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50CAN: Seeking More Local Investment to Advance Its Set Agenda

50CAN is a corporate reform organization that wants to expand many facets of education reform including increasing the number of charter schools (as well as the money they receive); promote the grading of schools using test scores, and passing state-level legislation for “achievement school districts” (state-run districts).

50CAN has a web site that offers a lot of information on what it believes it has accomplished and what it hopes to accomplish. Of course, one must get past the ed reform fluff, such as that on the opening page:

Hi there! We’re 50CAN!

We’re a nonprofit network of local leaders advocating for a high-quality education for all kids, regardless of their address.

A slight shift from the usual, “regardless of their zip code.”

The mission statement page is also hazy, but it does begin with the “regardless of their address” slogan:

We are guided by four foundational beliefs that make up our vision for the road ahead.

We believe that growing the ranks of citizen-advocates will change the trajectory of children’s lives.

We believe in the power of evidence-based policy and the power of open advocacy.

We believe that nationwide change depends on a network of local advocates.

We believe that to improve education for all students, we need an unwavering commitment and a clear-eyed approach.

As for that “vision page” linked above, well, also nebulous feel-good (including “regardless of address” slogan.) Below is just a slice:

As we work toward our mission of a high-quality education for all kids, regardless of their address, the following four beliefs guide our work.

What We Believe

We believe that growing the ranks of citizen-advocates will change the trajectory of children’s lives.

Reimagining American K–12 education is more than a just cause, it’s the most important work we can do as a democracy. The only way we can reach the goal of a high-quality education for all children, regardless of address, is by democratizing advocacy itself: casting aside one-size-fits-all, top-down mandates and growing a larger, more diverse, more dynamic leadership corps.

Equipped with nonpartisan research and proven tools, citizen-advocates can drive the creation of stronger, more equitable schools in every state and community—and usher in an era where every child has the opportunity to achieve the American dream.

We believe in the power of evidence-based policy and the power of open advocacy.

All of our campaigns must start with proven theories of change—what we have seen add up to a real difference in students’ lives. That means researching the best policies for kids and learning from the results on the ground in communities across the country. It also means a commitment to open advocacy by making our tools and training methods easily accessible. This openness strengthens accountability, accelerates learning and promotes trust. …

How We Work

Learn how we put these beliefs into action with our organization’s new strategic plan.


The strategic plan (linked above) is a 25-page document about 50CAN’s goals for 2018-2023.  One major goal of 50CAN is to increase the number of “citizen advocates” behind its agenda. (If you are a citizen advocating for the neighborhood school, you are not wanted.) An excerpt:

Citizen advocates are indispensable. Our civic responsibility to ensure children receive a high-quality education rests on a complex network of thousands of neighborhood, town, city, county and state systems knit together through 200 years of policy and practice. No two states or communities are alike in this vast country. Because of this, our network of citizen advocates must also be a vast one, with thousands of leaders drawing upon their own unique insights into the needs of their communities while sharing and learning together to accelerate the nationwide pace of change. …

These citizen advocates are indispensable because the United States doesn’t have a top-down national education system. Instead, our civic responsibility to ensure our children receive a high-quality education rests on a complex network of thousands of neighborhood, town, city, county and state systems knit together through 200 years of policy and practice. No two states or communities are alike in this vast country. …

50CAN: The 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now exists to help these local leaders be more successful advocates for kids.

So, 50CAN wants to increase local involvement in corporate reform. What is funny is that the corporate model is a top-down concept, and even though 50CAN wants to enlist more locals behind its cause, 50CAN has already determined what that cause is. So, 50 CAN wants to harness local advocates behind an agenda set by 50CAN.

50CAN citizen advocates will not be speaking against charter school expansion. They will not be rallying against the usage of taxpayer money to finance via charters a dual school system.

50CAN citizen advocates will not be seeking to end the grading of schools and teachers using test scores. And 50CAN citizen advocates will not be opposed to state-run school districts.

One can read as much on 50CAN’s “policy wins” page. The page also considers it a win to have “increased financial transparency.” However, it seems that 50CAN stops short of meaningfully addressing the financial fraud and mismanagement that has infected the charter school sector.

50CAN currently has a foothold in 10 states (DE, GA, MD, NJ, NY, NC, PA, RI, SC, and TN). (50CAN began with ConnCAN (in CT), which appears to be disconnected from 50CAN–and which does use the “regardless of zip code” as part of its slogan. But ConnCAN has the same agenda as 50CAN.) There is also MinnCAN, which is apparently not networked into 50CAN and is not mentioned on the 50CAN site. 50CAN does mention that it operates in some other states to a lesser degree.

But 50CAN is methodically seeking to expand. To that end, they offer this 73-page “Guide to Building Advocacy Campaigns.”

The guide is neutral in tenor, which means that one might apply it outside of the 50CAN corporate ed reform agenda.

So, I invite individuals and organizations fighting for the neighborhood school to use this tool to their advantage– including the fact that 50CAN announces its local-level advocacy campaigns at the beginning of each legislative session.

Call it Operation ICAN Boomerang.


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

About My April 27th GoFundMe Campaign: Thank You!

On April 27, 2017, I posted a piece entitled, “Seeking Your Assistance,” in which I asked my readers for $380 in financial assistance so that I might renew my annual subscription to the nonprofit search engine,

Within 24 hours, contributors met my requested goal– and graciously kept the donations coming.

The final total for my $380 GoFundMe campaign was $1,033.

What this means is that after GoFundMe deducted its fees, my readers gave me a $600 gift.

Let me also add that some readers asked to mail a contribution directly to me via personal check. I won’t say too much about these private contributions except, Wow.

Whether sent via GoFundMe or through the mail, your generosity has made my upcoming summer so much easier.

Summer is an opportunity for me to earn extra money. (Such is true for many teachers.)  But I also know that I am tired.

In order to avoid burnout, I need to wake up to no major projects this summer.

I want my biggest summer writing responsibility to be this blog.

I want to read lots of books– for pleasure.

I want to savor some mental down-time.

You have made this possible for me.

Thank you so much.


Charter School Teachers Plan to Strike on May 25th

On May 04, 2017, teachers, their assistants, and paraprofessionals at the Edgewater, Il-based Passages Charter School voted 43-0 to strike. On May 19, 2017, they set the prospective strike date as May 25, 2017, as noted in the Chicago Sun-Times:

Teachers say they are paid “rock-bottom” salaries in the $30,000 to $40,000 range — well below Chicago Public Schools teachers and low even for charter schools — while the current and former CEOs of the stand-alone school earned a combined $540,000 in the year ending June 30, 2016. Union members believe their salaries are low because of administration’s spending on itself — tax records show $281,000 alone on “other compensation” for the retired CEO — and overhead expenses and because those leaders do no fundraising.

As the Sun-Times notes, if Passages teachers follow through with plans to strike, they will be the first charter school faculty to do so.

The union that represents Passages Charter School employees is ChiACTS Local 4343, which represents professionals at 12 other Chicago charter schools (Passages is not the list, but news of the Passages strike date can be found on this ChiACTS Local 4343 web page).

Passages Charter Schools is operated by the Chicago-based nonprofit, Asian Human Services, Inc. (AHS).

The Sun-Times article notes that meanwhile, according to the Passages school website message to parents, negotiations continue. (Note that the letter below represents the official school stance– that of AHS– not that of the teachers and other school personnel who are represented by the union in the AHS negotiation):

May 19, 2017

Dear Parents/Guardians and Students:

As you may be aware, AHS has been in contract negotiations with the Union that represents the teachers and teacher assistants at Passages Charter School.  We want to update you about these negotiations, and reassure you that our main concern is the education and well-being of our more than 400 students who attend Passages.

We have been meeting with the Union for more than a year.  During that time, we have discussed many issues at the bargaining table.  We have reached agreement on several of those issues, including employee discipline, health and safety, grade entry, and after school events.

At the same time, we have several issues that remain open, including salaries, and the length of the school day and school year. And we continue to negotiate these issues at a time of significant financial uncertainty, given the local and State-wide budget issues that have resulted in reduced funding to all charter schools, including Passages. Most recently, Passages’ funding was reduced yet again, by $189.58 per pupil, causing a reduction of approximately $83,000 in the current fiscal year.

We know that the Union took a strike authorization vote two weeks ago.  We understand this raised questions and concerns for you, and we were disappointed that the Union chose this path.  A strike is a serious step that affects all of us within the Passages community.

We met with the Union last week for another bargaining session. At that meeting, we asked the Union about the strike vote and if they had set a strike date. The Union told us that no strike date had been set.

We have several more meetings scheduled with the Union over the next few weeks.  In fact, we are set to meet with the Union at 4:00 p.m. today.  However, we just learned that the Union is going to announce a strike date today at 4:00 p.m., at the same time we are scheduled to meet, and before we have been able to make another counterproposal.

We want you to know that we are working very hard to reach a fair compromise with the Union, and that we take very seriously our duty to bargain in good faith. We also want you to know that we continue to keep the education of Passages students first in all that we do.

We are thankful for your understanding and cooperation at this time. We will do all we can to minimize any impact on students, and will keep you informed of further developments as we learn them. Please check the website, call 773-433-3530, or email with any questions.

The above letter to parents does not mention the stark differences in teacher and CEO salaries noted in the Sun-Times. The letter also includes no information about whether Passages CEOs will agree to a salary reduction to coincide with the per-pupil funding cut.

May 25th, 2017, is less than a work week away.

Will American education experience its first charter school teacher strike?

Stay tuned, readers. Stay tuned.



Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

Trump’s Proposed Title I Intrusion Plan: FOCUS

According to Reuters, the White House is supposed to release its proposed 2018 budget on May 23, 2017.

On May 17, 2017, the Washington Post purportedly received advance notification of Trump’s proposed 2018 federal education budget.

One of the items in that proposed ed budget is a new program called Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success (FOCUS). As the Washington Post reports:

The administration would devote $1 billion in Title I dollars meant for poor children to a new grant program (called Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success, or FOCUS) for school districts that agree to allow students to choose which public school they attend — and take their federal, state and local dollars with them.

The goal is to do away with neighborhood attendance zones that the administration says trap needy kids in struggling schools. …

But the notion of allowing Title I dollars to follow the student — known as “portability” — is a controversial idea that the Republican-led Senate rejected in 2015. Many Democrats argue that it is a first step toward private-school vouchers and would siphon dollars from schools with high poverty to those in more affluent neighborhoods.

Indeed, a major issue here is the alleged (i.e., not able to be confirmed until official WH release of the 2018 budget) attempt to slip a new program into Title I– a program that not only is not mentioned in the Every Schools Succeeds Act (ESSA), but also one that would make state/local access to a portion of the Title I funding conditional upon meeting a special circumstance plastered onto ESSA by Trump.

As noted in Mother Jones, US ed sec Betsy DeVos is scheduled to appear before the House Committee on Appropriations on May 24, 2017, to defend the proposed 2018 fed ed budget– which would include defending the shadily-inserted, Title I-fund-succubus, FOCUS program.

A May 17, 2017, EdWeek article on the Trump 2018 ed budget proposal illustrates another sleight associated with FOCUS: By including it as part of Title I, Trump could tout that he *increased Title I funding.* Of course, as previously noted, that funding increase would also include insertion of Trump’s conditions for the funding:


…The spending plan calls for the creation of a new, $1 billion federal grant program under Title I to allow students to take federal, state, and local dollars to their public school of choice. That money would be added to the $15.9 billion Title I receives this budget year, fiscal 2017— that current funding is not “portable” to public schools of choice and goes out by formula.

Both the cuts and the new grant for Title I, along with other aspects of the full budget proposal expected to be released as early as next week, are consistent with Trump’s preliminary budget released in mid-March. …

In an interview, Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., the ranking Democrat on the House subcommittee for K-12… slammed the budget proposal in general, saying that the proposal to make some Title I money portable “undermines the intent of Title I” by shifting money away from schools with high-levels of poverty to wealthier schools. And he said it would damage prospects for low-income students and their families.

“I hope that it is dead on arrival in the House,” Polis said. “Traditionally, presidents haven’t had their way [with the budget]. I hope we keep with that tradition.”

As noted in the March 16, 2017, Seattle Times, presidents rarely have their way with the budget:

The president’s budget is merely advisory. The Constitution gives Congress the power to dole out the money, and lawmakers are not eager to give up that control.

“It’s about institutional power and pride,” said Ross Baker, a congressional expert at Rutgers University. “Congress has given up a lot to presidents in recent years. They don’t want to give up this.” …

Trump’s fellow Republicans control both chambers of Congress, but even so lawmakers are expected to move forward with their own budget blueprint this spring, as they traditionally have done.

“Historically, presidential budgets do not fare well with Congress,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

Stay tuned to see if tradition prevails.


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

Ed Reformers Are Going to Discuss Their Failures

It seems that the ed reform message is once again shifting.

Years ago, around 2013, I first heard the ed reform message shift in regard to the state-run Recovery School District (RSD) in New Orleans. RSD was supposed to be revolutionary. In 2013, I first heard RSD “mother,” former La. state ed board member Leslie Jacobs, defend RSD as “improving.”

Improvement in and of itself is good. However, this ed reform “improvement” message followed years of damning locally-run New Orleans schools and boasting about amazing changes to come.

In short, the “improvement” narrative was face-saving, post-boast backpedaling.

The next major ed reform backpedal I heard came in 2014, and it concerned what was supposed to be the (again) revolution that was the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

The backpedal narrative in this case was one of “faulty implementation.”

Now, via the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the latest ed reform shift is for ed reformers to “fail better.” From the AEI article, written by Michael McShane:

Policy ideas like charter schools, teacher evaluation and high standards first exist in the abstract. When they are actually implemented, they look quite different from state to state or district to district. What one state calls “charter schooling” might look different from charter schooling in another state. So if charter schools struggle in one state, it isn’t necessarily an indictment on the idea as a whole….

Opponents (who were against the policy before any data were available) come out and tut-tut at advocates, telling them to “follow the data” or not to “cling to ideology.” Advocates circle the wagons. They spin the findings or pettifog the implications. They counter with personal stories or impugn the motives of critics. Rinse and repeat. (By the way, much of this is covered much more in depth than I can manage here in Rick Hess’s great new volume “Letters to a Young Education Reformer.”) …

For our part, Jay Greene, chair of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, and I are co-hosting a conference in Kansas City on May 22 where top education researchers are going to talk about failure. Authors will tackle many of the major topics of education policy of the last quarter century: Test-based teacher evaluation, technology in classrooms, teacher preparation, No Child Left Behind and more. But rather than trying to make some kind of global statement about whether or not something like evaluating teachers based on performance or having the federal government intervene in low-performing schools is a “success” or “failure,” authors will dig into specific examples, what went wrong and most importantly, what we can learn from it.

Like so much about ed reform slogans upon first mention, the phrase “fail better” is catchy. Sure, the same ed reform push has stated ad nauseam that American public education is failing. However, it seems that failure connected to public education has become cool because ed reformers are now embracing it.

Or rather, some are, and these are trying to draw other ed reformers in. It is smart to publicly acknowledge failure in ed reform because that is a clever way to endeavor to diffuse blame.

Call it a learning curve in combating the “status quo.” (I know: “Status quo” is stale and overused, but it is still being tossed around by those too cowardly or lazy or ignorant to operationalize what actual ed reform success would be lest ed reform be held up to some specific, oft-repeated, observable outcome.)

As concerns corporate ed reform group therapy on their failures, there will be a one-day conference at the Kansas City Public Library on May 22, 2017, entitled, “Eye on Education: Failures to Fixes.”

Below is the posted program schedule.

9:30 a.m.
Opening and welcome

9:45 – 11 a.m.
Panel 1: The Big Picture: What Does Failure Mean? Are Experts Really Experts?

Papers presented:

  • “The Limits of Expertise” by Frederick M. Hess, resident scholar and director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., and author of the popular Education Week blog Rick Hess Straight Up, and American Enterprise Institute research assistant Paige Willey.
  • “The ‘Failure’ of Technologies to Transform Traditional Teaching in the Past Century” by Larry Cuban, emeritus professor of education at Stanford University.
  • “Teacher education: Failed Reform and a Missed Opportunity” by University of Virginia cognitive psychology professor Daniel Willingham.

Discussants: Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bedell and Charles King, executive director of the Kansas City Teacher Residency program.

11 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
Panel 2: Go Big or Go Home: The Federal Government’s Forays in Failure

Papers presented:

  • “No Child Left Behind” by Martin West, associate professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and past senior education policy adviser to the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
  • “School Improvement Grants: Failures in Design and Implementation” by Ashley Jochim, research analyst at the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education.
  • “Test-Based Teacher Evaluation” by Matthew Di Carlo, senior research fellow at the Albert Shanker Institute, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit established by the American Federation of Teachers.

Discussant: Melissa Patterson-Hazley, managing partner of Hazley & Associates and University of Missouri-Kansas City education instructor.

12:15 – 12:45 p.m.

12:45 – 2 p.m.
Panel 3: The Challengers: Choice, Philanthropy, and Their Shortcomings

Papers presented:

  • “The Failure of Private School Vouchers and Tax Credit Scholarships” by Anna Egalite, assistant professor of education at North Carolina State University.
  • “No Excuses Charter Schools: The Good, the Bad, and the Overprescribed” by Matthew Ladner, senior research fellow at the Charles Koch Institute in Arlington, Virginia, and co-author of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s “Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform.”
  • “Education Philanthropy” by Megan Tompkins-Stange, assistant professor of public property at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

Discussant: Awais Sufi, president and CEO of the new nonprofit SchoolSmartKC

Co-presented by the Show-Me Institute.

I notice that no session is aimed at helping ed reformers apologize to districts, schools, and even individuals for the wreckage upwardly-mobile corporate edders have made and continue to make in their efforts to fabricate a false narrative of success.

There is also no session on combating the urge for the ed reformer to save him-/herself by exiting one well-financed ed reform post for another. (There so often seems to be a soft landing available at one of the many corporate-ed-advocating think tanks, such as AEI.)

And there is no session advocating that what corporate ed reform really needs is for its true believers to actually spend an average of five to ten years in the classroom instead of perching above it as well-paid yet clueless know-it-alls.

The ed reformer disdain for prolonged classroom experience is perhaps its greatest failure of all, and it seems unwilling or unable to acknowledge as much.

Addendum 05-18-17: I have been advised that not all who are presenting at the above conference are reformers. That is true. However, let me add two observations: 1) The CCSS message about “faulty implementation” was pushed by AFT Pres Randi Weingarten, who has an established history of going “reform chameleon” on her members in the name of “having a seat at the table,” and 2) “fixing” ed reform is as effective as seeking to improve upon methods of tax evasion: the goal is misplaced to begin with.


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

Donald Trump’s Liberty University Commencement Speech

On May 13, 2017, Donald Trump gave his first commencement speech as president, at the 2017 Liberty University ceremony.

At the ceremony, Liberty University President, Jerry Falwell, Jr., presented Trump with an honorary law doctorate.

Falwell was Trump’s first choice for US secretary of education. Falwell was not willing to make a four-year commitment to the position. However, in February 2017, Falwell agreed to lead an education task force assembled by Trump.

An advanced copy of Trump’s remarks was purportedly made public on Friday, May 12, 2017, on However, given Trump’s penchant for veering from preplanned remarks, I have transcribed Trump’s actual remarks based upon the 32-minute White House video of the event, included below.

Below is approximately half of Trump’s speech. Trump vacillated between reading his prepared remarks and offering impromptu commentary. At the end of the 17-minute transcription below, I have included a link to the entire 32-minute transcription.

In many cases, Trump’s own life decisions conflict with his advice to graduates. In some cases, he even contradicts himself within the speech, and he seems to believe that Liberty University graduates are his forever supporters.

I am reading the biography, Trump Revealed. One statement that stands out to me from my reading earlier today concerns Trump’s business practices. Commercial broker, Stephen Ifshin noted that Trump “burned through people.”

I could go on, but I will refrain.

My chief purpose in transcribing Trump’s speech is to make it easily accessible to the public.

Here we go:

Congratulations to the Class of 2017. That’s some achievement. This is your day, and you’ve earned every minute of it, and I’m thrilled to be back at Liberty University. I’ve been here, this is now my third time, and we love setting records, right? We always set records. We have to set records. We have no choice.

It’s been a little over a year since I’ve spoken on your beautiful campus, and so much has changed. Right here, the Class of 2017, dressed in cap and gown, graduating to a totally brilliant future. And here I am, standing before you as President of the United States. So, I’m guessing there is some people here today who thought that either one of those things– either one– would really require major help from God. Do we agree? [applause] And we got it. [applause]

But here we are, celebrating together on this very joyous occasion. And there is no place in the world that I’d rather be to give my first commencement address as president than here with my wonderful friends at Liberty University [applause], and [applause], and I accepted this invitation a long time ago. I said to [Liberty University President] Jerry [Falwell, Jr.] that I would be there, and when I say something, I mean it. [delayed applause]

I want to thank President Jerry Falwell and his incredible wife, Becky– stand up, Becky– for their kind words, their steadfast support, and their really wonderful friendship. Let me also extend our appreciation to the entire Falwell family– Trey, Sarah, Wesley, Laura, and Caroline– thank you for everything you do to make this university so exceptional– one of the truly great, great schools. Most importantly, to our new graduates, each of you should take immense pride in what you have achieved.

There’s another group of amazing people we want to celebrate today, and they are the ones who have made this journey possible for you, and you know who that is? Nobody, you forgot already. You gonna go out; you gonna do whatever you gonna do. Some are gonna make a lot of money. Some are gonna be even happier doing other things. They’re your parents and your grandparents. Don’t forget them. [applause] You haven’t forgotten yet, have you? [applause] Never, ever forget them. They’re great.

And especially this weekend, let’s make sure we give a really extra special thanks to the moms. [applause] Don’t forget our moms, ’cause graduates, today is your day. Today is your day, but, in all of this excitement, don’t forget that tomorrow is Mothers Day, right?

I had a great mother. She’s looking down now, but I had a great mother. I always loved Mothers Day.

We’re also deeply honored to be joined by some of the nearly 6,000 service members, military veterans, and military spouses who are receiving their diplomas today. [applause] Would you please stand. [applause] Please stand. [applause] Wow. [Trump claps.]

That’s great. [applause] Thank you very much. Great job. We’re profoundly grateful to every single one of you who sacrificed to keep us safe and to protect God’s precious gift of freedom. It is truly a testament to this university and to the values that you embrace that your graduating class includes so many patriots who have served our country in uniform. Thank you very much.

To the Class of 2017: Today, you end one chapter, but you are about to begin the greatest adventure of your life. Just think for a moment of how blessed you are to be here today at this great, great university, living in this amazing country, surrounded by people who you love and care about so much. Then, ask yourself, with all of those blessings, and all of the blessings you’ve been given, what will you give back to this country and, indeed, to the world? What imprint will you leave in the sands of history? What will future Americans say we did in our brief time, right here on earth?

Did we take risks? Did we dare to defy expectations? Did we challenge accepted wisdom and take on established systems?

I think I did, but, we all did, and we’re all doing it.

Or did we just go along with convention? Swim downstream, so easily with the current, and just give in because it was the easy way, it was the traditional way, or it was the accepted way.

Remember this: Nothing worth doing ever, ever, ever came easy. Following your convictions means you must be willing to face criticism from those who lack the same courage to do what is right– and they know what is right– but they don;t have the courage or the guts or the stamina to take it and to do it. It’s called The Road Less Traveled.

I know that each of you will be a warrior for the truth, will be a warrior for our country, and for your family. I know that each of you will do what is right, not what is the easy way, and that you will be true to yourself and your country and your beliefs.

In my short time in Washington, I’ve seen firsthand how they system is broken. A small group of failed voices who think they know everything and understand everyone want to tell everybody else how to live and what to do and how to think. But you aren’t going to let other people tell you what you believe, especially when you know that you are right. [delayed applause]

And those of you graduating here today who have given half a million hours of charity last year alone, unbelievable amount of work and charity, and few universities or colleges can claim anything even close.

We don’t need a lecture from Washington on how to lead our lives.

I’m standing here looking at the next generation of American leaders. There may very well be a president or two in our midst. Anybody think tey’re going to be president, raise your hand. [applause]

In your hearts are inscribed the values of service, sacrifice, and devotion. Now, you must go forth into the world and turn your hopes and your dreams into action. America has always been the land of dreams because America is a nation of true believers. When the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, they prayed. When the founders wrote the Declaration of Independence, they invoked “our Creator” four times because in America, we don’t worship government; we worship God. [applause]

That is why our elected officials put their hands on the bible and say, “so help me God,” as they take the oath of office. It is why our currency proudly declares, “In God We Trust.” And it’s why we proudly proclaim that we are “one nation, under God” every time we say the Pledge of Allegiance.

The story of America is the story of an adventure that began with deep faith, big dreams, and humble beginnings. That is also the story of Liberty University.

When I think about the visionary founder of this great institution, Reverend Jerry Falwell, Senior, I can only imagine how excited he would be if he could see all of this and all of you today and how proud he would be of his son and of his family. In just two days, we will mark the tenth anniversary of Revered Falwell’s passing. I used to love watching him on television, hearing him preach. He was a very special man. He would be so proud, not just at what you’ve achieved, but of the young men and women of character that you’ve all become. And, Jerry, I know your dad is looking down on you right now, and he is proud, he is very proud. [applause] So, congratulations on a great job. [applause]

Reverend Falwell’s life is a testament to the power of faith to change the world. The inspiring legacy that we see all around us in this great stadium, this is a beautiful stadium, and it is packed. I’m so happy about that. I said, “How are you gonna fill up a place like that?” It is packed, Jerry.

In this beautiful campus, and in your smiling faces, but it all began with a vision. That vision was of a world-class university for evangelical Christians. And I want to thank you because, boy, did you come out and vote, thos of you that are old enough. In other words, your parents. [cheers and applause] Boy, oh, boy. You voted. [applause] You voted.

No doubt, many people told him his vision was impossible, and I am sure they continued to say that so long after he started, at the beginning with just one hundred and fifty-four students. But the fact is, no one has ever achieved anything significant without a chorus of critics standing on the sidelines explaining why it can’t be done.

Nothing is easier or more pathetic than being a critic ’cause they’re people that can’t get the job done. But the future belongs to the dreamers, not to the critics. The future belongs to the people who follow their heart no matter what the critics say because they truly believe in their vision. At Liberty, your leaders knew from the very beginning that a strong athletic program would help this campus grow so that this school might transform more lives. That is why a crucial part of Reverend Falwell’s vision for making Liberty a world-class institution was having a world-class football team, much like the great teams of Notre Dame. Great school. Great place. In fact, Vice President Mike Pence is there today, doing a fabulous job, as he always does. [applause]

A few years ago, the New York Times even wrote a story on the great ambitions of the Liberty Flames. That story prompted a long-time president of another school to write a letter to Jerry. It’s a letter that Reverend Falwell would have been very, very pleased to read. Jerry tells me that letter now hangs in the wall in the board room of your great university. It came from the late Father Theodore Hesburgh, who was the beloved president of the University of Notre Dame 35 years ago. Like this school’s founder, he was a truly kindhearted man of very, very deep faith. In the letter, Father Hesburgh recalled that Notre Dame’s own meteoric rise from a small. Midwestern school to a national football powerhouse.

And then he wrote something so amazing and generous: He wrote, “I think you are on that same trajectory now, and I want to wish you all the best and encourage you from the starting and from being able to start very small, and arriving in the big time.” Thanks to hard work, great faith, and incredible devotion, those dreams have come true. As of February of this year, the Liberty Flames are playing in the FBS, the highest level of competition in NCAA football. [applause] Don’t clap. That could be tough. [applause] Don’t clap. That could be tough. I’m a little worried. I don’t want to look at some of those scores and say, “Jerry, are you sure you know what you’re doing here?” [laughter] Those other players are big, and fast, and strong, but I have a feeling you’re going to do very well, right?

From the most humble roots, you’ve become a powerhouse in both education and sports. And just wait until the world hears the football teams you’ll be playing on your schedule starting next season. President Falwell gave me a list of some of those schools, the one’s you’re going to be playing 2018. Would you like me to read the names, just came out? Would you like to hear them? [applause] I’m a little bit concerned. [applause]

UMass, Virginia, Auburn– Jerry, are you sure you know what you’re doing? [laughter] Jerry, Auburn. [To someone on stage.] I don’t know about that, James. This could be trouble, Jerry. Rutgers, Old Dominion, Brigham Young, Army– I might be at that game. Who am I supposed to root for? Tell me. [laughter] I don’t know. [laughter] That’s a tough one, Jerry. I don;t know, Jerry. I’m gonna have to think about that one, Jerry.

Buffalo, Troy, Virginia Tech– oh, no, Jerry– Ole Miss and Wake Forest. Those are really top schools. That’s, maybe in four or five years, I’ll come to a game, right? You’ll build it up? [laughter] Well, good luck.

The success of your athletic program arriving on the big stage should be a reminder to every new graduate of just what you can achieve when you start small, pursue a big vision, and never, ever quit. You never quit.

To read the rest of Trump’s Liberty University remarks, click here for the full transcript.


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

Walton Family Foundation Is Looking for a “Director of People”

The Walton Family Foundation (WFF) has created a new HR (human resources) position: Director of People.

This person is supposed to be trained in HR and have experience in HR “some experience in international HR preferred”), but to go beyond HR and be a “people expert”– whatever that means.

The WFF ad reads like a search for a charismatic HR director who is supposed to successfully foster/extract the maximum amount of Waltonism from among WFF employees.

It seems that “director of people” is an actual position that has been around at least for several years. Workology termed 2013 “the year of the Director of People.”

It seems that several years later, WFF has decided to try this “Director of People” concept, which Workology defines as follows (excerpted):

It’s sometimes our inclination to focus on the avenues of our business that bring immediate and blatant results, but you’ve got to look past the obvious and discover what really makes the wheels of the organization move. There’s no denying that sales are important, customers are a priority and goals must be met, but it’s the people within your company make all of this happen.

Meet the Director or VP of People

The Director of People is unlike any other position currently held in your organization, yet is reminiscent of several positions at the same time. Your Director of People is first and foremost people focused. Much like a human resources professional, they are in tune with the general attitudes and feelings of employees and know that those two factors largely contribute to working styles and actual work produced. Similar to an employee committee Chair, they focus on creating a fun and light work environment, yet are able to see the big picture and understand how small actions make up a larger effort, strategizing as a CEO would. This position even goes a step further to take on some managerial traits as the Director of People also understands what motivates employees and how to encourage the best work possible from your talent force.

WFF wants to “attract, develop, retain and leverage the best talent possible”– even as the Waltons actively work to squash collective bargaining.

I also find it interesting that in its job ad (below), WFF wants 10+ years of leadership experience for this position even as it funds those with zero experience in education to teach (i.e., Teach for America) and to start charter schools.

Below is the full WFF Director of People job description. It uses a lot of words to say that the Waltons seek an HR wonder willing to make his/her home in the Walton backyard of Bentonville, Arkansas.

Director of People Job Description

The Walton Family Foundation is looking to expand its leadership team with someone who is:

  • A professional dedicated to the idea of people being a powerful strategic asset for success;
  • Ready to use his/her extensive people program and HR generalist skills to bring about true change in a learning organization; and
  • Eager to play a part in ambitious social impact.

If you are this person or know of someone who is, we’d like to talk to you.


The Director of People is a new role at the Walton Family Foundation. After significant recent staff growth and office expansions across the country, WFF wants to put in place innovative people initiatives to attract, develop, retain and leverage the best talent possible. The Director of People will be an innovator responsible for developing and implementing an integrated strategic program for all people-related functions for the organization, including recruiting, diversity and inclusion, performance measurement, training and development, recognition and total rewards/compensation. Deep expertise and experience in innovative and strategic human capital program development and implementation as well as change-management skills in support of a learning organization will be imperative.  Experience in the social sector is strongly preferred.

We’re one of the largest private foundations in the United States, and we’re looking for a Director of People to help us maximize the impact we can have with our talented staff.  In this newly-created role, the Director will create, enhance, and implement programs for attracting, developing, and maximizing talent.  At the Walton Family Foundation, investing in people is core to our mission.

We are not seeking a traditional Human Resource Director; we want a People Expert who can lead a change movement with our people programs to truly support and develop our people and accelerate our effectiveness in fulfilling our mission and fostering a culture which encourages and supports continued learning, inclusion and growth.

The Director of People will report to the recently appointed Executive Director and be part of WFF’s Leadership Team. This position will be based in Bentonville, Arkansas.


The foundation has three primary program areas of collective interest to the Walton family: K-12 education, freshwater and ocean conservation and quality of life initiatives in Northwest Arkansas and the Mississippi Delta region. Our grantmaking totaled nearly $375 million in 2015, and we are poised to invest more than $2 billion over the next five years in initiatives across the world. WFF is headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas, with offices in Washington, D.C.; Jersey City, New Jersey; and Denver, Colorado.


  • Develop and implement an integrated strategic program for all people-related functions in the organization, including onboarding, diversified and international recruiting, performance measurement, staff and leadership development, recognition and total rewards /compensation systems.
  • Lead change with these new people programs with an infectious, optimistic attitude.
  • As part of WFF’s Leadership Team, help plan, manage and evaluate the organization towards fulfillment of our mission and vision for a continuous learning culture.
  • Facilitate a culture grounded in respect, collaboration, learning, results and the mission and values of the foundation.
  • Serve as a thought partner and functional expert to the Leadership Team and program teams regarding human capital issues.
  • Work collaboratively with existing human resource staff (currently shared services with the family office.) Ensure fiscal oversight of the department’s budget.
  • Act as a confidential and neutral sounding board for employee concerns as needed. Manage to positive resolution and liaise with appropriate leadership as necessary.
  • Maintain relationships with legal counsel, insurance brokers and other WFF advisors in support of human resource, employee benefit, international and insurance matters.


There are four equally important and inter-dependent qualification categories. The qualifications are focused on our mission directly and on expanding our learning culture to fulfill, support and sustain the mission through investing in our people.

  1. Knowledge: Proven expertise as an HR generalist with strong learning, organizational development as shown by degrees, certifications, continuous learning and experience.
  2. Entrepreneurial: Demonstrated ability to conceive of and implement projects and initiatives similar in size and scope to WFF’s current objectives.  A doer – can delegate effectively and roll up his/her sleeves and get it done.
  3. Relationships: Leadership talent which consistently brings out the best in the organization at all levels.
  4. Strategic planning, learning and evaluation: Strategic and impact-focused leader, thinker and innovator.

Detail of the qualifications pertaining to each follows.

KNOWLEDGE: Proven expertise as an HR generalist with strong learning, organizational development as shown by degrees, certifications, continuous learning and experience.

  • Bachelor’s degree in a related field required; Graduate degree in a related field highly desirable; SPHR or SHRM-SCP certification preferred.
  • 10+ years of experience in a leadership position and 5-7+ years of experience in senior human capital role as well as hands-on, ideally in a high-growth, dynamic and results-oriented environment.
  • Strong knowledge in all areas of human resource management, including recruiting, compensation, benefits, performance management, employee relations, compliance, training, professional and organizational development.
  • Proven understanding of U.S. labor laws and conditions of employment in a global context. Some experience in international HR preferred.
  • Up-to-date on current leadership, learning and OD thought leaders, best practices, and programs; ability to apply and communicate expertise appropriately.

ENTREPRENEURIAL: Demonstrated ability to conceive of and implement projects, communications and initiatives similar in size and scope to WFF’s current objectivesA doer – can delegate effectively and roll up his/her sleeves and get it done.

  • Exceptional project management, influencing and execution skills.
  • Demonstrated success designing and implementing a broad variety of successful human resource initiatives and leading change effectively.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication, presentation and listening skills.
  • Demonstrated ability to implement projects and initiatives similar in size and scope to WFF’s current objectives with a pragmatic and holistic approach.
  • Ability to work independently and deliver results in a fast-paced environment while handling multiple projects.

RELATIONSHIPS: Leadership talent which consistently brings out the best in the organization at all levels

  • History of successful leadership, teamwork, management, innovative thinking and collaboration skills.
  • Effective management skills, building motivated, high-performing teams.
  • Integrity, discretion and ethical behavior in all work situations.
  • High emotional intelligence, responsive, diplomatic, authentic and energetic.
  • Cares about feedback and instilling a culture of constructive feedback.
  • Healthy sense of humor and ability to work with grace under pressure.
  • Accessible, visible and flexible work style that inspires trust and confidence in staff and in management. Able to partner with and influence/inform others.
  • Open to lifelong, continuous personal improvement; aware of self and impact on others; responsive to feedback; is very flexible; adaptable.
  • Enthusiasm for operating amidst complexity and change.
  • Ability to quickly and effectively establish relationships, motivate and engage a diverse range of stakeholders.

STRATEGIC PLANNING, LEARNING, AND EVALUATION: Impact-focused leader, thinker, and innovator

  • Exceptional strategic thinking and problem-solving skills. Can think creatively and innovatively, seeing new possibilities.
  • Can assess, design, align, streamline, implement and evaluate People/HR programs and practices that tie directly to the foundation’s mission and culture; and eliminate or minimize those which do not.
  • Ability to come up with elegant approaches which minimize bureaucracy and complexity.
  • Sensitive to multisite and international organization.
  • Values diversity in race, gender, ethnicity and age, as well as thinking, learning styles and culture and incorporates these values into planning, learning and evaluation.
  • Capable of designing practical learning and development programs by expanding upon what is currently working with adapted and original thought leadership.
  • Proven understanding of organizational complexities and able to plan for competing priorities while maintaining flexibility and focus.
  • Master dot collector and connector with systems, people, individual / organizational learning and evaluation.


An appropriate and attractive compensation package will be provided to the successful candidate.  Excellent and comprehensive employee benefits package.

The executive search firm of Battalia Winston has been exclusively retained for this search.  All inquiries, nominations and resumes may be submitted to either:

Ellen Romberg, Search Consultant

Ruth Harris, Senior Associate

The Walton Family Foundation is an equal opportunity employer and is committed to building and maintaining a culturally diverse workplace. We encourage women, minorities, individuals with disabilities and veterans to apply. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, religion, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, status of protected veteran, among other things or status as a qualified individual with a disability.

**The person you need is Nanny McPhee…**


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.