"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

Sunday, January 19, 2020

2020 Medley #1: Religious Freedom Day and Vouchers

Religious Freedom Day 2020, Prayer in school, Vouchers in Montana, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Tennessee, Why vouchers anyway?


RELIGIOUS FREEDOM DAY

January 16 was Religious Freedom Day.

In 1993 President George H. W. Bush declared January 16 to be Religious Freedom Day. On January 16, 1786, the Virginia House of Delegates, under the leadership of James Madison, passed Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. In 1992, on that date, Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder signed the first proclamation to that effect for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The Virginia Statute was the first document to prohibit a state-sponsored church in the new United States. The statute declared “that Almighty God hath created the mind free” and that “to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”

It went on to state that “no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry...or otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief.”

The Virginia Statute gave birth to the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom.

Meanwhile, 234 years later...

PUBLIC SCHOOL PRAYER GUIDELINES

Trump Administration Marks Religious Freedom Day By Mocking That Principle

...we find that the current administration, likely at the behest of its evangelical base, is doing all it can to blur the separation between church and state first expressed in the Virginia Statute.

Prayer in public schools has been a hot topic for decades, and the courts have consistently held that students may pray or express themselves religiously as long as the prayers or expressions do not interfere with the instructional process and aren't coercive. As Jefferson wrote,
...it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.
The administration, however, suggests that non-interference is too much to ask and encourages "student-led" prayer as often as possible. It's true that some public schools may have overly restricted students' religious expression, which is the reason the administration gives for updating the rules. However, instead of dealing with those specific issues, the administration has instead chosen to loosen restrictions for all.
The school prayer guidelines look fairly innocuous on the surface, but when you go a little deeper, you see that they promote prayer at every turn and imply that certain types of supposedly “student-led” prayer can be woven into school-sponsored events, a dubious proposition to say the least.

More alarmingly, the guidelines require states to collect and investigate reports of alleged violations of the right to engage in religious activities from public school students and staff. States must forward all of these to federal officials – even the ones that have no merit. Trump’s increasingly theocratic Justice Department will undoubtedly use these stories to harass public schools that are upholding the separation of church and state all over the nation.

MONTANA VOUCHERS

On The Supreme Court’s Docket: Forcing Taxpayers To Pay For Religious Education And Discrimination

In a few days (Jan 22) the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) will rule on a Montana voucher plan which the state courts have found to be unconstitutional based on the state Constitution. The new makeup of the SCOTUS, with two newly appointed right-wing justices, will likely result in a finding in favor of vouchers, but perhaps I might just be feeling cynical.

Indiana is, of course, the home of one of the nation's most expansive voucher programs. Our state supreme court, unlike Montana's, doesn't care if our tax money is given to religious groups that discriminate.
It’s clear what Big Sky lawmakers were up to: They wanted to subsidize private religious education, even though Montana’s Constitution contains a provision explicitly protecting residents from being forced to support “direct or indirect” tax aid for religious purposes.

The Montana Supreme Court correctly struck down the plan, calling it a clear violation of the state constitution. More than 90 percent of private school vouchers in Montana funded private religious schools, and 70 percent of all private schools in the state teach a religious curriculum.

The U.S. Supreme Court now will hear the case, which is troubling. The high court’s decision could set a dangerous precedent, eroding church-state separation not just in Montana, but in three-quarters of U.S. states. Voucher proponents have made it crystal clear that they want to pave the way for private school voucher schemes across the country by gutting the religious freedom provisions that exist in the constitutions of at least 37 states.

Not only do private school voucher programs force taxpayers to fund religious education, but they also force taxpayers to fund discrimination. Private religious schools have free rein to discriminate against children and families if they don’t share the school’s religious beliefs, if a student or parent is LGBTQ, if the child has a disability, or if they don’t follow a school’s religious tenets such as accepting Jesus Christ as their personal savior or having premarital sex.


WISCONSIN VOUCHERS

Homeowners Fed Up Paying for Two School Systems

Just like Indiana, Wisconsin's voucher plan takes money away from everyone to pay for religious school vouchers, even in districts that have no voucher accepting schools. The money for vouchers comes out of the "school money" pot first, and then the rest is distributed around to the state's public school districts. The parents in this particular district are fed up...
“There are more and more people across the state talking about this issue,” Hambuch-Boyle said. “More people are becoming aware that their tax money is supporting private education at the expense of public school students, and they’re not happy about it.”

The first voucher program was instituted in Milwaukee in 1990. It grew to include the Racine school district in 2011 and was expanded across the state two years later. There is also a voucher program for special needs students.

Increased spending for voucher schools means less funding available for the state’s 421 public school districts. Every one of those districts is impacted to some extent because voucher school dollars come from the same state budget fund that pays public schools. Voucher disbursements are made first, before public school disbursements occur.

OHIO VOUCHERS

Two articles from Ohio...one with an interesting voucher twist...an Ohio district is forced to put a tax levy on the ballot in order to pay for increased funding to vouchers!

Ohio’s Budget Bill Multiplies School Vouchers, Leaves Local School Districts in Crisis
I wonder whether legislators have any real understanding of the collateral damage for particular communities from policies enacted without debate. Maybe, because our community has worked for fifty years to be a stable, racially and economically diverse community with emphasis on fair housing enforcement and integrated schools, legislators just write us off as another failed urban school district. After all, Ohio’s education policy emphasizes state takeover and privatization instead of equitable school funding. The state punishes instead of helping all but its most affluent, outer ring, exurban, “A”-rated school districts, where property values are high enough that state funding is not a worry.

What this year’s EdChoice voucher expansion means for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school district where the members of my book discussion group all live is that—just to pay for the new vouchers—our school district has been forced to put a property tax levy on the March 17 primary election ballot. Ohio’s school finance expert, Howard Fleeter explains that in our school district, EdChoice voucher use has grown by 478 percent in a single year. Fleeter continues: “Cleveland Heights isn’t losing any students…. They are just losing money.’” “If this doesn’t get unwound, I think it is significant enough in terms of the impact on the money schools get to undermine any new funding formula.”

Education leaders battle over school voucher growth
Washington Local Schools Superintendent Kadee Anstadt said the measures used to designate schools as EdChoice eligible are fundamentally flawed. To illustrate this point, Ms. Anstadt pointed to a school in a neighboring district: Toledo Public Schools’ Chase STEM Academy. Chase is considered one of the most improved schools in the area in recent years, yet it’s still on the EdChoice list.

“So really improvement doesn’t matter so much,” she said. “The list is just ongoing. It’s almost a mathematical formula to include as many people as possible.”


TENNESSEE VOUCHERS

AP Exclusive: State Voucher Violations Leave Details Unknown

Tennessee vouchers are put on a debit card that parents can spend at the school of their "choice." Apparently, the state didn't stop to think that some parents might use the money for something else...
Some Tennessee parents were accused of misspending thousands of dollars in school voucher funds while using state-issued debit cards over the past school year, a review by The Associated Press has found, and state officials say they do not know what many of those purchases were for.

The Tennessee voucher program is currently modest in scale but is set to expand under Republican leadership over the next year. The state gives families of children with certain disabilities the option of removing their students from public school and then provides a state-issued debit card loaded with tax dollars to help cover their children's private school needs.

Privatizer's dictionary: "choice"
Parents can decide to enroll their children in a private school at the public's expense. The school, in turn, gets to "choose" whether or not to accept the child.

WHY HAVE VOUCHERS, ANYWAY?

No, private schools aren’t better at educating kids than public schools. Why this new study matters.

Private schools aren't better than public schools...as this article reporting on research published in 2018 reveals. Indiana's voucher program was begun -- supposedly -- to help students "escape" from "failing" schools. Now, after Mike Pence spent his four years as Governor expanding the voucher program, that doesn't matter. Nearly everyone who wants one can get a voucher for a religious school because... "choice." The tax money diverted from public schools doesn't go to religious schools because they're better, but just because parents want to avoid the public schools for one reason or another.

It's interesting that state legislatures don't provide vouchers to private country clubs, for example, for people who want to avoid public parks...or vouchers to book stores for people who don't want to use the public library. Only private schools get vouchers...the vast majority of them, religious schools.
Despite evidence showing otherwise, it remains conventional wisdom in many parts of the education world that private schools do a better job of educating students, with superior standardized test scores and outcomes. It is one of the claims that some supporters of school choice make in arguing that the public should pay for private school education.

The only problem? It isn’t true, a new study confirms.

University of Virginia researchers who looked at data from more than 1,000 students found that all of the advantages supposedly conferred by private education evaporate when socio-demographic characteristics are factored in. There was also no evidence found to suggest that low-income children or children enrolled in urban schools benefit more from private school enrollment.

The results confirm what earlier research found but are especially important amid a movement to privatize public education — encouraged by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos — based in part on the faulty assumption that public schools are inferior to private ones.

Privatizer's dictionary: "failing school"
A school is considered "failing" when a large percentage of its students score too low, according to an arbitrarily determined cut-score, on a standardized test. This low "achievement" can be caused by poverty, hunger, joblessness, illness, violence and other outside influences that have a deleterious effect on student achievement over which schools have no control. To call a school which finds itself in such a situation "failing" is to abrogate the responsibility of government. To be sure, school leaders have the responsibility to keep order, hire qualified staff, and provide an appropriate curriculum, and in that sense, perhaps a school can be failing. However, if the outside environment in which students spend the bulk of their time is working in opposition to learning, then there's not much that schools can do without adequate resources.


🏛∕⛪️

Saturday, January 11, 2020

2020 Teachers' New Year's Resolutions: 5. Be an Education Voter

2020 Teachers' New Year's Resolutions
5. Be an Education voter!


It's a new year and as is our custom here in the USA, we make resolutions which, while rarely kept, can be redefined as goals toward which we would strive had we the strength.

[Updated and edited from 2018]

NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION #5
  • Be an Education voter.
Have you been teaching long enough to remember when
  • there was enough time in your day to do things with your class like reading aloud, learning about dinosaurs, developing a science project, or playing a learning game...just for fun?
  • standardized tests weren't administered in every grade level every year?
  • standardized tests were used to guide your instruction, not punish your students, you, or your school, or to use as a template for teaching to the test?
  • teaching experience was honored in the salary schedule for your school corporation? Each year you taught you received an incremental pay increase.
  • your teacher's negotiating team could bargain for class size, preparation time, and duty-free periods?
  • the push to learn to read was more appropriately assigned to first-grade instead of kindergarten?
Over the last four to five decades -- since I began my own teaching career -- things have changed for schools and teachers. Classroom professionals are no longer trusted to make curriculum decisions for their students. The state tests have taken over curriculum choices as well as teacher evaluations. Students have less time to play. Teachers' salaries have stagnated.

Since the beginning of the standards and testing craze which began in the last decade of the 20th century, we have let legislators strip the joy of learning from our classrooms. In 2001, No Child Left Behind, moved the wheel a bit further introducing punishment to schools which didn't "perform" (read: couldn't get enough students to pass "the test" despite the numbers of English language learners, the impact of child poverty, and students receiving special services). Then, in 2011, the Indiana legislature, under the direction of then-Governor Mitch Daniels and State Superintendent Tony Bennett, doubled down in their war against public education with laws providing for charter schools and vouchers, as well as other laws apparently intended to damage the teaching profession.

Since 2011 teachers in Indiana have lost...
  • seniority and the value of experience or advanced degrees on salary schedules
  • declining salaries (when adjusted for inflation)
  • the right to collectively bargain things like class size, prep time, and supervision time
  • the loss of due process
and, along with their students, administrators, and patrons, have had to endure...
  • a constitutional amendment that gives the state legislature complete responsibility for funding schools.
  • the overuse and misuse of standardized testing
  • the diversion of public education funds to testing companies, charter schools and vouchers
  • teacher evaluations and school grades based on test scores
  • untrained laypeople taking teaching positions based on content knowledge alone
  • and, beginning in 2020, Governor-appointed majority (8 out of 10) on the state school board as well as a Governor-appointed state superintendent of public instruction.
The challenge to the public school teachers and schools of Indiana continues. Our state lags behind neighboring states in teacher salaries. The General Assembly, while making noise about the amount of money spent on education, continues to fund public education at below 2008 levels.

[For a detailed look at funding and teacher salaries in Indiana see Education Funding and Teacher Compensation In Indiana: Evaluation and Recommendations.]


YOU ARE THE VOICE FOR YOUR PROFESSION

You know what to do...
  • Write to or visit your legislators. Once you know the issues, tell your legislators how you feel about what they're doing.
Indiana residents use the links below to find your legislators.

State Legislators

United States Representative

United States Senate
  • Educate your friends, family, and neighbors.
  • Promote public education and supporters of public education on Social Media.
  • Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper. Write to national newspapers. Start your own blog and write about public education.
  • Let your local school board members know about your concerns for public education.
  • Testify at state legislative committee meetings and state school board meetings.
  • Work for candidates who promise to support public education. Once they're elected, hold them to their promises.
  • Run for public office.
Family and work responsibilities might restrict what you can do. Personal finances might restrict what you can do. Physical limitations might restrict what you can do. But, everyone can do something.

Once you have the knowledge, teach others.

Do Something.


YOU ARE THE VOICE FOR YOUR STUDENTS

Teachers, you are the political voice of your students. Their needs and interests, as well as your own, are in your hands when you enter the voting booth.
  • When you vote for candidates who skimp when asked to invest in public schools, then you vote against the interests of your students. 
  • When you vote for candidates who divert public school funding to private and charter schools, you vote against the interests of your students. 
  • When you vote for candidates who work to deprofessionalize teaching, exacerbating the shortage of qualified teachers, then you vote against the interests of your students.
This year, resolve to be a public education voter. Make sure you're registered to vote. Indiana voters, you can register or check your registration online, here: Indiana Voter Portal.

Your vote matters.

Resolution #5: Be an "education" voter. Support your profession and public education. Support candidates who support public schools without regard to party affiliation.


NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION #1
  • Read aloud to your children/students every day.
NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION #2
  • Teach your students, not "The Test."
  • Educate yourself.
NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION #4
  • Focus on developing positive relationships.
🙋🏻🚌👨‍🏫

Friday, January 10, 2020

2020 Teachers' New Year's Resolutions: 4. Focus on developing positive relationships

2020 Teachers' New Year's Resolutions
4. Develop Positive Relationships


It's a new year and as is our custom here in the USA, we make resolutions which, while often broken, can be redefined as goals toward which we should strive.

NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION #4
  • Focus on developing positive relationships in the classroom.
Economists Ate My School – Why Defining Teaching as a Transaction is Destroying Our Society

Teachers are the most important in-school factor when it comes to student success in school. Out of school factors, especially those related to poverty, have a greater impact. Teachers, however, do not have any control over things like...
  • prenatal care
  • inadequate medical, dental or vision care
  • food and housing insecurity
  • environmental toxins such as lead
  • family stresses
  • neighborhood characteristics.
Teachers do have control over the relationships they maintain with their students. Measuring the impact of those good relationships between teachers and students can't be reduced to a number. It's something that teachers and their students can feel on an emotional level, and students respond well to teachers who care about them.

Resolution #4: Focus on developing positive relationships in the classroom.
Teaching is not a transaction. It is relational.

Teaching is not about inputs and outputs. It’s about curiosity and knowledge.

It shouldn’t be governed by market forces that dehumanize all those involved into mere widgets to be manipulated in a systemic framework. Teaching should be governed by empathy, art and science.

The driving force behind any education system must be what’s best for the child. And that “best” ultimately must be defined by parents and children.

The goal of education can never be to prepare kids for a career. It must be to eradicate ignorance, to quench curiosity, to aid self-expression and guide students toward becoming whatever it is they want to become.

Measuring learning outcomes by standardized test scores can never achieve this goal. That’s like trying to monetize a rainbow or putting the ocean in a cage.

School privatization can never achieve this goal. That’s like treating human beings like cash, like thinking the rules of football can govern architecture.

And treating teachers like worker drones can never achieve this goal. You can’t entrust a whole class of people with the most precious thing you have – your children – and then treat them like dirt.


The Ed-Debate is Missing "Relationships"

Jack Schneider (a former high school teacher and the founder of University Paideia, a pre-college program for under-served students in the San Francisco Bay Area) said that relationships really matter! He wrote What’s missing from education policy debate...
But what policy elites don’t talk about—what they may not even know about, having themselves so little collective teaching experience—is how much relationships matter in our nation’s classrooms. Yes it matters that history teachers know history and chemistry teachers know chemistry. But it also matters that history teachers know their students, and that chemistry teachers know how to spot a kid in need. It matters that teachers have strong academic backgrounds. But it also matters that they can relate to young people—that they see them, hear them, and care for them.
The goal of education should be to build lifelong learners and good, productive citizens, not test-takers. Characteristics like perseverance, motivation, and self-discipline will be of greater benefit than parsing sentences or finding the greatest common factor of two numbers.

Academics are important, but it's who we are and who our students grow to be that determines our success in life...much more than the facts we know or our score on a standardized test.

Positive Relationships Make Children (and Adults) Happier!

The Evidence is In: ‘Happy’ Schools Boost Student Achievement
School climate and student achievement should never compete with each other, according to Ron Avi Astor, a professor of social work and education at the University of Southern California.

“By promoting a positive climate, schools can allow greater equality in educational opportunities, decrease socioeconomic inequalities, and enable more social mobility.”

Astor and three colleagues recently combed through research dating back to 2000 – 78 studies of school systems in the U.S. and overseas – and found substantial evidence that positive school climates contribute to academic achievement and can improve outcomes for students, especially those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
Want to make your school happier? Build positive relationships with your students!

Interested in more? Read Astor's report...

A Research Synthesis of the Associations Between Socioeconomic Background, Inequality, School Climate, and Academic Achievement


NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION #1
  • Read aloud to your children/students every day.
NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION #2
  • Teach your students, not "The Test."
NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION #3
  • Educate Yourself.

👩‍🏫🙋🏻🙋🏽‍♂️👨‍🏫

Thursday, January 9, 2020

2020 Teachers' New Year's Resolutions: 3. Educate yourself

2020 Teachers' New Year's Resolutions
3. Educate yourself


It's a new year and as is our custom here in the USA, we make resolutions which, while often broken, can be redefined as goals toward which we should strive.

[Updated and slightly edited from 2018]

NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION #3
  • Educate yourself.

BUT I DON'T HAVE ENOUGH TIME

Teachers are overworked and overstressed. Often teachers go home after a difficult day at school and spend an hour or two on planning, assessing student work, or sifting through piles of mostly meaningless paperwork.

A few hours later, after a rushed meal, minimal time with family, and a night of not-enough-sleep, it starts over again.

Weekends are a bit better...time to catch up on everything.

It's no surprise, then, that teachers feel like they don't have time to find out what's happening in the politics of public education. They only know that it seems like each year there are more and more restrictions on what and how they can teach, more tests for their students, fewer resources, and larger classes.

Meanwhile, the forces of DPE (Destroy Public Education) continue to move forward increasing funding for charter schools and unaccountable voucher schools by diverting public money from public schools.


THE ARGUMENT FOR EDUCATING YOURSELF

Make the time.

I know...I'm retired. I don't have to get up and face a classroom of kids every day. It's easy for me to say, "Make the time." I get it.

But things have changed since I retired. Sure, I can still write letters and blog posts. I can still argue with legislators in support of public education and public educators, but I'm out of date. A lot has changed since I last had my own classroom in 2010. Today's classrooms are different than they were ten years ago. Every school is different.

Teachers, this is your profession, and it consists of more than just the time you spend with your students. I would ask you to think of time spent educating yourself about what's happening in education as part of your professional development -- an important part!

The political world of public education will
  • affect your students and your children, if you have any, as they progress through school
  • affect you and your economic status while you're working and into retirement
  • affect how many more years you will be able to teach
  • affect how large your class sizes are
  • affect your academic freedom
  • affect what you teach, how you teach, and how often your students have to pause their learning to take a standardized test.
Right now, legislators, most of whom haven't set foot in a classroom since they were students, are making decisions that will affect you, your students, and your classroom.

This is your profession. You owe it to yourself, your students, your future students, and your community, to educate yourself. Be the lifelong learner you wish to see in your students.

[If you're not a teacher, you owe it to yourself, your children, your grandchildren, your nieces and nephews, and students of the community, to educate yourself. What happens to public education affects your children – and all of the above – and your community.]


WHERE TO START

Here are some places to start (feel free to add more in the comments)...

Read Books (in no particular order)

Read Blogs (in no particular order)

Listen to Podcasts


NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION #1
  • Read aloud to your children/students every day.
NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION #2
  • Teach your students, not "The Test."

📚📡🚌