Sunday, June 30, 2024

ICYMI: Family Visit Edition (6/30)

The West Coast Field Office staff of the Institute have been here this week, and the field agents and board of directors have been enjoying themselves a great deal. It's a party. 

In the meantime, this week's reading list has been prepared for your enjoyment and edification. Remember-- you have the power to amplify voices that you find important.

Louisiana’s New Ten Commandments Law Could Not Be Any More Unconstitutional

Slate's legal team of Mark Stern and Dahlia Lithwick provide some of the best context and analysis for Louisiana's newest attempt to get (certain) religion into the classroom.

Ten Commandments Classroom Tips

The indispensable Mercedes Schneider has gathered a few handy tips for teachers who now have to work with the Ten Commandments.

Religious leader wants to display Indian scriptures in Louisiana public classrooms

In a completely unsurprising development, a Hindu religious leader would like to have some ancient Sanskrit manuscripts posted right next to those Ten Commandments. 

Louisiana’s June 2024 Education Legislation

Finally, while the Ten Commandments are getting all the press, Louisiana just passed a whole lot of terrible education law, including a whole lot of culture panic stuff. The indispensable Mercedes Schneider has the rundown. 

Why “Fund Students, Not Systems” Is a Recipe for Disaster

An excerpt from Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider's new book, coming out this week. Read the excerpt. Buy the book.

Thomas Ultican retraces the history of Inspire Charter Schools, a chain that turned out to be a bit of a money-grubbing scam.

I know we've seen many of these stories, but we should never let them numb us. This time it's a librarian in Idaho.

The Bible in Public Schools? Oklahoma Pushes Limits of Long Tradition.

The New York Times goes looking for some perspective on the latest move in Oklahoma, and talks to Adam Laats in the process.

These Researchers Study the Legacy of the Segregation Academies They Grew Up Around

Jennifer Bery Hawes digs into the research covering one of the nation's more shameful school choice chapters.

South Carolina to Launch Biggest Censorship Campaign Yet

Sigh. Edith Olmsted reported for The New Republic, and Yahoo gets it out from behind the paywall. One more state sets itself to crack down on naughty books.

Arizona Shows The Voucher Money Shuffle In Action

Jef Rouner writing for ReformAustin takes a lesson in vouchers from Arizona.

Florida Has The Capacity, But Not The Commitment, To Adequately Fund Its Public Schools

Sue Kingery Woltanski paints a picture familiar in many states. The state has money, but spending it on public education? That's crazy talk!

The Triumph of Counting and Scripting

Allison Pugh at Slate writes about a phenomenon all too familiar to folks in education--micro-management.

People thinking without speaking

Benjamin Riley writes about how people think, and how that's a thing that AI can't do.

Over at this week, I looked at what Oklahoma's Supreme Court had to say about a Catholic Charter School ("Don't").

And hey-- join us at Substack, where all my stuff lands in your email inbox for free!

Friday, June 28, 2024

OK: Bible Or Else

After the Pledge and a prayer, Ryan Walters opened the State Board of Education meeting on June 27 with a stern warning. The Board was set to consider taking a license away from a teacher who is accused of teaching "inappropriate"  materials that the state has outlawed. 

The state won't tolerate "activist teachers" and "indoctrination," says Walters. "All individuals need to be aware that actions have consequences, and if you break law, if you break statute, if you break rules, regulations, there will be consequences for those things."

From there, without a trace of irony, Walters moves on to railing against the Oklahoma Supreme Court, a group that specializes in determining whether or not you have broken laws, statutes, ordinances, rules, or regulations, and declares that their ruling that the proposed Catholic charter school broke laws, statutes, ordinances, and the state constitution--well, there should not be consequences for that particular rule-breaking because Walters is sure they are wrong, and therefor he'll be working with the school, lawyers, and parents to make sure that there are no consequences. 

But Walters had another shoe to drop. Rather than be out-christianed by the state of Louisiana (where they just declared that the Ten Commandments must be in every classroom), Walters announced that he was going to forcibly shove a Bible into every classroom in the state. (Because, as Walters will tell you, the Constitution doesn't mention the separation of church and state.)

His pitch is centered on the idea that the Bible is a "necessary historical document" and the "most foundational document used for the constitution and the birth of our country." Walters used to teach AP History, and should know better. "Every teacher, every classroom in the state will have a Bible in the classroom and will be teaching from the Bible in the classroom," he declares. He announced that the memo will come out that day, and sure enough, it did. 
Effective immediately, all Oklahoma schools are required to incorporate the Bible, which includes the Ten Commandments, as an instructional support into the curriculum across specific grade levels, e.g. grades 5 through 12.

The emphasis on the Ten Commandments is a telling one. After all, the Bible also includes the Golden Rule and the Beatitudes, but gosh, that whole "do unto others" and "blessed are the meek" stuff sounds awfully woke.

I'm also trying to imagine how teachers in the upper grades will manage to work the Bible into every single class. Home ec lessons on unleavened bread? Geometry lessons about cubits? 

And once again, let's note that culture panic support for school choice is skin deep. If a parent wants to send their child to a school without Bible instruction in it, Ryan Walters says, "No, you can't have that choice."

Walters, you may recall, previously called the teachers unions a terrorist organization, and has not exactly extended a great deal of trust to teachers, so it's curious that he would trust each and every one of them to properly use the Bible in their classroom. But it's comply or risk losing your teaching license. How effectively does one evangelize when you're spreading the Bible under duress?

The memo says that the Department of Education "may supply teaching materials for the Bible, as permissible, to ensure uniformity in delivery." Permissible by whom? But once again we arrive at the point where the state is going to tell students how to interpret the Bible. Or maybe teachers will just put their own spin on holy scripture. 

Maybe this will survive the inevitable court challenge, or the legal challenge to include other peoples' historically significant holy scriptures in classrooms. If so, I'm betting religious conservatives will rue the day that the state and its teachers were put in charge of religious instruction of their children. And if you decide, for whatever reason, you don't want the school being your co-parent when it comes to religion, you'd better not try to escape in Oklahoma, because breaking rules and regulations has consequences.

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Have Charters Been Captured By The Wokeness?

Pity the poor charter school advocates. Once upon a time they were the darlings of the "school choice" crowd. But then privatizers and the culture panic crowd saw a chance to pursue their true love-- taxpayer-funded vouchers-- and the charter school fans suddenly found that their prom date was already out the door with someone else.

This is not aided by decisions like the Oklahoma high court ruling that A) charters are so public schools and so B) they have to follow the same rules. Granted, SCOTUS may eventually overturn that, but in the meantime, charters were just a foot in the door, and now that privatizers have wedged the door open, they're just going to stomp on charter toes on their way through.

An excellent example comes from the Heritage Foundation, where scholars Jay Greene, Ian Kingsbury, and Jason Bedrick have issued a Report (aka Blog Post With Professional Grade header) entitled "The Woke Capture of Charter Schools" which uses Woke Panic as a way to discredit charter schools, even as it discards some of the old choicer tropes.

A host of assumptions

To make their argument work, they have to first posit that "woke" is unpopular with parents. Sure, they write, there are some woke-preferring parents out there, but "tend to be a distinct minority." But "past research suggests" that "when parents have more control over the education of their own children, that education tends to be less woke." I would be interesting and looking at that research, but we'll get back to that.

Now we're off and running. The anti-woke parent preference is now a given, as in "Given that parental empowerment is associated with less woke education..." They argue that given that given, charters ought to be less woke than nearby public schools. But what we're going to discover that this is not true--that charter schools are in many cases more wokified than their public school neighbors. 

How could such a thing be? Let's consider the possible explanations:

1) The nearby public schools are not actually very woke at all.

2) The instrument used to measure wokitude is not very accurate.

3) You assumption that a parent-driven education market favors non-wokeness is incorrect.

4) Some outside force is forcing charters to be excessively woke. This would also require us to consider

4a) Market forces that should be forcing the closure of schools built on unpopular values-- for some reason, that market dynamic is not working.

Yes, they're going with explanation four. 
Charter schools, on the other hand, might become less responsive to the preferences of local parents if they have to please state authorizers to be established and remain open and if they are overly dependent on national philanthropies to subsidize their operations. Those charter schools may have to adopt woke values to gain permission to open from the public authorities that grant them their charter and to receive funding, especially for capital expenses, from large donors with progressive values.

So here our assumption is that authorizers and charter-backing philanthropists are themselves in with the woke. The report is going to try address a bunch of the assumptions we have breezed past so far, but first, let's roll out the argument that's really being made here, one more knife in the back of the charter movement. Maybe parents choose charters because they are woke, or maybe because the charter offers safety and quality instruction, so the wokeness is overlooked. 

By contrast, policies that permit private school choice with vouchers or K–12 education savings accounts do not require permission from an authorizer for schools to open their doors and therefore are less likely to require capital funds from donors since they often already have school buildings. That means that private schools are typically more directly accountable to parents than charter schools and so are more likely to reflect the values of the families they serve.

Got it? Taxpayer-funded vouchers provide better, more correct choices. Are we going to do some kind of research to establish that? No.

So let's start looking at the foundation beneath some of our assumptions.

When parents have more control over the education of their own children, that education tends to be less woke

The writers will now cite some surveys. Heritage itself found that 83% of parents nationwide believe their children's school should “engage with character and virtue.” A large survey of using school choice found that religious environment and instruction made the list of top three factors behind their choice. An EdChoice survey found parents want children to learn to discuss contentious topics in a calm and rational matter, and to become patriotic. Same survey found a majority of parents want teachers to keep their politics to themselves, no naughty books, and no discussion of LGBTQ issues. 

They also cite the USC survey "Searching for Common Ground" as proof that parents mostly don't want various topics discussed, without mentioning that the report's delving into wide gaps between different groups of parents (they especially don't mention that respondents overwhelmingly say they would rather their tax dollars go to support public school than to send a child to a private school).

We could dig into the quality of the surveys performed by people with a definite privatized ax to grind, but the bottom, line here is that if this is meant to support the boldfaced assertion, it doesn't. It doesn't show that, for instance, "character and virtue" are somehow incompatible with wokosity. And it certainly doesn't show that when parents have more control over their children's education, that education is less woke.

Regulations beget wokeness

"Given that markets tend to reflect the preferences of consumers and that most parents prioritize the teaching of values and want schools that eschew “woke” values," the charter school sector ought not to be woke. Except those "givens" are both doing huge amounts of heavy lifting. 
Highly regulated and constrained markets are not as effective as freer markers at giving consumers what they want. 

The charter market is highly regulated and constrained. The authors are going to keep saying this without any particular support other than to nod at another Heritage Foundation report by two of the authors of this one that declared that highly regulated states were more woke than less regulated ones. Missing from both that report and this one is any example of a rule or regulation that fosters all the woke. Exactly what rules and regulations lead to all this wokosity? The authors never say.

Heavy regulations make it more difficult to open and operate charter schools, thereby giving more power to charter school authorizers and philanthropies that help charter schools open. If those gatekeeper organizations espouse certain values, then it should be no surprise when charter schools in states with heavier regulations espouse values that are closer to them than to the general population of parents.

Which "certain values," and how are these values translated into specific rules and regulations. Hard to say. Is it just a sort of atmosphere that hangs over the authorizers and philanthropists? We'll get to that.

The woke atmosphere

The National Association of Charter School Authorizers is all up the wokeness, arguing for social justice and equity and vocally in support of DEI.

The Walton Family Foundation is woke! Who knew? But among its priorities in grant making has been DEI. The WFF even sponsored a drag show.

The Gates Foundation? Those guys have been pushing woke math and critical race theory.

NewSchools Venture Fund? All over the DEI. 

Again, we're cutting so many corners. Is DEI woke? Is it an idea co-opted by corporations and implemented as a sort of BS paperwork exercise? Are the corporate hedge fund guys who animate much of the charter industry all that interested in actual DEI, or will the performative type suit them? 

The writers cite KIPP's decision to be less racist as one sign of creeping wokeness, hinting that it was just to mollify authorizers, because the 500-pound gorilla of the charter school sector needs to worry about such things. They also raise the specter of those various LGBTQ charters that "have a focus on indoctrinating students in radical gender ideology." 

Sigh. This is the classic cultural conservative stance. These things that you say are a problem aren't a problem, says I, so therefor your attempts to address the problems must just be made up excuses to try some political trick. Did KIPP have sincere concerns about its treatment of Black students? Are there reasons for LGBTQ students to want a separate educational environment? Heritage is just going to chalk it up to wokeness.

The irony here is that they already know a way to untangle this mess. Let the invisible hand sort it out. Start a hundred LGBTQ charters; if nobody wants that, then 99 of them will go out of business. The report is heavy on explaining why there are an excessive number of wokinated charters, but it doesn't really address why people choose them and the market supports them. "It's not a fully free market" explains why these schools exist, but not why parents choose them. If the argument is that parents choose these schools for academics or safety, well, that's the market saying that it cares more about safety and academics than it does about wokeness. You can argue that the market wants the wrong things, but the invisible hand wants what the invisible hand wants.

Measuring the woke

So how did Heritage reach the conclusion that charters are more wokinated than their corresponding public schools? By going on line and looking at handbooks and scanning for certain woke words that "signal" wokeness in the school.

They "repurposed" the stuff they collected for the previous report, and found 211 handbooks they could pair with local public schools. That left them with 211 charter schools (out of around 7800) to compare with 211 public schools (out of roughly 97,000). The sampling by state is a bit wonky-- Utah is represented by 16 pairs, Colorado by 14, Pennsylvania by 12. Florida gets 4 pairs, California 3, Michigan 5, and Texas and Tennessee just 1. The authors blame this in part on public school handbook availability and say that's probably not a source of bias. I'm wondering if there's a paper in relating wokeness to being forward-thinking enough to put your handbook on line.

So, searching for the keywords-- diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, restorative, social-emotional, gender identity, and culturally relevant/affirming. The presence of those words is "woke" signalling. Here are the results

Note that they indicate that the ties mostly occur when both schools have zero instances. So one could argue that the results might show that mostly, nobody is wokified.

Or one could argue that such a small, oddly-distributed sampling is not very useful for drawing conclusions about the nation as a whole.

Blaming the authorizers

The report includes a whole section on how NACSA uses its power as a "kingmaker" to push wokeness. I have questions. 

One would be what NACSA board members like Rick Hess (American Enterprise Institute) and Kathryn Mullen Upton (Vice President for Sponsorship & Dayton Initiatives, Fordham Foundation) would have to say about the notion that they are out there pushing woke. 

Another would be just how far reaching NACSA's reach might be. For instance, remember that Pennsylvania is 12 of the 211 samples, but in Pennsylvania, charters are authorized by local school districts. In states where elected school boards are the authorizers, do they belong to, listen to, or care about what NACSA has to say? 


Defund NACSA. Cut them off from state and federal funds, and take away their power, such as it may be. Cut the CSP? That sounds excellent; it has blown a ton of money precisely by not being regulated nearly enough to guard against fraud and waste. 

States should have multiple authorizers of charter schools. You know what would make an interesting study? Compare states like Michigan, where authorizers spring up like wildflowers, so much so that charter hopefuls can go authorizer shopping, and Pennsylvania, where elected school boards authorize. 

Charters should get long term charters, and not be subject to closure for things like test scores or what Heritage calls "the preferences of regulators," as if authorizers are out there shutting down charters on a personal whim rather than a failure to perform. How far we have come from the days when charter fans declared that charters were about trading autonomy for accountability. "Set the terms out in the charter, and if they fail to meet them, shut them down," was the old refrain of charter supporters. But then, as this report suggests, Heritage isn't really a charter supporter.

Last recommendation? More vouchers. 

So what have we got here?

It has been over two years since Jay Greene argued that the "school choice" movement should ditch all attempts to appeal to lefty things like equity and social justice and go all in with the culture panic crowd, and he has certainly done that. But that alliance comes with certain challenges, the biggest being that the culture panic crowd has zero interest in actual school choice.

So choicers can try to use this new frame of "school choice should be about having a school available that reflects the families values," but that's not what culture panickers want. They want a system that reflects their values and their values alone. The real consistent market-based, education freedom, school choice stance would be, "Look, choice is providing schools for lefties and conservatives and LGBTQ kids. Isn't that great."

Instead we get rhetoric about "rooting out DEI" and the evils of tax dollars going to LGBTQ charter schools. Culture panickers want one choice--their choice.

This suits privatizers insofar as it undercuts support for public education and makes that easier to dismantle. For that same reason, it suits them to attack charter schools for being too much like public schools. The foot that once propped the door open is now in the way, and just beyond the door is the land of All Voucher Education, with no oversight, no regulation, no accountability to anything except the market (in which they only believe in some of the time). Maybe if they feed the panic over "woke" (which means nothing in particular and everything about a pluralistic society) will help get enough people to rush the door and push us through it. 

There's a whole other missing piece for this research. DEI, SEL , restorative justice, and the other various woken buzzwords they're searching out are so very often signals for which there's no corresponding action. Is a school "woke" if it puts a bunch of wokified language in the brochure, but barely goes through the motions of implementing actual functional programs?

The whole report is a curious exercise in trying to feed that panic by invoking woke and using it to fill the empty parts of the argument. "We should have more vouchers and less public education!" Well, why exactly? "Look! The woke zombies are coming to get your kids! Run away!" But that gets us to a familiar place. In their conclusion, the authors write

School choice should empower parents to obtain an education for their own children that is consistent with their values.

We've done that. It's exactly how we got segregation academies in the post-Brown world.  

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

OK: Walters Taking High Court Decision As Well As Could Be Expected

Oklahoma's christianist education dudebro-in-chief Ryan Walter is not happy with the Oklahoma State Supreme Court ruling that the proposed Catholic charter school--well, here's a key part of the decision"

The State’s establishment of a religious charter school violates Oklahoma statutes Oklahoma Constitution, and the Establishment Clause. St. Isidore cannot justify existence by invoking Free Exercise rights as religious entity. St. Isidore came into existence through its charter with the State and will function as a component of the state’s public school system. The case turns on the State’s contracted-for religious teachings and activities through a new public charter school, not the State’s exclusion of a religious entity.

Walters took to twitter his feelings about the decision yesterday:

It’s my firm belief that once again, the Oklahoma Supreme Court got it wrong. The words ‘separation of church and state’ do not appear in our Constitution, and it is outrageous that the Oklahoma Supreme Court misunderstood key cases involving the First Amendment and sanctioned discrimination against Christians based solely on their faith. Oklahomans have demanded school choice not religious targeting. 

I agree with the dissent because nothing about the State of Oklahoma contracting for educational services for students in the form of a charter school violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and the enrollment demand at St. Isidore proves that Oklahoma parents want more choices for their kids’ educations – not fewer. 

This ruling cannot and must not stand. There will be additional legal action in support of those parents and the millions of Oklahomans who believe deeply in religious liberty, and I will never stop fighting for Oklahomans’ constitutional, God-given right to express their religious belief.

The best grown up response to Walters came from Quinn Yeargain, a state constitutional law scholar at Widener University. He replied:


The sassiest trolling response came, as one might expect, from The Satanic Temple

"Cold day in Hell," Walters tweeted back.

This just happens over and over and over again, and is no more surprising than the Hindu leader who wants the Bhagavad Gita posted in Louisiana classrooms right up there with the Ten Commandments. I'll keep saying it:

Attempts to inject Christianity into the public school classroom can only end one of three ways--

1) All religions must be allowed to get their pitch into public school classrooms

2) The state will start requiring religions to receive official government recognition in order to be considered legitimate

3) The courts will rightly decide that no religions belong in public school classrooms

1 and 2 almost certainly go together. The correct choice is 3, a religion-neutral public school system that keeps religions from messing with schools and government from regulating religion. That is, in fact, the very best way to protect "Oklahomans’ constitutional, God-given right to express their religious belief."

Monday, June 24, 2024

Elizabeth Binmore and the Canadian Teaching Profession

The woman in the photo is my grandfather's aunt (my great-grandaunt). She also turns out to be a bit of a Canadian education pioneer.

Elizabeth's father Thomas Binmore (my great-great grandfather) was born in London in 1837. He came to Montreal when he was 14. He married his wife in Lockport, NY in 1857, and Elizabeth (first of four children) was born in 1860. Tom did some traveling about (including a stint as a newspaperman in Pithole, an oil boomtown just a few miles away from where I'm sitting, because crazy coincidence). He eventually settled back in Montreal, working as a financial manager for James Leggat and worked for years at the United Shoe Machinery Company of Canada in Montreal.

Lizzie went off to McGill Normal School, Quebec's first school for teachers (and the only one for English-speaking women in Montreal), in 1875 (the school has been founded in 1857). In 50 years, McGill trained 2,989 teachers. Lizzie acquired three teaching diplomas there (elementary-1876, model-1877, and academy-1878). It appears her sister Laura also attended McGill, as well as a Louisa Binmore (Not sure how she's related, but Binmores were and are pretty rare). She began her teaching career at age 18. 

Lizzie returned to McGill later when they began offering a degree program and in 1890 became part of the first cohort to graduate with a BA from McGill. The class had 13 members, five of them women, including Maude Abbott and Carrie Matilda Derick, who went on to be very successful in their own fields. In 1894 she became one of the first two women to earn a Masters degree (McGill again).

According to her entry in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Lizzie spent some summers at Harvard University, taking courses in botany in 1893 and chemistry in 1906 and 1907. She did not earn any diplomas for this work, but they weren't recognizing female students at that time, so no degree. The dictionary adds:
With her unusual education and her extraordinary energy, Binmore brought fresh vitality to teaching. She worked in a number of ways to reduce reliance on rote learning and rules. She thought music should be joyful and French “natural.”

Lizzie promoted Sloyd, an educational idea that came out of Finland in1865 that focused on handicrafting. It emphasizes crafts, handicraft and handiwork, as in woodwork, paper-folding, sewing, and needlecraft.

In the course of her career, Lizzie taught in Bradford, Pa, and in the Protestant schools of Clarenceville, Longueuil, and Montreal, Quebec, especially the Montreal Senior School where she mostly taught math.

She was also something of an activist for education and women.

Elia Alexandra Paradissis, in her 1982 McGill masters thesis, wrote about the Canadian educational  atmosphere in the 19th century:

In 1857, at the time of the inauguration of the McGill Normal School, the most fundamental deterrent to the start of the school was perhaps the social one which concerned the importance given to education by the society in which the \ school was founded. The issue of whether education was to be substantially supported by society is not one which the school faced consciously but one that surrounded its whole being, permeated its entire atrnosphere, and remained unresolved. Education in Canada did not enjoy a high priority in the scale of social values and it was in a rather harsh and hostile atmosphere that the Normal School began. The University which controlled it and which gave it its name was itself still struggling for survival, and the commercial society in which both the University and its affiliated Normal School found themselves, was very undecided as to their value or role. As events turned out both the University and the Normal School did in fact enjoy steady improvement bath in status and in prosperity, but this has probably been due to many factors besides local foresight and good will.

In her paper, Paradissis also notes that besides the low priority put on education in general, the church also resisted education, "with importance attached to guarding the population against any criticism of established Church values." Glad that's not a problem any more. Paradissis's paper, clocking in at just under 200 pages, is a fascinating look at McGill's first fifty years, but I'm going to avoid that rabbit hole today. 

Lizzie was active in many professional groups; She was elected the first woman president of the Teachers’ Association of Montreal in 1896 and was on the executive of the Provincial Association of Protestant Teachers in 1916.

We have a copy of a paper she presented in 1893 to the Teachers' Association in Montreal (it's in The Educational Record of the Province of Quebec, Vol. 13, 1893). The paper's entitled "Financial Outlook of the Women Teachers of Montreal" by "Miss E.A. Binmore, B.A."

Lizzie leads off with a footnote indicating that she is purposefully using "woman" instead of "lady" because A) "lady" has been used for too many words like Land-lady and wash-lady and B) it implies a leisure class.

She opens the paper by noting that they left the last meeting of the association "quite convinced that no duty was more incumbent upon us than that of making good patriots and citizens of our pupils." And in 1893 she declared a principle recognizable to modern audiences:

Now, advance in standing of any community is in direct ratio to the education of that community. An ignorant community cannot form a good government, nor can an intelligent community fail to be prosperous.

She continues, observing that the age finds "repulsive" when women "claim their rights too independently." We can blame this on those women who want the best of everything to the exclusion of men. But, Lizzie says, though the newspapers lead her to believe that such women exist, she has never met one. They are less common among women "than the followers of Malthus among the men."  Nevertheless...

This is essentially a century of change. Women are gradually declaring and proving their ability and willingness to bear the burden of their own support. It is no longer absolutely necessary that every woman in the family should be dependent upon the men — to be reduced to unknown straits and intolerable suffering on the Almost every day sees some new employment thrown open to women, though there are still many employments they can not enter. This causes an undue development of those accessible and calls into requisition the law of demand and supply.

Lizzie points out that at first, women are hired because they can be paid less than men. But eventually the women's pay needs to catch up. And this, she points out, is equally true in the teaching profession.

For instance, the Superintendent of Schools in Pittsburg wrote me, '' We have thirty-seven principals, twelve of whom are ladies. Of these, two ladies and one gentleman receive $2,000 and seven gentlemen and six ladies $1,800. We make no difference in salary, between those doing the same work, for sex.” San Francisco, Boston and several other cities take a like view of the matter.

Montreal, however, was still behind the curve.

In Montreal the distinction is retained ; but let us not, therefore, feel discouraged. It can be only a question of time, when the difference shall be removed. All we can do to hasten it is to give to our teaching that energy and purpose, and devote to self-advance that time which shall enable us to win only by superiority. It would be false modesty or hypocrisy to pretend we do not do our best now. But let us bear in mind that with every advance in our position there will be a corresponding advance in general education. There is always room at the top of the ladder and we cannot strive too earnestly to advance our capabilities. Time will do the rest for us. Borne was not built in a day.

Lizzie again references the idea that schools and teachers are under-supported, even compared to art galleries, because education for all is not highly valued.

She works through the numbers to show that the typical starting salary ($250) is insufficient to live on. She also points out that Montreal is losing teachers to neighboring cities that pay more. There's also a chart showing salaries paid by major U.S. cities to teachers, plus room and board costs for those cities. Chicago and Pittsburg [sic] led the pack, with a maximum salary of a hefty $2,500. She talks about those who fail to raise enough school tax to pay teachers better.

Do they wish their children educated at the expense of private individuals ? If not, let them so raise their school tax as to pay their teachers a fair and just remuneration for labor conscientiously and successfully performed — so well done that our sons and daughters have almost universal success in competing with our neighbors across the line on their own ground.

Lizzie continued to teach and work on the support of education and the profession. She was active in the community and helped sponsor speakers and push for things like the Fresh Air Fund

In 1907, the Hochelaga School caught on fire. The fire started in the basement of the two-story, four classroom building. The principal was Sarah Maxwell (a McGill grad) who ran through the building, directing evacuation efforts. There were no fire escapes. Maxwell was last seen at a second floor window, passing children out to the firemen. 16 of the roughly 150 children in the school died. Maxwell was the only adult who didn't make it out alive; she was 31. Lizzie led a city-wide drive to create a memorial to Maxwell.

Elizabeth Binmore traveled a great deal; she never married. She passed away at her mother's home (311 Elm Avenue, Westmount) of heart dropsy. She was only 57. 

H/T to my sister, who kicked off this trip down a family rabbit hole.

Sunday, June 23, 2024

ICYMI: Not A Dry Heat Edition (6/23)

At this point I think I'm more tired of being sticky than of being hot. At least we can sit still while we read.

Howard County students were quiet about Moms for Liberty book bans efforts — until now

The Baltimore Banner with the story more student backlash against reading restrictions.

Public libraries resist calls for book removals

WCVB reports on library pushback against censorship in Massachusetts.

The Texas Observer does some great education coverage, and this piece by Lise Olsen is no exception. A great interview with a librarian who took a stand and paid a price.

Teachers at this tech-forward school banned cell phones. They say they’re ‘never going back.’

Philadelphia Inquirer's Kristen Graham covers yet another school out in front of the current trend in smartphone backlash.

Christian Nationalists Are Opening Private Schools. Taxpayers Are Funding Them.

Kiera Butler reports for Mother Jones, as more and more mainstream media catches on to what's going on with the voucher movement.

Arizona is sending taxpayer money to religious schools — and billionaires see it as a model for the US

Speaking of the mainstream media catching on, here's that piece that CNN ran this week. You've probably seen it already, but ICYMI...

School voucher use has exploded. Some Ohio families can't take part

Zack Carreon explains how "school choice" is not for all students after all.

Dayton Daily News with yet another data point showing the whole "vouchers will rescue poor kids from failing schools" narrative is deep-fried baloney.

Nikesha Elise Williams offers a fiery op-ed for Jacksonville Today on how Florida's vouchers really affect parents of color and the public schools that serve them.

Jeff Bryant continues to be a major reporter of the community school movement. Here we see how Chicago is seeing success with community schools.

How the Right Exploits ‘Moms’ to Privatize Education

Maurice Cunningham takes a look at the newest momwashing group, the Moms On A Mission. It's a Betsy DeVos outfit, so you know it's really legit.

Ignoring the Real World in the Classroom

Nancy Flanagan reads Jess Piper (as should you) and considers that problem of district administrations that want to forbid any discussion of actual events in the actual world.

House bill would let a politically connected charter school open without state review

One more example of how charter operators find ways to circumvent the system. This one's from North Carolina.

La. Classrooms Must Post Ten Commandments. Not Kidding.

You've heard about the Louisiana 10 commandments law by now, but the indispensable Mercedes Schneider has the full scoop, complete with some of the better complaints from the interwebs.

Ohio GOP politicians refuse to accept accountability for voucher boondoggle, extremist agenda

Writing for Ohio Capital Journal, Marilou Johanek calls out the billion dollar boondoggle that is Ohio's voucher program. No minced words here.

I’ve been a teacher for 30 years. Michele Morrow would ruin NC public schools.

North Carolina's GOP is running a spectacularly unqualified candidate for state Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Justin Parmenter has been pointing out her failings repeatedly. Here he is doing it again for Cardinal and Pine.

Paul Thomas has 40 years of teaching under his belt, and here he reflects on the problem of finding "what works."

Neoliberal Reform Still Infects Education Policy: Good Reporting Helps Advocates Pay Attention

Jan Resseger reminds us of the other group afflicting education policy.

“If We Lose Them, They Won’t Come Back”

Sue Kingery Woltanski has finished her copy of The Education Wars, the new book from Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider. It's available soon--here's a good look at why you want a copy.

One state radically boosted new teacher pay — and upset a lot of teachers

Would you be interested in a higher starting salary if it meant you might never get a raise again? Arkansas is testing out the idea.

AI is exhausting the power grid. Tech firms are seeking a miracle solution.

At the Washington Post, a consideration of one of the big problems with AI-- power.

I put up three (count 'em, three) pieces at this week"

* Some examples of how bad the discrimination is in voucher world

* My take on the other problem with Louisiana's 10 Commandments law

* The big dark pile of money being spent in Colorado on a state board seat

Join me on substack. It's free and reliable!

Friday, June 21, 2024

ID: Fake Superintendent Durst Sues School District

Good Lord in Heaven but this man just won't give up. Branden Durst, the least qualified superintendent ever, has followed through with his threat to sue the district that made the mistake of hiring him and then fired him. I'm going to re-present the whole saga here from a previous post and add the new chapter at the end, so if you remember Durst, you can skip down the screen. If you don't know about Durst, well, you're in for a treat.

Our Story So Far

Last summer, the West Bonner School District decided to go out on a limb and hire Branden Durst as superintendent, despite his complete lack of qualifications. That employment did not last long, but the tale is not over, because Durst has decided to sue some folks over it. I covered the story as it unfolded (here, here, here and here), but I'll go ahead and recap here, because this is an awesome tale of giant brass cajones and the belief that qualifications for education leadership include ideological purity rather than actual knowledge of the work.

Who is this guy?

The broad outlines of his career are pretty simple. Born in Boise. Attended Pacific Lutheran University (BA in poli sci with communication minor), grad school at Kent State and Claremont Graduate University (public policy, international political economy), then Boise State University (Master of Public Administration). In 2022, he went back to BSU for a degree in Executive Educational Leadership.

His LinkedIn account lists 20 "experience" items since 2000, and Durst seems to have bounced quickly from job to job until 2006, when he was elected as an Idaho State Representative for four years. Then in 2012 he was elected to the state senate, a job that he held for one year. He did all that as Democrat; in 2016, he switched his party to the GOP.

Then independent consultant, a mediator for a "child custody and Christian mediation" outfit. Then an Idaho Family Policy Center senior policy fellow. IFPC advocates for the usual religious right causes, but they have a broader focus as well: "To advance the cultural commission." They see the Great Commission in a dominionist light-- the church is to teach "nations to obey everything Jesus has commanded." And they suggest you get your kid out of public school.

Durst's most recent gig was with the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a right tilted thinky tank that wants to "make Idaho into a Laboratory of Liberty by exposing, defeating, and replacing the state's socialist public policies." They run a Center for American Education which, among other things, maintains a map so you can see where schools are "indoctrinating students with leftist nonsense." They also recommend you get your child out of public school.

Durst came with some baggage. That one year tenure in the Senate? Durst resigned because the press got ahold of the fact that he was actually living in Idaho only part time; his wife was working as a teacher near Seattle and he was living there at least part of the time with his family. KTVB, the station that followed the story, "observed his home looked empty of furniture when stopping by to knock on the door last week." Durst insisted that his bed and clothes were there. And he blamed the split living arrangement on Idaho schools:

There's a big difference between living out of your district for an entire year, and having a family member who is a teacher that doesn't get treated well because they live in Idaho and have to find employment someplace else. I think there's a big difference, Durst said.

For a while, it looked like he would fight the charge. But in the end he resigned his seat.

2022 was not a great year for Durst. After the Idaho Senate failed to advance the parental rights bill that he was promoting, Durst confronted Senator Jim Woodward with enough aggressiveness that Woodward called the cops on him. After blowing off a meeting with GOP leadership, Durst blasted senators on social media. The Senate GOP majority wrote a letter condemning Durst for "spurious attacks against members of the Senate, meant to coerce votes and influence elections." In a press release, GOP leaders condemned Durst and said his actions "demonstrate egregious conduct unbecoming of anyone, especially a former legislator and current statewide political candidate."

The "candidate" part refers to Durst's run for the office of state superintendent. He told East Idaho News, “Parents are tired. They don’t feel respected or trusted and they want some real change in their school superintendent. They’re all talking about the same things. They want to stop the indoctrination that’s happening in their schools, they want to (be able) to make decisions for their kids." He ran on three priorities-- end common core, stop critical race theory, and school choice ("fund students, not systems"). He came in second in the GOP primary, losing to Debbie Critchfield by about 25,000 votes. Remember that name.

Durst had remarried in 2016 (in Washington state), and in 2022, his wife and ex-wife got into a scuffle that almost blew up into abuse allegations against Durst and his wife over a whack with a wooden spoon on a 14-year-old child. He explained later, “The child wasn’t being respectful, wasn’t obeying … It wasn’t even very hard, but things can happen in the political world where things get taken out of proportion, and that’s what happened here." Certainly his candidacy made the story bigger than it might otherwise have been.

But West Bonner was pretty desperate. They had been through three superintendents in one year, and the voters had sleepwalked their way into a far right majority. Durst's unsuccessful campaign had pulled 60% of the vote in Bonner County. Hence this justification for his hiring from trustee Keith Rutledge:
“He has a vastly superior understanding of the legal, financial, administrative, and educational philosophy aspects of the job,” Rutledge wrote, adding that Durst is popular among Bonner County voters and “has the broad support of the nearly 13,000 residents of our district.”
Hailey Scott-Yount, a parent in the district, had a different take.
“Why on earth would you hire a mechanic to bake your wedding cake?” Scott-Yount said. “It’s terrifying.”
There was just one problem. Okay, one other problem.

The proposed contract was bonkers. It made him hard to fire-- the trustees would need a super-majority to vote him out. The draft contract also required the district to provide his legal counsel, requiring the district to protect Durst and his wife from “any and all demands, claims, suits, actions, and legal proceedings brought against the Superintendent for all non-criminal incidents arising while the Superintendent is acting within the scope of his employment.” The proposed contract also included a vehicle, a housing allowance, and district-provided meal services. Plus an ability to work remotely (like, say, from Seattle).

However, this was all contingent on Durst getting the state to grant him provisional superintendent certification. That's usually given to someone with relevant experience in education, but Durst said he'd like to see the process opened up so that districts can have "the flexibility they need to make the right hiring decision for them." One has to wonder what sort of district feels that the best fit for them is someone with no actual qualifications.

That was in June. The reaction was immediate, with the public showing up at the next meeting to say "What the actual hell?" He asked Boise State to recommend him for the emergency certification, and the head of the college of education sent a letter saying, "Um, no."

By August, Durst still hadn't actually applied for the emergency cert, but he was making dark noises, promising that the whole business had much larger implications, something something Constitutional Crisis! In the Bonner County Daily Bee:
“That’s really what this is about. The constitutional crisis is now an unelected board — it was appointed by the governor in the executive branch — can tell any (school) board in the state of Idaho whether or not they’ve done something, even if they haven’t done it,” Durst said.
Then the Idaho State Board of Education said no.

In fact, they found two ways to say no. First, they pointed out that there are five requirements to serve as a superintendent, and Durst didn't meet any one of them. Not the "four years of full-time experience working with students while under contract to an accredited school" one or the two years of teacher training one.

Furthermore, they said, having looked more closely at the law, they concluded that they couldn't actually issue emergency superintendent certificates anyway.

Durst took all of this with the quiet grace and dignity for which he is known. On his blue-checked Twitter account, he complained that something smells. "...this was a discriminatory act by a board run by those with a political axe to grind. They will be held accountable for their discriminatory actions." Remember, this is Idaho, not exactly known as a hotbed of powerful lefties.

Bryan Clark at The Idaho Statesman wrote the political obit on Durst, who they called a "serial political entrepreneur" in June when he was trying to establish his "own little kingdom."
The unifying thread is overwhelming personal ambition. The causes change, but what’s been constant is Durst’s belief that he should be given the power to implement his ideas, whatever they are that week.

There has been a second constant as well: failure
But he wasn't done yet

Even as the voters were goggling at Durst's hiring, they were also trying to recall the wingnuttiest of the board members. Despite any number of nasty tricks, the recall succeeded at the beginning of September. But those seats wouldn't be filled until November, and in the meantime, Durst and the board tried some last minute antics, like moving to dissolve the school board at a board meeting scheduled at the last minute for a Friday evening of a three day weekend. It took a court ordered injunction to stop that nonsense.

The recall created another problem. With only 3/5 of the board left, any one member could grind things to a halt by simply not showing, and for the first meeting after the state shot down Durst's aspirations, the remaining conservative member did just that. No meeting held, no action taken, and Durst meekly slinking away--ha! No, just kidding.
But, Durst told KREM 2 he still is the superintendent.

"They don’t make the law," Durst said. "They aren’t the law. How many people could say that? That they don’t have to follow the laws of Idaho.”

Finally, late in September, Durst threw in the towel. Well, not "in" exactly, More like pitched it angrily at his detractors. Declaring he wanted an "amicable and fair" parting, Durst claimed in his Twitter-posted what-sure-looked-like-a -retirement letter, dated September 25, 2023:
Today, I am announcing my decision to seek an amicable and fair exit from my role as Superintendent of the West Bonner County School District. TGhis decision has not been made lightly, and I am fully aware of the challenges and sentiments that have surrounded my brief tenure.
There's another reference to his "short tenure," and a tenure can only be declared short if it's over, right? He also notes that "to promote healing and unity within the community," it is necessary for him to "step aside."
When my last day as Superintendent will be up to the board, until then, I will continue to work to uphold the district's mission and support student success.
Throughout my short tenure, I remained cognizant of the fact that not everyone in the community welcomed my hiring, and there were those who hoped to see me fail and did everything in their power to try to make that so, even if meant hurting very students they claimed to support. I was undeterred by the naysayers and their negativity only strengthened my resolve to do what needed to be done to put this district on a path toward success.

That brings us up to last spring

After leaving the district, Durst ran for County Commissioner in Ada County, but got walloped in the primary. And he was still apparently nursing grudges.

In March, he filed a tort claim (kind of a save the date for an impending lawsuit) claiming $1.25 million in damages. As unearthed and reported by Idaho Education News, Durst is claiming that the Idaho Board of Education's refusal to grant him an emergency certification "resulted in his loss of employment."

He is after compensatory damages on top of “punitive damages due to professional, emotional and reputational harm,” which is a hell of a ballsy move. "Hey, your refusal to grant me professional certification for a profession for which I am in no way qualified has damaged my reputation as a member of that profession." I wonder if I can sue someone for hurting my professional reputation as a brain surgeon because they point out that I am in no way qualified to be a brain surgeon.

Important feature of this story--one of the people he'll be suing is state superintendent Debbie Critchfield, the person who beat his butt back when he ran for that office.

So now, the newest chapter

This week, Ryan Suppe reported for Idaho Ed News that Durst has sued the West Bonner District for breach of contract. Yes, really. He's asking for $100K in damages plus attorney fees, claiming the district violated "an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

Scroll back up and look at those bits from his exit letter. Does that sound like a letter of resignation to you? Well, that just shows how silly you are, because Durst's contention is that it was no such thing. Writes Suppe:
But the letter wasn’t a resignation, and the district breached his contract by terminating it, according to Durst’s complaint. He also accused “certain members” of the school board of publicly making “false claims about Durst being untruthful” and creating a “hostile work environment.”

“In order to address some of these issues, Durst wrote a letter to the board,” the complaint says. “The board intentionally misrepresented the nature and purpose of such a written correspondence and purported to treat the written correspondence as a letter of resignation from Durst.”

 Intentionally misrepresented? Every news outlet that reported on that letter called it a letter of resignation, probably because it sounds just like a letter of resignation.

Durst has hired the Shep Law Group, an Idaho firm specializing in personal injury cases (their actual url is 

Meanwhile, Durst doesn't appear to have filed the threatened lawsuit against the state. But who knows what Durst will try next. Is Durst going to break his long string of failures with this lawsuit? I'm betting it's not likely. Is that going to lead to him quietly sitting down and finding something more useful to do? I am betting that is also not likely.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

CO: Charter Backers Trying To Buy A State Board Seat

A mountain of dark money has been unleashed by charter supporters to win a critical seat on the state Board of Education in an election less than a week away.

Who's running?

Kathy Gebhardt has years of experience as a school board member, including serving on the state and national school board associations. She's an education attorney who has done some important work like serving as lead attorney on Colorado's school finance litigation. She has the endorsement of the teachers union, both state and various locals, and a hefty number of elected officials.

Marisol Rodriguez entered the race at the last minute; she lists her relevant experience as mom of two current students and education consultant.

It's the consulting work that provides a clue. Rodriguez’s consulting firm is Insignia Partners. She has previously worked for the Walton Family Foundation, a major booster of charter schools. Her clients include Chiefs for Change, a group created by former Presidential aspirant Jeb Bush to help promote his school choice policies; the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, an advocacy group for charter schools and charter school policy; and the Public Innovators in Education (PIE) Network, a national network of education reform organizations.

Most importantly, some of that consulting work appears to have been with the Colorado League of Charter Schools. A February meeting of that board shows her discussing some aspects of CLCS strategic planning.

Gebhardt has never taken a strong stance on charters, but as a school board membe4r she drew a hard line against a proposed classical charter, linked to Hillsdale College’s charter program, that refused to  include non-discrimination protections for gender identity and expression. My Colorado friends tell me that that was the point at which she became persona non grata for Colorado's charter industry. 
She told me “charters don’t play well with others.”

What are the stakes?

This is a Democratic primary. What's the big deal?

First, the GOP candidate is not running (accounts vary on why, exactly, she has disappeared from the race). That means the winner of the primary will take the seat on the state board.

That matters because Colorado gives local boards the power to say yay or nay to proposed charters, but if the charters don't like the nay, they can kick it up to the state school board, which can then overrule the local board's nay. 

The board has had a 5-4 majority favoring the charter industry, but one of the pro-charter crowd has been term-limited out. Gebhardt and Rodriguez are competing for that seat. This election could flip the board majority, making life more difficulty for folks peddling charter schools.

How hard is the charter industry fighting in this election?

On May 21, a group called Progressives Supporting Teachers and Parents filed with the state as a non-profit. On May 23, the Colorado League of Charter Schools gave PSTS $125,000. (Much of this info comes from Tracer, Colorado's campaign finance tracking site).

The registered and filing agents of PSTS are Kyle DeBeer and Noah Stout. DeBeer is VP of Civic Affairs for CLCS and head of CLCS Action, the CLCS partner 501(c)(4). Noah Stout is a member of the Montbello Organizing Committee, a group that receives money through various foundations that support charter schools, including the Gates Foundation and RootEd, and previously served as attorney for the DSST charter school network in Denver.

To date, PSTS has spent money on only one thing-- the election of Marisol Rodriguez.

And boy have they spent!

When I first wrote about this last week, PSTS had spent almost $600K to back Rodriguez. But as of this week, that figure is at $1.2 million. That's $1,270,205.97, to be precise.[Update: I've learned that a glitch in Tracer counted some money twice. The actual amount is $819,000-- so a little under a million instead of a little over a million.] That's a lot of money. 

The money has gone to two firms-- The Tyson Organization (strategic voter contact solutions) and 40 North Advocacy (advocating for and implementing policy change). The latter specializes in digital and print marketing, and the former handles phone calling. CLCS has used both before, but this time they are making some serious money. 

Colorado voters are being hammered with slick mailers and repeated robocalls. And in the last week, the tone has shifted. Where earlier expenditures were for pro-Rodriguez marketing, the last week has seen more "Vote no on Gebhardt." 

And these marketing materials are the campaign. Rodriguez herself has made few appearances, done virtually no press, and is not visible on the campaign trail, so the trail is mostly just paved with glossy mailers and expensive marketing. I couldn't find much in the way of expense costs for previous board campaigns, but in 2022, Chalkbeat reported that almost $5 million had been spent on a total of 213 school board campaigns in Colorado.

So what do we have, Colorado?

It sure looks like the charter industry recruited a paper candidate and then created a funding and marketing campaign to try to push her on the public. And as yet there's no word on where exactly that dark mountain of money came from, but it's a sure bet that it's not from the plain old grass roots voters in Colorado.

The primary is on June 25 (though mail-in voting has been going on for a while), so we'll see whether the charter industry has been able to use a mountain of dark money to install a friend on the state board. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Stop Calling It School Choice

When framing a debate, it helps to pick just the right names. Just ask the folks who decided to call their respective sides "pro-life" and "pro-choice." 

One of earliest victories for education privatizers was to coin the name "school choice." I don't know if somebody cleverly designed and tested it, or they just sort of stumbled over it, but it's a handy piece of coinage.

The Google Ngram for American English shows barely in use up through the mid-1980s, when it suddenly rocketed up the charts (aka immediately after the release of A Nation at Risk, A Nation at Risk, the Reagan era hit job on public education). That peak comes at 2001, then a steady drop since that year. 

I'm willing to bet that the vast majority of those instances are actually a misuse of the term. Because the privatization and reformster movements have got us using "school choice" to mean what it does not mean.

After all, we already have school choice, and always have. We have a requirement in most states that each child must get some sort of education, but how the child gets that education is a parent choice. Public, private, parochial, religious, home-- you can choose the school you want. But that's not what modern choicers mean by school choice.

Instead, they use the term "school choice" as a blanket term to cover a whole bunch of ideas that are not actually school choice.

Instead, "school choice" refers to a constellation of policies aimed at directing taxpayer dollars into the pockets of private operators. 

Charter schools do so by creating privately owned and operated schools that are nominally part of the system. They offer an alternative to some students, based not on what the students want but on what the school is willing to accept and able to provide.

But nothing looks less like school choice than vouchers. Vouchers--no matter what form they take--allow unregulated, non-transparent, oversight-free private schools to hoover up public tax dollars while discriminating and/or providing education of questionable value for society as a whole. The voucherized system envisioned by Milton Friedman and modern christianist nationalists is a system in which taxpayers subsidize religious schools and the government schools are cut to a bare minimum. 

Voucher schools retain the right to pick and choose their students, to reject or expel students for a variety of reasons or no reason at all. 

"But the public system we have provides good schools for rich kids and less great schools for the non-wealthy," argue voucher fans. But a voucher system would make that problem worse, not better. With universal vouchers, the wealthy would get a rebate to help pay for the schools they already send their kids to, and for poor kids, the high cost schools will stay out of reach (especially as they raise tuition). The biggest difference would be that in a voucher system, the public schools serving non-wealthy students would have even less funding. 

None of this is school choice. And it slips into the discourse. In an otherwise excellent Washington Post article that talks about "school vouchers," Laura Meckler and Michelle Boorstein write:
The growth follows a string of recent victories in the Supreme Court and state legislatures by religious conservatives who have campaigned to tear down what once were constitutional prohibitions against spending tax money directly on religious education. It also marks a win for the school choice movement, which has spent decades campaigning to let parents use tax money for any school they see fit.

Well, no. That wasn't a win for the school choice movement. It was a win for the Tear Down The Wall Between Church State and Force Taxpayers To Fund Christian Schools movement, which doesn't really have anything to do with school choice at all. 

The AP style book defines "school choice" as a sort of blanket term for a whole world of policies aimed at dismantling or privatizing public education. At least they suggest that writers "avoid using the general term when possible."

Fans of voucherizing public ed like "school choice" because it tests well. Ask people if they favor parents having the chance to send their children to the school of their choice, and they absolutely do. Ask them if they would like their tax dollars to go to help someone pay tuition at a private school instead of going to fund public schools, and they turn a big thumbs down. 

We already have school choice. What some folks are looking for is school choice that someone else pays for. And while it's a legitimate complaint that the choice we have is more accessible to the wealthy than the not-wealthy, there isn't a thing in the world of charters and vouchers that changes that a bit, and quite a bit that makes it worse. 

Both the public school system and the charter/voucher system are tied to the free market system--the public system through real estate and the charter/voucher directly--and all the problems that come with it (predatory marketing, picking winners and losers among customers, providing the bare minimum, discrimination, etc etc etc see also: a few thousand posts on this website). But the public system comes with an assortment of safeguards and guardrails that protect (sometimes very imperfectly) the rights of students, families, and taxpayers. The charter/voucher system, in most cases, has no such protections. 

Calling it all "choice" or "freedom" is a canny choice, just like calling a voucher a "scholarship" or a "savings account."  It's good marketing, but like good marketing it only sort of reflects the reality of the situation. Would more choices be better? Sure. I've even laid out how to do it, within certain boundaries (no public dollars for private schools that want to play by their own discriminatory rules). 

My frustration with various forms of education reform, from standardization through universal vouchers, is that I largely agree with the stated goals, but don't believe for a second that any of the favored policies will actually achieve any of those goals. I roughly divide the reformster crowd into people who really believe that their favored policies will work and those that know they won't (or don't care one way or another) because they have their eyes on other goals. 

So let's call it what it is. Privatizing school. Creating a market-based system. School vouchers.It's easier to have useful conversations about things like fundamental changes in the very nature of the country's education system if we call things by their name.

 *But only in America-- the British English Ngram British English Ngram shows a 2002 peak, a 2012 dip, and an all time high in 2019. But I'm not going down that rabbit hole right now.