Archives for category: ALEC

The reform/privatization strategy is now in full operation is states across the nation.

This is the way it works:

First, set an impossible goal, say, 100% proficiency for all students.

Second, say that there can be “no excuses,” no reference to social conditions in which children live.

Third, insist on accountability for schools, teachers, and principals. If they can’t meet the impossible goals, fire the staff and close the school.

Fourth, hand the school over to private management.

Mission accomplished!

Oklahoma is in the midst of this process, as this teacher describes here. The schools will be graded. Many will fail, by design. Does anyone still believe this is about improving education?

You know what comes next. This Oklahoma teacher writes:

Oh, it’s much worse than just testing…the use of this data will “fail” schools and then trumpet their failure. In order to earn an “A”, a school must score nearly 94%. The easy-to understand resources on the OKSDE website are anything but simple and transparent. The district Superintendents (nearly 200, I believe) who objected to the release of scores have been called names by our State Super and our Governor. Dedicated professional educators have been attacked personally.

The State Superintendent likened them to the kid who runs home to white-out his report card before his parents get home. Remember, she’s speaking to career educators…which she is not. She was a speech pathologist for a few years, became a dentist, and helped open a charter school in OKC because her own children were struggling in public schools. She sees herself as the heroine of DON’T BACK DOWN.

The spokesperson for the SDE says they’ve worked with districts, getting their input. I was at the Public Comments meeting, at the SDE…scheduled by the SDE. NO ONE representative from the SDE attended the meeting except the lawyer who pushed ‘play’ on the tape recorder. We all spoke to a tape recorder…superintendents, principals, school officials, legislators, PTA state officers, and I was the lone teacher…we were all ignored. Is THIS how our SDE works with us? Unfortunately, the answer is ‘yes’.

Our state officials are bullies, and they bully with smiles on their faces, with the knowledge that the media won’t pursue the story to the ultimate truth.

Tomorrow the grades come out…the same grades Mitt Romney thinks are such a good idea. My firm belief is the grades will show exactly what high-stakes testing shows: poverty matters. So, once again, schools and teachers and districts will be punished and publicly shamed because we serve poor children.

Pray for us.

A reader writes:

This is the reason why no one listens to all the sound reasons presented so far.

“No rational argument will have a rational effect on a man who does not want to adopt a rational attitude.” ~ Karl R. Popper

I wrote a post about radical legislation in Pennsylvania that will authorize the Governor to create a charter commission with power to overturn local decisions. This legislation was written by the corporate-funded organization ALEC.

The Louisiana legislature passed the radical ALEC agenda last spring. Teachers lost tenure; unqualified people can become teachers. Test scores determine teachers’ careers. More than half the state’s students are eligible for vouchers, with some going to fundamentalist schools. Charters will pop up everywhere. Students can take their tuition money to online schools that get poor results, or to any snake-oil salesman that hangs out a shingle and pretends to be an educator.

Everything comes out of the minimum foundation funding for public schools, which is supposedly illegal, but who cares? Lots of new opportunities to make a buck in Louisiana or any other state that passes ALEC model legislation.

A reader in Louisiana notes that the proposed governor’s commission, stripping local boards of their decision-making powers, has already passed in his state:

This legislation was passed in Louisiana last spring. Don’t let this happen to Penn -teachers get the word out to fight this. This December our Board of Education will present the first list of applicants to fall under this new provision and they have shown that they decry true accountability. My school district,St. Tammany Parish, is the highest performing large school district in the state with highest average ACT score in the state and above the national average. We have never allowed charters but we are now expecting to be invaded. One prospective charter operator is advertising on Craig’s List for personnel to open an “international school.” He is a former instructor of Muslim studies at the Air Force Academy (5years) from Edinburgh, Scotland. Where do these charter promoters come from and how do end up here.

State after state is imposing new teacher evaluation systems that have never worked anywhere else; new pay structures that no one understands; eliminating collective bargaining rights; removing tenure to make it easier to fire teachers.

All of this is allegedly to “improve” the teaching profession.

But this is what is happening on the ground. Bill Gates, if you are reading this, can you please explain? Arne Duncan, this is what you brought about through your Race to the Top, perhaps you could explain.

Can anyone explain how these measures improve the teaching profession?

I’m a first grade teacher in Indianapolis. We cannot even get anyone to explain to us what the new pay structure is for our school district. We know we will no longer be given pay increases…..we’ve been told nothing about bonus pay, or starting salaries. Our union has no power since our legislature stripped it in this last session. I understand that we want to hold teachers accountable, but I think it is not unreasonable to expect that I be at least told what my pay structure will be so I know what to work towards. I’ve earned a masters degree, two separate certifications and have 16 years of experience in inner city schools. I do what I do because I love it and I make a difference. I’m tired of being demonized and demoralized in the press because I want to know whether or not I am going to be able to continue to support my family. These new evaluation systems are so complicated and at the same time vague and ambiguous. I’m in the process right now of writing my state approved forms for my administrator for part of my evaluation and I’m overwhelmed by what I must now do. People believe all of this paperwork and bureaucracy is going to make better teachers, but in reality it is driving people from the profession. College enrollment in education programs has dropped dramatically over the last 5 years. Who would want to be a teacher in this climate? I don’t know about Chicago and DC, but in Indianapolis, we are all frustrated and worried about the future of our schools.

Governor Tom Corbett wants charter “reform.” He is trying to persuade the state legislature to allow him to create a commission that could authorize charter schools over the opposition of local school boards.

As a Pennsylvania blogger says, this puts the fox in charge of the henhouse.

This is ALEC model legislation. It’s on the ballot in Georgia next month, where ALEC allies hope to eliminate local control.

This is not conservative. It is radical. Since when do conservatives destroy local control to advance the monied interests?

Because I was traveling in Texas over the weekend, I didn’t see Bill Moyers’ report on ALEC. I watched it last night, and I hope you will too.

If you want to understand how we are losing our democracy, watch this program.

If you want to know why so many states are passing copycat legislation to suppress voters’ rights, to eliminate collective bargaining, to encourage online schooling, to privatize public education, watch this program.

ALEC brings together lobbyists for major corporations and elected state officials in luxurious resorts. In its seminars, the legislators learn how to advance corporate-sponsored, free-market ideas in their state. Its model legislation is introduced in state after state, often with minimal or no changes in the wording.

Watch Moyers show how Tennessee adopted ALEC’s online school bill and how Arizona is almost a wholly owned ALEC state. Watch how Scott Walker followed the ALEC template.

Moyers could do an entire special on ALEC’s education bills. ALEC promotes the parent trigger, so that parents can be tricked into handing their public schools over to charter chains. ALEC promotes gubernatorial commissions with the power to over-ride the decisions of local school boards to open more charters. ALEC promotes vouchers. ALEC, as he noted, promotes virtual charter schools (Pearson’s Connections Academy and K12 wrote the ALEC model law). ALEC has model legislations for vouchers for students with special needs. ALEC has a model law to allow people to teach without credentials. ALEC has legislation to eliminate tenure protection. ALEC has model legislation for educator evaluation.

It is all so familiar, isn’t it?

ALEC wants nothing less than to privatize public education, to eliminate unions, and to dismantle the education profession.

Kevin Huffman is state commissioner of education in Tennessee. John White is state commissioner of education in Louisiana. Both taught for two years in Teach for America. Both worked as TFA staff. When John White worked for the New York City Department of Education, he had no pedagogical assignment;his job was to decide where to locate charter schools in public school space.

What does it say about TFA that its two young state commissioners work for governors following the ALEC script to demolish public education?

This reader writes:

Tennessee and Louisiana appear to be locked in a contest to see which can field the most inexperienced Department of Education. Kevin Huffman, the State Commissioner of Ed, logged two years in a classroom teaching 1st grade in Houston for TFA in the early ’90s before taking an executive job with TFA. His chief of staff taught a couple years with TFA in the mid-2000s, and the assistant director of curriculum and instruction finished her TFA gig in 2004.

Darcie Cimarusti blogs under the name “Mother Crusader.”

She is a parent activist in New Jersey who joined the battle to save her community’s public schools from privatizers.

She was one of the parents who protested outside the opening of “Won’t Back Down” in New York City.

In interviews and articles, the film’s director Daniel Barnz made condescending comments about the parents. He said that they didn’t know what they were protesting against. He claimed they were misinformed.

Mother Crusader calls out Barnz for slandering her and her fellow parents. She knew why she was protesting. She saw the movie. She was not ignorant, misled or misinformed.

The parent protesters are in fact, as Darcie shows, very well informed about the film and its political message, even if its director is not. He comes across as a political naif.

Was Barnz unaware that the “parent trigger” is heavily promoted by rightwing groups like ALEC? Was Barnz ignorant of the political agenda of his billionaire producer, Philip Anschutz, owner of Walden Media? Did he know nothing of Anschutz’s political activism, his funding of anti-gay initiatives in Colorado and California, his hostility to unions, his antagonism to public education, his anti-environmental hydro-fracking business, his contributions to rightwing think tanks? Five minutes on the Internet would have informed Barnz.

Who is misinformed? Not Mother Crusader, and not the other parents who picketed Barnz’s movie. The best one can say about Daniel Barnz is that he is misinformed.

How could the director of this film not know that he was promoting an idea dear to the agendas of rightwing think tanks and ALEC?

The Los Angeles Times published a review–maybe it is an article, not a review, it is hard to tell–of the anti-union, anti-public education film “Won’t Back Down.” The article reaches no judgments about anything, other than the opening box office, which does not look good.

It says that critics claim the film is anti-union, but its director and writer don’t agree. Critics say that the producer is a rightwing zealot, but the director and writer say it doesn’t matter. Presumably the conservative billionaire Philip Anschutz, who also underwrote “Waiting for Superman,” just wanted an inspiring parent-teacher story. An uplifting story about how parents and teachers together can take over their public school and give it to a private corporation and live happily ever happy.

Anyone who knows anything about education issues knows that the point of the story is to promote the “parent trigger” law, which has converted no school anywhere as yet. The “parent trigger” law was first passed in California, and is now model legislation heavily supported by the far-right group ALEC and the equally far-right group Heartland Institute. But ALEC and Heartland and Anschutz don’t have a political agenda.

But here is the good news:

Opening weekend expectations for “Won’t Back Down” remain soft, with the $19-million movie on track to pull in less than $5 million when it opens against the sci-fi time travel film “Looper” and the animated comedy “Hotel Transylvania.”

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