School integration is becoming a white hot hill to die on. Again.
The Minnesota legislature has moved to dispense with aid intended to integrate schools, which has central cities – the largest recipients of integration aid – worried about even larger holes in their budgets.
I agree with defenders of public education that say high poverty school districts can hardly afford any more cuts, shifts, or fancy accounting from the State. The needs of urban core districts are legendary and continuous. Real lives of real children create high stakes in the games we adults play.
However, integration aid is intended to be a purpose driven supplement to core funding. We all do better when we commit ourselves to calling things what they are and using them for their intended purposes.
The unfortunate truth is that districts have used the money more for “aid” than for the “integration” part. Desperation and politics too often inspire creative uses of supplemental revenue.
This has been an widely acknowledged problem for years which makes the response from urban Democrats is interesting.
For instance, Sen. Scott Dibble recently said “let’s talk about how segregated many of our communities still are…Minneapolis over the last 40 years has been intensely engaged in desegregation and integration.”
It’s an odd comment because the Senator and his colleagues have not attended district conversations on race, offered law that ensures districts use the money to actually integrate schools, or shown support when real life integration issues inflamed the community.
While on the Minneapolis School Board the issue of school integration was inescapable. It all came into sharp focus when our board proposed changes to school boundaries that were intended to create more balanced district.
To say all hell broke loose would be an understatement.
Email and phone calls started. People wanted to know what on Earth we were doing. Some expressed rational concern, and for others it was self-righteous anger.
At some of our schools with the most aggressive parent communities the principals stepped in to provide leadership. They helped their constituents make sense of the process. It helped them take down the rhetoric a notch even if they still were sour on the plan.
Not all schools had such leaders. In at least one school the building leader encouraged parents to “fight back.” The letters, email, and phone calls from that building were hostile, insulting, full of threats and illiberal comments about families of color.
The context and subtext were very clearly anti-integration.
So complete was their opposition to the district’s plan to open the school to children of color from other neighborhoods that they put it on an enlarged poster which they displayed proudly in the school lobby.
In the most objectionable portion of it they expressed a preference for Latino children over “any other” kids that would be sent for “purposes of diversity.”
When they were challenged on the utter stupidity of their public statement their privilege system went into high gear.
Sadly, in a flagrant act of pandering some state senators and representatives penned a letter in support of the school, its principal, and its privileged parents.
Sen. Dibble was the chief author of the letter, and he appeared at a rally to show further support – against a plan to integrate one of Minneapolis’ whitest schools.
It is these little hypocrisies that make integration aid a target for districts that want more money to misuse themselves. They can point to the fact that even the people that politically and socially should believe in the cause are cynical about it. City leaders, school leaders, union leaders, and parents of privilege with all the appropriate left-of-center bumper stickers do not believe in integration.
They believe in money. They see the 70% students of color as cash cows that create jobs and support a system of exclusionary private/public schools for some, and failing schools for others. These “leaders” go silent when their own constituents aggressively pursue systems of power to create advantage, division, and other concepts counter to the common good.
So, their battle is not about the principals or benefits of integration, or the establishment of a fair society, of the perpetuation of a participatory democracy, or the correction of the colossal injustices that have supported an unequal society.
For them it’s all about the Benjamins.
Good luck on selling that premise as a sustainable, moral allotment in public education – especially in a time of scarcity.
Short note about Network of Public Education’s (NOPE) focus on education fraud
My friends at NOPE need to broaden their scope of fraud reveals.
My friends at the Network of Public Education (NOPE) have an ongoing series under the hashtag #AnotherDayAnotherCharterSchool that aims to keep your eyes trained on the supposed never-ending abuses and fraud case in charter schools.
I applaud their commitment to public integrity and I share their vigilance in rooting out grift in public systems. Yet, their myopic focus on a small subset of public schools, in this case charters, is suspicious.
Why not expose all fraud, especially in the bigger system?
Well, you’ll have to ask them. They’ve mostly blocked me on twitter for asking such questions.
I guess their unionist funders and the privileged parents they cater to in America’s suburban hoarding schools want a clean message. Traditional schools with union teachers that work with privileged parents to rig the system in favor of white, middle-class, pampered children, well, that’s good.
Schools built for, by, or in favor of children so unfortunate as not to have suburban, white, progressive, college-educated families capable of obtaining mortgages for houses near the best hoarding schools, well, you know the drill, they must be stopped.
Thus, the campaign to turn public opinion against the most popular competitor to sputtering state-run schools that employ more people than they educate, and drown in so much pension debt that they can ill-afford parents choosing anything other than district failure farms.
In the interest of truth I should tell you that fraud in public education is indeed every bit the problem that NOPE says it is, but it’s much broader than they admit.
a KDKA investigation has found that the Pittsburgh Public Schools have issued no less than 650 of these cards to teachers and staff, who are racking up millions of dollars of purchases every year.
And while the cards are not supposed to be used for personal purchases, Controller Michael Lamb says it’s a system of loose oversight and controls that IS based mainly on trust.
“When you have that many cards, you lose control,” Lamb said. “And when the proper procedures aren’t in place, you create the opportunity for fraud. And that’s what you have in the school district right now.”
KDKA filed a right-to-know request for purchases made over the last three years and the results were eye-popping.
Last year alone, teachers and staff rang up a total of $3,254,000 in p-card purchases, with some putting upwards of $20,000 or $30,000 on their individual cards.
The summaries obtained by KDKA show purchases from Amazon, Sam’s Club, Staples and Giant Eagle.
And while employees are supposed to submit receipts and the stated reason for each purchase, controller office audits have found that it is hard to tell if all or most of those purchases are legitimate.
But at Faison School, for example, the controller’s office found no p-card reports for half of the 12 months audited and missing documentation for dozens of the purchases that were listed.
And KDKA’s review found questionable expenditures, as well.
Records show that teachers and staff at Oliver Academy used cards on a weekly and bi-weekly basis at both Wiseguys Pizza and Kuhn’s supermarket — raising the question of whether they were using the cards for their own lunches and groceries.
Fuller to charter advocates: You’re in a fight, don’t run home to Mama!
Dr. Howard Fuller has been on the vanguard of the fight for educational options, and today he has a message for education advocates: fight for your lives!
Creating alternatives to assigned district schools for families that wanted them was picking a fight with the educational establishment that lives or dies on the student headcount that drives per pupil revenue. Now, after years of losing market share, the empire is striking back with organized moves to establish moratoriums on charter growth, forge attacks on the the integrity of charter supporters, and calcifying public narratives about the supposed negative impacts of charters on public education.
So what do reform advocates do when the opponent finally hits back (hard) and our cherished reforms take a public whooping like they stole something?
According to lifelong freedom fighter Dr. Howard Fuller we firm our spines and fight like we mean it. That’s what he told attendees at a recent conference for the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools.
“You can’t go running home to your mama,” he says. “There are people out there who don’t care that you all have created good schools. They don’t care that you are going to teach computer science. They don’t care.”
His message comes at a time when weary charter school supporters are feeling drained from constant attacks, and many are vacillating between wanting to stand their ground and wanting to accommodate anti-charter organizers by finding fleeting common ground.
“They want you to not exist,” Fuller said of the organized opponents of charter schools.
See his powerful speech below.
It’s time to admit Diane Ravitch’s troubled crusade derails honest debate about public education
The longstanding arguments for charters could still be had in clean exchanges between judicious people – sans Ravitch – if we seek understanding and progress.
I should start adding a qualifier when I say the former scholar and historian Diane Ravitch is the Ann Coulter of education commentary.
In fairness, Coulter has better manners and makes more attempts to employ logic as she “owns” the libs with verbal Jujitsu.
Ravitch, by contrast, has fallen irreparably into polemics so much that her daily blogs put her in league with Alex Jones’ made-for-YouTube Info Wars.
Along those lines, her blog-fart today ties “the charter industry” to the “infamous pedophile and “super-rich” Jeffrey Epstein.
“In 2013, his foundation issued a press release announcing that he looked forward to the dominance of charter schools in Washington, D.C. and predicted that they would succeed because they were unregulated,” she crows.
Then she offers crude analysis of why people like Epstein would want to privatize schools in D.C.:
People often ask me, “Why do the super-rich cluster to the cause of privatization?” The Answer is not simple because many different motives are at work. Some see giving to charters as a charitable endeavor, and their friends assure them that they are “giving back,” helping poor children escape poverty. Others want to impress their friends in their social strata, their colleagues in the world of high finance. Being a supporter of charter schools is like belonging to the right clubs, going to the right parties, sharing a cause with other very rich people.
If you are reading this you probably know that Ravitch was once a charter school supporter, and that makes it fair to ask which camp of nincompoops she fell into?
Did she see charters as a “charitable endeavor,” or was charter support her attempt to “impress [her] friends in [her] social strata, [and her] colleagues in the world of high finance.”
Only she can say, but as an established scholar of education history (and a player in policy) it’s doubtful her support was so in want of a factual basis.
During testimony to Congress conservative William Bennett gave decades ago he invoked Ravitch as a bipartisan voice for school choice.
Regarding the school reforms that were advancing in Chicago under Mayor Daley and Paul Vallas Bennett declared “[t]he empirical evidence, now widely available, is irrefutable: Not only are many of our public-schools not getting better, they are getting worse. American students finish in the bottom half, and often near the bottom, in comparison to students from other industrialized nations.”
Then, after promoting the benefits of charter schools, he asked lawmakers to “follow my friend Diane Ravitch’s prescript” to:
…make Title I into a “portable entitlement” that would aid all poor kids regardless of what school they attend. This is the one way to assure that every single Title I child will receive Title I services at the school they currently attend. This is also the best way to assure accountability. If a parent is not satisfied with the Title I services they are getting, they can take their Title I dollars with them to the school or provider of choice; power to the parents, and not bureaucrats, in other words.
Was Ravitch’s support for school choice back then the result of suspicious philanthropy, or glossy marketing to mindless parents, or, more logically, the result of her considerable scholarship by that point in her life?
Again, only she can say.
In the spring of 1997 she praised then-New York Pataki’s proposed charter school policies that allowed groups other than local boards to grant charters, allowed for an un-capped number of charters to open, and allowed these schools to hire teachers who weren’t state certified.
In supporting Pataki’s push she said:
It’s impossible to know whether a law permitting charter schools will emerge from this session of the Legislature; the opposition of the teachers’ union, which is the most powerful voice in Albany on education issues, is certainly not encouraging. This is unfortunate, for a large and vital network of charter schools in New York would offer hope to educators, parents, and students in troubled school districts and would promote higher academic standards for all the state’s public schools.
Why would she support such craven policies of such anti-democratic that today she maligns as wealthy pedophiles and privatizers? Projection much?
Forget that teachers’ unions – the ones Ravitch herself once admitted were the “most powerful voices in education” – today block legislation making it a crime for teachers to sexualize students, defeat resolutions that called for them to re-dedicate their profession to student achievement, and pay retail civil rights organizations to defeat the voices of their grassroots members.
Here’s the real kick to the taco, when Lamar Alexander pitched the idea that every D.C. school should be converted to a charter (in 1997, six years before Epstein arrived at the same conclusion) he ascribed this definition of charter schools to his friend Diane Ravitch:
Think of a charter school as a public school district with only one school. It receives public funds, agrees to meet clear academic standards and accepts all students who apply. Unlike existing public schools, it has a contract that can be revoked if the school fails to make good on its commitments.
If she were at all generous she would at very least admit the decency of long-term charter backers who hold valid theories for why charters improve the educational landscape. The longstanding arguments for charters could still be had in clean exchanges between judicious people – sans Ravitch – if we seek understanding and progress. The tensions between autonomy and regulation, local control and federal oversight, and public education as an institution or as a service to American learners could still be exercised by smart people truly seeking solutions to the inarguable problems of public schooling.
But not if we follow the zero-sum and divisive lead of Ravitch whose enemy-imaging toward those who differ on policy has escalated so far she no longer sees them as human. We’ll predictably end up in her abyss of false binaries, intellectual excursions, and forlorn paralysis.
Given Ms. Ravitch’s clever wits and stockpile of information I can’t imagine she leads us to that confused, somber place by accident. There is no better way to ensure the education establishment’s special interests – those who are among Ravitch’s most ardent disciples – are never brought to account than to ignore the brisk but level Ravitch of yesteryear and listen to the caustic and battled one before us now.
Public Schools2 days ago
School boards have too much power they aren’t using to fix education
Public Schools5 days ago
Rev. Sharpton: Education problems are a ‘five-alarm’ fire
Charter Schools2 years ago
The problem with you calling us out for being funded by hedge fund billionaires is that you’re funded by hedge fund billionaires (and unions)
Parents7 months ago
I don’t think calling me ‘Uncle Tom’ means what you think it does?
Teachers Unions7 months ago
In the rush to beat Trump, we can’t let Biden cave on ed policy
Culture5 years ago
That one time Sister Souljah schooled Cornel West
Culture4 years ago
I need justice, I need peace!
Parents3 weeks ago
Remote learning isn’t great. Whining is worse.