Joe Biden’s Plan for Education: Democrats Must Do Better

What  a disappointment Joe Biden’s education plan is.

Democrats must do better.

” Joe’s Plan for Educators, Students, and our Future” does not mention at all the important issues before us in American education. No mention of the funding of privately managed, taxpayer funded, and publicly unaccountable charter schools. No mention of the NAACP call for a moratorium on adding new charter schools because of their racial inequities and their lack of accountability. No mention of standardized testing and the damage that testing does to student learning and the inaccuracy of standardized testing as the dominant way to assess student achievement and potential. No mention of the Common Core and how those standards have done nothing to improve student achievement and how they have removed meaningful and necessary learning from the curriculum of the nation’s schools. Unfortunately, Joe Biden’s plan is poorly written, full of platitudes, and lacks substance.

Democrats must do better.

Joe Biden’s plan calls for actions that would be incredibly damaging to children in K-12 schools in this country.

Joe Biden’s Call to Action #1:

Joe Biden’s plan called for: “more innovative approaches to recruiting teachers of color, including supporting high school students in accessing dual enrollment classes that give them an edge in teacher preparation programs and helping paraprofessionals work toward their teaching certificate”. Of course, we must work to increase the numbers of teachers of color in our schools, but we must do it in ways that honor their intelligence and capabilities and produce excellent teachers. Biden’s proposal neither honors the intelligence and capabilities of people of color nor will produce excellent teachers.

It’s silly to suggest that high school students be taking courses to give them “an edge in teacher preparation programs”.  High school students will best develop their minds and become knowledgeable teachers in the future by engaging in a rigorous high school curriculum not by participating in teacher preparation courses at ages 14-18.

Also, prospective teachers of color deserve the same quality of teacher preparation as other prospective teachers. The “innovative approach to recruiting teachers” mentioned in the plan refers to the bankrupt approach of the Relay Graduate School of Education, which is not a school and does not provide a graduate education. It is a mill to quickly produce “teachers” for the charter school industry. It has been dubbed “the McDonald’s approach” because the program, like the food, is fast and of poor quality. Daniel Katz, Director of Secondary Education and Secondary Special Education Teacher Preparation at Seton Hall University, sums it up like this:

It is a “Graduate School of Education” that has not a single professor or doctoral level instructor or researcher affiliated with it. In essence, it is a partnership of charter school chains Uncommon Schools, KIPP, and Achievement First… Relay’s “curriculum” mostly consists of taking the non-certified faculty of the charter schools, giving them computer-delivered modules on classroom management (and distributing copies of Teach Like a Champion), and placing them under the auspices of the “no excuses” brand of charter school operation and teachers who already have experience with it.

What Joe Biden is suggesting is an approach to teacher education that produces inadequate teachers to be the faculty for our neediest students. That approach does not in any way fulfill the standards put in place for programs that prepare future teachers in  accredited colleges and universities. Activating Joe Biden’s proposal would produce a markedly inferior teaching force. In fact, in Connecticut, only 38% of the first cohort of The Relay Graduate School of Education even passed the necessary licensure tests.

Call to Action #2:

Joe Biden calls for a high school education that provides a vocational curriculum which “will allow students to earn an industry credential upon high school graduation”. One can only imagine what courses that teach students how to write effectively, how to read thoughtfully, how to do math proficiently, how to think scientifically, how to express themselves artistically, or how to understand history expansively students would have to skip in order to graduate from high school as a credentialed electrician.

Biden says in his plan that he “will provide every middle and high school student a path towards a successful career”. Middle school and high school are much more than paths to careers. They are the prime means for adolescents to develop as increasingly independent learners as well as critical and creative thinkers. We must not deny adolescents that development so necessary for them as individuals and so necessary for the nation as a whole.

Democrats must do better.

Democrats must not simply unseat Betsy DeVos. Democrats must not simply return to the discredited agendas of the past: charter schools, standardized testing, and the Common Core. Democrats must provide vision. Democrats must understand what it is to learn and what it is to teach. Democrats must lead us forward as a nation through equity and excellence in K-12 public education.

Please, Joe, revise your plan and write it better. Please, other Democratic candidates, get it right.

 

Charter Schools: A Promise Gone Bad

Bernie Sanders called for oversight and accountability for existing charter schools and a moratorium on opening any new charters until regulations are in place when he announced his plan last Saturday for K-12 education. The NAACP had already called for oversight and accountability for existing charter schools and a moratorium on opening any new charter schools. Now members of Congress, including Jahana Hayes from Connecticut, wrote to the Secretary of Education, pointing out the misuse of federal funds by the charter school industry and demanding accountability and regulation of charter schools.

Charter schools are a promise gone bad. The country is catching up to that fact. Members of Congress want to end the waste of money and the resulting damage to children, both those who are in charter schools and those who are in public schools that are minus teachers and resources because of the funds siphoned off and given to                   unaccountable and unreliable charter schools.

Please let the Members of Congress who are working to bring quality education to all children by supporting public schools and opposing the unregulated and unaccountable  charter school industry know of your appreciation by calling or writing to them.

Read about those Members of Congress below and read their letter by clicking the link at the end of the brief article.

 

Congressional Leaders Take DeVos to Task and Demand Answers

by dianeravitch

A group of leaders in Congress wrote to Betsy DeVos to complain about her Department’s failure to demand accountability from the Charter Schools that win federal funding. She has $440 million to hand out to charters, and she has chosen to shower millions on corporate charter chains like IDEA, KIPP, and Success Academy. All of these chains are super rich. They don’t need federal aid.

The charter industry is angry because the House Appropriations Committee cut Betsy DeVos’s request from $500 million to $400 million. Tough. She uses the Charter School Program as her personal slush fund.

The fact is that the charter industry wants to play a game of pretending to be progressive while sleeping with Trump and DeVos. Sorry, that doesn’t make sense. You can’t be funded by rightwing ideologues and still be “liberal.” You can’t take Walton money and pretend to be progressive. You can’t be anti-union, pro-segregation and claim to be progressive. Nope.

As the charter industry grows more defensive, watch them cry  “racism.” Please note that many of the signatories of this letter are Black and Hispanic. Note that one of them is Jahana Hayes, the Connecticut Teacher of the Year who was elected in 2018.

The letter can be found here.

K-12 Public Education: Front and Center in the 2020 Election

At last!  At last!  At last!  A candidate for President of the United States has recognized that the bedrock institution of our democracy is in peril, and the same forces of greed and racism that are working to destroy other elements of our society also threaten the very foundation of our society: K-12 public education.

That presidential candidate is Bernie Sanders.

Honoring the 65th anniversary of Brown vs. The Board of Education, the Supreme Court case which outlawed segregation in public schools, Senator Bernie Sanders unveiled his education plan, a comprehensive 10-point agenda, called The Thurgood Marshall Plan for A Quality Education for All.

The bold assertion that Senator Sanders’ plan makes is that every child has the right to a quality education.

In his plan, Senator Sanders endorses the NAACP’s call for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools.  The NAACP calls for that moratorium because it has determined that:

  1. Charter schools have failed in fulfilling their original purpose to innovate and infuse new ideas into traditional public schools. There has been no carryover from charter schools to traditional public schools. Charter schools have not, in any way, been learning labs which try out new ideas that benefit the larger population of students in public schools.
  2. The education that charter schools provide is questionable. The large scale study of student data from the Center for Research Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University’s Hoover Institute found that 17% of charter schools produced academic gains better than traditional public schools, 37% of charter schools performed worse than their traditional public schools counterparts serving similar students, 46% of the schools showed no difference.  Reducing class size, not charter schools, the NAACP states, is how to improve student achievement.
  3. Charter schools take public tax money but are privately managed and do not tell the public how they spend the public’s money.
  4. Charter schools do not accept their share of children with learning issues or who do not speak English as their first language.
  5.  Charter schools “counsel out” students who will not be successful on measures such as standardized tests or graduation rates.
  6. Charter schools have mostly inexperienced, short-term, uncertified teachers.
  7. Charter schools suspend and expel students for behavioral issues at a much higher rate than traditional public schools.

The NAACP opposes charter schools because it insists that children of color have the same rights as white suburban children to a quality education. Similarly, Bernie Sanders’ plan for K-12 education insists on the same fundamental right to a quality education for all children. Sanders’ plan points out that the proliferation of charter schools has disproportionately affected communities of color and increased school segregation– 17 percent of charter schools are 99 percent minority, compared to 4 percent of traditional public schools.  Charter schools stand in opposition to the chief tenet of Brown vs.The Board of Education: A separate education is NOT an equal education.

In addition to issues of racial equity, Senator Sanders’ plan addresses the funding of charter schools.

First of all, billionaires like DeVos and the Waltons (Walmart) together with private equity and hedge fund executives, have bankrolled charter schools and poured tens of millionst into school board and other local elections in order to privatize public schools, and, therefore, control how children are educated and make profits for themselves, such as by buying buildings and then renting out those buildings to charter schools.

Secondly, the Sanders plan points out that charter schools are led by private entities that take substantial tax money but owe no accountability as to how that money is spent. One example of unregulated and unaccountable funding in Connecticut is that heads of charter schools gave themselves salaries in excess of superintendents’ salaries in much larger public school districts and districts in wealthy communities. Tax filings for 2014 show that the two chief executive officers of Achievement First Public Charter Schools each made just over $260,000 and the executive director of Domus, which oversees two charter schools in Stamford, was paid $325,000 while tax filings from 2013 show that the school district superintendent in wealthy Greenwich was paid  $235,00, and the superintendent in Hartford, a school district with 20,000 students, five times the enrollment of the Achievement First schools in Connecticut, was paid $194,000. With no oversight or accountability to taxpayers, charter school administrators are free to determine what to pay themselves.

Thirdly, the Sanders plan highlights how charter schools drain funds from public schools. Charter schools are given the per pupil funds that would have been allotted to the public schools and keep that funding even if students leave or are dismissed from the charter schools and return to traditional public schools.  The public schools, of course, are minus the per pupil funding that accompanied the children who enrolled in charter schools.

Charter schools have been able to function in impoverished communities in ways that more affluent and politically savvy communities would not tolerate. Who in more affluent communities would allow their children to go to schools in which there is no accountability for how the taxpayer money is spent, inexperienced teachers who turn over every two years, racial segregation, disregard of the needs of special education learners, and students being dismissed from school or held back a grade in order to boost the school’s test scores or graduation rates?  The answer is no one.

So how will Bernie Sanders stop the damage to communities caused by unregulated charter school growth? His plan states that, as President, Bernie Sanders will fight to:

  • Ban for-profit charter schools and support the NAACP’s moratorium on public funds for charter school expansion until a national audit has been completed to determine the impact of charter growth in each state. That means halting the use of public funds to underwrite new charter schools.
  • Invest in our public schools system. We do not need two schools systems. That said, existing charter schools must be made accountable by:

– Mandating that charter schools comply with the same oversight requirements as public schools.

– Mandating that at least half of all charter school boards are teachers and parents.

– Disclosing student attrition rates, non-public funding sources, and financial interests.

– Matching employment practices at charters with neighboring district schools, including standards set by collective bargaining agreements and restrictions on exorbitant CEO pay.

–   Supporting the efforts of charter school teachers to unionize and negotiate contracts.

Bernie Sanders has done his homework. He gets it. He knows how to move education in this country forward by enforcing the perspective of those who founded our democracy. He understands what John Adams wrote:

“The Whole People must take upon themselves the Education of the Whole People and must be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one Mile Square without a school in it, not founded by a Charitable individual but maintained at the expense of the People themselves.”

Like John Adams, Bernie Sanders advocates a strong public school system as the foundation of our democracy. The charter school industry has taken us off course; we must invest in our public schools so that our democracy thrives.

And Bernie Sanders is showing us the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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