

Her recent speech at this year’s convening of the American Federation for Children was no exception.

If you are not familiar with the American Federation for Children, you should be. SourceWatch tells you all that you need to know: The American Federation for Children (AFC) is a conservative 501(c)(4) dark money group that promotes the school privatization agenda via the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and other avenues.

She portrayed her thinking as progressive, and those who defend public schools as the enemies of children and worse. She skillfully wove this theme throughout the speech — calling those who resist her agenda “flat-Earthers.
Both Trump and DeVos go on and on about how great "choice" is and what a game-changer it will be.

Despite the decades-long example of Milwaukee and the most recent study about the only district with federally funded vouchers, Washington, D.C., they still think this choice idea will work.

But I'll let former principal/superintendent and now executive director of the Network for Public Education, Carol Burris, explain.
But one thing Trump, DeVos and many other choice advocates don’t talk publicly about are the negative consequences that have come with the implementation of school choice in states throughout the country.  

If these were outliers, it would be understandable, but they aren’t. The charter and voucher/voucher-like sectors in some states are so broadly flawed that some choice supporters have recognized it.  In 2015, charter-school researcher Margaret “Macke” Raymond of the Hoover Institute at Stanford University said this to people from Ohio about their troubled charter sector: “Be very glad that you have Nevada, so you are not the worst.” Raymond had previously issued a report saying Ohio charter-school students were learning 36 fewer days of math and 14 fewer days of reading than traditional public school students.
Not all school choice is problematic. Public school choice programs, if carefully managed, can serve students well and/or promote a social good, such as racial or socioeconomic integration. Examples are schools that have a vocational component, alternative schools for dropouts, or dual-language public schools nested in an immigrant community.

Privatized school choice, in contrast, is quite different. Privatized school choice is the public financing of private alternatives to public schools. Examples include charters run by corporate boards, private schools funded by vouchers, online learning charters and publicly subsidized home schooling. Then there are the disguised voucher plans such as Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, or ESAs, which give taxpayer money on debit cards to parents with little oversight as to how it is spent.
This is exactly why this idea of first starting with Special Education vouchers - as the foot in the door - is so problematic.

Choice?  Will there be transportation to this school? No choice.

Choice?  Do all private schools accept vouchers? Little choice.

Choice? Do they accept all children?  No choice.

Also:
The central problem with most school choice programs is that they don't offer enough support to families. Public school funding comes from local, state and federal revenue streams, but state choice programs generally draw only on state funding. As a result, these programs usually fund private options at low levels, between 40 and 60 percent of public school per-pupil spending. That means the mostly low-income families participating in these programs don't receive enough to access the full range of private school choices. 
Three problems that Burris points out:

1. Privatized school choice will inevitably reduce funding for your local neighborhood public schools

Burris gives a great analogy on this idea of student funding and "portability" or "backpack funding" in this article.

 2. Direct and disguised vouchers to private schools and other public school alternatives start small and then expand, increasing the burden on taxpayers

3. Additional administrative costs coupled with a lack of transparency waste taxpayer dollars and open the door to excessive legal and fraudulent personal gain
You can read more about the fraud, waste and problems associated with school privatization in the Network for Public Education’s latest report, “School Privatization Explained,” which you can find here.  
Lastly, on vouchers, it just can't come as any surprise that the Center on Reinventing Public Education - affiliated with but not funded by UW - is coming around.  (They are huge charter cheerleaders.)  Take a look at what CRPE's Robin Lake had to say at U.S. News and World Report:
If I would have gladly accepted one, how could I oppose others getting the same opportunity?
It's a fraught position to take, especially at a time we're hearing that vouchers "undermine our democracy," as Jonah Edelman and Randi Weingarten wrote recently in the Los Angeles Times. It's easy to make that argument, especially when President Donald Trump's administration is pushing the notion that choice is a panacea. Research has shown very weak to awful results for voucher-like experiments to date.
But evidence shows, too, that design of these policies – the level of funding, the type of regulation – matters, just as it does with charter and district-run schools. Some groups of students have benefited greatly from receiving a voucher.
Oh, so if a small number of children will benefit, then upending the entire system is okay?

 If you start with one group of children, then certainly why not all? Yes, it all just makes perfect sense, Robin.
We have reason to believe that future voucher results might be analogous to charters too: success for students when schools are funded adequately, regulated effectively and held accountable. 
Is that kind of accountability really happening in charter school systems across the country (Ohio, Arizona and Nevada, I'm looking at you)? And I'll just note that CRPE has not had any kind of loud voice for enactment of McCleary so that rings just a little hollow.

Here's how CRPE is described in the article:
Center on Reinventing Public Education, a non-partisan research and policy analysis organization developing transformative, evidence-based solutions for K–12 public education,
Their solutions always circle around corporate ed reform ideas.  Always.   And their funders reflect that.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

You are such a hypocrite. You demand a balanced point of view with each program but there were crickets from you when PBS stations were broadcasting "Race to Nowhere." I didn't read you demanding balance then.

Let's be honest. You view PBS as the sole purview of your brand of anti-reform, far-left views on education, e.g., anything broadcast by John Merrow. You don't want balanced on PBS - any more than you want balance on this blog - you want your preferred media outlets to broadcast only those views with which you agree.

So just be honest --- just tell your readers you don't like School, Inc. and you want it banned from the public airwaves. It's not balance you seek but confirmation of your biases.

Frankie Says

Anonymous said...

This blog has become Melissa's Jungian Chris Korsmo shadow self. Everything she accused Chris of doing (deleting non-status quo comments comes to mind), Melissa is doing on steroids.

You have zero credibility when you delete comments (especially when many have already read them). Seattle is an educated city and Melissa's attempt at censoring opinion is

Wearing Thin

Anonymous said...

If you don't like Melissa's blog, start another your own. I for one, am tired of ed reformers whose own children do not attend public schools, trying to revamp public schools into their corporate image.

HP

Melissa Westbrook said...

Race to Nowhere is not a three-part documentary funded by dark ed reform money (via a foundation connected to the Secretary of Education). Please.

As HP points out, this is my blog. (And what Kormo has to do with it is beyond me - I'm not even sure LEV allows comments now.)

As I am aging, I have a little less tolerance for those who would come here and try to use/abuse this blog for their own purposes. So yes, I am deleting a few more comments. I am amused that someone would think it wrong "especially when many have read them." Well, if I REALLY didn't like some comments, I'd be doing it immediately, no?

But you know what? It's a great, big Internet world out there. Facebook, Twitter, name it and hey, even your own blog. Knock yourself out.

Anonymous said...

I think one thing Devos et al are not considering is that if they get their vouchers non-Christian-based schools such as Jewish, Islamic, Scientology-based (etc.) private schools will also be able to get ahold of public funding.

And "the base" won't like that one bit.

Notall Christian


Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, Notall Christian, I have no idea how they will handle that one.

Anonymous said...

Yay! Down with privatization! Everything is great in SPS! Just read this blog daily to hear all the good news!

Sarcasm Intended

Anonymous said...

"their own purposes"?

It is always interesting when people have a purpose that you agree with (that may sound purposeful to the unitiated), comport with Melissa's status quo and are never deleted, but then a non-echo chamber opinion disappears (channeling Chris Korsmo) due to a delete.

How convenient to blame it on aging. You never based your criticisms of Korsmo's deletes on chronology...it was attributed to when the status quo was violated.

Can't have it both ways. Channeling

Chris Korsmo




Melissa Westbrook said...

Hey Chris! (Who apparently can't discuss the topic at hand - Betsy DeVos - not me.)

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa Westbrook said...

Again, the topic is the Secretary of Education. Stay on topic, please or your comments will be eliminated.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

It would be nice to have another blog were the conversation could be more organic and were opposing comments are not subjectively deleted.

Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Parent, start one. As for "organically" we have Open Threads twice a week (with the second one coming from readers' requests).

I don't delete subjectively very often but when comments are off topic or go after me, yes, then I delete them.

I think readers would be surprised at how they view might changed from the other side.