Good morning, CharterFolk.
I start off today thanking our Contributors who have risen to the occasion to offer columns encouraging our world to comment on the potentially disastrous proposed regulations coming out of the administration in DC. I thought all three of our Contributor Columns this week were just terrific.
I particularly appreciated Sarah and Lee zeroing in on the “intellectually dishonorable” scholarship that department staff used to justify the need for the proposed regulations. It was a point I made on Tuesday …
…calling the regulations’ citations “deceptive” and “revealing a pattern of dishonesty.” The regs were issued during a week when my son was preparing for an AP History exam where his teacher is known for giving failing grades to students who do not accurately cite sufficient sources to justify their opinions. I find it ironic that regulations that could potentially adversely affect the educations of millions of public education students would feature scholarship practices so unacceptable they would have received failing marks in high school history classes across the land.
It leads to …
My Final Recommendation for How to Rip the Regs
My sense is all of us should submit two-part comments. The first part should call out the dishonest/deceptive/dishonorable source-citation that the administration used to try to justify the need for the regs. Really let them have it, CharterFolk, grounding your comment in an awareness that the administration’s decision to even start a new regulatory process is based on outright lies. And then identify the single other aspect of the regs you find most abhorrent and really bore down. This is how I’ve structured my own personal comment. Remember that in Tuesday’s post I’ve made the process easier for you by making some of the regs’ most offending language ready for cutting and pasting.
The Other Side’s Desperate Last Minute Call to Action
Meanwhile, I find it interesting that on Friday, the other side came out with a last minute urgent call for comments in support of the regs.
To me this suggests that someone in the administration tipped off their allies that, relative to the number of comments being submitted in opposition to the regs, comments in support were paltry. So the Establishment better do something last minute to try to bump their numbers up.
So I think we’re on the right track, but we need to do more. Looking back over click counts I can see that over a hundred CharterFolk have visited the federal website in the last five days. Last Tuesday, I made a goal of trying to have at least a couple hundred. Come on, CharterFolk! We’re over half way there. Get your comment in today!
National Progress Anyway
I know that these regs have taken up a lot of airtime here at CharterFolk, preventing us from focusing on much else. That doesn’t mean there isn’t much afoot in charterland, some of it quite positive, like the fact that in blue contexts like Washington State …
… and purple contexts like Georgia …
… and red ones like Missouri …
… charter schools are making progress on funding equity.
And of course, we will see whether the Kentucky legislature actually overrides a governor veto next week …
… but the irony is just palpable that we’re seeing the feds trying to shut down the federal Charter School Program at the same time that new states …
are stepping boldly into the world of chartering.
Or maybe this is why we see such aggressiveness coming out of the administration in support of the Establishment. They know they have to double-down in their opposition. Otherwise goodness knows what momentum charter schools would have if we actually had a level playing field.
Cardona Embraces Attack, Erase, Defend
Maybe the greatest evidence of the administration’s full embrace of the Establishment’s attack on charter schools comes from Secretary Cardona himself.
To explain this, especially for our thousands of new readers this year, I need to provide a little context.
In one of my first posts here at CharterFolk …
… I identified the new three-pronged strategy that the Establishment adopted late in the Obama Administration to destroy charter schools. It’s three components were:
- Attack, which aims to get attention off the failings of the traditional public school system by steering attention to the supposed failings of the charter school movement;
- Erase, which aims to eliminate from the environment any data about the actual performance of traditional public schools so that no one can see how poorly they are actually doing; and
- Blame, which aims to identify the charter school movement as the causer of any problems in traditional public schools that are so severe that they cannot be erased from the landscape.
Now, obviously, these proposed regs are shining examples of the first and third prongs, attacking charter schools for supposedly having some “for profit” shortcoming, and blaming charter schools for district school weakness by making our schools have to conduct so-called “community impact reports.”
The question for me has been, when would we see the administration step into the erase prong, thereby demonstrating their full embrace of the Establishment’s strategy?
Well, late last month, we saw it:
At the ASCD Annual Conference, Cardona grasped the erase mantle with full gusto. Here are a couple of his statements cited in the K-12 Dive article:
“‘As secretary of education, I have to do more to make sure that we’re lifting up examples of how we’re using the data well, but also making sure the districts know that the way data is being used … doesn’t support growth, and it’s really just hammering on those folks that are working twice as hard to support students,’ Cardona said during the ASCD fireside chat.“
“‘I want to take it a step further. Some are waiting for that data to then try to create a picture because their plan is to privatize,’ Cardona said.“
“‘We have to collectively, as a profession, use the data to spotlight the need, but be wary of where it’s being used as a hammer,’ Cardona said. ‘Because in those places where it’s being used as a hammer, those folks fed kids, those folks knocked on doors, they used their buses to drop off meals where those kids needed it.'”
I know I have gotten to the point where I’m not supposed to be surprised by anything.
But here I am, stunned again.
The highest public education official in the land argues against transparent school performance data because that data might show how much our schools are struggling, thereby building greater urgency for change!
He makes those statements simultaneous to his team releasing a federal regulatory attack against our movement unlike any that we’ve seen before.
Well, at least we know what we’re up against, CharterFolk.
The Challenge of Regulation and Why We Must Support Our Advocacy Orgs at New Levels
This brings me to the last thing I wanted to cover today, which is the scope of the advocacy challenge we face and the need we all have to make sure our movement has the base advocacy capacities needed to defend our students and ultimately go on the offensive in support of greatly more public education for all students.
Let’s be clear, CharterFolk.
This is an advocacy challenge unlike any that we’ve seen before. The National Alliance and other advocacy organizations working at a federal level have been able to hold back various attacks against charter schools in the past, but those attacks have always been in the form of new legislation, or attempts to undermine us in the federal budget, places where we could use our supporters in Congress to keep harmful things from getting through.
We don’t have that same leverage today. The administration controls the regulatory process. Our levers for holding them back are very limited. Yes, we’ve got to do all we can today to register our opposition by getting our comments in on the proposed regs. But it’s also likely, given the administration’s power over the regulatory process and the degree to which the administration has embraced the Establishment’s agenda to destroy charter schools, that something gets through.
Something we will have to continue fighting for many years to overcome.
Maybe with litigation. Maybe with new legislation in the next Congress. It could take a lot of different forms.
But I leave you with this, CharterFolk.
I don’t know the exact numbers. But in terms of membership revenues coming to support our national organization from our field, the fact is that we offer that organization virtually nothing. State associations make “voluntary contributions” to support the National Alliance’s federal advocacy efforts equating to about a couple hundred thousand dollars per year.
A couple hundred thousand dollars. Enough for what, one senior staff member’s salary and benefits?
To hold off attacks affecting the education of approximately four million students?
A nickel per student invested in federal advocacy?
And we really expect to be able to hold off these kinds of attacks happening in Washington? When the other side is funded at just gargantuan amounts? Antonucci identifies $371 million per year coming in to the NEA. And that doesn’t even count what comes into AFT.
And we can’t muster more than a nickel per student?
It’s why I called for a new North Star during the Biden era.
Our schools increasing their membership dues to their state associations to at least $25/student by 2025. The idea is to make sure that our state advocacy organizations have the resources they need to defend our interests in state capitols across the country, but it’s also to ensure that those state organizations can pass along significant resources to our national organization as well.
This is why, CharterFolk. This is why.