Abby Rapoport

Abby Rapoport is a freelance journalist, and former staff writer at The American Prospect. She was previously a political reporter for the Texas Observer

Recent Articles

SXSWedu: How to Stop Worrying (about Education) and Love Technology

(Flickr/opencontent)
I was expecting some fireworks at South by Southwest Edu. The nerdy cousin of the hip SXSW festival, Edu held its second annual conference last week, as a place where those in tech and education could come together. Many showed up with apps to sell, and others showed up looking to buy. Teachers came, many with an eye toward incorporating technology into their lessons. But the many panels and three keynote speeches all came against a backdrop of budget cuts, low teacher morale, and changes in the the basic expectations of schooling, particularly around assessment. The panels would often allude to the trouble—one I attended, on "Redefining 'Data-Driven'" proved to be cathartic for some of the teachers laboring under strict expectations of performance. But the conference also showed just how easy it is to talk around the fundamental points of contention in education policy. The three keynote speakers were all big names: Levar Burton, the actor who brought children of my generation the...

Voter-ID Laws Face Major Roadblocks

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Texas Republicans have been trying for years to pass a law that would require state voters to show identification before hitting the polls—and state Democrats have been equally determined to stop such a measure. The Rs came close in 2009, but the House Democrats, only two seats away from a majority, blew up the legislative session rather than see the measure pass. By 2011, however, fresh from Tea Party victories, the GOP had overwhelming majorities in both Houses. The bill was almost undoubtedly going to pass, and rather than go for a more moderate version of voter ID with non-photo options, the conservatives went for the gold, introducing one of the most stringent versions of a voter-ID requirement. The only option left for the Democrats was to set up the grounds for the legal battles sure to come . Monday, it looked like those efforts paid off. The Department of Justice has blocked the law, meaning that while the measure goes to the United States District Court for the District of...

No Funds Left Behind

As states slash education budgets, private foundations have picked up the slack—and pushed some controversial reforms.

(Flickr/Ken Fager)
UPDATED FROM MARCH PRINT EDITION Last spring, as the Texas Legislature debated massive cuts to public schools—one of many desperate measures to close a $27 billion biennial budget deficit—10,000 protesters massed in Austin for a “Save Our Schools” rally. In the end, the damage to the state’s already-underfunded schools added up to $5.4 billion, forcing districts to lay off tens of thousands of teachers and staffers. In the city of Austin, public schools with rapidly growing enrollment found themselves facing a 5.5 percent cut in the 2011–2012 school year and 8.5 percent the next year. The quandary was far from extraordinary—37 states spent less on education in 2011 compared to 2010. Neither was one of the Austin schools’ solutions: seeking grant money from the world’s largest philanthropic organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. One of Gates’s latest education projects is called the District-Charter Collaboration Compact. When school districts sign a pledge to collaborate...

The Dennis Kucinich Debacle

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At 4 a.m. Saturday morning, Salon ’s Glenn Greenwald put up a 2,500-word blog post that excoriated my post from earlier in the week, “ So Long But Not Farewell to Dennis Kucinich. ” I'd written four paragraphs that amounted to a light-hearted farewell for the congressman, quickly noting both his most famous political efforts and two of his more well-known personal stories. Greenwald portrayed the article—along with pieces at The Washington Post and The New Republic —as a contemptuous and mean-spirited celebration of Kucinich's defeat in last week’s Ohio Democratic primary. While he focused largely on my description of Kucinich as “among the wackiest members of Congress,” Greenwald framed his critique as an institutional one, neither mentioning me by name nor noting prior coverage of Kucinich's electoral plight . He wrote as though my blog represented The American Prospect’ s editorial consensus rather than my own report. Still, he speculated errantly about my opinions of the Ohio...

State of the Week

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This week's State of the Week is ... Florida! After weeks of controversy, the Florida Senate killed a "parent trigger" bill on Friday, the last day of the legislative session. The measure would have allowed parents with children in a failing school to convert it into a charter school or firing the staff and administration if a majority of parents signed a petition. While supporters argued the measure would empower parents and ensure so-called school turnarounds, critics charged the measure would help line the pockets of for-profit charter school operators and open neighborhoods up to manipulation. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush led the charge for the measure, along with many "education reform" organizations while unions, along with parents groups like the state PTA fought hard to kill the measure. ( Valerie Straus of The Washington Post argues parents were never sold on the "empowerment virtues" of the bill.) While it passed the House earlier, a bipartisan group of opponents in the...

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