Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Shepherds, Not Engineers

Russell Barkley is a psychologist who has done a lot of work and writing in the area of ADHD. I was unfamiliar with him and his work, and I still don't know much, but I stumbled across a video of Barkley speaking, and it really resonated for me. I'll embed it at the end of this post, because the delivery is better than my transcript will be. 

I'm not sure what the occasion is, but his audience appears to be parents. And to one side is a slide saying "You are a shepherd, not an engineer."

He credits grandparents with knowing this and claims that today's parents "don't seem to" and I'm not going to get into that, because it's the "this" that matters:

You do not get to design your children.

Nature would never have permitted that to happen. Evolution would not have allowed a generation of a species to be so influenced by the previous generation. It hasn't happened and it doesn't happen and it especially doesn't happen in children. 

You do not design your children.

He cites things like the Mozart effect as a typically North American view that more more more must be better. Stimulation matters, but only up to a certain threshold "which 98% of you have already met." After that-- well, "you just don't have that kind of power."

So, what we have learned in the last twenty years of research in neuroimaging, behavior genetics, developmental psychology, neuropsychology, can be boiled down to this phrase:

Your child is born with more than 400 psychological traits that will emerge as they mature, and they have nothing to do with you. 

So the idea that you are going to engineer personalities and IQs and academic achievement skills and all these other things just isn't true. 

Your child is not a blank slate on which you get to write.

...The better view is that your child is a genetic mosaic of your extended family. Which means this is a unique combination of the traits that run in your family line.

I like the shepherd view. You are a shepherd. You don't design the sheep. The engineering view makes you responsible for everything--everything that goes right and everything that goes wrong. This is why parents come to us with such guilt. More guilt than we've ever seen in prior generations. Because parents today believe that it's all about them, and what they do, and if they don't get it right, or if their child has a disability, they've done something wrong when in fact the opposite is true. This has nothing to do with your particular brand of parenting.

So I would rather you would stop thinking of yourself as an engineer, and step back and say "I am a shepherd to a unique individual." Shepherds are powerful people. They pick the pastures in which the sheep will graze and develop and grow. They determine whether they're appropriately nourished. They determine whether they're protected from harm. The environment is important but it doesn't design the sheep. No shepherd is going to turn a sheep into a dog. Ain't gonna happen. And yet that is what we see parents trying to do, all the time. 

He sees special importance in this view for parents of children with special needs. Then he moves on.

That comes with it a profoundly freeing view of parenting, because what it means is although it's important to be a shepherd, recognizing that this is a unique individual before you allows you to enjoy the show. So open a bottle of chardonnay, kick off your slippers, sit back, and watch what takes place. Because you don't get to determine this. Enjoy the show. It doesn't last that long--they are gone before you know it.

Let them grow, let them prosper, please design appropriate environments around them, but you don't get to design them. 

He cites an author whose name I can't pick out saying that the big influences on your child's life are the community in which they live--peers, other adults, schools, resources, etc-- followed by genetics.

There's a tricky balance here; I suspect many choice fans and culture warriors would say they are just being shepherds by trying to manage their children's environment. And for some, I'd bet that is true.

But we have a lot of folks out there with the engineer view. The Don't Say Gay and book banning  crowd include people who believe in the engineer model, who believe that as the owners of their children, they alone have the right to engineer that child to their preferred specifications. Anti-LGBTQ persons are persons who believe that LGBTQ persons exist only because somebody engineered them to be that way. "If my child doesn't turn out exactly as I engineered her to," the reasoning, "it must be because somebody else snuck in there with other engineering, and not because my child grew up as a unique mosaic of hundreds of human characteristics." Some sneaky evil engineer snuck in there and engineered my sheep into a dog.

Education has also been plagued by would-be engineers, technocrats who insisted that if we just run all young humans through such and such a program (delivered with fidelity), then every young human will emerge from the program with the exact skill and knowledge that we want to engineer them with. Sometimes we add the term "science" as if science has a special power to let us engineer young humans to our desired specifications. 

So much education reform has been built around the engineer model (we've even got folks trying to call teachers "learning engineers"), the technocratic designs that will yield the "product" that we want, complete with measurements and numbers and engineering stuff (but 400 characteristics and hundreds areas of learning are too hard, so let's just chop it down to a math and reading test). But that's not how human beings work.

People are not machines. They don't need engineers; they need shepherds to keep an eye on them, keep them safe, surround them with good stuff, guide them in a general direction. You can't engineer a person to be exactly what you want, and if you can let go of that desire, I'd argue that people will generally turn out to be something far more rich and deep and interesting then they ever would have been if you'd actually been able to engineer what you thought you wanted. 

Sunday, May 28, 2023

ICYMI: Memorial Day Weekend 2023 Edition (5/28)

Facebook showed me the pictures I took on Memorial Day 2020. I had missed the usual observances, the marching down our main street for the morning parade, and so I went up and took pictures of the empty park, the empty street. Man, that was a crappy year. Tomorrow we'll be back to normalish. Glad to be there. In the meantime, here's some reading from the week.

Teacher Stress Is Not Inevitable

Ar EdWeek. The subheading is "But first we need to stop making teachers the Band-Aids for systemic inequalities." So you know they're at least partly on the right track.

The Building Boom Continues Despite A Loss Of Students

Carl Petersen in LA reminds us that charters are as much about real estate as education. Lots of capacity being built, even as demand shrinks.

The Big Shill: Jon Keller and Keri Rodrigues Conjure Some Sunday Morning Hocus Pocus

Maurice Cunningham blogs about more antics of the National Parents Union, aka the Walton-Koch Reformster Astroturf Office.

Objection to sexual, LGBTQ content propels spike in book challenges

The Washington Post did some research and number crunching around the issues of book banning, and the results show some stunning facts about the anti-book movement.

The Proposed Ohio House Bill 103 Would Politicize K-12 Public School Social Studies Standards and Fail to Prepare Our Children for Democratic Citizenship

Jan Resseger looks at a bill that promises to make a mess out of social studies in Ohio. 

Many transgender health bills came from a handful of far-right interest groups, AP finds

Surprise, surprise. Most of these bills are coming from the same place (like voucher bills, etc)

Mindful AI: Crafting prompts to mitigate the bias in generative AI

AI has a bias problem (always has). Here Kieran Snyder at Textio talks about how that problem could be addressed (and offers some charts showing how bad and subtle it is). 

How to Fight the Right’s Moral Panic Over Parental Rights

Jennifer Berkshire at The Nation writes about how some folks are successfully defeating the moral panic that is choking on its own too-much.

‘Culture wars’ candidates for Oregon school boards mostly lost

The Oregonian reports on the less-than-super showing of the anti-LGBTQ, anti-book crowd.

Male teachers are dying out in the education system. Here's why — and how to bring them back

From KSL in Utah, a look at the problem with, and need for, male teachers. How could Utah (or any other state) do better?

One state just became a national leader on child care. Here’s how they did it.

It's Vermont. Rachel Cohen has the story at Vox. 

Wes Moore calls out politicians who ‘ban books and muzzle educators’

Politico looks at the Maryland governor who decided to take a culture war stand.

Thomas Ultican's review of the Alexandra Robbins book I already told you to go buy, but if you want further convincing...

Juggling Glass Cups, Plastic Balls, and Ghosts

Yolanda Wheelington talks about one model for helping break down work-life balance for teachers, and why some teachers stay. 

Why Do Science of Reading Advocates Accept Unscientific Third-Grade Retention?

Nancy Bailey has some actual science regarding the retention of third graders, and she wants to know why certain science fans don't pay attention.

U.S. mothers labor force participation rate

It's up. Way up. This Axios piece offers a little context, some interpretation, and a graph.

The Last Daze of School

Gregory Sampson's piece took me right back to those final days of the year. 

McSweeney's, with a great piece by Ashley Ingle. Fun times. 

Over at Forbes, I took a look at Annie Abrams excellent book about AP courses. Plus, a new working paper that shows one more problem with cyber charters. 

Join me on substack, and my stuff will just magically appear in your email inbox, free of charge.

Friday, May 26, 2023

FL: The Prequel To Moms For Liberty Is Resurrecting Itself

The Florida group that pitched itself as a conservative alternative the state school board association was an operation that featured many of Florida's busiest reformster activists. And it also featured some names now known for their work with Moms For Liberty. And this isn't just ancient history--the group is getting started up again.

The Florida Coalition of School Board Members Begins

Back in 2015 (right at the beginning of the year, because these grass roots things always organically begin at the start of the calendar year), four supporters of school choice decided it was time to bid adieu to the Florida School Board Association. They were unhappy with the actions of FSBA, particularly a lawsuit filed against the state's new voucher program. They set out to become a "financially responsible," grassroots group that supports school choice options including charter school and local control of education issues. ExcelinEd, Jeb Bush's reformster group, wrote a glowing profile under the headline "Choice for school board members comes to Florida.They guessed that they would have 40 or 50 members "right out of the gate," but they started out with just four:

Erika Donalds, (Collier County School Board), Jeff Bergosh, (Escambia County School Board), Shawn Frost, (Indian River County School Board), and Bridget Ziegler, (Sarasota County School Board). The articles of incorporation for the group are missing Donalds and instead include Linda Costello. Bergosh was the group's first president. Their first registered agent was Shawn Frost; his home address was given as the organization's address.

Out of the swamp it comes

Frost told a reporter that the group believed that FSBA dues should not be used for a lawsuit (they weren't). Said Ziegler, the coalition would rather see that money go to a classroom. 

The group was never going to meet that estimate of 40 or 50 members, but the handful of members were all well-connected major players. Other names that would be associated with the group include Rebecca Negron, Erik Robinson, and Anne Corcoran. Also, Tina Descovich. 

This is going to take some space, but understanding who these folks are really helps to clarify what kind of operation this is. And that matters because they are intending to relaunch--maybe even go national.

So who are these folks? Here are some of the names that turn up by surfing the wayback machine through old web pages for FCSBM as board members, some of who just pass through briefly.

Jeff Bergosh

The first President. Government contractor. Moved on to become county commissioner in 2016, and has stayed with the gig ever since. And he blogs. 

Nancy Stacy

A board member with a combative style, who was publicly accused of bullying a former ally. She also caught flack for some social media posts, like saying whores can't be victims of rape or "Set Bill Cosby free says this Mama Bear with sons."

Linda Costello

In 2012, the 63 year old grandma beat an incumbent for a school board seat in Volusia County. She believes in "God, greatness and going the extra mile." Husband Fred was a former mayor and a legislator; in 2016, when he decided to run again, she decided to step away from the school board post. Fred was on the Education Appropriations Committee and believed that “Education is the number one economic development tool.”

Anne Corcoran

She's married to Richard Corcoran, formerly a pro-privatization leading legislator, then transformed into a pro-privatization Education Commissioner. Then he got in trouble for bid-rigging and resigned. Then DeSantis put him in charge of New College, the liberal Florida college that DeSantis intends to turn into the Hillsdale of the South. Anne herself has been busy launching a charter school; her brother-n-law is a charter school lobbyist.

Rebecca Negron

Married to Joe Negron, a Florida senator who helped write the tax credit scholarship voucher bill. Lost a 2016 bid for Florida's 18th congressional district. Lost her school board seat in 2018 after spending a reported quarter million on the race

Eric Robinson

"The Prince of Dark Money," former GOP party chair, and the guy who lost a school board race even though he outspent his opponent $222K to $32K, and subject of more than a few investigations and allegations. 

Jason Fischer

Briefly a board member. Electrical engineer, Rotarian. Veteran. Ran successfully for the state house, started to run for Congress, and then dropped out to clear a path for Aaron Bean and instead ran for-- Duval County property assessor. With Ron DeSantis's endorsement. And then, just this week, he dropped out of that race. Gonna try for Congress again? Who knows, but clearly school boarding was not his big passion.

Erika Donalds

Donalds is a Tea Partier who used to be an investment banker in New York. Now she is a well-connected player in Florida.  She founded Parents' Rights of Choice for Kids (Parents ROCK). Her husband Byron Donalds is the legislator who gave Florida the law that says all textbooks must be "balanced" and that any taxpayer can challenge course content. Donalds is buds with Patty Levesque, the woman who has been Jeb Bush's right-hand woman on ed reform. 

Donalds landed a seat on the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, from which she helped launch Amendment 8, a three piece amendment that would have added civic education, term limits for school board members, and-- oh, yeah-- also a part that eviscerated school boards and allowed charters to do an end run around local voters so they could pick the taxpayers' pockets. Among her many groups was School Choice Movement, started concurrently with the DeSantis administration. In 2018, she was displaying the logo of the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity on her Collier 912 Freedom Council website. 

And she's the CEO of Optima Ed, a private ed biz that offers school management and works with a variety of partners, including Step Up For Students, the outfit that manages the money fueling school vouchers--and that outfit is chaired by John Kirtley, who reportedly runs DeVos-funded PACS  (included American Federation for Children) and who allegedly provided support for the FCSBM. Optima Ed also operates a chain of Hillsdale-powered charter schools; little wonder that she threw her weight behind Amendment 8's provision that charters be approved by the state and not local school boards.

I could call Donalds the face of charter schools in Florida, but Bridget Ziegler already did. There is a whole book to be written about Florida politicians married to women who are making money in the charter school biz.

Shawn Frost

Shawn Frost is this guy:

This particular Facebook post has since been removed, but it seems to capture Frost's special je ne sais quoi. I can personally attest to his feisty engagement style on social media. And lots of other folks have screen shots. He's pretty awful.

In 2014, Frost went after a seat on the  Indian River County School Board. Not just any seat--the seat of the then-head of FSBA. He wanted this seat, badly enough to leave his wife and children back in their home at Vero Beach, FL (the one he would use for FSCBM incorporation), and move into a room above his parents' garage to meet the residency requirements (all of this was hashed out in court, ultimately in Frost's favor).

Shawn Frost graduated from Eastern Oregon University in 2006 with a BS in Experimental Psychology and a minor in philosophy. Then he picked up an MBA from Florida's Nova Southeastern University (website text- "Prepare To Dominate") and then he taught high school science for just two years at Sebastian River High School, a high-rated IBS school. There he did things like "leveraged personal network to create 'wow factor' learning experiences" and "conducted customer focus groups and survey research on student motivators and created a 'meritocracy based' incentives program." And then he got out of the classroom and back into corporate marketing work. He's also a senior strategy consultant with MVP Strategy and Policy, a group that specializes in helping with school board races. Frost once taught a class based on The Art of War. I find no evidence that he was TFA, but he certainly fits the profile, and he does love to say that he was a classroom teacher (without mentioning that his "career" lasted two years. Frost has been (according to Facebook) a marine, a science teacher, and a senior project manager at EFront, a software learning management system. And according to that ExcelinEd piece,, he works with business start-ups.

How did this guy win a school board race for a district in which he didn't actually live? 

With some pricey help. Here's how the Indian River Guardian reported on the race:

Frost, a newcomer to local politics with some questionable residency qualifications, (See: Frost says he is living in garage apartment at his father’s house in District 1), defeated Brombach 54 percent to 46 percent. In addition to being helped by local, though nationally funded, attacks on Brombach, Frost was helped by a flood of additional attack mailers, all paid for by the Florida Federation for Children. More outside help came from individual contributors to Frost’s campaign. Some two thirds of the direct contributions to Frost’s campaign were from out-of-state donors. In the reporting period ending August 18, Frost raised $6,340, $5,500 from out of state contributors, including several described as “venture capitalists.”

By later in August, he had pulled $20K from the American Federation of Children, the group that, in 2014, was still being run by Betsy DeVos, was tied closely to ALEC, and was funding reformy candidates left and right. Well, actually, only right. 

Then came the launch of FCSBM. In 2017, Frost announced that he would not seek another term on the school board-- because he has bigger targets in mind-- he wanted to be appointed to the state Board of Education.

That didn't happen, but Frost kept plugging away. He ran for vice-chair of the Florida GOP at the same time that Christian Ziegler (husband of Bridget) ran for chair. Ziegler won; Frost did not. He kept pushing the same issues. He was the campaign manager for the 2020 Congressional run of Erika Donalds' husband. 

And as of 2021, he has a new slice of his consulting/PR/etc firm-- Logos To Eyeballs Media, filing in March of 2021 with an address that appears to be a residence in Vero Beach. The website is, at present, just a front page with dead tabs. Must be doing okay, though, because during his run for the vice-chair spot, Frost pledged that through the company he was "committing to provide $335,000 in support for Republican outreach to youth, minorities and religious voters." Not sure where that project stands. Surely it wasn't just a campaign promise.

“I serve a big God and am blessed to be in a position to give back, but it really isn’t giving back because all of the money is God’s, all of the titles and power are God’s, all of the glory should go to God,” he said.

“I am fortunate to have a front-row seat to history and simply want to do my part to serve my Country, the Free State of Florida, and the Republican Party. I work for free, I work for God, and I always have enough.”

Depending on which account one reads, either Frost or Donalds was the driving force behind FCSBM. But for the next chapter, Frost appears to be taking the lead. And we'll get to that in a bit.

What about those other two members?

Bridget Ziegler. Ziegler squeaked out a victory for Sarasota School Board in 2018. Ron DeSantis thinks she's swell. And she's married to Christian Ziegler, who decided in mid-2022 not to run for re-election to a county commissioner seat because he'll be busy helping his wife and DeSantis each run their own campaigns (that and new rules that would have made it harder for him to win).

Christian Ziegler told the Washington Post that he has been "trying for a dozen years to get 20- and 30-year old females involved with the Republican Party, and it was a heavy lift to get that demographic. But now Moms for Liberty has done it for me." That was in October of 2021, when Ziegler's involvement had gone quiet; Tim Craig at WaPo reported that Ziegler's wife was "loosely" connected to Moms For Livberty--not that she was a co-founder of this group that emerged to accomplish just what Ziegler had long searched for a tool to accomplish.

Christian Ziegler's Microtargeted Media ("We do digital and go after people on their phones") was a big player in the 2020 Florida race, on the ground for Trump and other GOP candidates. He pulled in $300K from a Trump-related PAC. He was once a Heritage Foundation Fellow. He's buddies with Corey Lewandowski. He appears to be behind the Protect Wyoming Values PAC (a Trump anti-Liz Cheney proxy), Governor Kristi Noem's election integrity website, and a bunch of other conservative Trump-backing websites. He was at Trump's January 6 rally.

And in February, after had been "effectively... campaigning for the job for years," Christian Ziegler was elected Florida's GOP party chair. Meanwhile, Bridget Ziegler is helping the right-wing Leadership Institute train school board candidates nationally.

Tina Descovitch ran for Brevard County School Board in 2016, with a signature issue of her opposition to Common Core. Descovitch ran on two decades in business and a degree in Communications, as well as serving on the executive staff of a US Army Commanding General. She won that election overwhelmingly, taking 48% of the vote in a primary election field of four. Then she lost in 2020. She stayed active in local school politics; after a big dustup over LGBTQ+ policy in Brevard County, she was mailed an envelope full of poop.

While Ziegler often mentions founding FCSBM in her public facing bio material, she's left it off her LinkedIn. It's not clear when she departed the group. In 2018, she had succeeded Donalds and Frost as president of the board. 2018 is also the first year that Descovich is listed as a board member.

In November of 2018, Jeffrey Solochek (a dynamite Florida education reporter) at the Tampa Bay Times asked "Whither the Florida Coalition of School Board Members?" Don't worry, emailed Erika Donalds (who with Frost and Negron was now out of the school board biz)-- Tina Descovich is going to be the new chief, the group's going to do cool stuff, new slate of members,we'll be back with a hot new website soon. "New members, new energy — exciting times."

Then in 2019, the board listing page is 404, though in that year they appear to have handed out some "fighting for kids" awards to folks like Senator Manny Diaz and Byron Donalds. By 2020, the entire website is dark. 

The group had had a good run, with plenty of lobbying and advocacy and connecting with legislators over their conservative goals for education. But for whatever reason (perhaps the requirement that one be an elected school board member to belong), they had run out of steam.

And on May 20, 2020, Descovich (as president) and Ziegler file for voluntary dissolution of the group. 

About that Moms For Liberty Origin Story

The standard origin story of Moms for Liberty is that right on January 1, 2021, two moms just kind of got together-- Tiffany Justice from Vero Beach, and Tina Descovich. Just two moms, upset about masking, gathered around the kitchen table. Hey, maybe they could fund raise by selling t-shirts!

That's not the actual origin story. The story is that Ziegler and Descovich spent a few years in a faux grass roots organization with typical right-wing goals for education (more vouchers, local control, etc), working side by side with a bunch of well-connected GOP activists. When that group folded, a few months later, Descovich, Ziegler and Justice started working on a new right-wing activism project that would not require members to stay elected to school board positions. 

Nobody picks up on this. Ziegler was successfully memory-holed. Justice and Descovich are presented as moms or, at most, former school board members-- never as seasoned GOP activists who had just finished their time on another similar right-tilted education activism group. It's no wonder they were able to hit the ground running and become a well-connected oft-promoted group--they were not starting from scratch.

The coalition is not done--they wanted to go national

There is still more to the story of the Florida Coalition of School Board Members. 

First, in 2021, the coalition attempted to go national as the Conservative School Board Member Coalition

The left has enjoyed its monopoly in education for too long at the national level and now a familiar voice in Florida has entered the national conversation. FCSBM went dark so that we could focus on other conservative causes, but the conditions created by this current administration DEMAND that we band together and share the 7+ years of experience we have with our Conservative brothers and sisters around the country.

The group filed in September of 2021 as a Florida Domestic Non-profit Corporation, with Shawn Frost as its registered agent at a Vero Beach address. Frost is listed as president, with Joe Arnold and Eric Robinson as directors. 

There's a website address listed on their promo page, but don't bother--there's nothing there. The couple of pages for the CSBMC are hosted on the website of Shawn Frost's Logos To Eyeballs website (which is in turn hosted by Kartra). The pitch promises free membership for the rest of 2022 if you sign up before CPAC Orlando ends. The application form is still live-ish. There are supposed to be videos, one featuring "our first round table discussion" with "School Board Member Bridget Ziegler and Former School Board Members Tina Descovich and Tiffany Justice." It's not there. Neither is the welcome video from the organization's president-- Shawn Frost, "President, Conservative School Board Member Coalition, former Chairman and Board Member of Indian River County , Florida, School Board, Past President Florida Coalition of School Board Members (FCSBM)"

Core values? Parental rights are sovereign. Teacher historically accurate founding of America. No racism (aka no crt). Fiscal transparency and accountability. Individual members control where their dues go. 

The group has an address, but for mail only ("We have minimal staff as fiscal conservatives"). There's a phone number, but USPhoneBook reverse lookup finds no such number. The group touts endorsements from Joe Arnold, Eric Robinson, Erika Donalds, and Shawn Frost. 

However, CSBMC seems to have experienced a failure to launch. But Frost wasn't ready to give up yet.

Trying it one more time--back to Florida

In December of 2022, Frost filed again--this time it was the Florida Conservative Coalition of School Board Members. Frost is the registered agent; the three board members are Jill Woolbright, Jessie Thompson, and April Carney. Nobody is listed as president. 

Carney was the DeSantis-endorsed candidate in Duval, and a Frost client in the 2022 campaign that saw the accusation that she had been at the capital on January 6. Woolbright is a school board member who called the sheriff to file a criminal complaint over a book; she lost in 2022. Thompson was endorsed by many GOP right wingers, including Byron Daniels and DeSantis.She ran an anti-indoctrination campaign.

FCCSBM drew some press for its "relaunch" announcing Thompson as president after an organizational convention in February. Marked as a "political consultant" that the coalition will work with, Frost promised a softer version in the relaunch:

“One thing that’s different is that we are not attacking the FSBA, we don’t ask our members to decide between the two,” said Frost, a former CEO and past president of the Coalition. “We just want to support growing our members’ leadership abilities and connections so that they can stand together and fight for our shared core values.”

And Donalds was also on hand to cheer the group on while also providing some of the training at that first meeting:

“I love that they are unapologetically conservative and put it right there in the name,” said Donalds, who led the collective bargaining training. “I’m excited to see what this group accomplishes.”

Carey noted that "it was just so obvious that there is a need for a place to get professional development without the spin and indoctrination found in other groups. Among my friends here at FCCSBM, we can be ourselves."

In February, they announced an intention to hold more events in March and April. They don't have a website (they've got an address hosted by kartra, but nothing there), but they do have a Facebook page, currently with six posts. From those we can see that the group has five or six members, that they attended the DeSantis Freedom Blueprint Summit, that they once got their picture taken with Manny Diaz, and that they got some training on "education freedom" from Erika Donalds and John Kirtley--all of that posted on April 28. 

Their Twitter presence (@FCSBM-- "Leading Better and Standing Together) is a bit busier, with 338 followers--but that's the legacy account of the original group and nothing has been posted there since September 2019. 

It's always possible that FCCSBM is just doing all sorts of stuff under the radar, but they haven't had a stirred a single online ripple since their big launch. 

That's it for now

That's a lot of story, and if nothing else, it captures how much the right-wing privatizer community is so intertwined with itself. The same folks, over and over. More chapters to come, I'm sure, starting with the one in which we see if Candidate DeSantis is the wind beneath their wings or the millstone around their neck. After all, education privatization was welded onto another governor with Presidential dreams, and that didn't end well. Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Good night, Mr. Big

This is not about education. It's about our dog.

My wife brought home Mr. Big (the name was a result of her Sex and The City love) before we were married. He was fresh out of a litter of eight, and there are few things cuter than a chocolate lab puppy.

She already had a pet rabbit, the most cantankerous creature God ever put on Earth. It did not approve of the new addition, and was not shy about it. Big did not care. This would turn out to be a pattern, a piece of his fundamental nature.

Big did not have a single angry unkind bone in his body. In thirteen years, I never saw him lose his temper, run out of patience, or take offense (or a hint) from other persons or creatures that did not like him. In all his life, Big never met someone with anything less than certainty that this person or beast was his new best friend. Big was mostly interested in people, not other dogs. It is possible he did not actually speak Dog, which would explain when another dog barked "Come over here so I can chew your face off before I kick your butt," Big's reply was, "Of course I would like to be your best friend."

When he moved into this house, still younger than two (important because, until they turn two-ish, labs are nuts) we were reluctant to crate him, and so he chewed up baseboards and table legs until we accepted that he actually needed a place to lie and calm down. Once he got a little older, he became more free rangey around the house--though he absolutely refused to go down the steps into the basement. We assume there is some monster down there that only he was aware of.

Outside he liked to do the usual lab things. Run. Fetch a tennis ball. Our yard backs up on the river and he liked to swim in there, though not always at times convenient for his humans. I played lots of catch with him in the back yard and I learned to always position myself between him and the water. There's a bike trail nearby and he would enjoy long walks on that, including side trips to do things like trying to climb a rock wall in order to fetch a ten-foot stick. Big loved a good stick, enjoyed the process of finding its center of gravity so that he could carry it in his mouth without tipping over, liked to chew it to smithereens.

After a few years he developed a problem with his knee, causing it to just come unhinged (we called it "poodle knee") and has to have an operation that involved sticking a piece of titanium in there. It helped, and it was cool to have a bionic dog, but it put limits on just how much romping he could do without needing some extra rest and recovery time.

Big was mostly a quiet dog. He had a particular plaintive whine when he needed to go outside (we called it The Poop Song), and a bark for "Hey, I bet you wanna be my friend." He was absolutely the worst guard dog in history. When we had our occasional mouse incursion (as old houses do), we imagined that he just happily greeted the tiny dogs and told them where the food was.

He was never a particularly selective eater. Any food was fine. He also liked kleenex. One time he ate a huge portion of a toilet paper twelve pack; this resulted in some extra-special renditions of The Poop Song. He also liked popcorn and would sit patiently at hand any time I made some, waiting for the inevitable spillage.

When the babies arrived, he was puzzled by the tininess of the new humans, but otherwise took it in stride. They learned to protect their food from him, and he learned to hang around them when they had food. He couldn't really get interested in the things they did to pass the time, but he was happy to sit near them, and they grew up being gentle and kind with him. Also, he found that their little socks made an excellent snack, and if unguarded, he would slurp them up; they would later re-emerge from one end or the other. 

He was not a super mooshy dog. Not one for licking (unless you tasted like something delicious), but would gladly sit up against you or rest his head on you. And if you sat on the floor he would gladly try to squeeze his 95 pound bulk onto your lap. If his water bowl was empty, he would come toss it toward you. "This thing is broken--can you fix it?" He had a tongue too large for his head, and it would wander. My wife and I were remembering how, when she had put lotion on her legs, he would casually wander by and the tongue, seemingly of its own volition, would slip out and take a taste of her lotiony leg.

These last several years he has been my retirement buddy. Sometimes he would sit in whatever room I was working in. When the weather allowed the front door to be opened to just the screen, he loved to watch door-o-vision and whatever was passing by, or sit on the back porch for back-door-o-vision, which was mostly birds and bunnies (which he was never inclined to chase). He appreciated my singing and my willingness to narrate for his benefit whatever I was doing.

As I sit here typing this, the kids in bed and my wife at rehearsal, a part of my brain is still tuned toward listening for his footfall as he pads from one end of the house to the other to switch channels or to come check on me. A part of me is still expecting the slurpy slurpy slurp of him getting some water. And when I cam downstairs from tucking the boys in, a part of me expected him to be waiting at the bottom of the stairs to see me and get his after-bedtime snacks. 

But of course he wasn't there. He's had a rough year. I built him a ramp so that he could more easily get in and out of the house, but it was still hard. A couple of months ago he had a bad 12 hours when he couldn't get up at all, then he rallied, and we got some medication that seemed to help. But a few days ago, his stomach rejected everything. He lay on the floor whining--very unlike him--and then for 48 hours, he couldn't get without help, his legs wobbly and uncooperative. He stopped eating. We made an appointment with the vet.

Our vet is an old friend (through theater, because this is a small town) and we talked it through. I went through something similar with my previous dog; that time I simply couldn't bring myself to stop Trying Things until the poor dog was miserable, and I have to carry some blame for making him suffer so that I could feel better, or at least not feel guilty about having "given up on him." Dogs, my vet friend explained at the time, will fool you because they don't complain and whine about how hard everything is. They just keep going until they can't. Big's decline wasn't quite so sudden, but it's still hard not to see that he is still himself, so maybe if we just did this, or that, or something.

You want to keep him around longer, and you can--it's just a matter of how much you can bear to make him pay to do it.

I don't judge anybody's decisions about how to handle this final stage of a pet's life. It's a huge and impossible choice, and you do the best you can. The best we thought we could do today was release Big from the body that was failing him so badly.

He was a good dog, a kind, loyal, loving, patient, and joyful dog. I learned things from him (go hard, be present, eat all the snacks, stay close to your people). He was, in the hokey, old-fashioned sense, a good and stouthearted companion. 

He left this world gently and gracefully, his lady friend and man friend with him till the end. We cried. Afterwards, we still cried. Then we got in the car and cried in the car. We drove to a mall, walked around, bought some swim trunks for the boys, got some lunch, and then headed home so we could pick the boys up from school. And as God is my witness, as we drove home, my wife, gazing out her window, said, "Look, there's a rainbow." And there was.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Do Vouchers Make Babies?

Sometimes, choicers really, really reach to push their policy ideas.

There is a now-classic formula used by reformsters and choicers:

1) Define a problem, including the consequences.

3) Propose your solution.

Yeah, it just skips Step 2, which is the part where you build a connection between the problem and your proposed solution. 

I don't think I've ever seen someone work this rhetorical stretchy bridge harder than the Heritage Foundation in a new report released Monday. 

I've read this so you don't have to. I'm providing a link so you can check my work if you so desire, but I would recommend not reading this report because...well, it's embarrassing.

I'm here for the vouchers

The title of the report will tell you where we're going: "Education Freedom and Work Opportunities as Catalysts for Increasing the Birth Rate Among Married Couples." It took three authors to concoct this. Lindsey Burke, Heritage's education person, who is a fellow at EdChoice (Milton Friedman's foundation) and helped lead education for Glenn Youngkin's transition. Rachel Greszler, who does jobs and labor and budget and entitlements for Heritage. W. Bradley Wilcox, a sociologist and director od the National Marriage Project, and who has previously expressed concerns about declining fertility and marriage rates. 

So let's see how they put this together.

We are short some babies!

Fertility rates are down in the US; the two contributing factors are decline in marriage and increase in women's educational attainment (according to a paper from the Institute for Family Studies--a conservative think tank founded by Wilcox and "dedicated to strengthening family marriage and family life"). We've got some correlation-causation issues here, but basically married women are more likely to have babies, less likely to have an abortion, Bachelor degree correlates with less baby-making, and bachelor degrees among women are up. 

And so we reach this conclusion (what we can call, stretchy bridge number 1):

The fact that fertility rates fall as women’s education and incomes rise suggests that opportunity costs—not a lack of income—is driving fertility declines, and that improved options for combining family and careers would increase family formation and raise the fertility rate.

Does it? Are we to believe that poorer, less educated women are looking at pregnancy and saying, "Yeah, no opportunity costs here. I can squeeze a baby into my life without giving anything up." I could build some bridges with this "data" too, like being wealthy enough to have easy access to contraceptives and health care makes it easier to decide when to get pregnant (and not abort). I might deduce that "combining family and career" might involve supports for new parents, like paid parental leave or affordable and convenient child care, whether you have a "career" or not. I might argue that this points straight toward Medicare For All, or raising the minimum wage, or extending the child subsidies from the pandemic. And I would say that readily available birth control lowers that abortion number, but that's not really their goal here, exactly.

I'm not going to try to argue a particular conclusion for this batch of data. I'm just going to point out that the path leads to a hundred possible doors, and Heritage is going to confidently declare, "It's definitely that one door right there."

Their solution?

Multipronged. And remarkably, it turns out the best solution to our baby shortage consists of policy ideas that were already on the Heritage wish list. What an incredible coincidence!

So what are these solutions, these ideas that will lead to more baby-making?

Flexible work options

Yes, folks would like more flexible ways to balance work and life. Citing techbro neolib group Economic Innovation Group, Heritage says that remote work increased "family formation and fertility rates." Workers with "access to" paid family leave went up 67% (so, we went from three hundred workers with paid family leave up to 500). 

But the big idea here-- the gig economy! Freelancing! Gig work! Self-employment! Be your own boss! Heritage cites this study by Freshbooks, which looked only at self- employed women working full time independently, to say that self-employed women are happier and have better work-life balance. But the survey (which has some other issues, but we don't have all day) is clearly looking at female entrepreneurs and business owners--not gig workers driving Ubers and Dashing for doors. Much as Heritage loves the idea of a  gig worker economy, I don't see a lot of couples saying, "Well, we've got no steady reliable income stream, and no health insurance. Seems like the perfect time to have a kid."

Supporting Parents’ Preferences in Early Childhood Education and Care.

Access to childcare that meets parents’ preferences and needs can increase the chances that would-be parents choose life over abortion and can help to enable couples to have the number of children they desire.

What parents really want, they say, is home based child care. I thought I'd end up agreeing with them in this section, but they can't quite bring themselves to say "So there should be federal laws mandating paid parental leave" or "Let's get those pandemic child care subsidies back." But no. They want more of that flexible work stuff, and also, less regulation of in-home child care providers. 

Education Choice for All Families

Married couples may also delay having children over concerns about the quality of elementary and secondary schools that would be available to them.

But if they knew they were going to get a voucher, then they'd get busy popping out babies. Education Savings Accounts. That's the ticket.

There's a list of the various alleged benefits of school choice, all tied to footnotes that cite the usual assortment of in-house "research" from Education Next, EdChoice, Corey DeAngelis etc etc and I'm not going to chase it all down at the moment because even if it were all true, it leads us to this huge leap:

The benefits of education choice accrue to some of the most important aspects of families’ lives and could increase the marital birth rate.

In other words, there is not a shred of a connection between school choice and making more babies. I can say that anything "could increase" the marital birth rate (and why would these marvelous benefits only affect marital births). 

Teaching Students the Success Sequence in School

The "success sequence" refers to the research that shows that a certain sequence (graduate high school, get a job, get married, have kids) correlates with not ending up in poverty. The evidence includes research by American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation. I think the sequence is fine. But besides the fact that I've never seen any of this research address the question, "What about all the married moms who skipped the job part," the success sequence seems to have a real chicken and egg problem-- do people who follow the sequence then become inoculated against poverty, or does poverty make it really hard to follow the sequence. Folks like the Heritag Foundation would prefer not to consider the implications of the latter because the policy implication would be to double efforts to lift people out of poverty so that they had a better shot at following the sequence.

I guess this helps because it means more babies will be born to married couples? The success sequence doesn't really talk about where divorce fits in. 

Using Markets—Not Taxpayer-Forced Loan Cancellation—to Reduce Student Loan Debt

This just gets better and better. If we stop forgiving loans, people will have more babies. But wait--

One can sympathize with borrowers who were given the impression by guidance counselors, the elite media, and government actors that their only way to climb the ladder of upward economic mobility was by attending a brick-and-mortar college to obtain a bachelor’s degree and to delay marriage until they fully establish themselves in the workforce.

"Don't get married until you have a job" was exactly the advice they just said that everyone should follow!! The key here is that college thing-- you don't need that. Stop college pressure (I don't disagree) and end government subsidies of colleges and students. The report doesn't really explain why it'll be a good thing to price some people out of a college education, though they suggest that somehow requiring colleges to bear some of the cost of student loan defaults will dramatically lower the cost of higher education. 

Also, somehow, forgiving loans will make middle and low income people poorer, and then they'll put off having babies.

Lower-Cost, More Effective Education and Workforce Development

I'm not sure where it bubbled up from, but this push to scrap college credentials as important for the work force is everywhere these days. Here Heritage argues that "career-based education" will more likely get jobs and good pay and that will, of course, lead to making babies.

Recommendations for State and Federal Policymakers

All of the above. Teach success sequence. De-regulate pre-K. Vouchers. More gig work and flex hours. Let workers "earn" paid family leave. Make more workers ineligible for overtime hours. Turn head start into pre-K vouchers. Turn Title I into vouchers. End federal PLUS loans. Make colleges liable for student loan costs. De-bundle college education by removing ties between accreditation and college aid. Add more vocational training. 

Never mind that these are mostly bad policy ideas-- if I showed you this list, would you think, "Yeah, this would definitely get more people to get married and make babies." Heritage characterizes these as :new, commonsense approaches," but they are neither.

Public policy should support families as they form and grow and can do so through reducing government regulatory overreach, by directly funding students instead of institutions, and by removing barriers to a flexible workforce.

A bicycle, because a vest has no sleeves. This "report" is not research and it's not proof; it's just the assertion of a preference for particular policy ideas. Which is fine. That's what I do in blog posts many times a week. What I don't do is try to pretend that my blog post is a piece of real research, or package it as a "report" or "study." 

This Heritage blog post is a supreme example of the template I showed at the top of this post-- ther5e is a complete lack of connection between their stated problem and their favored solutions. I could start from the same place they do and end up arguing that this is why we should have universal guaranteed income, or universal single payer health care, or a much higher minimum wage. Hell, using the same "rigor" they use in this piece, I could argue that we would get more babies if we made people eat more fiber, or took steps to eliminate free radicals.

This is what you get when someone starts from the conclusion they want to reach and then tries to go backwards to support. It's a very silly "report," not to be taken seriously. Here's hoping nobody does.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Available To All: Same Old Crew, New Wrapper

Every year thousands of American kids are unfairly or illegally turned away from public schools. Hear their stories and how we are fighting back on their behalf.

That's the top line at the site for Available To All, a new (sort of) outfit founded (maybe) and headed up by Tim DeRoche, author of  A Fine Line: How Most American Kids Are Kept Out of the Best Public Schools.' DeRoche started out at McKinsey, then spent some time in the investment world before spending 20 years as an independent business consultant. Along the way he wrote a best-selling retelling of Huck Finn and produced/wrote a PBS kids science series (Grampa's Garage)

A Fine Line came out in 2020, and was praised soundly by Tony Miller (former Deputy Secretary of Education under Barack Obama), Lester Hiner (EdChoice), Gregory McGinty (Broad Foundation), Mona Davids (founder NYC Parents Union) and Corey DeAngelis (choice cheerleader for hire). DeRoche spent five years researching and collecting stories for the book, which hits on many of the themes that we find in ATA, in particular focusing on educational redlining, the practice of drawing lines so that districts include the Right Students. That can include old district lines and the modern practice of seceding from a district, what I once called white flight without the actual flight

When exactly was Available To All born? That's a bit fuzzy. The Internet Archive Wayback Machine finds a version of the site in November of 2021. Same text as current front page, different design, no links to other pages, and an invitation to "Sign up now for updates as we move toward our launch in early 2022." In August of 2022, the archive finds the familiar front page, but none of the inside pages show up at that time. On his LinkedIn profile, DeRoche dates his founding of ATA from January of 2023, by March the inside pages show up, and on his LinkedIn page, DeRoche posts "Today we launch Available To All" and says he'll be suspending his consulting biz to run it.

Characterizing itself as a "watchdog group" (and not, say, a PR operation or a website), The ATA position is pretty simple:

Our mission is to ensure the public schools are available to all on equal terms, as promised by the Supreme Court. Public schools of all types--traditional, charter, magnet--should have admission policies that are simple, fair and transparent. We believe it is vital for our social contract that the best public schools be accessible to families of all backgrounds.

And DeRoche thanks his partners-- 50CAN, Stand Together, Bryan Gillette, and ExcellinEd.

50CAN is the longtime choicer-promoting advocacy group. Stand Together is the rebranded Koch Foundation. Bryan Gillette is a PR firm. ExcellinEd is the Jeb Bush choice advocacy group. 

The Director of Digital Communications is Aaron Guerrero, who "worked at two leading education reform groups," the California Charter Schools Association and StudentsFirst. The Board of Directors is chaired by Derrell Bradford, head of 50CAN, a pro-privatization outfit. The other two members are DeRoche and Adam Peshek, the education guy at Stand Together, formerly at ExcelinEd.

So what is Available To All, "a nonpartisan watchdog defending equal access to public schools." actually saying?

The basic message is that public schools do not provide fair and equal access to all students, and thereby, they suggest, not living up to the Supreme Court requirements of Brown v. Board. And DeRoche cites different sorts of stories, typified by what he writes in the current Time, "How public schools cherry pick their students." Not all are equally valid critiques.

He has several times turned to the story of an Arizona mom whose autistic child was rejected by a public school because they didn't have "any more room" for kids with disabilities. This is absolutely not okay. It is also an absolutely predictable result of Arizona's open enrollment law, which says you can pick any school you want to attend. Because individual schools do not have infinite capacity, the law allows for caps. Because there are caps, not everyone gets to go to the school of their choice. The fix here is really simple-- cut open enrollment and make each public school responsible for the education of every child in their area (just like most other states in the country).

DeRoche also takes some charters to task for cherry picking--and then tries to lump them in with public schools. Charter schools are not public schools, and their ability to officially or not-so-openly curate their student body is one reason why. 

DeRoche is critical of magnet schools and the games they play to manage their enrollment. He's got a point; some magnet schools don't quite work as intended, like using a magnet to attract wood and gold. He also throws a shot at Ney York City schools, which I've come to believe are representative of nothing except New York City schools and if so many journalists, thinky tank folks, and policy wonks did not live in NYC, we wouldn't talk about that system nearly so often.

His most solid complaint is educational redlining. There's no question that it has been used in some cities as a way to resegregate schools. The really unfortunate aspect of this issue is that the country has been steadily rolling back all manner of civil rights actions (thank you, conservative judges). States have gone to court to argue that they have no obligation to do more than the bare minimum in providing education. How do we convince districts to reverse education redlining, or states to make them? 

I don't have a certain answer, and I doubt that ATA does, either. Nor am I 100% certain that they're looking for one.

I don't assume that anybody with ties to a Koch organization or Jeb! Bush is automatically evil and awful. But we know that the organizations that are tied to ATA have a fairly clear agenda. And that agenda has never been the support and strengthening of public education.

So what do they get out of backing DeRoche's project?

Well, for one, they get to push out headlines that accuse public schools of cherry picking. This has been a standard talking point response to the idea that public schools are better than choice for taxpayers because public schools serve everyone-- "No, they don't. They're all cherry picky, too." So here's a whole "nonpartisan" group to help push that talking point out into the press and help discredit public schools (even if it has to enlist charter schools and anti-public school policies to do it).

While "the principle that public schools need to be 'available to all on equal terms,' as the Supreme Court requires" is an idea worth supporting, I note that ATA doesn't advocate for the solution of, day, making every public school an excellent one by providing resources and support and taxing the super-rich to make it possible. Nor do I see them calling to break through educational redlining by, say, busing students across those lines. And they certainly aren't making a single sound about using public tax dollars to provide vouchers that finance schools that are openly and explicitly absolutely NOT available to all.

Educational gerrymandering is certainly a real issue, but I'm hard pressed to think of a time that these groups have been out there fighting against it, other than promoting school choice as a way for a select few students to escape, or programs like the Arizona open enrollment program that guarantees some students will be shut out. And, of course, gerrymandering of school districts wouldn't matter so much if it wasn't a tool for segregating resources. 

So, bottom line, I'd say that tucked in amongst ATA's complaints are some real issues, or at least the tip of some real issues. But I'm betting this organization is not going to lead the search for actual solutions.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Moms For Liberty and the LGBTQ Conspiracy

Hats off to Elle Reeve, who in her coverage of the Colorado struggle between Moms For Liberty and the folks standing up to them, elicited this exchange with M4L chapter president Darcy Schoening:

Reeve: What I feel like you're strongly implying, and I'd like to get your take on it 'cause I don't want to attribute something that you don't think. But to me it sounds like you're saying there's some kind of high level coordinated effort to make more children trans and gay--

Schoening: Sure there is. Yes.

Reeve: Well, who's directing that? 

Schoening: Teachers' unions, and, um, our President and a lot of funding sources, and teachers unions are also heavily backing the curriculum that we're bringing into schools.

Reeve: Why would they want more kids to be gay and trans? 

Schoening: Because it breaks down the family unit which breaks down traditional conservative values. It breaks down a lot of things in this country. It changes the way that people think, it changes the way that people handle politics.

Reeve (in added voice over narration): Of course, there's no evidence of a coordinated plot to make kids trans.

Reeve goes on to ask Schoening if that doesn't sound like a conspiracy theory, and Schoening pivots to saying that it's not a conspiracy theory that the state and federal government are trying to take "a stronger and stronger hand" in public education and "raising out kids." She goes on to say that it's a "mischaracterization" to say that she thinks these people want everyone to be gay. "The people who want to erode away parental rights-- the left, the teachers unions-- they'll use LGBTQ or whatever may be the case at the time" as just "tools" to "erode away" at parental rights.

It's as good an encapsulation as you'll find of this particular viewpoint. First, the foundational belief is that nobody is born LGBTQ; therefor, all LGBTQ persons were "recruited" or tricked into turning LGBTQ. It's not an unusual belief; I taught with someone for years who was certain that high school girls only pretend to be lesbians for attention. And while there's no doubt that some students experiment with sexual orientation and gender identity like they experiment with hairdos, the evidence that LGBTQ is not a "lifestyle" choice is so overwhelming that I wouldn't know where to begin, other than if you've ever sat with a teen struggling with all the issues that come from discovering that they're LGBTQ in a cis straight world, you would not imagine for a second that this was something they chose, on purpose. 

But if someone starts with the assumption that LGBTQ is a choice, then one next has to ask why. The anti-LGBTQ crowd of course deduces that part of the recruiting is about recruiting partners, a seduction of the innocent (a charge and a 1954 book by Fredric Wertham that charged that comic books were, among other things, pushing homosexuality). 

Then you get the explanation offered here--that turning kids LGBTQ is about disrupting traditional conservative values as a way of amassing political power. This parallels the similar argument about racism stuff; all racial issues in this country were solved around 1964, so anyone still bringing it up is just creating a fake issue as a way of gaining political power.

If you believe that every accusation is a confession, then what we have here is a confession that the M4L crowd is simply working parentals rights and LGBTQ issues to gain some political clout.

Perhaps this is the place to mention that Schoening, in addition to the M4L gig, used to be a member of the Monument Board of Trustees (by appointment), in which position she leaked privileged information. Last year she announced a run as a super-conservative for the Colorado House of Representatives (though it does not appear to have actually happened, nor did she win re-election to the Monument board).

If M4L is in the business of defending the traditional family, I'd expect to hear about their opposition to divorce, Maybe there's another part of the interview in which Schoening expresses her disapproval of Colorado Rep Lauren Boebert's filing for divorce. Still, folks on the right are working to apparently poised to attack no fault divorce, so I guess we're on that. Personally, I like the conservative argument for same sex marriage, which sees it as LGBTQ persons buying in to the traditional family idea. 

Meanwhile, Schoening's theory fails to account for the fact that the most teachers are, in fact, parents themselves. About half currently have children at home, while the vast majority of the rest have children who have grown. How is it that all these parents are backing an anti-parent conspiracy?

ICYMI: I Don't Feel OIder Edition (5/21)

And yet I am, though that is technically true every day. But there is still stuff to read. Remember-- if you find it a valuable read, share it. Writers need your help to bust through the cloud, and every litle share helps. Amplify the voices that you believe should be heard.

‘Lose Your School, You Lose Your Town’

Tim Walker writes for NEA Today about rural resistance to voucher programs.

No School, No Town: School Vouchers Threaten Rural Communities

The indispensable Mercedes Schneider breaks down how vouchers cause damage to rural communities, looking at some specific examples.

The Wisconsin teacher who wanted her kids to sing 'Rainbowland' says the school district plans to fire her and things are 'only going to get worse' for educators

Well, that headline tells most of the story, but Rebecca Cohen digs into it for Insider. One more story about how culture warriors don't think we should tolerate certain people, and school administrators who stink.

Minnesota Senate sends paid family and medical leave to governor's desk

The news is not all terrible. In one state, a move to compensate for the US last place position on parental support.

School district requires teachers to out LGBTQ+ students to their parents. The state is suing.

From New Jersey. LGBTQ Nation reports on the district in Hanover Township, New Jersey, has passed its own required outing rule, and the state is not having it. 

Pennridge School District To Eliminate Four Curriculum Supervisory Positions

Jenny Stephens has the latest chapter from Pennridge schools in Bucks County, PA for the Bucks County Beacon. Turns out the next thing that happens after you hire Vermilion consultants is you fire a bunch of people. 

Well, this was certainly a new one on me. A whole new baloney industry to pad college applications and devalue scholarship, all at once. From ProPublica.

Open and accessible? Here’s what happened when we tried to attend 10 Detroit charter school board meetings in a month.

One of the many reasons that charter schools are not public schools is the lack of transparency or open meetings. Koby Levin, reporting for Chalkbeat Detroit, tells the tale of trying to attend a charter board meeting. 

When the Last Real Teacher Says Goodbye: The Dangerous Myths Driving Their Exit

Nancy Bailey looks at some of the more corrosive myths in education.

Abusing child labor just got easier in Arkansas, and that means educational attainment will go down. Here’s proof.

The Arkansas Times reports on the likely outcomes of the state joining the pro-child labor states.

Would You Recognize a Good Lesson If You Saw It?

Nancy Flanagan looks at the inherent ridiculousness of some teacher evaluation models and the challenge of moving beyond them. 

DeSantis’s book banners face a tough new foe: Angry moms with lawyers

Greg Sargent in the Washington Post, looking at some of the other moms who have started to push back against groups like Moms For Liberty. And they have lawyers.

Please, get rid of testing. It just doesn’t work

So much this. Julia Borst and Chris Tienken guest editorialize in the Star-Ledger, neatly condensing many reasons that the Big Standardized Test should go away.

As problem behaviors persist, is state testing making things worse?

Ronak  Shah with a first person column for Chalkbeat, drawing a line between the kinds of problems we're seeing with students and the kinds of schooling that testing has created.

Jan Resseger has once again done all her homework regarding the newest unsurprising findings.

After School Satan Clubs Are Teaching Public School Districts an Important Lesson in Free Speech

Steven Singer warns about getting what you asked for, and what Satan clubs after school tell us about the First Amendment.

The War on Poverty Is Over. Rich People Won.

At The Atlantic, Annie Lowrey has an interview with Matthew Desmond spinning off his new book about poverty, American style.

This week, at Bucks County Beacon, I did a big ole piece about the Bradley Foundation. They're not as famous as the Koch Brothers, but they deserve to be. \

And as always, you're invited to subscribe to my substack. It's free, and it gets you all of the stuff in your email inbox.