Public

America’s Founders Knew Democracy Requires Public Education

Even before the United States had a Constitution, its founders were advocating for the creation of public education systems. The United States was an experiment in democracy unlike anything the world had ever seen, turning away from government dominated by elites and hoping that the common man could rule himself. If this experiment had any chance of standing the test of time, the nation needed far more schools to prepare everyday citizens for self-government. As James Madison, the father of our Constitution, remarked: “a popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy.” Thomas Jefferson similarly argued that governments “deriv[e] their just powers from the consent of the governed,” but that it is education that makes that consent possible. President Washington, in his last annual message to Congress, added that expanding education was essential to the perpetuation

Read More

Ohio University’s identity crisis shows the struggles of regional public universities

This article about higher education in Ohio was produced in partnership with The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. This is part 5 of the Colleges in Crisis series.

Given current circumstances, Richard Vedder, an economics professor emeritus at Ohio University, is teaching his fall course, “Economic History of Europe,” for a salary of $1. Plus, a parking sticker.

“It will take a little bit of burden off the university,” said Vedder, a national expert on higher education finances. His career — he began teaching at O.U. in 1965 — spans the robust rise of public higher education and, now, its shakiest chapter.

The coronavirus crisis has hurt colleges everywhere. But for schools like O.U. — nonflagship public campuses in Ohio and across the Midwest that were already struggling — it has hastened a reckoning. The campuses have become heavily reliant on

Read More

How one school’s identity crisis reflects a growing problem among public universities

This article about higher education in Ohio was produced in partnership with The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. This is part 5 of the Colleges in Crisis series.

Given current circumstances, Richard Vedder, an economics professor emeritus at Ohio University, is teaching his fall course, “Economic History of Europe,” for a salary of $1. Plus, a parking sticker.

“It will take a little bit of burden off the university,” said Vedder, a national expert on higher education finances. His career — he began teaching at O.U. in 1965 — spans the robust rise of public higher education and, now, its shakiest chapter.

The coronavirus crisis has hurt colleges everywhere. But for schools like O.U. — nonflagship public campuses in Ohio and across the Midwest that were already struggling — it has hastened a reckoning. The campuses have become heavily reliant on

Read More

Public colleges hide donors who seek to influence students. Will COVID-19 make it worse?

Long before the coronavirus hit the United States, cash-strapped public higher education systems looked to private donors to offset the steady decline in public funding, sometimes with significant secrecy and strings attached.

Critics fear the economic downturn could give donors more leverage to quietly influence curriculum, hiring and scholarships. Open government laws in many states already allow donors to demand that the public – including students and faculty – be kept in the dark.

The pandemic has presented universities a triple whammy: Reduced tax revenues slashing government support, online-only courses gutting dormitory and cafeteria revenues, and – with more students and families out of work – less ability to offset that loss with tuition increases.

“They are going to be desperate for funding,” said Douglas Beets, who teaches accounting at Wake Forest University, and has studied nearly two decades of university donations and donor demands.

Linda Durant, vice president of

Read More

Reopening Plans for Georgia’s Public Universities Are Under Fire from Students and Faculty

Though the coronavirus is still, as President Trump put it last week, a “thing,” universities around the country are opening for the fall semester, albeit with an array of restrictions in place that are intended to tamp down the virus’ spread among students and faculty. But those restrictions seem to be particularly lax at public universities in Georgia, where students and faculty have been protesting a reopening plan predicated on in-person instruction, and which critics feel does not adequately address several potentially hazardous areas of student life.

One such area is student housing, which came into focus last week after uncovered documents revealed that a property-management company called Corvias tried to pressure the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia to ensure there are no limitations on dorm capacity this fall. In response to the letter, the Board of Regents considered directing Georgia State University to remove

Read More

Miami public schools return to online learning. What lessons were learned from spring?

Reopening Miami-Dade public schools began as a game of “ifs.”

If positive cases trend downward for 14 days. If testing for asymptomatic minors becomes widely available and expeditious. If at least 25% of a school’s student body opts to stay home, then the rest can go to the schoolhouse.

But as students, parents and teachers approach the first day of school — now Aug. 31 for Miami-Dade — there is finally more clarity on what school will look like. School will be remote and online until at least Oct. 5.

For at least a dozen districts around the state, including Miami-Dade, even the first day of school became another “if.” Start dates have been pushed back and some districts have conceded that virtual learning will take place for the first few weeks. Miami-Dade pushed its first day of school from Aug. 19 to Aug. 24 and then to Aug. 31

Read More

Protesters Call For Harford County Public Schools To Open: Report

HARFORD COUNTY, MD — Both parents and children are reportedly marching around South Hickory Avenue Thursday night calling for Harford County Public Schools to reopen.

Protesters held signs outside the Harford County Public Schools headquarters that said things like “School Is Essential” and “Virtual Learning Fails Our Kids,” according to WMAR.

The demonstration came three weeks after Harford County Public Schools Superintendent Sean Bulson announced the school system would be conducting its first semester entirely online.

“There is general agreement that safe, in-person learning would be the first preference, but the current conditions make it impossible for large groups of students to be in school at one time,” Bulson wrote in a letter announcing the decision in mid-July.

Karen Schandelmeier, a parent of rising 9th- and 6th-grade students, reportedly organized the protest due to what she called a “complete debacle” during the spring semester, when she said most students learned

Read More

If Public Schools Are Closed, Should Private Schools Have to Follow?

St. Andrews Episcopal School, attended by Baron Trump, President Donald Trump's son, in Potomac, Md., on April 29, 2020. (Samuel Corum/The New York Times)
St. Andrews Episcopal School, attended by Baron Trump, President Donald Trump’s son, in Potomac, Md., on April 29, 2020. (Samuel Corum/The New York Times)

Facing a resurgence of the coronavirus, public schools in the suburbs of the nation’s capital decided in recent weeks that more than 1 million children would start the school year from home. On Friday, officials in Maryland’s most populous county said that private schools, including some of the nation’s most elite, had to join them.

Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, abruptly overruled that directive this week, contending that Maryland’s private schools should be allowed to make their own reopening decisions. The governor staked out his position on the same day that a group of parents filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the county’s order, saying it discriminated against private and religious schools.

The wrangling threw into sharp relief the challenges facing local health officials as

Read More

Maryland’s governor continues his public health retreat

One of the mistakes commonly made during the recent public debate over whether to open schools this fall or conduct classes online has been to consider the ramifications only in the context of students, educators and their families. This is understandable. No one is more directly affected. But during the worst pandemic to hit this nation in a century, schools — public and private — must also be looked upon as potential transmission sites in the same way that bars, restaurants, churches, businesses and every other place where the public might gather must be. This isn’t just about keeping young Tommy or Tamika safe, or their extended families or even their teachers, but about keeping the broader communities safe until COVID-19 is under reasonable control.

That’s why Gov. Larry Hogan’s abrupt decision this week to grant special status to schools by amending an emergency statewide order to prevent local health

Read More

As Maryland public schools go online this fall, private and parochial schools ready to welcome students on campus

As Maryland’s public schools announced their decisions to keep their doors closed at least for the beginning of the school year, private schools have done just the reverse — arguing they have the ability to give families the in-person classes they want while keeping students safe.

Because of their small size, some experts say private and Catholic schools, are better able to make quick adjustments to their curriculum and often have more physical space to spread students out. But financial forces and teachers unions are also shaping public and private school decisions.

“The driver has been meeting the needs of our students,” said Donna Hargens, the superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Baltimore Archdiocese. “The interpersonal interaction is essential to the learning process and we know that some of our students struggled with remote learning especially those with learning needs.”

Public schools, meanwhile, often have to cope with tightly-packed classrooms

Read More