President-elect Donald Trump said on the campaign trail that school choice is “the new civil rights issue of our time.” But to many Americans, talk of school choice isn’t liberating; it’s just plain confusing.

Exhibit A: Vouchers.

Politicians love to use this buzzword in perpetual second reference, assuming vouchers are like Superman: Everyone knows where they came from and what they can do. They’re wrong. And, as Trump has tapped an outspoken champion of vouchers, Betsy DeVos, to be his next education secretary, it’s time for a quick origin story.

School Vouchers 101: What They Are, How They Work — And Do They Work?

Illustration: LA Johnson/NPR


Be wary of liberal leaders who will try to hide their allegiance to DeVos’ destructive education agenda. As soon as he sad he supports “accountable school choice initiatives”, it should be a dead giveaway.

Behind closed doors, politicians like this will be more than happy to help Devos gut public schooling and destroy teachers unions. They try to hide it, but they can’t hide their actions and their records.

What does it mean to declare that #blacklivesmatter in education?

Last month the Movement for Black Lives, representing elements of the Black Lives Matter movement and related groups, issued a detailed policy platform denouncing what it called “corporate-backed,” “market driven” “privatization” in school reform, and helped set off a furor over this question.

Under the section labeled “community control,” M4BL called for an end to state and mayoral takeovers of school systems in favor of local, democratically elected boards, more equitable school funding and a de-emphasis on standardized testing. The group also demanded a moratorium on new charter schools, on school closures and on out-of-school suspensions, which they link to the school-to-prison pipeline.

Questions Of Race And Charter Schools Divide Education Reformers

Illustration: LA Johnson and Chelsea Beck/NPR
Democrats reject her, but they helped pave the road to education nominee DeVos
Many Democrats have been supporting traditional Republican views of school reform for years.

It wasn’t all that long ago that it would have seemed impossible for anybody who labeled the U.S. public education system a “dead end” to be nominated as U.S. Secretary of Education, much less get support to be confirmed. Not anymore. Betsy DeVos, a Republican billionaire from Michigan who public school advocates see as hostile to America’s public education system, is likely to be confirmed despite a rocky Senate committee hearing, where, under caustic Democratic questioning, she seemed not to know basic education issues.

If DeVos does become education secretary, Democrats will of course blame the Republicans. DeVos is, after all, a Republican who has donated millions of dollars to Republicans, was selected to be education secretary by a Republican, and would win confirmation thanks to the Republican majority in the Senate.

But the record shows that Democrats can’t just blame Republicans for her ascension. It was actually Democrats who helped pave the road for DeVos to take the helm of the Education Department. Democrats have in recent years sounded — and acted — a lot like Republicans in advancing corporate education reform, which seeks to operate public schools as if they were businesses, not civic institutions. (This dynamic isn’t limited to education, but this post is.) By embracing many of the tenets of corporate reform — including the notion of “school choice” and the targeting of teachers and their unions as being blind to the needs of children — they helped make DeVos’s education views, once seen as extreme, seem less so. Historically, Democrats and Republicans have looked at public schools differently.

Democrats have traditionally been defenders of public education, seeing it as the nation’s most important civic institution, one that is meant to provide equal opportunity for marginalized communities to escape poverty and become well-informed citizens so they can become part of America’s civic life. Public education was seen as a civil right. Republicans have looked at public schools less as vehicles of social equity and more as places that are supposed to prepare young people for college and careers, an endeavor that should be measured with the same types of metrics businesses use to gauge success. Some Republicans have looked at public schools with suspicion, in some cases seeing them as transmitters of liberal and even godless values.

That’s why it was unusual when, in 2001, the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, the liberal Massachusetts Democrat, gave critical support to the new conservative Republican president, George W. Bush, in passing a new education law called No Child Left Behind (NCLB). A bipartisan, they said, was to make sure public schools attended to the needs of all students, but the law actually became known for creating new “accountability” measures for schools based on controversial standardized test scores.

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Union-commissioned report says charter schools are bleeding money from traditional ones
A teachers union-funded report on charter schools concludes that these largely nonunion campuses are costing traditional schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District millions of dollars in tax money.The report, which is certain to be viewed with skepticism by charter supporters, focused on direct and indirect costs related to enrollment, oversight, services to disabled students and other activities on which the district spends money.
By Los Angeles Times

This article contains a response quote from a gross rich person saying bullshit like this:

“Like all businesses, the district has to compete for its customers,”  said Eric Hanushek, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

“The growth of charters is putting pressure on the district. The district can’t do what it did in the past and come out ahead,” added Hanushek, who hadn’t seen the report. “They can try to compete for the students or sell off the buildings. But the point is: Charters look attractive to parents, which means that the district is not attractive.”

Public school students aren’t “customers” of a “business”, they are people receiving some access to a basic right to education.

Public education is a right and these charters exclude and cause underfundering for disabled students-who have a legal and moral right to equal education access.

This fucking rich dude who admits he literally did not read the report at issue, is using bullshit “free market” crap to excuse denying equal education to disabled students and other marginalized student.

Those “buildings” are schools and students, including disabled students, have a right to them.


In New Orleans, there are no more neighborhood schools. Instead, parents must choose — a charter school, private school, or one of six remaining traditional public schools. This fall, more than 9 in 10 New Orleans students will attend charters.

Parents apply through an open admissions lottery. They request their top choices, and then a computer makes assignments.

The district set aside one day in July for last-minute enrollment. It expected about 300 parents. More than 2,000 showed up in the next few days, and eventually almost 7,000 students would be assigned to new school seats.

The End Of Neighborhood Schools

Photo credit: Edmund D. Fountain for NPR

The Charter School Problem

A few days ago I read an interesting piece in the Economist, “A 20-year lesson: Evidence from America and Britain shows that independence for schools works” (Pub: Jul 7, 2012) that got me really thinking about what the charter school issue is. Especially now with the publication of Camika Royal, Ph.D’s speech to the 2012 Teach For America Corps at Institute in Philly, “Swift to Hear; Slow to Speak: A Message to TFA Teachers, Critics, and Education Reformers” in the Huffington Post, I wanted to get a word in edgewise.

As a member of Teach For America, and a student in a highly respected MST program, I hear a lot of debate about charter schools, and whether or not we should be investing/supporting them within our systems. I don’t have a solid idea about what the right answer is, and so I largely listen to what people are saying. This piece has significantly added data-based, hard evidence to my understanding of the problem.

In the article, the author discusses the success of schools that are given choice. Choice means a lot of things, and the types of freedom given to schools can vary, and have very different effects. Schools that are given more leeway in how they hire and fire teachers as well as how they support those teachers, how they develop curriculum, and how they create home-school, teacher-parent, and teacher-student relationships often fare very well. But not always. The charter experiment in the United States has shown that charters are not the absolute answer. However, categorically refusing charters is also not the answer. Anyone who has ever spent time inside a high-performing private school can tell you that the students benefit from the freedom enjoyed by the teachers and administrators. Like any school, not all students will succeed in a given private school, and again that opens the door not only to whether or not charters are a good choice, but also if school choice should exist for families.

Here are some of the point of view I’m beginning to develop:

  • For some cities, and some students, charter schools will be the answer. That being said, charter schools should never replace all district schools.
  • Charter schools that purport to “fix” the problems encountered in the public schools they are working within, replacing, or displacing should then have to work within the same confines that the district school had to work in. Charter schools that claim success where others have failed should have to work within the same budget (that means no outside private investors, among other things), should have to meet the same standards, accept similar or the same students, and should be required to meet the same standards in the same amount of time that the district school was measured by. A charter school is not succeeding where others have failed if it replaces low-income, ESL, and SPED students with students who do not face these barriers.
  • All schools, whether charter, district or private, should have to meet the same standards. The way they chose to teach those standards can be up to them, but all students should be able to perform the same academic tasks and demonstrate the same skills.
  • I don’t know what the answer is, but we have to find another approach to teacher tenure, last-in-first-out, and monetary incentives. Schools should be able to more easily get rid of ineffective teachers, no matter how long they’ve been in the system. This cannot happen until we have a fair, equitable, and reliable way to assess teacher efficacy that does not place teachers on the line for disagreeing with administrators.
  • We must find a way to properly incentiveze and support students and professionals who are the best in their class and in their fields, and bring them into the classroom with a reasonable amount of teacher education and experience under their belts. People must not be allowed to choose teaching as a profession because it is the “easy way out,” because it is not. We need the best and brightest in the front of our classrooms.
  • We must find a way to bring more male and minority teachers into our classrooms. Minorities are not just Black and Hispanic teachers, but also the wide variety of Asian populations that exist here, especially Hmong, Vietnamese, and other Southeast Asian groups. Native American’s too must be given better opportunities for success, and when they achieve highly, should be encouraged to enter education professions.

Top charter schools can often boast of sending virtually all of their graduates to college, even when the majority of their students are low-income or are the first members of their families to pursue post-high school educations.

As it turns out, many of those students don’t earn a degree.

Some of the best charter school networks — places like the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) or Harlem Children’s Zone — are working to change that. They are not only helping their graduates get into college, but are also counseling them once they are on university campuses. The idea is to boost the number of graduates who earn bachelor’s degrees.

Beyond College-Ready: Top Charter Schools Support Graduates In College

Photo credit: Courtesy of Harlem Children’s Zone
Caption: Students from a Harlem Children’s Zone school visit Hunter College in New York. 

Charter school rant

The teachers only care about at risk students.
They say they acknowledge everyone but they don’t.
Nothing i do gets noticed.
I have all As.
I have been absent three tines this year.
Yet the kids who fail, fight, and skip can do whatever the fuck they want and including getting up and walking out if class and literally swearing at the teachers.
I am so fucking insignificant to them that my school log in still doesn’t fucking work.
If I had a choice id leave but I dont.
Public schools are seriously fucked up and I’m 110% done.
This bitch can threaten my best friend and they wont do shit.
She was also sexually harassed multiple times and they did nothing.
Other straight couples can basically fuck in class but when it comes to a lesbian couple they cant even hold hands.
Even though this school has a “gay straight alliance” which is retarded because they raise money and food and personal care items for the homeless not raise awareness for homosexuality they’re still assholes to homosexual people.
Its supposedly “a family setting”

Yep that’s why a bitch called me a ratchet wannabe and told me to kill myself.

My seminar teacher only cares for three people and they’re huge Junkies. She didn’t notice that I pulled away from the people I sat with in that class and that ive cried multiple times but one guy that’s an at risk kid had his head down and she let him stay in her class all day.

I thought da vinci was better than this but I guess not. Thanks for lowering my self esteem dumbasses. Only one teacher actually gives a fuck for me.
School officials vote against renewing Nahuatl-themed charter

Supporters of a high-profile charter school with a focus on Nahuatl culture wept and held each other after the Los Angeles Board of Education voted to close its high school campus.

From the story:

Controversy has long followed Semillas, with some critics accusing the school of promoting Aztec revolution, a characterization that resulted in death threats.

Aztec revolution? The fuck?

Take Action!

New York State Charter Schools

The Issue: The New York State Assembly has passed a bill that will cut charter funding by $1,500 per student. This will cause my school in particular a 2.5 million dollar loss. (13%) Charter Schools have already lost 10% of their budget, in a situation such as this a few years ago. Charter Schools already receive only 66% of the funding per student than any other district. 

This cut will be felt by students/families who will see roll backs on equipment, programming, and staffing. 

Please: Make a phone call, Send a fax, and raise awareness.

Here are some numbers you can call to help out:

1. Governer Andrew Cuomo: (p) 518-474-8390 (f) 518-474-1513

2. Senator Mark Grisanti: Albany - (p)518-426-3240 (f) 518-426-6738

3. Senator George Maziarz: Albany - (p) 518-455-2024 

Even if you don’t live in NYS please spread this around. It would be helpful to all students and families who are involved in Charter School education who do. Would you want to- or have children and family have- a poorer education due to unfair budget cuts? 

This bill, A.9057-C (§11), in particular  has already passed through the state’s House of Rep and only needs to get passed through Senate and the governor.

It will unjustly penalize charter schools in Buffalo and Albany. To take money from charter students to give more to the district students is just plain wrong. Why are charter students worth less?

Spread the word!

Charter Schools

Some of the best schools I’ve ever been in are charter schools, some of which are blowing the lid off test scores in such vexed communities as Boston, New York, and Chicago.  And some of the worst – and flakiest – schools I’ve ever been in are charter schools.  Yet people are choosing them.

-Chester E. Finn Jr.