Good day, CharterFolk.
It was good to be out canvassing this weekend with CharterFolk in Los Angeles for today’s school board races.
Meanwhile, there is certainly much afoot in CharterLand right now.
So before the Wednesday morning quarterbacking about election results begins, let me try to pull together some themes we return to often here at CharterFolk.
Before I do, I wanted to start by thanking Starlee for her Contributor Column on Friday.
She gets so many things right.
As we do everywhere, charter schools face our share of challenges in Texas including needing to figure out new ways to help students overcome the significant learning loss that has happened through the pandemic.
But the underlying reality is that hundreds of thousands of kids and families across the state do not have access to the great public educations they deserve, and charter schools are in a position to do something about it.
It’s why it’s so important that, despite the exhaustion we all feel in this moment of great challenge for all connected to public education, we find creative ways to keep growing while simultaneously addressing learning loss.
One of the best ways is providing new opportunities for CharterFolk to start their own schools. It’s why I was so heartened to see this recent story from Starlee’s neck of the woods.
Charter school alumni in Houston opened up their own school right in the middle of Covid and are going strong.
It underscores what is undoubtedly our greatest asset for continuing to grow and overcome learning loss:
CharterFolk who have a vision for creating something boldly new in communities they care deeply about.
It’s why I was also so heartened to see the formation of this new program designed to help more Folk do just that.
So if any of you are interested in incubating a new school in Texas (and receiving a $100k annual stipend in the process), I encourage you to learn more here.
Public Education Implications of 88% of Home Purchasers Being White
Amid all the attention cast on today’s elections, I don’t know how many of you saw this one last week …
… but the implications for our work couldn’t be clearer.
88% of home buyers in the United States last year were white.
In a country where the primary expression of public school choice is reflected in where people decide to live, we can see who it is that has the means to express themselves.
Buying our way in to supposedly “public” schools, research has shown …
… calcifies our world around age-old inequities.
So, rather than public education becoming one our biggest efforts to overcome historical unfairness, it has become, sadly, one of the greatest perpetuators of that unfairness.
States do different things to make the dynamics exposed in the Bloomberg article either better or worse.
We in California are among the worst.
On top of having some of the worst NIMBY housing restrictions limiting construction generally and advantaging those who already own homes …
… for generations we have advanced tax policies that favor older, primarily white homeowners …
… giving us a leg up for building home equity, which poises us to capitalize on depressed real estate prices at times like this.
And if that wasn’t enough, just a couple years ago, California passed a new law …
… stipulating that people over 55 (I joined the club last year) can take a portion of our Prop 13-pegged tax basis to any new home that we purchase, providing thousands of dollars of annual tax breaks that younger folk can’t get.
And so, a demographic of people who rail against political figures calling for the building of walls finds creative ways to build our own.
Housing Walls Lead to Education Walls
And the walls we build are every bit as exclusionary as the ones we oppose.
Because once we achieve school choice behind ramparts of selective housing and tax advantage, we then turn around and oppose other policies attempting to provide school choice to parents via other means.
Just like we systematically work to ensure advantage for the older at the expense of the younger within our public education system more broadly.
Like the way we compensate teachers.
Over the past decade, we have seen steady increases in public education spending.
But salaries have remained essentially flat as almost all the new spending has gone to pensions.
And pensions, as Education Next has shown …
… benefit old teachers at the expense of young..
Or look at the latest analysis of facilities needs in San Francisco Unified.
$1.4 billion is needed over the next five years just to get facilities in decent working order. That’s over $28,000 per student, twice the district’s annual operating budget, all because the prior generation decided that, rather than paying their share of maintenance costs, they would push them off onto the future’s kids.
We end up with a circumstance where parents have to go to city officials to put pressure on the school district to do something about rat infestations.
But rather than the district committing available resources to fix existing schools, parents see San Francisco Unified commit $100M to build a new campus when almost all its existing campuses are under-enrolled.
It just accelerates the exodus.
Black students, who have been been, by far, San Francisco Unified’s worst-served students …
… are leaving in droves.
In just the past five years, Black enrollment in the district has dropped by nearly a fifth.
Meanwhile, those who can afford college-like tuition costs for their younger ones …
… push the city’s private schools to expand.
This is the true way that public education is being “privatized” in our country today. Public schools are so bad, parents feel they have no choice but to go private.
Little wonder we are seeing voters lose faith in public schools.
And we are certainly going to see their lack of confidence expressed at the ballot box today.
A Politico Article Shows Just How Content the Establishment Has Become
You would think these overall circumstances would be of grave concern to those whose mission it is to protect things the way they are in public education.
But to the contrary, we see that the California Teachers Association’s political priorities these days are such that they can share their largesse on a wide range of issues having nothing to do with public education.
Unfortunately, this article leaves out the biggest part of the story, which is the sad fact that, in recent years, CTA has gotten exactly the education policy …
… and the education policy makers …
… it wants.
It wasn’t so long ago that California was a cauldron of bold school reform. EdSource, California’s source of news about the most important things happening in public education, was full of groundbreaking news on a weekly basis.
CTA had its hands full, mortgaging buildings and levying special assessments against its members …
… to hold off reform.
But now things are different.
It’s not just charter school policy and the SPI where CTA is getting exactly what they want. Virtually every other priority CTA has sought over the past decade – from the sunsetting of the API system to the derailing of Vergara-like reforms, to bottling up the parent trigger – it has gotten as well. And no one is even proposing things that CTA finds threatening. So they have the luxury of buying off the next generation of political allies as the article portrays.
Over the weekend, I had a long time CharterFolk reader send me this article.
She said it was an utter joke, something that belongs on the pages of The Onion, not the Los Angeles Times. The superintendent taking onesies to maternity wards across Los Angeles in an effort to stem enrollment loss?
Rather than simply trying to make the district’s schools better so that parents will be eager to enroll their kids once they get to school-age?
But this is what we’ve come to CharterFolk.
Not only did the article appear in the Times, it was one of EdSource’s biggest education stories of the week …
… something they had a reporter cover as well.
It’s the portrait of an Establishment that has grown unprecedentedly content at the same time that parents and the public have grown unprecedentedly discontent.
It creates a circumstance, CharterFolk, where something’s got to give.
The Tiny Houses of Learning We are Building Now
While checking the EdSource website over the weekend to confirm that all this was true, I found the irony of their lead story simply stunning.
During a time when 88% of the “big houses” in housing and quality education are going to the more advantaged, we see the “tiny houses” of housing and plainly inadequate education we are planning to build for everyone else, including our most vulnerable students.
And the greatest of the ironies?
That we call our quest for tininess an example of “dreaming big.”
It’s why I end this piece where I began:
Right beside Starlee, amplifying her rallying cry.