How charter co-location looks from afar

In the past week, there has been a political firestorm in New York as advocates of charter schools in New York City raised hell over the denial of co-location privileges for a minority of new charter schools that were to start in fall 2014. The outgoing administration of Michael Bloomberg (and his last schools chancellor Dennis Walcott) had given co-location authority (to occupy space in school buildings) to several dozen new charters before Bill DeBlasio was sworn in, and DeBlasio’s appointee Chancellor Carmen Farina had initially blessed the majority of the co-location permissions. She had also denied co-location to a minority of those originally approved–nine, of which three were to be run by the Success Academy chain. At the end of last week’s political fusillade, Farina apparently reversed course.

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Why I’m headed to ASU

The Tampa Bay Times‘ Elisabeth Parker* wrote a very kind piece about my leaving USF that will appear in tomorrow morning’s paper. Because of space considerations and (probably) generosity on her part, the broader context of my job search was highly abbreviated. In most cases, I’m happy to be far in the background on pieces after a reporter calls me. This is the only time I can recall where a newspaper article has been about me, and for a few reasons I want to explain why a job search by tenured faculty is a complex story.

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Lil’ Putin annexes Chicago suburb


Inspired by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s example of plebiscite dictatorship, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has annexed Naperville, a suburb 30 miles west of Chicago’s city hall. He’s just concerned for the safety of Chicagoans in the suburbs, Emanuel told the Chicago Tribune this afternoon.

Emanual says the annexation is legally covered by a Chicago Public School board resolution in 2012 requesting that he “save the children.” Others question whether such a mandate is broad enough to cover the swallowing of an entire incorporated city that is geographically distinct from Chicago.

“We thought Rahm was a nice business-friendly Democrat, like (former Mayor Richard) Daley,” said Wye Nain, president of the tony Chicago Brownstone Club.

“We could tolerate his f-bombing left and right, as long as his actions fit in our agenda. But now it seems he might affect where we actually live. This is getting out of hand, and we might even have to call our lawyers.”

Half of the Brownstone Club’s board lives in Naperville.

One University of Illinois-Chicago political scientist guessed that Emanuel was striking out in frustration over a hard and bitterly-cold winter, as well as low approval ratings.

“My guess is that he’ll settle for an autonomous region in south Naperville,” said associate professor Pan Ditfale, “especially if that region kicks back part of its taxes to Chicago.”

For his part, President Putin is returning the admiration. When asked about Emanuel’s move, Putin smiled and told reporters, “Former KGB officials have a saying, ‘Кризис слишком дорогая вещь, чтобы пoтратить впустую.’”


My thanks to college friend Astrid Cook for the assistance with the Russian. The English transliteration is Krizis slishkom dorogaya veshch’, chtoby potratit’ vpustuyu. And that’s all the hint you get. ;-)

Why does Senator Elizabeth Warren repeat a (fairly new but inaccurate) canard?

University of Wisconsin sociologist Sara Goldrick-Rab, AFT President Randy Weingarten, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren are at a forum on student debt this morning. Goldrick-Rab just asked on Twitter why Warren sticks to her rhetorical position that the federal government “profits” from student loans:

Since I am writing a paper on (at least apparently) dysfunctional discourses, just a quick thought here: that’s a great question! Why does Senator Warren keep repeating a misleading claim, and one that may undermine the federal government as the entity that disburses loans? I’m not persuaded by the various explanations of such rhetorical stubbornness that talks about epistemic closure a la climate-change denialism and other forms of ideological purity tests. That’s a sophisticated form of ad-hominem argument: you’re stubborn and stupid. Certainly that exists (and not just among your particular political adversaries), but there are plenty of very smart, generally honest people who show no signs of epistemic closure but stick to factual claims long beyond the point where you’d expect a little acknowledgment that they’d been incorrect to some degree… such as Warren on federal-government “profits,” which may be about as reliable to “book” as repayments of a personal loan by your brother.

In Warren’s case, it’s pretty simple: she’s had enormously positive feedback on the original use of the rhetoric. There are thousands of constituents in Massachusetts who are sure they’re being gouged for college expenses, both during college and afterwards, and her claim addresses their real pain. That positive response overwhelms the wonkish scolds who note that while many students and former students are incurring or suffering under significant college debt loads, the claim of federal “profit” is half-true at best. Sorry, fellow nerds: facts are weak tea against the political equivalent of 10,000 “likes” on Facebook.

In addition, her original use of the term borrows from an historical reality that until 2010, student loans went through private and very much for-profit middlemen, and that a substantial number of existing loans began before 2010 and repayments of those loans are still feeding profits of those erstwhile middleman companies. Again, fellow nerds and wonks, the reality of the majority of middle-aged college alumni* is that part of their repayments are in the form of profits. Maybe not federal-government profit, but profit nonetheless from their wallets to someone else’s. Warren’s use of the term profit is the discourse equivalent of a consonantal shift in language: the trope is the same (profit), even if the target is different (federal government, not private student loan industry).

So we have two ingredients for stickiness of inaccurate public rhetoric: the legacy of past discourse that is cannibalized and adapted to new use, and some mechanism to license that new use. In Warren’s case, the license mechanism is public approval.

Alumni refers to anyone who attended a school, whether a graduate or not. So the most accurate term for people who left college, with or without a degree, and student loans? Alumni.

From the sauna into the frying pan

Brief programming note: part of the reason why my blog-writing has been lagging this semester is because I had two major talks to prepare in the last few months. One of them was a presentation about a month ago at Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, and I will be joining them this summer as the director of the Division of Educational Leadership and Innovation. It has been a marvelous 18 years, and I will miss my friends and colleagues at USF even as I look forward to taking up the new post.

I have seen plenty of change in USF and in Florida since coming here in 1996, and I have discussed many of them on this blog. I expect to continue commenting on education in Florida, add some about Arizona, and other places as well. During the move and my first few months, this blog may be less active than at other times, but I hope to carve out enough time to get back to regular blogging by the end of 2014.