Nel's New Day

March 10, 2017

Trump’s Vouchers Will Kill Education

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) visited a Catholic school in Florida last Friday before his anti-Obama tweet storm. The mission of Orlando’s St. Andrew Catholic School is “developing the students’ spirituality and creativity in order to be disciples of Christ in the 21st century.”With him were his son-in-law Jared Kushner and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who is close to former Florida governor Jeb Bush. While governor of the state, he instigated the tax credit program requiring taxpayers to provide money to religious schools.

For some people like DeVos and DDT, Florida represents the poster child of charter/private schools with vouchers/tax credits (aka public money taken away from public schools). DDT used Denisha Merriweather at his address to Congress ten days ago to prove that people need tax credits to attend private religious schools. Vouchers are state-issued coupons used for students to attend religious schools, difficult in some states that prohibit taxes going to religious schools. Tax credits provide a loophole to these laws because they are given to people and corporations who get this money for donations while they give scholarships to students. The system can be so lucrative for these donors that they sometime make money. That’s why DeVos and DDT like the tax credit system.

Merriweather attended the Esprit de Corps Center for Learning, established in 2001 and “birthed from the mind of God in the heart of Dr. Jeannette C. Holmes-Vann, the Pastor and Founder of Hope Chapel Ministries, Inc.” Its A Beka curriculum, frequently used in Christian schools, teaches the Bible as literal history. Among other misconceptions, the curriculum teachers about the inferiority of Africa and its people, justifying Southern slavery. Before attending the Christian school, Merriweather barely attended any public schools because her mother was constantly moving from place to place. Her attendance at the private school began when she started living with her grandmother.

An investigation of Florida private schools, however, found the program to be a “cottage industry of fraud and chaos.” Schools don’t require accreditation, oversight, transparency, or even curriculum. The only data that schools must make public is attendance. Some school staffers have been convicted of drug dealing, kidnapping, and burglary. In one “business management” class, students took to the streets and shook cans for coins. In 38 schools suspected of fraud, 25 of the allegations were substantiated, and at least one school used corporal punishment. Students with disabilities can participate in the Florida private school program only if they sign away their rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Florida is not unique in its massive deficiencies in private education. Other states also force students with disabilities to waive their rights before attending these schools, and schools in other states don’t even accept students with learning disabilities. In addition, school districts in other states that use vouchers are among the lowest performing in the nation, and the concept frequently fails at the ballot box. According to a report from the Economic Policy Institute, the risks to school systems with voucher programs “outweigh insignificant gains in test scores and limited gains in graduation rates.” The answer to better education is not private schools but supporting and strengthening neighborhood public schools.

A 2015 study showed that tens of thousands of Indiana voucher students transferring to private schools under Mike Pence suffered significant losses in mathematics achievement and no improvement in reading.

Another voucher study by the conservative choice-supporting Thomas B. Fordham Institute and financed by the pro-voucher Walton Family Foundation, studied Ohio’s large voucher program. Researchers found that “students who use vouchers to attend private schools have fared worse academically compared to their closely matched peers attending public schools.”

The Louisiana program used a lottery system to admit students to private schools, and students at the 50th percentile in math in public schools dropped to the 26th percentile in the first year of transfer to private schools. These students also suffered negative results in reading also showed negative results, according to Professor Martin West at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, that were “as large as any I’ve seen in the literature” throughout the history of U.S. education research.

Milwaukee (WI) has been totally a “choice” school district for 20 years, and over one-fourth of students in that city attend private schools with vouchers. In that city, blacks comprise about two-thirds of the student body. The eighth-graders score lower in math than those in 12 other urban areas except Detroit, which also has a high level of school choice. In reading, Milwaukee eighth-graders are worse than even the ones in Detroit.

Because of DeVos’ push to privatize all schools in her state, Michigan has more low-performing charter schools than any other state: 38 percent of them are in the bottom of achieving schools. Michigan students have continually made the least improvement nationally of scores since 2003 and are in the bottom ten in proficiency growth in the four measures of National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) tests: mathematics, reading, writing, and science.State law has no way of improving or shutting down failing charters. Almost anyone can open a charter school if they have the money, and it’s almost never held accountable. In DeVos’ Michigan, students “have no fundamental right to literacy,” according to Gov. Rick Snyder’s lawyers. Seven Detroit students are suing on the basis that schools should deliver “access to literacy, and 47 percent of Detroiters were illiterate in a report five years ago.

People argue that the voucher program is cheaper. Yet it could raise costs by 25 percent of more because of the additional students, record keeping, transportation, information to parents, and dispute adjudication. Expanding the charter schools in Michigan has also been disastrous for school budgets. Once school districts are in dire consequences, the state can take control of the school district under the emergency management law. Once the state takes over, emergency managers close schools, lay off staff, cut salaries, outsource services, and even transfer the entire district to private for-profit charter management companies. Detroit has the second highest percentage of students attending charter schools; only New Orleans has a higher number in private schools.

This article explains how Betsy DeVos took over Michigan—and how she can take over the United States.

Rural communities, the places where DDT got a large number of his votes, would suffer disproportionately from vouchers because of sparse population and small districts lacking enough schools for a viable voucher program. Such a shift would destabilize not only the schools but also the communities that use schools as a nucleus. Of the 13,000 school districts across the nation, almost 9,000 have four or fewer schools where voucher proposals could largely destroy the public system, and another 2,200 districts with five to eight schools risk harm in serving its millions of students. That’s almost 90 percent of the districts that can fail because of DDT’s and DeVos’ voucher system.

Not all voucher programs are disasters. Findings indicated that well-regulated Massachusetts charter schools have a positive impact on test scores. But both DeVos and DDT are allergic to regulations. The best charters tend to be nonprofit public schools that accept all students are accountable to public authorities.

The only argument supporting the voucher system is ideology. People say they want individual choice even if the choice has a worse outcome. As with many conservatives, data makes no difference; it’s belief that matters. DeVos believes that any non-government school is better than any public school no matter the success rate of either one.

Watch DDT invest in for-profit charter school companies. Oh, that’s right! You can’t because he won’t reveal his tax returns.

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March 9, 2017

Betsy Devos: Huge Danger to the Nation

Billionaire activist Betsy DeVos and her family have given over $4 million to Republicans who have now confirmed her for Secretary of Education. Of that sum, $250,000 went directly to members of the education committee, $950,000 were given to 21 senators who voted to confirm her, and another $2.25 million was sent last fall to the Senate Leadership Fund, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) super PAC. The National Republican Senatorial Committee got another $900,000. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who promised to keep a rein on DDT, took $98,000 from DeVos and paid her back with his vote.   She followed the same process in Michigan, paying state Republicans $1.45 million in seven weeks after they passed the no-accountability charter school law. DeVos has said that she no longer takes offense at the accusations of buying politicians because “we do expect something in return.”

Before the confirmation of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, I posted about how she would be a disaster for education in the nation. Her blunders during the first few weeks on the job show that she is worse than many people may have predicted. In summary, she is a billionaire who wants all children to be force-fed her brand of Christianity in charter schools that massively profit already wealthy people—like her.

Her gaffes began on her first day as head of the education department when she tweeted, “Day 1 on the job is done, but we’re only getting started. Now where do I find the pencils? :)” Most schools in the United States are so poor that teachers have to buy their own pencils.

Devos’ actions thus far:

  • insulted teachers at a middle school for not helping students succeed
  • supports the idea of her department being erased
  • says that critics want “to make my life a living hell”
  • misspelled W.E.B. Du Bois in a tweet for Black History Month—and then had to fix the tweeted apology that stated “our deepest apologizes”
  • ignored the first Twitter chat that she held for teachers
  • asked teachers to make up for children’s troubles at home such as absent fathers
  • made U.S. marshals protect her and ran away because protesters blocked her entrance to a DC school
  • accused protesters of “keeping kids in and new thinking out,” “how hostile some people are to change and to new ideas”
  • sold out transgender students to allow AG Jeff Sessions to discriminate against them in using facilities corresponding to their gender identity
  • and, surprise, gave her top priority as “school choice” that destroys public schools

DeVos’ responses to the hearings were so bad that her  confirmation required Mike Pence to be the first vice president in history to break a 50-50 tie to confirm a Cabinet nominee.

Her job may not last long. A House bill, HR 899, dissolves the Department of Education and another, HR 610, provides educational vouchers and repeals the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, including nutritional standards for school meals. The only responsibility left to the department—if it continues to exist—would be to award block grants to states with the $20 billion for vouchers that DDT wants. There may not be enough support to shut down the Education Department, but Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) wants $20 billion for vouchers, most of the department’s budget for local communities largely used for low-income students, students with disabilities, English language learners, and other vulnerable children.  

After trying to compliment teachers at Washington’s Jefferson Academy by calling them “wonderful,” she told them that they were “not going to bring success to an individual child” because they were in “receive mode, waiting to be told what they have to do.”

DeVos tried to help DDT woo blacks for the 2020 election in her statement:

“Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) … are the real pioneers when it comes to school choice.  They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality. Their success has shown that more options help students flourish.”

Her revisionist history purports that the Jim Crow education system of legal segregation gave black students “more options” as if they had the option of attending all white schools before the Supreme Court ruling that began to eliminate permissible racial discrimination. The New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo’s analogy:

“To paint historically black colleges as pioneers of ‘school choice’ is like saying the Montgomery bus boycott was a transportation startup.”

There was much controversy about the perch of Kellyanne Conway, DDT’s counselor, during the meeting with HBCU leaders. Some photographs show her taking a photo, but her real insult was that she couldn’t even get the name for the group correct when she talked to Lou Dobbs on his TV program. In addition, the photo op, proposed at the last minute to show DDT’s comfort with blacks, left those attending with little time to communicate with the man in the White House about the current state of these institutions. DDT plans to fund only the private sector instead of directly supporting HBCUs and requested that the White House Initiative on HBCUs be removed from the Department of Education.

In reality, DeVos has little power because Congress weakened the power of the executive department two years ago. Congress will be the one to create a voucher system and remove more standards for education in the nation. But she can create trouble by taking no action in other areas that creates more difficulty—for example, not investigating, complaints in the area of sexual assaults and reverse rules requiring colleges to use a lower standard of proof in determining sexual assault. DeVos might also ignore part of Title IX, reversing the progress of female athletes in schools. One way is to divert funds to the Office of Civil Rights which leaves the Department of Education unable to address IX complaints even if DeVos chooses to do so. The percentage of female high school athletes has gone from seven percent to 42 percent since the law was implemented. Title IX isn’t just about sports and transgender issues: it protects “pregnant and parenting students, women in STEM programs, and victims of sexual harassment and sexual violence,” according to Neena Chaudhry, Director of Education and Senior Counsel at the National Women’s Law Center.

DDT will definitely “relax” the past crackdown on for-profit colleges, including a new regulation relieving students of loans if they prove their college defrauded them. Under DDT, Trump University might not have had to pay $25 million. An indicator is the way that stocks have shot up—DeVry over 40 percent, Stayer’s 35 percent, and Grand Canyon Education over 28 percent. The GOP will also try to disappear the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that tries to protect consumers from predatory for-profit colleges.

About Betsy DeVos, education historian and researcher Diane Ravitch wrote:

“She was never a student, a parent, an educator, or school board member of public schools. It is her life’s work to tear down public education. She does not respect the line of separation between church and state. She supports for-profit charter schools…. She is ignorant of federal law, federal programs and federal policy. When asked at her Senate hearing about the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, she did not know it was a federal law. She had given no thought to lessening the burden of debt that college students bear, which now exceeds $1 trillion. At a time when the federal role in aiding students with the high cost of college needs to be redesigned, she knows nothing about it.

“… DeVos has financial conflicts of interest which she refuses to divest. She told the Senate committee that she had no role in her mother’s foundation, which has funneled millions of dollars to anti-LGBT organizations, but her name appears on 17 years of the foundation’s audited tax returns. She told the committee that online charter corporations produce stellar results, but researchers demonstrated with facts that she was wrong.

“Choice policies in Michigan have caused the test scores in that state to decline. Detroit, overrun with charters and choice, is a chaotic mess….

“She personifies the privatization movement. She is the leader of the Billionaire Girls Club, spreading her millions across the land to reward and enrich allies in Congress, on state and local school boards, and in any setting where she could tout school choice as a magical remedy for poor performance. Charters and vouchers, whether for-profit or nonprofit, is her sole idea. She has singlehandedly stripped bare the ‘reform’ movement, showing it to be not a civil rights movement but a privatization movement funded by billionaires and religious zealots.”

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) told his protesting constituents at a town hall meeting that they cared so much about Betsy DeVos that she probably had too much power. Our conservative representatives don’t want people to care about what happens in the government.

In a country that almost never recognizes the name of the Secretary of Education, almost half of the people have an opinion—and two thirds of them have an unfavorable opinion of Betsy DeVos. Her lack of approval at 31 percent is worse than that for Jeff Sessions (23 percent) and Mike Pence (28 percent).

The greatest danger that DeVos might do to education in the United States is the proposed voucher program—the subject for the next blog post.

September 12, 2015

Too Many Charter Schools for Profit Only

Filed under: Education — trp2011 @ 10:05 PM
Tags: , , , ,

In his push toward replacing all public schools with privately-managed, public-funded charter schools, Jeb Bush has become the sugar daddy of big business that makes big money off depriving young people of an education. The GOP presidential candidate opened the first charter school in the state when he was governor and increased it 56 percent annually during his first administration. By the time that he left office in 2007, the number had grown from 30 to 300 and since doubled to over 600. There would be more, but poor planning and management has caused the closure of another 308 schools so far this year. His first school closed in 2008.

Jeb Bush got the charter school ball rolling by maintaining that they would save students from failed public schools. By 2009, he sang another song—that charter schools are “a great opportunity… a half billion dollar opportunity.” Investors immediately showed interest in the lucrative possibilities. Bush has kept lobbying for these schools: almost all the classrooms with happy children in his campaign videos “are at schools operated by Academica, [Florida’s] largest for-profit charter school management company,” according to BuzzFeed reporter Molly Hensley-Clancy.

Academica has almost 100 schools in Florida and over $150 million in annual revenue along with being the subject of “an ongoing federal probe into its real estate dealings,” as reported by the Miami Herald in 2014. Charter schools must be overseen by a non-profit board of directors, but corporations make their money from everything else—payroll operations, food services contracting, textbook sales—as well as hiring personnel and controlling curriculum.

Another way that companies like Academica make profits is state grants, loans, and tax credits for building the school before charging the school district massive rents and leases to use the buildings. Charter Schools USA charged one school $2 million rent, 23 percent of its budget. Charter companies also get the profits if they sell the buildings to another entity. Within the last two years, only charter schools received capital outlay for new construction, and charter school companies are now going after local property taxes.

Although Florida districts traditionally decide when and where a new school is needed, charter schools can open up at the company’s volition without permission from a school district. Laurie Rich Levinson, a school board representative, said, “We must approve them even when we don’t know where exactly they’ll be located,” she says. Charter schools are also not subject to traffic restrictions, building codes, and other regulations mandated for other businesses and institutions.

Companies closing charter schools also punish communities through charges. When local officials in Florida tried to get $400,000 back from two closed schools, the companies had either moved the funds or had them frozen by liens. The Sun Sentinel reported, “County schools may have to repay $1.8 million owed by two closed charter schools.” The schools didn’t keep accurate counts of enrolled students; therefore money already collected will be withheld from future payments to the district.

Florida is not alone in its problems with charter schools. Claims that charter schools provide superior education have been debunked in other states. A report on Pennsylvania’s charters a year ago indicated that only one in six of these schools is “high-performing” and none of the online ones is “high-performing.” Charter schools weed out students based on characteristics such as those with special needs and low test scores. In many cases, English learners and children in poverty need not apply. The result is higher segregation in schools.

In many charter schools, cost-cutting curriculum limits students to little more than reading and mathematics test preparation, inexperienced teachers with high turnover, and products that line the pockets of board members. At the same time, the schools are used as cash cows.

Publicly-funded charter schools act like private entities, denying such basic information as salaries. In 2012, Pennsylvania Gov. Corbett and the GOP-controlled legislature tried to introduce a bill that exempted all charters from the state’s sunshine laws. Companies have argued in California courts that they are private entities and cannot be treated as public institutions.

The drain on real public schools is tremendous. For example, charter tuition payments cost Pittsburgh $53 million in just one year. In order to make more money for their companies, charter corporations are working to close traditional public schools. Pennsylvania forced districts to approve new charters while slashing the budget and closing more schools.

Big donors for John Kasich during his 2014 run for Ohio governor were charter school operators and companies. He vowed to clean up charter schools after cutting money from public schools and to show how well the charters were doing with a public site to compare their performance with public schools. The upgrading of charter facilities and increase in their budgets cost Ohioans well over one billion dollars so far this year while public schools lost one-half billion dollars. Last month, David Hansen, state director of school choice, resigned after he admitted charter schools looked much better because he omitted poor grades for online and dropout-recovery schools. Kasich probably won’t be talking much about charter schools on the campaign trail.

One state has declared that giving public school funds to charter schools is unconstitutional. Washington state Supreme Court spent almost a year of deliberation before he overturned a narrowly-passed ballot measure in 2012 allowing publicly-funded, privately-operated schools. Chief Justice Barbara Madsen wrote that charter schools aren’t “common schools” because they’re governed by appointed rather than elected boards. Therefore, “money that is dedicated to common schools is unconstitutionally diverted to charter schools,” she wrote. A coalition filing the suit asked for this ruling because these schools are “improperly diverting public-school funds to private organizations that are not subject to local voter control.” The nine schools planning to open this fall will not close but instead plan to rely on private funding.

In 1992, democratic socialist Sweden began distributing vouchers to parents to send their children to any school, private or public. Companies were permitted to operate for-profit schools, and private equity firms ran hundreds of schools. The result:

  • Test scores fell consistently starting in 1995.
  • Social stratification and ethnic and immigrant segregation increased.
  • Better teachers went to schools with students of higher socio-economic status.
  • One of the biggest private education firms declared bankruptcy in 2013. About 1,000 people lost their jobs, and the company’s unpaid debt is about $150 million.
  • A convicted pedophile legally set up several schools.
  • The system found no impact on medium or long-term educational outcomes such as high school GPA, university attainment or years of schooling.

Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that 2,486 U.S. charter schools closed between 2001 and 2013. [Check here for an interactive map of these closures.] Charter school students are two and a half times at risk of having their school closed, causing a disruption in their education and decreasing high school graduation rates by almost 10 percent.

Unknown millions of dollars of the $3.3 billion spent by the federal government went to schools that never opened to students. The Center for Popular Democracy documented more than $200 million in fraud, waste, and mismanagement in the charter school industry in 15 states alone. Wisconsin was given $69.6 million between 2010 and 2015, but one-fifth of the charters opened in the first two years of grants have closed. Indiana was given $31.3 million because the schools are exempt from democratic oversight by elected school boards.

Failed charter schools may cost about $1.4 billion in 2015. This waste hasn’t stopped the Department of Education. Secretary Arne Duncan asked for a 48-percent expansion of the program and refuses to release any information about grants or their applicants.

Fraud, lack of transparency, lower achievement—these are a few of the problems in many states that allow these schools to be controlled by profiteers. People in every state should look into laws for charter schools to make sure that they don’t have the same problem.

April 21, 2015

Abstinence Sex Ed–One Person Can Make a Difference

alice dregerAlice Dreger, professor of medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University, has been banned from her freshman son’s high school after she sat in on his abstinence-only “education.” During the class, conducted by a visitor from Sexually Mature Aware Responsible Teens (SMART), she sent the following tweets:

 

 

  • They’re teaching “abstinence stories” that worked and non-abstinence” stories that “led to consequences.”
  • The visitor-teacher is telling my kid abstinence education reduces premarital sex. My kid is trying to show her studies that dispute that.
  • She’s being completely condescending. “You can look up anything on the internet” Then refers him to site on abstinence education!
  • The regular health teacher in trying to shut my kid up referred to “LGBYT.”
  • The whole lesson here is “sex is part of a terrible lifestyle. Drugs, unemployment, failure to finish school — sex is part of the disaster.”
  • Now a story about a friend who OD’ed and “was a vegetable 11 years. Tore their family apart.” FFS. Welcome to sex ed.
  • “I finally met a great girl who was brought up in abstinence, and her life was so much better. I put her on a pedestal above everyone else.” (from the visitor leading the class)
  • “You’ll find a good girl. If you find one that says ‘no,’ that’s the one you want.” (also from the leader)
  • She’s now telling story of condom box in which EVERY SINGLE CONDOM HAD A HOLE.
  • “We are going to roll this dice 8 times. Every time your number comes up, in pretend your condom failed and you get a paper baby.” (activity from leader)
  • Paper babies are being handed out to EVERYONE. They have ALL HAD CONDOM FAILURE AND THE WHOLE CLASS IS PREGNANT.
  • “I’m going to collect the babies that you don’t want. We recycle them.”  (leader)

As these tweets demonstrate, the goal of “abstinence-only” is to frighten students, shame anyone who has sex, put down females, and lie to the audience. East Lansing High School Principal Coby Fletcher’s statement to the Lansing State Journal defended his school’s lesson plan because it teaches contraception with its emphasis on abstinence. Dreger pointed out that high school teachers are not necessarily responsible for the horrifying lesson plans in sex ed because lawmakers mandate abstinence-only lesson plans, and schools hire abstinence-only “mercenaries who travel from district to district peddling their bogus (often times overtly religious) agendas.” Dreger is an authority on sex education, but she was banned from school property for saying “fuck” within earshot of students.  The class leader also accused Dreger’s son of “ambushing” him for bringing a copy of an article giving factual information about abstinence-only sex education programs.

Dreger’s 45 tweets went viral, partly through the efforts of Salon and Vox. In the Lansing State Journal, Judy Putnam accused Dreger of having “a mission to criticize from the outset.” Putnam also wrote, “Personally, I don’t have a problem with abstinence education.” The columnist defended the teacher’s claim that condoms have an 18-percent failure rate. According to the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, “With consistent and correct use, condoms have a failure rate of 2 percent. The typical use effectiveness rate is about 18 percent.” That rate comes from the lack of understanding in how to use condoms, and students aren’t receiving this information.

The federal government spent $1.3 billion on abstinence-only sex education between 1996 and 2009 although a federally funded study in 2007 found the approach had no effect on when students started having sex, whether they had safe sex, or how many partners they had. That was the year that funding for abstinence education tripled to $176 million over the year 2000. Congress has just voted to extend funding for the abstinence education through 2017.

Eighty-six percent of schools still teach abstinence as the best method of avoiding pregnancy and STD prevention. Three states—Alabama, South Carolina, and Utah—require that teachers tell students about the health hazards of homosexuality, and Alabama, South Carolina, and Texas mandate that schools emphasize homosexuality as an unacceptable lifestyle. Students receiving comprehensive sex education are more likely to be white, urban, and higher-income whereas black, rural, low-income, and single-parent students are least likely to have any sex education. States that emphasize abstinence have higher teen pregnancy rates. Other statistics are available here.

SexEdMaps4

After Dreger’s tweets went viral, Michigan state Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. took notice of Dreger’s tweets. State law does not mandate any sex ed in public schools, but those that are offered require stress on the false idea that “abstinence from sex is a responsible and effective method of preventing unplanned or out-of-wedlock pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease and is a positive lifestyle for unmarried young people.” Hertel, who serves on the Health Policy Committee, had already met with a student group at East Lansing High School to talk about the problem. After Dreger tweeted her frustrations, Hertel said that he’s especially concerned that the group hired to provide the abstinence presentation that Dreger attended because of its ties to an anti-abortion group. SMART is connected to the Pregnancy Services of Greater Lansing, a right-wing “crisis pregnancy center” that attempts to dissuade pregnant women from choosing an abortion.

Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) have a well-documented history of misleading patients about sexual health issues.  While receiving state funding and teaching abstinence-only sex ed, they downplay the effectiveness of birth control, exaggerate the risks of having an abortion, and tell women that they shouldn’t be having sex outside of marriage. Hertel said, “I think that those groups don’t have a great record when it comes to the truth, and I think that using them as a paid expert in our classrooms is a bad situation.”

A year-long investigation of California CPCs discovered that they provide no option except to stay pregnant. In 91 percent of the centers, investigators were told—wrongly—that abortions led to increased chance of breast cancer, fertility, miscarriage, of “post-abortion depression” resulting in suicide. Others were told that they didn’t need abortions because the chance of a “spontaneous abortion” or miscarriage is 30-50 percent—another lie. Information about different kinds of birth control gave no benefits, instead listing only risks, negative side effects, and resulting “medical abortions.” As in the class that Dreger viewed, investigators were told that the way to not get pregnant was to “stop whoring around” because birth control is not healthy.

CPC workers used gruesome and graphic language to frighten women, claiming “they might puncture your uterus and vacuum your fallopian tubes shut” during abortions. One investigator was told that some women are dilated too fast and might continually miscarry because the cervix wouldn’t close. In one case, the CPC required an ultrasound, and the subject was told that her IUD was a fetus. The same situations are prevalent throughout the United States.

Students at East Lansing High School plan to pursue the issue too, joining other students in the country who are beginning to demand medically accurate sex education. In 2013, Katelyn Campbell, a West Virginia high school student, made national headlines in 2013 after protesting a “slut-shaming” abstinence education course, and last year, a Canadian school dropped its course on sexual purity after a teen filed a complaint after it.

 

March 24, 2015

White House Science Fair: Hope for Next Generation

Filed under: Education — trp2011 @ 1:37 PM
Tags: , , ,

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has announced his run in 2016 for president. He’s the man who tried to negate global warming because New Hampshire has snow and ice. On the same day the fifth White House Science Fair shows that young people are far smarter than Cruz. In his comments, President Obama talked about their accomplishments and their future in science:

“These young scientists and engineers teach us something beyond the specific topics that they’re exploring. They teach us how to question assumptions; to wonder why something is the way it is, and how we can make it better. And they remind us that there’s always something more to learn, and to try, and to discover, and to imagine — and that it’s never too early, or too late to create or discover something new.”

“Sophia Sánchez-Maes … from Las Cruces, New Mexico … is helping to bring the world closer to using algae as a clean, renewable, and even inexhaustible energy source….

”Harry [Tufts] was born with a condition called congenital scoliosis–a curvature of the spine. So, growing up, Harry endured more than a dozen operations. Rather than feel sorry for himself, he thought there’s got to be a better way of doing this. So he designed a new type of spinal implant [that] could reduce the number of surgeries that a child may need for more than a dozen to as few as five, which obviously would cut down medical costs, but more importantly, would save a lot of young people pain and time out from school and recovery time, and the potential complications of an operation.

“Nikhil Behari is … a freshman–right?- in high school, interested in how we can better protect ourselves against hackers and data thieves online…. Nikhil wondered, what if we each type in a distinct ways? So he collected all kinds of data about how a person types — their speed, how often they pause, how much pressure they use; built a special keyboard to test it. And he proved that his hypothesis was correct–that even if somebody knows your password, they don’t necessarily punch it in exactly the way you do. And he asked why — and made discoveries that now could help keep our online accounts more secure.

“I should give special mention to our Girl Scouts from Oklahoma.… They’re standing up, but you can’t really see them because they’re in kindergarten and first grade… They built their device out of Legos.  They realized that some people who might be paralyzed or arthritic might have trouble turning pages on a book so they invented this page turner.  It was awesome.  It was working so well, despite the fact, as they pointed out–this is a quote, they said, “This is just a prototype.” …I said, well, how’d you come up with the idea? They said, well, we had a brainstorming session. And then one of them asked, “Mr. President, have you had brainstorming sessions?” I said, yes, but I didn’t come up with something as cool as this–an automatic page turner.

“Ruchi Pandya … found a way to use a single drop of blood to test a person’s heart function, much like a person with diabetes tests their blood sugar.

“Anvita Gupta … used artificial intelligence and biochemistry to identify potential treatments for cancer, tuberculosis, Ebola … that could potentially significantly speed up the process of finding drugs that might work against these diseases…. Anvita and Ruchi are first-generation Americans. Their parents came here, in part, so their kids could develop their talents and make a difference in the world.

“Four years ago, I set a national goal to provide 98 percent of Americans with high-speed wireless Internet so that any young scientist or entrepreneur could access the world’s information. Today, I can announce that we have achieved that goal, and we did it ahead of schedule….

“To make sure that we keep expanding broadband across the country, I’m creating a new team called the Broadband Opportunity Council, made up of leaders across government, who will work with business and communities to invest in next-generation Internet nationwide. Because this not just going to be a key for your ability to learn and create; it’s also a key for America’s ability to compete and lead in the world.

“No young person in America should miss out on the chance to excel in these fields just because they don’t have the resources. So, five years ago, we launched a campaign called “Educate to Innovate,” to help more of our students explore science, technology, engineering and math. Today, I’m pleased to announce $240 million in new contributions from businesses, from schools, from foundations across the country to help kids learn in these STEM fields….

“Corporations have pledged to help expand high-quality science and technology education to more than 1.5 million students. More than 120 universities have pledged to help train 20,000 new engineers to tackle the toughest challenges of this century. Foundations like the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the Gates Foundation, and the Simons Foundation, will support scientists early in their careers with mentoring and funding. And, all told, these new commitments bring our grand total up to $1 billion in commitments to our kids since we first got this initiative started five years ago….

“We don’t want to just increase the number of American students in STEM. We want to make sure everybody is involved. We want to increase the diversity of STEM programs, as well….

“Part of the problem is we don’t tell the stories enough of the incredible scientists and inventors along the way who are women, or people of color, and as a consequence, people don’t see themselves as potential scientists. Except the good news is these young women and African American and Latino and Asian American folks, young people who are here today–you guys certainly see yourselves as scientists. So you’re helping to inspire your classmates and kids who are coming up behind you to pursue these dreams as well.

“Because the United States has always been a place that loves science. We’ve always been obsessed with tinkering and discovering and inventing and pushing the very boundaries of what’s possible. That’s who we are. It’s in our DNA. Technological discovery helped us become the world’s greatest economic power. Scientific and medical breakthroughs helped us become the greatest source of hope around the world. And that’s not just our past, that’s also our future, because of amazing young people like this….

“It’s not enough for us to just lift up young people and say, great job, way to go. You also have to have labs to go to, and you’ve got to be able to support yourself while you’re doing this amazing research. And that involves us as a society making the kind of investments that are going to be necessary for us to continue to innovate for many, many years to come.”

potus_meets_science_fair_supergirlsThe page-turner project that President Obama announced came from six Girl Scouts, all six years old, who had talked with the school librarian about the idea. They sketched the device that turns pages for people with disabilities and then sorted motorized Lego components and gears that could turn pages with rubber Lego tires. A second device makes the pages lie flat after the pages are turned. This is the second year that a Girl Scout troop from Oklahoma made national news; last year’s second-grader Lego Queens created photo-ops by placing a tiara on the president.

Other young people who showcased their projects at the White House Science Fair:

Trisha Prabhu, 14, learned that a the human brain’s decision-making area is not fully developed until the age of 25 and developed a computer program called “Rethink.” It alerts users if an outgoing computer message contains abusive and hurtful language. Adolescents using the program are 93 percent less likely to use this language with “Rethink.”

Kelly Charles, 15, developed a solar-powered radiation system that circulates air and heats the inside of buildings without electricity or running water. She is a sophomore at Navajo Prepatory School in Farmington (NM).

Kenneth Shinozuka, 16, developed a sensor device to detect when someone with Alzheimer’s starts to wander off. The alert is sent to the caregiver’s smartphone via Bluetooth. Kenneth used his device while caring for his grandfather, and his invention detected every time that his grandfather got out of bed at night for six months.

Sahil Doshi, 14, showed how to harness the power of carbon dioxide and waste materials to generate electricity through his battery called PolluCell.

Bluyé DeMessie, 18, developed a method to change agricultural waste into a bio-charcoal that can remove pollutants from water.

Natalie Ng, 19, developed a way to predict metastasis in breast cancer which can devise appropriate treatments for recurrence risk in individual cancer patients.

Three girls–Stephanie Lopez, 17; Chloe Westphal, 17; Amanda Arellano, 18—developed an app concept to help teens manage anxiety and depression by sharing their feelings in a private journal. One of eight national winners in the Verizon Innovative App Challenge, they will get training on coding and app development, helping them publish the app.

Joseph Santana, 12, and Sophia Nobles, 11 found a less expensive way of generating drinking water from ocean water by using the energy of underwater swells.  water. The desalination process incorporates a special “reverse osmosis” membrane made out of graphene to trap salt while allowing water molecules to flow through.

Eric Koehlmoos, 18, discovered a way to use cordgrass and switchgrass for ethanol, 200 times more successful than using corn and noncompetitive with the food supply.

This makes this the second year in a row that women scientists represented the majority of fair participants. Women have always been accomplished in science; now they’re getting credit for it. Cruz should take notice of the fair and the intelligence that it represents among future voters.

More photos and projects here.

February 14, 2015

Walker Short on Education, Truth

Filed under: Education — trp2011 @ 9:49 PM
Tags: , , ,

The Koch brothers may want to reconsider their choice for the 2016 GOP presidential candidate after Scott Walker has continually tripped over his tongue. His most recent gaffe was in London where other presidential candidates—namely Mitt Romney, Chris Christie, and Bobby Jindal—have also looked foolish on the world’s stage. As the Daily Beast described his performance, “Scott Walker Goes for ‘Bland,’ Ends Up ‘Moronic’ on Evolution Softball.”  Asked whether he believes in the scientific theory of evolution, Walker said, “I’m going to punt on that one.” The amazed moderator, Justin Webb, asked him again, and he continued to “punt,” adding that he came there to talk about foreign trade and the “evolution of trade in Wisconsin.”

According to Walker, the debate between science and religious dogma is “a question a politician shouldn’t be involved in one way or another.” Webb responded by saying, “Any British politician, right or left, would laugh at that question and say, ‘Of course, evolution is real.’” The audience laughed. Walker also said it was “polite not to respond” to questions about Britain, refused to mention the president, and dodged all foreign policy questions because he was “on foreign soil.”

Earlier this month, he said that “we need to have an aggressive strategy anywhere around the world.” When ABC News host Martha Raddatz asked him what that meant, he called for “boots on the ground.” She asked further, “U.S. boots on the ground in Syria?” He said, “Well, I don’t think that’s an immediate plan.”

Recently, the press has started to delve into Walker’s lack of a college degree. After four years at Marquette University, he was 34 credits short of graduation, over one-fourth of the requirements for graduation. The last president to lack a college degree was Harry Truman who left the office in 1952.

Part of the questioning may have come from his attempt to remove the statement, “Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth,” from the mission of the University of Wisconsin. Walker also tried to take out the words, “to educate people and improve the human condition” and “serve and stimulate society.” Under Walker’s vision, the university would focus on “the state’s work force needs.” Called out on his move, he claimed that the changes were “a drafting error.” Unfortunately for Walker, his administration gave orders for the change in terminology two months earlier.

Walker hid his plan to change the university’s mission in his budget bill. Notable for that document is his $300-million cut for the state university system while he plans a $500-million new basketball stadium in Milwaukee for the Bucks. The plan freezes tuition for several more years and almost guarantees a massive tuition spike when the freeze expires in 2017. At this time, the projected shortfall for Wisconsin’s next two years from his tax cuts for the wealthy is $1.8 billion, worrying even Republicans.

megan simpsonOne of Walker’s claim to fame is gutting the unions in Wisconsin, and he particularly hates education. That’s why he used a first year teacher in his speech in Iowa to show how badly the unions treat educators. He claimed that the 2010 “Teacher of the Year” in Wisconsin, Megan Sampson (right) was laid off after her first year of teaching. Despite the massive cuts to the education budget that Walker gave to Wisconsin, Sampson was offered her place back but chose to take a job in the suburbs. She wants nothing to do with Walker.

teacher awardEven worse, however, Sampson didn’t even have the title that Walker gave her. The real 2010 Outstanding Teacher of the Year is Claudia Klein Felske, a former classmate of Walker’s at Marquette University. She wrote a letter to the Marquette Educator, calling him out for his lies and pointing out that the man who never graduated from college is attacking education in the state of Wisconsin from his position as the governor.

Dear Governor Walker:

I was both surprised and bewildered last week when I saw a news clip of you stumping in Iowa about Megan Sampson, whom you called “The [2010] Outstanding Teacher of the Year in my State.” This was baffling to me since in 2010, I was named Wisconsin High School Teacher of the Year (Maureen Look-Ainsworth, Middle School Teacher of the Year; Peggy Wuenstel, Special Services Teacher of the Year; and Michael Brinnen, Elementary Teacher of the Year). In a most humbling ceremony, we were each surprised at our respective schools by State Superintendent Tony Evers and later honored at the State Capital as the Wisconsin Teachers of the Year.

And so, as one of the bonafide 2010-2011 Wisconsin Teachers of the Year, I feel the need to engage in one of the most valuable skills we teach our students, critical analysis.

Verified by multiple news sources, it turns out that Megan Sampson did win an award in 2010, but it was the Nancy Hoefs Memorial Award given by a relatively small organization of Wisconsin English teachers (WCTE) for “an outstanding first year teacher of language arts.” She was one of less than a dozen teachers across the state who self-nominated for this award.

You failed to mention these details as you used Sampson’s lay-off from her first year teaching position as an opportunity to bash Wisconsin schools on the national stage. You blamed the seniority system for Sampson’s lay-off when, in good conscience, you should have done some serious soul searching and placed the blame squarely on your systematic defunding of public education to the tune of $2.6 billion that you cut from school districts, state aid to localities, the UW-System and technical colleges.

This Wisconsin Teacher of the Year would like to clarify precisely what you’ve done for education.

2010-2011 was a surreal school year to be named Teacher of the Year as that was the year your passage of Act 10 marked the exodus of thousands of outstanding veteran teachers from the profession they love and marked the beginning of an extreme strain on our ability to continue providing the excellent public education Wisconsin has always been known for.

And what have you done lately? In just the past month, it seems you have once again actively declared war on education in your own state:

You’ve directed the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to devise content exams that would certify anyone with a degree to become a certified teacher. The ramifications of this move are nothing short of catastrophic and would grossly diminish what data has repeatedly shown to be the single most important factor in student learning: the quality of the classroom teacher. Allowing someone to teach without any training in HOW to teach, in effective pedagogy, in student behavior, brain research, motivation, and classroom management is akin to allowing someone who says “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on t.v.” to give you a heart transplant.

Continuing your bellicose streak (war is war, right?) you cut to the jugular by proposing a 13% across-the-board budget cut from the Wisconsin University System, our cornerstone of higher education, the source of much of our skilled and educated workforce, the center for research and development for our state. Aside from clearly being anti-education, this move is clearly anti-growth.

Psychological warfare has been your most recent tactic when you attempted to (and later tried to blame it on a clerical error) revise “The Wisconsin Idea” the sacred credo of the UW system articulated over a century ago. You sought to omit mention of public service and improving the human condition (you do realize that as Governor, you are considered a public servant?) You also tried to delete the phrase: “Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth.” Truth. Hmm…I guess I shouldn’t be surprised about that one.

Your tenure as Governor has demonstrated nothing less than a systematic attempt to dismantle public education, the cornerstone of democracy and the ladder of social mobility for any society.

How our paths have diverged from that August afternoon in 1986. True story: it was freshman orientation just outside Memorial Union. We were two of a couple thousand new Marquette University freshman wistful about what our futures held. Four years later, I graduated from Marquette and later became Wisconsin High School Teacher of the Year. You never graduated, and you became the Governor of the State of Wisconsin bent on dismantling public education. Ironic, isn’t it? Situational irony at its best. I’d laugh if its ramifications weren’t so utterly destructive for the state of Wisconsin.

Sincerely,

Claudia Klein Felske

2010-2011 Wisconsin High School Teacher of the Year

Marquette University Class of 1990

Scott Walker called Felske’s argument a “petty distinction,” but he needs to do some thinking before he claims to be the “education” candidate for the President of the United States.

August 15, 2014

Ferguson: An Example of Segregated Schools

Filed under: Education — trp2011 @ 9:33 PM
Tags: , , ,

Much has been said about the political situation in Ferguson (MO), but a huge problem lies in the schools. GOP legislators have cut trillions of dollars from budgets through massive tax cuts for wealthy people and corporations while spending more trillions on George W. Bush’s manufactured wars. Transferring federal fiscal obligations to states left them unable to fund their responsibilities. Problems in badly underfunded schools were exacerbated by punitive measures for artificial evaluation. Ferguson is a prime example of the GOP approach toward educating young people in the nation.

A remembrance of Michael Brown, the slain teenager, highlights our country’s low regard for educating its youth. Despite great disadvantages, Brown earned his diploma nine days before he was killed. He was scheduled to being schooling at a vocational school specializing in air conditioning and heating just a short time after he was murdered.

Brown’s graduation photograph was taken almost four months before he graduated because Normandy High School owned only two graduation gowns for the entire class. Two students would wear the gowns at one time, sit before the camera for their graduation portraits, and then pass the gowns on to the next two students. Needing more credits, Brown didn’t graduate with his class and went to summer school to earn his diploma.

Brown’s school district was formed by combining Normandy and Wellston districts. The poverty rate for families at Normandy was 92 percent; at Wellston, it was 98 percent. Every student at Wellston was black. Wellston, one-tenth the size of the almost 5,000-student Normandy, had been unaccredited for seven years; Normandy was on provisional accreditation for 18 years.

The state education board voted to merge these two districts in 2010, the first time that it changed school districts in 35 years. White flight in the districts had crashed property values and destroyed tax revenues. Better-off residents in the districts sent their children to private schools. To support the school, residents kept voting to raise their own property taxes, resulting in the highest rates in the state, but district revenues kept decreasing.

In 2012, the state board rated Normandy as a failed district, removed its accreditation, and put it under direct state control. Although the purpose was to redesign the district, the state Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that students in a failed district could go to other districts. Hundreds of Normandy students transferred to other districts, some of them majority white.

In Francis Howell (a 90-percent white) district, parents rebelled at the thought of having black students in their schools. During a school board meeting there, one mother said, “I deserve to not have to worry about my children getting stabbed, or taking a drug, or getting robbed.” Another parent added, “We don’t want this here in Francis Howell.”

Their fears did not come to fruition, and Francis Howell found that the 400 students who transferred into their district worked well with the other students. Normandy, however, suffered more financial problems because it had to pay for transportation and tuition to the districts where students transferred. Those who stayed at Normandy held pep rallies and welcome-back-to-school gatherings; students tutored each other to improve the school’s academic ranking. They said that there was a sense of optimism despite the deprivation of resources.

Funding for transfer students cost the district more than educating students within the district because other districts spent far more on students than Normandy could afford. The state board of education took over the district’s finances and gave Normandy “accreditation as a state oversight district.” Nothing had changed for the district to obtain accreditation, but students were no longer able to transfer to other districts. The revised minutes from June read:

“The Missouri State Board of Education, pursuant to its statutory authority to waive its rules, including those regulating accreditation, has accredited the Normandy Schools Collaborative and thus its schools. Because of that accreditation, the Plaintiffs are not entitled to relief….”

Some members of the Missouri Board of Education had opposed the transfers with the argument that parents moved into the Normandy district last summer just to have their pick of high-performing school districts. No data supported this fear. After former Superintendent Stanton Lawrence was replaced by a white superintendent in the midst of this process, he wrote this description of this school reform of punitive disparity in “How Missouri Killed the Normandy School District.”

When students were told that they had to return to Normandy, Francis Howell, among other districts, was pleased and issued this statement:

“FHSD has consistently held the beliefs that transferring students from an unaccredited school district is not the solution to improving struggling schools, and that the funds spent on tuition and transportation for transfer students can be more effectively spent on educating the whole Normandy student population.”

Normandy no longer had any legal rights because it wasn’t a district. According to the state board of education, it was a special collaborative and “not in any district in this state.” The Normandy school district was now run by the president of the state board of education, Peter F. Herschend, of Branson (MO). With no background in education, he owns Herschend Family Entertainment which runs Silver Dollar City and other amusement parks. He is also one of the biggest contributors to the Republican Party in the state. The person in charge of Michael Brown’s school district, an urban, minority district so poor that students have only two graduation gowns to share, was a white Republican millionaire who lives over 200 miles away.

Late this afternoon, a St. Louis County Circuit Court ruled that students can again transfer from Normandy to other schools. The children of four families can enroll immediately, leaving the door open for another 500 students to return. The ruling invalidates decisions made by the Missouri Board of Education in June intended to get the Normandy Schools Collaborative out from under the school transfer law. Judge Michael Burton wrote:

“It is in the public interest for the plaintiffs to prevail. Every child in this community has a right to a decent education.”

No one knows what will happen now. There may be appeals, or students may be able to transfer to other schools. No matter what, this is the state of education in one state—and may be better than in other states.

Sixty years after the ruling in Brown v. Board of Education was intended to stop school segregation, schools are more segregated than ever—and segregated economically as well as racially. A new report from the Economic Policy Institute shows the isolation of black youth.

Court orders to integrate have mostly been lifted, many of them during George W. Bush’s terms, leaving schools to re-segregate. For example, Tuscaloosa (AL) had a thriving, demographically mixed high school until the integration mandate was lifted. White parents lobbied for districts to separate white and black students.

In a classic case of haves and have-nots, black neighborhoods have fewer primary care physicians and fewer grocery stores, and children growing up are more likely to be exposed to lead paint and to have asthma. Parents work less-flexible jobs with less time to foster learning by taking their children to zoos, libraries, and museums. Before kindergarten, minority kids are behind, and few of them ever catch up. Teachers in schools with the neediest students are usually the least qualified.

Young people in poor schools lack the resources that booster clubs and PTA funding in advantaged schools provide, and every year lack of funding requires parents to fund more and more things that taxes used to provide. Yet the poverty of many minorities demand greater resources than middle-class white students need in order to achieve success.

We are a country of elitist education, and Ferguson, Missouri, is an example of what happens because of this inequality.

[Note: The Daily KOS story drew many comments about whether people had to pay for graduation gowns. The gowns are a symbol of poverty that runs far deeper.]

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