From the Daily Beast - America's Educational Civil War - Read the article

‘Threatening the Future’: The High Stakes of Deepening School Segregation"

From the New York Times May 10, 2019

By Dana Goldstein

The 65th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education is on Friday May 17th, but fights over school segregation, rather than decreasing, are becoming more common. Cities like New York and San Francisco are debating how to assign students to schools in ways that foster classroom diversity, and school secession movements — in which parents seek to form their own, majority-white districts — are accelerating.

A new report from U.C.L.A. and Penn State outlines the changes in school segregation since the landmark Supreme Court ruling named after Oliver Brown, a black father who sued to enroll his daughter, Linda, in an all-white elementary school blocks from their home in Topeka, Kan.

The court’s unanimous 1954 ruling declared separate educational facilities “inherently unequal.” But the case is one of several major civil rights rulings, alongside those on voting rights and housing discrimination, that have been substantially weakened by more recent decisions.

Today, the decreasing white share of the public school population across the country may lead some to believe that schools are becoming more integrated. But the reverse is true, according to the report. The percentage of intensely segregated schools, defined as those where less than 10 percent of the student body is white, tripled between 1988 and 2016, from 6 to 18 percent.

In “a heightened period of racial conflict in our public life,” the report warns, deepening school segregation by race and class “are very high stakes trends threatening the future.”

Liberal States Suffer Some of the Most Severe Segregation

White students now account for less than half of the nation’s public school students, and Latinos are the most deeply segregated racial group in schools, according to the researchers.

While segregation was once most severe in the former states of the Confederacy, in 2016 it was in four liberal states — New York, California, Maryland and Illinois — that black children were most likely to attend intensely segregated schools. Latinos were most likely to attend intensely segregated schools in California, New York, Texas and New Jersey.

Nationwide, 42 percent of Latino students and 40 percent of black students attended schools where less than 10 percent of their peers were white in 2016. Those numbers have been rising since 1988.

Statistics like these are no surprise after decades of court rulings that released school districts from desegregation orders, and there is no consensus among education advocates about how to respond. Some are urging broad new public policy efforts to integrate schools, while others call that goal unrealistic and even a distraction from improving the schools that currently enroll large numbers of nonwhite and low-income children.

There were some bright spots, the researchers noted. In the Midwest, the share of black children attending intensely segregated schools has steadily decreased since 2001.

‘We’re Not a Black and White District Anymore.’

With a growing population of Latino and Asian schoolchildren, segregation looks a lot different today than it did in the 1950s. Some superintendents and policymakers may believe, “We’re not a black and white district anymore, so we need to move beyond desegregation,” said Erica Frankenberg, a professor of education at Penn State and an author of the report.

Instead, she added, they should ask, “What does it mean to desegregate when we have four racial groups, and some of these racial groups also have tremendous variety within them? What does that look like?”

High-poverty, racially segregated schools typically have fewer experienced teachers, advanced courses and extracurricular opportunities. A large body of research shows that nonwhite and low-income students who attend integrated schools perform better academically, and also see long-term benefits such as higher incomes and lower rates of incarceration.

White students who attend more integrated schools are not hurt academically, and may benefit from exposure to classmates who better represent the nation’s diversity. In 2016, 48 percent of public school students were white, 26 percent were Latino, 15 percent were black and 6 percent were Asian.

According to the new report, the average white student in 2016 attended a school that was 69 percent white; the average Latino student attended a school that was 55 percent Latino; the average black student attended a school that was 47 percent black; and the average Asia n student attended a school that was 24 percent Asian.

Persistent Segregation in the Suburbs

Of particular concern to the researchers were the suburbs of large cities, because demographic change there has been so rapid. Between 2006 and 2016, the proportion of white public school enrollment in those suburbs fell by 10 percentage points, to 47 percent. That diversity was not reflected in schools.

The typical suburban black or Latino child attended a school in 2016 that was three-quarters nonwhite, while the typical suburban white child attended a school that was two-thirds white.

Because so few suburbs, especially outside the South, have a history of purposeful policymaking around school integration, “Doing nothing means accepting resegregation,” the report notes.

White children who lived in large cities experienced more diversity, attending schools that were, on average, 55 percent nonwhite. But even there, white parents were clustering their children in a subset of schools; over all, white students made up only 20 percent of the students in those districts.

Is Integration the Best Solution?

The authors of the report, Professor Frankenberg, Jongyeon Ee, Jennifer Ayscue and Gary Orfield, suggest several policy remedies, such as using magnet programs and busing to draw students voluntarily to schools outside their neighborhoods and districts. They urge more federal and philanthropic investment in local experiments to increase integration, and they ask schools, particularly those in formerly white-majority suburbs, to diversify their staffs and add programming meant to serve students of color.

Still, given the long history of white resistance to desegregation efforts, and the sense of exclusion some students of color feel in majority-white schools, some education advocates remain skeptical of relying too heavily on integration as a strategy for improving educational outcomes.

“There are two ways to experience school integration policy in America: On paper and in real life,” said Derrell Bradford, executive vice president of 50CAN, an organization that supports charter schools and school choice. The goal, he said, should be to “build schools that people are attracted to, regardless of who goes to them.”

He continued, “I think schools are an important place to bring us together. But they are not the only place where the work of integrating society must happen, and in many respects, schools are not equipped to deal with the history of this nation which has separated us in the first place.”

It is understood that much of our country is saddled with low standards of education and it has often been mentioned that better education for our young people is the surest and best way to raise our standard of living.  This is the place to explore the situation and what can be done about it.

We guarantee free education for everyone K through 12.  We largely pay for this experience through property taxes.  In a wealthy subdivision of expensive homes, the schools have plenty of money.  In the inner city with very low property taxes, the schools suffer.

One of the surest ways to insure a quality education for the kids is to attract quality teachers.  One of the factors necessary to get the best for the kids is to pay the teachers a quality salary.  When making a decision about school funding, paying more requires a tax increase.  In an affluent area, that's not too difficult.  In poorer areas, it's not so easy.  It has also been a problem where families are older (without school age children).

Teacher pay is an important issue but recent teacher strikes around the country have exposed another issue - the condition of schools and the lack of basic supplies in many them.

While many of the financial issues can be traced to the taxes that come from the area in which the school is located, there are other money issues.  Some states have allowed gambling to flourish partly based on the promise that schools will benefit from taxes earned from the gambling industry.  There are examples where tax money destined for schools has been diverted to other purposes by state legislatures.

Recently (last 5 years or so) there is another threat to our education system from charter schools.  Charter schools are supposed to have an advantage in that they can to some degree set their own curriculum, hire the teachers they need, and administer the school with local input rather than matching rules and regulations set by state or federal  governments.

There are a number of good charter schools but there are also many that lag behind public schools in results.  When they don't do well, the problems are usually traced to how they use the funds they receive from the state.  The theory is that the state will turn over to the company running the school the per student money allocated to the public schools.  The bottom line is that the company that runs a school is not a charity.  They need to earn a profit.  If they get the same money that a public school gets per student, where does the profit come from?

If you are a company looking for profit the first and most obvious source is to cut teacher pay.  Hire less experienced teachers and don't allow teacher unions in.  Since the school is not bound by state or national government rules, they can reduce costs by not accepting problem students - handicapped, foreign language speakers, low performing kids or troubled kids - that public schools must educate.

Another variation of the charter school is the questionable concept of "school vouchers".  If your child is attending a poor performing school (actually schools don't perform at all - it's the students and teachers that are responsible for the school's rating), you can get a voucher that will allow your child to attend a better performing private school.  There are a few problems with this concept.  First, the cost.  Most private schools ask parents to pay a fee to have their child attend.  That fee is often quite a bit more than the states per student budget so how do we justify just sending anyone from a poor performing school to the private school down the street?  Second, the private schools "perform" better (kids make better grades on tests) than public schools because they are selective in who they accept and the kids parents are involved because they are paying.

There are exceptions to all of these critiques of charter and private schools.  Some charter schools are underwritten by corporate grants - especially those with a specific focus as in science or music.  We have a wonderful example here in the Villages.  By almost any measure you can apply, the Villages Charter Schools are exceptional.

So, what do we need to do to improve our educational system?

Better funding - first and foremost, pay the teachers and provide better facilities.

Look closely at the issues surrounding voucher programs.  Do they really make sense?

Control the expansion of charter schools.  Insure that they are adhering to state and local rules regarding pay and benefits.  Review curricula to make sure that the basics are included.

December 10, 2018

Florida Dept. of Education

The article below appeared on the blog Florida Politics and gives some good insight into the presumed new Commissioner of the Dept. of Education. The state League, along with other statewide groups, has expressed their concern about not following the process as outlined in the state Constitution:

Joe Henderson: More disruption is coming to Florida public schools

If you love and support Florida public schools, there is a bad moon rising. Richard Corcoran is all but certain to be the state’s new Education Commissioner, and anyone associated with public education may be tempted to hide their eyes for the next four years. While the Commissioner doesn’t directly set policy — the State Board of Education does that — the position carries enormous influence.

Corcoran will be in a position to hire the kind of people he wants to staff the Department of Education, and use his considerable political skills to communicate ideas and strategy between the DOE and the state Board. The Board has to formally approve the appointment, but that’s considered a formality.

 Administrators should prepare to have more of their budgets directed to charter schools and voucher programs. They can expect more interference in their jobs and less cooperation when they need help.

Teachers will see their negotiating rights under constant siege from a man whose history suggests he despises their union. They won’t be able to stop it, either, because Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis appears to share many of Corcoran’s core values when it comes to education. Ultimately, public school students could lose too because those who operate the system will be consumed by fending off what is all but certain to be a barrage of disruptive edicts from Tallahassee. And no one will be able to do a darned thing to stop this. Republicans remain in charge of the Legislature and the Governor’s Mansion, and history shows they are disgruntled with both the performance and cost of public schools.

Actually, in at least one critical area Republicans have a good point. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel just reported that school districts throughout Florida have ignored the law that requires all crimes on their campuses be reported to the state. The newspaper concluded the lack of those reports could make parents believe their schools are safer than they actually are. Now, if Corcoran wants to disrupt that kind of deception, hey, go for it.

Quickly. When it comes to education policy though, I have no doubt that he will, in the words of pitcher Nuke Laloosh in Bull Durham, announce his presence with authority — probably with more success though. He is really just the next link in the GOP chain regarding education. This goes back to when then-Gov. Jeb Bush pushed through an arbitrary grading system for public schools, followed by a blizzard of standardized tests that tied student performance to teacher pay. It continued during Corcoran’s stint as House Speaker when he went all-in to direct public school money to charters and voucher programs while all but mocking those running Florida public schools.

The situation in some districts has deteriorated to the point where many of them report significant teacher shortages. Crushing demands by politicians coupled with pay that is well below the national average has made teaching a less desirable profession. Many long-time teachers have left the profession completely because of partisan political meddling. It’s reasonable to expect the exodus to continue under Corcoran’s rule because he is their worst nightmare.

He is savvy, smart, fearless, determined and utterly convinced he is right, and anyone who opposes him is wrong. He fiercely believes his vision of education is the correct one, and that the entrenched public-school bureaucracy is resisting meaningful reform. He is willing to debate that point anyone who disagrees, and as Speaker he tended to roll over anyone who got in his way. And now he is about to assume a job that will allow him to get deep into the weeds of Florida’s education policy.

There was talk earlier this year that Corcoran would run for Governor, but that campaign never happened. Many then believed he might be named to the state Supreme Court. But if he couldn’t be Governor, I think this is the job that Corcoran really wanted.

As Speaker, he had many priorities that consumed much of his time. In his new job, he will be able to concentrate on an area where he believes disruption is good and major change is needed. That leaves two options for those associated with Florida public schools.

Buckle up or move on.

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This article was sent to me by John Miller (prior chair of the DemClub's Education Caucus - EPIC). It's not a personal story, I didn't write it. Can you …

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