Book discussion on September 5th at Intuition Ale Works outside on the rooftop

Limit: 24 vaccinated people
The topic suggestions are in red. Excerpts from the book relating to that topic follow the topic question. “Location” is the location in the kindle version of the book.

1. Do agree with this?

 Location: 61—page xiv— “education is the one remaining public good to which most Americans still believe we are entitled to by right of citizenship.”

2. Let’s discuss the value of a public good and what is a public good.

 Location: 254—page 6–A private good benefits only those who consume it. A public good, such as public education, benefits all members of the local, state, and national community, whether or not they have children. …Neighborhood residents benefit when young people become involved in the community and reinvest their success locally. … That’s why we treat public education more like a park than a country club. We tax ourselves to pay for it, and we open it to everyone.
Location: 1,656—page 97—In research that would win him a Nobel Prize in Economics in 2016, Oliver Hart laid out the high cost of privatizing essential services. Privatization increases pressure to cut labor costs—worker pay, as well as funding for training—which, as he put it, “can lead to a substantial deterioration of quality”

3. What about testing? Should all schools give the same tests? Should testing be used to punish schools?

 Location: 2,356—page 144–In 1999, the inaugural year of Jeb Bush’s two terms as governor, Florida rolled out a system that assigned grades to schools solely on the basis of student standardized test scores. But such grading systems, popular among conservative lawmakers, school choice groups, and the American Legislative Exchange Council, spurred a backlash. Giving A ratings to schools solely on the basis of student test scores, which closely correlate with student demography, means that the wealthiest schools earn the top grades, while high-poverty schools get Ds and Fs. “‘A’ is for affluent,”

4. How much does deceptive advertising bother you?

 Location: 2,613—page 161–Outsized claims regarding college-going rates are common throughout the charter school marketing world. The “fine print,” meanwhile—that three out of four charter school graduates, on average, leave college without a degree—never appears.

5. How do you feel about neighborhood schools being forced to advertise because the charter schools and voucher funded private schools are advertising to lure kids away from the neighborhood and magnet schools?                

 Location: 2,510—page 155–Daniels imagined a future in which all schools, even those in affluent suburban districts, would feel the need to advertise. His hope was that schools would begin competing with each other more seriously for students and the dollars that come with them.
Location: 2,530—page 156–In a school landscape already riven by inequities of race and class, edvertising threatens to open new chasms: between privately subsidized charter networks with vast budgets to devote to advertising, and traditional public schools—or even small, independent charter schools—which must now direct scarce funds toward marketing.
Location: 2,583—page 159–What Moskowitz never mentioned was the expansive—and expensive—marketing that goes into producing that demand. After labor, which chews up the lion’s share of most school budgets, marketing is Success Academy’s biggest cost.
Location: 2,652—page 163–High-profile charter management organizations (CMOs) like Success Academy and KIPP have already developed these services in-house. Both devote extensive resources to building and maintaining their brands, projecting consistent imagery and narratives to an audience that includes not just prospective parents and teachers but also funders. KIPP, whose network of charters now includes 224 schools and more than one hundred thousand students, even maintains a “Brand Guidelines” video on its website.

6. What is the solution for the high cost of special education and the high cost of Bilingual courses?            

 Location: 603—page 29–Much of the increase in the cost of public education is due to an expansion of special education services. … In the 1960s spending on special education was less than half of what it would be by the end of the twentieth century. … In 1975 with the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, later renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which required a “free and appropriate” education for all children, regardless of mental, physical, or emotional difference. … Special education costs roughly twice what general education costs, and millions of students have disabilities—two hundred thousand in New York City alone.
Location: 2,196 to 2204—page 133–When the Bilingual Education Act was passed in 1968, funding for programs increased from $7.5 million to $68 million. In 1974, the Equal Educational Opportunities Act was passed, requiring school districts to overcome barriers limiting equal participation by students. … A third group of students whose education comes with a cost are those with physical and intellectual disabilities….As the libertarian Reason Foundation complained, the regulatory state has “created ample provisions to protect and serve children with disabilities” without establishing “a cost-control provision in the law to protect the schools.” Market-oriented conservatives argue that the cost of such regulations is mostly wasted. Parents unhappy with the quality of a particular school, if provided choice, will simply move their children until they find the right fit.

7. How do you feel about neighborhood schools and socialism?               

 Location: 292 –page 8–And it isn’t just essential nutrition that schools provide. Increasingly, they have offered “wraparound services”—an approach that treats the school as the delivery site for a vast range of supports that children and their families require to overcome the hurdles erected by economic and social inequality. Advocates maintain that since out-of-school factors weigh so heavily in determining student achievement, using the school to address what’s happening in the home and the neighborhood makes sense.

8. How much do you think the Citizens United decision and super PACs are hurting our democracy?

Location: 1,579—page 92–And in Florida, the largest for-profit charter network in the state, Academica, is a major donor to conservative PACs and candidates … In fact, Florida’s charter school law, with its lax regulation and oversight, was written with the aid of the founder of yet another for-profit charter network: Charter Schools USA.  … The founder and his companies gave lavishly to pro-charter legislators, who do their part to expand funding to the charter sector and fend off regulatory efforts. 

9. Let’s discuss DeSantis’ attack on the local school boards and his broader attack on democracy

Location: 266—page 6—Consider elected school boards: imperfect though they are, the democratic process allows voters to hold them accountable for the success of the local schools.

10. Are you worried about charter schools being a way for privatizers to profit off the taxpayers rather than wanting to solve the problems of educating our children?

 Location: 1,588—page 93–charter schools “have turned into cash cows through multi-million-dollar business deals between charter schools and their founders.” One of the most egregious examples cited by the journalists was Republican lawmaker and charter school founder Eddie Farnsworth, who leveraged the state’s lax charter laws to become a millionaire. After the Republic series wrapped up, Farnsworth earned millions more by selling his for-profit charter school chain to a nonprofit entity created specifically to buy it.
Location: 1,629 to 1634—page 96–Making matters more complicated is the legal gray area, often by design, that distinguishes nonprofit and for-profit schools. ECOT, the Ohio virtual school that imploded in 2018, was a nonprofit; but founder William Lager’s management company, which ran the schools, was a for-profit entity. Most states require charter schools to operate on a nonprofit basis, but they often do little to impede the self-dealing that occurs through facilities leasing and contracting for services. …One Cleveland charter school, for instance, was paying about $516,000 above market rate to its for-profit landlord Imagine Schools.
Location: 1,855—page 111—The founder of the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, Nick Trombetta, was sentenced to prison in 2018 for embezzling more than $8 million from the school to purchase luxury goods and a private plane.
Location: 1,920—page 115–State audits revealed that two virtual charter schools fudged enrollment figures, then funneled the proceeds through a dizzying array of related companies. The auditors concluded that the officials “focused on maximizing profits and revenues by exploiting perceived vulnerabilities” at every level of state and local governance.
Location: 1,938—page 116–State regulators sought to “claw back” some of the profits that ECOT’s [another virtual charter school] founder had pocketed,

11. Should charter schools be eliminated or is adequate oversight and clawback provisions possible?

Location: 1,941—page 116–“Since so many of the virtual schools are driven by profit, one option is to limit private owners and operators. Another option is to create and implement safeguards regarding private EMOs.” The authors recommended creating regulatory oversight boards, mandating transparency regarding financing and student performance, and establishing accountability mechanisms.  
Location: 2,120—page 128–
Dramatic news stories of sudden school closures, as well as fraud perpetrated at the expense of teachers and students, are also fueling calls for more charter oversight.
Location: 2,211 to 2215—page 134–Nationwide, charter schools serve fewer students with disabilities than traditional public schools. As scholar Gary Miron has observed: “There is considerable evidence that charter schools actively discourage families from enrolling disabled children and counsel them to leave when they do manage to enroll.”31 Indeed, an entire industry of advocates and lawyers has emerged to help parents get the special education accommodations from charter schools that they are entitled to under federal law. … Private schools, for their part, are free to admit (or not admit) any student they like, even when the schools receive public funds via voucher programs  
Location: 2,224—page 135—School management companies, both for-profit and non-profit, are now routinely implicated in headline-grabbing financial scandals, many involving related-party transactions—wherein charter schools purchase goods or services from companies in which board members and other administrators have a financial stake. 

12. How worried are you that there is a movement afoot to eliminate the neighborhood schools?

Location: 39—page xiii of 267–[When the pandemic began and federal aid money was being made available] DeVos encouraged states to use federal funds to help parents pay private school tuition, and demanded that school districts share millions of aid dollars with wealthy private schools.
Location: 56—page xiv —When the Koch network held its annual retreat in 2018, Charles Koch told donors, that among the network’s priorities: replacing brick-and-mortar schools with a voucher program that would allow parents to purchase education products for their children in an Amazon-like marketplace.
Location: 161—page xxi —Those seeking to dismantle the system, meanwhile, are unified, patient, and well resourced.
Location: 3,303—page 207–As reporters for the Tampa Bay Times pointed out, DeSantis, who in the 2018 gubernatorial election beat an avowed supporter of public education by a mere thirty thousand votes, is enacted an ambitious plan for private school vouchers. … With a Republican-dominated legislature and a newly conservative Supreme Court in place to brush aside constitutional objections, Florida seems poised to dismantle its public education system once and for all.               

  13. Let’s discuss the broader ideology of personal freedom

 Location: 243—page 5— Freedom, of course, can be interpreted a number of different ways. One useful, if reductive, way of understanding such differences is to divide the concept between “freedom to” and “freedom from.”
Whereas the first kind of freedom, to act as an individual, requires checks on government power, the second kind of freedom requires the opposite. Freedom from hazards usually demands collective action, usually at the direction of government, and it often requires limits to individual autonomy.
Freedom to: freedom to speak one’s mind, or to worship as one sees fit.
Freedom from: the threat of violence, or from environmental pollution.

14. Let’s discuss market philosophy and where it works and where it doesn’t

Location: beginning around 408—page 16–Unlike bread or beer or even milk, education is not merely produced for the individual who consumes it, but for the social, civic, and economic benefit of the broader public. ….Yet for adherents of market philosophy, what is true for the production of food is generalizable to public goods like education. …A contributor to the free market magazine Reason put it this way: “The freed market is a political-legal setting in which people are at liberty to peacefully pursue their chosen plans. This activity generates, unintentionally, an undesigned order that facilitates cooperation and coordination among even distant strangers, making each person’s pursuit more effective and efficient than otherwise…. And it does this work without compulsion or authoritarian central direction.”
Location: 432—page 17–The idea that the market model should be applied to education was first outlined three-quarters of a century ago by Milton Friedman.
 Location: 505—page 22–A report commissioned by the libertarian Reason Foundation, for instance, pronounced charters “a middle ground between the existing public-school system and a full school-choice program that allows the flow of public funds to private schools.” 
Location: 1,887—page 113–To that end, K12 Inc. has already experimented with outsourcing parts of its teachers’ jobs, including having student essays graded in India.   
Location: 1,980—page 119–The resulting prohibition against child labor was part of a vast legal framework that emerged during the Progressive Era, often in response to corporate abuses detailed by journalists who wanted to protect consumers and public interest   
Location: 2,089—page 126–Doug Tuthill, president of a group administering Florida’s school voucher program, wonders why teachers even need bachelor’s degrees, and maintains that private schools receiving taxpayer-funded vouchers should be free to hire whomever they want.

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