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Weekend To-Do List
8/11 - 8/13
1. Layoffs in Philanthropy
READ: The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and Open Society Foundations both announced layoffs this week due to organizational restructures. 48 employees within CZI’s education team were impacted, and 40% of OSF’s workforce will be eliminated in the near future. Kellea Miller, executive director of the Human Rights Funders Network, cautioned that such changes could have a significant impact on grantees:
“This is not nominal, and it also means that movements that have longstanding relationships with program officers there now have to rebuild their access and wait for transparency about the implications.”
CZI’s statement reiterated the company’s commitment to supporting educators and students, and OSF said its new model will allow the foundation to maximize its grantmaking dollars. Read more from Steve Snyder at The 74 here and from Thalia Beaty at AP here.
2. Public Schools Are Not Open to All
READ: Keri D. Ingraham took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal’s Opinion section in support of universal school choice. Ingraham argues that zoning, unions, and bureaucrats have done more to restrict kids' access to high-quality schools than any private school admission or tuition requirements:
Children are often kept in failing public schools despite other schools in the area having room to admit them. That’s discriminatory: Children from specific ZIP codes and neighborhoods aren’t allowed to attend better-performing public schools, making taxpayer-funded government K-12 schools far from accessible to all. While historically K-12 public education has maintained a near monopoly, its stronghold is weakening with the advancement of universal school choice.
Read more here.
3. 24 States Jail Parents for Seeking Better Schools
READ: A new report reveals that parents in 24 states can face jail time for using a false address to get their children into a better public school. Linda Jacobson at The 74 wrote about how these policies disproportionately impact Black, Hispanic, and low-income families and why public opinion over the criminalization of this practice has become so divided. The report, published by Available to All and Bellweather, highlights the lengths districts will go to identify families engaged in “address sharing”:
Private investigators say they sometimes use video with night vision software to capture students’ faces on dark winter mornings. Districts also use tip lines and offer rewards to encourage those with knowledge of address sharing to make a report.
VerifyResidence, a business that works with over 150 districts in multiple states, purchases U.S. Postal Service records and other databases to track down where students actually sleep at night, said Mike Auletta, a New Jersey-based private investigator who runs the company.
Connecticut recently decriminalized the practice, and twelve states have made laws to expand open enrollment policies so students can attend schools outside their district or zone. Read more here.
4. Florida to Vote on Classical Learning Test
READ/LISTEN: The Florida Board of Governors will vote later this month on whether to offer a Classical Learning Test in lieu of the SAT or ACT for public college admissions. The classical education model, pioneered by Hillsdale College and used primarily by private Christian schools, focuses on “core values” and the “centrality of the Western tradition.” But critics say the curriculum and the test centers white Europe and America:
So-called "classical education is really a wolf in sheep's clothing," said Julian Vasquez Heilig, a professor of educational leadership, research and technology at Western Michigan University. "Really what it's about is using selective Western thinkers to foment a specific moral ideology," he added.
Read more from April Rubin at Axios here. Rikki and I discussed the proposed exam on this week’s episode of Lost Debate. Listen here. Chris and I have also discussed Hillsdale College’s influence on previous episodes of the Citizen Stewart Show. Listen here.
5. How To Implement ESAs Right
READ/LISTEN: Caroline Hendrie wrote for Education Next about the various obstacles ESAs and advocates have faced on the path toward successful implementation and whether enough attention is paid to the programs’ scalability. Ensuring accountability for public tax dollars while maintaining convenience for participating parents has been a particular pain point, especially as critics crow over headlines about ESA dollars used for pizza ovens, trampolines, and kayaks:
“The underlying theory is we have to trust families and parents to make those decisions and try not to bring down the hand of government until and unless there’s obvious evidence of fraud,” said Garrett Ballengee, the executive director of the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy, a think tank that champions that state’s ESA program. “And I think that’s probably the right approach to it. Going too far on the rules and regulations side kind of corrupts the original intent.”
In states with ESA programs, officials may not be required to collect, categorize, and report on how exactly families are using their dollars. “We don’t report out as a matter of course on how much people spend on tutoring versus technology, for instance,” said Kathryn Marker, who runs the division of the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority that administers that state’s ESA program. “We’re not required to report that.”
Read more here. Chris has spoken with several leaders quoted in the piece for recent episodes of the Citizen Stewart Show. Listen to his episode with EdChoice president and CEO Robert Enlow here and with Save Our Schools Arizona executive director Beth Lewis here.
6. Embracing Trauma Limits Resilience
READ/LISTEN: Jill Filipovic questions whether the past two decades’ embrace of trauma and trigger warnings has harmed society in a recent piece for The Atlantic. She argues that the adaptation of trauma, escalated by time spent alone and on phones, hasn’t only led to a decrease in our mental health, but also in our ability to respond to adversity. The path forward will require a collective effort:
If we want to replace our culture of trauma with a culture of resilience, we’ll have to relearn how to support one another—something we’ve lost as our society has moved toward viewing “wellness” as an individual pursuit, a state of mind accessed via self-work. Retreating inward, and tying our identities to all of the ways in which we’ve been hurt, may actually make our inner worlds harder places to inhabit.
Read more here. Doug Lemov and I interviewed George Bonnano, author of The End of Trauma, for Sweat the Technique earlier this year. We discussed whether society is having the wrong conversation about trauma and how it impacts the K-12 space. Listen here.
7. In Defense of Universities
READ: Michael Ignatieff wrote for The Atlantic about how the rise of conservative activism in U.S. higher education mirrors the dismantling of liberal institutions in authoritarian-led countries over the past decade. Ignatieff implored readers to reflect on the lessons learned in Hungary to preserve critical thinking and stave off cultural hegemony:
Universities are not usually understood, and even more rarely defended, as guardrail institutions that keep a democracy from succumbing to the tyranny of the majority, but that is one of their roles: to test, criticize, and validate the knowledge that citizens use to make decisions about who should rule them. Because this is the universities’ democratic rationale, the message for those who want to defend them should be clear. So long as academic freedom is considered a privilege of a liberal elite, it has no constituency beyond academia. Liberals should defend academic freedom not as the privilege of a profession, nor to preserve universities as bastions of progressive opinion, but because universities—like courts, a free press, and independent regulatory bodies—are essential restraints on majoritarian rule that keep us all free.
Read more here.
8. Unfettered College Spending Leaves Students With the Bill
READ: Melissa Korn, Andrea Fuller, and Jennifer S. Forsyth at the Wall Street Journal reported on how a race to the top amongst public universities, bloated staffing structures, and public funding cuts have resulted in massive student tuition bills over the past two decades. The report highlights truly remarkable spending by some of the most expensive public universities in the country with nearly zero oversight by the institutions’ governing bodies:
Research by James V. Koch, an economist who studies college spending and a former president at Old Dominion University in Virginia, found that public-university trustees approved 98% of the cost-increasing proposals they reviewed, often unanimously. In most states, he said, there hasn’t been anyone to say, “No, you can’t do that.”
Read more here.
9. The Threat to Intellectual Freedom
READ/LISTEN: George Packer reflected in the pages of The Atlantic on the 70th anniversary of “The Freedom to Read,” a manifesto defending free expression and denouncing censorship and conformity. As calls for book bans and author cancellations increase, PEN America has called for transparency in publishing decisions to combat what it calls a “pervasive orthodoxy” that undermines the mission of book publishing. Packer cautions that this rise in outrage culture and identity politics poses an ongoing threat to intellectual freedom:
Social justice and intellectual freedom are not inherently opposed—often, each requires the other—but they are not the same thing, either. “The Freedom to Read” makes this clear: “It would conflict with the public interest for [publishers and librarians] to establish their own political, moral, or aesthetic views as a standard for determining what should be published or circulated.” That statement was written at a time when the cause of intellectual freedom was non- or even anti-ideological. Its authors advocated no other goal than the widest and highest-quality expression of views.