"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

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

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

Thursday, July 30, 2020

2020 Medley #16

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


WE'VE GOT OURS. TOUGH SH!T FOR YOU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So out of touch.

STARTING SCHOOL

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

Guess which students are most susceptible to COVID-19.

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

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

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

How To Stop Magical Thinking In School Reopening Plans

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Educators Prepare for Reopening with Living Wills and Life Insurance

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

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

PRIVATIZATION: PPP MONEY TO CHARTER SCHOOLS

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

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

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

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

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


PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, July 27, 2020

What could possibly go wrong?

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

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


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


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

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

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


Helping Your Kids Stay Focused on School During the Coronavirus Pandemic

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

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

What could possibly go wrong?

Return to School During COVID-19

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, July 23, 2020

2020 Medley #15

Motivate for reading, Returning to school, Internet Safety


HOW TO MOTIVATE A READER? MAKE THEM FEEL GOOD

The First Question to Ask of a Vulnerable Reader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOING BACK TO SCHOOL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

She said:

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

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

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

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

Before a New School Year Begins, We Must Grieve

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

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

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

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


PROTECT YOUR CHILD ON THE INTERNET

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

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

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Friday, July 17, 2020

Wishing Doesn't Make it So


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


SCHOOLS: OPEN OR ELSE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IGNORE THE SCIENTISTS

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


FACTS MATTER. SCIENCE MATTERS

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE: Read this article from the AARP

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

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Saturday, July 11, 2020

Listen to this - 2020 #2 - Do We Open School or Not?

BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE


Schools and teachers are faced with a no-win situation because of the coronavirus pandemic.

What it could cost to reopen schools with COVID-19 safety measures

Read this, from someone who never attended a public school, never worked in a public school, and never sent her children to a public school, yet is tasked with running the nation's public schools...
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos made clear on Wednesday she is not impressed with hybrid models and wants students in school full time. “They must be open, and they must be fully operational,” she said Wednesday at the Education Department.

On Tuesday, she said at the White House: “It’s clear our nation’s schools must fully reopen and fully operate this school year. Anything short of that robs the students, not to mention taxpayers, of their futures.”
Secretary DeVos insists that all students attend school full time in the fall because the schools that she previously referred to as a "dead-end" are now so important that staying home to avoid an illness "robs the students...of their futures."

She followed her remarks with a ten-page set of instructions on how to keep schools safely open during a pandemic which the US Education Department will provide to every teacher in America.

...Just kidding. She offered nothing...except the "musts."

THERE'S ANGER IN THE LAND

No matter what schools do some people will be angry. If schools open, some parents will be angry. If schools stay closed and use distance learning some parents will be angry. If schools require masks and ppe some people will be angry. If schools don't require masks and ppe some people will be angry.

We live in a country where one person's "stupid superstitious uninformed opinion" is just as good as another's expertise and experience. Schools and teachers, as usual, will take the blame no matter what happens.


WHAT TO DO?

Here are some thoughts about the challenges facing public schools as they figure out how they're going to open during a pandemic. They include ideas and questions like...
  • Where will schools get the money for ppe, cleaning supplies, extra staff, more buses, and the unexpected, yet guaranteed things that arise when going into a completely unknown situation?
  • How will we keep masks on our smallest children? Speaking of smallest children, what happens when a kindergartner or first grader can't tie his schools, skins her knee, loses or breaks his mask, or starts crying because she was afraid to ask to go to the bathroom? Is this the nurturing school experience you want for your child?
  • What will happen when an asymptomatic COVID-19 positive child shows up in the class of an elderly teacher? or a teacher with an elderly parent at home?
  • How can we reduce class size to allow for social distancing?
  • If students stay home and do online learning, who will pay for the infrastructure needed for students who don't have computers, other devices, or internet access?
  • How will the lunch staff feed the kids who are in attendance as well as the ones who are at home?
There is still one question, however, that seems to have slipped from our consciousness...
  • How will schools run school shooter drills when students are supposed to be masked and socially distant from each other. Yes. This is how we live now.
Announcing that schools need to start, yet ignoring the obvious questions about how to make sure that students and staff are safe and healthy, is irresponsible.


LISTEN TO THIS

Schools Are Not the Problem

Doesn't it bother anyone that we have once again blamed K-12 schools as the national scapegoat for our enormous failings in health, housing, child care, and economic policy?

by Mitchell Robinson
If children are at more risk out of school than in school, then the problem isn’t school.
  • If kids who aren’t in school are hungry, then increase funding to food pantries and community kitchens. (BTW–many public schools have been feeding kids all summer.)
  • If kids who aren’t in school are in greater danger of abuse, then improve child protective services, counseling, and intervention services.
  • If kids who aren’t in school don’t have a safe place to stay, then build more shelters for families in need.
  • If kids who aren’t in school are more likely to suffer from mental health problems like anxiety and depression, then let’s spend more money on mental health care and increase access for young people to social workers, mental health counselors, and child psychologists.

Thoughts on "opening" schools

Where will the money come from?

by teacherken
...let’s just start with teachers. To limit the number of students in classes requires probably doubling the number of teachers, when in many states there is already a shortage of qualified teachers (very true in AZ for example). Where to schools and school systems get them? Where could they get the funds to pay them and provide benefits? Remember that states and local governments are usually banned from running deficits, and those with rainy day funds are already draining them.

24 WRONG Reasons to Reopen Schools

End the wasteful test-and-punish culture of American education. Save money. End testing.

by Nancy Bailey
10. Students need testing to find academic losses.

Students have only missed some school. Education reformers are already assuming they have fallen behind. More testing is a ridiculous reason for students to go back to school.

The AAP's school guidance principles don't align with Trump/DeVos mandated reopening.

by Mike Klonsky
But the AAP guidance goes on to present an extensive list of key principles that should be considered in the course of any reopening. The list includes elements like physical distancing requirements, protective equipment, cohort crossovers, school visitors, common and outdoor space (playgrounds and hallways), on-site health and counseling, special education services, block scheduling in high schools, cleaning and disinfection, and virologic testing and screening and much more.

So, What Happens If A Teacher Gets COVID-19 While At School?

Why are these decisions always made by people who have no idea what it's like to teach?

by Caffeinated Rage
...the people who are doing the funding and policy making are mostly people who have no idea about the day to day operations of a public school.

They think they know what it entails and how much it should cost. Now we are in unchartered territory.

Want Schools Open In The Fall? All The Money In The World Can’t Solve These Problems

Remember the protesters at the Michigan State House? Would you like them to visit your child's school?

by Peter Greene
Family compliance with protocols. At this point we have all seen plenty of video footage of anti-maskers vocally and violently objecting to masking requirements in stores. Imagine that those folks, and others like them, have children to send to school. How do you think they’ll react to school demands that their students observe all safety protocols?

What it could cost to reopen schools with COVID-19 safety measures

Betsy wants the schools open. Is she willing to fight for funding?

by Valerie Strauss
...the Association of School Business Officials International and AASA/School Superintendents Association did an analysis on costs for an average school district: 3,659 students, eight buildings, 183 classrooms, 329 staff members and 40 buses, transporting at 25 percent capacity.

It found the cost for opening up completely under new safety guidelines could amount to $1,778,139. For larger districts — New York City schools, for example, have more than 1 million students — the costs would be dramatically higher.

The case against reopening schools during the pandemic — by a fifth-grade teacher

by Rose Levine
Sharing a classroom allows our elementary cohorts to become like family. We play games, exchange smiles, sit in circles on the rug and tell stories. We taste each other’s food and whisper in each other’s ears. We have casual exchanges during downtimes at recess or transitions between subjects. We share supplies, collaborate and take turns, and in so doing we build a model of accountability to one another and our community.
None of this is possible with six feet of social distancing. If we attempt to maintain this distance in the classroom — an impractical feat on its own — community building would be challenging.

COVID School: Breathing the Air, Staying Apart, and Shortening the Day

by Mercedes Schneider
Can you imagine a first-grade class in which students must remain six feet apart all day? No free play? No hands-on, physically-close assistance or encouragement at all from the teacher?

Not possible, and not healthy.

In many schools, in-person teaching and learning will take a distant back seat to managing the COVID-19 school day.

We underfunded schools for years — and only now are leaders realizing how much we need them

Have we actually discovered that teachers and schools are "essential?"

by Jeff Bryant
What’s sadly ironic about all this sudden newfound appreciation for teachers as essential to the economy is that government leaders and policy makers, from both major political parties, have spent years attacking the economic well-being of public schools and teachers.

School districts have never recovered from budget cuts states imposed during the Great Recession that started at the end of 2007..."When COVID-19 hit, K-12 schools were employing 77,000 fewer teachers and other workers—even though they were teaching two million more children, and overall funding in many states was still below pre-2008 levels.”

Teachers now make 4.5 percent on average less than they did more than 10 years ago, according to the National Education Association, and public school teachers earn 17 percent less than what comparable workers earn, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Pediatricians, Educators, and Superintendents Urge a Safe Return to School This Fall

from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Education Association (NEA), and AASA, The School Superintendents Association.
“Returning to school is important for the healthy development and well-being of children, but we must pursue re-opening in a way that is safe for all students, teachers and staff. Science should drive decision-making on safely reopening schools. Public health agencies must make recommendations based on evidence, not politics. We should leave it to health experts to tell us when the time is best to open up school buildings, and listen to educators and administrators to shape how we do it.

How President Trump Politicized School Reopenings

quote from Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of NEA, in Time.
“There are 3 million teachers and support staff out there who desperately want to hug their kids,” says Lily Eskelsen GarcΓ­a, president of the National Education Association teacher union. “But we will not be complicit in standing by and letting politicians cavalierly warehouse those kids without caring about their safety because, oh, we need their moms and dads to go back to work. We could do this in a safe, medically sane way, but it’s going to take money. Why was that not even a question when it was Shake Shack that might have to lay people off and go bankrupt?”


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Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Musical Interlude: July 7, 1940

Ringo Starr is 80 years old today...

Over the last couple of decades, a three word phrase has dominated Ringo's life: "Peace and Love."

So it's not surprising that he is one of many well known and talented musicians who participate in Playing for Change, a movement dedicated to inspire and connect the world through music.

There's no need to review Ringo's life history or contribution to popular music -- there's enough of that in the real world. Instead, here's a video of Ringo, Robbie Robertson (The Band), and musicians around the world, playing The Weight, celebrating the song's 50th anniversary last year.

The notes from the video...
“The Weight,” features Ringo Starr and The Band's original member Robbie Robertson, along with musicians across 5 continents. Great songs can travel everywhere bridging what divides us and inspiring us to see how easily we all get along when the music plays. Special thanks to our partner Cambria® for helping to make this possible and to Robbie Robertson, Ringo Starr and all the musicians for joining us in celebrating 50 years of this classic song.
From one old drummer to another...Happy Birthday, Ringo!



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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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