Education Can’t Fix Poverty. So Why Keep Insisting that It Can?

Education is not the best anti-poverty program, argues historian Harvey Kantor, and it’s long past time we acknowledged that…

Jennifer Berkshire: I read in the New York Times recently that education is the most powerful force for *reducing poverty and lifting middle-class living standards.* It’s a classic example of what you describe in this excellent history as *educationalizing the welfare state.* 

Harvey Kantor: Education hasn’t always been seen as the solution to social and economic problems in the US. During the New Deal, you had aggressive interventions in providing for economic security and redistribution; education was seen as peripheral. But by the time you get to the Great Society programs of the 1960’s, education and human capital development had moved to the very center. My colleague Robert Lowe and I started trying to think about how that happened and what the consequences were for the way social policy developed in the US from the 1960’s through No Child Left Behind. How is it that there is so much policy making and ideological talk around education and so little around other kinds of anti-poverty and equalizing policies?  We also wanted to try to understand how it was that education came to shoulder so much of the burden for responding to poverty within the context of cutbacks in the welfare state.  Continue reading →

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Chaos by Design

I love teaching but the chaos of urban education reform is wearing me out…

By Ryan Heisinger
The halls at my school last week were full of teachers’ usual end-of-year banter. One person remarked on how quickly this year was flying by. I replied that, now in my fourth year, each school year still feels like a roller coaster, but one I’d ridden before, with familiar dips and twists and turns.

For me, this year is mainly speeding by because of how much I’ve enjoyed it. This school year has reinvigorated me, further convinced me that I want to spend my career around kids. But after four years of teaching at three different schools with four different principals, I’d love to find a school at which I could settle in and make a long-term difference. The education landscape in my city, however, has left me worried that no such opportunity exists. Continue reading →

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Common Enemy

In rural Ohio, resistance to the DeVos brand of school reform—unregulated, profitable, hyper-partisan—isn’t hard to find…

Image result for devos weingarten van wertSince Betsy DeVos was tapped to be Secretary of Education, I’ve managed to pen close to 20,000 words about her. And now here she was, standing so close to me that I could make out the flat a’s of western Michigan in her voice. I’d made my way to tiny Van Wert, OH (pop. 10,718) so that I could be part of the long-awaited joint appearance by DeVos and American Federation of teachers President Randi Weingarten. I was expecting little in the way of drama; school visits are highly orchestrated affairs. It was dissonance I was after. DeVos’ brand of school reform—unregulated, profitable, hyper-partisan—has resistance here that extends well beyond the small group of protesters who’d gathered in the parking lot.

I’d caught up with the tour in time for what was intended to be the high point: a robotics showcase featuring students from 5th grade on up doing cool STEM-ish stuff. Members of the high school robotics team showed off their prize-winning creation, something that looked to this untrained eye, like an exercise ball with a bomb attached. Students who’d competed in the Believe in Ohio innovation competition were eager to demonstrate their inventions. A sophomore who’d come up with a screwdriver that never strips screws walked me through his design process, mentioning in passing that Believe in Ohio is being scaled back due to state budget cuts. I lurked around as DeVos talked to a group of tweens who were showing off mechanical drawings they’d designed. *We need to recruit more young ladies into STEM fields,* she told them. Here it was already: dissonance; her boss’ budget hacks away at STEM education. Continue reading →

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Truth in Edvertising

Is $1,000 per student kind of a lot to be spending on marketing? That’s how much Success Academy spends, putting the charter network on par with a typical large corporation. In the latest episode of Have You Heard, Jack Schneider and I wade into the murky business of education marketing or *edvertising.* Fast growing and completely unregulated, edvertising is one byproduct of an education marketplace. We talk to researcher Sarah Butler Jessen about what happens when public schools must now compete against charter schools with lavish marketing budgets. And what happens to public education when schools define themselves as *brands.* We’ll be right back, after this commercial break! And if you want a complete transcript of the episode, we can help with that too. 

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Crony Capitalism

Deregulation in education has led to cronyism, corruption and conflicts of interest. Dr. Preston Green sees a familiar pattern and a cautionary tale…

Jennifer Berkshire: Our Secretary of Education is visiting a Florida charter school that is best known for being started by rap-u-preneur, Pitbull. But a lesser known true fact is that the school’s powerful and politically connected management company, Academica, ran afoul of the feds for a little something something called *related-party transactions.* What is a related-party transaction? And why do I have the feeling that Betsy DeVos didn’t drop by to, um, continue the investigation?

Preston Green: Related-party transactions occur when you have two entities that have a pre-existing relationship. For example, if two entities have common management, or in the charter sector context, you could have an EMO that also has a real estate arm, which then leases property back to the charter school at a greatly inflated rate. In the case of Academica, which is the management company that runs the school Secretary DeVos visited, it’s *all of the above.* You see different entities sharing the same board of directors, conflicts of interest and questionable real estate dealings, including charter schools paying rents that are well above the market rate to companies that Academica owns.     Continue reading →

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