About Larry Sand
RANDI, GET A GRIP! Then you jumped the proverbial shark. Referring to the Florida law on a podcast, you blurted out, “This is propaganda. This is misinformation. This is the way in which wars start.” Oy vey!! Calm down, will ya?! The law simply disallows inappropriate sex talk in schools. Sheesh.
My Dearest Randi,
What is going on! It has been a year since my last missive, and I have not heard a peep from you. This is not the first time you have snubbed me, however. When I tried to say hi to you outside the Supreme Court after the Janus oral arguments in 2018, you refused to even look at me, and then turned to a newsman and launched into a kooky rant, insisting that unions “actually make communities safer and…the right-wing is threatened by that.”
VERGARA: TEN YEARS IN THE REARVIEW In the 1990s, I was teaching again in Los Angeles at a Westside middle school with a mostly inner-city student body. A majority of the teachers were good people and hard workers, but there were a few who weren’t. Bill, a PE teacher, had an interesting ritual between classes. He would go to his car, parked on campus, and open his trunk where he kept a large cache of hooch. By the end of the day – every day – he was obviously pickled. But he knew that no matter how slurred his speech may have been, getting plastered daily was an activity he could indulge in without professional consequence.
Back in 1975, I lost my 6th-grade teaching position in New York City. As a newbie, it was explained to me that this happened because the city was going bankrupt, and had to lay off several thousand teachers as part of the corrective process. I was told that the reason I was being shown the door had nothing to do with the quality of my teaching, but rather it was due to the seniority or last-in first-out system insisted upon by the United Federation of Teachers which was spearheaded by teacher union godfather Albert Shanker at the time.
DON’T BUY INTO SEL! As first implemented, SEL was purely therapeutic in nature. It took a very dark turn, however, in 2020 when CASEL announced an ideological shift to “Transformative SEL,” which calls for students to “critically examine root causes of inequity.” According to CASEL, the concept of transformative SEL is a “means to better articulate the potential of SEL to mitigate the educational, social, and economic inequities that derive from the interrelated legacies of racialized cultural oppression in the United States and globally.” Slicing through the verbiage, it boils down to the fact that, SEL has become the therapeutic wing of the noxious Critical Race Theory. So now, kids are being radicalized and taught to feel good about it!
As a longtime teacher, I have seen firsthand that education is a fad-filled field. Culturally responsive education, inventive spelling, new math, experiential learning, balanced literacy, etc. are educational styles that have come and gone and come and gone and….
JOE BIDEN: TEACHER UNION TOADY Biden, unlike his predecessors, has made no effort to hide any union fealty. In fact, he boasted to a crowd at a White House event in September 2021, “…I sleep with a NEA member every night.” Yes, Biden is quite literally in bed with the teachers unions. But it’s the children of America who are getting screwed.
As a presidential candidate in 2019, Joe Biden agreed with National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen García’s claim that charter schools – independently operated public schools of choice, that don’t have to follow the litany of rules and regs that traditional public schools do and are rarely unionized – are “very misguided school reforms.” The fact that charters are very popular, which over a million waitlisted students will attest to, doesn’t make a whit of difference to Biden or teacher union leaders.
TK IS NOT OKAY Nobel Prize-winning University of Chicago economist James Heckman, a highly regarded expert on early child development, when asked about universal pre-K in a recent interview, said, “I have never supported universal pre-school. … No public preschool program can provide the environments and the parental love and care of a functioning family and the lifetime benefits that ensue.”
According to just released data from the California Department of Education, the state has lost 110,000 students this school year, and has fewer than 6 million students for the first time this century. Additionally, on the college level, California’s fall 2021 undergraduate enrollment dropped by nearly a quarter-million students since pre-pandemic fall 2019, according to a survey released in January. The report from the National Student Clearinghouse shows that California saw an overall decline of more than 99,000 (4.3%) in undergraduate enrollment from fall 2020 to fall 2021, driven mostly by a 9.9% drop in the community colleges.
THE GENDER CULTISTS MEET RESISTANCE California – of course – is doing what it can to maintain its reputation as the nation’s wackiest state. Democratic lawmakers are proposing to make California a haven for transgender youth and their parents who are fleeing other states. State Senator Scott Wiener said – apparently with a straight face – “They have a safe place to go if they’re threatened with prosecution. California will not be a party to this new wave of deadly L.G.B.T.Q. criminalization.”
On March 28, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law Florida’s House Bill (HB) 1557, which disallows or limits schools from instructing children in certain sexual matters. The heart of the new law states, “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”
The news was met in many quarters with histrionic outrage. The American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten groused that the law will “single out certain kids and families for derision and denigration. It is just wrong. Its intent is to divide our communities and make political hay, but it hurts children, hurts families and makes it hard for teachers to do their jobs.”
DITCHING COLLEGE in 2017, the late Walter Williams reported that about “1 in 3 college graduates have a job historically performed by those with a high-school diploma or the equivalent.” Williams, citing Ohio University economics professor Richard Vedder, goes on to say that the U.S. was home to “115,000 janitors, 16,000 parking lot attendants, 83,000 bartenders and about 35,000 taxi drivers with bachelor’s degrees in 2012.”
One of the numerous reverberations of the Covid pandemic and our overwrought response to it is that many young people are now skipping college. For students who graduated from high school in 2020, college enrollment was down 21.7% compared with the prior year, according to the National Student Clearinghouse. And importantly, if a student doesn’t go directly from high school to college, he is much less likely to ever attend a school of higher learning. Men notably, in increasing numbers, are forsaking college. The Clearinghouse reports that at the close of the 2020-21 academic year, women made up 59.5% of college students, and men just 40.5%.
FLORIDA AIMS TO END SEXUALIZATION OF CHILDREN In other words, schools would no longer be allowed to groom impressionable children in the sexual trend-du-jour behind parents’ backs. It is simply amazing that we even need a law like this. Back in the day, it would have been unnecessary, as schools were not indoctrination/grooming mills. But sadly, those days are gone.
The stories are jaw dropping, infuriating, and plentiful. The school district in St. Paul, MN is partnering with an organization that offers LGBTQ-affirming curricula for students as young as three years old. In Idaho, an 11-year-old girl was coached by her Coeur d’Alene school into a sex change without notifying her parents. As reported by Abigail Shrier, the California Teachers Association held a conference in October 2021, where it advised teachers “on best practices for subverting parents, conservative communities and school principals on issues of gender identity and sexual orientation. Speakers went so far as to tout their surveillance of students’ Google searches, internet activity, and hallway conversations in order to target sixth graders for personal invitations to LGBTQ clubs, while actively concealing these clubs’ membership rolls from participants’ parents.”
CALIFORNIA SCHOOL EXIT In Los Angeles, the bleeding is profuse. Whereas L.A. Unified schools were home to 737,000 students 20 years ago, the district is now forecasting a 25,000 student drop by the fall which would bring their attendance number below the 400,000 mark, and things are looking bleak for the nation’s second largest school district. Its “American Rescue Plan” dollars will run out soon, and Los Angeles Times education writer Howard Blume reports, that from July forward, “the district is projected to spend about $1 billion more than it will take in over a two-year period. The district also must wrestle with underfunded retiree health benefits.” Additionally, the United Teachers of Los Angeles contract is up at the end of the school year, and the union will be demanding the sun and the moon in their new contract.
With sky-high taxes, a sieve-like southern border, and an ongoing flow of nutty regulations – one law targets cow flatulence, for example – California really doesn’t need any more bad news. But according to a recent report, the state now leads the country in illiteracy. In fact, 23.1% of Californians over the age of 15 cannot read this sentence. While part of the problem is due to the aforementioned porous border, much of the blame falls on the state’s failing public schools. For example, according to the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), just 30% of California eighth graders are proficient in reading. And that test, of course, was given before the highly damaging covid-related lockdowns kicked in.
MASK THEATER IS ALIVE AND WELL IN LOS ANGELES So just what will it take to unmask kids in L.A. schools? Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers – which UTLA is part of – suggests that masks should be required until there is “zero transmission in schools.” Which is tantamount to saying that children should not be allowed to ride in cars till there are “zero deaths” of children due to auto accidents.
State officials announced last week that as of March 12, California will no longer require school children to wear masks, and thankfully most California school districts are going along with the decision. Also, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said it would “shift to strongly recommending indoor masking requirements” at schools and child care centers, but would no longer require indoor masking as of March 12.
Shortly after the announcements, new Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent Alberto Carvalho said that he “recognizes the updated health guidance” and added that he is “committed to upholding our science-driven approach.” But he followed by saying, “We respect the voices of all stakeholders, and as such, we will remain engaged with our labor partners, employees and families as we maintain and seek practices that are protective, responsive and in the best interest of our school communities.”
SCHOOL TRANSPARENCY WARS New York Magazine writer Sarah Jones is certainly on the anti-transparency bandwagon. In a recent piece, she referred to parents as “household tyrants,” and insists that the call for parental transparency is a wacko Christian Republican plot. She states that since schools don’t interfere with a child’s life at home, parents should butt out at school.
Bologna. The FDA insists that every last ingredient of the heavily processed food is listed on the package label. No one has an issue with that because it’s important to know what we put into our bodies. You might think the same mentality would be in place for what goes into our minds, especially those of children, but unfortunately that has become a very contentious issue.
FRISCO FROLICS In early February, apparently desperate, Allison Collins posited that the recall is “part of a Republican-led effort to dismantle a progressive school board.” Apparently, Ms. Collins is not aware that Republicans comprise less than 10% of voters in San Francisco. In fact, Joe Biden got 85% of the city’s vote in 2020, and the last time it voted for a Republican president was Dwight Eisenhower in 1956.
It started in January 2021, when the school board in San Francisco decided to rename 44 public schools, claiming their namesakes were “unworthy of the honor.” The names of such American icons as Abraham Lincoln, Paul Revere, Thomas Edison, Daniel Webster, Francis Scott Key, et al. were to be placed on the chopping block.
February was no less contentious – and at the same time provided some comic relief – when the art department of the school district bizarrely announced that acronyms such as VAPA (visual and performing arts) are “a symptom of white supremacy.”
THE WITCH IN THE CLOSET A major source of fear in children is climate change, which used to be known as global warming, and before that, global cooling. According to a British poll, one in five children have nightmares about climate change. Another survey reveals that 59% of people aged 16-25 are very or extremely worried and 84% are at least moderately worried about atmospheric change.
I was afraid of witches as a child. Indeed, I was convinced that there was an old crone hanging out in my bedroom closet just waiting to pounce. Not sure where or how it began, but it ended when I decided to take every bit of clothing and assorted junk out of my closet to convince myself that there was no witch stirring her cauldron there. Tragically, kids today have so much more than one imaginary hag scaring the living daylights out of them. In fact, there are enough witches these days to make a sizable coven.
ARE UNIONS CHICKENS COMING HOME TO ROOST? The union could have admitted that they made a mistake by demanding the shutdowns, and that they unnecessarily scared the daylights out of millions of teachers and kids. But that would only happen in the Twilight Zone. Instead, the union is – yes, you guessed it – asking for higher salaries for teachers, more time to plan, less paperwork, etc. as a way to stave off a mass teacher exodus.
Just last week, the National Education Association released the results of a poll which finds that “55 percent of educators are thinking about leaving the profession earlier than they had planned.” The NEA claims this is due to the fact that teachers are “exhausted and exasperated” from Covid fallout and are “under an unprecedented level of strain.”
Needless to say, a majority of the ills that teachers are experiencing in their workplace can be traced back to the shutdown hysteria that gripped the nation starting in March 2020. And said hysteria – as it relates to schools – is primarily owned by the NEA and its partner in crime, the American Federation of Teachers, along with their bought-and-paid-for school boards.
NEWS WITH THE UNION LABEL
All in all, Randi Weingarten has collected enough Pinocchios over the past two years to start her own puppet shop.
In a recent press release, the American Federation of Teachers announced that it has launched a national partnership with NewsGuard, which the union informs us is a “leading anti-misinformation tool” which protects and champions legitimate journalism and fact-based reporting and “will help educators and their students navigate a sea of online disinformation.” AFT president Randi Weingarten claims that the deal will be a game-changer for the union’s 1.7 million teachers and the tens of millions of children and their families who are currently “drowning in an ocean of online dishonesty.” She adds quite melodramatically, “It is a beacon of clarity to expose the dark depths of the internet and uplift those outlets committed to truth and honesty rather than falsehoods and fabrications.”
But a critical assessment of the unions’ talking points shows them to be bogus. For example, one of their standard rallying cries is that “voucher programs have their roots in discrimination and continue to foster it.” But as Greg Forster reports, ten empirical studies have examined private school choice programs on segregation, and nine found that the programs reduced it, while one found no visible difference. Not one showed that choice leads to racial discrimination. Additionally, a recent EdChoice poll shows that when given a fair description of school choice types, a great majority of minorities are in favor of it. In fact, 80% of Black and Hispanic parents support ESAs. So, four out of five minority parents approve of parental choice despite the unions’ insistence that it “fosters discrimination.” Also, on a historical note, researcher Phillip Magness writes, “As early as 1955, economists such as (Milton) Friedman began touting vouchers as a strategy to expedite integration.”
During the 2020–21 school year, approximately 608,000 students used a voucher, tax-credit scholarship, or education savings account (ESA) to educate their children, according to policy experts Jason Bedrick and Ed Tarnowski. They wrote in August that as a result of the legislation enacted so far in 2021, at least 3.6 million additional students are eligible to participate in the new educational choice programs in seven states, and an additional 878,300 additional students will be eligible in 14 other states. In all, 22 states expanded or created school choice initiatives in 2021.
While this is certainly good news for the still small percentage of lucky families, there is a disturbing, though not exactly surprising reality. As detailed in a study released in the fall by researchers Jay Greene, James Paul, and Lindsey Burke, very few Democratic state legislators vote for school-choice proposals, “and the few that do almost never make a difference in whether those bills receive support of at least 50% of the legislators.” The researchers conclude, that the “empirical evidence is clear that the historical practice of courting Democratic policymakers has not been effective. Indeed, it has likely been counter-productive. Proponents of school choice should make a values-based appeal for choice that could attract more families, and elevate choice as a solution to some of the most pressing education policy fights of the day.”
It cannot be said often enough that lack of money is not the problem with education in California. Simply put, when you throw more money at the government education bureaucracy, all it does is ensure a bigger government education bureaucracy – rife with excess administrators, consultants, teachers, and programs. Before the latest barrage of money, California was in the middle of the spending pack nationally, though just 34% of California 4th-graders scored proficient in math on the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), placing the state 44th nationwide.
Last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his education spending plan, which comes to $119 billion including local, state and federal sources. This would raise per-pupil spending to $20,855, and make California one of the highest spending states in the country. (That dollar amount does not include often extravagant health care perks and budget busting pension obligations.) The only hitch is that the plan needs legislative approval, which could come as late as June.
While a few of Newsom’s spending ideas have merit, like using some money to help students get caught up after the Covid hysteria dissipates, much of the loot will not help kids at all.
CHICAGO TEACHERS STRIKE OUT Other “essential” workers are expected to continue to provide service during this trying time. Cops, sanitation workers and firemen don’t get to stay home with no repercussions. Why should teachers? Also, when teachers go to a supermarket, they expect to get service. They wouldn’t like it one bit if the guy who stocks the produce shelves decided he was too “stressed” to come to work.
In December, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona urged school leaders “not to retreat from in-person learning,” and said schools should not be considering remote options. Just last week, President Biden echoed the sentiment, stating that “schools should remain open despite the ongoing nationwide surge of COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant.” Even the ultimate doom and gloom purveyor Anthony Fauci insists that despite the rising cases of the omicron variant, “reopening schools for in-person learning is the right call given widespread vaccinations among teachers and the negative effects on students of not attending in-person.”
DEI MUST DIE When it comes to educational malfeasance, California, as usual, does its best to be the national leader. In fact, there are potholes galore on Equity Road in the Golden State. For starters State Superintendent of Public Instruction and Indoctrinator-in-Chief Tony Thurmond hired Daniel Lee as the state’s first “superintendent of equity.” But shortly thereafter, Politico revealed that Lee, a psychologist, life coach and self-help author, is also a Pennsylvanian, and was given a job that was never publicly posted by the California state Education Department. Apparently being buddies with Phony Tony was enough to land Lee the $180,000 a year job. When asked if others were interviewed for the job besides Lee, Thurmond replied, “I can’t recall.” If nothing else, Thurmond is living proof that cronyism is alive and well in California.
Researchers extraordinaire Jay Greene and James Paul have released a series of three carefully crafted studies on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion that detail many aspects of the harmful scheme. In a nutshell, the authors find DEI to be “counterproductive and politically radical.”
The part of the study that examines DEI’s effects on elementary schools is particularly damning. It looks at school districts with at least 15,000 students, of which there are 554, and finds that schools with Chief Diversity Officers (CDOs) “actually have larger gaps in achievement between black and white students, Hispanic and white students, and non-poor and poor students than districts without CDOs. And those gaps are growing wider over time. This pattern holds true even after controlling for a host of other observable characteristics of those districts.”
HAPPY UN-WOKE YEAR! Watching teachers unions, government school honchos, the media, etc., deny that Critical Race Theory (which makes race the prism through which its proponents analyze all aspects of American life, categorizing individuals into groups of oppressors and victims) is taught in our schools reminds me of that memorable scene from an otherwise forgettable movie, A Guide for the Married Man. A husband gets caught by his wife in bed with another woman, and he simply denies it. And he does so, vociferously and repetitiously to the point that his wife actually starts to believe him.
In November, an American Enterprise Institute report definitively showed “how legacy and education media refuse to acknowledge the hard evidence — numerous clear examples of CRT curriculum taught to students, a CRT pledge on a state website, and the political implications of parents speaking out about CRT at school boards.” And just last week, John Murawski at RealClearInvestigations gave us abundant evidence that CRT does indeed exist in our schools. One of the myriad examples he gives is Manuel Rustin, a high school history teacher, who helped oversee the drafting of California’s Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum. He discloses “Ethnic studies without Critical Race Theory is not ethnic studies. It would be like a science class without the scientific method. There is no critical analysis of systems of power and experiences of these marginalized groups without Critical Race Theory.”