The late Nick Coleman used to accuse my fellow Northern Alliance bloggers and I of trying to “burn down the public schools“ for suggesting that maybe, just maybe, the teachers union and the administrative/industrial complex weren’t necessarily working in kids best interests.

It’s taken 15 years – but it sounds like all the smart parents agree:

Enrollment in public schools nationwide declined by 3 percent last year. But it was the numbers for kindergarten enrollment that should chill the blood of teachers’ unions and school district officials. Kindergarten enrollment tanked by 13 percent last year, and it’s only expected to get worse this year.

One school district in Brooklyn, New York, has seen its rosters fall from 345 students in 2018–19 to a projected 225 this September, with kindergarten enrollment collapsing from 76 to 37. Because school funding is pegged to enrollment, that school stands to lose a sizable chunk of its funding — funds to pay teachers and other support staff.

And yes, it’s not the pandemic itself that’s causing the collapse in enrollment. It’s the policies put in place to assuage the desires of teachers.

My theory: progressives, when they get in the power, always, always, always overreach. Sometimes it even hurts them:

All of which would be another reason to view 2020–21 to be the apex of teachers union power, to be followed by inexorable descent. They got their work-at-home carveouts, their school closures, their preferred party running the federal government, their vaccine fast-tracking, their fingerprints all over the “science,” and their hundreds of billions in federal largesse. And as a result of all that influence, they created a product that’s literally repellant to millions of parents, even at the cost of free. Their ranks will almost certainly thin.

If I had known what I was doing, I would’ve spent a lot more time and effort trying to put together some sort of “homeschool pod“ when my kids were that age – sharing the effort with some of the other parents who had gotten disgusted, even back then, with the system.

Training For Life In Any Democrat-Run City

There was a bit of a blizzard in the Twin Cities on Monday night.

Which is apparently a brand new thing to Saint Paul schools:

St. Paul schoolchildren were still on buses or remained at a handful of public schools at 9 p.m. Monday, a district spokesperson said.

Toya Stewart Downey did not say how many kids were still affected by the delays caused by Monday’s storm. Shortly before 8 p.m. a number of bus delays were reported on the district’s website, and many bus routes indicated they were three or more hours behind.

Stewart Downey said about 7:30 p.m. that several schools reported buses scheduled to arrive at 4 p.m. had yet to do so.

Now, just as a personal aside, the Transportation Department at the SPPS is the one government body in the United States that can’t look at Victor Maduro’s Venezuela and criticize.  I’m not sure if their motto is “Do A Bad Job Arrogantly”, but it sure could be.

Now, some parents were unamused and unimpressed with the district’s explanation:

many parents expressed their frustration and concern via social media and in emails and calls to the KSTP newsroom.

A post on the district’s Facebook page, which had more than 160 “likes” as of Tuesday morning, stated,  “‘Had we known…’ Are you even serious? Every forecast in the region was clear. The stress and strain you put on families and the children you put in danger when you put them on the roads tonight was absolutely unacceptable. Take responsibility. This was nothing short of very poor planning. Not only did you have a pretty clear radar as early as yesterday, you had enough snow by noon to know what the afternoon would look like. On the other hand, the teachers, aides, students, and parents went above and beyond as usual.”

Another post on the district’s Facebook page stated, in part, “Absolutely unacceptable does not even begin to describe what happened here. I trust that every single senior member of this school district is still in their seats at their desks and will remain so until every last student is home safely, which I understand the police are currently working on.”

Of course, 80-odd percent of these parents will vote for the DFL-endorsed school board that has made not only their kids transportation a sloppy mess, but their education too.

Wonder if charter school kids had that problem?

Why Johnny Can’t Read

News Flash:  The citizens, taxpayers and parents of Osseo, MN have discovered what the parents of Saint Paul, Edina and some other Twin Cities’ area communities have found out:  focusing to exclusion on “white privilege” as the reason for the achievement gap doesn’t actually change, or even affect, the achievement gap.

Unlike other Twin CIties communities, Osseo’s actually been able to do something about it; they’ve bagged their contract with Pacific Education Group – the company that has turned privilege-shaming into an eight-figure business model – the company:

In 2012, the Osseo Area School District hired Pacific Education Group (PEG) to help with the high suspension rate amongst its non-white students and achievement gap issue the schools faced. Last year, the school board cancelled its contract with the racial equity consultants after abiding by its suggestions for five years and watching the racial achievement gap grow.

Wait – grow, you say?

What is clear for Osseo according to statistics obtained from Minnesota’s Department of Education, math scores for black students in the School District have steadily declined, dropping from 33 percent in 2014 (which was above the statewide level) to 29 percent in 2017. In the same time period, math scores for white students remain largely unchanged at 73 percent. In reading, black students maintained a 36 percent proficiency in the same time period, while the gap with their white counterparts grew from 73 percent in 2014 to 74 percent in 2017.

No huge surprise – it’s pretty much true everywhere.

The surprise?  We’ve actually found a school board that’ll tell the Emperor he’s walking around naked:

“The problem is hard to fix when you have good teachers who are thinking about quitting, but you can’t help them because you’ve been sworn to not reveal their names,” Gerhart told Alpha News. “We have a staff that is currently about 80% white, so in effect we are using taxpayer money to systematically shame 4/5ths of our staff for simply being born.”

Gerhart describes an environment where teachers were afraid to step forward – teachers who were physically and verbally threatened and abused on a daily basis by their students.

The problem, of course, is that like most “progressive” “efforts”, the end results end up being indistinguishable from Stalin’s CHeKA, or the Spanish Inquisition:

“PEG has instilled a culture of fear among a number of teachers,” Gerhart states. “PEG likes to talk about having ‘courageous conversations,’ however in reality they have a number of ‘protocols’ in place that you have to agree and adhere to before taking part in the ‘conversation.’  These protocols frame the context of the discussion before the conversation even takes place, in essence disallowing true discussion much less debate or disagreement. If a person does not agree to these basic protocols, it is regarded as evidence of that person’s inherent racism. And remember, according to PEG, all white people are inherently racist no matter what, so a number of our teachers simply keep their mouths shut for fear of being labeled “racist” and getting fired or bullied out of their jobs.”

The “Conversation” is always defined by them.  Which means it’s never a conversation.

Congratulations, people of Osseo.  Your elected officials have exhibited just the faintest shred of courage.  It almost beggars the imagination.



The Machine Lives On Forever

A friend of this blog writes…:

“We’re for wealth sharing and against white supremacy – But only on our terms. Followed this link from Minnpost.

How many tales of woe started with those five words?

But I digress:

 The biggest 2 complaints from this blogger seems to be that wealthy people are sharing their wealth to help the less wealthy and that parents of color are choosing to ignore what white elected people think is best for their families. I see nothing wrong with that. And I thought getting the wealthy to share their wealth and to have people of color reject white supremacy were liberal goals. So, every one should agree, right?

I checked out the link – and as I live and breathe, it’s our old friend Ed Levine.   Apparently he’s got some anti-charter school group – I’d guess some teachers’ union spinoff – to fund him, and I’d guess fund him pretty well; that’s a pretty slick website.

Since my kids finished high school, I have to confess – I’ve been a little lax in my coverage of the war on charter schools – but the DFL push to torpedo the lifeboats and push those kids and their families back onto the Titanic continues apac

Anyway, Ed – I know, right?  The nerve of those inner-city parents.  Who are they going to believe – the Teachers Union, or their own lying eyes?

Choice For Me. Not For Thee.

Remember when Al Franken lit into Betsy DeVos over her school choice beliefs?

Some might have thought Franken opposed school choice.   He does, in fact, support school choice.

For those who can afford it.

…the Senator also has very little experience with public schools.

According to an interview with Harvard magazine, Franken was a math and science whiz as a boy. As he approached secondary school years, his parents wanted to find a better school for their gifted student. Franken ended up attending and graduating from Blake, one of the most exclusive private schools in the Minneapolis area, where the tuition for upperclassmen is currently $29,025 per year.

Franken’s two kids also avoided public school. Instead, his kids attended The Dalton School in New York City where tuition is $44,640 per year. Dalton is known for educating celebrities and children of royalty.

Forget about Franken; I sincerely doubt you find the children of many superstar superintendents toiling away in public schools.

Bill Cooper

Bill Cooper, former chair of the Minnesota GOP and longtime CEO at TCF Bank, passed away earlier this week  at 73.

In addition to leading the MNGOP during the Carlson years, Cooper did two things that made him a hero to me.

Nick-Slapped:  Back in 2005, then-Strib columnist Nick Coleman wrote a deeply dumb column wondering how Scott Johnson of Power Line  managed to blog during his work day (Johnson was at the time TCF’s corporate counsel), and urging TCF customers to pull their money out of the bank in protest over employing an “out” conservative.

Cooper pulled TCF’s ad money from the Strib – $250K a year – and followed up by cutting off the City Pages as well.

And the whining and carping lulled me to a sound, happy nap.   I’d like to think that costing the Strib a cool quarter mill had a lot to do with Coleman’s retirement.   For that alone, we should thank Cooper.

Friends:  In a more serious and productive vein, Cooper was one of the movers and shakers behind “Friends of Education”, a chain of charter schools that were focused on specific communities and educational models.

Friends of Education schools were, and perpetually remain, among the top-performing charters in the state.  And that was in part due to Cooper’s business sense; “Friends” charters that didn’t succeed got shut down; the successful ones carried on.


Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Why are families leaving St. Paul schools?  It’s a mystery.  Now that the staff member doing the survey has been let go, we may never find out.


Looking at the chart, there appears to be some overlap in causes since the percentages work out to 114% and even under Common Core math, that’s not a reasonable answer.  But just looking at the top three responses, I think I detect a pattern.

 40% said “We moved.”  I wonder why they moved?  Better job outside the district?  Seems unlikely, the economy isn’t that robust.  Maybe they moved to GET outside the district?  But why would they do that? Who’d want to leave the vibrant diversity of Frogtown to live in monochrome, monoculture Woodbury?

 36% said “the school was unsafe.”  But St. Paul just adopted new discipline policies to let Children Whose Lives Matter run wild.  That’ll cut down on reported discipline statistics which will be a big help, won’t it?  After the news accounts of violence in the last two years and the “don’t-bother-to-catch-go-straight-to-release” policy in effect, why would families think schools would be unsafe?

 30% said “child was harassed/bullied.” Well that’s just whining.  All kids are harassed and bullied, especially kids with Privilege who deserve it.  That’s no excuse to leave the school. Pulling your kids out of our school costs us pupil-day money and that’s a racist hate crime.

 Yep, it’s a total mystery why parents are pulling their kids out of St. Paul schools.  Luckily, there are paid consultants to offer possible suggestions, some cited in the article.  More arts classes might help.  Different languages, smaller class sizes, better special education.  Maybe training, to teach parents not to expect so much from schools like order, discipline, learning. 

 I hope they figure it out soon.  A child’s education is not an experiment you can do over if it fails the first time, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to avoid a life of misery.  All those minds would be a terrible thing to waste on fantasy feel-good foolishness.

 Joe Doakes

I’m not saying “Making the schools crappy” was a diabolical DFL plot to make conservative-leaning people leave Minneapolis and Saint Paul, to consolidate control forever in the hands of the DFL.

But if it were their plan, how would it be working any differently?

A Fire Extinguisher On The Titanic

Mark Zuckerberg’s celebrated hundred million dollar gift to the Newark NJ schools worked about as well as any huge influx of more-mundane taxpayer cash ever did; not at all.

Zuckerberg’s donation was earmarked toward merit pay, charter schools, and systemic reforms.  The charter schools worked well, but the city’s system for putting kids into charters was a goat rodeo.  The reform money got swallowed up by consulting fees.  And as to merit pay and teacher accountability?

Instead, the opposite occurred. Chris Cerf, the New Jersey commissioner of education at the time, worked with the Legislature and was able to negotiate some new accountability measures in teacher contracts.

But the teachers’ union only agreed upon those measures if the seniority protections remained intact.

Which meant that the teacher accountability money went to reinforce…unaccountability with teachers.

Reforming the public system, under its current politicized leadership, is like trying to argue with a blizzard.

Un-Abeler To Compute

I rarely if ever endorse candidates, per se.  I figure it’s not my job – who am I, after all?   I inform; you decide.

But I live in Saint Paul.  The Fourth Congressional District; Senate District 65; House 65A.  I’m “represented” by Betty McCollum, Sandy Pappas and Rena Moran.   And while I do my best to get involved in politics in my own neighborhood, let’s be honest; I probably have a greater  impact elsewhere.

Of course, Andy Aplikowski is a longtime friend of this blog.  And of mine, for that matter.  One of the co-founders of True North, one of the smartest political numbers guys I know, half of one of the genuinely nicest couples I know.  Andy’s running to replace Brandon Petersen in the Senate.  And I hope he wins.

Andy’s got the endorsement of the SD35 party apparatus.  But he’s gotta get through a primary against long-time former rep. Jim Abeler.

Now, I’ve interviewed Abeler a few times.  He’s a great guy; there are those who choose to demonize those they disagree with, and neither Abeler nor I are them.  And in his interviews, Abeler makes a solid case for some of the votes he’s taken.  Not solid enough to convince me, but nothing to brush aside, either.

But one vote that concerned me, as someone who’s gone around and around with the public school system, is a vote he took that ended up denying vouchers to students in Minneapolis and Saint Paul schools. Did Abeler have his reasons?  I’m sure he did – but they pale against the opportunity that arises when you allow the free market, personified by giving the parents the fiscal clout to say “no” to the district system, to have its effect.

So while I’m not sure what Abeler’s policy reasons are, I know that the vote did earn him some powerful friends. No, I mean some very powerful friends, friends with deep pockets and heavy-duty outsized clout in Minnesota politics.

Anyway – if you’re in SD35, or have friends there, by all means let ’em know where the School Choice vote goes.

Warehouse: Schools And Stories

I forget who I heard referring to the inner city as “government’s warehouse for poor people”. There are those who get hurt and bothered when I use that term, as if I’m characterizing the people.

I’m not.  I’m characterizing the government.

And for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of dealing with government in a failed one-party state, this article explains why I use the simile, and don’t apologize for it, ever.

Read the story.  And then remember that while the tax money that was supposed to help alleviate these kids problems has been slashed, the Saint Paul School District’s administration has been getting huge pay raises.   Especially African-American parents:  this is your DFL in action, with your kids.  This is the wages of your allegiance the DFL. Let’s talk.

I’m not going to pullquote the article – because I’d like you all to read it.  It may be the most depressing thing I’ve read lately.

Background Noise

Opponents of urban charter schools – inevitably white, upper-middle-class, MPR-listening, Subaru-driving people with degrees from Macalester – have developed a habit of sniffing that urban charters are “a return to segregation”, because many charters, especially in the city, are aimed at ethnic groups.

What these lilywhite guardians of “diversity”-for-its-own-sake miss is that these charters – the Twin Cities have schools aimed at black, H’mong, latino and Native American kids, and used to have one serving Muslim students – may be “segregated”, but it’s entirely voluntary; the decision of the parents and families involved.

And why would they do that?

Because they’re racists?

Perhaps.  More likely, I suspect, it’s cultural (the Native American and H’mong schools), and linguistic (the Latino schools).

And I suspect that for more than a few parents, it’s more like this:  while they like the idea of “diversity” – exposing their children to different people, cultures, races and the like – they also know they’ve got one shot with their kids.  America’s racial problems aren’t going to be fixed in 12 years.  If they’re fixed in thirteen years, that’s great – but too late for your first-grader.

And in the meantime, lurking in the background at the worst “diverse” schools, are scenes like this (and save your breath, Volvo-driving ninnies; this sort of tension is endemic at urban schools; my kids went there for years, and while it rarely got that bad, it hovered over the school experience in ways ugly and comical for their entire time in school).  And while I suspect that, like me, a lot of parents would love for their kids to participate in America’s ethnic “conversation”, they also figure that there’s plenty of time for that when they’re adults, and they’d like to spend that first 12 years focusing on them getting an education without all the pointless, mindless tension.

Dear Superintendant Silva

To:  Valeria Silva, Superintendant, Saint Paul Public Schools
From: Mitch Berg, Uppity Peasant
Re:  How You Can Superintendantsplain Things To Your Black Students

Superintendant Silva,

In the immediate aftermath of the Ferguson Grand Jury release, you tweeted:

No indictment for officer Wilson!  Very sad day in America.  How do I explain this to my black students? 

I’m here to help.  You can start by explaining to them…:

  1. The reasons Saint Paul – despite spending more money per student than almost every district in the state – continues to have among the worst black student achievement gaps in the country.  Worse even than other urban toilets like Detroit or Philadelphia. 
  2. You can explain why it is you support the current school board, which – being elected city-wide rather than by ward, is thus under the complete control of the DFL vote machine, and thus represents the wishes and whims of the city’s Crocus Hill DFL elite; lots of gnashing of teeth about multiculturalism and the morality of Junior ROTC, and absolutely nothing about pulling “your black students” up.  You could explain why you aren’t actively working to return the school board to a ward-based system. 
  3. You can explain to them, maybe, that while there are bad cops, there is also nothing in the world more stupid and unpredictable than an 18 year old boy, and that even if a cop is bad (and I’m not saying Office Wilson was), provoking them is a really really bad plan. 
  4. Explain that rioting is a good way to get a good chunk of society to swing from “middling to sympathetic” to “loading up with birdshot and walking their sidewalks with their neighbors”. 
  5. Perhaps you should explain the reasons that Saint Paul shouldn’t follow New Orleans’ lead, shut down the public school system, and go all charter? Because the African-American community in NOLA – much bigger than in Saint Paull, btw – is doing much better since they did exactly that. Three reasons will do.

Let me know if you need more help.  Being a public bureaucrat, I’m sure you rarely have to deal with the actual public.

Liberal Math

A kid spends ten years in public school.  Then, less than a year as a home-school kid.  Then enrolls in a public university. 

And then kills his mother and 26 other people.   Four years after ending a year of home schooling.

Obviously it’s Home Schooling’s fault!

Under a new law proposed this week by Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy’s Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, every homeschooling parent with a child who has been labeled with a behavioral or emotional problem would be forced to submit to a host of strict, burdensome regulations.

The scheme put forth in the commission’s draft recommendations on mental health would require homeschooling parents to submit individual education plans regularly to a local education bureaucrat.

School officials could then decree whether parents may continue to educate their own children, reports the Connecticut Post. Administrators could pull the plug on any parents’ homeschooling by declaring that the child failed to make “adequate progress.”

Bear in mind that Lanza was well on his way to loopdie-land when he was in the public school system.  What good did any of them do? 

Members of the Democratic Governor’s Sandy Hook commission have conceded that the additional burdens they have recommended for homeschooling families may be controversial.

Dear Connecticut; the entire United States would be better off if the Blue States seceded – and if you want to get the ball rolling, that’d solve  problems for everyone.

De Blasio: The Left’s Id

NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio launched his first salvo in his war on charter schools – which is, essentially, an extended payoff to the unions and the condo pinks that put him in office in the first place (occasional emphasis added by me):

While running for New York City mayor, Bill de Blasio could count on applause for attacking unpopular charter school co-locations, where charters that need space are squeezed into public school buildings alongside other schools.

Instead of extolling the promise of the charters, de Blasio provided a spine-stiffening defense of the “common” school, and his base ate it up: The unions loved it, parents whose kids were not in charters loved it, and many of de Blasio’s fellow Park Slope progressives loved it.

That’s been one of the charter opponents’ most galling tactics; they’ve made charters the subject of a class war, with charters as “the enemy”, notwithstanding that (especially in the city) they are the lifeboat for the underserved minority, and the students that the “common” schools have given up on.

So the new mayor must be feeling whiplash after the outcry that met him as he began to carry out a popular campaign pledge: slow down the charter co-locations and shift more money to traditional public schools. That the charter community opposed the mayor wasn’t a surprise. It was their political strength, organization, and popularity that caught de Blasio off guard.

From the rhetoric, you’d think de Blasio had personally bounced kids out of charter schools across all five boroughs.

Slate goes on to defend De Blasio.

But charter proponents know that it’s a short jump from “slowing down co-location” (in real-estate-starved NYC they put charter schools in the same buildings as public schools) to shutting down schools.  The left hates charters, and the slippery slope is very, very real.

Charter Schools: Batten Down The Hatches

The DFL – at the behest of the Teachers Union, of which the DFL is a partially-owned subsidiary – hates charter schools.  They provide choice to families who find themselves underserved by the public system.

And if you’re a parent in the inner city, that’s pretty much you; your kids are jammed into public schools that by any rational standard are gross underperformers.  If you’re a minority parent in Minneapolis or Saint Paul, you send your kids to schools with two of the worst minority achievement gaps in the country (while constantly reiterating the PR pap notion that Minnesota’s schools are really, really swell).

And complete DFL control of Minnesota’s government – at least for this session – means charter schools can expect an existential threat in the next four months.

Today’s story on MPR is a bellweather of this threat.

Critics of underperforming charter schools say state law isn’t tough enough. They’re pushing a measure that would flag poor performing charters for closure.

If approved by the Legislature it would pressure charter school authorizers, the organizations that oversee the schools, to close chronically underperforming charters.

Detractors of charter schools – pretty much the DFL, the unions and their various non-profit handmaidens – constantly refer to charter school “performance” and “metrics”.

Unanswered in all of that palaver – whether any public district school could be a success, acadmically, fiscally or in regulatory terms – if they had to follow the same standards charters do.  This is especially true of larger public districts that can bury their most intractably underperforming students in “Alternative Learning Centers” – effectively getting the “off the books” for purposes of assessing academic performance.

And still the public schools languish.

Charter schools are public schools, but they are freed from some of the requirements that traditional schools must follow. By design, that autonomy is intended to allow charters to try innovative approaches like longer school days or creative curriculum.

An eighth of Saint Paul’s parents – and an even greater share in Minneapolis – have opted, via school choice, to leave the city systems; they’ve moved to private, parochial, suburban, and – especially in poor, immigrant and minority communities – charter schools.  75% or more of inner city charter students are from “families of color”, immigrants or other underserved communities.

These news stories – and legislative initiatives – are invariably based on biased research.  Example (with emphasis added):

As the charter system has grown, so have concerns over how the schools perform, academically and financially.

Overall, students at charter schools don’t do as well academically as students in traditional district schools, according to research by Myron Orfield, director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity.

“research by Myron Orfield” means “research commissioned by and for the DFL and the unions”.  No more, no less.

“The problem is the vast majority of charters are underperforming and maybe 25, 30 percent of them are just really terrible and they go on from year to year,” said Orfield, one of the biggest critics of charter schools in Minnesota. “They’re considerably worse than the public schools.”

And some numbers can make that impression.  And some charters are, no doubt, not-hackers.

But there are three things to remember about “achievement” comparisons between charter and district schools:

  • It’s A Hard Knock Life:  Charter schools – especially in the city – are frequently a refuge for students and families who’ve been shorted by the public system.  “Shorted” is a polite, general phrase that means everything from “badly served” to “thoroughly brutalized” by the one-size-fits-all public school system.  Yes, I have a perspective on this.   Of course their academic performance is lower, no matter what charter school they attend.
  • Rigged:  Of course, the studies show that charters schools lag district schools in terms of raw academic performance.  Not only are a large percentage of charter students looking for a second chance (and their grades show it), but charter schools have to own their numbers; public systems have the “Alternative Learning Centers” into which they can shunt the chronic underperformers, to get them off the district’s books.  And that’s with the ones they haven’t given up on altogether; after about age 16, the big districts put very few obstacles in the paths of kids who want to drop out – which also bumps the curve up for the big schools.  The “studies” – including Orfield’s – don’t account for this.  The only meaningful measurement of achievement would follow students’ changes in academic performance – positive or otherwise – after they left the public system (controlled by comparison with kids with similar social, educational and ethnic makeup who stayed in the public system), over a realistic period of time.   
  • Apples To Axles:  I’m going to suggest that if public schools were measured, financially and academically, by the same standards that charter schools have to meet (including the performance of the kids that the district gives up on, the ALC and dropouts – that a much greater share of public schools would risk being shut down.  Especially in Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Duluth, Bloomington, Richfield, Robbinsdale/New Hope and the Brooklyns.
Expect this story to be the opening salvo of a DFL assault on, at the very least, the fringes of the charter system.

Project Adams

In the book Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams described a grossly-overpopulated planet dealing with its problem by radical means.  The plan involved building two spaceships to fly the population to a better world.

They built the first one, and loaded up all of the – er, let’s say “less essential” populations; I forget Adams’ list, but today it could be reality TV stars, TMZ-bait, Youtube sensations, Taylor Swift’s exes, and millions of society’s other useless mouths, and shot it into space.  They were told that the rest of the people would be coming.


As soon as they finished the next spaceship.



A Dutch company is taking applications for a one-way mission to Mars, to start a Mars colony.

And they‘re getting a slew of applications:

“These numbers put us right on track for our goal of half a million applicants,” said the founder of Mars One, Bas Lansdorp. “Mars One is a mission representing all humanity and its true spirit will be justified only if people from the entire world are represented. I’m proud that this is exactly what we see happening.”

Here’s the part I found…intrigueing?  Well, deja vu at any rate:

According to the company’s chief medical officer, Norbert Kraft, Mars One is eschewing the usual astronaut candidates – scientists and pilots – in favour of YouTube fanatics and internet people, “because what we are looking for is not restricted to a particular background.”

All applicants have to do is pay the application fee, which ranges from $5 to $75 – in the US, it is $38 – and then submit a video in which they answer three questions.


I’m going to run over to Google Translate to see if “Bas Lansdorp” is Dutch for “Slartibartfast”.

Just a hunch.

My Urban-Renewal Idea

On a Saint Paul discussion forum, someone asked “what would you do to better the city if someone gave you a couple million dollars?”

It took me about two seconds to answer; I’ve been thinking about this one for years and years.

If someone gave me a couple million dollars my plan would look something like this:

  1. Buy three adjacent blocks of blighted housing in a down-market neighborhood that’s been ravaged by the foreclosure crisis – Frogtown, the North End, the lower East Side.  There are some blocks where half the houses are foreclosed, vacant or demolished.  I’d like to find one of those – preferably one with an old storefront or two on one of the corners.
  2. Remodel them, at least in terms of basics, leaving room for sweat equity.
  3. Sell the houses on one of the blocks.  Price them at market rates – or half-price for nuclear families where  both of the heads of household had a clean criminal record and one or both had a carry permit and could prove they owned legal firearms.  Give a cumulative five percent discount for each of the following: veterans, charter or private school teachers, cops or firemen.  In other words, a family who had a veteran, a firefighter and a charter school teacher with a permit could get the house for 35% of the already-depressed market value.
  4. Lop off another 10% of the balance if crime on the block and on surrounding blocks drops below neighborhood or city averages in, say, a year or two.
  5. Give one of the storefronts to a small charter school rent-free for five years.
  6. Wait three years and watch as the crime rate plummets, and property values rise.
  7. Sell the other two blocks at the new, higher-value market rates; no half-off for permittees with guns, but offer cumulative ten percent discounts for carry permit holders with firearms, cops/firemen and charter/private teachers.
  8. Plow the proceeds into repeating the process on neighboring blocks.
  9. Watch as the neighborhood, strong, self-reliant, free-enterprise oriented and virtually crime-free compared to the surrounding area, starts to wake up, noticing that the parts of the city run by the DFL are failing while the part run according to traditional conservative values – theirs – is doing well.  People in my project, and around and about it, start to ask “so why do we keep electing clueless DFLers to all city offices?”.
  10. Watch some more as control of Saint Paul flips from the DFL’s bobbleheaded one-party rule to conservative control, beginning an era of hard work that leads in modestly short order to a much, much better city.

I’m rarin’ to go.  Someone pony up!

Compare And Contrast

One of the Public-Education pimps’ big chanting points is that “charter schools don’t perform as well as public school!”.

And in terms of top-line statistics, there’s something to that. Many charter schools – especially ones catering to low-income, inner-city, immigrant and Native-American students – have lower standardized test scores (although as I showed several years ago in delivering one of my uncountable drubbings to Nick Coleman, many charter schools beat the pants off their public district neighbors).  The reason, I suspect, is that in most cases those students have already been chewed up and spat out by the public system, and are going the charter route to try to get back on track.  It was certainly true in the charter schools my kids attended.

Indeed, I think the only really meaningful measurement would compare differences in improvement or deterioration in individual students before and after transferring from public to charter schools, compared with comparable students that stayed in the public system.

But beyond that?  You’ll look long and hard for these figures in the mainstream, DFL-allied media:

And as all of us both brace for more “paying for a better Minnesota” and simultaneously watching the cities’ public schools slide even further into disgrace, this next bit (emphasis added) is fun reading:

As if these scores weren’t impressive enough, Best, Friendship, and Harvest are able to achieve them with much less money than the Minneapolis Public Schools district. Here is a comparison of 2012-13 per student spending in the district versus at these schools:   MPS = $23,020   Best = $11,987   Friendship = $13,677   Harvest = $10,958   One has to wonder: Would these schools have been able to achieve these results under the aegis of the large bureaucracy of the school district? Or, does their independence help generate and inspire creative solutions that often elude large systems?   Not all charters work. But the students at Best, Friendship, and Harvest would tell you that theirs do.

And so would their parents.

(BONUS QUESTION for MNGOP “Strategists”:  Why is it, again, that you refuse to have Republican candidates approach charter parents in the city, to tell them that the DFL wants to destroy the charter school system?  That’s gotten you what over the past seven years, exactly?)

Crocodile Tears

Democrats and the DFL have been trying to kill off charter schools ever since the idea hatched in Minnesota in the late eighties.

This effort has taken so many forms:

Now, as part of trying to balance the budget, the GOP in the Legislature “borrowed” money “from the schools” – i.e., pushed back state payments to the schools. Which is an inconvenience to public schools – and a brutal smack to many charter schools.

It was too much for on charter – General John Vessey School in Inver Grove Heights, which closed after Christmas break.  I’m familiar with Vessey – whose model was to bring a military-style education focusing on discipline, hard work and self-respect (as opposed to self-esteem) to students, some of whom commuted from Monticello and Taylor’s Falls to attend.  The school will be sorely missed.

But the closure prompted one “Alec”, writin at the Minnesota Progressive Project, to have an attack of unjustified self-righteousness:

The obvious and inevitable result happened again as Vessey Leadership Academy Secondary School closed its doors unexpectedly over the winter break.

As a Charter that leased their facilities, Vessey has no collateral to secure a loan. A loan they needed because the state was withholding 40% of their funds.

Wow. That sounds like a great argument to allow charter school boards the same financial flexibility that district boards have to bond for buildings?  And most of the other restrictions on charters?

No worries – if “Alec” suggested that at a DFL meeting, he’d have his giblets removed and stuffed into his chest cavity.

Which is a shame – for the DFL.  Because charter schools’ biggest proponents are the thousands of traditional DFL constituents –  latino, asian and especially afro-American families – in the cities.  It’s an un-tapped opportunity for the GOP.

Anyway, “Alec”, great to see you’re suddenly a “charter school supporter”. It’d be about the first positive thing anyone on MPP has ever said about charter schools

…presuming you have the foggiest idea what you’re talking about.

We’ll see,  huh?

The Imam’s Advocate: The Bad News

I know, I know.  Separation of church and state. It’s a good thing, in the long run.

The story of TIZA – the Tariq Ibn Ziyad Academy, an Islam-centered charter school that at its peak had schools in the north and south-east metro – was one that inspired passions in a lot of people.

The fact that it was a charter school at all brought in the “progressive” clans against it.

The fact that it “mixed church and state” naturally exercised the ACLU, which has had the school in court for years over the Establishment Clause lssues first reported by Katherine Kersten.  Scott Johnson at Power Line reports that the recent dump of legal papers from the case reveals…:

In one motion filed with the court, the Minnesota Department of Education disclosed a few of the items that TiZA had been hiding. Among the department’s discoveries in the litigation was the fact that TiZA had made multiple misrepresentations to the department. These misrepresentations included potential conflicts of interest between TiZA and its sectarian landlord, TiZA’s relationship and shared resources with its sectarian co-tenant, and the sectarian nature of TiZA’s curriculum. According to the department, these misrepresentations formed the basis for the department’s determination that TiZA was operating legally.


Of course, Kersten notes that even in carrying out the suit against TIZA, the ACLU revealed its own institutional bigotry:

Samuelson chuckled. In fact, “If this school had been Catholic, we would have sued them years ago.”

And the fact the school was aggressively Islamic in focus – although not, as far as we’ve seen, in an aggressively anti-American sense, but apparently enough so, as Kersten noted – angered conservatives.  Which, in turn, angered “progressives”, as Kersten also noted:

Rep. Mindy Greiling — then chair of the House K-12 Education Finance Committee — publicly called on the paper to fire me for “gross distortion of the facts.” TiZA is “a school to be emulated, not hated,” she told the Minnesota Independent.

Because if a conservative orders a pizza in the woods, and nobody is there it hear it, it’s still apparently “hate”.

Lost in the tangle between immovable institutions and unstoppable advocates, of course, are the real losers in this story; the children.   And I don’t mean that in the “progressive’s”  “for the chilldren” caricature sense; I mean it in the sense that any human, especially a conservative, tries to protect the generation that is the future

Because whatever TIZA may have done to offend, well, everyone, it did one thing – teach kids – very well.

TIZA got the kind of results that many charter schools, and all urban public schools, should envy and try to emulate.  The student body was 80% low-income. 2/3 of them spoke English as a second language, Both of those are huge handicaps in the pbulic schools – but TIZA got math and reading test scores that clobbered most schools of all types, everywhere in the state (and nationwide).

Whatever you think about the different issues and parties involved, TIZA certainly seems to have something right.

The ACLU is following its brief in sueing the school for violating the separation clause, and Kersten was right to blow the story up years ago, and Scott Johnson did yeoman service in preventing the Strib from shoveling the story down the memory hole.

But let’s not pretend that there’s only one side to this story.  While TIZA may have skirted the Constitution, and as Scott noted may have benefited from an institutional Captain-Renault-ism on the part of the MN Department of Education, it was good at one thing – teaching low-income students, most of them not native speakers of English – how to do math and read.

In English, as well as Arabic.

If A Charter School Succeeds In The Forest, And Jon Tevlin Doesn’t Write About It…

There’s a reason so many “progressives” are so very very upset that Katherine Kersten remains at the Strib writing columns.

It’s because while the likes of Lori Sturdevant and Jon Tevlin can be counted on, after all the “hard-boiled reporter” BS subsides, to pretty much say “Yep, Mr. Emperor, in the opinion of this ol’-fashioned gum-shoe reporter who really really knows stuff, that suit looks marvelous – and when Arne Carlson ran the GOP, they’d agree”.  Kersten doesn’t.

I’m trying to imagine any of the Strib‘s bullpen of legacy columnists even noticing the story of the Harvest Preparatory School, much less writing about it:

A north Minneapolis school at Olson Memorial Hwy. and Humboldt Avenue has demographics that seem a sure predictor of our state’s most intractable education problem. The student population there is 99 percent black and 91 percent poor, and about 70 percent of the children come from single-parent families.

Such “racial isolation” is widely considered a formula for defeat — a hallmark of the cavernous “achievement gap” that separates poor, minority students from their more affluent white peers. In recent decades, Minnesota has spent billions of dollars attempting to narrow the gap but has little to show for it.

That’s why the achievements of the school I just described should be shouted from the rooftops.

You’d think.

I’m guessing the Strib and the “hard-boiled journalists” in its columnists bullpen haven’t gotten permission from MN2020 to write about schools not approved by the Minnesota Federation of Teachers.

In this year’s state math tests in grades three through eight, this school outperformed every metro-area school district, including Edina and Wayzata. Its students outperformed all state students in reading proficiency (77 percent to 75 percent), and state white students in math proficiency (82 percent to 65 percent).

The complaint I hear most about Kersten – other than the fact that she’s unclean a conservative  – is that she doesn’t have a “background as a reporter”.

But all that “background” doesn’t seem to have taught any of the Strib’s stable of reliable DFL criers to dig behind the party line when it comes to education.  Kersten does:

Black males are among our state’s lowest-performing groups of students, but at Best Academy, 100 percent of eighth-grade boys scored proficient in reading. “Best Academy has the highest proportion of African-American boys of any institution in Minnesota,” says founder and director Eric Mahmoud. “The only institution that competes with us is the prison system.”

How have Mahmoud and his team worked this magic? Mahmoud is an electrical engineer by training. “At the factory I used to run, if we had a failure rate of 0.5 percent, we’d shut down the line until we figured out the problem,” he says. “In our education system, we’re failing with 40, 50, 60 percent of our African-American children, but we keep the system that turns out the same product, year after year.”

Wait – someone has actually addressed the “achievement gap” that seems to have so vexed the Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Anoka-Hennepin, Duluth and other school boards, the Minnesota Department of Education, the waves of superstar superintendents who ride into and back out of town on waves of money and perks, the DFL Caucus in the Legislature, and Tom Dooher and the Minnesota Federation of Teachers, who seem to have been too busy filming commercials to have looked into the issue themselves?

Why, it’s almost like a journalist is actually covering the issue!

Read the whole editorial for the Harvest Prep story – which must drive the relentlessly-feminist “educational academy” nuts, since it entirely confirms Christina Hoff-Summers’ research about how one goes about reaching in particular boys that the system has forgotten.

And ask yourself why it is that in a metro with three school megadistricts that are simultaneously academic and financial sinkholes, with achievement gaps (especially in Saint Paul) that trail even the rest of the nation’s shameful record, and that graduate a shamefully low share of minority students, and that is starving for some good news on education but is fed a constant diet of puffed-up faintly-painted teachers union spin on charter schools, that Kersten’s column is the only coverage that this, and other, charter school success stories have gotten in the Twin Cities news or opinion media?

Chanting Points Memo: The Kids Are Alright (As Hostages)

Over the weekend, the MN House GOP released its new K12 Funding bill.  Tom Scheck at MPR reports:

The bill, released Saturday afternoon, makes a slight reduction in expected growth for K12 schools, but increases the amount of money in the state’s per pupil formula.

“The debate in education this year isn’t going to be about how much we spend,” said Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington as he compared his bill to Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget plan. “The debate instead will be what we fund and what reforms we make to the system.”

And that’s going to make metro DFLers squeeeeeeaaaaal…

Garofalo finds the extra funding in the per pupil formula by cutting the state aid schools rely on for integration.

And that particular bit got the metro DFLers into high dudgeon.  “It’s pro-segregation”, in many varieties, coursed across Twitter yesterday.

It’s buncombe, of course.  Have you been in a metro-area school lately?  They’re integratedAnd as the bill’s sponsor Pat Garofalo notes, we’ve been spending money on “integration” for a long, long time – and the more we spend, the worse the black-white “achievement gap” grows.   There is some evidence that integration itself exacerbates the achievement gap – which is not an argument for segregation (since if I don’t disclaim it, some lefty will claim it for me);

It also caps state special education funding at current levels, leading many Democrats to allege that it would force local school districts to raise property taxes to meet federal requirements.

To be fair to the DFLers, that’s their answer to everything from financial meltdown to rainy days.

Alternate – and, in this case, correct – solution: push back on the definition of “special ed”.  These days, it covers the things that most of associate with “special education” – teaching kinds with serious physical, mental and emotional handicaps.  It has also grown to cover a lot of politically-correct expediencies;  “special ed” has become a part of the Gender Ghetto in public schools, the place to which teachers shunt kids who zig when they’re told to zag.

And make no mistake – school districts love special ed.  Because while teaching the seriously handicapped is an expensive (and justified) job, school districts also looove shunting kids with “insta-Shrink” diagnoses like ADHD – usually boys – into “special ed”; it jacks up the funding, while barely adjusting the amount of “Services”.  In the worst case, it is a covert funding stream for school districts – one that stigmatizes the inconvenient (usually boys).

Special Ed could use a serious reform.  If this bill starts the discussion, then it’s a big win for everyone.

The DFL’s big response to  this – to pretty much everything the GOP has come up with this session – is that it’s a “war on the city”.   They’re doing it because they’re scared; a lot of their base flaked away in 2010, and there are signs it’s not stopping.

Regardless, Democrats say the bill unfairly targets inner-city schools and schools treating the state’s hardest to teach students.

“If you’re a needy student, you’re a loser in this bill,” said Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville.

It’s untrue, of course; if you’re a needy, inner-city student, you’ve gotten the short end of the stick for a generation.  That’s why you, the inner city parent, have been fleeing the public schools – for parochial, charter, and suburban schools – by the thousands.

Mindy Greiling will do anything to avoid that conversation.  Because, inevitably, it will lead to Pat Garofalo’s next line of discussion:

The bill would also create a pilot program for low income students in poor performing schools to enroll in private schools at state expense. Greiling says the so-called voucher system would allow the state’s private schools to pick and choose which students to accept leaving the public schools to teach the state’s most challenging students. She says the bill is too aggressive.

“It’s not just rearranging the deck chairs,” Greiling said. “The whole hulk of the ship is tipped over and shaken out and spewed out in a different way. We have a whole new ship and that new ship is taking from school districts that have the greatest needs and spreading it around to other districts, small schools and charter schools.”

Republicans argue the voucher proposal is a pilot program for schools in St. Paul, Minneapolis and Duluth and is aimed at helping close the state’s achievement gap. The bill would also dedicate more money for charter schools and smaller rural schools.

And the DFL is petrified with fear over this; they know that, given an alternative, the parents that care about their kids will take advantage of any lifeboat they can find.

And yes, it will leave inner-city schools with the biggest challenges – the kids whose parents just aren’t paying attention.

The bill – read it’s right here – will help students who need the help.

But it’ll reduce the subsidy the DFL has always given to failing schools, and the union that  made ’em that way.

And that’s gotta scare the crap out of the DFL

“Go Back To The Plantation, Your Betters Have Spoken”

My decision over the past holiday season to put off doing my “logic for leftybloggers” series – explaining some of the basic points of a logical argument, since a so very, very infinitesimally tiny share of them can actually manage one – is looking more and more shortsighted every day.

I may have to exhume the entire series from the trash can.

Today’s example:  Rob Levine, one of Kackel Dackel’s minions over at Cucking Stool.  Last week he wrote to regurgitate some of EdMinn’s carefully-selected chanting points over charter schools.  I responded.

That was probably my first mistake.

Over the weekend, he “responded“.  To the extent that name-calling and nothing more is a “response”, anyway.

I’ve been writing about charter schools for years. I’ve made a habit of field-dressing the various chanting points the anti-charter lobby – EdMinn and their various sock-puppet suipport groups, MN2020, the DFL and its’ pet alt-media – places out there.  I’ve seen it all.  And I’ve gotten all the usual responses; charter schools are for the 2010s what the Second Amendment was to the 1990s; the focus of a lot of disinformation, half-informed debate, politically-manipulated emotion, and just plain not-too-bright name-calling.

The mantra of education deformers…

“Deformers”.  Cute.

OK, he’s a leftyblogger; you have to handicap him a little name-calling, anyway.  If you read his piece (enh), you’ll see he’s not bashful about using it.

Well, that and the last refuge of weak debater, the “first person omnisicient”, “Karnak the Magnificent” school of reporting:

…is to find “what works” and replicate it. They are fixated on numbers and statistics about “education gaps,” “value-added measures,” test scores, and closing “low performing” schools.

Rob Levine thinks we – a good chunk of the 13% of Saint Paul parents who’ve left the system, and of the 25% in Minneapolis, the hundreds of thousands nationwide, and especially the thousands of Afro-American, H’mong and Latino families, the steep majority of charter parents in Saint Paul and Minneapolis – are “fixated” on Department of Ed statistics.

It’s pretty much crut, of course.  We – the Twin Cities’ overwhelmingly minority, disproportionally poor, but lopsidedly motivated parents who are the charter schools’ most devoted advocates – are there because our kids were getting an inadequate education in the public schools and we wanted better.  We exercised the thing that EdMinn and the rest of the status quorriors fear the most; our free, enlightened choice.

Now, why do you think we not only leave the public system, but stay in the charter system, devoting time, money, effort and our kids’ precious futures?

According to Levine, it’s apparently because we’re idiots.

We’ll come back to that, too.  First, let’s see if his debate technique improved since the last paragraph:

But what to do when the numbers don’t go their way? Honest advocates might admit their rhetorical opponents have a point and go from there. Mitch Berg has a different idea: distract with sophistry and denial and hope nobody notices that he’s made a fool of himself.

Levine, our “honest advocate”, apparently hasn’t gotten the memo; the “MITCH BERG HAS TEH SCR3AMING MELTDOWN OVER MY L33T CHARTER SCHOOL POST!” is so 2007, even among the smart leftybloggers.

Believing that endless repetition is the source of wisdom, he re-re-regurgitates his first post, again:

Case in point: Almost a year ago I cataloged the lengthening list of charter schools that have crashed and burned in Minnesota. I didn’t have to do much research for the post – the Minnesota DOE has a publicly available spreadsheet of all the charter schools that have been closed in the state with a brief reason for their closures.

My post also added as an addendum a Strib story about the the “state’s lowest-performing 32 schools.”

Levine certainly didn’t “have to” “do” much “research”; the anti-charter lobby circulates the numbers regularly.

You want “honest advocacy?”  Watch, Rob Levine, and see how it’s done.  Here’s a good place to start, since at last last he moves on to some numbers – sort of:

At the time I wrote:

Of those, 11 are charters. That means 11 of 154 charter schools are failing, a failure rate of seven percent. Twenty one of the failing 32 are regular public schools; there are 2,485 regular public schools in the state, giving a failure rate of less than one percent. So by the Minnesota DOE’s own numbers, charter schools in Minnesota are failing at a rate seven times greater than regular public schools.

And there’s one of the greatest misrepresentations there is about charter schools.

As I pointed out almost two years ago, comparing system-wide academic failure rates is like comparing apples and axles; Public schools can shunt kids that drag their curves off into the “Alternative Learning Center” (ALC) system.  (I pointed this out in my first response to Levine, who apparently thinks that repeating the same flawed “data” with a dollop of unearned condescension makes the data better).   At the same time, charters’ academic numbers are affected by the fact that charters are where parents go when the public schools have failed their kids – when years in the factory school system have sapped their interest in the whole “school” thing.  Charters – especially in the city, and on the Indian reservation charters outstate – are cleaining up all kinds of messes. My family (my daughter and of course my son) is only one story among many.

So by the Pawlenty-run Minnesota DOE’s own standards, fully seven percent of the state’s charter schools were among the worst 32 performing schools in the state; only one percent of regular public schools were cited in the 32. It’s really not hard to do the math. Mitch Berg knows that these statistics drive a stake into the heart of arguments for more charter schools, which is why he must try to find a way around them. But there is none.

“Mitch Berg knows…?”  Again with the “Omniscient First Person”.

Here’s what Mitch Berg really knows; if you compare all charter schools to all public schools, charter schools will come in below.

I also know that here in the city, it’s because a huge percentage of charter school parents are from populations that the regular public school system has a hard time serving adequately; the poor, the ESL student, the minority, the Native American, the immigrant – populations that suffer huge achievement gaps, even with nasty high dropout rates (which take those kids off the public schools’ books).  The public system rips its hair out trying to fix the achievement gap among black students.  H’mong boys are also difficult.  And so the public school fails at educating them.  And Latinos.  And ESL students.  And special ed.   And kids who just plain don’t learn well under the tradictional “sit your butt in the chair and learn what the curriculum planner tells you to learn, when she tells you to learn it” model of education.

Here’s what else I know – something Rob Levine is too disingenuous, or incurious, to find out for himself.  I know most of the specific schools in the Strib article Levine cites.  And I can Google:

  • East High School – No school by that name is listed in the directory of state charter schools.  If it’s East Range Technical, in Eveleth, it’s a school that deals largely with high school kids that have had trouble in traditional schools.   Do you suppose Rob Levine knows this?
  • Four Directions Charter School – a Minneapolis charter that serves the city’s Native American community.  Have you seen Minneapolis’ achievement gap for Native Americans?  The dropout rate?  I’m guessing Rob  Levine doesn’t.
  • High School for Recording Arts, a St. Paul charter that tries to reach inner-city youth through music education.
  • Hmong College Prep Academy High School, one of many schools serving the H’mong community; the public schools have an especially hard time with H’mong boys.
  • New Spirit Primary School is a Frogtown primary school – just up the street from Maxfield elementary, where my daughter went to first grade (with an excellent teacher), and which is also on the “failing” list.
  • New Visions Charter School, in Northeast Minneapolis, serves disabled kids.
  • Riverway Secondary, a Winona school with a 70 percent poverty rate.
  • Rochester Off-Campus Charter High – it’s an alternative charter for kids who’ve had one academic or personal crisis or another; among its listed “resources” is a crisis nursery.
  • Transitions Senior High, located in Minneapolis’ down-market Phillips neighborhood, serves an extremely poor clientele.
  • Unity Campus is a North Minneapolis charter that serves a very low-income clientele.
  • Urban Academy Charter School is a Saint Paul charter that serves kids who’ve cratered in the public system.

So there you have it; the 11 charter schools on the state’s list are ones that serve students, and neighborhoods, and populations that the regular system fails at, too.  Look at the Strib article Levine referenced; practically every failing charter has a public-school neighbor, serving a similar population, that is also failing!

Of course, “look at the failing charters” is a cheap out for those who just know what they think even though they don’t bother to look at the issue all that hard.  Two years ago, I compared apples to apples, comparing charters with their neighboring public schools, weighted for low-income, Engish as a Second Language (ESL) and special ed.  In most  cases charters do just as well and, in many, cases, better (the embattled Tariq Ibn Ziyad Muslim charter, whose students are mostly poor and ESL, has among the best test scores in the state).   And the really good charters – like the dozen or so in the “Friends of Education” chain, serving both well-off and desperately poor clienteles – routinely clobber their public neighbors.

I got that through “research” – or, as Rob Levine calls it, “sophistry”, I guess.

Look – the point isn’t to get into endless whizzing matches with lesser bloggers like Levine.  He may be a perfectly fine human being.  I’m not sure if he has kids in school; he doesn’t write like someone who does, but I’ve been wrong before.

The point is, we parents who chose charter schools did it for a reason.  Rob Levine would have you believe that reason is “stupidity”.  Feel free to make that case to a room full of charter parents, if you’d like; you’ll more likely find that they are more involved than your typical roomful of public school parents.

Do some charters fail?  Of course; some of them spectacularly, and for nefarious reasons.  For some, that’s a law-enforcement matter.  As it should be.  Have some been complete frauds?  Sure – you put government money out there, and not everyone who shows up for a share is going to be honest.  They’re not the perfect solution;

Just the best one many of us can afford.

Do some charters struggle academically?  Of course.  And in some cases, it’s because the schools aren’t that good.  Just like some public schools are terrible; let me tell you about Saint Paul Central High School for a while (or, for that matter, Gordon Parks High – here, here, here or here, if you want to see your public school dollars at work).  Levine’s main point, to the extent that he makes one, is simply regurgitating the banal obvious, and then mocking people who don’t pat him on the head and say “thanks, Rob, that was a very special list of stuff everyone knows!  Have a cookie!”.

But if the  Minnesota Department of Education, and for that matter anyone on either side of the charter school question, want to get to some meaningful information, here’s what they should try; instead of measuring schools, they should measure individual students, comparing their public and charter school performances over a significant period of time.  Because given that charter schools take a large percentage of kids with whom the traditional public schools have failed, singly and as groups, and that charters don’t have the rug of the “Alternative Learning Centers” to sweep the kids they can’t reach under, it’s a given that charters, considered broadly, are going to suffer in aggregate numbers.  But aggregating individual students’ improvement (or deterioration, I suppose) over time would give you an actual accurate picture of what charters, or at least the majority that are good, are doing.  It’d help you find out why parents drive their kids from Prior Lake to attend Avalon, on University Avenue in Saint Paul, or from Forest Lake to go to General Vessey in Inver Grove Heights, or from White Bear to go to Nova Academy in Highland Park.

That would take effort, of course. Name-calling is much easier – and won’t get people razzing you at “Drinking Liberally“.  Some people would prefer to stick with the name-calling, the context-mangling, the regurgitation of statistics that can not possibly tell the real story.

Which of these is Rob Levine?

Hope springs eternal.

I’m more likely to get that third date with Scarlett Johannson, but that’s the nature of hope.

More Of The Same

Nearly one Minneapolis public school family out of four has decettamped from the Minneapolis Public Schools, to either the suburbs (either relocating or merely sending kids to school there, under the state’s open enrollment law),  private or parochial schools, or in many cases charter schools.  In Saint Paul, it’s closer to one out of eight; either way, that’s a lot of parents who’ve decided that the public school system just doesn’t do the job for them.

I was one of them.  I pulled my kids out of the public system five years ago.  With one of my children, the big public high school just didn’t pack the gear.  With the other, it was more like child abuse.

The big statistic is this; in the inner city, charter school students in the inner city are very predominantly minority, poor, and speak English as a second language.  Their parents – like me, only black and H’mong and Latino, and with serious complaints about the achievement gap – are among the most passionate advocated for charter schools you can possibly find.

And they – we – having been voting with our feet.  And the Teachers Unions hate it when families get uppity.

The Teachers Union and the DFL (pardon the redundancy) appear to be starting one of their periodic orgies of attacking charter schools, and is apparently yelling “Jump”; Kackel Dackel at Cucking Stool, a dutiful leftyblogger, yells “off what?”:

“Charter schools are designed to boost student achievement” says the advertisement. That put me in mind of a post that Rob wrote last spring:

Charter schools crash and burn in Minnesota

(The link is to a Rob Levine piece that notes that, yes, some charter schools have closed ignominiously.  Some schools’ sponsors or administraitons got in over their heads.  Some did their best, but the rules are just plain tighter for charters.  And yes, when you put government money out there, some shylocks will find ways to take it; inner-city DFL political correctness certainly played a role; that is a story worth an entire article on its own.

According to Rob’s post (and statistics from the Minnesota Department of Education in it), charters fail at a rate seven times greater than public schools in Minnesota.

Which, if you think about it, is a really pointless statistic.  Charter schools can fail – and sometimes they do.  They have no safety net.  If they are badly-managed, they can close – as Bill Cooper’s “Friends of Education” did with one of their schools that didn’t pack the gear – or can be shut down by the Department of Education.  What happens when a district school, or an entire district is badly-managed?  They ram through a tax levy (and if the DFL gets its way, they won’t even have to ram it past voters) and fix things.  If the failure is academic, they waddle through the interminable “No Child Left Behind” system, with years on probation and, eventually, a “closing” that resembles a shell game more than a sheriff’s sale.  Public school districts can even declare bankruptcy, and reorganize (at exquisite taxpayer expense); if a charter school goes bankrupt, it’s done.

How about academic failure?  Public high schools are insulated from failure by the “Area Learning Center” system; kids who are dragging down the curve and who don’t drop out are shunted off the books to “ALCs”, where their grades don’t count against the school’s, and district’s, averages; they’re the district’s mulligans.  Charter schools – which, contrary to some lefty propaganda, don’t get to pick and choose their students – have to work with what they’ve got.  Before the Department of Education can shut things down, the parents often largely vote with their feet, again.

It’s easy for a charter school to fail.  It’s very, very hard for a public school to fail.

So who writes this propaganda? The website listed is Although its primary purpose seems to be lobbying, it’s a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit, with just under six million dollars in gross receipts for 2009. There is no information in the linked 990 identifying donors, and the website is likewise silent.

Worth looking into, don’t you think?

No, not really.  I mean, big whoop; non-profits set up a non-profit to publicize themselves.  (But do you know whose donors would be interesting to uncover? I digress)

But while Kackel Dackel is interesting in badgering those he disagrees with, and it’s never really all that interesting, he’s really left a big rhetorical clinker hanging out there; the implication that charters really don’t boost student achievement.  The Department of Education – and teachers-union flak groups, like “MN2020” – periodically publish “studies” showing that charter schools lag the public schools’ achievement.

These “studies” always, invariably, without exception fail to control for demographics; every single one compares apples with axles.  They also fail to control for motivation; many families go to charter schools after the public school system has nearly extinguished their kids’ interest in learning and given up on them.  Fortunately, I did that, at least in part – in response to one of MN2020’s endless, Teachers-Union-funded hit pieces, I compared apples to apples.  And then I did it again.

More in coming weeks, as the DFL/Unions/their pet non-profits/the leftyblog chanting party ramps up the attack.