Tag Archives: politics

Election Reflections

Plenty is being said about what the presidential election means and what it says about America’s values. At Bellwether, we deeply value inclusion, equity, and tolerance alongside other democratic values, including liberty and freedom. For us, the election did not change our deep commitment to these values, which is as strong today as it was prior to Election Day.

Something else that hasn’t changed since November 8th? Across America, children are getting up each morning and going to school. They’re still counting on their schools to help them learn and cultivate the knowledge and skills they need to navigate adulthood and lead a happy, fulfilled life full of choices and opportunities. Some of their schools go above and beyond in delivering on this promise. Too many others fall far short especially for students in underserved communities. Addressing these deep and persistent inequities is at the core of what we do at Bellwether.

The election matters, of course, but leaders at the state and local level are still rolling up their sleeves and ready to continue doing the challenging work of expanding education equity. They’re trying to sort out the opportunities and challenges the Every Student Succeeds Act creates and continuing or launching their own initiatives to improve schooling.

Helping them is a primary reason Bellwether exists. And students need our support now more than ever. That’s why we’re staying focused on continuing our work with and alongside state and local organizations and agencies on the ground working for kids. Across our strategy, talent, and policy teams, we offer more than 50 professionals committed to the vision of a world in which race and income are no longer predictors of life outcomes for students. We all work towards an American education system that affords every individual the opportunity to determine their own path and to lead a productive and fulfilling life.

If your work aligns with these values and we can support what you do, we’d like to hear from you. Please contact us.

#16for16: A Policy Agenda for the Next President (Whoever That Is)

WhitehouseThis election season has been long on drama and vitriol and woefully short on substantive policy ideas. And K-12 education might win the “Most Ignored Major Policy Issue” superlative in the yearbook of the 2016 campaign. Isolated references to charter schools and feel-good statements about teachers aside, neither Clinton nor Trump has proposed a comprehensive vision for our nation’s public schools. This lack of attention belies the importance and need for an education vision: Although the current administration presided over the passage of the Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA), the devil is in the details, and the critical work of its implementation will be left to the next administration. But we’d be hard pressed to identify what policies might emerge come January.

We’re here to help.

Bellwether has compiled a collection called 16 for 2016: 16 Education Policy Ideas for the Next President. We solicited ideas from a range of authors across the ideological spectrum, both inside and outside the education sector. You are almost guaranteed to love some of these ideas, and probably hate some too, and that’s the point. No matter who prevails in November, the new presidential administration will need to set an ambitious education agenda. And with this collection, we are priming the pump for whichever candidate is sitting in the Oval Office in January.

In this volume, you’ll find: Continue reading

Agreeing with Trump, Sort of? Political Correctness and Segregation

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a child’s zip code shouldn’t determine the quality of her education. It seems to me this idea should go without saying. But people keep saying it.

The President has said it on numerous occasions. Hillary Clinton has made that point a central part of her K-12 education platform. Even Donald Trump agrees, writing in his most recent book, “Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again”:

Photo by Gage Skidmore

I’m not concerned about the kids growing up in wealthy communities, where high property taxes have allowed them to build great schools, hire the best teachers, and provide all the supplies they need. Those schools are doing fine. In many urban areas, however, schools must fight for every tax dollar and are forced to have teachers and students bring in their own basic supplies such as pencils and paper. That’s a national tragedy.

Why, with so much bipartisan agreement, is so little being done about the fact that a family’s wealth is, in many cases, what determines whether their child gets a good education? Continue reading

The Error of Our Ways: Education and Mass Incarceration

Originally published on Bellwether and The 74’s live blog of the DNC.

In 1996, Hillary Clinton, in support of her husband’s sweeping crime bill, gave an interview in which she invoked the “superpredator,” a criminal so corrupted that they were irredeemable. That narrative stoked the fear that has driven two decades of prison and jail expansion, militarized local police, and zero tolerance school discipline policies. But times have changed.

prison-370112_960_720In just the last few years, we’ve watched the tide turn in our national discourse on incarceration, and it’s clear that the speakers at last week’s convention have joined the call by Education Secretary John King and others to shift resources away from the criminal justice system and into our schools. It’s not just our federal leaders in a crisis of conscience, states, school districts, and charter schools are rethinking their approaches to student behavior. They’re spurred by a realization that they have been complicit in a broken system.

Dr. Maya Angelou once reflected, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” During the primary campaign, there were loud voices insisting that Hillary’s 1996 comments were fair game for criticism. And they were. But if we as a society take the principles of growth and redemption seriously, then we need to take a close look at what’s different about this campaign and how Clinton has changed in the last 20 years. If you believe in second chances, then that stuff matters.  

Hillary has spoken explicitly about racial justice, mass incarceration, and the need to invest in supportive services in communities. Kate Burdick, a long-time education advocate, Eric Holder, and the students of Eagle Academy, joined the lineup of speakers at the DNC last week to talk about Hillary’s focus on education and justice reform. And in his speech last Monday, Bernie Sanders credited Hillary Clinton with understanding that we need to make sure that young people “are in good schools and in good jobs, not rotting in jail cells.”

While Hillary shouldn’t be accountable for her husband’s policies, she is responsible for her own words — words that she now publicly regrets. If she follows that up with real action on education like her platform suggests, it could be a demonstration of the self-aware leader who does better once they know better and an example for us all.

How Trump’s Rhetoric Impacts Students

Read more live coverage of #EDlection2016 via Bellwether and The 74’s Convention Live Blog.

The last few weeks have been traumatic. More African-American men were killed by police. And snipers executed 8 officers in Dallas, Texas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It’s times like these when we need our President to reassure us and help deescalate the tension.

But, Donald Trump wholly lacks this quality. Over the past year, he has shown no desire or ability to reconcile differences, to heal wounds, or to soothe suffering. Instead, Trump uses his candidacy to encourage intolerance and incite violence.

Donald TrumpShould Trump win the Presidency, his rhetoric encouraging violence would have dire consequences in American schools. Already, teachers report a “Trump Effect,” corresponding with increased fear, bullying, and racial tensions. Elementary school children are organizing against him because his rhetoric and policies alienate them and their families.

Under a Trump Administration the trouble wouldn’t stop there.

In fact, Trump’s positions on school safety would undercut efforts and progress we’ve made toward closing the school-to-prison pipeline. For example, instead of decreasing police presence in schools, he wants to go several steps in the other direction and arm teachers. From here, it doesn’t take much imagination to envision Trump doubling down on failed zero-tolerance policies, pushing for greater police presence in schools, as well as adding metal detectors and other security measures in schools.

As history has shown time and time again, this kind of reaction to tragedy and violence in schools is the wrong response. More police means more arrests, not less violence. Moreover, these policies and practices disproportionately target students of color. The most recent Civil Rights Data Collection found black students are 2.3 times as likely to be referred to law enforcement as white students. They also found large race-based disparities in school suspensions, even in preschool.  

For students, the results are devastating.

A single suspension can double a student’s likelihood of dropping out.  A recent study found that disproportionate experiences with school discipline contribute significantly to the race-based achievement gap. Another found that the achievement of students who are never suspended is negatively affected in a school with a high-rate of suspension. In fact, suspensions don’t even work as a deterrent. The likelihood of a student being suspended actually increases after their first suspension.  

All of these problems would likely be compounded under Trump. The progress made in states like Maryland and Connecticut toward reducing exclusionary discipline, limiting arrests, and increasing school safety would be threatened — and perhaps lost altogether.

Trump seems to believe that the thing to do when faced with violence and unrest is to be “strong,” unapologetic, and uncompromising. But in truth, the brave thing is not to clench your fist and be combative. The courageous thing is to deescalate the situation and find workable solutions.

Unfortunately, Trump favors bringing a gun to a knife fight when in reality the answer is to stop fighting.