Saturday, November 26, 2016

About Eliot

Once, after class, I mentioned to my high school Global Studies teacher that I wanted to grow up to be a high school social studies teacher. He laughed in my face. "You will never in your life" he bellowed "be a social studies teacher. That's ridiculous and hilarious". His laughter persisted until I turned to leave and it continued until I had completely left the room. 

While the incident did leave an impression on me, it didn't exactly leave me with scars either. My friends and I were all poor kids living in a good suburban school district and we had long since become accustomed to not being welcomed by the adults with open arms. Eliot's (I'll only use his first name here) laughter was chalked up as just one of the things you deal with under certain circumstances. This is especially true for me because I a wise-ass when I was a kid and had no desire of being liked by adults.  My mother scrimped and saved and sacrificed most of her life just to keep me in that district and back then if you stepped too far out of line, they just find a way to put you in a special ed room. (And Special Ed wasn't \s back then what it is today).  So we all just took sucked it up. Lots of us were poor back in the 80's so I had company.

School districts in the suburbs are based solely on geography. If you can afford to live in a good geographic locality, then you can attend a school in a good district. If you can't afford to live there, then your education is not as good. That's why on the surface of things, Betsy Devos' school choice plan, whatever plan is put forth, may look pretty good for parents stuck in bad school districts.

Choice. You can choose to leave your district. Think about how good that sounds to a student who is in an unsuccessful school district.

I guess that's a nice way of acknowledging the obvious truism that, in American schools, there are "haves" and "have nots". Most times they're in different districts. But sometimes, as in my case, they're in the same. The "haves" in my school district were all the children of middle and upper middle class white people. The "have nots", and there were many included a bunch of poor white kids strong Dominican-American community. A close neighboring district was almost entirely poor.

While the "have not" districts are largely ignored, the sense of community among the "haves" districts is strong. That same sense is within the mixed districts. The "haves" in my district had a strong sense of community and "have nots" were, well, largely ignored.

I have zero hard feelings toward Elitot. I grew up to be a social studies teacher and have a few  plaques and certificates on my wall to show for it so, even today, I'm good. But Eliot was a very popular teacher in my high school; among the haves.

He actively treated the "have nots" pretty bad. He once told a valedictorian, a have not from a broken home living in an apartment with her mother, that she really shouldn't be the valedictorian, because  another girl had worked harder and required no extra help during her time in high school. He openly wondered how he could remove certain kids from his class on Genocides (while naming them as they were in the room) and read aloud the list of names of students he felt would pass one of the two state exams offered for the class while looking the others in the eye.. The "haves" thought nothing of this. The "have nots" were the only ones who noticed.

These are true stories about Eliot. It's just the kind of guy he was. My district was filled with them. Genial, friendly, great educators who could just give a shit less about you if you weren't on the right wrung of the socio-econmic ladder.

Damn. If I had a choice, I would have escaped my district!

 I scrolled through Eliot's  friends list on Facebook a while back. Tons of former students. All haves from the community. Not one have not. Not one. Not one poor kid from around my way. It's nice that teachers care. It would be nice if they cared about all the students.

Good people in my former district. Good colleagues now, I'm sure. But good people are often not up to this task. Good people can often teach yet still shouldn't be teachers. In that environment, who's to say the student shouldn't have a choice? No one is going to tell me that the concerns of the students mean something less just because someone doesn't want to blame a school district that could, honestly, care less about some of its students. No one is going to tell me that parents who exercise the choice that may be coming is wrong for feeling let down by their neighborhood school or district. I think everyone agrees we could all be doing a better job.

I checked the accountability stats for my old district. Over 95% graduation rate, with a 49% grad rate for students with disabilities (SWDs) 36% for ELLs and (if I read correctly) less than 30% for African-American students. New dialogue, new century but still the same old suburban school district.

Say what you want about these choice people. They're misguided. They're evil. They have chosen the wrong targets and have offered the wrong solutions. They will destroy public schools.

 But the simple fact is that the whole choice movement has been wrought because of our collective failure of the have nots. The classroom teacher, who has no real power in virtually all schools, should not be in this equation to the extent others should but the teacher still is.

And while education isn't the place where we failed them, the truth is we have also failed them in their education. It's alright to say that. It's ok to acknowledge that. This is but one reason why the choice movement holds the "have nots" on its mantlepiece.

And while, for my current friends, rejecting the movement is not -not by any means- a rejection of the have-nots, I worry that my friends are enabling, by sheer accident, a process that helps to perpetuate the problem. We can't teach to just some of our students.

In the town where I grew up, Eliot is loved. Eliot is revered. Eliot is admired and Eliot is very much respected. But, you see,  Eliot is part of the problem. I feel a touch of blame toward folks like Eliot just as I blame the Evas and choice advocates of the world for any pain to public schools that the choice movement may bring.

Because, of course, choice isn't choice for the tens of thousands of students who did not get in or who were pushed out of a charter school. Choice will not be choice for the 1000th voucher student who applied to a private school or neighborhood district with only 50 open seats.  But the myth is sold to parents and students who were in classes taught by people like Eliot; to parents and students who would like the "have nots" in education to have equity and a real opportunity after high school.  And that myth looks pretty good.

Bubbles. (or 'There is no "We. There is only "Them" and "Them")

Yeah. I couldn't decide on a title. Sorry.

Now that Choice will come to the USDOE, folks are wondering what the  public education advocates are going to do. When the subject turns to matters outside of education, they're wondering how "the left" in general is going to respond. This seems to be a common trend. One reader sums up the dilemma well when talking about what "we" should have done:

Instead of loudly whining about every little (and big) thing Trump has said and done since his election, we should have held out fire until this appointment. Now we have no credibility. Lesson learned
And the fact is:


  1. Unfortunately, there is no "we" here. There is only a whole bunch of names 'who have been involved in ed' or in "activism" for years and there are the reformers. That's it. The "we" you refer to is just us kind of caught in the middle of people who want to destroy public ed on one side (the right) and people who want to convince us to fight THEIR battles on the other (the left). I have just seen one indicate to me, in a friendly way, that teachers' concerns were (essentially) nothing much to worry about and that activists' (which these days is nothing more out of touch leftists) comprise a real existential problem (and that's after reading about how an edformer will slowly pick apart public schools). Look, neither can be trusted given the current positions and EITHER will just destroy the idea of the local public school teacher and they'll think absolutely nothing of it.

Sadly, everyday parents and teachers really can't trust either the ed reformers or the activists who would like to stop them. That's not to say anyone who cares about public ed shouldn't stand on one side or the other. But if you think they people you'll be standing with care about your issues, then I've got a bridge to sell you. It's pretty old but still works well.

One respected DOENuts reader sent along an SNL link suggesting one possible path "the left" in general may follow:  Build a bubble around Brooklyn and wait until the whole thing passes over. That's just how the "edu" public school advocates seem to be responding.

Need an example? Here. Go "write" a letter to your Senator urging them not to support DeVos for the Education post. Then, have a cookie and you'll feel much better.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Welcome To the Party, Pal!

Now that Trump's choice for education has a name, Betsy DeVos, the elite educationnados have finally decided to pay some attention to the policy that is poised to undermine public schools and change the face of education as we know it. Naming just a few:

Eskelsen Garcia
these are just a few of the names I quickly grabbed. The list of recent voices who have objected goes on and on.  And that's a good thing! Its a very good thing!!

Now that they have a name to the policy, maybe they'll act? Maybe they'll have meetings? Maybe they'll protest? Maybe they'll rally?

They'll surely jump all over each other to get in front of a microphone and a newspaper reporter to decry the destruction to schools in poor communities that the policy will bring. That will be good.

But will they embrace a message that reaches out to people who may be inclined to support the "fresh" face policy that is coming? Will they try to convince new people to come into the fight to defend the local public school as we know it? Will they try to pull more people into the tent? Or will they pull up a bunch of chairs in some corner of it and tell everyone else they should to come over.

For me, it will be simple to tell: If they shout about "privatization" or "charters" or "vouchers" and nothing else, then it will be clear that the urban elites have no intention of taking the time to convince people from outside urban America that what may come in two months is a real threat. If they demonize "Devos" instead of talking about policy, then it will be clear that they'll be just preaching to the same old choir of followers.

But if they start writing and talking to people about what will happen to their local school if Title I funding becomes portable, if they try explain how federal funding equates to their football team, or buses for their children, or teachers in their classrooms, then maybe the polls will change in places where it counts (Minnesota Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida to say the least) and maybe Trump will be smart enough to ease the administration away.

I myself have absolutely, positively no faith in the "voices against education reform" figuring out that they need to find a way to convince the people who voted for Trump that this is a wrong idea.

There's a reason people went out to vote for him: Elitists.

My guess is these folks will speak to the same old supporters and keep blowing hot air into their echo chamber of northern liberal cities. These folks haven't even figured out what the hell happened to them on 11/8. How are they supposed to figure out how to speak through the anger to people who voted for a different candidate?

Or how to speak to the concerns of people who voted for him?

20% of the AFT's own members voted for this guy!! As many as 33% of NEA members  did the same -in direct conflict to their own professional and financial interest. Let's see if certain folks (I'm looking at you rich Manhattan. I'm looking at you fancy school district leader)  can pull themselves together.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Rhee for Sec-Ed: New Name. Same Threat.

I've been trying to sound to alarm all week about the real threat faced by public schools from the incoming Trump administration. Pardon me while I pump you full of those annoying things, facts, just one more time:

President-elect Donald Trump will meet Saturday with Michelle Rhee, a Democrat and former District of Columbia public schools leader who is considered in the running for secretary of education.

We all knew that Rhee's name was swimming around as a potential pick. Learning that she has met with Trump was no big surprise to me and it definitely means she's one of the names being floated around. And the platitudes that her PR team have amassed go wherever her name goes:

Rhee was hired to lead D.C. schools under Democratic Mayor Adrian Fenty, who gave her essentially unprecedented autonomy to change the costly and under-performing city’s school system.
Known as a visionary education reformer, Rhee shot to national prominence after her picture appeared on the Dec. 2008 cover of Time magazine next to the headline “How to Fix America’s Schools.”
But the picture of Rhee holding a broom enraged teachers, union leaders and others who said the image made clear Rhee’s intentions to improve the school system by trying to sweep out the most experience teachers -- in her effort to pay them based on performance, not tenure.

The Trump squad also met with Betsy DeVos yesterday - another "school choice" advocate.

What's important is that is that this meeting comes just two weeks after the election, before a Secretary of State and Defense, Treasury have been announced. In other words, before the basic presidential cabinet positions have been settled, the president elect has his mind on education policy. This fact is more important because it means that the $20 billion threat is going to be a priority for the new administration:

Trump’s School Choice Policy released in September calls for his incoming administration to “immediately” redirect $20 billion in federal funds to school choice -- in the form of block grants for an estimate 11 million school-age children living in poverty.
“We want every disadvantaged child to be able to choose the local public, private, charter or magnet school that is best for them and their family,” the Trump campaign said in announcing the plan. “Each state will develop its own formula, but the dollars should follow the student.”
That's Kevin Johnson, Rhee's Democrat Husband

School choice is governmental poison pill. Those who advocate it claim that it empowers people of poverty. What it really does is undermine the one institution that has not yet declared war on poor people: Public Schools. After decades of reducing funding for basic safety net provisions through a process called "starving the beast", one of the last institutions left standing is the (partially federally funded) local public school. The strategy there is also to starve the beast. bBy expanding charters and offering vouchers for private schools, public schools would be forced to make cuts that would force them to define themselves in a new role. There is a word for a crisis like that: Existential.

And that's the real threat. There is a new Ed war coming and it may be more painful than the last. And I almost hope Rhee gets picked to lead it. Her appointment would bring a much needed lightening rod to public education advocates all across the country. With Rhee in office, the voices of dissent would be as big (or bigger?) than they were in 2009-2010. The amount of voices lending their support to public schools would triple in size and $20 billion strategy would wind up being seen as a massive overreach of federal authority to influence local institutions -indeed Corporate Edreformers jumping the shark. What concerns me is a name no one knows, like DeVos, or Evers or Messer; names that most folks don't know coming out of the box. A name like that could get away with a lot before activists decide to pull it together and oppose the policy reforms.

Because if there is one thing I know about the left, it takes them forever to pull it together. The populists (of which I count myself) get too angry, often withholding their presence in a dissenting moment until their sure the terms are met. The elitists get too vindictive, always -always- allowing the entire house to burn down until their old scores have been settled before they throw their hats into the process of opposition. (If you think the Republican troubles were a mess, then you have a lot to learn about learn about the left!). A Rhee appointment would settle all of that quick. DeVos? That would be pretty bad.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Eva Eva Eva.

With the Daily News reporting that Eva is most definitely not going to be the US Education Secretary , one questions should be on everyone's mind: Did that ever matter?

If this election, and the past several years in the education advocate world has taught me one thing, it's that the elitists' mentality pervades a bit too much. Their mentality over the past few days have centered around one thing and one thing only: Eva.

But that Eva thing never really mattered to begin with. Neither did the Michelle Rhee thing.

What does matter is the $20 billion dollars that Trump is proposing to shift in USDOE and spend to undermine America's public school system.

...his first budget would redirect $20 billion in federal funding to create a state-run block grant that he said he hoped would help poor children in low-performing public schools to enroll at charter and private schools
"I'm proposing a plan to provide school choice to every disadvantaged student in America," Trump said.
Where would the money come from and how would that effect public schools?

Trump said during the campaign that he'd like to use existing federal funds to support his big school choice program, even though he didn't say, specifically what pot of money he was referring to. The department's current budget is about $70 billion, with roughly $15.5 billion going to Title I grants for districts, and $12 billion going to state grants for special education.
Both programs have been absorbed into the blood stream of school district budgets, so re-directing the money would be a big deal.

There have been wild rumors from the left, and indeed the right, that he would eliminate the USDOE altogether. But one look into the names that have surfaced as rumored picks for DOE Secretary make it obvious that that's never going to happen. Aside from Williamson Evers, one of two who are leading his transition on education, the names Rhee, Moskowitz and even DeVos aren't associated with destroying the USDOE. Even the name dujour, Congressman Luke Messer of Indiana is associated with something far more sinister: school choice. Implementing choice will require the use of the USDOE.

And $20 billion is a lot of money.

Race To the Top caused massive disruptions in public school across the nation and the Obama administration only spent $4 billion on that. That's a discount next to this. Trump's plan, to shift money form among the federal budget away from the USDOE and into direct grants so school parents can choose to stay in public schools or go to a private school is five times that amount. The money that would be shifted within the DOE is system money, meaning that whole school districts rely on it to run their system. $20 billion would change almost everything we know about public education.

And if you're thinking that the Democrats can block this with a 60 vote cloture requirement, think again. A tax re-write in going to happen in 2017 and a matter like shifting federal tax dollars around could easily be tied to the tax code changes, which, under the rules, requires only a 51 vote majority to bring to a floor vote. Not 60. In other words, tax matters are not what most other folks would call filibuster proof.

$20 billion dollars would change  almost everything. And all I see and hear from the NY elites is Eva. I wonder who they will pick as an enemy tomorrow while ignoring the obvious threat public school advocates are facing.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

New Name Floated as Education Secretary (NOT Eva)

As New York elites and activists brood over the possibility of Eva Moskowitz being appointed Education Secretary, a new name is making its way around main stream and social media as a possible Trump pick to head the USDOE:

Betsy DeVos, a prominent school choice advocate and GOP supporter, is under consideration by president-elect Donald Trump to serve as U.S. Secretary of Education, according to news reports.
Several news organizations, including the Washington Post and Politico, have said DeVos is among a handful of people under consideration for the position.

And in the event you're wondering about who she is and what she stands for:

DeVos, whose husband Dick unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2006, is a renowned advocate -- both in Michigan and nationally -- for school choice and charter schools. She serves on the board of the Michigan-based Great Lakes Education Project and the Washington D.C.-based American Federation for Children -- each of which works to expand educational options for children.
Trump, for his part, pushed for greater school choice on the campaign trail, including a proposal to pump $20 billion into expanding options for low-income students. 
DeVos, a former chair of the Michigan Republican Party, previously expressed reservations about Trump. At the Republican National Convention in July she cast her vote as an at-large delegate for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and said she was still hoping to "hear something from our nominee to convince me that I should support him."


DeVos and her husband led a failed effort to amend the Michigan constitution to provide vouchers that would allow students to attend private schools at public expense. That's a centerpiece of Trump's education plan. He would invest $20 billion in federal money toward school choice, and expect states to kick in $110 billion of their own money, to provide $12,000 each in school choice funds to the 11 million school-age children living in poverty.

The $20 billion wouldn't be new money, but would instead be the result of re-prioritizing existing federal money.
Given the list of organizations she serves as a board member of, she'd be a shoe in for a New York socialite.

  • Chairman, All Children Matter
  • Chairman, Michigan Republican Party, 2003 2005
  • Member, MI Executive Committee, Bush Cheney '04
  • Member, Trust Fund Board, Library of Congress 2003
  • Member, Leadership Team, W Stands for Women, Bush Cheney '04
  • Chairman, Great Lakes Education Project PAC, 2001-2002
  • Chairman, Choices for Children, 2001-2002
  • National Finance Chairman, National Republican Senatorial Committee
  • Chairman, Michigan Republican State Committee, 1996-2000
  • Republican National Committeewoman Michigan, 1992-1997
  • Chairman, Spence Abraham for U.S. Senate Committee,1994
  • Member, Board of Trustees, American Council of Young Political Leaders
  • RNC Budget Committee, 1992
  • Delegate, Republican National Convention, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000
  • Alternate Delegate, Republican National Convention, 1984
  • Chairman, Fifth District Republican Committee, 1989-1992
  • Chairman, Kent County Republican Committee, 1984-1988
  • Co Chairman, Kent County Republican Finance Committee, 1983-1984
  • Delegate/Alternate Delegate, Michigan Republican State Conventions
  • Vice Chairman, Bush/Quayle State Steering Committee, 1992
  • John Engler for Governor Committee, 1990
  • Co Chairman, Bill Schuette for U.S. Senate Committee, 1990
  • Co Chairman, Michigan Republican State Committee Lake Michigan Barbecue, 1988—1991
  • Co Chairman, Kent County Bush/Quayle Campaign, 1988
  • Delegate to China, American Council of Young Political Leaders, 1988
  • Volunteer, "ScatterBlitzer" Ford for President, Kent County Republican Committee, 1976
  • Member, Board of Directors, Alliance for School Choice
  • Member, Board of Trustees, Kennedy Center for Performing Arts
  • Member, Board of Directors, Children First America 2004
  • Member, Board of Directors, American Education Reform Council, 2002
  • Member, Board of Directors, Kids Hope USA
  • Ministry Leadership Team, Kids Hope USA 2005
  • Member, Board of Directors, Compass Arts
  • Member, Board of Directors, Education Freedom Fund
  • Member, Board of Directors, Acton Institute
  • Co chairman, "Heartbeat" fundraiser for the American Heart Association, 1995-2002
  • Member, Board of Directors, Michigan Chamber of Commerce and Executive Committee
  • Member, Board of Trustees, Blodgett Memorial Medical Center, 1986-1997
  • Member, Board of Directors, Grand Rapids Economic Club, 1993-1998
  • President's Advisory Council, Calvin College, 1993-1995
  • Member, Advisory Board, The Potter's House School
  • Member, Board of Trustees, Ada Christian School, 1992-1995
  • Grand Rapids Christian School Association Capital Fund Drive, 1990-1993
  • Member, Michigan International Year of the Family Council, 1994
  • Member, Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs, Governor Engler Appointee, 1991-1992
  • Chairman, Ada Christian School Education Foundation 1991-1992
  • Member, Board of Trustees, Kendall College of Art &Design, 1986-1992
  • Member, Board of Trustees, Arts Council of Greater Grand Rapids, 1990-1992
  • Member, Board of Trustees, Grand Rapids Area Medical Education Committee, 1990-1991
  • Member, Board of Trustees, Worldwide Christian Schools, 1988-1991[47]

The one pattern emerging from all of the names that have passed through media, the pattern of vouchers, school choice and a large investment for a federal initiative supporting the two seems to be emerging. My guess is that the rumors that Trump is going to destroy the USDOE are probably not true.  It looks, very much, like he's seeking out a pick who will actively push through vouchers and charters on a national level.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Trump's New Education Secretary

Oh, I'm going to have so much fun with this, I may just have to start writing again.

Today, the New York times reported a list of leading candidates in the new Trump administration. On the list for Sec. of Education? Dr. Ben Carson, who doesn't remember running for president and Williamson M Evers (Bill for short).
Because this guy looks totally qualified

Took a quick look on Wikipedia about him (because of the Celebrity Apprentice host can become president, then surely I can now source Wikipedia without any flack) and found out that Evers is actually leading the transition team for education.

In November 2016, he was selected to lead President Elect Trump's transition team for the Department of Education.[1]

So who is this guy? He has been an active libertarian for several decades. He is associated with the Cato institute and had published a libertarian magazine, Inquiry before ending his association with that right-of-right think tank.

"What, doenuts", you may ask, "is this guy's credentials on education?". And that would be a great question! He was an angry parent in California. In 1995, upset with a new math curriculum, he:

 "...organized a publicity stunt in which a toilet was mounted on the back of a pick-up truck and driven to a protest outside the school district headquarters. There Evers ceremonially flushed the new curriculum...."

Nice! The current Ed. Sec is a Dr, the previous Ed Sec at least lead a major city's school district and the next Ed Sec? Well he mounted a toilet onto a wall and flushed it.

But wait! There's more!!!!

Williamson M Evers was also the education adviser to provisional Iraqi government after the US took it over in 2003.

And that worked out well!! The provisional government was the one that allowed the growth of Al Quadi in Iraq and sewed the seeds that lead to the Civil War that caused almost 300,000 Iraqis to die.

So our next Education Secretary may well be a man who A) Doesn't believe in public education B) Has no education experience in the places where it counts and C) Was part of the worst provisional government in modern history.

I guess that's how you make america great again!