Wednesday, January 31, 2024

We Need Public Education, Media Literacy, and Real History (Reminder #423,997)

There's a lot to be alarmed by in the recent news about sentencing of Aimenn Penny, a member of the White Lives Matter group who was convicted of trying to burn down the Community Church of Chesterfield in Chesterfield, Ohio almost a year ago.

The church was going to host a couple of drag events. Penny had a ton of armament in his car and residence. Ina manifesto, he explained how proud he was of the attack. He believed he was doing "God's work." He told the FBI that he would have felt better if the Molotov cocktails he used had burned the entire church to the ground. Prosecutors said that Penny's manifesto was "full of twisted and false historical narratives, calls for war and violence, justifications for his actions, and the spewing of transphobic and anti-Semitic hatred."

Here's what I find chilling. Penny is twenty years old. Authorities say that Penny appeared to have been "increasingly radicalized via online actions since at least 2017."

So, he's been working toward this since he was 13 or 14 years old. Online.

Sure, we've always had a certain amount of this. I've taught more than a few people who grew up to commit felonies, including murders, and I'm not sure what could have aimed their lives in a better direction.

But the seduction of young men by radical violent bullshit on line is one of our growing plagues. The automated downward spiral of the YouTube algorithm is well-documented. "What to do if you think your child is becoming radicalized online" is now a whole genre or writing (see here and here). This is a thing that scares me now as the parent of two young boys in ways it didn't when I was the parent of young children thirty years ago. 

There are so many directions to point fingers. Techno corporations that take no responsibility for spewing crap into the cultural atmosphere. Grown-ups who crank up all this rage and paranoia and racist sexist violent rhetoric as a cynical tool for gathering power with no regard for the effects on young people who take it seriously. People who are incapable of grasping that diversity is part of what makes humanity robust and strong. 

As I said, we could point fingers all day. But maybe while doing so, we can just remember that teaching media literacy is important, because thirty years in, we've still got human beings who believe "I saw it on the internet so it must be true" is a legitimate thought. It's not just that we have a culture steeped in lying and bullshit for matters large and small, but that we keep that a secret from our children instead of teaching useful lessons like "Much of what you will see from the adult world is a lie, so we need to equip you to sort out the bullshit from the truth."

It is not particularly useful to suggest, as some choicers do, that the solution to all of this is to simply separate everyone into their own silos, where they never meet any of those Others and never hear anything to contradict what they hear in their special hermetically sealed snowflake cage. The solution to conflict and disagreement is not to make everyone who disagrees with you shut up, go away, or die.

And history. History is complicated and hard, and we really need to teach that. Teaching the conversation is good preparation for weighing the many voices, including the ones that are not participating in good faith or who are just ignoring parts they don't like or who are just making shit up. The folks who insist that there is just one true answer for questions of history and only that one true answer should be taught--these are people who, out of fear or anger or desire for power, are trying to sell a lie that is toxic and corrosive. It damages society, it damages the culture, and men like Penny are just the curdled rotting edge of that blight.

History, real history, needs to be taught not just because of some philosophical stance or moral imperative, but because a society riddled with these pockets of toxic lies is a more dangerous society, more dangerous to its own people and to the world that surrounds it. Penny's sad, wasted youth is just one more reminder.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Pennsylvania Needs Another Cyber Charter Like A Hole In The Head. Shapiro Administration Approves One Anyway.

This was just dumb.

Pennsylvania has a massive cyber charter sector, massive at least in part because the state's cyber charter funding system is like a opium dispenser in an unguarded gerbil cage. 

Pennsylvania taxpayers pay a ton of money to cybers in ways that make little sense, and in return, they get largely terrible results (particularly in the poorest districts). Cyber charters have generally been found to have terrible results. Even in Florida. Even when being examined by people who love charter schools. And especially in Pennsylvania, where the results from our existing cyber charters has been consistently terrible. We're talking "5% of students achieved proficient or advanced on Big Standardized Test" terrible. Not that I like using BS Tests as a measure, but if you've picked a particularly flawed measure for success and then you can't even win at your own game, that tells us something.

As always, I will stipulate that there are some students for whom cyber schooling is a useful and appropriate choice. But that is not the majority among the thousands and thousands of cyber-students in PA.

PA cybers have ongoing problems not just with doing their jobs, but with fraud and misbehavior. But they are mega-profitable, because Pennsylvania insists on funding based on sending district and not the actual cost of educating students. A huge amount of that money funds lobbying, and another bunch funds marketing and some just makes people rich and funds a real estate empire. In the meantime, there is virtually no oversight or accountability for the cybers.

Various policy leaders have tried and tried and tried to reform Pennsylvania's charter funding and accountability system so that maybe cyber charters might occasionally be audited and that we might give up the leading spot for "worst charter laws in the nation."

Previous Governor Tom Wolf pushed hard for some simple reforms-- pay cybers based on common sense amounts, actually hold them accountable for how the money is spent-- and cyber supporters squealed loudly until his term was up and it didn't get done again. 468 school districts (that's almost all of them) have signed resolutions asking Harrisburg to fix this. 

Meanwhile, the state's top court declared that the state's whole education funding system was unconstitutional, so rotten that it had to be repaired immediately. Plug the hole where cybers are being grossly overpaid seems like a common sense choice, but no, we're still dithering.

The current ditherer-in-chief is Governor Josh Shapiro, nominally a Democrat, who rather likes school choice and is still shopping for a voucher bill that he can sign. Shapiro also appointed new members to the charter appeals board, the group that decides if local elected school boards don't get a say in hosting charter schools.

Cyber charters can also get approval from the Department of Education, and that's who gave the go-ahead to this newest cyber-operation. The application had been denied previously, twice. 

In May, the department said that 1) Pennwood lacked the capability, both support and planning, to provide comprehensive learning experiences to students. The proposal was that Pearson would give the school $350K as a start-up grant, and then the school would hire Pearson to provide services. So the state had questions about Pennwood's independence. Also, 2) Pennwood couldn't explain how it would serve as a "model" for other public schools. Particularly since, as one witness testified, Pearson's previous two attempts to cyberschool in PA failed.

So yes-- it's a Pearson school. And it's not clear how either of those problems that sunk Pennwood in May are now fixed, even a little. But the application itself is huge, so maybe it's hiding in the thousands of pages, somehow.

This is the first new approval in eight years will be based in York. Pennwood will be Pearson's only school in PA, though they have had partnerships in the state before, with somewhat checkered results. But Donna Hutchison, vp of educational partnerships at Pearson, says it will be awesome. “Pearson-supported online schools are solutions for a very mobile student population with a significant percentage of students being new each year.” No kidding. Cyber students generally stay about two years.

Pennwood's webpage is actually a sub-page of the Connections Academy (Pearson's nom de cyberschool).  And Pearson is predicting a graduation rate of 85%--25% higher than the statewide cyber charter grad rate. They are also predicting enrollment of 1,800 in Year One and 8,200 in Year Five, fueled, I guess, by Pearson's marketing chops.

The charter's board will be headed up by Marc LeBlond, who's also the director of policy in Indiana for the privatization advocacy group EdChoice. He's also been a senior policy analyst for the right-wing Commonwealth Foundation, after a career in the financial sector. So, zero actual education experience, but lots of profiteering and privatization practice. Reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Pennwood is a necessary cyber school option because of its “unique offerings that are unlike any other cyber charter schools” in Pennsylvania, LeBlond, the charter board chair, said in a statement, noting its Drexel partnership. He also said there was “unmet demand” for cyber charters, citing 40% growth in the sector over the past decade.

Unmet demand? I suspect this translates roughly into "there are still plenty of taxpayer dollars to be harvested in this sector." Are the fourteen other cybers at capacity? The application promises a "career readiness and badging focus" and "exceptional teachers" and some super software for individualization. The application is loaded with footnotes--to inhouse "research" by Pearson.

The board of trustees, in addition to LeBlond, includes

Joyce A. Good, who has worked for Commonwealth Charter Academy, PA Leadership Charter, and once upon a time taught 4th grade in a public school.

Stephanie Haas Theony, whose career has been in the insurance biz, most recently as a Charter School Practice Leader.

David Hardy, a Commonwealth Foundation distinguished fellow and big time charter guy with Boys' Latin of Philadelphia Charter High School.

C. Tyler Havey, a Philadelphia lawyer. And Laura Potthoff, a banking and economic development person.

Pennwood will open up next fall, so expect the advertisements to start flowing as Pearson tries once again to cash in on Pennsylvania's generous cyber charter funding. It is still possible, some observers think, that the legislature could finally fix the charter funding system while they're trying to fix the whole school funding system itself. 

Pennsylvania needs one more cyber charter like it needs another batch of potholes on the Turnpike, but Shapiro's administration has delivered this instead. The department's spokesperson delivered the most milquetoasty statement, saying that the application "met the requirements of charter school law and thus must be approved." Nothing like teaming up passive voice and the old "well, it's not actually illegal" for a dodging of responsibility. Reported the Inquirer:

“The Department strives to ensure that all cyber charter schools are accountable to students, the Commonwealth, and its residents to the extent that the current charter school law allows,” spokesperson Taj Magruder said in a statement.

No report on whether Magruder managed to say that with a straight face.   

ICYMI: Halfway There Edition (1/28)

Depending on where you are, you're about halfway through the school year (we just crossed the line this week). I remember it as the point at which I started to deal with the mountain of material that I needed to fit into an ever-shrinking spot. File that under Feelings I'm Glad I Don't Have To Experience Any More. 

Shortish list this week, but good stuff all around. Remember to share.

Legislation could lead to more public schools to becoming charters

Florida's leaders keep trying to answer the question, "How can we make it easier to privatize public schools?"

Transcript: Joy Reid Interviews M4L’s Tiffany Justice

The indispensable Mercedes Schneider transcribed this interview, and it's exhausting just to read how hard M4L co-founder and comms professional Tiffany Justice works to not answer the questions she's asked.

Rep. Jordan Harris: Before Pa. revisits voucher proposals it must address education inequality

Peter Happ writes about a call for PA to put first things first for Penn Capital Star. We can hope.

The tide turns on Florida book bans

At Popular Information, Juss Legum finds some spots in Florida where folks seem to have decided that enough is enough with the book banning. Congrats to the people on the ground doing the work.

Want to fix inequality, Democrats? The answer is wages, not education

From Salon, via MSN, one more explanation of why trying to fix the economy via education is not a viable plan.

Virginia Legislation Would Require School Bathroom Checks Every 30 Minutes

Speaking of dumb ideas from people who don't understand schools. 

Thomas Ultican with another historical profile of an important education figure. 

In which Jose Luis Vilson does a Zoom interview with a room full of third and fourth graders on his birthday. 

18 Issues for Ed. Secretary Cardona to Better Drive the School Bus

If the secretary is really looking for some projects, Nancy Bailey has some suggestions.

NY Times Exposes More Culture Warriors Attacking Social Justice in Education

If you're not familiar with the Claremont Institute, Jan Resseger can bring you up to speed on this crew of right-wing culture snipes.

Jockey Shorts: NIL for Your Teen Athlete

Gregory Sampson looks at a great new trend-- licensing the name, image, and likeness of young athletes. What could possibly go wrong?

Requiring the Disruption of the School Day to Allow Recruitment to Certain Patriotic Organizations is Not Small Government.

Nothing in Florida gets past Sue Kingery Woltanski, including this wackadoo bill to require schools to open their doors to "patriotic organizations" for recruitment purposes.

For Choice Week, I wrote a piece about the real obstacles to school choice

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Mystery Coalition Pushing National School Choice

Rabbit hole warning. We're going to look at a group that's pushing national vouchers, and it will be a long trip. You've been warned.

The Educational Choice for Children Act is one more attempt to create a national program that allows wealthy folks to dodge taxes and privatize education all at the same time. Betsy DeVos tried to sell her version of Educational Freedom while she was in office. Unsuccessfully.

The idea is a tax credit scholarship voucher. In this case, an individual could write off 10% of their gross income by giving it to a "scholarship granting organization" aka "voucher management group" aka "extra set of hands so that it doesn't look like the government is giving tax dollars to private religious organizations." 

The bill was submitted (who knows who actually wrote it) by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA),a gastroenterologist who at least deserves credit for being one of the seven GOP senators to vote to impeach Trump for the insurrection. He's also the guy who promised that he would only support health care legislation that passed the Jimmy Kimmel Test (and then didn't when he went in with Lindsey Graham to propose an alternative to Obamacare). The bill arrived with 14 co-sponsors and picked up 15 more--the usual GOP crew, from Tuberville to Vance to Blackburn to both Scotts. There's a corresponding House bill filed by Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE-3). 

Cassidy tried this last year, too. And the year before that. This year's version dropped during National School Choice Week, and there's supposed to be a PR push to help support it.

That push is supposed to be coming courtesy of the Invest In Education Coalition. So who are they?

Their own explanation is that they are a "501(c)(4) organization that advocates at the federal level for legislation that will directly empower K-12 parents throughout the nation to choose the best school or education service for their children."

The board of directors is just three guys--

Anthony J. de Nicola is the chair. He's also chairman of Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, a New York private equity form that specializes in tech and healthcare. He and his wife are big on philanthropic giving, including supporting the Catholic church.

Thomas E. McInerny is the secretary of the board. He's CEO at Bluff Point Associates, a private equity firm. He used to be a general partner at Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe.

Robert H. Neihaus is treasurer. He's founder of GCP Capital Partners, a private equity firm.  

None of their bios mention any sort of education background. But they have plenty of investment banking credentials.

The website is basically all about the ECCA. You can join the coalition, but it's not really clear who the members, if any, of the coalition are. There's a big list of groups and "leaders" that support the ECCA, and perhaps that makes them part of this group? The supporters list includes no surprises, from Betsy DeVos to Dr. Corey DeAngelis, plus national and state groups. There are links to "research" from DeVos's American Federation for Children and Milton Friedman's EdChoice. There are empty pages (like the /team page). Their LinkedIn page is just an auto-placeholder. We'll get back to their Facebook page in a minute.

The Wayback Machine internet archive shows a different picture of the team. The earliest capture of the team page is from May 21, 2022, and back then there were four more members of the leadership team and a slightly different name-- Invest in Education Foundation. 

The additional three board members are:  Robert Flanigan, co-founder of Educate, LLC (where he's  apparently just a "co-owner" since 2019) and former Merrill Lynch guy; Susan B. George of the Inner-City Scholarship Fund and the Catholic Education Advancement Office of the Archdiocese of New York; and Darla Romfo, president of the Children's Scholarship Fund, an outfit that provides "partial scholarships for low-income children in grades K-8 to go to private school," which sounds like voucher administration work. 

Back then, IIEF had a president-- Luke Messer. Messer was the CEO of School Choice Indiana. He was also elected a state legislator (2003-2006) then moved on to a US Rep from 2013-2019 (in the district Mike Pence vacated to become Governor), where he was founder and co-chair of the Congressional School Choice Caucus. He made plenty of choicer friends in the days after Trump's election and DeVos's appointment. 

By May of 2022, he was a partner at the law firm of Bose McKinney & Evans. At Invest in Education, he worked "every day to enact a $10 billion federal tax credit that would help give millions of children access to a high-quality school." By June of 2023, IIEF's address was the same as that of Bose McKinney & Evans, and the site was sporting logos for both a foundation and a coalition. One thing Messer doesn't list in his bio is his years as a registered lobbyist (2006-2012), right after he tried to privatize some Indiana highways. And he's been out there as the face of Invest in Education stumping for choice on all the usual fun places.

It sure looks like the whole business is Messer's show.

Then, by December of 2023, Messer is gone from the Team page, and Invest in Education has no address. And by today, Invest in Education has a new logo, and only three board members. 


But there's another rabbit hole to dice down. Invest in Education has a Facebook page, and that page, with the exception of a slow period from late 2020-2021, has been active almost daily since it was set up. That set-up happened on September 11, 2017-- only it was started at the page for My Kids Future (a few weeks later, someone changed the name to My Kid's Future). 

My Kid's Future was yet another pro-choice website, a "special project of the #EdTaxCredit50 and Invest in Education coalitions." Weirdly enough, the English language version of the website is down, but the Spanish language one is up. Edtaxcredit50 has its own dormant Facebook page, launched on April 20, 2017. They set up a Twitter account at the same time and crumped out around late 2021. Invest in Education also had a Twitter account that started in October of 2013 as @OpportunityInEd, another account that joined in May 2009 and is still kicking, and there's also @Investined, which is a suspended account. All of their social media has followed the standard pandemic outrage-learning loss panic narrative.

Amidst all that, we learn that Invest In Ed had a previous president-- Tom Carroll. Thomas W. Carroll left IIE to get busy in the world of Catholic private schools; he just last summer announced he'll be stepping down as the superintendent of Boston archdiocesan schools at the end of this school year. He started there in April 2019. 

Carroll's LinkedIn says that he presided over Invest in Education Coalition and Foundation from March 2012 to March 2019, calling it "A think tank and advocacy organization focused on school choice in NY and nationally." He also says he founded #EdTaxCredit50 Coalition in January of 2017, which focused on pushing a 50-state tax credit and "the expansion of 529 college savings accounts in December 2017 to allow withdrawals for private K-12 tuition, the biggest federal school-choice initiative ever adopted."

Prior to his time at IIE, Carroll spent 2002-2012 as president of the Foundation for Education Reform and Accountability, a New York State choice advocacy group, and before that, founder and chairman of the Brighter Choice Foundation, a charter network in and around Albany. Though he doesn't mention it, a listing for Carroll at the Center for Education Reform also says that post-FERA, he headed up the Foundation for Opportunity in Education, which fits.

Carroll's 2012 arrival at Invest in Education aligns with the group's certification by the IRS. The Foundation was granted tax exempt status in 2012, and the Coalition in 2013. Both list an Albany post office box as their address, both list Anthony De Nicola (the current chair) as the principal officer. 

The 990 for the foundation from 2022 gives us yet another name, the only guy besides Messer who is listed as putting in 40 hour weeks. That's Michael J. Strianese, who was the CFO and COO for Invest in Ed, according to his LinkedIn from 2012-2018, then moved on to be CFO and COO for Northeast Charter Schools Network in Albany from 2019 on, so why he's on this 990 is unclear. Messer made $115,000 for his presidential duties; Strianese, $60K. On 2020, Messer is not on the form, and Strianese made $38,000. 

And in 2021. we find Maureen Blum, in her single 990 appearance as Executive Director. Her LinkedIn page says she was ED with IIEC for six years (2016-2022), and she says that IIEC was a continuation of Coalition for Opportunity in Education "due to a name change of company." She started out with the Coalition for Opportunity in Education in 2012 and served as Director of Outreach till the apparent name change in January of 2016. And before that she was with Brighter Choice since 2003 as director of outreach. She was also the ED of #EdTaxCredit50/USA Workforce Coalition from April 2016 through January 2022. Also, from 2002 till the present, she has been CEO of Strategic Coalitions and Initiatives, LLC, specializing in the "development of grassroots and community infrastructure designed to support and implement--" you know what? She's a professional astroturfer. 

The 2022 Foundation 990 also answers "Yes" to "Did the organization make any significant changes to its governing documents since the prior Form 990 was filed?" That turns out to be changes to the bylaws to "limit and control the board selection and removal process, and also to modify the process for hiring and firing the CEO and direct reports of the CEO" which seems like a bit of a clue about what happened to Messer and half the board. 

The Foundation took in gifts, grants and contributions totaling almost $3 million over five years; about half of that came in 2018. The low point was 2020 with $179K, but in 2022 they brought in $746K. Digging back, we a measly $155K in 2016, but almost a million in 2017. 

The 2022 990 for the Coalition shows Strianese and the three remaining board members, but not Messer. The group spent money on Bose Public Affairs Group in DC ($253K for lobbying) and in Indianapolis ($147K for lobbying), plus Linden-Grove Strategies in Albany ($127K for media and advocacy). 2021 shows those four plus Blum. 2020 shows just the three. The coalition shows much more revenue, topping a million each year. 

So what have we got here? An organization that has been around in various forms for a decade or so, agitating for national vouchers, and since the pandemic, they've been hitting all the usual choicer notes on Facebook through an account that somebody is running for them. They cut loose a bunch of members (perhaps shedding the foundation and just downsizing to the coalition). They look kind of amateur hour, but somebody is feeding them a lot of money. 

We started this with an announcement about their intent to boost ECCA. So what have they done?

Well, they have a Youtube channel with four videos. Two are from last fall, arguing for the ECCA with the usual rhetoric about failing schools and Evil People leaving students behind (pictures of Weingarten and Fauci), calling for every GOP candidate to embrace the message (series of now-irrelevant images), and offering the not-quite-true talking point that this doesn't use federal dollars (no, it just uses dollars that leave a hole in the federal revenue). Another spot links school choice to Ronald Reagan. And two more tell the story of a young woman who was saved by school choice; it does not address the question of how many private schools would refuse to honor her voucher because of her learning struggles or lack of born-again parents. You can go watch them if you must, but there's not much traffic over there and that seems like a good thing.


If somewhere in your neighborhood, advertisement about the Education Choice for Children Act being paid for by the Invest in Education Coalition, know you kind of know what that's about. I'm sorry this didn't end up being a more linear, straightforward tale, but that is rather the nature of these groups--twisty and inbred with ever-shifting names and connections, because they're just mechanisms created by rich people to work their will and sell their preferred policy. These are not "organizations" in a normal sense, but just tools created for a particular purpose. In this case, the purpose is to push national school choice, a policy that has failed and failed and failed again, but hey--these folks are patient and wealthy enough to wait and keep tap, tap, tapping on the obstacles until they crumble.

Friday, January 26, 2024

TX: Dumb Fight On Hair Mountain

There are roughly 14,000 school districts in this country, and on any given day, someone in one of them is doing something stupid and then doubling down on it. Choosing to die on a particularly dumb hill of hair is the superintendent of the Barbers Hill Independent School District.

This is the district that kicked off the year by kicking Darryl George into alternative ed for having hair they didn't like. It was, I guess, their special way of celebrating the passing of the CROWN act, a version of an act passed in several state in which it takes a state law to keep some school administrators from discriminating against Black students for having Black hair.

Superintendent Greg Poole has doubled, tripled, quadrupled down on the punishment. It has been one suspension after another for George since last September. George's family has sued the district over their apparent violation of the CROWN act. Poole says, no, they were just enforcing the school's dress code rule about male students' hair length, which is not protected by the CROWN act:
Male students’ hair will not extend, at any time, below the eyebrows or below the ear lobes. Male students’ hair must not extend below the top of a t-shirt collar or be gathered or worn in a style that would allow the hair to extend below the top of a t-shirt collar, below the eyebrows, or below the ear lobes when let down.

Just to be clear, this is a dumb rule, and all the noise about statistics showing that strict dress codes result in higher student achievement doesn't make it any less dumb. Who knew we were going to have to relitigate the long-haired hippy freak panic of the 1960s. 

So the argument is that George's dreadlocks, it not coiled on his head as they usually are, were unleashed, his hair would dip too far below the Naughty line.

Not convinced yet? Poole was so put out by the negative coverage that he received in The Chronicle that he took out a full-page ad (even though the editor says they "tried to work with Dr. Poole’s staff on an op-ed that we would have published free of charge." 

Poole argues that they have given religious exemptions to Black students who asked for them. He points out that George came from a neighboring district "that allows long hair on males," so I guess implying that George is bringing along those slack values from Those People? And in the most-quoted section:

Our military academies at West Point, Annapolis and Colorado Springs maintain a rigorous expectation of dress. They realize being an American requires conformity with the positive benefit of unity, and being a part of something bigger than yourself.

Yes, being American requires conformity. He said that. In fact, he typed it out so he had time to think about it, and that is still what he submitted to the newspaper.

"Barbers Hill ISD will continue to make decisions to protect and fight for the rights of its community to set the standards and expectations for our school district even if that path takes us to the U.S. Supreme Court," Poole wrote. "We will not lose sight of the main goal — high standards for our students — by bending to political pressure or responding to misinformed media reports. These entities have 'lesser' goals that ultimately harm kids — just as keeping students out of school in response to the COVID-19 health crisis ultimately did and lowering student expectations will."

Poole also cites his four decades of professional education experience, which is how he knows that if he lets this one kid wear his dreadlocks today, the whole school will be collapsing into anarchy and failure tomorrow. 

The full page rant was paid for by Barbers Hill Education Foundation, a sort of PTA-esque fundraising group for the district.

Meanwhile, the author of the CROWN act is planning to go back and amend it so that guys like Poole who want to observe the letter and ignore the spirit of the law will have one less avenue to do so.

Folks of a Certain Age will recognize this whole flap. Yes, it's about racism and sexism and even generational foolishness. But it is also about running a school on demands for compliance. These are Cartman Rules, where the rule itself doesn't matter so much as demanding that the student Respect My Authority, and pretty soon here you are--a grown-ass man drawing national press attention because you got yourself in a fight with a teenager over hair. 

And while it pains me to do so, I must also note that Poole invokes "local control." It's a thing I value in a school district, but it has to be remembered that local control (like states rights) can be invoked in the service of ridiculous and harmful policy. 

Poole claims that the family's lawyer said she wants to "bankrupt" the school district, and after the student's junior year has been so thoroughly disrupted, I don't have a hard time imagining that she might have. Poole and his district have picked a dumb hill to die on; we'll see what the court has to say. In the meantime, the district has to reckon with the Rule of Dumb Rules, which says that whenever you throw an institution's weight behind a dumb rule, you diminish its ability to enforce smart ones.


Thursday, January 25, 2024

Students and Deadlines

On the social media and in Larry Ferlazzo's EdWeek piece on the topic, the old debate about student late work has been churning again.

This debate will always churn, because three things are true:

1) Deadlines are a real thing in the world, often carrying some serious penalties.

2) Giving a student a grade on being late means you haven't actually assessed the skills and knowledge that were supposed to be involved in the work.

3) Some students face much larger obstacles to meeting deadlines than others.

A teacher needs to balance all three true things in their brain. 

A hard and fast, take no prisoners approach to deadlines is unnecessarily brutal. These are, after all, not full grown adults. Requiring them to meet deadlines without support or slack is setting them up for failure. 

A lose and floppy "just hand it in any time" approach is not doing anyone any favors. It's not fair to students that one gets three days to complete the assignment and another took a month. And it is absolute nightmare fuel for teachers, who face a jumbled mess of grading.

I taught a course that was heavy on writing assignments and therefor heavy on deadlines. In a typical 9 weeks grading period I had 50-60 grades in the book. That's a lot of paper to process, and a lot of deadlines to meet. Here are the principles I followed that kept me sane and my students mostly on track.

No surprises. Let them know what is coming, and then keep telling them it's coming, and then keep telling them how long until the due date. You don't have to be irritating and naggy about it; just keep them informed. But unless you have some reason to include memory skills in your class learning objectives, there's no reason to make students depend on the memory capacity of their half-wired brains. 

For larger assignments, give more than enough time. Don't make the mistake of giving students the amount of time that would be enough, but only if those students didn't have any other classes or responsibilities in their lives. 

Mix it up. Not all deadlines need to be created equal. My students could usually hand regular homework assignments in whenever. But I also had assignments that were "Absolute Deadline" assignments. Just be explicit, so that they know what's coming and can organize accordingly.

Provide supports and scaffolds. One of my biggest mistakes in this area was the first year I pioneered a massive research project. We talked about it and I gave reminders, but there were no actual deadlines until the final one, and for some students it was disastrous. In the following years, I added secondary deadlines and check-ins (just come to my desk and show me what you've got) as part of the process; it helped keep them from digging themselves into too deep a hole. And when they dig that hole, help them create a plan for climbing out. 

Be open and humane. Run the kind of classroom in which a student feels safe to come to you with whatever struggles they're facing doing the work. I've had students miss critical class time because of terminal illnesses of parents. Once a student's house burned down with her work in it. 

Be selective about what hills to die on--and then hold the line. My policy was that small assignments like homework or mini-essays written in class time could be turned in late at any time. But at the end of the nine weeks, when my own grades were due, the final absolute deadline was absolute. If it wasn't in, it was a zero. Absolute deadline assignments worked the same way, with steep penalties for lateness. 

Not everything in life is a hard and fast deadline, but it would be misleading to suggest that such deadlines do no exist. Our major local employer has a simple policy, written by management and union together-- after a certain number of unexcused hours, you get a warning, then a meeting, and when you hit the max, you're fired. 

It helps to keep your focus on what you are actually trying to teach and therefor what you actually want to measure. 

But it's also fair to include "responsibly meeting deadlines" to the list of things you're teaching. Meeting deadlines is, I think, one of those things that most adults do without any consciousness of how we do it or when we learned how. But human beings are not born with innate knowledge of how to meet human-created deadlines, how to organize a project and apply the time and resources to it. Too often the only advice we have for young humans is "well, just do the work" or "buckle down" when they don't actually know how to do that. And if they are in a chaotic life situation that they cannot control because they are at the mercy of adults, then simply repeating "work harder" or "clearly you just don't care" is no help. You'll also see students dealing with task paralysis, a situation where they have so much to do that they literally cannot figure out what to do next, and so time passes and more work piles up and their anxiety rises and they fall further behind rinse repeat--they are unlikely to break out of that without someone helping them chart a path. 

None of this means abolishing deadlines and consequences for them. It is no help for students in the long term to be taught that no deadlines really matter and you can just do, or not, as you wish. But it is also unhelpful to simply point at a deadline and say, "The hammer is gonna fall, kid, so you'd better deal with it, somehow." 

Part of what we're supposed to teach is not just how to pack knowledge into your head, but how to transport it out of your head and into the world, and to do it, sometimes, in a timely manner. To teach the learning without teaching the How To Get It Out Of Your Head part is incomplete teaching. Deadlines, with consequences, are part of that learning. But requiring deadlines and penalizing deadline failure without providing support is like giving a unit test without teaching the content of the unit. 

So, yes, deadlines and penalties, but not always deadlines and penalties and not just deadlines and penalties. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

NH: Ramping Up Vouchers

There was a time when we used years to measure the gap between "We need this small, limited voucher program to serve this very needy population" and "Free money for anyone willing to walk away from public education!" 

Arizona passed vouchers in 2006, got them thrown out in 2009, tried again in 2011 with a super-special voucher program just for students with special needs, then proceeded to expand that program year after year until they finally passed universal vouchers in 2022. Lots of patience in that crowd.

But nowadays, the voucher crowd is about as patient as a hungry labrador looking at a huge pile of doggy treats. And this year, they want to chomp away at some more goodies.

In the past, legislatures have gone slow because, despite the rhetoric, school vouchers are not particularly popular with voters. What has changed is the boldness with which legislators simply ignore that hurdle. The path to universal vouchers in Arizona involved sidestepping voters twice, most recently when voters forced a referendum on universal vouchers, the vouchers lost, and then legislators just passed them anyway. 

New Hampshire has a similar tale. After years of fruitless attempts to privatize public ed in the Granite State, the GOP captured the legislature in 2020, and immediately began pushing again. A proposed voucher bill drew over 3,000 people to testify against it. So legislators waited till the last minute, stuck it in the budget bill and passed it anyway. In May of 2021, supporters promised that the vouchers would cost a measly $130,000. Within two years that estimate proved to be off by roughly 11,000%. Currently the voucher program is up to a $23.8 million price tag

But that is not enough for some folks, and so the new legislative session is considering an assortment of bills intended to simply open the door wider, so that more folks can enjoy free public dollars for their private choices. 

SB 442 is the first one down the chute. Right now there's an income cap of 350% of federal poverty line on New Hampshire vouchers, but SB 442 would remove the cap for any student who requested transfer to a new public school and was denied. Another suggests raising the cap from 350% to 500% (that would be $140,000 for a family of four). Another removes the cap for students in under-performing districts. Another removes the cap for students who have been bullied or who have been diagnosed with mental illness, as well as students who identify as LGBTQ. That last is a particularly cynical move as those are precisely the students that many private schools prefer to reject or expel. And according to Rick Green at the Keene Sentinel, there's also a bill to just plain remove the income cap and go straight to universal vouchers.

That last bill at least has the virtue of honestly not pretending that there is any other sort of goal here. The other proposals are all about widening the door as a way to build up to universal vouchers. 

Have New Hampshire legislators been conned by voucher lobbyists into thinking the public really wants this? Are they simply pursuing their own agenda? Have they correctly noted that as much as voters make noise about schools and education, it's generally not an issue that influences their vote? Whatever the case, the New Hampshire GOP is ready to keep expanding and pushing their costly voucher program so that taxpayers can help foot private school bills for the well-to-do. 

Monday, January 22, 2024

Will New Version Of Snow Days Make Districts Wimpier?

I don't know about you, but when I was in school, we walked uphill, both ways, in the snow. And if the snow got deeper and the air colder and kept the buses from running, we strapped cables onto our backs and dragged the buses to school ourselves. And school was never, ever canceled, because we were not wimps. Grrr.

Last Friday, the Board of Directors here at the Institute had a snow day. Well, not really a snow day. A Flexible Instruction Day. We were alerted by messages from the school and from each boy's First Grade teacher, letting us know to get out the big envelopes with FID materials for Day One and complete them, because this would count as our children's attendance for the day. 

If you haven't been through this, here's what's going on. At the beginning of the year, each teacher sent home a big envelope with a few sets of pre-created materials. The district's whole program is prepared well ahead of time and subject to approval by the state. Also, during that day teachers were available via text or whatever other avenue they had set up. 

This is obviously a remnant of pandemic closure procedures, and for precisely that reason not all districts are doing it. 

A district right next door also has a FID plan in place-- materials collected and created, approved by the state, all put in place over a year ago. But when the teachers union proposed some language about these days in the last contract, the board said, "No, we're never doing that." Knowing the general cultural and political bent of the district, I would bet that what they had in mind is that they would never fall for a made-up fake anti-liberty pandemic ever again.

So while my kids were home with their FID materials, that district was operating normally.

And if you are bemoaning the death of Snow Days, I will note that the twins finished their pack of materials in about ten minutes, leaving them with plenty of snow days.

One other important note. The inclement weather conditions never appeared. And honestly, the indicators were not all that awful ahead of time. If my district had to consider the costs of making up the day later, I'm not sure they would have pulled the plug, because it wasn't all that bad, nor were there strong signs that it was going to be. 

So I'm wondering if this new-found flexibility that allows a district to cancel school basically for free--I'm wondering if this is just going to make districts wimpier.

I sympathize with the issue. I am involved in activities that require me to make a weather-related call that affects a bunch of other people and it's stressy and fraught and often involves a decision that will absolutely be wrong no matter what you decide. But I don't think this was that. And while there may well have been some more rigorous blizzard buckets in higher grades, the twins absolutely had a day off almost indistinguishable from any other day off. Their school year is now shorter by one day. I guess as the winter rolls on we'll see if this is a trend or a blip.

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Unbundling and Dismantling

One of the beloved dreams of privatizers has been the unbundling of education. Why get all your education in one place? Why not assemble it yourself-- a math class from this tutor, a literature class at the local college campus, other classes from an assortment of vendors. Sometimes it's described as "a la carte," though that really only fits if you are imagining an a la carte meal where you get each dish from a separate restaurant.

At any rate, it looks like Indiana is going to consider legislation to unbundle education.

Indiana is all in on vouchers, but as with many states, the program is not having much penetration in rural and low population areas, because a voucher is useless if there's no place to use it (and nobody is rushing to start private schools where there's not much market to be tapped).

Microschools have been one proffered solution to the issue, but unbundling is another one. No private school to attend in your neighborhood? Just piece together an education together from various vendors.

If you're a voucher fan, this is a way to extend the blessings of choice and the free market to more families. If you are a voucher cynic, it's a way to promote this conversation:

State: We'll give you several thousand dollars to abandon public education!

Family: Yeah? Where would we spend it?

State: Um--look! Unbundling!

There is another, darker aspect to unbundling. Particularly when one considers the wave of laws that have been chipping away at child labor laws across the country. The folks behind the broadening of child labor "opportunities" have a serious overlap with those interested in chipping away at public education. As Jennifer Berkshire pointed out on the dead bird app:

That full speech is here.

Yup. When DeVos and her crew talk about finding an education that's the "best fit" for the children, they're talking about an education best suited for that child's Proper Station In Life. Sure, the wealthy Betters have no intention of having their own children listen to educational podcasts during lunchtime at the meat packing plant, but the assumption is that for some children, Those Peoples' Children, that would be an excellent and appropriate option.

Unbundling would be an unregulated free market nightmare for many households required to shop for their child's education piece by piece. I'm not sure whether it would be easier or harder to navigate an education that is fit in around the demands of a job. 

But it would open up the market to lots of folks who would like to make money with an education-flavored product, and it would help further cement in policy the idea that education is not a public good or a service to the community, but just a commodity the purchase of which is strictly the responsibility of the individual parents. Ran out of money before you put together a full program? Turned out your math provider was a fraud? Your kid spent so much time working that she didn't get an actual education? We washed our hands of you when we handed you a voucher; you're on your own. 

ICYMI: Seriously Winter Edition (1/21)

Okay, that's plenty of cold weather. Not that we got the promised blizzard (the one that tricked my old district into calling an unnecessary Flexible Instruction Day) but still, the season is landing with both feet right now. 

But even if the weather outside is frightful, there are still some pieces to read from the week (and share). So here we go.

Time to End Tax Breaks for Charter Schools and The Ultra-Rich

Jake Jacobs reminds us that charter schools provide a sweet, sweet financial deal for investors and a great way to cash in on some tax breaks. Maybe we don't need to be doing that any more. 

A woman hired to investigate racial harassment in a Utah school district says she experienced it herself

NBC News reports on the story of Joscelin Thomas, who was supposed to help a Utah school district deal with its racism issues. Instead, she was on the receiving end of the behavior.

Most Georgians oppose school ‘vouchers,’ support Medicaid expansion

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution did some polling and found, once again, that the popular support for vouchers that voucher supporters keep insisting is out there--it's not out there.

“My Research is Better than Your Research” Wars

Nancy Flanagan is always worth a read, but this week's is particularly good. A look at the disconnect between education research and actual teachers.

What happens when a school bans smartphones? A complete transformation

Tik Root at the Guardian joins the ongoing cell phone fray.

American education has all the downsides of standardization, none of the upsides

Technology author Cory Doctorow takes a look at how badly standardization serves schools (looking at you, Common Core).

Moms for Liberty activists starting taxpayer-funded charter school

This story has been bouncing around the interwebs, but the original reporting is right here at Popular Information, courtesy of Judd Legum and Rebecca Crosby. 

Protesters gather as Charleston Co. Board Chair attends Moms for Liberty meeting

And here's the sequel, courtesy of Molly McBride at WCSC, who visited with the protestors who showed up at the board meeting.

'Unjust' survey for Arkansas deaf and blind schools stirs concern over hidden state agenda

Arkansas has schools for the deaf and for the blind, and they haven't been very well cared for, but now the supporters are getting nervous about what the state intends to do next.

As Private School Choice Grows, Critics Push for More Guardrails

Mark Lieberman at Education Week notices the growing complaints about how vouchers are much like dumping taxpayer dollars down a dark, discriminatory hole.

Jose Luis Vilson reflects on the noise folks make about teacher professionalism. 

Cool history lesson from Thomas Ultican, about a 19th century figure who furthered the cause of public education.

What to Do About the Surge in Student Absenteeism?

Jan Resseger looks at some of the ideas out there, both the good and the not so much. 

Tax dollars are wasted in states with school vouchers

Kentucky's choicers are warming up to try again, and John Schaaf at Florida Phoenix says it's a lousy and costly idea.

Two pieces at this week-- one about a new report looking at the parents' rights movement and the other about the new set of recommendations to fix PA school funding

Join me on substack. It's easy and free.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Dear TC: About School Vouchers

I saw you emerge onto the dead bird app and proceed to get into a couple of school voucher related flaps, and I found myself in the not-unusual position of wanting to say something and being too lazy to boil it down to tweet-sized construction ("Too lazy to tweet about it" would make a good sub-heading for this blog). I'm going to give it a whack here, in part because you are my favorite kind of education writer: not ideologically blinkered. not paid to have a particular opinion, and more interested in light than heat. Also, we only agree some of the time.

My impression is that you see a lot of the debate over vouchers as being tied up with people over-interested in devotion to their particular team, and that's a valid critique of some arguments out there. And I think you often capture nicely the gulf between arguing over good state policy and trying to decide what's best for your own kid. 

Watching you talk about what's wrong with the voucher debates challenges me to go back and rattle around in my own skull to think about what my objections to vouchers are. For what it's worth, here's some of where I land.

In particular, you had a reaction to someone tossing this well-worn graphic up:

Your response was 
And why is this a problem? The idea that children should have to sacrifice a year of their schooling years as some kind of "purity" test is more about serving adults than children.

I agree that there's some no-zero number of parents who are scraping to get their kid into private school. If Tennessee goes the way of Iowa and Florida and sees vouchers followed by tuition increases, the voucher won't really help those parents, but it won't hurt them, either. This is definitely one of those places where the personal and policy perspectives are different animals. Will universal vouchers widen the gap between rich and poor? Almost certainly. But it's not fair to make that an individual parent's issue to solve.

The universal vouchers for students already in school creates a taxpayer problem, because it increases the number of students that the taxpayers pay for. Taxpayers are paying for 100 students at the public school. 10 leave for a private school. 25 already at the private school get a voucher (and why wouldn't they? what sense does it make to turn down free money?) But now taxpayers are paying for 125 students. If that money comes from the school of origin, that school can either cut programs or raise taxes. Universal voucher programs get really expensive, really fast

One of my objections to choice in general and vouchers in specific is that policymakers aren't willing to be honest about the cost, but instead lean heavily on the fictions that A) money doesn't matter in education and B) we can run multiple school systems for the same money we're spending now. 

Even if I accept that vouchers are a benefit to families (and there are plenty of reasons to debate that), they are a benefit that is only available to some. Every voucher system in this country holds sacred the providers right to serve only those they want to serve. Families can be rejected or expelled because of religious beliefs, being LGBTQ, or having special needs. In Pennsylvania, we've got a voucher school that reserves the right to reject your kid for any reason AND to refuse to explain why they've done it. Plus, of course, the financial barriers still in place for the priciest privates.

And so somehow we end up with a government benefit that is only available to some people, and that availability is decided on the basis of such criteria. 

That points to what I find most problematic about the voucher movement, which is the implicit attempt to change the whole premise of education in this country. Instead of a shared responsibility and a shared benefit, we get the idea that education is a private, personal commodity. Getting some schooling for your kid is your problem. From there it's a short step to the idea that paying for it is also your own problem and not anyone else's.

Do I think that we'll ever see Milton Friedman's dream of a country in which the government has nothing more to do with education than it does with buying cars? Probably not, but I'm less confident than I was a decade ago. I do think we will see in some states a public system that is shrunk down, if not down to drown-it-in-the-bathtub size, to something small and meagre and basic. And we have right now states working on the DeVos vision of kids who mostly work, pick up a couple of courses on the side, and that's good enough. So probably not the end of public education entirely, but a new multi-tiered system of very separate and very unequal education providers. 

The irony for me has always been that I can imagine a system of school choice (see here and here) but the modern reform movement of charters and vouchers strikes me as headed in a completely different direction, making a lot of worthwhile promises that it does not particularly try to deliver on. 

See, this is why I don't tweet more. I reckon you mostly know this stuff, but once I start, I have to work all the way through.

I hope people subscribe to your fine substack and avoid saying silly things to you on the tweeter (charging you with being a Lee shill was an extraordinary reach). Stay safe and warm. 

When There's No Support From The Front Office

The main function of a manager is to create and maintain the conditions that make it easiest for the worker bees to do their very best work. 

That is also true--especially true--of school district administrators. At the heart of so many education issues, you will find administrators.

Take the ongoing flaps over Naughty Books and Controversial Topics. In many communities around the country, complaints large and small are being lodged against teachers and librarians. In some states, laws have been passed. School administrators can send their staffs one of a couple of messages:

1) As long as you are using your best professional judgment, I will have your back. Just get in there and do the work and let me worry about cranky parents.

2) It'd be great if you just don't do or say or read anything remotely controversial, because at the first phone call I am going to fold like a wet paper back full of bricks. 

Don't Say Gay laws are about creating a chilling effect, and that chill starts in the front office. The chilling has been so effective that even in states that have no actual DSG or Anti-Controversy laws, you'll find plenty of administrators who are trying to keep their cold tootsies safe from any angry phone calls. All of this trickles down to the classroom; if you've got to watch your own back and teach at the same time, you'll be more timid, more cautious, less engaging and creative-- or you'll be that teacher who's considered a Problem, because you are constantly fighting to be allowed to do your job.

Or take the ongoing struggles with post-pandemess student behavior. This is not a new issue-- students have presented behavior challenges since before the invention of dirt-- but numerous reports tell us that since 2020, behavior issues have increased.

Support from the front office is critical. Without it, a teacher's hands are tied. It's a frustrating scenario-- you may have one student who consistently acts out, even after you've tried all the available interventions, and who makes it that much harder for the other twenty-some students in the room to get an education. But the office provides no support, no assistance, no relief. You can also have the opposite issue--an administrator whose only technique is to run roughshod over the student, backing them into a corner and trying to dominate them, all of which means that the student who returns to your classroom is just angrier and more disengaged.

Again, there's a trickle-down effect. If you know the office is not an available tool then you have to pick your battles very carefully, which can often mean a steady degrading of the atmosphere in the classroom. 

Can teachers be part of these problems? Of course. If you are sending kids to the office every hour of every day, something is wrong on your end. If you are using your classroom as your own personal soapbox every day, you are asking for angry parent calls. I rarely used the office, but when I needed it, I absolutely needed it. And I learned early on the value of pre-informing my boss if I was about to do something that might prompt a phone call; you can't expect an administrator to defend you from an angry phone call when they have no idea what the parent is talking about. 

But if there's a just-plain-not-up-to-it teacher in the building? Well, I am reminded of the Edward Deming insight-- if there's dead wood in your organization, was it dead when you hired it, or did you kill it? Bad employee problems are also ultimately management failures.

District administrators set a tone and mission for the school. Words don't mean much here; those things are set by the day to day operations. Your mission statement may not say "Our mission is to minimize the number of angry phone calls we get from parents," but your administrative behavior makes it loud and clear. Administrators show through action whether the district is supposed to run on fear or trust, personal responsibility or enforced compliance, focus on education or obsession with test scores. 

School administrator is a miserable job. Great responsibility that comes without great power. In some districts, not even great money; promoting from within is a great idea, but in my old district, a seasoned teacher stepping into an assistant principal job would take a pay cut to work more hours. And administrators themselves have to depend on others for the tools and support they need to do their jobs well.

But it's a critical job in every school in every district. Somehow, in the modern reform era, we haven't talked much about administrators. Who knows why not (hard to assess them via test scores with a straight face, don't have a large union some folks want to depower, fewer targets?) We don't know how many mediocre administrators are out there; certainly many are well-hidden by highly effective teaching staffs that have learned to work around them. And they can get better, like this guy who figured out that maybe he needed to listen to his staff

But to work for an unsupportive administration is isolating and demoralizing, making it that much harder for a teacher to do her best work. 

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Who's Behind The Stripping Of Child Labor Protections?

We know that a trend sweeping the country is the trend of getting rid of child labor protections, lowering age limits, increasing allowable hours, and opening up dangerous workplaces to teen laborers, because it's important to protect children from seeing drag queens, but not from working in a meatpacking plant or working long hours on a school night.

We know that businesses are pushing much of this, even writing bills, but it turns out that there's a big fat dark money lobbying group that is "helping out" in many states.

Meet the Foundation for Government Accountability.

FGA was founded in 2011 by CEO Tarren Bragdon, who himself highlights a quote that gives us a good idea of who he is:

I greatly value the ability to provide for my wife and children and want more Americans to experience the freedom that work brings. I founded FGA to pursue good policy solutions that will free millions from government dependency and open the doors for them to chase their own American Dream.

Bragdon was the youngest guy to be elected to the Maine Legislature (1996-2000), right after he graduated from college. He has a BS in Computer Science (University of Maine) and a Master of Science of Business (Husson University). He was next Director of Health Reform Initiatives then CEO at the Maine Heritage Policy Institute (before it became the Maine Policy Institute), a free market advocacy shop. Bragdon made plenty of connections; he was co-chair of Paul LaPage's transition team Bragdon moved to Naples, Florida when he set up FGA; his LinkedIn page says that he finished with MHPC in May of 2011 and opened up FGA in June.

Bragdon took some of his Maine tricks with him to Florida, like setting up an online database of state employees. He was registered as a lobbyist in Maine and went to Florida to continue that work. He hit the ground running, cranking out a pair of reports backing up Gov. Rick Scott's ill-fated welfare drug test policy. 

But Bragdon had his sights on a profile far beyond Florida's borders. They've been a major player in movements like the drive to throw millions off of food stamps. FGA sold its work requirements for SNAP benefits plan to multiple states. And their lobbying branch, Opportunity Solutions Project, has pushed for other swell ideas, like blocking Medicaid expansion or attaching a work requirement to it. 

FGA has been tied to ALEC and the State Policy Network since Day One. They get money from the Kochtopus, the Bradley Foundation, the Ed Uihlein Foundation, and giant whopping piles from DonorsTrust, the "dark money ATM  of the conservative movement."

Goven all that, it's no surprise that FGA has been working hard to make sure that teenagers can chase their own American dream by having the chance to become unprotected meat widgets. 

In March, when Arkansas's legislature scrapped work permits and age verification, the bill's sponsor Rep. Rebecca Burkes said that the legislation "came to me from the Foundation [for] Government Accountability."

In Florida, records reveal that FGA helped write the legislation to roll back child labor laws, along with some handy talking points for the bill's sponsor to use (that bill is being considered in the current session). FGA has been working the Florida legislation for a while.

In Missouri, the FGA helped a legislator draft and revise to loosen child labor restrictions, according to emails obtained by the Washington Post. Ditto for Iowa. 

And FGA has also created a handy white paper that offers all sorts of talking points to help sell these policies, particularly the abolition of working permits. "Streamline the process" of hiring teens. "Empowering teenagers through the power of work." And of course, having noticed which way the wind is blowing, "parents, not schools, should have decision-making power over whether their children get a job." 

Is it reasonable to have conversations in the states about exactly what the restrictions and protections for young adult labor should be? Absolutely. But that's not what is happening here. Bottom line: as always, when similar legislation appears at the same time in numerous states, start looking for the lobbying group working for a bunch of low-profile rich guys who are ordering up a serving of legislation to suit them.