While Statehouses Try to Legislate Against Teaching about Racism, Educators and Historians Fight to Protect Students from Censorship

Right now I am in the middle of reading and enjoying Louise Erdrich’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Night Watchman. What makes this book so fascinating for me is that it is about the Turtle Mountain Chippewa of North Dakota, people who are related to the Chippewa and Cree people who live on the Rocky Boys Indian Reservation just outside the Montana town where I grew up.

Erdrich’s novel explores the American Indian cultures along the Canadian border and the injustices of what has been called “the termination and relocation era” in the mid-twentieth century. In 1953, Congress considered a joint resolution to terminate the historic treaties negotiated by the federal government with the indigenous people across the nation. Politically, Congress promoted the termination resolution as though it would be a ticket to freedom for the residents of North Dakota’s Turtle Mountain Reservation and other native people, but the goal instead was to force them to disperse, relocate and assimilate. Erdrich depicts the grassroots battle mounted—successfully—by tribal leaders to protect their people’s rights, their culture, and the tribal property. In her book, Erdrich also examines the exploitation of Chippewa women who had relocated from the reservation to the Twin Cities without the protection of their traditional community.

Reading this book and exploring the truth of the injustices thrust on American Indian communities in the mid-twentieth century is not a shock to me because I have been aware of some of this history for a long time. A good friend from the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota had already taught me about the construction of the Garrison Dam on the Missouri River, a dam that flooded many of the native communities and, in 1953 and 1954, displaced the low-lying towns in Fort Berthold—forcing them to relocate to higher ground.

Like a lot of students who went through high school in the 1960s in northern Montana, and I’m sure, North Dakota and Minnesota, I didn’t learn much of this history at school. I am, however, fascinated to read about it as an adult. The far-right politicians and promoters of laws to prevent the teaching of such history at school now allege that as a white teenager, I would have felt guilty or demeaned—with my self esteem damaged—if I had been encouraged to learn this history at school. But I don’t believe it. Erdrich’s book interests me particularly because the novel explains so much about what I observed and couldn’t possibly understand as I was growing up.

When teachers help students honestly explore the injustices in American history, far-right hate-mongers accuse teachers of teaching something they call “critical race theory.”  Despite the need for schools honestly to teach history, today far-right state legislators are introducing laws to ban such teaching as unpatriotic and threatening to the self esteem of young people who are part of the dominant culture. Parents are mounting campaigns to get teachers fired if they openly discuss “threatening” topics like racial injustice with their students.

Although critical race theory is an academic concept developed in colleges of law to uncover, name, and deconstruct structural and institutional racism, far right ideologues have intentionally distorted the meaning. The Washington Post‘s Laura Meckler and Josh Dawsey report that, for example, Christopher Rufo, a 36-year-old documentary filmmaker and media opportunist wrote on Twitter that his goal—talking with Tucker Carlson on Fox News, for example—has been to conflate any number of topics into what he called “a new bucket” called critical race theory.

Last week strong pushback emerged to defend teachers’ right to explore and honestly discuss our nation’s history with our children in public schools. For the Washington Post, Hannah Natanson reports: “Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, warned in a speech Tuesday that conservative lawmakers, pundits and news sites are waging a ‘culture campaign’ against critical race theory.  The theory is a decades-old academic framework that asserts racism is woven into the history and thus the present of the nation, helping shape how institutions and systems function…. Weingarten said that critical race theory is not taught in U.S. elementary, middle and high schools. The theory is taught only in law school and in college…. ‘But culture warriors are labeling any discussion of race, racism or discrimination as critical race theory to try to make it toxic… They are bullying teachers and trying to stop us from teaching students accurate history.’… Weingarten said that the American Federation of Teachers, which has about 1.7 million members, has ‘a legal-defense fund’ ready to go.'”

Then on Friday, 135 prominent academic and educational organizations released a  Joint Statement on Legislative Efforts to Restrict Education about Racism and American History to confront a right-wing conservative attack on the accurate teaching of American history: “We, the undersigned associations and organizations, state our firm opposition to a spate of legislative proposals being introduced across the country that target academic lessons, presentations, and discussions of racism and related issues in American history in schools, colleges and universities. These efforts have taken varied shape in at least 20 states, but often the legislation aims to prohibit or impede the teaching and education of students concerning what are termed ‘divisive concepts.’ These divisive concepts as defined in numerous bills are a litany of vague and indefinite buzzwords and phrases including, for example, ‘that any individual should feel or be made to feel discomfort… guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological or emotional distress on account of that individual’s race or sex.’ These legislative efforts are deeply troubling for numerous reasons.”

The statement continues: ” First, these bills risk infringing on the right of faculty to teach and of students to learn. The clear goal of these efforts is to suppress teaching and learning about the role of racism in the history of the United States. Purportedly, any examination of racism in this country’s classrooms might cause some students ‘discomfort’ because it is an uncomfortable and complicated subject. But the ideal of informed citizenship necessitates an educated public.  Educators must provide an accurate view of the past in order to better prepare students for community participation and robust civic engagement. Suppressing or watering down discussion of ‘divisive concepts’ in educational institutions deprives students of opportunities to discuss and foster solutions to social division and injustice. Legislation cannot erase ‘concepts’ or history; it can, however, diminish educators’ ability to help students address facts in an honest and open environment capable of nourishing intellectual exploration.”

“Second, these legislative efforts seek to substitute political mandates for the considered judgment of professional educators, hindering students’ ability to learn and engage in critical thinking across differences and disagreements… Politicians in a democratic society should not manipulate public school curricula to advance partisan or ideological aims… Knowledge of the past exists to serve the needs of the living. In the current context this includes an honest reckoning with all aspects of that past. Americans of all ages deserve nothing less than a free and open exchange about history and the forces that shape our world today.”

This blog previously explored the attack on teaching about systemic racism here.

An Open Letter to President Elect Biden’s Department of Education Transition Team

I encourage you, as members of President Elect Biden’s Department of Education Transition Team, to recommend the appointment of Randi Weingarten or Lily Eskelsen Garcia as our next Secretary of Education. I believe that one of these women would provide the kind of leadership in public education policy that our nation and our children desperately need.

Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, and Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the outgoing President of the National Education Association, have provided extraordinary leadership of efforts by the nation’s teachers significantly to change the long narrative of standardized test-based accountability as the primary driver of federal education policy. They are both public school educators who would turn away from Betsy DeVos’s obsession with vouchers. I believe their leadership helped shape the priorities embodied in the education plan President Elect Biden released during the campaign, an agenda designed to expand opportunity within the public schools serving our nation’s most vulnerable students. Biden’s plan, if implemented, will enhance educational equity and improve children’s experiences at school.

Here are three reasons either Eskelsen Garcia or Weingarten is the right choice to lead the U.S. Department of Education.

First:     We all watched the Red4Ed strikes and walkouts during 2018 and 2019—walkouts that taught America about the devastation of state public school budgets over the decade that followed the 2008 Great Recession. Teachers on strike showed us how Tea Party tax cuts across many states had further decimated state education budgets and how states had then sent away more education dollars to a growing charter school sector and to vouchers for private school tuition.  From West Virginia to Kentucky to Colorado to Oklahoma to Arizona to Los Angeles to Oakland and Chicago, teachers cried out for essentials their public schools could no longer afford—class size smaller than 37 or 40 students; enough counselors, social workers, school psychologists, school nurses and certified librarians; fairer teachers’ salaries to enable teachers in some places even to afford the rent on a one bedroom apartment in the communities where they are teaching; salaries to keep teachers in some states from quitting and moving to other states where salaries are higher; and salaries that would make young people interested in becoming teachers at a time when colleges and universities report fewer and fewer students willing to pursue teaching as a career. In some right-to-work states, the national teachers unions supported spontaneous statewide walkouts by non-unionized teachers, and in strikes launched by NEA and AFT local affiliates, Eskelsen Garcia and Weingarten walked with their teachers.

Second:     All this year I have watched these two women provide a level of policy leadership I have not seen for a long time. It began with the the best planned and best executed event I have ever attended—the Public Education Candidates Forum last December in Pittsburgh. It was clear who had envisioned this meeting which brought together seven of the Democratic candidates for President with 1,500 people from NEA, AFT, the Schott Foundation, SEIU, NAACP, the Journey for Justice Alliance, the Alliance for Educational Justice, the Network for Public Education, VOTO Latino, and the Center for Popular Democracy.  When I think of the diversity in that room—the questions that came from Chicago teachers and parents grieving about the Renaissance 2010 shutdown of their neighborhood schools, and comments from children in Newark who wondered why they do not have school music programs, I still have an emotional reaction. I found myself sitting between a 30 year special education teacher from the Navajo Nation and Derek Black, the constitutional law professor who just published School House Burning. That day, seven Democratic presidential candidates were pressed to commit to strategies to improve our public schools. None of the seven candidates dared to promote standardized test-and-punish; nobody promoted the expansion of charter schools. There was a lot of talk about expanding Title I and fully funding 40 percent of the IDEA. The fact that the meeting was teacher-driven was palpable.

Third:     Throughout this summer and until Congress gave up at the end of October, the NEA and the AFT have relentlessly advocated for a second COVID-19 relief HEROES Act. A second relief bill was never enacted, but Weingarten and Eskelsen Garcia kept the focus on those Senate Republicans who refused to consider helping out state governments that provide over 40 percent of all public school funding. These women kept on reminding America that Congress was failing to support public schools during COVID-19, a time when schools were being pressured to reopen or were forced to operate online without adequate guidance or support.  Eskelsen Garcia and Weingarten have consistently outlined what will be the years-long repercussions for the the public schools that serve our children.

While people like Michelle Rhee say that teachers unions work for the needs of adults instead of children, Michelle Rhee is wrong.  Weingarten and Eskelsen Garcia have persistently pressed the Democratic Party to choose a candidate with a pro-public school plan, which is also an emphatically pro-child agenda.  Weingarten spent the entire month of October on a cross country bus tour meeting with schoolteachers and promoting Biden’s election and his pro-public schools plan.

I live in Ohio, which has fallen head-over-heals behind Betsy DeVos’s dream of vouchers for all, and which, for the two previous decades, also embraced education policy dominated by technocratic, neoliberal, test-and–punish, outcomes-driven education reform.  In Ohio, worrying about standardized test score outcomes instead of investment in the public schools has left us with a poorly regulated charter school sector and at least 5 different kinds of vouchers, along with state school report cards that drive segregation and educational redlining; autocratic state takeovers in Youngstown, Lorain and East Cleveland; and the third-grade guarantee. This month our legislature is considering a new school funding formula because 503 districts out of Ohio’s 610 school districts are capped or have fallen into hold-harmless guarantees. But our legislators are honest about the shortage of funding: the new plan will be a blueprint to be phased in over 6 years if the legislature can, in upcoming legislative sessions, find the money to pay for the full phase in.

We need a U.S. Secretary of Education who will lead us away from DeVos’s drive to extract dollars out of public schools for vouchers for private and religious schools. Just as important, we need an education secretary and who will not take us back to the Obama-Duncan agenda—to another Race to the Top competition, to the further expansion of charter schools, to evaluation of teachers by their students’ standardized test scores, to the idea of school closure as a turnaround plan, and all the rest.

Thank you for serving on the Department of Education Transition Team.  I hope you will recommend to President Elect Biden that he appoint Lily Eskelsen Garcia or Randi Weingarten as our next U.S. Secretary of Education. These women are fully prepared to promote and implement President Elect Biden’s plan to close opportunity gaps across our nation’s public schools.

DeVos Locks Out Teachers Demanding that Education Department Address Inequity, Protect Civil Rights

Last week Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Secretary of Education, marked her first year in office with a news conference where she announced that her greatest accomplishment has been diminishing the role of her department.

For the Washington Post, Moriah Balingit reports: “Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proclaimed Wednesday that her proudest accomplishments in her first year in office were shrinking he role of the agency, rolling back Obama-era initiatives and erasing outdated regulations… She rolled back key regulations and guidance documents intended to protect transgender students, student borrowers and victims of sexual assault in the name of reining in a department whose role she believes had grown too large.  She used budget cuts and buyouts to reduce the size of the agency.  ‘Some of the most important work we’ve done in this first year has been around the area of overreach and rolling back the extended footprint of this department to a significant extent,’ DeVos said… She is a rarity among education secretaries, having never worked in public schools before her appointment.”

Worse, last Thursday, DeVos locked the doors of the U.S. Department of Education and left Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association (NEA) and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), along with teachers and parent activists, standing on the sidewalk outside. Eskelsen Garcia, Weingarten and a group of pro-public schools activists had tried to make an appointment personally to deliver 80,000 report cards rating DeVos’s accomplishments this year as a failure.

The report cards were created by a coalition of education, civil rights, community organizing, religious and labor organizations—The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools. The Alliance released its report card in conjunction with a strong statement about DeVos’s failure to implement the Department of Education’s defined mission to rectify economic and racial justice in the nation’s 90,000 K-12 public schools. School teachers and school support professionals in public schools around the country had added personal comments on the 80,000 report cards Eskelsen Garcia and Weingarten attempted to deliver. Together NEA and AFT represent the majority of the nation’s more than 3 million public school teachers.

By rejecting a meeting with leaders of the nation’s school teachers and other public school supporters, DeVos lost the opportunity to listen to the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools’ substantive critique: “To assess the Secretary’s leadership, we reviewed the U.S. Department of Education’s mission and purpose statements and identified four specific roles in public K12 education on which to review her work…

  • “Supplementing state and local resources for schools and districts, particularly those serving low-income students and students of color…
  • “Ensuring access and equity in public schools for all students…
  • “Protecting students’ civil rights…
  • “Promoting evidence-based strategies for school improvement.”

The Alliance explains: “We give Education Secretary Betsy DeVos an “F” for failing to pursue the mission of the U.S. Department of Education.” “In each area, it is clear that the Secretary, far from leading the agency to fulfill its mission, is taking us in exactly the opposite direction. This is not based on incompetence, but on a fundamental disdain for the historic role of the federal government in ensuring access and equity to public education for all children.”

The Alliance’s most serious charge is the Department’s failure to fulfill the mission of Title I and the Department’s Office for Civil Rights: “(A)cross the country, we continue to invest more in schools serving white children than in schools serving African American and Latino children. And as the number of students living in poverty has risen in the U.S., state and local funding for public education has decreased in the past decade, deepening the gap between the haves and the have-nots. Two critical and historic roles of the U.S. Department of Education are to address these disparities, and protect students from discrimination in their educational experience. But over the past year, our Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos has deliberately refused to fulfill this mandate.”

Last week Politico‘s Kimberly Hefling and Caitlin Emma reported that Betsy DeVos has been taking lessons from the prominent “Republican messaging expert” Frank Luntz—“to figure out how to talk about conservative educational policies without sparking protests from teachers and liberals.”  Hefling and Emma report that a notation appeared on DeVos’s calendar last June: “Frank has a 60-slide deck of the words to use, and the words to lose, regarding parental choice, vouchers, charter schools, teacher pay and all the other issues in education reform.”  According to  Politico, DeVos wants to avoid explicit mentions of school choice and instead talk about “coming together and finding solutions’ with words like “innovation” and “blended learning.”

Politico‘s reporters describe recent speeches in which DeVos uses softer language: “The new message was… on display during a January speech at the American Enterprise Institute, when she said her job is not to be the country’s  ‘choice chief.’  Rather, she said it was time to ask questions, such as  ‘Why do we group students by age?’ and ‘Why do students have to go to a school building in the first place?’  ‘We must answer these questions… We must acknowledge what is and what is not working for students.'”

Hefling and Emma continue: “DeVos herself described her focus on ‘rethinking school’ and innovation as a ‘broadening of the message’ during a roundtable with reporters Wednesday.  And expanding school choice options is one way to shake up education, she said. ‘We have to keep changing and getting better at doing school for kids, and helping kids learn in the way they’re wired up to learn,’ she said.  ‘We have far too many places and way too many examples of doing things repeatedly and continuing to double down on doing something the same way and expecting different results.'”

If DeVos wanted seriously to engage such issues, she would have responded to the questions for which NEA’s Lily Eskelsen Garcia has been demanding answers as the condition for setting up a conversation with the head of the National Education Association.  You’d think she might also have politely received Weingarten, Eskelsen Garcia, and their group of pro-public schools advocates when they tried to make an appointment to talk with her on Friday about the Alliance’s serious critique.

That DeVos locked the building to avoid meeting with Randi Weingarten and Lily Eskelsen Garcia last Thursday sends a perfectly clear message that cannot be obscured by Frank Luntz’s fuzzy linguistic framing. Betsy DeVos considers the nation’s teachers unions her enemies.

That’s too bad because, while Betsy DeVos herself has never worked in a public school, the NEA and the AFT represent the millions of professionals who are devoting their lives to that very endeavor. They might have some things to teach our inexperienced U.S. Secretary of Education.

Troubling Stories That Broke During Holidays about Education in Denver and D.C.

The holidays are a busy time.  It is easy to miss important news, and it is also a good time for unsavory news to be released quietly.  Here are two tidbits you may have missed in the past week.

DENVER—According to the Denver Post and Denver’s ABC Channel 7 News, on Christmas Eve, a judge in Colorado ruled that the Douglas County School District (Denver, Aurora, Boulder) violated campaign laws when white papers were commissioned to praise the school board’s conservative, so called “corporate school reform” practices in the lead up to the November school board election.

Rick Hess, education policy staffer at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), was hired to “‘research, create and publicize’ a white paper that would describe the district’s reforms, explain what made them unique, and ‘describe some of the advantages of the model.'”  Hess and AEI were paid $30,000—half from the school district’s public funds and the other $15,000 from the Douglas County School District Foundation, a 501(C)(3).  The school district circulated Hess’s paper to 85,000 subscribers.  According to Channel 7 News, “The final report uses superlatives like, ‘unusually ambitious,’ ‘remarkable,’ ‘bold,’ ‘illuminating’ and ‘cage-busting leaders,’ to describe the reform agenda.”

The judge also found against the school district for inducing the Douglas County School District Foundation to pay former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett $50,000 to produce another report “that was an endorsement for the District’s reform agenda and was intended to influence the outcome of the Board election.”  The Denver Post  reports that all four of the candidates supporting the “school reform” agenda (endorsed in the Hess and Bennett papers) were elected.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—On Monday, December 23, the District of Columbia Public Schools announced that 44 teachers last year received faulty teacher evaluations due to an error by Mathematica Policy Group, the contractor calculating the value-added contributions of teachers according to their students’ test scores.  Nick Anderson, the Washington Post‘s reporter, explains: “The value-added calculations are complex.  The first step is to estimate how a teacher’s students are likely to perform on the citywide D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System, based on past test results and other information.  Then the predicted classroom average is compared to the actual classroom average.  The difference is what school officials call the value that a teacher adds.”

According to Anderson, half of the teachers were rated too high and half too low.  The school district will retroactively raise the scores of the teachers whose scores were too low, and it will rehire the one teacher who was fired due to the mistaken rating.

Valerie Strauss, the Washington Post columnist who also reported this story, quoted Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teacher whose affiliate, the Washington Teachers Union represents teachers in Washington, D.C.: “It is very troubling when the district continues to reduce everything about students, educators and schools to a nameless, faceless algorithm and test score.”

Strauss reports that  Washington, D.C.’s  IMPACT evaluation system, introduced by Michelle Rhee in 2009, used students’ test scores for 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation until this year when the current chancellor, Kaya Henderson, reduced the weight of students’ test scores to “at least” 35 percent.

Strauss comments: “Testing experts have long warned that using test scores to evaluate teachers is a bad idea, and that these formulas are subject to error, but such evaluation has become a central part of modern school reform.  In the District, the evaluation of adults in the school system by test scores included everybody in a school building; until this year, that even included custodians.”

What the International PISA Scores Really Mean

Today with much hoopla and angst, the international PISA scores were released.

You will notice, if you read Lindsey Layton’s article in the Washington Post, that Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who had declared today “PISA Day,” used the test-score release as an occasion to push for widespread support for the new Common Core Standards that his No Child Left Behind waivers applications are strongly recommending that states adopt.  The Common Core has become controversial because of the rush to institute the accompanying curriculum which has not been adequately piloted and because of worries about how schools can possibly implement the standardized tests that accompany the Common Core, tests that must be administered on-line.

What can we conclude from the performance of U.S. 15-year-olds on PISA?  First the scores remained flat; they did not fall.

Second, now that a generation of students have been educated under our national testing law, No Child Left Behind (NCLB ), we can agree with Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, who sensibly points out that NCLB has failed to increase overall achievement and close achievement gaps.  Weingarten is quoted in the Washington Post: “While the intentions may have been good, a decade of top-down, test-based schooling created by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top—focused on hyper-testing students, sanctioning teachers and closing schools—has failed to improve the quality of American public education.”

As Americans, we tend to respond instinctively to fear-mongering when we lose a competition. Sports metaphors dominate our news, and we hate being losers.  The worry being promoted about PISA scores is that we’ll lose out in the world economy if our children aren’t able to win the PISA competition.  Of course we need to improve our public schools, particularly the schools serving children educated in communities where poverty is concentrated, but we need to do this for moral and civic reasons, not because of international competitions.  The American Federation of Teachers released a first-rate little youtube video that clearly explains the reasons why many of our adolescents do not score well on PISA.  The video also suggests several important steps we can take to increase opportunity.

This is an old, old subject.  Stanford University education professor Linda Darling-Hammond addressed it directly in 2010 in her nearly 350 page book, The Flat World and Education.  Darling-Hammond exhaustively demonstrates that our education crisis is not a national crisis affecting all 50 million students in America’s public schools. It is instead a problem of equity.  Our society generously funds schools for wealthy children in exclusive suburbs, and the scores of those children demonstrate their parents’ as well as our collective investment.  However, we fail to invest in the things that matter in the schools that serve our poorest children.  One cause of this inequality is our persistent reliance on local property taxes to fund public education.  Here is exactly how Darling -Hammond describes the problem in The Flat World and Education:

“International studies continue to confirm that the U.S. educational system is also one of the most unequal in terms of inputs.  In contrast to European and Asian nations that fund schools centrally and equally, the wealthiest school districts in the United States spend nearly 10 times more than the poorest, and spending ratios of 3 to 1 are common within states.  These disparities reinforce the wide inequalities in income among families, with the greatest resources being spent on children from the wealthiest communities and the fewest on the children of the poor, especially in high-minority communities.  This creates huge inequalities in educational outcomes that ultimately weaken the very fabric of our nation.” (p. 12)

“These disparities have come to appear inevitable in the United States; however they are not the norm in developed nations around the world, which fund their educational systems centrally and equally, with additional resources often going to the schools where students’ needs are greatest.” (p. 8)

“One wonders what we might accomplish as a nation if we could finally set aside what appears to be our de facto commitment to inequality, so profoundly at odds with our rhetoric of equity, and put the millions of dollars spent continually arguing and litigating into building a high-quality education system for all children.” (p. 164)

I hope we value our children in America for more than their mere potential to boost U.S. global economic competitiveness.  Every child should have an opportunity to fulfill her or his promise.  Clearly, as indicated by the PISA scores of our wealthiest children, we do know how to educate children in America.  What our society lacks, however, is the political will to do what we know how to do.  How have we lost sight of our moral and civic responsibility to educate all our children?  Maybe getting over our anxiety attack about U.S. global competitiveness would let us concentrate on the job at hand.

Trouble for Public Education in the Industrial Heartland

The end of June brought action across the states that will affect public education for millions of children. Here are reports from three states in the industrial heartland where children’s right to quality education remains seriously threatened: Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

In Pennsylvania the state has slashed funding for the School District of Philadelphia, forcing massive school closures and the elimination of 3,859 teachers, aides, administrators and other staff; libraries, the arts, nurses, aides, assistant principals, counselors—all gone. Daniel Denvir continues to report the catastrophe in Philadelphia for the Philadelphia City Paper. Here is Corbett to Philly: Fix Your Own Schools. Last week Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers and education historian and reformer Diane Ravitch wrote a letter asking Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, to intervene to avert catastrophe in Philadelphia. I urge you to read the letter in which teachers describe what cuts will mean for particular schools and the children they serve. Cuts to the School District of Philadelphia will have a disparate impact with poor students of color most seriously denied opportunity.

The Akron Beacon Journal reports Ohio Budget Rewards Low Performing Charter Schools. While this piece reports only on funding for Ohio’s charter schools and skips the subject of cuts to public schools that serve the majority of Ohio’s children, remember that funds for charters in Ohio remove funding from traditional public schools. Here the Beacon Journal describes the influence of David Brennan, owner of White Hat Management (a Charter Management Organization), Ohio’s most significant investor in political contributions to legislators.

One bright spot: Education Justice at the Education Law Center reports Michigan Court Rules Children Have the Right to Education. On June 27, a Michigan Circuit Court ruled that the state’s constitution guarantees the children of the Highland Park School District the right to an education and rejected a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the ACLU protesting the Highland Park emergency manager’s hiring of the Leona Group (a Charter Management Organization) to run the school district without the emergency manager’s having taken steps to provide for the basic literacy of the children. According to the Education Justice Newsletter:

” ACLU-MI filed the case in July 2012, on behalf of Highland Park’s students, many of whom are years behind in reading and writing. At the heart of the lawsuit is a Michigan law that requires districts to provide additional “special assistance” to students who are not performing at grade level on fourth- and seventh-grade tests. The assistance must be “reasonably expected … to bring reading skills to grade level within 12 months.”

Plaintiffs are seeking a court order for immediate remedy by the state, including research-based methods of instruction, highly trained educators and administrators, new educational materials and textbooks, a clean and safe learning environment, and implementation of a process for monitoring progress. ACLU’s Moss asserts that the state, district and for-profit charter company have no program to systematically deliver the mandated reading assistance.

ACLU’s lawsuit in Highland Park is urgently important as a brake on Michigan’s emergency manager legislation that abrogates democracy by permitting the state to seize power from local school boards and appoint emergency financial managers who can over-ride labor agreements, fire entire teaching staffs, and hire private firms to run local school districts without public oversight. The citizens of Michigan overturned the “emergency manager law” in a referendum last November, but Governor Snyder and the Michigan legislature responded by passing a new emergency manager law that is supposedly referendum-proof.