The extremist and ultraconservative views taught at some taxpayer-funded voucher schools

The Huffington Post examines what some evangelical Christian schools – some largely funded with taxpayer money through vouchers – are teaching. It starts with an interview with a former student who attended multiple evangelical Christian schools where she was taught that to dance was to sin, that gay people were child molesters and that mental illness was a function of satanic influence. Teachers at her schools talked about slavery as black immigration, and instructors called environmentalists “hippie witches” and taught that Islam is a violent religion and evolution has “no real scientific basis.”

Voucher Schools Championed By Betsy DeVos Can Teach What They Want. Turns Out They Teach Lies.

PORTLAND, Ore. ― It was late morning in an artsy cafe, the smell of coffee and baked goods sweetening the air, and Ashley Bishop sat at a table, recalling a time when she was taught that most of secular American society was worthy of contempt.

‘This is the time to reassert your support for social justice’

NEA Student Program Chair Ashley Muscarella, University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg.

With controversy swirling around white supremacist Richard B. Spencer’s appearance Thursday at the University of Florida, NEA Student Program Chair Ashley Muscarella says this is a good time to reassert your support for social justice, and working through your union is a great way to do it.

“As an aspiring educator, I am a proud member of a generation that is willing to stand up against racial inequality, sexual, gender, and religious discrimination as well as ignorance and intolerance,” she writes. “I know the fight is long, but shying away is not an option for me or my peers. We are the promise of a new and better tomorrow—a future which we must uphold.

“If you are a college student preparing to serve in our public schools or a new or veteran educator, a great way to take a stand and work to build an environment worthy of our kids is to be an active member of your local association. Your union can be a resource to you as a vehicle for social justice advocacy, cultural awareness training, and professional practices that help us become the strongest educators and most-valued community allies.”

Read her column on EducationVotes.org:

As educators, we must challenge ourselves to stand up for social justice – Education Votes

Don’t miss out on the education, legislative and political news you can only get with EdVotes. Click here › by Ashley Muscarella, NEA Student Program Chair Recently, intolerance has reared its ugly head on a national scale. In lieu of hate and bigotry, we have all the more reason why we must be outspoken about our own core values.

Bullying can present itself in many ways

October is Bullying Prevention Month
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Bullying is sometimes very obvious – a big kid pushing a smaller kid around – but much more subtle forms of bullying can be just as harmful, says Prairie du Sac guidance counselor Anne Uphoff.

“It could be leaving someone out on purpose,” Uphoff says in a Sauk Prairie Eagle article. “It could be where someone is really nice to you one-on-one, but in a crowd as a bystander they might not do anything. We try to get them to realize how that might look to the other child.”

Uphoff, who is a WEAC Region 5 member and a guidance counselor at Bridges Elementary School in Prairie du Sac, works with students from 4K through second grade. She says kids who are trained to stand up for someone can help reduce a bully’s power.

“Bystanders have the power to turn something around by walking away,” Uphoff said. “The more bystanders who stay, the bully is getting that attention. For so many years we have just focused on the bully, whereas now we are working with bystanders in order to get it to stop.”

Also interviewed for the story is WEAC Region 5 member Tim Belleau, a guidance counselor at Portage High School, who notes that state law now requires school districts to have a bullying prevention policy in place. Also, Julie Ennis, principal at Spring Hill Middle School in Wisconsin Dells and a former member of the Adams Friendship Area Education Association, says her school is trying to help foster relationships among the students.

“We hope through more understanding they might treat one another differently,” Ennis says.

Read the entire article in the Sauk Prairie Eagle:

Schools, organizations work to prevent bullying

No matter where a person is from, there are bullies and victims of bullying. Over the past decade, with teen suicide rates resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, communities have taken notice. The attitude of “boys will be boys” or “they’re just being kids” is fading.

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NEA President says Trump ‘creates fear in children, and that is unforgivable’

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García on Friday said the country is facing “a reckless, irresponsible administration that creates chaos and confusion.” Speaking to the National Press Club, she said President Trump “creates fear in children, and that is unforgivable.” Educators, she said, at times have to “comfort crying children because they are afraid of their president.”

NEA’s Eskelsen García says DeVos is ‘throwing students under the bus’

In testimony before Congress Wednesday, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos refused to say she would deny federal funding to private schools that discriminate against certain classes of students. That, and other responses from DeVos to questioning by members of a House appropriations committee during a review of the Trump administration’s education budget proposal, prompted NEA President Lily Eskelsen García to tweet that DeVos was “throwing students under the bus.”

Eskelsen García tweeted that DeVos is still unqualified and still using alternative facts. “We should invest in what makes schools great, the things that build curiosity and instill a love of learning,” she tweeted.

The Trump-DeVos budget would slash the federal investment in public education programs by a whopping 13.6 percent for the upcoming fiscal year, eliminates at least 22 programs, and cuts $10.6 billion from federal education initiatives overall.

During questioning, U.S. Representative Mark Pocan, a Democrat from Wisconsin, challenged DeVos on private school vouchers, noting that Milwaukee’s school voucher program has resulted in years of failure. When he pressed DeVos on whether the federal government would hold recipients of public money accountable, DeVos punted, according to the Los Angeles Times. The Times documented this exchange:

“Wisconsin and all of the states in the country are putting their ESSA plans together,” said DeVos, referring to the Every Student Succeeds Act, a school accountability law. “They are going to decide what kind of flexibility … they’re allowed.”

“Will you have accountability standards?” Pocan asked.

“There are accountability standards,” DeVos said. “That is part of the ESSA legislation.”

That’s not true. ESSA’s regulations state that the law’s accountability rules do not apply to private schools.

Earlier, Eskelsen García released a statement saying the Trump-DeVos budget “is a wrecking ball aimed at our nation’s public schools.”

“Their budget shows how dangerously ill-informed they are about what works for students and in public education. Their reckless and irresponsible budget would smash the aspirations of students, crush their dreams, and make it difficult for them to go to college and get ahead.

“We should invest in what makes schools great, the things that build curiosity and instill a love of learning. That is what every student deserves and what every parent wants for his or her child. It should not depend on how much their parents make, what language they speak at home, and certainly, not what neighborhood they live in.”

“Even worse, DeVos and Trump have made failed private school vouchers a cornerstone of their budget. Vouchers do not work and they take scarce funding away from public schools — where 90 percent of America’s students enroll — and give it to private schools that are unaccountable to the public. Spending money on voucher programs means denying students the opportunities they deserve in their neighborhood public schools.

“With this budget, Trump and DeVos want to slash billions of dollars from public education, but it’s more than education programs. These deep cuts will harm students and will have a direct impact in the classroom, but these cuts will also reach far beyond the schoolhouse doors. These budget cuts will hurt every working family in America. And that’s why we have to call on Congress to reject the Trump budget.”

Read more about DeVos’ appearance before Congress:

Betsy DeVos would not agree to bar private schools receiving federal money from discriminating

President Trump’s budget proposal includes deep cuts to education but generously funds a new push for school vouchers. When pressed by representatives at a House appropriations subcommittee hearing on the budget, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos declined to say if, when or how the federal government would step in to make sure that private schools receiving public dollars would not discriminate against students.

San Diego schools combat rising Islamophobia

Responding to a rising number of bullying incidents directed at Muslim students, the San Diego Unified School District is adopting a multi-tiered approach to combatting Islamophobia.

According to the Los Angeles Times, elements of the plan include:

  • Administrators and teachers will have calendars showing Islamic holidays.
  • Students will learn more about the religion in social studies classes.
  • Safe places will be created on campuses for Muslim students.
  • Applying a restorative-justice method of discipline for students who bully Muslims, requiring them to speak with other students about the issue.

“It’s more of a comprehensive program, not just a curriculum,” said Stan Anjan, the district’s executive director of family and community engagement. “We’re looking at it from a very integrated and holistic approach.”

A 2015 report released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations found that 55% of Muslim American students surveyed in California said they had been bullied because of their religion.

WEAC and the NEA are working with members to address the issue of Islamophobia in schools. Representatives to the WEAC Representative Assembly this spring passed a New Business Item that states, in part, that WEAC “will stand against all forms of religious discrimination intended to hurt, harm or marginalize our Muslim population that will impede their educational or religious obligation.”

A 2016 article in NEA Today summarized the issue this way:

Anti-Islamic rhetoric has reached a fever pitch in America, spouting not only from presidential candidates and governors, but even from school board members, like one in Philadelphia who posted that she is “officially against Muslims” and “We don’t want them in America” on her Facebook page.

In New York, Chicago, and in Mohamed’s hometown of San Francisco, city bus ads paid for by millionaire Pamela Geller showed pictures of ISIS atrocities and proclaimed, “It’s not Islamophobia. It’s Islamorealism.”

For Muslims who ride city buses—including hundreds of school kids—the message was loud and clear: “Muslims are terrorists and must be feared.”

“It’s scary, unfair, and weird how we are in the year 2016 and people are allowed to be so openly biased and hateful,” says Mohamed Omar, 18, a senior at San Francisco’s Raul Wallenberg High School. “People look at us in a damning way. They have this image of us that’s hard to change, and it bothers me that Pamela Geller can have freedom of speech, but where is my freedom of religion?”

Read more in the Los Angeles Times:

San Diego Unified has a plan to fight Islamophobia and bullying

San Diego Unified School District administrators and teachers will have calendars showing Islamic holidays, students will learn more about the religion in social studies classes and safe places will be created on campuses for Muslim students as part of a multi-tiered approach to combat Islamophobia.

Take the NEA’s Bully Free Pledge and find out more about bullying in schools:

NEA’s Bully Free: It Starts with Me

A toolkit to help educators create bully free schools. The critical role that a positive school climate plays in bullying prevention. Valuable research to help turn your school into a bully free zone. Groundbreaking research by NEA and NEA partners examining perspectives on bullying and bullying prevention efforts.