Archives for category: Education Reform

Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post hates the teachers’ union. It hates the union so much that it blames the union for whatever it doesn’t like. Today, the Post says the massive opt out in New York was controlled by the union. Imagine that: the parents of 220,000 children take orders from the union. Wow, who knew that parents were so easily manipulated?


As the Post sees it, the union doesn’t want teachers to be evaluated at all, so they pulled the puppet strings and the parents did as the union bosses told them. The stronghold of the union is New York City, where the number of opt outs was minuscule. Why didn’t the opt out movement succeed where the union was strongest?


Note to the editorial board of the New York Post: Please meet with the leaders of New York State Allies for Public Education. Let them explain to you why they led the opt outs.

Peter Greene wrote a post about the continuing deterioration and abandonment of public education in St. Louis. It is a sad story.


Teachers’ salaries are frozen. Teachers are fleeing the district. The school district is losing enrollment. The district has a school board but it is powerless.


Peter writes (open the story for the links):
But the school system’s population problems are part of the city’s problems, and the city’s problems include white flight. St. Louis is discredited with “the highest thirty-year rate of building and neighborhood abandonment in North American history.” The 2010 census revealed a loss of 29,000 residents since the previous head count.

Schools have been standing empty, and the public system has been in trouble going back to at least 2007, when the state stripped it of its accreditation and took it over, stripping local control from the elected school board. The school district is run by a three-person Special Administrative Board; they hire the superintendent and are themselves political appointees.

This big bunch of troubles has made St. Louis a prime target for charters, a confluence of sincerely concerned parents who wanted to get their children out of a struggling public system and charteristas who smelled a market ripe for profit overseen by a charter-friendly mayor. The newspapers and city leaders don’t seem to like to mention it much, but on top of everything else, the St. Louis schools suffer from the charter effect– students leave for charters, but there is no proportionate lessening of expenses in the schools they leave, and so they leave many students behind in an already troubled public school that now has that much less money with which to work.

And so last spring, charters were predicting a banner year with great enrollment. This even though the charter schools of St. Louis have not been anything to write home about, either; at one point the city shut down the chain of six Imagine Charters (containing a third of the city’s charter students) for academic failure and financial shadiness.

Meanwhile, Missouri is one of those magical states where the government has a funding formula in place– which it simply ignores. At the beginning of 2015, Missouri schools were being underfunded by nearly a whopping half billion-with-a-b dollars.


But you need to learn about how all this started, and the place to begin is with this essay by Peter Downs, who was then the president of the elected school board (which no longer exists). Downs, a journalist, warned in 2009 that there was a “plot to kill public education” and he supplies the details. Plenty of money for consultants, not so much for the students and teachers. You will not be surprised to learn that the leading actors in the destruction of public education were the Broad Foundation and a bankruptcy firm called Alvarez & Marsal, who confused bankruptcy with “turnaround.”


I may put up a separate post for Peter Downs’ essay. It is eerily predictive of what is happening in city after city, as corporate reformers move in to kill off public education.

Patty Williams, an activist for public education in North Carolina, read the post yesterday about “The Nazi Metaphor Question,” and she pointed out that I had neglected to include Charlie Chaplin’s classic “The Great Dictator,” released in 1940.


Patty sent me this amazing speech from the film. How appropriate for our times and for all times. Please watch it. It is only about 1 minute.


(There is a 3-minute, uncut version of this speech, which is even more powerful, but for some reason I can’t get the link to it–it returns me to the 1-minute version. This is the full speech, not reflected in the 1-minute video.)

It is common knowledge that Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Educational Excellence supports charters, vouchers, and digital learning. When he announced his run for the GOP nomination, he stepped down and brought in Condaleeza Rice to lead FEE.


Who provided the money to showcase Bush’s education platform? Bush released his list of donors from 2007-14.


“WASHINGTON (AP) — Big-time donors to a nonprofit educational group founded by Jeb Bush, disclosed for the first time Wednesday, highlight the intersection between Bush’s roles in the worlds of business, policy and politics years before he began running for president….

After leaving the Florida governor’s office in 2007, Bush formed the Foundation for Excellence in Education, with a mission “to build an American education system that equips every child to achieve their God-given potential.” With Bush serving as president, the group attracted $46 million from donors through 2014.

That donor list shows the circular connections as Bush moved from governor to education advocate to corporate board member. Supporters in each of those stages of his career contributed to his educational foundation — which, in turn, sometimes supported causes benefiting its donors. They include Rupert Murdoch’s media giant News Corp., GOP mega-donor Paul Singer’s foundation, energy companies such as Exxon Mobil, even the Florida Lottery….


“If you wanted access to Jeb Bush, one of the ways to do it is to make a large donation to one of those foundations,” said Bill Allison, who until recently was a senior fellow with the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for open government…


“Records show:

—Four companies and nonprofits that appointed Bush to their boards of directors or advisory boards backed the educational foundation. One, Bloomberg Philanthropies, was among the most frequent supporters, making seven donations worth between $1.2 million to $2.4 million. Bush served on Bloomberg’s board from 2010-14. He also served on the boards of Jackson Healthcare, Rayonier Inc. and an affiliate of CNL Bank, each of which gave a lesser amount to the foundation.


—Bush’s education nonprofit provided $1.1 million in public information grants to eight states in 2013, its tax form shows. In recent years, at least nine charter school and education-related donors to the Foundation for Excellence in Education won contracts in those eight states, revealing the mirrored missions of donors and the foundation.


—The most frequent individual donor to Bush’s group was Florida citrus grower Bill Becker and his wife, Mary Ann Becker, who made eight donations worth between $225,008 and $450,000. A longtime Bush family supporter, Becker once provided Jeb Bush the use of his Cessna airplane for campaign travel….


—Major corporations backed Bush with big money. The most generous organization was the Walton Family Foundation, formed by Wal-Mart’s founders, which gave from $3.5 million to more than $6 million. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Wal-Mart Foundation gave $35,002 to $80,000 more. Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ foundation gave between $3 million and more than $5 million. Murdoch’s News Corp. made three contributions, at $500,001 to $1 million apiece. The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, built from the family real estate empire, gave more than $2 million.


—Total donations steadily increased over time, going from a 2007 maximum of $335,000 to $8.4 million in 2011 and as much as $12.2 million in 2014.

Education outfits such as Charter Schools USA, the publishing and education company Pearson PLC and Renaissance Learning were frequent contributors. So were financial groups and big businesses, with the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation giving from $1.6 million to $3.25 million and the SunTrust Bank Foundation $300,003 to $750,000. Exxon Mobil Corp., Duke Energy and BP America made nine contributions combined.”






My friend Kipp Dawson in Pittsburgh sent me this Facebook posting by a teacher who calls himself Les LBL, but from context I assume is Les Williams, a middle-school teacher.


Unfortunately, there are far too many of us who can’t recognize the depression many of us suffer in. The expectations, stress, and demands are far worse than I ever imagined. At the level I teach (middle school), the expectation and pressure that you’re held to control the behavior of some students who obviously and sometimes not so obviously have social, emotional and mental and family challenges that make classroom learning a far-off secondary priority are at its highest with the least bit of support.


Everywhere I have taught I have found great and inspirational educators and great students who want to learn. Unfortunately, due to the shifting of challenges once shared by teachers, students, parents, and adminstrators, that has now fallen squarely on the shoulders of teachers, it makes the day to day struggle difficult and the future seem bleak, and many of us who are upbeat, charismatic, passionate, fun-loving, inspired and hopeful people have slowly changed into shell-shocked, beaten-down, tired humans who are soul-searching and trying to find a glimmer of hope at the end of a vaguely colored rainbow.


I still love teaching but the way it’s structured today, it certainly isn’t as fun as it used to be, and the more creative and passionate one is about learning and teaching truths, the more you are under attack and scrutinized in your profession.


Teaching shouldn’t be so combative between adults. Kids, I understand, lol, but between adults? Please. Definitely not only does each student and teacher deserve better but all of my family deserves better.


At the end of the day my wife Nikia N Williams just wants her best friend and husband to share quality time and be by her side each night, and my children just want their goofy dad who inspires, encourages, laughs with them and listens to them each day I come home. Too many days they get an exhausted, saddened but hopeful, loving father who wonders if their school days could be as uninspiring and negative as some of my daily experiences are. It’s really unfair to all parties.


My wife hates hearing about most of my school experiences because so many are negative or have a negative impact on my career and subsequently our immediate and future financial health. My wife has to delicately balance my children’s experiences with listening to mine and try to manage to stay positive herself- a tough chore in this social and political climate.


Many teachers are depressed not only with their own current situations but with the doomsday direction our education system is headed through. To me, I am a revolutionary so I’ll keep fighting but that doesn’t make it any easier. I wish many of my friends would not so much as say, “I gotta give it to you, I couldn’t do that,” or “these parents and kids today . . .” and instead say, “oh, now I understand how all of this is connected to all of our presents and futures, how can I help?” I’d say become more informed and become active because even if you have no children, today’s students still are tomorrow’s future.


My resolutions are to still try to find that line which allow me to leave a lot of stress and negativity at work day’s end and bring home only smiles, listening ears, hugs, positivity, laughs, loving support and quality time to my family. Thanks.

I recently saw two excellent documentaries on television. I highly recommend both.


One was narrated by Fareed Zakaria; its title: “Terror in Mumbai.” It appeared on HBO. I vividly remember the horrible events, when 10 terrorists landed in Mumbai in 2008 and killed dozens of people–at the train station, in hotels, in a Jewish center, and at other sites. At the time, there was great confusion about how many terrorists there were, what happened, and why. Now we know. The Indian police were totally unprepared. But most interesting was to learn that the Indian intelligence service managed to tune into the frequency used to communicate between the terrorists and their controller, who gave them instructions and constantly reminded them to create as much havoc as possible. He also reminded them that they would succeed only if they died.


The second documentary is called “The Hunting Ground.” It appeared on CNN. It is about sexual assaults on campus. A number of young women (and some young men) have organized to tell their stories and to expose their universities’ indifference to their reports of rape and other assaults. What’s shocking about this story is the hypocrisy of the universities, all of which claimed that took these reports “very seriously.” Yes, very seriously. If the alleged assailant was a star athlete, the chances of a genuine investigation were slim to none.


PS: sorry about the earlier blank posting!



Jersey Jazzman recently engaged in a lively exchange with Dmitri Mehlhorn, a leading advocate for charter schools.


There are six installments. In the first one, JJ explains who DM is and explains the reason for the exchange:


Dmitri Mehlhorn is a venture capitalist and school “reform” advocate. He was the COO of StudentsFirst, Michelle Rhee’s education “reform” lobbying group, and he maintains a regular presence in both traditional and social media as an advocate for charter school proliferation, the revocation of teacher tenure as it is currently constituted, and other similar “reform” policies.


I have had several Twitter back-and-forths with Mehlhorn, and I’ve found them extremely unsatisfying. To be clear, that’s not his fault, nor is it mine: it’s the inherent limitations of 140 characters that have kept us from having a substantive debate.


The funny thing is that I enjoy our exchanges. I think Mehlhorn is a sincere advocate for policies he believes will genuinely help America’s students. I also believe, however, that he’s wrong about nearly everything when it comes to education — particularly when it comes to charter schools.


At Dmitri’s suggestion, we are going to have a dialog about charters here on my blog. I promised him that I would let his words stand here free of any editing on my part [I have added a few links in the text, but that’s all], and that I would make my opposing case in separate posts.


I don’t know how long our exchange will go, but I will respond to what Mehlhorn wrote below in a couple of days. I hope he’ll reply back; this dialog about charter schools could be very helpful in clarifying one of the key issues in education “reform.”


This is a worthy and informative discussion of charters. Please read all six pieces.

I accidentally published a post about Giving Day, which is next Tuesday. I hit “publish” instead of “draft.” I rescheduled it to appear in December 2.


Start thinking about how you want to give to others. I will share my thoughts on Tuesday.

Paul Lauter, distinguished author and scholar, found the following disciplinary principles, which were posted in German state schools in the early twentieth century, circa 1910.

The basic idea: No excuses! Conform! Obey! Authority is always right!

Sound familiar?


–Students must sit up straight

–Hands must be kept together on the desk (table)

–Feet must be placed side by side on the floor.

–Students must keep their eyes on the teacher.

–Laughing, whispering, talking, moving or looking around are forbidden.

–Students must signal with the pointer finger of the right hand; the left hand supporting the elbow.


Troy LaRaviere, principal of Blaine Elementary, thanks his school community. He is a hero of this blog for his fearlessness and dedication.


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