This article was first published on citizenstewart.com
The longstanding arguments for charters could still be had in clean exchanges between judicious people – sans Ravitch – if we seek understanding and progress.
I should start adding a qualifier when I say the former scholar and historian Diane Ravitch is the Ann Coulter of education commentary.
In fairness, Coulter has better manners and makes more attempts to employ logic as she “owns” the libs with verbal Jujitsu.
Ravitch, by contrast, has fallen irreparably into polemics so much that her daily blogs put her in league with Alex Jones’ made-for-YouTube Info Wars.
Along those lines, her blog-fart today ties “the charter industry” to the “infamous pedophile and “super-rich” Jeffrey Epstein.
“In 2013, his foundation issued a press release announcing that he looked forward to the dominance of charter schools in Washington, D.C. and predicted that they would succeed because they were unregulated,” she crows.
Then she offers crude analysis of why people like Epstein would want to privatize schools in D.C.:
People often ask me, “Why do the super-rich cluster to the cause of privatization?” The Answer is not simple because many different motives are at work. Some see giving to charters as a charitable endeavor, and their friends assure them that they are “giving back,” helping poor children escape poverty. Others want to impress their friends in their social strata, their colleagues in the world of high finance. Being a supporter of charter schools is like belonging to the right clubs, going to the right parties, sharing a cause with other very rich people.
If you are reading this you probably know that Ravitch was once a charter school supporter, and that makes it fair to ask which camp of nincompoops she fell into?
Did she see charters as a “charitable endeavor,” or was charter support her attempt to “impress [her] friends in [her] social strata, [and her] colleagues in the world of high finance.”
Only she can say, but as an established scholar of education history (and a player in policy) it’s doubtful her support was so in want of a factual basis.
During testimony to Congress conservative William Bennett gave decades ago he invoked Ravitch as a bipartisan voice for school choice.
Regarding the school reforms that were advancing in Chicago under Mayor Daley and Paul Vallas Bennett declared “[t]he empirical evidence, now widely available, is irrefutable: Not only are many of our public-schools not getting better, they are getting worse. American students finish in the bottom half, and often near the bottom, in comparison to students from other industrialized nations.”
Then, after promoting the benefits of charter schools, he asked lawmakers to “follow my friend Diane Ravitch’s prescript” to:
…make Title I into a “portable entitlement” that would aid all poor kids regardless of what school they attend. This is the one way to assure that every single Title I child will receive Title I services at the school they currently attend. This is also the best way to assure accountability. If a parent is not satisfied with the Title I services they are getting, they can take their Title I dollars with them to the school or provider of choice; power to the parents, and not bureaucrats, in other words.
Was Ravitch’s support for school choice back then the result of suspicious philanthropy, or glossy marketing to mindless parents, or, more logically, the result of her considerable scholarship by that point in her life?
Again, only she can say.
In the spring of 1997 she praised then-New York Pataki’s proposed charter school policies that allowed groups other than local boards to grant charters, allowed for an un-capped number of charters to open, and allowed these schools to hire teachers who weren’t state certified.
In supporting Pataki’s push she said:
It’s impossible to know whether a law permitting charter schools will emerge from this session of the Legislature; the opposition of the teachers’ union, which is the most powerful voice in Albany on education issues, is certainly not encouraging. This is unfortunate, for a large and vital network of charter schools in New York would offer hope to educators, parents, and students in troubled school districts and would promote higher academic standards for all the state’s public schools.
Why would she support such craven policies of such anti-democratic that today she maligns as wealthy pedophiles and privatizers? Projection much?
Forget that teachers’ unions – the ones Ravitch herself once admitted were the “most powerful voices in education” – today block legislation making it a crime for teachers to sexualize students, defeat resolutions that called for them to re-dedicate their profession to student achievement, and pay retail civil rights organizations to defeat the voices of their grassroots members.
Here’s the real kick to the taco, when Lamar Alexander pitched the idea that every D.C. school should be converted to a charter (in 1997, six years before Epstein arrived at the same conclusion) he ascribed this definition of charter schools to his friend Diane Ravitch:
Think of a charter school as a public school district with only one school. It receives public funds, agrees to meet clear academic standards and accepts all students who apply. Unlike existing public schools, it has a contract that can be revoked if the school fails to make good on its commitments.
If she were at all generous she would at very least admit the decency of long-term charter backers who hold valid theories for why charters improve the educational landscape. The longstanding arguments for charters could still be had in clean exchanges between judicious people – sans Ravitch – if we seek understanding and progress. The tensions between autonomy and regulation, local control and federal oversight, and public education as an institution or as a service to American learners could still be exercised by smart people truly seeking solutions to the inarguable problems of public schooling.
But not if we follow the zero-sum and divisive lead of Ravitch whose enemy-imaging toward those who differ on policy has escalated so far she no longer sees them as human. We’ll predictably end up in her abyss of false binaries, intellectual excursions, and forlorn paralysis.
Given Ms. Ravitch’s clever wits and stockpile of information I can’t imagine she leads us to that confused, somber place by accident. There is no better way to ensure the education establishment’s special interests – those who are among Ravitch’s most ardent disciples – are never brought to account than to ignore the brisk but level Ravitch of yesteryear and listen to the caustic and battled one before us now.
“He’s not my son, he’s our son.”-Monteria Robinson
When Monteria Robinson, the mother of Jamarion Robinson said those words, I felt it in my soul. Her son was shot 76 times by US Marshals in Atlanta.
I’m a mother of a black son. It could have been mine.
He’s not her son, he’s our son. Moms of Black Boys United, Inc. (M.O.B.B. United) is a non-profit organization focused on impacting practices, perceptions and policies that affect the way law enforcement and society interacts with black boys and men.
Founder Depelsha McGruder, a mother of two Black sons, started MOBB United as a Facebook group in July 2016. This group remains active and moms share photos of their sons, their accomplishments as well as their struggles. Since then, the movement has grown into several chapters throughout the United States. There is a chapter in Baton Rouge and the New Orleans chapter is being established.
Moms of Black Boys United, Inc. provides information and support for moms of Black sons and promotes positive images of Black boys and men. The organization is dedicated to changing perceptions, encouraging self-care, and fostering understanding of the plight of Black boys and men in America by telling their stories, celebrating their accomplishments, and connecting them to opportunities. The group supports moms by encouraging strong family and community connections and sharing information that empowers them to navigate all of the institutions that interact with, influence, and impact our sons.
In commemoration of the organization’s third anniversary, M.O.B.B. United partnered with the “BeWoke.Vote” Campaign at the 2019 ESSENCE Festival and on July 6th, hosted its 2nd Annual “Champions of Change” Breakfast fundraiser to honor moms who have been key forces in the fight to advocate for our Black sons.
Honorees included: Phaedra Parks; Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome; Monteria Robinson; and Korey Wise, Dr. Yusef Salaam, and Raymond Santana from the Exonerated Five. Guests enjoyed the soulful voices of the Royal Boys Choir and even participated in a live auction of a painting of the Central Park 5.
As I listened to Dr. Yusef Salaam speak, I couldn’t help but think about my own son. These black men, who were boys at the time, were imprisoned for a crime they didn’t commit. They served prison sentences ranging from 6 to 13 years. The current President, who was an entrepreneur in 1989, spent $85,000 on ads in the paper, which Dr. Salaam said were actually “bounties” on their heads. He has yet to apologize. “When They See Us” is the story of the Central Park Five. I haven’t had the strength to watch it, but know that as a mother of a black son, I have to.
I left this breakfast knowing that I have to join the fight. The truth is, we don’t know if and when our son will be the next hashtag. If we don’t protect them, who will?
Take Action Today!
If you’re a mom of a Black son and want to join with other moms to protect our sons from unfair treatment and brutality, join the advocacy movement! If you’re not a mom of a Black son, but support our cause to improve perceptions and ensure equal treatment for Black boys and men, please subscribe to MOBB United’s email list and donate to our cause.
Almost half of Kennedy’s graduating class of seniors weren’t eligible to be promoted during this year’s commencement exercises held in May, according to reports from the Lens last week. Consultants were hired, resignations tendered, stories written, and social media platforms exploded with finger-pointing and blame being targeted at “the charter” system of public schools in New Orleans. Whether you support charters or direct run district schools, the common thread that must exist in any education system is the “A” word . . .(and no, not Autonomy); it’s ACCOUNTABILITY! It’s a concept that has been weaponized inconsistently by the Orleans Parish School District over the last 3 years.
See, accountability is supposed to force the Charter School Board of Directors to make sure that the School Leader or Principal clearly understands that no instances of fraud, corruption, or malfeasance rise to the level of a full blown scandal. Accountability is supposed to force the Principal to communicate unequivocally to his or her staff that grade changing is not allowed . . .EVER! Accountability is supposed to force the Superintendent to meet with Charter School Board of Directors to convey clearly that grade changes, fixes, or modifications aren’t allowed, unless exigent circumstances exist to warrant a grade change according to District policy. And, accountability should force the Orleans Parish School Board members to speak publicly about how this tragedy will never happen again. Instead, what we’ll likely hear from the Superintendent, the Orleans Parish School Board members, the Charter School Board of Directors, and school Principals is the other “A” word; Autonomy! Unbridled autonomy has created a culture and environment of a passive governance model that lends itself to the “tail wagging the dog” and instances of fraud that have been unearthed at Kennedy and is highly likely occurring at other schools as well.
It’s time for the Orleans Parish School Board and the Charter School Board of Directors to wake up, engage, and hold school and network leaders ACCOUNTABLE, before the tragedy occurs. This “wild, wild West” atmosphere that currently exists in the New Orleans Public School system will continue to encourage fraud, corruption, and malfeasance unless accountability becomes the north-star of governance principles in our city public schools.
This article was first posted on citizenstewart.com
It’s right for equity advocates to focus attention on the students deemed needier. At the same time, they shouldn’t allow their advocacy to mean other students aren’t likely to need support too.
When the Black Lives Matter hashtag started it was a bold turn of phrase in the face of too many fatal incidents that would lead one to question whether or not black people matter in America.
Other groups offended by the provocative thought that there would be a need to make such a statement responded with an All Lives Matter hashtag.
Following suit, police officers who felt the focus on shootings of unarmed black people was unfairly painting them as racist abusers (and endangering their lives) responded with Blue Lives Matter.
Since then there have been other causes seeing the utility hashtagging affirmations of lives that should matter, but really don’t.
Along these lines, I have a question for education advocates on all political sides – especially those of you who see “equity” as our chief goal – about the 57 million students in our country.
How many of them matter? Surely not all of them, right?
I wonder. We talk a good game, but when we say we are “fighting for all kids” to get an education, our language too often reveals we mean “some kids.”
The truth is, only some kids matter.
This is an ironic problem for “equity” advocates who make a good claim that students who are marginalized socially, racially, and/or economically need more than a mere equal share of resources, but the same advocates tend to show bad faith in advocating support of students presumed to be problem-free.
Let’s do some reductionist equity math to illustrate the point. 6 million of our 57 million students attend private schools. I won’t ask you the rhetorical question “do they matter.” Let’s skit to answer: no, they don’t. They’re probably rich, white, and have parents we don’t like.
Let’s move on. That leaves 51 million students who actually matter.
There are 3 million students attending charter schools. From the public dialogue these students don’t matter either. As proof, think about how public school boosters scream for more funding they also sit idle as kids in charter schools get less money from the State. Even worse, these same public school lovers focus intently on killingor curbing the schools renegade parents have chosen for their children.
Because once you cross over the line to charters, you and your children cease to matter.
So, now, that leaves 48 million students who matter.
But, wait again.
There are 2 million students who are home-schooled. Shall I even mention how little they matter?
We’re down to 46 million students who still matter.
I hate to do this, but there’s another group to remove from the equation.
There are 10 million students in rural schools.
They don’t matter. At all.
Now we’re down to 36 million students (You might be able to think of other students who are on the fringe of mattering).
This exercise leaves us with 16 million American students who don’t matter. For moral people, that has to be a problem. The fact that it’s the main education establishment, its employees, and their unions, that train the public to do this divisive reverse equity math should trouble all of us. We all make tax contributions to support state-based education systems, and it should respect all of us.
And, the fact that we let the advocates of some kids turn our leaders away from representing all kids foretells a nation in trouble. How can you lead if you only consider some of your people worthy of attention?
Let’s be clear that there isn’t any worthy candidate for any America office who divides children into two separate camps: the deserving and the undeserving. My God and my heart tells me America doesn’t have a single disposable child.
In the year 1865, the Louisiana legislature began implementing laws that paved the way for racial segregation. These laws were known as black codes and had historically regulated the autonomy of slaves. The black codes were more prominent in northern Louisiana cities. However, in southern Louisiana cities, such as New Orleans, African-Americans experienced much more autonomy. In New Orleans, public schools had successfully been integrated until the year 1877 (Woodward, 2001).
The state of Louisiana was one of the first states to adopt Jim Crow Laws. African-American New Orleanians were struggling with accepting the institutionalization of Jim Crow laws, considering the autonomy that blacks had experienced in New Orleans during Reconstruction. Motivated by the unnerving discomfort associated with accepting this marginalized social position perpetuated by these laws, New Orleanians began what has been a long history of the fight for equity across access to resources and opportunities for African-Americans in New Orleans.
In the year 1890, the New Orleans African-American community was outraged by a new Louisiana law that required that blacks and whites travel in separate cars of the railroad. In 1892, community members (a group of civic-minded African-American males) chose to exercise this outrage by mobilizing and identifying an individual that would refuse to be removed from the white only car (Kauper, 1954). The individual was 30 year old Homer Plessy. Plessy was a 1/8 black male who resembled the appearance of a white male. Plessy was arrested for his refusal to be removed from the car, and he was jailed for his actions. This historical event was known as the Plessy vs. Ferguson case. In this case, Plessy’s lawyer argued that the Separate Car Act violated the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendment. The case moved up to the Supreme Court, and in 1896 it was ruled that segregation in America was constitutional (Kauper, 1954).
The Plessy vs. Ferguson case set the precedent for the separate but equal doctrine. The doctrine upheld that separate facilities for blacks and whites, including public schools, was constitutional as long as those facilities were “equal.” (Kauper, 1954) This notion of equity across facilities was a fallacy. Black public schools received far less funding than white public schools.
In a 1902 report written to New Orleans Public Schools Superintendent Warren Easton, Assistant Superintendent Nicholas Bauer stated the following:
…to teach the negro is a different problem. His natural ability is that of low character and it is possible to bring him to a certain level beyond which it is impossible to carry him. That point is the fifth grade of our schools (Bauer, 1902)
The statements in the report are reflective of the ideological perspective that blacks are inferior to whites in academics, and that because of this inferiority, whites are responsible for the control of the academic mobility of blacks. Moreover, it asserts that there exists a glass ceiling of capacity to excel academically for blacks, and that this ceiling is the 5th grade. The Assistant Superintendent uses race to justify bias in educating one race over another. If these ideological thoughts were reflective of those governing policies for academic institutions, how could these officials be expected to ensure equity as it relates to quality of education for a race deemed as less than, academically?
In the 1950’s, Thurgood Marshall led the NAACP’s legal efforts to challenge the separate but equal doctrine by asserting that it violated the 14th Ammendment of equal protection. The Supreme Court heard a series of cases and, in 1954, in Brown v. Board of Education, it was ruled that that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional (Patterson, 2001. The Separate but equal doctrine was overturned, and the 14th amendment was used to overturn the doctrine, just as the 14th amendment had been used in the Plessy vs. Ferguson case (Patterson, 2001).
In New Orleans, the desegregation of schools did not occur until 1960, although the separate but equal doctrine had been overturned 6 years prior. The overturning of the doctrine was met with much resistance, and because of this resistance, a U.S. District Court judge had to order the desegregation of the New Orleans public schools, grade by grade (Ogletree, 2004). The historical event that marked the desegregation of New Orleans schools was, the then 6 year old Ruby Bridges, integrating William Frantz Elementary School.
Occurring at the same time of the desegregation of New Orleans public schools was white flight to the suburbs (Landphair, 2007). As a result of white flight, the racial demographics of New Orleans began to shift and the proportion of the New Orleans African-American population grew from 37% in 1960 to 55% by 1980. By the early 1970’s, African-American children accounted for more than 70% of the New Orleans Public Schools population (Landphair, 2007).
After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) laid off approximately 3,000 staff and 4,000 teachers. The Louisiana Department of Education took over more than 107 out of the 128 New Orleans Public Schools. The New Orleans public education system transitioned into a predominately all charter system, under the then newly formed Recovery School District.
Eleven years after Act 35 was passed, which allowed the state to takeover Orleans Parish Schools that met the state’s newly created criteria for “failing”, on May 10, 2016, Governor John Bel Edwards signed SB 432 (now Act 91) into law. This legislation codified the reunification of Orleans Parish public schools under the oversight of the Orleans Parish School Board and its Superintendent. Today, New Orleans has an unprecedented percentage of charter schools, positioning the city as having the largest percentage of charter schools in the country. The current New Orleans public education system is comprised primarily of autonomous schools directly run by charter management groups, and the Orleans Parish School Board provides oversight of those schools.
New Orleans has a long-standing history of public school segregation and racial and educational inequalities. Charter schools, operating under the guise of school choice, have not redressed the educational inequalities that were born out of the city’s historical legacy of structural racism and white supremacy. Sixty-five years post Brown vs. Board of Education, the pervasive and enduring issue of public school segregation in New Orleans persists.
If you enter almost any large inner-city school in America, you will likely see a police presence. Not because there was a disturbance, but because that is simply where they have been assigned. This is of course in reference to School Resource Officers.
School resource officers or SROs have recently come under a lot of fire. Conversations around police brutality have given way to conversations about interactions between police and students at schools, and there is no shortage of incidents to highlight. The national conversation started in 2015 after the spread of a viral video in which a police officer flipped a student out of her desk after she initially refused to surrender her cell phone to the teacher. Fast forward to today, when surveillance cameras recently caught officers dragging a 16-year-old student down the steps and using a stun gun… again all stemming from a cell-phone.
Such interactions have led people to question whether or not police officers should be in schools. That question is valid especially when you consider the fact that they don’t always actually prevent crime, as was the case when an ineffective school police officer ran and hid during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, as a shooter gunned down students on his watch. However, whether or not schools should have SROs really isn’t the right question. The real question should be around the way they are used:
“Why are school resource officers being used as classroom managers?”
The United States Department of Justice defines School Resource Officers as “sworn law enforcement officers responsible for safety and crime prevention in schools.” Why are these officers being called every time a student refuses to hand over a cell phone?
Why are we surprised that police officers aren’t equipped to the everyday nuance of minor behavior issues? There is an old quote that says something along the lines of: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail.” This quote sums up the problem with SROs. They in most cases aren’t trained or equipped to handle minor behavior problems because they are supposed to be there specifically to handle the big ones.
You know who is supposed to be trained and equipped to deal with student behavior? Teachers and administrators. And in schools where no school resource officers are present, that is who handles it. My school does not have an SRO. Like many other schools, we have a ban on cellphones in class. On average I catch about 3 students breaking this rule a day. At least once a week one of them refuses to hand it over. When I child refuses to comply with directions there is a lot of steps I can take. Those interventions do not include calling the police or flipping them out of their desk.
In schools where SROs are present, teachers and admin often feel the pressure to use them. Even in situations that don’t call for it. As a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t call the SRO for a situation that you wouldn’t normally call the police:
Drugs? Yes. Big fights? Yes. Gang activity? Yes.
Disrespect? No. Sleeping in class? No. Cell phone refusal? No.
In my 8 years of experience, I have seen incidents in which a school resource officer was probably needed and having the right person in uniform walking around the school could be a net positive. But if schools are going to continue to get the wrong people for the job and use them in the wrong way, then we should probably talk about the use of school resource officers in general. Especially considering how their misuse disproportionately impacts black and brown students given their placement in inner city schools. We should also talk about better training for people who are going to be in schools dealing with children.
But as of today, school resource officers are here and are trained as officers, and as long as we are using officers in schools then we need to make sure we are using them right… which is sparingly.
“We need to meet people where they are.” This is a popular refrain but it’s hard to know if its’s always good advice.
Does meeting a marginalized group where they—and their needs— lead to lower expectations or the belief that they are less capable than everybody else?
Or are accommodations an opportunity to ensure greater and more equitable access to resources for community members?
A recent study conducted by the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans explores whether or not communication with families through text messaging can improve engagement and promote successful completion of the application process for early childhood education programs.
Each year, there are conversations surrounding the eligibility requirements for education programs and whether or not they provide a “fair” or level playing field for families of limited income and resources, specifically programs described as high-quality and high-performing. Documentation submission, interviews and assessments are often seen by some as obvious tactics to make it more challenging for families with minimal resources (i.e. transportation, childcare, limited to no PTO benefits to request time off from work, etc.) to participate and reap the benefits of quality education programming to ensure optimal learning opportunities to their children.
For decades now, research has shown us the benefits of early access to education, yet Louisiana has yet to provide universal preschool nor the adequate funding to make affordable, high-quality child care and preschool a reality for families and providers according to the Center for American Progress’ 2018 fact sheet.
Education Research Alliance for New Orleans utilized formal text message reminders and personalized text message reminders to communicate with families regarding their process in the steps to fulfill their application requirements to secure early childhood education programming.
The study’s results indicated the following statements:
“low-cost text message support can help parents overcome the eligibility verification barrier in the ECE enrollment process.”
Additionally, while no significant differences were noted between the formal and personalized text messages for early childhood education programs,
“Parents who received personalized text messages responded to those messages at a much higher rate (89%) than parents who received formal reminders (11%). The increased text response rate enabled administrators to respond to parents’ questions during the verification process, and provided insights about the key challenges families face in verification.”
Some questions from families focused on understanding the specific steps to verify(required documentation, accurate location to submit documentation, etc.)
“I did it [verified] thanks so much for [t]he reminders,” wrote one applicant, while others told a district staff member that they would look for her at verification events.
It’s no secret that the school admission process has been a source of frustration since the emergence of charter networks and the One App enrollment process, for both administrators and families alike. With more research, like the study conducted by Education Research Alliance for New Orleans, perhaps families and administrators can identify efficient measures to promote collaboration rather than sow divisiveness, ultimately ensuring the well-being and success of the city’s youth through more equitable and inclusive education practices.
On June 1st, New Orleans lost a culinary Icon. If you’re from New Orleans, I’m sure you’ve celebrated a birthday, graduation or had a night out at Dooky Chase. Because visiting the restaurant, you never know who you might run into. Leah Chase has served everyone from civil rights workers, local politicians, actors and even presidents.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. liked barbecued ribs, and James Baldwin preferred gumbo. The singer Sarah Vaughan ordered stuffed crab to go, and Nat King Cole always wanted a four-minute egg.
Read more here