"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and 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 public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, July 30, 2020

2020 Medley #16

Union presidents reject Medicare for All,
Getting back to school,
Charter schools are businesses,
We didn’t ask for vouchers. 


Teacher Union Presidents Weingarten and Eskelsen-Garcia Vote No to Medicare for all in Dem Platform

Randi and Lily are just being selfish. Yes, we had good health insurance when I was teaching. We had good prescription insurance. It cost a lot, but we were a large insured group so we got so-called "Cadillac" plans for less than it would have cost us individually. It included vision and dental, something that isn't included in Medicare and my Medicare supplement.

But, employer-based health care leaves people behind. It's unfair. It leaves some people without any coverage at all. And we're the only advanced nation on the planet that still allows a large chunk of our population to be unprotected in the event of an expensive (and they're all expensive) medical emergency.

Around a half-million Americans declare bankruptcy because of medical bills each year. Some of them might even have insurance, but it's not always enough. Often a serious illness means loss of work...and loss of work means loss of health insurance. Now, with the coronavirus pandemic upon us, more than 30 million American workers are unemployed and without employer-based health insurance. No other country would let this happen to its citizens. It's cruel. It's selfish. And it's unnecessary.

To protect those "Cadillac" plans, the presidents of the nation's two largest teachers unions have doubled down on American selfishness and rejected a single-payer plan as a plank in the Democratic Party platform. It's a "We've got ours. Tough sh!t for you" plan worthy of the Republican Party.
Weingarten has been an outspoken opponent of national health care for a while. Like other national union leaders she says she wants to protect the health care her AFT and other union locals have bargained.

Now that 30 million newly unemployed workers are without employer provided health insurance, this defense rings hollow...

Abdul El-Sayed, an epidemiologist and former health commissioner for the city of Detroit, argued that the coronavirus outbreak demonstrates why the country needs a single-payer system like Medicare for All rather than just an expansion of the Affordable Care Act.

“We have an opportunity to go bigger because this moment demands it,” El-Sayed said, arguing for an amendment that was eventually defeated.
What a time to vote against national healthcare.

So out of touch.


Trump’s Plan to Reopen Schools Puts Black Students at Risk

Guess which students are most susceptible to COVID-19.

Then guess which students have the fewest resources in their schools.

Now guess who will suffer most from an early, poorly designed return to in-person schooling this fall.
It is not shocking that Black parents, and many other parents of color, are choosing the lives of their children over going to school. Children in the United States are more likely than kids in other countries to have underlying health conditions, such as asthma, that place them at an increased risk of becoming severely sick with COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black children suffer from asthma at more than double the rate of white children.

It again comes back to racism. Black people are more likely to live in the areas hit hardest by the epidemic, as a result of the segregation and pollution that worsened it.

How To Stop Magical Thinking In School Reopening Plans

Here's a good idea. Let's use science and facts to plan how we will go back to in-person education this year. It's important for kids to have live interaction with a teacher. Young children may not be as susceptible to the dangerous aspects of COVID-19. But older children and adults in school buildings are susceptible to the illness. What's more, they are more likely than young kids to spread the disease. Some children and adults have preexisting conditions that make exposure to the coronavirus a life-threatening experience. Some children and adults have parents and grandparents living in their homes who would be threatened by the virus.

There's no reason to scold teachers for their very real fear about going back to school. There's every reason to believe that teachers, staff members, and administrators know more about how to teach -- even how to teach during a pandemic -- than politicians.
I can only speak for myself: I am not yet ready to abandon the idea that we can go back to school safely this year. I think it's going to take a lot of work and more resources than we're currently talking about at the national level. I also think we are going to be very hard pressed to make this work by Labor Day. But if we can get the virus under control outside of school, get together the necessary resources, and make an honest assessment of the risks and rewards... OK.

But we're not going to get that honest assessment unless and until we stop thinking that magical plans will allow us to reopen schools in a few weeks. I know this will come as a shock to many pundits, but people who actually work in schools have almost certainly already thought of your "creative" solution to the problem. The likely reason they aren't implementing it is because they don't have the luxury of not questioning the very real issues you didn't address in your op-ed.

If that sounds harsh, I'm sorry -- but lives are literally at stake. 

Open schools are the exception, not the rule, around the world

The President and his billionaire Secretary of Education are either too stupid to see the difference between the way the US and successful countries have handled the pandemic, or they don’t care. Personally, I think it’s at least a little of both.

The few countries that have successfully reopened their schools have lowered the incidence of COVID-19 in their countries so that their children and school workers will be safe. We haven’t.

The few countries that have successfully reopened their schools have universal health care so that citizens who need health care don’t have to worry about losing their health care if they lose their job. We don’t.

The few countries that have successfully reopened their schools have included teachers and other school workers in the planning so that reopening is done by people who know what goes on in a school. We haven’t.

Opening schools when we're still seeing a thousand deaths a day is just stupid.
Each of these European countries provide universal health care and have a nationwide pandemic plan. To the extent that decisions are delegated to local levels, as they are in Germany, there is national coordination.
Teacher unions have typically been involved in planning school reopenings in Europe, which is critical, since teachers are the most viable enforcers of new safety rules. “There's a great deal of trust in authorities because we know that we can always sit down and talk about things,” Dorte Lange of the Danish Union of Teachers said.

Educators Prepare for Reopening with Living Wills and Life Insurance

The public school infrastructure in the US is so inadequate in some places that a safe return to school during the pandemic is impossible. Teachers want to teach their students, but they don’t want to risk their lives to do it.
To safely return, educators want personal protective equipment (PPE) for every staff member and student. They want hand-washing supplies. They want safely ventilated classrooms, fully staffed custodial and deep-cleaning crews, and school transportation plans that don’t include crowded buses. “One thing that could help is if we had a plan to resume safely,” said Miami high school teacher Nyree Washington. “We do not have this plan.”

Educators like Washington’s Rieker know what it’s like to be in a classroom with 27 or 28 fourth graders. “A kid needs to blow their nose, sharpen their pencil. How do you do these things and stay socially distanced?” she asks. “I have individual desks in my classroom, but some of my coworkers have tables. We don’t even have desks for everyone.”


NPE Publishes Comprehensive, State-by-State Listing of PPP Money to Charter Schools

There’s no doubt about it. Charter schools are not “public schools.”

Public schools have been prohibited from getting small business loans from PPP funding. Charter schools have not. Public schools are forced to use the money received from the cash-strapped state for their operation. Charter schools are raking in money meant for small businesses as well as using money from the state.

Here is a link to a list of charter schools that received Small Business Administration PPP funding.

National List of Charter Schools/CMOs/EMOs That Received Small Business Administration PPP Funding
On July 24, 2020, I posted about ProPublica’s PPP loan search engine, which allows the public to easily investigate PPP loans disbursed to any small business or nonprofit, including scores of charter schools, private schools, and other education-related businesses and nonprofits.


The Proof Is In The Ballot Box: Voters Don’t Like Private School Vouchers

Hey, Indiana...do you remember when we, as voters, chose to divert millions of education dollars from our public schools to school vouchers for mostly religious schools?

Neither do I...because we didn’t. The legislature, under the direction of Governor Mitch Daniels, decided to move public money from the schools that 90% of our students attend to religious institutions.

We didn’t vote for it. We didn’t approve it. We didn’t choose it.
Although Trump, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Republican officials believe that vouchers are an issue worth pursuing to gain support, the voting record on this matter shows otherwise: Vouchers are not popular with voters. AU has compiled a list of ballot initiatives from states all over the country dating back to the 1960s that planned to use public taxpayer funding to support private schools. In all of these instances, voters rejected voucher schemes, proving that policies like school vouchers actually have very little support among the American electorate. (In Arizona, voters went to the polls in 2018 and rolled back an expansion to that state’s voucher plan that had been approved by the legislature – 65 percent to 35 percent.)

The National Coalition for Public Education, an umbrella organization of defenders of public education that AU co-chairs, points out that there are several reasons why people do not support school vouchers and why vouchers are actually largely ineffective at helping to improve the education system. For instance, school vouchers take needed assistance away from public school systems to fund the private education of a much smaller population of students.

Private school vouchers also do not save taxpayers dollars in the long run. The number of students using private school vouchers to leave public schools is so minimal that it does not affect the operating costs of public schools. Therefore, public schools are only losing out on necessary funding at the hands of the voucher system. In addition, many pro-voucher supporters have argued that they help give education options and opportunities to low-income students. However, as NCPE notes, studies have found that “private school vouchers do not adequately serve low-income students.” This is because the price of private school tuition and fees often exceed the amount of the voucher itself.


Monday, July 27, 2020

What could possibly go wrong?

School is ready to start and the education world is focused on what classes will look like.

The decision to open schools is difficult for several reasons.
  • Kids need to be in school. Online classes don't reach all students. Some haven't got the hardware. Some haven't got sufficient internet access. Some can't focus on a screen. Some have needs that can't be met without in-person classrooms. Some are too young to stay home alone and have parents who need to go to work.
  • But in-person education can be dangerous right now. Some students are at-risk for the virus because of immune system issues or other pre-existing conditions. Some have elderly parents and grandparents in their homes; If they bring home COVID-19 it could be fatal to family members. Schools don't exist in a vacuum. Teachers and other staff members might be susceptible to COVID-19.
  • In-person education will be more expensive and states have less money to work with. Who will pay for extra cleaning supplies? Who will pay for personal protective equipment for teachers, staff, and students? Will schools need additional buses to transport students while keeping them distant from each other? Where will substitutes come from if and when teachers need time off?
Schools will need to balance the relative safety of students staying home with the disadvantages of learning online. They'll have to balance the benefits of in-person attendance with the danger to the students and the adults in their lives. Most schools in my part of Indiana are combining at-home learning with in-person instruction. That means that kids will be home, disrupting work schedules, and also at school, requiring safety while in class.
  • Politicians say schools must open. Kids are less susceptible to the virus so it's safe to open schools. Most importantly, kids need to be in school so parents can go back to work.
  • Pediatricians say that kids need to be at school, when it's safe, for social and developmental health.
  • Teachers say schools should open only when it's safe for the children and adults who work there.
No matter what happens someone will be unhappy. It is a no-win situation.

Schools are making plans based on all these confusing issues and with little or contradictory advice from the federal, state, and local governments.

Kids in school in masks: what could possibly go wrong?

From the National Center for Science Education. Prepare your child for in-person education.
...I’m just imagining what it’s going to be like for millions of parents who will have to persuade their kids to wear masks to school—and hope that they keep them on all day...

Let’s face it. Young kids are a challenge because they might be frightened or easily distracted, but middle and high schoolers are a bigger challenge because they bring attitude to the game.

Helping Your Kids Stay Focused on School During the Coronavirus Pandemic

From Johns Hopkins Medicine. Prepare for at-home learning.
For families navigating the challenges of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) era, it can seem a bit like a play in three acts — only in this case, all the acts are happening at once. You are a parent, you are a teacher and you are a professional — all at the same time.

Understandably, things don’t always go smoothly. The novelty of having school at home may be wearing a bit thin. So, how do we keep our kids academically engaged — and happy about it?

What could possibly go wrong?

Return to School During COVID-19

Note that pediatricians also want children to return to school and stay safe. Here are suggestions from the American Academy of Pediatricians and HealthyChildren.org.

As you read through these imagine trying to follow them with young children...ages 5, 6 and younger (sit at desks, wash hands), imagine how much extra money it would cost (extra cleaning supplies and staff), imagine the extra time it would take out of the school day (washing hands, cleaning, moving outdoors), and imagine teachers trying to monitor distancing, mask-wearing, hand washing, bathroom trips, the usual disruptive students, interruptions, etc. and still find time and energy to teach! Imagine teachers trying to monitor everything during a fire-drill or an active shooter drill.

What could possibly go wrong?
  • Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces
  • Wash hands
  • Keep desks 3-6 feet apart
  • Have fewer students and staff in the classroom
  • Have the teachers move from class to class, not the students
  • Have students eat lunch at their desks
  • Schools should use outdoor spaces when possible
  • Older students and staff should wear masks
  • Be prepared to go to online instruction if (when?) the virus surges

Please Don’t Quit Your Job to Home-School Your Kid

Bloomberg News reminds us that among the main purposes of public education in America are providing free childcare and feeding children. This is why politicians are insistent that schools reopen. This is why teachers and school staff are concerned with a safe school environment.
Individual families have individual decisions to make. But quitting work to home school is more expensive than you might think. It would be much, much better if we could pool our national resources to open schools safely. With summer ending soon, it should be a top item in the next round of government spending. Because schools do a lot more than teach. They provide one or two meals a day during the school year. They offer after-school programs, dental clinics and more. And the free childcare they offer is what unleashes the productive forces of parents.

child PNG Designed By 588ku from Pngtree.com


Thursday, July 23, 2020

2020 Medley #15

Motivate for reading, Returning to school, Internet Safety


The First Question to Ask of a Vulnerable Reader

In this recent blog post, Russ Walsh provides us with seven things teachers can do to foster a desire to learn to read in their students. Unfortunately, if students come to school without the desire to learn to read, it just makes it that much harder for teachers to convert them into avid readers. The suggestions in Walsh's post will help, of course, and with many students (and with perseverance) it will succeed. However, it would be much easier for students if their development of a desire to learn to read began at home.

The easiest motivational tool, and number two on Walsh's list, is read aloud.

Reading aloud makes the reading process a pleasurable experience before they even get to school, because, as Jim Trelease wrote, "Human beings will voluntarily do over and over that which brings them pleasure...When we read to a child, we're sending pleasure messages to the child's brain." In other words, it feels good.

This "feel-good" quality is the reason that reading aloud is the most important activity for building the knowledge required for success in reading, especially during the preschool years. The reason reading aloud improves success in school is because it makes the reading process enjoyable...it brings children (and their parents) pleasure. This motivates children to want to learn to read.

Just one more reason to read aloud to your children...starting from birth.
As I reflect on this failure from the distance of 25 years, I think I failed Ryan in part because I failed to ask one simple question. It is a question I think many of us may fail to ask when we are given the job of helping a child learn to read. It is the first question I think we need to ask of any vulnerable reader who comes into our charge. The question is, "Does this child want to learn to read?"

For many children learning to read is hard work. In order to commit yourself to that work, you have to want to do it, just as I really wanted to be able to ride that bike. The desire to read is critical to learning to read. While most children come to school with a burning desire to read, some vulnerable readers do not. There may be many reasons for this, but the reasons are not as important as our awareness that this may be the case and then taking some action to help children develop the desire to read. I want to be clear here. I am not talking about a child who reads little or who is difficult to motivate to read, I am talking about a child who is not interested in learning how to read..

To understand how to help kids who don't have a desire to learn to read, we need to look at why most kids do want to read. It is likely a combination of factors including: a desire for a ticket into the adult world, a feeling of accomplishment, curiosity about topics like dinosaurs or sports or superheroes, an interest in words and how they work, an interest in stories, and a desire to please the adults in their life.


No State Has Met CDC Guidelines for Steadily-Decreasing COVID Cases, So Let’s Open Schools.

In the "old days" national medical policy took into consideration the opinions of professionals from the CDC and the NIH. Now, however, our "medical" chief sits in the Oval Office and is medically ignorant.

The CDC released guidelines for dealing with the pandemic, yet nowhere in the country have the guidelines been followed. With that lack of progress as a background, America's public schools are set to start in August and September. We no longer rely on science for our actions. We will continue to lose fellow citizens and the disease will continue to be a threat until a vaccine is available. We have given up.
As of this writing, no state has met the May 2020 Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for moving into Phase 1 (“Downward trajectory or near-zero incidence of documented cases over a 14-day period) much less the additional criteria for entering Phase 2 (“Downward trajectory or near-zero incidence of documented cases for at least 14 days after entering Phase 1).

That’s 28 days of supposed “downward trajectory” prior to entering Phase 2, and that assumes increased testing.

Also in phase 2, COVID-19 test results are supposed to be available in three days or less. That is not happening. (See here and here, also, for more examples.)

According to the July 18, 2020, USA Today, no state is currently even in Phase 1 (“stay-st-home order”). Yet the artcle also shows that in most states and DC (46), “new cases are growing.”

And yet, the push to reopen schools is on, ever-increasing cases be damned.

Poor Air Quality in Schools: During Covid-19 and Before!

Remember when we provided our schools with the money needed to operate...with the money they needed to keep children healthy...with the money needed to update and maintain buildings? The defunding of public education has been national policy since No Child Left Behind. Now, when states are struggling with budgets stretched thin by the pandemic, schools will have even more trouble finding the funds to maintain and improve. Starve the schools...and then blame them for failure. The failure is in our legislators' refusal to give importance to our future.
Why didn’t the leaders of the richest nation in the world improve the air quality in public schools before the coronavirus?

Remember when Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said not to invest in buildings?

She said:

If we really want to help students, then we need to focus everything about education on individual students – funding, supporting and investing in them. Not in buildings; not in systems.

This was her way of pushing an end to public education. The crummier the buildings, the more parents would demand choice to online charters sold as better, even if they’re not. The sooner public schools and the teaching profession would collapse.

How can school officials fix ventilation systems during a pandemic? How do maintenance workers continually replace air filters to keep children and teachers safe during the coronavirus?

The EPA provides guidelines for what healthy air quality should be during Covid-19.

Before a New School Year Begins, We Must Grieve

Our students will return to school traumatized. Our colleagues will return to school traumatized. Before learning can occur we need to provide schools with the mental health support needed to move past the consequences of the pandemic.

We should follow the advice of Pasi Sahlberg and Let the Children Play (see also, here).

[emphasis in original]
We lost a lot this past school year: the stability of our normal day to day, our in-person communities of adults and young people, a sense of self-efficacy when we jumped into the unknown world of remote learning. We lost touch with the students. We lost loved ones.

I have been fortunate not to lose anyone to COVID, but I know all of these other losses personally. This summer I am coming to terms with the grief I feel over these losses. As I think about next year, I feel overwhelmed. I realize before I can come to terms with the uncertainty of a new school year, I need to grieve over the real losses of the past one.


The Ultimate Parent Guide for Protecting Your Child on the Internet [Updated for July 2020]

Kids are spending more time online...it makes sense to make sure they're protected.
...it’s not that difficult to put certain technical controls in place to protect your children online. Far more importantly, the best thing you can do to protect your children is to talk to them. This guide will help you set clear boundaries for what and when they access online, but also to be there for your children when they make a mistake, or when they have gone too far. Isn’t that what parenting fundamentally comes down to?


Friday, July 17, 2020

Wishing Doesn't Make it So

UPDATE: Link at the end of the post...

America's schools will start to open in a few weeks...some as early as the beginning of August...some after Labor Day. With this small window of time to plan, the unhinged President and his unqualified Secretary of Education demand that...
...kids need to be back in school, and that school leaders across the country need to be making plans to do just that.

When the President called for states to reopen he didn't do it because of any medical or scientific reason. He didn't insist that the states follow the CDC guidance on reopening because we happen to be in the middle of a deadly pandemic. Pundits have suggested that he is more interested in getting the economy running again than in keeping people safe. A good economy, it is reasoned, will help the President's reelection campaign.

The point is that we should have solved problems associated with coronavirus months ago.

We shouldn't be seeing surging cases any more -- which are especially bad in states which opened too early or without adequate safeguards.

We shouldn't be hearing continued complaints from health care workers that they don't have needed equipment.

We should long ago have increased the number and speed of coronavirus testing.

The entire country watched the state of New York deal with huge numbers of COVID-19 cases in March and April. The experience of New York should have been a lesson for other states...the country should have used the time and experience of New York to prepare for their own outbreaks, but didn't.

The President has never taken the pandemic seriously. For a while, he held daily news briefings with the Coronavirus Response Team which generally devolved into denunciations of the press or of his political opponents. He won't listen to or follow the advice of medical professionals. He has politicized the greatest health threat to the nation in a hundred years and instead of following the advice of experts he repeats conspiracy theories, deflects blame ("I don't take responsibility at all"), and ignores science ("...wearing a face mask...I don't see it for myself..."), frequently telling the American people that the virus will "disappear" or "go away." He said, "Stay calm. It will go away."

Recently, the White House has attempted to discredit Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and one of the nation's leading experts on infectious disease. Dr. Fauci, it seems, changed his mind when presented with new information, just as any good scientist would.

Instead, the Administration has provided no leadership, no anti-pandemic plan, and no support for the nation. The states are on their own.


It's with this background that the President and his Secretary of Education, demand that U.S. schools open or risk losing federal dollars.

Betsy DeVos, while not the only person with no education experience to hold the position of Secretary of Education, is clearly the least competent person to ever lead USED (which is saying a lot ...see Arne Duncan, Margaret Spellings, and Rod Paige).

Betsy DeVos: Schools that don't reopen shouldn't get federal funds
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told "Fox News Sunday" that public schools that don't reopen in the fall should not get federal funds, and that the money should be redirected to families who can use it to find another option for their children.

Why it matters: The Trump administration is engaged in a full-court press to reopen schools this fall, despite warnings from some public health officials that the coronavirus outbreak is out of control in many states and that it will be difficult for many schools to reopen safely.
On CNN's State of the Union last week, DeVos answered questions by repeating that "schools should open" because apparently, public schools which a few years ago were "a dead end" are now absolutely essential for the survival of our children.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said that schools should open back up and, shockingly, that “science should not stand in the way of this.” Clearly, after listening to the context of the statement, McEnany didn't mean that we should ignore facts or science. She was, instead claiming that the science proved that it was safe to open schools.

The Administration's claim of safety is that 1) other nations are safely opening schools. Unfortunately (for us), other nations have gotten the coronavirus pandemic under control and don't have the level of infection that we do.

2) the Administration says that the coronavirus is not as dangerous for young people as it is for older Americans. To say that schools are safe because children won't die from COVID-19 ignores a huge number of people who work in schools because students are not alone in their schools. There are teachers, administrators, custodians, cooks, bus drivers. and paraprofessionals. All of those people are adults; some of them are at a higher risk because of their age. Furthermore, there are students and staff members who are at high risk for serious illness from the pandemic because of medical conditions. To ignore the fact that adults are in school with children is irresponsible.


Vice President Pence said,
We don’t want the guidance from CDC to be a reason why schools don’t open...
The President agreed with him...
"I disagree with @CDCgov on their very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools,” Trump wrote. “While they want them open, they are asking schools to do very impractical things. I will be meeting with them!!!”
It seems that the President and Vice President believe that changing the CDC guidelines will change the facts of the pandemic. Simply wishing something doesn't make it true. Costs for a safe school opening won't be reduced by forcing the CDC to pretend they are not necessary. How contagious the disease is doesn't change because the President decrees it.


Students will be in school with adults. Some of those students and adults will be susceptible to COVID-19. Students and adults in schools who are exposed and test positive for COVID-19 will bring it home to their families, perhaps elderly relatives.

Ignoring the fact that schools don't operate in a vacuum is disingenuous, irresponsible, and frankly, stupid.

Larry Cuban, always the voice of reason, suggests that, instead of threatening, the Administration let districts determine for themselves how they are going to support the education of their students. After all, didn't Republicans once argue for more local control?

Dilemmas Facing Policymakers in Re-opening Schools
There is no question that, under pandemic-free circumstances, students are best served by in-person instruction. But the barriers that school districts face under current circumstances are substantial...

Anyone who knows anything about education (i.e., not Trump and DeVos) would recognize that these things cannot be dismissed with the wave of a hand, and that the best you can hope for is that districts work through them as best as is possible, adopting different (and flexible) solutions as dictated by local circumstances….
Of course, it's important to reopen schools...but we need to reopen schools safely even if it's "tough and expensive!"

UPDATE: Read this article from the AARP

1 in 4 U.S. Teachers at Risk of Severe Illness from Coronavirus