"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

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Public Education: Born on the Fourth of July, 2020 Medley #14

SCOTUS decision: Espinoza v. Montana,
Founders on church-state separation


Independence Day is a good time to explore the thoughts about public education expressed by the Founders. This year, we have witnessed the weakening of America's public education system with the latest SCOTUS ruling on Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue -- a decision that will divert even more public funds to religious institutions in addition to weakening the concept of church-state separation.

First, let's hear from the Edu-blogosphere. The writers of each of the following posts have several concerns. First, by allowing public tax dollars to go to religious institutions, the state (here, with the permission of the federal judiciary) is "forcing" citizens to pay for religious instruction...to pay for religion. As Ben Franklin wrote...
When a Religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that its Professors are oblig’d to call for the help of the Civil Power, ’tis a Sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.
Second, vouchers divert money from and damage public education.

Third, if governments provide money for religious schools, those funds ought to come with government restrictions -- the same as the restrictions imposed on public schools. If it is illegal for public schools to discriminate in hiring when spending public dollars, it ought to be illegal for private schools to do the same. However, a church would rightfully argue that they ought to be able to hire those people who support and are willing to extend their mission. In other words, public funding of religion creates an "entanglement of church and state." To get around this entanglement, the court requires few strings attached to the money churches might receive from the state, which means that taxpayers might be paying for religious behavior and instruction with which they disagree.

This is the very reason that the Founders separated church and state in the First Amendment. Demanding restrictions on churches for the use of public dollars violates the rights of the church. Forcing taxpayers to fund religious doctrine violates the rights of the people. It's best not to let them entangle at all. "Render unto Caesar..."

REACTIONS TO SCOTUS DECISION: ESPINOZA V. MONTANA DEPT OF REVENUE

SCOTUS Just Poked Another Hole In The Wall Separating Church And State; Schools Will Suffer.

Peter Greene: The SCOTUS has elevated the Free Exercise clause over the Establishment clause.
Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue has further extended the precedent set by Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, a case that for the first time required “the direct transfer of taxpayers’ money to a church.” Historically, the free exercise clause of the First Amendment has taken a back seat to the establishment clause; in other words, the principle was that the government’s mandate to avoid establishing any “official” religion meant that it could not get involved in financing religious institutions, including churches or church-run private schools.

This has been a big stumbling block for the school voucher movement, because the vast majority of private schools that stand to benefit from vouchers are private religious schools. In fact, where school vouchers have been established, they are overwhelmingly used to fund religious schools.

Court embraces ‘short-sighted view of history’

Steve Hinnefeld: The court majority is reacting to a simplistic view of the history of church-state separation.
The majority opinion — and especially concurring opinions by Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas — framed the decision as a blow against anti-Catholic bias enshrined in state constitutions via 19th century “Blaine amendments.” But that view papers over complex history, said Steven K. Green, a legal scholar at Willamette University and a leading expert on church-state issues.

Green told me it was disappointing that the court, in a highly consequential decision, “relied, to a certain extent, on a shortsighted view of history, not recognizing the nuances behind the development of the no-aid provisions.” Green elaborates on that history in an amicus brief submitted to the court on behalf of several Christian religious organizations that supported Montana’s position.

Five Takeaways From Today’s Supreme Court Ruling On Vouchers

Americans United for Separation of Church and State: This compels taxpayers to support religious schools and forces them to support faith-based discrimination.
This ruling is a serious blow to church-state separation and religious liberty: in his majority opinion, Chief Justice John G. Roberts rejected the notion that compelling taxpayers to support religious schools is a violation of an individual’s religious freedom rights. Rather, he asserted that when religious schools are denied access to certain taxpayer-funded programs, it is their religious freedom that’s being violated – a nonsensical claim that turns the very concept of religious freedom on its head.

The ruling exposes taxpayers to forced funding of discrimination: Of the 12 private schools taking part in Montana’s program, 10 have discriminatory policies that they apply to students, teachers and staff. These policies either require adherence to a certain faith tradition and/or refuse admission to LGBTQ students or children with disabilities altogether. Taxpayers of Montana will now effectively be required to support these schools, unless Montana’s legislature takes action to prohibit Montana’s program from supporting schools that engage in discriminatory practices. Importantly, the decision does not address whether states that fund private education may deny funding to schools that have discriminatory admissions or employment policies, or whether it is constitutional for states to fund such discriminatory schools if they want to do so.

Roberts’ Decision in Espinoza Case Undermines Protection of Church-State Separation; Will Damage Public Education

Jan Resseger: Vouchers drain money from public schools. Private schools are not required to provide protections for student rights.
Why are supporters of public education so concerned about the implications of this case? In the first place, voucher programs drain needed tax dollars out of public schools. In Ohio, for example, a state that already permits public funds to flow to religious schools, EdChoice vouchers extract $4,650 for each elementary and middle school voucher and $6,000 for each high school voucher—right from the local public school district’s budget.

Another serious problem with vouchers is that the law protects students’ rights in public schools, but the same laws do not protect students enrolled in private schools. Writing for Slate, Mark Joseph Stern worries that now, after Espinoza: “Taxpayers in most of the country will soon start funding overtly religious education—including the indoctrination of children into a faith that might clash with their own conscience. For example, multiple schools that participate in Montana’s scholarship program inculcate students with a virulent anti-LGBTQ ideology that compares homosexuality to bestiality and incest. But many Montanans of faith believe LGBTQ people deserve respect and equality because they are made in the image of God. What does the Supreme Court have to say to Montanans who do not wish to fund religious indoctrination that contradicts their own beliefs?”

FOUNDERS ON CHURCH-STATE ENTANGLEMENT

James Madison

James Madison, the "Father of the Constitution," was emphatic in his opposition to church-state entanglement...

James Madison And Church-State Separation

Madison was against discrimination based on religious beliefs.
Madison was one of the first thinkers in colonial America to understand why church and state must be separated. His advocacy for this concept grew out of his own personal experiences in Virginia, where Anglicanism was the officially established creed and any attempt to spread another religion in public could lead to a jail term.

Early in 1774, Madison learned that several Baptist preachers were behind bars in a nearby county for public preaching. On Jan. 24, an enraged Madison wrote to his friend William Bradford in Philadelphia about the situation. "That diabolical Hell conceived principle of persecution rages among some and to their eternal Infamy the Clergy can furnish their quota of Imps for such business," Madison wrote. "This vexes me the most of any thing whatever. There are at this time in the adjacent County not less than 5 or 6 well meaning men in close Gaol [jail] for publishing their religious Sentiments which in the main are very orthodox. I have neither the patience to hear talk or think any thing relative to this matter, for I have squabbled and scolded abused and ridiculed so long about it, to so little purpose that I am without common patience. So I leave you to pity me and pray for Liberty of Conscience to revive among us."

Religion and the Founding of the American Republic

Madison led the fight in the Virginia legislature to pass Jefferson's Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, the basis of the First Amendment.
James Madison, the leading opponent of government-supported religion, combined both arguments in his celebrated Memorial and Remonstrance. In the fall of 1785, Madison marshaled sufficient legislative support to administer a decisive defeat to the effort to levy religious taxes. In place of Henry's bill, Madison and his allies passed in January 1786 Thomas Jefferson's famous Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, which brought the debate in Virginia to a close by severing, once and for all, the links between government and religion.

Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessment

James Madison: If the government can force you to pay for religious schools, then that same government may, in the future, force support for religion in other ways.
Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?

Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson's Letter to the Danbury Baptists

Jefferson explained his position clearly in his letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut in 1802.
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.

82. A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, 18 June 1779

Earlier (1779), Jefferson drafted the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, which Madison helped pass in the Virginia legislature.
We the General Assembly of Virginia do enact that 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 opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.


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Friday, July 3, 2020

Public Education: Born on the Fourth of July

This post is from July 4, 2016. I've updated it to reflect the current year. Tomorrow's post will be a Medley of articles about the recent Supreme Court decision on vouchers, along with relevant quotes from the founders.
"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
JOHN ADAMS

The quote above from John Adams, who began his adult life as a school teacher in Massachusetts, is a clear indication of his belief in the importance of a public education system that would educate everyone...by "the whole people" for the benefit of "the whole people." He also specifically declares that it is to be done at public expense -- public funding for public schools.

On the 244th anniversary of the declaration of our nation's independence, it's worth noting that public education is not something new. It's one of the basic foundational institutions of our democracy supported by the authors of the nation.

Adams himself was well educated and cared about public education. He made two assertions which would likely dismay "reformers" in their quest to privatize public education. First, as the quote above makes clear, the federal government has a clear responsibility for education that includes paying for it.

Second...
That a primary purpose of education is to “raise the lower ranks of society nearer to the higher.”
The public pays for it. The public supports it. The purpose is to equalize the education of the citizenry.

THOMAS JEFFERSON

The education of the citizenry was so important that even Adams' political rival, Thomas Jefferson, declared in his 1806 State of the Union address that the government should support public education.
...a public institution can alone supply those sciences which though rarely called for are yet necessary to complete the circle, all the parts of which contribute to the improvement of the country and some of them to its preservation.
Jefferson proposed a constitutional amendment to fund public education. When that never materialized he directed his attention...
...to his beloved state of Virginia. He developed a comprehensive plan for education which encompassed elementary, secondary, and university levels.

Jefferson believed the elementary school was more important than the university in the plan because, as he said, it was "safer to have the whole people respectfully enlightened than a few in a high state of science and many in ignorance as in Europe" (as cited in Peterson, 1960, p. 241). He had six objectives for primary education to bring about this enlightenment and which highlighted what he hoped would make every person into a productive and informed voter:
  1. "To give every citizen the information he needs for the transaction of his own business;
  2. To enable him to calculate for himself, and to express and preserve his ideas, his contracts, and accounts, in writing;
  3. To improve, by reading, his morals and faculties;
  4. To understand his duties to his neighbors and country, and to discharge with competence the functions confided to him by either;
  5. To know his rights; to exercize with order and justice those he retains; to choose with discretion the fiduciary of those he delegates; and to notice their conduct with diligence, with candor, and judgment;
  6. And, in general, to observe with intelligence and faithfulness all the social relations under which he shall be placed." (as cited in Peterson, 1960, p. 239)
Adams and Jefferson, so often on opposite sides of political arguments, were in accord when it came to supporting public education. The nation needed a publicly funded school system that would educate all. Public education was an institution necessary for the maintenance of our democracy.

IMPROVE PUBLIC EDUCATION

Public schools, supported by public dollars, accept all children. If a charter or private school cannot provide for a wheelchair-bound child's physical needs the child returns to a public school. If a charter or private school cannot provide for the needs of a child with special academic needs the child returns to a public school. Public schools must provide for all children...those with special needs, those of average ability, those who have no home, those who are hungry, and those whose language skills are inadequate to communicate.

We don't improve our democracy by redirecting public dollars to private and charter schools, many of which do not accept all children.

We need to improve our public schools so they are equipped to provide services to every child by
  • lowering class sizes.
  • providing a well rounded, rich curriculum including the arts, civics, and physical education.
  • providing resources including a fully stocked library/media center with qualified librarians.
  • providing social support including qualified counselors, nurses, psychologists, and social workers.
  • addressing inequities that enrich schools for the wealthy while providing scant resources for schools in high poverty areas.
  • providing developmentally appropriate education (not test-driven) beginning in pre-school.
  • respecting and developing professional educators who are paid at comparable rates as others with their education and experience, who have time to adequately plan lessons and collaborate with colleagues, and who are provided with relevant, high-quality professional development.
  • providing appropriate services to all students with special physical, academic and language needs as required by the law.
  • providing facilities that are well-maintained and show respect for those who work and go to school there.
  • engaging parents to fully participate in their child's education.
  • fully funding public schools.
We need to fix our public schools...not close them. On that, I think Adams and Jefferson would agree.

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Friday, June 26, 2020

2020 Medley #13 -- Scientific Ignorance and American Anti-Intellectualism

A vaccine for conspiracy theories, 
COVID-19 and masks, No more testing, Scientific literacy, Schools as child care centers,
Anti-science/Anti-intellectualism, Sagan: We've been bamboozled


A VACCINE FOR CONSPIRACY THEORIES

Conspiracy Theories

The internet has opened the door for Americans to gain wide-ranging expanded knowledge...but, as Isaac Asimov wrote, "The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom."

With that expanded knowledge comes expanded falsehood...conspiracy theories. Teachers are tasked with teaching students how to read critically...to sift through massive amounts of information and learn how to tell truth from falsehood. The state of the nation today would indicate that we have failed. Conspiracy theories abound.

Take the current worldwide health crisis. According to conspiracy theories...
  • the virus is spread by 5G towers, 
  • masks will starve your body of oxygen,
  • Bill Gates is going to use the coronavirus vaccine to inject us with microchips,
  • coronavirus is a Chinese bio-weapon
[For debunking information see Debunking COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories]

The National Center for Science Education offers a way to combat conspiracy theories with critical thinking...with the help of an acronym CONSPIR.
John Cook, a frequent NCSE collaborator who focuses on combating misconceptions, recently co-authored The Conspiracy Theory Handbook. During a recent conversation with Cook, he noted: “While we do not have a vaccine for COVID-19 at this time, we do have a vaccine for misinformation and conspiracy theories — critical thinking."

So how do we guide our students to critically think? Isn’t that the million-dollar question? In the case of conspiracy theories, just remember the acronym CONSPIR.

By analyzing information using these seven traits, students — or any concerned citizen — can easily pick out the red flags of conspiratorial thinking. If you can answer yes to any of the following questions when reading articles about COVID-19, chances are you have stumbled across an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory or intentional disinformation...

THE TROUBLE WITH MASKS

Palm Beach County residents express outrage over mask requirement: 'Devil's laws'

Even though medical professionals wear masks for hours at a time (think of a heart or brain surgeon performing an 8- to 10-hour surgery...as well as the doctors and nurses who assist) mask-wearing as a preventative for passing the coronavirus is being accused of "killing people" for lack of oxygen. Others claim that having a municipal ordinance requiring mask-wearing is a violation of our constitutional rights -- even though many of those folks accept the laws requiring wearing seat belts in cars, car seats for children, and protective helmets while motorcycling.

Witness...
A Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners public comment session went viral Wednesday after residents denounced mandatory masking laws as “devil’s laws” that would “throw God’s wonderful breathing system out the door.”

One attendee, Sylvia Ball, said she was “very sad to see the authorities stomping on our constitutional rights,” adding, “They want to throw God's wonderful breathing system out the door.


NO MORE TESTS?

New coronavirus spike alarms Republicans, but not Trump

Does the President's statement below mean that the U.S. Education Department will no longer require annual achievement tests for children?

"If we didn't have standardized reading tests, we wouldn't have poor readers. We only have poor readers because we test..."
“If we didn’t test, we wouldn’t have cases,” he said later at a shipyard in Marinette, Wis. “But we have cases because we test...”

TYSON ON SCIENTIFIC LITERACY

Neil deGrasse Tyson Explains Why Science Matters During COVID-19

In this episode of Star Talk, Neil deGrasse Tyson reminds us that science matters...


There comes a time when really the public needs to listen to scientists, in this case, to medical professionals...not only people in public, but people in power of legislation and policy, had the ear of scientists and elected not to take the warnings seriously.


K-12 SCHOOLS AS CHILD-CARE CENTERS

“Parents Need to Go to Work” Does Not Stop COVID at the School Door.

Side note...one of the reasons politicians are so anxious for children to return to school is for babysitting.
When I hear discussions about schools reopening in the fall, I already know what two chief reasons will be offered.

One is that students need to be educated. Of course they do, and as a career teacher, I desire to educate. I have dedicated my professional life to educating generations of children, and I miss being at school, in my classroom, with my students.

The second reason, which seems to follow quickly on the heels of the first, is that “parents need to get back to work”– the implication being that schools need to open so that parents once again have the built-in child care that the K12 school day (and its auxiliary programs) offers.

ANTI-SCIENCE AS ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM

Franklin Graham Thinks Science And Religion Must Fight. As Usual, He’s Wrong

Anthony Fauci has the credentials and experience. We ought to listen to him.
“One of the problems we face in the United States is that unfortunately, there is a combination of an anti-science bias that people are – for reasons that sometimes are, you know, inconceivable and not understandable – they just don’t believe science and they don’t believe authority.”

Fauci added, “So when they see someone up in the White House, which has an air of authority to it, who’s talking about science, that there are some people who just don’t believe that, and that’s unfortunate because, you know, science is truth.”
Americans need to learn that science is a process, not a list of facts. It involves continuing observation and exploration, multiple hypotheses, and then more observation and exploration. Rarely does it end. For example, the Germ Theory of Disease (just a theory?) can be traced back to the 11th Century A.D. and was updated in the 14th, 16th, 18th and 19th centuries. We're still learning about the "germs" that infect us...today.

Scientists are the original fact-checkers. If you claim you have made a scientific discovery, dozens of your scientist colleagues will try to prove you wrong.  Sometimes, even when there's a scientific consensus, someone comes along and changes everything. The fact that scientific information changes is a feature, not a bug.
Finally, the fact that scientists sometimes disagree about a certain topic is a sign of health and vitality in that discipline, not a weakness. Eventually, the scientific method, including the use of double-blind experiments, leads to a consensus. It’s all right for a scientist to challenge a prevailing theory, but he or she had better be able to produce some research and back it up with experiments that can be replicated by others under the same conditions – or those ideas will fall by the wayside.

Fauci is right about resistance to science being an undercurrent in American society...

SAGAN: WE'VE BEEN BAMBOOZLED


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Thursday, June 18, 2020

Banks should "social distance" from education

An artist's conception of Rep. Jim Banks, R-IN, and
Rep. Tom Tiffany, R-WI pontificating about education.
NO (in-person) SCHOOL, NO MONEY!

U.S. Congressman, Jim Banks (IN-03), along with a colleague from Wisconsin, have decided that the health of those who attend school, work in schools, or are related to those who attend or work in schools doesn't matter.

In a blatant attempt at extortion, Banks and Tom Tiffany (R-WI) have introduced a bill that would require schools to open for in-person instruction by September 8, 2020, or face the loss of federal education dollars.

It apparently doesn't matter to Banks that there are places in the country where the coronavirus is resurging (including here in his home state of Indiana). It apparently doesn't matter to Banks that his bill would possibly expose children, their teachers, and their families, to a disease deadly to those in high-risk groups.

Perhaps Rep. Banks doesn't realize that the virus may not choose to cooperate with his timeline. Or, perhaps the real reason Banks wants to open schools -- no matter what -- is so they can babysit the nation's children.
Many parents rely on their kids going to school so they can go to work. To get our society up and running again, we need our children back in school.
I get it...people need to get back to work, but do we need to risk the lives of our children and their teachers to do it?

BUT MOM! ALL THE KIDS ARE DOING IT

The good [sic] congressman suggests that other countries are opening their schools, so we should too.
“Other countries are doing this. Other countries are finding a way to get their kids back in the classroom and haven’t seen any upticks of COVID 19 cases by doing so.”
It is true that other countries are sending their children back to school, but not without safeguards. Schools are reducing class sizes, keeping students at a distance from one another, providing protective equipment, staggering classes, bus rides, lunches, and recesses, and checking students for fever before allowing them into the school. Increased funding would be needed for American schools to do all those things, especially for those schools that still haven't recouped the losses from the 2008 recession like those in Banks's home state.

Blogger Peter Greene (aka Curmudgucation) wrote...
The estimates on how much it will cost to make schools safe for the fall—everything from extra staff to PPE for those in school—run into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Should this bill become law, it would be the most expensive unfunded mandate that school districts—and through them, local taxpayers—have ever been hit with. In fact, since schools would lose money if they failed to meet the mandate, it would become the first negatively funded mandate.
To expect schools to open on Bank's timeline without essential safeguards would be irresponsible and would threaten the lives of students, teachers, and their families. To provide the safeguards would cost much more than the federal education budget provides. Is Rep. Banks willing to include any funding in his bill? Easy question...the answer is "no."

As I wrote on May 19 in Have you met children?
Does anyone honestly think that politicians, especially the pro-privatization politicians who overwhelmingly inhabit state legislatures, will allocate enough money to pay for all the supplies, schedule adjustments, and training needed to accommodate teachers and students in socially distancing classrooms?

The health and safety of our children and the adults who work in their schools depend on our using reason and facts when deciding how to attack the problem of how to educate children during a global pandemic. The politicians, policy-makers, and pundits have already done enough damage to public education because they assume that since they were once students, they "know education."
Using reason and facts means that we need to determine the current extent of the coronavirus pandemic before we make a decision on how and when to open schools.

Using reason and facts means that we need to take precautions when we open schools to keep our students safe, especially those students who have special educational and physical needs.

Using reason and facts means that we need to accept that the changes needed to keep everyone safe -- students and teachers -- will cost money.

Using reason and facts means that we have to predict how students will react to the extreme changes that keeping safe during a pandemic will require.

HAS HE EVER MET CHILDREN?

My guess is that Rep. Banks has no understanding of what it would take to teach five- and six-year-olds social distancing rules.

In the same post from May, I quoted Harley Litzelman, a high school teacher, who said this about young children in school (emphasis mine)...
No more group seating. No story time on the carpet. No small group stations. Coloring must be strictly monitored to eliminate sharing, probably requiring children to keep their own personal sets of crayons and markers, revealing stark class differences within classrooms and between schools. No fingers in the mouth or nose, and several minutes spent washing their hands after they inevitably forget. They, too, cannot get out of their seats during class, and no longer can they enjoy the couches and bean bag chairs that their teachers have acquired. Again is the time to ask: Have you ever met children?
Until you're willing to put money where your mouth is, Rep. Banks, let state and local school boards decide when and how to go back to school. Just because you went to school doesn't mean you know squat about how to run a school, how schools work, and how kids behave.

🚌🚌🚌

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

2020 Medley #12 -- Post-pandemic Education

Post-pandemic education,
Economic and racial stratification in education,
The kids are alright, Online education, 
The damaging effects of vouchers

[child PNG Designed By ali105 from Pngtree.com]

POST-PANDEMIC EDUCATION

Have you read anything lately about "when schools reopen after the pandemic is over?" There are ideas galore...some good, some ridiculous. It's good to plan ahead, of course, but we don't really know what the situation will be in three months.

One thing is sure, with the pandemic there came an economic downturn -- a recession, which actually began in February. The House of Representatives has passed a spending bill that's stalled in the Senate. States are running out of money...and schools are, as usual, at the top of the list of cuts.

Here in Indiana, schools have yet to recover from the recession of 2008. More cuts to education, at a time when increased funding for education is absolutely necessary, will be disastrous. Last week I suggested that one way to reduce costs for public schools is to cancel testing...another way would be to return charter and voucher money back to the public schools. Those, however, are not likely to happen, the latter especially.

So the post-pandemic calls for more bus service, smaller classes, teachers teaching online and in person, and a host of other ideas which will cost more money. How does that happen?

Five things not to do when schools re-open

Pasi Sahlberg, author, with William Doyle, of Let the Children Play: How More Play Will Save Our Schools and Help Children Thrive, has some ideas of what NOT to do when schools reopen. At the top of the list is refusing to accept that school is the only place where children learn. He emphasizes that kids will come to school traumatized and will need a focus on social-emotional learning.
So much has been said already about teaching and learning during the Covid-19 pandemic that it is hard to say something new. More focus on social and emotional learning, student and teacher wellbeing, authentic assessments, distance learning with technology, relationships in schools and recess during school days. Fewer high-stakes standardized tests, less unproductive consequential accountability, more direct instruction in school, and less rote textbook learning. All these ideas were presented already before this crisis, but people see that the time is right to transform schools after the pandemic is gone...

1. Don’t think that kids only learn when they are taught...

2. Don’t worry about kids’ losses on school tests...

3. Don’t expect kids to be ready to continue where they left off...

4. Don’t consider recess as a low priority...

5. Don’t expect there will be a ‘new normal’ anytime soon...

David Berliner: Kids Missing School? Don’t Worry.

David Berliner, Regents' Professor Emeritus of Education at Arizona State University and a past president of the American Educational Research Association, agrees with Pasi Sahlberg. A child is more than a test score and school is not the only place to learn.
...what if they do lose a few points on the achievement tests currently in use in our nation and in each of our states? None of those tests predict with enough confidence much about the future life those kids will live. That is because it is not just the grades that kids get in school, nor their scores on tests of school knowledge, that predict success in college and in life. Soft skills, which develop as well during their hiatus from school as they do when they are in school, are excellent predictors of a child’s future success in life.


U.S. schools lay off hundreds of thousands, setting up lasting harm to kids

Among the layoffs are teachers, of course, but also support personnel. The cuts will negatively impact poor students the most.
School districts in poor areas face the most punishing blows. A Brookings Institution paper in April predicted that education layoffs “would come at the worst possible time for high-poverty schools, as even more students fall into poverty and need more from schools as their parents and guardians lose their own jobs.”

Low-income districts are particularly troubled because of plunging revenue amid the Covid-19 recession. Districts rely for revenue on local property taxes and state subsidies. Poorer districts, where property tax revenue is low, rely on states for most of their income. With states hit hard by falling income and sales taxes, aid to school districts is dwindling in many places.

Austerity, Subsistence, or Investment: Will Congress And The President Choose to Bail Out Our Children’s Future?

We bailed out the auto industry. We bailed out the banks. We bailed out the airlines. Do we care enough about the future of America to bail out our children?
Our policymakers are on the edge of a precipice. If they step into the budget-cut austerity abyss at this time of great crisis, they will be choosing to harm the nation’s children and, in doing so, to devalue the country’s most important asset. Recovery would become a long and arduous process. We may, in fact, never recover. As one alternative, they can choose the stopgap, subsistence option of backfilling state and local budgets, which we contend is necessary but not sufficient. In fact, the cost of education will likely be higher due to added safety measures schools will be required to take and the added needs of the returning students. The third choice available to policymakers is stimulus investment devoted to our schools and children, especially children of color, in their time of great need, which would provide the extra benefit of saving jobs and creating new jobs to help in combating national unemployment.

...The enormously expensive bailouts of airlines, financial markets, investors, and other elements of the economy are defended — and are arguably defensible — as necessary to prevent further pain that would be felt by “average Americans” if that larger economy collapses. But many of those average Americans are families with children in public schools. If policymakers choose to let those children sink, taking their futures down with them, then why bother bailing out the businesses that we hope will one day serve them and employ them?

Refusing the needed funding for public education systems means impoverishing our youth, our communities, our public life – our democracy. Economically speaking, it would result in hundreds of thousands additional job losses across the country in the short-term, devastate the future job market for highly skilled labor, and hurt the ability of companies to bring on new talents and grow their profits – shrinking future GDP and tax revenue. If policymakers are willing and able to put $4.5 trillion of Fed lending into bolstering financial markets through treasury funding,43 how can they deny a fraction of that to our children to save their futures?


THE CONTINUED ECONOMIC AND RACIAL STRATIFICATION OF PUBLIC EDUCATION

Rich schools get richer

While our poor children suffer from decaying facilities, underpaid teachers, and lack of materials, America's wealthy children get richer. They get the equipment they need, the well-trained teachers that we all want for our own children, and the opportunities to advance based on income.
Why we should care about high levels of education spending among the rich is a matter of debate. [Bruce Baker, a school finance expert at Rutgers Graduate School of Education,] argues that their choices affect the rest of us. That’s because education investments by the rich can potentially boost their children’s achievement levels and give them an advantage in college applications. As these well-educated children move from well-funded schools to elite universities, their advantages continue as they apply to graduate schools and seek the most coveted jobs. Those at the bottom as well as those in the middle can struggle to compete against this kind of educational privilege.

“It’s kind of like baseball,” Baker said. “When the Yankees spend more, it makes it harder for everyone else to compete.”

THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT

This Teacher Went To A Peaceful Protest And…

The self-professed old guy at Caffeinated Rage lets us know that kids today are alright.
The people I marched with yesterday came from various backgrounds with many older people such as myself, BUT…

The number of students and younger people who just might be voting in their first national elections this fall were staggering. It was their energy that fueled that peaceful protest.

There was no violence. There was no cursing.

There was purpose. There was understanding and quest to understand more.


ONLINE EDUCATION IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH

What Do We Know About Online Education and Virtual Charter Schools?

As hard as it is to find a way to teach students during a pandemic it's important to remember that online education is not the same, or as good as, face to face interaction between teachers and students in a classroom.
We find the impact of attending a virtual charter on student achievement is uniformly and profoundly negative, equating to a third of a standard deviation in English/language arts (ELA) and a half of a standard deviation in math. This equates to a loss of roughly 11 percentile points in ELA and 16 percentile points in math for an average virtual charter student at baseline as compared to their public school peers (see Figure 1 above). There is no evidence that virtual charter students improve in subsequent years. We could not “explain away” these findings by looking at various teacher or classroom characteristics. We also use the same methodology to analyze the impact of attending brick-and-mortar charter schools. In contrast, we find that students who attended brick-and-mortar charters have achievement no different from their traditional public school peers (see Figure 2 below). Our confidence in these results is further buoyed by other studies of virtual charter schools in Ohio and nationwide having similar findings.

THE DAMAGING EFFECTS OF VOUCHERS

Public Funds Public Schools Website Provides Compendium of Research on School Vouchers

There isn't enough money to support public education. So why are we sending public tax dollars to private schools? Public funds should go to public schools. Here's a group that explains why.
Public Funds Public Schools introduces its research compendium: “Studies of voucher programs across the country have found that students who participate in private school voucher programs fare worse academically than students educated in public schools, and in some cases dramatically worse. In addition, voucher programs undermine already struggling public schools. Other damaging effects of vouchers include loss of civil rights protections, increased segregation, and erosion of the separation of church and state. Private school voucher programs often lack accountability and transparency, yet cost millions of public dollars.”


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Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Helping Students Heal


The education blogosphere, as well as the general media, is full of articles dealing with opening schools in the fall, keeping students safe, social distancing by lowering class size, doubling the number of buses, and other, expensive fixes. Additionally, schools will have to take into consideration the mental and emotional health of students and deal with the multiple traumas they will carry with them.

As of this writing (June 3, 2020), the death toll from COVID-19 in the US is over 105,000 which has left hundreds of thousands of Americans grieving for their lost loved ones. Many have had to postpone or forego funerals and memorials in order to stay safe themselves. Among those who have lost family members are thousands of children who, already traumatized by the fear of illness or the loss of contact with their friends and teachers, are further hurt by the very real loss of parents, grandparents, relatives, teachers, or friends.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused economic trauma, too...and with economic trauma comes social upheaval as families living from paycheck to paycheck start to panic when the food runs out...when the rent or mortgage is due...when the insurance coverage ends.

And we can't talk about social upheaval without acknowledging the excessive number of deaths of Black Americans and the damage to communities of color by the racism present in Amerian society...racism which is exacerbated by economic trauma and political cowardice. The current political upheaval around the country will also traumatize students before they return to school in the fall, no matter how much their parents try to protect them from it.

Public schools have always been a stable force in students' lives and when the next school year begins -- whenever that is -- they will have to take on the additional role of helping students heal from multiple traumas.

How can teachers and schools help their students and likely their families, too, heal after the pandemic and the societal upheaval?


1. CANCEL THE TESTS

First, cancel the state (and other) standardized tests. We already know that standardized test scores reflect the economic conditions in which a child is raised. We can just as easily rank schools and children using their family income if ranking must be done; the results will be the same. In any event, subjecting children to the added stress of standardized tests which for some determines whether they go on to the next grade is too painful to even consider.

Why shouldn't high stakes testing be abandoned next year?
It would also waste precious instructional time, waste resources, and provide meaningless bad data. Look-- if testing really worked, if it really told us all the things that guys like Toch want to claim it does, don't you think teachers would be clamoring for it? If it were an actual valuable tool, don't you think that teachers, struggling with spotty resources against unprecedented challenges, would be hollering, "If I'm going to try to do this, at least find a way to get me those invaluable Big Standardized Test!"

But no-- in the midst of this hard shot to the foundations of public education, a lot of professional educators are taking a hard look at what is really essential, what they really need to get the job done. The Big Standardized Test didn't make the cut. We don't need the "smart testing," especially since it isn't very smart anyway. We just need smart teachers with the resources they need to do the work.
Note the last sentence, "...with the resources they need to do the work." Canceling the tests will save money, too...millions of dollars. With the likelihood of budget cuts coming, that's money that we can't afford to spend on wasteful tests.

2. INTRODUCE A HEALING CURRICULUM

Second, build the new curriculum around healing...and that starts with recess and free time.

A proposal for what post-coronavirus schools should do
Play is urgently relevant to the new education world that will emerge from the coronavirus pandemic. “Play can mitigate stress,” Dr. Yogman tells us. “The executive function skills that kids develop through play can promote resilience, and play can restore safe and nurturing relationships with parents, teachers and other children, which also promotes resilience. That’s got to be our goal when kids get back to school. At every level, in our schools, homes, and communities, our social structures have to acknowledge the magnitude of stress all families, especially those with young children will experience, and design programs that mitigate that, including lots of physical activity and play.”
Schools should focus on developing good relationships between teachers and students. My 2020 Teachers New Year's Resolution #4 was Develop Positive Relationships. In it, I quoted Educational Historian Jack Schneider,
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.
Now, more than ever, students need consistent, caring adults in their lives. Teachers can be among those adults.

To paraphrase Schneider, above, yes, it matters that we teach reading, math, science, and history. But it also matters that teachers know their students and can spot children in need. It matters that teachers can relate to young people -- see them, hear them, and care for them. Learning improves when teachers and students form personal relationships.


3. DIVERT MONEY BACK TO PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Stop sending needed public funds to unaccountable private institutions. We can't afford to support three competing school systems (public, charters, and vouchers) with one pot of public funding. It's time we direct our focus on investing in our public school system.

Research | Public Funds Public Schools
A wide range of research shows that private school voucher programs are an ineffective use of public funds...

Private School Vouchers Don't Improve Student Achievement...

Private School Vouchers Divert Needed Funding from Public Schools...

Private School Voucher Programs Lack Accountability...

Absence of Oversight in Private School Voucher Programs Leads to Corruption and Waste...

Private School Vouchers Don't Help Students with Disabilities...

Private School Vouchers Don't Protect Against Discrimination...

Private School Vouchers Exacerbate Segregation...

Universal Private School Voucher Programs Don't Work...
Charters, as well, have proven to be an experiment that has not lived up to its promises.

Student Achievement in Charter Schools: What the Research Says
The evidence on the effectiveness of charter schools in raising student achievement is, at best, mixed. There is no consistent evidence that charter schools are the answer to our education problems. A research literature that focuses on finding and studying "high-quality" charter schools naturally misleads the public about the average impact of all charter schools and demonstrates that academic performance in most charter schools is underwhelming.
At best, charters do no better than real public schools. It's time to move the funding back to public schools where it belongs.

And yes, this means that there needs to be a change in leadership in Indianapolis and Washington. In order to divert public funds back to public education, and make sure there's enough money for our public schools -- aka our future -- we need to throw out the anti-public education politicians. Elections matter.

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Sunday, May 31, 2020

Tuesdays, Twice a Month

“I don’t like eating,” he often said. "I only eat because I have to."

I ordered quesadillas. He ordered a tuna salad sandwich that came with a dish of fruit and a big bowl of chicken soup. He always ended up packing half of his meal in a take-home box because it was too much. He didn't like eating.

When the food came he would pull out his syringe and give himself a shot of insulin. He was proud of how well he did in managing his medication. The need for insulin had come later in his life, but he studied, learned how to take care of himself, and felt confident that he knew what he was doing.

We changed restaurants every now and then. The last change was because he had moved and the previous places we had gone to were too far away from his new home. We also switched from breakfast twice a month to lunch twice a month. He did “stuff” in the morning.

We talked while we ate...often about how the technology that we had understood so well in the mid-80s had passed us by. He’d pull out an index card with questions on it. “How do I fix this?” “Why isn’t that working the way it’s supposed to work?” More often than not I’d have to Google the answer, and I always reminded him that he could do the same and figure it out that way. Still, I’d get the answer on my phone and he’d write it down on his index card to take home. The next day he’d email or text me with another question...or tell me how my idea worked...or didn’t work. Sometimes we'd talk on the phone. Now and then a problem would come up that needed immediate attention and I would help him over the phone. Every couple of months I’d go to his house after lunch and we’d work together on his latest tech problem. Other times he'd tell me that he figured out what was wrong and we'd just sit and browse the net together.

We’d also talk about religion, economics, politics, world peace, or personal issues. We both agreed that the world would be a much better place if we made him our benevolent dictator. He promised to make health care available for everyone. That got my vote.

Our politics and philosophies of life were similar. His quirky sense of humor would be the catalyst for jokes about certain public figures. We laughed so we wouldn’t cry.

We were friends for a long time before we adopted the routine of eating together twice a month which only began after I retired. Before that, while we were both still teaching, we talked less often... usually through email.

We'd meet each other at the full system staff gathering at the beginning of each school year and find a place to sit together...now and then we’d spend the time backstage watching the speakers from there. We traveled to the state teachers union Representative Assembly together. The ride to Indy was like the lunches we were to have years later...uninterrupted time to share. During the Assembly, we'd comment about the speakers, have lunch, and enjoy the ride home.

We discussed our students and shared what we did in our two, very different classrooms. If something entertaining happened in his classroom I'd read about it in an email the next day. If I needed help of one kind or another I would email him. There was a period of time in the early 2000s when I needed help fairly often. I could always count on receiving his insights and suggestions.

In later years he would frequently remark on how much he liked working with his students. We both liked being able to help kids “become human.”

When he retired I remember thinking how amazing it was that he had taught as many years as he had. And I noticed how the teachers union Representative Assemblies weren’t as much fun after that.

When I retired we started our twice-monthly meals -- the first and third Tuesdays of each month.

We sometimes missed our meal together. I spent some time in the hospital during the last few years, (though I could always count on his visit)...one or the other of us went on a trip...there were doctor appointments and the like. But most of the time I'd email or text him on Monday and say, "Lunch tomorrow?" He would invariably reply, "Can't wait. Lots to share."

Now that he’s gone, the first and third Tuesdays of each month aren’t going to be as much fun anymore.

"Kindness is the foundation for peace and happiness."

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Friday, May 22, 2020

2020 Medley #11: DeVos, Cuts, and Online education

DeVos privatizes with pandemic funds,
The cuts have already begun,
Selfish Americans, the Digital Divide,
Real schools are better than online


DEVOS USES PANDEMIC TO FURTHER DAMAGE PUBLIC EDUCATION

Arne Duncan, Barack Obama's Secretary of Education said that Hurricane Katrina was "the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans." The test scores of students in New Orleans did improve, though that was likely due to increased funding (by nearly $1400 per student) and the fact that the number of students living in poverty decreased significantly. In any case, the point is that Duncan ignored the suffering of hundreds of thousands of Americans as an excuse to privatize public education.

Not to be outdone by this, Betsy DeVos is all for using the suffering of millions and the deaths of tens of thousands to support privatizing public education throughout the entire country.

Taking Duncan one step further, DeVos has ignored Congressional intent for the millions of dollars set aside to support public schools that serve all children and manipulated its distribution with "guidelines" intended to dump more than originally intended into the coffers of private and religious schools.

Just how much damage can this administration do to public education, and the rest of the country, before they are finally replaced next January?

Betsy DeVos Is Using The Coronavirus Pandemic To Push School Vouchers
Vouchers are a bad policy idea during the best of times, and during this pandemic, they’re even worse. Voucher programs don’t improve student achievement, lack appropriate oversight and accountability and, of course, violate religious freedom by forcing taxpayers to fund religious education at private schools. Public schools need public funds desperately right now. They must pay teachers and staff, provide technology and distance learning, support struggling students, and survive budget cuts. The last thing public schools need during a pandemic is DeVos’ unaccountable, unfair, and ineffective voucher agenda.

Small Things: Secretary DeVos, Twitter, and Teachers Vs. Charters
...I think it's worth highlighting once again that we have a Secretary of Education who is not a supporter of public education or the people who work there, who is, in fact, far more excited about a privately-run system for replacing the institution that she is charged with overseeing. I can't say that it's highly abnormal, because the office has never attracted many people who really support public education, but it's still weird that when public school teachers look up at state and federal authorities, they find people who are lined up against them. It's a weird way to run a national education system.

DeVos Funnels Coronavirus Relief Funds to Favored Private and Religious Schools
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is using the $2 trillion coronavirus stabilization law to throw a lifeline to education sectors she has long championed, directing millions of federal dollars intended primarily for public schools and colleges to private and religious schools.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, signed in late March, included $30 billion for education institutions turned upside down by the pandemic shutdowns, about $14 billion for higher education, $13.5 billion to elementary and secondary schools, and the rest for state governments.

Ms. DeVos has used $180 million of those dollars to encourage states to create “microgrants” that parents of elementary and secondary school students can use to pay for educational services, including private school tuition. She has directed school districts to share millions of dollars designated for low-income students with wealthy private schools.

Asked whether she is using crisis to support private school choice, DeVos says ‘yes, absolutely’
“Am I correct in understanding what your agenda is?” [Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Catholic archbishop of New York] asks.

“Yes, absolutely,” DeVos responded. “For more than three decades that has been something that I’ve been passionate about. This whole pandemic has brought into clear focus that everyone has been impacted, and we shouldn’t be thinking about students that are in public schools versus private schools.”

The comments are DeVos’ clearest statement to date about how she hopes to pull the levers of federal power to support students already in — or who want to attend — private schools. She has already made that intention clear with her actions: releasing guidance that would effectively direct more federal relief funds to private schools, and using some relief dollars to encourage states to support alternatives to traditional public school districts.


THE CUTS HAVE ALREADY BEGUN

Schools Will Need Help to Recover

States are going to have to make up the money lost during the coronavirus pandemic somewhere, and if past history is any guide the public schools are going to suffer (Indiana schools are still waiting for money promised after the 2008 cuts). DeVos's redistribution of funds intended for public schools is just the first in a long line of cuts to public schools.
The cuts have already begun, and they’re sobering. In April alone, nearly 470,000 public school employees across America were furloughed or laid off. That’s 100,000 more teachers and school staff who lost their jobs than during the worst point of the Great Recession a decade ago. At the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, we are closely analyzing state budget gaps because we know the tremendous harm that can result from funding cuts.

Recently, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, announced plans to cut $300 million in K-12 funding and $100 million in college and university funding for the current year. Meanwhile, Georgia’s top budget officials told the state’s schools to plan for large cuts for next year that will almost certainly force districts to lay off teachers and other workers.

AMERICAN SELFISHNESS

Weekend Quotables

Mike Klonsky, in his Weekend Quotables series, posted this picture. The residents of Flint, Michigan, while the state claims that the water is now ok, and 85% of the city's pipes have been replaced, are still scared to drink their water. Meanwhile, some Americans are more concerned with their appearance than human lives...insisting that wearing masks make them "look ridiculous" or demanding haircuts.


DIGITAL (CLASS) DIVIDE

The Class Divide: Remote Learning at 2 Schools, Private and Public (Dana Goldstein)

Dana Goldstein, the author of The Teacher Wars, compares two different schools facing the coronavirus pandemic requirement to close. This is a clear description of how money provides more opportunities for some children than others.
Private school students are more likely to live in homes with good internet access, computers and physical space for children to focus on academics. Parents are less likely to be working outside the home and are more available to guide young children through getting online and staying logged in — entering user names and passwords, navigating between windows and programs. And unlike their public-school counterparts, private school teachers are generally not unionized, giving their employers more leverage in laying out demands for remote work.

ONLINE ED CANNOT REPLACE REAL SCHOOLS

Why online education can’t replace brick-and-mortar K-12 schooling

In the Public Interest has gathered research on online education, revealing a track record of poor academic performance, lack of equity and access, and concerns about privacy. Take a look...
Coronavirus has put the future of K-12 public education in question. School districts, teachers, and staff are mobilizing to provide students with online learning, emotional care, meals, and other support. Meanwhile, online education companies—with the ideological backing of right-wing think tanks—are aiming to further privatize public education and profit off of students.

It goes without saying that online education can’t replace the in-person teaching, social interaction, and—for many students—calories that a brick-and-mortar public school provides. However, that isn’t stopping some from arguing that much if not all of K-12 education should stay online after the crisis.


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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Have you ever met children?


We Cannot Return to Campus this Fall

Harley Litzelman, Oakland public high school teacher and union organizer, has written a piece for Medium that likely echoes the thoughts of the majority of America's public school teachers.

We cannot and dare not return to school this fall.

Read the whole post.

The "reimagining" of public education by non-educators now taking place in board rooms and government offices throughout the country fails to take into account the fact that children are not adults. Trying to force students into social distancing while on the bus, in the classroom, in the cafeteria, and on the playground will result in the very worst kind of educational practices.

Litzelman, a high school teacher, tries his hand at explaining how social distancing would likely fail in elementary schools.
No more group seating. No story time on the carpet. No small group stations. Coloring must be strictly monitored to eliminate sharing, probably requiring children to keep their own personal sets of crayons and markers, revealing stark class differences within classrooms and between schools. No fingers in the mouth or nose, and several minutes spent washing their hands after they inevitably forget. They, too, cannot get out of their seats during class, and no longer can they enjoy the couches and bean bag chairs that their teachers have acquired. Again is the time to ask: Have you ever met children?
The preceding paragraph follows a description of how difficult -- and costly -- it will be to double or triple the number of buses needed to transport the kids to school, rearrange classrooms and attendance days, and serve lunches. Young children are physical. Young children cannot keep their hands away from their faces. They cannot keep from touching other people and objects and teachers can't force them to no matter how hard they try and no matter how many times their teachers tell them to. How much time will need to be spent washing hands? To assume that 5-8-year-olds can "social distance" is to 1) assume that their classroom teachers have magical powers and 2) exhibit extreme ignorance about the nature of children.

Where will the supplies come from that high school teachers need to disinfect the desks and chairs between classes? It's insanity to assume that school districts will pay for disinfectant spray or wipes when states are going bankrupt, legislatures have been cutting school budgets, and teachers are already spending their own money on supplies and food for their students. And what about those states that support public funding of three different school systems -- public schools, charter schools, and private/parochial schools?

And then there are the high school students. They won't all comply with all the new pandemic rules of social distancing because teenagers are a non-compliant bunch. They will expose themselves, their classmates, their teachers, and their families to possible illness.
...it won’t happen. It won’t happen because teachers already spend an average of $479 per year on classroom expenses without reimbursement, and there’s no reason to believe that every school will suddenly be able to provide their staff with millions of antimicrobial wipes and thousands of gallons of disinfectant spray. It won’t happen because students will recognize the ample contradictions between the rules they’re asked to follow and the enclosed spaces they’re expected to fill. They’ll balk at administrators demanding that they separate from their friends while asking them to go to class and sit just as close to their peers. They’ll pinpoint the differences in enforcement, identifying teachers who are “cool” with eating in class and who are not. It won’t happen because the children of shelter-in-place protesters won’t reject their parents’ politics, and they will find teachers and principals who agree with them. It won’t happen because it is a regime that demands students to leave their authentic selves at home, selves that students are prohibited from nurturing in bombastic conversations at lunch and quiet moments of intimacy with their first romantic partners. It demands that teachers forfeit the interactions that brought them into teaching in the first place: working side-by-side with kids until that light bulb goes off, giving queer kids the only space to be themselves. It is a regime that cannot survive, and throughout its rise and fall, the virus will spread...
Adults are fighting about who to believe. Do you believe the President? The doctors? The armed protesters pushing their way into the statehouse? How can we expect students of all ages to trust the school system to keep them safe?

How will the school system treat the parent who doesn't believe that it's safe for their child to come back to school? How will the school system treat the parent who doesn't believe that the pandemic is real?

How can we expect teachers, parents, and students to agree on how to structure our "reimagined" schools when the government and medical communities can't agree on when to open stores, how many people need to wear masks, and how much social distancing is necessary?
We cannot return to campus this fall. We cannot return until the public health community has reached a consensus that physical distancing and constant, obsessive sanitation at schools are no longer necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19. If this means that we cannot return until an effective vaccine has been widely disseminated, then that is what it means...
Instead, we need to wait until there is a preventative treatment for the pandemic. We need to wait until there is a treatment for those who become ill.

In the meantime teachers need time to adjust to internet teaching...and we must make sure that all students have access to their internet-based teachers.
This summer, we can give teachers time to do what they do best, but did not have the time to do before: Plan. Collaborate. Share tricks and best practices. Finally figure out how to work Zoom. Debate the ethics of grading and acceptable volumes of work. Fight tooth-and-nail for universal Internet and 1:1 computer access for all students, as Oakland teachers are already doing. We can build the best learning experiences we can under the awful circumstances we are handed because that is what we do anyway.
We must also not give up the concept of live, face-to-face interaction in a classroom. That's where relationships between students and teachers begin. And good relationships between students and teachers is where good teaching begins.
...we must remember that nearly 75 percent of online charter school students are enrolled in programs that graduate less than half of their students within four years. We must learn the lesson of Hurricane Katrina, which Obama Education Secretary Arne Duncan called “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans,” when Louisiana illegally fired more than 7,000 predominantly Black teachers and remade the city into a charter school paradise. We must make it clear that we teachers want nothing more than to see our kids on campus again, but that we simply cannot return until it is safe. Until then, we resist all attempts to exploit this crisis and profit from its misery.

Or we take the other road; we reopen. We begin this grand experiment of bad teaching. We can hope that student rebellion, adult intransigence, institutional failure, and political cowardice aren’t enough to restart the exponential spread of the disease. We can hope that the daily lapses in judgment made every day on every campus, at scale across more than 56 million students herded into 132,000 K-12 schools in the United States, aren’t enough to derail the public health outcomes we desire. We can pretend that school-age children are too young to suffer the worst of this pandemic...
Does anyone honestly think that politicians, especially the pro-privatization politicians who overwhelmingly inhabit state legislatures, will allocate enough money to pay for all the supplies, schedule adjustments, and training needed to accommodate teachers and students in socially distancing classrooms?

The health and safety of our children and the adults who work in their schools depend on our using reason and facts when deciding how to attack the problem of how to educate children during a global pandemic. The politicians, policy-makers, and pundits have already done enough damage to public education because they assume that since they were once students, they "know education."

This would be a good point to mention that any plans we have for the beginning of the next school year must include plans for students who have unique needs. What do we do for students who need translators? How do we include students who might have special learning needs? Public schools are more than just distributors of information.


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