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Public education’s public enemy #1

Cross-posted from skyislandscriber.com.

Betsy DeVos is the prime example of an X/antiX cabinet pick.

Trump’s pick for Education Secretary failed to do her homework reports Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) thus demonstrating her complete lack of qualifications for a cabinet post. Her inability to answer Senators’ questions on topics related to public education is mind-boggling even if not surprising.

Benen quotes NBC news:

DeVos refused to promise that she would not privatize or strip funding from the public schools she would oversee if confirmed.

Asked bluntly by Sen. Patty Murray of Washington whether she would commit to keeping funding for public schools intact, DeVos dodged the question.

Benen continues with additional examples.

Over and over again, Democratic senators pressed the Education nominee on questions she must have known were coming, but DeVos was nevertheless woefully unprepared for each of them.

In one especially cringe-worthy exchange, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) asked about the Individuals with Disabilities Act, which DeVos didn’t realize is an existing federal law. “I may have confused it,” the nominee conceded.

Soon after, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) asked about her opinions on the difference between evaluating education proficiency and growth, one of the more common areas of debate in the field. DeVos rambled for a while, before making clear she had no idea what Franken was talking about.

Asked by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) about guns in schools, DeVos suggested grizzly bears may try to attack children in states in Wyoming, so she’d prefer to leave the matter up to states.

The Washington Post put together a video of “head-scratching moments” from DeVos’ hearing, and it wasn’t a short clip.

There is a certain irony to the developments: Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Education failed to do her homework, and as a consequence, she flunked her big test.

The truth is, DeVos’ nomination is tough to defend on the merits, even looking past yesterday’s hearing. As we discussed when she was first tapped for the position, the Republican activist has spent years crusading against public education and pushing for privatization though voucher schemes.

The New York Times reported in November, “It is hard to find anyone more passionate about the idea of steering public dollars away from traditional public schools than Betsy DeVos.”

In addition, DeVos’ qualifications as the anti-education nominee have been extensively explored in this blog by your Scriber in Trump picks school choice advocate as education head and The DeVos plan to destroy public education: “any kind of choice that hasn’t yet been thought of”, and by our contributor Linda Lyon in Graham Keegan is “Very Pleased” With DeVos…What a Shock!.

If someone attacks you, that person you might regard, with justification, as your enemy. DeVos’ history of pushing privatization and vouchers, I assert, marks her as public education’s public enemy #1.

Money matters, maybe it’s just public education that doesn’t?

Maureen Downey, on her blog getschooled.blog.myajc.com writes, “I have never understood the disagreement over whether money matters in education.” After all she points out, “top private schools – the ones that cater to the children of highly educated parents – charge tuition two to three times higher than the average per pupil spending at the local public schools. And these private schools serve students with every possible learning advantage, kids nurtured to excel from the first sonogram. The elite schools charge $17,000 to $25,000 a year in tuition and hit parents up for donations on a regular basis.”

I get where she is coming from, but also think she is taking literary license in writing she doesn’t understand the disagreement. I suspect just like me, she does understand, because it really isn’t that complicated. The “disagreement” is stoked by a myriad of those who would stand to gain from continued underfunding of public education. These include state lawmakers, who would rather divert public education funding to other special interests; commercial profiteers who look to get their piece of the nation’s $700 billion K–12 education market, and the wealthy who want to keep their piece of the pie as big as possible and not have it eaten up by more taxes to pay for “those children’s” education.

One of the most common refrains I hear from the “money doesn’t matter” crowd is “just look at how much they spend in Washington D.C. yet their schools continue to underperform.” Of course, those of us “in the know”, know that where there is concentrated poverty, there are a myriad of challenges presented that are very difficult for schools alone to overcome. We also know that how the money is spent is a key factor in how well it works. No, money is not the only answer, but there is plenty of proof that it does matter.

As reported by Rutgers professor Bruce Baker in an Albert Shanker Institute report, “On average, aggregate measures of per-pupil spending are positively associated with improved or higher student outcomes.” He goes on to write, “Clearly, there are other factors that may moderate the influence of funding on student outcomes, such as how that money is spent. In other words, money must be spent wisely to yield benefits. But, on balance, in direct tests of the relationship between financial resources and student outcomes, money matters.” Plain and simple, the things that cost money “(smaller class sizes, additional supports, early childhood programs and more competitive teacher compensation) are positively associated with student outcomes.” A study by “Jackson, Johnson & Persico in 2015, evaluated long-term outcomes of children exposed to court-ordered school finance reforms, finding that “a 10 percent increase in per-pupil spending each year for all twelve years of public school leads to 0.27 more completed years of education, 7.25 percent higher wages, and a 3.67 percentage-point reduction in the annual incidence of adult poverty; effects are much more pronounced for children from low-income families.” Likewise, a study of Kansas school finance reforms in the 1990s found that “a 20 percent increase in spending was associated with a 5 percent increase in the likelihood of students going on to postsecondary education. “There is” writes schoolfinance101wordpress.com, “a sizeable and growing body of rigorous empirical literature validates that state school finance reforms can have substantive, positive effects on student outcomes, including reductions in outcome disparities or increases in overall outcome levels.”

Of course, I’ve no doubt the “money doesn’t matter” crowd can dig up some “facts” of their own. But, I ask you to forget all the facts (after all, they don’t matter anyway, right?) and just think about what makes common sense?
– Is the critical shortage of teachers in Arizona classrooms good for student achievement? (Average AZ teacher salaries are the 48th lowest in the nation.)
– Can students learn as well when the ratio of students to teachers is 23:1 versus having 7 less children in the classroom? (Nationwide, the average number of students per teacher was 16:1 in the 2013–14 school year.)
– Can students concentrate in a classroom that is too hot or too cold, or where water leaks into it when it rains, or where lighting is insufficient? (From 2008 to 2012, districts received only two cents of every dollar they should have received for facility maintenance and renewal and a pending new lawsuit is evidence the trend isn’t improving.)school-funding-011817
So, we know that money can make a difference, and wealthy parents that pay big bucks for their children to attend elite private schools know that it matters. Small class sizes, highly qualified teachers, beautiful facilities and campuses all make a difference and that’s why parents with significant means are willing to pay for those things.

Arizonans are willing to pay more for education as well, as indicated by recent polling which shows 70% think we need to plus-up education spending and with 61% willing to pay higher taxes to do it. “Read my lips” Governor Ducey though, is determined not only to not raise taxes, but cut them every year he is in office while also continuing his steadfast committment to corporate welfare in the form of tax cuts. The $114 million he has proposed for the FY 2018 budget isn’t nothing (and it is new money as opposed to that which already belongs to education), but it also isn’t nearly enough. As David Safier points out in TucsonWeekly.com, it moves us all the way from 49th in per student spending to well…49th. And, this is just the Governor’s proposal, the Legislature is the entity actually charged with passing the budget. In addition, it isn’t just that our districts are currently underfunded, but that the funding continues to be siphoned away by commercial schools’ choice. The impacts of a “leaking bucket” with an insufficient stream of water to keep ahead of the losses are really starting to stack up. Money matters alright, maybe its just public education that doesn’t (at least to our Legislature.)

Graham Keegan is “Very Pleased” With DeVos…What a Shock!

I started reading Thomas Friedman’s latest book this morning, “Thank You for Being Late, An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations.” I’m only in the second chapter, but in it he credits Craig Mundy, former Chief of Strategy and Research at Microsoft, with using the terms “disruption” and “dislocation” when speaking about the effect of acceleration. Mundy defines “disruption” as, “what happens when someone does something clever that makes you or your company look obsolete. “Dislocation” is the next step — “when the rate of change exceeds the ability to adapt.

I argue the education reform movement has been working hard for some time now to disrupt truly public education; to find “something clever” that makes district education look obsolete. Unfortunately for them, the results haven’t quite matched up to the rhetoric. While school choice advocates like to promote the “magic of the marketplace thinking,” they just don’t have a good track record of improving overall student achievement. And yet, Lisa Graham Keegan, Executive Director of A for Arizona & Glenn Hamer, President & CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry fall all over themselves in an exuberant support piece for Trump’s Secretary of Education (SecED) nominee, Betsy DeVos. They are “very pleased with her nomination” writing that it, “signals a shift in the conversation around education policy in exactly the right way.” Let’s be real. What they are really hoping is that if confirmed, Betsy DeVos will propel the commercialization of district community schools at a “rate of change” that “exceeds the ability to adapt”, i.e., that it will cause “dislocation.”

Tulane University’s Douglas Harris argues though that, “The DeVos nomination is a triumph of ideology over evidence that should worry anyone who wants to improve results for children.” That’s because the evidence from DeVos’ backyard is far from pro-commercialization. Michigan has become a Mecca for school choice over the past 23 years and its charters are among the most-plentiful and least-regulated in the nation. Approximately 80% of Michigan’s 300 publicly funded charters are operated by for-profit companies, more than any other state. Yet, a 2015 federal review of Michigan’s charters found an ‘unreasonably high’ percentage that were underperforming. In response, DeVos and friends successfully defeated state legislation “that would have prevented failing charter schools from expanding or replicating.” By doing so, they enabled the doubling of charter schools on the list of lowest performing and the competition she’s driven has district and charter schools fighting over students, ensuring no one thrives. Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers,  writes that DeVos has long been, “working in Michigan to undermine public schools and to divide communities. And now—she’s poised to swing her Michigan wrecking ball all across America.”

DeVos’ “wrecking ball” isn’t just about using charters to do the “disrupting and dislocating”, but virtual schools and vouchers as well. In fact, Rachel Tabachnick, a researcher, writer and speaker on the impact of the Religious Right on policy and politics, calls her “the four star general of the voucher movement.” Tabachnick, no doubt like many others, is concerned that DeVos will gleefully work to make good on Trump’s promise of $20 billion for school choice, by siphoning off Title I funds designed to help the most vulnerable kids to the benefit of wealthy families for private and religious schools. There are real doubts among many though, that even if the money were available, Trump’s voucher idea (had typed “plan”, but I don’t think Trump is big on those) just won’t work. Current SecED John King said, “Vouchers, I don’t think, are a scalable solution to the challenges that we face in public education, and I think (they) have the potential to distract us from focusing on how we strengthen public education.” Teacher and writer Retired Professor and writer, Joseph Natoli writes, “Unless we deconstruct the narrative that privatized schools somehow have uncovered the secret to how humans learn and have a monopoly on the most effective ways to implement that knowledge, we are allowing false assertions to stand.” Natoli also writes, “Weakening public education to the point that privatization looks like rescue is accomplished by funding that is decreased when tax funds are siphoned off to for-profit charter [or private] schools.”

Most of us also understand, as Steven M Singer, blogger at gadflyonthewallblog writes, that school choice “privileges the choice of some and limits the choices of others.” This is bad he posits, because district schools “pool all the funding for a given community in one place. By doing so, they can reduce the cost and maximize the services provided.” Adding parallel systems increases the costs thereby providing less for the same money. “Public [district] schools are designed to educate. Corporate schools are designed to profit” Singer notes, and eloquently writes, “Instead of fixing the leak in our public school system, advocates prescribe running for the lifeboats. We could all be sailing on a strong central cruise-liner able to meet the demands of a sometimes harsh and uncaring ocean together. Instead we’re told to get into often leaky escape craft that even under the best of circumstances aren’t as strong as the system we’re abandoning.”

Mitchell Robinson at ecletablog.com, believes DeVos’ “ultimate goal, appears to be a two-tiered educational system.” One, a system of well-funded elite private and religious schools with highly qualified teachers and a rich curriculum for wealthy whites and another of “fly by night” virtual and for-profit charters with little to no regulation or oversight, and a bare bones, “back to basics” curriculum delivered by unqualified and uncertified “teachers”.

Back in Arizona though, Graham Keegan and Hamer write that DeVos is not a “gradual improvement” kind of leader, but a “true reformer who believes in immediate transformation of lives through quality education because she sees it happening. (One might ask where, since it ain’t in her home state of Michigan.) Of course, they follow that up with ”we’re optimistic that under Mrs. DeVos’ leadership we can take a national break from seeking to impose improvement from on high…” Her soon to be boss though, doesn’t seem to want to give up the bully pulpit to affect change saying, “There’s no failed policy more in need of urgent change than our government-run education monopoly. ”It is time to break up that monopoly.” His words are of course, hyperbolic and untrue, as government is not the sole provider of K-12 education, nor is competition prohibited by law.

What is not hyperbole, is that DeVos and other elites understand that truly public education helps make the American Dream possible. That’s why they are fighting so hard to dismantle it. “Educator Stan Karp argued that what is ultimately at stake in school reform debates is ”whether the right to a free public education for all children is going to survive as a fundamental democratic promise in our society, and whether the schools and districts needed to provide it are going to survive as public institutions, collectively owned and democratically managed – however imperfectly by all of us as citizens. Or will they be privatized and commercialized by the corporate interests that increasingly dominate all aspects of our society?”

This fight is not just about what kind of schools America’s children attend and who pays for it. It is also about weakening the power of our Democracy and its people. Will we continue to be a nation “of the people, by the people, for the people” or will the oligarchy turn us into a caste or feudal system where only a few have a say and the rest of us serve? If you want to continue to have a say in our Democracy, exercise it today by clicking here to contact your U.S. Senators today and tell them to vote “NO” on the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as America’s next SecEd. Then stand at the ready, because the cause is just and the fight is far from over.

NOTE: For those of you who may know me as a member of the Oracle School District Governing Board, I want to make it clear that these views are my own and do not represent the views of the Governing Board of the Oracle School District.

Trump stars in contemporary version of "Gaslight"

Cross-posted from skyislandscriber.com.

Today I offer commentaries that shed light on Trump’s deceptions, not from Trump the Gas Bag but from Trump the Gaslighter.

Donald Trump is ‘gaslighting’ all of us explains a CNN commentator. (CNN Editor note: Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review, and a former CNN producer and correspondent. The views expressed in this commentary are her own. Scriber note: h/t Paul McCreary. )

Here are selected snippets.

The questions are endless, and the answers, unless you’re paying very close attention – all the time – can require significant effort to ascertain. Reality is becoming hazy in the era of Trump. And that’s no accident.

The fact is Trump has become America’s gaslighter in chief.

If you’ve never heard the term, prepare to learn it and live with it every day. Unless Trump starts behaving in a radically different way after he becomes President, gaslighting will become one of the words of 2017.

The term comes from the 1930s play “Gas Light” and the 1940s Hollywood movie version (Gaslight) in which a manipulative husband tries to unmoor his wife, played by Ingrid Bergman, by tampering with her perception of reality. He dims the gaslights and then pretends it’s only she who thinks they are flickering as the rooms grow darker.

That’s only the beginning. He uses a variety of truth-blurring techniques. His goal is to exert power and control by creating doubts about what is real and what isn’t, distracting her as he attempts to steal precious jewels.

… more recently the tactical tampering with the truth has become a preferred method of strongmen around the world. Gaslighting by other means was always a common feature of dictatorships, but it has found new vogue as a more subtle form of domestic political control even in countries with varying degrees of democracy.

Now Trump has brought it to the United States. The techniques include saying and doing things and then denying it, blaming others for misunderstanding, disparaging their concerns as oversensitivity, claiming outrageous statements were jokes or misunderstandings, and other forms of twilighting the truth.

He’s just getting started, but compared with the man he admires so much, he’s a rank amateur at gaslighting.

In Russia, the truth became a matter of opinion under a strategy implemented by a clever aide to President Vladimir Putin, Vladislav Surkov. Surkov, who has a background in the arts, orchestrated a kind of political theater in Russia, creating a gauzy façade where no one knew which group was a creation of the government and which wasn’t.

Russia even tried to gaslight US voters, as intelligence agencies concluded, trying to undermine their faith in the democratic process. And when Moscow thought Trump would lose, it planned to promote the view that the election was stolen, under the #DemocracyRIP banner, a plan whose seeds Trump had already planted.

The challenge will be a steep one for journalists and for all Americans, when so much of what comes from the next president has to be checked and double-checked. The first step is to establish when there is a gaslighting operation in progress.

Check.

Then comes the battle to hold on to the facts.

The question is will we, the American people, engage in that battle. Unfortunately, about 45% of the people will not.

The fact is, many people hear only Trump’s version of events, and polls show many people believe even the most obvious distortions of the truth.

And that brings us to the other commentary in the LA Weekly, Gaslight : The Film That Gave Trump’s Favorite Brand of Mindfuckery a Name, authored by April Wolfe. ( April is a filmmaker and lead film critic for LA Weekly. ) Wolfe provides some historical background for the original film including the world’s fascination with another Gaslighter, Adolf Hitler. Here are some snippets.

After Lauren Duca’s Teen Vogue op-ed smartly pointed out the president-elect was in fact gaslighting the entire world — that is, blatantly doing or saying something and then denying he ever did it by calling us absurd to think he did — everyone I know has been using the term “gaslight.” And a few have gone back and looked at this MGM production for its origins: A woman’s new husband repeatedly dims the gaslights in her home, telling her it’s all in her mind, playing off a traumatic incident in her past, so he can search for some hidden jewels in the attic. Essentially, he tries to drive her mad by warping her sense of reality.

Obviously, this is currently apt. But the story of gaslighting goes back further than 73 years and that MGM production or the British production in 1940, to Patrick Hamilton, the man who wrote the play on which the films were based.

Hamilton, like many critical writers of that time, was adamantly anti-Hitler — one of his most famous novels, Hangover Square (1941), is beautifully and explicitly anti-fascist. Though Gas Light is seen as a domestic Gothic drama, which many have rightly gone on to interpret through a feminist lens, what we often fail to miss is that it’s also an allegory for standing steadfast against propaganda from those who do not have your best interest at heart and who seek to hurt you. Hamilton lived through a time when even seemingly good British people found themselves swayed by the adulation of a violent dictator, and watching Nazi sympathizers bloom in that atmosphere must have been a mindfuck. At the same time, Americans also were falling in love with the flashy new fascist, and those Brits who were close to the frontlines were scratching their heads raw. Could they believe what they were seeing? Remember that it took years, multiple British anti-Nazi films (including some from Hitchcock) and the bombing of Pearl Harbor to get Americans to recognize Hitler as the danger that he was.

So as we continue to wake up to the reality that we have been, are and will continue to be gaslit under this new administration, and with new potentially disastrous allies in Moscow who’ve mastered the art of gaslighting, let us remember Patrick Hamilton, his play and the movie that gave us the vocabulary to voice our worries. And let us remember a sentiment I’ve said and will say again and again: Movies can provide us with escapist relief, but they can also deliver unto us a biting and necessary reality.

In the end, we should hope that the guy who walks out on stage on January 20th is Trump the Gas Bag. Unfortunately, the harm that has already been visited on our nation will continue from Trump the Gaslighter. Hold onto the truth if you can.

Here, from the author of that Teen Vogue piece referenced by Wolfe, Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America, are specific recommendations for what you can do.

There are things you can and should be doing to turn your unrest into action, but first let’s empower ourselves with information. Insist on fact-checking every Trump statement you read, every headline you share or even relay to a friend over coffee. If you find factual inaccuracies in an article, send an email to the editor, and explain how things should have been clearer. Inform yourself what outlets are trustworthy and which aren’t. If you need extra help, seek out a browser extension that flags misleading sites or print out a list of fake outlets, such as the one by communications professor Melissa Zimdars, and tape it to your laptop. Do a thorough search before believing the agenda Trump distributes on Twitter. Refuse to accept information simply because it is fed to you, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. That is now the base level of what is required of all Americans. If facts become a point of debate, the very definition of freedom will be called into question.

As we spin our newfound rage into action, it is imperative to remember, across identities and across the aisle, as a country and as individuals, we have nothing without the truth.

Above all, remember that truth is our prophylactic protection against Trump’s mindfuckery.

Governor’s budget due today expected to add drops in the bucket for education

Cross-posted from skyislandscriber.com.

Today, Friday Jan. 13, Guv Doug Ducey, will roll out his budget.  What it will contain for public education is not expected to be good news, the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports in School advocates to Ducey: Show us the cash.

Early hints of details of the governor’s proposal aren’t encouraging to some. For example, a proposed pay raise for teachers was revealed to be a 2 percent pay increase phased in over several years. AEA President Joe Thomas said that minimal investment won’t be enough to keep teachers in classrooms “if it’s going to sound more like a dollar a day.”

Would-be educators attending Arizona’s colleges and university don’t have any reason to consider teaching in Arizona when neighboring states offer salaries $10,000 to $15,000 higher, according to Dick Foreman, president of the Arizona Business and Education Coalition.

Many who do stay in Arizona to teach quickly leave, according to Stephanie Parra, a lobbyist with the AEA.

“I’ve not had any teacher tell me, ‘If I just had another dollar a day, I could make ends meet,” Thomas quipped.

Dana Naimark, president of Children’s Action Alliance, said state lawmakers must realize that every decision they make to fund programs or cut taxes dips into the pool of resources available for schools. AZ Schools Now will focus on raising education funding as a concern when Ducey and lawmakers propose new or expanded tax cuts, and will lobby for their rejection, Naimark said.

“Each tax cut proposal certainly needs to be evaluated on its own merits, but in the big picture, if we cut taxes with no replacement revenue, we are shrinking the funding available for K-12 education,” Naimark said.

Lawmakers also need to revisit funding for private school tax credits, which have grown tremendously since implemented in 2007, one by 20 percent each year, Naimark said.

The cap on corporate tax credit for contributions to private school tuition organizations is now $51.6 million. By 2021, it will balloon to $128 million, according to data provided by Children’s Action Alliance.

Every tax credit claimed is a reduction in tax revenue for public schools, Foreman noted.

“We had big fights for years in the courts about funding inflation for schools at the (Consumer Product Index) level, or at 2 percent. So to have this grow at 20 percent a year is a clear policy statement that we want dollars going into private schools and not public schools,” Naimark said. “I don’t think that reflects the values of Arizona voters and parents and taxpayers and business CEOs.”

A recurring theme among education groups is the need to couple education funding with revenue, specifically ending tax breaks.  It is hard to see how Ducey’s many education proposals can be funded while still cutting taxes each year as he has promised to do.  The numbers just don’t add up.  Here is another report from the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required), Education community applauds Ducey proposals, but urges end to tax cuts.


Ducey spent a quarter of his [State of State] speech offering a laundry list of proposals to tackle the state’s teacher shortage and direct more resources to low income, rural, and tribal schools.

And while he’s proposing to add and expand public school programs, the governor said he won’t raise taxes to do it. He promised in a part of his State of the State speech on January 9 to lower taxes with his government reforms.

“Now, I’m not promising a money tree. I can’t. There’s no pot of gold, or cash hiding under a seat cushion,” Ducey said. “And unlike Washington, we don’t print money, and we won’t raise taxes.”

School groups, however, also want the Legislature and governor to end tax cuts, intervene on scheduled funding cuts for charter schools, and start the process of renewing a six-tenths of cent tax that has helped fund schools since 2000.

Dana Naimark, executive director of Children’s Action Alliance, which is part of a larger coalition of school groups called AZ Schools Now, said Arizona’s approach to public school funding over the years has been crisis-driven with no long-term plan in place.

Naimark said conversations about school funding at the Legislature have to include conversations about tax cuts.

The Governor talks a good line, but the bottom line is that he has to walk the line.  He has yet to do so.

Like me, David Safier at Tucson Weekly/The Range is pessimistic about Ducey’s talk in Ducey ‘Next Step’ Watch: Day 237—Talk Is Cheap Edition. Ducey’s Funding-Lite, Destructive Education Proposals.

Realistically, for him to be serious about enacting some of his most important proposals, like increasing the funding of schools, raising teacher pay and expanding full day kindergarten, the cost would begin at $100 million and move upwards toward $400-800 million. Meanwhile, most budget projections agree the governor has about $24 million in loose money to play with — the rest is accounted for—with lots of places those dollars can be spent. I suppose Ducey could free up a few more dollars with draconian cuts to other government agencies. But $100 million? $400 million? $800 million? Hardly.

They can have their own opinions, but not their own facts

The first session of the 53rd Legislature began yesterday and as we public education advocates “batten down the hatches” and plan our “assaults”, I thought it a good time to provide what I believe are some of the most salient facts about the state of education in Arizona today.

  1. Educational Achievement. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count 2016 report ranks us 44th in the nation, Education Week’s Quality Counts 2016 ranks us 45th, and WalletHub 48th. Might there be a nexus to our other rankings provided below?
  2. Per Pupil Funding. Our K–12 state formula spending (inflation-adjusted), was cut 14.9% from 2008 to 2016 leaving us 48th in the nation.
  3. Propositions. The $3.5 billion Prop. 123 provides over 10 years (only 70% of what voters approved and the courts adjudicated) disappears in 2026. Prop. 301, which includes a 0.6% state sales tax, raises about $600 million per year for schools and self-destructs in 2021. There is now talk of increasing the tax to a full cent which would bring in around $400 million more per year or, adding an additional penny which would up it $1 billion.
  4. Teacher Shortage. We have a critical shortage of teachers willing to work in the classroom with 53% of teacher positions either vacant or filled by an individual who does not meet standard state teacher certification requirements. With 25% of the state’s teachers eligible for retirement by 2020, this problem is only going to get worse. Pay is just one of the reasons teachers are opting out, but with Arizona ranking 45th in terms of teacher salaries against the national average, it is real. In fact, “Arizona’s teachers earn just 62.8% of the salary that other college degree-holders do in the state – the lowest ratio nationwide. WalletHub scored the state the third-worst for teachers in terms of ”job opportunity and competition“ and ”academic & work environment.” Providing them a $10,000 raise (more in line with national averages) would cost the state an additional $600 million.
  5. Voter Support. In a December 2016 poll of Arizona voters, 77% said the state should spend more on education and 61% said they’d be willing to pay higher taxes to do so.
  6. Double-Down Ducey. Our Governor has promised not to raise taxes but to propose a tax cut every year he is in office. This, on top of two decades of tax cuts that equal a cumulative impact on the 2016 general fund of $4 billion in lost revenue. In fact, more than 90% of the decline in revenue since 1992 has resulted from tax cuts versus economic downturn–our troubles ARE NOT a result of the great recession. And, Arizona ranks in the bottom third of states in terms of tax rates.
  7. Good Ideas With No Way to Implement Is Called Philosophy. In her 2017 AZ Kids Can’t Wait plan, Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas has recommended an additional $680 million in common-sense, no frills funding for public schools but points out it is not her job to appropriate funds and the Governor’s Classrooms First Council spent over a year studying how to modernize the school funding formula only to determine that just rearranging the deck chairs won’t be enough…more money must be provided.
  8. They Owe, They Owe, So Off To Court We Go. Over 20 years ago, the AZ Supreme Court voided the system under which districts were responsible for capital costs because of the “gross inequities” created. The Legislature agreed to have the state assume responsibility for building and maintaining schools but that vanished under Governor Brewer’s time as a budget-saving maneuver leaving us back where we started. In fact from 2008 to 2012, districts only received about 2% of the funding they needed for renovations and repair of school facilities and the problem continues. A new lawsuit is in the works.
  9. It’s For The Poor Kids…NOT! Arizona’s educational tax credit (individual and corporate) and the Student Tuition Organizations (STOs) that funnel the monies to private and parochial schools will deny the AZ General Fund of almost $67 million in revenue in 2016/17 (the maximum allowed.) Due to a 20% allowable increase each year, the cap for corporate tax credits will be $662 million by 2030. By way of comparison, the total corporate income tax revenue for FY 2015 was only $663 million. And yet, even in 2011, As many as two-thirds of Arizona corporations paid almost no state income tax partially as a result of the program which predominantly serves students whose parents could afford the private schools without taxpayer assistance. Just for the original individual tax credit for example, 8 STOs awarded over half of their scholarship funding in 2014 to students whose families had incomes above $80,601. By the same token, Arizona’s voucher program (Empowerment Scholarship Accounts) is billed as the way for disadvantaged students in failing schools to have more opportunity. Truth is, in the 2015/16 school year ESAs drained $20.6 million from  district schools rated “A” or “B”are and only $6.3 million from schools rated C or D. Besides, the mere existence of school choice in whatever form it takes does not in itself provide access and opportunity. As Charles Tack, spokesman for AZ Department of Education said, “The economic situation of a family will always factor in.”
  10. Want A Voice? Stick With Where You Have a Vote! Parental and taxpayer oversight and voice is vastly greater in district schools with locally-elected governing boards, annual state-run audits, annual Auditor General reports on school efficiencies, AzMERIT test score results, and other required reporting. Commercial schools (charters and privates) do not have the same requirements for certified teachers and transparency and accountability; nor are they required to provide taxpayers any information regarding return on investment.
  11. Apples and Oranges. Commercial schools do not – across the board – perform better than do our district schools. Yes, there are pockets of excellence, but those exist in district schools as well. Comparisons are difficult to make because the playing field is not level, with commercial schools often managing to pick the cream of the crop while district schools take all comers. A key point to note though, is that charter schools spend double the amount on administration than districts.
  12. A Great Start Is Critical For All Kids. Full-day kindergarten is essential to ensure every child (especially those who are disadvantaged) has a more equal footing on which to start their education. In today’s fast paced, global economy, preschool is also critical and has been proven to provide as much return on investment as $7 for every $1 spent. Restoring all-day kindergarten statewide would cost an additional $240 million. We’ve had it before incidentally. In 2006, Napolitano made a deal with legislative leadership for all-day kindergarten in exchange for a 10% cut in individual income tax. Four years later, the Legislature cut full-day kindergarten but the reduction in taxes still exists.
  13. District Schools and School Choice Cannot Co-Exist. When students trickle out to commercial schools, almost 1/5 of the expense associated with educating them remains despite the district’s total loss of the revenue. And while private school enrollment dropped two percent from 2000 to 2012, tax credits claimed for the students has increased by 287%. This, while public school enrollment increased 24.1% during that same time but state appropriations (from General Fund, State Land Funprivate-public-school-fundingds, and Prop. 301 monies) decreased by 10%.

It is clear there are several current and looming crises in Arizona K–12 education. And yet, Senator Debbie Lesko (R), has been quoted as saying, “Balancing the budget is always the most important work of the state legislature.” Really? That’s why the people of Arizona elect our state lawmakers? I don’t think so. Rather, I think we want them to ensure our children receive a quality education, that our roads are safe to drive and our water is safe to drink, and that our police and other first responders protect us from danger. In short, we want the Legislature to ensure appropriate capability to provide for the common good and we send them to Phoenix to figure out how to do that. Yes, they are mandated to balance the budget but, I would argue, that isn’t their raison d’être.

Arizona voters have made it clear they are willing to pay higher taxes to provide more funding to our public schools unfortunately, not enough have made the connection between a lack of funding for public education and the legislators they elect that are causing that problem. Yes, the prohibition to raising the required revenue is pain self-inflicted by our Governor and GOP-led Legislature. And, we need only look to Kansas to see that cutting taxes to attract companies to our state is a race to the bottom. I guarantee over the long haul, quality companies prefer a well-educated workforce and good quality of life for their employees over tax cuts.

In his State of the State address yesterday, Governor Ducey said, “I have a commitment our educators can take to the bank: starting with the budget I release Friday, I will call for an increased investment in our public schools – above and beyond inflation – every single year I am governor.” What is notable about this statement is his reference to “public schools” and, the fact that he followed it up with the statement that “we won’t raise taxes.” Promising support for public schools isn’t the same thing as promising it for district schools. In fact, some lawmakers now equate the term “public schools” to mean any school that accepts taxpayer dollars.

Let me be clear. I believe any promise to provide significant additional monies to public education without a willingness to raise additional revenue, is total bullshit. The pie is only so big and there are only four basic ways to significantly increase its size. Either corporate tax cuts are curtailed, additional taxes are levied, funding meant for other purposes is siphoned off or, important programs are cut. Senator Steve Smith (LD11-R) who sits on the Senate’s education committee, suggested funding could be found by moving money away from state programs “that may not be working so well.” Perhaps he was thinking of Child Protective Services which has continued to flounder and endanger children (primarily because sufficient resources have not been provided) even after Governor Ducey promised fixes when he first took office in 2015?

Arizona simply cannot move the educational needle without a significant additional investment in our district schools. These schools are where close to 85% of Arizona’s students are receiving their education, doesn’t it make sense that this is where we should dedicate the majority of our funding and efforts?

The DeVos plan to destroy public education: "any kind of choice that hasn’t yet been thought of"

Cross-posted from http://www.skyislandscriber.com.

Last week the New Yorker explored the plan to break public schools that is laid bare by Trump’s choice of Betsy DeVos to head the Department of Education. I’ll go along and focus on public education and the threat of choice for the sake of choice. But take heed: as the author points out, putting an enemy of public ed at the head of the education department is an example of the Trumpian implementation of the X-antiX formula. Many of the rest of his cabinet picks, including the recent pick for OMB fit the formula for a given agency X, choose antiX to lead destroy it.

Among the points that can be made in favor of Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s billionaire nominee for the position of Secretary of Education, are the following: She has no known ties to President Vladimir Putin, unlike Trump’s nominee to head the State Department, Rex Tillerson, who was decorated with Russia’s Order of Friendship medal a few years ago. She hasn’t demonstrated any outward propensity for propagating dark, radical-right-leaning conspiracy theories, unlike Michael T. Flynn, Trump’s designated national-security adviser. She has not actively called for the dismantling of the department she is slated to head, as have Rick Perry, Trump’s nominee for Energy Secretary, and Scott Pruitt, the nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

That the absence of such characteristics should bear noting only underlines the dystopian scope of Trump’s quest to complete his cabinet of cronies. On the other hand, DeVos has never taught in a public school, nor administered one, nor sent her children to one. She is a graduate of Holland Christian High School, a private school in her home town of Holland, Michigan, which characterizes its mission thus: “to equip minds and nurture hearts to transform the world for Jesus Christ.”

To bring this down to earth, substitute “50 million school children” for “world” and you have essential DeVos.

How might DeVos seek to transform the educational landscape of the United States in her position at the head of a department that has a role in overseeing the schooling of more than fifty million American children? As it happens, she does have a long track record in the field. Since the early nineteen-nineties, she and her husband, Dick DeVos, have been very active in supporting the charter-school movement. They worked to pass Michigan’s first charter-school bill, in 1993, which opened the door in their state for public money to be funnelled to quasi-independent educational institutions, sometimes targeted toward specific demographic groups, which operate outside of the strictures that govern more traditional public schools. …

As a board member of Children First America and the American Education Reform Council, and later as the chair of the American Federation for Children, DeVos lobbied for school-choice voucher programs and tax-credit initiatives, intended to widen the range of institutions—including private and religious—that could receive funding that might otherwise go to both charter and traditional public schools. In a 2013 interview with Philanthropy Magazine, DeVos expressed her ultimate goals in education reform, which she said she saw encompassing not just charter schools and voucher programs but also homeschooling and virtual education: “That all parents, regardless of their zip code, have had the opportunity to choose the best educational setting for their children. And that all students have had the best opportunity to fulfill their God-given potential.”

So how well does all that work?

… How have such DeVos-sponsored initiatives played out thus far in her home state? Earlier this year, the Detroit Free Press published the results of a yearlong investigation into the state’s two-decade-long charter-school initiative—one of the least regulated in the country. Almost two-thirds of the state’s charter schools are run by for-profit management companies, which are not required to make the financial disclosures that would be expected of not-for-profit or public entities. This lack of transparency has not translated into stellar academic results: student standardized-test scores at charter schools, the paper found, were no more than comparable with those at traditional public schools. And, despite the rhetoric of “choice,” lower-income students were effectively segregated into poorer-performing schools, while the parents of more privileged students were better equipped to navigate the system. Even Tom Watkins, the state’s former education superintendent, who favors charter schools, told the newspaper, “In a number of cases, people are making a boatload of money, and the kids aren’t getting educated.”

As the Republican nominee, Trump campaigned on a platform of educational reform, proposing to assign twenty billion dollars of federal funds to a block grant aimed at opening up school choice. The assumption is that productive competition between schools will result. “Competition always does it,” Trump said in September, as if he were speaking about air-conditioner factories rather than academic institutions. “The weak fall out and the strong get better. It is an amazing thing.”

… through her past actions, and her previously published statements, it is clear that DeVos, like the President-elect who has chosen her, is comfortable applying the logic of the marketplace to schoolyard precincts. She has repeatedly questioned the value of those very precincts’ physical existence: in the Philanthropy interview, DeVos remarked that, “in the Internet age, the tendency to equate ‘education’ with ‘specific school buildings’ is going to be greatly diminished.”

Scriber actually agrees with the latter quote. The internet is a powerful transformative agent. Consider as one example, the Kahn Academy, featured in this 2011 Wired article, How Khan Academy is changing the rules of education. However, this melding of technology and education is an entirely separate set of issues from DeVos’ push for public funding of private (including religious) schools.

The New Yorker author, Rebecca Mead, sums up:

Missing in the ideological embrace of choice for choice’s sake is any suggestion of the public school as a public good—as a centering locus for a community and as a shared pillar of the commonweal, in which all citizens have an investment. If, in recent years, a principal focus of federal educational policy has been upon academic standards in public education—how to measure success, and what to do with the results—DeVos’s nomination suggests that in a Trump Administration the more fundamental premises that underlie our institutions of public education will be brought into question. In one interview, recently highlighted by Diane Ravitch on her blog, DeVos spoke in favor of “charter schools, online schools, virtual schools, blended learning, any combination thereof—and, frankly, any combination, or any kind of choice that hasn’t yet been thought of.” A preëmptive embrace of choices that haven’t yet been thought of might serve as an apt characterization of Trump’s entire, chaotic cabinet-selection process. But whether it is the approach that will best serve current and prospective American school students is another question entirely.

Trump himself, I point out, is an example of the X-antiX formula. He will shortly be appointed by the American people to head a government much of which he despises and intends to diminish.

Je suis élitaire

Yes, I am, damn it. I am in the educational elite. My degrees are from land-grant universities which were created to move America ahead by establishing educational institutions that would benefit the peoples of the various states. I returned to teach and do research in one such institution for the better part of my academic career. So, of course, I say: I am elite. And it enrages me that our country has now stooped so low as to devalue facts, the means to make them as such (research), and the institutions charged with enabling that knowledge (public education).

The [Morrill act][wiki] says about land-grant colleges:

without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactic, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life. (my emphasis)

In other words, our predecessors in Congress saw education as the way to create the American Dream. Trump and his minions are out to reverse that process. The reason why is that Trump and Putin know the value of having uneducated serfs at the base of the economic ladder.

Here are excerpts from a report comparing the Obama and Trump cabinets so far with respect to their educational qualifications, The Difference In Education Between Trump & Obama’s Cabinets Is Staggering (h/t Michele Manos).

While there are no educational or professional restrictions barring our citizens from serving the public as part of a presidential administration, traditionally Presidents opt to choose the highest-qualified men and women for important positions, while usually being well-learned themselves. No longer is that the case. Trump and his administration are without a doubt the most wildly unqualified team to ever darken the door of the White House.

It’s called kakistocracy.

It should ring all sorts of alarm bells when you realize that the most educated man on the Trump staff is the sole black man, Dr. Ben Carson, who is a skilled surgeon but whose religious extremism clouds his muddled judgment. Trump himself will be the first president in 25 years to not have a graduate degree of any kind, and his proud ignorance has already become a major source of contention in national security circles.

The rest of his team is largely horrendously unqualified to run the departments they have been given control of. Here are a couple of what I think are the most egregious examples.

The new Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has billions of dollars but just a bachelor’s degree from Calvin College. The current Secretary of Education, John King Jr., “has a B.A. from Harvard, a master’s degree and doctorate from Columbia, and a law degree from Yale.”

The Department of Energy will now be run by former Texas Governor and Dancing With The Stars washout Rick Perry, who famously couldn’t remember the name of the department he wanted to abolish and will now run. Perry has a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from Texas A&M and failed his college chemistry courses. He will be replacing Ernest Moniz, who is a Nobel Prize-winning nuclear physicist with a PhD from Stanford University.

Trump has staffed his administration with the wealthy and the connected, rewarding megadonors and appointed GOP sycophants to run departments they want to abolish.

That is what dictators do.

The smoothness and talent with which our nation was guided over the past eight years has all been taken for granted; now we shall truly see what happens when the captain of the Titanic and all of his mates are drunk at the wheel.

Why AZ State Sen. Steve Farley should be our governor

According to the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required), AZ State Senator Steve Farley is thinking about running for governor.

State Sen. Steve Farley is considering a run for governor in 2018, the first Democrat to publicly express interest in challenging Gov. Doug Ducey in his reelection bid.

The Tucson lawmaker, who’s spent 10 years in the Legislature, said he hasn’t made a final decision yet, but is seriously considering a run against Ducey. He said he won’t make any decisions until after the 2017 legislative session is over.

Farley said Ducey’s education and tax policies are among the driving factors leading him to consider challenging the governor.

“I’ve seen up close his priorities over the last couple of years, what he’s done or not done. I think that it’s been proven pretty clear to most people no matter which side of the aisle they’re on that simply more corporate tax giveaways aren’t the recipe for success for our economy or for our people. It’s got to be investment in our education system,” Farley said. “And while he may think funding 70 percent of inflation for our public schools is solving the whole problem, that’s not the case.”

Here is why Scriber thinks Farley would be an excellent governor. Following are excerpts from Steve’s “Farley Report” – an email that you too can subscribe to. I’ve selected two topics.

On education and our work force

It’s been more than a year since the special session that placed Proposition 123 on the ballot, the measure that finally forced the majority and the Governor to pay 70% of inflation funding for our public schools, something we thought we forced them to do 16 years ago. Not 100% of inflation, 70%. That was just enough to raise us from last in the country in state support for K–12 to somewhere around 48th or 49th.

But it is most emphatically not enough to make a real difference for our kids and our economy. Even Governor Ducey spent a lot of time before the 123 election admitting that it was “just a start”. He promised to get right to work on enacting a Step Two for education funding.

Since we passed 123, we haven’t heard a peep from Governor Ducey about that step two. In fact, he just released a self-aggrandizing “Year In Review” which all but declares the education funding crisis solved. In it, he even brags about a “a $28 million investment in Joint Technical Education Districts [JTED] to help students learn what they’re passionate about and prepare them to succeed in post-secondary education.”

Governor Ducey fails to say that the previous year he signed the budget that cut $30 million from JTED, a move that set them on a path to destruction, and earlier this year he resisted all attempts to restore the funds until he was forced to relent by a strong bipartisan majority.

It’s time to stop messing around with this. We must prioritize teacher recruitment, training, and retention, as well as immediate upgrades in classroom resources like technology, curriculum, tutoring and teacher aides, and we must start now with what little money we have left in our budget, given that $4 billion a year in corporate tax cuts have been drained from our general fund by the majority since 1996.

Our state tax system needs REAL reform

Then we need to have the guts to finally tackle the monster that is our sales tax code. As Farley Report readers know well, we bleed more than $12 billion each year from loopholes that have been placed in law over the past decades, never to be examined ever again. Some are defensible, and some are even good for us as a society. But many, many more are nothing but special-interest giveaways engineered by corporate lobbyists in order to save their clients millions of dollars, and they do nothing to help our economy in general.

Here’s a place to start: If we charge sales tax on securities brokerage, financial portfolio management, and investment advice — which tend to be used by only by those like our Governor who can easily afford to pay it without even noticing — we can gain another $185 million per year that can be invested in educating the entrepreneurs and the workforce of the future so that we ALL can thrive in the upcoming decades — including those at both ends of the pyramid.

To subscribe to the Farley Report, contact Steve at sfarley@igc.org.

The New Fourth Estate

I recently read that today’s youth can’t determine whether or not a story is factual or fictional. Some of this no doubt is because there is just too much information available and there is no consequence of disseminating false information. I had an interesting conversation with a smart, older millennial recently and she didn’t know the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) once required holders of broadcast licenses to present controversial issues of public importance in a manner that was honest, equitable and balanced. The policy was called the Fairness Doctrine and its intent was to ensure viewers were exposed to a diversity of viewpoints. The FCC eliminated the Doctrine in 1987 and some believe its demise played a role in an increased level of party polarization.

Fast forward to 2016. We now have a President-Elect who tells outrageous falsehoods, (on TV no less), and then claims he didn’t say them. We have his surrogates who lied repeatedly during his campaign and continue to do so. We have Scottie Nell Hughes, Trump supporter and CNN commentator, who recently said “There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore of facts.” (Evidently, there’s no such thing as proper grammar either.) She followed that outrageous comment with “people believe they have the facts to back that [Trump’s tweets] up.” WHAAAAAAAT? No. Believing you have facts is not the same as well…ACTUALLY HAVING THE FREAKIN’ FACTS!!!

I believe if our democracy is to survive, we must find a way to once again agree on facts. Not on what to do with those facts–I’m not that delusional. Can’t we at least though, find a way to agree that the earth is round, it revolves around the sun, the gravitational pull of the moon causes tides, and climate change is real. Okay, okay, I know that last one is a bridge too far for now, but one can hope.

The media has been referred to as the Fourth Estate, but I wonder if it still holds that place. I offer that rather, money is the new Fourth Estate and the media (legacy media as some now call it) should be lumped in with bloggers and social media in the Fifth Estate. After all, Wikipedia defines the Fourth Estate as “a societal or political force or institution whose influence is not consistently or officially recognized.” Ever since the Citizens United ruling, the power of money has been exponentially increased. It buys access, which buys influence, and ultimately, buys votes. Yes, we still have the potential power of the individual vote, but that power only works if the voters are well-informed and then actually vote!

Amazing, isn’t it, in this time of incredible access to information and connectivity, we are less well-informed and truly connected than ever? We are bombarded with “breaking news” 24/7/365 and scandals are stretched out until the next one comes along. Not only do we have a dizzying array of sources for our unvetted information, but, complicated algorithms increasingly tailor the “news” to our liking. Google and other search engines, along with all the forms of social media have no doubt, contributed immensely to our country’s polarization. Yes, a person can still be well-informed if they really work at it, but now, they can think they are but in reality, only be getting news that validates their viewpoints irrespective of the truth. Who should arbitrate what is “real” news? How do we determine what is actually factual? Maybe when teaching our kindergarteners how to read, we need to teach them how to differentiate fact from fiction. It will be a long process, but we cannot afford to ignore the need.

As we learned during this presidential election, if people don’t have faith in the legacy media, its influence is greatly reduced. And, I doubt anyone would argue that social media and Internet “news” sites had a real impact on the election. Interesting that Trump and his supporters frequently throw the accusation of “media bias” at legacy media, but seem to give free rein to the entirely unfettered, unvetted world of social media. One thing is for sure, the days of Walter Cronkite reporting the “way it was” once each day without embellishment or sensationalism are long gone.

I’m generally an optimist and try to remain hopeful. I’m not one of those who since the election, is predicting the end of civilization as we know it. Our nation is resilient and the pendulum swings both ways. No doubt though, we’ve witnessed a wide ass swing this time. How long it will take to swing back and what damage will be done in the meantime has yet to be seen. But, I do worry that if we can’t get back to agreeing that facts and truth exist and they aren’t the same things as opinions, we are in trouble. And, if we don’t have a functioning, effective media that the people trust to give them those unbiased facts, our very democracy is at risk. A free press is after all, one of the freedoms that sets us apart form so many other countries around the world.

A fully functioning press is dependent however, on a well-informed and engaged citizenry. A Democracy cannot function as a spectator sport. Therein lies the rub. We can’t just blame others for the current state of our politics and governance and walk away. We all have a solemn responsibility to engage. Thomas Jefferson said, “An informed citizenry is at the heart of a dynamic democracy.” As hyperbolic as it may sound, I believe it is the key to saving our democracy.

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Peregrinations

Travels and Observations of Two

GUEST TEACHERS USA

Professional and Committed to EXCELLENCE

Slanting to the Right

Blogging from a conservative perspective.

#AskSirMwangi

©SirMwangi 2017, All Rights Reserved

Christian Thomas Golden

What I love to do.

Barataria - The work of Erik Hare

I don't break news, I fix it.

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A blog to inform, inquire, and communicate

austin vivid photography

heather schramm-lifestyle photographer

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Educare- Latin, "To draw out that which lies within." Now- the only time we have. Thoughts on education by Bill Boyle. Thoughts expressed here are my own.

School Matters

K-12 education in Indiana

moderndaychris

an education reform blog

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A blog focused on education policy and social justice

The Baggage Handler

I made the impossible easy in both worlds!

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