Month: <span>September 2021</span>

Virtual charters are getting a windfall, students are getting shortchanged

Virtual charter schools claim to specialize in education, but mostly they specialize in making profits with our tax dollars, and the pandemic is proving to be a windfall for them. Or, as one virtual charter executive put it, a “lasting tail wind.”

Contributing to that tail wind is the state of Texas, which has expanded its investment in virtual education through the Legislature’s recent enactment of SB15, which will allow school districts to receive state funding for virtual instruction for as much as 10 percent of their enrollments this year. The new law has some other restrictions, but – if the Legislature renews it in 2023 — it also will open the door to a broader expansion of virtual instruction after the pandemic subsides.

A recent report by the University of Colorado’s National Education Policy Center found that 63 percent of virtual for-profit schools – most of which are charters – were rated unacceptable by their states based on the most recent data available. They typically lagged behind other schools on such critical measures as student academic outcomes and graduation rates. And they had high student turnover.

But those failures haven’t dimmed the corporate enthusiasm for the tax cash cow, and that enthusiasm only increased after the pandemic struck in the spring of 2020.

“We believe the effects of COVID-19 will be a lasting tail wind to online education and especially to K-12’s business model,” one virtual company’s chief financial officer said in a call with investors at the outset of the pandemic, according to report by the Washington Post and the Hechinger Report.

The COVID resurgence has added to the virtual industry’s optimism. “A lot of the states that have spikes in delta variant, places like Texas, we just see sort of unprecedented demand,” another industry executive told investors in August.

For-profit virtual schools are spending millions of dollars marketing themselves to parents and seeing many more millions on tax dollars in return. Parents, concerned about their children’s safety while the pandemic remains dangerous, are signing their children up for virtual classes. Many, however, end up being disappointed and shortchanged. And their kids’ educations suffer because of minimal online instruction, under-staffing and other cost-cutting steps that emphasize profit over academic results.

Students learn best with in-person instruction. But while expanding online learning, Texas – namely Gov. Greg Abbott – has made in-person learning more dangerous for students and educators alike. Despite the advice of health experts and pleas of many local school officials, the governor has refused to rescind his order banning mask mandates in schools, even though some districts are defying him.

The more dangerous Texas schools remain, the more profits virtual schools will make.

Despite mediocre records, for-profit online charter schools are selling parents on staying virtual

Clay Robison

George W. Bush is no historian, but he knows something about terrorists, foreign and domestic

We now have laws in Texas and several other states, dominated or heavily influenced by the Trump wing of the Republican Party, which seek to whitewash part of our history by limiting what educators can teach about racism. So, is it too much of a stretch to fear that someday, if Trumpism continues to control the GOP, that similar ideological efforts will be made to require teachers to describe the Jan. 6 Capitol rioters as patriotic defenders of the American way of life?

Donald Trump has called his supporters who stormed the Capitol at his bidding to try to stop Congress from certifying his election loss to Joe Biden “very special…peaceful people…great people.” Republican members of Congress who were forced to flee before the mob are now doing everything they can to undermine and discredit an official investigation of the riot.

And Trump’s supporters in Texas, including Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, continue to actively court the racists, conspiracy theorists and malcontents who attacked the Capitol, while doing little or nothing to dispel Trump’s lie that the election was “stolen.”

Former President George W. Bush has been one of the few prominent Republicans throughout the country to speak the truth about the election and Jan. 6, and he did so again last Saturday during an event remembering the Americans who died in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when he was in office. In remarks delivered in Pennsylvania, at the crash side of United Airlines Flight 93, one of the planes hijacked that day, he called out the Jan. 6 rioters for what they were – “violent extremists” – as he likened them to the Sept. 11 terrorists.

“There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home. But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit,” he said.

Politically, it is easier for former presidents to speak the truth than for politicians who are still trying to hang on to public office or climb the political ladder. But the efforts by our current crop of Republican elected leaders, including the governor, to downplay the truth, whether about racism or election outcomes, for political gain are pathetic – and dangerous for our democracy.

The question is how low will they go before they start losing their own self-respect – if they have any left.

George W. Bush perfectly tied 9/11 to the January 6 attack

Clay Robison