CURMUDGUCATION: Are Charters a Rural Solution

CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

Are Charters a Rural Solution

In a piece that has circulated a bit, Karen Eppley, an associate professor of curriculum and instruction at Pennsylvania State University suggests that charter schools might be the solution to many rural education problems.

While the article is not as gung-ho about charters as the title suggests (I know– writers rarely get to pick their own headline), it still misses some critical points.

According to this 2013-2014 report from the Rural School and Community Trust, about a third of our schools are rural, and about one in five students attend a rural school. So this is worth discussing. Eppley wryly notes that Betsy DeVos brought attention to rural education with her observation about bear protection in Wapiti, Wyoming, but her policy goals might have a more far-reaching effect. Fair enough.

Eppley touts her rural bona fides and notes that rural education has been an important part of rural American life. She’s got that right– my own children attended little Utica Elementary, a school that, along with the volunteer fire department hall, served as a community center. On the night that the school held its talent show, art show, and ice cream social, everyone in the village would be there, whether they had a child in the school or not.

Despite the positive impacts of schools on rural communities, 150,000 rural schools have been eliminated through closure or consolidation since 1930. Rural schools are closed primarily in response to budget cuts and low enrollment.

Eppley’s correct, though by going back to 1930 she oversells her case. As she should already know, numerous rural schools were eliminated in Pennsylvania in the 1960s. Previously, every township in PA had a school district, but the state did some serious arm-twisting to encourage consolidation. My current school district is the result of combining the city school district with several surrounding small districts, including Utica, which originally had its own tiny high school. The 1960s consolidations were not about money or enrollment so much as a policy change about what a school district should look like (and the emergence of dependable transportation options.)

Eppley then moves to a capsule history of the charter school movement, offering her own theory about what is happening right now–

The increasingly charter-friendly environment can be traced to an ideological shift: While public education was once seen as a key to democracy, it is increasingly seen as a tool of efficiency and economic competitiveness. This change has created prime conditions for the school choice movement — and for the creation and expansion of charter schools.

But rural charters are a different animal. Eppley notes that while urban charters are often chain operations (eg KIPP), rural charters are more likely to be community-based mom-and-pop operations, sometimes as a delaying action against the loss of a local school. I have seen this as well– just up the road a community’s elementary school was closed; a community group formed to resurrect it as a charter. The idea here is to resist consolidation and keep those community ties alive and thriving. And so far I’m with her. But I think she’s missing a couple of points.

First, while it’s true that school closings are often driven by financial issues, budget issues are themselves often driven by charter funding. Charter chains– with one exception– are not descending on rural areas because that’s not where the money is. But the exception is huge– in Pennsylvania, cyber charters are draining rural districts of hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars.

My own district is a fine example. A few years ago, we closed two elementary schools in hopes of saving about $800K. Our cyber charter bill that year? About $800K. The huge loss of public tax dollars to profiteering cyber schools is doubly galling because these cybers can’t even do the job. Study after study has concluded that cyber schools fail to educate their students, many of whom return to us in the public schools, or simply never graduate at all.

Eppley correctly notes that rural charters will not unleash the power of free market competition because there is no competition there– there are few choices for rural schools. And she makes the observation that unlike the case with urban charters, rural charters can actually be a tool for establishing local parental control. For that reason, they are often inefficient and can be dogged by financial problems if for no other reason than they are being run by amateurs.

But then there’s this:

Until educational, social and economic policies are implemented with rural communities in mind, rural citizens should continue to work to break down barriers for more socially just rural schools and communities — in the same way that urban citizens have.

Given the amount of research that shows urban charters fostering more segregation, I’m not sure exactly what she’s talking about. Nor is it clear what barriers need to broken down in rural schools where, precisely because there are few choices, all students are squooshed together into the same facility.

Eppley does early in the article note the “emerging research suggesting that charter schools may have lower academic performance and negatively affect the finances of the home district.” But then she moves on, arriving somehow at the notion that rural schools can be helped by charters. However, the negative effects, particularly the financial ones, are strongly felt in rural areas. One of the great central inefficiencies, the foundational lie of modern charter systems– that we can somehow fund two or three or more parallel education systems with the same money that barely supported one system– is magnified in rural settings where money and resources and student populations are already stretched thin.

A couple of years ago, Utica’s elementary school joined the other two in being closed down by my district. In  less than a decade, we have gone from six elementary schools to three, partly due to declining enrollment, and in a larger part due to financial pressures. Now small communities have been hollowed out a bit more, and we are still struggling to stay ahead of the financial squeeze. It is hard to imagine how having to stretch taxpayer dollars to run a few more schools in the district would be helpful in any way, particularly when sending tax dollars to charter operators is one of the reasons we’re under this pressure in the first place. There’s a reason that financially strapped school districts close schools rather than open more– you don’t save money by paying for more schools. Charter schools are not a solution– they are a huge part of the problem.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: Are Charters a Rural Solution

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Action against ICE repression results in three arrests in Grand Rapids

Action against ICE repression results in three arrests in Grand Rapids
by Jeff Smith (GRIID)
As part of a plan leading up to the May 1st march, A Day Without Immigrants, there was a smaller action today to draw attention to the repressive practices of ICE agents (Immigration Customs and Enforcement).

About 50 people gathered at the Calder Plaza around noon today and then marched over the the ICE office, located on Ottawa, just north of the 196 freeway.

Once the march arrived at the ICE office… READ MORE OF THIS POST — https://griid.org/2017/04/20/action-against-ice-repression-results-in-three-arrests-in-grand-rapids/

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

As part of a plan leading up to the May 1st march, A Day Without Immigrants, there was a smaller action today to draw attention to the repressive practices of ICE agents (Immigration Customs and Enforcement).

About 50 people gathered at the Calder Plaza around noon today and then marched over the the ICE office, located on Ottawa, just north of the 196 freeway.

Once the march arrived at the ICE office, the three people who were carrying a banner blocked Ottawa street to further demonstrate their opposition to the targeting of people who are undocumented by ICE agents.

Those from the immigrant community, who organized the action, spoke in Spanish and in English, explaining what the purpose of the action was.

The GRPD arrived shortly after people were blocking the road, but after a brief conversation with the organizers, it was made clear that the police were not…

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If You Don’t Get Why Campus Rape Is A National Problem, Read This

If You Don’t Get Why Campus Rape Is A National Problem, Read This
by thecatalystsforchange
By Lydia O’Connor, Tyler Kingkade on Huffington Post
This is why injustice plagues most sexual assault cases.
For many people, reading the Stanford University sexual assault victim’s powerful letter to her assailant was an entry point into the complicated, unjust realities of reporting and punishing sexual assault. While the attention the case — and similar ones at Baylor and Vanderbilt Universities — received is unusual, the attacks are not. Here are some of the most important things you need to know about the scope of sexual assault on college campuses.

Around 1 in 5 women may experience sexual assault at college.

Read more of this post

The Catalysts for Change

ByLydia O’Connor, Tyler Kingkade on Huffington Post

This is why injustice plagues most sexual assault cases.

For many people, reading the Stanford University sexual assault victim’s powerful letter to her assailant was an entry point into the complicated, unjust realities of reporting and punishing sexual assault. While the attention the case — and similar ones at Baylor and Vanderbilt Universities — received is unusual, the attacks are not. Here are some of the most important things you need to know about the scope of sexual assault on college campuses.

Around 1 in 5 women may experience sexual assault at college.

View original post 2,284 more words

From Allies to Accomplices: Grand Rapids opportunities to practice immigrant justice

From Allies to Accomplices: Grand Rapids opportunities to practice immigrant justice
by Jeff Smith (GRIID)
Too often for those of use who carry lots of privilege – race, class, ability or citizenship status privilege – we fail to act or to stand in solidarity with those who are being targeted by systems of oppression. Or, if we do act, the tendency is to engage in savior politics or make it about us.

Let us be clear, — https://griid.org/2017/04/19/from-allies-to-accomplices-grand-rapids-opportunities-to-practice-immigrant-justice/

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

Too often for those of use who carry lots of privilege – race, class, ability or citizenship status privilege – we fail to act or to stand in solidarity with those who are being targeted by systems of oppression. Or, if we do act, the tendency is to engage in savior politics or make it about us.

Let us be clear, this is not about doing missionary work or even being an ally. Those of us who hold lots of privilege need to begin to think about what role we play in movements for social justice and liberation.

A recent article written by an indigenous activist, entitled, Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex, provides us with an important critique of what too often happens from well intentioned white folks who “want to do some good” or who “want to help.” 

The article states near the beginning:

The…

View original post 758 more words

CURMUDGUCATION: PA: Let’s Arm Teachers?

CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

PA: Let’s Arm Teachers?

Apparently it’s education crazy season in Harrisburg, with one ill-advised ed bill after another. But fear not– at least one PA legislator wants some of us to start packing heat in school.

Senate Bill 383 intends to amend the school code, with the intent of “providing for protection and defense of pupils.

Sponsor Donald C White, who was an insurance salesman back before his 2001 election, explains the reasoning here:

In the aftermath of a number of tragic school shootings, the debate continues across the country on how we can better protect our children. While most of this discussion surrounds whether or not more gun control measures are needed, I believe we must look at all options when it comes to improving the safety and security of our children, teachers and school staff….

My bill would allow school personnel to have access to firearms in school safety zones if they receive authorization from the school board of directors, are licensed to carry a concealed firearm and have met certain training requirements in the use and handling of firearms (as outlined in my proposal)…

As we weigh our options, I believe we need to consider providing school employees with more choices than just locking a door, hiding in a closet or diving in front of bullets to protect students. With the legal authority, licensing and proper training, I believe allowing school administrators, teachers or other staff to carry firearms on the school premises is an option worth exploring. 

No. No, it’s not. Here’s why I don’t think it’s an idea worth considering.

1) The window of opportunity is tiny. 

From start to finish, active shooter events are short, short things. Chances are mighty slim that a teacher will have a chance to do a thing. An FBI study of active shooter incidents found the vast majority were over in less than five minutes.

2) Shooting in high stress situations is hard.

Military personnel and police train with their firearms a lot. A lot. Because when you are all of a sudden in a life or death situation and you have to pull out your gun and use it, there are many problems. Your hands are shaking. Your perceptions are flooded in adrenaline. You have to make a split-second critical decision when you were teaching verbs thirty seconds ago. Shooting a gun at a target when you have time to prep and aim and think is plenty hard enough. Under “combat” conditions, it’s infinitely harder, unless you are a highly-trained individual.

Using a gun requires a professional. Amateurs with guns are bad news.

3) Collateral damage.

You may think that picking off the shooter while children are running past you in screaming chaos will be just like picking off bad guy bosses in Call of Duty, in which case you are exactly the person I don’t want to be packing in my building. You’re an amateur with a gun. There’s one shooter and a hundred children; I figure the odds that a child is going to be hit by friendly fire are somewhere between “unacceptable” and “horrifying.”

4) Confusion on the scene.

Let’s say that law enforcement manages to arrive before the scene has played out. They walk in the door and see four people wielding guns. What do you think they should do at that moment? Last summer in Dallas, when a sniper was picking off police officers, a crowd full of Rambo wannabe’s just created more confusion for law enforcement. If you were a shooter, you could not concoct a better scenario to give yourself cover than to have a bunch of civilians with guns running around while police were trying to find you.

5) Guns in schools. Where there are also children.

Here’s a fun story. A third grade teacher at a private school in Chambersburg,, PA went to the bathroom, took off her holstered and loaded sidearm to do her business, and left it there on top of the toilet tank in the same restroom that the students used. For at least three hours. It was, in fact, children who brought the event to the authorities’ attention.

There are so many nightmare scenarios that come from trying to keep a firearm secure in a building filled with children– particularly when the firearm is being kept secure by someone whose main business every day is a hundred things other than keeping a firearm secure.

For the vast majority of schools, an active shooter event is something that will never, ever happen. But we’re going to start putting firearms inside those buildings, watched over and operated by sort-of-kind-of-trained amateurs? Reasonable people can disagree about gun control (though unreasonable people often dominate the conversation), but this is just a bad idea. This is not how to make my students safer.

If you’re in Pennsylvania, contact your Senator and tell him to vote no on SB 383.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: PA: Let’s Arm Teachers?