Welfare Spending: In Need of Reforming?

November 9th, 2017

Just as the cost of living and taxes keep going up every year, so does spending on welfare programs. Indeed, citing the U.S. Census Bureau’s Annual Surveys of State and Local Government Finances, journalist Gabrielle Olya recently reported that spending on public welfare–think Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, medical assistance programs, food stamp administration, child welfare services, etc.–exceeded $609 billion in 2015 alone, with the main reason being the expansion of Medicaid programs.

Whatever your politics, this should give pause–and it certainly has for writers of The Tribune-Democrat, The Associated Press, which did an opinion piece, “Tightening Welfare Rules Is Necessary.” It ends with this:

“…Reforming public assistance as a whole is a good idea.

“Welfare was never meant to become a way of life. It was a way to help the poor until they could transition back into the workforce.

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 was the latest federal government attempt to encourage the move from welfare to work.

“We don’t begrudge the public assistance that worthy individuals receive, but we do not condone those who cheat the government, and ultimately taxpayers, by receiving more than their share.

“Those unscrupulous individuals are why the system needs to be tightened.”

Have they got a point?




November 8th, 2017





Society keeps changing dramatically, with many saying not for the better. For instance:

  • About the kneeling NFL players, columnist Chris Freind wrote, “America isn’t perfect, but it is the freest, fairest, and most generous nation in history, where opportunities remain endless and past mistakes are both acknowledged and atoned for… Showing respect for the National Anthem is as close to scoring an uncontested touchdown as it gets.”
  • As for college campus safe places, the dis-inviting of conservative speakers, the banning of books, etc., columnist Michael Gerson wrote, “Education must mean more than the avoidance of offense… This means that true education always involves risk–particularly the risk of giving offense. Students are not defiled by the existence of terrible words and ideas. They are defiled by the acceptance or normalization of those words and ideas, which is precisely what [books like] To Kill A Mockingbird–and all true education sets out to prevent.”
  • On the Boy Scouts’ decision to admit girls first into the Cub Scouts and then older girls in 2019, Kathy Hopinkah Hannon, president of the Girl Scouts wrote, “I formally request that your organization stay focused on the 90% of American boys not currently participating in the Boy Scouts… and not consider expanding to recruit girls.”
  • Then there’s this: When First Lady Melania Trump sent ten Dr. Seuss books to a school in every state, Cambridge, Massachusetts librarian Liz Phipps Soeir refused to accept them saying that they are “steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes.”

What’s your take on such goings-on?

9 Worrisome School-Related Statistics

November 6th, 2017
  1. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 37% of black, first-time college students who enrolled in 2011-12 were no longer in school after three years.
  2. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 30% of Hispanic, first-time college students were no longer in school after three years.
  3. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2012, just 6.8% of public school teachers were black.
  4. Finds the U.S. Department of Education. minority students are more likely to be taught by inexperience teachers than those with experience in 33 states.
  5. Says the Institute of Labor Economics, exposure to at least one black teacher in grades 3 to 4 reduces the probability of low-income black male students dropping out of school by almost 40%.
  6. The U.S. Department says that only 30% of students enrolled in AP classes are black or Latino.
  7. from Investing in Preschool Programs, on average, early childhood education reduces the kindergarten black-white achievement gap by nearly 50%.
  8. The Civil Rights Project of UCLA found that, from 2001 to 2011. Latino enrollment increased by 47%.
  9. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, minorities are expected to be a majority of high school graduates.



Even More Student Data Collecting under ESSA

November 3rd, 2017

As Daarel Burnette II reported in the October 26th issue of Education Week, state-issued school report cards are in for a make-over in both appearance and information, and that’s no easy matter. It’s also a concern for those dubious about the merits of data collection. As Burnette explains, “The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to visualize in an ‘easily accessible and user-friendly’ way plenty more data points than was required under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), including school-by-school spending, stats on teacher and principal quality, school discipline rates, and preschool, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate offerings–all broken out by more than 10 student subgroups.”

And here’s the kicker: “In all, states will have to shove into its report card an estimated 2,107 data points about its public school system…” Or so predicts the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Daunting, no? How about a waste of time, energy, and lots of money?

from Mark Binelli’s “The Michigan Experiment” on Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos

October 17th, 2017

123rf-education-21508154Again, with thanks to Mark Binelli’s “The Michigan Experiment” talking about U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Give a listen and start worrying…

  • “Nationally, the pro-charter tent is large and unwieldy enough to include education-reform wonks, hedge-fund managers, billionaire philanthropists and politicians from both parties, and Trump’s tapping of DeVos has placed the movement in a complex situation. Despite the policy ignorance displayed in her confirmation hearing, she’s an ally, and one whose influence on the 2018 Trump administration budget is already evident: Amid huge cuts to overall education spending, there’s a $517 million increase in funding for charters and private-school vouchers and an additional $1 billion worth of grants set aside for local districts willing to implement ‘open enrollment’ programs’ (allowing students to attend any area public schools, charters included, and take allotted stated and federal funds with them.)”
  • “Eighteen Republican governors sent the Senate’s education committee a letter in strong support of DeVos and what they called her promise to ‘streamline the federal education bureaucracy’ and ‘return authority back to state and local school boards.”
  • “But even many charter proponents are troubled by the Michigan model that DeVos has such a crucial role in creating. In a column in Education Week published in March, Greg Richmond, the president of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, corrected ‘friends and neighbors’ who assumed he must be happy about the new education secretary, explaining that he rejected a ‘free-market approach to charter schooling’ that ’embraces the principles of choice and autonomy while gutting accountability’ and insisting that ‘true supporters of charter schools will not abide by this co-optation of what it means to be a charter school.’ With DeVos and her ideas ascendant in Washington, Michigan has become a symbol–and, for some, a cautionary tale–of a movement gone astray.”
  • Says Bryan Newland, Bay Mills Indian Community board member & tribal judge, “I learned at a relatively young age not to ascribe malice to people as a motivation. I think when she [DeVos] says, ‘I care about having our kids learn,’ I believe that. But, she didn’t go to public school. Her kids didn’t go. My guess is she doesn’t hang out with a lot of people who know what it’s like going to a school with 50 percent people of color. And I haven’t seen evidence that she’s taken the time to learn.”




from “The Michigan Experiment,” by Mark Binelli

October 17th, 2017

123rf-education-21508154With thanks to Mark Binelli’s “The Michigan Experiment,” some excerpts of note:

  • “A major victim of the city’s [Detroit] insolvency was its public school system, which had been under state control since 2012. (Six different state-appointed emergency managers have run the district since then.) Plummeting enrollment, legacy costs and financial mismanagement had left the school system with a projected deficit of $10 million. The state’s solution was to ‘charterize’ the entire district: void the teacher’s union contract, fire all employees and turn over control of the schools to a private, for-profit charter operator.”
  • “Michigan’s aggressively free-market approach to schools has resulted in one of the most deregulated educational environments in the country, a laboratory in which consumer choice and a shifting landscape of supply and demand (and profit motive, in the case of many charters) were pitched as ways to improve life in the classroom for the state’s 1.5 million public-school students. But a Brookings Institutions analysis done this year of national test scores ranked Michigan last among all states when it came to improvements in student proficiency. And a 2016 analysis by the Education Trust-Midwest, a nonpartisan education policy and research organization, found that 70 percent of Michigan charters were in the bottom half of the state’s rankings. Michigan has the most for-profit charter schools in the country and some of the least state oversight. Even staunch charter advocates have blanched at the Michigan model.”
  • “…It’s important to understand that what happened to Michigan’s schools isn’t solely, or even primarily, an education story. Today in Michigan, hundreds of nonprofit public charters have become potential financial assets to outside entities, inevitably complicating their broader social missions.”
  • According to the 2016 Education Trust-Midwest report: “In little more than a decade, Michigan has gone from a fairly average state in elementary reading and math achievement to the bottom 10 states. It’s a devastating fall. Indeed, new national assessment data suggest Michigan is witnessing systemic decline across the K-12 spectrum. White, black, brown, higher-income, low-income–it doesn’t matter who they are or where they live…”

$1.4 Million Reasons to Be Wary of For-Profit Charters

October 12th, 2017

This just in from ProPublica’s Heather Vogell:

With a frozen state budget and funding cut to most school district, Ohio’s Education Department  paid Capitol High, a charter run by for-profit Edison Learning, $1.4 million in taxpayer dollars for no-show students–most of whom are the neediest and least reliable of all.

In fact, ProPublica’s review of 38 days of Capitol High’s records from late March to May found that:

  • One room was filled with empty chairs facing 25 blank computer screens;
  • Three students sat in a science lab;
  • Nine students sat in an unlit classroom, including one kid who was sound asleep.


  • Only three of the 170 students attended the required 5  hours one day in May;
  • Six students skipped 22  days or more straight with no excused absences;
  • Two students were missing for the entire 38-day period.

Nevertheless, this per-student funded charter got away with billing the state for teaching the equivalent of 171 full-time students, hence the $1.4 million pay-out.

Keeping that in mind and as you continue to pay your taxes, try to wrap your head around the fact that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos continues to champion school choice as a way to lower absenteeism and dropout rates.

P.S. In September, DeVos’s Department of Education awarded $250 million in charter grants to states and charter management organizations/agencies that help fund the building of new charter schools…



Take Note: Pennsylvania’s Under-Performing Virtual Charters

October 12th, 2017

In “DeVos Champions Online Charter Schools, But the Results Are Poor,” Politico’s Kimberly Hefling writes:

“Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has touted online learning as a school-choice solution for rural America, saying that virtual charter schools provide educational opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise exist.

But in Pennsylvania, an early adopter where more than 30,000 kids log into virtual charter schools from home most days, the graduation rate is a dismal 48 percent. Not one virtual charter school meets the state’s ‘passing’ benchmark. And the founder of one of the state’s largest virtual schools pleaded guilty to a tax crime last year…”

As Hefling also notes, virtual schools keep expanding across America, despite their ineffectiveness. Pennsylvania actually boasts 14 of them–and they’re reportedly flourishing, while our traditional public schools get short shrift.

Meanwhile, says DeVos, “I’m willing to wait for the right moment and the right strategy to pursue my choice goals.”

Nevertheless, she’s also quite pleased with the way things are going, since they appear to be going her way. As she reminds us, “The reality is that most of the momentum around this, and frankly, most of the funding around it, comes at the state level. More and more, states are adopting programs that embrace a wide range of choices. And I expect that to continue apace.”

Your tax dollars at work…



Take Note: Kids Hit the Social Media Pause Button

October 11th, 2017

Fotosearch Smartphone k5512459A survey of 5,000 students conducted by Charlotte Robertson, co-founder of Digital Awareness UK, certainly meets my good news standard. It turns out that many kids are now saying enough is enough when it comes to Facebook and its similarly fetching social media clones.

For starters, more than 60% of respondents think many of their peers present a “fake version” of themselves, though, a whopping 85% said they’ve done no such thing.

Regardless and more importantly, though, the survey also showed that such sites take a toll on kids’ well-being, and they’re taking note. That’s because…

  • 57% said they’d received abusive comments online; and
  • 56% admitted to being all but addicted to FB and the like.

It’s no wonder then that:

  • 66% of school children said they’d be happier had social media never been invented; and
  • 71% said they’d taken a temporary break to “escape” it.

Here, hear!

Facebook Blocked Ads from the Network for Public Education Critcizing School Choice

October 10th, 2017


I earlier posted Steven Singer’s account of being blocked by Facebook when he tried to post a criticism of school choice.

The Network for Public Education tried to post an ad critical of school choice during “school choice week” and was permanently banned by Facebook.

Carol Burris wrote this description of our ouster:

“During School Choice Week, we rebranded the week, ‘School Privatization Week’. We were careful to make sure that the logo we created, which played off the Choice Week logo, was quite dissimilar and therefore could not be confused with the choice logo, or be in violation of copyright.

“We made it a Facebook ad. It was accepted and all was fine. Then, after a few days, Facebook refused our buys and blocked us from boosting any of our posts. We are still blocked from boosting or buying nine months later.

“I tried to contact Facebook by email. No reply. I called the number. It was disconnected. I spent a day trying to reach a human being. It was impossible. Network for Public Education is in the Facebook doghouse and we have no idea why.

“Yet Russians can place awful ads that try to sway our elections.”

An interesting series of questions:

Why does Facebook block posts and ads that are critical of School Choice?

Why do their algorithms fail to recognize ads that interfere in our elections but block criticism of School Choice?

Why do their algorithms ignore ads placed by Russian troll farms yet block ads placed by the Network for Public Education?

Is this chance, bad luck, faulty algorithms, or the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative at work?

Steven Singer Was Blocked by Facebook for Writing This Post: ”School Choice Is a Lie”

October 10th, 2017


Steven Singer was blocked by Facebook for a week because of the post you are about to read. This post “violated community standards.” Steven Singer was censored by an algorithm. Or, Steven Singer was censored by the Political Defense team that tries to prevent any criticism of charter schools and TFA. This team swarms Facebook and other social media and complains that a post or tweet is “offensive” and the machine blocks the offending post.

This is the post by Steven Singer that has been blocked. This is the lie about “school choice” that DeVos and ALEC and charter promoters don’t want you to read.

He writes:

Neoliberals and right-wingers are very good at naming things.

Doing so allows them to frame the narrative, and control the debate.

Nowhere is this more obvious than with “school choice” – a term that has nothing to do with choice and everything to do with privatization.

It literally means taking public educational institutions and turning them over to private companies for management and profit.

He adds:

There are two main types: charter and voucher schools.

Charter schools are run by private interests but paid for exclusively by tax dollars. Voucher schools are run by private businesses and paid for at least in part by tax dollars.

Certainly each state has different laws and different legal definitions of these terms so there is some variability of what these schools are in practice. However, the general description holds in most cases. Voucher schools are privately run at (at least partial) public expense. Charter schools are privately run but pretend to be public. In both cases, they’re private – no matter what their lobbyists or marketing campaigns say to the contrary.

They take money from public schools that serve all students and give it to privatized schools that choose their students and expel those they don’t want.

Charters and vouchers are the Walmartization of public education. They introduce corporate chains to run what used to be neighborhood public schools. The only difference is that everyone may shop at Walmart, but not everyone who applies will be accepted at a choice school. The school does the choosing, not the family.

Steven reinforces what I wrote in Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools. “School choice” is a hoax, a lie. It is promoted by rightwing ideologues and by Democratic politicians hungry for funding by the financial sector, which sees schools as an emerging industry. Don’t be fooled.

School choice is privatization. And privatization is very bad for those who are not chosen. And very bad for our democracy.

Charter Schools: Part of the Problem or the Solution and 19+ Should-Know Facts

March 18th, 2017

As you read on, keep these facts in mind:

  • The 2015 Kids Count report found that children living in poverty jumped from 18% to 22% between 2008 and 2013.
  • According to the 2013 U.S. Census Bureau, the child poverty rate among African-Americans was 39%.
  • In 2103, 48% of African-American children and 37% of Latino children had no parent working a full-time, year-round job.
  • The Economic Policy Institute finds that, by age of 14, 25% of African-American children have had a parent—typically a dad—imprisoned; on any given day, 10% of them have had a parent in jail or prison, and that’s 4 times more than in 1980.

Making schools better with national standardsNow on to the charter vs. traditional public school controversy…

By the 1960s and 70s, innovative schools were opening in such cities as Philadelphia and Chicago. Then in 1988, Albert Shanker, as president of the American Federation of Teachers, spoke about the meager 20% of students benefiting from a traditional public education. His solution: charter schools, “where teachers would be given the opportunity to draw upon their expertise to create high-performing educational laboratories from which the traditional public schools could learn.”

That was the intent, the promise, and, in 1992, the first true charter school, City Academy High School, opened its doors in St. Paul, Minnesota.

In the following years, charter schools found advocates in both Presidents Clinton and G.W. Bush, but it took Obama to make it a federal school reform priority and included it as an application incentive in his $4.35 billion Race to the Top grant program.

Now, Donald Trump is at the helm, and his controversial Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is  a vocal charter school champion.

Indeed, her resume includes serving as chairman of the American Federation for Children (AFC). Describing itself as “the nation’s leading school choice advocacy group,” it boasts that it’s “a national leader in the fight to boldly reform America’s broken education system.”

Nevertheless and as an aside, a 2016 Gallup survey found that 76% of parents are “broadly satisfied with the education their oldest child receives;” 36% are “completely satisfied.”

Meanwhile, the AFC site further states, “The American Federation for Children is breaking down barriers to educational choice by creating an education revolution that empowers parents to choose the best educational environment for their children, so all children, especially low-income children, have access to a quality education.”

And that, say charter advocates, is the whole point—the ability to offer parents alternative school settings for their children, ones that are innovative, competitive, and accountable. Moreover, unlike traditional public schools, if performance standards are not met, the charter is revoked, said school is shut down.

What’s not to like? It all sounds so good, so promising, and yet Read the rest of this entry »

12 Things To Know about ADD and ADHD

February 27th, 2017
  1. ADD is no longer an acceptable medical term, replaced solely now by ADHD.
  2. Per the CDC, ADHD affects 11% of our 14- to 17-year-olds; that adds up to some 6.4 million children, and the numbers are rising.
  3. There are three different categories of ADHD:ADHD Cloud
  • Those with INATTENTIVE ADHD struggle to stay on task and concentrate on just one thing. They also often make careless mistakes, have trouble paying attention, fail to follow through on directions, homework, and/or chores. Moreover, they are also often unorganized, seem not to listen when being spoken to, and likely to lose things.
  • Those with HYPERACTIVE-IMPULSIVE ADHD have trouble sitting still, needing to get out of their seats on occasion and even wander about the classroom. Symptoms include fidgeting, tapping hands and/or feet, and feeling restless. Talking excessively and Interrupting others is common as are having trouble waiting their turn and quietly engaging in leisurely activities.
  • Those with COMBINATION ADHD show signs of both Inattentive and Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD.
  1. Only physicians or other health care professionals can diagnose ADHD.
  2. For some, symptoms resolve themselves over the years; if not, symptoms can become less noticeable and bothersome.
  3. Symptoms can also change over time, such as excessive running about morphing into fidgeting and feelings of restlessness in teens.
  4. According to parent surveys, about 50% of children with ADHD continue to experience symptoms as adults.
  5. ADHD can manifest itself even in adults.
  6. The Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1975 (IDEA) covers ADHD under the “other health impairment” category and ensures that students with a disability are provided with a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that meets their individual needs.

In fact, IDEA ensures that the more than 6.5 million infants, toddlers, and kids of all ages with disabilities receive the services they need and “governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services” to them.

Meanwhile, an appropriate education as defined by FAPE can mean enrollment in a regular education class, a regular ed setting with special aids and services, or special education in a separate classroom for part or all of the day

  1. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects children with disabilities that, for the most part, limit “one or more major life activities,” such as learning in the case of ADHD and safeguards them against discrimination. It also requires public school districts to provide that free and appropriate education to all students with a disability regardless of its nature or severity.
  2. Whenever a school district suspects a student has a disability that may require special education and/or related services, it must conduct an evaluation.
  3. Parents can also request an evaluation when ADHD is suspected.

Click here for more information.


Did you know…

February 10th, 2017

That “about 10 million prime-age men aren’t in the labor force–a lingering casualty of the Great Recession,” write USA Today‘s Paul Davidson and Roger Yu. Moreover, they note that, in the meantime, wage increases didn’t budge much at all during the Obama years; indeed, they were stagnant at about 2% for most of the “recovery.”