Tuesday, September 19, 2017

AZ: Leading in Charter Profiteering

Arizona may be associated with dry desert, but it is a lush, fertile playground for reformster baloney and charter profiteeringg.

Arizona has been at this for a while. Bill McCallum, co-author of the Common Core math standards, was a professor at the University of Arizona. When the Core turned out to be conservative kryptonite, Diane Douglass ran as a Core destroyer and then, once she won, promptly slapped a thin layer of lipstick on that pig.

Meanwhile, Arizona has wrestled with a teacher shortage, but not to the point of, say, fixing their basement level pay. Wrestling has been more about things like recruiting teachers from the Philipines. Oh, and Arizona also sits at the back of the pack for per-pupil spending. Meanwhile, Arizona is the home of the legislator who said that teachers are probably working two jobs because they want a fancy boat.  And that's before we get to such atmosphere boosters like considering a teacher gag law and a ban on Mexican-American studies in school.

Open a charter; make a stack of money this tall.

But while Arizona has been doing its best to stomp public schools into the dirt, they really love them some charter schools.

Actually, those two things are closely related. Arizona has been nurturing charters for over twenty years, but Arizona is an open-enrollment state, so no child is "trapped" in a failing school just because of their zip code. So to create market pressure for their extensive choice system, Arizona's leaders set fire to public education and let it burn; parents will feel they have no choice.. It's no wonder that the Network for Public Education gave the state an F.

Why throw so much effort behind the charter industry? Certainly some of the push could be ideological, but Arizona is also the state where the dreams of cracking open the education funding egg and feasting has come true. It turns out that people are using school choice to hoover up giant chunks of public tax money.

The Grand Canyon Institute ("Arizona's Centrist Think Tank") has just released a meta-study of twenty years of Arizona charters. "Following the Money" comes to some fairly appalling conclusions that suggest that Arizona is one of America's pre-eminent charter scam factories and that taxpayers are getting hosed. Here are some of the conclusions reached by this forensic analysis.


Roughly 77% of all Arizona charter schools engage in some sort of self-dealing that steers tax dollars into the pockets of charter owners, their families, or board members. Non-competitive related-party transactions are a common vehicle for this, particularly when it comes to handling real estate and other assets. The report talks about one example (American Leadership Academy) that appears to be simply a subsidiary of a real estate development company in Utah. Primavera Technical Learning Center paid $12.2 million for software it purchased from a company owned by the school's charter holder. The report points out (just in case a reader is too ethically impaired to get it) that if a superintendent of a public school awarded a no-bid multi-million-dollar contract to a for-profit company that he owned himself, that would be all kinds of wrong and a violation of various laws. However, in Arizona, it's completely legal for a charter operator to self-deal in this manner.

Ignore the ethical shadiness for a moment-- how can that possibly end up with taxpayers getting the most bang for their buck?

High Executive Salaries

Public school superintendents in Arizona make around $130/pupil as a salary. Charters were reluctant to share salary figures for the report, but of those for whom the report had numbers, a handful paid its top person a comparable salary. $200, $300, $600 per pupil payment for administrators in some charters. And on top of that, some charters had more administrators than the public system. If you take the full administrative team and lump it together, Benchmark School Inc pays administrators $952 per pupil. Crown Charter School, Inc, pays $1,885 per pupil in administrative costs. George Gervin Prep Academy pays its top two administrators $3,312 per pupil.

Questionable Profit Distribution

The for-profit charters in Arizona apparently engage in some hinky handling of their profits. 

Reduced Classroom Spending

Well, yes. Those executive salaries and dividends have to take money from somewhere. The study found that where public schools spent about 52% of expenditures on classroom instruction, for charters it was more like 45%.

Academic Underperformance

What do taxpayers get for all their money? Not outstanding school performance. But then, the law doesn't really require them to do well. The report somewhat incredulously quotes one part of the law:

A sponsor, including members, officers and employees of the sponsor, are immune from personal liability for all acts done and actions taken in good faith within the scope of its authority.

In other words, charter operators exist in the Land of Do As You Please as long  they claim they meant well. As the report puts it in one sub-heading, "Delivery or what?" The theory of Arizona's law is that the charter operators will be checked by their sense of responsibility to provide a good education. Really. The report also wryly notes that since parents actually choose charters for many reasons, there was no sudden outflow in 2013 when many charters switched to Alternative School status reporting, a means by which charters could lower their standards and get a better grade.

The report looks hard at charter performance and finds it wanting. It also looks at the theory that the free market competition would drive schools to become more excellent-- well, that's wanting, too. Or maybe just laughable. Bottom line: doing a lousy job of educating students will not hurt your profitability in the AZ charter market.

Reconciling Inconsistent Financials

Lots of charters use creative bookkeeping. In fact, as the re[port looks at some bad examples, some charters just lie.

Arizona's charter sector has consumed a billion taxpayer dollars and in return, it has mostly just provided wealth for people who know how to work the system. And those people don't have to be very clever because the system in Arizona includes few checks or oversight; the only reason we can't say the Arizona system is full of illegal scams is that very few things are against the law. I invite you to peruse all 90 depressing pages of the report. This is what the theft of taxpayer dollars in the name of school choice looks like.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Teachers and Fame

Name ten famous teachers. No? Okay, name five. Yeah, me neither.

Jose Luis Vilson just asked the question-- what does fame mean for education? It's one of the continuing ripples spreading out from the NYT piece about the sponsored, branded teacher. 

I think we'd have to agree that teaching is generally not the pathway to fame and fortune. I mean, there are small fames of a sort. I mean, there's Nicholas Ferroni, named America's Sexiest Teacher by People magazine, which may seem like a frivolous sort of fame, but an awful lot of fame is frivolous and based on no real accomplishment of note.

So that may be one problem with education and fame-- not very many people get famous for doing the kind of work that, in the words of Mike Rowe, makes civilized life possible for the rest of us. Nurses, welders, waitpersons, pilots-- the world is filled with people who keep things moving in powerful ways that go unrecognized because of the dailiness of it.

Educational fame faces an obstacle of scale. You get to be a famous singer by singing (directly and through recordings) for millions of people. You get to be a famous you-tuber by getting millions of hits. No teacher in the course of her career is going to teach millions of students.

I have taught in the same small town for over thirty-five years (at the same high school I graduated from), so I'm known. Any time I walk into a restaurant or grocery store or church or just walk down the street, I will run into people who know me. But we're still talking hundreds of people, and just a localized sort of well-knownness. If this is fame, half the people in my town are famous.

Nor do people in general pay that much attention to the field. When you get to a bookstore, look for the "education" section. Test prep books, make your kid smart books, and maybe two or three shelves of books about the actual work, always including books by people who have no business talking about the field.

Since no teacher is going to achieve fame-scale work in the classroom, and since the students in your actual classroom need every piece of heart and soul you can pour out, being famous would have to be a second job. Most of us don't have time to be famous. To step up onto any sort of national platform, a teacher almost has to take at least one foot out of the classroom. It would be hard, I imagine, to do the job of faming while maintaining your professional balance-- I think some really gifted individuals could do it, but it would take mindful concentration. Many famous-ish teachers are too busy building their brand by making a proprietary package out of what thousands of teachers already know, and their students are just props and lab rats.

Beyond the challenge of achieving fame, for teachers there is always the challenge of accepting recognition. As a profession, we tend to be self-effacing, disinclined to stand in the spotlight. If you have a huge ego, teaching probably didn't call out to you as a way to get that ego fed. And there's a "why me" factor as well-- I consider myself a pretty decent teacher, but there isn't a thing I could be recognized for that thousands of other teachers aren't also doing in their classrooms, and some are doing it far better than I am. I've been recognized for my work once or twice, and everything I have to say on those occasions starts with this-- "There isn't a thing you can say about me that couldn't also be said about uncounted other teachers." Which is why I accept recognition when it comes my way-- because I can point out that the community of teachers, the great collection of those of us who work in a classroom-- we all deserve the recognition.

Fame requires some ego, some self-promotion. Almost nobody becomes famous because they just sat quietly doing their thing and the great fame machine just descended upon them. I know the teacher-bloggers who put each post on super-blast, pushing it out every way they know how. It's something I have a hard time doing; it makes me uncomfortable to self-promote. But on this, they are right and I'm wrong. Certainly the rich amateurs who afflict our profession, the policy wonks and thinky tank wise men-- they're all perfectly comfortable saying, "World, I have Important Things to say, and you should listen to me." We should all be doing that, and when we can't do it for ourselves, we should be amplifying our fellow teachers. It's good for all of us-- when I pick up a teacher-written book, or see that an actual honest-to-God teacher is going to be featured at a conference about education, I feel good about that.

Fame for educators has some pitfalls. Like the brand-minded teacher in the NYT article (who teaches a grand total of ten kids), it can be easy to make a bad trade-- give me recognition and a platform and I'll use it to promote not our work, but your business. If you get a platform, make sure you know what you're using it for.

The worst danger of teacher fame is the teacher fame that comes at the expense of students.

Think about it. Every Hero Teacher movie starts from the same place-- look at these horrible creatures in this classroom. Every tale of teacher awesomeness is marked not by the qualities of the teacher, but by the deficits of the students. The message is not that it takes a special, capable, devoted, excellent person to teach, but that it takes a special, capable, devoted, excellent person to teach those God-awful kids. Don't ever step up to your platform by standing on the necks of students.

Well, this turned out to be rambly. Let me try to circle back around--

Can teachers find fame? Man, I wish they could. There are teachers I know who deserve to be widely known, and who would use their platform for good and to elevate the work and the profession. It seems about as likely as a world-famous jazz tuba player. But I have one last thought--

People within a field don't often become famous at first by being elevated by people outside that field, because those people don't know what a good job looks like. Jazz cats are the first to know a good jazz tuba player when they hear one. Classroom teachers know a good classroom teacher when they encounter one. If you wait for someone from outside to elevate those people, they'll probably elevate the wrong one.

What I'm saying is if we want to see more famous teachers, we should make more people within the profession famous. We should hold each other up for accolades (and I mean, rally-- why are teachers of the year NOT selected by teachers) and attention. We should amplify names and buy the books and pass on the blog links and make the fuss. If we were a little more actively involved with the engines of fame, perhaps we could feel a little better about where they drive folks.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

DeVos Simplifies the Issues

It is easy, once you start flying down the rabbit hole of the education debates, to get wrapped up in some complex issues and arguments. If Betsy DeVos has done anything for the ed debates, it is simplifying the privatizer position.

Charter fans have layered many arguments into their pitch. Look at those terrible public school test scores-- how else can we spur excellence? Look at the terrible inequity-- how else will we bring social justice to the poor? Look at those terrible teachers and their terrible unions-- how else can we wrest control of schools away from them? Look at how backward they are-- how else can we make schools modern? Only the market can force schools to innovate and protect students and educate the poor. We must fix low standards, special ed, facility issues! Course choices! Ending religious discrimination! Better school lunches! Ipads!

Much of this variegated noise was strategic-- an attack on public education along many fronts. But it was also meant to collect allies, to build a huge coalition of various interests and line them up between privatization of public education. People using labels like conservative, progressive, Republican, Democratic, libertarian, apolitical technocrat-- ignore for the moment the question of how accurately or honestly those labels were used, they were all there in the parade.

And then Trump-DeVos happened. Could you call yourself progressive and support them? Many former allies decided (perhaps a tad hypocritically) that the answer was no. People who are serious and sincere about their ed reform ideas (yes, there are such people) had to consider their position vis-a-vis an administration that is not serious or sincere about anything. The coalition frayed, splintered.

But there is DeVos herself. While she has paid lip service to some coalition talking points, if you listen and read, the through line is pretty clear:

Public schools are a dead end, to be abandoned and cur loose. If a few survive, well, good for them. But the market must reign, and it should reign unhampered by any regulation at all. DeVos has repeatedly indicated that she can not imagine an instance in which USED would step in and say, "If you accept public tax dollars, you must stop doing that." Nor has she indicated any barriers to vendors who wish to enter the market. And there should be no institution, no system. Just parents acting as customers.

Her objective is plain. No more system of public education. Just private ed-flavored businesses. No more taxpayers who imagine that the system they pay for must work for them. Just customers-- and no customer walks into a McDonalds or Macy's and says, "You all work for me."

Progressives who think reform should be an engine of uplift? Conservatives who think tax dollars should be accounted for? Charteristas who believe the deal is trading autonomy for accountability, or that charters should be part of a public system? Yeah, none of you are really at DeVos's table, and trying to pretend that you are just hurts your cause, because DeVos can only barely bothered to pay lip service to your policy ideas.

DeVos has made it simple. There are groups out there that are calling her on it, some that have been seeing this coming for a while now. including the Network for Public Education. Listen to Diane Ravitch of NPE explain how simple it is.

ICYMI: No Particular Edition Edition (9/17)

Here's some readings for the week. I'll say it again-- not everyone has time to write about education, but you've got the five seconds it takes to pass something along on twitter or facebook. Spread the word. Build the audiences.

Pence: Black Is White

Sheila Kennedy on the Pencian habit of setting truth and reality aside in the pursuit of privatization.

Who Can Say What 20 Years of PA Charter Schools Have Taught Us?

Philly paper takes a look a twenty years of charter not-so-success in Pennsylvania.

Big Philanthropy, Small Change

The Have You Heard podcast takes a look at philanthropy in education, and its tendency to make the same dumb, destructive mistakes over and over again.

The History and Future of Learning Objects and Intelligent Machines

Nobody is better than Audrey Watters at drawing the lines between the cold, hard specifics of ed tech and the bigger ideas and issues behind them. If you only read one item on the list, make it this one.

Betsy DeVos Back to School Message Clashes with What Parents Want

Jeff Bryant looks at how DeVos's goals fail to line up with what we know parents want from schools.

Sacrificing on the Altar of Correctness

John Warner looks at one more bad ed tech product, and finds one more set of sacrifices of real education being made at the altar of correctness.

How Meeting the Needs of All Learners Can Perpetuate White Supremacy

Mr. Anders on is one more teacher disappointed by his districts start-of-year non-response to the issues raised by Charlotte.

Questions as Invitations, Not Interrogations

Speaking of the altar of correctness, Russ Walsh with a short but incisive look at the role of questions in either opening a class up or shutting students down.

Robots Replacing Teachers? Laugh at Your Own Risk

Emily Talmadge with a chilling story from California and a school without a sixth grade teacher

Standardized Tests Are So Bad I Can't Answer These Questions About MY Own Poems

This is a re-run, but as we enter the start of the first testing season, here's a reminder about how absurd these tests are. A poet discovers her own poems used on a standardized test-- and that she can't correctly answer the test questions. A classic.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Markets Smart and Free

Unlike many of my friends in the ed debates, I kind of like free market capitalism. Under the right circumstances, it can really get things done. But there are sooooo many reasons to believe that the field of public education is precisely the wrong set of circumstances.

The free market can be uber-excellent at setting a true price for goods and services-- particularly goods. But the market can only do this job well when it is smart. We've seen the market get way smarter in just the last two decades, so we have examples of the effects (and yes, some of what I'm going to talk about comes under the sexier term "asymetric information," but I am not feeling sexy today).

Take used cars. Back in the day, you would go to the Used Car Dealer and do a long and complicated dance. You weren't sure exactly what the car you wanted was worth, but you knew what you could stand to pay. The dealer knew pretty well what the car was worth, but he was not about to tell you. If you were savvy, you might have checked the Kelly Blue Book, but mostly you had to drive from lot to lot to lot to lot, comparing prices and trying to build some sense of what a fair price was, particularly if those lots were priced all over the map.

Now we have internet. On the one hand, it's a bummer because it's extremely unlikely you'll find a surprise bargain wildly out of line with the common going price. On the other hand, you probably won't get hosed, and those days of interminable negotiation while the two parties tried to keep a grip on their own secret info (car price, buyer's budget).

A smart free market sets a value for objects; that value equals "whatever people will pay for it," and thanks to sites like eBay, we know exactly what that amount is. If the last 600 widgets sold on eBay for $10, you are not going to sell yours for $50. The market is too smart for that.

Surviving in a free market has always involved companies trying to make the market dumber in several different ways. The company can make the market dumber by withholding pricing information, like the old used car lot. The health care industry has made the health care market positively brain dead; no customer has any idea what anything costs.

We can also make the market dumber by concealing the nature of the product. "This is magic snake oil," I declare, holding up a jug of water. "These pictures of magic sea monkeys, with cute little faces, totally represent the real thing," declares the ad. "This maple syrup-like product is thick and colored a kind of dark amber," declares well-shot video of a completely synthetic crappy product.

Maple syrup is, in fact, a good example. Marketeers have convinced folks that good maple syrup is thick and rich and gooey, with a sort of dull faux-sweet tone, while actual maple syrup, when heated is thinner than water and cuts through waffles and your enamel with the same sharp, sugary edge. The market has been made dumb about maple syrup.

The free market is exceptionally dumb about education, and reformers have been working hard to make it dumber.

Nobody knows what the actual costs involved in education are (though there are many people who are sure they are Way Too Much). The ed reform debates have further muddied the water, because some reformsters like to characterize the cost of public education as Exorbitantly Expensive, whereas marketing for charters generally refers to them as Free. And unlike a used car or a beanie baby, education can involve a wide range of costs based on location.

Meanwhile, the effect of reformy focus on "outcomes" is to seriously dumb down the market's understanding of the "product" which has been reduced from the nebulous idea of self-actualization and personal growth leading to a better life-- well, we've boiled all of that down to "good score on a Big Standardized Test" which is such ridiculously reductive version of the "product" that it makes the market blindingly ignorant.

And on top of that, there is also a hidden market involved, transactions so unexamined that the market is completely ignorant of what's going on. That's the data market. The product being sold is personal data, and the vendors do not even know they're in the market at all. It's as if we walked onto a used car lot and said, "For a dollar, I'll clean up your trash" and the dealer said sure, fine, and we then drive a Lexus off the lot. The free market can't even function when at least one of the parties doesn't even know they're selling something,

Many of these factors keep the market dumb, and certainly some could be overcome (though, as with ebay and internet used car sites, at considerable cost to profiteers), but probably not the issue of knowing what the "product" is so that it can be valued. Different people get different kinds of education for different purposes, and often the true value of the education is not known for years-- or decades. Reformers try to work around this by suggesting that parents are the true "consumers": of education, but that's just not true. The primary "consumer" of a year of kindergarten is the five year old sitting there, and also her future employers, friends, neighbors, fellow citizens and even future family members. None of the yet have a clue what that year of education looks like as a product, or what its value will be. The free market demands that we put a value on our goods and services right now, today-- and that's just not possible.

The free market can't handle education because it's too stupid about education. That stupidity works out well for people trying to make a buck on education, but like the pre-internet used car market, it works out poorly for the "customers." And it certainly doesn't improve education itself, which the market deliberately fails to understand.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Never Send a Bot

Even as edupreneurs pitch every eduproduct under the edusun as being enhanced with bold new Artificial Intelligence (just like real intelligence but with fewer calories), examples continue to abound that the AI world has a few bugs to work out.

You remember last years when Microsoft set up a chatbot to learn from other posters, who promptly taught it how to be a horrifying roboracist. And just last week I was talking about new human resources tech that tries to read your face, body language, and mind when hiring you. The problem? Soldifying human biases and prejudices into data algorithms. I was afraid it will be turned loose on students eventually, but many readers helpfully pointed out that it is already being used by districts to hire teachers. That, sadly, is not a new thing.

I will now unleash some scary racist shit

Just this week, we've had more news on the rogue AI front. One story centers on researchers who claim their bot can figure out whether you're gay or not. Well-- if you're white, and signed up for a dating service, and not something other than straight or gay, or-- you know what? It's possible these researchers are full of it, which would be fine except it doesn't matter whether or not their software can actually do this or not-- it only matters if they can convince someone it does, and that someone hires them and puts their AI to work. That would be some bad news.

But when it comes to AI amokitude, nobody beats Facebook, a multimillion-dollar corporation that has access to best computer wizards that money can buy-- and yet cannot successfully wrestle with any of the implications of letting Artificial Intelligence drive the bus. Remember when they decided that AI could curate the news and they'd just fire the trending team humans? That just worked super, and started us down the road to a system that could be gamed by the Russians throughout our last election. Well, "gamed" is too strong a word since all they did was just give Facebook money in exchange for pushing their baloney.

And now it turns out that Facebook will let you sell ads for just about anything, as when journalists this week discovered that the House That Zuck Built will gladly sell you ad space targeted toward people who want to burn Jews. 

All of this because a common embed  in these AIs seems to be the Silicon Valley ethic of neoliberal libertarianism, a sort of technocratic motto of "If you can do it, nobody should make you stop to ask if you should do it."

We have been worried about Skynet, about AIs becoming so smart that they would try to grab all the power and kill the humans. But what we keep forgetting is that AI is software and software enshrines the ethics and culture of the people who create it. Armed robot conquest of the Earth is what you get if your AI software was originally written by Stalin or Hitler or the IT guy from the Military-Industrial Complex. What we're ending up with is the software from somebody's marketing department. When the singularity comes, it will stand on the corner minding its own business and accepting payoffs from any human who wants to punch some other human. It will be a worldwide net of bots-driven entrepreneurs who most value non-interference with other entrepreneurs. If they send someone back to kill John Conner as a child it will be because adult John Conner was a legislator who successfully launched regulations on bot-driven industries.

In other words, the danger will not be that AI will value evil, but that it will be ethically and morally deaf.

If you want 6to read a far more intelligent look at edtech's many failed promises and cultural gaps and ethical impairments, I cannot recommend this Audrey Watters piece enough. I'm just going to focus on one particular question--

What happens when you put an AI in charge of a student's education, if it's the kind of AI that doesn't know that racist spewing is bad and opening up a market for Jew-haters is wrong? What if it's the kind of AI that doesn't know or care that it's being used to mislead an entire nation?

Back in the Day, most teacher contracts included morals clauses (many, many still do) and teachers could lose their jobs for flagrant display of moral and ethical lapses. Yes, such clauses are often subject to twists and biases and lies, but ask yourself-- if a live human showed the kind of ethical blindness that AI regularly does, would you want that live human teaching your child? If you followed a person down the street who drove over a puppy without stopping (because it's somebody else's job to keep the puppy out of the street) and who stopped to put up posters advertising a racist rally (because someone paid them to) and who walked past a child who was bedraggled and weeping (because that kid is not their problem) and who eventually walked into a school classroom, what would you think?

Look, I am no Luddite. I use edtech. I teach at a 1-to-1 school and I like it. I am hugely appreciative of the many things that modern tech tools make possible. But they are tools, and like any other tool they have to be used 1) for only the purposes they are actually good at and 2) by human beings exercising their own human judgment.

These stories are the same story, time after time after time and the moral is always the same-- never send a bot to do a live person's job. I see nothing in the current world of AI to suggest that this is not doubly true for schools.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Teachers in the Statehouse

Something extraordinary has happened this month in Pennsylvania. Jerry Oleksiak, one of 2016's scariest people and friend of this blog, has stepped down from his position as head of PSEA, the state teachers union. And he did it for the most unusual of reasons-- Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf selected Oleksiak to serve as his secretary of labor and industry.

Oleksiak was a classroom teacher for 32 years, teaching special education in the Upper Merion school district of PA. He's been a union official for several years. And now he's the Pennsylvania Secretary of Labor and Industry.

We've certainly seen teachers move up into elected office. Oklahoma just elected a retired teacher to fill the scandal-stained spot of a GOP lawmaker, and many other OK teachers are running for office. Oh, no, wait-- that was the special election back in July. The special election that just happened is this one, in which a teacher won with 60% of the vote.

But even I was surprised to see a governor of a state reach down and select a teacher for appointment.

I mean, I shouldn't be. Lord knows we've seen an unending parade of people with no education background appointed to state level positions. But it's true-- even I reflexively assume that when folks want someone to come run  an arm of government, they don't call on teachers. "This part of our state government is a mess. We'd better get a teacher to come in here and fix it," said pretty much nobody ever.

Yet we think nothing of saying let's get an economist or a banker or (God help us) a business person.

The reaction to Oleksiak's appointment, even among teachers, is a measure of the profession's lowered esteem (and self-esteem). Why would teachers be represented in capitols so much less than, say, lawyers and doctors? Why is it that "appointing a teacher" usually means some kind of cute mascot job like the Teacher Ambassadors of the USED which are a nice idea and no, wait, they are not, because it's the education department and teachers should not be invited to come hang out as honorary advisers-- they should be tagged to come run the place. And not just that department, but lots of other departments across government.

Teachers have management training with the most challenging of co-workers. We handle money, work with budgets, find creative ways to fund things (sure, it's all with the decimal point a little further to the left than in government, but still). We collaborate and compromise, and most of all, we have a broad background of knowledge across many fields combined with an intimate knowledge of how policies play out for real people on the ground. There really is no reason for anyone, including teachers, to think of government work as somehow out of our league. Certainly teachers, like other folks, may look at government work and find that it's far less appealing than their regular day job. But that's no reason not to ask, to just automatically rule teachers out.

The teachers of Oklahoma have finally gotten so sick of their legislature that they are mounting a multipronged attempt to simply take it over. God bless them. And God bless Jerry Oleksiak, for reminding us that there's no reason a governor couldn't pick up the phone and say, "I want to come serve in my cabinet."