Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Trump orders DeVos to do a study. Why?


Today's Washington Post reports that Trump will sign an executive order requiring Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to study how the federal government “has unlawfully overstepped state and local control."

This raises some obvious questions. First, why does the president need an executive order to make his hand-picked ed secretary do a study? Can't he just pick up the phone and say, "Hey Betsy. Get one of your peeps to knock out a study for me by next week showing... blah blah blah"?

Secondly, why do they even bother calling it a "study" when the conclusions are known in advance? I know what you're thinking: Klonsky, stop being naive. This is the nature of education research these days.

Yes, you're right, with some exceptions (Congrats Kevin Welner). That's why we need to look at all research with a critical eye--especially studies coming from contracted think-tanks and university centers. But this Trump-ordered study is farcical on its face, although the topic of federal overstep is worth talking about.

No Child Left Behind was clearly federal overstep, with Bush's D.O.E. leveraging its relatively small amount of federal dollars to mandate overuse of standardized testing. The same can be said for Arne Duncan's Race to the Top, which imposed massive school closings, teacher/principal firings and the unrestrained growth of privately-run charter schools on local school districts.

But clearly, those aren't the target of Trump's executive order. What he's aiming at are the system's already dwindling civil rights protections.

According to WaPo:
Obama’s Education Department was notably aggressive on civil rights in schools, not only in directing schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms matching their gender identity, but also in pushing for school-discipline reforms and in pushing colleges to overhaul their handling of sexual assaults on campus.
Those efforts, coupled with the department’s sometimes wide-ranging investigations into thousands of complaints of alleged discrimination against students nationwide, also led to complaints of federal overreach in some quarters. But advocates who welcomed the attention on civil rights fear that the Trump administration’s campaign to shrink the federal role in education will translate into weaker protections for vulnerable students.
The only thing I would disagree with here is this praise for Obama's Ed Dept's "aggressive" stand on civil rights. My take is that Arne Duncan's D.O.E. was halfhearted in its enforcement of federal law and that Duncan, despite his oft-repeated claim that school reform was the "civil rights issue of our time," didn't do nearly enough.

I'm thinking here, about the time when Duncan undermined Obama's Justice Dept. just when Atty. General Eric Holder was about to take legal action against Louisiana's voucher program which discriminated against minorities. Duncan pressured Holder to pull back his federal lawsuit for fear it would interfere with "choice" (charters and vouchers). Duncan also admitted that he was opposed to "forced integration."

But forced integration was exactly what much of civil rights law was all about -- as opposed to forced segregation. Rather than federal overstep, what we saw from Duncan's D.O.E. was federal conciliation with racists and school segregationists such as then-Sen. Jeff Sessions and then-governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal.

Trump's latest executive order is aimed at eliminating what's left of Brown v. Board of Ed and the rest of existing civil rights oversight of public education.

Monday, April 24, 2017

It was just a dream

Mayor Duncan?  Yikes!
I woke up at 2 a.m. in a cold sweat.

In my horrific dream, it was 2019 and Arne Duncan had somehow become the mayor of Chicago. He had been brought back into town by a mysterious collective of super-rich patrons. With a $60M war-chest, Duncan was able to narrowly defeat the candidate backed by progressives (wasn't clear who that was in my dream).

Rahm Emanuel decided not to run for a third term and instead, threw his support and campaign money behind Duncan in exchange for Democratic Party support for his run for the presidency. The plan was to have DNC favorite Rahm run on a ticket with someone like Elizabeth Warren to "unite the party" against Trump. Weird -- I know.

In my dream, this secret cabal of hedge-funders and downtown hotel billionaires had spent two years trying to re-package Duncan as a "progressive" after his dismal performance as Secretary of Education and architect behind the same massive privatization and school closings that had made Rahm untenable as a mayor. These were policies that had devastated the city's black community and set the stage nationally for the Trump backlash election and the installment of Betsy DeVos as the nation's ed secretary.

But by somehow attaching himself to Barack Obama's Chicago legacy and positioning himself as the "civil rights leader of our time", Duncan was able to neutralize opposition in the African-American community, divide progressive voters and with solid support on the lake shore and Hyde Park liberals, ride victorious into City Hall.

Thank goodness, it was just a dream.

Then this morning I read this Sun-Times piece about Obama's visit to Chicago this past weekend.
Obama was invited to a neighborhood center at 420 W. 111th by former Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Duncan is now a managing partner at the nonprofit Emerson Collective and working on projects to help reduce crime in Chicago by training and finding jobs for at-risk young men.
 I'm going back to bed.

WEEKEND QUOTABLES

Tens of thousands of marchers for science packed the National Mall Saturday

Charles Cappell, sociologist and retired NIU prof 

“It seems absurd that we have to march for something as fundamental as science. But with the current administration, it seems you have to defend the basic facts of science." -- Tribune
Elizabeth Warren in Chicago on Saturday
"Never in my life did I think I was going to have to find modifiers for the word 'facts'." -- Politico
Bernie Sanders
"Let me be very clear. It is imperative that Jon Ossoff be elected congressman from Georgia's 6th District and that Democrats take back the U.S. House." -- NBC News
CA Senate leader, Kevin de León on 'Sanctuary Cities'
Trump and Sessions are basing law enforcement policies “on principles of white supremacy — not American values.” -- New York Times
Kevin Hoffman  
“As calls to reform the way Illinois funds public education grow louder, new data released on per student spending is a stark reminder of the disparity that exists among the state’s school districts." -- Reboot Illinois

Friday, April 21, 2017

Randi's school visit gambit with Betsy DeVos

DeVos and Weingarten at Van Wert H.S. 
AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten seems convinced that she can show Trump's Ed. Sec. Betsy DeVos the error of her ways. By touring a few public schools together with DeVos, Randi hopes to show her that public schools are not the devil's workshop after all and should be supported by the D.O.E., rather than demolished as is essentially the stated ambition of the Trump administration.

Even after DeVos' first visit to Jefferson Academy in D.C. began with her having to sneak in the back door to avoid protesting parents and community members and ending with her debasing the teachers there, Weingarten's response has been to plead with DeVos to do another school visit, but this time with her.

I don't know what there is about photo-op school visits she thinks are so powerful as to turn this evangelical hater of anything public into an advocate for public ed. But Randi is a committed corporate liberal who has faith in the good intentions of corporate power brokers and profiteers and her ability to get them to do the right thing if only they give her a seat at the table. Here, I'm thinking back to the union's brief flirtation with Bill Gates or Randi's flights to Chicago to support Rahm's Infrastructure Trust or to London to sit in on Pearson board meetings 

DeVos flees protesters at D.C. school.
So DeVos agreed and she and Randi toured Van Wert H.S. in Ohio together yesterday. The visit got a nice write-up by Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post.
DeVos agreed to visit a traditional public school with Weingarten, who chose to take the education secretary to the small, rural Van Wert school district in Ohio, where about half of the students come from high-poverty neighborhoods. Weingarten wrote in an op-ed that just ran in a local newspaper in Van Wert that she sees the district as a model for others trying to improve:
The hallmarks of successful public schools (and systems) include four essential strategies: promoting children’s well-being, engaging in powerful learning, building teacher and principal capacity, and fostering cultures of collaboration. Van Wert puts these four pillars into practice.
 In contrast, Ohio’s charter schools have been plagued by fraud, mid-year school closings, lying about student attendance to receive additional funding, mismanagement, and an overall lack of accountability that has led even charter proponents to call Ohio the “Wild, Wild West” of charter schools. One study by state auditors found more than $27 million in improperly spent funds at Ohio charters. The Akron Beacon Journal found that “charter schools misspend public money nearly four times more often than any other type of taxpayer-funded agency.”
When DeVos agreed to visit a traditional public school with Weingarten, the union leader agreed to visit a charter school with DeVos. That visit has yet to be scheduled.
If some WaPo ink is all Randi was after, all well and good. But if she's providing some union cover for DeVos in exchange for some credibility with the Trump administration, she's playing a fool's game.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

TOMORROW'S SHOW

Eve Ewing (top) and Sarah Chambers.
Tomorrow on Hitting Left, our in-studio guest will be Eve Ewing. Eve is a sociologist of education whose research focuses on racism and the inequality of public school system. She's currently doing a post-doc at the University of Chicago.

Her first collection of poetry, essays, and visual art, Electric Arches, is forthcoming from Haymarket Books in fall 2017, and she co-edited the fiction anthology Beyond Ourselves.  Her work has appeared in venues such as Poetry, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Atlantic, The Nation, The Washington Post, Union Station, the anthology The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop and many other outlets. Eve is proud to be one-half of the poetry duo Echo Hotel, alongside Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib. She is also the co-director of Crescendo Literary, a partnership that develops resources and events rooted in community-engaged art; with Crescendo she co-created the Emerging Poets Incubator and the Chicago Poetry Block Party. Eve has held residencies at the WordXWord Festival and AIR Serenbe, where she was a recipient of a Focus Fellowship. She is an editor emerita of Seven Scribes.

We will also be talking with Chicago special education teacher Sarah Chambers in her 8th year at Saucedo Academy, who's been suspended and could be fired by CPS for allegedly engaging in “misconduct” related to a standardized test.
“I received an email the day before spring break that I was suspended, with no explanation at all,” she told Chicago Tonight. “I was very shocked, very angry for not being able to be with my kids, for them harming my kids.”
Supporters met outside Saucedo on Tuesday afternoon in a show of solidarity with Chambers after more than 3,000 people signed an online petition calling for her reinstatement.
Marguerite Horberg, founder and director of the Hot House will tell us about the May Day cultural extravaganza she is planning following the massive march the afternoon of May 1st.

Tune in to hear the Klonsky Bros. Hitting Left on Friday at 11 a.m. CDT, on WLPN 105.5 F.M., streaming live at Lumpen Radio. If you have an IPhone, download the Lumpen Radio app.

If you miss the show live, you can always listen to the podcast 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What did Rahm and DeVos meet about? No one seems to know.


File under #Transparency #Accountability

Rahm Emanuel met with Betsy DeVos a week ago. But we still don't know what the meeting was about.Why not? 

All we saw was this cryptic press release from the D.O.E.:
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos met with Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel at the Department of Education’s LBJ Building, 400 Maryland Ave., S.W.
The Secretary and Mayor had a wide ranging discussion on Chicago’s education system, rising graduation rate and the Mayor’s reform plans.
The Secretary thanked the Mayor for visiting the Department and for sharing his thoughts, and issued the following statement:
“I want to thank Mayor Emanuel for today’s conversation and for sharing his vision for education in the city of Chicago. I look forward to continuing to find ways in which the Department can work with the Mayor’s office to ensure the students of Chicago receive access to the highest quality education possible. I applaud the Mayor for Chicago’s rising high school graduation rates and commitment to providing more students new opportunities through dual enrollment programs."
 Not a word in the Chicago media. Near total blackout...except for this from Chicago Tonight:
A request for comment from Emanuel's office was not immediately returned. Chicago Public Schools declined comment on the meeting, but did note its dual enrollment program has grown from 15 schools up to 60 over the past five years and currently serves more than 4,200 district students. 
Not even a word about privately-run charters? And dual enrollment? That's it?  Sounds like both were afraid to get to close to each other in public.

Putin/Trump syndrome.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Whitenizing Chicago


UNEMPLOYMENT AND DISINVESTMENT by the city and its corporations are destroying neighborhoods and pushing thousands of African-American families out of Chicago and other big cities. Some call it "reverse migration" but the net effect is the whitenizing or gentrification of the cities. 

Another driving force behind this push-out of black and poor from the city, is Mayor Rahm Emanuel's capital investment plan and his closing of schools, mental health facilities, and other city services. While investment-starved neighborhoods suffer, Rahm has pumped millions into ill-conceived projects like the new DePaul basketball arena.  Rahm's policies have further isolated, destabilized and blighted south and west-side neighborhoods, creating conditions for more crime and violence. Whole neighborhoods are now marked by boarded-up homes, stores and schools as thousands of families lose homes to foreclosure.

DePaul's new $200M basketball arena.
An article in Monday's Reader calls Chicago's South Shore neighborhood, "the eviction capital" of the county. Real estate owners and management companies like Pangea and Kass are doing most of the evicting. Last year, Pangea filed more than 1,000 eviction cases, usually also seeking back rent, and won about 60 percent of them.
 "If you want to know Pangea's ambitions, they named themselves after the ancient supercontinent," says Mark Swartz, director of the Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing. "They are buying up the south side."
 "The issue is unemployment, and lack of investment by the city and by companies," says alderman Leslie Hairston, whose Fifth Ward includes parts of northern South Shore. Though she says she doesn't hear much about evictions from her constituents, she wasn't surprised to learn about the higher-than-average eviction rate in South Shore. "You look at the number of people working two, three jobs just to try to make ends meet—it's challenging," she says.

Impact on education...The next time you hear Rahm or schools chief Claypool boasting about rising standardized test scores or graduation rates, consider how these jumps (if they are to be believed) correspond to the loss of CPS enrollment, especially on the part of poor and black students.


Monday, April 17, 2017

WEEKEND QUOTABLES

Thousands crowd Daley Plaza in Chicago, demanding Trump reveal his taxes. 
Shane Bauer
Militias, alt-right, nazis etc won today in Berkeley. They outnumbered the opposition, pushed it back, and held downtown. Today's America. 6:28 PM - 15 Apr 2017 -- Esquire
Head of ICE in N.J.
 "The executive order basically expands who we should be arresting," -- NJ.com
Joe Biden
Let me tell you, it bothers me most if Secretary DeVos is going to really dumb down Title IX enforcement. --  Interview in Teen Vogue
Neal Broverman commentary
If corporate cheerleader DeVos reconsiders the plan to streamline loan servicing, she could hand the giant contract over to Navient, which allegedly "mishandled loan payments, buried critical information in fine print and set obstacles for borrowers trying to release co-signers from their loans, among other failings, according to the consumer bureau’s legal filing." -- Betsy DeVos Screwed You Over Last Week
Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R-TX)
“Are we talking about a parents’ right to choose where their child is educated or are we talking about giving public funds to private and faith-based schools...The reality is that we have options in public schools." -- Austin American Statesman
Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai
US’ MOAB bomb was an ‘immense atrocity against Afghan people’ -- Al Jezeera