AFT Sums Up Ten Years of Public School Underfunding and Neglect with Details from Each State


The new report from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), A Decade of Neglect, is one of the most lucid explanations I’ve read about the deplorable fiscal conditions for public schools across the states.  It explains the precipitous drop in school funding caused by the Great Recession, temporarily ameliorated in 2009 by an infusion of funds from the federal stimulus (a financial boost that disappeared after a couple of years), compounded by tax cutting and austerity budgeting across many states, and further compounded by schemes to drain education dollars to privatized charter and voucher programs all out of the same budget.

The report delineates the conditions tangled together over the decade: “While some states are better off than most, in states where spending on education was less in 2016 than it was before the recession, our public schools remain nearly $19 billion short of the annual funding they received…

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NEPC Newsletter: What Do We Know About Teacher Quality?

Reporter Matt Barnum recently wrote for the Atlantic on The Contradictions of Good Teaching. In the article, he asks, “Is a good teacher one who makes students enjoy class the most or one who is strict and has high standards?” The piece raises important questions about defining and enabling good teaching in America’s classrooms. Two NEPC Policy Briefs shed light on these issues:

Policy Reforms and De-professionalization of Teaching. In his recent Atlantic article, Barnum writes about a study that concludes that teachers who improve students’ test scores get lower marks from students on surveys measuring students’ happiness in math class. Rich Milner’s NEPC brief raises additional questions about evaluating teachers using student test scores. Milner’s analysis finds that assessing teachers based on their students’ test scores de-professionalizes instruction by prioritizing teaching to the test over other important aspects of instruction, such as student well-being.

Creating Teacher Incentives for School Excellence and Equity.

What can schools do to increase the odds that they will attract strong teachers? This brief from Barnett Berry and Jon Eckert examines the research and then offers four recommendations:

Use incentives to attract and retain good teachers at high-needs schools.

Expand incentive programs to reward teachers who contribute to organizational priorities such as collaboration or peer evaluation.
Improve teacher working conditions through a variety of methods including eliminating out-of-field teaching assignments, hiring principals who encourage teacher leadership, and allotting time and tools for teachers to learn from one another.

State, local and federal officials should champion examples of high-needs schools that do a good job of recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers by providing high-quality, sustainable learning and working environments.

NEPC Resources on Teacher Education, Quality, and Professional Development ->The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at:

Some observations on the End the Contract action at the Kent County Commission meeting

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

Yesterday, roughly 50 people organized around the End the Contract campaign, went a second time to the Kent County Commission meeting to demand an end to the contract the county has with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

It is always a good indication of how effective social movements are, when systems of power respond with ridiculous tactics. In the picture above you can see that Kent County officials moved the podium to the center of the room and then added those retractable barriers to both sides, with signs on either side saying, “Staff Only Beyond This Point.”

This was no doubt in response to the fact that at the June 28th County Commission meeting, we took over the semi-circle space where the county’s logo is displayed on the carpeting.

The people who came to demand an end to the contract with ICE, brought signs to display, many of which had…

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Five Resources to Help You Understand the Affirmative Action Debate

What research says about how bad information spreads online

Person using smartphone

What research says about how bad online information spreads

Over the last year and a half, researchers have ramped up efforts to understand “fake news” and how and why all sorts of bad information spreads online. We explain what they’ve learned so far in this piece, published last week in Harvard Business Review.

Information disorder: The essential glossary

Information disorder: The essential glossary

 Claire Wardle, a research fellow at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center, created a glossary

 to help everyone follow the national conversation about “fake news” and the challenges associated with what she calls “information disorder.” She defines terms such as “botnet,” “dark ads,” “doxing,” “meme” and “troll farm.”

Protesters hold signs

to help everyone follow the national conversation about “fake news” and the challenges associated with what she calls “information disorder.” She defines terms such as “botnet,” “dark ads,” “doxing,” “meme” and “troll farm.”

Who Controls Education Policy? The Power of the One Percent versus The Power of Educators

First the privatizers and profiteers came for the school bus drivers, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a bus driver.

Then they came for the school cooks, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a school cook.

Then they came for the custodians and maintenance workers, and I did not speak out—
Because I was neither a custodian nor a maintenance worker.

Then they came for me and the teachers union—and there was no one left to speak for me.


This blog will take a one-week summer break. Look for a new post on Tuesday, July 31.

For a long time it has been clear that the policy agenda for school privatization is being underwritten by the One Percent, while traditional public schools are the quintessential institution of the 99 Percent. During this spring and summer, we have been reminded of the role of organized teachers for reminding us about the needs of public schools’ powerless constituents—our children.

First we watched the teachers’ walkouts all this spring across far-right, tax-slashing states which have been starving their public education budgets.  Then in June, the U.S. Supreme Court decided against teachers unions in the case of Janus v. AFSCME , a decision that will threaten the viability and power of public sector unions to advocate on behalf of the public institutions staffed by the members of these unions.  The Janus decision will…

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The Problems of Outcomes-Based School Accountablity


I am so tired of the narrative of “failing” schools—a story which is always accompanied by the story of “failing” teachers and their “failing” students. I find myself trapped in arguments about this subject in places where I don’t want to be talking about it—with good friends and relatives around dinner tables, at parties, during intermissions at concerts.  And even though I know a lot about the topic, I can never really win the argument, because the people with whom I am discussing it have always read about it in the newspapers where the test score comparisons are published.  This narrative has no reference whatsoever to what is happening in particular classrooms or particular schools or school districts. Many people with strong opinions have not been in a public school for decades.

The real subject here, of course, is what education is.  But the conversation instead is always a comparison…

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What David Leonhardt Ignores, Denies and Gets Wrong about the 2005 Seizure of New Orleans Schools

Oh that Mayor Landrieu was more concerned NOLA’s schools than its statuary.


The NY Times columnist David Leonhardt reflects anew on the school transformation in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. After a recent visit to New Orleans, Leonhardt extols a New Orleans miracle. Many knowledgeable people have disagreed.  Perhaps Leonhardt’s new column is a case of confirmation bias or maybe just rose colored glasses.

Leonhardt concludes: “(T)he academic progress has been remarkable. Performance on every kind of standardized test has surged… People here point to two main forces driving the progress: Autonomy and accountability. In other school districts, teachers and principals are subject to a thicket of rules, imposed by a central bureaucracy.  In New Orleans, schools have far more control. They decide which extracurriculars to offer and what food to serve. Principals choose their teachers—and can let go of weak ones.  Teachers, working together, often choose their curriculum.” “The charters here educate almost all public-school students, so they can’t…

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Ohio’s ECOT Mess—Like a Sink Full of Dirty Dishes


Exactly five months ago today, on February 13, 2018, the Ohio Supreme Court heard the final legal appeal by the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) trying to keep itself in business.

  • You may remember that ECOT, perhaps the nation’s largest online charter school—at least according to what we now know were its inflated attendance numbers—had already been shut down (on January 18, 2018) by its sponsor, the Education Service Center of Lake Erie West, and the Ohio Department of Education because it hadn’t enough money to pay its teachers in upcoming months along with what it owed the state.
  • And you may remember that the state has been trying to recapture money ECOT had collected in public tax dollars—$80 million overpaid to ECOT for only the two most recent school years after the state strengthened its oversight procedures in 2015— despite that everyone knows ECOT has been cheating the state…

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