We don’t need no education

Filed in Delaware, Education, National by on November 24, 2016

Education gap widening

As a former public school teacher, I loved nothing more than having an administrator, with NO teaching experience, come into my classroom with a clipboard and a checklist to tell me how to do my job better. I mean—if it’s on the checklist, it must be easy to implement in a classroom with 25+ students of varying backgrounds, socio-economic statuses, ages, genders, and disabilities (diagnosed and otherwise). Surely the checklist allowed for variability. It was especially fun with the reviews carried punitive potential for a student having a bad day, missing breakfast, not knowing where home was, poverty, abuse and a million other things that our students face on a daily basis.

If you were thinking “Man I wish I could experience this!” I have fantastic news!! Now everyone gets to experience that same one-size fits all, top-down educational benevolent dictatorship.  To wit, with so many Trump appointees that are potential disasters it was difficult to focus on which one was the most irritating until yesterday with the announcement of Betsy DeVos as Trump’s Education Secretary.  The Trump camp claims DeVos adds to the “diversity” of his Cabinet.  I’m a huge feminist, see all my posts ever, but that the Trump administration has to promote a white, professional Republican party insider, and billionaire-by-marriage as diversity speaks volume about the overall diversity of his team.  DeVos is a champion of charter schools, vouchers for private schools, and (at least until the day Trump picked her) Common Core (a position she is now trying to walk away from, she is a quick study from her new boss). It induces great calm—not—that the person who might dictate public education dollars appears to hate public education.

 In 2001, DeVos led the charge to amend the Michigan constitution to allow vouchers for private schools to be paid with public tax dollars. Again, and louder this time for those in the back. She wants public tax dollars to fund private schools. It wasn’t that long ago that Republicans claimed to want to abolish the Department of Education entirely because the idea of federal dollars being spent on anything other than warmongering is upsetting to their delicate sensibilities, but now we have a person who supports another way to syphon tax money into private hands. In addition to having no teaching experience, and supporting the slow death of public education, DeVos has resisted efforts to increase accountability in charter schools. This crucial point cannot be emphasized enough. She supports taking money from failing public schools and giving those dollars to private and charter schools without any follow-up proof that these schools are more successful.

I don’t envy families who feel trapped within a school system that fails to educate their children in a manner they deem adequate, but what I can tell you is that removing money from a failing school won’t solve the problem.  Charter schools feel like a good solution on the surface, I get it. They promise students a better education, more options, more attention, and a path away from the failings of the home school.  And, there certainly are some successful charter schools, and such schools, as a small part of a broader educational plan, may have positive role to play.  But, the problem is results often do not support this better education claim.

 Look at what happened in Wilmington at the Delaware MET.  They had their charter revoked after one semester because state education officials found that the school had failed to meet minimum education standards. More broadly, the research on charter schools is mixed at best. First, charter schools are playing with a stacked deck, so equivalent performance to public schools is actually failure.  These schools can use their selection process to control which students they accept, and often exclude students that may perform below average or simply require extra resources.  This is vitally important, but even putting an understanding of the playing field aside, charter schools often do not outperform public schools in a direct comparison.  See the links at the end to form your own judgment.

Additionally, there are issues with accountability. Charter schools establish governing boards that give the illusion of competence and oversight. Unfortunately, these boards often lack requisite experience and are under enormous pressure deliver results that feel a lot like a teenager running for class president, “I’ll make the school day start later.” “Everyone gets an A in math.” The promises sound amazing, it’s the delivery that is the problem. And when those schools fail because they aren’t fully funded, they set impossible standards, or simply don’t perform as expected (shocked face), the charter students get shuffled back to whatever system they left initially, having lost pivotal instructional time.

 Per the Delaware Charter Schools Network, there are 27 charter schools in Delaware, which currently serve 14,000 students. On average, schools receive roughly $11,000 per student, though there is variability across states. That money is being removed from the student’s home schools to support charter schools that advertise as public institutions. Some charter schools lack the full time specialized staff critical to adequately educate ELL students as well as students with disabilities. Often if a charter is a part of an existing district and Local Education Agency (LEA), the district is still responsible for ensuring a “free and appropriate public education.” So even though the funding for those students has been channeled to the charter school, the public school district is still financially responsible for the bill to ensure that students with disabilities are educated within the legal doctrine of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  Consider this information from “The Facts of Charter Schools and Students with Disabilities” which was constructed with the help of National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE). “If the charter school is a school within a traditional LEA, the flow of funding varies greatly by state and may depend on the specific arrangement between the charter school and the district. The district retains responsibility for special education for the charter school’s students, but the way special education is provided can vary from all services being delivered by LEA staff in the charter school, to all services being arranged by the charter schools with the charter school being reimbursed by the LEA. In some states, there are negotiated arrangements that result in a variety of practices related to funding of special education services while in other states funding procedures are the same for all charter schools.”

The charter schools are one thing, because at least they are still moderately accountable. But let’s talk about vouchers for private schools now. It’s a private school.  If you are not beholden to state standards you don’t get state money.  And vouchers for parochial schools are a crazy violation of church and state. This paragraph is so short because it is so wrong, no more words are necessary.  

So to recap, a billionaire who has never attended a public school, has never taught in a public school, and did not send her children to public school wants to dictate policy for the “peasants.” Don’t worry though, the slow, painful death of public schooling should be over any minute now.

Public schools: http://www.doe.k12.de.us/cms/lib09/DE01922744/Centricity/Domain/111/Smarter%20District-level%20By%20Subgroup_slm%200809.pdf

Charter schools: http://www.doe.k12.de.us/cms/lib09/DE01922744/Centricity/Domain/111/Smarter%20Charter-Schools_slm%20720.pdf

About the Author ()

stay-at-home liberal and overall domestic disappointment hobbies include: burning bridges likes: things that burn dislikes: things that don't burn

Comments (7)

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  1. Steve Newton says:

    While I agree with everything you say about DeVos, this–

    As a former public school teacher, I loved nothing more than having an administrator, with NO teaching experience, come into my classroom with a clipboard and a checklist to tell me how to do my job better.

    –makes me wonder exactly where you taught.

    To get a certificate as a public school administrator in Delaware (and most other states) people have to have at least five years of teaching experience. The average is more like 8-10 years. This doesn’t make them experts, and it doesn’t guarantee content expertise beyond what they used to teach, but to suggest that they had NO teaching experience just isn’t true, with very, very rare possible exceptions. I bring it up because I think that kind of hyperbole right at the beginning hurts the overall impact of the post.

  2. anonymous says:

    @Steve: Did you see this one? As a libertarian this should give you the shivers — not so much whether it comes to fruition as the fact that he’s touting it (or “normalizing” it if one prefers).


  3. Prop Joe says:

    From Title 14, Sec. 1591:

    “4.2.1 An educator must have a minimum of five (5) years of teaching experience.” (listed under the ‘additional requirements’ for principal certification section)

    That being said, and the hyperbole aside, Evey’s point is clear and one I wholly support.

  4. Prop Joe says:

    Consider taking a few moments to participate in this action (contacting senators/reps telling them not to support DeVos): https://actionnetwork.org/letters/tell-your-senator-to-vote-no-for-betsy-devos

  5. nemski says:

    As someone who knows Evey personally, I will tell you this that she was not a public educator in Delaware.

  6. puck says:

    Most of the items on that checklist are the result of having accepted a large pot of Federal or state money in exchange for agreeing to the checklist. If you don’t want to follow the rules, the solution is simple – just say NO to the large pot of money and its checklists.

    “But we still want the money!” OK now we are down to brass tacks. So let’s review the checklist, see what can be skipped or simplified without harming compliance, and let’s see what can be done by technology instead of teachers manually entering reports.

    In my experience as a parent advocate working at the school, district, and legislative levels, teachers, like Republicans, are quick to complain about “excessive regulation.” That sounds horrible and as a parent I want to go to the school, the district, or my legislators to get those burdensome regulations removed for the sake of my kids and other kids. As a non-educator parent I don’t fear job retaliation and I have no problem getting in the faces of the authorities.

    Yet somehow, nobody was able to provide me with a specific list or even a few examples. You’d think that list of excessive regulations would be a high priority for the union and that the list would be readily available. But it wasn’t.

    I’d like to see a link to one or more of those checklists.

  7. anonymous says:

    Here, instead, is a link about Finnish teachers who came to this country to teach in American schools, and why the Finnish system cannot be transplanted to this country:


    It’s not about a checklist. It’s about insisting on “accountability” from teachers that we insist on from no other profession. Who was held accountable for crashing the economy? Nobody. But let one extra kid fail your course and they’re making book on you.