Rachel M. Cohen

Rachel M. Cohen is a journalist based in Washington, D.C., and a former American Prospect writing fellow.

Recent Articles

Will The Nation’s Capital Become a National Leader on Paid Leave?

Washington, D.C.'s city council is considering a bill that would be the country's most progressive paid leave policy.

(Photo: Flickr/bootbearwdc)
The clock is ticking, and pressure is mounting for the D.C. City Council to vote on the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015—a bill, that, if approved, would become the most progressive paid leave law in the country. Originally introduced last October, the measure has to be voted on by the end of 2016 lest it die in committee. The United States is the only industrialized nation in the world to not offer paid leave, and only 12 percent of U.S. workers are currently entitled to it through their employer. While Congress passed the Family and Medical Leave Act in 1993—which offers new parents and those with sick family members the right to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave from their jobs—even this law covers only about 60 percent of the workforce, and many eligible workers simply cannot afford to take unpaid time off. In light of these realities, some states have taken paid family leave into their own hands. Four—California, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and New York—...

When Public Schools Go Private

A landmark report notes the toll that private enterprises, including charter schools, take on the public’s control over the institutions it funds.

Lissandra Melo/Shutterstock
The Census Bureau released new data earlier this month that showed the median household income in 2015 was $56,500, up 5.2 percent over 2014. This marked the largest single-year increase since at least 1967, the federal agency reported. Moreover, this income growth was concentrated among the poor and the middle class, and 2.7 million fewer Americans were living in poverty in 2015 than a year prior. Despite these encouraging trends, they come nowhere close to reversing the dramatic rise in inequality we’ve seen since the late 1970s. As the Economic Policy Institute reported in June , in 2013, the top 1 percent of American families gained 25 times as much income during that time as the bottom 99 percent. And as The New York Times recently noted, the median household still earns 1.6 percent less in inflation-adjusted dollars now than it did prior to the housing market collapse. With that in mind, a new report released today by In the Public Interest, a research and policy...

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.  

The 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 Afrocentric Education Crisis

How charter schools—including many that claim to be “culturally affirming” the black experience—have weakened Afrocentric education

(Photo: AP)
Growing up in the 1960s, Bernida Thompson always knew she wanted to be a teacher. Attending high school and college during the civil-rights movement and the Black Power days, she says her dream was to work some day at an African-centered school. “A school for black children to learn who they are, where they are, what they must to do liberate themselves and their people to be successful in the world,” she explains. After graduating college and getting a master’s, she taught in public and Catholic schools for a decade, all the while developing her own curriculum for the school she dreamed of one day opening. That day came in 1977, when Thompson became the founding principal of Roots Activity Learning Center —a private school in Washington, D.C., designed to “serve the specific needs of children of African heritage.” She served as its principal from 1977 to 1999. Such schools began cropping up in black communities around the country, but their...