Friday, February 17, 2017

Revisionist History Strikes Yale

Yale University has joined the Left’s campaign of historical purges. Not that it was unforeseen or unexpected. We alerted readers to Yale’s disgraceful capitulation to revisionist history back in August, when the school formed a Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming. It’s goal? To “develop clearly delineated principles to guide the university’s decisions on proposals to remove a historical name from a building or similarly prominent structure or space on campus.”

Six months later, the institution has declared officially that John C. Calhoun will no longer represent Calhoun College, a residential college erected in 1933 whose moniker, we’re haughtily lectured, improperly dignifies the racist ex-politician and Yale alumnus. His replacement will be Grace Hopper, who served in the Navy and became famous for developing the field of computer science. Calhoun, like so many during his time, was a passionate promoter of slave ownership, an admittedly regrettable and indefensible position that, curiously, has culminated into a pivotal sticking point some 167 years after his death. Enter Case No. Umpteen in bizarre selective outrage and double standards.

As Roger Kimball observes in The Wall Street Journal, “Calhoun owned slaves. But so did Timothy Dwight, Calhoun’s mentor at Yale, who has a college named in his honor. So did Benjamin Silliman, who also gives his name to a residential college, and whose mother was the largest slave owner in Fairfield County, Conn. So did Ezra Stiles, John Davenport and even Jonathan Edwards, all of whom have colleges named in their honor at Yale.” Where are the demands to repudiate them and others like Elihu Yale, whose early benevolence not only helped facilitate the development of Yale College but eventually persuaded school officials to name the school after him?

As Kimball explains, “[W]hereas the 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica praises Calhoun for his ‘just and kind’ treatment of slaves and the ‘stainless integrity’ of his character, Elihu Yale had slaves flogged, hanged a stable boy for stealing a horse, and was eventually removed from his post in India for corruption. Is all that not ‘fundamentally at odds’ with the mission of Peter Salovey’s Yale?” Apparently, the administration doesn’t have time to contemplate such things. It’s too busy sanctioning parties for the less-than-honorable Black Panthers.


DC Councilmember Tells Mayor To Remove Education Chair Over Betsy DeVos Support

D.C. Council Member David Grosso urged Mayor Muriel Bowser Wednesday to remove education co-chair Anthony Williams over his support for Betsy DeVos, who now serves as secretary of education.

In a letter sent to Bowser, Grosso argued that former Washington, D.C., Mayor Anthony Williams must be removed from his position as co-chair of the D.C. Cross-Sector Collaboration Task Force because he abandoned neutrality through his vocal support for DeVos during Senate confirmation hearings.

The Cross-Sector Collaboration Task Force is an initiative responsible for delivering a report to the mayor on how best to improve coordination between public schools in Washington, in order to boost student success.

For Grosso, Williams’ open support for DeVos compromises his ability to render impartial recommendations. Williams featured in a video posted online by the American Federation for Children, in which he enthusiastically backed DeVos.

“In my opinion,” Grosso wrote, “this creates a conflict of interest given his influential role on the Task Force and its stated mission.”

“As I stated to Deputy Mayor Niles, it is the opinion of the majority of our residents that “public schools” includes both traditional and public charter schools,” Grosso continued. “The Task Force’s mission of creating recommendations for a fair public education and Mr. Williams’ endorsement of a nominee who supports voucher programs are in conflict.”

Grosso then argued that past experiments of voucher programs in D.C. resulted in public dollars being funneled to low-quality, low-performing private schools.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is a long-time advocate of school choice: the idea that parents can receive vouchers to send their children to schools they prefer, whether that school is a private school, charter school or magnet school.


Australian government to end funding for SA Islamic school

The federal government has axed funding for a controversial Islamic school in South Australia.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham announced today that his department will no longer fund the Islamic College of South Australia in Adelaide from April 13.

Senator Birmingham said the school had failed to comply with financial reporting requirements, including the submission of quarterly reports.

"It is disappointing that after the number of chances this school has been given and the constructive work the Department has been doing with the authority since November 2015 the school has still failed to meet the reasonable standards and expectations placed on them," Senator Birmingham said.

He said the government had not taken the decision lightly but was left with no choice but to withdraw funding.

"The school authority is not meeting the strict conditions placed on them in April 2016, which included obligations around improvements to governance and financial management and regular reporting on progress in making the required changes."
The Commonwealth Government provided $4 million to the school during last year.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

The MTA’s myopic agenda

FRESH OFF A victory on Question 2, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, led by combative firebrand Barbara Madeloni, is pushing legislation to undermine key pillars of this state’s highly successful education-improvement effort. The MTA’s main bill takes aim at so-called high-stakes testing, under which students have at least five opportunities to pass the MCAS graduation exam. Even as it calls for hundreds of millions more in state education spending, the MTA wants a three-year moratorium on those tests, with the goal of nixing them entirely.

The bill would also rewrite school-turnaround legislation, dramatically limiting the powers that the law gives districts and the state to intervene with underperforming schools. And it would also prohibit districts from using student learning, growth, or achievement data in teacher evaluations. Meanwhile, the MTA is stepping up its “opt-out” push, an effort to persuade parents to keep their children from taking the statewide tests.

Senator Michael Rush, D-West Roxbury, the lead Senate sponsor of the MTA legislation, says he decided to file the bill based on conversation with teachers in his district. “A lot of these concerns I have had,” he said. “Largely, they feel students are being overtested.”

No surprise there. Teachers unions have long had an ambivalent stance on education reform, supportive of the additional resources but leery of the accompanying accountability. Still, a move to eliminate statewide standardized testing ignores the history of educational improvement in Massachusetts. Our best-in-the-nation status was achieved in large part because of the landmark education reform law of 1993, which married a big new infusion of resources to statewide standards and assessments. The 2010 follow-up law, meanwhile, gave the districts and state important new powers to intervene with underperforming schools.

Statewide tests have been an instrumental part of that improvement effort. Anti-testing partisans often assert that a student’s socioeconomic status is determinative of his or her academic performance, and that real improvement can’t be made unless poverty is eradicated. But the Massachusetts experience belies that contention. Since the advent of the MCAS, districts have been able to pinpoint and focus on students’ weaknesses and needs, improve instruction and tutoring, and dramatically boost passing and proficiency levels. Those test results have also led to a concerted focus on lagging urban schools.

“This bill begins to dismantle in large steps that framework, and that to me would be a tremendous mistake for the Commonwealth,” says Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester.

Yes it would, which makes it unfortunate that the legislation has attracted more than 100 cosponsors. Given that even Rush doesn’t exhibit a clear grasp of how the MTA’s legislation would change the school-turnaround process, it’s hard to think that most of his cosponsors do. These lawmakers need to undertake some serious homework about exactly how Massachusetts made it to the top nationally on education.

As for the opt-out: On its website, the MTA describes it as “the right of parents to opt their children out of state standardized tests” and makes it sound as though doing so carries no consequences, at least for non-high-school students. But there is no right to opt out; the tests are mandatory. And because school evaluations are based on a broad cross section of students, a school whose participation rate falls significantly could see itself drop a performance level. That happened with both Boston Latin School and the Roger Clap School in Dorchester last year. Further, parents miss a chance to see how their child is doing according to a uniform state standard.

The MTA’s legislation is self-interested and wrong-headed, but not particularly surprising, at least not in the Madeloni era. It deserves to die a quiet death in committee.

Encouraging families to opt their kids out of testing, on the other hand, is irresponsible, an attempt to use parents and students as pawns in the union’s anti-testing crusade. The MTA should know better than to lead families down that counterproductive path.


Education Reform Expert Recommends Shutting Down Department of Education

Vicki Alger, research fellow at the Independent Institute, delivered a speech at The Heartland Institute on February 1 about her new book, Failure: The Federal Misedukation of American ‘s Children. You can watch her presentation here.

Alger ‘s research at the Independent Institute focuses on education reforms that provide a competitive education marketplace and increases parental control over their children ‘s education. The author of more than 40 education policy studies, Alger has advised the U.S. Department of Education on public school choice and higher education, and has also helped to advance educational reform in her home state of Arizona.

Alger ‘s research also inspired the introduction of the most school-choice bills in the history of California, five in all. Prior to her career in education policy, Alger taught college-level courses in American politics, English composition and rhetoric, and early British literature.

As is noted on the back cover of Alger’s book:

For nearly 100 years the federal government left education almost entirely in the hands of the citizenry and state and local governments, but in 1979, with the creation of the US Department of Education a sprawling bureaucracy with 153 programs, 5,000 employees, and an annual budget of approximately $70 billion, the federal government intruded itself into almost every area of education.

Accordingly, Alger reveals in her book that 1) federal involvement in education has been a failure, and 2) assesses, identifies, and articulates the best strategy for success.

Alger further explains how and why U.S. students are mediocre achievers in math, science, and other subjects when compared to many other nations – despite America’s schools being the most costly in the world. In her presentation, Alger debunked the common misconception that this nation was once a world leader in elementary and secondary education. We never ranked at the top. America can’t get back to the head of the class because we never were at the head of the class. In fact, we have always scored at, or near, the bottom of the rankings. But with effective educational reforms, the academic performance of American students could improve significantly.

For those who are advocates of school choice, Alger presents strong arguments for giving more power to parents and students.

Evolution of Department of Education

The original Department of Education was created in 1867 – and downsized to an office the following year – to collect information on schools and teaching that would help the States establish effective school systems. While the agency’s name and location within the executive branch have changed over the past 130 years, this early emphasis on getting information on what works in education to teachers and education policymakers continues down to the present day.

When debate opened in the House on June 5, 1866 about a national channel of communication among school officers of different states and the federal government, there was neither mention nor desire to utilize the federal treasury to fund any educational programs. There was no hint that the department would do anything other than collect statistics. In short, the department was to be an educational statistical service located in Washington, D.C. The department, which started out with four employees, acted as a clearing house of data for educators and policymakers.

Democratic Rep. Samuel Moulto from Illinois had this to say about his version of a Department of Education – which has come to pass in America today, but which was never sanctioned by our Constitution:

Now, sir, in order to make education universal, what do we want? What is the crying necessity of this nation today? Why, sir, we want a head. We want a pure fountain from which a pure stream can be poured upon all the States. We want a controlling head by which the various conflicting systems in the different States can be harmonized, by which there can be uniformity, by which all mischievous errors that have crept in may be pointed out and eradicated.

Present-day Department of Education

There is no traditional or historical basis for The Department of Education. The department represents a political agenda administered from Washington DC. The department was moved here and there during its history, and went through some name changes, but in whatever form it has taken it has failed to improve education – such as in 2016, when the department spent $200 billion.

In 1976, presidential candidate Jimmy Carter promised to create a Department of Education, and is immediately endorsed by the National Education Association. This is first time the NEA endorsed a presidential candidate in more than a century of existence.

In 1979, after much opposition, Congress narrowly passed legislation to split off a new Department of Education from the existing Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. The NEA and the American Federation of Teachers provided powerful lobbying support for the creation of the new department. The Department of Education began operations in 1980 with 6,400 employees. When campaigning for president in 1980, Ronald Reagan calls the Department of Education “President Carter’s new bureaucratic boondoggle” and promised to abolish it – a promise, obviously, he could not keep.

The Department of Education was created to improve management and efficiency, but as Alger noted in her talk at Heartland, the department represents just one more piece of government with lots of bureaucrats. By her count, Alger said just 6 percent of Education Department programs are effective. Although the department is getting more expensive to operate, children have not been better-educated after three decades of massive funding.

The theme that ran throughout Alger’s book presentation was that it’s time to eliminate the Department of Education. As she remarked: “Education doesn’t get any better like a fine wine.”

According Alger, student achievement has been flat since the late 60s up to today. It is fair to ask how can this is so when American schools are among the most costly in the world? Yet American students experience only mediocre achievements in math and science, in contrast to students who excel in countries that spend far less per student. Alger puts some of the blame on the resistance to school choice and competition.

Concern about the achievement gap in America versus other countries in the world led to the school-reform movement of the 1980s. Improving student achievement became all-important, so reforms began exploring how the federal government count partner with the states – a tactic that went against how education policy had been viewed in the past, one driven primarily by the states.

Standard-based Education Reform explored in the 1980’s

Standard-based education reform began with the publication of A Nation at Risk in 1983 which eventually led to Common Core.

During the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, two standards-based programs were set in motion: No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Both program failed. Nevertheless, the Obama administration was able to sneak Common Core State Standards beneath the radar of the American people by peddling the program to states, sight unseen, through the offer of money to cash-strapped states.

Ze’ev Wurman, former U.S. Department of Education official, called Common Core standards mediocre. In no way were they to be considered a proper preparation for college.

Alger ascribes the failure of Common Core to Obama Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who was plucked from Chicago, where he served as superintendent of the Chicago Public Schools from 2001 to 2009. It was Duncan’s mission to eliminate the extreme variation in standards across America so this nation had only one system of learning.

‘Strategic Dismantling’ of the Department of Education

Alger’s two-step process to eliminate the Department of Education follows:

Shutter up. Eliminate 19 program offices to reduce and overhaul cost. This would save $14 billion.

Return control of managing programs back to the states, citizens, and school districts. This would save $216 billion. (Programs remain operable from three to five years. As programs expire, discontinue them.)

As related by Alger:

Schools rely on federal funding to the amount of 10 cents on a dollar. The new mandate for Common Core required more money for schools to implement than did No Child Left Behind, yet schools were told to rip up the No Child Left Behind mandate to replace with Common Core.

Arizona, a Leader in Charter Schools

Alger was instrumental in her home state of Arizona in approving charter schools, an achievement that is now celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Charters faced steep opposition in Arizona, with critics predicting doom. But the sky did not fall in Arizona because of charter schools, nor were public schools starved. Instead, Arizona has more top high schools than any other state, yet Arizona spends $5,000 less on the average than the average state. (Illinois has no top high school, other than possibly some of Chicago’s magnet schools.) Black students in Arizona, meanwhile, have made the highest math gains on the nation’s latest report card. Why should children be kept in schools that don’t work for them?

Alger supports publicly funded vouchers, and particularly Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), because every dollar follows the child. Algar said she has helped five states implement ESA programs directed by the state, not the federal government.

Q&A with Vicki Alger

Concerning Betsy DeVos? Vicki Alger believes Betsy DeVos, even though she endured a tough nomination fight, will be a strong leader for Trump. Hopefully, Alger said, DeVos will do away with the disaster of Common Core, which in the process will demolish the ESSA Act – through which parents are bullied and threatened about their child’s graduation unless the test associated with Common Core is taken.

Concerning budget of U.S. Department of Education established in 1979? Out of the $200 billion spent to operate the department, only about 10 percent is sent back to the states. That means it takes $130 billion just to administer the distribution of money back to the states, certainly a massive political boondoggle.

Mustn’t some standards exist to measure how students are progressing in subject matter, although Common Core is a failure? California, Alger said, has little else going for it, but it does have a good state testing program. There is no shortage of basic state skill tests if a parent wants to know where there kids are on basic skills, but don’t trust the state to administer the test.

Don’t parents want to know what their child knows at the beginning of a school year and at the end? Vicki Alger believes the focus should be more on parents having choices rather than testing standards.

In closing

So often the battle seems insurmountable, but those of us who are sick of top-down federal control of education on both sides of the aisle outnumber those who wish to keep the status quo.

Thirty-seven years after the modern Department of Education was established under Jimmy Carter, students are not better off. Now is the time to sever the partnership of education with the federal government by abolishing the Department of Education. Let President Trump and your legislators hear from you as a necessary component toward Draining the Swamp.


Petition to fire Berkeley teacher garners 500 signatures

A petition to oust a Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School teacher who was involved with a counter-protest against a white supremacist group in Sacramento has gathered more than 500 signatures

The middle school teacher’s involvement at the protest prompted threats of violence against students at King.

Yvette Felarca — the middle school teacher and a member of the group By Any Means Necessary, which says it’s “building a new civil rights movement” — was filmed in Sacramento on June 26 taunting and hitting a neo-Nazi attending a rally led by the Traditionalist Worker Party, a white nationalist extremist group. The violent altercation made headlines across the U.S. after seven people were stabbed and 10 hospitalized during the pandemonium.

Robert Jacobsen, a former student at King Middle School, launched a petition drive on after learning about Felarca’s involvement in the Sacramento altercation. The petition demands that the Berkeley Unified School District fire Felarca. It argues that citizens of the U.S., regardless of their political views have the right to free speech. Felarca’s interference with those rights are grounds for dismissal, according to the petition.

“Felarca is a 7th- and 8th-grade Humanities teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley,” reads the petition. “Among her responsibilities is teaching the students under her tutelage about the Bill of Rights. Someone who does not believe in free speech should not teach kids about their constitutional rights.”

“Felarca’s activity would get a student expelled at best, or jailed at worst. And yet she’s meant to be a role model for students. She has repeatedly advocated the use of militant, violent tactics to shut down opponents of her personal political pack, By Any Means Necessary (BAMN).”

Jacobsen told Berkeleyside via email that he had nothing against Felarca personally, and that she never taught classes while he attended King. Jacobsen said he filed the petition because he doesn’t believe that it’s fair that a “militant agitator like Felarca mold impressionable students,” and that a teacher who “manipulates teenagers into joining their group should teach teens.”

Berkeleyside has not uncovered evidence that Felarca conveys her political views in the classroom.

A video posted to YouTube depicts a woman matching Felarca’s description confronting a demonstrator, yelling in his face, “Get the fuck off our streets,” punching him several times in the stomach, and pulling his backpack. Moments later another protester pulls him to the ground. Thus far, no charges have been filed against Felarca, according to the Sacramento DA’s office.

Referring to both the Sacramento prosecutor’s office and the school district, Jacobsen called the response from the government thus far “lackluster,” and added that if there was ever a reason to fire a teacher, “assaulting a man for exercising his right to free speech” should be grounds to do so.

Berkeley Unified School District Superintendent Donald Evans told Berkeleyside via email that Felarca is still employed but declined to go into further detail. “Because this involves an employee, everything is confidential,” wrote Evans.

Jacobsen said the school district isn’t planning to oust Felarca because “they can’t discipline anyone for what they do in their private life.”

The California Highway Patrol is conducting an investigation into the violence at the protest but did not return several phone messages requesting comment. Typically, law enforcement does not comment on ongoing investigations.

In the aftermath of the protests, King Middle School was flooded with anonymous emails demanding Felarca be fired. One of the emails threatened “that if certain actions were not taken against the teacher within the week, someone would come to King with the intent to harm students,” according to the school district.

The FBI determined the email threat was “low level,” but Berkeley police stepped up patrols around the school and assigned an additional officer to patrol the campus at 1781 Rose St. The school district relocated two programs that were running at King over the summer, said Evans.

The controversy and threats of violence, as well as Felarca’s involvement, have frustrated some parents with children at King.

“I don’t want to blame the teacher — but I also wonder about her judgment,” one parent told Berkeleyside. Referring to the white supremacist group in Sacramento, the parent continued: “She’s dealing with a group known to hate minorities and with a history of violence. She may be putting children in danger. I support free speech, but as a parent, I’m upset that she’s getting involved with crazy people.”

Felarca (right) was among the leaders of the December 2014 Black Lives Matter protests in Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Yvette Felarca (right) was among the leaders of the Dec. 2014 Black Lives Matter protests in Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Felarca did not respond to email messages and phone calls seeking comment. However, in a Facebook post, Felarca thanked her supporters and said she held the presumptive Republican nominee for president Donald Trump responsible for the threats. “His politics of racist demagoguery and hate is inciting these vile threats of violence, even against children,” she wrote. “It exposes why Trump and his racist, Nazi, and KKK supporters need to be defeated — and it shows us what Donald Trump’s vision for America really is, and why we need to keep building the movement.”

Activism is nothing new to Felarca. She has, in the past, taken an active role in teachers’ union politics and continues to be politically active with BAMN.

BAMN was formed in 1995 and has been embroiled in controversy over its militant stances ever since. For example, in a 2015 action, BAMN won a victory of sorts as its members mobilized in support of a UC Berkeley student who was allegedly raped. As part of the campaign, BAMN printed more than 100 posters bearing a photo of the young man accused by another student and the word “Rapist” in large bold type. BAMN also held rallies and ultimately the young man was suspended from the university until 2019.

Prosecutors declined to file charges after determining there was insufficient evidence to prove rape beyond a reasonable doubt.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Scottish university’s new principal promises to widen access

Scotland is heavily socialist so they take this tilting at windmills seriously.  Most of the capitalistic Scots emigrated long ago.  It's mainly the dependent ones that are left

Peter Mathieson, who is expected to take over in Edinburgh early next year, admitted that existing efforts to improve diversity had not delivered acceptable results

The incoming head of one of Scotland’s leading universities has promised to take radical action to drive up the number of students it attracts from deprived communities.

Peter Mathieson, who is resigning as president of Hong Kong University and is expected to take over in Edinburgh early next year, admitted that existing efforts to improve diversity had not delivered acceptable results.

Figures for 2015-16 revealed that just 5.2 per cent of new undergraduates at the University of Edinburgh came from the poorest fifth of Scotland, a three-year low for the institution. Only 16.5 per cent of the university’s Scottish students come from the poorest 40 per cent of the country.


Stalin Wasn’t All Bad (Explain British Schoolteachers)

Stalin wasn’t all bad, you know.

Sure he was a murderous thug responsible for around 50 million deaths, while reducing the rest of the population to a state of misery, poverty, and near-permanent terror. Sure his collective farming policy turned breadbaskets into famine-starved hellholes where cannibalism was rife and his Five Year Plans destroyed what was left of the Russian economy after Lenin.

But let’s not forget the upsides: he “ended the exploitation of peasants by greedy landlords and to rid of the greedy and troublesome kulaks”‘ and he “helped peasants work together”.

This, amazingly, is what children are being taught in British schools. The quotations come from the GCP GCSE Modern World History revision guide and indicate the kind of answers kids are expected to give in their history exams when talking about Stalin’s collectivisation of farms.

Apparently, this is part of a method where they are expected to discuss the Pros and Cons of each issue.

I learned this from an article in The Daily Telegraph by James Bartholomew, the financial journalist and author, who happens to be the guest on my Delingpole podcast this week.

Like me, Bartholomew is an ardent believer in a minimal state. That is, he thinks that whenever government tries to make things better it almost invariably makes things worse – and that the state is, therefore, best cut out of the equation as often as humanly possible.

That history is teaching lunacy is a fairly typical consequence of excess government. In a free education market, where anyone could set up a school, it’s somewhat unlikely that the history curriculum would allow the promulgation of such outrageous left wing propaganda.

Stalin was loathsome – directly responsible for more deaths even than Hitler. Yet schools that – as Bartholomew notes – would never dream of asking kids to talk about the Pros of the Holocaust somehow feel it’s OK to look for some of the positives in this sadistic Communist tyrant. Why?

Partly because in Britain – as in the U.S., where Betsy DeVos has arrived as Education Secretary not a moment too soon – schools have been skewed by the values of the public sector which, like those of public sectors everywhere, are unerringly left wing.

Very few parents would wish their child to be taught that Stalin had his upsides. But few get much choice in the matter because there is no competitive market in schools: bad teachers are rarely sacked (as they would be in private sector industries, but not in the heavily unionised state sector) and if the school in your area is failing and teaching your children badly there’s probably nowhere else nearby you can move them.

Also, the fact that you don’t pay your kids’ state school fees – the “government” does – means you probably have lower expectations (accompanied perhaps by a false sense of gratitude for a service provided “free”) than you would if the fees came more obviously out of your pocket.

For these and many other reasons, our state schools will go on failing to improve and teachers will go on indoctrinating our children with left wing propaganda. (Though there are exceptions: one of the things I’m very much looking forward to, sometime this year, is paying a visit to one of the state school sector’s shining successes – Katharine Birbalsingh’s Michaela Community School. I’ll be recording a podcast there.)

But it’s not just bad schooling which is an inevitable product of the welfare state. Let’s not forget the welfare state also creates bad healthcare, bad housing, unemployment, poor care for the elderly and economic stagnation.


School choice keeps the peace

by Jeff Jacoby

PUBLIC SCHOOLS are commonly described as engines of democracy and citizenship, and a bulwark against social strife. Which makes the Democrats' bitter and unremitting campaign against Betsy DeVos all the more ironic.

DeVos, the next secretary of education, is a billionaire who has for years channeled her money and energy into the cause of education reform, especially for the underprivileged. Yet her nomination drove the left to a frenzy of opposition evoked by no other Cabinet nominee.

The confirmation of the new secretary was a blow to the powerful teachers unions that exercise so much clout in Democratic Party circles. The unions depend for their wealth and influence on the public education monopoly that keeps millions of students trapped in chronically failing schools, and like all monopolists they have a visceral antipathy to competition. They despise DeVos because of her passion for dramatically expanding school choice — through charter schools, online "virtual" teaching, homeschooling, or vouchers to pay for private or parochial school tuition.

The benefits of school choice, especially for kids in the poorest districts, have been confirmed and reconfirmed. Polls routinely find that substantial majorities of Americans favor more school choice. And as the stunning number of student names on charter school waiting lists demonstrates, the hunger for a better option than the local public school is anything but theoretical.

Yet the reasons to liberate Americans from the monopoly of government-run schooling go beyond educational outcomes and academic success. School choice also promotes peace.

Public schools, it is said, bring together children from differing backgrounds and imbue them with the shared values that unite our pluralist society and prevent balkanization. It's a pretty theory, but it has never been true.

"Throughout American history," observes Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute, "public schooling has produced political disputes, animosity, and sometimes even bloodshed between diverse people. Such clashes are inevitable in government-run schooling because all Americans are required to support the public schools, but only those with the most political power control them."

Far from being the glue that holds our communities together, public schooling is too often the wedge that drives them apart. Americans differ profoundly on countless fundamental matters — abortion and guns, gay marriage and Darwinism, immigration and policing, Islam and foreign trade. By definition, a one-size-fits-all public school model — in which school committees decide which messages schools promote, which textbooks are used, and which programs get funded — cannot reflect the views of all parents.

For those who find themselves in the minority, there is no equitable resolution. Either they resign themselves to the indoctrination of their children in ways they don't approve, or they do battle with other parents or elected officials to change the way their kids are taught, or they pull out of the government-education system altogether, opening their own schools at their own expense while still having to pay for the public schools where their priorities are rejected.

When public schools have a monopoly on education, coercion is inescapable. And where there is coercion, there will be conflict.

At the Cato website, McCluskey maintains a "Public School Battle Map" that catalogs the clashes and angry controversies into which neighbors are constantly driven by the public school status quo. These battles erupt in state after state, year after year. They are fought over differences about curriculum, moral and religious values, reading assignments, race and ethnicity, sexuality and gender. For 2016 alone, scores of conflicts are recorded: in a Louisiana school district, for example, where students were banned from bringing American flags to football games; in Mississippi, where legislation was introduced to protect the right of teachers to discuss "controversial subjects," such as creationism; in Maine, where a high school senior's gay pride quote for his yearbook was censored; in Colorado, where atheists demanded the right to distribute antireligious literature to students.

McCluskey's map, which goes back only to 2001, records more than 1,500 instances of such political fighting. When schools are controlled by the government, and the government is controlled by the winners of elections, parents, teachers, and administrators will inevitably end up doing battle.

More school choice means less educational conflict. Let families choose from a wide array of educational options, and you diminish their impulse to fight over what gets taught and by whom. Winner-take-all is a terrible model for civil society. By contrast, a model built on freedom, pluralism, and equality — a model in which parents have as much leeway to provide for their children's schooling as they do for their meals, clothing, or religious training — would be immeasurably fairer, and a far better bet for keeping the peace. (Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe).


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Trump administration signals change in policy for transgender students

The Trump administration signaled Friday that it was changing course on the previous administration’s efforts to expand transgender rights, submitting a legal brief withdrawing the government’s objections to an injunction that had blocked guidance requiring that transgender students be allowed to use restrooms that match their gender identity.

The move by the Justice Department does not immediately change the situation for the nation’s public schools, as a federal judge had already put a temporary hold on the guidance as a lawsuit by a dozen states moved through the courts.

But it suggests that the Trump administration will take a different approach on the issue of transgender rights, which many conservatives thought went too far under President Obama.

And how the administration decides to proceed on the particular issue of transgender students and bathroom use would affect several other cases in which students are challenging their school districts’ policies, including one involving Virginia student Gavin Grimm, which is set to be heard by the Supreme Court later this spring.

The brief, filed in the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, came as part of a long-running suit by 12 states opposed to Education Department guidance issued last year directing the nation’s public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice. The Obama administration took the position that barring students from bathrooms that matched their gender identity was a violation of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in public schools.


Schools In Greece to Replace Greek Tragedy Lessons with Gender Studies  

Schools in Greece may be forced to abandon the teaching of classical Greek tragedy so they can make room for lessons on gender studies.

A plan being considered by the left-wing government in the cash-strapped nation could see literary works like Antigone thrown by the wayside.

The notoriously difficult texts could be pushed aside in favor of "gender equality, same-sex marriages and sex education", according to The Times of London.

If passed, the move would be another blow to Classical scholarship, which is in retreat across much of the world.

Other seminal texts, like the historian Thucydides' account of the Peloponnesian War, have already been scrapped.

Greek students have an obvious advantage since ancient Athenian texts - dating to around 450BC - are similar enough to the modern language that they could be read as easily as an English speaker might approach Chaucer.

Elsewhere, studying Greek texts in the original is an increasingly elite discipline, mostly confined to Classics departments in elite universities.

Speaking to The Times, Antonis Mastrapas of the National Federation of Classical Studies Professors, said: "This is preposterous. Not even during Greece's gruelling years of dictatorship were the works of ancient masters like Sophocles and Thucydides excluded from high school curriculums."


The Federal Government's Big Bet on Student Loans Goes Bad

 With the flurry of executive actions that President Trump has taken since coming into office on January 20, 2016 that has dominated the nation's news coverage, surprisingly little attention has been paid to the deteriorating condition of the U.S. government's student loan portfolio under President Obama's administration, which became news in the days just before the inauguration. The Wall Street Journal reports on the Education Department's student loan reporting scandal:

Many more students have defaulted on or failed to pay back their college loans than the U.S. government previously believed.

Last Friday, the Education Department released a memo saying that it had overstated student loan repayment rates at most colleges and trade schools and provided updated numbers.

When The Wall Street Journal analyzed the new numbers, the data revealed that the Department previously had inflated the repayment rates for 99.8% of all colleges and trade schools in the country.

The new analysis shows that at more than 1,000 colleges and trade schools, or about a quarter of the total, at least half the students had defaulted or failed to pay down at least $1 on their debt within seven years.

Worse, the WSJ`s editors have suggested that rather than having been the result of a computer coding error, the previous numbers on student loan defaults at thousands of colleges and trade schools may have been cooked to support President Obama's political agenda. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Adminstrators excerpts the following portions of the WSJ`s editorial analysis:

In early January the department disclosed that it had discovered a `coding error' that incorrectly computed College Scorecard repayment rates-that is, the percentage of borrowers who haven't defaulted and have repaid at least one dollar of their loan principal. The department says the error `led to the undercounting of some borrowers who had not reduced their loan balances by at least one dollar.'

The department played down the mistake, but the new average three-year repayment rate has declined by 20 percentage points to 46%. This is huge. It means that fewer than half of undergraduate borrowers at the average college are paying down their debt.

... The other scandal is that the Obama Administration used the inflated Scorecard repayment data as a pretext to single out for-profit colleges for punitive regulation. The punishment was tucked into a rule finalized in October allowing borrowers who claim their college defrauded them to discharge their debt. It requires for-profits in which 50% or fewer borrowers are paying down their principal to post the equivalent of a surgeon general's warning in all promotional materials.

... This combination of cynicism and incompetence is what made the Obama Administration's regulatory machine so destructive. One of the biggest messes it leaves behind is the government takeover of student loans that is likely to saddle taxpayers with hundreds of billions in losses. The Trump Administration now has to begin the cleanup job.

The Education Department's corrected numbers confirm that the problem of student loan defaults and delinquencies is not confined to for-profit institutions, but also exists at similar levels among both non-profit and public institutions.

But the problems don't stop there. Since President Obama greatly increased the role of the federal government in directly issuing student loans, borrowing nearly one trillion dollars to loan out to students at colleges and trade schools over the last 8 years, that 54% of student loan borrowers are now either defaulting or are delinquent in making payments on their loans means that the U.S. government isn't getting anywhere near the revenue that it needs to sustain this portion of the national debt.

The options that the U.S. government has to deal with the increasingly negative outcomes from this situation are limited. With such inadequate revenues from student loan payments coming in to cover the cost of servicing their portion of the national debt, the U.S. government must either cut spending, increase taxes, or borrow even more money than it was planning to roll over the debt and compensate for that unrealized revenue.

Getting the U.S. government into the student loan business in such a big way was supposed to improve its fiscal situation, eliminating the need for politicians to risk their seats in Washington D.C. by having to make such potentially unpopular choices. Sadly, President Obama's student loan fiasco would appear to have only made the need to make those hard choices more unavoidable.


Monday, February 13, 2017

Race gaps in SAT scores highlight inequality and hinder upward mobility

In the usual Leftist way, the writer below doesn’t want to believe what the tests show so blames the test gap on poverty, class etc.

It is important to note, however, that the tests DO predict exam performance and graduation rates. And the racial gap in exam performance and graduation is equally large and persistent there.  Educators have been trying for years to find something, anything, that would close the black/white educational success gap but nothing has had any effect. Blacks are still much less likely to graduate.  So the SAT and the in-house assessments done by 4-year schools validate and confirm one another.  They both show poor average intellectual ability among blacks and Hispanics

And note that, as a whole, the most culturally disadvantaged group are the Asians — for many of whom English is not their native language. Yet they score high, not low in both schools and on the SAT. So blaming poor performance on environmental rather than genetic factors is just wishful thinking. The gap is real and only genetic differences explain it adequately

There is a feeble attempt below to say that the black/white difference is due to social class but that just pushes the problem back one step.  We then have to ask why blacks are much more likely to be poor.  And their lesser educational aptitude and success would be a good explanation of that too. Educational success is enormously important to subsequent economic success in America

Note that the report below is from the Brookings Institution, a Left-leaning body, but one that takes an interest in the facts

Taking the SAT is an American rite of passage. Along with the increasingly popular ACT, the SAT is critical in identifying student readiness for college and as an important gateway to higher education. Yet despite efforts to equalize academic opportunity, large racial gaps in SAT scores persist.


The SAT provides a measure of academic inequality at the end of secondary schooling. Moreover, insofar as SAT scores predict student success in college, inequalities in the SAT score distribution reflect and reinforce racial inequalities across generations.

In this paper, we analyze racial differences in the math section of the general SAT test, using publicly available College Board population data for all of the nearly 1.7 million college-bound seniors in 2015 who took the SAT. (We do not use the newest data released for the class of 2016, because the SAT transitioned mid-year to a new test format, and data has so far only been released for students who took the older test.) Our analysis uses both the College Board’s descriptive statistics for the entire test-taking class, as well as percentile ranks by gender and race. (The College Board has separate categories for “Mexican or Mexican American” and “Other Hispanic, Latino, or Latin American.” We have combined them under the term Latino.)

The mean score on the math section of the SAT for all test-takers is 511 out of 800, the average scores for blacks (428) and Latinos (457) are significantly below those of whites (534) and Asians (598). The scores of black and Latino students are clustered towards the bottom of the distribution, while white scores are relatively normally distributed, and Asians are clustered at the top:

Race gaps on the SATs are especially pronounced at the tails of the distribution. In a perfectly equal distribution, the racial breakdown of scores at every point in the distribution would mirror the composition of test-takers as whole i.e. 51 percent white, 21 percent Latino, 14 percent black, and 14 percent Asian. But in fact, among top scorers—those scoring between a 750 and 800—60 percent are Asian and 33 percent are white, compared to 5 percent Latino and 2 percent black. Meanwhile, among those scoring between 300 and 350, 37 percent are Latino, 35 percent are black, 21 percent are white, and 6 percent are Asian:

The College Board’s publicly available data provides data on racial composition at 50-point score intervals. We estimate that in the entire country last year at most 2,200 black and 4,900 Latino test-takers scored above a 700. In comparison, roughly 48,000 whites and 52,800 Asians scored that high. The same absolute disparity persists among the highest scorers: 16,000 whites and 29,570 Asians scored above a 750, compared to only at most 1,000 blacks and 2,400 Latinos. (These estimates—which rely on conservative assumptions that maximize the number of high-scoring black students, are consistent with an older estimate from a 2005 paper in the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, which found that only 244 black students scored above a 750 on the math section of the SAT.)


Disappointingly, the black-white achievement gap in SAT math scores has remained virtually unchanged over the last fifteen years. Between 1996 and 2015, the average gap between the mean black score and the mean white score has been .92 standard deviations. In 1996 it was .9 standard deviations and in 2015 it was .88 standard deviations. This means that over the last fifteen years, roughly 64 percent of all test-takers scored between the average black and average white score.

These gaps have a significant impact on life chances, and therefore on the transmission of inequality across generations. As the economist Bhashkar Mazumder has documented, adolescent cognitive outcomes (in this case, measured by the AFQT) statistically account for most of the race gap in intergenerational social mobility.


There are some limitations to the data which may mean that, if anything, the race gap is being understated. The ceiling on the SAT score may, for example, understate Asian achievement. If the exam was redesigned to increase score variance (add harder and easier questions than it currently has), the achievement gap across racial groups could be even more pronounced. In other words, if the math section was scored between 0 and 1000, we might see more complete tails on both the right and the left. More Asians score between 750 and 800 than score between 700 and 750, suggesting that many Asians could be scoring above 800 if the test allowed them to.

A standardized test with a wider range of scores, the LSAT, offers some evidence on this front. An analysis of the 2013-2014 LSAT finds an average black score of 142 compared to an average white score of 153. This amounts to a black-white achievement gap of 1.06 standard deviations, even higher than that on the SAT. This is of course a deeply imperfect comparison, as the underlying population of test-takers for the LSAT (those applying to law school) is very different from that of the SAT. Nonetheless the LSAT distribution provides yet another example of the striking academic achievement gaps across race:

Another important qualification is that the SAT is no longer the nationally dominant college-entrance exam. In recent years, the ACT has surpassed the SAT in popularity. If the distributions of students taking the two exams are significantly different, focusing on one test alone won’t give a complete picture of the racial achievement gap. A cursory look at the evidence, however, suggests that race gaps on the 2016 ACT are comparable to those we observe for the SAT. In terms of composition, ACT test-takers were 54 percent white, 16 percent Latino, 13 percent black, and 4 percent Asian. Except for the substantially reduced share of Asian test-takers, this is reasonably close to the SAT’s demographic breakdown. Moreover, racial achievement gaps across the two tests were fairly similar. The black-white achievement gap for the math section of the 2015 SAT was roughly .88 standard deviations. For the 2016 ACT it was .87 standard deviations. Likewise, the Latino-white achievement gap for the math section of the 2015 SAT was roughly .65 standard deviations; for the 2016 ACT it was .54 standard deviations.


On the other hand, there is a possibility that the SAT is racially biased, in which case the observed racial gap in test scores may overstate the underlying academic achievement gap. But most of the concerns about bias relate to the verbal section of the SAT, and our analysis focuses exclusively on the math section.

Finally, this data is limited in that it doesn’t allow us to disentangle race and class as drivers of achievement gaps. It is likely that at least some of these racial inequalities can be explained by different income levels across race. Unfortunately, publicly available College Board data on class and SAT scores is limited. The average SAT score for students who identify as having parents making between $0 and $20,000 a year is 455, a score that is actually .2 standard deviations above the average score for black students (428). These numbers are fairly unreliable because of the low rates of student response; some 40 percent of test-takers do not list their household income. In comparison, only 4 percent of test-takers fail to provide their racial identification.

However, a 2015 research paper from the Center for Studies in Higher Education at the University of California, Berkeley shows that between 1994 and 2011, race has grown more important than class in predicting SAT scores for UC applicants. While it is difficult to extrapolate from such findings to the broader population of SAT test-takers, it is unlikely that the racial achievement gap can be explained away by class differences across race.


Given the reliance of colleges on test scores for admissions, the gaps in SAT math performance documented here will continue to reproduce patterns of inequality in American society. It seems likely, however, that colleges rely too heavily on such tests. Research from William Bowen, Matthew Chingos, and Michael McPherson suggests that high school grades may have more incremental predictive power of college grades and graduation rates. The SAT may not be a good measure of student potential.

Even to the extent that SAT scores do predict college success, it is far from clear that universities are justified in basing admissions so strongly on the exam. After all, a wide range of other morally relevant considerations—questions of distributive justice, for example—may well need to be weighed alongside considerations of academic preparation.

Significant racial and class inequalities much earlier in life explain persistent obstacles to upward mobility and opportunity. The extensive racial gaps in academic achievement and college preparation across high school seniors are symptomatic of those deeper drivers of inequality. Accordingly, policy efforts may be more effective if they target underlying sources of these achievement gaps. That means experimenting with earlier childhood interventions of the sort we have described elsewhere: increasing cash transfers to disadvantaged parents with young children, improving access to quality preschool programs, pursuing paid leave policies to allow for more quality parent investment during the first years of life, teaching parents the skills they need to effectively raise their children, and so on.

It is also important to bear in mind that despite persistent gaps in test scores, racial gaps in college enrollment have actually been closing in recent years. In fact, the college enrollment gap by income is now significantly larger than by race. The challenge now is about college graduation rates (where race gaps have not closed) as much as college enrollment: for graduation rates, race gaps remain larger than income gaps.

It is also clear, however, that when such large gaps have opened up by the end of the high school years, equalizing outcomes at the college level will be an almost impossible task. Interventions at the end of the K-12 years, or in the early stages of college, can often be too little, too late.

Debates over the fairness, value and accuracy of the SAT are sure to continue. The evidence for a stubborn race gap on this test does meanwhile provide a snapshot into the extraordinary magnitude of racial inequality in contemporary American society. Standardized tests are often seen as mechanisms for meritocracy, ensuring fairness in terms of access. But test scores reflect accumulated advantages and disadvantages in each day of life up the one on which the test is taken. Race gaps on the SAT hold up a mirror to racial inequities in society as a whole. Equalizing educational opportunities and human capital acquisition earlier is the only way to ensure fairer outcomes.

SOURCE  (See the original for graphics)

Harvard Incurs Losses of $2 Billion Despite $1.2 Billion Fundraising Gain

Harvard University has incurred $2 billion in investment losses and spending despite raising $1.2 billion from donations, Bloomberg reported.

Colleges raised a record $41 billion in fiscal year 2016, and Harvard was the university that collected the most donations.

“Fundraising totals show how the richest colleges’ appeal to wealthy donors can help offset weak endowment returns,” the article states. “U.S. college endowments declined 1.9 percent on average.”

“Congress is considering a bill requiring donors to wealthy schools set aside a portion of their gift for financial aid or risk losing their tax deduction,” Bloomberg said.

Thirty-six percent of Harvard’s operating revenues have come from distributions from the university’s $35.7 billion endowment.

“When investment earnings for colleges are down, they’re also down in portfolios for wealthy individuals and foundation and donor-advised funds,” said Ann Kaplan, director of the survey from the Council for Aid to Education. “When one of these sources loses wealth, generally on the whole, they all lose ground at the same time.”


Chicago Public Schools Send Students Home With Politically Biased Letter

The chief executive of Chicago Public Schools wrote a letter Monday that school officials sent home with every student in the system attacking Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and President Donald Trump.

All 381,000 students were sent home with the letter, which blamed Rauner for the school system's financial problems while not mentioning any role the Democrats played in the state's budget problems, Chicago's WGN TV reported Tuesday.

The letter, penned by Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool, accused Rauner and his political allies of "cheating students" out of funding. A concerned parent provided WGN with images of the letter.

"Governor Bruce Rauner, just like President Trump, has decided to attack those who need the most help," said the letter, which began with the line "Dear Families."

Claypool castigated Rauner for blocking the city from receiving $215 million for its schools.

"Governor Rauner broke his word by blocking Chicago from receiving $215 million for our schools," he wrote. "That $215 million was supposed to be a first step–just a first step–toward treating your children fairly … But Governor Rauner broke his word."

"We need not just the $215 million first step that the governor has stolen from your children," the letter said.

Claypool went on to say that Rauner and his allies "cheat your children of their fair share [so] they can score political points with their own supporters. Just like President Trump."

"Please join with us in demanding that the governor and his friends stop acting like President Trump," the letter concluded in a call to action to parents.

Claypool did not mention that Chicago has been run by Democrats for decades and that the Illinois state legislature is also controlled by the Democratic Party. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is a Democrat, and only one aldermen on the Chicago City Council is a Republican. At the state legislature, both the House and Senate are controlled overwhelmingly by Democrats.

Rauner's office released a letter on Tuesday to respond to Claypool's note.

"Rather than cutting services and creating a crisis to help justify a campaign to raise taxes in Springfield, it would be helpful to everyone if [Chicago Public Schools] would work with all parties to enact a balanced budget package that includes comprehensive pension reform and a new and equitable school funding formula," Illinois Secretary of Education Beth Purvis wrote.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

DeVos Critics' Hypocrisy on Public Schools

This was written before the DeVos confirmation but is still an excellent example of the empty space in Leftist brains where principles should be.  They are ethical cripples

Today's U.S. Senate vote on Betsy DeVos should be a nail-biter. Every Democrat and two stray Republicans - Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska - plan to oppose DeVos's nomination for secretary of education. This probably will trigger a 50-50 tie, with Vice President Mike Pence splitting the difference and confirming DeVos. If only one more Republican defects, DeVos will not survive. The outcome is unpredictable.

What is sadly and maddeningly predictable is the stench-inducing hypocrisy of Democrats who attack DeVos as a creature of private schools - even as they and their children have attended and otherwise benefited from private education.

"The basic reason I'll oppose her nomination is that I don't think she is committed to public education," Senator Robert Casey (D., Pa.) declared about DeVos. This could be easier to take from Casey, if he were the product of public education.

"Casey and his father are regarded as the most famous alumni of Scranton Preparatory School, a Catholic Jesuit preparatory day school in Pennsylvania," the Daily Signal reported last month. "Casey's daughters, Caroline Casey and Julia Madeline, also attended Scranton Prep."

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.) announced that "I have received thousands of letters, calls, and emails in opposition to her nomination, many of them citing the school voucher and privatization agenda Mrs. DeVos and her allies imposed in Michigan." He also addressed government-education advocates in Providence in December. As WPRI reported, "The senator also questioned whether DeVos had ever entered a public school, drawing laughs from the supportive roundtable."

While Whitehouse surely has entered a public school, he never studied in one until he had graduated from Yale and entered the University of Virginia Law School. Whitehouse is an alumnus of St. Paul's School, a private boarding institution set on 2,000 bucolic acres in New Hampshire. Whitehouse's daughter, Molly, studied at Providence's Wheeler School. His son, Alexander, also attended a private boarding school, as the Daily Caller discovered.

Whitehouse explained on the Senate floor in 2012 that he sent his kids to private campuses so that he could give them "the best education that I can for them, and I felt that, in their circumstances, the places that I chose to send them were the best schools for them."

Senator Michael Bennet (D., Colo.) rose last night to attack DeVos on the Senate floor. "Mrs. DeVos has shown no evidence of her commitment to be the torchbearer for both excellence and equity," Bennet complained. "And a commitment to competition without a commitment to equity would forsake our democratic ideal that a free, high-quality public education must open the doors of opportunity for all."

But Bennet did not walk through those doors. In fact, Bennet is a product of St. Albans, one of the most prestigious private schools in Washington, D.C. His daughter attended Denver's Logan School for Creative Learning, an exclusive private institution of learning.

According to the Daily Signal, Senators Casey, Whitehouse, and Bennet "never attended public school."

Senate Democratic whip Dick Durbin of Illinois also will oppose DeVos today. "She is not committed to public education, which is our first obligation as a government," Durbin told teachers unionists in Springfield on Saturday.

But during a March 2009 Senate debate on school choice in Washington, D.C., "Durbin, in turn, said he and his wife sent their kids out of the private system to get Catholic education," Politico reported. Durbin, himself, attended Assumption Catholic High School in East Saint Louis, Ill.

"Our children and families deserve better than a secretary of education who would work to gut our public school system," Senator Maggie Hassan (D., N.H.) told the New Hampshire School Administrators Association yesterday.

Hassan's husband, Tom, was a school administrator. He was principal of the almost stereotypically highbrow Philips Exeter Academy, the Platonic form of American private education. The Hassans' daughter, Margaret, attended Exeter.

Too many Democrats ballyhoo the imploding government-school system for everyone else, especially poor black and Hispanic children, even as they and their spawn dive through the escape hatches onto private campuses. Ironically, multibillionaire education reformer Betsy DeVos favors private-school options available for low-income students in America's ghettos and barrios.

The fact that Senate Democrats are lined up unanimously to stop her - under orders of their teachers'-union owners - highlights the moral rot at the core of America's so-called party of the little guy.


DeVos Brings a Fresh Approach to Education

She also threatens the Left's stranglehold on "educating" our children

The path to her new job was nowhere near easy, and perhaps it was because Betsy DeVos came from such a non-traditional background to become the secretary of education under Donald Trump. Not only did she not attend public schools as a child, she and her husband sent their children to a private Christian school, knowing that "we had the resources to send our kids to whatever school was best for them," as she told Philanthropy Magazine in 2013. Once there, they helped other families who were less fortunate, and their commitment to this cause led to the American Federation for Children, which is a 501(c)(4) organization that promotes school choice.

With that said, it's no wonder that the educational establishment reacted to DeVos's nomination like Dracula to a crucifix. And they nearly succeeded in derailing her confirmation; their effort failed only because the Senate's 50-50 tie was broken by Vice President Mike Pence. It's fortunate that Jeff Sessions was still a senator and not yet attorney general, or DeVos wouldn't have been able to overcome the two Republican defectors (Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska) who joined all 48 Democrats in opposition to her.

Yet there's a major philosophical question at work here: Why is this such a big deal to the Left when the American educational system is failing on so many counts? Aside from the fact that Democrats have for decades been beholden to the campaign cash of the teachers' unions, the DeVos idea of enhancing school choice also threatens the Left's stranglehold on educating (read: indoctrinating) America's children.

Certainly there are parents who sacrifice financially to send their children to parochial schools or do the job themselves, but the vast majority of kids attend public schools - and that's the way the teachers' unions like it. Their job security, which is already in jeopardy thanks to declining inner-city school enrollment, is further threatened if DeVos upsets the apple cart by making school choice the law of the land. Recently retired conservative columnist Thomas Sowell penned a piece to make the case for her, saying that failure to confirm her would mean "a historic opportunity would be lost, and may never come again in this generation."

Reports, though, say that DeVos is off to a good start. "For starters," she told an expectant group of 200 employees at the department's Washington headquarters, "Please know that I'm a `door open' person who listens more than she speaks." She went on to promise that the department would find new ways to positively transform education.

The Left, of course, remains unconvinced, and ironically is now threatening to use school choice and teach their children at home. This isn't something new to the affluent left-wingers who live within urban areas (like Washington, DC) and can choose to send their kids to elite private schools rather than the decrepit public schools there, but the rank-and-file progressives must truly buy the hype about DeVos to speak about such things openly like this.

But there is an escape clause for the progressives, should they choose to take it. On Wednesday, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) introduced what may be the most spectacularly succinct bill in a generation: It simply reads, "The Department of Education shall terminate on December 31, 2018." Whether intentional or not, this would be known as calling the Left's bluff regarding DeVos.

Somehow we suspect they'll learn to live with a reformer in charge at the Department of Education rather than lose Jimmy Carter's cabinet creation entirely.


Protesters block DeVos from entering DC school

How weak, pathetic and ineffectual. All they did was keep parents from meeting with Sec DeVos, and voicing their concerns

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was greeted with protesters when she tried to enter a Washington middle school on Friday morning.

A video from the scene shows DeVos walking away from one entrance of Jefferson Middle School after being physically blocked from the entrance. One protester stood in front of the stairway entrance in the school, and DeVos walked back to her vehicle.

"Keep giving money to senators and buying your way to the position," one man holding a Black Lives Matter sign says to her, according to a video from ABC reporter Sam Sweeney. "I hope you're proud of yourself."

"Go back," the protestor yells and she enters the car. "Shame! Shame! Shame!"

DeVos was reportedly able to eventually enter the school for an event that included D.C. schools chancellor.

Crowds of protesters gathered ahead of DeVos's visit to the school, according to reports. Her visit, her first as secretary of Education to a public K-12 school, was reportedly organized by the Washington teachers union, which did not support her nomination.

Parents and teachers gathered holding signs opposing the controversial Education secretary.

"Betsy DeVos does not play well with others - should be held back," one sign read.

"Public schools support our kids and their American Dreams," read another.

The Senate confirmed DeVos on Tuesday to lead the Department of Education after Vice President Pence cast a tie-breaking vote, the first time ever a vice president has done so for a Cabinet nominee.

The GOP mega-donor was met with fierce opposition from Democrats and teachers unions who voiced opposition to her support for charter schools and tuition vouchers.

Senate Democrats held an all-night debate to protest DeVos's nomination ahead of her confirmation vote.

"This is a sad day for children," the American Federation of Teachers president said in a statement following DeVos's confirmation.