• Rick Hess’ Uber Driver Speaks Out

    Our guest author is Leo Casey, Shanker Institute executive director emeritus.

     I was out pounding the streets the other day, and a ride for Rick Hess at the American Enterprise Institute popped up on my driver’s app. Geez, I thought to myself, not him again. But I have to put food on the table and clothes on the back of my kids, so I headed over to AEI.

    Ten minutes late, Rick jumps into my car, and starts in. “I want to ask you about…” I interrupted him: “Rick, before we get into what you want to talk about, I want to ask you a question first.”

  • Loc-ing students out: Darryl George, the CROWN Act, and the Need to Combat Racial Discrimination in the Classroom

    Our guest author is Jasmine Payne-Patterson, a Senior State Policy Coordinator for the Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN) at the Economic Policy Institute.

    For some students and workers, hair is a trivial wardrobe decision, while for many Black and Brown people, their hairstyle can be a consequential element of class participation and a job offer. School dress codes and “business appropriate” dress often put high stakes and severe restrictions on how Black and Brown people can express their culture and identity through their hair.

    Over the last several years, lawmakers in 24 states have sought to combat this problem by passing the “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair” (CROWN) Act. The CROWN Act is a law that protects against discrimination based on hairstyle and texture in schools, workplaces, and beyond by extending the definition of racial expression to include wearing braids, locs, twists, and other culturally significant hair styles.

    Yet the recent court case of Texas high school junior Darryl George reveals that even in states that have adopted versions of the CROWN Act, as Texas has, Black and Brown people can still face educational and career disadvantages for their hairstyles when discriminatory systems—in this case a school dress code—are validated by judicial interpretation that ignores the intent of the law.

  • From the Classroom to the Capitol: Teachers Can Make A Difference

    Our guest authors José Luis Vilson and Dan Kliber are accomplished National Board Certified Teachers and activists.

    The battle over the federal budget has dire consequences for schools across the country, particularly for those most in need of funding. Recently, some federal legislators have proposed extremely draconian cuts. The last education funding proposal from the U.S. House of Representatives would have slashed federal support for education by 30%, including an 80% reduction to Title I, which supports low-income schools. Had this proposal passed, public education as we know it could have been completely dismantled, putting over 200K teachers out of a job.

  • School District Fragmentation, Segregation, and Funding Equity in New Jersey

    District fragmentation is a very important but sometimes overlooked factor shaping school segregation, school funding equity, and the relationship between them. Put simply, fragmentation refers to the fact that, in some states, there are hundreds of small districts, while other states are divided into a smaller number of large districts. For example, at the extremes, there are 67 (countywide) districts serving Florida’s 3 million public school students, whereas New Jersey maintains around 600 districts for its 1.3 million students. 

  • Bob Edwards: Beloved Radio Host and Labor Leader (1947-2024)

    Our guest author is Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, author of "Tough Liberal: Albert Shanker and the Battles Over Schools, Unions, Race and Democracy" and a member of the Albert Shanker Institute Board of Directors.

    I was saddened to read of the death of Bob Edwards, who for 24 years hosted NPR’s Morning Edition with a mix of gravitas and wit.  For people of a certain age, he was, said NPR’s Susan Stamberg, “the voice we woke up to.”  The obituaries noted that when, in 2004, he was fired at age 57, just shy of his 25th anniversary at NPR, listeners erupted in outage.

    I got to know Edwards very casually when we overlapped as board members of the Albert Shanker Institute, and he shared his views on the role of labor in a democratic society.  NPR listeners loved Bob Edwards for his fundamental decency and respect for people of all backgrounds.  Those values were at one with his belief in the importance of a strong American labor movement.

  • Democracy & Abortion Access: How Underrepresentation of Women in State Legislatures Threatens Freedom

    Our guest author is Jocelyn Frye, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families.

    When the Supreme Court handed down the damaging decision of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, it did not just strip millions of people of their ability to control their own bodies and reproductive choices by ending the constitutional right to access an abortion. The Court also deepened the effects of long-standing, systemic efforts to silence the voices of women in our democracy.

    Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion in Dobbs argues that women can redress the denial of their individual freedoms, such as the overturning of Roe v. Wade, by exercising electoral and political power at the state level. But his statement is disingenuous and rings hollow upon closer scrutiny of the actual data.

    The National Partnership recently conducted an in-depth analysis of representation in state legislatures as it relates to abortion access, entitled Democracy & Abortion Access: State Legislatures’ Lack of Representation Threatens Freedoms. It highlights the fact that many of those states which are the most restrictive when it comes to curbing abortion rights are also the least representative of women in their state legislatures. The presence of greater gender representation within the membership of state legislatures is connected to stronger abortion protections and policies which advance reproductive justice for the residents of those states.

  • How the Fairness of State Tax Codes Affects Public Education

    Our guest author is Carl Davis, Research Director at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. He was the project lead on the newest edition of ITEP’s Who Pays? report, which provides the only comprehensive measure of the progressivity, or regressivity, of state tax systems.

    The vast majority of state and local tax systems are regressive, or upside-down, with the wealthy paying a far lower share of their income in taxes than low-and middle-income families. That is the topline finding of the latest edition of our flagship Who Pays? report, which measures the impact that state tax systems are having on families at every income level. Its findings go a long way toward explaining why so many states are failing to raise the amount of revenue needed to provide full and robust support for our public schools.

    As we explain in the report, states with more progressive tax systems also raise more revenue on average. States with regressive tax codes, on the other hand, typically raise less. The reason for this is simple. High-income families receive a huge share of overall income, so when states choose to tax that huge amount of income at lower rates than what everyone else pays, they’re inevitably going to struggle to raise adequate revenue overall.

  • Comprehensive Reading Curricula and Teacher Expertise: We Don’t Have to Choose

    Our guest author is Kata Solow, Executive Director of the Goyen Foundation where she led its multi-year transformation process and created the Goyen Literacy Fellowship to recognize exceptional reading teachers. She is a former classroom educator, school administrator and field organizer.

    Call it the Curriculum Champions vs. the Teacher Defenders.

    Over the last four years, forty-six states have passed laws about reading instruction. While much of the mainstream coverage of these laws has focused on phonics, the actual legislation is much broader in scope.

    As states have gotten more involved in reading instruction—even mandating certain reading curricula in some places—I’ve started to see a new battlefront open in the so-called “Reading Wars.” It's all about curriculum.

  • Celebrate Family Engagement All Year Round

    Our guest author is Sarah Johnson, a practicing public school educator in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She has taught in elementary classrooms, coached new teachers as a Peer Assistance and Review consulting teacher, served as an Academic Content Coach, led professional development on School, Family, and Community Partnerships and helped launch the Parent Teacher Home Visit project in Saint Paul Public Schools.

    It’s October. For some that means apple orchards, leaf viewing, and pumpkin spice. For educators, it also brings Parent Teacher conferences . . and a dread of all the candy and unbridled enthusiasm for that last day of the month, but that’s a different blog.  Over the years I’ve seen educators approach conferences with a variety of perspectives and approaches: some excited to update families on the new learning, some worried about how families might respond to a concern, and some exhausted from the preparation and longs days.   Thankfully, it’s quite rare that some take Ted Lasso’s view, shared when he met Rebecca’s mom, “Boy, I love meeting people’s moms.  It’s like reading an instruction manual as to why they’re nuts.”

    During my 29 years as an educator in various roles in Saint Paul Public Schools, the approach I have learned is that meaningful family partnerships* are integral to student success.  Cory Jones, one of the founding teachers of Parent Teacher Home Visits explains it like this, “With a great curriculum, with a great teacher, if you leave out the home the results for that individual student will be lower.”  He’s right, families and schools need to be on the same team. This October, I’d like to encourage educators to take this parent-teacher season and challenge themselves to create opportunities for meaningful family engagement year-round. If you’re an educator leading a system instead of leading a classroom, then I challenge you to find ways of supporting and structuring these opportunities year-round as well.