The second battle in the well-funded war against job protections for school teachers was won [this month] by teachers. The Washington Post’s Emma Brown explains that a California appeals court recently overturned the Vergara lawsuit and “upheld the state’s laws regarding teacher tenure, dismissal and layoffs, handing a major victory to teachers unions.”
After years of delay and the waste of millions of public tax dollars awarded to poorly operated charter schools, finally early last October, the Ohio legislature passed a bill to regulate charter schools. Here is how the Cleveland Plain Dealer‘s Patrick O’Donnell described the new law’s provisions that include, “changes designed to distance the often-cozy relationships between for-profit charter school operating companies and the school boards that govern the schools.” The big charter management companies that have had “sweeps” contracts that forward over 90 percent of the schools’ operating budgets to the management company without reporting about how the money is used will now be required “to provide more information to the public about how they spend tax dollars they are paid to run the schools.” And there is a new “White Hat” rule designed to correct the situation that arose last month when “an Ohio Supreme Court ruling… allowed prominent for-profit charter operator White Hat Management to keep desks and computers it bought for schools using tax dollars, even after the schools closed. The court let White Hat keep the property because its contract with the school allowed it. The new provision blocks any such agreement and requires that leftover assets from closed schools, after bills are paid, go to the Ohio Department of Education to distribute to school districts.”
Heights Community Congress has just released Educational Redlining: How Zillow and GreatSchools Profit from Suspect School Ratings and Harm Communities, a report on the practice by Zillow, the real estate website, and GreatSchools to guide home buyers to choose communities according to color-coded school ratings posted online. Heights Community Congress (HCC), founded in 1972, is Greater Cleveland, Ohio’s oldest fair housing enforcement organization. For over four decades HCC has been conducting audits of the real estate industry to expose and discourage racial steering and disparate treatment of African American and white home seekers. This blog covered HCC’s preliminary work on educational redlining here.
It looks as though, before the end of 2015, Congress will try to vote on a reauthorization of the federal education law we now call No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Alyson Klein, reports for Education Week, “It’s official: Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Reps. John Kline, R-Minn., and Bobby Scott, D-VA., on Friday announced that they have a framework for moving forward on a long-stalled rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The next step: a conference committee which could kick off in coming days. The goal is to pass a bill to revise the ESEA—the current verson of which is the No Child Left Behind Act—for the first time in 15 years, by the end of 2015.”
It is amazing to watch Eva Moskowitz, New York City’s charter school diva, take on her arch political rival, Mayor Bill de Blasio in a charter school war she wages through histrionics and melodrama. The two were rivals in New York’s city council, and only recently did Moskowitz decide not to challenge de Blasio for mayor in the next election. She has amassed a powerful backing—from billionaire hedge fund managers to New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo, who has proven himself responsive to the money Moskowitz’s supporters have donated to underwrite his own political campaigns.
Public schools are among the primary institutions that serve the families in the 99 Percent. As primarily middle class institutions, they are coming under attack from the One Percent, the plutocrats—both Republican and Democrats—who control the levers of power.
Last Friday, after U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced his resignation as of the end of 2015, I heard President Barack Obama's assessment of him: “Arne’s done more to bring our educational system, sometimes kicking and screaming, into the 21st century than anybody else.” It is worth considering carefully what the president’s words mean in the context of the priorities, programs and operation of Duncan’s Department of Education.
After more than a decade of federal test-and-punish education policy, true believers in the schemes spun by corporate education reformers are reevaluating how it has all worked out since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act. One at a time they are changing their minds. Most notable for recanting her original support is the education historian Diane Ravitch, who has written two books and conducts a daily blog to demonstrate all the ways she was mistaken.
The takeover of the public schools in New Orleans followed a natural catastrophe, the destruction of the city by Hurricane Katrina and the failure of the levies. The mass charterization of the city’s schools is said by its proponents to have improved education for the children who have returned, but the takeover remains controversial. What is less controversial is the impact of the imposition of the Recovery School District on democratic ownership and governance. I will always remember the words of a New Orleans mother who cried out at a national meeting, “They stole our public schools and they stole our democracy all while we were out of town.”
Nevada is one of our nation’s 24 one-party, all Republican states. Writing for the Washington Post, Lyndsey Layton and Emma Brown note that, “In January, Republicans took control of the Nevada legislature and the governor’s mansion for the first time since 1929, generating the political momentum to enact the country’s most expansive voucher plan. ...Starting next school year, any parent in Nevada can pull a child from the state’s public schools and take tax dollars with them, giving families the option to use public money to pay for private or parochial school or even for home schooling… Nevada’s law is singular because all of the state’s 450,000 K-12 public school children—regardless of income—are eligible to take the money to whatever school they choose.” A child must be enrolled in a public school for at least 100 days in order to qualify.