charter schools Education Intelwars school choice schools

Former teachers union president reveals why he went from fighting against charter schools to promoting them: ‘They’re bad for unions, not for kids’

It’s no secret that teachers unions are strident opponents of charter schools — despite the fact that charter schools are simply independently operated public schools.

Charters are a form of school choice that the unions fear will one day lead to education vouchers, which will allow students to receive government dollars to escape the many failing public schools that unions have so long dominated. The schools also have the freedom to create classrooms that meet students’ needs and hire non-union employees.

Now a former teachers union president is explaining why he went from fighting against charter schools to advocating for them.

What did he say?

George Parker spent 30 years as a math teacher in low-performing schools in Washington, D.C., and then six years as president of the Washington Teachers’ Union. A onetime opponent of charter schools, he’s now a senior adviser at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

In a new op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Parker explained why he made such a dramatic transition: Despite claims by the unions that charter schools are unaccountable impediments to kids’ educations, he finally realized that charters were not a threat to students but to unions.

“Too many teachers oppose them because they’re bad for unions, not kids,” the subtitle on Parker’s article declared.

Parker began with a memory of telling a group of children that he was focused on making “sure their teachers had what they needed to do their jobs” and “to help them become the best teachers they could be.

“But I knew that wasn’t always the case,” he lamented, adding:

Like many union leaders, I had relentlessly negotiated contracts that protected not only teachers’ rights, but their wrongs. As I drove home, I thought about the $10,000 my union had spent to keep a poorly performing teacher in the classroom—not because she deserved another chance, but because of a technicality.

After three decades as a teacher in D.C.’s lousy public schools, he said it was “natural to become an advocate for the profession.”

But after a few years, he realized a problem: “Somewhere along the way I became more of a union leader than an educational leader.”

It’s time to do what’s best for the kids, not unions

Now, with the pandemic coming to an end and millions of children across the country having been locked out of their schools for an entire year, it’s time unions understand “the need to be nimble, to serve the needs of children and families where they are.”

“We will fail our children and our teachers if we return to a pre-pandemic educational system,” Parker wrote. “Unfortunately, many teacher unions want to limit access to quality education for underserved kids.”

It’s time to do what’s best for the kids, not what’s best for the unions, he added.

“I used to oppose charter schools, not because they were bad for kids, but because they were bad for unions,” Parker said. “Some call it a binary choice: You either support teachers unions or you support charter schools. Nowadays I disagree. … I’m still a union member. But I now work on behalf of charter schools.”

More from Parker:

Charter schools are also public schools. All of them. They provide more than three million students, mostly black and Hispanic, access to a quality public education. They are innovative and student-centered. They break down barriers that have kept families of color from the educational opportunities they deserve. Another two million children would attend charter schools if there were space for them. How could I work against these kids?

All too often charter critics get caught up denigrating “the system” and forget the duty to do whatever it takes to provide all children with access to high-quality public schools, no matter their race, ethnicity or ZIP Code.

Parker closes with a warning: Charter schools are leading the way for great options for our kids, and “[I]f anyone says differently, keep in mind the messenger.”

Intelwars New York school choice sex ed Sex ed kindergartners sex education

NY Democrat wants sex ed for kindergartners, older students could be taught about hormone blockers and pansexuals

A Democratic New York lawmaker introduced a bill to teach comprehensive sex ed to kindergartners. The sex education will reportedly be outsourced to a left-wing organization that believes, “Sex ed is a vehicle for social change,” including incorporating social and racial justice messaging into their sex ed lessons.

New York Sen. Samra G. Brouk, a freshman Democrat from Rochester, introduced a bill to teach “comprehensive sexuality education in schools,” including to children as young as 5-years-old.

“Each public and charter school to provide students in grades kindergarten through twelve with comprehensive sexuality education,” the bill reads.

The bill calls for “comprehensive sexuality instruction for students in grades K-12 which includes a model curricula for comprehensive sexuality education and at a minimum conforms to the content and scope of national sexuality education standards.”

“But her proposal would legally link New York’s schools to the shifting recommendations of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS),” the New York Post reported.

SIECUS declares, “Sex ed is a vehicle for social change. Full stop.”

SIECUS states that sex education “can (and should) be so much more than that,” including “dismantling white supremacy.”

With sex education, we have a golden opportunity to create a culture shift–tackling the misinformation, shame, and stigma that create the basis for many of today’s sexual and reproductive health and rights issues, like reproductive justice, LGBTQ equality, sexual violence prevention, gender equity, and dismantling white supremacy.

The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States proclaims, “Comprehensive sexuality education for kindergarteners lays the foundation to teach students about things like respecting personal boundaries, gender roles, and more.”

“The goal of the National Sexuality Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K–12 is to provide clear, consistent and straightforward guidance on the essential minimum, core content for sexuality education that is developmentally and age-appropriate for students in grades K–12,” SIECUS explains about the standards that first debuted in 2011.

The National Sex Education Standards from SIECUS received a major update in 2020 with a far more progressive approach to sex ed, including focusing on intersectionality, racism, and hormone blockers for children.

The National Sex Education Standards noted that by the end of the second grade, students will be able to “list medically accurate names for body parts, including the genitals.”

By the conclusion of the fifth grade, students will be required to “describe the role hormones play in the physical, social, cognitive, and emotional changes during adolescence and the potential role of hormone blockers on young people who identify as transgender.”

By the end of the eighth grade, students will be taught how to “define racism and intersectionality and describe their impacts on sexual health.” Students will also be expected to “define sexual identity and explain a range of identities related to sexual orientation (e.g., heterosexual, bisexual, lesbian, gay, queer, twospirit, asexual, pansexual).”

By the end of the twelfth grade, students will be expected to “analyze cultural and social factors (e.g., sexism, homophobia, transphobia, racism, ableism, classism) that can influence decisions regarding sexual behaviors.”

SIECUS notes that it’s Second Edition National Sex Education Standards “takes an intersectional approach.”

“The way overlapping or intersecting social identities—and particularly minority identities—relate to systems and structures of discrimination,” the guide reads. “Intersectionality looks at the relationships between these marginalized identities and the way that multiple systems of oppression interact in the lives of those with multiple marginalized identities and how this mixture impacts both our self-perception and how we are viewed and treated by other individuals, groups, institutions, and by society.”

“Sex education should avoid cisnormative, heteronormative approaches, aim to strengthen young people’s capacity to challenge harmful stereotypes, and be inclusive of a wide range of viewpoints and populations without stigmatizing any group,” the standards state.

Students will also be taught: “Inclusion of power and privilege, conscious and unconscious bias, intersectionality, and covert and overt discrimination, and the principles of reproductive justice, racial justice, social justice, and equity.”

Planned Parenthood Federation of America was one of the organizations that were thanked at the end of the standards “materials and writings were referred to in the creation of this glossary.” Elis Herman, Health Education Specialist–Sonoma County Planned Parenthood Northern California, and Sonya M. Norsworthy, National Director of Education Planned Parenthood Federation of America, were listed as contributors to the standards.

New York Assemblyman Michael Reilly (R), a member of the education committee, told the New York Post, “We would be outsourcing our curriculum to this outside organization. That’s a concern.”

Brouk attempted to defend her bill by saying, “I am greatly concerned about the unacceptably high incidence of relationship violence, sexual harassment and assault, and online bullying in our society today. We must equip the next generation with the skills and education they will need to thrive.”

Education savings accounts Hope scholarship Intelwars school choice School freedom West Virginia West virginia house of delegates

As the nation’s fight over reopening schools wages on, West Virginia Legislature advances major school choice bills

School freedom is advancing in the state of West Virginia this week as major legislation to expand school choice passed through the lower house of the state Legislature.

The Republican-controlled House of Delegates on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a bill to expand the number of charter schools that could be approved in the state in a three-year period from three to 10. The bill passed 66-32, with all Democratic delegates opposing the legislation. On Thursday, legislation creating education savings accounts was approved by the House of Delegates in a 60-29 vote.

These education savings accounts, known as the “Hope Scholarship,” would permit parents to use their tax dollars for education expenses like private school tuition, home tutoring, testing aids, and other permitted education expenses. Republicans approved an amendment to the legislation that would make nearly every school-age child eligible for an education savings account by 2026, opening the program to a maximum 22,000 students at a cost of $101 million.

“We’re a diverse state. We have different geographic regions that have different needs,” Delegate Joe Ellington, a Republican and the charter school bill’s chief sponsor, told the Associated Press. “This just gives opportunity. If people don’t want to take advantage of that opportunity, they don’t have to. So it’s strictly voluntary.”

Charter schools were legalized during a special session of the West Virginia Legislature in 2019, after intense statewide protests by teachers unions opposing the bill. This year, however, school choice advanced speedily with the support of Republican supermajorities in the legislature.

Under current law, county school boards may authorize applications to create a charter school. So far there are no charter schools in West Virginia and only one application to create a charter school has been submitted to the school boards in Monongalia and Preston counties. That application was rejected, and there is a lawsuit against the state Department of Education over the decision.

The charter school expansion bill would create the West Virginia Professional Charter School Board to review and authorize charter school applications in addition to the county boards. It would also allow each of Virginia’s 55 counties to approve the creation of a fully online virtual charter school, which would be allowed to enroll up to 10% of public school students.

Democrats opposing charter school expansion and the creation of education savings accounts say permitting parents to use their tax dollars to send their kids to private or religious schools will detract from state funding for public schools. They also raised concerns about the cost of the legislation after Republicans expanded the education savings accounts bill.

“The price tag just went right through the roof,” Delegate Larry Rowe (D) said of the Hope Scholarship’s $101 million price tag. “It is an unbelievable amount of money to be voting here in a simple amendment on the floor for the first time to be completely changing the nature of this program.”

Last month West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) signed an executive order to begin reopening public and private schools that had closed down because of the coronavirus pandemic. Teachers unions sued to block schools from reopening, but Kanawha County Circuit Judge Carrie Webster ruled against the unions and refused to block reopening plans from the state board of education.

Under the reopening plan, pre-K, elementary and middle schools will be open for in-person instruction in all West Virginia counties for four or five days per week. Alternatively, school districts can opt for a hybrid reopening plan that permits schools to open at least two days per week until all their teachers are fully vaccinated. High schools may also reopen in all counties except those designated as high risk for COVID-19 spread by the Department of Health and Human Resources County Alert System.

Coronavirus Coronavirus lockdown Distance learning homeschool Intelwars school choice

More than 40% of families say they are more likely to homeschool after lockdowns end: poll

One of the running gags on social media during the coronavirus lockdown has been parents (and kids) expressing frustration about being forced to homeschool. Parents have lamented — often with humor — their new jobs as their kids’ teachers as distance learning has become the norm.

Certainly families can’t wait for this homeschooling experiment to be over so they can send their little cherubs back to the government-run schools.

Not so fast.

A new poll from RealClear Opinion Research has news that our nation’s powerful teachers unions likely are not going to appreciate.

More than 40% of families are say they’re now more likely to take up homeschooling or virtual schooling once schools open again. And nearly two-thirds of Americans now say they support school choice that would allow tax money for their children’s education to be spent to send their students to the public or private school of their choice.

President of the American Federation of Children John Schilling said in a statement on the organization’s website that policymakers should be paying attention to what’s going on with education during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Every single family with kids in school has been incredibly disrupted by the lockdowns. With 55 million students no longer in their normal educational setting, families are clearly considering new options and many are seeing the benefits of homeschooling and virtual schooling,” he said. “Policymakers should note that there is a strong desire to have these and other educational options available to families.

“Millions of families are seeing the inadequacies of school districts that are too inflexible,” Schilling continued. “We owe it to our nation’s families and students to give them more flexibility and additional educational options.”

For Schilling, it’s not just a question of parental rights, but also of fiscal responsibility for the government.

“Moreover, policymakers owe it to the taxpayers who are footing the $800 billion K-12 education bill to maximize their investment by ensuring every child has access to a quality education and outcomes are improved across the board,” he said.

Homeschooling support

According to the survey, 40.8% of American families said they are more likely to homeschool or virtual school after the lockdowns are over. Only 31.1% of families said they were less likely to do so.

Broken down by age group, younger Americans (18-34) were the most likely to say they’re more favorable to homeschooling than they were before the lockdown.

Democrats (45.7%) were slightly more likely than Republicans (42.3%) to say homeschooling is an increasingly possible option for their kids once the lockdowns conclude.

TheBlaze chart created from RealClear Opinions Research polling data

School choice support

The RealClear poll asked 2,122 registered voters, “School choice gives parents the right to use the tax dollars designated for their child’s education to send their child to the public or private school which best serves their needs. Generally speaking, would you say you support or oppose the concept of school choice?”

The data revealed that 64% of Americans say they support the concept of school choice.

As with the homeschooling question, younger voters (18-34) were the most likely to say they support school choice.

Broken down by party, Republicans (75.2%) were significantly more likely than Democrats (59%) to back school choice.

The poll also noted that 67.7% of people with kids in public school said they support school choice.

TheBlaze chart created from RealClear Opinions Research polling data

Alexandria ocasio-cortez Betsy DeVos Charter Education Intelwars school choice

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos calls out AOC’s hypocrisy on school choice

Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos took aim at Democratic socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on Monday, after it was revealed that just a few years ago, the far-left anti-school choice congresswoman helped get her goddaughter into a charter school.

What are the details?

The New York Post reported than an unearthed Facebook live video from 2017 shows Ocasio-Cortez, who was not yet in office, telling her followers, “This area’s like a lot of where my family is from. My goddaughter, I got her into a charter school like maybe a block or two down.”

The Post began its piece on Ocasio-Cortez with the line, “Good for me, but not for thee.”

Sec. DeVos shared the story on Twitter with the message, “How nice that @AOC claims to have helped her goddaughter get into a public charter school. It’s a shame she works to deny that opportunity to every other disadvantaged family in America. ‘Good for me, but not for thee,’ indeed. #EducationReform.”

In its report, The Post noted that “embracing charters would be a big no-no for Ocasio-Cortez’s Democratic social base, which calls for the total abolition of charters, arguing that their existence hurts traditional public schools.”

But it is not just Democratic socialists who oppose charter schools. The unions that represent public school teachers are famously opposed to offering any type of choice for students in failing public schools, and their disdain for charter options is a central complaint during strikes and rallies.

Ocasio-Cortez pointed to this while cheering on a teachers’ strike in Los Angeles last year, writing on her Twitter feed, “Tens of thousands of LA public school teachers, parents, and students are on a historic strike to improve + protect local public schools from privatization. This is inspiring!”

Anything else?

Sec. DeVos and President Donald Trump, on the other hand, are school choice advocates. Columnist Cal Thomas interviewed the secretary of education for an article published by Fox News last week, wherein DeVos argued her position that families stuck in failing government schools deserve alternatives.

“I do know there are over one million families on wait lists for charters schools,” DeVos told Thomas, adding, “I imagine there is close to that number who would opt to do something different if they had the opportunity.”