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Rebel 6 Ramblings

The musings of a husband, father, and retired U.S. Army officer and public school superintendent.

Updated: 2018-03-19T15:10:31.688-04:00


Persistent Funding Gaps in Michigan K-12 Schools


Almost a year to the date, I posted on the continuing inequity of K-12 school funding in Michigan. I have since retired but you can go back and read (or re-read) that post at:

One More Time on Equity in School Funding

It is a fairly comprehensive post yet updating it with school funding data from this current school year would not make any difference. The inequity persists.

"Overall, the funding inequities we documented in the 2015 report appear slightly smaller, but persist. Compared to 2015, the national funding gap between high and low poverty districts decreased slightly — by 3 percentage points — from 10 percent to 7 percent. The national funding gap between districts with the highest and lowest percentages of students of color went from 15 percent to 13 percent, representing a 2 percentage point drop." ~ Education Trust, Funding Gaps 2018

Education Trust has released a new analysis of inequity in school funding just this past week. Here's what the report says about U.S. and Michigan schools when it comes to K-12 funding for affluent versus those schools predominantly serving low-income students. You can go back to my post linked above and see specific examples of this persistent inequity. Since our state Republican-led legislature votes each year on school funding, the blame for this inequity lies with the politicians.

Education Trust, Funding Gaps 2018

Governor's K-12 Funding Proposal Doesn't Do Enough


I'm no longer in a school superintendent's seat but that doesn't eliminate my concern as a citizen and taxpayer for the continuing underfunding of our public schools in Michigan. Governor Rick Snyder has proposed an increase for the upcoming 2019 fiscal year but it still falls way short of making up the huge $470 per pupil cut implement in Snyder's first year. In fact, as the following slide shows, my former school district lost close to a total of $2 million since that cut. This is a district that serves a high-needs population but receives less per student in the foundation allowance -- the major share of K-12 funding -- than several other districts in the county, as well as several very affluent districts in Oakland County on the east side of the state.A study mandated by the Republican legislature (which tried to stop the study before it happened and then simply shelved the results when they were presented) found that K-12 funding was becoming less equal as noted by the conservative-leaning Detroit News. The study used a "successful schools" model that concluded the base foundation allowance should be raised immediately to $8,667. In addition, districts like Godfrey-Lee should be receiving additional funding for at-risk and English-learners well beyond that provided by state or federal grants. The study failed to analyze the growing need for additional special education funding, a category that has NEVER been fully funded by federal or state governments. Lieutenant Governor Calley put together a subcommittee to review special education funding and in 2017 the group reported:"...special education funding experienced a 15.6 percent reduction (between) 2011-12 (and) 2015-16. It can be expected that a student in special education will have greater need, and therefore require additional services at a greater cost than a student not in special education. However, state and federal funding do not cover most of those additional costs." (emphasis added)Because the law requires full services for special education-eligible students, those costs continue to be covered by a school's general fund budget that primarily comes from the foundation allowance. That means less funding for classroom instruction as a whole.Because the legislature and governor have refused thus far to implement the recommendations of the 2016 study, a second study was initiated and the results were recently publicized. It concludes that:"The base per-pupil cost to educate a regular education K-12 student in Michigan is $9,590, which does not include transportation, food service or capital costs, and only includes pension costs at 4.6% of wages." (emphasis added)The study also calls for increases for students with special needs, transportation costs, and for school districts serving less than 7,500 students. When adjusting for inflation and comparing to the foundation allowance in 1995, the study's recommended $9,590 has a value of approximately $6,061 per pupil. Not quite what is needed but it takes a strong step towards closing the gap in lost revenue.Given the legislature's propensity for personal tax cuts and massive business tax cuts that have little to do with the growing needs of our state or making our Michigan education system a "Top 10 in 10," it's highly unlikely that gap will ever shrink. [...]

Republican Tax Plan Widens Economic Gap to Further Attack Public Schools


The final version of the House and Senate tax plan which will likely be voted on this week includes a provision to expand the benefits of "529 savings plans" to include tax-free distributions to pay for K-12 tuition and/or homeschool expenses. According to Forbes, "The best sign this is smart policy is that the Left is going completely apoplectic. They hate the idea that parents can free themselves from the big teachers' unions..." In other words, the tax bill is intended by the wealthy, who have money to invest, to further cripple one of our most venerable and important public institutions, but is that all it is? No.Previously, 529 plans have offered tax-free earnings growth and tax-free withdrawals when invested funds are used to pay for college. With the new law, families will be also able to withdraw up to $10,000 per year tax-free for elementary, high school or homeschool expenses. But here's the catch according to the Chronicle of Higher Education: "In order to save money, you have to have money. While some families with incomes below $50,000 hold accounts, the bulk of account holders make more."Richard V. Reeves of the Brookings Institute, author of Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About It, claims: "As we show in our new paper, 'A tax break for "Dream Hoarders": What to do about 529 college savings plans,' almost all of the benefits of the deductions go to families at the top of the income distribution (emphasis added).  In other words, the folks who don't really need the tax breaks to send their kids to private schools, and on average didn't need them to meet college costs, will now enjoy a further economic advantage with an expanded 529 plan.The Brookings Institute published several charts to illustrate who benefits the most from 529 plans. They pretty much speak for themselves:President Obama, recognizing the inequity of the 529 plans initiated by President G.W. Bush, attempted in 2015 to change them so that the benefits would go to a broader range of families. This was shot down by not only the Republicans but also members of his own party, which once again demonstrates that the wealthy have all the power when it comes to politics. Those of us on the lower end of the economic scale have none. At that time, the GAO pointed out that the main beneficiaries to 529 plans are upper-middle-class families. It found that back in 2010, nearly half of all families with 529 plans had an annual income of over $150,000. Of course they do, because they have the money to invest to accrue the long-term tax benefits. But most in the upper brackets, don't need them.Voices for Kids provides a concise summary of the potential damage and further inequity created by this last minute amendment to satisfy anti-government conservatives:Both the House and Senate bills included provisions that would expand the 529 college saving account plan, which allows parents to save money and withdraw that money for higher education expenses (tax-free) to also cover up to $10,000 of tuition at private and parochial schools. (Language in the Senate bill also covers home schooling expenses.) The provision is a federal subsidy for private and parochial school tuition. As it currently stands, 529 plans are used by largely upper-income households (median income of $142,400) and by making the proposed changes, it will only increase the growing inequality in educational attainment between high-income families and low and middle-income families. The planned expansion of this tax break is welcomed by school choice advocates, who argue that public schools are unable to properly educate students and should be more market-oriented. However, this planned expansion would be largely unavailable to low and middle-income families. In reality, this plan does not really expand school choice options to anyone. It actually undercuts the savings benefits of the plan if they are used for private and[...]

100 Years Ago: 126th Infantry finalizes training and prepares for embarkation to France


West Michigan's 126th Infantry and its parent 32nd Division (Michigan and Wisconsin) were ensconced in in a rigid training camp at Waco, Texas throughout the fall and early winter of 1917-18, as they awaited impending orders for transport to Europe.Toward the latter part of November, new training schedules were taken up including instruction in the "new infantry weapons and specialties for all troops." This included new offensive maneuvers based on lessons learned from the European battlefields. The all-important training in the wearing of a gas mask and the digging of trenches were undertaken. Full-pack night marches as long as nine miles was part of the regular regimen.The disciplined training paid off. "During the latter part of November and early in December the Division was visited and carefully examined by War Department artillery and infantry inspectors, and was judged ready for overseas service. Their reports to Washington indicated that the 32nd was more advanced in its training at that time than any other division then in the U.S. Its equipment was very nearly complete, and the spirit which had developed no doubt also influenced the inspectors. Accordingly notice was shortly forthcoming from Washington that the Division would be sent to France at the earliest practicable date."Many officers and men, of course, desired furloughs to say good-bye to the folks at home; but the journey north was a long one, and there was considerable uncertainty as to just when the movement would begin, so leaves were impracticable, and relatives who took the hint that there might shortley be 'something doing' came to Waco for the final farewells."Despite large numbers of men received from Camp Custer (Michigan) and Camp Grant (Illinois) during the last three months, the division would still be greatly under strength at the time of embarkation in January 1918.The 32nd Division was organized with the following principle units:63rd Infantry Brigade125th Infantry Regiment (Michigan)126th Infantry Regiment (Michigan)120th Machine Gun Battalion64th Infantry Brigade127th Infantry Regiment (Wisconsin)128th Infantry Regiment (Wisconsin)121st Machine Gun Battalion57th Field Artillery Brigade119th Field Artillery Regiment (75mm)120th Field Artillery Regiment (75mm)121st Field Artillery Regiment (155mm)107th Trench Mortar BatteryDivisional TroopsHeadquarters Troop119th Machine Gun Battalion107th Engineer Regiment107th Field Signal BattalionDivision Trains (supply and service)There had been several significant reorganizations of the division and regiments during the train-up period which resulted in the following organization of 126th elements and cities each originated from:1st Battalion, 126th InfantryCompany A, ColdwaterCompany B, AdrianCompany C, KalamazooCompany D, Ionia2nd Battalion, 126th InfantryCompany E, Ann ArborCompany F, JacksonCompany G, DetroitCompany H, Detroit3rd Battalion, 126th InfantryCompany I, Big Rapids and MuskegonCompany K, Grand RapidsCompany L, Grand Haven and MuskegonCompany M, Grand RapidsThe Machine Gun Company, Supply Company, Sanitary Detachment, and Band, all from Grand Rapids, virtually remained unchanged except to receive personnel from throughout the regiment to bring them to full strength. The regimental headquarters detachment was also from Grand Rapids and made up of men from the former Company L.About this time, Brigadier General William G. Haan, a regular army officer, was placed permanently in command of the Division. He would come to be respected and loved by his soldiers."The period of training at Camp MacArthur until the middle of January was onecontinual round of hard work from early morning until late at night. It was a period, Ithink when we first realized the possibilities of the human body and mind to withstandfatigue." (Hamburger)Sources:Gansser, Emil B. History of The 126th Infantry in the War with Germany. Grand Rapids, MI. 1920Britten, David G., Lieutenant Colonel. Courage Without Fear: The Story of the Grand R[...]

Recalling the "End of Watch" for a Lee Rebel Hero


A recent, unexpected convergence led me to research and write this post. At the conclusion of the annual meeting of the Lee High School Hall of Fame selection committee in early November, Mr. Tom Thompson mentioned the name of an alumnus we might want to consider for future induction. The name sounded familiar but didn't register with me right at the moment. Several days later I was surprised to receive a message from Tom Maas, a member of the Wyoming Historical Commission, with an attached article from an edition of the Wyoming Alliance nearly fifty-one years ago. It was a front page photo from the funeral held a couple days earlier for Grand Rapids Police Sergeant Stanley VanTuinen, coincidentally the same Lee grad mentioned by Coach Thompson.Since I was only 11 years old at the time, I was hooked on learning more.Stanley VanTuinen, 1949Stanley - or Stan as he was known to his fellow officers and likely his classmates - was born May 7, 1931 to Ralph and Cora VanTuinen. Like many in the Godfrey-Lee community at that time, Ralph and Cora whose maiden name was Afman, were from families of Dutch immigrants. Ralph, the second oldest of six children, was born in Friesland, Netherlands at the close of the 19th century, and arrived in the U.S. as a child in the year 1901. Cora's parents were both from Holland as well as two of her eleven brothers and sisters. The others including Cora were born in America.Ralph's younger brother Peter was born in Michigan in 1903. Peter and his wife Alice (DeVries) had six children, the third eldest being Alvin who married Dolores Groendyke on December 3, 1948. Alvin and Dolores were the parents of Lee High School retired football coach Bernie VanTuinen, and the grandparents of Lee Middle School science teacher Troy VanTuinen. Bernie is Stanley's first cousin one-time-removed and Troy is a first cousin two-times-removed. They share common ancestors in the likes of Simon K. and Ida (Bylsma) VanTuinen, both immigrants from Holland who arrived here in 1901.Ralph and Cora were married in October 1921 and eventually took up residence in Wyoming, Michigan. By the time young Stan, the fifth-born of six children, had been enrolled at Godfrey School for kindergarten, the family was residing in a home on Johanna Avenue south of Burton Street. At some point later on while Stan was still in school, they moved to Cleveland Avenue, just a couple houses down from today's Wyoming Veterans Memorial Garden.1947 Lee Echo YearbookStan attended Godfrey-Lee schools for all thirteen years, graduating on June 17, 1949. A four-year band student in high school he was also a member of the Bible Club for three years, pitched for the baseball team his sophomore and junior years, and was a member of the L-Club (Varsity Club) during his senior year.A slightly tall student in comparison to most of his classmates, he played the big base horn. Stan must of enjoyed his time with the band because its what came to mind when asked to write a line for the traditional yearbook Senior Class Will:  "I, Stanley Van Tuinen, do hereby bequeath my ability to make music on the base horn to Gary Vander Scheer."Stan's younger sister, Shirley was also a student at Lee at the time and was a member of the junior class during his senior year.Senior Band 1948-49. VanTuinen is second row center.Stan and Miss Esther Joan Key, a graduate of Godwin High School, were married on December 14, 1951. Thirteen months later he joined the Grand Rapids police force where he served in the patrol division until mid-1965. At that time he was transferred to the accident bureau and a year later promoted to the rank of sergeant, whereupon he returned to the patrol division. During his shortened career VanTuinen received two commendations: one for bravery in the summer of 1960 for a daring, but unsuccessful attempt to save a man who jumped or fell in the Grand River, and a second for "alertness and response to duty" in[...]

Galewood-Urbandale-Burlingame: The GUB


The Godfrey-Lee Public Schools community is comprised of three once-distinct small neighborhoods and business centers known as Galewood (the oldest and most well-known name at one time) which ran along the Burton Street corridor centered on Godfrey Avenue, Urbandale which ran along the Chicago Drive (or Grandville Road as it was originally known) corridor between Clyde Park Avenue and Judd Avenue, and Burlingame which was primarily a 400-lot "suburban" neighborhood of this once significant manufacturing community.

Below is a 1936 hand-drawn plat map of the GUB, the result of a job stimulus measure during the Great Depression.  Some street names have been changed since then and some platted areas were never developed. Enjoy exploring the map.

1936 Map - Click on it and when it opens, use your computer's zoom feature to explore the map in greater detail.

They will always be a special group of Rebels - my Rebels


My first attempts at blogging were with the now-defunct Posterous blog site. I liked it and continued using it for a number of years until the dreaded notice about the site going black in the near future. Fortunately, it provided a means of archiving my posts, not that they were so earth shaking and full of wisdom. But they are part of a bigger story.

Recently, as I neared my retirement date (today is the actual first day of retirement in fact), our local School News Network shared some of my thoughts in an article titled "Friends of Students, Fighter for Justice." In it, I expressed some of my uncertainty when I moved from Wayland Union Schools to Godfrey-Lee Public Schools. I also explained my attachment to a class of students at the time -- 7th graders -- that helped pull me through.

I came across the following post from my old Posterous site which validates how I felt as those former 7th graders were soon to graduate:

Six years ago, I walked into Lee Middle School and my life has never been the same. While I have crossed paths with many past and present staff members and students, the Class of 2008 has in many ways imprinted on my life in ways no other class or group of young people have. It wasn't easy. They were seventh graders and full of energy, ready to test me and their teachers without even thinking about it. There were times I wondered why I had left the relatively simple and safe confines of Wayland for this. But something always struck me about this group. They had enthusiasm for life and that carried over into learning. I watched them grow and develop into fine young adults. We've laughed together and we've cried together. Now, in a matter of a couple of weeks, it will be time to let them go. It will be hard not to shed a tear as they walk across my stage with their diplomas in hand, but I'm sure the pride I'll feel for each and every one of them will carry me through the day. They will always be a special group of Rebels - my Rebels.(image)

Michigan Legislature Wasting Time on a Non-Issue


While you drive over washboard roads and unsafe bridges, drinking your lead-contaminated water while looking for a job that pays more than $10 an hour, think about the amount of time the Michigan legislature is wasting on a non-issue: teacher pensions.

Also known as MPSERS, the pension system fell into disrepair primarily due to the bad policies put in place by our legislature dating back to the 1990s. These policies, which now include unabated expansion of charters including failed cyber charter experiments, took payers out of the system causing the unfunded liability to stack up. In the meantime, the investments that help keep the fund sound took a hit during the Great Recession.

The legislature and governor already addressed much of the problem when they enacted a hybrid pension system for new public school employees. That system is working and bringing down the unfunded liability. This so-called hybrid plan has $0 in unfunded liability. Even the Governor is on record about leaving the system alone.

But because public school employees are "easy" targets for new senators and representatives being elected out of their gerrymandered districts that favor anti-public school politicians, a few know-nothings in the current legislature are attacking public school kids once again by offering another destructive change that will certainly exacerbate the growing teacher shortage.

And, it will cost taxpayers billions! Over $2.5 billion in the next few years and $25 billion over the next 30 years!

Here's a two-page sheet on what you need to know about the reckless bills being offered in the legislature. Then, you need to contact your state senator and representative to tell them to back off and focus on the real issues concerning Michigan.

Time for a fresh look at how we fund our public schools | Bridge Magazine


Time for a fresh look at how we fund our public schools | Bridge Magazine by Rob Fowler, president and CEO of the Small Business Association of Michigan. The way we fund Michigan’s schools is broken, and we must reexamine our approach to provide a high-quality education to all Michigan public school students. The Collaborative, whose members agree it’s time to change our school funding, is taking the lead in this effort. We are bringing together top industry experts to analyze that funding, with the intention to better serve all students, regardless of their location, income, race or other circumstances.   Policymakers need the best, most complete and accurate information on what it truly costs to educate all students. Our group is supporting a new, comprehensive school-funding adequacy study that will use multiple methodologies. The new study will build on the findings of the state-funded Michigan Education Finance Study released last summer and give us a truly comprehensive look at school financing. We have begun the process of hiring a contractor to provide this first-of-its-kind analysis of school financing in Michigan and expect the results by early 2018. Once accurate and comprehensive data are available, the Collaborative will communicate this critical information to Michigan policymakers, stakeholders and the public at large. Schools need a plan and a roadmap for success, just like businesses. That journey begins with the best and most reliable data on how to prepare our students for the jobs of tomorrow. A truly comprehensive adequacy study is the first step toward meeting this goal. ___________See also: "Adequacy" study finds Michigan education funding inadequate, inequitable Study: Michigan school funding getting ‘more unequal’Michigan's inequitable, inadequate public school funding systems[...]

13 Hard Questions That Charter Schools Promoters Don't Want You to Ask


13 Hard Questions That Charter Schools Promoters Don't Want You to Ask | Alternet

"The public is often confused by the Trump/DeVos assault on public schools because they frame it as promoting “choice.” In response, The Network for Public Education prepared a thirteen-point question/answer toolkit to expose the lies and distortions of charter school, voucher, and tax credit advocates. The full toolkit is available online. This report excerpts key items from the toolkit."

75 Years Ago: West Michigan's 126th Infantry Headed for the South Pacific


On April 18, 1942, the 126th (Infantry Regiment of the 32nd "Red Arrow" Division) boarded the S.S. Lurline, a luxury liner that had been converted to transport duty, and four days later sailed for the South Pacific.  Life aboard the ship was no doubt tedious and boring at times.  To help alleviate the conditions of the long trip, there were a number of activities designed to keep the men busy.  Besides pitching in to help with the duties of the ship, a ship-wide essay contest titled What Are We Fighting For?was conducted.  Cash prizes amounting to fifteen dollars and a carton of cigarettes were announced for the winning writers, and an additional five dollars was to be awarded to the company or battery first sergeant where the winning writer belonged.Prospective contestants are reminded again that the judges don’t give a hang for high-fallutin language or fancy words.  They can get those out of books.  They want every soldier to write how he really feels about the question, in simple, honest words.SS Lurline before the war       To accommodate the large contingent aboard the ship, two meals were fed each day in five different shifts.  Simple training was conducted as well.  In one exercise, a number of soldiers wore paper facsimiles of Japanese Army insignia on their collars.  A description of the insignias was provided to every soldier who then made an effort to identify the insignia when they saw it.         Security was tight aboard the ship, and discipline was severe to anyone breaking regulations.  In one instance, a Private First Class VanEttan of Company G was court-martialled, reduced in rank to private, and sentenced to thirty days at hard labor and forfeiture of $20 pay.  What did he do?  He lit a match on deck, a careless act that could have allowed Japanese subs to spot the Lurline and fire on it. The regiment crossed the equator on April 30, and the international date line on the seventh of May, reaching Adelaide, Australia, seven days later.  There, the 126thunloaded and moved to Camp Sandy Creek some eighteen miles outside the city.SS Lurline departing Australia in 1945In August, the 126th moved nine hundred miles to Brisbane and was billeted at Camp Cable.  The camp was named in honor of Corporal Gerald Cable, the first U.S. soldier killed by the Japanese during World War II.  Cable, a member of Service Company, 126thInfantry, along with approximately twenty other men, were onboard a ship transporting trucks and other equipment from Brisbane to Adelaide when a torpedo hit the ship in the stern.  He had been pulling duty in the ship’s gun crew that took the full force of the attack.       The regiment continued to train on jungle warfare in preparation for combat against the Japanese in New Guinea Britten, David G. Lieutenant Colonel (Retired). Courage Without Fear: The Story of the Grand Rapids Guard. Xlibris 2004 [...]

Something no doubt is happening; but it may not be education (Livingstone, 1943)


It seldom ceases to amaze me how often I come across arguments against some of the most damaging features in our education system today, but that were made many decades ago. This would include one of the works by British scholar Sir Richard Livingstone (1880-1960) written and published in the throes of World War II. In two small books, The Future in Education (1941) and Education for a World Adrift (1943), Livingstone took exception to a lack of education and tried to challenge his countrymen to look ahead towards a better system of learning.In the latter publication, he challenged the growing use of what he calls “examinations” as a driving force that in effect was steering education in the wrong direction. These so-called examinations would be similar to our narrow state-mandated “achievement” tests. The excerpts that follow were his key concerns addressed in a chapter appropriately titled, “Two Dragons in the Road”(italics indicate direct quotations):“The examination system is both an opiate and a poison. It is an opiate because it lulls us into believing that all is well when most is ill.”On the surface, the public gets an impression from test scores and graduation rates that “something is clearly happening; the school is doing its job.”“Something no doubt is happening; but it may not be education; it may be the administration of a poison which paralyses or at least slows down the natural activities of the healthy mind. The healthy human being, finding himself a creature of unknown capacities in an unknown world, wants to learn what the world is like, and what he should be and do in it. To help him in answering these questions is the one and only purpose of education.”“But that is not the prime aim of the ordinary pupil…for whom the examination becomes much more important than seeing ‘visions of greatness,’ and ‘getting through’ excuses all shortcomings and disguises all omissions.”He speaks here and throughout about the “external examinations” or those required by the state, not the assessments conducted by the school or teacher as “tests of progress, which are useful and necessary.”“Examinations are harmless when the examinee is indifferent to their result, but as soon as they matter, they begin to distort his attitude to education and conceal its purpose. The more depends on them, the worse their effect.”He claims that the child who is behind or may have a learning disability “suffers most, since preparing for the ordeal occupies more of its time and mind.” But also, for even the student who is achieving at a higher level, “examinations become an obsession.”“It is not only the pupil but -- and this is far more serious -- the teacher, who finds his energies and attention drawn from education to examination needs. No doubt there are schools and teachers which resist the insidious pressure, teach their subject for its interest and for nothing else and burn no incense on the examination altar. But the pressure is hard. Most people judge a school by its examination results. Its reputation, however well-established, is affected by them; and a school with a name to make or competitors to face has an overpowering temptation to commend itself to the world,” by striving towards the highest test results and graduation rates. “The teacher is tempted to show his competence by securing a big list of awards, the headmaster is tempted to demand them in the interest of the school.”“Any evils that might follow from the disappearance of examinations are nothing to the harm they do. They are in fact a refined form of the old and now universally condemned system of ‘payment by results:’ … tak(ing) the form of prestige to the school and to the pupil.”The examin[...]

How Market Forces and Non-Professional Reformers are Destroying Public Education


Today, politicians in thrall to neoliberal ideology seek to subordinate the democratic mission of public education to a theory of market-driven economic development and social organization.  Policy deliberations are now dominated by of econometric modeling and production function research.  This modeling and research is often used, inappropriately, to make decisions about the value of education reforms.  The mathematical models used by researchers are made to “work” only by assuming away much of the real world in which people live and students learn. The phantasmagorical belief in neutral “scientific” expertise as the primary basis for policymaking has, therefore, profoundly antihuman as well as antidemocratic implications — a topic Sheila Dow takes up in “People Have Had Enough of Experts.”[5] 
The major education reforms of the past 35 years — education vouchers, charter schools, tuition tax credits, and education savings accounts — all seek to remove public schools from the control of elected bodies; to subject them to the “laws” of the “market”; and to put them at the service of the economic elite. The world being called into existence is based on the belief that anyone, but not everyone, can succeed—a world of winners and losers, each of whom has earned his or her fate.

What are you reading that might help you REALLY transform education?


My suggested reading list for those in the process of or desiring to transform your schools through redesign to provide learning targeted towards our children's needs and futures. This is not fully comprehensive but represent some of the most interesting and challenging books I've read in the past several years. You likely have some to share as well and I welcome adding them to the comments.

These are not in any special order other than the way they sit on my shelf at home:

Rose, Todd. The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness. Harper One. NY, NY 2015

Grant, Adam. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. Viking. NY, NY 2016

Perkins, David N. Future Wise: Educating Our Children for a Changing World. Jossey-Bass. San Francisco 2014

McCullough, David. The Wright Brothers. Simon & Schuster. NY, NY 2015

McAfee, Andrew and Brynjolfsson, Erik. The Second Machine Age. W.W. Norton & Co. NY, NY 2014

Robinson, Ken, Ph.D. Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education. Viking. NY, NY 2015

Gray, Peter. Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life. Basic Books. NY, NY 2013

Kelly, Kevin. The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces that will Shape Our Future. Viking. NY, NY 2016

Lehmann, Chris and Chase, Zac. Building School 2.0: How to Create the Schools We Need. Jossey-Bass. San Francisco 2015

Wagner, Tony and Dintersmith, Ted. Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Kids for the Innovation Era. Scribner. NY, NY 2015 (also go to

Abeles, Vicki. Beyond Measure: Rescuing an overscheduled, overtested, underestimated generation. Simon & Schuster. NY, NY 2015

Lahey, Jessica. The Gift of Failure: How the best parents learn to let go so their children can succeed. HarperCollins. NY, NY 2015

Christakis, Erika. The Importance of Being Little: What preschools really need from grownups. Viking. NY, NY 2015

Zhao, Yong. World Class Learners: Educating creative and entrepreneurial students. Corwin. Thousand Oaks, CA 2012

Goyal, Nikhil. Schools on Trial: How freedom and creativity can fix our educational malpractice. Doubleday. NY, NY 2016

Ross, Alec. The Industries of the Future. Simon & Schuster. NY, NY 2016

Richardson, Will. Freedom to Learn. Solution Tree. 2015

With both hands tied behind our backs: How the state contributes to the failure of public education


They want Michigan to be a top 10 state in 10 years, but what they want and what they do are out of sync.What follows is just some of the insanity behind our governor and state legislators' efforts over time to weaken and destroy public education. I have to state it this way because if it isn't purposeful, then you have to conclude that they are all either idiots or at the very least ignorant in education policy and practice.What they want in Michigan:Every child, regardless of circumstances, to progress through K-8 in lock-step form and then graduate from high school within four years of entering fully "ready" for college and career.All children, again regardless of circumstances, reading at the exact same level by the time they are 9 years old.All high school students, regardless of circumstances or personal desire, completing a one-size-fits-all high school curriculum and course credits within four years of entering.All teachers, regardless of circumstances, preparation or experience, performing at the same level of effectiveness producing consistent end-results as measured by tests.All schools, regardless of circumstances, ranked at the top of the top-to-bottom lists despite the fact this is statistically impossible.All children and parents, regardless of circumstances, able to choose any school they desire for their child despite the fact it is physically impossible to provide enough personalized options for the entire student population of the United States.Year-round, balanced calendars for schools, particularly in low-achieving, high-poverty areas.But what they do in Michigan:Annually appropriate an inadequate level of funding for classrooms and children that continues to decline each year when inflation is factored in.Continue to support a substantially inadequate classroom funding system where wealthier districts are provided with greater levels of funding, and funding is not based on the needs of students or communities.Continue to deny that greater funding levels are needed for public schools basing their arguments on a single conservative-leaning study over fifty years old and ignoring the mountains of more recent research that supports significantly greater funding due to greater student needs and higher-level standards.Refuse to relinquish education control back to communities that want to remove the one-size-fits-all mandates and provide more flexible and personal learning options for each and every student.Allow for the growth of less-regulated charter schools, with the highest percentage of non-transparent, for-profit entities in the country, causing chaos and disintegration of community-based school districts that are then singled out for the resulting low achievement and potential closure.Weaken the teacher and education administration professions by refusing to provide adequate funding to support competitive salaries, reducing take-home-pay by forcing greater out-of-pocket expenditures for benefits originally mandated by the state, and erosion of the ability of school districts to provide flexible on-going professional learning because of funding reductions and elimination of the 38-hour per year professional development time.Restrict schools from beginning the school-year until after Labor Day despite lacking any valid, comprehensive evidence that this restriction is an economic boon that outweighs the needs of students.Continue to underfund higher education placing the burden on students' backs despite the fact state policies virtually steer every child in the direction of college enrollment.There's much more to add to both of these categories, but the point is to highlight the insanity of our state educatio[...]

When are we going to get to the WHY, the HOW and the WHAT of public school debate?


In all of the Congressional ballyhoo over the Betsy DeVos nomination for Education Secretary, when mentioning "failing public schools" no one brought up WHY? nor did they approach the topics of HOW we change that and WHAT is needed to ensure equity of resources to do so. 

Instead, folks on Mrs. DeVos' side of politics simply want to continue eliminating public schools and substituting what's already proven not to be working any better, while those on the other side of the debate have little power to improve support for public schools or even change the debate towards a much more productive solution.

Recalling wisdom from an earlier time


I consider myself fortunate to have had a very interesting math professor while working on my undergraduate degree at Grand Valley State University (Colleges back then) in the '70s. My wife, although not a math major, also had him for a math survey course.

Professor Preston C. Hammer, who pretty much ran the computer lab at Los Alamos after World War II during the development of the hydrogen bomb, published a number of books and papers on a variety of math and computer topics. He was very interested in a relatively new discipline called mathematical systems theory and in the introduction to his 1969 textbook on that topic, he wrote:
These times are among the most challenging and the most depressing in the history of man. On the one hand, we begin to glimpse the possibilities of really improving the human condition through strategic use of information being accumulated and through the ability to adapt materials and energy to a variety of needs. On the other hand, never before has there been available so much destructive power -- and the power to destroy has not been matched by an equally noticeable increase in wisdom.
Professor Hammer could see the future based on what he knew about man, and while he believed that the development of computers and atomic energy had great potential for good, man might likely subvert both for his own desires. He once told Penny's math survey class that (paraphrased) computers will likely create whole new ways to commit crime. Fortunately, atomic energy hasn't -- yet.

Michigan children may lose more schools


The Michigan Association of School Administrators issued the following statement in response to the list of 38 schools being considered for closure that was distributed today by the School Reform Office.

From Chris Wigent, executive director of the Michigan Association of School Administrators:

“It is good news that 79 schools showed marked improvement and came off the priority list, showing that the hard work going on in districts at the local level is paying off for our students and our schools. As for the 38 schools named by the SRO as being considered for closure, we will offer assistance to the leaders in those districts in any way that we can, and MASA will strongly advocate that all schools remain under local control.”

“I will add that MASA stands firm that the School Reform Office does not have the authority to close any schools, and we will continue to monitor the SRO’s actions as critical decisions are being made on behalf of the children in our school districts.”

Why I cannot support the Education Secretary nominee


As a public school district superintendent, I cannot in good conscious support the nomination of Mrs. Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. After hearing her responses to the Senate HELP Committee this week combined with my reading of dozens of articles and blog posts that were both supportive and against her confirmation, here is a summary list of the primary reasons I cannot support her nomination:
  • She has no professional experience working directly in or with public schools unlike the two recent and most other Education Secretaries, yet she would be responsible for ensuring high standards and oversight of federal dollars designed to the learning of poor, indigent and disabled students.
  • She as well as a majority of the committee members gave no indication they have read and comprehend the mountains of research on the effects of poverty, limited English proficiency, and disability on learning, as well as the negative impacts of choice, charters and vouchers.
  • She comes across as unwilling or incapable of spearheading any effort to lift low-performing public schools through adequate and equitable funding, along with the lessening of federal and state mandates that hamper innovation and creativity in schools.
  • She supports market-based reform and competition which after several decades has had very little success.
  • She would not commit to restricting guns from school campuses.
  • She was unable to adequately explain the difference between achievement growth and proficiency, two of the biggest areas in reform debate over the past decade or more.
  • She appeared to not understand that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is federal law.
  • She came across as noncommittal on a number of issues critical to education reform and improvement of public education.
  • She refused several times when asked to commit to holding charter and voucher schools to the same standards as traditional public schools.
  • She is willing to spend public tax dollars on for-profit, corporate charters and private schools but appeared uninterested in applying the same logic to providing for tuition-free college for all.
  • When asked, she avoided elaborating on what she would do as Secretary to address Title IX and campus sexual assault.
  • She has not yet been cleared of any conflicts of interest from the ethics commission nor has she fully disclosed her finances to the public.
  • The Senate HELP chair appeared to do everything he could to shield Mrs. DeVos from further public questioning, artificially limiting each member of the committee to only one round of five-minute questioning, despite many attempts by minority members to have a second round or another hearing to ensure the public had a full opportunity to vet her nomination.
It appears likely that Mrs. DeVos will be voted out of the Committee and will receive Senate confirmation, but with the slimmest of margins. If so, I can only hope that she will have and take many opportunities to visit successful and struggling traditional public schools, opening her eyes to the many possibilities for strengthening our public education system instead of enriching corporations that are taking advantage of the political environment.

Local News interview 1.18.17:

Privatization or Public Investment in Education?


Privatization or Public Investment in Education? | Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education
"The data suggest that the education sector is better served by a public investment approach that supports each and every child than by a market-based, competition approach that creates winners...and losers. While competition might work in sports leagues, countries SHOULD NOT [emphasis added] create education systems in which children lose in the classroom." 
"...mechanisms such as vouchers, charters, and markets allow for private firms to compete in the education market, under the argument that increased competition will provide consumers (students and families) with a greater choice, thus increasing quality. However, in practice, public education contains different constraints than business markets, most notably the obligation of providing EVERY CHILD [emphasis added] with a high-quality education. Therefore,..., privatizing education has accompanied lower and/or more disparate student performance, likely because markets operate with different principles than the requirements of public sectors."

The Battle for Education Reform is Heating Up: But what is the purpose of education?


Betsy DeVos and the battle for education reform, Round 1 - Washington Times"Obvious Michigan and political party biases aside, Mr. Engler’s points of view should nonetheless be given great weight. He is, after all, president of a D.C.-based association Business Roundtable, which represents leading U.S. corporations — businesses that know what type of workforce they need to survive in a free market." ~ former Michigan Governor John EnglerNobody would suspect the Washington Times would advocate for kids before business, but this statement by itself should send shivers through every American who cares enough about the real and historic purposes of public education: EQUITY. If you count the fact that Engler intentionally lit the fuse that has principally led to the destruction of a number of neighborhood schools in Michigan's urban areas, displacing thousands of kids and subjecting them to any one of several fly-by-night, corporate run charters, his and the efforts of many policy- versus practice-based education reformers are bent on destroying the primary purpose for which even the founding fathers saw in universal public education.Perhaps it was best said by our second president, John Adams when he wrote:"...wherever a general knowledge and sensibility have prevailed among the people arbitrary government and every kind of oppression have lessened and disappeared in proportion..." [emphasis added]Adams went on to describe the public responsibility for ensuring the education of everyone at public expense:"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people, and must be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a distance of one mile square without a school in it. Not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." [emphasis added]Nothing in Adams' admonition for ensuring an education of the whole people inferred it was intended to be training for private or business purposes. Instead, universal public education was to be a civic responsibility available to all (within one mile square) so as to ensure we could defend ourselves against the tyranny of power, the very same tyranny we now see bent on the destruction of our public school system.The late David Tyack, professor emeritus and educational historian at Stanford, once wrote:"By many accounts public schools are in trouble today. Grim stories appear daily in the media about violence, high dropout rates, and low test scores. Beyond such immediate concerns lies an uneasiness about purpose, a sense that we have lost our way. As the larger purposes that once gave resonance to public education have been muted, constituencies that at one time supported public education have become splintered and confused about what to do." [emphasis added]The larger purposes are to prepare all children to contribute to society by not only having the ability to be productive but in a larger sense, to be able to question and challenge those forces that are hell-bent on suppressing thought and keeping the lower classes in check. Education is not simply to prepare a working class to feed corporate appetites -- both as workers and consumers. The latter is how billionaire reformers such as Betsy DeVos, supported by their legions of political and media supporters, see it. Unfortunately, some of this has leaked into the upper classes which more than ever are forcing their children to be competitive at school so they can win what those parents see as[...]

3 TED or TEDx talks that could radically change K-12 education (but only if we want them to)


No need for an introduction or explanation of each. If we truly want to bring our K-12 education system into the 21st century (finally), we can start here.

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We often have no idea what kids are going through!


Just this week I found this in three of our little ones: 
I learned of the pain of a child who's father "had to run far away and never come back because the guys that killed his friend are gonna kill my daddy if they ever see him and now I have to get a new daddy and I don't want one." 
I learned from another that something is happening at home that he knows is wrong, "but if I tell you I will get in trouble because my mom said I can't say." 
I learned from a tiny one that "when I get so mad I can't hear my teacher and she thinks I'm not listening but I am, I just can't hear her, and then I get in more trouble." 
We see these peanuts everyday and we don't even know what they carry to school with them.  Thank you for being aware, for looking for more than the obvious, for journeying with them and teaching with tenderness.
These tell the story all by themselves. I have nothing more to add except to wonder how our newest Secretary of Education-nominee will have any empathy for these youngsters and their challenged teachers?

The attack on Pearl Harbor thrust West Michigan's own 126th Infantry into war


When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, West Michigan's own 126th Infantry had been on active duty for more than a year, training in Louisiana as part of the great call-up of the National Guard for training purposes. Only now, the training was over.The 126th on parade while training in LouisianaOn Sunday, December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, plunging the 126th Infantry into war for the fifth time in its short history. The regiment was ordered to establish security around vital installations in the Louisiana and Texas areas to guard against any sabotage attempts. It was the First Regiment in the Red Arrow Division to be placed on war duty. This second tour of duty as “homeland defense” continued on until the regiment left in February.In late December, the Thirty-second Division was notified that it was being designated as part of Force Magnet and would be heading to Northern Ireland. The division was given priority for replacements and distribution of equipment. It was estimated the division would sail for its destination sometime around July 1942. Two months later, the Thirty-second Division was reorganized into a more modern triangular division centered on three infantry regiments (Michigan’s 125th Infantry was detached from the division and assigned to a coastal guard mission). Other changes included the reorganization of the existing artillery regiments into battalions.Monument to the 126th Infantry located at Camp Grayling, MichiganThe Thirty-second Red Arrow Division was among the first units ordered overseas after Pearl Harbor along with the Thirty-fourth and Thirty-seventh. On February 1, 1942, under command of Colonel Lawrence A. Quinn, the Grand Rapids Guard moved to Fort Devens, Massachusetts, and underwent replacement of personnel to bring the regiment to full strength. Initially thinking it was staging for service in the European Theater, the Guard was surprised to hear on March 25 that plans had changed and the division was being sent to Australia to face the Japanese. In April the regiment boarded troop trains and headed to San Francisco, California, where it was billeted in the San Francisco Cow Palace. There the regiment picked up a number of replacements that had just completed basic training.On the eve of departure from San Francisco for Australia, Colonel Quinn addressed the regiment:Officers and men of the 126th Infantry, we are about to depart on a most important mission.  One not only of national and international, but also of world importance.  Our path will not be smooth.  On the contrary it will be beset with many obstacles; we shall suffer many hardships; we shall face many grave dangers.  Many of us will pay the supreme sacrifice.  Such is the duty of a soldier; such is the responsibility and privilege of every citizen.  It is fitting and proper on such an occasion to ask Divine strength and guidance.  We will now be led in prayer by our Regimental Chaplain. This formation may prove to be a very important incident in the history of this grand, old outfit.  We may never again have an opportunity to parade as a Regiment. For the past year and a half we have been working hard—training in marksmanship, musketry, maneuvers, marches; learning to shoot straight, march far and well, and to maneuver fast and cleverly; learning to care for our health, our arms and our equipment under all conditions.  It has not been easy.[...]

Infrastructure or Education? The looming battles in Michigan for adequate and equitable funding


In response to crumbling roads and the Flint water crisis, Governor Rick Snyder created the 21st Century Infrastructure Commission to conduct an inventory of needs and project future costs. The commission delivered its report on November 30 and the governor released it to the public yesterday. You can read the Executive Summary for yourself as well as the full report, if so inclined. Most of us have simply skipped to the part where they estimate what it will cost the taxpayers over the next 30 to 50 years.The report concluded that $59 billion over the next twenty-years was needed and should be seen as an "investment:"Investing in our infrastructure—our roads and bridges; water, sewer, and storm water systems; and energy and communications networks—is essential for ensuring 1) public health and safety, 2) quality of life, and 3) sustainable economic growth for all Michigan residents.  (p. 117)Of course inflation and additional deterioration of our infrastructure is likely to send that cost even higher.What's interesting is that the same "investment" rationale is easily applied to the need for better public education in Michigan. And it just so happens, the legislature released a report this past June (three months late) titled Michigan Education Finance Study (June 2016), to determine if schools are funded at a level of EQUITY that ensures each and every student has a chance to be successful when measured by state-imposed standards and tests.In short, the study concluded a resounding NO and recommended the following:An increase in the minimum foundation allowance (the per-pupil funding provided to most school districts) of approximately $1,100 per student to meet adequacy standards.An additional 30% increase in funding for each at-risk student.An additional 40% increase in funding for English language learner (ELL) students.A method of better tracking of special education expenditures from all sources to determine equity costs for this category.To estimate the investment necessary to provide at least an equitable education system that can better meet the 21st century needs of our students (and our state), consider the following student counts for last school year:Total number of enrolled K-12 students = 1,540,005Approximate increase of $1,100 per student = $1.4 billionTotal number of at-risk K-12 students = 713,295Approximate increase of 30% (after the additional $1,100) = $1.8 billionTotal number of ELL K-12 students = 90,121Approximate increase of 40% (after the additional $1,100) = $306 millionPlease note that these are simply low-end estimations only. However, it's plain to see that Michigan should be investing in public education at a much higher level than it does now. Approximately $3.5 billion more per year in fact! Ironically, that is nearly the same as the recommendation by the infrastructure commission.Combined, this investment shortfall is roughly $7 billion per year. Sounds incredible and perhaps impossible but according to state agencies that deal in these kind of numbers, Michigan is currently undertaxed to the tune of $10 billion according to the Section 26 state revenue limits.My fear, however, is the rush to improve infrastructure while continuing to ignore the educational needs of our children.[...]