July 8, 2020

Make America Sue Again! Why The CARES Act Ed Funding Lawsuit Matters

This lawsuit over how to disburse the CARES Act funds for schools is refreshing!

When the Trump Administration first announced how it planned to allocate the money – using an approach that favored private schools relative to their usual allocations* in federal policy** – there were immediate calls to just ignore the law and distribute the money differently.

No matter how righteous this may have felt it was, and is, a bad idea.

Anyone with an inkling of understanding of the history of federal policy around equity knows how risky it is for low-income and racial and ethnic minorities when states or schools start deciding to ignore federal rules. This isn’t just Civil Rights-era history, it’s Clinton and Bush-era education history, too. In this particular instance the issue was more or less funding for public schools based on how this money was allocated. Yet the specifics matter less than the underlying principle: It’s not good for equity when school officials and states start ignoring federal laws based on their whims.

Think of it this way. If states and schools were so benevolent and fair minded toward historically marginalized students that we didn’t have to worry about them following these various rules and policies that exist in an effort to further equity then you wouldn’t need the various rules and policies in the first place. And if such a spirit of equity doesn’t flow through all corners of our education system, why the rules exist, then it’s important that these rules be followed or altered through an established process – for instance this lawsuit – rather than arbitrarily.

This is not at all unlike an idea that comes up in free speech debates. In a 1994 essay Henry Louis Gates Jr. pointed out a basic paradox in efforts to put forward governmental restrictions on hate or other undesirable kinds of speech. Basically, if society and the government is benign on issues involving discrimination then you don’t need such restrictions, if it’s not then why would you vest anyone with such power and authority?***

It’s more or less the same thing here, it might not be education policies and laws you don’t like being ignored next time. Sure, in the passions of the moment telling the Trump Administration to pound sand feels good, and might be good politics, but even if you’re convinced of the rightness of your cause in a particular instance it’s a shortsighted way to fight for more equity in education because given the history and context marginalized students will invariably be on the other end of efforts to ignore federal law. You can bet on that – don’t take my word for it just go look at the outcome data.

So, other than lawyers it’s rare that most people are excited to see a lawsuit. But this is a good one because it’s the proper way to resolve this disagreement and in a functioning political system if it can’t be resolved politically then it’s appropriate for the courts to settle the matter and all parties to respect, if not agree, with that resolution.****

*This is one of these weird things where you hear a lot of people saying ‘no public money for private schools!’ all the time, but besides vouchers in some places private schools get a lot of public education dollars for things like Title I, special education, and other programs intended to benefit students. The question is more what dollars and under what terms. The no money / high wall ship sailed a long time ago.

**The Administration responded to some of the criticism in its final policy for the funding but not enough to mollify critics.

***Similar to this debate in education from a few years ago.

****Separate issue for another time, it wouldn’t kill Congress to write laws more specifically and empower agencies with discretion a little less.

(Earlier version of this said “direction” in last line not “discretion” because of an autocorrect error).

July 7, 2020


In the Covid-era webinars are a socially acceptable alternative to work.  Here are a few upcoming ones:

Tomorrow, Weds, check out this back to school webinar from The Line, features BW’s Tresha Ward, 2pm ET.

Then at 3pm ET hop over to PPI’s discussion of remote learning, what worked and didn’t.

And on Monday July 20th at 1pm ET I’m moderating one with Jeb Bush, Carissa Moffat Miller, and John King about equity and accountability. 

June 30, 2020

Where Do Testing and Accountability Go From Here?

My Bellwether colleagues Alex Spurrier, Jenn Schiess, Andy Rotherham, and I released a set of briefs today looking at the past, present, and future of standards-based reform. Those include:

  1. In The Historical Roots and Theory of Change of Modern School Accountability, we review the history and logic behind standards-based reform to recall the foundational goals and rationale for the main strategic levers reformers were trying to pull.
  2. In The Impact of Standards-Based Accountability, we assess the strengths and weaknesses of the ways in which standards-based reform has been operationalized in policy and practice and begin to identify what should be retained and what should evolve.
  3. In Assessment and Accountability in the Wake of COVID-19, we explore what accountability may mean in a global pandemic, as challenges of equity in our education systems are exacerbated and the need to rapidly assess and address those challenges is urgent.

A forthcoming webinar will further explore these topics.

Join us on Monday July 20th for a conversation with Jeb Bush, John B. King, Jr., and Carissa Moffat Miller about how we should measure the impact of education systems on students, particular students of color and low-income students, even as COVID-19 changes schooling dramatically. Register and learn more here.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman 

June 17, 2020

June 16, 2020

Send In The Counselors! Bradford, Brookins, Robinson, Plus What’s In A Charter Word?

Last week I took a look at police in schools and why just showing them the door is not a complete reform – especially if it’s the shell game of bringing in private security instead. Rather, the work is changing how schools think about students and culture and one group who can help with that is counselors.

NBPTS’ Peggy Brookins’ on being a black teacher today.

Derrell Bradford on why “all lives matter” in education means the sector’s long-standing issues still won’t be addressed.

Filmmaker Diane Robinson, who has worked in and around the ed sector for years, on what she thinks it will take to create change.

Stephen Carter on fighting for racial justice and the free exchange of ideas.

Charter schools are getting PPP money! Well not actually the schools but affiliated non-profits The Times reports:

Although they are independently run, they operate as part of local school districts, do not charge tuition and are open to all students, albeit through lotteries. Like traditional public schools, they generally receive per-pupil funding from their districts, and as such, they were eligible to receive a share of billions of dollars in relief that Congress allocated to public education.

But because a vast majority are run by nonprofit companies, they also qualified for the Paycheck Protection Program.

Does that land a little different if it says instead:

“But because many have affiliated non-profit organizations those organizations also qualified for the Paycheck Protection Program.”

It might! But people saying company have a lot of company for obvious reasons.

Posted on Jun 16, 2020 @ 9:21am

June 2, 2020

May 28, 2020

74 Interview With Jeb Bush

Today from The 74:

Jeb Bush was a widely regarded governor of Florida for eight years, is a successful businessman, was a 2016 presidential candidate and remains one of the most influential voices in education more than a decade after leaving office.

Bush now spends his time on advocacy efforts and the nonprofit ExcelinEd, which he founded and chairs. His experience, past and present, places him in a unique position to offer insights and speak hard truths about education in America. That’s why we wanted to hear what he had to say about his observations and advice for ensuring quality learning through the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.

Earlier this month, [Emmeline Zhao and I] sat down with him via videoconference to chat about what governing during hurricanes teaches you about crises like this, why Miami-Dade County Public Schools is succeeding where other districts are struggling, why he wants to see more discussion of successes in education and why he’s fundamentally optimistic about our chances as Americans. Bush, who spoke to us from his home in Florida, also handicaps the 2020 election and offers some quarantine reading recommendations…

Video and full text via this link. 

Posted on May 28, 2020 @ 4:26pm

May 27, 2020

Matt Lewis & The News Podcast

I sat down (virtually) with Matt Lewis to talk Covid and schools and we ended up talking about that, about Biden and charter schools, a little higher ed, and music and why there is no substitute for live music or the inefficiencies of some interactions. Video below and you can get audio podcast here.

May 22, 2020

Reopening, A Reopening Webinar, And A 1080

Some coronavirus and schools reading:

In US News Lauren Camera looks at the issue of non-compliance when schools “reopen” this fall – and who has the choice in the first place. Schools are going to need a plan for how to operate if they physically open, a plan for remote learning if they have to close, and then probably this third plan for robust homebound instruction in places where parents say, thanks, no.

Want to talk more about reopening issues – this webinar next Tuesday with Pepperdine, The Line, AEI & Bellwether  will look at the issue – space is limited.

The 74 has a new vertical on pandemic education coverage. And from 74 here’s a look at a big idea out of Cleveland. Will coronavirus be rocket fuel for competency-based approaches? I asked that and some other questions earlier in the week.

Schools need resources to address coronavirus related issues, and state budgets are going to be a trainwreck, but a fiscal game of chicken over reopening doesn’t seem that productive.

A 1080,