What Jeb Bush’s Group Said About the Nevada Voucher Decision

In the previous post, I pointed out that the Nevada Supreme Court overruled the funding of vouchers.

Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education hailed the same decision as a major step towards educational “freedom,” meaning no more public schools.

Since there is zero evidence that choice produces better education but ample evidence that it intensifies inequity and segregation and destabilizes communities, you can consider the press release either an affirmation of rigid free market ideology or lunacy:


September 29, 2016 Contact: Press Office

Nevada Families One Step Closer to Educational Freedom

Today, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that Education Savings Accounts (ESA) are constitutional. Nevada’s ESA program is the most expansive educational choice program in the nation.

Specifically, the court agreed with the state that the primary constitutional arguments brought by plaintiffs against ESAs are without merit. Although the court ruled against the state on a funding issue, it laid out a clear blueprint for addressing the funding technicality so that the 8,000 parents who have applied for an ESA are able to take advantage of greater educational opportunities for their children.

“The court’s ruling that ESAs are constitutional is a significant victory for Nevada families,’’ said Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd) CEO Patricia Levesque.

“I look forward to Governor Brian Sandoval and the legislature addressing the funding mechanism for the state’s ESA program so that all Nevada parents have the right, as well as the resources, to choose the best education option for their children.”

ExcelinEd filed an amicus brief in the Nevada Supreme Court in support of the state’s position in the Duncan vs. State of Nevada case. The amicus curiae was prepared by Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP.

Learn more about Education Savings Accounts:

Nevada’s Education Savings Account (ESA) legislation, which passed in 2015, provides parents of up to 450,000 eligible students in the state with the funding to select schools, tutors and other approved education services for their children, including necessary therapies for students with disabilities.

Since the first Education Savings Account (ESA) program was introduced in 2011 in Arizona, this policy has been changing education as we know it.

ESAs place state dollars designated for a child’s education into an account that parents can direct in a manner that is best for a child’s unique needs.

Account funds can cover multiple education options, including private school tuition, online education, tutoring and dual enrollment, and unused funds can be saved for future K-12 or higher education costs.

ESAs create an entirely flexible approach to education, where the ultimate goal is maximizing each child’s natural learning abilities.

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Breaking News: Nevada Supreme Court Blocks Funding of Voucher Program

The Nevada Supreme Court blocked the funding of the state’s sweeping voucher program, which would have given money to every student to spend anywhere. Despite the total absence of any evidence for the efficacy of such programs, the Nevada legislature undoubtedly will go back to the drawing board to devise another voucher giveaway that won’t improve education but will divert funding from the state’s underfunded
Unlicensed schools.

The Nevada State a Constitution has explicit prohibition against sending public money to sectarian schools, but that hasn’t stopped the anti-constitutional impulses of the Republican majority.

What part of the Nevada constitution does the legislature not understand?

The Constitution of the state of Nevada clearly states in Article 11:

Sec: 9.  Sectarian instruction prohibited in common schools and university.  No sectarian instruction shall be imparted or tolerated in any school or University that may be established under this Constitution.

Section Ten.  No public money to be used for sectarian purposes.  No public funds of any kind or character whatever, State, County or Municipal, shall be used for sectarian purpose.
[Added in 1880. Proposed and passed by the 1877 legislature; agreed to and passed by the 1879 legislature; and approved and ratified by the people at the 1880 general election. See: Statutes of Nevada 1877, p. 221; Statutes of Nevada 1879, p. 149.]

I was just in Nevada. I was taken aback by the luxurious hotels and promiscuous spending in Las Vegas. An additional 1% sales tax would be a boon to the public schools. But the legislature offers choice instead of resources.

Why won’t the legislature fund the education of the kids in public schools, as the Constitution commands?

Is it because they don’t care about the kids, the kids whose parents clean the hotels and wash dishes in the restaurants?

Or are they protecting the 1% who own the casinos, hotels, and restaurants?

Or they just don’t give a damn about the Nevada state constitution?

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Quick Takes: A Serenade For Paul Ryan

* This one earns House Speaker Paul Ryan a lovely serenade on the world’s tiniest violin.

“I’m tired of divided government. It doesn’t work very well,” Ryan said. “We’re just at loggerheads. We’ve gotten some good things done. But the big things — poverty, the debt crisis, the economy, health care — these things are stuck in divided government…”

Here you go Mr. Speaker:

You see…some of us are old enough to remember that it was Speaker Ryan’s party that brought us things like this just a few years ago:

* Because the Trump campaign has been so prodigious in gleaning conspiracy theories from white supremacist and anti-semitic web sites, I guess this shouldn’t surprise us.

“A new post-debate poll that just came out, the Google poll, has us leading Hillary Clinton by 2 points nationwide,” Trump said, apparently referencing a poll conducted for Independent Journal Review by Google Consumer Surveys that shows him ahead of the Democratic nominee, 45.7 percent to 44 percent.

But, he went on, “And that’s despite the fact that Google search engine was suppressing the bad news about Hillary Clinton.”

The report, an “exclusive” published by the Russian propaganda outlet Sputnik News on Sept. 12, claims that “biased search suggestions” by Google could shift up to 3 million votes in the upcoming election. It was cited by Breitbart News on Sept. 13.

* The Obama administration’s Department of Labor released two new rules today.

The Obama administration announced Thursday two new rules it says will boost working families. Starting next year, federal government contractors must provide paid sick leave to workers, and large companies must report to the government how they pay employees by race and gender.

* Charles Pierce highlights a powerful story about a 102 year-old Clinton supporter.

“I went with my mother when she voted for the first time. She told me I would probably live to see a woman elected President of the United States.” Helen continues, “I have been interested in women’s issues all my life. I began to admire Hillary when both she and my youngest daughter, who are contemporaries, became lawyers for children.” … Each day Helen Graves asks her daughter, Cannan Hyde, “How’s Hillary doing?” Cannan replies, “She’s doing just fine, Mother.” Helen went with her mother to vote for the first time 96 years ago, and will go with her daughter to vote for the first time for a woman, Hillary Clinton, for president of the United States.

Pierce provides this important reminder about maintaining our perspective:

I think we occasionally get distracted from what a big honking deal it would be if the country elected Hillary Rodham Clinton to be its president (and not simply because it would eliminate the possibility of government-by-angry-tweet), or what a big honking deal it would be if this country elected its first woman president to succeed its first African-American president. When so much about American politics is cheap and trivial, this would not be. This would echo through the life of someone like Helen Graves, because there’s enough history there to give it resonance.

* Finally, you just KNEW this stuff would end up in a Clinton campaign ad.

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Universal Pre-K, Open Enrollment, Millennial Parents, and City Living

I live, work, and parent in Washington, D.C. Both of my children attend public schools, just like I did. But unlike me, they attend an “open enrollment” school, one that assigns seats through a random lottery. When I was a kid, this was rare. In my town, more or less everyone attended schools that they were assigned through their neighborhood addresses. This didn’t mean that everyone attended schools near their houses — the city was using busing in an attempt to desegregate the district’s schools—but families’ addresses were the primary variable in deciding who got to go to which schools.

As my wife and I have built our life together, we’ve been navigating a series of long-standing wagers about what a sane, successful, stable middle-class life looks like. More or less simultaneously, we finished our educations, started building our careers, got married, and started a family together. And, of course, we moved to a place with a dynamic labor market that helps raise salaries to levels that should allow us to pay down our student loans and eventually save enough to pay for our kids’ college educations and our own retirement.

It’s been great. No regrets. None.

And yet, the finances of this so-called “success sequence” are much, much more difficult than they used to be. As I put it in a just-published column at The 74 Million,

The economics of being a 20-something (or even a 30-something) today are tougher than they used to be. So working families who are trying to advance professionally, pay down their student loan debts, save for retirement and generally build a stable middle-class life migrate to U.S. cities where incomes are higher and labor markets are dynamic. Trouble is, they’re not alone — they’re in a race with their peers to move to these cities before demand for those economic opportunities drives housing costs sky-high. In other words, these new young urbanites have some of the cultural and educational markers of privilege, but they don’t usually have the income or savings to match. This combination puts them in a position where their familial interests don’t align with those of wealthy, older families who have already secured their places in broadly privileged neighborhoods.

In the column, I argue that these macroeconomic trends have “implications for the future of cities’ zoning, transit, public safety, and open space policies. Why not schools?”

That’s certainly been my family’s experience. Despite playing by all of the rules, working hard, and keeping our heads down, we haven’t been able to afford to purchase a house in a neighborhood with strong schools. So we’ve learned to appreciate D.C.’s large number of open enrollment public schools. We’ve struggled to afford the city’s astronomical child care costs, so we’ve become enthusiastic backers of the city’s universal pre-K program.

We’re not the only young parents struggling with this — though ours isn’t the only story. Last year, at an end-of-summer event, I found myself talking on the edge of a playground with a mother who was new to my kids’ racially-, economically-, ethnically-, and linguistically-integrated school. To my surprise, she was deeply critical of the school — even though her kids hadn’t yet started there. “We’re good liberals. We’re a union house,” she said. “I hate that the teachers here aren’t part of D.C.’s union.”

When I asked her why she’d nonetheless chosen it for her kids, she explained that she and her husband had purchased a home in a much wealthier part of town in order to send her kids to its largely-segregated neighborhood schools. Trouble was, this highly-privileged school didn’t offer public pre-K access for three-year-olds, so they’d decided to take advantage of our school’s program for one year before pulling them out. She then explained that she sees open enrollment schools like ours as a threat to how education should function: “they don’t build community like neighborhood schools.”

I’ve mulled that conversation over a bunch of times since then. I think it illustrates something critical for urban policymakers who want to use their cities’ shifting demographics to support educational equity for all students. This mother’s privilege — especially her economic security — allows her to take advantage of an open enrollment school when it benefits her, but to ultimately re-segregate her children whenever she wants.

That is, she’s not about to change her edu-political views to match the actual strains in her personal life. Nor is she going to inconvenience herself by walking her political/ideological talk. As I put it in the 74 Million column:

In this sense, millennials are no different from any other generation of parents: They might like the idea of justice in theory, but when it comes to their own children, they quickly revert to thinly veiled justifications for protecting their own privileges.

Her response to her situation nicely captures urban ed reformers’ future challenge. Shifting city demographics lay the groundwork for expanding the coalition of parents (and other community members) who care about educational equity. But these shifting patterns are no guarantee of success. The future of education politics belongs to those who can update their thinking to serve these new metropolitans — while also harnessing their energy to support opportunities for all children.

[Cross-posted at Ed Central]

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Congress Does Something Stupid, Blames Obama

This is one of those days when I really wish the American people paied attention to Congress.

Last May, the Senate passed a bill that would allow the families of victims of the 9/11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia. The House passed it on September 9th. We all know that everyone in this country wants to do anything they can to support these families. But all along, President Obama has said why this bill wasn’t a good idea and has been clear that he would veto it.

On the day the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act passed the House, here is how Haroun Demirjian described the President’s concerns:

But bill supporters are bracing for a veto fight with the White House, which argues the bill could harm the United States’ relationship with Saudi Arabia and establish a legal precedent that jeopardizes American officials overseas.

Three days later, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said this in response to a question during his daily briefing about a potential veto.

“The way this bill is currently written exposes the U.S. … to significant risks in courts across the world,” Earnest added, repeating his boss’s rationale for his opposition to the measure. “The President believes that it’s important to look out for our country, our service members and our diplomats and allowing this bill to come into law would increase the risk that they face,” Earnest added.

On September 23rd, when President Obama did, in fact, veto the bill, here is part of what he wrote:

Enactment of JASTA could encourage foreign governments to act reciprocally and allow their domestic courts to exercise jurisdiction over the United States or U.S. officials — including our men and women in uniform — for allegedly causing injuries overseas via U.S. support to third parties. This could lead to suits against the United States or U.S. officials for actions taken by members of an armed group that received U.S. assistance, misuse of U.S. military equipment by foreign forces, or abuses committed by police units that received U.S. training, even if the allegations at issue ultimately would be without merit.

This week Congress acted to over-ride the President’s veto.

And then something happened. Apparently members of Congress must have heard from people in the U.S. diplomatic corp and military on their concerns about how this bill opens them up to lawsuits in their service abroad. All of the sudden, Congress is backtracking and trying to figure out how they can fix the legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday that a new law allowing U.S. victims of terrorism to sue foreign governments may have “unintended ramifications,” despite Congress’s overwhelming vote this week to defy President Barack Obama’s veto of the legislation.

Though Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act was easily overridden, many senators are seeking changes to the law later this year, particularly after gauging any international reaction.

But according to McConnell, the fault doesn’t necessarily lie with members of Congress who jumped on a bandwagon to support a sympathetic group of people during an election year. Nah…its Obama’s fault.

McConnell’s comments echoed complaints from Republicans and Democrats who said the White House did little to engage members of Congress with their concerns.

“Everybody was aware of who the potential beneficiaries were but no one had really focused on the potential downside in terms of our international relationships. And I think it was just a ball dropped,” McConnell said. “I hate to blame everything on him and I don’t, [but] it would have been helpful if we had a discussion about this much earlier than the last week.”

Yeah…so it’s the fault of that “tyrant” in the White House who didn’t do enough hand-holding to stop them from doing something stupid – even though he warned them over and over again. That’s McConnell’s excuse.

If American voters paid any attention to what actually goes on in Congress, this kind of thing would give them a pretty good idea of exactly why that branch of our federal government is such a basket case.

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I’m (Almost) Glad for All That Blatantly Anti-Semitic Hatemail

Over my career as a public commentator, I have always gotten the occasional anti-Semitic email. That was particularly if I wrote about abortion, (rarely) Israel, or some other hot-button issue. When the Journolist scandal broke, I got an especially high volume of hate-mail that focused on my name, appearance, and heritage. Of course I often get rough messages from people who disagree with me in the thrust and parry of presidential politics and the politics of health reform.It wasn’t always pleasant. It comes with the territory.

None of this prepared me for 2016.

I and many others who write for fairly broad audiences are being deluged with antisemitic messages from Trump supporters. They come mostly on Twitter, but on private emails and blogs, too. Many alt-right messages bracket our names like so: (((haroldpollack))), to indicate that we are Jewish. A message from this morning is one of the milder and more printable ones:


I’ve lost count of such missives, and many worse ones. Many include four-letter words and colorful vocabulary that is quite familiar to me from my experience working on public health interventions for high-risk adolescents and adults. I block everyone who sends me these messages. For all I know, there are hundreds more.

Then there was the long rambling email that recently landed in my box, whose highlights include:

….The 1960s feminism were led by jewish Marxists (Betty Freidan, mentally ill Gloria Steinem). Porn and the sexual revolution and anti-American propaganda came directly from the jews in Hollywood and media….

Every single detrimental social movement in the US came from utopian jewish Marxists.

Joe McCarthy and the House Unamerican Committee was absolutely correct. Most of the jewish community should have been shot or imprisoned…


I don’t generally share such missives. Why give hateful and sick people a larger platform? Besides, every commentator with a vaguely Jewish-sounding name is getting the same stuff. This isn’t exactly newsworthy. Yet if you’re not in the public eye, you should know this is going on.

In a strange way, I’m almost–almost–glad that these anti-Semitic messages are out there. They remind many of us on the receiving end of a few basic realities that hang over our contested, pluralist democracy. They should remind us of what many others are facing, who have so very much more to lose if our nation jumps off the political cliff this November.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

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Even Preschool Teachers Can Be Guilty of Racially Stereotyping Black Babies

Perception is a matter of life or death.

Now, a new study from Yale University delivers the news that even black babies suffer the burdens racial stereotyping inflicts.

Preschool educators’ implicit biases contribute to uneven rates of suspension and expulsion disfavoring black children. Meanwhile, black teachers tend to dish out longer punishments.

Related: “They only kill us because of our skin color and our race.”

The Yale study connects the established phenomenon of educators doling our harsher punishments to the research on unconscious biases – ingrained stereotypes and automatic associations of a particular group – and how they lead to discrimination.

Ingrained stereotypes may influence teachers’ treatment of students in school and/or how teachers perceive their role in preventing an imagined baby monster from becoming another “bad dude.”

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, moments before black, unarmed Terence Crutcher was shot and killed by then-officer Betty Shelby, another officer from a circling helicopter hundreds of feet away is heard from an audio recording saying, “That looks like a bad dude, too. Probably on something.”

Shelby has since been booked with first-degree manslaughter. Similarly in Ferguson, Missouri, Darren Wilson told a grand jury in the case of the shooting death of Michael Brown that Brown “looked like a demon.” Experts claimed unconscious racism was involved in both cases.

Teachers aren’t immune to societal influences that install fear of black men into our psyches. Teachers aren’t shooting children, but the consequences of suspension and expulsion in preschool are related to numerous negative educational and life outcomes, which take away a quality life.

The Yale study, which is titled, “Do Early Educators’ Implicit Biases Regarding Sex and Race Relate to Behavior Expectations and Recommendations of Preschool Expulsions and Suspensions?” provides greater insight as to why suspension and expulsion rates are higher for black students. For instance, the U.S. Department of Education has previously reported that black children represented 18 percent of preschool enrollment in 2012, but 48 percent of preschoolers receiving more than one out-of-school suspension. Now, the Yale study reports that black preschoolers are 3.6 times as likely to receive one or more suspensions as their white peers.

Related: Bullied by the badge?

Educators will say that black children exhibit more challenging behaviors. But the research suggests teachers are on the look out for trouble before children of color ever make a wrong move.

Researchers gave the selected educators two tasks. In the first task, participants were told to watch a video in which they’d see students of varying races and both genders exhibit challenging behaviors (but none ever appeared).

For the second task, researchers had participants read a vignette of a challenging preschooler that had a randomized name that suggested the student was a white or black boy or girl. Randomly assigned family background were included on some but not all of the vignettes. The findings revealed the not so hidden biases that are negatively assigned to black children.

On the first task when participants expected negative behaviors, their eyes focused more on black children, and black boys more so. Findings suggest possible differences in biases along racial lines. The presence of the children’s background information lowered perceived severity ratings when the child’s race matched the participants’. However, the severity ratings increased when races did not match.

Related: Set to stun

Black and white teachers were equally likely to suspend or expel a child – apparently it’s universally okay to punish black children. However, “[b]lack participants recommended expelling or suspending children more days than white participants.”

This finding was discouraging but not surprising. I felt reverberations of “it all starts at home” rhetoric, which is prevalent in the black community. By sending a child back home, teachers essentially demand that a parent to do a better job.

Knowing the family background of the child impacted how severe teachers perceived challenging behaviors. White educators who read vignettes that didn’t include family background rated white children’s behavior more severe than black children’s, but when they did have background information black and white children were rated equally. When black teachers didn’t have family background information they rated black children’s behavior as more severe than white children’s behavior, but when black participants had family background information they rated white children’s behavior more severe.

Related: How to talk to black students about the Tulsa shooting

The researchers assert that the differing impacts of background knowledge show that our racial attitudes are absorbed differently according to race. Without family background information researchers theorize that white teachers “hold black preschoolers to a lower behavioral standard, whereas Black teachers hold these Black preschoolers to very high standards,” which explains the dispensing of longer disciplinary periods out of school. Consequently, black students are burdened by both low and high expectations.

The study has its own inherent biases. Participants were recruited from one large annual conference. Education conferences often mirror social arrangements, which may increase the likelihood of selection bias.

The demographics of the teachers selected were representational, but generalizing off of one conference on its face is asking for trouble. In addition, we know from recent killings of unarmed black men at the hands of police, video evidence are interpreted very differently.

Nonetheless, this study confirms what we see being played out in the life courses of black people like unarmed Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma. From the cradle to the grave, black people aren’t given a fair chance at simply being human.

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education.

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