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…
May 28, 2020
May 27, 2020
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
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.
May 21, 2020
Annie Glenn, wife of John Glenn, passed away earlier this week. Her husband was an American icon but she, too, was formidable in her own right and a passionate advocate on speech disorder issues. I asked someone who knew her to reflect on her and that aspect of her work.
Here’s former Glenn aide and White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry on Annie Glenn:
Annie Glenn was profoundly original, always aware of her connections to a “great hero,” but not ever wanting to claim that title herself, though she deserved it. She and her husband were remarkable partners, and I tell my wife to this day that we want to be like John and Annie Glenn.
One short story: After the 1984 presidential campaign which did not end well for Senator Glenn, I was still on the staff and we were going to fly back to Ohio from the old National Airport to shore up support for the Senator’s re-election (which he easily won, of course).
We sat in the Senator’s Beech Baron for what to me seemed like a long time, and I finally said “Shouldn’t we get going?” Annie turned back from the co-pilot seat and said, “John is doing his checklist.” Which he was. And so was she since she was a qualified pilot as well. She could have flown that plane as well as John Glenn. I actually remember that at some point he told Annie to take the controls so he could relax and chat with those of us in the back.
He was not the greatest of politicians, but he and Annie were wonderful human beings.
And by the time of the 1984 campaign, she was good at public speaking and did public events that were remarkable. She would say: “Sometimes I have difficulty with my words, but I hope you hear me out.” With humility and grace always. Her advocacy for those with speech impediments was always genuine and heartfelt.
I remember that she came out to a John Kerry event in Ohio during the 2004 campaign with the Senator and Kerry embraced her so warmly and gave the Senator a proper “bro” embrace. But she was the star.
I hope their College of Public Affairs at Ohio State University gets a big infusion of love and support in memory of a truly lovely person.
Mike McCurry is of counsel at PSW, where he provides counsel on communications strategies and management to corporate and nonprofit clients. He is also a Distinguished Professor and Director of the Center for Public Theology at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., concentrating on the intersections of faith, politics and public affairs.
May 18, 2020
Considering how little we still know about coronavirus, it’s striking how much certainty there is about different aspects of the crisis playing out in real time in front of us. The education world is no exception, where, despite a generally haphazard response, a surprising certitude about what will work or not work, or happen or not happen, pervades. And whether it’s ed tech boosters or teachers union leaders — surprise! — everyone’s take seems to line up with their priors from before the novel coronavirus struck, even as the situation seems to call for radical pragmatism.
The districts and charter school networks that are responding the best seem to have just one thing in common — a can-do spirit. Working with stakeholders in different parts of the country has made me certain only about the uncertainty. The impact in a few months or a few years still seems to hinge on collective action and policymakers’ decisions. But there will be an impact.
Here are 10 questions I’m watching…
Not a a cliffhanger, you can see all ten here at 74.
Over at TeacherPensions.org, I updated the latest figures on school district spending. The long-term trends continue: employee benefit costs continue to eat up a larger and larger share of school district budgets.
I also took a look at more recent trends. From 2008 to 2018, here’s how much school districts increased their spending on various categories in real, per pupil terms:
Total spending: +7.3 percent
Total salaries and wages: +1.2 percent
Employee benefits: +28.9 percent
Instructional salaries and wages: -0.03 percent
All these trends are pre-COVID-19 and are likely to accelerate in the coming years.
While benefit costs were the fastest-rising category of spending, schools also spent more on student supports (up 18.7 percent in real terms), general administration (up 7.7 percent), and school administration (up 9.3 percent).
To be clear, increased benefit spending has not led to benefit improvements. Most of these cost increases are due to paying down pension debts or changes in accounting rules on retiree health benefits. Teachers should be concerned that rising educational expenditures have not led to a meaningful boost in teacher salaries.
–Guest post by Chad Aldeman
May 14, 2020
Will college students be more or less likely to pursue a career in teaching in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic? I can think of arguments either way, and it’s far too early to know for sure, but past recessions have pushed students away from teaching. Here’s my takeaway from a 2015 paper looking at how college students react to economic cycles:
The paper looks at the college majors of students who turned age 20 between 1960 and 2011. Then, it linked the students’ decisions with data on macroeconomic trends to examine how business cycles affect student choices. Of the 38 majors included in the study, education was the biggest loser. When recessions hit, both men and women were less likely to want to become teachers and instead turned to fields like accounting and engineering. In number terms, the researchers estimate that, “each percentage point increase in the unemployment rate…decreases the share of women choosing Early and Elementary Education by a little more than 6 percent.” (For men it was even higher.)
It’s possible that this time will be different. For one, the health implications of the novel coronavirus may force college students to make a different calculation than normal. Or, the suddenness of this recession may affect how quickly students can react or alter their prior plans. But from the financial aspect alone, we should expect fewer students to pursue teaching over the next few years than would have otherwise.
–Guest post by Chad Aldeman
At The 74 Emmeline Zhao and I are interviewing people around the sector, scroll down for Shavar Jeffries and Arne Duncan. Today, Margaret Spellings:
Margaret Spellings has been a senior aide at the White House, a college president, and Secretary of Education for President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2009. She’s been in the middle of crises, from 9/11 to the mass shooting at Virginia Tech and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Though not a Texan by birth, Spellings is certainly one by temperament and commitment. Now leading Texas 2036, a data-driven policy effort pegged to the state’s bicentennial, her work and life have been upended by coronavirus.
We talked with Spellings about coronavirus and best- and worst-case scenarios, what businesses should do to help schools, her advice for U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and most importantly in the Lone Star State, will there be high school football in the fall?
May 5, 2020
There is some interesting stuff in this new NEA poll of parents, but it’s an online poll and they asked parents about how much access to technology is an issue for them. Good news! Just 6 percent said it was.It’s an online poll…c’mon…Across the country millions of kids are not being served because of issues with device access, internet access, or both. We have to do better…
Talking out of turn. Destroying classroom materials. Disrespecting teachers. Blurting out answers during tests. Students pushing, kicking, hitting one another and even rolling on the ground. This is what happens in my school every single day.
You may think I’m joking, but I swear I’m not.
Based on my peers’ behavior, you might guess that I’m in second or fourth grade. But I’m actually about to enter high school in New York City, and, during my three years of middle school, these sorts of disruptions occurred repeatedly in any given 42-minute class period.
That’s why I’m in favor of the distance learning the New York City school system instituted when the coronavirus pandemic hit.
Emmeline Zhao and I sat down with Shavar Jeffries to talk about coronavirus and education politics and the federal response. He also shares his backstory. Video and text.
In the May Education Leadership Dan Willingham and I take a look at education’s research problem. Does our pre-Covid lede, augmented with a parenthetical, hold up?
Most people know the basic story of handwashing in medicine: Infections in medical facilities were a seemingly intractable problem until, starting in the 19th century, iconoclastic doctors used data to show that washing hands (and instruments) reduced infections and saved lives. Yet whether from stubbornness, politics among practitioners, or genuine disbelief that washing made a difference, there was plenty of resistance before basic steps to prevent infections took hold. Today, however, routine steps to prevent infection are commonplace. For instance, when you visit a doctor’s office or emergency room, you’ll see sanitizer by the door (even more so now in the midst of the coronavirus crisis).
In education, though, we still don’t “wash our hands.” Instead, we too often alternatively ignore, belittle, or weaponize scientific findings relevant to education, depending on personal or institutional preferences. We don’t, in the education sector, do enough to support a culture or politics that prizes empiricism and learning—including learning about which education practices work best and what empirical data indicates about which practices are most effective.
If you are into things like threshold of certainty and the tension between values and science, you might like it.
Via an education task force AEI put together here’s a blueprint for reopening schools – not a template but a set of issues to think about.
May 4, 2020
I highly recommend this short piece from Emily Oster. She looks at what we know so far about whether kids are likely to catch and transmit COVID-19. We already have good evidence that kids are less likely to get sick and die from the virus than older adults.
But does that mean kids just aren’t getting sick, or are they asymptomatic carriers of the virus? Oster suggests the evidence so far is tilting toward the former:
However, in practice it seems that infection among kids is simply very unlikely. It’s not that they are infected and don’t know it, it seems like they are just not infected very often. And when they are, it may be that the mild symptoms limit their viral spreading….
What does this mean for policy, and for families? Opening schools and day cares and camps (PLEASE!!!) is still very complicated since these all involve congregations of adults. But on the plus side, these results indicate that in those contexts they suggest our primary concern should be adult-to-adult transmission, which may be easier to limit.
Read the full thing here.
–Guest post by Chad Aldeman