"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

Friday, February 28, 2020

2020 Medley #6: Public Schools Week

Public schools for the public good,
The failure of "choice",
Where will we find teachers for tomorrow?


Public Schools Week ends today, though for ninety percent of American schoolchildren the celebration of public education takes place every day during their local school year.

Why do the vast majority of our K-12 students choose public schools? Because public schools don't choose their students. Every child has a place in public schools. No child is turned away. All children are welcome: children with different gender preferences, children of any color, any or no religious affiliation, rich, poor, athletically or academically gifted, or physically or academically challenged.

We support public schools because it's important for us to have a society in which everyone is educated. Educated citizens make informed citizens. Informed citizens make informed choices. Informed choices make for a better society. Jefferson wrote (perhaps naively)...
If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be...Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe.
John Adams envisioned a public school system that provided for publicly supported schools across the nation.
The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people, and must be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the expense of the people themselves.

Public Schools Serve The Public Good

The public good is a concept that has always had to fight for survival against human selfishness and it's no different in today's world. Tribalism has replaced a shared public responsibility. We have become a nation in conflict, not cooperation.

Vouchers were born out of a desire to avoid integrating schools. When so-called "separate but equal" schools became unconstitutional in the United States proponents of segregation chose to close public schools and set up private schools using voucher programs. Today's voucher programs benefit mostly religious schools that have the option to choose their students. Only certain students are allowed.
During Public Schools Week, we must recommit ourselves to defend the educational system that serves 90 percent of America’s children: our public schools. One way to do that is by opposing private school voucher schemes.

Reasons to oppose vouchers abound: The plans violate church-state separation and individual conscience because they force taxpayers to pay for private religious education. Voucher schools don’t improve academic performance. Many private schools engage in discriminatory hiring and admissions policies. Vouchers don’t require schools to be accountable to the public.

But there’s another equally compelling reason to oppose vouchers that often gets overlooked: Voucher plans subsidize private schools that serve a private interest, not the public good.

Five Threats To America’s Public School System

Those who feed the forces of tribalism distrust the concept of the public good. Since privatizers are in power, they are a very real threat to public schools.
President Donald Trump...

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos...

Private school lobbying groups...

Anti-government extremists: The simplistic idea that anything the government does is bad has a powerful hold on conservative thought in America. Because public schools are a very common manifestation of a public, government-provided service, they’re a high-profile target for ideologues who favor privatization of as many public services as possible...Never mind that public schools educate the vast majority of American schoolchildren and serve the public good.

Millionaires looking to make a profit: In her new book Slaying Goliath, education writer Diane Ravitch focuses on a band of millionaires (in some cases billionaires) who have decided to make education “reform” a priority. The problem, Ravitch writes, is that these would-be reformers don’t have backgrounds in education and naΓ―vely insist that “market solutions” from the business community can be applied to a public service like education...

National Poll Shows Strong Voter Support for Public Schools

Americans support their public schools and are willing to pay for them, while most are unwilling to pay for private schools. That's why voucher plans usually fail when put to a popular vote. States rely on legislators to fund voucher programs. [emphasis in original]
We surveyed likely voters. Here’s what they said:

Funding for Public Schools

  • 64% think funding for public schools should be increased
  • 26% think funding should be kept the same, and only 6% thinking funding should be decreased
  • Of those who believe funding should be increased, eight out of ten would support an increase in funding even if it meant they would pay more in taxes.

Public Funds for Private Schools

  • 73% agree with the statement we should NOT take away public funds from our public schools to fund private, religious, and home school education
  • 64% of voters are...less likely to vote for an elected official who supports taking away funds from public schools to give to private schools, including 47% who would be much less likely to do so

Schools And Other Shared Public Spaces

Curmudgucation's Peter Greene is a fan of public education, the public good, and shared public spaces...
I remain a fan of public education in no small part because it is one of the last shared public places left, even as it is being whittled away. It is a space that reflects the big unruly mess that is a democratic-ish country, and yes that means conflicts and negotiations and an unending clash of conflicting values and goals. But the proposed alternative--these people want something different so they'll just go over there by themselves--requires a continued breaking of relationships, a repeated running away from conflict in place of resolutions. In fact, a worsening of conflict, because once separated into private slices, everyone can just create cartoon strawman versions of Those People Over There to revile and deride.

I've been reading about the ideal for years--if you want to send your kid to a private school for left-handed druids who don't believe in evolution but do believe in global warming, and who want to play in a marching band, well, then, you should be able to make that choice. Everyone should have their own choice of a hundred separate different school systems. But we already know how well "separate but equal" works out. And by demanding that such a ecosystem of parallel schools be organized by free market forces, we guarantee failure, because the free market is great for picking winners and losers, terrible for creating equity among disparate groups.


National School Choice Week is actually about promoting certain choices over others

Those who are privatizing our public education systems are creating a system of winners and losers.
Surely some well-meaning parents and students celebrated. But they were joined by powerful people who, despite what they say, don’t believe that every child deserves a great school. Instead, these people believe in a certain kind of choice over all others. In their worldview, market choice is more important than democracy, parents are consumers rather than members of a broader community, and education is a competition between students, with winners and losers.

School choice costing taxpayers

I'd be remiss if I didn't include information about the charter school scandal now swirling in Indiana...where virtual charter school operators paid themselves and their own businesses $85 million. The money came from state tuition support and included funds for students who were never enrolled in the so-called schools.

The legislature blames the Department of Education, despite the fact that the privatization laws passed in the Indiana General Assembly were lax enough to allow such cheating and conflicts of interest to happen.

This is not unique to Indiana. Privatizers around the nation regularly steal tax money from public schools. The Network for Public Education has been tracking charter school scandals. The current list includes more than two dozen scandals from across the nation in January 2020 alone.

For further reading: Still Asleep at the Wheel: How the Federal Charter Schools Program Results in a Pileup of Fraud and Waste
Blaming the Department of Education for the abuses of charter school operators is like blaming the BMV for the actions of a drunk driver. Responsibility for lax regulations and oversight for both charter schools and voucher schools falls squarely on Bosma and the GOP supermajority. In cozying up to the deep-pocketed school-choice community, they ignored glaring examples of corruption here and elsewhere. It was almost 11 years ago when The Journal Gazette first reported on the suspicious real estate deals surrounding two Imagine Inc. charter schools in Fort Wayne – schools that eventually shut down with $3.6 million in outstanding state loans.

Charter school scandals are so common that the Network for Public Education began collecting them on a website and tagging them on Twitter: #AnotherDayAnotherCharterScandal.


The Number Of People Who Want To Teach Has Dropped By More Than Half This Decade

Public schools are being starved by privatizers diverting tax money to charters and vouchers. Teaching in underfunded schools isn't easy, so it's no wonder that young people are turning their backs on careers in education.
Federal data shows during the 2008-09 school year, 18,113 people were enrolled in teacher preparation programs in [Indiana]. But in 2016, that number was cut by more than half; the programs training future teachers saw only 7,127 people enrolled.

What message are we sending to the future?


Sunday, February 23, 2020

Those Third-Grade Punishment Laws


Michigan joined the Third-grade Punishment Club in 2016 during the administration of Rick, "let-them-drink-lead," Snyder. The 2019-2020 school year is the first year that third graders can be retained-in-grade for failing a state reading test.

Fewer than half the states in the US have laws that force the retention of third-graders who can't pass an arbitrary reading test. Louisiana, for example, did have a retention law, but has rescinded it because it didn't work. Good for them.

On the other hand, FloridaOhio, Arizona, Texas, and Indiana are among the several states which continue to punish students who don't learn to read on the state's timetable. They still retain students despite the fact that it doesn't work.

In a study of the Florida retention law, students who were retained fared worse in the long term than if they hadn't been retained.
1. How did state-mandated third grade retention policies, under the A+ Plan, impact standard diploma acquisition in retained students as compared to academically similar non-retained students?
  • Students who were not retained were 14.7% more likely to receive a standard high school diploma.
2. How did the retained group compare to the similar non-retained group on the Grade 10 FCAT Reading?
  • Both groups had difficulty catching up. In the retained group, 93% remained below proficient into their 10th grade year. In the non-retained group, 85.8% remained below proficient.
This is not the first piece of research showing that retention-in-grade doesn't work...and is often harmful. The topic has been studied for decades and the results are consistent; Retention-in-grade doesn't work...early intervention does.


There is some good news. Some Michigan schools are refusing to participate in the "learn or be punished" process.

Michigan schools revolt: We won’t flunk struggling third-grade readers
Some Michigan school districts are revolting against the state’s third-grade read-or-flunk law, saying they will do everything in their power to prevent students from repeating third grade because of low reading test scores.

...Education leaders immediately raised concerns about the retention portion of the law, pointing out that low-income students are more likely to be retained because test scores often correlate to income, and that studies are at best mixed on the long-term benefit of retention.

Flunking 5,000 third-graders would [cost] Michigan...taxpayers about $40 million because of the extra year in the k-12 system, an amount some educators argue could be better spent on early literacy efforts.
The sponsor of the Michigan bill, former Representative Amanda Price still favors it.
“The intent of the law was, starting in kindergarten, preparing children to read, so that when they reach third grade they wouldn’t need to be retained,” Price said. “Maybe I’m naΓ―ve to believe it only takes four years to teach a kid to read, but I think the normal parent thinks by end of third grade their kiddos should be reading.”

Should kids be reading "at grade level" by third grade? The Michigan law says that schools should retain kids who are reading more than one year below "grade level." What does "grade level" mean?

Is Michigan's definition of "grade level" the same as Indiana's? Is the definition of "grade level" the same in Gross Pointe (average income >$100,000) as it is in Detroit (average income <$27,000)?

Not all children are the same and we shouldn't expect them to be. We don't expect all third graders to be the same height by the end of the school year. Why should we expect them to be at the same reading skill level?

Why is it only reading "grade level" that triggers retention? What about math "grade level" or music "grade level" or physical education "grade level" or behavior "grade level?"

And what if we retain a child in third grade and he still can't read at "grade level" after a second year? Do we retain him again? How many times?

It's the teachers, you say? Teachers should be able to get all their students to the same reading skill level by the end of third grade?

Should they? Didn't we learn our lesson with No Child Left Behind when the law required us to have "all children proficient by 2014?"

There are external forces in children's lives that have an impact on school achievement. Teachers have no control over things like a child's food or housing insecurity. Teachers can't be held responsible for a child's lack of health insurance or lack of medical/dental care, Teachers can't control the environmental pollutants in a child's neighborhood.
Because America’s schools are so highly segregated by income, race, and ethnicity, problems related to poverty occur simultaneously, with greater frequency, and act cumulatively in schools serving disadvantaged communities. These schools therefore face significantly greater challenges than schools serving wealthier children, and their limited resources are often overwhelmed. Efforts to improve educational outcomes in these schools, attempting to drive change through test-based accountability, are thus unlikely to succeed unless accompanied by policies to address the OSFs that negatively affect large numbers of our nations’ students. Poverty limits student potential; inputs to schools affect outputs from them.


Former Representative Price, and other legislators around the country who voted in favor of third-grade punishment laws, expect teachers to overcome out-of-school factors of a child's life over which teachers have no control.

Perhaps the legislators think teachers aren't trying hard enough. Perhaps they think that children won't put forth any effort unless they are threatened.

Often the grade-level expectations are not accompanied by any change in teaching or school resources. Legislatures are tasked with the responsibility of providing adequate resources. Shouldn't legislatures accept some of the responsibility for children's achievement?
"We often hold kids accountable...In this case, with retention. We hold teachers accountable for not raising test scores. But the state legislature doesn't hold itself accountable for putting the resources in place to make sure schools can meet the learning needs of kids." -- Pedro Noguera, Distinguished Professor of education at UCLA
Legislators need to stop assuming that they know more about teaching than teachers.

Legislators need to stop passing laws that encourage schools to flunk little kids -- eight- and nine-year-olds! Instead of wasting money on children repeating a grade and wasting money on those terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad third-grade retention tests, let's spend it on supporting kids' needs in the years leading up to third grade.


Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Make Your Own Light


Many of us who grew up during the Cold War were emotionally traumatized by the fear of nuclear annihilation. Those of us old enough to remember hiding under our school desks during an air-raid drill remember the feelings of fear. Those of us old enough to understand what was happening in Cuba in late 1962 remember the feelings of fear...
Research on the effects of the nuclear threat on children is chilling. At the end of the 1950s, 60 percent of American children reported having nightmares about nuclear war. Few other comprehensive surveys were conducted at this time, though studies multiplied in the early 1980s. In the 1960s, 44 percent of children in one survey predicted a serious nuclear incident. By 1979, 70 percent of interviewees the same age felt sure of an attack. Researchers noted that the latter survey respondents seemed more resigned than their 1960s counterparts. A 1984 survey of 1,100 Toronto schoolchildren found that many reported feeling helpless and powerless in the face of nuclear war.
I lived in Chicago during the Cold War years of the 50s and 60s. I lived with the worry that the plane flying over my house was sporting the red star of the Soviet Union. Every time I noticed a plane overhead I would look up and try to identify the markings...to assure myself that this one wasn't the plane that would drop "the bomb" on the city. The fact that I lived on an entrance route to O'Hare Field, at that time the busiest commercial airport in the world, made it just that much more terrifying.

A common "joke" at the time was, "What do you want to be if you grow up?"

The threat of nuclear war still exists, of course, but today's children and youth have a different existential fear to worry about.


During the early 2000s, I worked with a gifted first grader. During a parent conference, her mother told me that the child became upset whenever her parents left the radio on. Why?

Her mother said that her daughter's rationale went like this...
  • The radio used electricity.
  • Electricity in Indiana is overwhelmingly produced by coal.
  • Coal extraction and use resulted in damage to the environment and therefore, climate change.
  • Climate change was an existential threat to her and her family.
An article in the Washington Post earlier this month dealt with the "eco-anxiety" which is traumatizing today's children.

The Environmental Burden of Generation Z
In a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll of American teenagers released in September, 57 percent said that climate change made them feel scared and 52 percent said it made them feel angry, both higher rates than among adults. Just 29 percent of teens said they were optimistic.
The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement in 2015 warning that climate change poses threats to “children’s mental and physical health,” and that “failure to take prompt, substantive action would be an act of injustice to all children.”
Adults interviewed often remarked that the doom-and-gloom surrounding climate change reminded them of the fears they grew up with during the Cold War.


The fact of climate change is something that we need to deal with -- now, rather than later -- but we also need to be aware of the emotional damage that it's is having on our children.  Teachers, especially, should speak frankly with their students about the dangers of a changing climate, but must remember to provide hope so as not to traumatize children.
Although there’s little question that climate change will harm younger generations, there’s considerably more debate about a related concern — that the rhetoric surrounding the issue is equally injurious.
...scientists say that while some warming is baked in, action now could avert the worst consequences. Marvel puts it this way: “There are so many futures between doomed and fine.”
Helping our students understand that we still have time to alleviate some of the effects of climate change will go a long way towards easing their fears. Helping students find ways of participating in solutions is even more important.
Working toward a solution, in fact, is the consensus approach to calming young people’s fears about the future. The key to addressing eco-anxiety at any age, says psychiatrist Haase, is getting “unstuck,” losing that feeling of paralysis in the face of the problem’s magnitude. Haase is a founding member of the Climate Psychiatry Alliance, an ad hoc group that has sprung up to offer patients and doctors advice on discussing climate anxiety. It’s one of a number of such groups that are tackling the growing rate of patients panicked about the state of the world: The Good Grief Network was launched in 2016 to offer group counseling sessions to the climate-anxious.

The emphasis, doctors say, should be on personal responsibility and empowerment. For an overwhelming problem like climate change, being able to take some action — whether eating less meat or switching to an electric vehicle — can help fight paralysis and get patients to recognize that the worst of climate change is not a fait accompli and that some progress can be made...


It's important to feel like there's something that we can do to help mitigate some of the impact of climate change. It's important to feel empowered.
As the ones usually tasked with bringing climate change information to their students, teachers are increasingly taking on the weight of the psychological implications. Lisa Balazs, a science teacher at a private school outside Birmingham, Ala., told me she persuaded her school to offer a specialized climate change class last year. She wanted to walk students through the physics and chemistry of the changing climate, but also focus on solutions. “I wanted them to feel like they were empowered in the way you could have an intelligent conversation,” she says. “The scary part is feeling like there’s nothing you individually can do, especially when you look at the government. So turning it around and putting it back in your personal control, this is what you can vote for and work for.”
How climate experts think about raising children who will inherit a planet in crisis
One day last year, Marvel and her son stepped aboard the shuttle that runs between Grand Central Terminal and Times Square in New York City, and found themselves surrounded by a brilliant, bustling coral reef; the subway car was wrapped in an ad for David Attenborough’s “Our Planet” series. Her little boy was awestruck.

“And I remember thinking, suddenly: This may be the closest thing he ever sees to an actual coral reef,” she says. “I felt a jolt at that.”

But Marvel does not dwell on those sorts of thoughts, and when people ask her, as they often do, whether she is filled with existential dread as a climate scientist and a mother, she tells them emphatically that she is not. Her work has taught her that what matters is what we do right now, and the urgency of that edict leaves no room, no time for despondence.

“I think, when a lot of people talk about climate change and having kids, they’re looking to the future and despairing,” she says. “For me, it makes me look at the present and be incredibly resolved.”
We're here, on the Earth, now. We're going to have to learn to live on a planet that has a changing climate. We must teach our children how to respond to climate change. What matters is what we do right now.
You can’t save humanity by abandoning it, she says, and these sorts of messages are harmful to the children who are already here...

“My entire ancestral line is built on, ‘You have to figure out how to make it work, how to survive, because no one is going to help you,’ ” she says. “I do not want my children operating in fear. I do not want them operating in a mind-set that all hope is lost. That is not my mind-set.”

A rash of violent storms recently swept through their town in Mississippi, and when the house lost power, Toney saw her teenager immediately reach for a flashlight and her smartphone. The storms, Toney says, have become more frequent lately, more severe, and she knows this pattern will worsen in the years ahead. She watched her daughter cradling her phone and thought of what would happen when, eventually, the battery died.
Toney’s response was pragmatic: She would show her daughter where the candles were kept, and teach her to make her own light.


Stay informed about how the climate of the Earth is changing, but also do whatever you can to change things.

January 2020 was hottest on record, while Antarctica is warmer than it's ever been


Saturday, February 15, 2020

2020 Medley #5: The Education of American Children Living in Poverty

Poverty disrupts school achievement

In 1965 President Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act which established Title I, the section of the program that set aside funding for children in poverty. Title I is still part of the Federal Government's response to poverty in American education, because, as a nation, we accept the fact that poverty has an impact on school achievement.

The United States needs to reduce child poverty. At around 20%, child poverty in the United States, one of the Earth's wealthiest nations, is too high. Compared to other OECD nations, The United States ranks in the bottom third, well below the OECD average. How do countries like Finland, Sweden, France, and the United Kingdom achieve lower child poverty rates than the U.S.? Do they care more about their children than we do? Do they have more money than we do?

Those higher child poverty rates yield lower scores on international tests, which are then used by privatizers and "reformers" to wail about the United States' "failing schools."

But our schools are not failing. Our nation, which allows such high rates of child poverty, is failing...failing to provide equal opportunities to all our children. Our future is threatened by such conditions.

In his 2004 book, Setting the Record Straight, the late Gerald Bracey wrote,
What do I say when people say, "Poverty is no excuse. High-poverty schools can achieve high academic performance."?

[I] say, "You're right. Poverty is not an excuse. Poverty is a condition, like gravity. Gravity affects everything we do. So does poverty."
In a 2009 Report, Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success, David C. Berliner, wrote,
...six [out-of-school-factors] common among the poor...significantly affect the health and learning opportunities of children, and accordingly limit what schools can accomplish on their own: (1) low birth-weight and non-genetic prenatal influences on children; (2) inadequate medical, dental, and vision care, often a result of inadequate or no medical insurance; (3) food insecurity; (4) environmental pollutants; (5) family relations and family stress; and (6) neighborhood characteristics. These OSFs are related to a host of poverty-induced physical, sociological, and psychological problems that children often bring to school, ranging from neurological damage and attention disorders to excessive absenteeism, linguistic underdevelopment, and oppositional behavior.
If all we want to do is increase student achievement test scores, then we must reduce child poverty.

From Stephen Krashen...
When Congress passes
Every Child is Well-Fed,
Every Child has Proper Health Care and
No Child is Left Homeless,
Then we can talk seriously about
"Every Child Succeeds"


RAND Study Affirms the Importance of Ameliorating Family Poverty as a School Reform Strategy

When the Chicago Teachers Union went on strike in 2012, they understood that children in poverty need wraparound services to help them overcome the effects of poverty. Their report, The Schools Chicago's Students Deserve, now in its second iteration, describes the services needed by children who live in poverty. The RAND study discussed in this article says that, in New York City, those same wraparound services proved to be effective.
“The Community Schools program…. seeks to use the school as a community gathering place where children can get counseling, eyeglasses or dental care; where after-school programs help with homework and keep kids engaged; and where parents can get involved with schools, take a class or pick up extra groceries… The program costs about $200 million a year and is funded with federal, state and city dollars… Studies have generally found modestly positive effects. But the idea has never been tried—or evaluated—on the scale found in New York, where some 135,000 students attend a Community School. Over three years, RAND studied 113 New York schools and measured their results against similar schools not in the program. The program found several statistically significant improvements and no areas where things got worse.”

The following articles from the last two years drive home the impact of poverty on our children and their school achievement.


Achievement gaps in schools driven by poverty, study finds

From September 23, 2019

Racial segregation and high poverty are a two-pronged attack on the well-being of millions of American schoolchildren.

"If you want to be serious about decreasing achievement gaps, you have to take on segregation."
They found that the gaps were “completely accounted for” by poverty, with students in high-poverty schools performing worse than those from schools with children from wealthier families.

“Racial segregation appears to be harmful because it concentrates minority students in high-poverty schools, which are, on average, less effective than lower-poverty schools,” concluded the paper by academics, led by Sean F. Reardon, professor of poverty and inequality in education and senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.


Poverty in America has long-lasting, destructive consequences on children: So targeting programmes at the younger generation makes the most sense

From September 26, 2019

Before Medicare and Social Security, the elderly accounted for the largest number of people living in poverty in the US. Now, with those programs in place, it is children.
This American tragedy is an ignored one. Poor children neither vote nor hire lobbyists. It is also morally senseless, punishing children for the sins or misfortunes of their parents. It is economically pointless, too. Poor children who grow up to be poor adults have not just reduced incomes, but shorter lives and a higher risk of criminality. The safety net, although important, does less to blunt poverty in children than in adults.


How Poverty Shapes a Child's Mind and Brain

From October 14, 2019
For decades, we’ve known that poverty affects children’s health and academic success. Poor children usually experience more stress and hardship — such as poor nutrition or witnessing violence — than their wealthier peers, and they have fewer tools to address these problems. On average, poor children also experience more developmental delays, emotional problems, and lower academic achievement.

But, up until a few years ago, the missing piece in all of this was the brain. A growing body of research now shows that poverty changes the way children’s brains develop, shrinking parts of the brain essential for memory, planning, and decision-making. Scientists are also tapping into the brain’s capacity for change, uncovering ways to reduce these effects.


New Census Data Reveals Continued Child Poverty Crisis in America

From September 10, 2019
Shamefully, the youngest children are the poorest children. During the most critical stage for brain development, 3.5 million children under 5 were poor in 2018, with 1.6 million of those children living in extreme poverty. Poverty is defined as an annual income below $25,465 for a family of four with two children (less than $2,122 a month). Extreme poverty is half of that level: an annual income of $12,732 for a family of four (less than $1,061 a month).

The odds continue to be stacked against children of color. Children of color made up nearly three-quarters of all poor children in 2018. Nearly one in four children of color in America is poor, with children of color more than 2.5 times more likely to be poor than White children.


Countries investing more in social programs have less child poverty

From June 1, 2018

Perhaps we ought to invest more of our wealth in our children.
The data show that on average, the relative child poverty rate tends to be lower in countries that choose to invest more of their national income in programs that alleviate poverty and material hardship. For example, Denmark and Finland are among the nations with the most generous social expenditures (each spending close to one-fifth of their GDP) and the lowest post-tax post-transfer, child poverty rates (both below 4 percent). The United States, in contrast, is much less likely than peer countries to step in where markets and labor policy fail in order to lift their most disadvantaged citizens out of poverty. In 2014, the United States had the second highest post-tax, post-transfer child poverty rate (20.2 percent) among the developed OECD countries included in the graph and spent the third lowest share of GDP on social programs (12.0 percent), after Slovenia (11.3 percent) and Slovakia (11.7 percent).


Research Shows the National Child Poverty Rate Could Be Cut in Half

From 2018

Is it too expensive for us to spend more money on our children? Not at all. We are, apparently, spending more now than it would take to reduce poverty. [emphasis added]
Child poverty costs for the U.S. range between $800 billion and $1.1 trillion annually, based on the estimated value of reduced adult productivity, increased costs of crime, and health expenditures associated with children growing up in poor families. The committee found that more than 9.6 million children lived in families with annual incomes below the poverty line in 2015, based on the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). The 2015 poverty line for two-parent, two-child families was about $26,000 for renters and homeowners with a mortgage. That same year, roughly 2.1 million children lived in “deep poverty,” defined as having family resources below half of the poverty line. The highest rates of poverty and deep poverty were found among Hispanic, African American, and American Indian/Alaska Native families.

Poor children develop weaker language, memory, and self-regulation skills than their peers. When they grow up, they have lower earnings and income, are more dependent on public assistance, have more health problems, and are more likely to commit crimes. Robust research evidence has shown that low income itself, rather than other conditions poor children face, is responsible for much of these negative impacts on children’s development. Given the evidence that poverty harms children’s well-being, policies designed to reduce poverty by rewarding work or providing safety-net benefits might be expected to have the opposite effect. The report confirms this supposition, finding that many programs that alleviate poverty – either directly by providing income transfers, or indirectly by providing food or medical care – have been shown to improve child well-being.


Wednesday, February 5, 2020

2020 Medley #4: Vouchers, choice, and the misuse of tax dollars

School choice fails, Students give up rights,
Tax dollars for discrimination,
Choice and segregation,
Pilot "choice" programs are a trap

"...to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical..." -- Thomas Jefferson, Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.


Indiana's voucher program began as a plan for low-income students to "escape" their "failing schools" and go to the private schools that wealthier people have always been able to afford. In order to qualify, then-governor Mitch Daniels insisted, a student must have spent at least one year at a public school.

Since its inception in 2011, it has changed into a middle-class entitlement program. Most students who get Indiana "scholarships" are students who have never attended a public school. A third of students who get Indiana "scholarships" are students who do not qualify for free or reduced lunches. Less than one percent of Indiana's "scholarship" students are "escaping" from a "failing school."

Since private schools aren't better than public schools, vouchers don't improve academic outcomes for students.

The purpose of Indiana's vouchers has changed. Supporters in Indiana no longer talk about helping poor kids get a better education. Instead, taking DeVos talking points, it's all about "choice." Parents will choose the best school for their children.

Finally, Indiana schools that accept vouchers don't have to be accountable for the tax money they are given. At an education forum last month, my local state senator said that this was intended. They don't have to be accountable. They get the money with no strings attached. Perhaps they'll use the money they get for their school to fix the church steeple...or pay for the new football field. It doesn't matter. The taxpayers shouldn't care about accountability for tax dollars paid to religious institutions.

See also: James Madison's 1785 Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments
James Madison’s “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments” was written in 1785 in opposition to a proposal by Patrick Henry that all Virginians be taxed to support “teachers of the Christian religion.”

To this day, the “Memorial and Remonstrance” remains one of the most powerful arguments against government-supported religion ever penned.
Meanwhile, the Indiana Constitution (Article 1, Section 6), which seems to agree with Presidents Jefferson and Madison, states,
No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution.

The current administration, supported by Mike Pence as VP and Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, hates public education. In the State of the Union Address on February 4, 2020, the President sneered about "failing government schools." DeVos, who purchased her job with political contributions, has called public education "a dead end." Neither the President, the Secretary, nor any of their children, ever attended a public school.

Despite the lack of evidence, the administration chooses privatization over public education.

School Choice Fails Students and Parents
Ultimately, the school choice debate is a distraction from a sobering fact: the U.S. has failed public education by never completely committing to high-quality education for every child in the country regardless of their ZIP code.

There is no mystery to what constitutes a great school, high academic quality, or challenging education, but there is solid proof that almost no one in the U.S. has the political will to choose to guarantee that for every child so that no one has to hope an Invisible Hand might offer a few crumbs here and there.


The Danger Private School Voucher Programs Pose to Civil Rights
When students participate in a voucher program, the rights that they have in public school do not automatically transfer with them to their private school. Private schools may expel or deny admission to certain students without repercussion and with limited recourse for the aggrieved student. In light of Secretary DeVos’ push to create a federal voucher program, it is crucial that parents and policymakers alike understand the ways that private schools can discriminate against students, even while accepting public funding. Parents want the best education possible for their children, and voucher programs may seem like a path to a better education for children whose families have limited options. However, parents deserve clear and complete information about the risks of using voucher programs, including the loss of procedural safeguards available to students in public schools.


Anti-LGBT Florida schools getting school vouchers

Suzanne Eckes, professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Indiana University asks, “Hey citizens of the state of Florida ... Do you want your taxpayer money used in this way?”

Do the citizens of Florida want private schools that receive state dollars to be able to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation? Do they want private schools to be able to refuse service to certain groups of people? The article authors don't come out and say it, but the answer is, apparently, "yes."
All of the schools the Sentinel found with anti-gay policies were Christian, with the largest group — about 45 percent — Baptist, not surprising given that the Southern Baptist Convention says Christians must “oppose” homosexuality.

Nearly 40 percent of the schools were non-denominational and a smattering were affiliated with Assemblies of God, Catholic, Lutheran, Nazarene, Pentecostal and Presbyterian Church in America denominations, among others.

There could be more campuses with discriminatory policies, as some private schools that take the scholarships do not publicly post their rules, and a small number don’t have websites.

The schools with these anti-gay rules are found across Central Florida, in suburban DeLand (Stetson Baptist Christian School), near downtown Orlando (Victory Christian Academy) and in historic Mount Dora (Mount Dora Christian Academy). They are in Florida’s rural communities from Okeechobee to the Panhandle and its cities from Miami to St. Petersburg to Tallahassee.

The schools see the proposed legislation as an unconstitutional attack on their religious rights, and many likely wouldn’t change their policies, even if the scholarship law gets amended.

Subsidizing Bigotry

Columnist Sheila Kennedy points out the necessity of public schools.
As the country’s diversity and tribalism have grown, America’s public schools have become more necessary than ever. The public school is one of the last “street corners” where children of different backgrounds and beliefs come together to learn–ideally–not just “reading, writing and arithmetic” but the history and philosophy of the country they share.

Today’s Americans read different books and magazines, visit different websites, listen to different music, watch different television programs, and occupy different social media bubbles. In most communities, we’ve lost a shared daily newspaper. The experiences we do share continue to diminish.

Given this fragmentation, the assaults on public education are assaults on a shared America.


Report: Where Parents Have More Choice, Schools Appear To Become More Segregated

Another not-so-hidden "feature" of school "choice" is economic and racial segregation.
...(families) are making judgments about school quality ... but they're basing those judgments often on poor data, on average test scores at a school, which is not a good indicator of school quality. And sometimes all kinds of biases can get in the way too. It looks like, from other research, that white advantaged parents often make decisions based on the number of other white advantaged parents at a school, not based on any real research about school safety or school quality or these kinds of important indicators.


Don’t Be Fooled! Voucher ‘Pilot’ Programs Are A Trap

Legislators use "pilot" programs as ways of getting their pet projects started. Once a program is funded -- even as a "pilot" -- funding is easier to continue. Changes to the "pilot" program can come later, as in the all-inclusive changes to the Indiana voucher plan. It might begin as a restrictive plan, for certain students "in need." Given the nature of political donations, however, it will undoubtedly expand...just as Indiana's plan has expanded.
Last week a South Carolina Senate Education Subcommittee debated SB 556, which would create a new private school voucher program. Before the hearing, Americans United sent a letter to the committee telling its members to reject the bill because vouchers have been shown to harm students’ academic achievement, fail students with disabilities and violate religious freedom.

Sensing that a statewide voucher would be unpopular, some senators offered to make the program a temporary “pilot” or to limit its eligibility to a “narrow” population of students. Hopefully, South Carolina’s legislators won’t buy this false compromise.


Monday, February 3, 2020

Children Learn What They Live

In 1954 Dorothy Law Nolte wrote a poem titled Children Learn What They Live...
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to be shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn what envy is.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with tolerance, they learn to be patient.
If children live with encouragement, they learn to be confident.
If children live with praise, they learn to appreciate.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to find love in the world.
If children live with recognition, they learn to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn to be generous.
If children live with honesty and fairness, they learn what truth and justice are.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those around them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn that the world is a nice place in which to live.
If children live with serenity, they learn to have peace of mind.
With what are your children living?
Children don't learn only from their parents and teachers. They learn from all the adults in their emotional, geographic, and family communities. They also learn from the wider community...from celebrities and national figures.

It wasn't surprising, then, to find a post on an educator's blog about what children are living with today. Ann Cronin, an educator in Connecticut, writes the Real Learning CT blog. Her latest post deals with what our children are living with...and learning.

President Trump is teaching our children.

After detailing a story of an argument between two children and their teacher's intervention...
Mr. Smith, their teacher, ran down the aisle of the bus and separated the two boys and began to talk to them.

Mr. Smith: I don’t care whose turn it is to sit in the back of the bus. There’s something more important going on here. Pete, you’ve lost your chance for the seat. What’s important here is how you are treating someone else in the class. Calling someone names is always wrong. And it’s always wrong to threaten people because they don’t agree with you. Who would do that? What kind of a grown-up will you be if you call people names and bully them?

Pete: Who could I be, Mr. Smith? Well, I could be the President of the United States of America, that’s who. He does that. I saw two of his tweets the other day.

One tweet said: Our case against lyin’, cheatin’, liddle’ Adam “Shifty” Schiff, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer, Nervous Nancy Pelosi, their leader, dumb as a rock AOC, & the entire Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrat Party, starts today at 10:00.

The other tweet said: Shifty Adam Schiff is a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man. He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!

If the President of the United States can insult people in Congress and bully the one he’s the most angry at, then why can’t I?


There's no doubt that the atmosphere in the United States today is hostile. Some might rightly argue that it's been hostile since Europeans first landed on these shores more than 500 years ago, however, the level of open hostility, based on fear, has rarely been this intense.

Cronin blames the nation's current president for the hostility. Her story about the fighting boys and their teacher is clear. The President is openly hostile to criticism. He engages in childish, bullying behavior. And unlike previous national leaders, he has not tried to pull the nation together. Rather he's focused on securing his base of supporters by claiming victim status.

The hostility has been growing, and, to be honest, it didn't start with this administration.

What is important is that the President, and others, are teaching our children that problems and conflicts should be dealt with through whining, name-calling, and bullying.


The story in the blog post above is made up, however, it's reflective of real issues facing our children.

Students have used and been subjected to hostile and racist taunts. Anti-Muslim episodes have doubled since 2014. Dozens of students gave the Nazi salute during a photo session. Incidents of general bullying have increased over the last few years with a corresponding increase in cyber-bullying. (See also herehere, and here.)

Our children are expressing the hostility they're living with. As the adults in the nation, it's our responsibility to make sure that our children are raised to be respectful and kind.

It's up to each of us to improve the atmosphere in which our children live...in which our society's children live.

We obviously have the greatest impact on the children of our immediate families and communities. We can treat our children and students with respect and kindness, but we have less impact on students around the country.

All the more reason to VOTE in the next election for leaders who will treat others with respect -- starting with the President and at all governmental levels.

What are our children learning?