"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, November 30, 2023

"Non-profit" Hospitals (see Ascension) Shift Mission from Community Service to $erving Corporate $elf.

There's an interesting op-ed in the NYTimes today on the failure of non-profit hospitals to live up to their mission required by the IRS in order to maintain their non-profit status.  

My own experience with the non-profit Ascension St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville has convinced me that their mission is focused on building a corporate empire that pays massive salaries to execs, while providing the Church with funds, perhaps, to, um, settle lawsuits?

I spent the better part of a year trying to talk with someone in billing about inflated bills that my insurance company assured me and Ascension that I did not owe. Every time I found a different number to call in hopes of getting my billing questions answered, I ended up talking to poor underpaid English language learner employee in the Phillippines.  I found out after repeated attempts that Ascension St. Thomas has entirely dismantled their billing department in the Nashville area since becoming part of the Ascension corporate chain of hospitals.

After writing numerous letters threatening legal action to stop the fake statements, the bills finally stopped.  Will they begin again?  Who knows. 

I do know that I have had my voluminous medical records moved to another medical provider with different doctors.  I regret leaving some of my old docs, but what can a person do who is trying to preserve his sanity?

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Part 2: TN Voucher "Plan" Features Big Government with No Fiscal or Program Accountability

As promised in Part 1 yesterday, Gov. Bill Lee announced his latest planned school voucher scam in Nashville.  Alongside him was fellow unholy-rolling governor, Sarah H. Sanders of Arkansas infamy. 

Today I would like to present some research findings that clearly show the negative effects of school voucher programs on student achievement and student well-being. We know that Bill Lee and his Tennessee Taliban legislative supermajority don't, or can't, read research, but I am hoping that someone will translate the findings into something they might understand: Them voucher thangs ain't workin'.

Some clips are below from Brookings, which includes links to the research studies, themselves:

Part of the push for ESA vouchers comes from the lingering frustration over the pandemic-era school closures and concern over learning loss as measured by standardized tests. But on that question, the last decade of research on traditional vouchers strongly suggests they actually lower academic achievement. In Louisiana, for example, two separate research teams found negative academic impacts as high as -0.4 standard deviations—extremely large by education policy standards—with declines that persisted for years. Those results were published across top journals for empirical public and education policy. Similar results in Indiana found impacts closer to -0.15 standard deviations. To put these negative impacts in perspective: Current estimates of COVID-19’s impact on academic trajectories hover around -0.25 standard deviations.

 Another link, with Executive Summary below:

Executive Summary
Vouchers to pay for students to attend private schools continue to command public attention. The current administration has proposed vouchers in its budget, and more than half of states are operating or have proposed voucher programs. Four recent rigorous studies—in the District of Columbia, Louisiana, Indiana, and Ohio—used different research designs and reached the same result: on average, students that use vouchers to attend private schools do less well on tests than similar students that do not attend private schools. The Louisiana and Indiana studies offer some hints that negative effects may diminish over time. Whether effects ever will become positive is unclear. Test scores are not the only education outcome and some observers have downplayed them, citing older evidence that voucher programs increase high school graduation and college-going. We lack evidence that the current generation of voucher programs will yield these longer-term outcomes. We also lack evidence of how public schools and private schools differ in their instructional and teaching strategies that would explain negative effects on test scores. Both questions should be high on the research agenda.

From Time Magazine, with a clip below:

And it’s not just the academic results that call into question any rhetoric around opportunities created by vouchers. Private schools can decline to admit children for any reason. One example of that is tied to the latest culture wars around LGBTQ youth, and strengthened in current voucher legislation. In Florida, a voucher-funded school made national news last summer when it banned LGBTQ children. In Indiana, pre-pandemic estimates showed that more than $16 million in taxpayer funding had already gone to voucher schools with explicit anti-LGBTQ admissions rules.

Voucher schools also rarely enroll children with special academic needs. Special education children tend to need more resources than vouchers provide, which can be a problem in public schools too. But public schools are at least obliged under federal law to enroll and assist special needs children—something private schools can and do avoid.

When we look at all the challenges to accessing education with these programs it’s clear that actually winning admission to a particular private school is not about parental school choice. It’s the school’s choice.


Tuesday, November 28, 2023

TN Voucher "Plan" Features Big Government with No Fiscal or Program Accountability

Each of ruby red states in the new Old Confederacy has its own niche attraction for Westerners and Northerners looking to move to a fascist-friendly community where narrowness of thought is highly valued if it happens to run in the same rut as the white male protestant power structure.  While all of the red states offer haven for white nationalists, anti-intellectuals, and conspiracy theorists, Florida is particularly attractive to those angry anti-vaxxers and anti-wokesters, while states like Tennessee and Arkansas draw thousands of Christian nationalist transplants each year who would be happy to jettison Constitutional guarantees against the establishment of a state religion. And as long anti-social media remains unhindered from expanding financial empires based the perpetuation of ignorance, divisiveness, and toxic myth, then the state of the Union will continue to suffer, even as disunion grows like cancer.

As Tennessee's governor, Bill Lee, seeks to further promote immigration of white Christians, a top governmental priority is the provision of state funds for parents to enroll their children in religious schools or other private schools at public expense. And so today, Lee will announce a proposed new program that will offer 20,000 parents next year a school voucher worth about $7,000 for tuition, books, uniforms, etc. In 2025-26, Lee plans to include all of 1 million students in Tennessee who are now eligible for free public schools, "regardless of income or previous school enrollment."

Now when we do a little back of the envelope math, you can see that the cost during the first year is going to run the State $140,000,000 on top of the normal allocation for public schools, including transportation, lunches, construction, maintenance, libraries, salaries, etc. 

Let's assume, after Year One, that 10 percent of the State's school-age parents decide to choose vouchers over public schools, where their kids now have athletic teams, theater, music, special ed, technical education--most of which will go bye-bye when their children enroll in the old Pizza Hut at the strip mall that has been turned into the Bill Lee Christian Nationalist Elementary School of Lee (Robert E.) County.

It's easy to see that the cost would be over the moon--$700,000,000 every year for 10 percent of TN's school children. That would be almost 15 percent of TN's contribution to the annual K-12 budget. All the while, the State must continue to fund the public schools that are not going away just because they lose 10 percent of the student body.  And it will lose most of the federal funding for the 100,000 students who end up in private schools.

What new taxes will be imposed on Tennesseans to pay for this fantasy thought disorder? 

And what about curriculum and standards?  

What about teacher qualifications?

Is Bill Lee prepared to put a resource officer in each of the Christian madrassas that he plans to open, just like in the public schools? 

Does Bill Lee have a plan to make sure children gain the necessary academic, social, and life skills to succeed at work and/or to go to college? 

Where's the accountability? Where is Bill Lee's and the Republican Supermajority's accountability?

It is way past time for the teacher unions, parents, grandparents, and other concerned citizens to fight, fight, fight the further erosion of another of our cherished institutions: public schools.  Let me know if you are engaged in an organized effort or would like to get involved: 




Monday, November 27, 2023

Portland Settles Teacher Strike with Big Gains

After 3 weeks of walking picket lines with parents and children, Portland's public school teachers have reached a tentative agreement that brings them much needed resources.  A clip below from The Guardian

“This contract is a watershed moment for Portland students, families and educators,” said Angela Bonilla, the president of the Portland Teachers Association. “Educators have secured improvements on all our key issues … Educators walked picket lines alongside families, students and allies – and because of that, our schools are getting the added investment they need.”

The deal would provide educators with a 13.8% cumulative cost-of-living increase over the next three years and about half of all educators would earn an extra 10.6% from yearly step increases, PPS said. The agreement would also add classroom time for elementary and middle grades starting next year and increase teacher planning time by 90 minutes each week for elementary and middle-aged classrooms.

The district would also triple the number of team members dedicated to supporting students’ mental and emotional health.