The White Choice

The push for school vouchers is spreading across the South, even as the legacy of private schools as *segregation academies* lives on…

Image result for segregation academies arkansasToday begins our school choice tour, reader, and judging from the speed with which various choice choices are popping up across the land, the tour will be of some duration. We’re starting in Arkansas, because it begins with ‘A’ and also it because it represents a less-palatable part of the school choice *conversation.* Before school choice became the *civil rights issue of our time,* it was the chosen choice of white parents who were fleeing newly desegregated schools for private schools. In fact, the legacy of that ugly history hangs heavy enough over Arkansas’ private schools today that the Walton family, America’s first family of all things school choice, chose not to push for private school vouchers in its home state. Here’s an excerpt from an interview I did in 2015 with Walton Family Foundation senior program officer Kathy Smith, who oversees the foundation’s Arkansas portfolio:

There are some differences in what you can do in a rural state and what’s appropriate to do, frankly, in a rural state vs a larger urban environment. And so some of the things we do in terms of policy support in some of our larger urban environments are not even appropriate in Arkansas. For example, I know in some other jurisdictions where we work we’re very very keen about school choice, perhaps in regards to a voucher program or education savings accounts. In Arkansas we don’t even have an adequate supply of private school options to where it would have the same impact. And many of our private schools, for example in the Delta, were originally formed to be academies that would segregate. Many of them probably today wouldn’t accept scholarship kids.    Continue reading →

The Bleak Friday Interview

In which I sit down with political economist Gordon Lafer to enjoy a slice of *grim pumpkin* pie…

tiny pumpkin pieEduShyster: Now I know Black Friday is usually thought of as a day for bargain hunters to mob Walmart stores and their minimum-wage-ish associates, but can I just point out that by swelling the Walton family coffers, these shoppers are actually helping to create more opportunities for low-income youth? Wait—why are you laughing?

Gordon Lafer: Because it’s preposterous—you can’t be an adult and say that with a straight face. First of all, the thing that correlates most clearly with educational performance in every study is poverty. So when you look at the agenda of the biggest and richest corporate lobbies in the country, it’s impossible to conclude that they want to see the full flowering of the potential of each little kid in poor cities. To say *I want to cut the minimum wage, I want to prevent cities from passing laws raising wages or requiring sick time, I want to cut food stamps, I want to cut the earned income tax credit, I want to cut home heating assistance. Oh but, by the way, I’m really concerned about the quality of education that poor kids are getting*—it’s just not credible. You’re creating the problem that you now claim to want to solve.  Continue reading →

Can We Talk? (I Mean Really…)

The 49er says that Education Post can’t start a conversation—because its founders and funders already have all of the answers.

can we talkBy *The 49er*
In a recent offline conversation, EduShyster and I were trying to figure out a name for the group of people that are opposing reformers. You see reformers are easy to place in a camp. Even though there are internal fights on issues such as Common Core and the role of the federal government in education, there is general agreement that there need to be major changes to public education in America. But the camp which is fighting those reformers (and probably most of the people reading this post) isn’t so easy to define. Harvard Professor Jal Mehta defines this camp as  traditionalists. (Why do I suspect that EduShyster is bristling at the use of that term?) [Editorial note: she is!] Continue reading →

The Great Big Lovin’ Walheart

The Walton family hearts America’s poor kids. Their parents? Not so much.

walheartWhen we last paid a call on our good friends the Waltons, we found them in a fine, beneficent fettle indeed. Armed with Walmart profits equivalent to the wealth of the bottom 42% of American families combined, the Waltons felt moved to wrap their arms around the nation’s burgeoning population of low-income children and hug them into college readiness and 21st century success. And I’ve got great, heartwarming news, reader. As this New York Times feature reveals, the Waltons’ great big lovin’ Walheart beats stronger than ever—and there is nary an education reform group nor a charter school that is not ententacled in the family’s tender embrace. Continue reading →

Internal Documents Reveal Charter Expansion, TFA Go Hand in Hand

Broad Foundation emails indicate charter operators reluctant to expand without TFA presence

By Chad Sommer and Jennifer Berkshire
Last weekend, former Newark Star columnist Bob Braun published a bombshell column, arguing that the state-appointed superintendent of Newark, NJ schools, Teach For America (TFA) alum Cami Anderson, wants to waive seniority rules to fire upwards of 700 tenured Newark teachers and replace a percentage of them with TFA recruits. Executive Director of Teach For America New Jersey, Fatimah Burnam Watkins, quickly dismissed Braun’s assertions as *conspiracy theories,* while claiming TFA has a small footprint in Newark.  But the heated back-and-forth misses the larger issue: TFA plays an increasingly essential role in staffing the charters that are rapidly expanding, replacing public schools from Newark to Philadelphia to Chicago to Los Angeles. In fact, newly released documents indicate that many charter operators won’t even consider opening new schools without TFA to provide a supply of *teacher talent.*

Continue reading →