Monthly Archives: April 2017

A Voucher is a Voucher is a Voucher–And They’re All Wrong

This is a rant about school vouchers—which I oppose. And it’s a shaggy dog story of sorts. It ties together in my mind, so if you care at all about the former, I hope you will stick with the latter. Because Minnesota, in the Crazy Mixed Up World that is 2017, is actually entertaining the notion of sending tax dollars to private schools.

Calling them tax credits, or scholarships, doesn’t change the basic calculus. We are talking about sending public money—which people of myriad creeds contribute, because way back when we decided we were one nation, indivisible—to institutions that may decide to flaunt civil rights.

Not long ago, I was in Texas interviewing parents at, among other events, a school choice fair. I stopped at the booth of a school serving students on the autism spectrum that claimed to get great results via novel methods. After chatting with the school’s founder for a little while, I arranged a visit.

The school was private, not a public charter. Special ed is a notoriously bureaucratic corner of education. The decision to open a private school, he said, was driven by his and his colleagues’ desire to be free to adhere, unfettered, to their approach.

When I got to the school, all I could see were red flags. Texas-sized, fire-engine-red flags. Flags Christos could unfurl across a cattle barony big enough to encircle Delaware. I left. I hit one last taqueria. I flew home. Continue reading

Shooting Every Single Messenger—and Expecting the News to Change

Comes now the news that Minneapolis Public Schools’ communications chief has resigned some three months after her appointment.

Is this good news? Bad?

Who knows. Seriously.

When the news rolled in Monday I was in the process of wading through all 123 pages of the PowerPoint presented at the Minneapolis School Board’s March 28 meeting. I was in search of a particular factoid, and I was falling into a familiar rabbit hole.

The presentation had pages of graphs and charts showing increases in Minneapolis Public Schools graduation rates, including a long dissection of how better record-keeping contributed to the rise–but no actual numbers showing how much of the increase was the result of improved tracking.

There were also charts outlining the results of a survey that found—unbelievably and in total contradiction even to other data in the same presentation—that almost all families are thrilled with their children’s experiences with MPS, that they feel affirmed culturally and are asked for their feedback on the school’s operations on a regular basis.

Not surveyed: The third of Minneapolis families using public education who enroll their school-aged kids somewhere other than MPS—a percentage that rises to half on the north side.

And, the piece de resistance: a communications plan including the sharing of positive stories about MPS, “proactive communications and issues management” and an “eventual” marketing campaign aimed at retaining and recruiting families to district schools. Because none of that EVER occurred to communications regimes past. Continue reading