Republican attack on public education

Vaccine mandates for colleges follow political fault lines

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It's red state vs. blue state once again:

As of this weekend, only 34 — roughly 8 percent — are in states that voted for Donald J. Trump, according to a tracker created by The Chronicle of Higher Education. Nine of those were added on Friday, when Indiana University and its satellite campuses became rare public universities in a Republican-controlled state to mandate vaccines.

With many colleges facing falling enrollments and financial pressure, the decision whether to require vaccinations can have huge consequences. Particularly in Republican-controlled states, college presidents are weighing a delicate equation — part safety, part politics, part peer pressure and part economic self-interest.

Only one of those parts should really matter: Safety. Especially considering the clusters we saw on UNC's flagship campus this previous school year, requiring a vaccine is a no-brainer. With the state's premier private school (Duke University) requiring students be vaccinated, the situation with UNC System schools becomes even more absurd. Come on, UNC.

Justin Parmenter sets the record straight on GOP critics of online learning

Hypocrisy is their middle name:

In the case of Craig Horn, who has served a full decade in the House, it’s particularly ironic to hear criticism of online education efforts. Last year, rather than using his leadership position to call on the General Assembly to commit resources to removing barriers to in-person Pre-K attendance, Horn championed the shockingly bad idea of having 4 year-old children of poverty attend virtual Pre-K. Keep in mind, that was before anyone had even heard of COVID-19.

Numerous studies have shown that access to Pre-K vastly increases a child's performance in later school years, but it's the flipside of that coin that many Republicans are really opposed to: The ability of young mothers to get back into the workforce while their child is attending. And the fact many of those young mothers are black is also on their minds, no matter what arguments they concoct to distract from that. For those who haven't had to worry about child care for a long time, it now costs north of $1,000 per month (my daughter paid $1,250 in 2020). More from Justin:

Monday Numbers: Missing the remote learning bus

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You need both a connection and a device to join in:

468,967 – number of students without an adequate internet connection for remote learning, or 30%

355,304 – number of students without adequate devices for remote learning, or 23%

9,818 – number of teachers without a high–speed internet connection, or 10%

3,051 – number of teachers without an adequate device for remote learning, or 3%

Just one of the many failures of the "Free Market" in providing equitable access to critical needs. And just one more of Pat McCrory's failures as Governor. If you will remember, he touted the Connect NC Bond relentlessly, but when Republicans in the General Assembly stripped out the Broadband part of the Bond, instead of fighting them tooth and nail, McCrory folded like a lawn chair.

Science vs. Fiction: New social studies curriculum erases cave men

Darwin would not be pleased by this development:

Human evolution and prehistoric times would vanish from North Carolina’s social studies curriculum under new proposed standards. But some teachers are fighting to keep the Paleolithic Era alive in classrooms.

Kenneth Dailey teaches sixth-grade social studies at Quail Hollow Middle School in south Charlotte. That means he’s responsible for introducing students to a time more than 10,000 years ago, when Neanderthals and early Homo sapiens shared the planet. "The Paleolithic Era would be where people were more tribal," Dailey said. "They’re hunting and gathering, they’re nomadic, they’re moving around; you know, looking for food, looking for game."

If anything, the schools need to spend more time studying this era. The migration of humanity alone, most notably the early Americans crossing from Asia into the Northwest, is critical in understanding the later culture clash (which we are still dealing with, by the way) of Europeans crossing the Atlantic in the latter 15th Century. But that doesn't fit with the narrow biblical narrative of a young Earth:

Education funding is turning the tide for Democrats

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The GOP's misleading propaganda is losing its luster:

Democrats won elections for governor in both Kentucky and Louisiana. In Virginia, which has a Democratic governor, Democrats won control of both chambers in the legislature for the first time in more than two decades. It’s too much to say that recent elections in the South turned only on education; rather, education fit into the package of factors that led to Democratic victories, which relied heavily on a strong turnout in major cities and on gains against Republicans in suburbs.

Bolding mine, because suburban voters hold the key in both state-wide elections, and in apportioned districts (federal and state). Urban voters are solidly blue while rural voters are strongly red, but the suburban vote is a huge enigma. Well-educated, middle-middle to upper-middle, suburbia also boasts a surprising number of registered Democrats. That doesn't guarantee their vote (trust me), but outreach can generate a positive response. You can also trust me when I say, the GOP spends a lot of time and money blowing smoke up suburban voters' arses. Back to the teachers:

Berger's Blunder: Read To Achieve has completely failed

But that should come as no surprise to teachers and administrators:

While improving reading outcomes is a worthy goal, it was obvious from the beginning that Read to Achieve lacked the educator’s touch. The initiative attempted to improve reading by increasing the volume of assessments in grades K-3 and ratcheting up the threats of retention, essentially punishing children for not being able to read well enough in early grades. It’s not the approach an effective teacher would take.

DPI warned the General Assembly that the volume of assessments the legislation added to 3rd grade was too high and that the pace and funding of implementation didn’t provide enough professional development for teachers to effectively transition to the new system. The General Assembly had also slashed Pre-K funding 25% from pre-recession levels at the time, and DPI informed legislators that quality early childhood education was one of the most important components of building a foundation for literacy. All of that feedback fell largely on deaf ears.

No big surprise at all. The GOP's operating mantra has been, "My bad policy is greater than even the best policies of other people. And if my policy ends up failing, it can easily be blamed on those other people for not properly supporting it." Just to give you an idea of the consequences of this mandated program, here's an excerpt of the letter sent to parents explaining it:

Subverting higher ed: New "school" at UNC has conservative stench

We've been down this bent road before:

The Program for Civic Virtue and Civil Discourse — approved by the College of Arts and Sciences at UNC Chapel Hill — is set to begin in Fall of 2021. Chris Clemons, a UNC senior associate dean who is spearheading the program’s launch, told the Editorial Board Monday that the purpose of the program is to support a culture of open, respectful and productive public debate at UNC.

That should sound good to anyone fatigued by the tenor and lack of substance in public discourse these days. But evidence indicates that the UNC program might be less about those high-minded objectives and more about promoting conservative thought.

The second part of that title (Civil Discourse) has the flavor of a few recent columns by John Hood and other Pope mouthpieces. Combine that with the harsh and counter-intuitive "Free Speech" law that Republicans passed a few years ago, and you've got the likelihood of more Tom Tancredo incidents looming in the future. But probably the most damning evidence this school is going to be disruptive is the stealthy nature of its beginnings:

Teachers reeling over Mark Johnson's abrupt switch to web-based reading assessment

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He sure does love to spend some money:

Earlier this month, State Schools Superintendent Mark Johnson announced that he signed a three-year, multi-million dollar contact to switch all elementary schools to the Istation program to assess students under North Carolina’s Read To Achieve program. Istation will put children in kindergarten through third grade on a computer three times a year to test their reading skills, then print out reports for teachers.

In an email to teachers about the change, Johnson said, “Istation is a tool designed by teachers for teachers and has proven results of helping students grow.” But teachers across the state have taken to social media to urge people to contact state lawmakers and the State Board of Education to block the change.

This is par for the course for Johnson, spend money on crap teachers neither want nor need, like $6 million worth of iPads. I'm beginning to think he's one of those people who are easily impressed by a well-dressed salesperson who knows how to stroke his little-boy ego. I'll let Justin Parmenter take the reins on Istation:

Civitas deploys "Red Scare" tactics (again) over teacher rally

Propagandists do what propagandists do:

“This is not a march for Democrats. This is not a march for Republicans. This is a march for our future.” But almost as soon as the new protest was announced, critics attacked the decision.

The conservative Civitas Institute has questioned holding the event on May Day, a day associated with labor union events, and for using “Marxist symbolism” by having a red fist in logos promoting the event. “They want to be disruptive,” said Civitas president Donald Bryson. “It’s not about parents or students. It’s about bringing a socialist labor union movement to North Carolina. That’s why it’s on May 1.”

What Donald Bryson fails to mention, either because he knows it will undermine his argument or (more likely) because he just isn't smart enough to understand: It was a labor movement (Solidarity) that broke the Marxist choke hold on Poland back in the early 1980's, and ushered in democratic reforms that (for the most part) still hold today. If anything, it's people like Berger and Bryson who most resemble those Communist Party leaders in Moscow and Gdańsk who saw the danger of losing their absolute power under such a movement. But Mark Jewell gets it:

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