The most distressing element of the nation-wide pandemic and shutdown has been the decision by some local governments, school boards, and teachers unions to prohibit children from attending school.
We can argue about motive all we want, but ultimately it comes down to politics. Opponents of allowing schools to reopen say they fear for the health of children when, in fact, data from around the world show that children rarely get sick from COVID-19, and deaths are incredibly rare. Also, evidence shows that children don’t spread the disease as adults do, and there is no evidence that closing schools will control the transmission of the virus.
Furthermore, evidence from Europe and Asia where schools have already reopened shows that closing schools will cause lots of potential long-term and detrimental outcomes regarding the education of our children. It will also impact the ability of society to function and deliver essential services. It may even increase deaths from Covid-19 based on some modeling.
So what is to be done? One answer is for parents who want their children to go back to the classroom to send them to charter schools, Catholic schools, or private schools.
Below I am reprinting a commentary by Lieutenant General, U.S. Army retired, Marvin L. Covault, who examines the myths and realities of charter schools and the role the nation’s highly-politicized teachers unions are playing in keeping our schools closed.
BIDEN’S “PLAN” TO FIX EDUCATION
Marvin Covault, Lt. Gen., U.S. Army retired
Joe Biden’s campaign platform is beginning to creep out of his basement, and so far, it is not a pretty picture. At this time, let’s just look at one pressing national issue, education.
Education is perhaps this nation’s greatest disgrace. Yet every four years, we go through the same song-and-dance. The democrat sells his/her soul to the teachers’ unions, promising to spend more billions of dollars to regulate top-down, which then requires a bigger inefficient, and ineffective Department of Education bureaucracy. This is a decades-old formula for failure as our world rating in education continues to decline.
Snapshots that illustrate the problems in government-run public schools: Providence, RI: Only 5% of eighth-graders are proficient in math. Newark, NJ: 21% proficiency in math. North Carolina: 44 % of North Carolina third-graders are not proficient in reading. Wisconsin: Black American eighth-graders perform only slightly better than white fourth-graders in reading and math. Nation-wide, two-thirds of eighth-graders are not proficient in math and reading. And so it goes across the country.
One cannot adequately analyze education results without getting inside the government-run public schools vs. charter schools discussion. Let’s begin by understanding what a charter school is.
Facts shared by nearly all the states: The State Board of Education authorizes charter schools. Charter schools are TUITION-FREE PUBLIC SCHOOLS of choice that are operated mostly by independent non-profit boards of directors.
Myth # 1: “Charter schools are unaccountable, private schools that take money away from district schools.” Truth: Charter schools are 100% accountable to state authorities. Charter school students are typically funded at $0.73/dollar compared to district school students. Charter schools do not receive capital funding for buildings or transportation.
Myth 2: “Charter schools don’t serve a diverse population of students; they get to handpick their students to populate their schools.” Truth: If a child is eligible to attend a public government school, parents may apply to any charter school. If a charter school receives more applications than its capacity, a lottery is conducted. Discrimination based on race, national origin, or religion is prohibited.
Myth 3: “Charter schools exclude economically disadvantaged students by not providing transportation or food.” Truth: Most charter schools provide transportation and food without receiving any funding to do so.
Myth 4: “Charter schools are not academically superior to government-run public schools.” Truth: In New York City, for example, charter school students are predominantly black and Hispanic and live in low-income neighborhoods. In 2019, most students in the city’s government-run public schools failed to pass state-wide math and English standardized tests while most of the charter school students passed both subjects. Ironically, in some minority communities, traditional public school and charter school classes are co-located in a shared building. In one co-mingled building in 28 different classes, less than 10% of the government-run public school students tested to a proficient level while 81-100% of charter students were proficient.
Why is this happening? There are three significant differences: One, government-run public schools are top-down highly regulated vs. charters with their own organization, planning, and programs. Unlike district schools, charter schools are independently operated, allowing them the freedom to use innovative school models and customized approaches to curriculum, staffing, and budgeting.
Second: Government-run public schools are highly unionized while charters are not. There are exceptional/gifted teachers, good teachers, and also bad teachers. Because of attitude, aptitude, expertise, and lack of desire, some teachers should choose a different career. The inadequate teachers will say, I present the material, but I can’t make the students learn. While that is a true statement, the excellent/gifted/good teachers, by contrast, can make the students want to learn. For anything short of criminal charges, a school principal generally does not have the time it takes to fight the teachers’ union through a dismissal. On average, it takes about two years of effort to fire a teacher for poor performance. In San Francisco and Los Angeles, it takes at least five years.
Finally, third, the bottom line is accountability. Fact: an unacceptably high percentage of government-run public school students routinely fail standard tests. When they do, what happens? Nothing positive. Students fail in fourth grade get passed on to fifth grade, in sixth grade, they fall further behind, and this pattern persists until a point, usually in high school, when the failing student feels frustrated, hopelessly behind, ridiculed and takes the only road he/she can see and drops out of school. Across this great nation, on an average school day, 7000 students drop out and join the ranks of the disadvantaged. Accountability? Zero.
By contrast, if charter students do not measure up to standards, the school is subject to being shut down by state law. Is accountability important in education? Yes, the ultimate arbiter.
Back to the opening question, what is Joe Biden’s platform on education?
The bottom line: He has no plan to help educate, period. He conveniently fails to mention charter schools on his official campaign website. Specifically, he has made two public statements: “There are some charter schools that work.” Wow, what a resounding endorsement! And, “I will stop all federal funding for for-profit charter schools.” For-profit entities operate only about 16 percent of charter schools across the country.
More telling than what he is saying is what he is doing, i.e., giving 100% support to teachers’ unions, which have already endorsed his candidacy.
That leads us to the question, where are the teacher’s unions on charter schools? Here is a summation of the misinformation they are spreading: Charter schools are privately-operated, deregulated, segregated, poorly-supervised, de-unionized, scandal-ridden contract schools that drain much-needed funds from demonized public schools. Oh, by the way, those are all lies.
The United Teachers Los Angeles, representing 600,000 K-12 teachers, provides a good example. One of UTLA’s current demands, as a condition of getting students back in classrooms this fall, is that privately operated charters that get government money to be shut down; that would be 100% of them. Why? Charters threaten traditional schools because the empirical record shows that urban charters, particularly those in poor neighborhoods, create better learning outcomes.
Teachers’ unions across the country are generally campaigning against charters and explicitly working to influence local and state authorities not to approve new charter applications. Examples: Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, proposed a state budget that would put a freeze on new charter schools and cap enrollment at existing ones.
Recently the Chicago Board of Education denied three proposals for new charter schools and rejected the renewal of an existing charter following a union-led pressure campaign. The Chicago Teachers Union has called for a moratorium on all new charter schools.
We are now in a counter-revolution against education reform led by teachers’ unions pressuring democrat politicians across the nation to turn down charter applications. In California, local school district officials can now veto charter applications.
So, Mr. Biden, by all means, lead this nation down the continuing path of big-government, over-regulated, over-priced, failing education. While that may not be what you actually want for America’s future, it is so pathetically apparent that you are pandering to the unions for their vote. Where is your accountability?
BREAKING NEWS: 25 July in the Wall Street Journal. “Education Secretary DeVos recently announced that her department will award at least $85 million over five years for the Washington D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.
The scholarships let lower-income parents of children trapped in failing public schools attend the charter or private schools of their choice. According to the Education Department, nearly 98% of students with Opportunity Scholarships graduate from high school compared with 69% of D.C. public school students. Some 86% go on to college, while more than 90% of scholarship recipients are black or Hispanic, and the average family income is less than $27,000 a year.
Enter Joe Biden, whose own children benefitted from private schools. But in his recent unity platform with Bernie Sanders, Biden calls explicitly for eliminating the D.C. scholarships. There is no moral or fiscal justification for killing the scholarships.”
Sorry Joe, you just got an F in education.
Lieutenant General, U.S. Army retired, Marvin L. Covault is the author of Vision to Execution, a book for leaders.