Republican attack on public education

Education funding is turning the tide for Democrats

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The GOP's misleading propaganda is losing its luster:

Democrats won elections for governor in both Kentucky and Louisiana. In Virginia, which has a Democratic governor, Democrats won control of both chambers in the legislature for the first time in more than two decades. It’s too much to say that recent elections in the South turned only on education; rather, education fit into the package of factors that led to Democratic victories, which relied heavily on a strong turnout in major cities and on gains against Republicans in suburbs.

Bolding mine, because suburban voters hold the key in both state-wide elections, and in apportioned districts (federal and state). Urban voters are solidly blue while rural voters are strongly red, but the suburban vote is a huge enigma. Well-educated, middle-middle to upper-middle, suburbia also boasts a surprising number of registered Democrats. That doesn't guarantee their vote (trust me), but outreach can generate a positive response. You can also trust me when I say, the GOP spends a lot of time and money blowing smoke up suburban voters' arses. Back to the teachers:

Berger's Blunder: Read To Achieve has completely failed

But that should come as no surprise to teachers and administrators:

While improving reading outcomes is a worthy goal, it was obvious from the beginning that Read to Achieve lacked the educator’s touch. The initiative attempted to improve reading by increasing the volume of assessments in grades K-3 and ratcheting up the threats of retention, essentially punishing children for not being able to read well enough in early grades. It’s not the approach an effective teacher would take.

DPI warned the General Assembly that the volume of assessments the legislation added to 3rd grade was too high and that the pace and funding of implementation didn’t provide enough professional development for teachers to effectively transition to the new system. The General Assembly had also slashed Pre-K funding 25% from pre-recession levels at the time, and DPI informed legislators that quality early childhood education was one of the most important components of building a foundation for literacy. All of that feedback fell largely on deaf ears.

No big surprise at all. The GOP's operating mantra has been, "My bad policy is greater than even the best policies of other people. And if my policy ends up failing, it can easily be blamed on those other people for not properly supporting it." Just to give you an idea of the consequences of this mandated program, here's an excerpt of the letter sent to parents explaining it:

Subverting higher ed: New "school" at UNC has conservative stench

We've been down this bent road before:

The Program for Civic Virtue and Civil Discourse — approved by the College of Arts and Sciences at UNC Chapel Hill — is set to begin in Fall of 2021. Chris Clemons, a UNC senior associate dean who is spearheading the program’s launch, told the Editorial Board Monday that the purpose of the program is to support a culture of open, respectful and productive public debate at UNC.

That should sound good to anyone fatigued by the tenor and lack of substance in public discourse these days. But evidence indicates that the UNC program might be less about those high-minded objectives and more about promoting conservative thought.

The second part of that title (Civil Discourse) has the flavor of a few recent columns by John Hood and other Pope mouthpieces. Combine that with the harsh and counter-intuitive "Free Speech" law that Republicans passed a few years ago, and you've got the likelihood of more Tom Tancredo incidents looming in the future. But probably the most damning evidence this school is going to be disruptive is the stealthy nature of its beginnings:

Teachers reeling over Mark Johnson's abrupt switch to web-based reading assessment

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He sure does love to spend some money:

Earlier this month, State Schools Superintendent Mark Johnson announced that he signed a three-year, multi-million dollar contact to switch all elementary schools to the Istation program to assess students under North Carolina’s Read To Achieve program. Istation will put children in kindergarten through third grade on a computer three times a year to test their reading skills, then print out reports for teachers.

In an email to teachers about the change, Johnson said, “Istation is a tool designed by teachers for teachers and has proven results of helping students grow.” But teachers across the state have taken to social media to urge people to contact state lawmakers and the State Board of Education to block the change.

This is par for the course for Johnson, spend money on crap teachers neither want nor need, like $6 million worth of iPads. I'm beginning to think he's one of those people who are easily impressed by a well-dressed salesperson who knows how to stroke his little-boy ego. I'll let Justin Parmenter take the reins on Istation:

Civitas deploys "Red Scare" tactics (again) over teacher rally

Propagandists do what propagandists do:

“This is not a march for Democrats. This is not a march for Republicans. This is a march for our future.” But almost as soon as the new protest was announced, critics attacked the decision.

The conservative Civitas Institute has questioned holding the event on May Day, a day associated with labor union events, and for using “Marxist symbolism” by having a red fist in logos promoting the event. “They want to be disruptive,” said Civitas president Donald Bryson. “It’s not about parents or students. It’s about bringing a socialist labor union movement to North Carolina. That’s why it’s on May 1.”

What Donald Bryson fails to mention, either because he knows it will undermine his argument or (more likely) because he just isn't smart enough to understand: It was a labor movement (Solidarity) that broke the Marxist choke hold on Poland back in the early 1980's, and ushered in democratic reforms that (for the most part) still hold today. If anything, it's people like Berger and Bryson who most resemble those Communist Party leaders in Moscow and Gdańsk who saw the danger of losing their absolute power under such a movement. But Mark Jewell gets it:

Reporter attacks Democrats for attacking Legislative report

Somebody apparently pushed the wrong buttons:

Democrats charge racism, mischaracterize school report: The state Democratic Party said Wednesday that a new report from an off-session study committee will "break up North Carolina’s county-wide school districts and re-segregate North Carolina’s public schools." It will not.

In fact, the report doesn't recommend any legislation. It says "any future legislation considered by the General Assembly to create a procedure by which citizens may initiate the breakup of large (school systems) will require additional study.” The report also recommends that any division efforts "take care to ensure equality."

I don't usually include headlines when grabbing quotes, but in this case it was necessary to demonstrate the (angry) flavor of the article. Not sure where the animus comes from, but I can guess. Some efforts by political operatives and over-zealous advocates to influence news stories can cross the line, into the area of bullying and harassment. I've seen reporters complain about this on more than one occasion, and those complaints are justified. Let them do their jobs. But even if that is the case, that "irritation" should not bleed into the actual reporting. And as far as that last sentence, I've got three words for this reporter: "Separate But Equal." That was the justification used by Segregationists for decades for keeping black children in their own poorly-funded schools. As to the report itself, which generated this apparent bad blood, it most certainly does give lawmakers a roadmap for re-segregating some of NC's schools:

SCSJ maps the school-to-prison pipeline

Thousands of teens are caught in this downward whirlpool every year:

As in previous years, in 2016-17, black students were overrepresented in every category of exclusionary discipline. Statewide, black students were 4.3 times more likely to be given a short-term suspension than their white classmates, and 3.4 times more likely to be given a long-term suspension. In 17 school districts, the likelihood that black students would be given a short-term suspension as compared to their white peers was even higher than the statewide average.

Let those numbers sink in, especially considering how widespread this problem is. That fact undercuts the "default" conservative claim that this is a gang problem, and not a systemic racism issue. Every step of the way, from elementary school through whatever grade of high school they can climb up to, and then with their first brush with the court system, black males are dealt with as if they were a public health threat, while their white counterparts are given "second chances" over and over (and over) again. If you haven't witnessed this inequality, you haven't been looking. I can't say it better than this:

Virginia Foxx's life-long crusade to destroy public education

Easily the #1 poster child for term limits:

U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx wants the federal Department of Education to disappear. She wants Washington to stop passing down rules and regulations schools have to follow. As the new chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee, the seven-term North Carolina congresswoman has a powerful forum to talk about all that.

Foxx and her Republican congressional allies have a new favored tool for walking back regulations: Congressional Review Acts, which allow Congress to overturn specific federal rules and regulations and prevent them from coming back up.

Between Foxx and Betsy fricking DeVos, we'll be lucky if we even have any sort of Federal education regulations or guidelines by the time 2020 rolls around. And for those who aren't that concerned, would rather leave those decisions up to the state, understand this: Public education has been (and could still be if we're not careful) a major focal point for discrimination and inequity in our country. I'm not just talking about racial segregation, although that is a constant aggravating influence. But also gender issues. It wasn't that long ago when girls were actively discouraged from learning above a certain point in the sciences, which is why they are still underrepresented in the engineering and MD/PhD ranks. Foxx and DeVos don't care one whit about stuff like that, they're still (mentally) living in a 1950's dream world. She blatantly laid out her manifesto (of course) a few weeks after her last successful election:

The difficulties of getting young people engaged in political activism

Answering the question that has been circulating lately:

As Women's March organizers prepare for another round of events on Jan. 20 and 21, research shows that few young people share Hahn's excitement for political activism and public protests. Americans ages 15 to 24 are still figuring out their preferred approach to politics, according to the PRRI/MTV 2017 National Youth Survey, released this week.

"A majority of young people describe recent protests and marches negatively, as 'pointless' (16 percent), 'counterproductive' (16 percent), 'divisive' (12 percent), or 'violent' (11 percent.) Only about one-third ascribe positive value to them, saying they are 'inspiring' (16 percent), 'powerful' (16 percent), or 'effective' (4 percent)," the survey reported.

Some of these findings are not really surprising. As much as I hate to use the term "woke," that transformation did not really happen to me until I was in my forties. I may have voted regularly since my late teens, but my knowledge of what I was voting for (or against) was pretty thin, to say the least. At our County Party meeting last night, aside from a couple of small children, the youngest people there were in their thirties, and they were a distinct minority. But before we launch into a "What are we doing wrong?" exercise, it may be them and not us:

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