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The state of Pennsylvania is being sued by the following petitioners:

WILLIAM PENN SCHOOL DISTRICT; PANTHER VALLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT; THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF LANCASTER; GREATER JOHNSTOWN SCHOOL DISTRICT; WILKES-BARRE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT; SHENANDOAH VALLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT; JAMELLA AND BRYANT MILLER, parents of K.M., minor; SHEILA ARMSTRONG, parent of S.A., minor; TYESHA STRICKLAND, parent of E.T., minor; ANGEL MARTINEZ, parent of A.M., minor; BARBARA NEMETH, parent of C.M., minor; TRACEY HUGHES, parent of P.M.H., minor; PENNSYLVANIA ASSOCIATION OF RURAL AND SMALL SCHOOLS; and THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE—PENNSYLVANIA STATE CONFERENCE.

The petitioners are represented by the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania.

Here is the summary of their challenge to the state:

PETITION FOR REVIEW IN THE NATURE OF AN ACTION FOR DECLARATORY AND INJUNCTIVE RELIEF

Petitioners, by and through their counsel, for their Petition for Review in the Nature of an Action for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief against Respondents, state and allege as follows:

INTRODUCTORY STATEMENT

The good Education of Youth has been esteemed by Wise men in all Ages, as the surest foundation of the happiness both of private Families and of Common-wealths. Almost all Governments have therefore made it a principal Object of their Attention, to establish and endow with proper Revenues, such Seminaries of Learning, as might supply the succeeding Age with Men qualified to serve the publick with Honour to themselves, and to their Country.1

1. From the earliest days of the Commonwealth, Pennsylvania has recognized a societal interest in public education—a charge that Respondents here are sworn to carry out. Under the Pennsylvania Constitution, Respondents have an obligation to support a thorough and efficient public school system that provides all children an equal opportunity to receive an adequate education. Through legislation and regulation, Respondents have established state academic standards that define precisely what an adequate education entails. But rather than equip children to meet those standards and participate meaningfully in the economic, civic, and social life of their communities, Respondents have adopted an irrational and inequitable school financing arrangement that drastically underfunds school districts across the Commonwealth and discriminates against children on the basis of the taxable property and household incomes in their districts.
In adopting this arrangement, Respondents have violated Article III, Section 14, of the Pennsylvania Constitution (the “Education Clause”), which requires the General Assembly to “provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.” They have also violated Article III, Section 32 (the “Equal Protection Clause”), which requires Respondents to finance the Commonwealth’s public education system in a manner that does not irrationally discriminate against a class of children.

2. The General Assembly’s delegation of much of these duties to local school districts cannot elide its ultimate responsibility under the Education Clause and the Equal Protection Clause. Through this lawsuit, Petitioners seek to hold the General Assembly responsible for and accountable to its constitutional mandate.

3. Respondents are well aware that the current school financing arrangement does not satisfy that mandate. In 2006, recognizing its constitutional duty to ensure adequate school funding, the General Assembly passed Act 114, which directed the State Board of Education to conduct a comprehensive statewide “costing-out” study to determine the “basic cost per pupil to provide an education that will permit a student to meet the State’s academic standards and assessments.” Upon the study’s completion in 2007, Respondents learned that 95% of the Commonwealth’s school districts required additional funding, a shortfall that totaled $4.4 billion.
In response, the General Assembly approved a bill in 2008 that established funding targets for each school district and a formula for distributing education funds in a manner that would help ensure that all students could meet state academic standards. Even with a financial crisis sweeping the nation, Respondents were able to rely on that funding formula to begin to more equitably distribute state funds and federal stimulus money, which collectively increased funding for school districts by more than $800 million over three years. Beginning in 2011, however, Respondents abandoned the funding formula, slashed funding to districts by more than $860 million, and passed legislation to severely restrict local communities from increasing local funding. Meanwhile, the cost of meeting state academic standards continued to rise, opening a perilous and widening gap between the actual resources provided to school districts and the resources necessary to provide children in Pennsylvania an adequate education.

4. These funding cuts have had a devastating effect on students, school districts (especially less affluent school districts), teachers, and the future of the Commonwealth. The latest figures from the 2012–13 school year indicate that more than 300,000 of the approximately 875,000 students tested, including the children of the individual Petitioners in this action, are receiving an inadequate education—by Respondents’ own definition—and are unable to meet state academic standards. Specifically, these students are unable to achieve proficiency on the Pennsylvania System of Standardized Assessment (“PSSA”) exams, which the General Assembly modified in 1999 to track state academic standards and measure student performance in reading, writing, math, and science.

5. Because of insufficient funding, Petitioner school districts are unable to provide students with the basic elements of an adequate education, such as appropriate class sizes, sufficient experienced and effective teachers, up-to-date books and technology, adequate course offerings, sufficient administrative staff, academic remediation, counseling and behavioral health services, and suitable facilities necessary to prepare students to meet state proficiency standards. In fact, the superintendent of the state’s largest school district has stated publicly that school staffing levels in 2013-14 were insufficient to provide students an adequate education.

6. Nor do Petitioner school districts have adequate resources to prepare students to pass the Keystone Exams, which measure student performance in math, science, and English. Achieving proficiency or higher on the Keystone Exams (or an equivalent project-based assessment) is a graduation requirement for all Pennsylvania students in the class of 2017 and beyond. Yet over 50% of students in the Commonwealth are currently unable to pass the Keystone Exams. Many of those students will leave high school without a diploma, hindering their ability to enter the workforce or “serve the needs of the Commonwealth.” The existing system of public education is therefore neither thorough nor efficient, as measured by the Commonwealth’s own academic standards and costing-out study.

7. What is worse, the very low levels of state funding and unusually high dependence on local taxes under the current financing arrangement have created gross funding disparities among school districts—an asymmetry that disproportionately harms children residing in districts with low property values and incomes. In fiscal year 2011, local sources provided 60% of the money that funded public education, while state appropriations accounted for only 34%. That year, only three states contributed a smaller percentage of the cost of public education than Pennsylvania.

8. As a consequence, total education expenditures per student now range from as little as $9,800 per student in school districts with low property values and incomes to more than $28,400 per student in districts with high property values and incomes, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s 2012–13 data.2 This unconscionable and irrational funding disparity violates the Equal Protection Clause because it turns the caliber of public education into an accident of geography: Children in property- and income-poor districts are denied the opportunity to receive even an adequate education, while their peers in property- and income-rich districts enjoy a high-quality education.

This funding disparity is not justified by any difference in student needs. To the contrary, those students with the highest needs (e.g., English-language learners, students living in poverty) receive the fewest resources to prepare them to succeed. Nor is it justified by a desire to maintain local control over education. Any such “control” is illusory under the current financing arrangement because districts with low property values do not actually control the amount of resources at their disposal or the standards to which their students are held. In fact, many low-wealth districts have higher tax rates than property-rich school districts. In other words, it is not tax effort that explains the difference in funding. Rather, these underfunded districts are in areas so poor that, despite their high tax rates, they simply cannot raise enough money to improve education without more assistance from the state.

10. Petitioner Panther Valley School District (“Panther Valley”), a property-poor district, is a prime example of the funding disparity. In 2012– 13, Panther Valley’s equalized millage rate of 27.8—the 27th highest of the Commonwealth’s 501 school districts—raised revenue of approximately $5,646 locally per student. Property-rich Lower Merion School District (“Lower Merion”), on the other hand, raised revenue of approximately $23,709 locally per student—four times more than Panther Valley—with an equalized millage rate of just 14.7, almost half of Panther Valley’s.

11. Although the state has made some effort to close that gap, contributing twice as much per student to Panther Valley as it did to Lower Merion, that still left Panther Valley with less than half the combined state and local funding of Lower Merion: $12,022 per student versus $26,700. Respondents cannot reasonably claim that $12,022 is adequate to educate a Panther Valley student—not when the State Board of Education’s own costing-out study showed that Panther valley needed $13,427 per student based on 2005–06 costs. Over the past nine years, of course, those costs have only grown.

12. Given Respondents’ failure to address the funding crisis—and the ongoing harm their failure has inflicted on children throughout the Commonwealth—Petitioners ask this Court to declare the existing school financing arrangement unconstitutional and find that it violates both the Education Clause and the Equal Protection Clause. An objective framework for such an inquiry already exists. The state academic standards and student performance measures developed by Respondents beginning in 1999, as well as the costing-out study they commissioned, provide judicially manageable standards by which the Court can assess whether the General Assembly has maintained and supported “a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth,” as required by the Pennsylvania Constitution.

13. Petitioners also seek an injunction compelling Respondents, after being given sufficient time to design, enact, and implement a school financing arrangement consistent with the Constitution, to halt any funding arrangement that (i) does not provide necessary, sufficient, and appropriate funding that ensures all students have an opportunity to obtain an adequate education and meet state academic standards, and (ii) irrationally discriminates against children who live in school districts with low property values and incomes.

1 Benjamin Franklin, Proposal Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania (1749), available at http://www.archives.upenn.edu/primdocs/1749proposals.html.

2 Unless otherwise noted, throughout this Complaint, “per student” is based upon Average Daily Membership (“ADM”) as reported by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. ADM refers to “all resident pupils of the school district for whom the school district is financially responsible.” It includes students in charter schools. See http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/financial_data_elements/7672.

This is a newsletter from Australia, written by Phil Cullen in a blog called The Treehorn Express.

Treehorn Express

http://treehornexpress.wordpress.com

Facts About Australian Schooling

Schooling in Australia is a state responsibility. Each state, however, relies on the distribution of money collected from its citizens by the commonwealth government, which then places conditions on the way the money must be spent by the states. It is a strange relationship. Because this arrangement locates exceptional power in the centre, the federal minister for education assumes full responsibility for all levels of schooling; and this allows the incumbent political party to determine aspects of schooling, some of which might be at odds with a state’s notions. :”There has been concern at the political level over the intrusion of the Commonwealth government and Commonwealth agencies into the field of education, traditionally and constitutionally a State responsibility. Some of these enterprises appeared to have a philosophical basis different from that underlying State activities in education” [M.J.Ahern Q, Hansard 04-04-78] . Such differences depend a great deal on the federal minister’s view of schooling. Few state ministers ever disagree and things runs smoothest when both governments share the same political ideology. The federal minister possesses enormous personal power and is allowed to indulge his or her will – from the sublime to the ridiculous – without reference. No state has reclaimed its right to supervise the curriculum requirements of schooling since the drastic changes to schooling in Australia in 2008, for instance; so the federal minster can do as he or she likes e.g introduce a high stakes testing regime or call for a curriculum review or whatever is part of a personal fancy. The state ministers have yet to test the limits of their own power over schooling in their own state.

SCHOOLS Children can attend a public state school for twelve years, free of charge. If they have rich or frugal parents, they can attend a private school at high cost. There is little difference, if any, in quality.
School years operate according to the calendar year, and promotion is year by year from Year 1 to Year 12.
Most children sit still in classrooms for twelve years or more. In some schools, the children must all face the same way for most of each school day. This benefits the sermonising teaching tactics required to practise for the annual testing program.

AGE Children can start school at age five, even though they need not do so. Many prefer to wait for sound reasons. In some states they may attend when as young as four and a half. Laws of compulsory education differ in each state, so the age of admission differs and causes disruption to people who change states, but there is little interest in stabilizing national ages of schooling,

TESTING & CURRICULUM The present-day written curriculum is over-burdensome. It’s huge. Any additions would be insane. Despite its extent, only certain aspects of literacy and numeracy need be taught. These are tested each year – Years 3,5,,7,9 – using a cold heatless format – in May. Results are available some months later, but there are moves to provide the tests quicker, more often, electronically. This testucating ideology is aimed at bringing each child up to the exact same standard on the exact same day….nothing more, nothing less. The tests have little relevance to the intellectual development of children, but they are handy for descriptive purposes by those who know only a little bit about classroom practices and nothing about the effects of testing on child development.

Since most schools are not trusted to describe a pupil’s suitability for his or her career opportunities or have its own evaluation and reporting program, intense testing is also undertaken towards the end of Year 12. A certificate is issued to school graduates, purporting to describe the level of competency in school subjects undertaken; and employers interpret them as best they can. If employers wish to know about the more essential qualities required, they have to make their own arrangements.

SYLLABUS LEVELS A curriculum usually refers to the learning entitlements of children when they attend school. A syllabus details requirements for pupils to reach curriculum goals. Australia has three levels of syllabus requirements according to the prevailing schooling ideology. The tri-level system introduced to Australia in 2008 distinguishes the requirements: 1. Testable aspects of literacy and numeracy are high level. Schools need only teach these, to be regarded as a ‘good’ school. Nothing else needs to be taught. 2. Mid-level interest can be taken in science, history, geography, social studies according to the level of pressure by people in authority. 3. Music and Art and similar airy-fairy subjects don’t count very much. They take time from test preparation. They command some attention on special occasions; and the results are usually spectacular.

‘STUDENTS’ Children at school are described as ‘students’, because the term has no relationship to schooling per se. It’s a safe description. It infers that children at school don’t have to be taught. They study. More serious authorities [e.g. Britain] describe all school attenders as ‘pupils’, using the O.E.D. meaning that suggests learning at a school involves the use of teachers. Although pupilling involves a teaching/learning contract between two people, Australia prefers the United States descriptor of ‘student’ because it follows the U.S. in all things as blindly as possible; especially schooling arrangements. The word doesn’t mean anything special.

PRIVATE or PUBLIC There are differing opinions as to quality of offerings. Australia has joined the U.S. in the press for the privatisation of schooling despite the high quality education by public schools. A private school can be a very profitable business and Australia’s ruling governments in recent times have been controlled by the neoliberalist philosophy of privatisation. People tend to believe that private and systemic schools are better, despite the results from various scrutinies. Many see NAPLAN tests as an admission ticket to the ‘best’ private or select school. Indeed some such schools, whose notions of pupilling is limited, ‘brand’ their intakes for streaming purposes using test scores. The brands last forever. But………

Nice people go to private schools. Some public schools contain a lot of foreigners, some of whom are Muslims.

HOME SCHOOLING is permitted, albeit grudgingly. A worthy alternative to institutionalised forms of instruction, it is becoming very popular with parents who are able to do so and who enjoy sharing their children’s educational development within a family setting. Such parents disapprove of test-driven forms of schooling, threatening their children’s welfare. Some use reliable diagnostic tests as required when required. While little state assistance is offered to these home-based forms of pupilling in a pure form, local coteries of home schoolers in various localities share teaching experiences, learning enterprises and shared evaluation techniques.

GROWTH INDUSTRIES – EDUCATIONAL & PHARMACEUTICAL

1.The printing and sale of Practice Tests and associated texts is now in the multi-million dollar range. Schools prescribe them even though their popularity is a reflection on the profession; and parents use them extensively at home or on holidays. 2. The rise in the number of ‘back-yard mechanics’ aka tutoring shops that concentrate on NAPLAN tests, has been quite staggering. A quick google will indicate the extent. Costs range from $20 to $50 per hour. 3. The use of pharmaceutical supplements to enhance performance is not disallowed nor discouraged by education authorities. While the rugby league and Australian football authorities have taken this matter seriously, no warnings or cautions have ever been provided to the public by educational jurisdictions. Neither has the extent of the use nor the side effects of such usage been researched extensively. Medical assistance for those children who are in distress, vomit and become emotionally ill or cannot sleep during the preparation period is, of course on the increase as part and parcel of the testing industry. Sadly, it would appear that child health and social welfare is at a low level of interest to the various state authorities while testing resides within..

MAJOR CONTEMPORARY ISSUES The dramatic changes to schooling in 2008, when these testing devices were introduced to control the curriculum, have caused wide rifts in professional conversations. The gulf between what is now called the ‘testucation’ community and the ‘education’ one is wide. As with most macabre political issues, the gap will slowly close. and this repulsive use of Standardised Blanket Testing to mould children according to a one-size-fits-all pattern. using tactics that run counter to all the sacred beliefs of caring for kids, should disappear. Its disappearance needs encouragement.

The belittlement of teachers has never been been so high. The blame for the muck-up in the 2014 NAPLAN writing test was said to be theirs. Their over-zealous practising disposed the testucating hierarchy to try to ‘catch’ them by requiring a most peculiar response to a weird question…..and their attempts rebounded.
Small wonder there is a heavy resignation rate. Those who continue to teach in the face of extreme unethical behaviour are surely amongst the greatest of all times; producing such quality all-round products in the face of the requirements of test tyrants and muddled, muffled political deviants.

That’s Australian schooling…… girt by political unscrupulousness in a sea of arrested intellectual development. It’s been so for six years now. Time to stop the rot. The damage has been too costly for our future.

OUR FUTURE Our present schooling system is clearly a product of our obsession with all things American. Australia seems to be compelled to copy quasi-educational. unsubstantiated Yank gimmickry that usually ends up in disaster. High-stakes testing, charter schools, performance pay, core curriculum, common core syllabuses and serious judgements made on unreliable testing procedures are features of this American/Australian system. Australian classroom-experienced teachers have the capacity to design a system, uninfluenced and unsupervised by the testing fraternity, that will establish a high-level learning culture based on love of learning, instead of on a fear of it. Encouragement to learn can easily replace the fear-of-failure syndrome now dominating our classrooms. Our future depends of the freedom to learn. It needs to be released from bondage before any progress can be made.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________
Phil Cullen [....in support of a fair-dinkum, no-nonsense,kid-oriented Australia] 41 Cominan Avenue, Banora Point Australia 2486 07 554 6443 cphilcullen@bigpond.com

http://qldprimaryprincipals.wordpress.com/ http://kelleyandcullen.net/ http://primaryschooling.com

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Zak Jason wrote a fascinating interview in “Boston” magazine with Barbara Madeloni, the recently elected president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the largest union in the state with 110,000 members.

I first learned of Madeloni when she was preparing teachers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and she refused to give the Pearson test to evaluate new teachers. Michael Winerip wrote a story about her defiance in the New York Times, and within a matter of days, her contract was not renewed. Now all teacher candidates across the university are required to take the Pearson exam.

I learned many things from this article. I learned that Barbara was a psychotherapist before she became a high school English teacher. I learned that when she ran for union president, she was considered a very long shot. Some people thought she had no chance at all.

I learned that the State Commissioner of Education, Mitchell Chester, is also chair of the governing board of PARCC, one of the two federally-funded Common Core tests. Some in the state say he has a conflict of interest.

Madeloni has called for a three-year moratorium on all testing and teacher evaluations:

“We’ve been trying to do scale, instead of human beings. We need to do human beings,” she says. She lambasts the Common Core, a national set of curriculum standards that the state adopted in 2010, as “corporate deform,” and described its architects to CommonWealth magazine as “rich white men who are deciding the course of public education for black and brown children.”

“The past and present heads of the state’s top education offices I talked to dismiss Madeloni’s rhetoric as naive, absurd, and, in the case of the moratorium, illegal. Mitchell Chester, the commissioner of the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), says he’s concerned that her “hyperbolic” vision may force the DESE to tune out the entire union.”

Chester may dismiss her, but teachers view her as a savior. “She’s the first MTA leader willing to listen to their agony, and to tell the truth about how teaching in the age of accountability can be, as Holyoke teacher Cheri Cluff puts it, “like waiting tables at a busy restaurant; you’re running and running and running, and you’ve lost your head.” Whereas past presidents and her opponent, MTA vice president Tim Sullivan, were willing to compromise with state administrators, Madeloni is combative, unapologetic, and, as Agustin Morales, another Holyoke teacher, says, “unafraid to make her life uncomfortable.”

Morales, the article notes, was elected president of his local in Holyoke with a 70% majority; he complained about the data walls, where students’ names and test scores are publicly posted. He was fired.

Madeloni is a fighter. She is outspoken and unafraid. Will she be marginalized by the state? Can the state alienate its largest union? Watch for the battles ahead. Madeloni was elected to stand up for teachers. Richard Stutman of the Boston Teachers Union has agreed to collaborate with her.

Zak Jason concluded:

“When I first talked to Madeloni soon after her election, she agreed to have me follow her throughout her first week. But just before her presidency began, she told me, “As a psychotherapist, I know the presence of someone else in the room can affect how the room behaves,” and said she would only be available for an interview, and her communications director James Sacks would join.

“As I’m about to leave her office, Madeloni turns to Sacks and asks, half-joking, “Is there anything I didn’t say that I was supposed to say?”

“What’s your vision?” he says.

“That we reclaim the vision of public education as a space for democracy, for joy, for hope, for a better future for all of our children. All of our children.”

Paul Horton, who teaches history at the University of Chicago Lab School, here analyzes the origins of neoliberalism and its attack on the public sector.

The “rhetoric of economic freedom” has put a price tag everything. Self-interest and me-first have become the ideology of the day, and anyone who dares to think of what is in the best interest of society or how to raise up the poor is scorned as a Marxist or collectivist.

Horton writes:

“In effect, “the invisible hand” behind the push to create new education markets is coming from Wall Street investors who are flush with capital for investment. Wall Street bundlers and investment firms are buying up stock in charter school companies and big education vendors. These bundlers not only fund both party’s campaigns, they also sell stock, betting on the futures of big education vendors, start-ups, charter schools, and vouchers. They “encourage” political leaders to pursue policies that will hedge their bets on education products and to view all schools as portfolios that will increase in value as long as the Feds and the states pursue policies that encourage privatization.

“But Wall Street bundlers are far from the only group that embraces a radical version of libertarianism as a way to legitimate opening new markets in education. “Hardcore libertarianism has been making inroads among a younger set of tech entrepreneurs, who see its goals of limited government as being compatible with their general hatred of innovation-stifling regulation. And as more and more tech founders become phenomenally wealthy, many are naturally drawn to the right-wing political ideologies that help them preserve more of that wealth,” according to Kevin Roose in an article for New York magazine.

“Not surprisingly, this same set of Silicon Valley and Seattle billionaires has teamed up with Wall Street bundlers to push neoliberal attacks on public education by pushing an agenda that supports charter schools, computer driven learning, and assessment schemes that are designed measure success of students and teachers in “real time.” Value added measures (VAM) for teachers based on student test scores are designed to reduce the power of unions by making it easier to get rid of ineffective teachers. Charter schools are created both as competition for public schools to give parents “choice” and as a way to hire nonunion teachers at cut rate salaries–teachers who can be hired and fired with no job protections or due process.

“This neoliberal-libertarian agenda for education violates the values of the American Revolution that affirmed that promise of public education in the Northwest Ordinance that reserved the proceeds from the sales of public lands to build public schools and the later Morrill Land Grant Act (1862) that used the proceeds of public land sales to create public universities that would serve the interests of the public.

“Neoliberal corporate education reform is nothing short of an attack on the political DNA of the United States. This agenda makes a mockery of Jefferson’s idea about a school as an “academical village” designed to create leaders to serve the commonwealth. Corporate education reform also disgraces the legacy of the fight for integration and equal funding during the Civil Rights movement by encouraging the resegregation and the resource starving of public schools to create more “choice” in the form of charter schools.

“The Tea Party might rant on and on about liberty and taxes these days, but Republicanism, or the idea that we have to “rise above faction” to serve the commonwealth was the glue that held the American revolutionaries together…..”

“Nothing is sacred: public servants, those who promote the humanities and the arts, and those focused on caring for others are viewed by neoliberals as naïve at best. Public servants deserve little or no respect because only the market can truly establish value. They are contemptuously seen as the new “welfare queens,” or the “forty-seven percent” because the very idea of the public is emasculated, shorn of value, a heavy drag on a fine tuned and lean market system. Neoliberals believe that almost everything public should be strangled and flushed, to use Grover Norquist’s intentionally crude image.

“Toward this end, public schools and public teachers have been subjected to a relentless barrage of negative propaganda for almost thirty years. Many corporations want to force open education markets, Microsoft and Pearson Education to name two of the largest, demand “free markets,” “choice,” and “free enterprise.” Public schools are defunded and closed, so that parents can choose among competing charter schools supported by city, state, and Federal policies. Politicians of both parties at every level are funneled campaign contributions from charter school investors for their support of “school choice.”…….

“The privatizers want us to forget all of this history; they want us to forget the idea that public anything is a good idea. Parents who demand quality public neighborhood schools are as American as apple pie. The corporate education reformers are motivated by ideas that have no respect for tradition or for common human decency. They devalue the aspirations represented in the Declaration of Independence. We need to push back and demand a limit to privatization and a defense of the Commons.”

This just in from a member of NEA from Massachusetts who is at the Denver convention. She hopes that Lily Eskelsen, the new president, will be a champion and fighter for kids, teachers, and public schools. Is she THE ONE? Will she stand up to the phony “reformers”? Will she fight for democratic control of the schools? Will she tell the plutocrats to use their billions to alleviate poverty instead of taking control of the schools?

I think Lily has it in her. Until proven wrong, I am placing bets that she will stand up fearlessly for what is right, that she will tell Arne Duncan to scram, that she will tell the billionaires to get another hobby.

Here is the message from one of her members:

My comment is awaiting moderation on Lily’s Blackboard.

Here it is.

Lily, thank you for posting this opportunity for substantive engagement on the Gates question.

I’m an activist NEA member in Massachusetts, in a low income district heavily engaged with the policies Bill and Melinda have imposed through their legislative interference and advocacy lobbying, with the compliance of the outgoing Massachusetts Teachers Association leadership.

MTA and NEA compliance directly aided in the imposition of Gates-backed corporate domination in my Commonwealth’s public schools, in my school, in my actual classroom, and over the actual living students I teach.

The (false) distinction you make between Gates’ imposed “standards” and the accountability measures he demands for them will allow the NEA to continue to take his money, and I’ll admit that almost chokes rank-and-file teachers who live and work under his heel. I am going to argue that you to can make a decision of your own, when you take office, to give that money back to him.

First, I’d like to offer congratulations on your succession to the presidency of NEA. The Representative assembly that voted you in brought with it a new activism and determination, and voted in resolutions which break sharply with the previous administration, of which you were a part. We look to you with great hope, holding our breath against it for fear of disappointment.

The Common Core standards can’t “stand on their own merit”. They were backwards-engineered to warp the teaching of language and literature into assessment readiness, with its own novel testing vocabulary. strung together with the bogus Moodle diagram you inserted in this page. The aligned WIDA tests that are now being imposed on ELL students, from the earliest grades, will steal the short and precious window of their childhood. People are tweeting me that those children can’t wait while you do your homework and find that out.

We’re fighting right now for schools in New Bedford and Holyoke that are already being taken over. They were full of living children, just a few weeks ago when we left them. What will we find in August?

We’re asking you to become the courageous and powerful leader of an engaged and mobilized union. I know you saw and felt the hall rise to its feet behind these initiatives. That felt different and deeper than the hearty applause for your victory, did it not?

Bring us to our feet: give back the Gates money.

The website I linked for you is an Education Week column describing the actual effects of the Gates Foundation’s profit-centered philanthropy model in the third world. It’s the responsibility of Americans to become aware of it, when we take money from American corporate philanthropies and allow them to pursue their profits internationally under the subsidy of our tax code.

Why Arne Duncan needs to listen to Bill and Melinda | Li…
I do not hate the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. I know it might seem strange to have to make that statement, but such are the times we live in.
View on lilysblackboard.org
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From: Citizens for Public Schools in Massachusetts:

Update: Senators to Vote Tomorrow on Charter Cap Bill!

We’ve learned that House Bill 4108, which would, among other things, lift the cap on charter schools in so-called “underperforming districts” is scheduled to come up at a caucus of Democratic senators Thursday (that’s tomorrow) at noon.

Votes can still change after that, but if you have an opinion on this and you haven’t talked to your senator yet, today would be an excellent day to call. Talking with an aide is fine too.

CPS’s June 2013 report, “Twenty Years After Education Reform: Choosing a Path Forward To Equity and Excellence For All,” includes a full chapter devoted to the facts on charter schools in Massachusetts. Click here to download the full report. (See Chapter 4 for information on charter schools.) Click here to download the executive summary.

The report found that Commonwealth charter schools have not contributed to equity of educational quality and resources:

Charter schools enroll a much smaller percentage of English language learners and students with significant disabilities than their sending districts.

A widely quoted study that favors charter schools shows higher scores only for specific grades (middle school) and student subgroups, but not for elementary or high schools, ELLs, or charter students in their first year.

Though a goal of the charter school movement was to spark innovation, urban charters have gravitated toward a “no excuses” approach, which means long hours in school, precise rules for behavior, and severe discipline for breaking even minor rules, such as wearing the wrong color socks.

Many urban charter schools report very high out-of-school suspension rates and continue to show much higher attrition rates than their district school neighbors.

While some charter high schools with a large percentage of low-income students score high on MCAS, these schools rank much lower on the SATs.

What’s more, research indicates many students from high-scoring charter schools do not fare well in college.
The average Massachusetts charter school loses one-third to one-half of its teaching staff each year, compared to the state average, which ranges from 13 to 22 percent.

Note: Proponents of lifting the cap on charters argue that charters don’t have greater attrition than district schools, but the data shows otherwise. Click here for a compilation of the data comparing Boston charter schools attrition rates with that of district schools.

Best regards,
Lisa Guisbond
Executive Director
Citizens for Public Schools
617-730-5445
lisa.guisbond@gmail.com

Citizens for Public Schools, Inc. | 18 Tremont St., Suite 320 | Boston | MA | 02108

When people write Pennsyvania Governor Tom Corbett to complain about the devastating effects of his budget cuts on the children of Philadelphia, he responds by blaming the teachers’ union for not accepting even deeper cuts. A few days ago, a first-grader died; there was no school nurse on duty. Her position had been cut from five days a week to one day a week plus another occasional day. This was the second child to die in a school where Corbett’s budget cuts had eliminated the full-time nurse. Corbett blames the teachers.

Governor Corbett accepts no responsibilty. His response to critics betrays a guilty heart, or a man without one.

This teacher, Steven Singer, describes what happened when he wrote a letter to Governor Corbett.

“Wow! I am flabbergasted by PA Gov. Tom Corbett’s reaction to the second Philadelphia student dying at school without a nurse on duty! As many of you did, I wrote him a letter asking him to please increase funding so tragedies like this are not repeated. He must be getting some heat because this is the first time he’s ever actually answered any of my correspondences.

“His answer was basically: (1) how dare the Philadelphia Teachers Union intrude on the family’s suffering to make a political point and (2) if only the teachers union would take concessions and work for less money, the state would have enough to pay for nurses!

“The deaths of these two students are direct consequences of Corbett’s education policies! He slashed education funding by close to $1 billion every year for the last 3 years! This resulted in 20,000 teachers being laid off, class sizes skyrocketing, the elimination of art, music and extra curricular activities – and, yes, school nurses! If this is not the time to address the issue of his malfeasance, when is!? Once people have time to forget? He did nothing after the first student died. Hadn’t the time come yet to address that issue before the second one died!? Will there be time to address the issue before another child dies? Would rushing to judgement after three years be too uncouth!?

“And then he blames teachers for asking to be treated fairly! Sure if we all just accepted sweat shop conditions, think of the money the state could lavish on our schools – to Pearson and Common Core!

“We had very low voter turnout during the primary that put Democratic candidate Tom Wolf as Corbett’s November challenger for governor. If people don’t show up to kick this bum out of office, we will all deserve what we get! Correction: we’ll deserve it, but the kids who mostly aren’t old enough to vote, will continue to be the innocent victims of this poisonous political hack!

“Here is Corbett’s letter:

“Putting the safety and educational needs of our students first must continue to be our top priority. There is an appropriate time and place to call for education policy discussions. Right now, our thoughts should be with the child’s family, friends, school and community who have all been through an extremely traumatic situation.

I am deeply troubled that the union leadership of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers – and by extension the American Federation of Teachers – would use the recent tragedy at Jackson Elementary as an opportunity to make a political statement. For more than a year, we all have asked the union leadership – who are disconnected from the great teachers in Philadelphia who are in the classroom every day – to come to the table and engage in meaningful negotiations to assist in the financial recovery of the Philadelphia School District.

The Commonwealth, the School District, the School Reform Commission and City Council are all working to contribute to the success of Philadelphia’s schools and students. I will continue to ask the union leadership to put the children of Philadelphia first and engage in a meaningful dialogue and a shared vision for the future of the children of Philadelphia.

Tom Corbett”

When Arne Duncan visited Boston recently, he lamented the sorry state of public education in Massachusetts–the highest scoring state in the nation on NAEP, a state whose students have been ranked at the top of international tests—and he praised privately managed charter schools for their excellence. For reasons he has never publicly explained, he wants to see more public dollars and students turned over to unaccountable corporations. He is a cheerleader for privately managed charters and the nation’s chief critic of public education. He aids and abets the movement to privatize public education. As public policy, this is irresponsible. To call this bizarre is an understatement.

When Duncan spoke with a columnist from the Boston Globe, he alleged that 40% of the high school graduates in the state require remediation when they get to college.

In this post, Carol Burris demonstrates that Duncan was confused, misinformed, or worse.

Duncan told the columnist that 40%–a”staggering” number of students—need college remediation.

Burris writes:

” What is “staggering” is the gross inaccuracy of the claim. Here are the facts:

“Twenty-two percent of the students who attend four-year state universities in Massachusetts and 10 percent of the students who attend the University of Massachusetts take at least one remedial course. That group (students who attend four-year public colleges) comprises 28 percent of all high school graduates in the Commonwealth.

“Thirty percent of all Massachusetts graduates attend private four-year colleges. Although I could not find remediation rates for such students, we know that nationally 15 percent of students who attend not-for-profit four-year colleges or universities take remedial courses.

“Using the above, I estimate that the percentage of students in Massachusetts who attend four-year colleges and take remedial courses is roughly 17 percent, not the 40 percent that Duncan claimed.”

It is also staggering that the U.S. Secretary of Education does not have accurate data about our nation’s highest-performing state.

And it is staggering that the columnist feels no need to fact-check the data.

And most staggering of all is that Duncan wants to harm our nation’s public education system, which is part of the fabric of our democracy.

What is his goal?

Paul Horton, teacher of history at the University of Chicago Lab School, wrote the following after participating in the first conference of the Network for Public Education:

Attending the NPE inaugural conference was an exhilarating experience! As Diane said in her keynote, we cannot afford to exclude anyone. We all met hundreds of amazing and dedicated folks in Austin.

I had a conversation with Jason Sanford at Scholtz’s that I would like to share. He encouraged me to share it with everyone: Texas was the birthplace of the Populist Party, the most successful grassroots third party movement in American History. The Party was born outside of Lampasas, Texas and spread to the entire country. The Party sought to unite urban workers, miners, and farmers, black and white, who were being squeezed by economic forces beyond their control.

We would all do well to read the Omaha Platform of the Populist Party, http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5361/.

Populists, above all, wanted to do something about corporate dominance of politics and economic decisions. We face many of the same issues today in the second Gilded Age.

The late Larry Goodwyn, who wrote the best book on Populism, Democratic Promise, a University of Texas dissertation originally, wrote that the success that the movement had was based on the construction of a movement culture. Populists organized cooperative stores, newspapers, a lecturer network, raised money to form a national movement, and conventions at every level. Their platforms endorsed candidates who would support their platforms, not political parties. The Populists forced the major parties to listen because they controlled so many votes and candidates who supported their platforms were elected to government at all levels.

Above all, the Populist Party was a grassroots movement. As historian Richard Hofstadter has pointed out, many individuals have ridden populist rhetoric to the White House. Populist rhetoric is a useful political tool for politicians seeking office. Politicians abandon populist rhetoric when they raise money and solicit support from plutocrats.

The history of Populism is instructive for many reasons. Most importantly, the lesson that we need to learn is that grassroots movements are easily coopted by politicians who make promises about support for cosmetic issues and meaningful legislation is too easily watered down in the political process.

Another lesson is that coalitions that seek to unite disparate elements of the working class come under attack. What Joel Williamson has called “racial radicalism” that motivated a resurgence of the Klan in the 1890s was motivated by the political threat of a united Populist Party to the racist white power structure in the South and nationwide.

A third lesson to learn is that political movements that sustain themselves in this country must have the cooperation of the middle class. Because Populists were successfully branded by the corporate media as illiterate and stupid, corporate leaders were successful in marginalizing the Populist movement.

As Jim Hightower would say, we need to dance with the ones we came with. But I say, because teachers, firemen, police officers, doctors, lawyers, and teachers are threatened with downward mobility because corporate honchos using Computer Based Systems are trying to squeeze productivity gains out of us without paying us more, we need to make every effort to bring these groups into a broader coalition that believes in the idea of the public, the nation as a commonwealth that invests in people, not wars, and not privatization.

Back in 1964 when Milton Friedman was Barry Goldwater’s economic advisor, the country laughed at the idea of neoliberalism because most Americans were motivated to serve broader causes. Altruism was cool, and the Civil Rights movement was ascendant. Kennedy had inspired us to think big. Now the ideas of Friedman and Hayek dominate public discourse and the Ayn Rand cult has returned with a vengeance.

The idea that Corporate Education Reform is the Civil Rights Movement of our time is the pinnacle of absurdity. Ella Baker, Septima Clark, and my relative, Myles Horton, are turning over in their graves! There were no students turned out of Freedom Schools! Freedom Schools did not operate with military discipline and focus on preparing students for standardized tests. At Highlander, participants sat in a circle. There were no corporate sponsors or foundations involved. At Highlander, Ziphlia (who rewrote “We Shall Overcome”) and Myles prepared meals and washed the dishes to show their profound respect for Civil Rights leaders. Do we see Bill Gates doing this?

The NPE represents what Larry Goodwyn, who also studied the Poland’s Solidarity Movement, “Democratic Promise.” We are facing a long fight. As Diane told us, “we have to cast a wide net, but we must remain a grassroots movement.” We must insist on inclusivity in all respects. We need to be visible but our platform must speak more loudly than any segmented “talking heads.”

Thank you, NPE Executive Board for an absolutely exhilarating experience! “We Shall Overcome.”

A reader offers this perspicacious view of Pennsylvania’s cybercharter industry. There are 16 of them in the state. The founders of two of the major cybercharters are currently under indictment for siphoning millions of dollars of public funds:

The reader writes:

“Running a cyber-charter in PA is as good as printing money. No oversight and a system that completely ignores the actual costs of the system. If the Commonwealth of PA went shopping for used cars the same way, it would walk onto the lot and tell the salesman, “Here’s twenty grand. Pick out any car for me that you want, and keep the change.”

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