More on Informing Parents on School Choice

According to a Times article published last week, Betsy DeVos said the following: “My faith motivates me to really try to work on behalf of and advocate for those who are least able to advocate for themselves.”

I keep asking myself how does this apply to families that do not have the resources to assess different schools available to their child? Whether it is tax dollars funding public schools, religious schools, or private schools, who should be accountable to objectively informing parents and guardians of school options?

REPOST: Tim Kaine, Dems’ VP Nominee, Is Strong Supporter of Public Schools (Unlike Cory Booker)

REPOST:

Tim Kaine, Dems’ VP Nominee, Is Strong Supporter of Public Schools (Unlike Cory Booker)

by janresseger

Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for President, seemed confused last Wednesday when he spoke at a news conference about the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, Tim Kaine.  Trump was reported by Politico to have confused Tim Kaine with former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean: “Her running mate Tim Kaine, who by the way did a terrible job in New Jersey….” declared Trump. I hope that by now most of us are less confused about Tim Kaine than Trump was last week, but perhaps there is still room to learn more about Kaine’s record.

So who is Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s choice as her running mate?  A U.S. News & World Report piece last week explained Tim Kaine’s Hefty Education Resume: “When Hillary Clinton formally introduced her vice presidential pick, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, it quickly became clear that she chose someone with big education policy chops….”

Kaine’s wife, Anne Holton, has a long history of work on behalf of children and families as a judge in juvenile and domestic relations court. During Kaine’s term as governor of Virginia, she became an advocate for adolescents in foster care. Kaine and his wife educated their three now-adult children in the public schools of Richmond, Virginia.  Holton served until last week as Virginia’s Secretary of Education (She just resigned to join the presidential campaign.), a position she used, according to the Washington Post, to bring attention to the needs of the state’s public schools: “‘Teachers are teaching to the tests. Students’ and teachers’ love of learning and teaching are sapped,’ she wrote in 2015. ‘Most troublesome, Virginia’s persistent achievement gaps for low-income students have barely budged,’ she continued arguing that ‘our high stakes-approach’ with testing has made it more difficult to persuade the best teachers who work in the most difficult, impoverished schools… Like most of her fellow Democrats in the state, she has opposed the expansion of charter schools and other school-choice measures, and she has pushed for greater investments in public education, including teacher pay raises.”

2013 column Kaine himself wrote for theRichmond Times-Dispatch describes his commitment to public education as mayor of Richmond, governor of Virginia, and U.S. senator: “Anne and I are now empty-nesters. Combined, our three kids spent 40 school years in the Richmond Public Schools. While we both interact with the school system in our professional lives, we’ve learned even more from back-to-school nights, parent-teacher conferences, attending school events and pulling crumpled notes to parents out of our kids’ backpacks. The lessons learned as parents have made me think about what works and what doesn’t work in Pre-K-12 education.”

What are Kaine’s education priorities as described in his 2013 column?  First is support for the kind of individualized education planning mandated for students with special needs in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: “Most policy debate these days seems to be about charter schools or high-stakes testing. But I’m convinced that the most important reform has been under our noses since 1975, when legislation was passed to guarantee (that) children with diagnosed disabilities receive individualized learning plans tailored to meet their specific needs. Each child brings a mix of strengths and challenges to the classroom. Let’s use the insight gained through advances in educating kids with disabilities to leverage new technologies and teaching methods that can individualize learning for each child.”

Kaine continues by endorsing the expansion of high-quality pre-Kindergarten; reduction of number state-mandated, high-stakes tests; more emphasis on science and social studies at the elementary level; more exposure to exploring careers for students in middle school; a variety of paths to a high school diploma; more opportunities for exploration of the arts and computer science as requirements, not mere electives; and strong efforts to attract and hold on to excellent teachers: “As I listen to public debate, it often sounds like our main issue is how to get rid of bad teachers. But this problem pales beside the larger issue of how to keep good teachers. Too many great prospective teachers never enter the profession and too many great teachers leave too early over low salaries, high-stakes testing pressure, discipline challenges and an overall belief that society doesn’t value the profession.”

Louis Freedberg, executive director of California’s EdSource examines the Kaines’ strong record on education: “It seems clear that both Kaine and his wife favor strategies very different from the top-down, test-heavy, high-stakes reforms of the No Child Left Behind era.”  And writing for the Education Opportunity Network, Jeff Bryant explains: “But in reviewing Kaine’s education policy chops, what’s in his record may not be as important as what isn’t: the current education establishment’s policy checklist of standardization, high-stakes testing, allowing charter schools to sort students by income and ability, and keeping teachers under the authoritative thumb of test-based evaluations—there’s none of that.”

Of course nobody can predict whether a Vice President will leave a mark on an administration’s record in any particular policy area.  But Hillary Clinton’s choice of Tim Kaine over another contender for the vice presidential slot, Cory Booker, sends what many hope is an important message.  Booker has a long history of supporting private school vouchers and was described in Dale Russakoff’s The Prize in league with New Jersey’s governor Chris Christie in hatching the plan to charterize Newark, New Jersey’s public schools and in luring Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to donate $100 million to underwrite the experiment.

Tim Kaine has a strong local, state, and federal record of support for democratically governed public schools —as Richmond Mayor, and Virginia Governor and U.S Senator.

“The Walmartization of Public Eductaion”

Here’s a fantastic article about the Walmart Family Foundation’s expanion of their hellbent support of charter schools. If you don’t want to read the whole article, skip to the last few paragraphs. The author, Valerie Strauss, makes a key point. She essentially says it doesn’t matter if you’re pro or anti charter schools. It doesn’t matter if you’re in between. What does matter is where each community stands on the matter and due to the Walmart Family Foundation’s heavy funding, with no regard to what communities want, this is just another example of the Man forcing his own, self-centered beliefs on (in this case) a mass group of people. As Strauss questions, how is this democarcy when a hanful of people are deciding our country’s educational future?

S.A.’s Got-to-Go List’s Lawsuits

Success Academy refused to provide a five year old with adequate services to address his learning disabilities. Instead, they sent him home for early dismissal and called his parents nearly every day because he ciolated the Academy’s Code of Coduct. What’s more is that even after he the school formalized a plan that could remedy his disabilities (at least to a certain extent), they refused to actually put those simple remedies, such as deep breathing tactics and taking short walks, in place. They did not want to bend their strict Code of Conduct, which entails sitting upright at all times. Eventually, I.L.’s (he’s called I.L. for privacy) parents were told that I.L. was “not a good fit” for the school. I.L.’s parents removed him from the school.

I.L. was one of the students on the Sucess Academy-Fort Greene’s-should-be-infamous “Got to Go” list, which targeted students with learning and behavioral disabilities for permanant removal. His parents are suing the school, which is fantastic because now we can get a closer look at the gross injustices that students with learning disabilities face at militaristic charter schools. But it’s sad that Success Academy, with all its resources, doesn’t truly take the time  to help them. The initial idea behind charter schools was for them to work more closely with kids who have learning and behavioral problems. It’s clear by this list that Success Academy only cares about the students who are “willing to learn.” It also adds to the idea that charters push out the “bad” kids and use the public school system as a “dumpsite. Read more here.

Still The Same: Social Services Support

I’m currently reading Alex Kotlowitz’s nationally acclaimed book, There Are No Children Here, a book that displays the harsh affects that poverty has on children who live through it, day in and day out. Kotlowitz starts off by focusing on the violent and burdensome social lives of Lafayette and Pharoah Rivers but then dovetails into very important aspects of the poverty story that has often been said to not be affected by poverty: the school and education of the impoverished child.

Kotlowitz, before describing and connecting the affect that poverty has on Lafayette and Pharoah’s education, gives a general summary of what little resources the principal and teachers have to work with.

“Also, Suder [one of the local schools serving the few thousand kids growing up in the crime infested Horner projects] must share a nurse and psychologist with three other schools and a social worker with four other schools.”

Not only do the children live in poverty, but the schools themselves operate and function in poverty.

But this sentence resonated with me for another reason. My high school severed students from three large project developments. Even though these projects were similar, though less dangerous than Horner, it was obvious that a large number of my fellow classmates were behaviorally troubled because of their environment. What’s more is that my high school in 2010 shared a social worker with three other high schools, like Horner in 1987. Nearly a quarter of a century later and we still can’t admit that not acknowledging poverty as a real detriment to students academic and social success has much to do with why children who live through it can’t break the cycle.

I admire this book, because like How Children Succeed, it acknowledges that education needs more than “better” teachers. The problem is far more complicated than that.

Video: “Shake Off Those Charter Chains!”

I’m not entirely against charter schools. In part, I simply wish that they acknowledged they are doing harm to the public school system and that the public school system should remain relevant.

We are giving up our tax dollars to not elect those who run our schools. How can that be right? I agree with advocates for charter schools when they say the bureaucracy in the public school system needs to change. But I don’t think we should give the public school system to a system that, say for example, doesn’t give teachers any kind of union protection. What’s more is that there are politicians, like governor John Kaisch of Ohio, who ignore the fact that students are failing in some charter schools but continues to give those schools more tax dollars AND not require that these schools be subject to public audits…there’s obviously a motive that does NOT favor the children of Ohio.

Schools are schools and one system should NOT actively hurt the other…there’s something morally wrong about that. Instead, they should be working as a community.

With that said, take a look at this  exaggerated-not-so-exaggerated-video on how charter schools have a negative impact on public schools: