American Elephants


#Black Lives Matter Seems to Be Remarkably Uninterested in The Lives of Poor Black Kids by The Elephant's Child

Oooops! Black Lives Matter just exposed their organization as entirely political, and not much interested in the lives of black children. Betsy DeVos, newly confirmed Secretary of Education, was blocked from attempting to enter the Jefferson Academy middle school in Washington DC by Black Lives Matter protesters blocking he way and heckling, reportedly organized by the Washington Teacher’s Union.

The Alliance For Educational Justice claimed,  “Today, families, residents and community leaders joined to block U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos from disrupting learning at Jefferson Academy.”

“Betsy DeVos has a track record of privatizing and undermining public schools that serve Black students for financial gain,” said Makia Green, an organizer with the Washington, DC chapter of Black Youth Project 100. “Today’s action made it clear: our community will do everything in our power to resist DeVos‘ destructive policies and her attacks on an entire generation of Black students.”

DeVos responded in a statement following the incident saying, ” I respect peaceful protest, and I will not be deterred in executing the vital mission of the Department of Education. No school door in America will be blocked from those seeking to help our nation’s school children.”

The reason that Betsy DeVos was nominated to be Secretary of Education is that she has been a long time advocate for poor black children trapped in poor schools, and pushes for charter schools as the best answer to the need for parents to have a voice in their children’s education.

There is a lot of misunderstanding about “charter schools.” Charter schools are public schools. Some presume that because of the word “charter” that they are somehow private schools. Not so. Those who wish to start a charter  must develop an educational plan to submit to the state, and when their plan is made public—gather enough interest to make a separate school viable. They may have more freedom from federal and state regulation than regular public schools.

A study reported in Forbes in 2014 showed evidence that charter high schools had 7-11%  higher graduation rates than their public school peers, boosted college enrollment rates by 10-11 percent, were more apt to complete at least 3 years of post-secondary education, and charter school attendance was associated with an increase in maximum annual earnings between ages 23 and 35 years of age, about 12.7% higher than those who attended a traditional high school.

Different states have different rules. Charter schools usually operate on a smaller budget—but better ideas, teachers are often paid less (because they get to really teach—some teachers go for it) (a big part of the reason that teacher’s unions oppose charter schools and charter teachers are not necessarily members of the unions). Like much in American life, schools operate under far more rules than they used to. I’m not sure if all states even have charter schools. New Orleans has the highest percentage of students in charter schools, over 90%. Here are five facts about charters from the Reason Foundation, in simple graph form.

Here in Washington State, the state teacher’s union lobby has fought endlessly to ensure that all public funds are given only to traditional public schools. As the populous Seattle area is reliably Lefty, the Supreme Court broke with the precedent set by six other states that faced similar battles, ignored the vast amount of evidence that charter schools improve academic outcomes for students, ignored the over one million students currently on wait lists for admission to charter schools, and their parents who favor charters, and ruled that public funding of charter schools was unconstitutional. The legislature has found funding from Lottery revenue for charters, but the state should work to ensure that funding follows the children, not the teacher’s unions. A better education means so much to minority children trapped in failing schools that it is particularly interesting to see Black Lives Matter opposing charter schools and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

You have perhaps noticed that leftists seem to always appear in organized groups — Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, the list goes on and on, but when you get down to what they actually advocate, it’s often just hard-left politics, not black lives, nor $15 an hour, nor economic equality.

A group of 160 black education leaders are fighting against the NAACP’s proposed stance against charter schools, which shows the diversity of views of charters.

An article from AEI last August tries to offer some clarity on the battles, showing that advocates of different positions are relying on different evidence, and doesn’t clarify anything at all.

More troubling is a report from the Minneapolis/St Paul Star Tribune on the trend for violence in the public schools, and the dangers that teachers face. School disciplinary policies have removed many consequences for bad behavior in response to liberal demands for an ideology of “equity.” In St. Paul schools in 2010-11, “15 percent of the district’s black students were suspended at least once — five times more than white students. This racial differential mirrors those in schools across the Twin Cities and throughout the nation…. St. Paul school leaders have assumed that differences in discipline rates are the result, not of higher rates of misconduct by black students, but of the racism of teachers and administrators, who are believed to unfairly target black students.” To eliminate statistical disparities, they abandoned meaningful penalties. I read a lot, but I haven’t seen much reporting on violence in schools—just enough to suggest that it is perhaps far more prevalent than is realized. Do read this whole article if you care about kids and education.

Betsy DeVos has long been a passionate advocate for poor black children facing failing schools, and suggests that more charters will help. It’s a big job and I certainly wish her well. Progressives believe that all things are better done  by the federal government, with themselves in control of the government.  Conservatives believe that there are few things that the federal government can do satisfactorily, and that most tasks should be devolved to the states, or to the closest government to the people who are affected by the tasks. That old “We the People” thing.



Betsy DeVos is Confirmed as Secretary of Education by The Elephant's Child

john-stossel-what-trumps-education-pick-betsy-devos-should-have-said__850408_I consider myself a sort of expert on the subject of education— Not because I am a graduate of any graduate school of education—I am not.

My mother was a teacher, and quite a good one. I actually was one of her pupils, and she always graded me down to dispel any suggestion of favoritism. My grandmother was a teacher, an aunt was a teacher, and a grandfather was a college president. That doesn’t give me any qualification beyond a general family interest in education.

My expertise comes from 1. being tutored for first grade, 2. attending a small town grade school, 3. attending a one-room country schoolhouse for two years (pump on the front porch, woodshed out back with two separate outhouses) 4. attending an exclusive private girls school run by Episcopal nuns, 5. small town high school, 6. large town high school, 6. exclusive private college, 7. professional art school, 8. a California State College grad school. That should make me some kind of expert, shouldn’t it? I loved the one room schoolhouse. We had a very good teacher, and for science she sent us out into the fields to collect wild flowers and frogs and pollywogs—doesn’t get much better than that.

Betsy DeVos is an excellent candidate for Secretary of Education because she is passionately devoted to the idea that parents should have an important voice in their children’s education, and that charter schools are the best answer we have to give kids trapped in bad public schools a real chance for a good future.

Democrats have been opposed to Mrs. DeVos largely because she has been nominated by Donald Trump, and teachers unions. My expertise in education has noted over the years that all objections to anything in or about the public schools has one answer—they need more money. Even the courts have gotten into the business of ordering states to raise taxes in order to give the public schools more money.

Yet it is clear to anyone who is paying attention—that is not the problem. I suspect that the schools of education teach prospective teachers that if the teachers praise the kids enough in parent meetings, the voters will probably vote for more money. Yet teachers complain that they have to spend their own money for supplies. Hmmn.

Democrats have been complaining about children being excluded from school for bad behavior, and suggesting that it is not right. Racism, sexism, etc. Yet I did see an article that indicates that teachers are increasingly attacked in the classroom by violent kids, yet that is seldom reported.

I have a good longtime friend who is an expert in remedial education, and education policy. At one point she did some studies with convicts in prison, and found that large percentages of them were deficient in the ability to read. Inconclusive, for it would have taken many more studies to come up with verifiable fact, but interesting.

Democrats wanted to turn down Betsy DeVos on the basis that she attended private school and sent her children to private school, therefore she knew nothing about public school. (Actually she probably has a better idea of where public schools are deficient). Interestingly, many of the Democrat Senators who were most vocal in voting against DeVos also exclusively attended private schools. When parents have enough money for private schools, that’s often where their kids go. The two Republicans who voted against DeVos are singularly dependent on funding from the teachers unions.

I am deeply influenced by the fact that President Barack Obama sent his two daughters to the toniest private school in Washington D.C., yet tried hard to eliminate the Opportunity Scholarship program that gave poor black children access to the schools of their choice.

Here are some of the arguments for Betsy DeVos:

ADDENDUM: Thomas Sowell who just quit commenting returned to discuss the Betsy DeVos confirmation hearings.



New Jersey Governor Chris Christie: Keynote Speech by The Elephant's Child

Chris Christie is a contemporary phenomenon. Many have become familiar with the Governor of New Jersey through his plain speaking but very  direct confrontations with the teachers’ unions in New Jersey. More seriously, he was a Republican governor in a very Democratic state that was in deep budgetary trouble. If anyone needs evidence that the Progressive Project simply does not work, they have only to contrast the states with Republican governors and the states with Democratic governors. Virginia v. Maryland, Texas v. California.

Chris Christie’s speech is not a “red meat” attack on the Obama administration, but a speech about ideas. Big Ideas from a big man. Excellent.




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