It’s Not About Winning and Losing

I live near a public pool. It’s a big pool with a water slide and some other playground equipment. On hot days it gets really busy. I have noticed that the pool at the country club isn’t nearly as busy.   It stuck me recently that it would be really cool if my state legislature would enact some legislation that would allow me to use public tax dollars to pay for my country club membership. I feel like I deserve to have a choice in the pool that I choose to go to and it seems unfair that I don’t have access to the country club pool, so I’m proposing that the state legislature assigns me a PSA (Pool Savings Account) that I can use to pay my membership at the country club.

I am also not sure that my house is safe enough. I know that our police department works very hard, but they are underfunded, understaffed, and may not be able to prevent potential crimes in my neighborhood. It strikes me that if I had private security on my property I would be much safer. I think it would be great if my legislators would enact some legislation that would allow me to use public tax dollars to allow me to hire private security to make my family safer.   I am calling on my legislators to create another PSA (Police Savings Account) that I can use to pay a private security company to protect my family and me.

That’s the road we are headed down in Iowa right? Iowa’s Republican legislators are proposing that public tax dollars be used to subsidize private schools. They are proposing that public tax dollars be funneled to schools that are not held to the same standards of our public schools. They are proposing that public tax dollars be spent to support religious schools. They are proposing that public tax dollars be spent on schools that get to pick and choose their student body.

Iowa Republicans are trying to sell the notion that there is an apples to apples comparison of what public schools are expected to do and private schools. The resources given to public schools are used to support all students.   The public schools I am proud to serve support students who speak many different languages, have a range of special needs, and come from an incredible range of socio-economic backgrounds. There is no application process by which we determine who gets to attend and who has to go somewhere else. There are great private schools in Iowa, but their mission isn’t the same as their public school counterparts. Koch Brothers lobbyist Drew Klein compares public and private schools to Chik Fil A and McDonalds, as though public schools are playing a game in which they are trying to turn a profit at the expense of another school. That’s where “school choice” proponents have this whole thing wrong. If you make public education about “winning” and “losing” then we are all going to lose.   You see, we would then have to decide what constitutes a “win”. I would argue that when we support our special needs students our community wins. I would argue that when we support our students whose first language isn’t English that our community wins. I would argue that when our schools open their doors to students who live in poverty and provide them with the tools necessary to succeed beyond our walls that our community wins. The problem is that that narrative doesn’t always prevail. The narrative that schools can be measured by standardized test scores is an easier sell. Our communities are going to be the losers if we enact policies that further increase the gap between the resources accessible to our students who are already privileged and our students who come to us with challenges that most of us can only imagine.

Vouchers are bad for Iowa. Don’t be fooled by the Koch Brother’s propaganda. Iowans who support public education have lost many battles in recent years, but this is one we can’t afford to lose.   If our legislators truly wanted better opportunities for ALL students they would fund our public schools at a level that allowed schools to create more opportunities. What they want is for more money to end up in the pockets of those who are already privileged. That’s not a win for Iowa.

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Iowa Has a Choice To Make

My father used to tell me not to “spit in the wind.”  Actually he didn’t say “spit”, but you get the idea.  For most of my life I have followed his advice, but for the last couple of years that’s exactly what I feel like I’ve been doing.  As I have ranted and squawked about the importance of Iowa’s public schools and advocated for Iowa to not just talk about the importance of education, Iowa’s legislators have time and time again demonstrated that they are more interested in protecting the interests of big business and Iowa’s wealthiest citizens while simultaneously doing all they can to diminish the rights of public employees.

As much as it would pain my father, I’m going to spit into the wind a little more.   While the Iowa Poll (Selzer and Co.; Dec. 3-6, 2017) says that 65% of Iowans don’t want private education to be supported by public funds, our Republican lawmakers are getting ready to implement a voucher system (they call them Education Savings Accounts because that polls better) that would divert millions of dollars from public education.  Iowans don’t want school vouchers, but groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Americans for Prosperity (AFP) love vouchers, and let’s be clear when we talk about ALEC and AFP we are talking about the Koch Brothers.  When 65% of Iowans don’t want their tax dollars to go to private schools and yet our legislators continue to insist on pushing this legislation, what does that tell you?  It tells you that money talks.

So, who benefits from vouchers?  Well, to be honest, rich people benefit.   Let me start by saying that there are some incredible private schools in Iowa.  But, let’s be very clear, vouchers will first and foremost allow wealthy Iowans who send their children to private schools to keep more money in their own pockets.  No one wants to shut down Iowa’s fine private schools, but private schools aren’t held to the same measure of accountability as public schools, they are not required to serve the vulnerable populations that public schools serve, and private schools can promote religions and ideologies that tax payer dollars should not be used to support.   Should I expect the state to subsidize my membership to the local country club because I don’t want to use the public park?

Proponents of vouchers have claimed ownership of the word “choice” when it comes to our schools.   Their theory is that if parents had access to more “choice” that schools would suddenly get better because there would be “competition.”  It seems simple, and yet it’s a deeply flawed premise.  First of all, rural Iowans won’t suddenly have more educational “choices”.  Much to the contrary, the diversion of funds away from public schools will surely lead to more rural schools having to consolidate.  Parents in rural Iowa will certainly have fewer choices, while parents of suburban private school students will have more money in their pockets.  The premise that school “choice” will make public schools better is also driven by the narrative that our public schools aren’t already doing all they can for the students who walk into our doors each and every day.  I defy advocates for “school choice” to come into the public school classrooms I work in and tell me how those teachers aren’t getting most out of the resources they have been given.  I would defy those “school choice” advocates to tell me what programs are superfluous in our public schools.  Should we have fewer arts programs?  Should we have fewer industrial tech offerings?  Are schools doing too much to support our special education students?  Should we cram more kids into each classroom?  Is there an army of more qualified educators itching to teach in Iowa for less money and fewer benefits?  The narrative that our public schools are failing is false.  Public schools are faced with increasing challenges and they are facing those challenges head on in spite of legislators who are hostile to the work that we do.

The thing is, schools aren’t a business with an economic bottom line.  Our bottom line is serving EVERY young person who walks in the door.   People who know me know that I don’t have any problem with competition.  If I thought that by simply opening private/charter schools across the streets from our current public schools that we could transform education, I’d be on that bandwagon in a heartbeat, but that’s not how it works.  There is a place for private schools and parents should have that choice, but they shouldn’t be subsidized by our public tax dollars.

The Koch Brothers believe that the answer to all of our problems is to put more money in the pockets of big businesses and wealthy people.  That premise is demonstrably false (see Kansas).  My premise is that if we truly invested in Iowa’s public schools families would flock to our state in record numbers.  Politicians like to talk about schools being our most important resource.  It’s time to stop talking and actually do something about it.

Our legislators like to talk about “choice”.  Well, they have a choice.  They can continue to increase tax breaks to big businesses and wealthy Iowans, leaving our state budget bleeding red ink, or they can close giant tax loopholes and support fair tax legislation that allows Iowa to restore resources that we are rapidly losing.   It is their choice.  It is also important to know that Iowans have a big choice before them in November of 2018.   Legislators better be ready to answer for their choices in this legislative session when they face us this fall.   Listen to your constituents or listen to Big Money…the choice is yours.

It is On

The battle for the future of Iowa is on.  While Governor Reynolds is telling us that we will have to wait until January for her to share her vision for the future of our state, two of the men who will surely play a grossly oversized role in what happens in the Iowa legislature this year have uncharacteristically made themselves visible today.  Drew Klein from Americans For Prosperity (AFP) and Jonathan Williams from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) wrote an opinion piece that was printed in the Cedar Rapids Gazette today.  In it they attempt to distance Iowa’s economic situation and future from what has happened in Kansas in recent years.

Let’s take a moment to acquaint ourselves with AFP and ALEC.  AFP and ALEC are the Koch brothers; it really is that simple.  Let’s be clear who the Koch brothers are.  They want to use their billions of dollars to influence legislators without you or I knowing about it (https://www.politico.com/story/2015/07/alec-koch-brothers-dark-money-anonymous-donation-120784).  It is also critical to note that while the opinion piece in the Gazette is about tax policy, much of the Koch brother’s activities are in support of gutting public education throughout America (https://www.politico.com/story/2017/10/30/kochs-public-schools-shakeup-244259).

It is significant that the only person in the room when ex-Governor Branstad signed a bill stripping collective bargaining rights from public sector employees was Drew Klein.  There was no grand public bill-signing ceremony that day because Governor Branstad knew it was a bill that wasn’t about what Iowans wanted, it was what the Koch brothers wanted and Mr. Klein was there on their behalf.  It is also worth noting that today’s opinion piece in the Gazette is an attempt to distance the work of AFP and ALEC from what has happened over the last five years in Kansas (https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/30/opinion/paul-krugman-charlatans-cranks-and-kansas.html).  They really want you and I to believe that the failure in Kansas isn’t on them.  The problem they have is that the Kansas failure is exactly what it looks like, a complete repudiation of their work.  They want Iowans to pretend that all of the money that they spent to influence Kansas legislators to do their bidding didn’t end up as a massive disaster because they are spending huge amounts of money doing the exact same thing in Iowa.

It is almost as if Mr. Klein and Mr. Williams’ strategy is to double dog dare Iowa to buy into their scheme even though we know exactly how it will end.  It’s a gutsy strategy and one that Iowans should run away from with all of our collective energy.  The folks at the Iowa Public Policy Project do an outstanding job of putting the numbers in perspective (http://www.gradingstates.org/the-problem-with-tax-cutting-as-economic-policy/the-lessons-of-kansas/).  The idea that the only problem with the “Kansas Experiment” was that Kansas politicians didn’t implement severe cuts in public services is laughable.  The last line from the Iowa Public Policy Project post hits the nail on the head, “What new businesses really wanted, in addition to the tax cuts, was more potholes and more poorly educated workers?  There is neither logic nor evidence to support such a claim.”

There are very few things in life that I am certain of, but I can promise you this, not a single Republican legislator in our state will talk about AFP or ALEC without being directly confronted.  They don’t want you or I to know where the legislation we are about to see is coming from. If the 2017 legislative session was any indication they are going to act behind closed doors, they are going to do all they can to limit public debate, and people like Mr. Klein are going to have an enormous influence on what happens behind those closed doors.

The Republican chairman of the Iowa House of Representatives Tax Committee said this, “Frankly, I don’t know what happened in Kansas.” (http://www.thegazette.com/subject/news/government/shadow-of-kansas-hangs-over-iowa-tax-overhaul-20171213) Really, Representative Guy Vander Linden said that. The chairman of the Tax Committee says that he is unaware of what happened in Kansas.  That can’t be OK with us, is it?  At the very least our legislators should be informed and transparent.  Mr. Vander Linden should take some time to read up on the “Kansas Experiment.”  I’m happy to send him links to more articles and analysis if he wants it.  I’d also love to have Mr. Vander Linden or any other Iowa legislator talk about AFP or ALEC and their role in creating legislation that makes it into Iowa’s capitol.  There is a great deal riding on what happens in the 2018 Iowa legislature.  You can be assured that ALEC and AFP will be in corners of the capitol where Iowans like you and me are not allowed.

I’m just a teacher who is incredibly transparent, and my voice isn’t magnified by the deep pockets of people like the Koch brothers, but I will make my voice heard.  Iowans are going to have to speak loudly in 2018.  It is telling that AFP and ALEC are showing their faces this early trying to change the narrative.  When AFP and ALEC say we shouldn’t be paying attention to Kansas, I can promise you that it means we should be paying attention to Kansas.  In order to stop our legislators from being influenced by Koch brother’s dark money like their brethren from Kansas were, it is going to take the voices of smart, serious, thoughtful, caring Iowans to rise up.  It is too important for us to not be heard.

The Lesson of December 12, 2017

I sat up and watched Doug Jones become the U.S. Senator from Alabama tonight.  It was exciting.  But, something else happened in Iowa tonight that may be more important to us here in the state.  Democrat Todd Wendt over-performed past results by around 31 points in his run for the Iowa State Senate in the heart of Steve King country.  Mr. Wendt didn’t win, but he proved that a strong Democrat can be competitive in places Democrats haven’t been competitive for a long time.

If I were a Republican like Jake Highfill, who represents the school district where I work in, I might be a little worried.  It doesn’t feel to me that simply running a campaign linked to President Trump and Steve King while doing the bidding of the Koch Brothers is a formula for success in 2018.  I can’t imagine that another session of behind closed doors meetings where the rights of public workers are taken away is going to play quite the same as it did last year.  I can’t imagine a scenario in which Representative Highfill or Governor Reynolds are going to be able to look Iowans in the eye and defend their running of the Kansas playbook for another legislative session.  The fine people of Kansas have abandoned those failed plans, but Iowa’s Republican legislators seem eager to keep starving public services so that big business can get massive tax breaks.  Are there Iowans anywhere calling for vouchers and charter schools?  Where are they?

The truth is that December 12, 2017 presents an opportunity for Iowa’s Republicans.  They have a U.S. Representative in Steve King who is busy trying to argue against diversity (and yet Republicans refuse to repudiate him).  Iowa Republicans have two U.S. Senators in lock step with the least popular president of our time.  Iowa Republicans have overseen a terrible economy for the last several years and we will surely be making more cuts to our state budget again this year because of their misguided policies.  In addition is seems certain that this 2018 Republican legislature will do their work behind closed doors and in the dark of the evening (at least that’s how they did it last year).  You can count on old Drew Klein from the Americans for Prosperity (Koch Brothers) showing up at bill signings to demonstrate who is really calling the shots.

If you are Jake Highfill or Kim Reynolds, what are you going to run on?  Do you want Donald Trump in Iowa to attach his record-low approval ratings to you?  Do want Steve King to come in and share his thoughts on diversity at one of your campaign rallies?  Is the economy going to improve as you enact more of the Kansas plan?

A Democrat gained 31 points tonight in a state senate election here in Iowa.  I think Iowa Republicans better do some thinking as they begin the 2018 legislative session.  Will the Steve Bannon politics of division play out well?  Will raiding IPERS, forcing vouchers down Iowan’s throats (has anyone met an Iowan whose issue is vouchers?) help Republican campaigns?  December 12th was a glimpse into elections future for Iowa Republicans.

I’m not inclined to help Iowa Republicans, but I can’t help myself, because I want Iowa to succeed.  If Iowa Republican legislators reached across the aisle and worked to close the numerous tax loopholes that exist to enrich Iowa’s wealthiest businesses and individuals, I suspect they would be rewarded.  If Iowa Republicans truly listened to Iowans instead of ALEC or the Koch Brothers and debated policy in the light of day, I suspect they would be rewarded.  If Iowa Republicans truly supported Iowa’s public schools, I suspect they would be rewarded.

It feels like the Iowa GOP is going to just keep running the Kansas playbook.  There will be late night deals done behind closed doors.  The Koch Brothers, ALEC, and Americans for Prosperity will be very active in the Republican caucus.  The end result of that will be that Todd Wendt’s 31 point gain on December 12th, 2017 will be the norm in November of 2018.

The lesson of December 12, 2017 is that the tide is turning and Iowa Republicans can run the playbook of the last three years at their own peril.  I’m eager to see Iowa Republicans prove me wrong.  Yeah, I’m eager, but I’m not holding my breath.

 

Ms. DeVos-One Year Later

A year ago I sent Betsy DeVos a letter on behalf of American teachers. It felt like it was important for her to meet us in light of the fact that she had no background in public schools and had actually spent her entire adult life working to shift tax dollars away from public schools into the hands of those who want to turn a profit in the “education business.” (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/an-introduction-from-public-school-teachers-to-betsy_us_5845e2fbe4b0707e4c8171a3) In the letter to Ms. DeVos I said, “America’s public schools are here to serve EVERY kid. As the teachers who keep those schools ticking, all that we ask is that you listen to us.” Well, it’s a year later and I don’t feel as though she’s listening. In honesty, the Secretary’s lack of curiosity about America’s public schools is pretty insulting.

 

It appears that that she has recognized that she lacks the knowledge and authority to inflict most of her vision for education on America’s K-12 schools, so she has focused much of her energy and attention on American higher education. For instance, DeVry University, a large for-profit “educational” institution recently settled a $100 million lawsuit with the Federal Trade Commission because DeVry misled students regarding employment rates and income levels available to students upon graduation (https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2016/12/devry-university-agrees-100-million-settlement-ftc). Secretary DeVos’s response was to hire Julian Schmoke, Jr. to be in charge of policing fraud in higher education. Here is the thing though, Mr. Schmoke, Jr. was a Dean at DeVry University. So, as you might guess, Mr. Schmoke is spending his time deregulating the for-profit college industry. “From Day One, Secretary DeVos and her advisers have chosen to side with predatory for-profit schools over the interests of students and taxpayers,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in an interview. “What they’ve done is actually make it easier for schools to cheat these students.” (https://www.politico.com/story/2017/08/31/devos-trump-forprofit-college-education-242193)

 

In addition to making it easier for these for-profit schools to scam vulnerable students, Secretary DeVos has also chosen to dedicate her time and energy to roll back protections for sexual assault victims on college campuses and has stopped approving new student-fraud claims brought against for-profit schools. But, to say that she has dedicated herself entirely to post-secondary education would be unfair. In October, Secretary DeVos rolled back 72 policy documents that specifically detailed the rights of disabled children in schools. In doing so, the Department of Education is stepping away from providing school districts with guidance as to how to protect our most vulnerable students. Don Moynihan from the University of Wisconsin has argued that states and schools now “have de-facto-discretion…to deny access to services.”

I promise you that in schools throughout the country teachers are spending their time asking what it is that we want students to learn, figuring out how we will determine if they’ve learned it, what we are going to do if they haven’t learned it, and what we can offer to our students who already know the material. Those conversations are happening simultaneously with conversations about how we can differentiate instruction to ever-growing class sizes, how we move away from simply measuring students based on grades and standardized tests and begin to measure whether they have the skills and dispositions that will allow them to be successful in the 21st century, and teachers are also talking about how we help meet the needs of students who are coming to us with incredible challenges outside of our school walls.

 

The truth is that having Ms. DeVos in charge of the Department of Education is an insult to those of us who work in public education. She has an agenda, and that agenda is to guide our limited resources towards those who wish to profit off of our schools. She would be best served to pursue that agenda outside of the Department of Education. The young people of America’s public schools deserve a leader whose mission is to help ALL students grow. The young people of America deserve a leader who will protect ALL students rather than protect the businesses that seek to profit off of them. The truth is that Ms. DeVos is exactly what we thought she would be and that is dangerous for the future of public schools in our country.

Betsy DeVos-One Year Later

A year ago I sent Betsy DeVos a letter on behalf of American teachers.  It felt like it was important for her to meet us in light of the fact that she had no background in public schools and had actually spent her entire adult life working to shift tax dollars away from public schools into the hands of those who want to turn a profit in the “education business.” (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/an-introduction-from-public-school-teachers-to-betsy_us_5845e2fbe4b0707e4c8171a3) In the letter to Ms. DeVos I said, “America’s public schools are here to serve EVERY kid. As the teachers who keep those schools ticking, all that we ask is that you listen to us.”  Well, it’s a year later and I don’t feel as though she’s listening.  In honesty, the Secretary’s lack of curiosity about America’s public schools is pretty insulting.

It appears that that she has recognized that she lacks the knowledge and authority to inflict most of her vision for education on America’s K-12 schools, so she has focused much of her energy and attention on American higher education.  For instance, DeVry University, a large for-profit “educational” institution recently settled a $100 million lawsuit with the Federal Trade Commission because DeVry misled students regarding employment rates and income levels available to students upon graduation (https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2016/12/devry-university-agrees-100-million-settlement-ftc).  Secretary DeVos’s response was to hire Julian Schmoke, Jr. to be in charge of policing fraud in higher education.  Here is the thing though, Mr. Schmoke, Jr. was a Dean at DeVry University.  So, as you might guess, Mr. Schmoke is spending his time deregulating the for-profit college industry.  “From Day One, Secretary DeVos and her advisers have chosen to side with predatory for-profit schools over the interests of students and taxpayers,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in an interview. “What they’ve done is actually make it easier for schools to cheat these students.” (https://www.politico.com/story/2017/08/31/devos-trump-forprofit-college-education-242193)

In addition to making it easier for these for-profit schools to scam vulnerable students, Secretary DeVos has also chosen to dedicate her time and energy to roll back protections for sexual assault victims on college campuses and has stopped approving new student-fraud claims brought against for-profit schools.  But, to say that she has dedicated herself entirely to post-secondary education would be unfair.  In October, Secretary DeVos rolled back 72 policy documents that specifically detailed the rights of disabled children in schools.  In doing so, the Department of Education is stepping away from providing school districts with guidance as to how to protect our most vulnerable students. Don Moynihan from the University of Wisconsin has argued that states and schools now “have de-facto-discretion…to deny access to services.”

I promise you that in schools throughout the country teachers are spending their time asking what it is that we want students to learn, figuring out how we will determine if they’ve learned it, what we are going to do if they haven’t learned it, and what we can offer to our students who already know the material.  Those conversations are happening simultaneously with conversations about how we can differentiate instruction to ever-growing class sizes, how we move away from simply measuring students based on grades and standardized tests and begin to measure whether they have the skills and dispositions that will allow them to be successful in the 21st century, and teachers are also talking about how we help meet the needs of students who are coming to us with incredible challenges outside of our school walls.

The truth is that having Ms. DeVos in charge of the Department of Education is an insult to those of us who work in public education.  She has an agenda, and that agenda is to guide our limited resources towards those who wish to profit off of our schools.  She would be best served to pursue that agenda outside of the Department of Education.  The young people of America’s public schools deserve a leader whose mission is to help ALL students grow.  The young people of America deserve a leader who will protect ALL students rather than protect the businesses that seek to profit off of them.  The truth is that Ms. DeVos is exactly what we thought she would be and that is dangerous for the future of public schools in our country.

 

 

 

All Sides are Not Right

“When you are accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”

 

I have tried to find an attribution for this quote, but I can’t find one. I feel like whoever said it was trying to tell us something about the world we are living in today.

As I watched white supremacists gather in Charlottesville this weekend to chant things like “blood and soil” (a phrase popular among Nazis) and “you will not replace us,” I became angry. I became angry because I have done all that I can to see the shades of grey that exist in our current political landscape. I actually have friends who get frustrated with me, because I have tried over the last year to understand the mindset of those who voted for President Trump. As a teacher, I believe it is important to see the many sides of any particular issue, and I believe that it is important for teachers to ask students to suspend judgment while they collect evidence before making determinations.

When President Trump stated that the unrest and violence in Charlottesville could be blamed on “many sides,” I got angry.

 

While it is certainly true that there is more than one side to issues of equality in our country, it is important to say this: not all sides are right. The white supremacists who came to Charlottesville this weekend are wrong. Real conversations about race, equality, and social justice require honest, complex, and challenging dialogue among thoughtful people. The racists who marched through the streets of Charlottesville have no interest in that conversation; the problem is that they have become empowered to believe that their hateful rhetoric belongs in the conversation. They believe that the current political climate is an opportunity to bring hate, racism and intolerance into our national conversation about what it is to be an American. They are wrong, and we need to say so. Not only do we need to say so, but our leaders need to say so. I was pleased to see so many of our leaders call out the racism that was on display this weekend, but those who tried to spin a narrative that “many sides” were to blame should be ashamed of themselves.

 

I spent two days last week in a building with 2,000 educators talking about how we can make our schools better. Specifically, we were discussing how we create a culture in our schools in which ALL students believe they can succeed. We talk a lot about “achievement gaps” in our schools. There is no doubt these gaps are real, but the discussion becomes more challenging when we talk about the “attitude gaps” and the “opportunity gaps” that exist in our schools. As a group of white supremacists are marching around Virginia trying to convince us that they are being oppressed, we know there are real gaps in opportunities among students in our schools. It is going to take teachers, school leaders, political leaders and communities to address the fact that all of our students don’t find the same opportunities to succeed in our schools. But if we allow ourselves to engage in the hateful rhetoric of those who are spewing Nazi propaganda as a way to further divide us, then all is lost.

During my two days discussing the culture of our schools last week, there were a lot of great conversations, but maybe equally important was what wasn’t discussed. There wasn’t a discussion of how we can profit off of public education, there wasn’t a discussion of cracking down on affirmative action as a way to make our colleges and universities better, there wasn’t a discussion of how a reduction in after school programs would make our schools better, there wasn’t a discussion of how a reduction in arts funding would make our schools better, and there certainly wasn’t a discussion of how creating equitable learning conditions for ALL students comes at the expense of the white supremacists who were marching this weekend.

 

As schools across the country start up this month, teachers are going to open their doors and arms to ALL students. Teachers are going to work hard to close the opportunity gaps that exist in our system. It isn’t easy, because our students don’t all come to us looking like the kids you see in those back-to-school ads, and that’s the way we like it. We got into teaching not because it is easy work, but because we know there are kids in all of our schools who need us to give them hope. It is hard to convince a young kid to be hopeful in a world where white supremacists are recognized as just “another side” of our national debate about equality. Some of that hope will come from saying out loud that those people marching through the streets of Charlottesville are wrong. Hope will come to our students if they hear the message from Nelson Mandela that President Obama shared on Saturday:

No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.