The time Bernie Sanders stood up to Teach for America

Morgan Harper rakes it in, and a fight over sexual misconduct data in D.C schools


This week I have a story up at The Intercept looking at a little-known part of Bernie Sanders’s education record in the Senate, that reflects a lot of how he’s served — staking out positions, regardless of popularity, because he believes they are just right and reasonable.

In this case, there was a whole battle linked to the No Child Left Behind Act about who should be considered a “highly qualified teacher” (HQT) under federal law. No Child Left Behind said all students were entitled to HQTs, defined as educators in core subjects who have bachelor’s degrees, demonstrate content knowledge, and obtain state teaching certificates or pass state licensing exams. The goal was to ensure all educators were sufficiently prepared before running their own classroom.

School districts could still hire non-certified teachers — but the deal was if they did that, then parents had to be notified that their child was being taught by such a teacher, the school district had to make sure it wasn’t concentrating all their non-certified teachers with low-income students and students of color, and the school districts had to develop plans for how they would reach the goal of 100 percent HQTs in the future.

Sounds fair enough, except Teach for America — the national organization that recruits students from competitive colleges to teach in public schools for two years — didn’t like the idea of their participants not being deemed “highly qualified” from day one. So TFA, an influential organization in D.C., lobbied to get a change to the law, and in 2002 the U.S. Department of Education issued a regulation that said “highly qualified” teachers could now also include unlicensed teachers for up to three years if they were making progress toward their certification. Problem solved for TFA.

But civil rights groups later sued over this regulation, leading to a court battle, and eventually a fight in Congress, where Bernie Sanders played a leading role. Read what happened here.

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Remember Morgan Harper? She’s a 36-year-old progressive running for Congress in Columbus, Ohio and Ryan Grim and I were the first to give her race national coverage over the summer. Last week she released her first-quarter fundraising haul, raking in a whopping $323,000.

Harper is challenging Rep. Joyce Beatty, who has served in the House of Representatives since 2013. It’s a safe blue district, so a Democrat will be winning that seat no matter what.

I wrote about Harper’s recent fundraising, along with some other primary challengers who are showing that small-dollar donations can really add up.

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And lastly, for education folks and local D.C. readers: today I have a piece at Washington City Paper on a strange, developing situation about efforts made by D.C parents and local transparency advocates to learn which schools have had “substantiated” allegations of sexual misconduct between students and adults. (The city confirmed in August that there have been six such incidents since January 2018, but has declined to share where.)

One of the strangest aspects of the story is that city officials are saying not only will they not share which schools have had “substantiated” allegations of sexual misconduct because they fear disclosure could harm past and future victims, but also that they don’t even have any records that would reveal the names of the schools. Despite investigating the allegations? Hmmm.

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