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Every year Netroots Nation is arguably the most important annual event in the progressive community and a telling barometer of what is on the minds of, as Howard Dean put it, "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party."

Last week's meeting was no exception.

Mainstream coverage of that event has been focused exclusively on the reception Senator Elizabeth Warren got, and it was ecstatic for sure. The "clarity" of her message, as Esquire's Charles Pierce put it, that the economic trajectory of most Americans "is rigged" – and not in our favor – rang true with the attendees and they shouted their approvals. When she urged the crowd, "We can whimper. We can whine. Or we can fight back," it was clear those in attendance preferred door number three.

But despite the enthusiasm for Warren's message, the inevitability of a Hillary Clinton presidential nomination permeated the air. As my friend and colleague Richard Eskow wrote, "A more appropriate slogan for the event, at least for some attendees, might have been 'I’m resigned to Hillary.'”

While acknowledging that Warren's presence "had an extraordinary impact on the convention," Eskow pointed to "other opportunities" where progressives are finding political space and exploiting it for real, positive change.

"These seem like promising alternative channels for progressive energy," he stated. For those whose white-hot enthusiasm for presidential politics may be dampened by the inevitability of a Hillary candidacy, there may be no more promising alternative channel than the raging fight for public education.

The education related conversations at the meeting were numerous and animated – from demands for early childhood education, to anger at President Obama's K-12 policies, to outcries against the exorbitant costs of higher education and ballooning college debt levels.

This hasn’t always been the case at Netroots Nation.

We've Come A Long Way

The first Netroots Nation I attended, Pittsburgh in 2009, was mostly a celebration of the Obama victory the previous year. But as events rolled out the rest of that year and into 2010, it became painfully obvious that the new White House would maintain – actually even increase – a disastrous policy agenda carried over from the George W. Bush administration for the nation's public schools. Public schools activists looked to Netroots Nation as a venue where progressives could push back.

We had our work cut out for us.

As I wrote on the blogsite OpenLeft back in 2010, the Netroots Nation event seemed "generally in denial about issues of race and class that are at the heart of" problems in public schools. Instead, all the conversation was about "reform." And teachers' unions fought for attention on the agenda by addressing the worsening conditions for the nation's public school teachers as a "labor issue."

"Lots of lip service was paid to 'saving teachers' jobs,'" I recalled. But "not much of anything on the agenda addressed the destructive education policies of the Obama administration."

News that Michelle Rhee, the public school chancellor in Washington, DC that year, had fired another 241 teachers was completely overlooked in any of the panels and speeches. Instead, as I reported, "As the news broke, an attendee I was having coffee with was absolutely gleeful. 'There are too many bad teachers,' she explained to me while coolly scrolling through the headlines on her Blackberry, 'And they're never made accountable for anything.'" Those around nodded in agreement.

Certainly no one of any prominence at the meeting pointed out the blatant unfairness of the Obama administration's push to evaluate teachers on the basis of students' scores on standardized tests. And during the conference's education caucus, when National Education Association vice president Lilly Eskelsen warned of the rapidly expanding charter school industry that was spreading corporate influence and privatization of public schools, attendees defended "wonderful charter schools."

A Turning Point At Netroots

The following year, at Netroots Nation 2011 in Las Vegas, I led a panel that included Eskelsen, U.S. Representative Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Sabrina Stevens (who now leads Integrity in Education), and Kevin Welner, an education professor from the University of Colorado, Boulder and co-director of the National Education Policy Center.

The title of that panel was "Engaging Progressives in the Fight for Public Education," and we warned attendees of the dangers of current education policies and urged attendees to get involved in the growing movement to take back our public schools.

Both Eskelsen and Chu cited a Stanford study of charter schools nationwide that found most charter schools fail to outperform comparable neighborhood schools. And they decried the application of business models to education because business is designed to create winners and losers and stratify opportunities.

Stevens spoke eloquently and passionately of her experience teaching in a Denver public school where a reform agenda imposed by the state had stifled teachers' practice, turned teaching into rote test-prep, and sapped the joy of learning from the students.

At one point during the session, Welner asked if there was anyone in the audience from the Center for American Progress. Two attendees raised their hands, which prompted Welner to chide, "Your organization is as bad as the American Enterprise Institute on education," noting the groups that generally represent the range of the political spectrum – from left-leaning CAP to ardent right wing AEI – actively colluded in the campaign for corporate education reform.

Both CAP staffers promptly walked out. Based on what transpired in 2014, it's now clear they – and the agenda masquerading as "education reform" – never really came back.

A High Mark For Dissent

In the ensuing two years, those fighting against corporate take-over of public education kept their cause on the Netroots Nation agenda, building to a crescendo in 2014.

This year, the opening keynote included a speech from now president of the NEA (and remarried) Lily Eskelsen Garcia who warned of the growing dangers of privatizing the nation's public schools and the harmful education malpractice that arises from current obsessions with standardized tests.

Then Rev. William Barber III, leader of the Forward Together movement in North Carolina, electrified the crowd with an address that included support for public education in a moral vision for America.

Six panels on education topics – ranging from curriculum standards, to student suspensions, to student loan debt, to reclaiming the promise of public schools – presented a unified front against current "reform" policies and for a vision of equity and excellence in public education.

Indeed, the dialogue at the meeting made clear the term "education reform" has become a pejorative in the progressive community.

Getting Education Policy Above The "Snake Line"

As Eskow wrote, "the emotional high point" of this year's conference was unquestionably Barber's speech exhorting the crowd to "get our policies above the snake line."

The "snake line," Barber explained, marked a line in mountainous territory above which dangerous reptiles cannot live and where the "cold-blooded" can’t survive.

Indeed, America's cold-blooded education policies can no longer survive above the bright line of progressive values. Netroots Nation showed we're taking education policy to higher ground. As Barber urged us to do, we've turned to each other and declared, "We're on our way."
[This diary has been cross-posted from the Education Opportunity Network.]

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Comment Preferences

  •  That's terrific. (26+ / 0-)

    Here, families are preparing for the new school year and facing an onslaught on new testing and standardization. From the ground, neither political party seems to have much interest in anything else.

  •  Thanks Jeff (40+ / 0-)

    As a retired public educator I have extremely disappointed with this administration on education.  As well, dkos (more than a few members) has not been too supportive of public educators either.

    I will look forward to seeing more responses.  For now, I have an appointment.  But wanted to acknowledge and rec this diary.

    “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both.” Louis D. Brandeis

    by Jjc2006 on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 05:59:57 AM PDT

  •  Featured article in NY MAG this week on ed (11+ / 0-)

    reform and the real possibility it will tear traditional Dem coalitions asunder as teachers unions consider revolting.
    Also the potential for teachers and their unions to link arms with libertarian types and give the Dems some real hell.

    •  Thanks for reading and commenting (25+ / 0-)

      but I don't agree with Jonathan Chait's analysis. He's not recognizing that the fundamental grievances teachers have are shared by a growing faction in the population of students, parents, and community activists. This is not just about "unions." See more here:

      •  I personally agree all this teaching to the test (28+ / 0-)

        is BS. In an age where you can pretty much look up any factoid in 2 seconds, critical thinking/analytical thinking and historical/cultural context are more important than ever. And anathema to our reptilian overlords who worship quantification and just want to turn out millions of timid cubicle dwelling button pushing service drones.
        Because anything more threatens their god-given place at the top of the food chain.

      •  If a... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        nextstep, AlexDrew

        ..."growing faction" of parents and students don't like education reform, why are they lined up around the block to get into Charter Schools?

        When offered a choice inner-city parents (a base Progressive constituency) often choose charter schools.

        I believe that the parents who don't like testing fall into two categories:

        1) Highly involved parents whose kids have mastered the basics. They want the schools to spend less time on Math and Reading because their lucky kids already know these things.

        2) Clueless  parents who thought their kids were learning and are now experiencing cognitive dissonance because the test tells them they weren't. The truth hurts, sorry. Even though you pay $huge property taxes, your kid still can't read. (Arne Duncan described some of these people in a racist way that I will link to, but not repeat).

        •  Seriously (14+ / 0-)

          When you close 50 public schools in Chicago and open over 20 new charters, what do you expect? When you wipe out public schools in NOLA and outsource the schools to out-of-town charter management firms, what do you think you're going to get? When you starve public schools in Philadelphia of the resources they need to have desks, textbooks, and operating bathrooms, and let hedge-fund financed charter operations flood the community with advertising about their sparking new schools, what else are parents supposed to do? Yet, this is called "choice?" Please. And as for your assessment of the push-back to standardized testing, talk about "blaming the victim."

          •  Here in NYC... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            samanthab, AlexDrew

            ...charter schools actually spend slightly less per student than old-fashioned schools.

            Inner-city public schools have been horrible for decades. What is new is that there are now some choices for parents.

            •  You're being disengenuous (13+ / 0-)

              The study you linked to said NYC charter schools get "less government money," not that they spend less. Geoffrey Canada's famous Harlem Children's Zone charter school, for instance, got less government money than public schools but spent so much more per pupil that it proved to be totally impractical to scale. Two-thirds of the money came from Wall St. connected investment firms such as Goldman-Sachs. The "choice" you describe for many NYC charters is achieved through co-locations in which a charter is given space, rent free, in an existing school building. Students see their gym, lunchroom, or drama classroom taken over by another school that has been funded by investors who stock the classrooms with new computers and supplies. NYC is rapidly becoming a two tier school system due to the influence of charters.

              •  The calculations... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                ...for charters include the cost of space.  

                Some of the big charter chains attract donations, but many charters do not. If you get a Hollywood movie made about your charter, you get donations. Other than that, you are on your own.

                But I do not want to hijack your Diary into a pro/anti Charter discussion.  For Netroots, what is the political calculus of aligning for or against education "reform"?

                There are powerful Progressive constituencies on both sides. Inner-city families (who make their preferences known by entering these lotteries) and Teachers' Unions who have been our most stalwart supporters for decades.

                We need policy proposals that reconcile this conflict and not permit it to become a wedge.

            •  They spend slightly less because they don't (9+ / 0-)

              accept the special education or disabled students that regular public schools do. Those students cost more to educate. They are also given a free hand to underpay teachers. So if the average per student cost is only slightly lower, where's the money going? Oh, that's right. It's a business, there has to be room for profit.

              During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. ~ George Orwell

              by Sandi Behrns on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 11:10:44 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Charter schools... (0+ / 0-)

       NYC are, by law, non-profit. They are also required to accept special ed and IEP students.

                Remember that kids who are doing well don't seek out Charters. The families who look for Charters often have kids who are not doing well.

                I don't know where there is data that charters "underpay". In at least one NYC Charter, teachers make $125,000/year.

                Other charters pay less, but have much better student teacher ratios. I personally toured a Charter with a 12-to1 ratio (believe me, I counted to make sure).

                There is often more money available to pay teachers because Charters get rid of assistant principals, paper-pushers, bureaucrats, and do-nothings in suits. Charters know that if they do not deliver EDUCATION, their families will leave.

                It is a powerful incentive.

                But if teachers don't want to teach at Charters, they don't have to. They can finish their careers under the DOE letting the downtown bureaucrats beat on them until neither they nor their students have any spark of learning or joy left in them. Sometimes safe is sorry.

                •  Here is some data. Took about 10 seconds to find, (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  QBee59, madhaus

                  using a search string of "charter school teacher salaries".

                  The Average Teacher Salary for a Charter School

                  Washington Post


                  You're welcome.

                  •  Don't confuse... (0+ / 0-)

                    ...paying less with "underpaying".

                    Charters usually have newer buildings, smaller classes, and less bureaucracy. Some claim that charters have more motivated families (CREDO disputes this, though).

                    Comparing salary is apples and oranges.

                    •  But you just used a high salary charter to support (0+ / 0-)

                      your position.

                      Apples and oranges?

                      •  There are many different... (0+ / 0-)

                        ...types of Charters. Teachers who want high risk and high pay can make $125K.

                        Teachers who want small class sizes can make less.

                        There are also Charters that pay less, but you have fewer Administrators and bureaucrats on your case.

                        Or you can go to the UFT charter, stay in the union, and actually run the school yourself.

                        School Choice isn't just for parents. It's choices for teachers also.

                        It's like saying musicians are underpaid. They guy playing guitar in the subway has it rough. Jimmy Page, not so much.

                        •  You're just supporting my argument. (0+ / 0-)

                          As a class, musicians are underpaid, although there are the rare exceptions.

                          As a class, teachers are underpaid - on the average, charter school teachers more so.

                          I don't know where there is data that charters "underpay". In at least one NYC Charter, teachers make $125,000/year.
                          I provided easily available data that demonstrates that on average charter school teachers earn less than public school teachers.

                          How is your argument supposed to help your position?

                          And stop throwing in School Choice as if it is a benefit to society. All it does is undermine the concept of public education, paid for by all tax-paying citizens, for the benefit of the entire nation.

            •  In general, it is not so (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ManhattanMan, JuliathePoet

              that charters are spending less per student in a way that could be emulated by public schools or any system that educates 100% of our kids.

              Differences where charters do actually spend less include that charters tend to end up with less expensive students, on average, and that they also are obligated to provide fewer services - for example, they don't provide transportation, lunches, etc, and they don't have financial responsibility for profoundly disabled or disruptive students, as public schools do. And, of course, not all charters are good - some are quite terrible at educating kids. The for-profit entity K12 virtual schools is a good example of that.

              Many charters, as jeff bryant noted, receive less in public funds but spend substantially more in other funds they raise. That's well and good and more power to them, but it's not an argument that charters for all would be able to provide those services for all children at lower cost.

              You can read about the data on this for days and days at

              Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

              by elfling on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 02:02:42 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  In the end... (0+ / 0-)

       will be a wash.

                The Charter will spend more on teacher salaries, marketing, and the salary for the principal (or "CEO").

                The public schools will spend more on downtown bureaucrats, assistant principals, and suits.

                The point of charters is not to save money. The point is to keep taxpaying families invested in the idea of taxpayer-financed education by offering them a choice.

                If we do not offer families choices, we will see them flee to suburbs, home-school, or switch to private schools.  Once enough families lose all personal investment in the public schools, voter support evaporates and tax levies become difficult to pass. Funding gets tighter, making the schools even worse.  The downward spiral begins.

                Then what we gonna do?

                This is not a "chicken little" scenario. It has already happened in many big cities.

                •  Choice is anathema to the concept of education (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Joe Hill PDX, QBee59, madhaus

                  for all.

                  The more that people begin to see education as a consumer choice, the more they will be unwilling to pay for other people’s children. And if they have no children in school, then they have no reason to underwrite other people’s private choices.

                  The basic compact that public education creates is this: The public is responsible for the education of the children of the state, the district, the community. We all benefit when other people’s children are educated. It is our responsibility as citizens to support a high-quality public education, even if we don’t have children in the public schools.

                  But once the concept of private choice becomes dominant, then the sense of communal responsibility is dissolved. Each of us is then given permission to think of what is best for me, not what is best for we.

                  I'll repeat a question you have always failed to respond to:

                  Just what is your role in education?

                  Former Wall Streeter.

                  Now works in education...some may think this implies a "vested interest" in educational policy, so it's disclosed here.

                  Lives in Manhattan with wife and daughter.

                  Is also a landlord.

                  It certainly isn't as an educator.
                  •  Ravitch... (0+ / 0-)

                    ...has studied education longer than I have. But when she says School Choice will erode public support she's wrong. She's no longer talking about education, she's talking about electoral politics.

                    I humbly submit that she's speaking far outside her area of expertise. She's dead wrong.

                    Longstanding voucher programs such as Food Stamps and Section 8 housing enjoy wide support and huge federal funding. (Wouldn't it be nice to get some serious federal funding for education? Hmmm?)

                    Also the number of families with kids is large. Every time a popular Charter gets closed, those families become our political enemies.

                    School Choice will make publicly-funded education popular again. It will give us (admittedly small) performance improvements. But it will give us huge increases in parent satisfaction with the system.

                    I don't know why you keep ignoring this. All your fancy union work rules will mean Jacques Squatte if the Republicans continue to win elections. If you can't abide the policy, at least consider the politics!

                    As for you asking (yet again) for my personal information, I must admit you're making me somewhat uncomfortable. I post anonymously because I don't wish to be retaliated against. I ask you to please respect that very reasonable request.

                    •  We've had that discussion before. School vouchers (0+ / 0-)

                      are not in any way similar to food stamps or Section 8 housing. Your refusal to recognize that is immaterial.

                      Food stamps  and housing vouchers do not take funding away from a public institution in the way that vouchers do. Removing funding from an institution fundamentally weakens it. Vouchers undermine the concept of public education for all, and promotes privatization.

                      Ravitch is not at all wrong in her observation, which means the rest of your argument is wrong and can safely be ignored.

                      As far as personal information is concerned, if it is true that disclosing your role in education will out you personally, you must have a very unique role.

                      But you certainly aren't an educator. What does that leave?

            •  Upstate NY (0+ / 0-)

              Don't know about the city (the "rules" are different there) but for the "upstate" (which means pretty much everyplace that's NOT NYC) many of the "expenses" of the charter's simply vanish into thin air.

              Well, they don't exactly "vanish" - they do exactly get borne by (and added to) the student's "home" school district's operating expenses. (based on residence).

              Two quick examples:
              SED mandates that the "home" SD transport all out of district kids to privates, parochials, special needs, and charters. (There is a distance restriction, I think it's up to 15-16 miles which most of the charters are within in this area)

              SED also mandates that the "home" SD provide services (teachers, aides, PT's, OT/OTA's) for all special needs kids attending OOD schools on the above list.

              Doesn't sound like much but with massive transportation cutbacks in most districts (fewer buses) the result is often running a 72 pax bus, 30 miles a day, 182 days (more for special needs that go all year), for 1 or 2 kids in a school. Times however many schools.

              Likewise for special needs kids. Typically an LD or ESL student might require services twice a week for an hour or so. Teacher drives from their "home" school to the charter (45 mins x 2 x 2), "teaches" for an hour, and drives back = 5 hours/week away from his/her "desk" (where 4 or 5 kids could have been served in the same amount of time.
              So the SD now comes up "short" and has to hire an additional teacher to cover the "home" kids.

              Net bottom line "expense" for the charter = $0
              For the SD??????

              Guess they are right after all - that's the "efficiency" the private sector crows about.

              •  Very interesting info - pity MM won't be reading (0+ / 0-)


                If he runs true to form, he won't comment in here again.

                I'll hang onto this post, though; I'm sure it will come in handy another day.

              •  This deserves... (0+ / 0-)

                ...a separate Diary. It is incredibly complicated.

                But the quick answer is that you made a math error. When a family chooses a Charter, some of the money for that student goes to the Charter instead of the district.

                Except for expenses like Transportation, Vocational services an other special stuff. That money stays with the district and is doled out on an as-needed (student-by-student) basis.

                So yeah, the district has to pay...but if the charter did not exist, the kid would be with the district and they would still have to pay.

        •  The problem isn't testing per se (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jeff bryant, JuliathePoet

          but using those tests to measure things they were not designed to measure, and losing sight of our true end goals, which is kids with life success, not kids who can score in the top 20% on every test they take. Because we kind of have a mathematical problem: 100% of kids can't score in the top 20% or even the top half.

          The tests are fine if they're used to start a conversation and ask questions. They're not fine if they're seen as infallible measures of noisy data.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 01:54:56 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  How about a third reason. (0+ / 0-)

          Some children know the work but don't test well.  I have seen children go through tests just marking answers without even reading and get good test scores, and bright, smart kids cry during a test, stressed out and anxious about how they will do.  My granddaughter, who is very bright always, always scores low on Florida's FCAT, but she does very good class work.  She freaks out on tests.  She sets herself up for failure, sure she is going to forget what she knows and low and behold, she does, because all she hears is how important it is to pass the test.  Nothing else matters.  Teachers say it, parents say it, administrators say it.  Do you want to know why parents go to charter schools?  Because they hope it will be different there.  Especially the minorities.  Or because they are religious based schools and they want their kids emersed in that.  I spent 10 years in schools working with kids.  Inner city kids, in a poor neighborhood, with bussing.  I have seen what these kids live with, and saw the school I worked in be a beacon of hope to the kids who saw parents unable to find work that pays and who came to school hungry.  75% or our kids were on subsidized lunches and breakfast.  We did alot on our own time to support the neighborhood, the parents and the kids, from mentoring programs to carnivals, to reading programs and after school care and homework help programs.  We fed kids in the summer.  We sent clothes and food home with kids who needed it.  We also saw kids we had worked with die, or go to jail after they left us and went to higher grades.  It hurts when you see a name in a news report of a child you remember in kindergarten being killed in a drive by.  

    •  New York city has a newly elected mayor who (4+ / 0-)

      supports public education and needs to be supported and held up for democrats nationally as a model for educational policy. He was thwarted by Cuomo and Cuomo needs to be held accountable. The party and Obama need to be pushed to rethink their educational policy. Activism, i.e.: marches, petitions and support for the unions are necessary. I would love for the President to meet with DeBlasio and discuss their different views, democrat to democrat.

      I am a fierce democrat but I part ways with Obama's educational policy.  Perhaps he feels, as the beneficiary of a private school education, he would like to give that same experience to all american children. (Here I am attempting to read his mind). But that is not what charter schools offer. No different than privatization of prisons, it represents greedy capitalists trying to rip off tax dollars at the expense and degradation of our public institutions.  

  •  Thanks for the update, Jeff. (15+ / 0-)

    It's good to see a diary from you again.

    I hope that as the goals of the so-called reformers become more apparent, that more progressives will come to realization that many of the leaders of the reform movement are frauds and charlatans, and that includes Duncan.

    A proud member of the Professional Left since 1967.

    by slatsg on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 06:29:27 AM PDT

  •  What air were you breathing? (4+ / 0-)
    the inevitability of a Hillary Clinton presidential nomination permeated the air.
    Must have been insider air.   The River Walk and weather were beautiful.  You should have went outside more for fresh air.  

    I will not vote for Hillary.

    by dkmich on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 06:33:57 AM PDT

  •  I want video of Lily's speech. (7+ / 0-)

    And can Brother Jitu tell it like it is, or what?

    "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 07:01:01 AM PDT

  •  I was at the "reclaiming the promise of (21+ / 0-)

    public education" panel and was live tweeting it.  I sent out a tweet that echoed the panel saying that "school choice" was inherently racist.

    My twitter exploded all day long.

    "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 07:02:08 AM PDT

    •  How is school choice racist? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sparhawk, AlexDrew


      •  You should know (10+ / 0-)
        My parents fled the inner city to send me to a leafy suburban school. I will have no such luxury. I AIN'T GOIN' NOWHERE.
        That's what you said in your post below.  You admit you're stuck in the neighborhood you're in, and the school you have is it for you.  If you can't afford anything better, then how can you afford a charter school?  They're not free.

        Charter schools charge, and they can pick and choose.  They don't have to take every student.  Once they fill up, who will be left behind?  The ELL students, the children of single parents with behavioral issues, and minorities in general.

        School "choice" means the ability of the school to choose the students, not the other way around.

        •  Actually... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

 NYC Charter schools don't charge, they must take any student (they must choose by lottery) and they can't pick and choose. They also must serve ELL kids.

          What is racist is the current system.

          The current system uses where kids live to decide which schools they can attend. As housing segregation persists, so does school segregation.

          •  They have ways to not take every child. (10+ / 0-)

            It is ridiculous to pretend that firing teachers based on student test scores, starting charter schools, giving out vouchers or implementing merit pay will overcome the challenges facing a child living in poverty. -Jersey Jazzman

            by Desert Rose on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 08:44:18 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  What solution... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              ...would you offer to inner-city parents like myself?

              •  Go to every school board meeting. (8+ / 0-)

                Make a statement at every call to the audience. Make a pain in the ass of yourself to the admin and board members.
                Look at your school's and district's budget. Where are they spending money?  bring it to the attention of others.
                What's the percent of money going to the classroom?
                If you have a complaint about a teacher, go talk to the principal. If that doesn't give you pleasure go up the chain of command.
                Join or start a parent group to lobby for more resources.

                The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

                It is ridiculous to pretend that firing teachers based on student test scores, starting charter schools, giving out vouchers or implementing merit pay will overcome the challenges facing a child living in poverty. -Jersey Jazzman

                by Desert Rose on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 08:59:44 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  This sounds like a waste of time. (3+ / 0-)

                  I think a faster method is to elect politicians that will break the Entrenched Educational Establishment into little bitty pieces.

                  I hope those politicians will be Democrats. I really, really hope so.

                  (Note: I live in NYC. We have Mayoral control. School boards have neither regulatory nor budgetary power).

                  •  "Entrenched Educations Establishment" ie unions (6+ / 0-)

                    folks please don't feed this troll......maybe the charter schools who pay eva Moskowitz a half mil a year could afford to pay SOME FUCKING RENT to the public schools for DISPLACING special ed students who needed the space. But it ain't your kid, so why should you give a shit?

                  •  Do both. Elect politicians who value public (0+ / 0-)

                    education and get involved in the school.  The school I worked in had massive parental involvement because we INVITED THEM!  We who worked there, who were also parents who LIVED there, we invited the others to become involved and they did.  We also inlisted local businesses.  Local businesses are great help getting politicians attention.  The children who were bused in from other neighborhoods, we sent buses after them in the evenings for PTA meetings.  They came, they wanted to be involved.  We learned alot from them, found out their needs, their fears, their problems.  Some we could help them with.  We found out a child in the fifth grade who seemed far to grown up and mature for a girl her age was caring for her mother who was mentally challenged.  She handled the family finances, paid the bills, bought groceries.  She was 10!  Kids like that, if given encouragement, can rise high above their circumstances.  She sometimes acted out, we now understood she was just a child having to grow up too soon, and in danger because of it.  I could tell so many stories about those kids I got to know.  Some are very inspiring.  Some very sad.  

              •  Does the fact that you chose not to continue the (5+ / 0-)

                thread about charters being able to pick and choose their students, thereby being inherently inequitable - not to mention racist, and ultimately destructive to the concept of a free public education - mean that you have finally admitted that truth?

                No fair limiting yourself to NYC. It's a national problem.

              •  Oh, Pshaw (0+ / 0-)

                An "inner city parent".  Really?  Does anyone familiar with your posts on education still believe that?

                Light is seen through a small hole.

                by houyhnhnm on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 10:39:29 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Hey... (0+ / 0-)

        's the Internet. I could be Michelle Rhee wearing a clown suit for all you know!

                  Seriously, I live right smack in the middle of The Inner City. By any possible definition. There is no place in America more "Inner City" than my block.

                  I am a parent, I have one child.

                  That child attends an NYC Public School, and I am actually happy with the progress there.

                  My concern is for other families in NYC who are not doing as well. And for other families across America.

                  But you can believe what you want. Who I am really doesn't matter. When I cite facts, I try to give links. Judge for yourself.

                  "Never trust a storyteller, only trust the story".

              •  You mean, parents who like their school? (0+ / 0-)
                I'm not complaining about my specific school (which actually works well for our family).
                Or are you just generously advocating for parents not in your situation?
                •  I am... (0+ / 0-)

                  ...generously advocating for parents not in my situation. That's what it means to be a Progressive, isn't it? To care about people who have it worse than you, not just your peers and colleagues?

                  My wife and I are highly educated and we have jobs that give us plenty of free time to enhance our daughter's education. We are lucky. My wife worked for everything she got, but I will be the first to admit that I was "born on first base".  We are lucky.

                  Others aren't.  The system as it stands is not serving them.

                  •  So you have never proffered the argument that (0+ / 0-)

                    what you advocate is important because of your own child?


                    •  Did I say... (0+ / 0-)

                      ...that I never proffered the argument that what I advocate is important because of my own child?

                      No I did  not. You said that.

                      I became concerned with education when my wife became pregnant and we realized we could not move to the suburbs. I was dissatisfied with the NYC system, and made this dissatisfaction known.

                      The System has ways of dealing with potential activists. That is one way The System survives. We were "dealt with" and are now happy with our situation.

                      I'm not going public because I don't want to jeopardize the Good Deal my family has, so quit asking me for personal info.

                      I will continue to speak out anonymously in the hope that the system can be fixed.

                      •  I didn't ask for personal info in that comment; (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:

                        Just in your imagination.

                        In other places, I have inquired as to your role in education, which is hardly an "outing" degree of info. No one is asking for clearly identifiable information, such as "I am the CEO of XXXXX Charter School."

                        For instance, are you an educator? No, your posts have made it clear that you are not. You don't know some of the fundamental terminology that any educator with experience would have.

                        That leaves administrator, politician, or profiteer, as near as I can tell.

                        Given your proclivity for promoting privatization schemes, I'm betting profiteer. Admitting such a thing would hardly be announcing your identity, nor would it make it easier to discover your identity - even if anyone had any interest in doing so, which I certainly don't. After all, how many education profiteers are there in NYC?

                        But it would make it very clear exactly why your positions are what they are, wouldn't it?

                        •  If I was so... (0+ / 0-)

                          ...dishonest that I would take a self-serving position, I would be dishonest enough to lie. I would create a sockpuppet and claim to be a single mother with 4 kids who each have 3 failed lottery attempts to enroll in KIPP.

                          It's the INTERNET. You need to get over who I am and engage with what I say.

                          I will say that no education position that I've ever taken would have ever benefited me financially. The only exception to this is the fact that I own real estate in poor and working-class neighborhoods. If the schools improve in these neighborhoods, I stand to make a bundle on rising property values.

                          I'm a real estate investor. Better schools would make me rich. Go ahead, call me greedy...

                          •  Easier to notice that one major way investors (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:

                            profit from charter schools is from the real estate angle.

                            Public schools do not benefit real estate investors. Charters do. You've been pushing vouchers and charters for at least seven years.

                            Thanks for the info.

                          •  If you say... (0+ / 0-)

                            ...that the quality of an areas public schools does not greatly influence home values then you are either beyond clueless or you are trolling me.

                            Do you really believe that if the quality of the local schools goes up that this will not have a massive effect on house values?

                            Do you believe this? Really?

                          •  But then why are you so stringently avoiding (0+ / 0-)

                            any means of improving public schools?

                            All your efforts are directed toward privatization. Vouchers, charters, VAM, union-busting...

                            If the only thing you were concerned about is land values surrounding public schools, you would not be so single-issue oriented.

                          •  Which... (0+ / 0-)

                            ...proposal to improve Public Schools have I been against?

                            Of course, you'll have to show how the proposal would actually improve the schools.

                            But also I want to get back to your notion that, "Public schools do not benefit real estate investors." Please explain this one, because it has me baffled!

                          •  Of course, I left out the word "directly". (0+ / 0-)

                            There are indirect benefits, in that good schools will help improve property values. But that is such a slow process, isn't it, spread over many years of growth, and vulnerable to change. A bad school can become a good school, but it would take years before perceptions change. A good school can become a bad school quite rapidly, if it is not managed well. It's a constant, on-going effort on the part of all involved to prevent such an occurrence.

                            Far better to be in a position to rent directly to privatized education institutions, where inflated prices can lead to much more rapid profits, which can be reinvested in more of the same.

                            It's one of the major incentives of charter schools, which, even when not-for-profit, very often have their affairs managed by for-profit companies. Very well-paid for-profit companies.

                          •  First of all... (0+ / 0-)

                            ...I don't deal in commercial real estate, so I couldn't rent to a charter even if I wanted to.

                            Second, you've implied that I get personal benefits from school reform. I'll repeat that the only benefits I get are:

                              1) As an owner of working-class, residential real estate, I will make better long-term profits if the horrible schools improve.

                              2) As a parent, my daughter is zoned to a horrible inner city school, so improving that school -- or getting the ability to choose another -- benefits my family.

                              3) As a Liberal, I don't want to see a political split between inner-city families and a powerful union with a long progressive history.

                              4) As a citizen, I know that bad inner city schools are bad for our democracy and make a mockery of class mobility.

                            Oh, and for a real estate investor, something that, "will help improve property values", isn't a freaking "indirect benefit"! It is our raison d'être. So what if it takes years? Real estate is a long-term asset, perhaps the longest-term asset in existence!

                            Did you know that owners and investors often sign 99-year leases?

                            You may disagree with the policies I advocate. Fine. But I truly resent your insinuations that I have a vested interest in school reform and that I am posting to Daily Kos to somehow make money.

                            It's an unfair, ad hominem attack. Even if it were true, it does not refute any points I've made. What's next? Will you call me names and make up dirty stories about me?

                            Enough, please.

          •  They can also expel with impunity to boost scores. (13+ / 0-)

            They refuse special needs kids as a policy, in violation of several laws.

            And when the "vouchers" start taking the money out of schools, all the vouchers seem to go to white religious schools.

            "School choice" is a false choice.

            "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

            by zenbassoon on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 08:44:31 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  What happens to those who don't win the lottery? (8+ / 0-)

            Poor kids who don't win are stuck.  Kids who aren't poor who don't win have other options.

            And why shouldn't students attend the school closest to them?  The one they can walk to, the one all the other kids in their neighborhood go to?  Bussing was tried, it didn't work.

            We don't need charter schools or school choice.  What we need is simply equal funding of schools across the entire school system.

            •  What do you mean by "equal funding"? (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              AlexDrew, chickenfarmerwood

              If you mean funding school in Brooklyn at the same level as Scarsdale, sure. But that is politically unlikely. We need politically feasible solutions, not pie-in-the-sky.

              If you mean equal funding within the same city, i.e., NYC Public Schools, that is not as helpful. The schools in poorer neighborhoods actually need more funding per student. Poor students are much more difficult to teach.

              •  google is your friend: (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                samanthab, houyhnhnm, Joe Hill PDX

                Dr. Baker, Rutgers, Jersey Jazzman, Diane Ravitch. Come back when you have a fucking clue.

              •  Schools can only provide equal oportunity (0+ / 0-)

                They can't provide equal outcomes.
                You're not going to like this, but you need to hear it.  Poor students from single parent homes may very well be more difficult to teach, but that's not the school's problem.
                It's not the job of a school to be a babysitter and make single parenting a viable option.  Where are all the fathers?  Why aren't they doing their jobs, making sure that their kids learn and take full advantage of the opportunities given to them?

                We've spent the last 30 years in our public policy trying to make single parenting easier, and apparently all it does is encourage the fathers to skip out sooner.

                •  If some kids... (0+ / 0-)

                  ...come from difficult backgrounds, then we must spend more money on them. It will not solve their problems, but it will make them better.

                  Also, I don't believe that providing benefits for mothers and children encourages absentee fathers. That's just wrong.

                •  Why does being a single parent equal a bad thing? (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  I was raised by a single parent.  I was actually better off with my mom alone and with grandparent help than I was when she married the pervert who became my stepfather.  My real father paid child support by the way, but did nothing else.  $40 a month.  I was a good student, went to school able to read on a 5th grade level.  I have worked with single parented children, believe me, most moms work their butts off to provide for their kids.  Sure there are bad moms, bad dads too.  And as a military mom, I often became a single parent for 9 months at a time when my husband was at sea.  It isn't easy.  Everyone attacks single parents.  I am now again one.  My husband just died.  We were married 39 years and we were raising a granddaughter.  I now have full responsibility for her.  I am also adopting her.  Her mom finally agreed when her daughter told her it is what she wants.  She is 14 now. Sorry, the problem isn't that the parents aren't trying.  Most are.  They just keep being thrown under the bus.  

            •  Equal is not necessarily just (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              I hope that the LCFF funding in California - which starting this year provides substantial extra funding for kids who are low income, ELL, and foster kids, will prove a worthy model.

              Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

              by elfling on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 02:09:00 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  Charter schools are free of charge (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          or are supposed to be. They may ask for contributions but parents are not legally obligated to do so.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 09:06:47 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  So relieved to hear this (15+ / 0-)

    Great diary, very informative.  Education "reform" is one of the greatest scams perpetrated on the American public.

    I don't recognize the education my children are getting when comparing it to mine.  I don't know a single teen who enjoys school these days, and I know a lot of teens.  I think the ones who hate it most are the most successful ones.  How messed up is that?

    I blog about my daughter with autism at her website

    by coquiero on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 07:06:58 AM PDT

  •  Don't kill the messenger. (0+ / 0-)

    We have a political problem.

    It is becoming apparent to inner-city families (like my own) that our interests are becoming less aligned with the interests of the Educational Establishment.

    On the one hand, we need the Teachers' Unions. They provide money, activism, and are one of the foundations of the Democratic Party.

    On the other hand, inner-city families need more educational choices. We are sick of getting stuck with the worst teachers. Our kids need longer school days because we are more likely to be single working parents. We need more emphasis on reading because many of us are ELL. We need better than what the Establishment offers.

    This creates the political problem. It is a clash between two base Liberal constituencies.

    Why is this a problem now? Because there is less class mobility. In the past, the Unions did not fear activist parents. They knew that parents assertive enough to be activists would eventually earn enough money to move to the suburbs.

    But that is no longer true. My parents fled the inner city to send me to a leafy suburban school. I will have no such luxury. I AIN'T GOIN' NOWHERE. So I will never give up fighting to improve my families choices. There are millions like me.

    When I vote, please don't make me choose between my child and the United Federation of Teachers. Please don't put me in that position. You will not like the outcome.

    Instead, we need to see leadership from the Teachers' Unions. We need to see them put forth politically feasible solutions that help poor and rural schools and that give us access to the best teachers.

    I emphasize "politically feasible" because the usual blah-blah answer  is that "We need to cure poverty" or some such unicorn-and-rainbow fantasy. Instead, we need real-world solutions that can be implemented immediately and that make at least some impact.

    If the Teachers' Unions can't provide that, then what are they good for?

    I remember when the Teamsters Union sold out and endorsed Ronald Reagan. Years later, they came crawling back, weaker and earning less money. Those who teach History (as well as math, music, and gym) would do well to learn from History: "Dance with the one who brung you".

    •  You don't need more choices. You need a great (8+ / 0-)

      public school right in your neighborhood. And how do you know your school has the worst teachers?

      If charters and vouchers weren't stealing public money for mediocre outcomes, we could resource the district schools like we should.

      It is ridiculous to pretend that firing teachers based on student test scores, starting charter schools, giving out vouchers or implementing merit pay will overcome the challenges facing a child living in poverty. -Jersey Jazzman

      by Desert Rose on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 08:47:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I know my school... (0+ / 0-)

        ...gets worse teachers because the NEA told me so:

        Disparities in the Background of Teachers

        Richard Ingersoll found significant disparities in the backgrounds of teachers at high-poverty vs. low-poverty secondary schools in the United States (cited in Education Commission of the States, 2007). For example, at low-poverty schools, 27 percent of mathematics teachers and 51 percent of physical science teachers lack a major or minor in their teaching field; those numbers rise to 43 percent and 65 percent, respectively, in high-poverty schools. "Within specific states, both urban and rural, students in high-poverty schools may be as much as four times more likely to have teachers without a major in their teaching field than students at wealthier schools." Poor and minority students are often served by teachers who do not have adequate subject-matter preparation for the courses they teach.

        Why? Because of seniority rules.
        "Such schools have high turnover rates and a high percentage of relatively new teachers because more experienced teachers, whose seniority gives them greater choice, tend to go elsewhere..."
        (emphasis is mine).

        I am not in favor of ending tenure, but the Unions need to throw us parents a bone! Give us some proposal that lets our kids get access to better teachers. Please! We don't have to be enemies...


        •  What you cite is not specific to your neighborhood (4+ / 0-)

          Public schools very widely.  And it is a rare charter school that does better  than a public school when you compare apples to apples.

          Each State has it's own standards and  policies, and each school corporation has it's own way of operating, and each individual school has its own culture. You can't judge the quality of any public school by a national article lumping everything together like that. You can't even do it from an article on a state, or a school corporation. You need to actually have observations of the school in question and and understanding of the other options in your location.

          •  sorry for the spelling goofs (0+ / 0-)

            "very" should be "vary". and "and and" should be "and an"

          •  I understand what... (0+ / 0-)

   are saying.

            I'm not complaining about my specific school (which actually works well for our family). I'm talking about the national policy problem of poor neighborhoods getting the worst teachers.

            •  But when confronted with the national issues of (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              charters, you reply with NYC specifics…

              And you have repeatedly brought up your own children to defend your stances on charters. Good to hear that their school works well for them. No need to keep agitating for privatizing the schools then, eh?

              •  I do that... (0+ / 0-)

                ...because people disingenuously make claims about all charters that are untrue for NYC charters.

                Just because charters fail in some places (or even most places!) does not mean that they will always fail, all the time.

                •  The national 'fail' rate for charters heavily (4+ / 0-)

                  outweighs the "success" rate in NYC (which is very much open to debate; certainly it "succeeds" in draining funds from public schools).

                  It's like saying because your toe is not cancerous, you're fine with your leukemia, yet the ultimate outcome is death.

                  So why exactly do you keep pushing for privatizing public education, anyway?

                  •  NYC charters... (0+ / 0-)

                    ...are not private. They are all not-for-profit.

                    Just like the UFT is not-for-profit.

                    •  How many ways can a not-for-profit, profit? (4+ / 0-)

                      Let's count the ways, courtesy of a simple web search:


                      In the TV ads, charter schools were represented as an alternative to public education. Meanwhile, what these ads failed to disclose is that despite their “not-for-profit” status, charter schools are run by CEOs who are getting paid huge salaries, some as much as $485,000/year. In an article entitled “Big Profits in Not-for-Profit Charter Schools,” on the online journal, Portside, Alan Singer wrote that “operating non-profit charter schools can be very profitable for charter school executives.”

                      Further, most charter schools are non-union, so their teachers have no collective bargaining, no say about their work rules, no job security. This is what the backers of the TV ads are aiming for—to privatize education and enrich the companies running these schools. To achieve this, they are shutting out unions and paying teachers as little as possible in compensation and benefits.

                      However, operating non-profit charter schools can be very profitable for charter school executives like Eva Moskowitz. Moskowitz earns close to a half a million dollars a year ($485,000) for overseeing school programs that serve 6,700 children, which is over $72 per student. By comparison, New York State Education Commissioner is paid a salary of $212,000 to oversee programs with 2.7 million students or about 8 cents per student. In other words, Moskowitz earns about 100 times more than King for each student enrolled in a Success Academy Charter School. Carmen Farina, New York City School Chancellor is paid $212,000 a year to oversee 1.1 million students or about 19 cents per student.

                      According to my calculations and The New York Times, other non-profit charter school administrators also make some very heady profits. The head of the Harlem Village Academies earns $499,000 to manage schools with 1,355 students or $369 per student. The head of the Bronx Preparatory School earns $338,000 to manage schools with 651 students or over $500 per student. The head of the Our World Charterearns $200,000 to manage schools with a total of 738 students or $271 per student. The local head of the KIPP Charter Network earns $235,000 to manage schools with 2,796 or $84 per student. By comparison, the chief educational officer of Texas is paid $214,999 to manage a system with almost 5 million public school students.

                      Charter school operators are not the only Not-for-Profit or social entrepreneurs making money off of public schools. Charles Best created so that public school teachers can raise money to pay for class projects. Best and his non-profit organization have received support from Oprah Winfrey, Stephen Colbert, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and has been a featured speaker at a Forbes magazine summit on philanthropy. A former public high school teacher in Bronx, New York, he would have been making about $85,000 a year if he remained as a teacher. As a not-for-profit entrepreneur, he makes about three times as much, almost $250,000a year from plus whatever he earns from lucrative speaking engagements.

                      Here’s the setup. CNBC is interviewing David Brain, head of a major investment trust, about why charter schools are such phenomenal money-makers for investors like him. Here’s the transcript.
                      Embedded in the middle of an Alternet story by Kristin Rawls titled Corporations Advise School Closings, While Private Charters Suck Public Schools Away are several paragraphs that help explain why hedge funds and other corporate interests are so enamored of charter schools.   Please continue to see what I mean.
                      Education historian Diane Ravitch, a former assistant secretary of education under the first President Bush, was once an advocate of school choice and charter schools. But Ravitch changed her mind after following the money trail behind the charter movement.

                      “The lure of getting federal money made many states change their laws to open the door to many, many more charter schools,” Ravitch tells Moyers. And who’s behind the investment in new charters? Hedge-fund managers, private investors and philanthropists, she says.
                      ...Ravitch tells Bill:

                      There is a tremendous political force of very wealthy hedge-fund managers who are investing in the charter-school industry and seeing it grow. And so they have fought for these laws. There’s also a lot of charter school money going as political contributions to legislators in many of the states where the charters are booming.

                      What happens is the investors who put up the money to build charter schools get to basically or virtually double their money in seven years through a thirty-nine percent tax credit from the federal government. In addition, this is a tax credit on money that they’re lending, so they’re also collecting interest on the loans as well as getting the thirty-nine percent tax credit. They piggy-back the tax credit on other kinds of federal tax credits like historic preservation or job creation or brownfields credits.

                      The result is, you can put in ten million dollars and in seven years double your money. The problem is, that the charter schools end up paying in rents, the debt service on these loans and so now, a lot of the charter schools in Albany are straining paying their debt service–their rent has gone up from $170,000 to $500,000 in a year or–huge increases in their rents as they strain to pay off these loans, these construction loans. The rents are eating-up huge portions of their total cost. And, of course, the money is coming from the state.

                      Is there any point in continuing? Your claim that NYC charters are not for profit is flatly ridiculous.
            •  "national policy" vs. local control (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              For environmental protection, national defense, civil rights and many other ares I vote for robust national policy, funding, and implementation. For education, I vote for local control.

              You want better schools then guarantee free public college tuition to all students who pass entrance exams, give local control back to communities, and parents and teachers will make it happen.


        •  NEA does not represent NYC teachers (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          again you are uninformed....

          •  The reasearch cited... (0+ / 0-)

   not by the NEA. It is by the NECS.

            I am using the NEA link because I want to make it clear that I am not cherry-picking right-wing research.

            Are you actually disputing this research? Do you really believe that students in poor neighborhoods do not get less-qualified teachers?

            If so, please cite your sources...or stop insulting me.

            •  But you are specifically claiming that unions are (0+ / 0-)

              to blame for the situation:

              I am not in favor of ending tenure, but the Unions need to throw us parents a bone! Give us some proposal that lets our kids get access to better teachers.
              You say you are in favor of throwing money at the problem -- but only if significant concessions are made by the teachers. Since teachers aren't willing to give up hard-won benefits in exchange for a minor amount of cash -- how does that make the unions to blame?
              •  Who says it's... (0+ / 0-)

                ...a "minor" amount?

                I'm asking that Teachers name their price and let's negotiate.

                Whatever they ask for will be cheaper than a house in Westchester, which is the current method parents use for school reform.

                •  Minor relative to being subject to capricious (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  firing? Yeah, it'd have to be pretty major, and nationwide, in order to compensate for that. That kind of negotiation is a non-starter pretty much everywhere, and you know it - which makes your proposal a bad-faith red herring.

                  Don't tell me that union-busting doesn't have, at its heart, the intent of breaking the ability of teachers to negotiate effectively, or the ability to present a united political force.

                  How do you guarantee that any such "major" salary increase is not going to be rescinded, once the unions are neutered?

                  I notice you didn't bother to acknowledge that of course the asked-for concessions are a mandatory part of the package. You've already indicated that "of course" strings will be attached.

                  It's a bad trade, which is why teachers won't fall for such a ploy.

            •  I would dispute it. There are many, many (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              dedicated teachers who work with at risk and low income kids. I just retired from such a school.

              It is ridiculous to pretend that firing teachers based on student test scores, starting charter schools, giving out vouchers or implementing merit pay will overcome the challenges facing a child living in poverty. -Jersey Jazzman

              by Desert Rose on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 03:20:28 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  But... (0+ / 0-)

                ...on average, which schools get better teachers? Rich neighborhoods or poor neighborhoods.

                I'm talking about within the same district, so the salaries are the same. Where do the best teachers tend to go?

                What about the research I linked? (Which was also cited by those greedy corporate capitalists at the NEA) Do you disagree with it?

        •  It's because teachers would rather teach (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ManhattanMan, chickenfarmerwood

          at schools where kids are ready to learn and where the neighborhood is pleasing and where the administration and other teachers all get along well and the like.

          And of course, a school that gets poor test scores, and a regime where teachers are punished for poor test scores, pretty much ensures that teachers with the most options will choose to go elsewhere.

          Seniority can also have the effect of keeping teachers in those more difficult schools, depending upon how it is applied.

          The question is, why are those schools less attractive to teachers? What can you do to make the working environment better so that the best teachers choose YOUR school? Wealthy neighborhoods ask those questions all the time and have the resources to answer them too.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 02:13:23 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You asked the question... (0+ / 0-)

            ...that I am trying to find the answer to!

            "The question is, why are those schools less attractive to teachers? What can you do to make the working environment better so that the best teachers choose YOUR school? Wealthy neighborhoods ask those questions all the time and have the resources to answer them too."
            This is where we need to hear from the Teachers' Unions. Somewhere there is a mix of policies, facilities, benefits, and cold hard cash that will get better teachers into inner-city schools. It will be different for every district. It may be different for every teacher, even.

            If the Unions made a serious proposal  -- and framed it as a partial solution to the inner-city's problems -- it would be a political (and educational) winner.  Inner City parents would see their concerns addressed and Teachers wouldn't have to spend their energy playing defense against the Gates Foundation.

            Right now these is only one group offering solutions for the Inner City -- Charter and Voucher advocates. Their solution is somewhat helpful, and it is politically feasible.

            So I say to the anti-reform crowd that same I say to anti-Obamacare Republicans: What is your proposal?

            We are on the defensive when we should be on the attack.

            •  Er, you've been on the attack for the last decade (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              madhaus, Desert Rose, houyhnhnm


              You've always been pro-charter, pro-reform, pro-voucher, pro-choice, pro-standardized testing, pro-VAM, you name it. You've been agitating against public education for years here.

              Changing your "stance" won't change your history.

              •  Elections are coming up. (0+ / 0-)

                It's time to make nice and get past November.

                Did you know that in 2005 Michael Bloomberg won 45% of the vote in Harlem? Bad schools will make people do strange things in the privacy of a voting booth.

                •  Yeah, Bloomberg's victory was all about the (0+ / 0-)


                  His victory - 59 percent to 39 percent - defied the conventional political calculus in what was projected as the first mayoral race in which non-Hispanic whites would be a minority of the electorate. Most analysts said it was too early to draw long-term implications from this campaign for several reasons, including that Mr. Bloomberg spent more than $70 million on his campaign. In addition, not only was the mayor an incumbent in a city that typically gives first-term mayors the benefit of the doubt but also a lifelong Democrat until he first ran for mayor as a Republican in 2001, in contrast to his Republican predecessor, Rudolph W. Giuliani.

                  "He changed his party registration, but not his values," said Robert Shrum, a media consultant who is now teaching and writing at New York University. "You cannot imagine Rudy Giuliani getting half of the African-American vote or a big chunk of the Hispanic vote against a Hispanic."

                  In unofficial returns, Mr. Bloomberg got 648,920 votes on the Republican line and 74,715 on the Independence Party line, which meant he spent about $100 a vote to win re-election.


                  "The reality is, when the incumbent has 60 percent job approval and the 'are we going in the right direction' numbers are in the 70's and he outspends his opponent more than 10-to-1, that person is likely to win," said Jef Pollock, Mr. Ferrer's pollster. "I don't know that we've moved beyond ethnic politics, but it's fair to say it's only piece of a larger picture."


                  Representative Charles B. Rangel said yesterday that the combination of term limits and Mr. Bloomberg's unprecedented spending "breaks all the rules," including assumptions about ethnic and racial politics.

                  "People may have a sense of pride, but there's no way for the black or the Puerto Rican community to stick with their own if they're exposed to a guy spending $100 million who appears to be able to appeal to people regardless of their color," Mr. Rangel said.

                  Riiiight... Got anything that actually suggests that the voters backed him because of his education policies? Or is this just another misleading link?
                  •  Black voters... (0+ / 0-)

                    ...gave Bloomberg a 44% approval  rating on schools.

                    Is this high? Meh.

                    Is this high for a white Republican pro-business billionaire in the middle of Harlem? Hells Yes.

                    GW Bush once got 9% of the Black vote. You know that if the Republicans ever get 20%, we are toast. You know that right?

                    •  But how does that equate to them voting for (0+ / 0-)

                      his education policies?

                      There is more evidence that they voted due his being an incumbent whose policies were not totally repugnant, and Bloomberg outspending his opponent 10 to 1, not to mention his opponent making a major blunder early on than that his education policies won over the minority demographic.

                      One reason cited for Mr. Ferrer's mixed support among blacks was an early stumble in which he said that the fatal 1999 police shooting of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant, was not a crime.
                      Again - unless you have some other information to share? If not, why persist with your claim that Bloomberg's education policies won over residents of Harlem?
                      Did you know that in 2005 Michael Bloomberg won 45% of the vote in Harlem? Bad schools will make people do strange things in the privacy of a voting booth.
                      Need more evidence than your say-so, given your continuing inability to provide substantiating links to pretty much anything...
            •  I can tell you some (4+ / 0-)

              1. If teacher retention or job security is tied to student test scores, or there's even the sense that that might happen, teachers will actively avoid those assignments. We know, from various statistical analyses, that the difference from teacher to teacher makes up less than 14% of the variation in test scores, possibly far less.


              This isn't because they don't want to be evaluated; it's because they don't want to be evaluated on factors they don't control. Evaluate them on factors they DO control and they will be happy.

              2. Hire great administrators that value kids and value good teachers. Fire ones that suck.

              3. Pay teachers a living wage for their area, one that lets them own a house and a car and still send their own kids to soccer camp without having to work a second job or have a high earning spouse.

              4. Make school and the surrounding community a safe place for kids and teachers, both physically and emotionally. In some cases, the issues are external to the school.

              5. Maintain school facilities well and give teachers adequate supply budgets.

              6. Recognize that teaching is a team sport, that a great teacher stands on the shoulders of other teachers in the school and community.

              7. Quality professional development and chances to observe and collaborate with other teachers, so that they are themselves learning and exposed to new and useful ideas. (not butt-in-seat busywork professional development)

              8. People who go into teaching want to have their basic needs met in terms of money and healthcare, but once that is taken care of, what good teachers really thrive on is the sense that they are making a difference for the kids who come to their classroom. Creating an environment that lets them do that is very much the job of good administrators. But reasons they might not feel that way are going to vary school to school.

              Teachers' unions negotiate contracts locally with each district, and indeed part of the point of having a union is to actively work on each point. Student learning conditions are teacher work conditions, after all. In small districts, this can be very effective. In large districts, the problems may be too disparate to negotiate into the contract.

              Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

              by elfling on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 04:42:33 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Twenty years ago... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ...there were few charters and vouchers and the inner city schools still sucked.

        The statement:

        "If charters and vouchers weren't stealing public money for mediocre outcomes, we could resource the district schools like we should" simply untrue. Schools have never been resourced like they should. Never.

        Lastly, if the outcomes are "mediocre", why do parents fight so hard to get into charters? Why do they line up around the block to enter humiliating lotteries for the chance of getting their kids out of the public schools?

        •  "Resource" means money. (5+ / 0-)

          The disdain for public educators began in earnest with Reagan's  Trickle Down Theory of Austerity for the Lower End, and Welfare for the Rich.

          The corollary to the Reagan theory was to Punish schoools with poverty problems by further holding back money, programs, options and stifffening requirements.

          Most good educators have already moved on or retired. The chain of quality has been broken, especially in rural areas and impoverished areas. The System has fractured and is leaking horribly DUE TO UNDERRESOURCING and ATTACKS.

           The brain drain since 1980 has been horrific. We now are in the position of the National Park Service: no one competent wants to work there, and there are too few altruistic Americans do do it for the crappy pay and utter disdain and hostility Americans have been taught to have.

          So.. what do we do? We stop the attitude. We regain the high ground. We pay people professional salaries (Nurses start at 72,000 in major cities.. which is our top of the scale in a large metro city here.. after 18 years.) We recruit people who want to work in a Profession, not a babystitting environment with 40 kids per class. We reverse Reaganism.

          We know what to do. When we tire of beating up on the most dedicated, knowledgable and motivated people in America, stop being Sadomonetists, we will recover our public education system. Until then, we will continue to devolve into a totalitarian state owned by a few technocrats.

          Figures don't lie, but liars do figure-Mark Twain

          by OregonOak on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 09:32:42 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Really? The school Frank McCourt taught at didn't (0+ / 0-)


      •  we are Feeding the troll (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        houyhnhnm, Joe Hill PDX, Desert Rose

        we must stop or it will keep demanding food......

    •  I am so sick of (9+ / 0-)

      the "we have the worst teachers" whining.  You have the worst system that segregates and punishes teachers as well as children.

      When teachers cannot teach, but instead are pushed into "scripted" texts, they are still blamed if the child "fails" to fit some box.  

      You have bought into it.  Fine for you. Stop blaming teachers while claiming to be a progressive.  Anyone with an open mind, and able to look and think outside the box, knows full well, the problems in public education in our cities are complex. And chartering and privatizing and paying teachers on the cheap (which is what chartering and privatization are ultimately about.....because the investors want to make money, not pay for teachers)does not look good on their bottom line.  

      People like Eva Moskowitz get rich by using public buildings for free, breaking unions and convincing parents she can do magic.  And unfortunately many so called progressive dems buy it.  

      “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both.” Louis D. Brandeis

      by Jjc2006 on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 09:03:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Look at the history. (0+ / 0-)

        Before the charters, privatization, RTT, NCLB, whatever, there was still a huge problem with inner-city neighborhoods getting the worst teachers.

        This was the reason behind the 1968 NYC Teachers' Strike. It is an old, old, issue.

        Look, I know the problems are complex. I know that even perfect teachers would only solve 10% of the problem. The real problems are socio-economic.

        I am just asking Unions to give us some of that 10%. Give inner-city parents a proposal (Cash incentives? Better facilities?) that gets some of the good, veteran, teachers into our schools.

        •  The wont BE any veteran teachers in the reformy (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Joe Hill PDX

          world. Goddamn please do some reading. You are embarrassing us all.

        •  Show us where unions have prevented a school (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          from offering higher wages, with no strings attached.

          You couldn't do it the last time we had this conversation. Have you found something new?

          Until then, stop blaming unions.

          •  Show... (0+ / 0-)

   an instance where anyone is offered higher wages with no strings attached.

            (Other than certain hedge fund managers).

            If your best reform proposal is that people give you free money with no strings attached, it's no wonder that you're not taken seriously!

            The question is what strings should be attached? I prefer test scores, but I know teachers hate that. So let's come up with something else.

            But the proposals must come from the TEACHERS. If we continue to let the Heritage Foundation drive the reform conversation, we will get nothing but union-busting and budget cutting.

            •  But your whole argument is that unions are (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              tardis10, houyhnhnm, madhaus

              refusing higher wages for teachers in inner-city schools.

              What they are refusing is being forced to be evaluated by bogus tests that have no more statistical validity than their student's height variations.

              No one has simply offered more money to work in a district and been rebuffed by the unions. And yet, you say:

              The schools in poorer neighborhoods actually need more funding per student. Poor students are much more difficult to teach.
              Then why demand that strings be attached? Could it be that the interest on your part is actually more control and that it's not just "For the Children!"
        •  Hey I have no problem with (5+ / 0-)

          incentives for good teachers competing to work in the inner cities.  I think "commitment bonuses" would be great and unions have no problem negotiating things like that.  

          But the blame the unions, blame the teachers has got to stop.  Seriously, the problem is that tax payers, parents, listen way too much to the corporate reformers....and buy into the "bad teacher" meme.  That turns good teachers off.  We work our arses on off in inner city schools...(I know because I have worked in them) and no matter what, if the test scores don't get up, it's the "finger wagging."  TEST scores are only ONE SMALL WAY to show learning has occurred.  As well, working in an inner city schools means tons of stress, dealing with (some) very inappropriate parents, long hours and discipline issues with children who have sadly not lived in the best circumstances when it comes to learning, getting along.  SMALL classes are essential, trusting professionals over scripted text books, and looking for growth in areas that cannot be tested all matter.  Commitment to the community matters because trust must be built so children feel safe to learn.    Comparing schools, comparing teachers is just wrong.   Each child is an individual.

          And trashing teachers is not a way to attract them to the tough schools.

          “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both.” Louis D. Brandeis

          by Jjc2006 on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 10:18:36 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Parents... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Joe Hill PDX

            ...are always going to blame the schools, because it is easier than examining how their bad parenting contributes to the problem.

            We need to face that fact and deal with it. The voters are our customers, and the customer is always right. (Sigh).

            My question is a political question.  What can be done to prevent a wedge from being driven between parents who are lining up to get into Charter schools and teachers' unions who are anti-reform?

            I believe that if the Unions gave in just a little, and only in the big cities, the problem could be solved. But it is easy (and unfair) for me to sit back and demand concessions from others. We need to have some kind of dialogue.

      •  Awesome comment, Jjc; thanks! n/t (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joe Hill PDX, quill
    •  Longer days, or perhaps better yet, afterschool (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ManhattanMan, NWTerriD, quill, houyhnhnm

      programs that are optional and enriching, are a great idea. Teachers aren't against them. But teachers can't do them for free nor can teachers spend more hours with the kids and still have time to prep for the next day and evaluate work from the previous day.

      They need to be funded.

      I promise you, the Teachers Unions are working to fund them.

      In California, the new LCFF program is intended to provide additional funds to schools with low income, ELL, and foster youth, with another extra pot to schools where more than half their students come from those groups. I am interested to see how that will improve opportunities in schools for disadvantaged kids. (Of course, there's still really not enough money at the base, which is a separate conversation.)

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 09:11:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  This is the kind of stuff we need. (0+ / 0-)

        As for more funding, I believe that it can happen -- if we do it through Democrats.

        Whatever else may be said about poor Arne Duncan, he has often indicated a willingness to shell out some serious cash to teachers who are willing to be part of the solution.

        City governments have a huge incentive to pay up also. Real estate values (and hence, property taxes) are driven mostly by the quality of local schools. If the unions promised to improve inner-city schools in return for more money, the cash would flow.

        But the push needs to come from the TEACHERS. If we wait for conservatives to take the lead, all we will get is more proposals aimed at union-busting.

        •  Arne Duncan's willingness is directly tied to (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          pdxteacher, tardis10, Joe Hill PDX

          catastrophic policies.

          When has he ever shown willingness to spend money on education that is not tied to further tightening of the privatization "reform" program?

          Your link is blank, btw.

          This did make me snort with laughter:

          If the unions promised to improve inner-city schools in return for more money, the cash would flow.
          All by themselves, the unions can magically improve inner-city schools - they're just lacking a little money! - but they have been deliberately holding back from that incredible accomplishment, not even proposing it for consideration, because - because -- damn, it all just fell apart. Like it's not even a serious thought...
          •  Hey, your own studies... (0+ / 0-)

            ...have shown that teachers can influence between 1% to 14% of performance.

            What do we have to pay to get that 1-14%?  That is question for the Teachers' Unions to answer. Not the Gates Foundation.

            If the Unions want to demand reorganizations and different administrations, fine.  Just deliver on the improvements.

            Sorry about the bad link. Here is the link to Arne Duncan talking about how he wants to raise teacher salaries. Yes, it is just talk, but I really think that there is political will for this -- if Americans get better performance in return.

            •  Yeah, you're already getting that 1-14%. (0+ / 0-)

              That's kind of the point.

              As for Arne:

              “We have to recognize and reward excellence. We have to recruit the next generation of teachers into our nation’s classrooms, with the baby boom generation retiring. The right way to do that is [to] offer more pay and asking more of them as well,” he said.
              That's reassuring. You don't suppose it has something to do with all his privatization policies, do you?

              That doesn't even quality as "just talk", not if you're suggesting that he is promoting higher salaries. He's promoting his policies.

          •  Teachers are not "holding back". (0+ / 0-)

            They are being held back.

            Any teacher that tries any sort of innovative teaching, or deviates from the lock-step lesson plans gets nothing but pain for their trouble.

            Even if their risk pays off and the kids learn, what reward does the teacher get? Nothing. (The get a warm fuzzy feeling in their heart, but this does not pay the rent).

            This system is not fair.

  •  Should be diaried, but a new group called (14+ / 0-)

    Democrats for Public Education has been formed to offset Democrats for Education Reform.  

    Members of DFPE:

    Mark Pocan (D-WI)
    Mark Tacano (D-CA)
    Donna Brazile
    Ted Strickland
    Jennifer Granholm

    No website yet.

    Members of DFER's board include:

    Barbara O'Brien, former Lt. Gov of CO
    Kevin Chavous, former DC City Council chair
    Adrian Fenty, former DC mayor

    To be free and just depends on us. Victor Hugo.

    by dizzydean on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 08:01:31 AM PDT

  •  Education "reform" has always been a scam (12+ / 0-)

    "reform" was created for the following reasons:

    -  To demonize teachers and blame them for student behavior outside of their control.
    -  To attack union teacher wages and push non-union charter schools.
    -  To create private sector profit through standardized testing.
    -  To privatize education in general.

    Then there's the whole mess brought about by the loss of our manufacturing sector and good union wage factory jobs, where a lot of our highschoolers were supposed to go.  On the loss of those jobs we got yet another scam - that every single kid should go to college, no matter what.

    The colleges and especially the banks loved that, as kids who didn't belong in college saddled themselves up with debt either to flunk out, or to graduate with a degree that didn't lead to a job capable of paying back the student loans.

    And then finally, when those kids who didn't belong in college don't succeed, the "reform" movement again blames the schools and the union teachers for being "bad" and "lazy" and not preparing every single kid to be a PHD.

    It's a scam, all of it.  The schools were just fine in the 80s and early 90s before all this nonsense began.

    •  Mostly agree (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      quill, a gilas girl, houyhnhnm, pdxteacher

      but back in the 80s and 90s progressives were fighting for change then too. They wanted to see more curricular freedom and pedagogy that reflected inclusion and the developmental needs of the whole child. And they were talking about the needs to address poverty and discrimination because they could see the adverse effects those factors caused in the classroom. Reagan, of course, made everything worse with A Nation at Risk and by establishing the frame of market-based reform that exists today. Those advocating for reform carry the mantle of Reagan. So there were serious problems back in the 80s-90s, and progressives were on the right side back then.

      •  A Nation at Risk wasn't even a research document (4+ / 0-)

        it was pure ideological right wing pap. And people still quote it.

      •  "Reformers" today have taken (4+ / 0-)

        that same language and twisted it around to be something that is the exact opposite.  That's what makes it so evil.

        It's like calling deregulation of air pollution a "clear skies initiative".

        Light is seen through a small hole.

        by houyhnhnm on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 10:48:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  A bunch of worthless hooey (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        They wanted to see more curricular freedom and pedagogy that reflected inclusion and the developmental needs of the whole child.
        And that is how we got in the mess we're in.  Where our kids don't know math and science, so that kids could have the curricular "freedom" to not learn anything they found to be boring.

        And where little Johnny wasn't taught that 2+2 doesn't equal 5, because that might damage his self esteem.  Better to be creative than right.  Except that physics doesn't care about self esteem.  Physics cares about hard reality and getting the right answer the first time.

        I'd much prefer to drive over a bride designed by someone who wasn't taught by a pedagogue.

    •  Norm you are bringing it today. Thanks. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pdxteacher, Norm in Chicago
  •  Teachers need support and training to (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    incorporate new methods into the classroom, says this article:

    Don't know how I got there, but it's a good one. When do our teachers have time to observe other classrooms, discuss, experiment, as teachers in other countries (example here: Japan) do?

    •  Agree teachers need support, but (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pixxer, Joe Hill PDX, quill

      The author claims that problem-based math instruction is unknown or different from the way math is taught here in the U.S. This is a gross error; problem-based instruction is old hat to math teachers in the U.S.

      To explain: the "old" way to teach math (prior to about 20 years ago) was to model how to do something, give students guided practice, then allow independent practice. Instruction was provided by the expert, or teacher. He claims that this method is the norm in the U.S.

      In contrast, problem-based mathematics instruction is more like real-life problem-solving: students are presented with a challenging, interesting problem. They work in groups to solve it, while the teacher circulates, asks questions and supports students' thinking. Then, students share their thinking, challenge each other, discuss and prove that their strategies are reliable. The teacher is still the expert, but he/she works as a guide. This is how math is taught in the U.S.

      The writer of the NY Mag article, unfortunately, makes an assumption, or accepts claims from a dubious source, that we don't teach this way already.Then he fills several pages explaining why it's better.

  •  As someone who knows Chicago Public (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a gilas girl, houyhnhnm

    Schools very well I'd say our biggest problem with the school is the nepotism within the CPS administration.

    Principal and teching positions are offered to nieces and nephews of some aunty working downtown in the CPS office. If someone else is hired auntie buries that person in bureaucracy.

    But yes, lets keep blaming the teachers for underperformance. Rahm won't tackle this nepotism because it is the same damn nepostism that is used in city hall.

    Btw, charters won't help because the same old nepotism picks and chooses which cousin or political supporter opens a charter.

    •  Apologies for all the misspellings. I should have (0+ / 0-)

      proof read it. :)

    •  Charters help. (0+ / 0-)

      If a charter is full of nepotists, parents will simply avoid it.

      The fact that parents can choose to attend (or not attend) a charter forces them to keep a higher standard.

      Public Schools without competition give bad service for the same reason Cable Companies give bad service.

      •  Jesus H Christ comparing schools to Comcast. (5+ / 0-)

        What right wing site do you lift that one from? The Fordham Foundation? Eli Broad? Do tell....

        •  He also fails to mention that public schools have (5+ / 0-)

          meaningful oversight, by the same population they serve. Except in cities with mayoral control, which is another horrible idea.

          Charters generally don't. When charter schools have begun to be raided by the FBI, it's pretty obvious the idea of privatizing schools is basically FUBAR.

          More charter school oversight details, this time in Ohio:

          Consider these glaring legal loopholes:

          • Charter-school administrators are not required to hold any professional licenses or meet even minimal educational requirements.

          • Charter-school board members aren't elected by or responsible to the voters. Some are hand-picked by for-profit management companies runing schools.

          • Charter-school board members do not have to be “qualified voters” (citizens) who are registered with the secretary of state’s office in recognition of their status as members of a public board.

          • With hand-picked, unelected boards, charter-school administrators can pay themselves exorbitant salaries that can match those of local superintendents responsible for the education of thousands of students in multiple locations.

          • Many charter schools employ highly paid administrators but compensate their teachers well below those in other public schools, leading to constant staff turnover.

          • The for-profit management companies that operate many charter schools think that their mission and vision (read: profit) supersede the legitimate interests and aspirations of the public.  

          • Charter schools are exempt from more than 150 provisions of state law that otherwise are applicable to school districts, including a requirement to annually report the names, salaries and credentials of licensed employees to the State Board.

          • There are no restrictions on the payment of public funds for recruitment of students, advertising or payment for celebrity endorsements; there is no ban on using public funds earmarked for charter schools for political campaign donations.

          That quote might be a bit long, but it seems to be best to get that kind of info fight out in the open.

          And, just for kicks, here's a Slate article detailing what has been happening in Sweden since they adopted Milton Friedman's ideas on vouchers, another of MM's constantly proposed ideas. Hint: It's not looking good in Sweden.

      •  The nepotism is at a higher level. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        The actual selection of which charters get to play in the district. Because of this corruption the scores might look good now but I'll be laughing at your misfortune when you find that the books have been cooked regarding test scores and budget.

        Good luck! :) Remember, I'll be right here laughing at you.

  •  Thank goodness (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tardis10, pdxteacher, Joe Hill PDX

    people on the left are finally waking up to the evil Trojan Horse that is education "reform".  I just hope it's not too late.

    The last few years have been a nightmare, even worse than the Bush years (though there is a lag effect, I'm sure.) I suppose part of what has made it so unbearable is suffering through the Bush  years, finally getting a Democratic administration and hoping things would be better only to find out they are more reactionary than the Republicans on education.

    I remember hearing Emanuel Cleaver using that snake line metaphor 20 years ago, btw.

    Light is seen through a small hole.

    by houyhnhnm on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 10:27:31 AM PDT

  •  Socioeconomic status is the single largest (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joe Hill PDX, pdxteacher, quill

    performance factor in k-12 education.  As a society we're trying to attack the problem from the wrong end.  

  •  Education Department (4+ / 0-)

    Arne Duncan is one of the longest serving, least creative, and corporatizing Secretaries of Education we have ever known. Obama ceded educational policy to Duncan in 2009 and hasn't looked back.  Duncan should be fired for insisting on handing over education to the corporate elite.  I don't suspect Hilary will do much that is different.

  •  Unions and Teaching (4+ / 0-)

    Blaming teacher's unions for educational ills is nonsense.  Some of the worst schools with the worst student performance are in right-to-work states, namely the South.  

  •  Education (4+ / 0-)

    I have been an educator both in and out of the classroom since the mid 1960s. At that time, this was one a few professions open to women so many of the the 'best and the brightest' set their sights upon changing the world and making a difference in the lives of children. Many of us taught in Title I schools and had a large percentage of our educational loans forgiven by this program. I promised myself then that when I became disillusioned with teaching or ineffective as a teacher that I would then retire. My disillusionment began in the 1980s when school districts began to buy into programs in which the teaching became 'scripted', taking away the ability of teachers to seize upon unexpected teaching moments that came from the kids in the classroom, and squashing my creativity, reducing me to a robot rather than a teacher. It didn't take long for me to 'retire' from the classroom but I have chosen to remain in the realm of education ever since in various other roles. Unfortunately I have seen more and more children over the years who 'hate' school by the tender age of 8, for if the teachers cannot be creative, neither can the children, yet we need creative thinkers in our society instead of regimented adults. Nothing will be learned, however, when students are required to sit in their seats and regurgitate information that is required by the corporate community, an entity that equates input with output. But teaching kids cannot be run as a corporation because each child is unique, and for us as teachers, to reach and inspire every one of them requires time to connect with them in a classroom that is not jammed with 35 to 40 students. I challenge those making these decisions for teachers, not by teachers, to be a teacher in a classroom for 2 weeks and see how quickly they become frustrated with the task.
    One of my fondest memories as an elementary school student was 'playtime' in Kindergarten and painting a mural as a 5th grader--a group task that you rarely see today. Unfortunately we have shifted what was once taught in 1st grade down to Kindergarten, leaving little time for them to interact in social situations and become creative thinkers. This is what the corporate reform has done, and by their actions we have 'stressed out' and 'turned off' our kids to learning by holding them accountable for content that may be inappropriate for their age or level of maturity and then testing them to see how well they have learned the information and demeaning those that have scored below expected levels. This insanity of administering standardized computerized tests to students 4 times a year in an attempt to assess their progress is a disgrace to educational principles, for in most cases, the information gleaned is not given to the teacher to incorporate into their curriculum. The test taking thus becomes piecemeal information that lives only in their school folders instead of being used to enhance their learning. This is what education has become, and to me, it is unacceptable! Let's get back to classrooms that are welcoming, creative, and engage students in the learning process; and let's get out of the classroom and become more in tune with nature and our environment. Let's teach them about how ecosystems function, what it means to be sustainable, how to use the scientific method, the importance of our ocean system to our life on Earth, and how to stand up to the corporate destruction of our planet, all issues they will need to understand in order to deal with them as adults.

  •  Jeff, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Anything you can do to spread the word about my latest diary, I would greatly appreciate!

    We're trying to throw the folks out of office who have made corporate education reform the law of the land in Pennsylvania!

    Here's the diary:

    If anyone is interested in helping to lead us to victory in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, please donate here.

    And if you're interested in learning more about us, go to

    We're trying to collect as many low-dollar contributions as possible before our next state filing, so every little bit helps.

    Check out my blog, which focuses on policy, state and local political news in Pennsylvania, and in-depth analysis on top headlines: The Policy. The Honest. The Local.

    by ckennedy on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 01:15:32 PM PDT

  •  Pictures (0+ / 0-)

    Nothing says "my point of view" like pictures. GOP and Tea Party holds up signs of dead fetus. Let hold up pictures of Sandy Hook Victims for gun control. Use pictures just like the other side. Steal their moves. Play out of their playbook. We must learn to fight this type of fight. We don't have to yell and scream. A pictures speaks a thousand words. Peace to all. Equality for all. Fair pay for equal work.  Women's rights. Show pictures of dead doctors from anti abortion beliefs. These people aren't Pro Life. Their actions speak so much louder than their words.I hope the progressives will come out in the midterms. We need everyone to know we aren't going to take their abuse anymore. Although they have rigged the elections. We have to make a strong showing Get rid of Electoral College. One vote for each person. Popular vote should always pick who  wins elections. NOT districts. Then people will vote. When they know their vote can make a difference and not be lumped into some body else's opinions. Vote so we can throw the bums out and get some things done. Don' trust their new spill about poverty. They are scamming us once again. We know how the Slave States handed out health care. They didn't. 37 states have denied their people  Health Care. We can never trust them ever.  I don't want any budget that comes from Paul Ryan. The rich kid with a 1960's German ideas. Get over it Ryan.  You will never convince me you care about anyone except Corporate welfare. Rand Paul you too. Propaganda and lies are all I have heard from you. Why would I start believing any of the GOP and Friends on anything that doesn't line their own pockets. SCOTUS too.

  •  Millstone around our necks (0+ / 0-)

    A Millstone Around Our Necks

    By: Thomas Spellman     May 31, 2014

    I will use RIGHT as a broad description of those forces who have orchestrated the placement of the millstone.

    The NEA and the AFT and most, if not all, of the state education associations have a millstone around their necks, and they have not be able to figure out what that millstone is nor how to get rid of it. They know it is there because of the incessant Legislative Action taken against Teacher Unions in particular. There is a history about the placement of the millstone, but because it has been a slow and systematic process, it is hard to pinpoint when it started.*

    The current phase of the effort to place the millstone started by their own admission in 1989 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with just a few hundred children who were poor and black (other minority children were included but few participated). It was represented to the public that these poor black children did not have the same “advantage” as the white children in Milwaukee, and so the Choice School program* was created by the Wisconsin State Legislature to allow poor minority (black) children to attend a school of their parent’s choice which in essence meant attending a Religious school if it was going to be a better school.

    As with all “big” City school systems, in 1989, the poor black children who attended Milwaukee’s Public Schools (MPS) did not do as well as their white counterparts. In fact, a disproportionate number of the black children, primarily young black male children, were not learning, were not graduating from high school, and so this became the MORAL basis for the Choice School program and society’s failure to address their failure is a MORAL concern. The Choice School program would provide poor black children a chance to attend better if not good schools. It is important to understand that the black children NOT LEARNING, NOT GRADUATING was the MORAL basis, the foundation, of the Choice School program. It is CRITICAL to understand that black children NOT LEARNING, NOT GRADUATING, TODAY, STILL IS the MORAL basis for, not only Wisconsin’s Charter and Choice School programs, but, the whole National Charter School movement as well.

    The RIGHT (accidentally or by design) has successfully tied the millstone not only around the necks of the teacher’s Unions but also around the neck of Public Education itself! Yes the millstone can be seen as the failure of Public Education to graduate tens of thousands of young black males who as we know do not have good outcomes in their lives if they do not graduate.*

    Dr. Howard Fuller and others claimed that it was the FAULT of Milwaukee’s Public Schools (MPS) that those poor black children were not learning, and it was also the FAULT of the Milwaukee Teacher Education Association (MTEA) that kept “bad” teachers teaching, So both Public Education and the Teacher’s Union were BAD, and the millstone was attached to both!

    And so here we are today trying to figure out WHAT TO DO. Mind you that we have been trying to figure out WHAT TO DO for the past thirty years.  

    This begs the question of WHO should have figured out what was happening and WHO should have directly addressed the MORAL issue of black children (young black male children) not learning. Not only were they not learning but were being ignored as well!!  To be fair there surely have been efforts made to address young black males not learning, not graduating and yet as we all know much of that effort have been for naught.* I will leave for others to figure out the exact history of who did or did not make the critical observations that you will see are in the final analysis, simple and very basic.

    Now that we know what the millstone is - the MORAL concern that black children not learning not graduating is the BASIS for “change.”

    Before we examine the ways to remove the millstone let us first understand WHY the millstone has been attached to the necks of the Teacher Unions and Public Education itself.  

    Now the RIGHT does long range planning and the millstone around the neck of the Teacher Unions and Public Education is the perfect example of their planning.  It either starts with Howard Fuller efforts of creating Choice Schools for Milwaukee’s black children or sometime before but as Fuller admitted in 2013:

    “When I (Howard Fuller) got into this battle in 1989, standardized test scores showed Milwaukee was failing to educate poor black children. That's when state Rep. Annette Polly Williams courageously stepped forth to make sure that poor families were afforded some opportunity to choose schools in the private sector for their children. She shepherded the pioneering voucher program through the Legislature.”
    “Since then, I, along with many others, have fought tirelessly for parental choice for low-income families throughout the nation. The governor's plan (Governor Scot Walker) would turn Milwaukee's program into something it was never designed to be.”
    So in the name of black children who were not learning, (the MORAL failure of society) Dr. Howard Fuller began the systematic attack on the Teachers Unions and on Public Education itself. The RIGHT supported Dr. Fuller, and Representative Annette Polly Williams and they became the mechanism to attack the MTEA and MPS. That was the first step in the plan to privatize Public Education*.

    It needs to be noted that research addressing why young black children and young black males in particular were not learning would have the MORAL action to take but the RIGHT made sure that institutions (Public Education and Teacher Unions) that are the people’s would be systematically attacked and destroyed.

    It has been pointed out, by others, that while privatizing prison is a major source of cash for corporations, Public Education is the real CASH COW.* Not only is the RIGHT looking at the primary and secondary schools but at the Public Universities as well.  If WE and that includes those closest to the battle, the Teacher Unions and Public Universities, do not wake up we will see an education system as it was in the 1800’s. Oxford, Harvard and the like for the rich and not much else for the rest of us. While in the 1800’s servants were needed to support the life style of the rich, now they will have robots who do not need sick leave and are always clean, so who will need the workers. That is the direction we are headed and that is how the cards are currently stacked. The corporations of the world are salivating and just waiting for the right time to take over the Public Education system of United States.  

    Thirty years ago when Dr. Howard Fuller spoke and when Annette Polly Williams spoke everyone understood that the basis for the attack of the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) was the FAILURE of MPS to

       educate young black males.

    Yes, and what has been the response of those being attacked by the RIGHT? The teachers themselves and the Teacher Unions have rightly claimed that they are not the cause of the failure of young Black males not learning not graduating and by any applied logic* they are NOT.  Recently as an effort to support Public Education the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) ran a campaign calling for “Great Schools” for all children in Wisconsin. They DID NOT address the MORAL issue of black children not learning, not graduating and hence the campaign fell on deaf ears because everyone knew that the black children DID NOT HAVE and WOULD NOT HAVE “great schools” and NO ONE was addressing the fact that a significant percentage of black children were not learning were not graduating.

    While the Teacher Unions have Presidents and public relations staff to express the views of their members, WHO SPEAKS FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION?  Yes as Dr. Seuss asks, WHO speaks for the trees? The concept of “Public Education” has been commandeered by the RIGHT to mean Central City Black Education. The simple proof of that is that there are thousands of high performing schools in the U.S. that are PUBLIC SCHOOL. PUBLIC SCHOOLS WORK and yet the RIGHT has convinced many Americans that PUBLIC SCHOOLS and therefore PUBLIC EDUCATION is broken by associating public education with central city education which is equated to the education of black children.  

    Most unfortunately for the children there has been lots of hand wringing but NO RESULTS. While the numbers of black children who fail may be lower today than 30 years ago the effect of those failures still haunts not only the immediate community but the cities themselves. The violence, the senseless deaths, in our large cities is horrifying and YET there is NO VISION of how to address the MORAL FAILING that young Black males are not learning, not graduating!

    How do we proceed?  We know that the millstone is a MORAL concern, the failure to educate black children primarily young black male children. Yes that is the millstone but what causes black children and in particular young black males to fail? That is the question that Dr. Howard Fuller and our Universities should have addressed 30 years ago and it still the question that needs to be address today.

    As an observer of education, primarily Milwaukee and Wisconsin, for the past 40 years I have pieced together a few observations that others have not. What I know for sure is that by not addressing the moral issue, we have now failed two generations of black children.

    Observation one

    All learning is individual.  While we teach children in groups, each child’s learning is dependent not only upon their cognitive abilities but also on their behavioral abilities.  We know that we have various test to determine a child’s cognitive abilities. We will know a child’s behavioral abilities, disposition, by observation. If the child’s behavior is cooperative and inquisitive we know that there is a very good chance that that child will reach their cognitive potential. If on the other hand the child’s behavior is angry or belligerent we know that that child probably will not reach their potential.  Behavior is a/the key to learning. As we know cooperative behavior is assumed of all children attending public schools. Unfortunately many children are not cooperative and the Schools are not prepared to deal with children who are not cooperative who are angry or belligerent. As we will see it is this failure that is the basis of the MORAL concern.

    It should be noted that successful schools are dependent upon each child’s success!  Schools fail because STUEDNT FAIL, Schools succeed ONLY when STUDENTS SUCCEED!

    Observation Two

    Because it is often easier to see the differences when using to extremes let us first examine and then compare two high schools, one that “works”, and by that I mean graduates almost all of its students 4 year later and many of those graduating students go on to college, and one that does not “work”, one that has a high dropout rate and few students go on to college. What do we see? Are there any clues or maybe even answers as to why some schools (children) are successful and why some schools (children) are not successful?

    You can mentally run through all the differences between the two schools. I ask you to focus on the behavioral differences between the two schools. Yes the “attitude” of the hallways and the number of suspensions and that should begin to tell the tale.

    The reading ability of the children between that two schools will also be different but that is an indicating that the problem starts at an earlier age and not at the high school. Yes it starts in first grade and in the home before that and gradually builds as the behavioral issues are first squashed and then with age become unmanageable. But what is it about the behavior that can be addressed?

    I suggest that there is a direct correlation between schools with high suspensions rates, and schools that are failing. We need to examine the children who are being suspended to understand why they are failing, why they are not succeeding!!

    Observation Three

    Let us also look at a process that a friend who was a teacher and a principal uses with teachers he is consulting with. After the teachers have had their students for a month or so he asks them to think of the students in their classroom. He then ask them to first identify the ones that are the perfect students. They are always on task and cooperative, they are a joy to be with.  Then to see those student who are almost as good and all they need is an occasional nudge. Then to see the students who need occasional reminders to stay on task and maybe help with a subject or two. The fourth group are those who are struggling but respond. The fifth group of students are those who act out who are contrary who at times are belligerent. It is this group that controls the behavioral atmosphere of the classroom. It is this group of students that can determines what the others learn.    

    When the teacher has completed the reflection they see their classroom in a way that they may not have seen it. They will see where their energy goes and also where help is needed. As we know all too often no help is available to help those who are behavioral challenged.  

    Observation Four

    As I see it, there are two sides of the equation for quality education – the academic side and the behavioral side. As I have suggested above let us examine the behavioral side to see if it bears fruit.

    The controlling element on the behavioral side may seem at first not to be that important. I have come to the conclusion that the unresolved abuse/trauma that some children suffer is the controlling element for the dysfunction of the child. We know there is unresolved abuse/trauma because we see the belligerent behavior which results in the classroom disruptions, the suspensions, and the expulsions.

    Some will argue that part of those disruptions are the fault of the “ineffective” teacher, but that begs the question because surely not all of the disruption (i.e. belligerent behavior) is the result of “ineffective” teaching/teachers.

    The work of Dr. Lonnie Athens lays out very clearly that unresolved abuse/trauma is the foundation to all violent behavior. What Dr. Athens also observed, and is critical for all educators AND ALL OF US to understand, is that all abused/traumatized individuals who have not resolved their abuse/trauma will become belligerent – become so angry that they begin to act out. That acting out is either external – against others – or internal – against themselves.

    What is critical to understand is that the belligerent behavior must NOT be seen as an affront to authority BUT a child’s cry for help. The “cry” is no different from a baby’s cry. In large part we know how to respond to a baby’s cry.  WHAT WE DO NOT KNOW IS HOW TO REPOND TO A CHILD”S BELLIGERENT BEHAVIOR. We need to learn how to positively respond to a child’s belligerent behavior!!

    This one change in perception has the potential to change many if not most of the outcomes.

    Also we respond very differently to a person who is crying for help, than one, who seems to us to be challenging our authority or more basically our safety.

    Dr. Athens’ work is most easily understood in Why They Kill written by Richard Rhodes. In Chapters 10 and 11, Rhodes explains Athens’ theory. Unresolved abuse/trauma is the underlying cause of violent behavior and all who are first abused/traumatized become belligerent before they become violent. The first nine chapters of the book are a biography of Lonnie Athens which explains how he came to understand what he was observing, as he did his research with prisoners who had committed violent crimes.

    Below are two real-life examples of the effects of abuse/trauma.

    A friend who was an assistant principal at a middle school could set her watch when a girl would come into her office. Finally, she told the girl that they needed to have a long talk before lunch. Beginning the conversation, the girl blurted out that her brother had died from sickle cell anemia. Before the assistant principal could get her arms around the girl to hold her, the girl further revealed that she, too, has sickle cell anemia. She did not know if or when she would die, and her family had not listened or responded sufficiently to her cries for help. Most would deem this the family’s responsibility not the school’s. But the girl was failing, and so it became the school’s issue that needed to be resolved for the good of the girl as well as the good of the school and MPS itself.

    The other story is one told by a social work who took time to listen to a boy who was doing good work, but then in a very short period of time, things fell apart. As the boy talked, it came out that he was homeless in that they had moved in with relatives, and he was sleeping in the basement. But that was not the problem. The real issue was that he did not have a blanket to cover himself. This so upset him (traumatized him) that he became belligerent. Once a blanket was provided, he went back to doing good work once again.

    These two stories represent a far greater number of stories of our children. Some of the stories will be horrifying to say the least. How schools and schools districts responds to the stories is key for both the child’s success or failure, and therefore, the success or failure of schools themselves. What we know for certain is that the vast majority of the children who are being suspended in first grade are children in dire need of social services (i.e. therapy). It is critical to first figure out what is troubling each child and then to find the resources either inside the school or through other agencies to address the child’s issues.

    WHO speaks for the children??

    Can we all be agreed that a child’s inappropriate behavior - belligerent behavior is what needs to be focused on? It is the inappropriate behavior – belligerent behavior that begins the process of suspensions which for some (many) leads to dropping out and the rest of the litany that leads to violent crimes and then jail or death.  Have we ever thought that just maybe the belligerent behavior is not directed as an affront to authority?

    The question before us is clear

    1) Is a child’s belligerent behavior, internal to the child (having nothing to do with past abuse/trauma)?


    2) Is a child’s belligerent behavior a response to unresolved abuse/trauma that the child has experienced (suffered)?

    These two statements are diametrically opposed.  Either a child’s belligerent behavior is personal and intentional or it is a response to the unresolved abuse/trauma that the child has experienced.

    Which is it? How do we determine this?

    We have for years approached a child’s belligerent behavior as a personal and intentional act. That the child WANTS to be disruptive enough so they can be suspended from school etc. Schools have tried to control and change the belligerent behavior without realizing that there is something that is causing the behavior. What is causing the belligerent behavior?

    They have not understood that for many children, their belligerent behavior is a cry for help to resolve the unresolved abuse/trauma that he/she has or is experiencing, not an affront to authority much less a threat to their personal safety.  

    This one change in how a child’s belligerent behavior is understood and dealt with produces significantly different outcomes for the child, the students in the classroom, the teacher, the school and even the family.

    A way to look at this is that the belligerent behaviors is a symptom of a problem IT IS NOT the problem.  Another way to look at it is the belligerent behavior is like a fever, we know that if we only treat the fever the person will in all likelihood not get better and in fact may die because the real cause of the fever is not being treated.

    So to, today, most of the children who are belligerent, have issues of unresolved abuse/trauma, the underlying cause for the behavior, and those issues are not being addressed and so the anger turns to rage and rage turns to violent behavior.

    Understanding Failing Schools,

    Understanding Schools that are not succeeding is like learning a NEW computer program. At first it all seems very complex and yet once you have learned the program, it is very easy. That is the complexity of what we are dealing with. The elements are basically understood it is the arrangement of the elements that at first seems complex yet once understood it is in fact easy.

    What are the elements of this new language?

    A) Suspension - We know about suspensions. Kids do stuff that breaks the rules, disrupt others and or endanger others or themselves and they get warned and finally they get suspended for a few days.

    B) Another name for the “stuff” that kids do to get suspended is Belligerent Behavior. The word “belligerent” is in and of itself very descriptive of the process.

    C) Belligerent behavior is the expression of UNRESOLVE abuse/trauma (This may be new) It is critical to understand this because it is the foundation of all violent behavior

    D) (This is new) It is in the telling of the story of the unresolved abuse/trauma that begins the healing process.

    E) The abuse/trauma can be as simple as a young boy not having a blanket or as horrific as a girl of 11 being raped by her uncle for 2 years and then by her cousin for another 2 years. The boy got his blanket because a teacher took the time to ask him WHY he was so upset. The girl of 11was not as lucky, she raged all through high school but NO ONE ASKED WHY!

    These are the elements it is first understanding them and then applying them that leads to proficiency!!

    An additional note:

    Circles/Classroom Meetings

    If I am right that abuse and the honor code are significant issues that must be worked on and eventually resolved for MPS to be successful, then what can be done in a classroom or school to be effective? I know a leap.

    William Glasser in his book Schools Without Failure has one specific suggestion which he explains in detail. Chapters 10 – 12 describe what he calls “classroom meetings”. Today they are called “circles”. He provides the detail necessary to have a good understanding of what takes place in a classroom meeting and how it will benefit the individual student, the class itself, and therefore the school. The abuse/trauma issues will come out in these classroom meetings. Some of them will be simple to fix while others will be very involved and more difficult to resolve. Support for unresolved or difficult issues can be sought with the help of the principal, school social workers or outside partner agencies.

    *  There are a number of issues that I will only make reference to. I am not an academic nor am I Chris Hedges, so please bear with me here.  

    Thomas Spellman    210 N 2nd St Delavan WI   53115       414 403 1341

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