It’s Time To Talk To Your Superdelegates

If you are concerned about education in this country, the fate of the nation, or the survival of the planet, here is a sample letter that you may use to send to your superdelegates. The list of 2016 Democratic superdelegates is included.  Please use this sample letter or write your own letter or call your superdelegates. It’s all we can do now.

It just might be up to us. 

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Dear Superdelegate:

We cannot have Donald Trump as our President. You are one of the only people in the country who can keep that from happening. Please change your vote to the Democrat who can win.

I know that a year ago you decided to cast your vote for Hillary Clinton at the Convention, but so much has happened in that year. You could not have foreseen then where we, as a country, would be now. No one could have.

Hillary looked then like the only game in town. She didn’t appear to have a substantial Democratic opponent, and Donald Trump wasn’t being taken seriously as a possible Republican nominee. All that has changed. Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee, and Hillary Clinton has become unelectable.

Hillary is unelectable because she is associated deeply with all that most voters find distasteful in a presidential candidate: courting big money donors, a sense of entitlement within the privileged establishment, and an inability to inspire and call us to greatness. The more the electorate has come to know Hillary in the past year, the less they like her. Hillary had approval ratings of 64% as Secretary of State, and earlier this month had approval ratings of just 34%. And that was before the Inspector General’s report.

The report of the Inspector General of the U.S. State Department charged Hillary with breaking the rules of the U.S. State Department in how she used emails as Secretary of State. She did not ask permission to use a private server in her home for government business, and if she had, it would have been denied. She did not preserve and turn over her emails when she left office as required by the Federal Records Act. All prior secretaries of state, as well as John Kerry, were interviewed by the Inspector General for the State Department investigation, but Hillary Clinton refused to be interviewed and would not permit her staff to be interviewed either. She put herself above the law in so many ways. As TV political commentator Chuck Todd said, Hillary could not now be confirmed for a cabinet position with those actions as part of her history. All the more, she cannot be President.

Worse yet for her, she lied about her actions after the State Department report was made public. If she had told the truth at that time, perhaps her candidacy could have been saved. The public will not forgive her for looking straight at the camera and lying. It makes fools of anyone who tries to defend her. And no one wants to be thought of as a fool.

Even the Hillary-supporting MSNBC reporters were appalled at Hillary’s flagrant disregard of the rules of the State Department and her lies in covering it up. The Republicans and Donald Trump will be much more critical and more savage than the now skeptical MSNBC reporters.

For the sake of all that is good about us as a country and for the sake of the world that needs us to be our best selves as a nation, we cannot elect Donald Trump as President. Please prevent that disaster by casting your vote in Philadelphia for Bernie Sanders who will continue Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and work to make Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream come true. Because he has traditional Democratic values, Bernie Sanders inspires people. And Bernie Sanders can win in November.

Sincerely,

 

 

 

Added Proof: The Common Core Hurts Kids

The Common Core State Standards were marketed as serving to “close the achievement gap”. That did not happen.

The designers and promoters of the Common Core determined that standardized test scores would be the measure of achievement. By that limited measure of achievement, the achievement gap increased. As  Results Are in: Common Core Fails Tests and Kids shows, NAEP scores of students whose education was focused exclusively on the Common Core curriculum decreased while NAEP scores for students in affluent suburbs whose education is not limited to test prep for standardized tests increased.

Fairfield University Professor and Network for Public Education Board member Yohuru Williams argues these tests, which are manifestly unfair to the neediest children, feed into racial determinism in American society while closing doors of opportunity for Black and Latino children.

More important than standardized test scores, the quality of the education that students who are educated with a Common Core curriculum have is vastly inferior to the education  that other students in affluent suburbs and independent, private schools have.  The Common Core curriculum does harm to children in their early years in school because it limits their development as thinkers and learners. Similarly, The English Common Core inhibits thoughtful reading, effective writing, and critical thinking.

The true achievement gap of being productive, analytical, competent citizens and workers is increasing. That is the injustice. That is the real harm that the Common Core curriculum is doing to children of color and children of poverty. Shame on us.

 

Connecticut Will Not Vote For Hillary For President

Why?

We do not like being used, especially being used about a tragedy that broke our hearts: Sandy Hook.

Hillary Clinton recently said on MSNBC that it was “unimaginable” but true that Bernie Sanders was against the grieving Sandy Hook families. Hillary is also running ads featuring the daughter of the valiant principal who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School as she tried to protect the children in her school. The ad brings tears to our eyes as the daughter describes the devastating loss of her mother whom she describes as her “rock” and her “best friend”, right before she endorses Hillary as being just like her mother.

How are we being used by Hillary and her campaign?

  1. We are being told untruths. Hillary is making statements about her own positions and Bernie Sanders’ positions that are false.
  1. We are being given an emotional appeal about the one thing all residents in Connecticut agree: We mourn the loss of the little children and heroic educators of Sandy Hook.

Hillary knows the range of her own changing positions on gun control. In her 2008 bid for the Presidency, her opponent, Senator Obama, said that Hillary was such an advocate for the right of American citizens to own and use guns that she sounded like someone “packing a six shooter” and that she was portraying herself as Annie Oakley. At that time, Hillary criticized Barak Obama for being against gun owners and gun manufacturers. Now the political winds have changed, particularly in Connecticut, so Hillary is on the other side of the issue.

The ad says that Bernie is “in the pocket of the NRA”, but it is Hillary, not Bernie, who took money from NRA lobbyists who hosted a fundraiser for her during this 2016 campaign. Hillary knows very well that Bernie has a D- rating from the NRA and that he decries the gun violence at Sandy Hook and elsewhere. Hillary knows that Bernie voted for expanding federal background checks on gun purchases in order to prevent guns from being in the hands of criminals and the mentally unstable. Hillary also knows that Bernie voted for federal legislation banning assault weapons. Once, he even lost a Vermont election because of his staunch opposition to assault weapons like those that killed the children and educators at Sandy Hook.

Hillary has now changed her 2008 position on the side of gun manufacturers and, in this campaign, is saying that gun manufacturers should be held liable when someone does harm with the weapons they manufactured. Bernie maintains that the gun manufacturers do not bear the responsibility for that harm because the government says it is legal for the manufacturers to make the guns. The question is a complex legal one and will be settled in court in 2018.

Hillary’s untruths about the record of Bernie Sanders and the distortion of her own history are bad enough, but for Hillary to communicate that message by playing on the grief in this state about the deaths at Sandy Hook is heartless and self-serving.

Those in the media are now asking if Bernie will tone down his criticism of Hillary in order to unify the Democratic Party. Fostering unity, however, is the primary responsibility of the frontrunner, the person getting ready to head the party. Those in the media are asking the wrong question. They should be asking why Hillary, at this time in the campaign, is taking the low road by impugning the character of Bernie Sanders. It is the responsibility of a frontrunner to take charge, end the attacks on an opponent, and lead by taking the high road in the name of party unity.

Connecticut wants a President who has deep and consistent integrity. Connecticut wants a leader who will inspire us as a nation to be our best selves – honest, compassionate, and smart.

That person is Bernie Sanders.

img_1644

 

 

Senator Sanders speaking in Hartford on the day before the Connecticut primary: No attacks on the character of his opponent.  No distortions of the facts.  Clearly addressing the real issues: financial fraud on Wall Street, climate change, the minimum wage, immigration, education, and economic inequities .  A leader.

Accountability 101

 

The most primitive response for a social problem is to find a scapegoat. It accomplishes nothing. It is destructive.  But scapegoating relieves the society from having to deal with the complexity of a problem. Steven Singer describes how scapegoating teachers harms our students and does not address the complex and challenging problems in our society that are played out in our public schools.  Read here or read on https://gadflyonthewallblog.wordpress.com/2016/04/08/high-stakes-testing-holds-the-most-powerful-the-least-accountable/

High Stakes Testing Does Not Hold Schools Accountable. It Ensures That Those Most Responsible Escape Accountability

People should be accountable for their actions.

If you make a mess, you should have to clean it up. If you decide how things run, you should be responsible if it fails.

So why do we allow those most responsible for our public school system to escape from accountability? Why do we instead blame everything on teachers and students?

Public school policy at the federal, state and local level has been dominated by high stakes testing for the last 15 years. It has not improved educational outcomes for students. In fact, just the opposite. But we are doing NOTHING to change it.

It’s called test and punish. We give students standardized tests and if enough of them fail over time, we close their schools and/or fire their teachers. We force them to move to a new school or a charter school where they continue to struggle without a single additional resource to help them succeed.

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) installed most of these policies in 2001. This year we revised the federal law that governs K-12 schools into the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). It does little more than continue these same policies while rearranging the deck chairs on our sinking system.

Kids aren’t failing because they’re lazy or dumb. Their teachers aren’t shirking their duties. Instead we have a nationwide epidemic of child poverty. And the effects of that lifestyle make it extremely hard to achieve academically. Kids aren’t focused on book learning when they’re physically and emotionally exhausted, experiencing post-traumatic stress and undernourished.

Why has nothing been done to help them?

The answer is accountability.

Not real accountability. Not holding people accountable for things under their control. Not going up to the people and institutions that actually cause the errors and malfeasance. Instead we push all the blame onto teachers and students and call that “Accountability.”

Make no mistake. When politicians and policymakers talk about “accountability” this is what they mean – scapegoating educators and children for things well beyond their control.

An education system is made up of a complex interplay of several interconnected factors that include parents, the community, the economy, culture, media, and local, state and federal governments. Students and teachers are only two such factors.

High stakes testing ensures that ONLY teachers and students are held accountable. They are responsible for the entire education system but have control of very little of it.

For instance, do students and teachers decide how much funding their schools get? No.

Do students and teachers decide which education policies are enacted? No.

So why are they being held responsible for these things?

When schools without adequate funding can’t provide the necessary resources for students to succeed, we pretend like it’s the teachers and students fault. When academic policies handed down by non-educators fail to help kids learn, we pretend like it’s the students and teachers fault.

It’s not.

As New York University Education Professor Pedro Noguera said:

“We’ve designed an accountability system that holds those with the most power the least accountable. The governors are not accountable, the state legislature is not accountable… You can’t hold kids and teachers accountable and not hold the people in control in the first place.”

It’s not a difficult concept – we test the kids and punish the teachers if they fail. And since the focus is firmly on only those two factors, all others become invisible. No one’s holding lawmakers accountable for providing equitable funding. No one’s holding policymakers and think tanks accountable for forcing inadequate and untested Common Core academic standards down our throats. No one’s holding billionaire philanthropists accountable for using our schools as their private playgrounds for whatever social engineering scheme they thought up in the Jacuzzi. No one’s holding privately run charter schools accountable for – just about anything – instead of letting them operate behind a curtain of deniability and unending profit.

This would be impossible without standardized testing. It frames the question. It defines the debate. It assumes that only teachers and students are relevant. Therefore, it ensures that none of the obscured factors will have to do anything to help the system improve. And so it ensures that our education system will fail many of our students – especially those most in need.

This is the irony of modern education policy. The apparatus that allegedly ensures accountability makes that very thing impossible.

That’s how the system is designed. And policymakers are terrified you’ll notice. So they have developed a scapegoat for their own failures – the public school teacher.

Students may score badly – and they’ll have to pay for that when their school is closed or charterized as a result – but it is the teachers who are the true enemy. After all, if teachers did a better job, pundits claim, students wouldn’t fail.

The idea goes like this:

Children won’t learn unless we force teachers to educate them.

Teachers don’t get into that profession because they care about children. They just want an easy job with summers off where they don’t have much to do but collect huge salaries.

This is the great lie, the diversion, smoke and mirrors to get you to stop paying attention to lawmakers, policy wonks, environmental and other factors. Instead look only to those lazy/evil teachers and their satanic labor unions.

THAT’S why they say we need standardized testing!

If we remove the testing, they say, no one will be responsible for making sure kids learn. After all, why would teachers teach unless we threaten their jobs first?

As if teachers can heroically control all the factors involved in student learning. (Spoiler alert: they can’t.) As if teachers get into their profession because they don’t want to practice it. (Spoiler alert: teachers become teachers because they want to teach!) As if earning a middle class income for providing a valuable societal resource were unreasonable. (Spoiler alert: it isn’t.) As if due process meant you can’t be fired for cause. (Spoiler alert: unionized teachers are fired for cause every day.) As if teachers were paid for summers off. (Spoiler alert: they aren’t though some have their salaries earned during 9 months paid out over 12.)

If we really wanted to improve public education, we’d look at ALL the factors involved. We’d throw back the assumptions that have mired us in this quagmire.

And the first assumption that has to go is that standardized testing is a valuable assessment tool.

Standardized tests are terrible assessments. We’ve known that for almost a century. Invariably they narrow the curriculum. They suck up countless hours of class time that could be better spent. They measure more the circumstances kids live in than any academic ability. They’re culturally, racially and economically biased.

But we keep giving them with no end in sight – not because they make teachers do a better job, but because they give cover to those actually responsible for harming our children’s education.

There is such a thing as accountability without standardized tests. It is possible to examine all the factors involved and make changes accordingly.

We can, for instance, make sure all schools receive the same basic services. We can make sure all classrooms are equipped with up-to-date books, materials, desks, etc. We can make sure no schools go without heat, have crumbling infrastructure and/or suffer from infestation of vermin, mold and filth. We can make sure all children have access to healthy food. We can make sure no children are drinking water poisoned with lead.

We can look at parental involvement. An overwhelming amount of research shows this is vital to academic success, but in our poorest neighborhoods parents are often the least involved in their children’s schooling. Why is that? Many of them are working three or more minimum wage jobs just to feed and clothe their children. There’s little time to help with homework when you’re working the night shift. So countermeasures such as raising the minimum wage and increasing the frequency, access and training for well-paying jobs would actually improve education as well as the economy.

We can look at school climate. What are the rates of suspensions and expulsions? What are the root causes? How can we improve student discipline without being overly punitive? How can we increase student engagement? How do we improve student attendance and graduation rates?

We can update our broken system of student assessment. This may come as a surprise to our policymakers, but there are many ways to assess student learning that have nothing to do with standardized tests. For example, we can institute performance or portfolio-based assessments. Instead of evaluating students based on a snapshot of their performance on a given day or week, we can base it on a grading period or even an entire school year. Assessments can include projects, individual and group presentations, reports and papers and portfolios of work collected over time. You don’t have to be an education expert to realize these would be better measurements of academic achievement than multiple choice tests – BUT IT HELPS! And we can do this without resorting to stealth assessments like competency based education.

Does this mean that teachers should escape accountability? Absolutely not. But we can ensure they’re evaluated fairly. Don’t judge them based on factors beyond their control. Judge them based on what they actually do. As the old adage goes, you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. Evaluate teachers on whether they’ve brought their little ponies to water. Did they engage in best practices? Are they engaged in professional development? How do they treat their students? Are they grading fairly? In almost every profession, workers are evaluated based on observation from their superiors. Teaching should be no different.

It’s shocking that no one on the national stage is talking about this. Pundits and policymakers shake their heads at standardized test scores, they point their fingers and cry crocodile tears for the children. But hardly anyone is doing a thing to make positive change.

Our schools have been transformed into factories. We’ve let them become resegregated based on race and wealth. We’ve let the rich schools get Cadillac funding while the poor ones struggle to survive on the leftovers. We’ve let non-educators set the standards and curriculum. We’ve let the testing industry co-opt and bribe our lawmakers and social institutions. We’ve opened the door wide for privitizers to steal as much of the shrinking funding pie as possible and funnel it into their own bank accounts without producing any quality for the students they’re supposed to be serving.

In short, we’ve let those responsible for setting our public schools aflame get away scot-free!

They’re laughing all the way to the bank. And the tool that lets them get away with it is standardized testing.

Throw back the curtain and show them for what they truly are.

Fight back. Refuse the tests for your children. Join United Opt Out and the Network for Public Education. Write your legislators. Write to the newspapers. Take to the streets. Make some noise.

Hold them accountable.

Another Endorsement for Bernie Sanders

I recently posted my endorsement of Bernie Sanders  and then read Steven Singer’s explanation of why he too is voting for Bernie. He focuses brilliantly on the destruction that would be caused by the privatization of education if Bernie Sanders is not elected President. What the other candidates for President advocate for education is the same thing they advocate for our society at large:  Let those with money be in charge. Privatize. Do not rely on the will of the citizens.

In education, privatization has meant: Let those with money decide what is to be taught in our public schools by controlling the content of the national standards. Let those with money mandate how all children learn, except their own because they send their children to private schools which would never follow  the Common Core mandates.  Let those with money run public schools without taxpayer accountability. Let those with money control what the the media says about the worth of the standards and the schools. Let those with money decide who succeeds and fails in those schools. Let those  with money circumvent social progress, such as racial integration. Let those with money train teachers and school administrators. Let those with money financially support  educator publications and associations, including  the teachers’ unions.

Bernie Sanders is the only candidate to suggest another way for our government and our society to function. Only Bernie Sanders stands against the control of big money.

We are moving, as a country, either to affirming and updating FDR’s New Deal or to  having the institutions of our society, such as public education,  be based  on competition  and profit through privatization. Steven Singer beautifully states the case against privatization.

Here is Steven Singer’s article. Read on…………….

https://gadflyonthewallblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/22/the-one-reason-bernie-sanders-is-the-best-mainstream-candidate-for-parents-and-teachers/

 

 

 

 

 

In The Name Of The Kids: Endorsing Bernie Sanders

I believe that how we educate our children in this country will influence greatly the scope and breadth of each child’s life and also will determine our fate as a nation. But, on the campaign trail, the candidates for President have not said much at all about K-12 education. So I decided to investigate their positions on it.

After fact checking the Republican and Democratic candidates for President to find out what they have said and what they have not said about K-12 education, I have reached a conclusion: The only candidate who exhibits any understanding of K-12 education and offers any hope for K-12 education being a building block for the future of our nation is Bernie Sanders.  

Bernie Sanders is the only candidate, Democratic or Republican, who has commented at all about the complexity of educating the economically diverse population in our country. According to differing definitions of poverty, either 1 in 5 or 1 in 3 children in the United States live in poverty. Bernie Sanders recognized that the country has a large disparity between the haves and the have-nots when he voted against No Child Left Behind in 2001. He said he objected to No Child Left Behind because it relied on standardized tests as the way to increase student achievement and “ignored other factors, such as the impact of poverty, the access to adequate health care, mental health, nutrition, and a wide variety of supports that children in poverty should have access to”. As a senator, Hillary Clinton voted for No Child Left Behind and continues to list on her website and to comment publicly that voting for No Child Left Behind was a noteworthy accomplishment of hers.

We need a President who recognizes that no standards and no tests can raise achievement without the addressing of the physical, mental, and emotional effects of living in poverty.

Bernie Sanders also is the only candidate, Republican or Democratic, who has demonstrated an understanding of what real student achievement is. When No Child Left Behind came under review in 2015, he once again objected to standardized tests being the sole measure of achievement and authored a proposal to expand how achievement is measured. He recognized that “our 21st century economy requires skills that standardized tests cannot measure, such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and teamwork”.

To assess those skills that students require for their future, Senator Sanders suggested “evaluating students based on their understanding of the curriculum and their ability to use what they have learned creatively”. He proposed innovative assessments that do not rely on standardized tests, such as students presenting a portfolio of their work or students demonstrating their skills through projects that they present to panels of reviewers. His proposal was adopted as part of the new bill that replaced No Child Left Behind called the Every Student Succeeds Act. Seven states are piloting the kind of authentic assessments that Senator Sanders wrote into the bill.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has said that she thinks that standardized tests should continue as the way to assess students. She has said, “A testing system, based on a core curriculum, helps you to organize your whole education system.” She advocates, therefore, that standardized tests drive what is taught.  

We need a President who will look at how to engage students in meaningful learning and how to assess that meaningful learning instead of a President wedded to the unsuccessful test-and-punish regimen of NCLB. That person is Bernie Sanders.

Moving beyond the classroom and into issues of school structure, Bernie Sanders is the only candidate, Democratic or Republican, who supports publicly run and publicly accountable schools for all and is opposed to charter schools that call themselves “public” because they take taxpayer money but are privately managed.  At a CNN town hall meeting in Cleveland on March 13, 2016, he stated that he would not support public charter schools that are privately managed. All the other candidates support the privatization of education in which charter schools are run for the profit of private individuals or corporations. Under existing laws, these charter schools are funded with taxpayer dollars but have little or no transparency or accountability over the use of those taxpayer dollars. Those charter schools take money from the traditional public schools with funding appropriated though state budgets to start and expand them and through the per pupil allotments from traditional public schools, which go with students to the charter schools. Hillary Clinton has let her major contributors, who are also proponents of charter schools, know she would continue to support the charter school industry as President.  

The money that is being made by those investing in the charter school industry points to the larger issue of whether private enterprise and competition will be the foundation of education in the United States or whether public K-12 education be democratically run with oversight by local school boards and state agencies.  All of the Republican candidates advocate for private enterprise and competition. Hillary Clinton has deep ties to the billionaires who are currently usurping the functions of public education in this country. For example, Bill and Melinda Gates who are the sole funders of the writing, promoting, and implementing of the Common Core Standards, which were not written not by educators and written without a research base, are major contributors to the Clinton Foundation. Also, Eli Broad, a major funder of the charter school industry, is a big contributor to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. In addition, Hillary Clinton has been a highly paid speaker at events of those championing the privatization of education.

A particularly troubling aspect of charter schools is their racial segregation. According to the UCLA Civil Rights Project, black students in charter schools are “far more likely than their traditional public school counterparts to be educated in intensely segregated settings”, and “some charter schools enrolled populations where 99% of the students were from underrepresented minority backgrounds”. Sixty-two years after Brown vs. the Board of Education, we have racial segregation returning in an intentional way due to the charter school movement. Among the candidates for President, Republican and Democratic, only Bernie Sanders has said, in that same March 16, 2016 televised town hall meeting, that he will not support charter schools that lack diversity.

Only Bernie Sanders stands separate from the private individuals and corporations that work to impose their will, instead of the will of citizens, parents, and educators, on public education in this country. Only Bernie Sanders has demonstrated that he knows that what kids learn and how they will be assessed on that learning needs to be improved. Only Bernie Sanders says that how schools are structured in this democratic society should be not be decided by billionaires whose only credential is that they have the deepest pockets. Only Bernie Sanders, among Democratic and Republican candidates, has gotten anything done to improve K-12 education in this country.

Therefore, Bernie Sanders has my vote.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fact Checking Candidate Cruz, Candidate Kasich, and Candidate Trump about K-12 Education

There has been no substantive conversation about K-12 education in the Republican debates, town hall meetings, or candidate rallies. Attention has been on other issues, but education is crucial both for the individual future of each of our children and for the future of our nation. We voters deserve to know what the candidates will do as President about K-12 education. What follows are key topics about K-12 education and what the candidates have said about them so far.

NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND

No Child Left Behind was federal legislation that controlled K-12 education in the United States from 2001 to its replacement by the Every Child Succeeds Act in December 2015. With it, students’ scores on standardized tests were the only means of measuring student achievement and the worth of a school. It punished schools, based on test scores. All schools in the United States were required to reach 100% proficiency by 2014 or receive sanctions from the federal government, which meant the withholding of federal funds. Given the wide range of student abilities, including students with special education needs and students whose primary language is not English, 100% proficiency was out of range for almost all schools.

None of the Republican candidates were in Congress when the Congress passed NCLB in 2001. All three Republican candidates oppose federal government mandates about education and favor local control. They have reservations about the replacement for NCLB, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was signed into law in December 2015.

Ted Cruz voted against the initial draft of ESSA in July. He was not present for the final vote but opposed a cloture motion to advance the bill on the day before the vote. In a press conference, Ted Cruz commented, “The ESSA, unfortunately, continues to propagate the large and ever-growing role of the federal government in our education system.”  Ted Cruz also said, “If I’m elected president, I will direct the U.S. Department of Education — which should be abolished — I will direct the Department of Education that Common Core ends today. Instead, I will restore power back to the states and to the local governments and ultimately back to the parents — those closest to our kids who have direct responsibility for raising our children, each and every one of us moms and dads.”

Donald Trump has said, “I’m a tremendous believer in education, but education has to be at a local level. We cannot have the bureaucrats in Washington telling you how to manage your child’s education.” At another point, Donald Trump said, “I may cut the Department of Education.”

John Kasich is criticized by other Republicans because he does not reject the federally supported Common Core, which is integral to the federal program Race to the Top. He does not reject the role of the federal government in education as much as Mr. Trump and Senator Cruz do. As a member of Congress, he sponsored a bill to reinstate prayer in public schools and voted YES to giving federal aid only to schools which allowed voluntary prayer.

Questions to ask the candidates are:

  1. Do you think that states or local should create their own standards, as ESSA permits, rather than use the Common Core Standards which are recommended by the federal government?
  1. What are the immediate changes you will make to the U.S. Department of Education?

PUBLICLY FUNDED AND PRIVATELY MANAGED CHARTER SCHOOLS

Publicly funded and privately managed charter schools are funded with taxpayer money but are privately managed without transparency or accountability for how the tax dollars are spent and without the same oversight as traditional public schools. All three of the Republican candidates are avid advocates of publicly funded and privately managed charter schools.

Donald Trump claims that K-12 education would benefit from competition and enthusiastically embraces the competition with public schools that he thinks charter schools offer. Ted Cruz said at a CNN-hosted debate at the University of Miami, “The most important reform we can do in education, after getting the federal government out of it, is to expand school choice.” He called for the expansion of charter schools, and home schooling. He often says school choice is the “civil rights issue of the 21st century”.

John Kasich seems to have a mess on his hands with scandal- ridden charter schools in Ohio and is now trying to strengthen oversight of charter schools in the state. According to The Washington Post, Ohio state auditors discovered that, since 2001, $27.3 million has been improperly spent by charter schools. Also in February 2016, it was discovered that charter schools had falsified their records regarding student achievement. Ten times more Ohio charter schools are failing than had been previously reported. In addition to those scandals, John Kasich made budget cuts in traditional public schools while at the same time increasing taxpayer funding of charter schools and vouchers. Since John Kasich took office in 2011, traditional public schools, which educate 90% of Ohio’s kids, are receiving $515 million less in state funding while charter schools have an increase of 27% in taxpayer funding. Charters also receive more state money per pupil than traditional public schools.

Questions to ask the candidates:

  1. With shrinking state and local budgets, do you favor taking taxpayer money from the traditional public schools, which educate most of the students, in order to support charter schools, which educate a select population?
  2. What regulations would you put in place for charter schools in order to enforce transparency in terms of the use of taxpayer money and to insure the delivery of student services, such as special education?

COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS

The Common Core State Standards were written in secret by employees of testing companies, not by educators. They are not research-based, not internationally benchmarked, and not outcome-validated. States were coerced into adopting them in exchange for being released from sanctions imposed on them for not meeting the NCLB mandate of 100% proficiency. The National Governors Association approved the standards,  before they had even been written, in order to not lose federal money. Educators criticize the content and pedagogy. Five hundred prominent early childhood professionals, psychologists, and researchers issued a public statement that the Common Core Standards are harmful to young children, and the National Council of Teachers of English did not endorse them. The more teachers work with the Common Core Standards, the more they oppose them. 

John Kasich doesn’t seem to understand that the Common Core Standards claim to be a product of the states but really are not. On Fox News, he said, “The Common Core was written by state education superintendents and local principals.”  In reality, Bill Gates, a private citizen, funded the writing of the Common Core Standards and then the federal government appropriated them as part of the conditions given to the states to avoid reduction in state aid from the federal government. Bill Gates’s money allowed the federal government to skirt the law which prohibits the federal government from funding and establishing a national curriculum or national standards but, at the same time, use those standards to give or withhold federal money from the states.

Ted Cruz has said that on his first day in office, he will “repeal every single word of the Common Core in order to get the federal government out of the business of dictating educational standards”. At the Heritage Foundation Conservative Policy Summit in January 2015, he said that education is too important to be governed by unelected bureaucrats in Washington.

Donald Trump repeatedly calls The Common Core a “disaster” but has not explained specifically how the content and the accompanying pedagogy of the Common Core are a disaster. He also has said that education should be “local and locally managed”.

The Republican candidates have not addressed in any way why the standards that they oppose (Ted Cruz and Donald Trump) or support (John Kasich) are bad or good education. They have not discussed if the learning students receive with those standards is meritorious and developmentally appropriate or if it is not.

Some questions to ask the candidates are:

  1. Do you think it is developmentally appropriate for kindergarten to be “the new first grade” in order for children to meet Common Core Standards?
  1. Do you think it is good that we are the only nation that limits the amount of literature read and asks students to read excerpts of great literature instead of whole books?
  1. Do you think it is good for students to read without connecting the ideas they are reading to their own life experiences or to the historical and cultural background of the text?

 HIGH STAKES STANDARDIZED TESTS

Paul Thomas, a professor of education at Furman University recently wrote:  “In addressing education issues candidates are likely to remain trapped inside the failed accountability mindset for reforming schools — one that privileges ‘standards’ and ‘tests’ as the central means of closing the infamous achievement gap. But there are better ways to approach what plagues us. Instead of focusing merely on ‘accountability’, presidential candidates should be challenged first to confront and then address the tremendous social and educational inequities that plague our public schools.”

Ted Cruz voted in favor of a Senate bill (S.AMDT 2162), which addressed the right of parents to opt their children out of standardized tests. Although John Kasich has been a strong supporter of Common Core, he withdrew Ohio from PARCC, the Common Core-aligned testing consortium, due to pressure from teachers and administrators who complained that the tests took up to much class time and the online exams had too many computer glitches. The state, instead, awarded the contract to the American Institutes of Research, which currently administers Ohio’s social studies and science exams.

Neither Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, nor John Kasich addresses the question of whether standardized tests assess skills that students need for their future or whether the tests should be used to make judgments about students, teachers, and schools or whether standardized tests are helpful in closing the achievement gap.

Questions to ask the candidates:

  1. Scores on all standardized tests correlate with family income so how will standardized tests help students in impoverished areas?
  1. Do you feel that there are problems with teaching to the standardized test?
  1. How will standardized tests assess the skills needed in the 21st century, such as asking probing questions, collaboration, problem-solving, critical thinking, and effective written and oral communication?

RACIAL INEQUITIES

The Civil Rights Project reported in 2010: “While segregation for blacks among all public schools has been increasing for nearly two decades, black students in charter schools are far more likely than their traditional public school counterparts to be educated in intensely segregated settings. At the national level, seventy percent of black charter school students attend intensely segregated minority charter schools or twice as many as the share of intensely segregated back students in traditional public schools. Some charter schools enrolled populations where 99% of the students were from under-represented minority backgrounds.”

With the increase in charter schools since 2010, the percentage of students in segregated schools also increased.

There is a large body of relevant research showing that charter schools, on average, don’t have an academic advantage over traditional public schools, but they do have a significant risk of leading to increased segregation. Sixty-two years after Brown vs. the Board of Education, here we are in 2016 with segregated schools in our large cities.

The Republican candidates for President, all of whom are strong advocates for charter schools, have not publicly addressed the racial and economic segregation of charter schools.

Questions to ask the candidates:

  1. What steps would you take to increase diversity in public schools?
  1. How will you address the pervasive racial and economic segregation in charter schools?

PRIVATE MONEY IN PUBLIC EDUCATION

Private money is currently affecting public education in three ways. 1) Private citizens are funding policy and practice for all U.S. schools. Bill and Melinda Gates paid hundreds of millions of dollars for the Common Core Standards, including money to the media to promote the standards as “rigorous” and “cutting edge and money to professional organizations to implement the standards. 2) Rupert Murdoch has pointed out: “Public education is a $500 billion dollar sector” so there are countless efforts to privatize public education in order to make financial profit for venture capitalists and marketers. 3) Wealthy philanthropists, such as the Walton family (Walmart) and Eli Broad, are using their money to establish charter schools that drain money from traditional public schools.

Ted Cruz, John Kasich, and Donald Trump all favor the privatization of pubic education. They regard competition as healthy and public education as wasteful and inadequate.

In his book, The America We Deserve, Donald Trump advocated for school choice, charter schools, and vouchers. He argues that together they create a competitive system that improves education and offers an alternative to a public education model which “would set off every antitrust alarm bell at the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission if it were a traditional business”.

John Kasich has greatly expanded Ohio’s investment in privately run education, despite existing problems with it. On August 8, 2015, Innovation Ohio, an Ohio think tank, reported that “Ohio’s charter sector is a national joke, while spending on school vouchers has more than doubled. The ‘Youngstown Takeover’ is Kasich’s latest effort to “reform” an urban school district, which typically means more school privatization.”

The future of education as either a public institution established for the common good or a private enterprise established with competition and profit at its roots is the underlying question to all of the current educational issues.

Questions to ask the candidates:

  1. What steps will you take to further privatize public education?
  1. What steps will you take to strengthen traditional public schools?

K-12 education is too important for silence on the campaign trail. Candidates must address K-12 education in the public forum and answer pivotal questions. Voters are asking. And the children are waiting.