Author: RiShawn Biddle

Protect Our Immigrant Children

As you already know, the Trump Administration has declared open war on undocumented immigrant children and their families, as well as the 5.9 million native-born children of emigres to this…

As you already know, the Trump Administration has declared open war on undocumented immigrant children and their families, as well as the 5.9 million native-born children of emigres to this country who fled economic despair, political oppression and violent crime. For the school reform movement, it is another reminder of why we must fight harder to oppose what the regime is doing (and plans to do) to our most-vulnerable children and their families.

President Donald Trump made clear his bigotry toward Latino children (as well as his contempt for the rule of law) last Friday night when when he pardoned former Maricopa County (Ariz.) Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The disgraced law enforcement official, whose long list of misdeeds includes failing to investigate alleged sexual assaults of undocumented emigres (including the molestation of 32 children), was convicted this month of contempt of court for violating a federal court order to stop discriminatory profiling of Latinos (including those native-born and undocumented who had no criminal record) to ascertain their citizenship status.

By pardoning Arpaio, Trump gives rogue cops and police departments the carte blanche to engage in criminal abuse of immigrants as well as blessed all kinds of police brutality and other violations of civil liberties of all Americans. Given the wide criticism he received over the last two weeks for failing to condemn White Supremacists who committed murder and mayhem earlier this month in Charlottesville, Va., the pardon is also a clear sign of where his administration stands when it comes to the federal role of protecting the civil rights of poor and minority communities.

Arpaio’s pardon comes on the heels of new reports that the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents are engaging in all kinds of roguery.

Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union revealed in a lawsuit on behalf of three undocumented immigrant youth that the federal agency is teaming up with police departments (including the 250 law enforcement agencies operated by traditional district schools) to pick up, detain, and ultimately, deport unaccompanied refugee children and other undocumented minors. The children, already vetted by other federal agencies, are supposed to be turned over to their parents or to the Department of Health and Human Services. Instead, ICE is violating federal law by placing them in detention centers halfway across the country from where they live, putting them in danger of being molested and assaulted.

In the particular case being represented by the ACLU, ICE teamed up with Suffolk County, N.Y., police officers to pick up three unaccompanied refugees from Honduras and El Salvador attending high school in New York’s Brentwood district for allegedly being members of the MS-13 gang. ICE agents and Suffolk County cops have proclaimed in court that the children admitted gang affiliation even though they have been unable to provide any physical evidence or corroboration.The Brentwood district allegedly conspired with ICE and Suffolk County cops by suspending students who were suspiciously picked up for deportation days later.

Through ICE, the Trump Administration has attempted to pry data from districts in order to conduct their operations as well as standing outside schools so they can pick up kids and parents entering schoolhouse doors. Such data is prohibited from being disclosed to ICE by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the law governing the release of school data, but district staffers aren’t always aware of this. As a result of the tactics, traditional districts are issuing guidance to school leaders and others to not release any data.

Meanwhile the Trump Administration has taken particular aim at “border children” from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala who fled to this country to escape violence. Two weeks ago, Homeland Security canceled the Central American Minors Parole, which allowed 3,000 such kids to remain in the country. This will likely lead to those kids, some as young as 11, to be deported, and shortchanging them of schooling they need and deserve. The move by ICE this month to deport Lizandro Claros-Saravia, who was set to attend Louisberg College on a partial athletic scholarship, shows that collegians who are destined to contribute greatly to America’s economy and society, will also be shown the door.

Things will likely get worse for immigrant children will likely in the next few months if the Trump Administration moves to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the initiative started under the Obama Administration to exempt emigres brought to the country as children from deportation. Some 760,000 children and young adults ages nine and older are protected under DACA. This includes 100 Teach for America recruits who are working in the nation’s traditional public and public charter schools.

 If Trump goes ahead and ends DACA, as many expect, children in elementary, secondary, and schools of higher education will be tossed out of the country when they should be learning and ultimately becoming the nation’s future leaders and builders of its economy. It also means that teachers who are improving the quality of education for poor and minority children will also end up being deported, harming the futures of the children they serve.

As it is, the Trump Administration has already begun targeting DACA emigres for deportation. This has resulted in even more allegations of roguery by ICE agents. In the case of Riccy Enriquez Perdom, who was briefly detained last week and then released after public outcry, ICE agents allegedly told her that her DACA status had expired even though it had been renewed seven months ago.

The consequences for children of undocumented emigres and those kids who are undocumented themselves can already be seen in our schools. As the New Yorker detailed back in March, children are skipping school out of fear that their parents and themselves may end up detained and deported, or, in the case of native-born children, end up in the nation’s child welfare systems. Those kids whose parents are rounded for deportation suffer dramatically; on average, the household of those children, whose parents were working, paying taxes, and contributing to communities, declined by 50 percent, according to a 2014 study by Robert Warren and Donald Kerwin of the Center for Migration Studies.

It is almost impossible for children to learn and gain the knowledge they need for brighter futures if they are in conditions of instability and poverty caused by government action.

That many undocumented immigrant children (along with their families) came to this country to find safety, political oppression and economic stability makes the efforts of Trump Administration to get rid of them even crueler than it first appears. Given that they are undocumented because of the nation’s broken immigration system (whose quotas are a legacy of the racial bigotry against earlier generations of Latinos, Jews, Irish and Chinese emigres), and that most have never committed a felony, the administration’s effort is  arbitrary, capricious, and unconscionable.

But the problem for undocumented immigrant youth extends beyond losing out on teaching and learning. Once picked up for deportation, a child is ensnared in an overwhelmed immigration court system that offers them no opportunities for due process.

The end of the day at Albertville Middle School. Statistics say the student body is 30% latino, but teachers think its higher. Many students were taken out of school when Alabama’s immigration laws were passed.

Judges aren’t required to give an undocumented immigrant child a lawyer who help them obtain a fair trial; 34 percent of the 56,663 children in immigration court in the 2013-2014 fiscal year had no lawyer representing them. When kids aren’t represented by lawyers, they are more-likely to be deported or placed in detention than those who aren’t; 68 percent of undocumented immigrant children without lawyers were ordered out of the country in 2013-2014, compared to just 6.1 percent of those with lawyers.

Even worse is what can happen to those children if they detained end up in detention centers (prisons and jails) in which sexual and other forms of criminal abuse is rampant. The likelihood of those abuses being addressed or even being reported is abysmally low. Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General investigated a mere 570 of the 33,126 allegations of abuse lodged by undocumented emigres in detention centers between 2010 and 2016, according to Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement. Given that ICE is now looking to destroy documentation of such complaints, the likelihood of even more abuse is greater than ever.

This discrimination against undocumented immigrant children and native-born progeny of undocumented Americans (as well as against their families) is that it is based on an intellectually indefensible and absolutely immoral premise: That immigrants are a scourge to the nation. This thinking, almost as old as the racialism that is America’s Original Sin (and has often intertwined with racism to detrimental effect on generations of poor and minority children), continues to be embraced by the Trump Administration, many Congressional Republican leaders, and their supporters despite the overwhelming evidence that immigrants contribute greatly to this country’s economy and society. [The fact that Trump, along with nearly all of his staffers, are the descendants of emigres of the last two centuries, makes their nativism hypocritical.]

The good news is that some reformers have already stepped out to demand that the Trump Administration keep DACA in place. This includes Chiefs for Change, which issued a public call today asking for retain protections for undocumented immigrant children, as well as former U.S. Secretary of Education John King (who called out the administration in a speech last week to a group of school leaders. But reformers can do more.

One step lies in working with districts and school operators to help them give sanctuary to the undocumented. Districts such as Chicago have already taken these steps, refusing to cooperate with ICE and other law enforcement agencies in their deportation efforts. But those districts need help. The movement can reach out to immigration reform groups and others to develop ways to help those families evade deportation; this includes running bus services that can transport children from homes to schools without endangering their families, as well as work with community groups such as San Francisco’s Arriba Juntos to provide schooling to those in fear of appearing in schools.

Reformers can also offer their experience on the school data front to help immigration reform activists hold ICE and the federal government responsible. This includes advocating alongside immigration reform activists to oppose destruction of  records and complaints of abuse lodged by undocumented immigrants in detention center.

The longer-term step starts with supporting immigration reform efforts on overhauling the nation’s immigration system. Certainly reformers can’t help in directly crafting policy. But they can help give political support by simply signing on to letters, teaming up on advocacy efforts that advance both immigration and school reform.

Meanwhile school reformers can work on eliminating the presence of police officers in schools. Besides the documented evidence that the presence of law enforces leads to overuse of harsh school discipline and exacerbates the school-to-prison pipeline, they can also end up being used by ICE as tools to identify and deport undocumented immigrant children and their families. As a result, getting cops out of schools helps improve school cultures for all children.

The Trump Administration has once again made clear its policy agenda of harming the futures of poor and minority children. As reformers, we must make sure it fails in its immoral goal.

Featured photo courtesy of Chip Somodevilla.

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Remember the Monica Queens

Her name was Monica Queen. We know little about her. Because we weren’t supposed to know her. Or the other Black people that came before or after. Rectifying that legacy…

Her name was Monica Queen. We know little about her. Because we weren’t supposed to know her. Or the other Black people that came before or after.

Rectifying that legacy of America’s Original Sin of racialism, which has become the focal point of the debate over the removal of Confederate statues after the terrorism in Charlottesville, is as much a part of reforming American public education as building brighter futures for all children.

Thanks to the U.S. Census done in 1870, we know Monica was Black. We also know she lived in Anne Arundel County, Md., when she was 10-years old.

We know Monica had a mother and father. Their names were William and Susan. Her father was a farmer, probably one of many sharecropping after the end of the Civil War. He was 37 at the time the census was taken. Monica’s mother was two years older than her father.

She had three siblings, two brothers named John and Charles. She also had a sister. Her name was Miranda. All three were younger than her. But we don’t know if Monica was the oldest — and given that mortality rates were even higher for African Americans than for Whites, she may have not been

Chances are that Monica was born into slavery. But given that the Old Line State had an equal number of freed and enslaved African Americans by the time she was born — a year before the Civil War — it is also possible that she was born free. But we won’t ever likely know.

Both Prince George’s County and Anne Arundel County only have birth and death records going back to 1898, long after Monica’s days on this earth. Records from circuit courts, which date from between 1865 to 1884, don’t account for all births because people weren’t required to report them, and neither do many churches (which did record births in the 19th century).

Sacred Heart Church, the birthplace of Catholicism in America, is also part of the immoral legacy of the nation’s Original Sin, with slaves buried without markers on its grounds.

But that’s only if Monica was free. If she was born a slave (more likely given that she doesn’t appear on the census of freed people taken a decade before), she didn’t even have a birth certificate. This is because enslaved Africans, being considered property and less than human under the laws of the United States and the State of Maryland, weren’t thought  worthy of such accounting.

Sometimes their first names — since they weren’t deemed worthy of having surnames — were accounted for by slave masters in various deeds, wills disposing of them to relatives, and other documents. But much of those bits of evidence have either been lost, burned, or hidden among all the other records in various archives.

The U.S. Census did account for slaves in a separate schedule in order to count at three slaves as one person; after all, each slave was considered three-fifths of a person in order to keep southern states such as Maryland from counting those they enslaved (and denied the right to vote) as people for political power. But those records also provide little other than first names. Because Black people like Monica Queen and her family weren’t considered people under law.

We know nothing about what happened to Monica in the intervening years. We don’t know if she ever fell in love, or had a beau, or even had a chance to have one. We do know that Monica died on October 9,1889, a Wednesday. But we don’t from what disease or ailment or accident she succumbed.

All we know is that after she died, Monica was buried in a far-off corner of Sacred Heart Church in Bowie, Md., far away from the graves of the White families who were its parishioners.

Enslaved Black people were given so little consideration that few recorded their existence. They were never supposed to be known as people.

Monica isn’t the only Black person buried on the Sacred Heart grounds. There are also the unmarked graves of slaves owned by Jesuit priests who ran the church and White Marsh, the Catholic Church plantation that once surrounded it. Even as the clerics heard confessions from the White families who lived in the community, started what is now Georgetown University, and began to build up what became the first diocese in the United States thanks to the elevation of John Carroll as bishop in 1790, they also profited, both personally and as members of the Catholic order, from the labors of enslaved Africans who were human being just like them.

Many of the White Marsh slaves would be sold off in 1838, both to satisfy the demands of Rome (which no longer wanted any part of the immorality) and to keep Georgetown afloat. Those that died before then are buried somewhere on the Sacred Heart grounds. Somewhere because, save for occasional mentions in journals and various records for financial purposes, the Jesuits didn’t think enough of the people they held in bondage to mark their existence on earth.

With 154 of those former plantation acres now being sold by the Jesuits to a developer, Elm Street, to be developed into homes, there is good chance that those graves will disappear.

What we don’t know about Monica or about the former slaves, and why that has come to pass, should be kept in mind by school reformers and others as the nation engages in the debate over the removal of statues to Confederate War dead as well as in dealing with how the legacies of America’s Original Sin perpetuate the public education systems that serve all of our children.

Contrary to the arguments of President Donald Trump and others who want to preserve Confederate statues, these objects were erected solely to erase the dark reality that people were fighting to secede from the union in order to keep people like Monica Queen in bondage. Those hunks of stone and metal were also part of a century-long campaign to render them and their descendants invisible, to declare their achievements unremarkable, and to forget that their talents and other contributions were to the overwhelming benefit of generations of White people.

It is high time for all the Confederate statues, tools of propaganda for covering up the immorality of slavery and Jim Crow segregation, to come down.

Over the decades, that campaign to cover up the evils of slavery (and erase the memories of Black people like Monica Queen) were at least partly successful in seeping into American public education. This includes the 188 schools (as of 2015) named after Confederate leaders that served nearly 200,000 children, many of whom are the descendants of enslaved Africans. It also includes state-approved textbooks influenced by so-called “Lost Cause” historians that conveniently ignored the overwhelming evidence that the Civil War was fought to preserve slavery (and not “states rights”).

Certainly the effort to remove the Confederate statues and names from public schools is part of the long-overdue admission that we have indulged a false narrative about the nation’s past, one that keeps us from bending the arc of history towards progress for every American. It is also an important step in providing all children with a thorough education about their nation that includes the bad and ugly alongside the good and honorable.

At the same time, removing those propaganda tools of racism is a redress to those owed more than can ever be repaid.

The creditors include the descendants of enslaved Africans who live today. They have been forced for far too long to pay for those statues and schools through their tax dollars, as well as deal with the legacies of state-sponsored racism that perpetuate themselves through public education and criminal justice systems.

But it isn’t just about the statues themselves. For far too long, Black people have been forced to accept and expect erasure, and denied knowledge of those who came before them. After all, unless they are descendants of Founding Father Thomas Jefferson’s slave (and likely sister-in-law) Sally Hemmings, or the enslaved Africans owned by Thomas Jefferson and his heirs, few African Americans can trace their Black ancestry beyond the 1870 census or, as in the case of your editor, before 1830, when a man named Samson would appear on the rolls of a slave owner in Virginia.

Removing the statues is just another step towards celebrating those who came before them. The next step includes building statues of heroes such as Nat Turner and religious leader Richard Allen, as well as commemorating the contributions of enslaved Africans and others whose ordinary lives were just as heroic.

The other creditors are the enslaved and oppressed Black people of the past, who cannot collect on the debt, but deserve repayment anyway. Reimbursement for the torture, rape, murder, and denial of liberty done to them during their lives. Refund for being denied the ability to register the births of their children and put memorials on the graves of their loved ones. Payback for the memories they had lost forever to the ages because they weren’t considered human beings.

Restoration of their proper places as builders of the nation is the least we can do.

The final creditors are the Black children of today who are like what Monica Queen was at age 10 — and for whom we want futures better than what Monica had. For reformers, this means the transformation of American public education so that they (as well as all children) are provided high-quality education. It means building upon the implementation of Common Core’s reading and math standards by using original sources (including the records on slavery) to expand the minds of every child. This also includes overhauling the history lessons taught so that they know all that truly happened in this nation, especially to their ancestors.

And yes, it means renaming every school named for those evil Confederate leaders who wanted to keep our Black children in bondage. We would never send Jewish children to schools named after Heinrich Himmler. We shouldn’t be doing the same kind of thing to Black children.

Monica Queen deserved more in life than she ever got. Now we have a chance to make her name — as well as the names of every enslaved Black American — known and properly recorded for history. Even when we know just a little about them.

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Beyond Charlottesville

In the wake of yesterday’s Dropout Nation commentary, there has been plenty of reformers stepping up to call out President Donald Trump’s defense of White Supremacists committing terrorism last weekend…

In the wake of yesterday’s Dropout Nation commentary, there has been plenty of reformers stepping up to call out President Donald Trump’s defense of White Supremacists committing terrorism last weekend in Charlottesville. Even better, they have stepped up and called on those who have aided and abetted the administration to resign or disassociate themselves from the regime.

This includes former Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, who took to Twitter today to call on U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to step down from the administration. Marc Porter Magee and the leadership of 50CAN also stepped up with an open letter disavowing the president’s demagoguery.

Meanwhile Eva Moskowitz, the founder of Success Academy, finally and belatedly announced in a letter to supporters and others that she was distancing herself from the administration. As typical for Moskowitz, she decided to cast blame on critics of her courting of the administration, complaining that political polarization has somehow led folks to think of “my silence as tacit support of President Trump’s policies”. But at least Moskowitz finally took the time to do the right thing.

Of course, there are still reformers who refuse to say anything. American Enterprise Institute education czar Frederick (Rick) Hess has remained silent so far, while Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform is too busy touting her latest Wall Street Journal op-ed castigating American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten’s race-baiting to address the Demagogue in Chief’s even more-rancid and bigoted remarks. DeVos just broke radio silence this afternoon with a memo to her staff that condemns bigotry, but doesn’t call out her boss for his sophistry. The good news is that more reformers are recognizing that they cannot remain silent in the face of an ever-present danger to the futures of our children.

But as your editor noted yesterday, school reformers (especially those who have aided and abetted the Trump Administration) have to do more than just condemn the president’s latest demagoguery and end any meaningful association with his regime. This is because the racialism that the current occupant of the White House has stirred up has existed long before he ran for office — and is embedded in many ways in American public education itself.

The legacies of the nation’s Original Sin can be seen today in data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. There’s the fact that a mere 16 percent of Black eighth-graders in 2014-2015 read at Proficient and Advanced levels (or at grade level) — and that the remaining 84 percent are either functionally illiterate or barely able to read. As Contributing Editor Michael Holzman has detailed in his latest series of analyses, American public education perpetuates a caste system in which poor and minority children are condemned to poverty and prison. [Holzman’s piece on Virginia itself will debut on these pages tomorrow morning.]

The outcomes are in many ways a deliberate result of how our public education systems are designed and operated.

This includes the rationing of high-quality education, often done by districts and their school leaders in order to win political support from White middle class families at the expense of poor and minority households. This has often been the case with magnet schools and is now happening with language immersion programs originally geared toward helping Latino and other children from immigrant households improve their English fluency. The fact that just 23 percent of Black seventh- and eighth-graders in seven states took Algebra 1 (as of 2011-2012) is one example of how poor and minority kids lose out on college-preparatory education they deserve.

[The politics of rationing education is a reason why districts and other traditionalists also oppose the expansion of public charter schools and other forms of school choice that are helping Black and Latino children attain high quality education; charters fall outside of the control of districts and therefore, open the doors of opportunity for those historically denied great teachers and college-preparatory curricula.]

But as Dropout Nation readers also know, Black and Latino children are also denied high-quality education because there are many within American public education who think lowly of them. Reformers and others have documented this problem for some time. As Seth Gershenson, Stephen B. Holt and Nicholas Papageorge detailed last year in a study of teacher expectations, 40 percent of White teachers don’t expect Black children in their classrooms to graduate from high school. This is a problem given that White women and men account for 82 percent of teachers in the nation’s classrooms.

Another problem lies with how public education mismanages the recruitment, training, management, and compensation of the nation’s teachers. Not only do the nation’s university schools of education fail miserably to recruit teachers who care about kids regardless of background, they also fail to train them properly for success in teaching children, a fact the National Council on Teacher Quality demonstrates in its reviews of teacher training programs. Add in certification rules that keep mid-career professionals with strong math and science skills out of teaching, near-lifetime employment policies and discipline processes that keep laggard and criminally-abusive teachers in the profession, and practices that all but ensure that low-quality teachers are teaching the poorest children, and shoddy teacher training perpetuates the nation’s educational caste system.

Meanwhile American public education fuels the nation’s school-to-prison pipeline that traps Black, as well as other minority and immigrant children, onto paths of despair. This includes overusing out-of-school suspensions and other forms of harsh school discipline. Three decades of evidence has long ago proven that Black and other minority children are more-likely to be harshly disciplined for behaviors that would otherwise be dealt with differently if they were White. Black children, in particular, are less likely to be viewed as children as their White peers. Penn State University professor, David Ramey, detailed in a study two years ago that black children are more-likely than white peers to be suspended, expelled, and even sent to jail for the same acts of misbehavior; white children, on the other hand, are more-likely to be referred to psychologists and other medical professionals.

When you consider all the ways in which American public education harms the lives of children black and brown as well as denies them brighter futures, it is critical that reformers put as much energy into transforming the systems as some are doing in taking down Confederate statues in public parks. This is because those systems, resulting from the same racialism that led to the construction of those odes to bigotry, do even more damage across generations.

Expanding school choice and high-quality options within districts is part of the solution. Teacher quality and school discipline reforms are part of the solution. Bringing back strong accountability that was once ensconced in federal law is part of the solution. Continuing to implement high-quality standards and curricula — as well as making sure that includes honest history on how the nation has dealt with Black people as well as those from American Indian communities — is part of the solution. Finally, making sure that every child has high quality teachers who care for them is part of the solution.

The good news is that the school reform movement has worked avidly to end the bad practices, and move away from a traditional district model that prevents minority children from accessing high-quality schools. This work will get harder thanks in part to a Trump administration that means harm to those who aren’t White, as well as the efforts of traditionalists to oppose systemic reform. But it must be done and it means working harder as well as more-closely with activists outside of education policy whose efforts also touch the lives of our children.

Charlottesville is another wake-up call to reformers to bend the arc of history away from bigotry and towards progress for all of our youth. We must recommit today to that most-important goal.

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School Reform’s Time for Choosing

When will Eva Moskowitz disavow her association with the Trump Administration? That is a question. When will Betsy DeVos resign as Secretary of Education? That is also a question. Will…

When will Eva Moskowitz disavow her association with the Trump Administration? That is a question. When will Betsy DeVos resign as Secretary of Education? That is also a question. Will other reformers join Teach For America’s Elisa Villanueva Beard, former Secretaries of Education John King and Arne Duncan, and Democrats for Education Reform President Shavar Jeffries and call out the President of the United States for his bigotry? That question also lurks at the surface.

But the biggest question of all for school reformers who have defended working with this regime in any way is this: What will they do now after the current occupant of the White House made clear yesterday that he is an ally of bigot who want to harm the futures of poor and minority children? After Donald Trump’s defense of Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists, now is what Ronald Reagan would call a time for choosing. All reformers must choose morally and wisely if they want to truly be champions for all children.

As you already know, the demagogue who occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue doubled down on a false contention he made three days earlier that White Supremacists participating in last week’s terrorism in Charlottesville, Va. were only partly responsible for the violence that resulted.

The president ignored the facts: Unite the Right participant James Alex Fields’ hit-and-run murder of 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring of other protesters. The assaults and other thuggery by other Neo-Nazis during the mayhem, including the beatdown of Deandre Harris in a parking garage. The evidence that the White Supremacists came to town with arsenals of guns and other weapons. The presence of White Supremacists and militiamen menacingly walking around with semi-automatic weapons in full view. Gun-toting bigots threatening a local synagogue. Instead, Trump went on a tirade that included comparing peaceful civil rights and Black Lives Matter activists to the violent bigots, as well as proclaiming that some of the United the Right protesters were “very fine people”.

The “very nice” bigots Trump talked about beat Deandre Harris during their protests — and murdered a woman as well.

Trump also claimed that the nighttime tiki torch-lit march held by the Unite the Right protesters the night before the rampage — a spectacle reminiscent of Klu Klux Klan rallies and Nazi Party rallies on the Nuremberg parade grounds — as “quiet” and peaceful. As his want, he failed to mention the overwhelming videotaped evidence that the bigots chanted “Death to Jews”, shouted homophobic slurs, loudly declared that White people wouldn’t be “left behind”, and surrounded a Black church where Black Lives Matter activists and others were preparing their counter-protests.

He went even further by expressing his opposition to efforts by civil rights activists and others to remove statues of Confederate leaders such as Robert E. Lee (whose statue in Charlottesville has been targeted for removal by city officials). Why? Because he believes that removing the statues of men who committed treason against this country in order to preserve slavery and oppression was akin to erasing the memory of Founding Fathers such as George Washington, who promoted the ideals of liberty and freedom despite their own moral failings in regards to Black people.

There has been plenty of outrage and condemnations of Trump’s latest statements. But let’s be clear: Nothing is shocking about Trump’s defense of bigotry. This is because he is a bigot himself.

Ever since he began his eventually successful campaign for president, Donald Trump has racked up a long and ignominious record of race-baiting, rank demagoguery and blunt anti-Semitism. This includes accusing Mexican immigrants, undocumented and legal, of being “rapists”; embracing conspiratorial rhetoric from the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion in a speech given a month before his victory; denigrating the family of a dead soldier who was also a Muslim; and accusing Gonzalo Curiel, a federal judge presiding over a case involving one of his business of being biased against him because of his Mexican heritage.

Success Academy’s Eva Moskowitz is among the reformers who must answer for their association with (or silence about) the Trump regime.

Since taking office, Trump has indulged his bigotry, often with the help of his appointees. This includes the executive orders banning Muslims from several countries from entering the country; to the repeal of the Obama Administration’s executive order requiring traditional districts and other public school operators to allow transgendered children to use bathrooms of the sex with which they identify; to the round-ups and deportations of undocumented immigrants who contribute greatly to the nation’s economy.

The president has also refused to back down from his nativist rhetoric. Last month, at a speech in Youngstown, Ohio, Trump took a page out of the bigoted white slavery rhetoric of a century ago by claiming that Mexican emigres were animals who wanted to take young women and “slice them and dice them with a knife because they want them to go through excruciating pain before they die.”

Given his political record, his proud association with bigots — including Breitbart publisher and campaign manager-turned chief adviser Steve Bannon — and the laundry list of alleged racism that dates back to his days running his father’s real estate empire, there is nothing new about Trump’s defense of bigotry. No one should be shocked at this point. Because he has never been dishonest about his immorality.

The nice people Trump aided and comforted yesterday.

The real question lies with how all of us, especially for those in the school reform movement, will deal with Trump now. This matters because everything we do will be viewed now and in the future through how we confront him.

Certainly there have been plenty of reformers who have called out Trump’s bigotry and rank immorality. Jeffries, King, Duncan, along with Teach For America’s Elisa Villanueva Beard, Jonas Chartock of Leading Educators and charter school leaders such as Richard Barth of KIPP have admirably and consistently opposed the Trump Administration’s agenda. Michael Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute also wrote a rather touching piece on Monday that excoriated the bigotry, and announced today that he would no longer be a registered Republican.

But far too often, conservative reformers, school choice advocates and others within the movement have been silent in the face of the administration’s bigotry. The usually-voluble American Enterprise Institute education policy boss Frederick (Rick) Hess, who took time out of his day last month to rip apart a rather demagogic screed about school choice and racism from the usually-sensible (and pro-reform) Center for American Progress, has remained quiet about Trump’s rhetoric. So has Jeanne Allen of Center for Education Reform, who called out American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten’s equally rank demagoguery about choice.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (on right) is one of the reformers who have betrayed their commitment to children by joining common cause with Trump.

Others have been active collaborators with the regime itself. This includes DeVos, who continues to sully her once-stellar reputation as an advocate for expanding school choice for poor and minority children by serving as the president’s education czar, and former 50CAN executive Jason Botel, who serves directly under her. [DeVos further debased herself by refusing to specifically call out Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists in her statement on the events in Charlottesville.]

Then there is Success Academy’s Moskowitz, whose schools serve mostly Black and Latino children. Early on after Trump’s victory, she volunteered early on to work with his administration. Her refusal to distance herself from the regime (along with troubling penchant of Success Academy’s schools to overuse harsh traditional school discipline) is a likely reason why Jeffries resigned from the charter school operator’s board last month.

Before yesterday, those folks could offer up excuses for why they collaborate with the Trump Administration or remain silent about its bigotry. Among them: Because working with the administration can help poor and minority children access high-quality education; and because it is an opportunity to serve their country and not actively support the intent of the administration to do harm to communities black and brown; that Trump’s bigotry has nothing to do with their work on education policy and practice.

This Guardian cartoon has it right.

The excuses were specious — and after the past seven months — incredible even before Trump opened his mouth about Charlottesville for a third time. But now, after he defended bigotry in such a way that brought cheers from demagogues such as former Klu Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, there are no more excuses for silence or collaboration.

As champions for brighter futures for all children, reformers can never tolerate or accept bigotry, state-sanctioned or otherwise. As defenders of the most-vulnerable, reformers cannot stay silent in the face of credible threats to their well-being. As Children of God and members of the Family of Man, reformers cannot sit idly by as an elected official, especially the Leader of the Free World, bloviates, obfuscates, and gives comfort to bigots at expense of our fellow human beings. As Elie Weisel would say, silence is complicity with immorality — and active support of bigoted regimes is immorality itself.

Certainly Archbishop Charles Caput of Philadelphia is right to say that racism (along with other form of bigotry) is “a poison of the soul” that cannot simply be overcome with condemnations alone. Transforming American public education, whose failures, deliberate and otherwise, have condemned the lives of Black and Brown children, is part of draining that pernicious tribalism. But condemnation and active disassociation with those who want to harm our children are two important steps towards that goal.

If reformers can take time out to castigate traditionalists like Weingarten for their sophistry, they can surely muster a few words to call out President Trump for being a White Supremacist and rank demagogue. More importantly, for those working for and with the administration, it is time to walk away from the regime and end all meaningful association with it. Repentance is good for their souls — and for the futures of all children.

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Kids Still Need College Prep

There has been plenty of chatter since last week’s release of the report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce declaring that there are 30 million “good jobs”…

There has been plenty of chatter since last week’s release of the report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce declaring that there are 30 million “good jobs” for young men and women who don’t have a baccalaureate degree. Which sounds good on its face.

But a deeper look at the report offers another reason why school reformers must continue to push American public education to provide the college-preparatory education all children, especially the most-vulnerable, need so they can become part of the middle class and be successful in life.

Certainly the Georgetown report is correct in noting that there are still plenty of jobs paying that pay the kind of wages high school dropouts and graduates without some experience in traditional colleges, apprenticeships and technical schools need to become part of the nation’s middle class. This include jobs in traditional manufacturing sectors such as welding, machine tool-and-die making, and construction, as well as in service sector jobs such as nursing, computer service technicians, and bookkeepers.

The problem is that there are fewer of these jobs available in the first place. As the Georgetown team led by Anthony Carnevale admits, the percentage of $35,000-plus jobs held by dropouts and high school graduates without a baccalaureate declined by 25 percent (from 60 percent of jobs to 45 percent) between 1991 and 2015. There are also six million fewer jobs for them than there were 25 years ago, a 16.7 percent decline (from 36 million to 30 million) in that period.

The six decades-long decline in manufacturing and other traditional blue-collar fields, a trend that will continue into the future, is a major reason why  so few jobs are available for dropouts and high school grads without higher education of some kind. Thanks in large part to advances in technology (including the increase in the number of robotics used to handle low-skilled jobs once done by people), those jobs aren’t coming back.

But the bigger reason lies in the reality that the jobs that pay middle-class wages require higher levels of education than dropout and high school grads without higher education have mastered.

Between 1996 and 2016, some 4.1 million jobs were gained by high school graduates with some form of higher education other than a baccalaureate, while dropouts and grads without higher education lost one million jobs. Because so many sectors require higher levels of knowledge (as well as at least 60 college credits), those who don’t finish high school or don’t gain some form of higher education lose out on brighter futures. This is especially true for healthcare, which accounted for more than a quarter of the jobs gained by high school grads with at least some higher education, and the financial services sector (which accounts for another quarter of those jobs).

Even traditional manufacturing has become a place where workers must have higher education. Machine tool-and-die work makers who work on computer numerical control machines, for example, must both have strong math skills and be well-versed in computer programming languages. With robots having an even greater presence than ever in factories, those working in them must master computer programming languages such as C in order to do their work.

Given that higher levels of education are necessary for attaining most jobs, it becomes clear that all children need high-quality college-preparatory education. Especially since the kind of high-level math and science skills needed for success in white collar jobs requiring baccalaureate and graduate degrees are also necessary for the new blue collar jobs that can only be gotten after attending tech schools, community colleges, and apprenticeship programs (which are often run by state universities and community college systems).

The need for college-preparatory education goes beyond the jobs of today. Thanks to other advances in technology, including the rise of artificial intelligence and automation of even tasks such as crafting basic legal documents, even jobs requiring baccalaureate and graduate degrees are at risk of disappearing in the coming decades. As seen in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ report last February on the decline in the number of teens in the labor force, the lack of high-quality education for current generations of adults has led to them taking jobs flipping burgers and other work that used to be the domain of adolescents who, are in turn, are now focused more on greater educational attainment. [By the way: The need for teens to learn more is something lost on the likes of U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, who penned an op-ed this past weekend in the New York Times bemoaning their lack of summer employment.]

College-preparatory education is critical in providing children with the knowledge they can use in any job or career, helping them to remain employable for  future challenges and remain employable no matter what happens. Even if they don’t choose to initially attend a traditional college after high school, the knowledge they learn will help them when they inevitably end up going to campus in order to find a career path more-suited to them.

But as Dropout Nation readers already know, the problem is that American public education does a poor job of preparing kids for success in adulthood. Seventy-fie percent of the nation’s 12th-graders tested below grade level (Below Basic and Basic) in math on the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress. The numbers are even more bleak for children from poor and minority households. Ninety-six percent of Black high school seniors eligible for free- and reduced-priced lunch, along with 95 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native seniors, 92 percent of Latino 12th-graders, and 86 of poor White high school seniors scored below grade level.

The lack of preparation for higher education is why the percentage of Black adults with middle class jobs not requiring a baccalaureate barely budged (from nine percent to 11 percent) between 1991 and 2015, according to Georgetown, while the percentage of White adults holding such jobs declined by 16 percentage points over that same period.

The problem begins long before secondary education. As a team led by Amy Claessens of the University of Chicago determined in a study released two years ago on the effects of academic content on the learning of kindergartners, “all children benefit from exposure to advanced content in reading and mathematics”. In this case, advanced mathematics for kindergartners included advanced number concepts, and basic arithmetic such as addition and subtraction usually taught in first grade. Yet few children are provided high-quality content in math (as well as reading) in the early grades, ensuring that they will struggle academically by high school.

Continuing the overhaul of American public education, an effort complicated over the past couple of years by the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act and its evisceration of both accountability and the ability of the federal government to advance college-preparatory curricula standards, must be kept apace. It will take new approaches to make it happen.

Providing kids with college-prep curricula that aligns with Common Core reading and math standards is key to making the promise of high-quality content a reality. It is also about building upon efforts such as Project Bright Idea in North Carolina as well as the work of the St. Charles Parish district in Louisiana.The work of providing kids with high-quality education must begin early. This includes providing intensive math instruction, especially on helping kids understand that numbers represent quantities, as well as basic arithmetic, in kindergarten.

The work must accelerate, especially once kids get into secondary schools. This includes providing all middle schoolers with Algebra 1 as well as with statistics, both of which help them with the hard math work that will come. Continuing to expand access to Advance Placement courses in high schools to poor and minority students will also help. But as the Education Trust details in a report released last week, districts and other school operators must provide youth with the support they need, as well as streamline practices such as setting master schedules for schools, in order to help improve their achievement.

Meanwhile it is important to help kids understand the relevance of what they learn to what they will do in adulthood. This includes efforts such as the Minddrive program in Kansas City, Mo., which helps kids see the connections between math courses and real world activities through the uses of 3D modeling, trigonometry, and electrical engineering in designing and building cars. Adding such courses will even help kids who are focused primarily on attending traditional colleges and careers requiring baccalaureate degrees.

The Georgetown report is another reminder that providing all children with high-quality education is critical to helping them gain economically. We can’t afford to give them anything less.

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School Reform’s Trump Problem

There has been plenty of outcry since Wednesday over the Trump Administration’s move to ban transgendered Americans from serving or joining in the nation’s military. For good reason. Seventy years…

There has been plenty of outcry since Wednesday over the Trump Administration’s move to ban transgendered Americans from serving or joining in the nation’s military. For good reason. Seventy years after President Harry Truman issued the executive order that desegregated the nation’s armed forces, the current occupant of the White House and his staff declared symbolically that the federal government will explicitly (and unconstitutionally_ promote discrimination against a group of taxpayers and citizens it is supposed to serve.

But for school reformers, the Trump Administration’s move is another reminder of the reality that they can no longer count on federal policymakers to aid their battle to build brighter futures for all children, especially the most-vulnerable.

This was clear to reformers back in March, when now-deservedly embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the rest of the administration repealed the Obama Administration’s executive order requiring traditional districts and other public school operators to allow transgendered children to use bathrooms of the sex with which they identify. So determined was the administration in refusing to defend the civil rights of vulnerable children that it even ignored Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos demand that it seek feedback from civil rights groups before proceeding with the move.

Before that move, many reformers became alarmed about the Trump Administration’s aggressive efforts to detain and deport undocumented emigres who contribute greatly to the nation’s economy and society. With some 3.9 million children facing the prospect of their parents (and even themselves) being sent back to place in which their lives and economic prospects are endangered, districts such as Chicago Public Schools and charter schools have told their principals to not comply with requests from the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit.

The most-important wake-up call came last month when news leaked out that the Department of Education was scaling back investigations of civil rights violations — including overuse by districts of  harsh school discipline against Black and other minority children — as part of the administration’s overall refusal to enforce civil rights laws. In a memo leaked by ProPublica, Deputy Assistant Secretary Candice Jackson, who oversees the agency’s Office for Civil Rights, told regional directors that it would no longer obtain three years of past complaints filed by against a district or charter when investigating a new complaint. Essentially this means investigators can no longer use previous complaints as evidence of a district systematically overusing suspensions, expulsions, spankings, and even restraints and seclusion (solitary confinement) against particular groups of kids. This move was a reversal of the Obama Administration’s support of efforts to reform how districts and charter schools discipline children in their care.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the rest of the Trump Administration have proven that they cannot be counted on by any faction in the school reform movement.

So the Trump Administration’s ban on transgenders in the military is no surprise to reformers, especially the civil rights-oriented players and centrist Democrats in the movement. Nor are they surprised by the administration’s filing Wednesday of an amicus brief in a case before the Second Circuit arguing that federal civil rights laws don’t cover sexual orientation, and therefore, aren’t applicable to gays.

If anything, the administration’s latest moves confirm what your editor pointed out over the past seven months: That the federal government — especially the Department of Education — can no longer be trusted to play a role in advancing systemic reform.

Even before DeVos was confirmed as Secretary of Education, she refused to condemn then-President-Elect Donald Trump for his campaign of race-baiting and bigotry. Since taking office, she has proven incapable of standing up strongly and successfully on behalf of our most-vulnerable children against the machinations of this administration. Her appointment of Jackson, whose career has been marked by opposition to civil rights laws, as the overlord of enforcing them has proven how little concern she has for the important role the federal government plays in ensuring that poor and minority children access high-quality education.

Certainly she can be applauded for bringing former 50CAN executive Jason Botel into the fold as her point person on implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act. She also deserves some credit for giving him plenty of leeway in demanding revamps of state plans, as well as protecting him so far from criticism for doing so by Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander.

But that is merely faint praise, especially in light of how DeVos is failing to defend children on other fronts. The Trump Administration’s proposed $250 million increase in funding for the federal Charter School Fund (as well as another $1 billion in Title I funds devoted to expanding intra-district choice for low-income children) is offset by the elimination of $2.2 billion in funding for Americorps, the program that helps districts provide poor and minority children with Teach for America recruits proven to improve their academic achievement. That the White House proposes to also cut another $519 million in funding for science and technology education efforts that are directly under the education department’s purview (as well as other education dollars overseen by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration). This proposed move that makes the president’s decision this week to donate a mere $100,000 in salary to host a STEM camp on the grounds of the education department even more callous than it appears.

Even the proposed expansion of the Charter School Fund is less than it seems. This is because it doesn’t include setting-aside funds to help families and communities launch their own charters, a key to making families lead decision-makers in education and expanding choice. Nor does the plan require states to set-aside a portion of those funds for those purposes. The only players who will get those additional dollars are existing charter operators, many of whom already have enough resources to finance expansion. Add in the fact that congressional leaders are unlikely to approve such an expansion (and that the Trump administration lacks the ties to Congress needed to make it a reality), and the proposed increase is a mirage.

Most reformers have long ago disavowed (or never held) the notion of the current president embracing the school reformer-in-chief mantle embraced by every occupant of the White House since Ronald Reagan. Given DeVos’ difficulties in competently running the Department of Education as well as her lack of clout within the administration and Trump’s well-proven record of bigotry, this was sensible. Given that Congressional Democrats, despite their energetic efforts, lack the majorities needed to oppose the administration’s agenda, and that moderate Republicans are generally uninterested in advancing reform, it means that they must fight harder than ever with different approaches on behalf of all children.

Even conservative reformers, many of whom backed DeVos because of their dependence on her family’s fortune (and have been pleased with the administration’s roll-back of the Obama administration’s school discipline reform efforts) are becoming disillusioned. Thursday’s news that neither Trump nor Congressional Republicans will expand school choice through the creation of education tax credits (even after heavy lobbying from the DeVos-backed American Federation for Children) is one more sign that they have no influence inside the Beltway. That the Trump Administration’s bigotry on other fronts has angered centrist Democrat and civil rights-oriented reform allies is also complicating the efforts of conservative reformers to advance other efforts at all levels.

Meanwhile the Trump Administration’s failures as a governing body make it an unreliable partner in advancing conservative reform aims. This was reinforced over the past couple of days, especially as the Joint Chiefs of Staff refused to enforce the transgender ban until it actually received an executive order (which has yet to be issued), and feuding between the administration’s communication czar and Chief of Staff Reince Preibus spilled out into the open in a stream of profanity-laced vitriol. Add in the spectacular inability of House and Senate Republicans in control of Congress to pass any legislation, and it becomes clear that little will get done on any front.

With an openly bigoted and spectacularly incompetent administration overseeing the federal government, reformers must now pursue new approaches for helping all children succeed. The emphasis on advancing transformation of public education at the federal level is no longer possible at this time. Maybe these realities will finally convince them to build ties to other activists working against the administration on other front — as well as force them to finally build a stronger infrastructure for advancing reform at the state and local levels.

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