The Shameful History Behind the School Vouchers Movement The movement to privatize public education was started by white politicians who resisted school integration.
By Randi Weingarten / The Huffington Post July 24, 2017, 5:06 AM GMT
From Alternet: At the exact time I was giving a speech last week to 1,400 educators about ensuring that all children have access to a powerful, purposeful public education, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was addressing the American Legislative Exchange Council—a group of corporate lobbyists and conservative legislators who are working to privatize and defund public education, and cloaking their efforts as school “choice.”
It’s no surprise; no matter the question, for DeVos, the answer is choice. When schools struggle, the “solution” privatization advocates invariably propose is “choice,” with the coda that poor families should have the same educational choices as more affluent families. But that innocuous word belies the record—both the academic results of private school choice and the way it was used historically to continue school segregation after the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional.
After the Brown v. Board of Education decision, many school districts, especially in the South, resisted integration. White officials in Prince Edward County, Va., closed every public school in the district rather than have white and black children go to school together. They opened taxpayer-funded private schools where only white parents could choose to send their children.
Members of the American Federation of Teachers sent funds and school supplies. And some traveled from New York and Philadelphia to set up schools for black students, in keeping with the AFT’s tradition of fighting racism and injustice, which includes expelling our local unions that refused to integrate.
And what about the schools DeVos appallingly called “pioneers of school choice”—historically black colleges and universities? HBCUs are vital institutions, but the truth is that they arose from the discriminatory practices that denied black students access to higher education.
Make no mistake: The real “pioneers” of private school choice were the white politicians who resisted school integration.
DeVos’ preferred choices—tuition vouchers and tax credits, and private, for-profit charter schools—actively destabilize our public schools. They can—and many do—discriminate, because private schools do not follow federal civil rights laws. They drain funds from public schools and increase racial and economic segregation. They lack the accountability that public schools have. And, after decades of experiments with voucher programs, the research is clear: They fail most of the children they purportedly are intended to benefit, children who are disproportionately black, brown and poor.
An analysis of the Washington, D.C., voucher program by the Department of Education found it has a negative effect on student achievement. The Louisiana voucher program has led to large declines in kids’ reading and math scores. Students in Ohio’s voucher program did worse than children in traditional public schools. And for-profit and online charter schools have similarly troubling results.
The Morning EmailWake up to the day's most important news. These choices move us further away from the choice every child in America deserves—well-supported, effective public schools near his or her home.
But Trump and DeVos are not backing off their support for vouchers, for-profit charters and other privatization schemes. They have proposed spending billions of tax dollars on vouchers and tuition tax credits, paid for by cutting federal education spending that goes directly to educate children in public schools by $9 billion.
Make no mistake: This use of privatization and this disinvestment are only slightly more polite cousins of segregation. The same forces are keeping the same children from getting the public education they need and deserve. And how better to pave the way to privatize public education than to starve public schools to the breaking point, criticize their deficiencies and let the market handle the rest—all in the name of choice.
That’s how a democracy comes apart.
Defenders of democracy must not only call out what doesn’t work and resist injustice, but fight for and act to reclaim the promise of public schools. Public schools are not perfect, and every one doesn’t always work for every one of its students. But, as far as I am concerned, our only choice is: Do we, as a nation, strengthen and improve our public schools, or don’t we?
We know what works to accomplish this: investment in and a focus on the four pillars of powerful, purposeful public education. These pillars are children’s well-being, powerful learning, educators’ capacity, and collaboration. They are in place in every public school that is working as it should, and they can and should be present in every school.
DeVos went on the attack after my speech. I’d like to think that an education secretary is capable of and interested in learning from history and evidence, and that someone in that position would support, not decimate, the public schools that 90 percent of our kids attend. A good start would be backing off the DeVos-Trump plan to strip $9 billion directly from education services for kids.
Private School Is Becoming Out of Reach for Middle-Class Americans America's most affluent still go to private schools. They're increasingly alone.
By Jordan Yadoo July 19, 2017 7:45 AM PDT
From Bloomberg(Benchmark): These days, private school really is just for rich kids.
While the enrollment rate for children from middle-income families in U.S. private elementary schools has declined significantly over the last five decades, the level for high-income families has been relatively steady, according to a National Bureau of Economic Research study released this month ― a trend that could come to perpetuate the nation's growing wealth divide.
The shift is most apparent in urban areas, where the enrollment gap between kids from high- and median-income families increased from 5 percentage points in 1968 to 19 points in 2013, according to the study, which used national survey data on private elementary-school enrollment by family income over the last half century.
Part of the decline in middle-class enrollment coincided with the closing of many Catholic schools, though it's unclear how much of that that was due to changes in the religious makeup of cities and how much stemmed from the Catholic Church's struggle to maintain schools with the same relatively low tuition rates that parishes had historically offered.
But it's not just Catholic-school closures causing the fall in middle-class enrollment. Soaring tuition has kept private-school education out of reach for most American families, for whom household income has risen at a much slower pace.
"The combination of rising income inequality and rising tuitions has meant that middle-class families increasingly can’t afford private schooling," said Sean Reardon, a Stanford University professor of poverty and inequality in education, who co-authored the study with Harvard University economist Richard Murnane. Measured in 2015 dollars, the average tuition at nonsectarian private elementary schools ― where the percentage of students from high-income families has risen substantially ― surged from $4,120 in 1979 to $22,611 in 2011, according to the paper.
While the real income in 2015 of families at the 90th percentile of the income distribution was 65 percent higher than it was in 1973, families at the 50th percentile saw only a 21 percent increase, and those at the 20th percentile saw an 8 percent drop, the authors note.
Higher-income families "increasingly live either in the suburbs or enroll their children in private schools," they write in the report, describing how, for many well-off families, it's made more sense financially to purchase pricier housing in the suburbs in exchange for better-quality public schools rather than face mounting tuition expenses year after year.
Less than 10 percent of American children attend a private elementary or secondary school, the authors note. But the shifts in enrollment over the past few decades reflect how increases in family wealth inequality have contributed to increases in income-based school segregation.
The authors also make the point that parents who send their children to private schools may be less invested in the quality of their local public schools. And whether or not children at private schools receive a superior education, they're building relationships with peers from wealthy and well-connected families that could prove invaluable years later in a competitive labor market.
Why are Wealthy White Communities Forming Their Own School Districts? By David Love - July 12, 2017
From Atlanta Black Star: Educational segregation is not a thing of the past but rather is alive and well more than six decades since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Back then, Jim Crow segregation created separate and unequal education, and dictated that white public schools would receive more resources. Today, race and economics intersect as wealthy white communities are forming their own school districts.
As was reported in US News, some states allow communities to break off and form their own districts, taking their tax dollars with them and siphoning off crucial financial resources from schools in low-income areas that are more diverse and where communities and children are more vulnerable. The nonprofit group EdBuild, which deals with educational funding and equity, recently released a report called Fractured: The Breakdown of America’s School Districts. The report found that 30 states have laws on the books to allow small towns to secede from larger communities. Across the nation, 71 localities have attempted such a move and 47 have succeeded since 2000.
One good example of this secession movement is taking place in Alabama, which makes it particularly easy for communities to secede. For example, a federal court has allowed the town of Gardendale, a white, middle-class section of Jefferson County, to break off from the rest of their current school district for the purposes of, as the mayor articulated, “keeping our tax dollars here with our kids, rather than sharing them with kids all over Jefferson County.” The new school district would serve a student population of 2,000 that is 22 percent nonwhite and 7 percent low income. In contrast, throughout Jefferson County, one fifth of the children are impoverished and the majority are nonwhite. Another example is Shelby County, Tenn., in the Memphis area. After six communities seceded from Shelby County, its budget was cut by one-fifth, seven schools were closed and hundreds of teachers were laid off. Tennessee, as US News noted, has one of the most relaxed secession policies, requiring only 1,500 students and the vote of a majority of people in the municipality.
When well-to-do white school districts break off from their larger, poorer and darker areas, they take the resources and the tax base with them. The report noted that 21 of the 30 states allowing secession require action by voters, while 21 require approval by a state authority. Three states require a constitutional amendment and only one state requires the state legislature to take action. Only six of these states must consider racial and socioeconomic factors, and nine must consider the impact on funding.
The concept of school district secession harkens back to the days of the segregation academies or Christian academies, private schools founded by whites after the Brown desegregation decision to avoid having their children attend school with Black children. Over the years, as The Daily Beast found, these white academies had to move beyond the whites-only rationalization for their existence, adding the rationale that they needed to combat “secular humanism” and liberalism, even as the importance of race remained. These private white schools remain, their student bodies remaining overwhelmingly white and wealthy, with few or no Black students.
Educational segregation is on the increase in America. As Frontline reported, data from the UCLA Civil Rights Project showed that in the South, the percentage of Black students in majority white schools went from zero to a high of 43.5 percent in 1988. By 2011, the number had reverted to 1968 levels at 23.2 percent. This is important because the UCLA figures demonstrate a high correlation between segregation and poverty. Over half of the children in the poorest schools are Black and Latino, translating into lower-quality teachers, supplies and facilities. “In many respects, the schools serving white and Asian students and those serving Black and Latino students represent two different worlds,” the UCLA researchers said.
“Segregation is typically segregation by both race and poverty. Black and Latino students tend to be in schools with a substantial majority of poor children, but white and Asian students are typically in middle-class schools,” the UCLA report noted. “Segregation is by far the most serious in the central cities of the largest metropolitan areas, but it is also severe in central cities of all sizes and suburbs of the largest metro areas, which are now half nonwhite. Latinos are significantly more segregated than Blacks in suburban America.”
The nation’s system of education does not provide opportunity in an equitable manner. The problem of economic disparities among school districts arises when one considers the manner in which schools are funded in America. As The Atlantic reported, education is financed based on the money available within a given district, which may or may not correlate with the amount of resources necessary to effectively teach children. School funding is locally based, and the federal government supplies 8-9 percent of school budgets through programs such as school lunch and Head Start, with state and local government making up the balance, with the particular formula depending on each state. Throughout the country, poor districts spend 15.6-percent less than districts of greater means, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Greater school expenditures lead to students completing more education, higher earnings and lower poverty as adults, as the National Bureau of Economic research found.
UCLA makes a number of recommendations. For example, they suggest that civil rights organizations develop strategies and legal tactics to reverse the trend of educational segregation. The federal government can set the tone in setting national policy and providing for equity in the schools, and states should aggressively recruit Black and Latino teachers. The report also urges that HUD do more to address housing re-segregation, including a joint project with the Justice and Education Departments to support integration in communities and schools in gentrifying cities and racially shifting suburbs.
“We recommend substantial expansion of magnet school funding, strong civil rights policies for charter schools, serious incentives for regional collaboration and teacher training for diverse and racially changing schools,” the report added.
Why Schools Still Can't Put Segregation Behind Them Friday, June 09, 2017 By Derek Black, The Conversation | News Analysis
From Truthout: A federal district court judge has decided that Gardendale -- a predominantly white city in the suburbs of Birmingham, Alabama -- can move forward in its effort to secede from the school district that serves the larger county. The district Gardendale is leaving is 48 percent black and 44 percent white. The new district would be almost all white. The idea that a judge could allow this is unfathomable to most, but the case demonstrates in the most stark terms that school segregation is still with us. While racial segregation in US schools plummeted between the late 1960s and 1980, it has steadily increased ever since -- to the the point that schools are about as segregated today as they were 50 years ago. As a former school desegregation lawyer and now a scholar of educational inequality and law, I have both witnessed and researched an odd shift to a new kind of segregation that somehow seems socially acceptable. So long as it operates with some semblance of furthering educational quality or school choice, even a federal district court is willing to sanction it. While proponents of the secession claim they just want the best education for their children and opponents decry the secession as old-school racism, the truth is more complex: Race, education and school quality are inextricably intertwined.
Rationalizing Gardendale's Segregation
In some respects, Gardendale is no different from many other communities. Thirty-seven percent of our public schools are basically one-race schools– nearly all white or all minority. In New York, two out of three black students attend a school that is 90 to 100 percent minority. In many areas, this racial isolation has occurred gradually over time, and is often written off as the result of demographic shifts and private preferences that are beyond a school district's control. The Gardendale parents argued their motivations were not about race at all, but just ensuring their kids had access to good schools. The evidence pointed in the other direction: In language rarely offered by modern courts, the judge found, at the heart of the secession, "a desire to control the racial demographics of [its] public schools" by "eliminat[ing]… black students [from] Gardendale schools." Still, these findings were not enough to stop the secession. As in many other cases over the past two decades, the judge conceded to resegregation, speculating that if she stopped the move, innocent parties would suffer: Black students who stayed in Gardendale would be made to feel unwelcome and those legitimately seeking educational improvements would be stymied. Simply put, the judge could not find an upside to blocking secessionists whom she herself characterized as racially motivated. As such, the court held that Gardendale's secession could move forward. Two of its elementary schools can secede now, while the remaining elementary and upper-level schools must do so gradually. The Problem With Conceding to Segregation Unfortunately, there's no middle ground in segregation cases. No matter what spin a court puts on it, allowing secessions like Gardendale's hands racism a win. While it's true that stopping the secession may come with a cost to members of that community who have done nothing wrong, our Constitution demands that public institutions comply with the law. That is the price of living in a democracy that prizes principles over outcomes. In this case, the constitutional principles are clear. In Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court held that there is no such thing as separate but equal schools: Segregated schools are "inherently unequal." Rather than stick to these principles, the judge in the Gardendale case seemingly tried to strike a bargain with segregation. As long as Gardendale appoints "at least one African-American resident" to its school board and does not do anything overtly racist moving forward, the court will allow the city to pursue its own agenda.
The Sordid Roots of School Quality -- and Inequality
The ruling in Gardendale is a step toward reinforcing an unfortunate status quo in Alabama. Alabama is one of a handful of states that amended its state constitution in an attempt to avoid desegregation in the 1950s. The amendment gave parents the right to avoid sending their kids to integrated schools and made clear that the state was no longer obligated to fund public education. Alabama preferred an underfunded and optional educational system to an integrated one. Courts quickly struck down the discriminatory parts of the new constitution, but the poor state education system remained. Today, student achievement in Alabama ranks dead last -- or near it -- on every measure. Most communities don't have the resources to do anything about it. Funding is relatively low -- and unequal from district to district. Even after adjusting for variations in regional costs, a recent study shows that the overwhelming majority of schools in Alabama are funded at ten percent or more below the national average and another substantial chunk is thirty-three percent or more below the national average. Parents trapped in under-resourced schools understandably feel like they need to take action. But rather than demanding an effective and well-supported statewide system of public schools, parents with the means often feel compelled to isolate their children from the larger system that surrounds them. And while whites and blacks struggle over the future of Gardendale's schools, the real culprits -- the current state legislature and the segregationists who gutted public education in Alabama decades ago -- go unchallenged.
The Path Forward Leads Through Equal Public Education
The education system in Alabama, like in so many other states, is rigged against a large percentage of families and communities: Those with less money tend to get a worse education. Until these states reform their overall education funding systems, the inequalities and inadequacies that they produce will continue to fuel current racial motivations. The lawsuit in Gardendale was a poor vehicle for fixing Alabama's education system: The state's overall education system was not on trial. The only issue before the court was a racially motivated district line in one small community. But our small communities are connected to larger education systems. In my view, we cannot fix those systems by way of more individual choice, charters, vouchers or school district secessions. The fact is, educational funding is down across the board, when compared to a decade ago. If we want all students to have a decent shot at better education, we need to recommit to statewide systems of public education. Only then will our base fears and racial biases begin to fade into the background.
Basic high school civics lessons we knew in 1948. THIS WAS ON PAGE 1!
Snarkoleptic - demo. underground
education hi -lites
Transgender Bathroom Bill Clears Texas Senate
The AP (7/25, Weber) reports that the Texas state Senate on Tuesday passed “a Texas version of a North Carolina-style ‘bathroom bill’ targeting transgender people” despite “opposition from police and major corporations.” However, the bill “faces an uncertain path to becoming law.” The Houston Chronicle (7/25) reports that the bill “has fiercely divided the state,” and is “part of 20 priority items that Gov. Greg Abbott has called on the Legislature to pass during a 30-day special session.” The measure “would bar local school districts and governments from passing rules on transgender bathroom policies.” It also “attempts to block transgender girls from competing in scholastic sports against females.” The Huffington Post (7/25, Planas) reports that the vote “came after more than 200 opponents ― including many trans Texans ― testified against the bill on Friday.” Law Enforcement, Business Groups Oppose Bill. Politico Morning Education (7/25) reports that even as the Texas Association of Business has launched ads warning that the state’s bathroom bill could threaten such ventures as the Dallas Cowboys’ “efforts to bring the 2018 NFL draft to Texas,” a number of police chiefs from major cities “will protest the bill at the state capitol today.” The Texas Tribune (7/25) reports, “Police chiefs from three of the five biggest cities in the state gathered at the Texas Capitol on Tuesday to spurn proponents’ claims that such legislation is needed to protect privacy, arguing that proposals being considered by the Legislature are discriminatory, won’t keep people safe and would divert law enforcement resources.” public school officials, advocates for sexual assault survivors, and other groups were also on hand.
WPost Analysis: Florida Education System Praised By DeVos “Is In Chaos.”
A Washington Post (7/22, Strauss) analysis reports that Florida’s K-12 education system, which Education Secretary DeVos has praised as a national model, “is in chaos.” Just weeks before the start of the new school year, public schools in the state are “trying to absorb the loss of millions of dollars,” which “now must be shared with charter schools as a result of a widely criticized $419 million K-12 public education bill crafted by Republican legislative leaders in secret and recently signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.” Critics argue the law threatens traditional public school and services offered to students living in poverty. Public school superintendents also warned at a recent state Board of Education meeting “that the new fund-sharing requirement puts their school buildings at risk.”
AFT President Links School Choice, Segregation
The AP (7/20, Danilova) reports American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on Thursday said that “school choice, a key policy agenda of the Trump administration, is rooted in segregation and racism.” Weingarten “said that decades ago school choice was used by officials in the South to resist desegregation.” Noting that in her speech, Weingarten called Education Secretary Betsy DeVos a “public school denier,” the AP quotes Weingarten saying, “Make no mistake: This use of privatization, coupled with disinvestment, are only slightly more polite cousins of segregation.” The AP reports school choice groups were quick to push back against Weingarten’s characterization.
USA Today (7/20, Toppo)reports Weingarten delivered her “blistering speech” before a gathering of some 1,400 AFT members in Washington, likening DeVos “to a climate-change denier, saying DeVos refuses to acknowledge ‘the good in our public schools and their foundational place in our democracy.’” Weingarten argued that “the Trump administration’s school choice plans are secretly intended to starve funding from public schools.” Valerie Strauss writes at the Washington Post (7/20) “Answer Sheet” blog that Weingarten and DeVos’ dueling criticisms mark a departure from their visit to an Ohio public school in April.
DeVos Touts School Choice, State Control At ALEC Conference
The Denver Post (7/20) reports on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ speech on Thursday at a gathering of the American Legislative Exchange Council in Denver, Colorado on Thursday, where she “garnered two standing ovations” from the “conservative thinkers and policy advocates.” The piece reports DeVos “delivered what they wanted to hear...attacking teacher unions and education policies of the Obama administration and pledging her support for ensuring the most important educational decisions be left up to local schools and families.” DeVos “urged local school districts to create flexible learning plans mandated by the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, that emphasize local control.” The Post notes that DeVos and ALEC “are on the same page on several education issues, including favoring the expansion of charter schools and school vouchers.” The Washington Post (7/20, Brown) (7/20, Brown) reports that DeVos “blasted Washington, teachers unions and ‘defenders of the status quo’ Thursday as she pledged to shrink the role of the federal government” in education policy. The Post describes DeVos’ longstanding support for state authority over education policy, but says that recently “some conservatives have questioned her moves as the Education Department began reviewing state plans to implement” ESSA. DeVos criticized teachers unions repeatedly as “defenders of the status quo.” Jackie Zubrzycki writes at the Education Week (7/20) (7/20) “Politics K-12” blog that DeVos “encouraged states to take the lead in creating new, more-flexible education policies and pledged that the U.S. Department of Education would focus on clearing away regulations and obstacles to state autonomy.” DeVos also “criticized the American Federation of Teachers and the previous administration’s Education Department, which she said had issued inappropriate regulations” and “put in a strong plug for her signature issue of school choice.”
House Appropriators Pass Education Funding Bill That Cuts $2.4 Billion From ED Budget
Andrew Ujifusa writes at the Education Week (7/19) “Politics K-12” blog that a House appropriations subcommittee has advanced a funding bill that cuts ED’s budget by $2.4 billion, “with most of that reduction coming through the elimination of a major program focused on teachers.” The bill cuts ED’s budget to $66 billion, but this is “a less-severe cut” than the $9.2 billion reduction in President Trump’s budget proposal. The bill cuts $2 billion from Title II, which “covers teacher training, as well as class-size reductions.” However, Republican sponsors “declined to include two big budget initiatives from Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos: a $1 billion public school choice program under Title I, and a $250 million private school choice program.” Hundreds Of House Democrats Oppose Title II, Pell Grant Cuts. U.S. News & World Report (7/19, Camera) reports that “hundreds of House Democrats” wrote two separate letters to the House Appropriations Committee criticizing “billions of dollars in proposed cuts to federal programs that fund teacher preparation and provide tuition assistance to low-income students.” The letters “outlined concerns over a proposed $2 billion cut that would eliminate part of Title II – which provides school districts with funding for teacher development and class-size reductions – and a proposed $3.3 billion cut to the Pell Grant program.”
Plan To Put New York City Reserve Teachers In Classrooms Sparks Controversy
Liana Loewus writes at the Education Week (7/19) “Teacher Beat” blog that the New York City Education Department recently announced that “schools that still have open teaching positions this fall will be assigned educators from the city’s ‘absent teacher reserve’ pool,” filling between 300 and 400 vacancies. However, “critics say it’s a form of forced hiring, which the schools chancellor had pledged to avoid.” The piece explains that teachers in the ATR pool “have lost their full-time teaching positions, often because their school was closed or their position eliminated,” or “have been disciplined for misconduct or incompetence, and are eligible to return to the classroom but have not yet been rehired.” Loewus writes that principals are concerned about the new policy, quoting National Association of Secondary School Principals Director of Public Affairs Bob Farrace saying, “Many education conditions are outside the principal’s control. But most principals consider teacher quality as the most important condition they can control. Forcing students to endure a teacher who principals believe will be ineffective or—worse—toxic to the school community erodes a principal’s authority, makes it pretty difficult to hold a principal accountable for the school’s success, and most important, compromises student learning.”
three updates: this is the result of lazy, apathetic people not voting!!!
Illinois Governor Vows To Veto Chicago Teacher Pension Item In Education Funding Bill
The Chicago Tribune (7/17, Geiger) reports that in the ongoing impasse over education funding in Illinois, Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) on Monday said “he plans to rewrite a Democrat-passed education funding formula bill, setting up a likely showdown with Democrats who control the General Assembly as school districts across the state remain caught in the middle.” Rauner said “rural and suburban communities...would gain millions of dollars in school aid by removing what he calls a ‘bailout’ for the Chicago teacher pension system.” Rauner called on Democratic leaders in the legislature “to send him the legislation so that he can use his veto pen to make the changes.”
The AP (7/17) reports Rauner “says he’ll use his amendatory veto power to remove money for Chicago teacher pensions from a school funding bill,” and reports that state Sen. Andy Manar (D) “says that could effectively kill the legislation, putting hundreds of districts at risk of shuttering schools.”
Reuters (7/17) reports that such a line-item veto “would result in a cut of nearly half of a $293 million funding boost for state aid and pensions CPS would receive in the legislation, freeing up $145 million for other school districts.” Reuters adds that Chicago Public Schools officials say “Rauner’s intended action on the bill would exceed the veto power afforded governors under the Illinois Constitution.” The Chicago Sun-Times (7/17) reports that CPS “immediately decried such an ‘amendatory veto’ as an overstep of the governor’s power.” A spokeswoman for the district “pointed to an Illinois Supreme Court ruling limiting an amendatory veto to making ‘specific recommendation for change’ and barring the tactic from changing the ‘fundamental purpose/intent of the legislation.’”
Perdue Defends Administration’s Relaxation Of School Nutrition Standards
Politico Morning Agriculture (7/13, Boudreau) reports that on Wednesday, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue “defended the Trump administration’s recent controversial move to relax some of the school-nutrition standards championed by former first lady Michelle Obama,” speaking to “some 7,000 professionals at the School Nutrition Association’s annual conference in Atlanta.” The crowd reportedly “cheered, applauded and laughed as Perdue told them that he believed they know much more about their communities and kids than Washington does.” Perdue said, “Some have said in the press, as you’ve read, that we’re ‘rolling back’, [that] these rules ‘roll back progress.’ I don’t agree with that .We’re freezing things in place to help us evaluate what the palatability, what the acceptance of these changes have been and to reduce the burdens on schools to get you back to feeding kids and not doing paperwork so much anymore.”
On its website, WTVC-TV Chattanooga, TN (7/13) quotes Perdue as telling school nutritionists, “If you look at the obesity epidemic out there, it’s not happening at schools it’s happening at home and on the way to and from school.” The Hays (KS) Daily News (7/13, Bluestein) quotes Perdue as saying, “Hungry children cannot learn. I don’t mean to sound so profound for that. That’s simple and basic, and it can get lost in the conversation. Food that’s thrown in the trash cannot nourish any child, and frankly that trash can doesn’t need any nourishment.”
‘Alternative’ Education: Using Charter Schools to Hide Dropouts and Game the System
School officials nationwide dodge accountability ratings by steering low achievers to alternative programs. In Orlando, Florida, the nation’s tenth-largest district, thousands of students who leave alternative charters run by a for-profit company aren’t counted as dropouts.
by Heather Vogell and Hannah Fresques, ProPublica
Tucked among posh gated communities, and meticulously landscaped shopping centers, Olympia High School in Orlando offers more than two dozen Advanced Placement courses, even more afterschool clubs, and an array of sports from bowling to water polo. U.S. News and World Report ranked it among the nation’s top 1,000 high schools last year. Big letters painted in brown on one campus building urge its more than 3,000 students to “Finish Strong.”
Olympia’s success in recent years, however, has been linked to another, quite different school five miles away. Last school year, 137 students assigned to Olympia’s attendance zone instead attended Sunshine High, a charter alternative school run by a for-profit company. Sunshine stands a few doors down from a tobacco shop and a liquor store in a strip mall. It offers no sports teams and few extra-curricular activities.
Sunshine’s 455 students — more than 85 percent of whom are black or Hispanic — sit for four hours a day in front of computers with little or no live teaching. One former student said he was left to himself to goof off or cheat on tests by looking up answers on the internet. A current student said he was robbed near the strip mall’s parking lot, twice.
Sunshine takes in cast-offs from Olympia and other Orlando high schools in a mutually beneficial arrangement. Olympia keeps its graduation rate above 90 percent — and its rating an “A” under Florida’s all-important grading system for schools — partly by shipping its worst achievers to Sunshine. Sunshine collects enough school district money to cover costs and pay its management firm, Accelerated Learning Solutions (ALS), a more than $1.5 million-a-year “management fee,” 2015 financial records show — more than what the school spends on instruction.
But students lose out, a ProPublica investigation found. Once enrolled at Sunshine, hundreds of them exit quickly with no degree and limited prospects. The departures expose a practice in which officials in the nation’s tenth-largest school district have for years quietly funneled thousands of disadvantaged students — some say against their wishes — into alternative charter schools that allow them to disappear without counting as dropouts.
“I would show up, I would sit down and listen to music the whole time. I didn’t really make any progress the whole time I was there,” said Thiago Mello, 20, who spent a year at Sunshine and left without graduating. He had transferred there from another alternative charter school, where he enrolled after his grades slipped at Olympia.
The Orlando schools illustrate a national pattern. Alternative schools have long served as placements for students who violated disciplinary codes. But since the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 refashioned the yardstick for judging schools, alternative education has taken on another role: A silent release valve for high schools like Olympia that are straining under the pressure of accountability reform.
As a result, alternative schools at times become warehouses where regular schools stow poor performers to avoid being held accountable. Traditional high schools in many states are free to use alternative programs to rid themselves of weak students whose test scores, truancy and risk of dropping out threaten their standing, a ProPublica survey of state policies found.
Concerns that schools artificially boosted test scores by dumping low achievers into alternative programs have surfaced in connection with ongoing litigation in Louisiana and Pennsylvania, and echo findings from a legislative report a decade ago in California. The phenomenon is borne out by national data: While the number of students in alternative schools grew moderately over the past 15 years, upticks occurred as new national mandates kicked in on standardized testing and graduation rates.
The role of charter alternative schools like Sunshine — publicly funded but managed by for-profit companies — is likely to grow under the new U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, an ardent supporter of school choice. In her home state of Michigan, charter schools have been responsible in part for a steep rise in the alternative school population. She recently portrayed Florida as a national model for charters and choice....
...Supporters of alternative schools say they provide more support for struggling students, and the best do — through small classes, caring teachers, flexible schedules and extra counseling and tutoring. Arkansas, for instance, has devoted “tremendous resources” to lower student-teacher ratios, specialized teacher training and project-based learning in its alternative program, said Lori Lamb, the state’s director of alternative education.
But a broad swath of the schools short-change their students, ProPublica’s analysis of federal data shows. Nationwide, nearly a third of the alternative-school population attends a school that spends at least $500 less per pupil than regular schools do in the same district. Forty percent of school districts with alternative schools provide counseling services only in regular schools. Charter alternative schools — both virtual and bricks-and-mortar — in Ohio, Georgia and Florida have been accused of collecting public money for students who weren’t in classes.
Across the country, students and their advocates report, alternative classes are sometimes taught in crumbling buildings, school basements, trailers and strip malls. Some lack textbooks and, in many, students sit in front of computers all day instead of engaging with teachers.
States often hold alternative schools to lower standards. Some exempt them from achievement goals, oversight or reporting rules other schools must follow, ProPublica found. In Florida, while regular schools like Olympia get letter grades for performance, alternative schools can opt for less rigorous ratings tied to testing progress.
Rather than lifting the performance of marginal students, alternative schools serve too often as way stations for future dropouts. While just 6 percent of regular schools have graduation rates below 50 percent, our analysis found nearly half of alternative schools do.
“What was done in the alternative programs was just shameful,” said Leon Smith, a lawyer at the Center for Children’s Advocacy, which has pushed for reforms in Connecticut. In that state, a survey of alternative education a few years ago revealed substandard facilities and programs that offered fewer class hours than regular schools did.
The effect was to demoralize students who were already demoralized.[...]