Saturday, January 28, 2023

College Board to Change Course After DeSantis Stands Up to 'African-American Studies' AP Class

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) has once more found himself in the news as he's weathered standing up to woke ideologies and agendas. Last week, as Guy covered, the governor's office expressed concern that the pilot version of an AP African-American Studies (APAAS) course violated state law, with Guy providing subsequent information in defense of such concerns. On Tuesday, however, the governor's office released a statement indicating that the College Board has said it would revise the course.

A statement from the College Board is included in Lydia Nusbaum's report for Florida's Voice:

“Before a new AP course is made broadly available, it is piloted in a small number of high schools to gather feedback from high schools and colleges. The official course framework incorporates this feedback and defines what students will encounter on the AP Exam for college credit and placement,” the College Board said. “We are grateful for the contributions of experts, teachers, and students and look forward to sharing the framework broadly.”

The governor's office also rereleased a statement from Florida Department of Education (FDOE) Communications Director Alex Lanfranconi. "We are glad the College Board has recognized that the originally submitted course curriculum is problematic, and we are encouraged to see the College Board express a willingness to amend. AP courses are standardized nationwide, and as a result of Florida’s strong stance against identity politics and indoctrination, students across the country will consequentially have access to an historically accurate, unbiased course," Lanfranconi said.

Lanfranconi also referenced Gov. DeSantis' commitment to stop wokeness in Florida schools. "As Governor DeSantis said, African American History is American History, and we will not allow any organization to use an academic course as a gateway for indoctrination and a political agenda," his statement continued.

In December of 2021, the governor signed the Stop WOKE Act as a way ensure Critical Race Theory (CRT) is kept out of schools and the workplace. DeSantis and the legislation were granted a win earlier this year thanks to a decision from U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker.

Additionally, DeSantis has spoken out against woke indoctrination time and time again. During a Monday announcement on pay increases for Florida teachers, the governor defended the rejection of the APAAS.

"In the state of Florida, our education standards not only don't prevent, but they require teaching black history--all the important things that's part of our core curriculum," he reminded, pointing out that it "was a separate course on top of that for advanced placement credit."

DeSantis also went on to discuss what kind of "guidelines" and "standards" Florida has. "And the issue is we have guidelines and standards in Florida. We want education, not indoctrination. If you fall on the side of indoctrination, we're going to decline. If it's education, then we will do [it]. [W]hen I heard it didn't meet the standards, I figured, yeah, they may be something [concerning] here. It's way more than that. This is a course on black history—[and] what's one of the lessons about? Queer theory. Now who would say that an important part of black history is queer theory? That is somebody pushing an agenda on our kids," he explained. "And so, when you look and see they have stuff about intersectionality, abolishing prisons--that's a political agenda. That's the wrong side of the line for Florida's standards. We believe in teaching kids facts and how to think, but we don't believe they should have an agenda imposed on them. When you try to use black history to shoehorn in queer theory, you are clearly trying to use that for political purposes."

Lanfranconi's statement also made reference to specific issues with the curriculum. "We look forward to reviewing the College Board’s changes and expect the removal of content on Critical Race Theory, Black Queer Studies, Intersectionality, and other topics that violate our laws," he concluded.

As Guy included in his subsequent reporting, the governor's office had indicated in a letter from the FDOE to the College Board that "FDOE will always be willing to reopen the discussion."

Guy also was able to get a copy of the curriculum. Not only did it contain problematic content, but, as Nusbaum had also mentioned in her piece, the curriculum had been kept hidden from public view, despite being having already released as a pilot program in 60 schools.

In his initial coverage, Guy predicted that "the stupid, knee-jerk reply in some quarters" would be because of their claims that "Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Republicans who run the state are racists." How right he was.

Chief among them, of course, was MSNBC's Joy Reid. During last Thursday's episode of "The ReidOut" she claimed, that DeSantis wanted a pro-slavery curriculum. Kevin Tober highlighted and clipped the segment for NewsBusters.

Given that the College Board has agreed to come back to the table, the responsible course of action would be for Reid to mention that during a show in the near future, preferably this very week. We're not holding our breaths though, that she would let facts get in the way of her narrative, given how many times she's tried to smear the governor as a supposed racist.


Harvard’s New President Embodies Everything Wrong with Higher-Ed

In its last issue of 2022, The Crimson, Harvard University’s undergraduate newspaper, ran a column from one of its editors containing the following sentences:

“Like superheroes, Black women are supposed to be reliable and resilient. When buildings are burning and people need to save the day, we are often called on to put the fire out… We run into each crisis with the weight of the world on our shoulders.”

This was a column of celebration. Harvard had just announced that Claudine Gay, the current Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, would be its next president. Gay is the superhero; Harvard is the burning building. When she officially takes over in June, Gay will be the first-ever black president of Harvard.

The Crimson column accidentally captures the scandal in this announcement. Think of everything wrong with higher education: the fetish for diversity at the expense of merit; the rapid expansion of anti-intellectual administrative bloat; the censorship of dissident voices; the popularity of a progressive politics that prefers performing victimhood over making substantive improvements in the lives of real people.

All these trends find their purest manifestation in Claudine Gay.

Consider her “diversity.” It’s the skin-deep “brochure diversity” decried by Justice Samuel Alito in oral argument for Harvard vs. Students for Fair Admissions, the pending Supreme Court case against Harvard.

Harvard stands accused of rigging applicant “personality scores” to artificially cap the number of Asian admits and of considering certain racial categories not merely as the simple “plus factor” approved by existing Court precedent, but as an enormous advantage comparable to hundreds of additional points on the SAT.

Chief Justice John Roberts openly wondered if Harvard’s existing admissions practices effectively lump all black applicants into a homogeneous category of “disadvantaged” and blindly provide them with plus points regardless of personal biography. The existing composition of Harvard’s undergraduate student body certainly seems to substantiate that suspicion.

Roughly 70 percent of black Harvard students come from affluent families. And in the Ivy League overall, fully 41 percent of black students are actually first- and second-generation African immigrants. Affirmative action, originally conceived as a systematic counterbalance to the effects of institutional racism on the descendants of American slaves, is now being used to aid the offspring of, say, a Nigerian orthopedic surgeon or a Dominican senior partner at McKinsey.

Or the daughter of a Haitian engineer, like Gay. Her father came to the United States for college, worked in the Army Corps of Engineers and raised her in upper middle class comfort. After graduating from Exeter, Gay went to Stanford, first as an undergrad then as faculty, and then took a tenured job in the Harvard political science department.

To hear Harvard tell it, Gay has rapidly ascended higher ed because she’s a research rockstar, “one of the Academy’s most creative and rigorous thinkers about vital aspects of democracy and political participation,” as a university press release puts it.

And yet, Gay’s official CV barely breaks three pages, boasts just a handful of poorly cited articles, and is devoid of even a single published book–a bare minimum requirement for a tenured position at most major universities. But, she is “diverse,” a black woman in an academic job market that puts a premium on that particular identity.

Gay’s true talent is not intellectual innovation; it’s administration. Her signature achievement as dean is a campus-wide “Inequality Initiative,” which appears to have done nothing more than host zoom calls and finance endless subcommittee “clusters” and add a couple new positions to the university’s already vast army of “equity, inclusion and belonging” administrators. This is exactly the kind of campaign against inequality easily embraced by an institution sitting on a $60 billion endowment and boasting a single-digit undergraduate admissions rate. It’s utterly unthreatening to the status quo.

Gay’s exact opposite is Roland Fryer. Abandoned at birth by his mom and raised by an alcoholic dad, Fryer is the youngest tenured black economist in Harvard’s history. He eschews empty bureaucracy and woke incantations in favor of hard science, focusing his work on concrete ways to boost black opportunity.

Fryer pursues provocative research lines and reports the results even when they break neat progressive pieties. Most famously, Fryer found that there was no racial bias in police shootings in the Houston police department. Roughly four years ago, Fryer was the victim of a coordinated professional assassination. And as detailed in my team’s documentary investigation about his case, the chief architect of that assassination was none other than Claudine Gay.

It’s tough not to suspect that Gay is a cynical PR prophylactic. The Supreme Court’s conservative majority appears ready to strike down as unconstitutional the school’s existing racial preference regime. If it does, black representation among the undergraduate study body is expected to fall precipitously, from 15 percent today to possibly as low as three percent.

An empty diversity hire may be exactly what Harvard wants: a bureaucrat with the right skin tone to keep that $60 billion endowment steadily growing -- and to distract from all the ways the university fails to advance true equality and opportunity.


Ted Cruz Files Key School Choice Bill That Would Be ‘Most Significant Reform’ Since GI Bill

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, commemorated National School Choice Week by filing two bills to advance school choice, one of which his staff said would be the most significant educational reform since the GI bill.

“We need to provide students with a variety of educational options to fit their needs,” Cruz told The Daily Signal in an email statement Tuesday. “I have often said that school choice is the civil rights issue of the 21st century, and I believe no differently today than I did when I began serving in the Senate a decade ago.

“Each student learns differently and ought to be afforded the opportunity regardless of where they come from, how they learn, or what they plan to do, from pursuing a college degree to attending vocational school,” he added.

Cruz filed two bills, the Student Empowerment Act and the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act on Tuesday.

The Student Empowerment Act builds on Cruz’s Student Opportunity Amendment, an edited version of which passed as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. That amendment enabled families to spend up to $10,000 from 529 tax-advantaged savings plans for various non-public K-12 education expenses. Since 2017, 529 plans have grown from 13.3 million to more than 15.9 million in 2022, according to the National Association of State Treasurers.

“The Student Empowerment Act restores the original intent of Sen. Cruz’s Student Opportunity Amendment,” a Cruz spokesperson told The Daily Signal. The original amendment “allowed parents and guardians to use 529 accounts for almost all K-12 expenses—most notably homeschooling expenses and various types of special needs therapies. In an effort to strip the entire amendment from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the Democrats challenged the amendment’s germaneness, and were able to get the Senate Parliamentarian to strip out homeschooling and special therapies from the amendment.”

The Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act creates a dollar-for-dollar federal tax credit for donations to scholarship-granting organizations and workforce training organizations. The bill allocates $5 billion for education and $5 billion for workforce training per year, for a combined investment of $100 billion over 10 years.

“Now more than ever, it is important to give children and their families the freedom to choose alternative educational options,” the Cruz spokesperson said. The pandemic showed parents what their children are, and are not, being taught in schools—parents didn’t like what they saw.”

Cruz has spoken out against critical race theory, the politicization of classrooms, and the stranglehold teachers unions have over education.

“The Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act expands the elementary, secondary, and vocational education options for all children, and allows parents to direct the education of their own children,” the spokesperson added. “The importance of this bill cannot be overstated—if this bill became law, it would be the most significant educational reform since the passage of the GI bill.”

The bills have little hope of passing in the Democratic-majority Senate, but Cruz’s move sets an important agenda for school choice legislation going forward.




Thursday, January 26, 2023

Harvard’s Cave-In to Human Rights Watch Is Part of a Bigger Problem

The decision by the dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard to reverse his veto of a fellowship for Kenneth Roth, the ex-head of Human Rights Watch, should dismay those long concerned by the group’s disproportionate criticism of Israel. One may have questions about Israeli policies, but Human Rights Watch is not one for nuance.

In April 2021, it issued a 213-page report that Israeli authorities are committing “crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution against millions of Palestinians.” In contrast, the group, though harshly critical of Chinese policy toward Muslim minorities, does not go so far as to term them a crime against humanity.

Even if Dean Douglas Elmendorf of the Kennedy School (where I served as Director, Case Studies, between 1987 and 2006), had not yielded to public pressure to reinstate Roth, it would not have resolved the underlying problem represented by groups such as the Carr Center for Human Rights, the school’s center which proposed the fellowship for Mr. Roth.

The Center is one of many quasi-research entities which have sprung up at universities across the country whose purposes are more causist than scholarly. The Carr Center cites its purpose as “research, teaching, and training in the human rights domain.”

In practice, this vague language leads to such publications as “Not My AI: Towards Critical Feminist Frameworks to Resist Oppressive AI Systems” which aspires to “help us question algorithmic decision-making systems that may be racist and patriarchal, shifting to a future that is more focused on equity and social-environmental justice.” A worthy goal perhaps but hardly a detached and scholarly one.

The Carr Center, moreover, is far from alone in emphasizing advocacy over scholarship. Boston University is the home of the Center for Antiracist Research, led by Ibram X. Kendi, who is said to be “leading an antiracist movement for social change.” The Center says it includes “scholars, advocates, and thought leaders, all of whom bring to the table a relentless commitment to social justice.”

Race in America is without doubt a proper focus of research for a range of academic disciplines. The Antiracist Center, though, is clear about distinguishing itself from such: the “Center fosters an interdisciplinary approach to identify comprehensive solutions beyond the reach of most academic institutions that primarily focus on research.”

There are, it should be noted, similar centers at American University (Antiracism Center); the University of Southern California (USC Race and Equity Center); Temple University (Center for Antiracism); the University of Michigan (Center for Racial Justice).

To be fair, it is also the case that causes associated with political conservatives have their own academic homes. The University of Arkansas hosts the Center for Education Reform, which has long championed charter schools and school choice more broadly. Its work includes a “parental power index,” rating the extent to which “your state empowers parents and educators to foster the best education environment for students.”

One may well applaud such efforts — I do ‚— but they still must be distinguished from, say, a professional school for future teachers or detached research. The list of advocacy centers in academe goes on. Princeton hosts the Eviction Lab, which “creates data, interactive tools, and research to help neighbors and policy makers understand the eviction crisis.” The key assumption: that there is such a crisis.

Wake Forest hosts the Center for the Study of Capitalism, where “we believe well-functioning free markets act as a force for positive change and progress.. . .”
New York University has its “Center for Environmental and Animal Protection, a research unit to inform policy related to these linked societal and scientific concerns.”

“The nexus of animal agriculture, climate change, and conservation represents one of the most pressing and least understood threats to a sustainable future and will be a main focal point of the Center’s activities,” says Dale Jamieson, the Center’s founding director. It’s a long way from being an agricultural extension service for farmers.

Dean Elmendorf is facing criticism that he has been influenced by donors with Zionist leanings. All the Centers above, though, have their donors with their own favorite causes, all looking to have the stamp of university approval. The BU Antiracism Center, say,has been backed by the Open Society, Ford, Gates and Casey Foundations.

The Gates, Ford, and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative all support Princeton’s Eviction Lab. The Carr Center reflects the fact that an individual donor—tech mogul Greg Carr—can establish a Center at Harvard to further his world view. Whatever one’s views of these various causes, they all reflect advocacy over scholarship. Their presence is, what’s more, not unrelated to debates about free speech on campus. When university-approved centers are established with explicit goals, students must inevitably think twice about criticizing them. It’s a long way from John Stuart Mill. ?


School Choice Movement Declares Victory in Iowa

Iowa has become the first state in the nation to pass a school choice measure this year, an education savings account plan championed by Governor Reynolds.

A school choice advocate at the Heritage Foundation, Jason Bedrick, called the new law “a major win for families looking for education freedom and choice.”

Dubbed the Students First Act, the legislation flew through the state legislature after the governor introduced it earlier this month.

The recently re-elected Ms. Reynolds signaled throughout election season that school choice would be a top priority during the state’s spring legislative session.

She endorsed a handful of political newcomers in Republican primaries against incumbent holdouts on her school choice agenda after failing to pass similar legislation last year. In four districts, Ms. Reynolds’s endorsees ousted incumbents in primaries and went on to win the general elections.

The bill passed in the state senate early Tuesday morning, and Ms. Reynolds signed it into law at the start of the workday.

“Public schools are the foundation of our educational system, and for most families, they’ll continue to be the option of choice, but they aren’t the only choice,” Ms. Reynolds told a crowd at Des Moines on Tuesday. “With this bill, every child in Iowa, regardless of ZIP code or income, will have access to the school best suited to their individual needs.”

The school choice program takes the form of education savings accounts, which have become the taxpayer-funded scholarship of choice in recent years.

In Iowa, students will have access to about $7,600 — roughly equivalent to what Iowa pays per-student in public schools — to spend on education-related costs.

Per its title, the funds are disbursed in savings accounts. Funds roll over from year to year, which proponents see as an advantage by incentivizing economization in education spending.

“The idea is that it gives families a much greater degree of freedom and flexibility,” Mr. Bedrick of the Heritage Fund told the Sun. “Often they’re used for tuition, but they can be used for things like tutoring, textbooks, homeschool curricula, online learning, special needs, and more.”

Iowa’s ESA program will phase in over the course of three years. In the upcoming 2023-24 school year, savings accounts will be available for low-income families and families seeking to leave the traditional public school system.

In the second year, eligibility will expand to include more middle class families. By the 2025-26 school year, it will be a universal education savings account program, much like Arizona’s.

While the new head of state in Arizona is trying to repeal its program, other states are following Iowa’s lead. Governors and Republican-held legislatures in Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and Idaho are eyeing similar legislation in the coming year.

In Florida, the first house bill of the legislative session would make universal its education savings account program, another feather in the cap of the Sunshine State’s education agenda if passed.


Arizona Senate Panel Debates Parental Rights & School ‘Pronouns’ Bill

The Arizona state Senate Education Committee met Wednesday to consider SB 1001, The Given Name Act, a one-page, 21-line bill that states that any individual involved in the Arizona public education system would be required to use the pronoun associated with a student’s biological sex unless the student’s public school or charter school received other instructions from the student’s parent or parents.

No public or charter school staff member, full time or contractor, would be able to use alternative pronouns for a student without the written permission of the student’s parents.

The legislation would reinforce parents’ ultimate authority in deciding what names their children should and should not be called by staff members, providing a stopgap via parental approval before public districts attempt to treat or affirm gender dysphoria with only the minor’s limited understanding of what they are going through.

State Sen. John Kavanagh, Scottsdale Republican, the sponsor of SB 1001, said that if a child had serious psychological distress as a result of the gender dysphoria he or she was dealing with, then parents need to be alerted immediately so that the child can be given immediate medical and psychological care parents deem necessary.

Kavanagh disputed the common counterargument that many parents would be unsupportive and would therefore be a danger to their “transgender child.”

“The vast majority of parents will want to help their child,” he said, “What a horrible condemnation of the average American parent” to suggest otherwise. He added that Child Protective Services was still obligated, as always, to investigate any concerns of child abuse.

At no time during the committee hearing was Kavanagh’s concern for the high rate of student-suicide correlation addressed by Democratic members.

State Sen. Sally Ann Gonzales, Tucson Democrat, said, “For lots of indigenous children, their names were changed without parental permission—Maria got changed to Mary, Roberto got changed to Robert. I think that’s wrong for that to be happening. I’m not sure what the intent is for allowing … contractors and employers also not to say their names.”

Kavanagh responded that the bill would allow students to go by nicknames.

State Sen. Christine Marsh, Phoenix Democrat, suggested that the bill would go against the rights of parents who might agree with a child wanting different pronouns. “What if the parent agrees to a child having alternative pronouns?” she asked.

Kavanagh countered by citing the first sentence of his bill, which states that parental permission would allow a child to go by whatever pronouns the parent wishes.

Marsh took issue with the second portion of the bill, which states that a teacher or contractor could not be required to use a student’s pronouns, protecting their religious and moral liberties. She said that as a teacher for 33 years, she never had to fall back on “religious beliefs” as a standard for how she would respond to a student. “Are there other examples or situations in which a teacher’s religious beliefs override the parent’s?” she asked.

Kavanagh responded with an example of a Jewish or Muslim cafeteria worker being exempt from having to serve pork to students at school lunches. He also cited dress code considerations for students of different religions. After providing those examples, Kavanagh asked whether Marsh would agree with him that parents should be notified of potential mental health issues associated with gender dysphoria.

“No, I don’t agree, I just want the hypocrisy of the bill to be pointed out,” Marsh replied.

Several testimonials were offered by concerned parents, students, and activists, both for and against the bill.

One educator from Scottsdale praised the bill, claiming that as a Jew, she has religious objections to using pronouns or names that conflict with a student’s biological sex.

One activist claimed that parents should be involved and be aware of what their kids are going through, but suggested that students should be allowed to decide when their parents are ready to find out about it.

One critical point ignored by those opposing the bill is the inability of a minor under severe mental distress to safely self-treat gender dysphoria or any severe mental health issue or trauma. Encouraging minors to decide how best to treat themselves sets a dangerous precedent—and risks a very real threat of suicide or self-harm without the parent having an opportunity to aid his or her child.

One transgender advocate claimed that “no one commits suicide because they are gender dysphoric,” but implied that bullying was the cause.

While 20.2% of students claim to have been bullied, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, 8.9% have admitted attempting suicide. In contrast, while 51% of transgender individuals have claimed to be victims of bullying, 40% of transgender individuals admitted attempting suicide.

One opponent of the bill called Kavanagh “Senator Coward,” during his testimony, to which Kavanagh quipped, “You’re free to call me that [under this bill], as long as you get written permission from my parents.”

With only a one-seat advantage on the Senate Education Committee, Republicans will likely revise The Given Name Act and clarify a few points of language via amendments over the next several weeks.




Wednesday, January 25, 2023

'Fund Students, Not Systems' with Universal School Choice

With education reform taking center stage, states are pushing school choice reforms during the annual National School Choice Week happening this week.

The appetite for school choice is there. Why? There's a healthy and growing distrust among parents with entrusting corrupt teachers' unions (who selfishly put themselves ahead of students) with their kids– a change resulting from the COVID pandemic. School curriculums have strayed away from writing, reading, and arithmetic for critical race theory (CRT), America-bashing, and disturbing sexually-explicit content. Adding insult to injury, school administrators suppressed National Merit Scholar announcements, especially notices here in Northern Virginia, under the guise of not “offending” their classmates. This blatant act is being treated as a civil rights violation. As it should.

Public schools held hostage by support teachers unions are in serious need of competition. Education savings accounts (ESAs) are a surefire way to remove Randi Weingarten and her ilk’s grip over students.

What are Education Savings Accounts (ESAs)?

With ESAs catching on, there’s a lot of confusion about them – namely disinformation. Powerful teacher's unions and corresponding special interests groups, naturally, are hellbent on maintaining their dominance over students and keeping them trapped in failing low-performing schools.

That’s why ESAs are viewed as a superior alternative to what’s currently being offered by Big Education.

Ed Choice defines ESAs as the following: “Education savings accounts (ESAs) allow parents to withdraw their children from public district or charter schools and receive a deposit of public funds into government-authorized savings accounts with restricted, but multiple, uses. Those funds—which families generally access via an online platform—can cover private school tuition and fees, online learning programs, private tutoring, community college costs, higher education expenses, and other approved customized learning services and materials. Some ESAs, but not all, even allow students to use their funds to pay for a combination of public school courses and private services.”

What’s wrong with education dollars following the student? Nothing–that’s the way it should be. But Big Education puts their interests ahead of students and expects taxpayers to ceaselessly fund their charade without accountability. Not anymore. School choice could rein in this long-standing abuse.

Which States Have Successfully Implemented ESAs?

Two states–Arizona and West Virginia– activated ESA programs in 2022.

The Grand Canyon State became the first state in the Union to adopt “universal school choice” last year. Arizona’s program, dubbed the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA), is available to all Arizona school-age children (as of September 2022). For the 2022-2023 school year, eligible participants will receive approximately $7,000 for the ESA based on “90 percent of the state’s per-student base funding.”

Previously, school choice offerings were limited to “disabled students, those in failing schools, and other specific circumstances.” Since going into effect last September, it has serviced nearly 46,000 students as of this writing.

Moving out East, West Virginia has the Hope Scholarship. And despite massive support for the program, it faced several high-profile court challenges. Ultimately, the state Supreme Court determined it was legal and could proceed last fall.

The program is available to 93% of school-aged children in the Mountaineer State. In contrast with Arizona’s ESA program, Hope Scholarships “are equal to 100 percent of the prior year’s statewide average net state aid allotted per pupil based on net enrollment adjusted for state aid purposes (about $4,600 in 2020–21), which is about 38 percent the value of public school per-student spending.” A bonus: unused funds from this school year can be carried over to the 2023-2024 school year.

States Mulling ESA Bills in 2023

There are already several states mulling universal school choice, namely to establish ESA programs, this legislative session.

Utah is expected to create its answer– Utah Fits All Scholarship Program–this session with House Bill 215. If passed–there’s a high likelihood it will– HB 215 will award $8,000 to each eligible student representing 57% of the Beehive State’s per-pupil spending. And it also increases teacher pay.

It recently passed by a wide margin in the Utah House of Representatives and is expected to make its way to the State Senate and Governor Spencer Cox’s desk for signing.

Florida, a school choice-friendly state, is expected to expand its ESA program this session, as well. House Bill 1 was recently introduced to expand the Sunshine State’s ESA program: the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program.

And while the math is more difficult in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earl-Sears (formerly a Virginia Board of Education member) and Delegate Glenn Davis (R-Virginia Beach) are determined to get their ESA bill, HB 1508, passed in both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly. If created, the Virginia Education Success Account Program. It would give individual Virginia school-aged kids about $6,300 annually to apply toward their schooling. But Democrat resistance in the State Senate, sadly, will doom these prospects.


Support for school choice, regardless of geography or political party, continues to rise in the U.S. And that makes corrupt teachers' unions and their bosses squirm. They know their days of monopolizing education are numbered.

As American Federation for Children senior fellow Corey DeAngelis aptly retorts: it’s time to fund students and not systems.

Will more states buck Big Education and adopt school choice–especially ESAs? Let’s hope they do.


DeSantis Makes a Major Move Against Unions During School Choice Week

It's School Choice Week in states across the country. In Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is taking more power away from leftist teachers unions and reallocating it to parents, students and teachers who don't want to be part of the political union machine.

"The Governor’s proposal will create more accountability and transparency for public sector unions, including K-12 teacher unions and higher education unions. This proposal will require school unions to represent at least 60% of employees eligible for representation, an increase over the current 50% threshold, and allow state investigations into unions suspected of fraud, waste and abuse. Additionally, the proposal will require annual audits and financial disclosures for unions," DeSantis office released in a statement. "To further ensure that school boards are acting in the best interests of Florida’s teachers and students, this proposal reduces term limits for school board members from 12 years to 8 years and seeks to make school board elections a partisan election. A joint resolution for the 2023 Legislative Session has already been filed by Senator Gruters and Representative Roach to begin this process."

While taking on the unions, DeSantis is backing individual teachers and increasing their pay.

“This is a huge package to increase teacher pay, support teacher empowerment and protect teachers’ paychecks by ensuring they have control over their hard-earned salary,” DeSantis said. “We want more transparency into how school unions operate, and we are going to fight against school union haggling that holds teachers and their salary increases hostage. Partisan groups should not be given special privileges.”


Australia: Back to the future. One year teaching qualification to be revived

Two-year post-graduate teaching degrees would be scrapped and replaced with a one-year course under a major overhaul to attract aspiring teachers into classrooms as schools battle chronic staff shortages, particularly in maths and science.

The proposal will be rolled out if the NSW Coalition government is reelected in March. It follows the NSW Productivity Commission releasing data that reveals the shift to the longer qualification has deterred more than 9000 would-be teachers from entering the profession.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said the reform was part of a push to modernise education and make a teaching career a reality sooner for those already in the workforce.

“People at all stages of their lives have the potential to be great teachers, for those who already have an undergraduate degree we want a more streamlined approach for them to start a teaching career,” Perrottet said.

Under a NSW Coalition government, those with an undergraduate degree will be able to complete a one-year full-time postgraduate degree to become a secondary school teacher from 2024, and streamlined postgraduate courses for primary school teachers would be available by 2026.

NSW Productivity Commissioner Peter Achterstraat said evidence shows longer courses have created significant hurdles for those looking to retrain as teachers, and there were unintended costs to students and teachers with the shift to a two-year postgraduate degree.

“There are potentially 9400 aspiring teachers who would have completed under the old one-year course and that’s enough to staff 140 high schools,” Achterstraat said.

In 2013, a national approach to the accreditation of education degrees was phased in, requiring university graduates to undertake a two-year master’s degree to enter the profession. Previously, a one-year graduate diploma was sufficient.

“Would-be teachers are deterred from joining the profession because of the extra cost, the extra year of training, and the fact they are going miss out on salary,” Achterstraat said.

“You might have a maths degree and be perfect for teaching, but if you have a family and a mortgage, taking two years off work to do the training is probably not viable,” he said.

The Commission examined the economic impacts of longer postgraduate initial teacher education, and found that since NSW doubled the length of postgraduate initial teacher education, the number of students completing degrees has trended down.

It found the move to a two-year master’s is a disincentive for mid-career professionals wanting to retrain as teachers, and has cost around $3 billion in lost welfare over the past seven years.

“These costs comprise loss of teacher earnings, additional student debt for teachers, and loss of lifetime income for students. Had initial teacher education (ITE) remained as a one-year graduate diploma, we could expect more than 9000 additional ITE completions over the 2015 to 2022 period,” the report said.

The shortfall in teaching graduates with specialised skills on out-of-field teaching – where students are being taught by someone without expertise in their subject – is “concerning”, the report said. The Commission estimates that the poorer outcomes from additional out-of-field teaching costs around 95,000 students $25,000 each in lost lifetime earnings.

“These additional teachers might have alleviated the current growing shortage of qualified teachers which is well documented,” the report said.

There is scarce evidence that longer training pathways result in a better quality of teaching and many high-achieving education systems overseas such as Singapore (ranked second worldwide in PISA results) offer one-year postgraduate teaching qualifications, the report said.

“Based on a review of empirical evidence, the Commission estimates that teachers with an additional year of ITE have a negligible impact on student achievement. On the other hand, the literature consistently points to additional years of on-the-job teaching experience having a positive impact, especially for early-career teachers.”

Teacher shortages are biting across Australia – especially in maths, design and technology and science – while data reported by the Herald last year showed more than 100,000 students in NSW are taught by someone without expertise in their subject.

“While extending the initial teacher education to two years was likely done to improve teacher quality, we now know that it has not achieved that outcome. We are confident that returning to a one-year initial teacher qualification will not lower teaching standards,” Achterstraat said.

Minister for Education and Early Learning Sarah Mitchell said the current two-year master’s degree requirement was a disincentive for aspiring teachers, particularly mid-career professionals, and didn’t have a clear enough impact on student outcomes.

“This decision [to move to a one-year pathway] is backed by strong research which shows that the best way for teachers to hit the ground running is to spend more time in schools.”

The government said it will work with universities and the profession “to ensure these new courses are high-quality and prepare trainee teachers for the classroom”, and will push for it to be on the national agenda at next month’s education ministers meeting.

A policy paper released last year by conservative think tank the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) argued mandating a two-year requirement for postgraduate teaching was crippling teacher supply. The one-year graduate diploma of education is currently held by about 60,000 teachers nationally.




Tuesday, January 24, 2023

New Report Details Massive Fraud and Abuse Allegations in Chicago Public Schools

On January 1, 2023, the Chicago Board of Education’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued its Fiscal Year 2022 Annual Report, which details allegations of widespread sexual abuse throughout Chicago Public Schools (CPS), rampant corruption, massive fraud, and other troubling findings.

According to the report, CPS received $2.8 billion in federal pandemic relief funds. To date, CPS has spent nearly 50 percent of that amount, with “77% of its $1.49 billion in pandemic relief funding expenditures to date on employee salaries and benefits.”

Much of that money has been allocated to CPS staff in the form of “Extra Pay.” As the report notes, “In 2021, Extra Pay hit nearly $74 million — a 17 percent increase from the most recent pre-pandemic calendar year of 2019. Over five years, Extra Pay jumped 74 percent — far more than the average teacher’s salary rose over a similar five-year period.”

What’s more, “Pre-pandemic versus post-pandemic Stipend expenditures systemwide more than tripled, jumping from $8.5 million in calendar year 2019 to $28.9 million in 2021.”

The report also documents wide-ranging fraud via “buddy punching,” wherein a CPS employee would clock in or out for other employees. In one particular case, a CPS employee earned more than $150,000 over four years in “Extra Pay” even though videos documented the employee was gambling in casinos while being compensated for “Extra Pay.”

CPS has a long history of misspending funds; however, the district has taken this to a whole new level in recent years after it received almost $3 billion in emergency funds that were supposed to be spent on reopening its schools in the wake of the pandemic.

As if engaging in financial fraud is not bad enough, an even more disturbing set of allegations concerning extensive adult-on-student sexual abuse was uncovered throughout CPS. Per the report, over the past four years, the OIG’s Sexual Allegations Unit (SAU) has investigated 1,733 cases of adult-on-student sexual abuse. In 2022 alone, SAU opened 477 cases of potential sexual abuse allegations. Since 2018, the SAU has confirmed more than 300 cases of adult-on-student sexual abuse in CPS. Strangely, only 16 of those cases have resulted in criminal charges.

Another red flag highlighted in the report documents the fact that CPS has a “chronic problem” mislabeling truant students as transfer students. Since 2014, the OIG has launched five probes into this ongoing issue, however, the problem persists. In 2022, the OIG uncovered “extensive evidence” that schools throughout the district have repeatedly marked students who have dropped out as transfers even though this violates state law and CPS policy.

“We have not been able to confirm or see any evidence that CPS is taking adequate corrective actions even when these audits bear out that schools are not in compliance with what they’re supposed to be doing to verify transfers or missing students,” the report notes.

Although the mislabeling accusations pale in comparison to the outright fraud and sexual abuse allegations, it matters because these students are unlikely to re-register after they have been coded as a transfer. In fact, data show that since CPS decided to shut down its schools for in-person learning during the pandemic, there has been an even more significant drop-off in student attendance across the district. As far as we know, hundreds, if not thousands of students have completely fallen off of CPS’ radar because the district has failed to “address the improper use of leave codes and the documentation of transfers and dropouts.”

Interestingly, the problems that have engulfed CPS in recent years have not occurred across the Windy City’s private schools. During the pandemic, the overwhelming majority of private and charter schools throughout Chicago maintained in-person learning, despite not receiving a single penny in federal pandemic relief funds. There have also been no bombshell reports of rampant sexual abuse allegations in Chicago’s many non-public schools. It also should be noted that Chicago’s private and charter schools have not been accused of mislabeling their students as transfers to hide the fact that they have dropped out.

Perhaps this report will convince more Chicago parents that school choice is the ultimate answer to the dysfunctional Chicago Public Schools racket. CPS is responsible for educating more than 350,000 students on an annual basis, yet it has shown itself to be wholly incapable of educating these young people, let alone keeping them safe from sexual assaults by CPS staff.

If this report, with all of its shocking claims, does not move the needle towards a school choice revolution in Chicago, the students will continue to pay the price as the so-called adults in the room plunder and destroy their futures.


Every parent should fight back vs. the left’s war on merit

It used to be obvious that merit is part of achieving the American dream. But like it’s doing to so many self-evident things, the left is attempting to destroy this idea as it pursues a Sovietesque system of “equity.”

Parents might not see merit’s decline as a more pressing concern than their children being told they can be any gender they choose from day to day. Most kids are academically average. Why fight over merit when there are so many other ideological fights to be had?

Parents have to see merit as part and parcel of the left’s push to impose its ridiculous concepts on our kids.

The idea that everyone can have an equal outcome has been tried again and again in failed socialist countries. When the left succeeds in ending merit in a school, you can be sure the rest of the woke ideas parents abhor have already taken over the curriculum.

Beyond that, our schools’ loss of rigor has dumbed down our country, and the retreat from pursuing merit has slowed success for so many kids.

This isn’t theoretical. Nor is it accidental.

Virginia mom Asra Nomani recently discovered that in September 2020, her son received National Merit recognition, a prestigious honor given to a handful of kids across the country — but her son’s school, Thomas Jefferson HS for Science and Technology, hid it from the family.

The majority-Asian school is neck deep and drowning in leftist ideology, pursuing “equity,” equal outcomes for children based on the color of their skin. Asians are out, as TJ has simply too many successful ones. Nomani’s son was the wrong color, and the school’s racists decided he should not be presented with the award.

Learning this news two years too late, Nomani’s son was denied the ability to note the achievement on his college applications and seek scholarships that stem from this award. The school hurt his chances to succeed, and it did it on purpose.

Lest anyone think this is just one bad principal at one school, state officials are investigating more than a dozen schools in northern Virginia for doing the same thing.

In Sunday’s Post, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin wrote that he’s proposed a bill “to eliminate the withholding of any recognition, award, or postsecondary scholarship eligibility earned by Virginia students” — “parents and students will be notified immediately about these honors.”

That’s a start. But the schools that harmed so many kids’ futures because they put their political ideology ahead of student success need to be punished, and everyone involved must be fired.

As Youngkin points out, Fairfax County has spent “$455,000 of taxpayer dollars to fund equity training in schools.” This is absurd and akin to setting nearly half a million of our tax dollars on fire. We can’t let this go on.

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares has launched an investigation into whether these schools violated the students’ civil rights. It seems obvious they have, and accountability is necessary. Any school found to have withheld merit awards from children, for any reason, should have the choice of a fully new administration or losing its federal funding.

Schools receive this money to support kids’ education and success, not to impose their twisted Communist-like social system. If public schools can’t or won’t do that, they don’t deserve to exist.

The behavior of everyone involved in this scandal is so far beyond the pale, there can be no second chances. They deserve to lose it all.

The left treats our public schools like its personal fiefdom. This has to stop now. Parents should fight for school choice and for a child’s education funding to follow the student, but (particularly in blue states where that’s an uphill battle) they have to simultaneously fight for our public schools.

Parents know how to do it. They successfully beat back critical-race-theory and gender-ideology training in many public schools, even in blue areas. Fighting for merit is the next frontier and one that has to matter to all of us.


For public school teachers, there can be no right to strike

THE MASSACHUSETTS Teachers Association, the largest teachers union in the state, has unveiled its top priorities for the next two years. Those priorities do not include holding instructors to more rigorous standards or ensuring that students do better on exams. They do, however, include making it lawful for public employees to go on strike — something that has been flatly illegal in Massachusetts for the past century.
"This outright ban on public employee strikes is unjust," declares the state's largest teachers union. It "unfairly restricts the ability of public employees to take collective action in support of themselves and the communities they serve."

In fact, the ban on strikes by government workers is neither unjust nor unfair. It is essential. When public-sector employees refuse to work, they victimize innocent third parties. It isn't corporate managers who feel the pain. Ordinary citizens do. Strikes by public employees are intended to deprive the community of essential services — classroom teaching, public safety, trash collection, mass transit. The widespread distress caused by such strikes is intentional: Their underlying strategy is to make the public miserable, thereby increasing the pressure on government officials to bow to the union's demands.

The president of the teachers union, Max Page, calls it a "fundamental labor and human right" for teachers and other government employees to be able to walk off the job. Page assured the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that if his members engaged in a work stoppage it would not be for selfish motives but "out of love for their students." Love? Teachers who go on strike hurt their students. They cause academic achievement to suffer. They inflict particular harm on special-needs students, those with disabilities, and those who rely on school for their meals.

When teachers refuse to work, parents are often thrown into turmoil. During one of Chicago's numerous teachers strikes, the Chicago Sun-Times described the "citywide epidemic" of "stressed-out parents" struggling to cope with the chaos unleashed by the Chicago Teachers Union.

"Parents and guardians frantically sought last-minute child care [and] pleaded with their bosses for leniency. . . . . Citywide, for thousands of families, stress was high and consequences were real." The paper quoted Martina Watts, a mother in one of the city's poorer neighborhoods: "I might be losing my job over this. As long as they're on strike, I can't work. I'm not getting paid."

In the private sector, employees who go on strike are subject to market discipline. They know that there are limits to the claims they can make of an employer — after all, private companies must remain profitable or fail. Let unions demand too much and management may respond by closing a facility, increasing automation, or relocating to another state. Private-sector job actions generally turn on economic disputes over how to divide a pie whose size is fixed. Unions claim their members should get more of the profits they help produce; management resists those claims. If a strike is declared, both sides pay a price — the company loses business, the employees lose income, and both are constrained by the hard reality of the bottom line.

But in government, there are no profits to divvy up. Labor disputes in the public sector are about public dollars, which neither employees nor managers produce. When teachers, transit workers, or sanitation workers threaten to strike, it isn't to squeeze more out of management. It is to extract more from taxpayers — yet taxpayers get no seat at the table.

Unlike in the private sector, collective bargaining in the public sector is political. It amounts to the making of public policy through antidemocratic means. Union officials who have no mandate from the voters are empowered to play a direct role in crafting government policy and deciding how public funds will be spent. In a democracy, that should be intolerable.

For a long time, it was. "The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service," President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote in 1937. In the private workplace, organized employees should have every right to negotiate with employers. But not in the public sector, said FDR, where "the employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress."

Not only should teachers and other public workers not be permitted to strike, they shouldn't be permitted to engage in collective bargaining. The salaries and benefits paid to government workers, their hours and conditions of employment, the obligations they are expected to meet — these are all matters of public policy and should be decided by public policymakers. Labor unions ought to have no more of a say in the fashioning of those policies than any other interest group. And public employees who go on strike should be treated as the scofflaws they are, not indulged and encouraged and flattered.

It has become normal in recent years for Massachusetts teachers unions to extort more money and other contract concessions by striking or threatening to do so. "Two more illegal strikes have hit Massachusetts!" excitedly reported the union activist project Labor Notes on its website last fall. It was referring to strikes by teachers in Haverhill and Malden; those came in the wake of strikes, strike threats, or work slowdowns in Andover, Brookline, Dedham, and Belmont. Most recently, the teachers union in Melrose authorized a strike and was promptly rewarded with a lucrative new three-year contract.

Massachusetts voters and politicians haven't just gotten used to this extortion, they enable it. Teachers who refuse to work know perfectly well they won't lose their jobs for breaking the law.

The state's education commissioner, Jeff Riley, pronounced himself "shocked" that the Massachusetts Teachers Union is now demanding that public employee strikes not be merely tolerated but legalized.

Really, though, should he be so surprised? By allowing government-employee unions to engage in collective bargaining, Massachusetts strengthened those unions at the expense of the state's voters and taxpayers. Declining to enforce the ban on public-sector strikes strengthened them even more. Abolishing the ban altogether is the logical next step. None of this will lead to better schools, improved education, or higher test grades. But that's OK. The teachers unions "love" their students, and you always hurt the one you love.




Monday, January 23, 2023

Is the American Bachelor’s Degree Losing Its Luster?

Is the sheen wearing off the American liberal arts degree? Plummeting enrollment at colleges and universities, and the increasing number of both government and private sector employers abandoning their college-degree requirements for new hires, suggest that it might be.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, undergraduate enrollment fell in the fall of 2022, albeit more slowly than in recent years.

Enrollment for the fall term dropped by 1.1 percent, bringing the total two-year decline since 2020 to 4.2 percent. Although there was a significant decline in 18- to 20-year-olds enrolled, much of this decline was driven by older and part-time students.

A former press secretary for the Department of Education during the Trump administration, Angela Morabito, speculates that this decline and the ensuing abandonment of degree requirements is due to the colleges themselves.

“Colleges are making themselves irrelevant,” Ms. Morabito said in a tweet. “I talk to people ALL the time who needed a college education to *get* their job but not to actually *do* their job.”

As college enrollment and the number of new graduates decline, states are now beginning to do away with college degree requirements for many jobs.

Pennsylvania has become the latest state to do so, with Governor Shapiro signing an executive order Wednesday that does away with the four-year degree requirements for 92 percent of state jobs.

“I want to make it clear to all Pennsylvanians, whether they went to college or they gained experience through work, job training, or an apprenticeship program: we value your skills and talents, and we want you to apply for a job with the Commonwealth,” Mr. Shapiro said in a speech Wednesday.

Pennsylvania, under the leadership of Mr. Shapiro, a Democrat, joins Utah and Maryland in dropping the requirement for a four-year degree for most government jobs.

In December, Governor Cox of Utah, a Republican, announced that the state would be dropping a college degree requirement for 98 percent of the jobs in the state’s executive branch.

“Degrees have become a blanketed barrier-to-entry in too many jobs,” Mr. Cox said. “Instead of focusing on demonstrated competence, the focus too often has been on a piece of paper. We are changing that.”

Maryland was the state that started the trend, with Governor Hogan’s “no skilled worker left behind” program. The program drops degree requirements for job seekers 25 and older who have a high school diploma or equivalent and are able to show they have gained skills through alternative routes.

These “Skilled Through Alternative Routes” job seekers might use community college education, apprenticeship, military service, skill bootcamps, and on-the-job training to waive the degree requirement.

These programs have also garnered support from the White House, with President Biden last spring calling on employers to focus on the skills of job applicants instead of their degrees.

With a tight labor market, companies including Google, Microsoft, Apple, IBM, Bank of America, and General Motors have dropped degree requirements for certain roles in an effort to gain an advantage in attracting talent.

A recent study by a employment analytics firm, Remote, has also recently found that the salaries in comparable roles are relatively unaffected by an employee’s degree or lack thereof.

Remote’s CEO, Job van der Voort, says that companies should focus more on a potential employee’s “experiences, teachability, adaptability, and resilience.”

“Rather than using a candidate’s level of formal education as the sole indicator of how they will perform in a position, we instead suggest removing degree requirements wherever possible,” Mr. van der Voort said. ?


Parents line up to slam woke Michigan school board member for saying 'whiteness is evil' and that white people are more dangerous than WILD ANIMALS

Parents demanded a Michigan school board member be fired on Tuesday after she tweeted 'whiteness is evil' and insisted Caucasian people are more dangerous than wild animals.

Kesha Hamilton has written a series of inflammatory posts on Twitter claiming whiteness was 'synonymous with racism' and urging people to 'be safe' around 'white folks'.

Hamilton, whose ex-husband is white, faced parents and teachers in a tense board meeting for Jackson Public Schools which required extra security due to protests staged at the school by a far-right group.

One mom insisted her 'racist comments should not be condoned'.

On December 18 she wrote on Twitter: 'Whiteness is so evil, it manipulates then says I won't apologize for my dishonesty and trauma inducing practices and thinks you should applaud it for being honest about its ability to manipulate and be dishonest.'

In a separate post on December 3 she said: 'The last thing you have to worry about is an animal - though that could be a very real threat... more dangerous are any white folks you may see on the trail... be safe!'

The mother-of-six doubled down on her statements which she has not deleted from her public profile.

She told the meeting this week: 'We have to ask ourselves what are we angered over - the fact that it was said or the fact that it is true?'

She added: 'We must educate ourselves [about] how these racial disparities are impacting us and our neighbors and not let them be successful in silencing us.'

She continues to work as a board member for Jackson Public Schools which represents several schools across Jackson, Michigan.

Hamilton was elected in 2020 though her term expires at the end of 2026. It is unclear how much she is paid for the role.

One parent told Tuesday's meeting that Hamilton was 'an angry and bitter judge'.

Mom Gina Hastings added: ' Someone in her influential position must be held to a high standard. She must be a representative for all students in the JPS system.

'Her racist comments should not be condoned. How can all kids feel safe when physical characteristics over which they have no control are being called evil and dangerous.'

After the meeting, Hamilton insisted it had been a success, writing on Facebook: 'Thank you Jackson! I can’t express enough how much each of you and your presence on Tuesday night meant personally to me.

'Those in person and those online.'

She added: 'I felt your support deeply in my spirit and what was also very clear was your recognition of the Real Issue. Our students. Our teachers. Our data. The continuation of a racial equity focus. And the embracing of diverse leadership.'

Hamilton, who has also endorsed anti-police sentiments on social media, runs her own consultancy firm Diverse Minds Consulting, LLC, which claims to 'fill the gaps that exist in the messaging and training of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and anti-racism'.

She claims in her biography on its website that she was inspired by her experiences of being married to a white man and having mixed-race children.

In 2020 she ran a campaign to become a board member of Jackson Public Schools which she successfully won.

At the time, she said three of her children attended schools under the board's remit.

Last year, Hamilton became involved in a dispute with superintendent Jeff Beal who she accused of harassment and bullying.

However an independent investigation found there was not enough evidence to substantiate the claims.

Hamilton's recent posts have attracted widespread outrage, prompting local far-right group Proud Boys to hand out flyers in the school which said 'Jackson School Board hates White people.'

The board was forced to move Tuesday's meeting after being warned of the possible attendance of 'outside agitator groups' by Jackson Police and Fire Services.

Prior to the meeting, Superintendent Jeff Beal told local site MLive: ' I received attention from several concerned citizens within the last month who are frustrated with the racial tones or undertones of trustee Kesha Hamilton’s social media.


Washington Township School District removes rainbow ‘safe space’ signs after parents complain

A New Jersey school district removed rainbow-colored “Safe Zone” signs hanging outside classrooms at its middle school after parents deemed them non-inclusive.

Washington Township Superintendent Peter Turnamian announced the measure at its board of education meeting on Jan. 3, according to

The square signs, which hung at Long Valley Middle School, resembled the rainbow-striped Pride flag, known to represent the LGBTQ+ community.

They were displayed to illustrate that the rooms were designated safe spaces for its LBTQ+ student body.

However, parents expressed concern over the fact that other groups were not represented, violating the school’s inclusion policies, The Epoch Times reported.

The signs, which were erected in 2019, will be swapped out for ones depicting the school’s panther mascot in an effort to promote respect for all.

“Ultimately, the advice of legal counsel was to have them come down,” Turnamian said at the meeting, adding that the district received “appropriate criticism” about showing favoritism.

Recently elected school board member John Holly addressed the board in January about its lack of inclusion, saying, “School should be a safe space for all kids, not just some kids.”

In December, a lesbian and gender-queer student at the school expressed her concern to the board.

“I can say the LGBTQ+ community is constantly bullied and belittled in our school system,” said a student named Rose. “The safe zone rainbow stickers let kids like me know that they are not alone despite their differences.

Christian Fuscarino, the executive director of Garden State Equality, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group in New Jersey, told the outlet that the removal of the signage, “sends a message to LGBTQ youth that they are not fully welcomed in the school environment.”




Sunday, January 22, 2023

California college professor says 'completely fabricated' claims of racism may cost him his job

A California college professor said after he and a group of faculty committed to free speech questioned diversity measures on campus, they were targeted with false allegations of racism that puts his job on the line.

A California college professor is fighting back after he says his job has been threatened due to allegations of racism and hate speech that he said were "completely fabricated."

Tenured Bakersfield College history professor Matthew Garrett said he and other faculty members of a free speech coalition were targeted with false allegations after they asked questions during a campus diversity meeting last October. Shortly afterwards, Garrett received a notice of unprofessional conduct by the administration that claimed he had caused "real harm" to students and said he was being removed from the diversity committee "effective immediately."

In December, vice president of the school district's Board of Trustees John Corkins made headlines after he lashed out at the group during a board meeting saying the "abusive" and "disrespectful" minority of teachers needed to be "culled," and taken "to the slaughterhouse."

Professor Garrett told Fox News Digital he wasn't the only one who had "growing campus frustrations" with the "radical" changes that the district had made in the past few years.

"Many of the faculty quietly tell me thank you for speaking up because we're afraid to do so," he said.

He described how critical race theory and other racial equity initiatives had become popular after Black Lives Matter drew national attention in 2020.

"Our campus has been really radically transformed in the last two years or so. In the last two years we've adopted critical race theory, diversity training, implicit bias training, micro aggression trainings. We've adopted racial quotas and preferences, affirmative action-type behavior, we've adopted racially segregated classes, we've adopted mandated masks, compulsory vaccines, and location tracking software. We've got funding going to propaganda webpages you can track through grants," he said.

Other professors had raised concerns these social equity initiatives were weakening academic standards, he claimed.

"A lot of the faculty are really concerned about the dissolution of rigor," Garrett said, as academic programs were replaced with social programs focused on "inclusivity, [where] everyone passes."

The professor filed a federal lawsuit against the school in 2021 after his job was initially threatened for pushing back against some of these initiatives. His attorney Arthur Willner said his case described a growing problem of intolerance to free speech on college campuses.

"The district's notion that students and faculty members have a right not to be offended, and not to hear ideas that they find disagreeable, somehow trumps the First Amendment rights of everybody else," Willner said.

The lawyer said this hostility to the First Amendment pressured many faculty members with opposing ideas to keep silent for fear of losing their jobs and livelihoods.

Garrett said certain faculty members on board with these left-wing social policies were "colluding" with the administration to target faculty members who questioned them.

He shared how one professor specifically said she did not want a diversity of opinions on her race committee, while another argued free speech was a "conservative ruse."

"So the person doesn't believe conservatives should be able to speak and if they do speak they should be able to be disciplined?" he said, calling these admissions "very disturbing."

Still, the professor said he wasn't going to back down and offered hope to other faculty who may be afraid to stand out.

"None of us want to be unprofessional or disruptive or troublesome. That's not the goal. The goal is to facilitate open discussions and make sure other faculty know they're allowed to ask questions, that they're allowed to question policies they disagree with," he argued.

Garrett said he plans to keep fighting the district but expects them to throw the kitchen sink at him to pressure him into a settlement.


DeSantis Scores Win Against 'Woke" Public Education, Bans Historically Inaccurate African-American Studies AP Course

Florida Governor and possible 2024 candidate for President Ron DeSantis has done it again. This time Governor DeSantis has axed an allegedly woke African-American advanced placement (AP) course claiming the course violates state law and the content is historically inaccurate.

Via The Blaze:

The Florida Department of Education has rejected an AP African-American studies class, asserting that the course runs afoul of state law and largely “lacks educational value.”

“As presented, the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value,” a letter from the Department of Education’s Office of Articulation to College Board Florida Partnership senior director Brian Barnes reads. “In the future, should College Board be willing to come back to the table with lawful, historically accurate content, FDOE will always be willing to reopen the discussion.”

This is exactly why Republicans almost universally admire the Florida Governor.

Many GOP politicians pretend to be conservative but once in office tend to vote with the RINOs.

The Florida Governor however is the real deal and has consistently run his state as a true conservative would, with amazing results.

While this latest action banning an African-American AP class will be met with screams of racism from the left you can bet most of residents of that state will support this latest action.


Ireland: Christian teacher who spent 100 days behind bars for refusing to use gender-neutral pronouns is SACKED by his school

Enoch Burke has two weeks to launch an appeal after he was dismissed from his teaching post yesterday, following a chaotic disciplinary hearing.

Mr Burke is entitled to appeal within ten working days after Thursday's 'stage 4' hearing to decide if he should be fired.

The teacher, who spent three months in prison for defying a court order to stay away from his school following a row that started over the preferred pronouns of a transgender pupil, was informed of the decision yesterday.

In a statement, the Burke family declined to comment on whether he would appeal. But they alleged that 'solicitors unlawfully sought to conduct the purported disciplinary hearing' and that the school chairman was absent, which may form the basis of an appeal.

Thursday's hearing was loudly disrupted by Mr Burke and his family, who are evangelical Christians.

Mr Burke was summoned to Wilson's Hospital School in Multyfarnham, Co. Westmeath, yesterday and was informed at 3.30pm in the presence of the board of management chairman John Rogers, and principal Frank Milling that he had been dismissed.

Mr Burke said that his dismissal was based on the 'purported' meeting of the board of management in Mullingar Park Hotel from which Mr Rogers was absent.

The meeting on Thursday heard that Mr Rogers was absent as he had taken ill on Wednesday night. Gardaí had to escort board members from a Mullingar hotel while they were being followed by members of Burke's family after Thursday's hearing.

The decision to dismiss Mr Burke came under stage four of Department of Education and Skills procedures for the suspension or dismissal of teachers. Evidence included a written principal's report and allowing Mr Burke to speak to the board at the Mullingar meeting.

Sanctions open to the board included demotion and dismissal and the board decided, rapidly, to opt for dismissal. Mr Burke had spent 107 days in prison before Christmas for refusing to obey a High Court order to stay away from the school until the hearing took place.

The row originated after Mr Burke first refused to use different pronouns for a student and then loudly remonstrated with the school principal about the pronoun issue during an event to celebrate the school's 260th anniversary.

Yesterday, Mr Rogers was present to tell Mr Burke that the long-running dispute over gender pronouns was over – he was fired from the school just a day after the Mullingar hearing.

On Wednesday, the High Court refused to grant Mr Burke an injunction to prevent the hearing and noted that he did not obey High Court orders to stay away from the school.

He had been suspended on full pay by the school.

Mr Burke was eventually released from Mountjoy Prison on December 21. Upon releasing him Judge Brian O'Moore made it very clear to him that he could be reincarcerated if he showed up at the school again.

Despite the warning, the teacher continued to attend the school, against the school board's wishes, since it reopened after the Christmas holidays on 5 January.