Music at the top here: Bellwether’s house band Chord Values.
Happy Opening Day! Slow blogging, since last week, sorry, for a sector where nothing is happening it’s surprisingly busy. But a bunch of stuff below.
Funders! Something you hear a lot in certain rooms in this sector is how so much money is dirty. Don’t take Koch money we’re told (Bellwether doesn’t get Koch money so I don’t have a dog in this particular fight) because it’s dirty or even racist. Nevermind that Koch has an innovative partnership with UNCF and is doing some interesting work on helping ex-offenders get on with their lives even as people like me take issue with their environmental policies. Don’t take Walton money we’re often told (we do get Walton funding) and I like what they do on oceans and sustainable agriculture in addition to education. So who, then, should we take money from you sometimes ask those who know better? And CZI / Facebook is frequently cited as one of the good guys (we have done work for them). Except, they may have had something to do with Russian efforts to interfere in our elections and just today they got sued for violating the Fair Housing Act. Or the Ford Foundation is supposed to be a virtuous one…OK really?
I’m all for disclosure of who funds what (and we have no confidential clients or funders in case you’re wondering) but this business of picking and choosing “good” funders based on perceived virtue strikes me as a very fraught business because everyone’s various heuristics seem to fall apart every time they make contact with an actual use case. Life is more complicated than this and a lot of funders, from all over the ideological spectrum, are trying to do good work as they see it – including all the ones mentioned here – and it’s probably more productive to figure out where you agree, work on shared priorities, disagree on the rest, move on.
High-Performing charters have not solved the to and through college challenge but they are putting a real dent it and changing lives. This new Richard Whitmire project is important.
And then there is this ongoing Parkland tragedy:
CNN just won the Cronkite Award for its town hall on the Parkland shooting and gun control. If it had instead sent a camera crew into the school, I think Sydney Aiello and Calvin Desir might still be with us.
Meanwhile, still too few counselors in schools – fixing that has education and safety benefits.
This effort to get rid of TFA in California pretty much lays bare the cynical politics of this sector and how much it has to do with power and how little it has to do with what’s good for kids. Like TFA or not, the evidence is overwhelming and pretty clear it doesn’t harm students.
$112.5 million Duke research settlement.
Janus fallout. The short term cases matter (dues refunds, reasonable ability to exit the union etc…) but as we’ve discussed here the more serious threat for the teachers unions is how far the 1st Amendment jurisprudence extends. Here’s the Bellwether deck on Janus context.
When I was on the Virginia Board of Education superintendents used to have to come and ask for waivers to open school earlier than Labor Day because of our “Kings Dominion Law.” It was a total and embarrassing charade and poor use of their time (for many school divisions a trip to Richmond is an overnight trip, Virginia’s bigger than you think). The whole spectacle was especially ridiculous because the other 95 percent of the time everyone was fetishizing “local control” as a reason not to do this or that to attack achievement gaps and other problems. Thankfully that law was just changed.
Dale Chu on the unglamorous blocking and tackling of school improvement. You also always hear about how this standards-aligned or that Common Core instruction is rote and boring or worse and these other approaches are exciting engaging. But when you spend time in classrooms with teachers who really teach – so kids are learning about what they’re reading, how to think about it and analyze it, not just superficially discussing how it makes them feel or what it reminds them of, I always think how that’s the teaching I want for my kids (and that kids in affluent suburban schools too often don’t get either). Content rich and challenging teaching engages kids…and teaches them.
This is not a good look for charter schools but also a good reminder that most charter authorizer are school districts or other similar public bodies (pp 70 here for the landscape) so a lot of what we casually consider “charter” problems are broader sector problems.
Also if you were wondering when the usual suspects would start to spin up and Beto O’Rourke’s wife would be come a campaign issue – here’s your answer.
Related, today in tin foil. “The people who believe this stuff are, of course, nuts.”
You may have heard about the president’s budget request and Special Olympics – they have good lobbyists. Here’s the organization’s annual report with revenue sources, the federal contribution is not insignificant and has been growing the past few years. Spoiler Alert: Congress is not going to defund Special Olympics. That was true even before Democrats took control of the House.
Surprising amount of ed content in this story about a New York political money dinner.