Tag: Education policy

Best of Dropout Nation: A Call to Revolutionize American Public Education

On this rebroadcast of a Dropout Nation Podcast from 2012, RiShawn Biddle calls upon reformers to remember the need to build brighter futures for all kids ‚Äď and take the…

On this rebroadcast of a Dropout Nation Podcast from 2012, RiShawn Biddle calls upon reformers to remember the need to build brighter futures for all kids ‚Äď and take the time in the new year to advance systemic reform.

Listen to the Podcast at RiShawn Biddle Radio or download directly to your mobile or desktop device. Also, subscribe to the Dropout Nation Podcast series. You can also embed this podcast on your site. It is also available on iTunes, Blubrry, Google Play, Stitcher, and PodBean.

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Doug Jones’ Lesson for School Reformers

Your editor could have spent this morning focusing on news from yesterday’s news from Bellwether Education Partners that the state plans proposed as part of implementation of the Every Student…

Your editor could have spent this morning focusing on news from yesterday’s news from Bellwether Education Partners that the state plans proposed as part of implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act show that districts are going to be allowed to perpetuate harm to poor and minority children. But that point was made earlier this month. There’s also the dueling studies from Thomas B. Fordham Institute and University of Pennsylvania’s Consortium on Policy, Research and Education on Philadelphia’s efforts to overhaul school discipline. Being ill for the past few days, I’ll be tackling them in the next week.

What is on my mind has less to do with the details of policy. Instead, it is about an important lesson reformers should be learning today from Doug Jones’ victory yesterday over the notorious Roy Moore in yesterday’s Alabama U.S. Senate special election: The need to rally poor and minority communities in advancing systemic reform to help all children.

As many of you know by now, Jones, a former U.S. Attorney and scion of a political family that includes famed judge and U.S. Senator Howell Heflin, won what was previously considered an unlikely victory over Moore, a jurist who was twice removed from his role as chief justice of the Iron State’s supreme court for willfully ignoring failing to enforce federal rulings. A Democrat will now hold a U.S. Senate seat for Alabama for the first time in 20 years despite the state having a strong Republican majority and the efforts of President Donald Trump in the last few weeks to help Moore into office.

Certainly Jones was helped by Moore’s own problems. This included revelations over the past two months that he had engaged in sexual misconduct with at least six women under age 18 back when he was a district attorney during the 1970s and 1980s. That news, along with the threat Moore posed to the tenure of Mitch McConnell as senate majority leader, gave Congressional Republicans a convenient excuse to withdraw financial and political support for his campaign, and even led outgoing Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake to publicly support Jones’ run. Even without backing from those who could have been his colleagues in the senate, Moore still managed to garner 48.9 percent of voters.

What really mattered for Jones had little to do with Moore, but with the strong turnout among Black and other minority communities in Alabama. Exit polling conducted by the Washington Post shows that Black voters made up 28 percent of the electorate yesterday, a higher level of turnout than their overall numbers among all registered voters. More importantly, Black voters turned out at levels just a quarter or so below those of last year’s general election. In Jefferson County, home to Birmingham, Alabama’s largest city, turnout was at 72 percent of levels last year, according to an analysis of data by Daily Kos.

Given that special elections in general attract significantly lower levels of voter turnout, the high levels are astounding. Especially when you consider that Alabama Republicans in control of state government have worked for the past decade to disenfranchise minority voters through efforts such as closing motor vehicle branches in Black communities, a key way of frustrating voter registration.¬†Add in the fact that Jones attracted 60 percent of Alabama voters age18-29 and 61 percent of those in the 29-to-44 demographic — especially in a state in which Mitt Romney won the majority of them five years ago — and the results stand out.

Without Black votes as well as those of young people, Doug Jones would have never beaten Roy Moore in yesterday’s U.S. Senate race.

How did Jones manage to get more minority voters (as well as young voters) to support his bid? That credit goes to grassroots advocates, including Black churches and branches of the NAACP, who, with the help of national outfits, conducted strong get-out-the-vote campaigns on behalf of Jones and, more-importantly, against Moore. Activists reminded Black communities that a Moore victory would ultimately help the Trump Administration in its war on their communities and their children. They also noted that Jones’ victory takes away a seat from Senate Republicans, who now hold just a one-seat majority, making it even harder for them to pass measures such as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that have little support even within the caucus.

Put simply, contrary to the arguments of many White Democrats (as well as pundits such as Jonathan Chait of New York, Frank Bruni of the New York Times and academic Mark Lilla), focusing on the efforts of Black, Latino, immigrant, and low-income communities for economic, social and political equality (which has often been derisively called “identity politics”), is critical to Democrat success in winning elections as well as in winning support from younger voters who are also concerned about these matters. Based on yesterday’s vote, as well as last month’s general election victories (in which Black, Latino, and immigrant votes played prominent roles), White Democrats should stop ignoring minority communities and put money into registering more of them (as well as fighting voter suppression efforts in states).

But it isn’t just important for the Democratic National Committee. The school reform movement must also embrace explicit and constant advocacy for poor and minority children and their communities as a critical component in advancing the transformation of American public education.

Reformers shouldn’t be divided over this at all. After all, as recent studies of the now-abolished No Child Left Behind Act has shown, focusing on socioeconomic achievement gaps improves outcomes for minority and White children (as well as struggling and high-achieving children of all backgrounds). More importantly, the most-successful efforts to expand school choice (including Virginia Walden Ford’s work in Washington, D.C., Steve Barr’s work with Latino communities in Los Angeles, and Parent Revolution’s Parent Trigger efforts), have been ones led by poor and minority communities who explicitly made the case for helping their own children escape failure mills that damaged their families for generations.

Yet this is is a point over which the movement has become divided. Conservative reformers balk over this because they still embrace a perspective, driven by their ideological conservatism, that chooses to ignore the legacies of state-sanctioned bigotry (from slavery to Jim Crow to the drug war) that are still reflected in American public education. Centrist Democrat reformers, on the other hand, prize political bipartisanship and getting ‚Äúthe politics‚ÄĚ right over doing good, often at the cost of the vulnerable, failing to realize that bipartisanship and politics are only valuable if driven by the most-important goal nonnegotiable goal of helping those who are in need.

What has become clear is that explicitly focusing on the educational concerns of poor and minority children regardless of where they live, and expanding that to the criminal justice reform and other the social issues that end up touching (and are touched by) American public education, is critical, both in helping all children succeed as well as rallying long-terms support for the movement from the parents and communities that care for them. For those families, school reform must be invested in bettering the communities in which they live and in empowering their children to be leaders in adulthood. Anything less is unacceptable.

This starts by embracing the lessons learned by Barr, Ford and others in advancing reform. It means listening to communities as well as addressing the issues outside of education policy and practice that are of immediate concern to those communities. It also includes working with the churches and community organizations connected to the people who live in them, as well as working with national groups focused on issues that tie to education, including criminal justice reform. It even means philanthropists working outside of their comfort zones and supporting reform groups led by minority communities who have a better sense of the people they serve.

Reformers must also focus as much on the nuts-and-bolts of retail and wholesale politics as they do on working statehouses and policymakers. Recruiting men and women from Black, Latino, and other minority communities to run in school board races and other political campaigns is one critical step. Another lies in holding voter registration drives, which will help bring new voters to the polls and even help reformers prove their value to the politicians they need to help pass legislation. This includes targeting high school seniors who will soon leave school and become voters (as well

Finally, reformers have to go back to embracing the approach of addressing and stemming socioeconomic and racial achievement gaps, a strategy that was at the heart of No Child and a driving force in expanding charter schools and other forms of school choice. Contrary to the arguments of some conservative reformers, focusing on achievement gaps even helps White middle class children by improving the quality of teaching, curricula and school environments all students experience.

As Jones learned last night, and other Democrats have realized over the past month, boosting support from poor and minority communities is critical to winning the day. The lessons also apply to school reformers working to build better lives for our children.

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The Conversation: Teach For America’s Elisa Villanueva Beard

On this edition of The Conversation, RiShawn Biddle chats with Teach For America CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard about the teacher quality reform outfit’s more-pronounced efforts on addressing equity, criticism from…

On this edition of The Conversation, RiShawn Biddle chats with Teach For America CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard about the teacher quality reform outfit’s more-pronounced efforts on addressing equity, criticism from reformers who prefer it to focus solely on teacher quality, and the organization’s moves to bolster and diversify recruiting.

Listen to the Podcast at RiShawn Biddle Radio or download directly to your mobile or desktop device. Also, subscribe to the On the Road podcast series and the overall Dropout Nation Podcast series. You can also embed this podcast on your site. It is also available on iTunes, Blubrry, Google Play, Stitcher, and PodBean.

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NEA’s $151 Million Influence Spree

The National Education Association just filed its 2016-2017 financial disclosure with the U.S. Department of Labor — and it is clear that the nation’s largest teachers’ union is spending even…

The National Education Association just filed its 2016-2017 financial disclosure with the U.S. Department of Labor — and it is clear that the nation’s largest teachers’ union is spending even more to maintain its influence in education policy. Whether or not it benefits the teachers who are often forced to pay into its coffers is a different story.

The Big Two union spent $151 million on lobbying and contributions to supposedly likeminded organizations during its last fiscal year. That’s a 9.4 increase over influence-buying levels in 2015-2016. This, by the way, doesn‚Äôt include another $43.7 million in spending on so-called representational activities in 2016-2017, which almost always tend to be political in nature; that‚Äôs six percent less than in the previous period.

As you would expect, NEA put a lot of cash into its Advocacy Fund, the Super-PAC that is part of the union’s effort to back Congressional Democrats. It put $7 million into Advocacy Fund in 2016-2017, a 35.8 percent decrease over the previous year. Given that this an election year, the lower levels of funding isn’t shocking. But you can expect NEA to pour even more money into the Super-PAC next fiscal year — if the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME doesn’t short-circuit those plans first.

The union also spent big on last year’s Democratic National Convention, lobbying delegates and others as they formalized Hillary Clinton’s since-unsuccessful campaign for the presidency. It spent $525,004 in 2016-2017. This included handing $50,000 to the Atlantic Monthly (which was criticized by reformers back in September for receiving money from the American Federation of Teachers), as well as spending $46,000 with pollster Anzalone Liszt Grove Research.

Meanwhile NEA gave $100,000 to Majority Forward, a 501(c)4 affiliated with the Senate Majority PAC, the Super-PAC controlled by J.B. Poesch, a former head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and ally of Minority Leader Charles Schumer. It also dropped$100,000 into the coffers of Patriot Majority, another Super-PAC that backs Democratic candidates for the House and Senate. Both donations were made in September 2016, two months before the general election.

Given how poorly Clinton and the Democrats fared last year, the spending didn’t yield any immediate results. But NEA will continue to give. This includes pouring $500,000 into Main Street Advocacy Fund, the affiliate of Republican Main Street Partnership that has been one of its most-important vassals.

While NEA failed miserably at the national level, it spent $11.1 million on ballot initiatives with some success.

The union gave $4.9 million in 2016-2017 to Save Our Public Schools, the Massachusetts coalition run by its Bay State affiliate and its longtime vassal, Citizens for Public Schools, that defeated Question 2, the ballot measure that would have expanded the number of public charter schools in the state. This came on top of the $500,000 NEA gave the committee in the previous year. As Dropout Nation detailed last year, the defeat of Question 2 was a solid victory for the union and its fellow traditionalists while reformers reeled from the loss. NEA also gave $4.2 million in 2016-2017 to Committee to Keep Georgia Schools Local, a coalition featuring NEA‚Äôs Georgia Association of Educators that defeated Gov. Nathan Deal’s plan to allow the Peach State to take over 127 failure mills and put them into a statewide district. That was on top of the $500,000 the union gave in the previous fiscal year.

In Maine, NEA gave $1.3 million to Citizens Who Support Maine’s Public Schools, a coalition including the union’s state affiliate; this was on top of the $1 million the union gave to the group in 2015-2016. The group would go on to successfully push for the passage of Question 2, a ballot measure to levy a three percent tax on incomes of greater than $200,000 ostensibly to provide $320 million in new funding to the state’s traditional public schools. But that victory was short lived. Last July, after a three-day shutdown of the state government Gov. Paul LePage convinced legislators to repeal Question 2 and replace it with a plan to provide just $160 million a year in new funding.

Meanwhile NEA gave $225,000 to Educators for Washoe Schools, a group led by its local there that successfully won a ballot measure to levy a half-penny sales tax for new school buildings. The union also burnished its efforts to co-opt progressive groups by giving $350,000 to Arizonans for Fair Wages and Healthy Families, a coalition that featured its Copper State affiliate; it successfully pushed for the passage of Proposition 206, which increased the state’s minimum wage from $8.05 an hour to $12 by 2020, as well as provide mandatory sick leave for all employees.

But the union’s efforts didn’t succeed everywhere. In Oregon, it poured $2 million into Yes on 97, which failed to pass a ballot measure that would have levied a gross sales tax on businesses selling more than $25 million in products annually, as well as allowed the state to collect gross sales taxes on business producing more than $100,000 in revenue a year. AFT, whose teachers’ and nursing affiliates are also big players in the state, also put $1 million into the unsuccessful effort. NEA also failed in Oklahoma, where the $750,000 it gave to Oklahoma’s Children Our Future, which unsuccessfully pushed Question 779, which would have levied a one percent sales tax for additional school funding.

Back on the national level, NEA still spent plenty to co-opt progressive groups. Whether it will work in the long haul — or even if the union can keep up the donations — is an open question.

A big recipient of the NEA’s largesse is the Center for Popular Democracy, a reliable ally in the efforts of the union and the rival American Federation of Teachers in opposing the expansion of public charter schools. It collected $1.1 million from NEA in 2016-2017, double the levels the union gave it in the previous year. This increase isn’t a surprise; besides doing the bidding of traditionalists, Center for Popular Democracy is also a favored recipient of the ever-secretive Democracy Alliance, the outfit chaired by NEA Executive Director John Stocks.

NEA also gave $1.1 million to America Votes, another outfit in the Democracy Alliance network that was cofounded by former Service Employees International Union President Andy Stern. That’s 177 percent more than what the union gave to the outfit in 2015-2016. Of course, it helps to be part of Democracy Alliance as well as count on “partners” such as AFT and the aforementioned Center for Popular Democracy.

NEA made sure to give Democracy Alliance some coin. The union gave it $185,772 while handing another $25,000 to its Committee on States, and $300,000 to the State Engagement Fund. Altogether, NEA gave $510,772 to Democracy Alliance, one-third less than in 2015-2016. Apparently, the union isn’t exactly enthused by the outfit’s lack of results.

As for the rest of the Democracy Alliance network? NEA gave $200,000 to David Brock’s Media Matters for America, unchanged from levels in 2015-2016; $150,000 to the Advancement Project (which helped NEA and AFT in its effort to eviscerate the No Child Left Behind Act) in 2016-2017, slightly less than in the previous year; $150,000 to Progress Now (a 33 percent decrease over 2015-2016); $50,000 to State Innovation Exchange; and $25,000 to Netroots Nation, unchanged from last year. NEA also spent $572,282 with Catalist, LLC, the data-mining outfit for the Democratic National Committee that is a lynchpin in Democracy Alliance‚Äôs campaign efforts; that’s 8.8 percent less than in 2015-2016.

On the progressive media front, NEA gave $50,000 to Independent Media Institute, the parent of Alternet; and $50,000 to Center for Media and Democracy, the outfit behind PR Watch and ALEC Watch. The biggest recipient: Race Forward, the parent of Colorlines, which has garnered criticism from reformers for its rather unfavorable commentary on the movement. NEA gave it $155,780. It is also a new recipient of the union’s largesse.

NEA Executive Director John Stocks is learning the hard way that the union’s pay-to-play efforts are yielding few (and scattershot) results.

As for other progressive groups? NEA gave $1.3 million in 2016-2017 to Sixteen Thirty Fund, a endowment developed by former Clinton Administration mandarin Eric Kessler‚Äôs Arabella Advisors; that’s more than double the amount it ladled out to the outfit in the previous year. It also gave $300,000 to State Engagement Fund, an outfit run by Anne Bartley, another former Clinton Administration staffer and stepdaughter of one of Bill Clinton’s predecessors as Arkansas governor, Winthrop Rockefeller. It also gave $250,000 to Center for American Progress, which is a reform-oriented outfit, but has been helping traditionalists oppose the expansion of vouchers, a key tool of expanding school choice. The union gave $50,000 to Proteus Action League, an affiliate of Proteus Fund which has played small roles in ballot measures in California, Nebraska and Maine; $50,000 to Tides Foundation’s Advocacy Fund; and $10,000 to State Voices, a coalition of 20 organizations dedicated to voter registration drives and other mobilization activities.

It gave $150,000 to Progressive Leaders State Committee; $50,000 to Good Jobs First (also an AFT vassal); $50,000 to the Chicago-based Community Justice for Youth Institute; $25,000 to¬† economist Dean Baker’s Center for Economic and Policy Research; and $5,000 to Cornell University’s Center for Transformative Action. It also gave $250,000 to Corporate Action Network, a division of the Action Network Fund that aims to “address the imbalance of power between corporations and people” by allying itself with outfits such as NEA, which are just as powerful.

Meanwhile NEA gave plenty to old-school civil rights groups and self-styled outfits willing to do its bidding.

The biggest recipient among that group was Schott Foundation for Public Education’s Opportunity to Learn Action Fund. NEA gave it $125,000 in 2016-2017; it received nothing from the union in the previous year. The union also gave $50,300 to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, gaining access to top congressional leaders as well as other influencers at its annual conference. Meanwhile NEA gave $75,000 to NAACP; the better for the once-respectable civil rights outfit to continue opposing the expansion of charters and other school choice options Black families desire. It also gave $25,000 to National Urban League, which is far less reliable.

NEA also gave $25,000 to the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute, $20,000 to National Council on Black Civic Participation, $10,000 to National Center for Transgender Equality, $10,000 to Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, and $25,800 to Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Reaching out to immigration reform groups opposing the Trump Administration’s efforts to deport undocumented emigres, NEA gave $50,000 to National Immigration Law Center. It also handed out $35,000 to United We Dream, which works on behalf of the 760,000 undocumented immigrant children, youth, and adults (including 20,000 teachers) who may be deported thanks to the administration’s move in September to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

As for the usual suspects?: NEA gave $50,000 to FairTest (also known as National Center for Fair and Open Testing), the leading outfit in opposing the use of standardized tests, the data from which can be used in evaluating the teachers in NEA‚Äôs rank-and-file. The union gave FairTest the same amount in 2015-2016. NEA made sure to pay off Kevin Welner’s National Education Policy Center, sending $250,000 to the outfit in 2016-2017 through the University of Colorado-Boulder‚Äôs foundation; that’s also unchanged from last year.

NEA also handed $408,659 to Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, the group that represents the nation‚Äôs woeful university schools of education; provided $124,300 to National Board for Professional Teaching Standards; gave $527,542 to Barnett Berry’s Center for Teaching Quality; and handed out $225,000 to the ever-dependable Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice. NEA gave $68,400 to Learning First Alliance, and $100,000 to Education Law Center.

Again, it’s good to be NEA. For now. For the teachers who pay into it, often thanks to the compulsory dues laws the union defends, it may not be so good.

Dropout Nation¬†will provide additional analysis of the NEA‚Äôs financial filing later this week. You can check out the data yourself by checking out the HTML and PDF versions of the NEA‚Äôs latest financial report, or by visiting the Department of Labor‚Äôs Web site. Also check out Dropout Nation‚Äės Teachers Union Money Report, for this and previous reports on NEA and AFT spending.

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The Thanksgiving Prayer

Originally published on Thanksgiving 2014. On this day, Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your Blessings upon our lives. More importantly, we thank You for the mighty men and women…

Originally published on Thanksgiving 2014.

On this day, Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your Blessings upon our lives.

More importantly, we thank You for the mighty men and women who work for brighter futures for all of our children.

We are thankful for how You sustain the good and great teachers who work in our classrooms, to the talented school leaders who help them do powerful work in our classrooms.

We are grateful for how You support the Parent Power activists, the policy thinkers, and the builders of cultures of genius that nurture the futures of our kids.

We appreciate how You protect the activists who fight each day so that every child, no matter who they are or where they live, have opportunities for better lives.

We are filled with gratitude over how You give all of us the strength and bounty each day to stand for the children and communities who need our support the most.

As we thank You on this day, we also come to you with the burdens of our hearts, and to aid us on behalf of every boy and girl.

We petition You, Lord, to protect every child who goes without, to provide to every parent struggling to give their kin all they need, to bring transformers for children to every neighborhood.

We ask You, Creator, to give peace beyond understanding to every mother and father who is grieving, to bring hope and light to every place beset by the tears and sorrow brought by evil.

We request from You, Father, the wisdom and energy to continue bending the arc of history toward progress, to help America live up to its place as the City Upon a Hill, to honestly address the ills of the past so everyone can move forward.

We beseech You, God, to help us be the shepherds to our youth that You are to us, to be more like Your Son in every word and deed, to sacrifice as You and Christ did so long ago to grant us salvation from our sins.

And each day, we remember the prayer that Your Son taught us long ago…

Our Father, thou art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory.

For ever and ever.

Amen.

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The Integration Question

On this edition of On the Road broadcast from Live Together, Learn Together’s conference in Washington, D.C., RiShawn Biddle joins with Bowie State University education scholar Treopia Green Washington, the…

On this edition of On the Road broadcast from Live Together, Learn Together’s conference in Washington, D.C., RiShawn Biddle joins with Bowie State University education scholar Treopia Green Washington, the Century Foundation’s Richard Kahlenberg and Laura Wilson Phelan of Kindred to discuss where do we go on integration seven decades after Brown v. Board of Education and the Little Rock Nine.

Listen to the Podcast at RiShawn Biddle Radio or download directly to your mobile or desktop device. Also, subscribe to the On the Road podcast series and the overall Dropout Nation Podcast series. You can also embed this podcast on your site. It is also available on iTunes, Blubrry, Google Play, Stitcher, and PodBean.

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