Category Archives: education news

An ed secretary with knowledge of public schools!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Imagine that, if you dare.

President-elect Joe Biden has presented to the nation a nominee for education secretary with actual knowledge, experience and appreciation for public education. Let this soak in for a moment.

Connecticut education commissioner Miguel Cardona is Biden’s pick to lead the U.S. Department of Education. Cardona would replace Betsy DeVos, who — to be charitable — knows nothing about the public school system she was nominated to lead in 2017.

Betsy DeVos for ed secretary? No way! | High Plains Blogger

DeVos was a do-nothing education secretary who was educated herself in private schools, who sent her own children to private schools and who has been a champion of the movement to take public money out of our public school system and directing it to private schools.

Cardona at the very least has hands-on experience as a public school student, as a public school educator and as head of a statewide public education system.

I welcome this nomination.

Still stewing over the ‘Dr. Biden’ dust-up

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I admit to being a bit miffed over an essay that appeared in the Wall Street Journal that takes Jill Biden to task for her generous use of the honorific term “Dr.” in front of her name.

The author of the piece refers to her as “Jill” and “Kiddo,” the latter term I cannot imagine him ever using while referring to a man. But the future first lady was fair game, I suppose, for the writer and for the editors of what I consider to be one of America’s great newspapers.

I watched Biden and her husband, the president-elect, last night on “The Late Show” with Stephen Colbert. Colbert asked her about the controversy and she brought up the “Kiddo” comment with something of a pained expression on her face. She didn’t belabor the content of the op-ed column, other than to take offense at the sexist nature of the criticism.

She kept her day job as an educator while serving as second lady during Joe Biden’s vice presidency and hinted that she will do so again once she becomes the nation’s first lady. Jill Biden once said that teaching young people isn’t just what she does, it is “who I am.”

She is well-educated, having earned a doctorate in education from the University of Delaware. Suffice to say, moreover, that she is far from the first doctorate-level academician to use the “Dr.” term in front of his or her name.

If she wants to call herself “Dr. Biden,” well … that’s OK with me.

School board betrays its constituents

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

A North Texas public school board of trustees that is charged with setting policy for educating public school students has just failed an exam that truly doesn’t pass the so-called “smell test.”

The Lancaster Independent School District board is offering an abject lesson on how not to conduct public business. Other local governing boards need to listen up and pay close attention.

The Lancaster ISD board offered Superintendent Elijah Granger a new five-year contract worth $1.6 million and then bought him out five days later. That’s not the worst of it.

Oh, no. The worst is that the board, which bought him out with a 4-3 vote, isn’t disclosing the details of the maneuver. The three trustees don’t know the details. Nor does the public. No one knows how much money the public school district is shelling out to buy Granger’s contract.

I emphasize the word “public” because the public deserves to know the details, not to mention the three board members who dissented from the buyout vote.

As the Dallas Morning News said in an editorial published Wednesday, “There is no other way to look at this than a betrayal of parents, taxpayers and the trustees who were shut out from access to relevant information.”

One of the dissenting trustees, Marion Hamilton, sought to see the separation agreement, but was denied. That is outrageous!

School board members have declined to discuss the details of the buyout. There hasn’t been an explanation of why they voted essentially to fire the superintendent … not to mention explain why it would buy him out so soon after agreeing to the expensive contract. What in the world did he do from the contract signing and the separation? The public needs to know the details.

There’s a serious lesson to be learned here. I would hope all school districts, city councils or other governing bodies entrusted with the power to hire and fire government administrators would take notice of the clusterfu** being played out in Lancaster, Texas.

This ain’t good, folks. You have failed a key test of leadership … and to think you still set policy that establishes the education of public school students.

Shameful.

Cancel the RNC, but send kids to school?

The Stable Genius continues to baffle me.

Donald J. Trump insists that our children must attend school in classrooms. It’s better to put the students in classrooms than to require them to study at home via online instruction.

What, then, shall we do about the scheduled Republican National Convention that will nominate Trump for a second term as president? He cancelled the RNC in Jacksonville, Fla., citing health concerns. “It’s not the right time” to have a convention with delegates crammed into the same arena, he said.

Mixed messaging anyone? Anyone?

This is part of a much larger problem associated with the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. At one level, Trump says one thing. At another level, he says something quite different.

He scoffed at masks. Now he’s all for them … more or less. He called the pandemic a “Democrat hoax.” Now he says the worst of the pandemic is yet to come before it gets better.

Trump ignores advice from medical experts. Then listens to talk show hosts and acts on their “advice.”

Trump says he’s doing a “fantastic” job, but the rate of infection is accelerating, not slowing down.

The latest bit of news involves the GOP nominating convention. Trump is concerned about potential health hazard to politicians and delegates. I applaud his decision to forgo the in-person gathering in Jacksonville.

If only, though, he would express as much concern about the health and safety of our children, their friends and families and the teachers who educate them.

This guy confuses the daylights out of me.

What is White House hiding now?

The White House is playing a stupid game of keep-away with the U.S. Congress.

What it is keeping away from Congress happens to be information vital to the public — you know, the folks who pay the bills in Washington — on the best way to resume public education for our children.

The White House has decided to block Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Robert Redfield from testifying to the House Education and Labor Committee. The panel wants to know about the strategies being developed to allow schools to reopen eventually in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Let me see. What might be the White House be fearing? Oh, might it fear that Redfield is going to say something that contradicts Donald J. Trump’s desire to reopen the schools this fall without little or no regard to the effects of the pandemic that still is raging across the country? That’s what it looks like to me. And to others, I should add.

According to CNN.com“Dr. Redfield has testified on the Hill at least four times over the last three months. We need our doctors focused on the pandemic response,” a White House official said, confirming the decision to block the CDC’s participation in the hearing. But a spokesman for the House Education and Labor Committee said the panel had requested testimony from any CDC official, not necessarily Redfield.

The CDC is one of the go-to agencies in this fight against the pandemic. It seems to me that hearing from the head of this critical agency is, shall we say, critical to understanding what’s at stake and what the government is doing to protect our lives.

What in the name of government transparency are trying to hide within the West Wing?

Happy to report sanity in our local school system

I am delighted to report some good news — if you allow me to call it that — regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is that our granddaughter and her brother are going to be kept out of their classrooms for at least the first semester of the upcoming academic year. We got the word from our son and daughter-in-law that the Allen (Texas) Independent School District, absent any guarantee that it can prevent spread of the virus in schools, has decided to give parents the option of online schooling at home.

Our son and daughter-in-law have exercised that option.

Thus, the Allen ISD will not follow Donald Trump’s blind and stupid call to reopen our classrooms despite the surge in coronavirus infection in states such as ours.

For the president to insist on school reopening is beyond irresponsible. He exhibits no outward interest in protecting the lives of our precious children and the teachers who expose themselves to potential illness or worse.

So local school districts here in North Texas are calling their own shots. Princeton ISD, where my wife and I live, isn’t going along with the president’s urging. Neither are the Amarillo and Canyon ISDs, from where we moved two years ago. They are going to online teaching, giving students materials they can study at home.

Our granddaughter and her brother — who is entering his senior year in high school — did well in the second half of the preceding school year learning at home. They will do so again once the new year begins in August.

Meanwhile, the search for vaccines continues. May the brainiacs assigned to find them hit pay dirt sooner rather than later.

Trump shows his ignorance yet again

Donald John “Ignoramus in Chief” Trump threatens to pull federal funds from public schools if they don’t reopen this fall, per his edict.

Sigh …

No, he is not going to do that. He has no authority to do anything of the sort. Donald Trump once again is showing us what he doesn’t know about the job to which he was elected … and from which I hope he gets booted out in about 120 days.

Fox News’ Chris Wallace challenged an assertion delivered by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Sunday. DeVos repeated Trump’s threat, to which Wallace told her that Congress appropriates federal funds for public schools. Wallace asked “Under what authority are you and the president going to unilaterally cut off funding, funding that’s been approved from Congress and most of the money goes to disadvantaged students or students with disabilities?” “You can’t do that,” he continued.

That means that Trump is out of the game.

DeVos didn’t answer the question directly. She couldn’t answer. Because she is as ignorant about government as Donald Trump. She did say, “Look, American investment in education is a promise to students and their families. If schools aren’t going to reopen and not fulfill that promise, they shouldn’t get the funds, and give it to the families to decide to go to a school that is going to meet that promise.”

Americans are getting sick from the COVID-19 pandemic in increasing numbers. That poses threats to students, teachers and their loved ones. Donald Trump’s demand that schools reopen this fall runs directly counter to the medical advice he is getting from the infectious disease experts with whom he has surrounded himself.

Oh, wait! He knows more than they do. Isn’t that what he has inferred … about anything?

Betsy DeVos is no ‘educator’

As I watched Betsy DeVos evade, bob and weave and avoid answering questions today about how she intends to make public school classrooms safe for children and their teachers, I am struck by a brutal reality.

It is that the secretary of education is as unqualified for her job as the man who selected her to guide public education policy, Donald Trump, is unqualified for his job.

CNN’s Dana Bash sought to get DeVos to commit to a strategy for how she intends to advise local school leaders struggling to make classrooms safe for human habitation after they closed them because of the global coronavirus pandemic.

DeVos couldn’t answer. Or she wouldn’t answer. Couldn’t, wouldn’t. It makes no never mind to me. I sense she doesn’t have a clue.

She was selected by Trump to lead a massive education agency even though she has no experience with public education. She was educated in private schools; she sent her children to private schools; DeVos is known to be a huge advocate for voucher programs that take money from public school districts to pay for private schools.

There’s all of that, plus there’s this: Betsy DeVos doesn’t have an ounce of political cache that she can spend. When the U.S. Senate got around to voting on her confirmation, it ended with a tie, leaving the decision up to the Senate’s presiding officer, Vice President Mike Pence to cast the tie-breaking vote. It was the first such vote in U.S. Senate confirmation history.

To my way of thinking, Betsy DeVos has no business setting public education policy for millions of American children, their parents and the educators who teach them. She continues to demonstrate her ignorance or disinterest in public education.

I suppose Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump deserve each other … and the public deserves better.

Knock off threats to schools, Mr. POTUS

Donald J. Trump is now putting heat on governors to reopen public school systems, much like he tried to browbeat houses of worship leaders into packing pews in time for Easter and threatened governors to reopen their states … or else.

There is no “or else” for the president, given that he has no singular authority to tell governors how to run their states as they cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now he’s going after them on school reopening.

I found this quote from a former member of Congress, a guy I know, but who I haven’t spoken to in more than two decades. Former Rep. Nick Lampson writes: School re-openings must be based on science not the ineptitude of Donald Trump. We have a collective responsibility to protect the interests of America’s youth. Expecting kids to spend 8 hours a day in close quarters during a pandemic and threatening to defund public schools like some sort of authoritarian is not the sort of leadership we need in the White House.

Here in Texas, and specifically in Collin County, our school leaders are giving parents the option of sending their children back to the classroom or keep them at home in a sort of hybrid learning environment. Texas’s infection rate is soaring. We do not want our children exposed needlessly just because Donald Trump wants schools to reopen their classrooms.

While I am on the subject, Donald and Melania Trump have a son in school. Are they sending Barron back to class? I am not going to make the youngster an issue; I merely am asking the question to ascertain what kind of parental decisions the first couple are making with regard to their own son.

As for the rest of us, Donald Trump ought to let governors and the public educators who deserve praise and not threats decide how to handle their unique situations.

School will be back … but should students and teachers return?

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has rung the 2020-21 school bell telling students, teachers and staff that classrooms will be open for the upcoming academic year.

Abbott shut down in-person class study this spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students kept current with their studies at home; our granddaughter and her older brother were two of them and, I should add, they did quite well studying at home.

Now what? Abbott’s back-to-school directive does give parents the flexibility to decide whether to send their children back to class.

As the Texas Tribune reports:

“It will be safe for Texas public school students, teachers, and staff to return to school campuses for in-person instruction this fall. But there will also be flexibility for families with health concerns so that their children can be educated remotely, if the parent so chooses,” said Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath.

When students return, school districts will not be required to mandate students wear masks or test them for COVID-19 symptoms, said Frank Ward, a spokesperson for the Texas Education Agency.

If I were King of the World, I most certainly would require masks and COVID-19 tests. I am not. I am just a concerned grandparent who wants to ensure that students, teachers and staff will be safe from becoming infected by a disease that could do them great harm.

Man, I hope Abbott knows what he’s doing. Texas is experiencing a serious spike in infection, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. Yes, we want to return to what we like think is “normal” activity.

Given recent trends, I am just leery of sending young children back to school and instructing them to practice “social distancing.”