Why do Republicans want to undermine Oregon’s public schools?

publicschoolclassroom

What were they thinking?

Oregon’s traditional brick-and-mortar public school system is under stress and needs support. So what did the Republicans propose coming into the special session that started on June 24?  They wanted to make it easier for students to transfer from their district’s brick-and-mortar public schools to virtual public charter schools, taking State School Fund dollars with them.

Oregon law provides that a school district may deny a parent’s request to shift their child to a virtual public charter school if more than 3% of the students who reside in the district are enrolled in virtual public charter schools not sponsored by the district.

Senate Republican leader Fred Girod (R-Stayton) proposed raising that 3% figure to 8% to allow more students to abandon their district’s schools. “Given this pandemic, people are going to want an alternative, and that alternative is going to be virtual schools,” Girod said.

Not only would this have potentially siphoned millions from already stretched district budgets, but research on virtual charter school performance outcomes across the country generally paints a distressing picture. In other words, Oregon’s traditional public schools clearly have their problems, but the virtual public charter schools are even worse.

The desire of some parents for school choice is understandable, but numerous studies have concluded that full-time virtual charter schools are not the right option for many K-12 students. The fact is many K-12 virtual charter schools are like tribute bands, just a facsimile of real education.

“Current online charter schools may be a good fit for some students, but the evidence suggests that online charters don’t serve very well the relatively atypical set of students that currently attend these schools, much less the general population,” the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University said in a report. “Academic benefits from online charter schools are currently the exception rather than the rule.”

In the same vein, a report from the Colorado-based National Education Policy Center (NEPC) concluded, “There is…little high-quality systematic evidence that the rapid expansion of (virtual charter schools) the past several years is wise. Research has …consistently found that students enrolled in full-time virtual schools have performed at levels well below their face-to-face counterparts.”

A Fordham Institute study of virtual charter schools reached similar conclusions. “Online schools offer an efficient way to diversify—and even democratize—education in a connected world,” the study said. “Yet they have received negative, but well-deserved, attention concerning their poor academic performance, attrition rates, and ill capacity to educate the types of students who enroll in them.”

As most educators and parents learned in the widespread switch to online schooling spurred by COVID-19, it has been a worst-case outcome for most students. “There’s a sense that this has been an unmitigated disaster,” Dana Goldstein, a national correspondent for The New York Times, said in a June 28, 2020 Innovation Hub interview.

A recently published study published in Educational Researcher examined the effects of attending a virtual charter school on student outcomes. “We find the impact of attending a virtual charter on student achievement is uniformly and profoundly negative,” the authors wrote in a Brookings article.

The study authors concluded that “virtual charter schools are ill-equipped to take on a more prominent role” in light of the COVID-19 crisis. “Based on their dismal track record, policymakers should instead focus on greater oversight and accountability for these schools. Perhaps the worst policy response during the COVID-19 crisis is to promote these schools…”

Thankfully, Girod’s proposal didn’t go forward as a bill in the special session. It would be a shame if it rears its ugly head again.

Further reading:

Oregon’s Public Virtual Charter Schools Don’t Compute

COVID-19 and student learning in the United States: The hurt could last a lifetime

Too Many Schools Leave Learning to Chance During the Pandemic

Oregon Connections Academy: Still a Virtual Calamity

Alternative Schooling in Oregon: Is the Cure Worse than the Disease?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is State School Fund money being misused by some Oregon virtual public charter schools?

virtualschoolpic

If an Oregon child attends a regular brick-and-mortar public school or the school’s online program, parents cover any outside extra-curricular expenses. But if a child attends an Oregon virtual public charter school there’s a chance parents will get a kick-back of up to $2,000 per year for personal use.

That’s not right.

Virtual public charter schools don’t collect tuition from their students. Instead, the schools are supported by money diverted from the state’s traditional brick-and-mortar public schools. The Oregon Department of Education distributes State School Fund money to each school district that sponsors a charter school; the district keeps a portion and passes on the rest to the charter school.

Oregon law provides that a sponsoring district must pass on to its charter school at least 80 percent of its per-pupil grant for K-8 students and 95 percent of its per pupil grant for grade 9-12 students.

Marcola SD 79J in Lane County, for example, sponsors the virtual public charter school, Teach-NW. The State School Fund gave the district $2,348,684.27 for the 2018-2019 school year to support the sponsorship and the district passed on most of that money to Teach-NW.

But Teach-NW didn’t spend all the money.

Instead, the school set aside $2000 per student for “allotments” which parents were allowed to spend in support of their child’s education. A family with three children at Teach-NW, for example, got access to extra allotments totaling $6,000 each year.

According to Teach-NW, “Allotments can be used to cover academic materials such as textbooks, school supplies, curriculum materials, approved instructional programs (i.e. music, dance), enrichment experiences, educational subscriptions, educational fees, tutoring services, some athletics fees and equipment, field trips, and internet expenses as approved by the student’s Educational Facilitator (assigned teacher).” Families can access the money through a debit card or request reimbursements from the school.”

Some parents say the $2,000 allotments are a key factor in enrolling their children at Teach-NW. Other parents deny the allotments are a factor in enrollment decisions. But as satirist and cultural critic H. L. Mencken put it, “When somebody says it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.”

The practical effect of this arrangement is that parents who choose to send their children to Teach-NW, rather than their local brick-and-mortar public school or their school district’s online program, get a substantial extra financial package. And it’s all paid for with taxpayer dollars.

That’s wrong.

Bolton’s Blather: The decline and fall of political biographies

boltontrump

When Dean Acheson wrote “Present at the Creation,”  a memoir of his years at the State Department, he was hailed as “probably the most consequential American diplomat of the twentieth century” and his book was applauded as  “…a must-read book not only for historians, but also for anyone interested in national policy, diplomacy, or military strategy.”

“As Truman’s Secretary of State from 1949 to 1953, he became the primary spokesman for America’s leadership in the world and for the creation of the post-World War II international system that exists today, a reviewer wrote in Foreign Policy.  “Present at the Creation is an insightful, absorbing and even occasionally humorous insider’s guide to how that system was created.”

Compare that with the reception of “The Room Where It Happened,” a memoir by John Bolton, who spent 453 days as President Trump’s national-security adviser. “John Bolton’s Epic Score-Settling – a scathing account of the President’s ‘stunning ignorance,’ incompetence, and corruption,” announced the New Yorker. “Bolton Spills the Beans,” declared the Dispatch. “John Bolton Dumps His Notes and Smites His Enemies,” wrote the New York Times.

How times have changed.

Bolton was apparently appalled by what he observed, but not appalled enough to go public with his concerns and resign in disgust. And certainly not appalled enough to forego a lucrative book advance.

Instead of offering readers a sweeping perspective of momentous occurrences, too many of the Trump books are just hatchet jobs, spiteful tell-alls written by peevish, self-aggrandizing, hangers-on. And too often they commit the cardinal sin of not even being well written.

 “The book is bloated with self-importance, even though what it mostly recounts is Bolton not being able to accomplish very much,” Jennifer Szalai wrote of Bolton’s book in the New York Times. “It toggles between two discordant registers: exceedingly tedious and slightly unhinged….(The account) has been written with so little discernible attention to style and narrative form that he apparently presumes an audience that is hanging on his every word.”

A librarian noted last year that she had found no less than 51 books about the Trump presidency, excluding self-published works, if you start counting with The Truth About Trump in May 2016.

Former press secretary Sean Spicer wrote just one Trump book, The Briefing: Politics, the Press, and the President. Cory Lewandowsi, Ann Coulter, Newt Gingrich, and David Cay Johnston have each written two Trump books.

“Eventually, perhaps there will be nothing more to say about the President’s competence or lack thereof,” the librarian said. “At that point, it’s unclear what will happen to this ballooning literary phenomenon. A bubble bust situation seems possible.”

And unlike Present at the Creation, most of the Trump screeds will likely be soon forgotten. Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House by Omarosa Manigault-Newman is surely one of those, as is Full Disclosure by Stormy Daniels and Michal Avenatti.

That will also likely be the fate of many Trump books still to come, including one by Trump’s niece, Mary L. Trump. Her book, “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man,” is set to come out on July 28.

This book is being pitched as a revealing missive that, according to Amazon, “shines a bright light on the dark history of their family in order to explain how her uncle became the man who now threatens the world’s health, economic security, and social fabric.”

I can’t wait.

I suppose the next book after Mary Trump’s will be “Life with me and mine,” by Arabella Rose Kushner. Put your order in now.

When a COVID-19 vaccine is found, give it to me first.

karenzimmerman

Karen Zimmerman

Karen Zimmerman, 74, died on April 14, 2020 at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Corvallis. Two of her four children were by her side.

Bobby Rutledge, 77, died April 1, 2020; Robert Rykken, 83, died May 8, 2020; Merle and Delores Tofte, 87 & 85, died March 16, 2020.

All Oregonians, all died from COVID-19, all older adults.

They fit a pattern.

People 65 years old or older account for 80% of COVID-19-related deaths in the United States to date, according to the CDC.  It’s not just their age that’s relevant. Older people are more likely have underlying health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, lung conditions, diabetes and cancer. These complications, not just age, dictate the mortality of older adults.

The mortality of COVID-19 patients is just 0.3% for patients in their 40s, according to research by Imperial College London published in Lancet Infectious Diseases. Mortality rose to 1.25% of those in their 50s,  4% of those in their 60s, 8.6%, of those in their 70s and 13.4% of patients 80 and older.

“These early estimates give an indication of the fatality ratio across the spectrum of COVID-19 disease and show a strong age gradient in risk of death,” the research concluded.

Not only are older adults more at risk, but as treatments have improved fewer young people are dying. In late March, Americans over age 75 made up about half of all weekly deaths while Americans under 45 made up between 4-5%, according to the CDC. People over 75 now make up about two-thirds of deaths while those younger than 45 make up less than 2%.

Covidagechart

With these kinds of numbers, it only makes sense that when a successful vaccine is developed it shouldn’t be given away willy-nilly or first come-first served. It should be given first to those most at risk, older adults. I’m 76, so that includes me and my older folks cohort. Right?

So many demands: Seattle’s CHAZ agenda

CHAZ

Think the people holding hostage the six-blocks of Seattle known as CHAZ (Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone) are just a ragtag bunch of activists putting on a street festival with no real agenda except a vague push for social justice?

Not so.

They’ve created a website and, like everybody with a gripe these days, they’ve posted on it a 1354-word “list of demands” by The Collective Black Voices at Free Capitol Hill.

They’ve got a lot of demands, at least 35 by my count. They include:

  • Eliminate 100% of the funding for the Seattle Police Department and the attached criminal justice apparatus and abolish both.
  • Redirect all the former Police Department and criminal justice money to: free public housing; public education to decrease class size and increase teacher salaries; naturalization services for undocumented immigrants; general community development.
  • Defund all Seattle Police employee pensions.
  • Disallow the operations ICE in Seattle.
  • In the period between now and the dismantlement of the police department, ban any use of armed force, including guns, batons, riot shields and chemical weapons.
  • Abolish youth jails and an under-construction juvenile detention center.
  • Provide reparations to victims of police brutality.
  • Retry all People of color currently serving a prison sentence for violent crime by a jury of their peers
  • Decriminalize all acts of protest; give amnesty to all protesters generally.
  • Release any prisoner currently serving time for a marijuana-related offense and expunge the conviction.
  • Give all prisoners currently serving time the full and unrestricted right to vote.
  • Abolish all imprisonment.
  • Empty the Seattle Police Department’s “Lost and Found” and return the items to citizens.
  • De-gentrify Seattle.
  • impose rent controls
  • Restore city funding for arts and culture. Americans to protest.
  • Provide free college to the people of Washington.
  • Prohibit the Seattle Police from performing homeless sweeps.
  • Require that hospitals and care facilities in Seattle employ black doctors to help care for black patients.
  • Give significantly greater focus to the history of Black and Native Americans in Washington State’s education curriculum.
  • Require that anti-bias training be a legal requirement for all jobs in education, medicine and the mass media.
  • Remove all monuments to historical figures of the Confederacy in Seattle and the State of Washington.

They even demand that “the people of Seattle seek out and proudly support Black-owned businesses.”

A section of the website titled “Commentary from International comrades” has not attracted much reaction either, though “K. Tulin” from Leningrad says, “You must attract new people from all over America, but for this you must have an idea of the future that will appeal to most Americans. You must read the works of Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx and Lenin!”

It’s not clear whether the CHAZ participants are finding the time to do the recommended reading.

As extreme as some of the demands may appear, Charlie Warzel, an Opinion writer at large for the New York Times, argues that large scale public support for Black Lives Matter activism wasn’t evident for a long time either. “And yet, there conversations didn’t disappear off the internet when they left the front pages,” he wrote recently. “They continued, despite portrayals to discredit the movement as a violent fringe and specious claims that ‘systemic racism is a myth’ perpetuated by the media and so-called social justice warriors.”

Calls to “Defund the Police,” in particular, need to be recognized as real “calls for a complete remaining of what they see as a corrupt, broken system,” Warzel argues.

Ironically, some Republicans in Congress are arguing that budgetary burdens imposed on states because of Covid-19 and the social unrest accompanying Black Lives Matter protests justify more, not less, funding of police in states. “In the wake of everything that’s happened with George Floyd’s murder, we can’t afford not to have EMTs, we can’t afford to not have police  officers on the street,” said Rep. John Katko (R-NY).

It’s hard to tell what the CHAZ site’s occupiers or the general public really think about all these demands because the principal media don’t ask. They should.

 

 

 

Heading down a perilous path: New York Times journalists vs. Sen. Tom Cotton

UPDATE: Sunday, June 7, 2020: JOURNALISM’S RETREAT –

James Bennet, editor of The New York Times’ editorial page, resigned today in the aftermath to the furor over publication of a controversial opinion piece by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR). Bennet’s resignation was announced by the Times’ publisher, A.G. Sulzberger. Bennet initially defended the piece’s publication, saying ” It would undermine the integrity and independence of The New York Times if we only published views that editors like me agreed with, and it would betray what I think of as our fundamental purpose — not to tell you what to think, but to help you think for yourself.” Sulzberger, had also initially defended the column’s publication.

Bari Weiss, a staff editor and columnist for the opinion pages of the Times, described the whole dispute as a “civil war”. “The civil war inside The New York Times between the (mostly young) wokes (and) the (mostly 40+) liberals is the same one raging inside other publications and companies across the country,” she tweeted.

“The dynamic is always the same,” Weiss added. “The Old Guard lives by a set of principles we can broadly call civil libertarianism. They assumed they shared that worldview with the young people they hired who called themselves liberals and progressives. But it was an incorrect assumption. The New Guard has a different worldview, one articulated best by @JonHaidt and @glukianoffThey call it “safetyism,” in which the right of people to feel emotionally and psychologically safe trumps what were previously considered core liberal values, like free speech.”

Weiss’ tweets set off a deluge of responses, some supportive, some critical:

#MeToo Barbie, MD
Um…pretty sure the “safetyism” that Black people want is physical safety. You know, since they keep getting shot by the cops. It’s fragile white people who are demanding emotional safety from having to confront their own racism.
John Barton
1/ Call it “safetyism” if you wish, but they’re seeking safety from arguments that run counter to their preferred narratives, which are a mix or leftist/progressive/intersectional views. I think “coercive leftism” is a more accurate label.

 

@Jyrkface

 

OF COURSE, @bariweiss sees people criticizing the NYT for pushing the idea that protesters should be shot, and considers the criticism an attack on the first amendment

@kbk3n3

 

Safetyism is actually just an excuse to control and manipulate people instead of growing up and dealing with opinions different from their own.

 

______________________________

 

 

 

“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.”
Salman Rushdie

freespeech

“Running this puts black @nytimes writers, editors and other staff in danger,” New York Times opinion columnist Roxane Gay tweeted.

The “this” Gay was referring to was an op-ed written by Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas that appeared in the Times on June 3, 2020. Running under the headline, “Send in the Troops,” Cotton argued that federal troops were needed to stamp out “anarchy” caused by the protests sweeping the United States that recalled “the widespread violence of the 1960s.”

“Some elites have excused this orgy of violence in the spirit of radical chic, calling it an understandable response to the wrongful death of George Floyd,” Cotton wrote. “Those excuses are built on a revolting moral equivalence of rioters and looters to peaceful, law-abiding protesters…The pace of looting and disorder may fluctuate from night to night, but it’s past time to support local law enforcement with federal authority.”

tomcotton

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR)

Gay wasn’t the only Times journalist to decry the paper’s publication of Cotton’s Op-Ed. Multiple other staff retweeted her message, with some adding comments.

“As a black woman, as a journalist, as an American, I am deeply ashamed that we ran this,” tweeted Nicole Hannah-Jones, creator of “The 1619 Project,”  a New York Times Magazine effort that aims to reframe America’s history by focusing on the consequences of slavery.

“Running this puts Black @nytimes staff in danger and it’s fucking dumb as shit. I stand with my colleagues,” tweeted Times reporter Kyle Buchanan.

Then, like a thundering herd, as though they’d signed a loyalty oath to lazy thinking and the progressive branch of American politics, more than 800 New York Times staff members signed a letter protesting publication of Cotton’s  Op-Ed, according to a story in the paper.

The whole affair is reminiscent of when Bari Weiss, a staff editor and columnist for the opinion pages of the New York Times, found herself at the center of a social media feeding frenzy for sending a positive but carelessly worded tweet.  The furor was described in a 2018 Quillette article by Jamie Palmer, “Fundamentalists vs The New York Times.”

The News Guild of New York, a news professionals union, jumped into the fray, too. “Though we understand the Op-Ed desk’s responsibility to publish a diverse array of opinions, we find the publication of this essay to be an irresponsible choice,” the Guild said in a statement.  “Its lack of context, inadequate vetting by editorial management, spread of misinformation, and the timing of its call to arms gravely undermine the work we do every day.”

Even the Times’ Public Editor, Gabriel Snyder, piled on. “The problem with this idea of the Times as an open forum for views of all stripes — no matter how abhorrent — is that by opening the door to all “operative opinion” (as a member of the Opinion section described it to me a couple of years ago), the Times becomes a platform for those who are hostile to its core values and at direct odds with the New York Times Company mission to “seek the truth and help people understand the world,”  Snyder wrote.

Initially, editorial page editor James Bennet strongly defended the paper’s publication of the senator’s opinion piece. “We published Cotton’s argument in part because we’ve committed to Times readers to provide a debate on important questions like this,” he wrote in the paper’s Opinion Today newsletter. ” It would undermine the integrity and independence of The New York Times if we only published views that editors like me agreed with, and it would betray what I think of as our fundamental purpose — not to tell you what to think, but to help you think for yourself.”

Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger also defended publication of Cotton’s piece. “I believe in the principle of openness to a range of opinions, even those we may disagree with, and this piece was published in that spirit,” he wrote in an email to the staff. “But it’s essential that we listen to and reflect on the concerns we’re hearing, as we would with any piece that is the subject of significant criticism. I will do so with an open mind.”

2018 New York Times Dealbook

New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger

Then the paper’s leaders put their tails between their legs and caved to the internal criticism.

During a virtual town hall with the paper’s staff, Sulzberger changed his tune, saying Cotton’s piece was “contemptuous” and “should not have been published.”

Bennet even bowed to the hurt feelings claims of some of the paper’s staff,  “I just want to begin by saying I’m very sorry, I’m sorry for the pain that this particular piece has caused,” he said.

Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy added that the paper would, as a result of the dust-up, reduce the number of Op-Eds we publish.”  She blamed a “rushed editorial process…that did not meet our standards” for the piece’s publication, adding, “As a result, we’re planning to examine both short-term and long-term changes, to include expanding our fact-checking operation and reducing the number of Op-Eds we publish.”

Now that’s a healthy response to controversy, cut back on publishing citizen opinions on the news of the day.

As a former newspaper reporter, I have to ask, is this what things have come to at one of America’s most influential newspapers? Woke reporters essentially arguing that opinions that offend them or cause them hurt feelings should not be published. Fragile reporters insisting that they be safe from uncomfortable ideas, that free speech endangers them. Public Editors, of all people, arguing that outside opinion writers need to be stifled if their perspective differs from the standard liberal view.

Going down this road is a perilous trip.

Sulzberger and Bennet took the appropriate stance at the outset. It’s far better to give exposure to controversial views and let the public debate them.

In the past, the paper has made a point of taking a strong stand on encouraging public debate on controversial issues.

“The purpose of the Op. Ed. page is neither to reinforce nor to counterbalance The Times’s own editorial position,” an introduction to the paper’s opinion pages stated 50 years ago. “The objective is rather to afford greater opportunity for exploration of issues and presentation of new insights and new ideas by writers and thinkers who have no institutional connection with The Times and whose views will very frequently be completely divergent from our own.”

The purpose of the Op-Ed page is “to create an environment of collegial combat among different points of view dealing with consequential questions.,” the introduction said. “…articles are are meant to push readers into considering points of view just outside their comfort zone.”

So much for adhering to these lofty principles today.

 

The Oregon Employment Department fiasco: Gov. Brown needs to look in the mirror.

brokenmirror

In blasting the bungling at the Oregon Employment Department, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown needs to look in the mirror.

The fact is the Oregon Employment Department has been a dysfunctional mess for years under three Democratic administrations.

On May 31, 2020, Brown fired Kay Erickson, Director of the Employment Department, after an uproar over delayed payment of unemployment benefits to thousands of struggling Oregonians.

“In the middle of this pandemic, the continued delays from the Oregon Employment Department in delivering unemployment insurance benefits to thousands of out-of-work Oregonians are unacceptable,” Brown said in a statement.

Brown neglected to point out that it was she who named Erikson Director in Aug. 2016, effusively praising her at the time as “an innovative and collaborative leader.”

She also failed to point out that in January 2016 she had also fired the previous director, Lisa Nisenfeld, who had been appointed in September 2013 by another Democratic governor, John Kitzhaber.

Nisenfeld had also taken over a dysfunctional agency that had lost the trust of the Legislature and wasted money on problematic software projects.

In November 2013, The Oregonian reported the Employment Department poured nearly $7 million into development of a failed software project before scrapping the project altogether.

A July 2013 state assessment of the Employment Department had uncovered distrust, dysfunction and “warring factions” led by the agency’s top deputies, as well as multiple failures in the department’s IT department.

“The Information Technology department of the Oregon Employment Department (OED) is in need of leadership, governance, priority setting, methodology, contract administration, and appropriate HR practices,” the assessment said.

The 2013 assessment also lambasted IT governance. “When the (2008-2009) recession hit, multiple projects were added to the IT workload, senior managers left with poor hand off and no continuity with regard to IT sponsorship work,” it said. “These projects were not prioritized and IT was left relatively unsupported.”

Then there’s the fact Oregon received $85.6 million in one-time modernization funds from the U.S. Department of Labor way back in 2009, when Democrat Ted Kulongoski was governor.

The upgrade was supposed to solve problems associated with the use of computers that were running systems dating back to the Reagan administration and earlier. Although subsequent audits have warned that the Employment Department remained woefully unprepared for a spike in jobless claims, most of that federal money remains unspent.

Brown has been governor since February 2015. It’s time to stop blaming everybody but herself and fellow Democratic governors for the fiasco at the Employment Department.