Monday, April 30, 2018

Are Alternative Schools Their Own Form of Separate and Unequal Schooling? Barbara Fedders Says Yes

Barbara Fedders' new article, Schooling at Risk, 103 Iowa L. Rev. 871 (2018), draws interesting parallels between school segregation and the way alternative schools operate. She writes:

School districts typically have broad discretion in deciding whether a student is sufficiently “at risk” to require assignment to an AEP [Alternative Education Placement]. In addition, while districts may have policies governing placement decisions, most do not afford students due process protections before making the assignment. The largely unbounded discretion school districts enjoy in making AEP assignments makes room for biased decision-making. The students who attend AEPs are overwhelmingly students of color (African American in particular), from low-income families, and with disabilities. North Carolina data are illustrative. In 2013–2014, for example, Black students received 46% of all AEP placements, even though they made up only were 26% of the total student population.” In addition, students with disabilities are disproportionately likely to be assigned to AEPs, and to stay in the programs for longer durations than their nondisabled counterparts. AEPs are also disproportionately comprised of economically disadvantaged students.

She also takes on the qualitatively inferior education opportunities these schools provide,

Most AEPs do not look like typical schools. Only 37% of AEPs are housed within regular schools or are separate schools; the rest are housed within other facilities. 17% of the non-school-based group utilize online instruction as the sole means of education—regardless of students’ ability or need. For students in school-based AEPs, books may be unavailable, and extracurricular opportunities are typically nonexistent.198 In Georgia, the state houses AEP programs in poor-quality buildings that formerly served as schools for Black students during the time of de jure segregation.

The major contribution of Fedders' work is to help us see what lies in plain sight and reframing.  No one seriously argues that alternative schools provide anything resembling the quality of education that exists in regular public schools.  Yet, we accept it because these schools are, after all, for the "bad" kids. As she writes, "The perception that AEP students are less deserving is further reflected in the statutes and regulations that govern them."  And everyone with eyes also knows that, in most places, these schools are primarily for African American students.  Fedders puts these together in a way that we have long ignored.

Fedders' also reveals that this is not a small problem.  To the contrary, we are talking about half a million students a year.  But even were it a smaller number, the fact that we run a separate and unequal education system tells us something potentially far more troubling.  Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote that you can judge "[t]he degree of civilization in a society . . . by entering its prisons."  Fedders helps us see that we can judge the degree of equal opportunity in education by entering alternative schools--something we should have asked years ago.

 --on Twitter @DerekWBlack  

April 30, 2018 in Discipline | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, April 26, 2018

How States' Obsession with School Choice Is Fueling an Education Crisis--And Increasing Teacher Salaries Won't Fix It

States are favoring school choice at a steep cost to public education

File 20180423 94157 bxe6lr.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Colorado teachers rally outside the state Capitol April 16 to demand more funding for schools. Colleen Slevin/AP

Derek W. Black, University of South Carolina

Teacher strikes are generating a healthy focus on how far public education funding has fallen over the past decade. The full explanation, however, goes beyond basic funding cuts. It involves systematic advantages in terms of funding, students and teachers for charter schools and voucher programs as compared to traditional public schools. Increasing public teacher salaries may end the current protests, but speaking as an expert in education law and policy, I believe it won’t touch the new normal in which public education is no longer many states’ first priority.

My forthcoming research shows that, from funding and management practices to teacher and student policies, states are giving charter schools and private schools a better deal than public schools. These better deals have fueled enormous growth in charter schools and voucher programs that is now nearly impossible to unwind.

The most basic shift occurred between 2008 and 2012. Florida and North Carolina illustrate the nationwide trend. Each cut public education funding by 20 percent or more in three years. During the same period, North Carolina lifted its cap on new charter schools and quickly doubled its charter school spending. Florida similarly changed the rules for its voucher program and quadrupled its size.

Favorable funding practices

States also passed laws to offer charters and private schools more money for each student they took. Florida increased the value of each voucher by roughly US$2,000. Nevada went even further, passing legislation that would convert every single public education dollar into a voucher dollar. While the state Supreme Court later declared the program unconstitutional, it has not stopped other states like Arizona from pursuing similar programs.

Several states also began lifting income eligibility limits. Previously, states had provided vouchers only for low-income students. But new voucher programs made them available to wealthy students as well, even those who already had access to excellent public schools.

Charter schools benefited from similar advantages in some states. Ohio and New Jersey funneled charter school funding through school districts, but the states’ antiquated funding formulas and charter reimbursement rates force districts to send charter schools more per pupil than they receive from the state.

Pennsylvania has a similar scheme, but it has proven so lopsided that it expanded deficits in Philadelphia and nearly bankrupted the Chester School District. Chester was paying the local charter school roughly $40,000 per special education student, including for those students with relatively low-cost needs. Arizona took a simpler route. It shielded charter schools from the budget cuts it was imposing on traditional public schools.

Less oversight

Once they receive the money, charter schools and private schools receiving vouchers can spend it almost any way they want. Private schools operate just as they had before. And charter schools – though technically public schools – are exempt from typical financial oversight.

Laws require public schools to award contracts through a transparent process and prohibit public schools from entering contracts that pose conflicts of interest. Charters can award contracts to almost anyone they like – and on any terms they like. This includes awarding contracts to companies that have close financial ties with the charter. A person can start a purportedly nonprofit charter school and then have that charter purchase all of its services and supplies from a company owned by that same person. As a result, the person can turn a profit on staffing, facilities, technology and supplies. National Heritage Academies runs this exact type of business model in North Carolina and continues to grow its campuses.

The same activity could constitute fraud or criminality in a public school. Yet, state law permits it for charters. As Thomas Kelley’s analysis reveals, many of the charter schools that state law calls nonprofits would not qualify for that same label under federal law.

No checks on profiteering

Even well-meaning charter schools have been unable to stop this profit-taking. The Ohio Supreme Court, for instance, found that state law dictates that everything a private charter school company purchases with public dollars – from desks to computers – belongs to the private company, not the public. The same is true of buildings that charter schools lease. Charter school operators reap their largest profits through unreasonably high lease payments on buildings that the public will never own.

States also allow private schools and charters to treat students differently. While public schools must provide disadvantaged students with a host of special services, private schools take vouchers with almost no strings attached. And they are increasingly taking high-achieving middle-income and nondisabled students who cost less to educate and typically do not demand specialized services.

Charter schools’ advantages come in their ability to recruit students and cap enrollment. Public schools must serve everyone in their community. The clearest proof that charters don’t is in the data. For instance, Newark charter schools enroll less than half the percentage of special education students and English language learners as the Newark public schools. Newark charters also enroll significantly fewer low-income students. In North Carolina, charter schools are increasingly enrolling white students, while public schools increasingly enroll students of color. In Minneapolis, 80 percent of charters are racially isolated by race, socioeconomic status or both.

The most obvious advantage, however, is with teachers. Most states exempt charter schools from teacher certification requirements. Half exempt charters from complying with high-stakes teacher evaluation systems. More than three-quarters exempt charters from the teacher salary and collective bargaining rules. In short, states permit charters to hire teachers that would be deemed unqualified in a public school and pay them less.

The need for a structural shift

The current debate over school funding must move beyond teacher salaries and whether the books in public schools are tattered. Those conversations ignore the systematic policies that disadvantage public schools. Increasing public school teachers’ salaries alone won’t fix the problem. The public school teaching force has already shrunk. Class sizes have already risen. And the rules that advantage charter and private schools remain firmly in place.

The ConversationLong-term solutions require a reexamination of these preferences. As a state constitutional matter, the law requires that states make public education their first priority. It is not enough to make education one of several competing priorities. And as a practical matter, states cannot continue to ask public schools to work with whatever is left over and then criticize them for doing a poor job. This cycle creates a circular justification for dismantling public education when states should be repairing it.

Derek W. Black, Professor of Law, University of South Carolina

 --on Twitter @DerekWBlack

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

April 26, 2018 in Charters and Vouchers, School Funding, Teachers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rejects Policy Ploy to Use Constitutional Right to Education to Eliminate Charter Cap

--image by Swampyank

Yesterday, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court dismissed the attempt by charter school advocates to use the state's education clause to force more charters on the state.  This basic holding is, no doubt, reason to celebrate.  It is an enormous victory for those who support traditional public schools--or at least offers a huge sigh of relief.  The opinion, unfortunately, should also make us cry because it continues a troubling pattern of judicial disengagement on the right to education that began in 2005.

We should applaud the decision because it refused to allow policy dictate the outcome:


[E]ven if the plaintiffs had successfully stated a claim under the education clause, the specific relief that they seek would not be available. The education clause provides a right for all the Commonwealth's children to receive an adequate education, not a right to attend charter schools. The education clause provides a right for all the Commonwealth's children to receive an adequate education, not a right to attend charter schools. "[T]he education clause leaves the details of education policymaking to the Governor and the Legislature."

Thus, here, although the remedy the plaintiffs seek by way of this action, i.e., expanding access to charter schools, could potentially help address the plaintiffs' educational needs, other policy choices might do so as well, such as taking steps to improve lower-performing traditional public schools. There may be any number of equally effective options that also could address the plaintiffs' concerns; however, each would involve policy considerations that must be left to the Legislature.

This part of the Court’s decision is exactly in line with my analysis of Vergara v. California.  There, plaintiffs had attempted to use the education clause to argue that teacher tenure was unconstitutional.  The Court ultimately dismissed that case as well for much of the same reasons as the current Massachusetts case.

But this new decision should also make us cry.  Turning away this charter claim does not guarantee that the state will provide adequate educational opportunities to students in the public schools.  And this decision said nothing that would increase the pressure on the state to do so.  The Court wrote:

We agree with the plaintiffs that the education clause imposes an affirmative duty on the Commonwealth to provide a level of education in the public schools for the children there enrolled that qualifies as constitutionally "adequate." However, we conclude that . . . plaintiffs would need to plead facts suggesting not only that they have been deprived of an adequate education but also that the defendants have failed to fulfil their constitutionally prescribed duty to educate. . . .

To allege that the Commonwealth has failed to fulfil its duty to educate, plaintiffs must plead sufficient facts that, accepted as true, demonstrate that the Commonwealth's extant public education plan does not provide reasonable assurance of an opportunity for an adequate education to "all of its children, rich and poor, in every city and town," over a reasonable period of time, or is otherwise "arbitrary, nonresponsive, or irrational."

 I am working on a longer analysis, so stay tuned for an update to this one or a separate one all together.

 --on Twitter @DerekWBlack


April 25, 2018 in Charters and Vouchers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Two Maps of DC Charter Schools Tell It All: DC's Schools Are Separate and Unequal

These maps of Washington DC's schools and neighborhoods from Andre Perry's new piece at The Hechinger Report say it all.  The first map is color coded by wealth.  The darker the blue the wealthier the neighborhood.  The red stars are private schools and the yellow dots are charters.

I drew a line from the top of this diamond to the bottom.  What you see is incredible stark.  Except for one that straddles the line, all the city's charter schools are to the right of that line.  The city's wealthiest families are densely located to the left of the line.  And while there are certainly a number of private schools in the wealthy areas, there are actually more private schools to the right of the line than the left. 

To be clear, there is less land mass to the left.  But notice the dark blue neighborhoods to the far west.  They don't have a single private or charter school in them.  Look at the dark blue neighborhoods in the north, the only private schools there are on the periphery.

What does this tell us?  It tells us that wealthy neighborhoods in DC don't need alternatives to the public school system.  They are more than happy with the public schools.  Only low income students need alternatives.

To put it more bluntly: Charters are for poor kids.  And private schools are not even for wealthy kids when the public schools are good.

To summarize Julia Burdick-Will, school choice is not a privilege.  The real privilege is not even needing to choose a school.


DC 1


The next map swaps family income for race.  It is even more stark and you don't need the red line because the race line speaks for itself.  Light blue shading represents majority white neighborhoods.  The darker blues are majority to predominantly minority.  From this map, charters are only for neighborhoods of color. 

Charter proponents will say these charter schools are a reflection of the fact that public schools are not serving minority students well.  I would second the fact that public schools are not serving minorities well.  But it strikes me as extremely odd that the DC Public School system does not have an trouble serving white and wealthy families.   It is only minority students whom the system struggles to educate.

Rather than demand that DC public schools serve all of its students well, public policy has chopped up the city and turned it into one that is separate and unequal: Good public schools for those who live in majority white neighborhoods and a litany of alternatives to public schools for those who live in majority minority neighborhoods.  The litany of options, however, still don't add up to what kids on the other side of town have.

DC 2

 --on Twitter @DerekWBlack  


April 24, 2018 in Charters and Vouchers, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 23, 2018

Remember the School Resource Officer Who Drug a Girl Across the Floor by Her Neck--South Carolina Is on the Verge of Change the Law That Gave Him Authority

It has been a long road getting here and the state is still not to the finish line yet, but South Carolina appears primed to narrow the circumstances under which school resource officers can act with force against public school students.

In October 2015, a video of law enforcement officer  pulling a student out of her chair by the neck and dragging her across the floor when viral.  It has generated a nearly three-year-long conversation about the efficacy of school resource officers in public schools and the authority they should or should not have.  South Carolina's Disturbing Schools Law current provides that:

It shall be unlawful: (1) for any person willfully or unnecessarily (a) to interfere with or to disturb in any way or in any place the students or teachers of any school or college in this State, (b) to loiter about such school or college premises or (c) to act in an obnoxious manner thereon; or (2) for any person to (a) enter upon any such school or college premises or (b) loiter around the premises, except on business, without the permission of the principal or president in charge.

Officers can also use the state's disorderly conduct law.  The ACLU challenged both statutes as unconstitutional, putting additional pressure on the state to improve its laws.  Since then, the state has been batting around several alternatives, but has yet to pass anything.  The ACLU's recent victory in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals just put even more pressure on the state to act. (Read the full opinion here: Download 2018-03-15 Written order 4th Circuit).

On April 5, the state senate voted 33-8 to approve these changes to the Disturbing Schools Act:

"Section 16-17-420.    (A)    It shall be is unlawful:

(1)    for any person wilfully or unnecessarily (a) to interfere with or to disturb in any way or in any place the students or teachers of any school or college in this State, (b) to loiter about such school or college premises or (c) to act in an obnoxious manner thereon; or

(2)    for any person to (a) enter upon any such school or college premises or (b) loiter around the premises, except on business, without the permission of the principal or president in charge. for a person who is not a student to wilfully interfere with, disrupt, or disturb the normal operations of a school or college in this State by:

(1)    entering upon school or college grounds or property without the permission of the principal or president in charge;

(2)    loitering upon or about school or college grounds or property, after notice is given to vacate the grounds or property and after having reasonable opportunity to vacate;

(3)    initiating a physical assault on, or fighting with, another person on school or college grounds or property;

(4)    being loud or boisterous on school or college grounds or property after instruction by school or college personnel to refrain from the conduct;

(5)    threatening physical harm to a student or a school or college employee while on school or college grounds or property; or

(6)    threatening the use of deadly force on school or college property or involving school or college grounds or property when the person has the present ability, or is reasonably believed to have the present ability, to carry out the threat.

(B)    For the purpose of this subsection, 'person who is not a student' means a person who is not enrolled in, or who is suspended or expelled from, the school or college that the person interferes with, disrupts, or disturbs at the time the interference, disruption, or disturbance occurs.

(B)(C)    Any person violating any of the provisions who violates a provision of this section shall be section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, on upon conviction thereof, shall pay a fine of, must be fined not more than one two thousand dollars or be imprisoned in the county jail for not more than ninety days one year, or both.

(C)    The summary courts are vested with jurisdiction to hear and dispose of cases involving a violation of this section. If the person is a child as defined by Section 63-19-20, jurisdiction must remain vested in the Family Court."

The bill was referred to the state house and now is before its judiciary committee.  The amendment also got a big boost last week from law enforcement.  The Post and Courier reports: 

the director of the state Commission on Prosecution Coordination told legislators that all law enforcement groups support the bill. "This gets us where we need to be. There are outrageous examples of how this law has been abused in the past," said Director David Ross, who represents solicitors statewide. "I wonder how we even let it go for this long." 

The law is far from what I would I would call a complete fix, but it would replace the most vague aspects of the law that prohibit undefined things such as interference, disturbance and obnoxious behavior with more precise prohibitions.

 --on Twitter @DerekWBlack


April 23, 2018 in Discipline | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 20, 2018

As Students' National Walkout Begins, Adults Ought to Have the Humility to Take Them Seriously--Even If They Disagree

Today is the 19th Anniversary of the mass shooting at Columbine High School.  As a continuation of the youth activism following the shooting in Parkland, Florida, students are planning a national walkout today.  According to the organizers, students will be walking out in every state.  Some of the largest walkouts and protests are expected in New York City, Austin, Texas, and Richmond, Virginia.  The more successful the students are the more they will be attacked.  The level of attacks on the students and attempts to belittle their passion was a surprise to me.  So today I will reiterate my thoughts, but this time before the students are criticized:


[Those who criticize the protesters] claim to take the mature high ground with brutal honesty.  [A USA Today oped] argues that kids lack the knowledge and wisdom for us to listen to them.  I think [those taking these positions] could . . . go for a good dose of humility.  And I don't reserve that judgment for them alone.  I pointed it at myself recently and finally admitted that no matter how much wisdom I think I have to offer, real wisdom comes from acknowledging how much we have to learn from a fresh set of eyes--from young people.

Case in point.  When students first began protesting the fact that names like Woodrow Wilson appear on a building at Princeton and William Saunders on a building at UNC, I had my misgivings.  Yes, the students were correct about the history--these individuals have racist legacies--but the details of the buildings matter.  Was the name placed there to honor the racist legacy?  Was it put there because the family actually donated the money for the building?  Was it because of the alum's political fame?  Is there even a continuing message being sent if no one knows who the person is?

I thought the building names should not be conflated with confederate memorials, at least not on a wholesale level.  Confederate memorials tend to come with racist motivations and and continuing symbolism that is distinct from building names.  Notwithstanding the analysis I could offer on that point, I came to realize that I am probably too old to have an opinion on what young people do or do not protest about.  I will probably get it wrong.  It is the youth who push us to see the world anew--more clearly--not purported wise elders.  "Wise elders" should offer perspective, but forceful direction is probably more a hindrance than help. 

In retrospect, we can now see that those protesting students elevated a conversation that would have been missed without them.  They forced a reevaluation of numerous assumptions on main campus.  We owe them thanks.  And we probably owe them deference in the future.

While I agree with the students now protesting gun laws, that is not why I am listening to them.  And I am not encouraging them so as to forward my own agenda.  I tend to think they would demand a much strong set of gun restrictions than I myself would recommend.  I am listening because I have something to learn, not teach.

As I wrote two weeks ago, a student completely reframed the way I thought about these shootings with the simple statement: "We can’t be hunted.”  Were it not for her, I would still be thinking in terms of the normal platitudes.  Clearly, many others still are.

 --on Twitter: Ed Law Prof Blog @DerekWBlack

April 20, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Originalist Account of Education As a Federal Constitutional Right

The final published draft of, The Constitutional Compromise to Guarantee Education, 70 Stanford Law Review 735, is now available.  The abstract offers this summary:

Although the U.S. Supreme Court refused to recognize education as a fundamental right in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, the Court in several other cases has emphasized the possibility that the Constitution might afford some protection for education. New litigation is attempting to fill that void. This litigation comes at a perfect time. Segregation, poverty, and achievement gaps are all rising, while state courts and federal agencies have recently retreated from enforcing educational equity.

New litigation, however, has yet to offer a theory of why the Constitution should protect students’ educational rights, relying instead on the fact that the Court has consistently emphasized the importance of education. Prompting a significant doctrinal shift to protect education will require more than laudatory dicta. It will require a compelling affirmative constitutional theory.

This Article offers that theory. It demonstrates that the Framers of the Fourteenth Amendment specifically intended to guarantee education as a right of state citizenship. This simple concept was obscured by the unusually complex ratification of the Amendment. First, the Amendment required the assent of Confederate states that were no longer part of the Union. Second, Congress expressly indicated that it would not readmit those states to the Union until they ratified the Fourteenth Amendment and rewrote their state constitutions. Third, education was part of the deal: Congress permitted states to retain discretion over education but expected state constitutions to affirmatively guarantee education.

Through this process, education became an implicit right of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Citizenship Clause. As a right of state citizenship and consistent with historical practices and goals, this Article argues that the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits states from partisan and other illegitimate manipulations of educational opportunity.

Download the full article here.

  --on Twitter: Ed Law Prof Blog @DerekWBlack

April 19, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Call for Papers: Constitutional Law in the Classroom


In celebration of its 20th anniversary, the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project (“Project”) is partnering with the American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law (“Journal”) to produce a full-day symposium to called “Constitutional Law in the Classroom,” be held on April 5, 2019 and a corresponding symposium Journal issue. There may also be a digital version of the Journal that would include expanded commentary from practitioners, students, and others.

“Constitutional Law in the Classroom” (both the symposium and the Journal issue) will focus on the intersecting missions of the Project and the Journal: promoting awareness of students’ rights under the U.S. Constitution, and the continuing struggle for social equality and opportunity. The Journal will consider scholarly pieces related to: school funding; educational equity and equality; school choice, including, for example, charter schools and school voucher programs; evolving conceptions of individual liberties in the school context, including equal protection, free speech, search and seizure, and discipline; treatment of immigrant children; Title IX protections for transgender and other youth; and school violence.  Other submissions related to the intersecting missions of the Project and the Journal will be considered as well.

Prospective authors (academics, practitioners, and law students on the Journal staff) should submit a proposal of up to 1,000 words to Maryam Ahranjani ( and Jill Friedman ( by May 1, 2018 for consideration. By May 15, 2018, selected authors will receive an invitation to submit a full paper of 20-40 pages in length. Papers submitted by July 15, 2018 will receive most favorable consideration, although those received by September 1, 2018 will still be considered.  Please note: invitation to submit a full paper is not a guarantee of publication, but editors will work with authors throughout the process to promote the substantial likelihood of inclusion in the Symposium edition.

Continue reading

April 17, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

UK and US Moving Along Parallel Tracks--and Failures--in the School to Prison Pipeline

How school expulsions could be fuelling the rise in youth violence

Brian Moss, Coventry University

Violent behaviour in schools happens everyday and figures suggest bullying is on the increase, too. In a report last year, UNESCO (the United Nations office for educational, scientific and cultural affairs) revealed that school violence affects 246m pupils worldwide, every year.

Such violence is experienced through physical and emotional forms of harassment. And it can negatively impact pupils’ educational success and later employment and health prospects. Significantly, a link between school violence and later criminal justice involvement was noted in the report. Not addressed, however, was the earliest trigger for a child using violence.

Existing research points to different catalysts – such as parental violence, substance use and neglect – in the first 24 months of children’s lives as contributing to their own later violent conduct. The research shows that the peak age for violent behaviour is age six – which has implications for violence prevention and intervention policies.

These findings were recognised by the Stockholm Prize in Criminology for 2017, for their significance in terms of early child development and the possibilities for crime and violence reduction.

The UK picture

Education statistics show a general upward trend in violence in UK classrooms. Physical violence against pupils and staff, and verbal abuse of staff commonly feature.

Schools deal with such violence by excluding a pupil from school – for a fixed period or permanently. And the latest figures show 380,000 children were excluded from schools across the UK in 2016.

NSPCC figures suggest nearly half of children and young people have been bullied at school at some point in their lives. Shutterstock

In England, the Department for Education (DfE) has started a review into exclusions of pupils from schools. This is because recent statistics reveal certain children are being excluded from schools more so than others. This includes children from ethnic backgrounds, those with special needs and those from poorer schools that offer free meals.

Immediate concerns

The review will examine patterns in rates, race, and geographic areas. And it will report before the end of 2018. But while it’s good that exclusion rates are being investigated further, there’s no suggestion a connection will be made in the review, between early years development, school engagement or exclusion, and later life chances. This reflects a fragmented approach to school violence in England.

Bullying is commonplace, and in some schools teachers are harassed and abused on a daily basis. Shutterstock

It was in 2011 that the education standards agency Ofsted last conducted a survey of “nurturing projects”. These were introduced to support school retention among difficult pupils and showed some successful outcomes at that time.

A December 2016 report on youth justice in England and Wales also pointed to children being “unnecessarily dragged” into the legal system. Though a Home Office action plan on alternative solutions to crime didn’t include schools in the report.

Then there is the issue that youth offending data only covers children age ten to 17. This is despite young children already being involved in criminal activities or behaviour. Children under ten, for instance, can be subject to a safety order – a court imposed penalty aimed at stopping children becoming involved in antisocial behaviour.

Another concern is that school exclusion orders can be imposed on children under five – almost 3,100 children under the age of five were excluded in England between 2015 and 2016. By leaving out these statistics, it creates a skewed picture of youth offending in England.

Crime or care in the classroom?

Continue reading

April 17, 2018 in Discipline | Permalink | Comments (0)

National Legal Association Creates Unforgettable Courthouse Experience for Middle and High School Students Across the Country This Month

The Federal Bar Association announces its third annual National Community Outreach Project, reaching out to youth and other communities coast to coast to open the federal judicial system for the public to see. In these times when communities, especially youth, have lost confidence in our judicial system, the FBA’s NCOP seeks to instill confidence in the judicial system in middle and high-school students and other communities by bringing them into the courthouses, meeting with lawyers, observing court proceedings, and talking directly to federal judges.

In recent years, Federal Bar Association chapters participated from coast to coast, spreading the word throughout the country and involving the federal judiciary in districts throughout the nation. This program has made a lasting effect on the communities they serve. The Federal Bar Association’s mission statement includes a commitment to the communities in which their members serve. With events like tours of the federal courts, viewing federal court proceedings, tours of federal agencies and providing citizens with free legal advice, the Federal Bar Association has reached out in a variety of creative ways to fulfill this commitment.

Funded by the Foundation of the Federal Bar Association, the NCOP is back this year, even bigger than last year, undoubtedly with an even bigger impact. Through the NCOP, the FBA is making every April the “National Community Outreach” month. The National Community Outreach Project of 2018 will kick off in April. For more information, please visit:

Chapters and sections in multiple districts across the country have agreed to participate in the third annual National Community Outreach Project.

Media: Laura Orrico Public Relations, LLC will provide anyone interested in covering this with information and the opportunity to interview either Federal Bar Association’s Judicial Ambassador for Civics, Hon. Michael J. Newman, or Federal Bar Association President, Kip Bollin and/or various FBA judges, lawyers, and FBA board members. Contact: Laura Orrico - President of Laura Orrico Public Relations, LLC: (872) 216-3781 or

April 17, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 13, 2018

Philadelphia's Effort to Exercise Minimal Oversight of Charters Draws Lawsuit; State and District Ought to Go Much Further

Philadelphia has taken some baby-steps to reign in charter schools.  Any such step, regardless of its merits, is sure to be met with stiff resistance from the charter industry.  According to local reports, "A nonprofit that supports charter schools filed suit Thursday against the Philadelphia School District, saying the school system’s new policy unfairly and illegally restricts charter-school operations."  It is challenging a policy that it says "will require charters to seek approval from the district for virtually all changes to their curriculum and imposes illegal enrollment caps."   Rather than a “neutral arbiter," the district is trying  “to micromanage their operations,” said Stephen DeMaura, executive director of Excellent Schools PA. He further adds, “we believe the main purpose is to restrict the operations and growth of charter schools, not improve the outcomes of children.”

Lest the average citizen take DeMaura or my word for it, looking at what the Commission actual did is the best thing to do.  The updated policy states:

Charters generally exist for a defined term of five years. During that charter term, changes in regulations, operation, ideology, or business need may cause a charter school to seek a formal amendment. The CSO will work with all charter schools expressing interest in a charter amendment, consistent with this policy, to meet the needs of the charter school and its students. Material charter amendments submitted during the charter term require authorization by SRC resolution and signed agreement. Such authorized or approved amendments become effective once a written amendment to the charter has been duly executed by the School District and the charter school. The CSO shall develop administrative procedures describing the application requirements and evaluation process to be followed in reviewing each type of Material charter amendment request consistent with this policy.

In short, in the normal course of seeking renewal of its charter, a charter school should let the district know of any material amendments to its operating plan.  The district will then evaluate those amendments.  In more everyday terms, the state and the charter have five year contracts.  When those contracts are up, let's talk about any new terms the charter wants to add.  Doesn't sound all that radical, but the devil is always in the detail.  What is a "material" change?  The updated policy says material amendments are:

Changes to charter agreements that fundamentally affect a charter school’s mission, governance, organizational structure, location or facility, educational plan or the CSO’s ability to effectively monitor charter school operations and quality. Material charter amendments include:

1. Enrollment expansion of 10% or fewer of the current maximum authorized enrollment or 100 seats, whichever is less (only qualified applicants as defined by eligibility criteria of this policy may be considered for enrollment expansions under this policy);
2. Change to grade levels served;
3. Significant change to mission, or fundamental change to educational plan;
4. Name change of Renaissance charter schools due to business-need or legal requirement ;
5. Change in building location or addition of new facility due to business-need, unavailability of current facility and/or emergency; and
6. Change in CMO [charter management organization].

Those don't sound that intrusive to me.  I have argued that if charter expansion is to occur consistent with state constitutional obligations, states must exercise--or authorize districts to exercise--far more oversight than this. Relying on basic state constitutional principles, I explain here that:

First, states cannot preference private choice programs over public education. This conclusion flows from the fact that most state constitutions mandate public education as a first-order right for their citizens. Second, choice programs cannot have the practical effect of impeding educational opportunities in public schools. Education clauses in state constitutions obligate states to provide adequate and equitable public schools. Any state policies that deny students those opportunities are unconstitutional. Choice policies that, for instance, reduce public funding for education, stratify opportunities, or intensify segregation fall in that category.

Preventing this problems requires data-driven analysis of funding, enrollments, demographics, and educational opportunity.  Philadelphia might be creeping into the charters' domain more than they have in the past, but they have far more to go.

--on Twitter: Ed Law Prof Blog @DerekWBlack

April 13, 2018 in Charters and Vouchers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Education Protest Broadens Its Wings--This Time It's Revealing Segregation and Inequality

The largest protests of the past month have been over teacher salaries and benefits.  Oklahoma teachers, however, stood tall and highlighted the lack of resources for students as well.  Pictures of worn out text books went viral.  The fact that students were learning from books so old that they previously belonged to the likes of Blake Shelton caught more attention.  But none of them squarely confronted segregation and inequality.  Thus far, they had focused on the fact resources in public education are too low in general.  The truth is that some local communities are wealthy enough that they can shield themselves from states' disinvestment in public education.  The net result of this dynamic is widening inequality.  Wealthy communities can continue to increase resources while poorer ones fall further behind.

Students in DC public schools just went on their own strike (with teachers), highlighting the depths of the effects of segregation and inequality.  Abel McDaniels offers this insightful reporting:

On Wednesday, teachers and students at Anacostia Senior High School in Southeast D.C. walked out to protest the facility’s poor conditions. Teachers said the cafeteria is flooded, no breakfast was served to students, there’s no running water, and bathrooms are broken, so some students were told to use bathrooms in a building three blocks away.
The need for this walkout exemplifies how the district has failed black neighborhoods and their schools. As one student told The Washington Post, “If it was any other school in the District, they would have closed school. That’s unsanitary.”

. . . .

Washington, D.C.’s public school system is just one example of how the impacts of racial segregation in our schools have been ignored. Not long ago, District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) was among the country’s lowest-performing districts. In 2011, just 58 percent of students graduated on time. Over the past decade, district and city leaders began an aggressive effort to improve the schools. The heart of this strategy was revamping the human capital system, and the district put in place new strategies to recruit, retain, train, and compensate teachers and leaders. They overhauled the salary structure to dramatically increase starting and mid-career salaries, and they provided strong financial incentives to high-performing teachers who chose to teach in schools serving low-income students. Today, a high-performing teacher at a high-poverty school in DCPS can earn over $130,000.

The district also implemented high-quality, free, universal pre-school and pre-kindergarten throughout the city. They implemented higher academic standards and embraced an annual test aligned to those standards. And they invested millions of dollars in renovating school facilities. The city also tripled the size of its charter sector (from 13 percent of enrollment in 2001 to 44.5 percent in 2016) and designed a unified system that families could use to enroll their children in both district or charter schools. In the years since, DCPS has seen rapid gains on National Assessment of Education Progress scores, earning it the reputation as the nation’s fastest-improving urban district.

However, as the protests today at Anacostia demonstrate, these reforms haven’t supported improved learning conditions across all district schools, in part because many neighborhoods remain highly segregated by race and socioeconomic status. In 2017, 66 percent of “priority schools”—where all students perform poorly—were concentrated in Wards 7 or 8, where most families are Black and low-income. The other 34 percent are spread across the six remaining wards, so other areas of the city, many of which have seen rapid increases in income and gentrification, do not have concentrations of struggling schools.

. . . .

Two elementary schools in Southeast D.C. show how inequities between district schools that serve white, middle class children, and those that serve low-income, Black students play out. Brent Elementary School is in the increasingly fashionable, gentrifying Eastern Market section of Capitol Hill. Two-thirds of the students there are white, and most students live in the surrounding neighborhood. Brent is a “rising” school: Roughly two-thirds of students performed in the highest levels of the PARCC assessment, which is the standardized test aligned to the Common Core State Standards. In a district where 77 percent of students are low-income, just 10 percent of the kids at Brent are.

Orr Elementary School is two miles away, across the river in the Randle Highlands part of Anacostia. Virtually all of Orr’s students are Black, and they are all low-income. In 2017, Just 13 percent of Orr students met grade-level expectations on the PARCC, and the school building itself is in disrepair. Students have had to deal with crumbling ceilings, outdated ventilation systems, problems with toilets, and vermin infestations—despite DC’s hyped investments in school facitlities. Many Orr students will eventually attend Anacostia Senior High, where the students walked out today in protest of similar conditions.

Read his full article here.

--on Twitter: Ed Law Prof Blog @DerekWBlack

April 12, 2018 in Racial Integration and Diversity, School Funding | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

How Far Will North Carolina Go to Dismantle Integration and Equality in Its Schools?

North Carolina used to be remarkable for achieving the most integrated and stable schools in the nation.  Save a couple of small exceptions, the state ran its school systems on a county-wide basis, which allowed more integrated, less white flight, and more shared interests in support of public education.  This structure alone made North Carolina stand out.  And this structure helped facilitate some of the lowest racial achievement gaps in the nation in places like Raleigh.  

In the last decade, the state legislature has proven bound and determined to undo it all.  First were budget cuts in excess of 20%.  Next was the enormous growth of charters.  Next was the attempt to eliminate teacher tenure.  Next was a voucher program. Next was a change in the appointment process of statewide education officials, with the point being to deprive the new Democratic governor of the authority to begin reversing regressive policies.  

Now the state is aiming at the lynchpin of equality and integration--the county wide school system structure. Without it, the entire education system could disintegrate into a thousand isolated pockets.  See Pennsylvania's 500-plus school districts and 33% funding gap between districts for a glimpse of how disastrous this can be.  

Bloomberg News offer a short summary of what is on the table in North Carolina:

On April 4, a little-known legislative committee met for the fourth time in six weeks in downtown Raleigh, N.C. Although its name is dull and obscure—the Joint Legislative Study Committee on the Division of Local School Administrative Units—its mission is anything but. The committee is the front line of a legislative push, led by statehouse Republicans, to dismantle North Carolina’s big countywide school districts by allowing rich, often white suburbs to secede.

Though it has no law allowing school secession, North Carolina is the latest Southern state looking to resegregate what’s left of the region’s integrated public schools. More than 60 years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling made school racial segregation unconstitutional, school secession has been gaining momentum across the South, with richer areas trying to wall their kids and tax dollars off from big districts in Atlanta; Dallas; Little Rock, Ark.; Baton Rouge, La.; Birmingham, Mobile, and Montgomery in Alabama; and Memphis and Chattanooga in Tennessee.

Erika Wilson's article, The New School Segregation, offers a deeper analysis that explains this type of move within a broader context:

The South has a long and sordid history of resisting school desegregation. Yet after a long and vigorous legal fight, by the mid-1980’s, schools in the South eventually became among the most desegregated in the country. An important but often under appreciated tool that aided in the fight to desegregate schools in the South was the strategic use of school district boundary lines. Many school systems in the South deliberately eschewed drawing school district boundary lines around municipalities, and instead drew them around counties. The resulting county-based system of school districts allowed for the introduction of school assignment plans that crossed racially- and economically-segregated municipal boundary lines.

Affluent and predominantly white suburban municipalities in the South are threatening to reverse this progress. They are doing so by seceding from racially diverse county-based school districts and forming their own predominately white and middle-class school districts. The secessions are grounded in the race-neutral language of localism, or the preference for decentralized governance structures. However, localism in this context is threatening to do what Brown v. Board of Education outlawed: return schools to the days of separate and unequal with the imprimatur of state law.

This Article is the first to examine Southern municipal school district secessions and the localism arguments that their supporters advance to justify them. It argues that localism is being used as a race neutral proxy to create segregated school systems that are immune from legal challenge. It concludes by introducing a normative framework to evaluate the legitimacy of the localism justification for Southern school district secessions specifically, and decentralized public education governance structures more broadly.

--on Twitter: Ed Law Prof Blog @DerekWBlack

April 11, 2018 in Racial Integration and Diversity, School Funding | Permalink | Comments (0)

Higher Education, Bankruptcy, and Teacher Tenure

Matthew Bruckner has put together an interesting three part series on the intersection of bankruptcy and higher education.  His first paper, Bankrupting Higher Education, was published in the American Bankruptcy Law Journal.  He argued:

Many institutions of higher education are struggling financially and would benefit from the use of bankruptcy reorganization tools designed to enable struggling enterprises to restore themselves to a state of financial viability. This essential set of tools for responding to financial distress is available only in bankruptcy reorganizations and Congress has effectively precluded colleges and universities from having access to them. This Article argues that this is a mistake and is premised upon an outdated and unsupported premise. It contributes to the nascent literature on higher education bankruptcy proceedings by examining how differences among the three primary organizational structures of institutions of higher education affect whether and under what circumstances institutions of higher education should be allowed to reorganize through bankruptcy. This Article argues that the profound differences in how colleges are organized greatly affect whether bankruptcy reorganization is appropriate for each type of institution. It concludes that for-profit colleges are most likely to benefit from access to bankruptcy reorganization, public colleges would likely benefit least from having bankruptcy reorganization available, and the myriad far-reaching benefits of granting all institutions of higher education the right to reorganize under the bankruptcy law far outweighs any potential risks.

In his second article, Higher Ed ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ Orders, he explored how concerns over for-profit colleges' questionable practices clouds the issue of whether colleges on the whole should be able to use bankruptcy to reorganize.  In his abstract, he writes

Congress has effectively precluded all institutions of higher education from reorganizing in the bankruptcy courts because it was concerned about exploitative profiteers opening fly-by-night colleges, defrauding students, and then finding refuge there. This choice harms students, employees, creditors and communities. As such, this Article advocates that Congress should reverse its decision and allow colleges to reorganize in bankruptcy. To support this argument, this Article contrasts the bankruptcy treatment of healthcare enterprises to that of higher education enterprises. In doing so, this Article builds on my own prior work and contributes to the literature on higher education bankruptcies.

His newest article goes to an even deeper level of nuance, analyzing how professors' tenure rights would intersect with bankruptcy proceedings.  He offers this summary:

Many institutions of higher education are in dire financial straits and will close, merge, or file for bankruptcy in the near future. This Article considers the effect of bankruptcy laws on the ability of higher education institutions to restructure their workforces and, in particular, the impact that a bankruptcy filing may have on tenured professors. It also addresses how some tenured professors may be able to complicate their employer’s reorganization to their own strategic advantage.


April 11, 2018 in Higher education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Settlement in Flint Lead Case to Launch Groundbreaking Remedies for Students

Greg Little is leading a team of attorneys that is accomplishing something very few have every done before in class action education cases--secure remedies for the actual victims.  The nature of education and the long time that it takes to bring and win a claim most often means that the next generation benefits from the prior generation's sacrifices.  School desegregation and school funding litigation, for instance, have on only the most rare occasions remedied the full harms that the original plaintiffs suffered.  The original victims have graduated and moved on by the time integration or increased funding occur.  The lawsuit in Flint is changing that trend for public school children.  This from the Education Law Center:

DETROIT, April 9 - Attorneys for Flint schoolchildren have reached a historic agreement with the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), Genesee Intermediate School District (GISD) and Flint Community Schools (FCS) to establish an unprecedented program to provide universal screening, and in-depth assessments when necessary, to all Flint children impacted by the Flint water crisis.

The program will leverage the Flint Registry, a population-wide screening platform, and expanded assessment services by the Genesee Health System/Hurley Children’s Hospital Neurodevelopmental Center of Excellence (NCE). The program will be organized and operated under the leadership of Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, Director of the Michigan State University-Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative, and will begin at the start of the 2018-19 school year.

“The children and families of Flint have lived with exposure to lead in their water and with schools unequipped to help students whose learning may be affected by this dangerous neurotoxin,” said Greg Little, Chief Trial Counsel at Education Law Center (ELC). “The program set up in the agreement announced today is a major milestone on the road to addressing the needs of children affected by the Flint water crisis.”

The settlement agreement is a major step in DR, et al. v. MDE, et al., a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of Flint children asserting violations of federal and state special education laws. The settlement will be final after an April 12 court hearing in Detroit, subject to court approval.

The lawsuit challenges systemic deficiencies in Flint’s special education program, including failures to find and serve children with special needs and to address the impact of the water crisis, which potentially put thousands of children at risk of developing a disability or worsening an existing disability. The settlement addresses a major aspect of the special education failures in the Flint schools: the need to identify all students with disabilities and properly evaluate them.

The agreement has several key elements:

  • The state of Michigan will provide more than $4 million to get the program up and running by September 2018. Families of Flint children exposed to elevated lead levels in the Flint drinking water can enroll their children in the Registry, complete a screening, and have their children referred for further assessment by the NCE. The battery of available assessments will include neuropsychological testing, which is important for evaluating the effects of lead on cognitive development, memory and learning.
  • The state, city and school district will provide staff to facilitate and maximize participation in the program and collaboration between the program and the schools.
  • Training and professional development will be provided for administrators, teachers and staff on the availability of the program and how to recognize children potentially harmed by lead who may need to be referred for assessments.
  • Importantly, results of the assessments will be sent to the schools to be used in the process of evaluating students for special education services.

“The settlement is a critical first step in creating a system to identify the needs of the children of Flint,” said Kristin Totten, ACLU of Michigan Education Attorney. “However, the heart of this lawsuit remains, which is ensuring kids with disabilities receive the education guaranteed them by law. As we move forward, we are fully committed to protecting those rights.”

“This is a groundbreaking program, using the most advanced testing available, that represents the first step in an unprecedented solution to an unprecedented crisis,” said Lindsay Heck, an attorney at White & Case. “The partnership created between the medical profession and the schools recognizes that education is the antidote to the crisis that Flint children have endured. In the next phase of the lawsuit we will work to ensure that FCS schools have the resources to provide the children of Flint with the educational opportunities they deserve and to which they are entitled under the law.”

The agreement is a partial settlement of the lawsuit. The attorneys for the Flint parents and children will continue to pursue additional claims, including the provision of appropriate special education services and proper student discipline procedures. 

The legal team representing the students pro bono includes attorneys from the ACLU of Michigan, Education Law Center, and global law firm White & Case LLP. The team is headed by ELC Chief Trial Counsel, Greg Little.

About Education Law Center:

Founded in 1973, Education Law Center (ELC) is a leading voice for public school children and one of the most effective advocates for equal educational opportunity and education justice in the United States. Widely recognized for groundbreaking court rulings on behalf of at-risk students, including New Jersey’s landmark Abbott v. Burke decisions, ELC also promotes education equity through coalition building, litigation support, policy development, communications and action-focused research in the states and at the federal level.

About White & Case LLP:

White & Case is a leading global law firm with lawyers in 43 offices across 30 countries. Among the first US-based law firms to establish a truly global presence, White & Case provides counsel and representation in virtually every area of law that affects cross-border business. White & Case’s clients value both the breadth of its global network and the depth of its US, English and local law capabilities in each of its regions and rely on White & Case for their complex cross-border transactions, as well as their representation in arbitration and litigation proceedings. To learn more about the Firm, our work on behalf of clients, and our global pro bono practice, please take a look at our Services and Global Citizenshippages.

About ACLU of Michigan:

The ACLU of Michigan is a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization that protects the liberties that our Constitution, federal and state laws guarantee everyone. We have offices in Detroit, Lansing, Flint and Grand Rapids.

April 10, 2018 in Special Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 9, 2018

As Teachers Protest Across the Nation, Don't Forget the Court Ordered Deadline for School Funding Increases in Kansas

With the high drama of teacher strikes sweeping the nation, it is easy to forget about the long running and even higher stakes drama in Kansas.  The Kansas Supreme Court has struck down the state's school funding formula so many times in the past few years that I have stopped counting.  That is not critique of the Court.  The Kansas Supreme Court has proven to be one of the bravest in the nation.  It has been forced to deal with a state legislature and governor that simply refuse to comply with their constitutional duty to provide an adequate and equal education to students.  The state has been so obstinate that it has threatened the judiciary itself with funding and appointment changes. 

Many courts would have cowered.  The Kansas Supreme Court went for broke, emphasizing that the state constitution does not bend to the predilections of temporary legislators.  Its most aggressive step was to set deadlines, after which the entire state's school school system would shut down.  The Court reasoned that the current funding formula is so patently unconstitutional that schools cannot continue to operate under it.

The current deadline is April 30, 2018.  The state house and senate have been scrambling to enact a new school funding bill before they leave for spring break.  Things were looking dire for a while.  Legislators were floating amendments to the constitution that would prohibit the court from enforcing it.  That alone was gumming up the process.  But when "[t]wo top Republican legislators in Kansas [finally] dropped a demand that lawmakers move to curb judges' power before increasing spending on public schools," a solution looked like it might be in sight.  

A $500 million increase (phased in over five years) was floated, but the Senate passed a measure that was only half that amount.  Democrats charged that such a small amount was not even close to an amount that would end the standoff between the courts and the legislature.  They were probably right, so the legislature worked over the weekend and passed a $534 million increase over five years.  The Governor has already expressed support and will presumably sign it any moment.

The looming question is whether it is enough.  The school funding study commissioned by the state initially found that schools needed about $2 billion more.  A lot of assumptions are built into that number.  Cheaper estimates suggest that the state needs to increase funding by approximately 1.2 to 1.79 billion dollars.  Either way, $500 billion falls far short.  The state is presumable banking on the fact that the lower number is what plaintiffs had initially requested.  That, of course, was prior to any through examination of the schools' needs.

Stay tuned.  The Kansas school funding battle is one for the ages and will generate any number of important case studies in the long-term.  For now, check out this symposium on Kansas school funding and one of its first papers here by Josh Weishart.

--on Twitter: Ed Law Prof Blog @DerekWBlack

April 9, 2018 in School Funding | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Teacher Strikes Are Symptom of Much Larger Education Concerns

West Virginia teachers recently went on strike to challenge salaries that are among the lowest in the nation and won. Teachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky are attempting the same, with rumblings that more states may follow. But these protests are really just a sign of a much bigger problem—states have been gutting public education on multiple levels for a decade. Public school funding is down dramatically. Voucher and charter funding is up exponentially. And brand new studies reveal that by cutting school spending by as little as 10 percent, states “reduced test scores” and graduation rates.

The biggest cuts to public education began during the Great Recession. Early on, teachers and families accepted that states had to make hard economic choices. But states soon did more than just balance their budgets. They increased funding for charter schools and vouchers at the same time that they were cutting public school funding. Between 2008 and 2012, Florida, for instance, increased voucher funding every year. During that same period, the state cut public school funding by 23%.

States also fundamentally changed how they treat teachers. Wisconsin restricted the influence of teacher unions. At least seven states passed legislation to eliminate teacher tenure. Dozens of other states imposed high-stakes evaluation systems on teachers. New laws required districts to hire, fire, and promote teachers—largely based on statistics. They scared so many teachers away that it eventually created a national shortage.

States have done little since the Recession to repair the damage. By 2012, tax revenues rebounded and are substantially up now. But thirty-one states are still funding education at a lower level than before the recession began. The worst offenders are more than 20% below pre-recession levels. Even states that modestly increased funding in recent years have done very little to help the neediest districts. In Pennsylvania, the poorest districts receive 33 percent less funding than wealthier districts. Some poor districts began the 2015-2016 school year by asking teachers to work for free. By 2016, Erie considered closing its school district permanently.

Had the attacks stopped, communities might have accepted a new normal. But several states threatened to cut deeper into the core of public education. In the last two years, states like Texas, Arizona, and Nevada took steps to permit the “voucherization” of the entire school system. Speaking of a 2017 law, the head of the Florida Charter School Alliance proclaimed, “[m]ore was achieved this year for the charter movement than . . . in a very long time.”

This seemingly limitless degradation of public schools pushed many communities too far. In Texas, families and teachers from across the state descended on the capital to protest a pending voucher bill. They could not accept the state adopting an expansive voucher bill without first addressing the basic necessities of struggling school districts. Before the protests, the voucher bill had sailed through the state senate. After the protests, the bill died in the state house by a vote of 103-44. Similar grassroots movements eventually stopped or stalled voucher and charter bills in other states like Massachusetts, Arizona, and Nevada.

The current teacher uprisings in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and elsewhere are no different. With state revenues consistently increasing, teachers cannot understand why their wages remain stagnant while health care costs go up.

These seemingly disparate states and issues converged in the fight over Betsy DeVos’s nomination for Secretary of Education. She came to symbolize all that has gone wrong in education in recent years. Teachers and parents overwhelmed Senators’ offices with visits and phone calls. With that opposition, the same republican party that had summarily confirmed Obama’s last Secretary of Education could only muster lukewarm support for DeVos. It took the Vice President’s tie breaking vote to put her in office.

DeVos’ slim confirmation should have served as a warning to West Virginia legislators who thought teachers would back down. And both of these events should serve as a warning to other states. The public school resistance is growing, not shrinking.

The vast majority of parents are now making it clear that they do not want to shop for a public school, much less drive their kids across town every day. And neither teachers nor parents want to hear about education cuts or strikes. They just want to trust government to carry out its responsibilities to public education. The problem is that, right now, they can’t.

--on Twitter: Ed Law Prof Blog @DerekWBlack

April 5, 2018 in School Funding, Teachers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Charter School Polls Show Increased Support, But They Are Asking the Wrong Question

Last year, polls of public support for charter schools dropped.  When asked whether they support “the formation of charter schools,” the percentage of people answering yes fell to an all-time low of 52 percent in 2017.  That was a whopping 13 percent lower than the year before.  Some attributed the drop Betsy DeVos's unpopularity and the NAACP's call for a moratorium on charters.  This year's poll, however, shows a 10 point jump.  Support for charters is now at 62 %, basically within the margin of error of the 2016 poll.  So were the 2017 results a polling error, a blip on the radar, or something else?

My opinion is that the polls are asking the wrong question to begin with.  The question is too general and decontextualized.  It is like asking whether Congress should authorize the President to invade Iraq following 9/11.  Most were willing to say yes but only on the assumption that weapons of mass destruction existed.  But far fewer supported authorization to invade regardless of the threat the country posed to US interests.

Do people support the creation of high quality charters that don't increase racial isolation or harm public schools?  Sure, why wouldn't they.  The problem is that data shows us those facts increasingly don't exist.  North Carolina, Minnesota, and New Jersey data reveal very troubling segregation trends.  National studies reveal that the vast majority of charters are no better than public schools and that there are more low performing charters than high performing ones.  Data also shows that communities that need the biggest improvements in education often have the worst charters.

Data also shows that the vast expansion of charters over the past decade closely correlates the the defunding of traditional public schools.  At the same time states were cutting public education budgets by 10 and 20%, they were doubling the enrollment in charters.

Charter policy does not have to be a zero sum game.  In theory, they can coexist with and complement traditional public education.  In practice, they haven't.

The problem with these polls is that they ask a theoretical question to people who haven't been informed of the reality.  

        --photo by Peter Southwood



April 3, 2018 in Charters and Vouchers | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, April 2, 2018

New Report Shows School Funding Gaps Based on Race and Poverty

Ed Trust has released a 2018 update of Funding Gaps.  It finds

  • school districts serving the largest populations of Black, Latino, or American Indian students receive roughly $1,800, or 13 percent, less per student in state and local funding than those serving the fewest students of color. This may seem like an insignificant amount, but it adds up. For a school district with 5,000 students, a gap of $1,800 per student means a shortage of $9 million per year.
  • For school districts serving the largest populations of students from low income families, the gap is smaller but no less significant. Across the country, the U.S. spends approximately 7 percent — or $1,000 — less per pupil on students educated in our nation’s highest poverty districts than those educated in the wealthiest. Again for a school district with 5,000 students, this totals to a $5 million short changing for our students who already have less.

This chart provides an overall snapshot of whether states are making good faith efforts to fund the education needs of low-income students.  Those states in red are those that spend less than necessary to fund the basic education needs of low-income students.


Kirabo Jackson's recent studies, of course, show that these sorts of achievement gaps account for a substantial portion of the achievement gap between students.

April 2, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)