Rachel M. Cohen

Rachel M. Cohen is The American Prospect's senior writing fellow. 

Recent Articles

Q&A: Pulling Back the Curtain on Education Philanthropy

Political scientist Megan Tompkins-Stange discusses her new book about the role of philanthropic foundations in education policy, and why they should be more accountable to the public. 

Peter Smith, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy
Peter Smith, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy University of Michigan public policy professor, Megan Tompkins-Stange Private foundations give millions of dollars to public education every year, but these powerful institutions typically operate behind a curtain of secrecy. In a new book , Policy Patrons: Philanthropy, Education Reform, and the Politics of Influence, University of Michigan public policy professor Megan Tompkins-Stange sheds new light on the role philanthropy plays in public education, particularly in the arena of charter schools and other market-based reforms. Tompkins-Stange spent five years conducting confidential interviews with foundation insiders at the Ford Foundation, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. Analyzing their diverse, and sometimes competing, approaches to grant-giving, she raises important questions about the influence that philanthropic interests wield in American...

The National Labor Relations Board Says Charter School Teachers Are Private Employees

Recent labor board decisions help clarify longstanding ambiguity around charter school teachers’ right to organize.  

DGLimages/Shutterstock
DGLimages/Shutterstock T he National Labor Relations Board issued a pair of decisions in late August, which ruled that teachers at charter schools are private employees, therefore falling under the NLRB’s jurisdiction. The cases centered on two schools with teachers vying for union representation: PA Virtual Charter School, a statewide cyber charter in Pennsylvania, and Hyde Leadership Charter School, located in Brooklyn. In both cases, the NLRB concluded that the charters were “private corporation[s] whose governing board members are privately appointed and removed,” and were neither “created directly by the state” nor “administered by individuals who are responsible to public officials or the general electorate.” The NLRB determined that a charter’s relationship to the state resembled that of a government contractor, as governments provide the funding but do not originate or control the schools. For Donna Novicki, a seventh grade science teacher at PA Virtual, the NLRB’s decision...

Gender Wage Gap Raises the Stakes for the American Economy

A new study connects declining female employment and the persistent gender pay gap with a lack of workplace protections for women and families. 

(Photo: Melanie Stetson Freeman via AP)
(Photo: Melanie Stetson Freeman via AP) Susan Emmons, Sarah Hart, and Helen Lyons work on the Carlisle Mosquito newspaper on deadline day. F ull-time female workers across the country still earn just 79 cents for every dollar men earn, and the gap widens further for women of color . A new report on the gender wage gap by the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank, shines a light on why these disparities persist and what policies would most effectively eliminate them. Though encouraging women to pursue careers in fields like science and engineering carries intrinsic importance, the authors say closing existing gaps within occupations would actually eliminate 68 percent of the gender wage gap. That means figuring out why waiters earn more than waitresses with similar work experience and education could go a long way towards ending gender wage disparities. The massive increase of women working outside the home has been one of the greatest economic shifts of the 20th...

Black Organizations Say No -- or at Least, Slow Down -- to Charter Schools

The NAACP and the Movement for Black Lives cast a cold eye on education reform.

(Photo: AP/The Flint Journal-MLive.com/Jake May)
(Photo: AP/The Flint Journal-MLive.com/Jake May) Students learn and practice yoga on International Yoga Day on June 21, 2016, at The New Standard charter school in Flint, Michigan. A t its national convention in July, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, one of the nation’s premier civil-rights organizations, passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on charter schools. The resolution said, among other things, that charters have contributed to segregation, have used disproportionately high levels of punitive and exclusionary discipline, and pledged that the NAACP will seek to promote stronger investigative bodies to oversee charter school fraud, corruption, and waste. The resolution will not become official policy until the NAACP’s national board convenes later this fall, but it builds on previous resolutions passed in 2010 and 2014 that were also critical of charter schools. A coalition of more than 50 black-led organizations known as the Movement for...

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