Mark Your Calendars, Folks!

The United States Supreme Court has set the date for oral argument in Janus v. AFSCME, a case that could have far-reaching implications for the nation’s public employee unions, including the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association.

On Wednesday, the court announced the case will be heard February 26th.

The petitioner, Mark Janus, works for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services and is part of a bargaining unit represented by the American Federation Of State, County, and Municipal Employees. Although he is not a member of the union, under Illinois law, Janus is required to pay monthly “agency fees” to AFSCME to cover a “proportionate share of the costs of the collective bargaining process, contract administration and pursuing matters affecting wages, hours and other conditions of employment.”

Mark Janus is challenging compulsory agency fee laws in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Janus argues that these mandatory fees violate his First Amendment rights because he is compelled to support the union even though he disagrees with their political positions. On the other side, public employee unions argue that agency fees are needed to avoid the “free rider” problem – i.e., non-members receiving benefits provided by union contracts, but not paying for them.

Janus wants the Supreme Court to overturn its 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, a case brought by a Detroit public school teacher who challenged a Michigan law that required him to pay agency fees to the Detroit Federation of Teachers (in an amount equivalent to the union’s dues), even though he refused to join the union. Like Janus, Abood argued that the mandatory fees were unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds.

Listen: Oral arguments in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977)

But the Supreme Court, seeking middle ground between individual and collective rights, unanimously ruled that states could require public employees to pay agency fees, so long as they only covered the costs of collective bargaining. This meant Abood and other non-union teachers in Detroit couldn’t be charged the same amount as full union members, but they still had to pony up for the work the union did to negotiate and enforce the contract.

Screenshot from Education Next

In the 21 states that currently have mandatory agency fee laws, unions determine how much they spend on political activities in their overall budget and then deduct that percentage from their standard dues rate, which generally means that agency-fee payers end up contributing around 20% less than full union members. Because agency fees don’t provide a significant discount, many individuals feel compelled to join the union so they at least have a voice in the union’s decisions and direction.

Obviously, the composition of the Court has changed in the past 40 years, but subsequent decisions since have also provided an opening for Janus to overturn Abood. In fact, a five-member majority of the Supreme Court was expected to reverse Abood last year in a similar case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. But Justice Antonin Scalia died halfway through the term, resulting in a rare 4-4 split decision.

The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1977 (top) and the current court.

Nevertheless, with the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to replace Scalia on the Supreme Court, it’s improbable that public employee unions will be so lucky this time.

What will happen to AFT, NEA and their affiliates if the Supreme Court overturns Abood? They’re certainly not going to disappear, although it is likely that they will see a significant drop in membership (and revenue) in the absence of mandatory agency fees. Moreover, as Derrell Bradford recently wrote in The Seventy-Four, Janus could allow reform-minded Democratic politicians to support education policies that are in the best interests of children and families, without having to fear a well-funded backlash from the teachers unions.

“With the deep pockets of the teachers unions potentially compromised, maybe accepting underperforming schools and iron-clad work rules in return for campaign cash doesn’t have to be the default position anymore,” Bradford says. “Maybe the NEA and AFT having less of it will lead to a wealth of something else: good decisionmaking — particularly on education — by members of the party whose key constituency is supposed to be ‘the little guy.'”

Let’s hope so.

To read more about the Janus v. AFSCME case, check out SCOTUS Blog, which has more information than you could ever want to know.

Read Mark Janus’ petition for writ of certiorari:


Bill de Blasio Goes Full Bloomberg

Back in 2014, newly-elected New York Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled his “School Renewal” program to improve 94 of the city’s perennially failing schools. Under the plan, these so-called Renewal Schools would receive a massive increase in funding and additional resources to allow them to become “community schools,” a model that the teachers unions have been heavily promoting in recent years.

The Mayor’s plan represented a decisive shift away from the policies of his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, who closed dozens of persistently failing schools across the city during his 12 years in office. De Blasio was a vocal critic of the closures, claiming that the Bloomberg Administration “abruptly shut down” struggling schools “with too much reliance on test scores in making the decision and not enough effort to save them.”

Parents and community members protest the closure of C.S. 300 in the Bronx.

But three years and $582 million dollars later, Bill de Blasio is tacitly acknowledging that the Renewal Schools program hasn’t worked and is falling back on Bloomberg’s tough-love approach to dealing with the lowest performers.

On Monday, the Mayor announced that the NYC Department of Education would shutter or merge 14 Renewal Schools at the end of the academic year. As Politico pointed out, this means that de Blasio will have closed more than “a third of the original 94 schools in the program.” An additional 21 Renewal Schools that have met at least two-thirds of their performance goals will transition out of the program in the spring, while continuing to receive additional resources and support.

Although New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña denies it, many observers see the closures as an indication that the district is phasing out the Renewal Schools experiment (an interpretation bolstered by the fact that officials haven’t added any new schools to the program, either).

The Renewal Schools program is the first thing De Blasio has killed since that poor groundhog in 2014.

You can read more about Mayor de Blasio’s school closure announcement and what it means for his Renewal Schools program at:


DCPS Needs An Independent Investigation Into Grad Standards

Last month, I had the opportunity to hear D.C. Public Schools Superintendent Antwan Wilson speak at Democrats for Education Reform‘s annual conference in Washington. He spoke about how his own education had impacted his life, recounted the progress DCPS has made over the past several years, and made clear that he intended to continue and build upon the reforms of his predecessors.

“Young people need to be prepared for opportunities they will have,” Wilson said. “We do that through excellence, equity, and love.”

I couldn’t agree with him more and that’s why it’s been disappointing to see how Wilson and other DCPS officials have responded to revelations that administrators at Ballou High School handed out diplomas to scores of students who hadn’t met the district’s graduation requirements.

As noted in a previous post, when WAMU reporter Kate McGee first confronted Wilson with evidence that Ballou teachers and administrators had ignored excessive absences and changed students’ grades to make them eligible to graduate, he abruptly ended the interview. Subsequent DCPS statements on the unfolding scandal sought to minimize the issue, as if the unethical conduct at Ballou was no big deal.

But after McGee’s investigation ended up on NPR’s All Things Considered, DCPS could no longer ignore the problem. Over the past two weeks, Supt. Wilson has launched an internal investigation into the allegations and reassigned Ballou’s principal, Yetunde Reeves.

Nevertheless, Wilson continues to downplay the seriousness of the situation. At a day-long meeting of the D.C. City Council on Friday, he acknowledged that Ballou and other high schools in the district had graduated students with chronic absences (for example, half of Ballou’s graduating class last year had missed at least 30 days of school), but he also attempted to make excuses for those involved.

“I believe that our students earned their diplomas by reaching a level of mastery deemed appropriate by our teachers,” Wilson told council members. “I believe that educators did what they needed to do based on the circumstances that they are in.”

No one would deny that educators at Ballou and other DCPS schools face considerable challenges, but that doesn’t mean they can totally disregard district policy and hand out diplomas to students who didn’t earn them. The fact that Wilson would suggest otherwise does not bode well for the district’s future under his leadership.

On Wednesday, the D.C. State Board of Education will consider a resolution calling for an independent investigation of the district’s graduation protocols. Given the district’s reluctance to acknowledge the problem, the board should endorse the measure. A full and unbiased accounting of the extent of the problems uncovered at Ballou are needed so schools won’t be able to manipulate their graduation rates in the future.


Are Educators Skeptical Of Charters Because They’re Blind To Inequality?

On Monday, Education Week released the results of a new survey gauging the political perceptions and behaviors of educators across the country.

The finding that drew headlines was that respondents overwhelmingly opposed charter schools, with 45% “Completely Opposed” to charters and another 26% “Somewhat Opposed.”

Screenshot from Education Week.

Although I think the wording of the charter school question may have skewed the results a bit (after all, “Somewhat Opposed” and “Somewhat Support” are two ways of saying the same thing, like a glass half-empty or half-full), it’s not surprising that a majority are skeptical of charters, since most of the survey participants work in traditional public schools.

Why would anyone expect them to endorse their competition?

On the other hand, the response to another question (one that didn’t get attention) is actually surprising and should be cause for concern. The survey asked participants: “To what extent do you agree or disagree that students of color have the same educational opportunities as whites in our country?” Astonishingly, more than half of respondents said that students of color have the same opportunities as their white peers.

Screenshot from Education Week.

How could so many teachers, principals, and superintendents believe that minority students have equal educational opportunities, when study after study has shown that minority students are disproportionately suspended and expelled from school? How could they be unaware of the statistics that show clear racial disparities in graduation rates and college attendance? Although the achievement gap has been at the center of our national conversation on education for decades, many educators seem blissfully (or intentionally?) unaware of it. It’s dumbfounding.

At the same time, this may help explain why so many educators across the country take a dim view of charter schools, most of which enroll low-income students of color who have been underserved by the traditional public school system. If you have deluded yourself into believing that things in traditional district schools are fine for kids of color, then of course there isn’t any need for charter schools.


The Teachers Unions’ Newest Weapon: Helicopter Parents

Most adults would be embarrassed if their parents showed up at their place of employment to chastise their bosses over how they were being treated at work, but apparently that’s not the case for a teachers union leader in Chelmsford Public Schools, a small district northwest of Boston.

Late last month, Jennifer Salmon, president of the Chelmsford Federation of Teachers (an affiliate of AFT), was placed on administrative leave while district officials investigated an altercation at Harrington Elementary School, where she works as a third grade teacher.

AFT might want to rethink their motto, “A Union of Professionals.”

On November 21st, Salmon asked Harrington interim principal Patricia Tobin and district Director of Student Support Services Amy Reese to meet to discuss a situation involving a first grade teacher and her student. Reese denied the request, explaining, “In your role as union president and parent at Harrington you are not entitled to student-related confidential information.” At the same time, Reese told Salmon that she would happy to meet with the first grade teacher directly to discuss the matter.

Nevertheless, Salmon and AFT field representative Eric Blanchet showed up at Harrington Elementary the next morning to confront Tobin and demand that she meet with them. When Tobin refused, Blanchet flew off-the-handle, got in her face and started screaming at her. Feeling threatened, Tobin left the room to call district Superintendent Jay Lang, who soon arrived at the school and informed Blanchet and Salmon that the police had been called.

From left: Interim Principal Patricia Tobin, AFT field representative Eric Blanchet, and Superintendent Jay Lang

According to the police report of the incident, officers arrived at Harrington Elementary to find Blanchet and Lang in the midst of a heated argument and needed to separate the two men. Harrington’s School Resource Officer subsequently told police that he saw Blanchet put his hands on Lang “2-3 times,” although Lang declined to press charges. When the reporting officer found Tobin, her “eyes were red and puffy” and she was “obviously upset.” Police eventually escorted Blanchet off the property, as well Salmon, who Lang placed on administrative leave (i.e., paid) pending an investigation.

AFT adds insult to injury and mom steps in

You might expect that the first thing AFT officials would do is apologize for Blanchet’s unhinged behavior. After all, most organizations (outside of the Mafia, Yakuza, etc.) would be appalled to learn one of their employees went on a tirade at an elementary school and got in a physical altercation with a public official. You might also expect that the second thing they would do is fire Blanchet.

AFT hasn’t done either of these things. Instead, the union has gone on the offensive and launched a statewide national campaign to portray Salmon as a victim. According to the Lowell Sun, AFT president Randi Weingarten and AFT Massachusetts head Tom Gosnell sent an email to members calling on them to rally to Salmon’s defense. As a result, dozens of AFT members from Chelmsford and surrounding communities showed up to a School Committee meeting earlier this month to demand Salmon’s reinstatement. Things quickly got out of hand and School Committee chair Al Thomas had to ask the police to clear the board room.

AFT president Randi Weingarten and AFT Massachusetts president Tom Gosnell

Salmon was subsequently allowed to return to work on December 6th, but not before AFT filed a unfair labor practices complaint against the district with the Massachusetts Department of Labor.

Still, the union backlash isn’t over. Yesterday, Salmon’s mother, Pina Maggio, who is a teachers union vice-president (no joke) in the neighboring town of Lowell, announced she filed paperwork to recall Chelmsford School Committee member John Moses over accusations that he leaked information about her daughter’s role in the dustup at Harrington Elementary. (It also probably didn’t help that he accused fellow Committee member Barbara Skaar – godmother to one of Salmon’s children – of corruption and “working for the union” at that rowdy meeting earlier this month.) If Maggio and her supporters are successful in collecting the required signatures, the recall vote could be held as soon as April.

From left: Pina Maggio, John Moses, and Barbara Skaar

Bullying, intimidation, political retribution. These are the tactics being used by AFT’s affiliates in Massachusetts – with the full encouragement of Randi Weingarten – to bend district officials to their will. Given the facts in this case, I’d say it’s time that AFT replaced their motto, “A Union of Professionals.”

Read the police report on the incident at Harrington Elementary:


Val Strauss Dresses Up Union Propaganda As Research (Again)

Washington Post reporter blogger Valerie Strauss has a new piece up on the Answer Sheet (OK, she didn’t write the piece – surprise! – but she did write the intro for it) that just so happens to mirror the teachers unions’ messaging around community schools (and takes a swipe at U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in the process – two birds, one stone!).

The bulk of the post was actually written by Julia DanielAnna Maier, and Jeannie Oakes, the co-authors of a “new study” (“new” in that it came out in June) on community schools published by the Learning Policy Institute, which Strauss admiringly notes, “was founded by the renowned Stanford University educator Linda Darling-Hammond and conducts independent, high-quality research to improve education policy and practice.”

Their essay is essentially a sales pitch for community schools that uses the example of Oakland International High School, a small (380 enrolled in 2014-15) school that primarily serves English-language learners, to illustrate the benefits of the model. However, contrary to the claims of the authors, there isn’t much evidence to support the contention that community schools are any better than charter or traditional district schools at raising student achievement.

From left: Valerie Strauss, Julia Daniel, Anna Maier, Jeannie Oakes

In their study (which isn’t actually a study, but a subjective summary of other people’s research), Daniel, Maier, and Oakes found that “across the 143 well-designed studies we examined, we found all four features key to improving student engagement and learning.” Note that they say they found the four features that they consider integral to improving student learning – those are inputs, not outputs. In addition, most of the “well-designed studies” the authors cite in their bibliography are either extremely limited in scope (assessing an individual or small group of schools) or only tangentially related to community schools.

Plus, the outcomes they cite from Oakland International are of questionable provenance. For example, while the authors claim that “careful internal tracking of the five-year graduation rate for the class of 2015 shows a 72 percent success rate,” it’s unclear exactly where that “internally tracked” five-year (I thought it was four?) graduation rate comes from. I mention this because data from Oakland Unified School District shows that nearly half of the Class of 2015 dropped out of school.

Screenshot from the Oakland Unified School District website.

They also claim that 51% of OIHS students passed the “A-G” courses required to attend California’s state universities, “compared to 24 percent of their English learner peers districtwide and 46 percent of all Oakland Unified School District students.” The only problem is that the 51% figure they cite includes both ELL and regular education students. A closer examination of the data reveals that the passing rate for ELL students was actually only 45% (and the districtwide ELL rate was 26%, not 24% as the authors claimed).

Screenshots from the Oakland Unified School District website.

Now, guess who put up the money for this research?

It just so happens that there might be a reason why this research is so misleading: it was largely funded by the teachers unions.

As I’ve documented previously, AFT and NEA have been heavily promoting community schools as an alternative to charter schools over the past few years, in part, because they dovetail with their “poverty trumps education” argument (i.e., you can’t hold schools and teachers accountable for the achievement of low-income children) and would require a massive increase in education funding to scale out.

AFT & NEA have been heavily promoting community schools as an alternative to charters.

Although Strauss noted in her intro that Daniel, Maier, and Oakes’ study was published by the Learning Policy Institute, she neglected to mention that it was actually co-published with the National Education Policy Center, a stridently anti-reform think tank at the University of Colorado at Boulder that has received at least $1.5 million from AFT and NEA in the past five years.

From the cover page of the research brief.

The fine print in the study also reveals that this research (loosely defined) was “made possible in part by funding to NEPC from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, which has received over $1.45 million from AFT, NEA, and their affiliates since 2012.

The fine print

In fact, nearly all of the Great Lakes Center’s funding comes from the teachers unions. According to their latest IRS 990, the Center reported revenues of $371,000 in F.Y. 2015. Annual filings with the U.S. Department of Labor show that AFT and NEA unions contributed at least $300,000 to the Great Lakes Center that same year.

In sum, AFT and NEA spends a lot of money to produce (university-affiliated) faux research like this community schools study – but thanks to Valerie Strauss, they get to advertise it for free!

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of a series of periodic posts looking at the anti-reform propaganda published by Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post.


The Two Superdelegates That Democrats Should Cut Loose

A committee established to reform the Democratic presidential nomination process has formally proposed that the party dramatically slash the number of “superdelegates” ahead of the 2020 election.

On Saturday, the Unity Reform Commission, which was established following the contentious 2016 primary contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, approved a series of recommendations aimed at making presidential nominations fairer and more transparent, including the elimination of approximately 400 superdelegates (or about 60% of the total).

Superdelegates are at-large members of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) who vote for the party’s presidential nominee at its quadrennial national convention. Unlike pledged delegates, who are elected and required to cast their ballots for the candidate who won the primary or caucus in their respective states, superdelegates are selected by the DNC and are free to vote for any candidate they choose.

Supporters of Bernie Sanders said the nominating process was “rigged” because superdelegates largely backed Hillary Clinton.

Although only 15% of the delegates at the 2016 Democratic National Convention were superdelegates, a large majority of them backed Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. That’s why many in the Sanders-wing of the party have denounced superdelegates as an undemocratic way of giving establishment candidates (i.e., Clinton) an advantage over insurgents (see: Sanders) in the nominating process.

The Unity Commission’s recommendations still need the approval of two-thirds of the Democratic National Committee, but if the party decides to slash its superdelegate ranks, I would suggest they start with AFT president Randi Weingarten and NEA president Lily Eskelsen García.

Weingarten and García were among 75 new at-large DNC members appointed by party chair Tom Perez in October. Sanders supporters harshly criticized the appointments, noting that many of the new members-at-large were prominent supporters of Clinton’s campaign.

DNC chair Tom Perez appointed Randi Weingarten and Lily Eskelsen García as superdelegates in October.

Thus, it makes sense that Perez included Weingarten and García, since both engaged in extensive behind-the-scenes maneuvering to ensure that their respective unions endorsed Clinton. They also took serious flak from rank-and-file members who felt that AFT and NEA’s endorsements of Clinton were all but predetermined.1

In any case, there are several reasons why Weingarten and García shouldn’t be superdelegates. For one thing, they failed to deliver the votes of their members to Hillary Clinton in the general election. According to Greg Toppo at USA Today, internal union surveys revealed that one-third of NEA members and one-fifth of AFT members voted for Donald Trump.

Furthermore, Weingarten and García’s actions demonstrate that they put the interests of their unions ahead of those of the Democratic Party. Last summer, Weingarten used her role on the DNC’s Platform Committee to amend the party’s official position on education. The resulting language, which attacked charter schools and standardized testing, amounted to a repudiation of the Obama Administration’s education policies and caused an uproar among Democratic reformers.

Meanwhile, under García’s leadership, the National Education Association has tried to use its influence to alienate pro-reform Democrats within the party. Late last year, I published a series of stories about a secret, NEA-backed group that was trying to establish a moratorium on charter schools in Louisiana. Among the documents I uncovered was a resolution, passed by the California Democratic Party in 2013, which attacked Democrats for Education Reform as a front for Republicans and their corporate interests. The group I exposed wanted to get the Louisiana Democratic Party to adopt a similar statement modeled on the California resolution.2

At a time when the party needs to come together to defeat Donald Trump, Randi Weingarten and Lily Eskelsen García have instead tried to score political points at the expense of their fellow Democrats. They shouldn’t be rewarded for that behavior with prominent positions in the Democratic Party hierarchy. If the DNC is serious about “being inclusive and welcoming to all” they should adopt the Unity Reform Commission’s recommendations and jettison Randi and Lily in the process.

  1. Weingarten, in particular, received withering criticism for getting AFT to issue an early endorsement of Clinton. In fact, according to emails released by Wikileaks, Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta reached out to offer support to Weingarten in the midst of the blowback, telling her: “Let me know directly if there is more we can do to deflect some of the heat your [sic] feeling.” 
  2. Full disclosure: I serve on the advisory board of DFER Louisiana, although the thoughts expressed here are my own

All the Excuses A Quarter Million Dollars Can Buy

Do you know how far a quarter-million dollars goes in Albuquerque? Me neither, but I know someone who does: Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) superintendent, Raquel Reedy. Coming in at a mere 550% of our state’s median household income, Reedy is set to rake in more than Mayor Keller and Governor Martinez, combined. For a district constantly calling for more cash and mired in mediocrity, I find this a bit perplexing. At nearly 85,000 students, APS is one of the largest districts in the U.S. and surely a tough job, but I can’t help but think of last year when tough times called for … cutting middle school sports.

Superintendent Raquel Reedy

All this comes on the heels of the New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED) announcing this week that three APS elementary schools (Hawthorne, Los Padillas, and Whittier) have been identified for “more rigorous interventions”, which is a nice way of saying, “They’ve failed the students and adults in those buildings for longer than should be legal and it must stop.” As shown below, Whittier has only eleven students out of 347 who are on level for math. Imagine if one of these was your neighborhood zoned school and you had to send your child everyday hoping that they might be among the three percent of kids learning as they’re supposed to. Horrifying.

APS Elementaries for Intervention

As reported by the Albuquerque Journal, APS now has four options for each school:

  1. Close the school and enroll students in other area schools that are higher performing;
  2. Relaunch the school under a charter school operator that has been selected through a rigorous state or local review process;
  3. “Champion” parents’ option to move their children into higher-performing charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, online learning or homeschooling. This may also include the creation and expansion of state or local school voucher programs; or
  4. Significantly restructure and redesign the school through steps like extending instructional time, changing the staff to include only top-rated educators or adopting state-selected curriculum approaches.

Given the opportunity to overhaul these schools APS and Superintendent Reedy rolled up their sleeves and jumped at the opportunity, right? Hardly. In a statement to APS staffers this morning, Reedy writes:

It breaks my heart when a school is identified as failing. It’s no different than calling a child a failure, something a good educator would never do. Poor grades, even on a consistent basis, don’t define a student, nor do they define a school. Instead, they are indicators of problems that need to be identified and addressed.

Wow, let’s get this straight. Calling a school out as not serving students is the same as telling a student they’ve failed? Now that’s some backwards logic. If only three percent of students can do math, then yes that school is failing. And consistent poor grades should be worrisome, for schools and students alike. Schools don’t get As for effort, especially when these three schools have received Fs for the last six years. The “indicators of problems” have been there for more than half a decade, and for more than 1100 students a year with scant change to be seen.

I say Superintendent Reedy and all 33+ APS executives making more than $100k/year forego their salaries until every school rated D or F has a community-centered academic intervention plan in place with transparent accountability measures to track progress along the way.


A Huge Blind Spot In New Orleans Pre-K Study

The Education Research Alliance (ERA) at Tulane University is out with a new study looking at how New Orleans’ charter-based school reforms have impacted pre-kindergarten.

What did they find? Between the 2004-05 school year (the last full school year before Hurricane Katrina) and S.Y. 2014-15, the number of available school-based pre-k seats in New Orleans declined 34 percent. The authors of the study go on to conclude:

“New Orleans’ transition to an almost-all-charter school district resulted in a substantial reduction in school-based pre-K in the city. Our results suggest that insufficient incentives are in place for schools to invest their funds in pre-K in this decentralized setting of highly mobile students.”

As lead author Lindsay Weixler told The Lens, “The biggest takeaway for me is the mismatch between decentralized school governance and an optional program like pre-k.”1

Predictably, critics have seized upon this research to bash New Orleans’ school reforms.

But Weixler and her colleagues completely ignore a (blindingly obvious) alternative explanation for the decline in available pre-K seats in New Orleans: funding cuts. Nowhere does the ERA study mention that Louisiana’s LA4 program, which provides the bulk of the state’s pre-kindergarten funding for low-income students, suffered significant cuts during the period in question, thanks to the ruinous fiscal policies of former Governor Bobby Jindal.

In 2005, LA4 provided $4,916 per student to pre-k programs, which is the equivalent of $6,203 in 2017 dollars.

In 2005, Louisiana’s LA4 program provided $4,916 per-pupil, or about $6,203 in 2017 dollars.

Today, the LA4 program provides only $4,580 per student enrolled. Moreover, a 2012 overhaul of early education standards and requirements made pre-k programs more costly than they were in 2005.

Back in 2010, education journalist Sarah Carr, writing for the Times-Picayune, reported that LA4 funding cuts were making it nearly impossible for charters to provide pre-k programs. Those financial barriers haven’t eased in the intervening seven years.

Weixler and her co-authors not ignore the crucially important funding issue, but they unfairly insist New Orleans’ charter schools aren’t providing pre-K because they lack the incentives to do so. A look at the numbers, however, suggests the real problem is that many charters simply can’t afford it.

  1. Full disclosure: I worked with Lindsay Weixler for a period at Teach For America in 2005.