Thursday, February 15, 2024

Teacher Strike in Los Angeles Underscores Need for Education Choice

Public school teachers in Los Angeles are on strike, affecting half a million children attending some 900 public schools in the district.

Although students in the Los Angeles Unified School District—the second-largest school district in the country—can still access the schools, classes are being taught by substitute teachers while teachers outside are striking.

Many students are staying home—leaving some parents scrambling for child care.

Students who are going to school during the strike are passing the day playing games on iPads. Missing school or being relegated to busy work as a result of public education employee strikes are critical learning days lost.

Students in Los Angeles can ill afford that: Just 18 percent of fourth-graders can read proficiently, a figure which jumps just one point to 19 percent for eighth-graders. Only one-quarter of Los Angeles fourth-graders score proficient in math, a figure that declines to 18 percent for eighth-graders.

Among the striking teachers’ demands are increased pay and smaller class sizes, along with regulations on charter schools and a push to increase the number of nonteaching personnel, such as librarians and counselors.

Yet since 1992, nonteaching staff in California has increased nearly 50 percent, greatly outpacing the 24 percent increase in the number of students.

As economist Ben Scafidi of Kennesaw State University in Georgia found, had California just kept the nonteaching staff levels on par with increases in student enrollment, the state would have saved nearly $3 billion—which could have gone toward unfunded pension liabilities.

The state’s unfunded pension liability—the gap between benefits owed and funding available for that purpose—was $107 billion in 2018.

That $3 billion also could have funded 373,000 children with $8,000 education savings accounts.

The increase in nonteaching personnel only exacerbates existing spending issues in the district.

As Chad Aldeman points out, from 2001 to 2016, the Los Angeles Unified School District increased overall spending by more than 55 percent. Public employee benefits in the district increased 138 percent.

My colleague Jonathan Butcher closely followed teachers union strikes, which last year disrupted learning in Colorado, Arizona, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and West Virginia. He draws three important lessons from those strikes.

First, Butcher notes, strikes are hard on families, and send parents scrambling. Strikes can test parents’ patience, even when they support the demands of the strikers.

Second, it’s school districts, rather than state lawmakers, who are ultimately responsible for teacher salaries. Third, tax increases on California taxpayers will not necessarily lead to increased teachers’ salaries.

Ultimately, school districts should be transparent in their spending, making administrators’ salaries publicly available, and they should reduce—not increase—the number of nonteaching personnel.

Furthermore, they should reward excellent teachers by basing teachers’ compensation on job performance.

During the strike, more than 117,000 students in Los Angeles are still able to attend school without being affected by the walkouts; namely, those in charter schools.

So, most critically, parents should be empowered with choice, including more charter school options and private school choice options.

Increasing spending and the number of nonteaching personnel, and further regulating education choice options, such as charter schools, will only amplify a failed status quo in California.

Instead, California should immediately empower families to choose learning options that are effective and meet their needs by moving toward increased school choice opportunities.


Why Universal Access to Education Freedom Accounts Is the Best Choice for New Hampshire

Nearly 1 million American students participated in a school-choice program last year, according to data compiled by EdChoice. Across the country 72 choice programs operate in 32 states. And who has the most popular program in the nation? New Hampshire.

With an Education Freedom Account (EFA), parents can customize their child’s education. Families can use EFA funds for private school tuition, tutoring, textbooks, special-needs therapies and more.

According to EdChoice, New Hampshire’s EFA policy is the most popular education choice policy in the nation. It has had the most growth per capita nationwide over the past academic year—a whopping 58%. The number of ESA students has grown from 3,025 in 2022–23 to 4,770 scholarships awarded in 2023–24.

Those numbers show that a lot of New Hampshire families want an education that better fits their children’s individual needs. No New Hampshire student who needs a better educational fit should be denied access to this popular and effective program, especially because of politics.

Unfortunately, politics is keeping most students out of the program right now.

Expanding Education Freedom and Choice to All

Though EFAs were intended to be accessible to all students, legislators agreed initially to enroll only children from lower-income families. That was necessary to address concerns that the program would struggle to succeed in its early years or, conversely, would prove too popular to manage effectively.

Now that New Hampshire’s EFAs are an undeniable success, it’s time to take off the training wheels.

Currently, fewer than half of students in the state are eligible for an EFA, which is limited only to students from families that earn no more than 350% of the federal poverty level. That comes to $109,200 for a family of four—less than the average annual household income of a firefighter married to a registered nurse in New Hampshire. Three House bills this year would expand access to the program. One, House Bill 1634, would remove that income cap so that any student eligible to enroll in a K-12 public school in the state could qualify for an EFA.

That income cap suppresses participation. Though New Hampshire’s EFA program ranks first in the country in administration and popularity, it ranks just 42nd in eligibility nationwide.

Other states have been expanding educational opportunities. Over the last three years, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, and West Virginia all either enacted new universal education choice policies or expanded existing choice policies to all K-12 students.

Some people fear that universal education choice will cause a mass exodus from public schools. But that’s not what’s happened in other states. Though roughly 20 million students nationwide are eligible to participate in a school-choice program, fewer than 1 million students do.

The two largest school-choice programs in the country are Florida’s and Arizona’s. In both states, 100% of students are eligible for school choice. But only 10% of Florida students and 9% of Arizona students participate.

Here in New Hampshire, where 48% of students are eligible for EFAs, only 3% of students participate.

Education Freedom Accounts Save Taxpayers Money

Critics claim that making EFAs available to every student is unaffordable. That’s not true. U.S. Census estimates from 2022 (the most recent available) put the state’s school-age population at 189,600. How many of those students can be expected to use an EFA if all students become eligible?

Florida has the highest school choice take-up rate in the country, at 10%. Every other state with an education savings account or scholarship program has a lower take-up rate. New Hampshire’s rate of EFA use is about 3%. If we use New Hampshire’s current rate as the baseline and Florida’s as the high end, we could see a range of somewhere between 5,688 and 18,960 students enrolling in the program, though the higher number would take years to achieve and certainly would not happen overnight.

Currently, about 28% of EFA users were previous public-school students. As they received their per-pupil allotment from the Education Trust Fund before taking an EFA, they are not a new cost. Assuming the same switch rate if EFAs are expanded, a reasonable cost estimate would run somewhere between $21.5 million (at a 3% take-up rate) and $71.7 million (at a 10% take-up rate).

That might sound like a lot, but New Hampshire taxpayers spend $3.4 billion a year on K-12 public schools, and the state’s current Education Trust Fund ended the 2023 fiscal year with a surplus of $161 million. State budget officials project the Education Trust Fund to end the current fiscal year with a surplus of $232 million. Even at the high-end estimate, New Hampshire can easily afford universal EFA expansion.

And those figures don’t include local taxpayer savings. New Hampshire spends an average of $20,322 per pupil, with more than 60% of that coming from local taxation. That local portion will not be spent to educate students who use an EFA to purchase an education elsewhere.

Based on take-up rates between 3-10%, taxpayers can roughly estimate local government savings of between $86 million-$286 million were all students to become eligible for EFAs. Subtract the state costs of $21.5 million-$71.7 million and taxpayers would be looking at a net annual savings of somewhere between $64.5 million and $214 million.

Those are back-of-the-envelope calculations, but they give a general idea of the size of taxpayer savings possible if New Hampshire educates students for $5,255 per pupil instead of $20,322 per pupil. Far from a net loss for New Hampshire, Education Freedom Accounts are clearly a net gain.

School Choice Improves Public School Performance

Critics also falsely claim that school choice harms students who remain in traditional public schools. In fact, of 29 studies on the academic outcomes of public school students whose schools were faced with competition from policies, 26 found a net positive outcome for those students, one found no visible effect, and only two found a negative effect.

Moreover, the families of lower-performing students tend to be more attracted to school choice programs than those of higher-performing students. Florida State University research on Florida’s tax-credit scholarship program found that students who chose to enter the scholarship program had lower test scores in the year before they took a scholarship than did their classmates who opted not to participate. But after just a few years of using the scholarship, those students were out-performing their demographic peers.

Claims that school choice programs “cream” the best students and leave low-performing students behind in under-funded schools are false. Indeed, the reality is the very opposite: school choice benefits disadvantaged students most.

Fulfilling the Promise of Public Education

When they aren’t fear mongering about empty public schools, EFA opponents demagogue the issue by shouting that EFA expansion would have taxpayers foot the bill for educating the children of “millionaires and billionaires.”

But, of course, that’s exactly what public schools do. Every child, regardless of income, is eligible to attend his or her district public school. No one argues that the public education provided by district schools should be means tested.

Neither traditional public district schools nor public charter schools have income caps. Education Freedom Accounts shouldn’t either.

The promise of public education is that every child should have access to an education that meets his or her individual learning needs. Education Freedom Accounts help fulfill that promise by empowering families with the freedom and flexibility to choose the learning environments that work best for their children.

Expanding this opportunity to every child would improve outcomes for students, including those who prefer traditional public schools, while saving taxpayers money. For families, students and taxpayers, it’s the best option.


More Sydney parents than ever opt for private schools

Many government schools are so dire that you can't blame them

The state’s private schools are enrolling more students than at any time on record despite soaring cost-of-living pressures and fee hikes that have pushed tuition costs above $40,000 a year at numerous Sydney private schools.

Official data released on Wednesday shows the proportion of students enrolled in NSW public schools has fallen for the fifth year running, dropping to 62.9 per cent in 2023. It is the lowest share of students attending state schools in the past two decades of reporting.

The exodus from public schools in NSW is being driven in part by the establishment of low-fee private schools in Sydney’s north- and south-west growth corridors, where the construction of new public schools over the past decade has failed to keep pace with population growth.

Most other states and territories have experienced a similar trend, the figures released by Australian Bureau of Statistics show.

In NSW, 785,847 students were enrolled in public schools last year, 267,253 in Catholic schools and 195,356 in private schools. The proportion attending private and Catholic high schools is approaching half of all secondary students, rising to 43 per cent last year.

University of Sydney education researcher Helen Proctor said the issues public schools faced were widely publicised, such as teacher shortages, which could be contributing to parents considering private options.

“There has been a long-term disparagement of public schools, there’s been many people talking them down,” Proctor said. “It is very hard for public school leaders. If they don’t talk about the crisis and the resources, how are they going to get anything done? On the other hand, if parents hear about teacher shortages, they’re naturally going to get very worried.”

A separate snapshot of data provided by the Association of Independent Schools of NSW shows 65,000 students, or 28 per cent of those enrolled in the private system, are attending a school that charges $20,000 or more.

About 60,000 pupils, or a quarter of all those enrolled in the private system, attend a school with fees below $5000 a year. Another 72,000 pupils attend a school that charges between $5000 and $10,000.

Between April 2022 and March last year, repayments on a million-dollar mortgage increased by more than $2000 a month. A survey conducted by National Australia Bank in 2022 found one in 10 parents were relying on family members, including grandparents, to pay tuition costs.

Catholic Schools NSW chief executive Dallas McInerney said systemic schools have grown at the fastest rate since 2013. They typically charge up to $3000 a year, with substantial sibling discounts.

“These numbers are a huge vote of confidence from parents because parents know they get quality and affordable education, and that their children thrive in our schools,” McInerney said.

“We provide high job prospects, further study pathways and create great citizens. It’s a massive contribution to society.”

Association of Independent Schools of NSW chief executive Margery Evans said the bulk of the growth in independent schools was in the lower and mid-fee bands under $10,000.

“The main growth has been low and mid-fee schools, many in Sydney’s north-west and south-west growth areas. We’ve also seen increasing numbers in regional schools including in Tweed Heads. These schools are affordable for parents paying off mortgages, and appealing because they are kindergarten to year 12 campuses,” she said.

“There are also almost 20 faiths represented in the independent sector across 350 schools, including Christian, Buddhist, Islamic and Jewish schools. These schools provide an education that reflects parents’ values and beliefs. Forty years ago, there weren’t any Islamic schools. There are (now) 29, with 22,000 students.”

NSW Education Minister Prue Car said over the past five years, NSW has seen the biggest drop in the country when it comes to the share of students in government schools.

“It is no coincidence that we have had 24,000 students leave the public system at the same time the previous Government oversaw a teacher shortage crisis,” she said. “The government is undertaking urgent work to repair the states’ education system, by investing in our teaching workforce and addressing the chronic teacher shortage facing our state.”

Mother Jasmine De Leon chose to send her youngest two children to a local private school, Norwest Christian College, near her home in Quakers Hill, partly because it was a co-educational pre-school to year 12 campus.

“My kids have been going to the same school since they were four years old, and having that pre-kindergarten year was what really interested us,” De Leon said.

“There is also a big sense of community and a structured environment. They also offer smaller classes and a variety of extracurricular subjects.”

She considered having her two children sit the public selective high school test, but after five years at their current school they “had become comfortable and had established strong friendship groups.”

“It’s also at the lower end for private school fees, and it was affordable for us and worth it when considering what the school could offer”.




COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Mandates in Universities — Risk Benefit Analysis Leads to Net Harm

A prominent group of physicians, epidemiologists and bioethicists based at the most prestigious academic medical centers and universities have gone on the record that after a systematic analysis combining risk-benefit assessments as well as ethical factors the mandating of COVID-19 booster jabs at university campuses will equate to an expected net harm.

When forecasting serious adverse events as measured in cases of myopericarditis typically involving hospitalized young males as compared to the number of boosts required per COVID-19 hospitalization prevented. The net takeaway of this study: university mandates for COVID-19 boosters in the age of Omicron (milder version of the virus) cannot be orchestrated without a gross violation of ethical, moral and medical principles.

The authors of this study have expressed mounting concern during the pandemic, minority critics in large, prestigious university systems that the current mRNA vaccines are not all that the medical establishment and media cracked them up to be.

While by last August most all university mandates for COVID-19 boosters were all but gone, by August 2023, over 60 universities still mandated the COVID-19 jab.

The authors of this analysis clearly seek to not repeat the same policies in the future.

The present authors’ latest position in this essay published in Journal of Medical Ethics (BMJ) isn’t new. TrialSite reported back in September 2022, in “Bombshell Analysis: Risk-Benefit Analysis of mRNA Vaccines for You People Doesn’t Support Mandates” that the authors were essentially concluding the same recommendation—cease the COVID-19 vaccine mandates on university campuses.

Kevin Bardosh, Ph.D., from University of Washington (and University of Edinburgh), an applied medical anthropologist and implementations scientist, Vinay Prasad, M.D., MPH University of California, San Francisco, professor epidemiology and statistics, Mary Makary, M.D., MPH, professor of surgery Johns Hopkins University, Tracy Beth Høeg, MD, Ph.D. physics-investigator at Acumen LLC as well as corresponding author, and bioethicist Euzebiusz Jamrozik, Ph.D. University of Oxford Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities and others go on the record again, even more forcefully declaring based on their analysis at this juncture in history more young men (age 40 and under) mandated to get the mRNA-based COVID-19 jabs face the risk of hospitalization due to myocarditis than will benefit by the vaccines as measured by per COVID-19 hospitalization prevented.

While different academic researchers conclude with different data points, and the biases associated with this group could be argued are similar to the biases linked to groups arguing for mandates (they merely use differing assumptions, interpret some studies over others, etc.), it’s the latter that increasingly deviates from all commonsensical practice.

According to the present authors, however, to prevent one COVID-19 hospitalization over a 6-month period the critical collaborative estimates 31,207 -42,836young adults (age 19-29) must receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Yet that means that according to these authors’ math, 18.5 serious adverse events from the mRNA vaccines result, derived from 1.5 – 4.6 booster 1.5–4.6 booster-associated myopericarditis cases in males (typically requiring hospitalization).

They anticipated that 1430-4626 cases of grade ≥3 reactogenicity interfering with daily activities (although typically not requiring hospitalization).

COVID-19 Mandates in Universities—Unethical
Why? The authors delineate the following elements:

Mandates are legacy from the pandemic, they are not based on an updated (Omicron era) stratified risk-benefit assessment for this age group

Based on the accumulation of medical evidence this result in a net harm to healthy young adults

Such policies are not proportionate: expected harms are not outweighed by public health benefits given modest and transient effectiveness of vaccines against transmission

The policy of mandates in universities violate the reciprocity principle because serious vaccine-related harms are not reliably compensated due to gaps in vaccine injury schemes
The mandates may result in wider social harms

But what about counterarguments?

The present authors delve int countervailing view—such as benefits like improved campus safety, “but find these are fraught with limitations and little scientific support.” For example, the vaccines’ durability levels mean breakthrough infections are commonplace.

The authors go on the record discussing how their analysis impacts COVID-19 primary series policy.


The dangers of rugby football has led to some researchers calling for it to be banned from schools

With some researchers labelling the sport ‘a form of child abuse’ and parents questioning safety, can rugby get the balance right?

This story begins with a boy lying dazed and confused on a rugby pitch in Sussex last month. There are concussion symptoms that linger, days off school, and a stark revelation from a rugby-loving parent who provides first aid to the team. “It is not until you have cradled the head of someone else’s son, who is then unable to stand unassisted, that it really hits home how dangerous this game can be.”

Those dangers have now led to some researchers to call for rugby in schools and clubs to be banned for under-18s as it is “a form of child abuse”. Their argument, published in the Times on Friday, is that the risk of brain injuries from high-impact sports – including rugby and boxing – runs counter to child abuse laws. And neither children, nor their parents, can give informed consent as they cannot be fully aware of the long-term risks.

Once again rugby finds itself walking a tightrope: pushing the sport’s physical and mental health qualities, while facing pointed questions about safety.

Does it always get the balance right? That is what some of those parents in Sussex are now asking, especially after a second player left the same match with a suspected concussion. Was this awful luck? Absolutely. But on the touchline, others flagged another concern.

When rugby union in England returned after Covid, the Rugby Football Union extended the chance to combine age grades – in this case to under-14s playing in under-13s fixtures – to “sustain teams with lower player numbers who would otherwise not continue to play rugby”. In this match their opponents had several boys from the next age grade up.

The RFU’s decision was understandable. Player numbers in grassroots rugby have dropped. Clubs were struggling to re-establish teams. As the RFU says, the sport has huge benefits, including boosting “confidence, self-esteem, self-discipline and character”. It sounds like something from a 1920s boarding school prospectus, but it is also true.

The downside, of course, is that 12-year-old boys, many of whom have yet to hit puberty, are facing 14-year-olds, whose bodies are swimming in testosterone and other androgens which makes them taller, stronger, heavier and faster – and more dangerous. As one sports scientist told me: “We know that risk factors for injury are speed, power, strength, bulk and momentum in the tackle, so there is a fairly strong basis to say that widening the age bracket could increase risk. That doesn’t mean you don’t do it. But you have to monitor the risk and try to understand it not just quantitatively but qualitatively.”

Such a data-driven approach wasn’t in place when the RFU took its decision over combining age groups in 2020. Until this season, youth club rugby was not included in the RFU’s injury surveillance programmes, which focused on adults and some schools.

That, thankfully, is shifting. However, there is still no accurate picture of what happens when the under-13s and under-14s play together. Have injury rates gone up? Without a baseline we don’t know. When I put this to the RFU, it said there was “a robust assessment and approval process in place in our regulations to ensure a balance between player safety and retention”. Those rules include ensuring not more than half the players are from the older age grade. It also stresses that coaches must prioritise player safety and enjoyment, and work together to reduce mismatches.

But is that really enough to address parental concerns? Most 14-year-olds won’t be thinking about anything but running through defenders, regardless of whether they are younger. One idea would be to embrace the work of Dr Sean Cumming, who has argued for bio-banding in junior sport, where players are matched by maturation not their actual age. Other unions, including New Zealand, band players by weight.

None of that, of course, will make the safety issue entirely go away. Only last week, I was sent an open letter from Ceri Shaw whose husband, Chris, died last year. Chris was a keen rugby player for more than 30 years and after he died, Ceri donated his brain to Prof Willie Stewart at the University of Glasgow, who found signs of CTE – a degenerative brain condition linked to head injuries.

Given that rugby players with longer careers are more likely to develop the condition, Ceri asks why contact rugby is introduced at under-nine level in England and not, say, at 16. “During his life Chris was passionate about all aspects of rugby: the game’s ethos, the inclusive community and the conduct of fans globally,” she writes. “I would still like both my boys to play and enjoy rugby. There is research still to be done, but why risk the brain health of our children while we are waiting?”

Those in rugby tell me that teaching safe tackling technique at nine is safer than at 15 or 16, when kids will be much faster and more powerful. They also point out that World Rugby’s recent Otago study found under-13 rugby to be less dangerous than higher age groups and the adult game. But tell that to the parents of those poor boys in Sussex who sustained suspected concussions.

Even so, I still recoil at the idea of banning rugby for under-18s. The benefits of the sport still outweigh the potential costs, especially given the obesity and inactivity epidemic, which carries a different set of health risks. Ban rugby and where do we stop? Yet with every passing year, what we know about the dangers of head impacts continues to evolve. I strongly suspect rugby will have to as well.


New anti-woke universities ‘the only way to cancel cancel culture’, says Niall Ferguson

Setting up new and better universities is the only way to reform a sector riddled with entrenched, extremist left-wing ideology, and is even more important in the wake of the academic world’s response to the Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7, says historian Niall Ferguson.

Aa senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Professor Ferguson was in Austin this week to welcome the first cohort of students to enrol at the University of Austin, where he is a founding trustee along with US journalist Bari Weiss. The two have helped launch a private university in the Texan capital that will be permanently free of campus cancel culture and dedicated to free speech and academic rigour.

“There came a moment (in 2021) when people were just being cancelled left and right at universities, and we decided we’ve got to do this,” Professor Ferguson said.

The march of anti-Semitism at US universities and around the world, including in Australia, made Professor Ferguson more determined to make the University of Austin, which has already attracted $US200m ($307m) in ­donations and about 20 full-time faculties, a success.

“After the events of October 7th, the strange responses we saw on campus, we no longer have to explain why we are building the university,” he said.

The October 7 attacks and the subsequent Israel-Hamas war triggered an explosion of anti-­Semitic protests on and off campus that shook Americans’ faith in its elite institutions.

Two Ivy League university presidents – Harvard’s Claudine Gay and University of Pennsylvania’s Elizabeth Magill – resigned last year in the wake of a national outcry over their defence of anti-Semitic protests on campuses on “free speech” grounds.

In Australia, 64 per cent of Jewish students said they had experienced anti-Semitism at university after October 7 – a greater than 20 per cent jump compared with the preceding year according to the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

While he would not comment directly on Australian universities, Professor Ferguson said the fall of the Ivy League presidents and some academic backlash to anti-Semitism did not mean the old institutions would markedly change course any time soon.

“I don’t think the fact that two of those presidents have since left their positions means the end of wokeness,” he said.

“It’s not in retreat but rather very well entrenched. Declaring victory because Claudine Gay has stepped down (is naive); there will not be any real change in institutions, such as Harvard, which is not an outlier, until not just the president but the whole bureaucracy of diversity, equity and inclusion has been dismantled.”

Future students and their parents joined Professor Ferguson and other public intellectuals, including Michael Shellenberger and Harvard professor Roland Fryer, for a weekend of lectures and events. “The great thing about Austin is it’s cool, it’s a great place to build a university … We have a huge cluster of tech companies here, the economy is booming,” Professor Ferguson said.

Elon Musk was considering setting up a STEM- based university in the city, too, according to reports that circulated late last year in the US.

The University of Austin’s constitution, drafted largely by Professor Ferguson, explicitly enshrines free speech and includes disciplinary mechanisms for staff who contravene the free speech principles. “Universities have been perverted from their true purpose, which is not politics but scholarship,” he said.

“We have a constitution that will make that impossible.”

Professor Ferguson said cultural change at traditional elite universities, which he said had consciously chosen to transform themselves into hotbeds of radical politics under the moniker of “diversity, equity and inclusion”, would be almost impossible for a generation. “All those people have been appointed with tenure,” he said. “What are you going to do? Fire them all? It’s impossible.”

British universities, he said, weren’t as political as those in the US. “The reason that they’re not as bad in the UK, at Oxford and Cambridge, isn’t that there are not ­people there with same motives,” he said.




Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Denver schools overwhelmed by migrant surge as mayor slashes $5M from public services to address crisis

A Denver public school teacher is sounding the alarm on the strain the migrant crisis is putting on classrooms as the city's Democratic mayor cuts millions from services for residents.

"We are already 100 students over projection, and we have new students coming in weekly. We're already past the October count. So every new student that we get, we don't have the funds to provide them with resources," teacher Priscilla Rahn told "Fox & Friends" Monday.

Mayor Mike Johnston pinned the blame on Republicans and former President Trump Friday while announcing $5 million in cuts from recreation centers, DMV services and city landscaping to pay for the migrant crisis.

"The choice by Republicans in Congress to purposefully kill a historic, bipartisan border deal this week will have a devastating impact in Denver," Johnston said after the Republicans blocked a bipartisan border deal, which included a foreign aid package for Ukraine and Israel, from advancing Wednesday.

"Despite broad bipartisan support, I think [former President] Trump and Republican leaders saw this as a chance that if this bill actually passed, it would have successfully solved the problem facing cities and the border, and they would have rather seen it fail, so they could exacerbate these problems, extend the suffering of American people and of newcomers for their own electoral changes this November," he said, according to The Hill.

Rahn, a candidate for Douglas County commissioner, called the cuts "incredibly unfair" for the city's families and placed the blame directly on President Biden, Mayor Johnston and Colorado Democratic Gov. Jared Polis.

"We have seen across America and now in Denver, the large difference between liberal ideology and the reality of governing," she said. "And so the president has created this mess. And what we've seen is the mayor respond very emotionally."

"What I'd like to see the mayor and the governor do is to address the problem at the border and ask the president to bring back some of those polices that would make it more manageable."

The cuts follow the mayor’s decision last month to divert $25 million from the city budget to the migrant crisis. That plan included pulling $10 million from a contingency fund and $15 million from a building remodel. Those actions followed the city’s decision to hold many positions vacant and review new or expanded contracts and programs.

Johnston says the crisis will cost the city around $180 million in 2024.

Texas has transported thousands of migrants to sanctuary cities like Denver, to showcase the problems that border states face when migrants flood their cities. Johnston told Fox News last week that the city was "very close" to a breaking point due to the crisis.

DHS Secretary Mayorkas to face second impeachment voteVideo
"I’m incredibly proud of how city team members have stepped up over the past year, but it is clear that the federal government is not going to support our city," Johnston said, fighting back tears at a Friday press conference.

Denver passed laws to become a sanctuary city, but it doesn't include a right-to-shelter provision, which means there is no official policy that compels the local government to provide shelter indefinitely.

Along with these department budget cuts, the city will decrease the number of migrants it serves and will continue to monitor spending, Johnston said. Earlier this week, the city began ejecting around 800 migrant families from shelters as it scales back on aid for illegal immigrants.


Teacher Who Criticized ‘Woke Kindergarten’ Put on Leave by School District

An elementary school teacher who questioned a California school’s spending $250,000 on a teacher training program called “Woke Kindergarten” was placed on leave Thursday by his school district, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Glassbrook Elementary School used $250,000 in federal funds for underperforming schools to pay for training for teachers on how to be “anti-racist” and “disrupt whiteness” in the classroom. Now, the school district, Hayward Unified School District, has put teacher Tiger Craven-Neeley on leave for “allegations of unprofessional conduct” after he questioned the program, according to the Chronicle.

Craven-Neeley was told via a video call that he was being put on leave and ordered to turn in his keys and laptop, he told the Chronicle.

Craven-Neeley said he had voiced concerns over the program Wednesday at a staff meeting after the Chronicle last week ran an article that included his comments questioning the purpose of the program. After a short while, another teacher stood up, pointed a finger at him, and said, “You are a danger to the school or the community,” then stormed out, he told the Chronicle.

Shortly afterward, a school district administrator asked Craven-Neeley to leave the meeting, the Chronicle reported.

In comments to the Chronicle for a Feb. 3 article on “Woke Kindergarten,” Craven-Neeley questioned what it meant to “disrupt whiteness” in the classroom.

“What does that mean?” Craven-Neeley told the Chronicle. “I just want to know, what does that mean for a third-grade classroom?”

Scores for English and math at Glassbrook Elementary have fallen since the program’s implementation, with fewer than 4% of students posting proficient scores in math and a little under 12% testing at grade level in English. These were decreases of nearly 4 percentage points since “Woke Kindergarten” started at the school.

Neither Glassbrook Elementary nor the Hayward School District responded immediately to requests for comment.


International students turned away in record numbers

Australia is on track for a steep fall in net migration after federal officials turned away thousands of overseas students who applied to start courses this month, bringing student visa grants down by 20 per cent in the biggest shift in two decades.

The cut to the education program is the biggest single factor in driving the total migrant intake down to 375,000 this financial year and putting it on course for 250,000 the following year.

The government’s migration strategy unveiled last year has imposed stronger English-language tests on students and requires them to prove they are genuine students before they enter the country, while making it harder for them to stay if they do not find jobs that help fill a skills shortage.

The government remains open to more controversial measures, such as a cap on student numbers or higher fees on their visa applications.

The cuts to student visas are not being felt across all universities. The biggest impact is at private colleges with low ratings for visa approvals and some universities are also writing to overseas applicants to cancel their applications because they will fail a tougher visa test put in place last year.

Most of the country’s leading universities are not seeing any big fall in overseas student numbers, the latest results show, because they have not fallen foul of the stricter tests within the department.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil sent a formal instruction to the Department of Home Affairs last year, known as Ministerial Direction 107, to tell officials to put a priority on student visa applications for universities with a good track record and to give the lowest priority to those for institutions with a history of problems.

This means the priority takes into account the track record of all overseas students at each institution so they are given a low ranking if they have had a large number of visa refusals, fraudulent applications or students who overstay their visas.

All the Group of Eight universities are in the “tier one” category in this new system, while the “tier three” group at the lowest level of the system is mainly made up of private vocational education colleges.

Australia has more than 650,000 overseas students and an increasing number of them are prolonging their stay by applying to do a second course, with 150,000 of the total being on their second student visa.

The results from the department show that overseas students are being turned away in record numbers because the visa grant rate has been driven down to 80 per cent, the lowest since records began in 2005.

In a rare fall, the student visa grants in December were lower than in November – a sign of fewer arrivals for the coming academic year – and are 20 per cent below the same period last year.

The outcome shows the department is bringing international student visa grants down from 370,000 last financial year to 290,000 this year and believes there is a reasonable chance the outcome will be slightly lower.

The new migration figures provide the first outcomes from the dramatic shift last year when the Coalition accused Labor of planning a “big Australia by stealth” and the government vowed to lower the intake and crack down on dubious visa claims.

Opposition immigration spokesman Dan Tehan criticised O’Neil for presiding over the biggest influx of overseas students as well as a record migrant intake last year.

“Labor says they don’t want a Big Australia but under the Albanese Government 900,000 people will arrive over two years and 1.625 million will arrive over five.”

O’Neil said the country could not sustain the big increase in migration after the borders were opened at the end of the pandemic. “Migration is too high and our government has taken action to bring it back to normal levels,” she said.

“The early signs are that these changes are working. We are seeing sharp decreases in numbers. This is led by deep cuts in the areas of higher education, where we have unfortunately seen widespread integrity issues.”

Another key factor in driving the migration intake down is a special program called the Pandemic Event Visa, which was introduced by the previous government with no fees and no skills test and attracted more than 100,000 people.

Labor closed the pandemic program to new applicants last year and expects 60 per cent to leave the country and the remainder to shift to other visas because they have skills that are in demand and jobs that pay above the $70,000 salary threshold for approval.




Monday, February 12, 2024

Australian professor Ghassan Hage sacked by German research institute for ‘incompatible values’

A renowned German research ­institute has sacked an Australian scholar for what it called “incompatible values” after a series of anti-Israel social media posts by the visiting Melbourne University professor.

On Thursday, the Max Planck Society, funded by the country’s federal and state governments, said it had cut ties with professor Ghassan Hage.

In a two-page statement, Professor Hage stood by “everything I say in my social media”, saying his posts were “intellectual critiques of Israel”.

He claimed a Facebook post comparing Israel’s military operations to “Nazi anti-Semitic violence” was what led in part to his termination, among others.

“This is, in a nutshell, what has put me at odds with Max Planck Society’s lawyers … What to me is a fair, intellectual critique of ­Israel, for them is ‘anti-Semitism according to the law in Germany’,” he said.

Professor Hage, who is of Lebanese descent, is an anthropology professor at Melbourne University, a prolific author on race and immigration, and a fellow of the Australian Academy of Social Sciences and Humanities.

He had been on extended leave from Melbourne University, working for two years from November 2022 at the German institute, a world leader in science and technology research.

It is unclear what other posts led to the professor’s termination, but in the past few months, on X, he questioned the two-state solution and said Israel would cease to exist as it does now.

“(The) ‘two-state solution’ is the ‘I am Groot’ of Israeli settler colonialism,” he wrote, referencing the Marvel Comics character Groot, a talking tree who says only his name. “It means anything you want and its opposite.”

He also reshared a post casting doubt on claims of sexual assault by Hamas assailants on October 7 and stated Israel would “cease to exist as a Jewish state”.

“It will cease to exist by dissolving back into what it was as Palestine: a multi-religious space where people work on coexisting with each other,” he wrote.

In posts after the institute’s statement, he seemingly criticised the fact he was being “moralised” in Germany.

“They (ethno-nationalist states) are the ones who have a long history of racial hatred, of censoring and burning books … and putting people in concentration camps,” he wrote.

“Murderous, land stealing, colonially implanted ethno-nationalist states are seriously unlikeable. I really hate them.”

In the same thread, Professor Hage said he had “never called for disliking, let alone hating, Jews”.

“Like Muslims, Christians, Greek, Lebanese or Chinese … there are some nice Jewish people and some who are pains in the arse,” he wrote.

“I am living in the very cultures that elevated Jew-hating, the burning of Jewish stores, and the putting of Jews in concentration camps and mass murdering them, into a macabre fine art, and I am being moralised on how not to be anti-Semitic.”

The Max Planck Society’s termination statement set out the values of the institute, alluding to what had driven it to cut ties.

“Recently, he (Professor Hage) has shared a series of posts on social media expressing views that are incompatible with the core values of the Max Planck Society,” it read.

“The Max Planck Society has therefore ended its working relationship with Prof Hage. The freedoms enshrined in (the German constitution) are invaluable to the Max Planck Society.

“These freedoms come with great responsibility. Researchers abuse their civil liberties when they undermine the credibility of science with publicly disseminated statements, thereby damaging the reputation and trust in the institutions that uphold it.”

“Racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, discrimination, hatred, and agitation” had no place at the institute, it said. There is no suggestion Professor Hage is any of the above, or that his posts were.

On social media platform X on Thursday, the professor took issue with the implication he was racist and referenced a series of stories in centrist Der Tagesspiegel and centre-right Welt alleging he was anti-Semitic, saying the stories were full of “half-truths … and slimy innuendo”.

In his two-page statement, Professor Hage said the environment that led to his termination was a “real German tragedy” and claimed he had chosen termination over signing a nondisclosure agreement.


Troy University Proves You Don’t Need DEI to Achieve Campus Diversity

Recently, the Legislature in my home state of Alabama told public four-year colleges to report how much they spend on “diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

The amount: $16.2 million. Are taxpayers getting anything for this money?

DEI advocates say it’s a good investment. Paulette Granberry Russell, the president of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, says that anti-DEI legislation ultimately would prevent historically marginalized students from fully engaging in higher education.

But is that true? To find out, I looked at spending on DEI programs at prominent colleges and enrollment of black students at those schools.

Auburn University and the University of Alabama reported DEI budgets of $3 million each, according to The University of Alabama enrolled 4,344 blacks in 2022 (less than 12% of its student body) and Auburn University 1,560 blacks (less than 5% of its students), according to the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.

How about outside Alabama? The University of Michigan reportedly spends more than $18 million on DEI staff and benefits, yet in 2022 blacks made up less than 5% of undergraduates there. George Mason University in Northern Virginia has “a ratio of 7.4 DEI staff per 100 faculty,” yet blacks made up just over 11% of students there in 2022.

How much did Troy University, where I teach, spend on DEI? Zero dollars. Yet Troy enrolled 4,421 blacks in 2022—almost 32% of its student population.

Instead of feeding bloated DEI bureaucrats on Troy’s campus, the school actively recruits international students from across the world to our small town in southeast Alabama—hence our nickname “Alabama’s international university.”

Troy University has achieved diversity in part by rejecting DEI, which negatively affects organizational culture, fostering fear and resentment rather than friendship, openness, and dialogue.

Ironically, DEI racially discriminates to remedy past racism. It stifles viewpoint diversity by bureaucratizing speech restrictions with bias-reporting systems and response teams. It mandates ideological diversity and sensitivity training, seeking to compel acceptance of controversial and suspect premises.

Some DEI initiatives are absurd. For instance, the Federal Aviation Administration’s DEI plan recommends hiring employees with psychiatric and “severe” intellectual disabilities. Will those qualities make flying safer?

DEI is dehumanizing, classifying people by immutable characteristics, not by the choices they make that reflect their character, individuality, or excellence.

The salaries of DEI officers at public universities are considerably higher than most faculty salaries, despite the dearth of evidence that DEI works.

The National Science Foundation recently awarded a grant to study why its $365 million investment in diversity failed to increase female representation in engineering.

The Heritage Foundation discovered that students at the Power Five collegiate athletic conference universities with numerous DEI staff feel less, rather than more, welcome on campus. It also found that black and Hispanic students suffered larger learning losses in public school districts with chief diversity officers.

Even among private firms, diversity programs fail. A recent New York Times headline asked, “What if Diversity Training is Doing More Harm Than Good?”

Intimidation and resentment—products of DEI—are not conducive to learning or community.

The Supreme Court recently struck down the affirmative action programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina.

Bills limiting or defunding DEI programs at public universities have passed or been introduced in numerous jurisdictions, including Alabama. It’s time for public universities to be more like Troy University, which diversifies its student body by concentrating on education, its stated mission, and not on divisive concepts that too often accompany DEI training and bureaucracy.

The university’s motto reads, “Educate the mind to think, the heart to feel, and the body to act.” These words apply to all races, uniting diverse peoples across cultures and traditions.

My colleagues and I take this motto seriously. And the racial and demographic statistics of our student body demonstrate the merit and effectiveness of our approach.

You can’t legislate, coerce, or command a welcoming environment. But you can nurture an institutional culture in which students and faculty feel they belong.


One third of Australian children can't read properly as teaching methods cause 'preventable tragedy', Grattan Institute says

The failed "whole word" method of teaching beloved by Leftist teachers goes back to some work by Wilhelm Wundt in the late 19th century. And they call themselves "progressive"! "destructive" would be more like it

One third of Australian students are failing to learn to read proficiently, at an estimated cost to the economy of $40 billion, according to a new report.

The Grattan Institute's Reading Guarantee report calls this a "preventable tragedy" caused by persisting with teaching styles popular at universities, but "contrary to science" and discredited by inquiries in all major English-speaking countries.

"In a typical Australian school classroom of 24 students, eight can't read well," said report lead author and Grattan education program director Jordana Hunter. "Australia is failing these children."

The estimated cost of this "failure" was profound both personally and economy-wide, with students unable to read proficiently more likely to become disruptive at school and unemployed or even jailed later in life, the report concluded.

Dr Hunter said the "conservative" financial estimate amounted to a "really significant cost" that did not include productivity benefits from increased reading.

Students left to 'guess' meaning of words

The Grattan Institute attributed the major cause of its findings to the rise of a teaching style called "whole language", which became dominant on university campuses in the 1970s.

It is underpinned by a philosophy that learning to read is a natural, unconscious process that students can master by being exposed to good literature.

Proponents say it empowers young people by giving them autonomy.

However Grattan said it left students to "guess" the meaning of words and was saddling parents with expensive tuition costs to help their children catch up.

What are the reading wars?

Phonics, or sounding out words, is part of the "structured literacy" approach, which says reading should be broken down and the elements taught explicitly

After decades of the so-called reading wars, "whole language" has incorporated elements of other approaches such as phonics, but Grattan said it remained "light touch" and "contrary to scientific recommendations".

"What we need to do is set our expectations higher. We need to stop accepting failure," Dr Hunter said. "It's not good enough that one in three students are not where they need to be in reading."

The Grattan Institute said evidence showed a much greater number of students learned to read successfully using the alternative "structured literacy" approach, and at least 90 per cent of students would be proficient using this model.

"Structured literacy" includes phonics, but also teacher-led "explicit instruction" backed by the latest science on how children's brains learn new concepts.

"The quality of teaching is the thing that will shift the dial for our young people," Dr Hunter said. "We need to make the most of every single minute we have with our young people."

Why are some schools still not using phonics?

Despite major inquiries in Australia, the United Kingdom and United States settling the argument that structured literacy teaching is superior, that hasn't flowed to all classrooms, the Grattan Institute said.

It said where school systems have embraced it, students have reaped the rewards.

Australia's 10,000 schools have a high degree of autonomy, and even in states where education departments advocate for the structured literacy approach, the report said there needed to be more support for teachers to re-train and be provided with ready-made lessons.

"The real issue here is, are governments doing enough to set teachers up for success?'" Dr Hunter said. "The challenge is making sure best practice is common practice in every single classroom."

Western Sydney University's Katina Zammit, president of the Australian Literary Educators Association, said the whole language method should not end up in history's trash can.

She said that in school systems that moved to the teaching methods championed by the Grattan Institute, some teachers found it too prescriptive.

"The teachers that I have had contact with, some of the children who are being taught this way, have either lost interest in reading because it's a whole class approach or they are not retaining the instruction," Dr Zammit said.

Dr Zammit agreed whole learning did not work for all students but said it could still be useful in the classroom. "One size doesn't fit all students," she said. "Yes, the majority it might, but we do have to look at engagement and motivation as well."

However in a statement to the ABC, Education Minister Jason Clare said the science on teaching reading had been settled. He also foreshadowed mandating teaching styles in the upcoming school funding agreement.

"The reading wars are over. We know what works. The current National School Reform Agreement doesn't include the sort of targets or reforms to move the needle here," he said.

"The new Agreement we strike this year needs to properly fund schools and tie that funding to the sort of things that work. The sort of things that will help children keep up, catch up and finish school."




Sunday, February 11, 2024

The Person Behind a CA School District’s ‘Woke’ Education Program Wants to 'End' U.S., Israel

This week, Townhall reported about a California school district that struggled with some of the lowest math and reading scores in the country hired a company called “Woke Kindergarten” to train teachers and hopefully boost the school’s scores. Two years later, the students’ scores were reportedly worse.

Now, a report from the New York Post explained that the head of the organization has said on video that the United States and Israel have no right to exist.

The individual, Akiea ‘Ki’ Gross, who goes by “they/them” pronouns, made the announcement clear in a video posted on Instagram. It was later amplified by the X (formerly Twitter) account Libs of Tik Tok.

“Yes everyone, the rumors are true. I am anti-Israel. I am pro-Palestine and I am 100 percent, 10 toes down, anti-Israel. I believe Israel has no right to exist,” Gross said.

“I believe the United States has no right to exist. I believe every settler colony who has committed genocide against native peoples, against Indigenous people, has no right to exist,” Gross said in the post.

“I believe in a free Palestine from the river to the sea,” Gross continued. “I believe one day Palestine will be free.”

“Y’all the demons. Y’all are the villains. We’ve been trying to end y’all. Get free of y’all,” she said, which essentially indicates that she supports Hamas’ attempts to “get rid of” the Israeli people.

In another video, Gross reportedly called for schools to be abolished (via NYP):

“I think about land back to Indigenous peoples globally. I think about the fact that we would not have to participate in these systems, because none of these systems would exist. That means kids wouldn’t have to go to school because the world would ultimately be their classroom,” Gross said.

“[Kids] would learn with us, they would learn from us. We would learn from them. We would create these ecosystems of community care that would make sure that everybody had what they needed, so nobody would want for anything. We would hear music everywhere. We will make art out of everything. We’ll be able to write so much more poetry, because we would have so much joy in ourselves that we would need someplace to move it, someplace for it to land. The people would have the power and the kids would have more, too.”

As Townhall covered, the Glassbrook Elementary in Hayward, California, spent $250,000 in federal funds on Gross’ education program.

The school superintendent, Jason Reimann, told the outlet that “Woke Kindergarten” was meant to boost attendance rather than test scores. He also claimed that the program was supported by parents and teachers.

"We are in favor 100% of abolishing systems of oppression where they hold our students back. What I do believe is we should pick providers based on their work and how effective they are,” Reimann said.


‘Micro’ K-12 Schools Offer Big Solutions for Students

New research estimates that some students’ grades will never catch back up after falling during the pandemic. Recently, some in the mainstream media worried that the federal taxpayer money that lawmakers sent to K-12 schools during COVID-19 may not be enough to help schools turn things around.

But public schools—also known as “assigned” schools—had money before the pandemic, and achievement gaps have persisted for decades among students from different economic backgrounds, long before COVID-19. Public education’s slow-motion attempts at meaningful improvement whilst holding checks from taxpayers have parents looking for alternatives.

Small ones.

“I thought schools today must have everything that I had, plus be 40 years better, only to find out that things had gone, if anything, backwards,” said Kathryn Kelly, one of the growing number of entrepreneurs behind microschools, small private schools that offer flexible schedules to students.

A parent herself, Kelly started her school in Nevada years before the pandemic because her adopted sons were “really floundering in school” and needed help. Today, her school, called I-School, is attracting families from all walks of life who have tired of the radical political orthodoxy inside many public school districts along with teachers union campaigns for more taxpayer spending.

Kelly is doing the opposite of what many public systems have tried. Instead of building new facilities and updating classroom technology, Kelly’s school in Carson City is situated in a building built in 1879 that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

She explains that the building, like her school’s focus on classic books and a traditional, liberal arts education, is meant to “give kids some magic” as they are surrounded by “history and character.”

“The bar has been set so low” at assigned schools, Kelly said in an interview. She explains that her teachers want to get students “engaged and curious and interactive instead of meekly accepting what is being handed to them.”

Kelly’s program also has an online option, and the combination of in-person and online teaching has reached a variety of students over the last 14 years. “We have full-time kids, have hybrid kids, we have kids that are part-time in the public school, part-time home-schooled. We try to be the school that I wanted when I started out, and that is very flexible for parent needs,” Kelly says.

And it’s working. Kelly explains that I-School has helped a child with cystic fibrosis remain in school while waiting for a lung transplant. Another student is one of the top-ranked high school wrestlers in Alabama who will be attending Columbia University.

Parent interest in microschools surged during and after the pandemic. Families discovered that these schools were not only flexible but could allow parents to remain involved in their children’s education through part-time and other hybrid school schedules.

Nationwide, microschool enrollment growth has been steady, but the schools are designed to be small, which means these modest operations are one part of a growing catalog of K-12 opportunities outside of assigned public schools. Combining her online school and physical location and her new faith-based Hope Academy, Kelly has 40 students enrolled.

Some state lawmakers are making it possible for more families to take advantage of small learning settings like Kelly’s, along with classical private schools, private schools focused on STEM, and more. Policymakers in nine states have adopted the school choice options of either private school scholarships (i.e., private school vouchers) or education savings accounts for which all students in those states are eligible to apply.

This year, Tennessee lawmakers are considering a proposal that would make their state the 10th to adopt such options. In some states, such as North Carolina, parents can use an education savings account to pay tuition at microschools similar to I-School in Nevada. With an education savings account, the state deposits a portion of a child’s funds from the state education funding formula that parents can then use to buy education products and services for their students (more than a dozen states have account-style opportunities for students today).

Claims that $200 billion in COVID-19 funding was not enough for schools during the pandemic are hard to stomach while innovators such as Kelly can advertise education quality to families from inside a nearly 200-year-old building.

Students who are falling behind are not catching up because the assigned school system is not catching up. Struggling students—and all students—should not have to wait for public schools to decide what to do with new money before getting the chance at a great education.


Australia: Vaping out of control in schools, warn principals

School principals are calling for an immediate crackdown on vape sales in shops and online, as the Coalition refuses to back the ­Albanese government’s plan to confine sales to pharmacies.

At least one in three Australian teenagers has tried vaping, the Cancer Council revealed on Friday when it released a survey showing 93 per cent of parents want vapes banned without a valid prescription.

Australian Secondary Principals Association president Andy Mison called on both sides of politics to back a ban on vape sales.

He said teenage students had sworn at him and threatened to bash him when he confiscated their vapes.

“They’re fixated on getting their next hit, are very disruptive and distracted from learning,’’ he said. “We see the behavioural ­effects of withdrawal, as kids disappear from the classroom so they can get nicotine hits.

“When you confiscate them, some kids act angrily. I’ve been sworn at, I’ve been threatened with bashings.’’

Mr Mison said manufacturers were targeting children with brightly coloured vapes made to look like highlighter pens.

“The vapes are bright and colourful and clearly designed to ­attract kids,’’ he said. “They have sweet combinations of flavours like mango and pineapple, and they’re so addictive.

“Kids will be more likely to be using vapes much more frequently than they might have smoked cigarettes.’’

A Senate inquiry into classroom disruption this week identified “strong links between vaping, nicotine withdrawal and classroom disruption’’.

The NSW Primary Principals Association told the inquiry of “increasing evidence of vaping being a problem in primary schools’’. “Vaping should be ­urgently addressed as a health problem, not a school discipline problem to solve,’’ it said.

Cancer Council chief executive Tanya Buchanan said vapes often contained nicotine and carcinogens such as formaldehyde and metals, which are not declared on the label.

Professor Buchanan said nicotine harms children’s developing brains, affecting the part of the brain that controls attention, learning, moods and impulse control.

“Retailers are still knowingly selling nicotine-containing vapes in local shops near schools, with enticing displays of lollies lining the entrance, attracting the attention of young people,’’ she said.

“Without the Parliament’s support for the federal government’s upcoming reforms, purchasing e-cigarettes will remain alarmingly common and easy for young people.’’

Retailers are banned from selling vapes to children, but enforcement is lax.

The Albanese government banned the importation of single-use vapes on January 1, but retailers are allowed to sell any vapes they have in stock to adults.

The government plans to introduce legislation this month to limit the sale of vapes to pharmacies, with a prescription, for use by smokers trying to quit.

Federal Health Minister Mark Butler called on the opposition to back Australia’s “world-leading vaping reforms’’.

“Once the legislation passes the parliament later this year the only legal way to buy vapes will be therapeutically, through a pharmacy,’’ he said.

The federal opposition refused to commit to the reform, with ­Nationals leader David Littleproud insisting that retailers be allowed to sell vapes to adults without a prescription.

Mr Littleproud – whose party has received donations from ­tobacco companies – refused to say if he would support the ban on vape sales in shops.

“We need to protect children from vaping and crack down on the uncontrolled black market,’’ he said.

“The Nationals support a process to develop a comprehensive regulatory framework for e-cigarettes to keep them out of the hands of children.

“We believe that regulating e-cigarettes is also crucial to weakening the illicit black market.’’

The federal Opposition’s education spokeswoman, Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson, said that vaping in schools was “rampant and educators need every possible support to combat this scourge’’.

“With over a quarter of young people aged 14 to 17 admitting to having tried or regularly use vapes, Australian schools need tough action from this government to prevent vaping spiralling out of control,’’ she said.