Tuesday, January 31, 2023

PA: Penncrest Reading Restrictions May Face Legal Issues

Penncrest School District is located in the NW corner of the state, located mostly in Crawford County. It's a mid-sized (around 3500 students K-12) district that was stitched together out of several very small rural districts

They've been in the news because their board has seen fit to try to protect students from Objectionable Books (which seems to mean especially any that mention LGBTQ persons at all). You can get the full back story here, but we'll need to move ahead, because Things have been Happening.

Short version. After expressing social media outrage over a display of LGBTQ books in the school library, a board member proposed a new restrictive policy on books in the library--twice. Folks on all sides spoke up, but the board went ahead with the restrictions. If you've watched any of these dramas unfold elsewhere, you'll recognize some of the features. "But the policy doesn't actually mention gay folks," say people whose other comments make it clear that when they say "sexually explicit" that includes "mentioning LGBTQ persons ever." There's also the usual blurring of lines by which everything that includes a hint of anything folks don't like is labeled pornography, as if all things that mention sex at all ever are always total pornography. 

The high school newspaper caught the district in a moment of self-contradiction. The Facebook posts in which board member David Valesky called homosexuality "totally evil" and suggested it's wrong to suggest it's "okay" became the subject of a lawsuit. Part of the district's defense in that lawsuit was, "Hey, school boards don't have the power to ban books, so there's no threat implied by Valesky's post." That was, of course, before the board decided they totally have the ability to ban books after all.

You could ask the district's lawyer about his argument in that case, but he's quit.

Attorney George Joseph, of the Quinn Law Firm, told the board that their new policy, plus their anti-trans in sports policy, could open them up to some legal trouble. At a meeting, two board members called the solicitor's opinion "a joke," "worthless," and "not even legal." 

Recent actions by the board have highlighted a fundamental disagreement by a majority of the Board with the legal analysis and opinions of our office and, in our analysis, significantly compromised our ability to provide legal ongoing services to the District and to the existing School Board.

He goes on to explain the specific advice that he gave which was ignored and to explain that this is not personal. It's his job to give advice; he knows they don't have to take it, as has been the case in "several such instances."

Nevertheless, I must take exception to the manner in which some individual Board members expressed their disagreement with the most recent legal opinion I rendered.

That expression was "unconscionable" to him. So the board now needs a new solicitor.

They're working on it, sort of. We know that because at this point, they've attracted enough attention that USA Today's legal department is filing Right To Know law requests (because, see, you can do that with a public school), and that turned up emails from board president Luigi DeFrancesco to the Independence Law Center, the legal arm of the Pennsylvania Family Institute, a right wing religious advocacy group. 

It would make sense to turn to this group, because Penncrest's new policy appears to be based on a controversial policy in the Central Bucks County School District, and it appears that policy was co-written by an attorney from the Independence Law Center. The lawyer that DeFrancesco reached out to, Jeremy Samek, is the same lawyer who apparently had his hand in the Central Bucks policy.

The Pennsylvania Family Institute website says, under the heading of culture

We believe a flourishing, prosperous culture requires limited government, focused on its chief role to restrain evil and promote the good. This is best described as “ordered liberty,” reflected in Pennsylvania’s motto, “Virtue, Liberty and Independence.”

It's an interesting interpretation of "freedom" and "limited government" and reminds me of Wilhoit's Law, which says

Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.

While their original law firm has said they'll continue to provide some services for the district until they find a new lawyer or lawyers, the district has put out some requests for proposals from firms. Though at least Valesky made clear his feelings about the legal issues on the same night the new policies were passed.

"If we go to court over it, so be it,” he said, “because at the end of the day we’re standing up for what’s right and for what God has said is right and true.”

I'm sure the story will continue to unfold. Stay tuned. 

McKinsey's Ridiculous Projection Of Learning Loss Damage

From the first mad March moment of 2019 2020, when states decided to shut down schools for a couple of weeks while this whole COVID thing blew over, McKinsey, the 800 pound gorilla of the consulting world, has been all over pandemic's golden opportunity with a variety of ideas about A) sending up alarms about Learning Loss and B) pitching solutions to the disaster they were working so hard to amplify.
Now, in pursuit of Goal A, they've issued a report that is just bonkers wrong. Beyond the usual Just Making Stuff Up part, there is, as Chalkbeat reporter and perennial bad data debunker Matt Barnum pointed out on Twitter, "a total conceptual misunderstanding." 

The general theme of the report is "OMG! The learning losses are only terrible awful but it will take forever and a day to recover from them!!" It is absolutely in keeping with the idea that test scores are like stock market prices and not, say, the collected scores of a group of live humans that changes each year.

The subheading signals the dopiness here: "While two decades of math and reading progress have been erased, US states can play an important role in helping students to catch up."

The New York Times used the same damn dumb idea in their headline about NAEP scores, and it still makes no sense. What exactly has been erased, and from where was it erased? And here comes a chart that I'm nominating as The Dumbest Chart Ever Produced By People Who Make More Money Before Lunch Than I Ever Made In A Year.

Let's talk about this for a second. There is an obvious issue, which is that the rates of improvement are made up baloney. "Reflect historic trends"? Do you mean, the kind of improvement we saw after the last time U.S. schools were disrupted by a major pandemic? You can download the full article and still not find an explanation of where these numbers came from, but you can find the old numbers to confirm that no graph of NAEP scores ever looked like this slow steady climb. 

But not only are these numbers just made up, but they make no sense.

The chart says that 8th graders won't catch up to pre-pandemic scores for twenty-eight years, which means that students who haven't even been born and so presumably have not been affected by the pandemic will still get low scores because of the pandemic !!??!! How does that even work?

The only possible way this chart could be close to conceptually defensible is if your theory is that the pandemic wiped out everything teachers have learned about how to teach in the last twenty years, and it will somehow take them until 2050 to reacquire that knowledge--though we would of course be talking about teachers who haven't even been born yet!! (Sorry about all the punctuation, but it's all I can do not type this post in italics and caps).

This is not how this works. This is not how any of this works. 

There's more in the report that we could pick apart, like the use of the whole "weeks of learning loss" foolishness, a half-assed attempt to correlate learning loss with school closure, and a bunch about how much relief money is still in play, because it wouldn't be a McKinsey report if they weren't trying to market something, and the ultimate conclusion is that districts should really try to fic this Terrible Thing by spending that relief money on The Right Products.

But there's no point in digging deep on the rest because that first chart announces so clearly that the writers of this paper have wandered off down the wrong path. How does this happen? There are four authors, three of whom are supposed to be McKinsey education experts. Of the three, one taught for one whole year for KIPP (then became an education consultant and then went to the Gates Foundation), one put in three years in a DC school (it doesn't say Teach for America, but he did his three went straight to McKinsey), and one has no actual education experience at all). 

It will be really unfortunate if any policy makers or leaders actually take this report to heart. This is why folks who actually work in education mistrust "expert consultants," and unfortunately why some teachers distrust their own judgment because surely an internationally respected major consulting firm couldn't be so wrong, could they? 

Well, yes, they could. Don't be intimidated. 

Koch's Yes Every Kid: Still Selling Privatization

Back in the start of 2019, Charles Koch declared that, all of a sudden, he wanted to work with teachers. Then we got another hint at the end of June when EdWeek noted that the Kochs were going to team up with the Waltons to throw a pile of money-- a great big honking pile of money-- at incubating schools, programs and what-have-them across the country. In that same article, EdWeek noted the creation of Yes Every Kid, "a group that intends to find common ground between groups that typically have disagreed vehemently over issues such as labor protections and school funding."

Yes. Every Kid. (I am going to skip the irritating extra punctuation for the remainder of this piece) was launched at the end of June, including a big piece from AP reporter Sally Ho, touting "hundreds of donors contributing at least $100,000 annually." The goal was to push school choice.

I wrote about it at the time, though at that point they hadn't done much. Charles Koch was a year away from announcing that, gosh, he had just been too partisan and divisive for the country, oopsies, my bad, and turning the Charles Koch Institute into Stand Together Trust, but Yes Every Kid was like a prequel to that rebranding effort. Its website at the time included an uplifting affirmation:

It's that simple. Instead of saying no. We say yes. We're done with negativity. Education reform has been saying "no" for decades. Saying no to educators, parents, and real solutions. Instead, we say "yes." Yes, every kid can learn. Yes, your ideas matter. Yes, together we can make change. We know that if we wait for change to come down from above, it won't be change in the right direction.

Yes, don't wait for things to come down from above, says this website that has come down from a billionaire who wants to drive the education bus despite his complete lack of educational expertise. But this astroturfery is insistent. "Real change has to start from the ground up. We're here as your resource to facilitate conversation." That might be really moving if the very next sentence weren't "We're here to foster a culture of disruptive innovation," which suggests that these facilitaty listeners already have some answers in mind. Also missing-- an acknowledgement of where all that negativity came from. Here is yet another reformy outfit talking about negatives from the past as if they simply fell from space, instead of saying, "Yeah, that was us. Sorry." And here comes the tell:

We want to hear new ideas, new solutions, and new voices. And it can only happen when we listen to the real stakeholders in education: you.

But who is this "we" and why should stakeholders feel any need or obligation to talk to "we" in the first place? This is the same old rich fauxlanthropist baloney-- we're not only going to vote ourselves a seat at the table, but we're also going to go ahead and give ourselves the seat at the head because, yeah, this is our table now. It's so big and generous of you to agree to listen to us, Sir, but I still haven't heard a reason that we should be talking to you.

When we call Yes Every Kid astroturf, that's not based on the usual tricky business of tracking forms and chasing money or junior detective shenanigans. Yes Every Kid has always been up front about being a Koch operation, from the current billing as "part of the Stand Together community" to its first big boss, chairman of YEK Meredith Olson. That appears to be this Meredith Olson, whose LinkedIn page lists her as Vice President, Public Affairs at Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC. She's located in Wichita and has been with Koch since 2005, first as Director, Business Development, then Managing Director, Operations, and now five years in the VP spot. Before that she worked for Shell Oil. Her degrees are mechanical engineering and an MBA.

So how are they doing these days?

Well, in 2019, for some weird reason, they tracked to an address in Michigan occupied by a hair salon. Today they have a proper address in a big office complex at 1320 N Courthouse Rd (Suite 400), Arlington, VA. The building is occupied by a variety of businesses; it's also occupied by the Stand Together Trust (Suite 500), and Americans for Prosperity (Suite 700), the Koch brothers operation that helped create the Tea Party movement. 

The Team is, again, clearly under the Koch umbrella. 

President Andrew Clark is listed as "a veteran of the Stand Together community," which turns out to mean he spent two and a half years at American for Prosperity. Before that, two years with Generation Opportunity, a Koch "sister organization" of AFP that helped fight the Affordable Care Act. Seems to have gotten his political start working as a grassroots consultant for Quayle for Congress. He's a "skilled lobbyist and tactician."

Craig Hulse, executive director, has been a busy guy. He's been back and forth through the revolving public-private door. Staff assistant for Congress, legislative liaison for Nevada governor, state policy advisor in Nevada, Nevada state director of StudentsFirst, director of government relations for Las Vegas Sands, public policy/public affairs manager for Uber, the Ready Colorado choicer advocacy group, state government affairs for JUUL, policy and government affairs for Tesla--most of them for a little over a year. His job is to oversee "the lobbying team with efforts across the United States to direct education and influence campaigns to shape education policy that is open to the free flow of ideas and innovation."

Erica Jedynak is the chief operating officer. Her last job was with Stand Together, and before that Americans for Prosperity, Deputy Chief of Staff in New Jersey legislature, and before than "campaign operative" for a whole lot of campaigns in the greater NYC area. 

There's more of the same. The coterie of National Policy Directors include a guy who touts his experience as a former teacher and, you guessed it, by "teacher" he means two years as a Teach for America temp, before moving on to help run a charter school and then go work for Excel in Ed, Jeb Bush's choice advocacy group. Former politician/pastor with libertarian think tank experience. Various coms professionals and experienced political operatives.

There is nowhere in sight anyone with real experience or expertise in education, but education is not really what YEK is about. It's about moving policies that defund and dismantle public education, a longtime goal of the Koch operation. As former Goldwater Institute operative Charles Siler explained:

Their ideal is a world with as minimal public infrastructure and investment as possible. They want the weakest and leanest government possible in order to protect the interests of a few wealthy individuals and families who want to protect their extraction of wealth from the rest of us. They see private wealth accumulation as a virtue signal because a person can only become wealthy by creating something of exceptional value for the public. In their world view, the more money someone has, the more moral life they've lived, and any attempt to take that money through taxation or other means is a moral issue.

YEK lists its four "policy pillars" as Fund Every Kid, Learn Everywhere, Education Your Way, and No More Lines, all policies about making education the responsibility of parents, not the government. The Koch machine frames this as freedom, but it's the same old voucher goal of defunding and dismantling the public education system and thereby getting rid of another part of government (and its attendant requirement to pay taxes to fund schools for Those Peoples' Children). 

Their press page involves a lot of applauding-- Iowa, Utah, Governor Sarah Sanders, Ryan Walters. It's a privatizer's all star list. They've also whipped up some balonified "research" to suggest that everyone loves them some vouchers. 

But mostly what they've done is perfect the warm fuzzy message that this is all For The Kids and Great Education (though there are no actual educators involved). But if you want the full unfiltered version of the Koch vision, there's nothing like David Koch's run as Presidential candidate for the Koch-funded Libertarian party. They wanted to get rid of a laundry list of federal agencies. They wanted to abolish Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. They wanted to get rid of federally mandated speed limits, anti-trust laws, all controls on wages and rents. 

And in true Libertarian fashion, the platform urged the privatization of all schools (with an end to compulsory education laws). 

That's the dream--government completely out of the education biz, with families left to find what they can in a wide-open unregulated market. The dream itself hasn't changed; they just keep trying to put a more appealing face on it. Yes Every Kid is just the latest attempt to find a good sheep suit for that ugly wolf.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Some Parental Rights Folks Are Going To Have Big Regrets

Robert Pondiscio is fond of pointing out that teachers are not free agents, able to push whatever they wish in the classroom. It is one of the points on which he and I agree; as a teacher, you are hired by the taxpayers, via the school board, to do a job.

It is, like every single thing in education, a tricky balancing act. You are hired specifically to employ your professional expertise and judgment, and because teaching is such a human activity, it takes some regular reflection and self-attention to make sure that your personal stuff doesn't slop over into your professional stuff. 

But no--as a teacher, you are not hired by the community to conduct your own personal crusade. Which is not to say that your classroom practice will not be enhanced by an infusion of your personal passions and interests, while at the same time, students are not there to learn about you and supporting the causes that you support, which is not to say--well, look. It's complicated. For me, the defining line was somewhere right around "Are students' grades or treatment in the classroom being affected by how well they agree with what I believe?" 

I get the impulse to try to get your students to see Important True Things about life and this country. I believe that if you stick to what is true and you give your students space, they will rise and advance in the direction of true things. But in their time, not yours. And when you try to push and make it happen right now--I understand the impulse, but I can't defend it. 

For most of my career, I was paid what was good money for this area, collected from the local taxpayers for the purpose of helping students get better at reading, writing, speaking and listening, which I considered in the context of helping them figure out how to be their best selves while learning what it means to be fully human in the world. 

Teaching is a complicated job because on top of everything else, you answer to a hundred different constituencies. Local employers, your board, your administration, the parents, the students themselves, the taxpayers, the bureaucrats and politicians in various capitols who set various policies--you answer to all of the groups, and those groups are themselves filled with a wide variety of ideas and objectives (even if some Very Shouty Members of the group try to hide the diversity with loudness).

It is that large and complex web of constituents that makes public education such a complicated operation, but that web is also what gives public education its strength.

To understand that is to understand how many parental rights activists are being played. 

For folks who want to disrupt, defund and dismantle public education, that vast web of constituencies means that implementation of the Three Ds has to happen on many fronts, and so the message has all along been focused on pretending that most of those constituencies don't exist. 

Parental Rights groups have been great for this, promoting the fiction that public education exists just to serve parents. 

Take, for instance, the manufactured outrage over one Iowa school board members' comments. Some parents lifted some dudgeon up high because board member Rachel Wall posted this:

The purpose of a public ed is to not teach kids what the parents want. It is to teach them what society needs them to know. The client is not the parent, but the community.

Wall is exactly correct. I might have edited it to say "not just the parent," but the community includes the parents, so she's covered there. But Moms For Liberty and other Very Shouty Folks, aided by Fox and other parts of the Very Shouty mediasphere, were all over this. Because education is By God a service provided to parents and parents alone. 

If your goal is to dismantle public education, this is great stuff because now, instead of dealing with entire communities, you're just dealing with parents (who, via choicey ideas you can split into singletons). With choice, you cut the whole rest of the community out of the conversation, and that will eventually come back to bite some folks in the butt.

Look. Nobody in education is on a little island. Not teachers, not parents, not students, not anybody. To try to cut them off from the rest of the community education ecosystem is to weaken every part of that system. "I am the Sole Ruler of my classroom," is a stance that ultimately weakens the teacher's role and effectiveness.

And "Parents are the only constituents of education" will do some serious damage down the road. When people try to say, "Everyone has a stake in educating young people" and are shouted down by, "No, only parents have a stake in education," those parents are backing into a buzzsaw.

Because the next logical response is going to be, from taxpayers, "Well, if I am not a stakeholder, then why the hell am I paying taxes?"

Where voucher policies really take root, we can predict the next step. Back after Brown v. Board, segregation academies were the next step, but the next step after that was for all those folks whose kids were either safely segregated in the academies and taxpayers whose didn't have children in school to get together and say, "Why are we still paying taxes for public schools?" We just saw it in Croydon, NH, where some Libertarians looked at a fully-functioning choice system and said, "Why are we paying so much for this."

Vouchers will be rebranded as entitlements. Policy folks will start saying, "This seems like a lot, and I know these folks could get a nice micro-school or software package for way less." Taxpayers will be encouraged to get Very Loud about, "Why are we paying all this money for a system that only benefits us." Heck, some folks will probably trot out all the research about how badly the vouchers work that voucher opponents have already collected. 

And parents who had been Very Loudly declaring, "The rest of you shut up! We're the only true stakeholders!" will suddenly discover that they have no allies, and what has always been true of voucher programs will become even more true--you only get as much "choice" as you can afford yourself (if some vendor is willing take on your child). If they're lucky, they will still have a public system limping along in their community. 

I understand the urge to want things your very own way (if I hadn't already, living with a pair of five year olds would clue me in). But we are all of us like horses on a merry-go-round--the same things that seem to hold us back are also the things that are propelling us forward. But it makes sense to pay attention to the bigger picture before listening to someone who says, "Would you like to just be cut loose from this spinny thing?"

I have lived through that special fear that comes from handing your child over to other people for the whole day. I get that it's real. But the folks exploiting it to simply blast away at the ties between schools and their communities are doing real damage, and I'm hoping that some folks figure it out before it's too late. 

Sunday, January 29, 2023

ICYMI: Groundhog Day Edition (1/29)

Yes, it's coming soon. And it already feels like we're living the same day over and over.

For those of you new to our work here at the Curmudgucation Institute, this is the weekly digest of things worth reading from the previous week (just, you know, in case you missed them). These days it is harder than ever to get the word out and to get that word to spread, and part of the work we do has to be amplifying the voices of people with messages worth hearing. If you read it and you feel it, then share it. It's important. 

A decade of scandal at Epic Charter Schools

We're opening with some throwback stories this wek. Turns out that one of the worst thefts-by-charter-school in history was even worse than everyone thought. Beth Wallis at NPR/StateImpact Oklahoma has the story.

Gary Rubinstein was an early Teach for America recruit, and he has kept a watchful eye on them ever since. So when they announced layoffs after one of their thinnest years yet, he had some thoughts.

Pa.’s landmark school funding lawsuit has been going on for 8 years. Here’s where it stands.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette brings us up to date on a lawsuit that might finally actually get somewhere this year. Maybe. If it does, Pennsylvania school funding is in for some upheaval.


In Lapham's Quarterly, Georgia English teacher Ian Altman writes a really thoughtful and insightful look at some of the real challenges of teaching literature, particularly when it comes to The Standards. This piece is not short, but it is excellent.

A Private Equity Firm, The Makers of the MAP Test, and an Ed Tech Publisher Join Forces

Steven Singer peels back some of the layers of the NWEA-HMH deal that unites a test manufacturer and a edupublisher under the umbrella of a big investment firm. Yuck.

The school choice movement has a voter problem

Christopher Lubienski in The Tennessean points out the many ways that the school choice movement has tried to deal with the fact that the voters don't really want it. Democracy is such a pain.

Missouri lawmakers are slandering teachers while grossly underpaying them

Editors at St. Louis Today call out legislators for keeping teachers under paid and over abused.

Supposed centrist Dems are being funded by Jeffrey Yass, a guy who made his billions playing poker (no kidding) and who is Pennsylvania's staunchest, most well-heeled opponent of public education. What could go wrong?

Nancy Flanagan looks past the imaginary picture of life painted by parental rights crusaders.

The basic rights teachers don’t have

At the Washington Post, Valerie Strauss shares a piece by Joshua Weishart that looks at the slow stripping of rights from teachers, leaving them with barely the right to just do their jobs.

Once-subversive plot to dismantle traditional public schools in Florida now central policy

Columnist Frank Cerabino at the Palm Beach Post calls out the Florida leadership's love of school choice, and he minces no words. Vouchers are a sham.

What Does It Mean for Our Children and Our Society that State Legislators Don’t Know What Teachers Do?

Jan Resseger looks into the issues that arise when laws about education are written by folks who have no idea what actually goes on in schools.

Florida teachers told to remove books from classroom libraries or risk felony prosecution

Okay, there's a whole lot on the list this week about various attacks on reading rights. Let's start with Judd Legum at Popular Information, who reports on what's happening in Manatee County, just one of the districts clamping down on books. (For even more on-the-ground stories, follow Legum on Twitter)

Sorry, Twitter, but Florida's war on books is no joke. Ron DeSantis wants to keep kids from reading

Speaking of the tweeter machine, Amanda Marcotte at Salon is one of many who were "corrected" by Elon Musk's totally not-biased correction department. Marcotte has been following right wing education shenanigans with a sharp eye and a really sharp metaphorical pen, and this is no exception.

Grumpy Old Teacher had a couple of good takes on Florida';s anti-reading initiative, but I picked this one because it cuts right to what makes this new shift different and important. Now in Florida, all books are guilty until proven innocent. Also, the pic with the post is on point.

Hoover schools cancel Black History Month author visit after parent complaint

It's not just books, and it's not just Florida. This story from Alabama shows how one parent was enough to scare a school into canceling an award-winning author's visit. Expect much more of this, as the CRT panic crowd is sure that Black History Month is a CRT thing.

Book Banning Is Getting Worse

Anne Lutz Fernandez opens with "I’ve been very worried about the current wave of book bans. I haven’t been worried enough." From there, she goes on to explain why all the reasons we've been hearing not to get too worked up are not valid. Guilty of some of them myself when this started. This piece makes me wish I'd written this piece.

School librarians vilified as the ‘arm of Satan’ in book-banning wars

You've heard some of these stories already, but Jeffrey Fleishman at the Los Angeles Times has collected a bunch of them, and the full effect is-- well, this is a rough piece to read. 

I'm a Florida teacher who's been forced to cover up the books in my classroom. Here's why I'm suing Ron DeSantis.

Don Halls has been teaching for 38 years. He loves his job, and he's filing a lawsuit. Good for him, all around. 

At Forbes.com this week, I took a look at critical questions to ask about voucher bills, and Maurice Cunningham's new report on dark money and parent groups for the Network for Public Education, which you should read. 

You can get also subscribe over at substack and get all of my usual stuff in your email.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

The Magical Thinking of School Choice

While busy implementing super-vouchers to further disrupt, defund and dismantle public education, Governor Kim Reynolds took a moment to tweet this:


Well, of course it's a zero sum game. Unless your state has an infinite supply of money, there's a limit to the number of taxpayer dollars you're going to spend on education, and any piece of that pile that you give to one sector of the education environment will absolutely be taken away from other slice.

But this piece of magical thinking has always been part of the modern school choice movement. "You don't have to settle for your one public school system," the sales pitch has gone. "You can have all these other different school systems as well-- and it won't cost you a penny more!!"

Sure. And when a business is running into financial trouble, a common tactic to make those dollars stretch is to acquire and open a bunch more sites. When a family is having trouble taking care of one house, a common tactic is to buy a second house and move part of the family into that house.

The notion that two, three, four, or more school systems can be operated at the same cost as one public system is a fairy tale, a delusion, a trip to the unicorn farm on the back of a dragon carried by break-dancing fairies. It's believing that daylight savings time makes the sun shine longer. 

Occasionally choicers try to pair that fairy tale with the fairy tale of The Public Schools That Waste Money Inefficiently, but you'd have to search far and wide to find a five hundred dollar hammer on school grounds; instead, you'll find teachers in a crumbling room wielding a third-hand stapler that they bought at a Salvation Army and reassembled with some duct tape at home. And at this stage of the game, The Tale Of The Magic Charter School That Did More With Less has been pretty much dropped in favor of The Tale Of The Charter School That Demanded A Larger Slice Of The Pie.

So the choice world hides the extra costs by getting wealthy benefactors to kick in, or hitting up parents for some extra money and/or unpaid labor. Some of the extra cost is simply passed on to taxpayers. That mechanism is admittedly complicated, as laid out by researcher Mark Weber here. Choice can actually raise per pupil spending in public schools, because fixed and stranded costs are spread over fewer remaining students, or because taxpayers put more money into the district to deal with those costs. And it's hard to figure in the "cost" of lost programming. 

It is the least surprising thing in the world to conclude that running multiple school systems costs more than running a single system. But somehow choice supporters can never quite bring themselves to make the honest pitch-- "We believe that every child should have a variety of options for education, and we believe in it so much that we are asking taxpayers to contribute more money so that the choice dream can become a reality." 

Why don't they pitch that hard reality? Because some great things could be accomplished in that reality. Well, free is always the most attractive cost for a program, and it's particularly attractive when many of the people who are driving the bus actually have the policy goal of shrinking public education spending to zero. And there are always those who sincerely believe in the magical idea that budget dollars are infinitely stretchy.  Who knows. Maybe if we close our eyes and wish real hard...

Friday, January 27, 2023

PA: 445 School Districts Call For Charter Reform

Charter funding in Pennsylvania is a miserable mess. Well, it's a miserable mess if you're not running a charter school; if you are running a charter school, Pennsylvania is like Christmas All The Time.

There are several major issues with the twenty-five-year-old funding rules.

One is that charters, for some arcane reason, are reimbursed for students with special needs at the same high rate. Students with inexpensive special needs are a cash cow in this state, simply illustrated by this piece of research from the PA School Boards Association:

In 2014-2015, school districts paid out $294.8 million in special ed supplement money to charter schools.

In 2014-2015, charter schools spent $193.1 million on special ed services.

Another is that cyber-charters are reimbursed at the same per-pupil rate as brick and mortar schools. Of all the advice I haven't taken, I rank a former superintendent of mine, who, on his way out the door, told me to get into running a cyber-charter because "it's easier than printing money." It's similar--except that the money is being drained from actual public school systems

Add to that the fact that cyber-charters are mostly not audited at all. Like our tax credit scholarship system, our cyber-school system makes money disappear into a black hole where nobody can see what has become of it

There are other issues, such as huge differences between charter rates for different districts. 

Local school districts have noticed. My old district noticed a lot the year that they had a $800K bill for cyber charter students and closed an elementary school building on the theory that it would save about $800K. 

Tom Wolf tried to get the legislature to budge on fixing some of this, but budge they did not. Charter supporters squealed like pigs being pulled away from the trough. Harrisburg is heavily lobbied by the charter industry (after all--charters have plenty of extra money to throw around). 

But in the meantime, school districts across the state have been steadily joining the cause and passing resolutions calling for charter reform. Pennsylvania is a diverse state, and the 500 school districts in the state represent everything from deep MAGA red to wide sky blue. And yet, there are now 445 districts that have passed some version of a resolution calling for the legislature to bring the charter funding rules into the 21st century. Now if only Harrisburg would pay attention. 

UT: Vouchers Pass With Serious Shenanigans

Utah has joined the ranks of school voucher states with a flurry of fast-track shenanigans that managed to bypass anything resembling a democratic process.

HB 215 was distributed to Utah's House on Monday, January 16. They had a fiscal analysis by Wednesday, got it in and out of the education committee in one day. They had their second reading on Friday morning at 11:09, third reading at 11:14, and passed it at 12:25 and sent it to the Senate.

The bill took the weekend off, then on Monday, it was all aboard the Senate railroad. The Senate education committee had it back to the full Senate later that same day. It was back on the floor on Tuesday, a couple of amendments were quickly brushed aside, and on Thursday, January 23 at 12:09 PM, HB 215 passed the Senate.

And they say legislatures can't get anything done. This was clearly a well-orchestrated and effectively stage-managed piece of legislative force-feeding.

Say what you like about this shifty manner of getting the bill passed quickly before ordinary folks could raise much noise. After all, they've let the voters speak to this issue before and they didn't like how that turned out, what with the defeat and all. Democracy is so inconvenient. Well, at least the bill is--nope, there is no at least. It's a terrible bill.

It provides zero accountability, both in terms of how parents spent the money and in terms of what vendors can sidle up to the voucher trough to grab some of that sweet, sweet taxpayer money. 

As always, the real choice will be up to the "service providers." Students with special needs waive their rights under IDEA. And the bill contains the usual language declaring that the state can't require private schools to alter "creed, practices, admission policies, hiring practices, or curricula."

The education savings accounts will be about $8,000--double the support the state provides per student in the public school system. And because these are universal vouchers, students who have never set foot in a public school, as well as the children of wealthy families who can well afford pricey private schools, will all get their $8K, and public schools will lose a mountain of money before they lose a single student. 

If you're thinking that it sounds as if Utah's GOP wants to gut public schools, you don't have to guess. One of the consultants helping to push this steaming heap of legislation said so. Allison Sorenson was caught on tape 

“I can’t say this is a recall of public education. Even though I want to destroy public education, I can’t say that,” said Sorensen. “The legislators can’t say that because they’ll be just reamed over the coals.”

The bill even includes language that sure looks like it's there to forestall lawsuits arguing that the whole business is just Utah trying to weasel out of any obligation to provide a free and appropriate public education:

The creation of the program or establishment of a scholarship account on behalf of
a student does not:
(i) imply that a public school did not provide a free and appropriate public education
for a student; or
(ii) constitute a waiver or admission by the state.

However, the bill also requires the department of education to hire an outfit to run the program--in other words, outsource a function of the state government by both developing and enforcing the nots and bolts policies that will guide this giant boondoggle.

And the very worst part-- this was passed with a super-majority, making it pretty much impervious to any actions taken to undo this thing. 

It's very bad news for Utah, and for all the state that are about to be hammered by the well-financed traveling circus that pushing these bills. Taxpayers get to throw their education dollars down a black hole, while public education is defunded and dismantled. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Vouchers Are Not About School Choice. Here's How We Know.

The new wave of voucher bills being rammed through red state legislatures all demonstrate a truth about school voucher policies-- vouchers are not about choice. They're about peeling people away from the public school system in order to defund and dismantle that system.

What makes me think so? Here it is. Sometimes it's not about what people say, but about what they don't say.

If the concern were really and truly choice for every student, then voucher fans would be addressing some of the real obstacles to school choice.

This door doesn't lead where they told you it would. 
For one, they would be addressing discriminatory and exclusionary policies. Yet when have we ever heard a voucher supporter say, "These discriminatory policies have to stop. LGBTQ+ students deserve just as much school choice as any other students." 

The closest thing we ever get is "Well, then they can start an LGBTQ-friendly school of their own." Yet when that happens, pro-voucher politicians target that school with terms like "perversion." And of course in some states, such a school can never happen because talking about LGBTQ students or Black history has been outlawed. And voucher laws are written to hold the private school right to discriminate as it wishes inviolable.

If someone were serious about voucher based choice, they would also address cost. Vouchers are typically far too small to pay for tuition to top schools in the state. If voucher supporters were really interested in making sure that, as Jeb Bush says, "each and every...student can access the education of their choice," there would be a robust discussion about how to bridge the gap between meager vouchers and expensive schools.

Yet we never hear voucher advocates saying, "We need to find the way to fully fund vouchers so that they provide a real choice to students." Choice advocates like to point at the inequity of the public system--parent choice is limited by their ability to buy an expensive house in a wealthy neighborhood. But the current crop of voucher programs doesn't change that a bit--a voucher offers little to change the fact that how much "freedom" you get depends on how wealthy you are. 

It has been done. But when Croydon, NH set up a school choice program, a voucher-like system that bore the full cost of sending a student to the school of their choice, local libertarians tried to shut it down because they wanted lower taxes. 

Voucher fans love the idea of school choice; they just don't want to actually pay for it. 

If these folks were serious about school choice via vouchers, we would have calls for oversight and accountability. It would make a choice system that much more attractive for parents to know that all the available options have been vetted and screened and will be held to some standards, just like shopping in a grocery store where you can rest easy in near-certainty that whatever you pick, it's not going to actually poison your family. 

And yet not only do voucher fans not call for oversight and accountability, but they actively block it with language that hammers home that nobody can tell vendors what to do or how to do it.

Voucherphiles like to call their system child-centered, but in fact it is vendor-centered, with "protections" for the service providers written into the law, and protections for the students non-existent. Parents are left to navigate an unregulated system of asymmetrical information that favors the businesses-- not the families.

If we were really talking about school choice, we would be talking about these ideas. Choice advocates would be demanding we talk about them.

But we're not.

Vouchers are not about choice. They're about saying, "I'll give you a couple grand to sign away your rights to a free and appropriate public education." They're about using that deal to get one step closer to Milton Friedman's dream of education being a cost shouldered by parents, not society. In other words, not just privatizing the delivery of education, but also privatizing the responsibility for it. 

It's about not having to pay taxes to educate Those People's Children. If at the same time we can use some taxpayer dollars (collected from Other People) to also further some "Kingdon Gains" and fund some private religious schools (just the Right Ones), that's a win-win. 

I'll end with my usual caveat--there are undoubtedly some folks out there who sincerely believe that vouchers are a good way to a pursue real school choice. Believe it or not, I myself can imagine what a true functional and beneficial school choice system would look like. And it wouldn't look anything like what has been ramming its way through state legislatures in the past few years. 

Jeb Bush Weighs In On Florida Voucher Giveaway

Jeb Bush, who helped kick off Florida's long march toward dismantling public education, thinks House Bill 1, a bill to remove any income caps on voucher use, is a swell idea. Here's his press release on the subject:

The right to a publicly funded education is a promise our state makes to every student and yesterday, Speaker Paul Renner and members of the legislature took bold steps to ensure each and every Florida student can access the education of their choice.

Florida stands on the monumental verge of restoring the original intent of publicly funding education – by funding individual students – so each child can reach their God-given potential. HB1 is a forward thinking and important move toward ensuring Florida remains the nation’s leader in student-centered solutions. I applaud Speaker Renner and the Florida House for their vision and leadership in creating this unmatched opportunity for Florida students and families.

There's a lot of untruth in this statement, underlining the level of cynicism behind this pitch to simultaneously defund public education while shooting taxpayer dollars over to private schools. 

Vouchers are not about choice. When Bush says that the bill will 

 ensure each and every Florida student can access the education of their choice

he's simply not telling the truth. LGBTQ students will not be able to have any education of their choice, because schools that want to discriminate them are free to do so. In fact, those religious schools retain the right to reject or push out any students that don't fit their religious requirements. 

Nor will the amount of money in a Florida voucher (around $8K) allow students to "access" the education provided by pricey private schools. Parents who want to attend upscale schools can either take out loans or--well, just not go. Voucher fans love vouchers and school choice--just not enough to have taxpayers actually pay the true cost. 

Nor will students with special needs, who must waive their rights in order to collect their voucher, have a choice of education, unless they want to choose not to have supports in place. 

The notion that this expanded program would benefit students is silly. It will benefit private schools, and it will provide nice rebates to families who can already afford to attend those private schools. It's a new subsidy, a new entitlement, like taking the money taxpayers give to maintain a community park and giving it to rich families to keep their private gardens nice. 

Meanwhile, HB 1 could mean that a whopping $4.6 billion leaving the students who choose public schools, or who are simply stuck there because they are not welcome in any of the "choice" options; a system that will be pushed a bit further down the death spiral. 

ND: Actual Anti-Furry Legislation. Really.

Furry panic has been going on now for over a year, seemingly impervious to debunking and facts and common sense. 

So some legislators got together in North Dakota to protect--I don't know. Something?

I shouldn't make light of House Bill 1522, because the main thrust of this two-page waste of the legislature's time is one more attack on transgender students. The bill defines" sex" as "the biological state of being male and female, based on the individual's nonambiguous sex organs, chromosomes, and endogenous hormone profiles at birth." So once again, the state will want to literally check inside your child's pants, and maybe you'd better keep a picture of your child's genitals at birth on file, just in case some cranky parents want to throw charges at your daughter just because she beat their precious Buffy in a track and field event (which is not something I'm making up, but an actual event in Utah).

The bill goes on to say that no school may set up "a place, facility, school program, or accommodation" for a transgender student, and that includes pronouns. If parents consent, and gender-afforming surgery has been performed on the student before this bill takes effect, then the school is allowed to set up a unisex bathroom. Since such surgery is not performed on minors, regardless of what that Facebook post you saw says, this just adds more junk to a junk bill.

Any parent of any child at the school can bring a "civil cause of action" against the school over a perceived violation. The parent can sue for up to half a million in "exemplary damages." See-- save those baby genital pictures for your day in court.

But wait--there's more! Along with not providing "a place, facility, school program, or accommodation" for transgender students, schools may also not cater to "a student's perception of being any animal species other than human." Thereby joining the ranks of legislators who have aimed to prohibit letting yeti's ride unicorns down the main street while throwing golden eggs. 

Rep. Lori VanWinkle, one co-sponsor, told NBC news in an email that "Yes we have people who would like to claim themselves as animals such as cats and dogs." Oh, honey. 

There was a committee hearing yesterday on this slab of baloney tagged as an "emergency measure" that is nestled in among seven bills making various sorts of attacks on transgender persons. There were also bills prohibiting medical transition procedures for people under 18, solving another problem that doesn't exist (unless the problem is that some legislator isn't getting enough press), a bill making conversion therapy okee dokee, and of course protection for female sports. The North Dakota legislature is having a great week; on Monday a bill passed out of committee to ban children from attending drag shows. Glad to know the North Dakota legislature is devoting time to the really important stuff.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

KY: Andy Bashear Gets It

Kentucky Governor Any Beshear is one of the few politicians out there who vocally and directly supports public education, and he has stood firm in a state where the legislature is determined to defund public schools. I'm embedding the education part of his message from 9 months ago so you can watch the whole thing, but I want to transcribe for you here his bold and clear statement about charter schools (it starts at about 2:20 in the clip). He's announcing that he will veto the entire charter school bill. 

I'm against charter schools.

They are wrong for our commonwealth. They take taxpayer dollars away from the already underfunded public schools in the commonwealth, and our taxpayer dollars should not be redirected to for-profit entities that run charter schools.

As attorney general, I can tell you the number of prosecutions we had against for-profit colleges, how so many of them took advantage of so many people. And the idea that we would open up that same ability for people to prey on our even younger students is simply not the direction that Kentucky should go. 

And the bill would send taxpayer dollars to charter schools that have boards that are not elected and are not answerable to the people. Public dollars being spent without that oversight. And they're not even required to comply with the same controls and accountability measures as our public schools. 

The answer to concerns about the performance in our public schools lies with actually funding and working with our public schools, not trying to divert money away to folks that you give more flexibility to than the group you're asking to do a better job. 

There's more. You can watch the whole thing here. If you're in Harrisburg, could you run this on over to Josh Shapiro's office and have him take a look?

Monday, January 23, 2023

The Person In The Classroom

Lately, some folks have been online opining about how teachers should be a mysterious black box to their students, not a piece of personal information shared. Mostly, it's in the context of exchanges like this:

In other words, it's okay if teacher gag laws make it necessary for LGBTQ teachers to keep their personal lives a secret, because all teachers should keep their personal lives a secret (not sure what you're supposed to do about being Black in an anti-CRT state). 

For the many millions of us in small town and rural school districts, it is an absurd argument. 

I taught for almost forty years in a small town/rural district. Taught, in fact, in the same school from which I graduated. I was also, during those years, a church choir director, a newspaper columnist, and an active local theater and music guy. Also, the father of two students who came up through that same system. I do not have the time or space to trace through every line of connection that ties all the folks in this community together. Beyond those ties, you simply meet students everywhere--in church, shopping for groceries, at the 4-H fair, walking down the street, buying underwear, any sort of outing with your family. 

In that environment, you share details of your life for a couple of reasons, one being that nature abhors an information vacuum and if your students don't know things, they will either make them up or dig them up elsewhere (e.g. Student to me: "My mom says you were a big weenie in high school"). But also because it is hard for students to get interested in being taught by a robot. 

This does not mean that a teacher should regularly spew their guts over the classroom. But there is no reason to stop being a person when you walk into a classroom, and in small town settings, it's hard to avoid it. 

Also--and I have to believe this is true no matter how large your district--as a teacher you are often one of the small group of adults that students know, and you cannot avoid modeling how adults navigate the world. 

Years ago, in the process of discussing a work, I mentioned that a literary character was probably a hot babe, and one student responded, "Oh, I don't know how Mrs. Greene would feel about that."

There was a brief moment in which some students looked around in mild alarm, and my niece, who was also a student in the class said, "He's divorced." The student who had spoken up absolutely froze.

In that moment, whether I wanted to bring up the subject or not, I was going to show students how an adult could feel about being divorced. Was it something to be proud of, ashamed of? Was it something unmentionable? I was going to model... something, whether I wanted to or not. (FTR, I think I modeled something along the lines of "not shameful, but no point of pride, either, and also not news, so nobody's in trouble for bringing it up.") 

The things people will know about you in a small town teacher world is just mind-boggling. They come from the same families that serve your food, chat with you while you're shopping, sit in the next pew, fix your car, and handle your medical care (one of my Small Town Teacher stories is the time I had my first colonoscopy and the tech was a recent student of mine). It evens out a bit, because students will share things with about home that would make their parents' hair curl, but still. The notion that you could keep your personal life a secret is hilarious.

Likewise, in a small town district, your politics may not be a secret at all (Heck, for years, a social studies teacher in my school was also the mayor of the city). Maybe you can keep your political leanings secret, or maybe ever since your picture ran on the front page of the newspaper waving that sign at that rally, your politics will be pretty well known by everybody who cares to pay attention (and it should be noted that not everybody will care to pay attention). 

What do you do? You model how intelligent people handle political stances in the adult world. You show that you can treat people with whom you disagree as if they are human beings deserving of respect and decent treatment. 

The politics in the classroom debate is getting broader because we have decided that everything is politics. The foundation of our big disagreements about race and LGBTQ issues is a disagreement about what the argument is really about. 

For folks on the right, the understanding is that racial issues in this country were all fixed in the mid-sixties and there is no longer anything to complain about, and that LGBTQ orientations are unnatural and therefor the result of either trauma or trickery. Therefor, any discussions about rights or considerations for these groups is simply a political ploy.

For other folks, "Black lives matter" and "LGBTQ persons deserve to exist and be treated decently" are not political statements, but statements about basic humanity.

Are there limits? Sure. Like everything else in education, it's a balancing act. Requiring students to sign on as active crusaders in your cause is not okay (and most often comes across as "You must pretend to believe X in order to get a good grade in this class," which never serves anyone). 

Look, if a teacher is going to be a person in the classroom (and I think they should), then I think the appropriate stance is this: 

"I am a person, with strengths, weaknesses, biases, opinions, and a variety of life experiences. Some of this may come up in this class, and some may not, but what you need to know as students is that none of it will affect how I treat, teach, or assess you. You will not be picked on or receive a lower grade because you believe X or refuse to believe Y. I will communicate the standards of this class clearly to you, and I guarantee that there are no secret hidden standards that I will use. Whatever you believe or disbelieve, you are safe to be that person in here."

Maybe in a large district you can work in a building where nobody knows anything about you. Maybe you can carefully monitor every word that comes out of your mouth so that you never slip up and drop hints about your life outside of school. Maybe you find a way to never be seen with your family in public. Maybe nothing in your life will ever blow up loudly enough that the echoes make it into your classroom. Maybe you can learn to function as someone who is not actually a full person in your classroom. You sure can't do any of that in a small town district, and imagining trying just makes my head hurt. It's perhaps my own bias and experience speaking, but the whole exercise strikes me as making you a less effective teacher and a very weary human being.

Choice, Vouchers, and the End of Public Education

Doug Mastriano was not out of step with the movement; he was just a bit early.

Mastriano ran for governor of Pennsylvania with the idea that he could end real estate taxes entirely and  cut state funding for public schools to $0.00. Just give everyone a tiny voucher and send them on their way. The idea was far enough out there that the campaign tried to back away from it (without entirely disowning it) and even other GOP politicians raised eyebrows and said, "No, not that."

You slice them off at the knees, right here--
The thing is, this is not a new idea. It has been the fondest dream of some choicers all along. Nancy MacLean, professor of history and public policy at Duke University, offered a succinct digest in the Washington Post of what Milton Friedman, granddaddy of the not-overtly-racist wing of the school choice movement, thought about the movement and its ultimate goals.

Friedman, too, was interested in far more than school choice. He and his libertarian allies saw vouchers as a temporary first step on the path to school privatization. He didn’t intend for governments to subsidize private education forever. Rather, once the public schools were gone, Friedman envisioned parents eventually shouldering the full cost of private schooling without support from taxpayers. Only in some “charity” cases might governments still provide funding for tuition.

Friedman first articulated this outlook in his 1955 manifesto, but he clung to it for half a century, explaining in 2004, “In my ideal world, government would not be responsible for providing education any more than it is for providing food and clothing.” Four months before his death in 2006, when he spoke to a meeting of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), he was especially frank. Addressing how to give parents control of their children’s education, Friedman said, “The ideal way would be to abolish the public school system and eliminate all the taxes that pay for it.”

You don't have to set the wayback machine to find folks saying this quiet part out loud. Utah is one of several red states racing to ram through a voucher bill. Here's Allison Sorenson, executive director of Utah Fits For All, an outfit marketing the voucher plan like crazy; in this clip, she's explaining that the folks who back Utah's plan can't come right out and say they're going to defund public education entirely, that admitting the goal is to destroy public education would be too politically touchy. 

Vouchers are not about choice. Just look at Florida, which has worked to disrupt, defund and dismantle public schools for years, while simultaneously shutting down and limiting what choices schools are allowed to offer. Look at every state's voucher law; they all enshrine a private "education provider's" right to deny and discriminate as they wish, thereby denying choice to any students they wish to deny choice to. One of the biggest limiters of school choice is not the public system, but the private system's unwillingness to open their doors to all these students who, we hear, are just thirsting for choices.

We know what a free market education system looks like--it looks like the US post-secondary education system. Occasional attempts at free-to-all schools are beaten down by racist and classist arguments, along with charges of socialist indoctrination. You get as much choice as you can afford, the private schools only accept (and keep) the students they want, and those who aspire to certain levels of schooling have to sink themselves in debt to get it. Meanwhile, state's slowly but surely withdraw financial support from the few "public" universities left.

Should we enter a world where vouchers flourish and public schools die out, it seems easy to imagine a next step in which politicians either quietly (with budgetary legerdemain) or publicly (by attacking the voucher "entitlements" or asking why people without kids should have to pay taxes to send other people's kids to school) make the voucher payment thinner and thinner, offering advice like the already-too-oft-repeated advice that some folks might want to sign up for one of those Microschools, where a few neighbor kids gather to pull some education off a computer screen. 

It would be easy. After all, instead of a collective such as a teachers union or the collective group of parents and taxpayers rallied around a community's school, the slashers would face a disjointed, splintered bunch of individual parents making their individual way through a broad marketplace. 

Milton Friedman's dream is still alive, and this year it appears that some folks are working hard to get one step closer to it. May they all fail miserably. 

Sunday, January 22, 2023

ICYMI: Is It Still January Edition (1/22)

Is this month dragging? It seems like January is dragging. But it has been a huge week for Good Things To Read, so here's your list.

Let's start on a hopeful note. The opponents of public education in Arizona (and there are many) lost the governor's office. Nicole Wolff at Stories from Arizona explains what some of the benefits could be.

More hope. Tennessee might actually stop a stupid, ineffective,. abusive third grade reading retention law. Erin McCullough at WKRN reports.

So much for hope. Jan Resseger reports from Ohio, where the GOP has decided that there are too many Democrats on the state board of education, so they'd like to strip it of power and just put the governor in charge.

Constitutional amendment would eliminate State Board of Education

Nebraska, too.

A tremendous piece of reporting from Moriah Balingit at the Washington Post. Rural Mississippi is in trouble. The trouble filling teaching positions may be a regional and local thing, but this is the region and locality where it is really being felt.

Conservative group involved in Central Bucks library regulations some fear as de facto book ban

Turns out that the Central Bucks school district's reading restrictions for students may have been actually co-authored by the Pennsylvania Family Institute, a far right group with a goal of making Pennsylvania "a place where God is honored."

A deep-pocketed donor from Pa. is moving onto the national stage. That’s a problem

You may not have heard of Jeffrey Yass (though I have written about him), the richest guy in PA and a huge fan of right wing anti-public ed causes. A group of writers at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star explain why his intention of going national is not good news.

At Brutal South, Paul Bowers goes ahead and checks to see what the fuss is about, while providing some useful context for that fuss.

The “Learning Loss” Trap

The editors at Rethinking Schools explain how Learning Loss is a tool for yet more reformster shenanigans.

For you podcast folks, a new installment from Have You Heard. Warning-- it's kind of a bummer. Solid research on the hollowing out of the profession.

Americans want to know what Gov. DeSantis’ definition of ‘woke’ is. He’s not saying

A Miami Herald op-ed (via Yahoo) by Fabiola Santiago calling out DeSantis and his ill-defined lousy beliefs.

Universal Education Savings Accounts, HB1 and the Further Defunding and Dismantling of Florida’s Public Schools

Accountabaloney adds up the cost of Florida's new vouchers for all proposal, and holy smokes!

Conservative America’s New Authoritarianism: “Free Speech as Long as I Agree.”

The indispensable Mercedes Schneider looks at the hot new trend among red governors and other right-tilted folks.

Have we really hit 46% grift inflation in per-voucher cost?

Billy Townsend does the best he can with Florida's sketchy data to figure out just how big and bad the voucher impact has become.

Nancy Flanagan with a story of how some folks, poised to jump on public schools for anything they can gin up discontent about, found a way to kill a great field trip. 

What Happened to the 1.3 Million Children Who Stopped Going to School?

Carol Burris at The Progressive breaks down what exactly did or didn't happen to the "missing" children. (Spoiler alert: they didn't all sign up for charter schools).

Few Iowa families will have more choices with GOP ‘school choice’ plan

Iowa is on the list of states where the GOP is trying to quickly ram through an expansive voucher law. Ed Tibbetts at the Iowa Capital Dispatch points out that the choice that the bill promises is an illusion.

If Iowa passes a voucher bill, this guy says he’ll open up a Satanic school

His name is Joe Stutler, and he told a hearing, "Satan wants your money, and I want a piece of this lovely grift action."  He's a combat veteran and a champion troller. Reported by Herman Mehta for Only Sky. 

Community groups call on Marion County to stop approving charter schools

Jasmine Minor at WISHTV reports on calls by community groups (including some ministerial types) for Indianapolis to knock it off already with the continued approving of crappy charter schools.

Anger grows in Virginia city where first-grader shot teacher

An AP story about the school and community where that shooting occurred, providing some useful context and a reminder that the rising tide of school violence is an ongoing problem.

Altoona Area School Board approves AR-15 for school resource officers, “heaven forbid” they need them

It's doubly stupid, because nobody needs more guns in school and of all the guns to use to defend against school shooters, the AR-15 is a lousy choice (you'll notice that police departments do not carry them into shooter situations). 

Over at Forbes, I took a look at Virginia's terrible voucher bills and how to teach in the era of ChatGPT and its ilk.

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