Archives for category: Supporting public schools

Good news! The Network for Public Education will soon issue our first national report card.


What is your state doing to keep public education vibrant and strong? Do students have a good chance to succeed in schools that are funded adequately with appropriate class sizes? Does your state support teacher professionalism? Has your state repelled the forces of privatization? These are some of the questions the report will address.


Our first national report card, Valuing Public Education: A 50 State Report Card, evaluates states on their support for public schools.


It will be released February 2 at the National Press Club in D.C.

In 2010, Republicans swept control of the Legislature in North Carolina for the first time in a century. Two years later, a Republican governor was elected. Since then, the Republicans have sought to shred any safety net for anyone who needed it.


In this post, Chris Fitzsimon details the determined and successful efforts of the Republican majority to destroy public education and every other public institution in the state, turning the clock back many decades.


He writes:


With all three branches of government securely under their control, the ideological shift left few areas of state policy untouched. People who were already struggling have been hurt the most — low-wage workers, single mothers, people of color and immigrants. Vital life supports, such as child care subsidies, pre-K programs, unemployment insurance and food stamps, have been slashed.

And there’s been more than a loss of basic benefits. People living on the margins have been demonized in the last five years too, blamed for their struggles, penalized for their inability to find jobs that don’t exist, and cruelly stereotyped for political gain. The folks now in charge of Raleigh haven’t just made government smaller, they have also made it meaner.


Most of the money they saved from slashing safety net programs hasn’t been reinvested in education or job training or infrastructure. Instead, even as tax revenue has risen as the state recovers from the Great Recession, the savings have been given to corporations and the wealthy in a series of massive tax breaks.


Thanks to the anemic budgets of the last five years, North Carolina now spends almost 6 percent less on state services than in 2008 in inflation-adjusted dollars.


Now the folks in charge are pushing to lock in the woeful recession-era level of public investment by adding arbitrary spending limits to the state constitution in the misnamed Taxpayer Bill of Rights. In Colorado, the only state that has adopted it, it has been a disaster.


Nowhere have the cuts hit harder than in public schools, where rankings in teacher pay and per-pupil funding have spiraled toward the bottom of the 50 states.


Once recognized across the country for its commitment to public education, North Carolina now is making headlines for how much of it is being dismantled, with teachers fleeing to other states because of low salaries and the culture of animosity and disrespect from state leaders.


The meanness is evident here too. The nationally recognized Teaching Fellows program has been abolished, even as the state struggles to recruit bright students into the profession, merely because of its ties to prominent Democrats like former Gov. Jim Hunt.


Low-income kids and their families are the biggest losers in the attacks on public schools, but there are winners in the ideological assault: new for-profit companies that run charter schools, private and religious academies that now receive taxpayer funding and sketchy online institutions that are raking in state dollars.

The new ruling class in Raleigh, while professing a commitment to reduce the scope of government, increased its role in people’s personal lives and health care decisions, interfered with local issues in communities across the state, and pushed to resume executions even as two men were freed from prison, one from death row, after serving for more than 30 years for a murder they did not commit.


They made it harder for some people to vote but easier for many people to get a gun and take it into more places — bars, restaurants, parks and playgrounds. They have systematically rolled back important environmental protections, undeterred by the massive coal ash spill into the Dan River in 2014, the worst environmental disaster in the state’s history.


The radical transformation of North Carolina has prompted a passionate response in protest, as thousands have marched in Raleigh and across the state in the NAACP-led Moral Monday movement.


For all these reasons, the Network for Public Education will hold its third annual conference in Raleigh on April 16-17. Our keynote speakers include the leader of the Moral Mondays movement, Rev. Dr. William Barber. There is some scholarship money available for teachers and student activists.


Join us to speak out against the destruction of public education and the denial of basic human rights, in North Carolina and across the nation.



When Indiana Governor Mikr Oence was asked about the sharp drop in state test scores, he responded, “Dont take it personally.”

Donna Roof of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education sent her reply to Governor Pence in this post.

It begins:

“So, Governor Pence, you recently told a teacher not to take the ISTEP results personally.

“Well, actually, Governor…

“When I see developmentally inappropriate education curriculum, I take it personally.

“When I see students suffer from anxiety and other health issues due to pressure to pass high stakes tests, I take it personally.

“When I see students subjected to an abundance of test prep, I take it personally.

“When I see recess being cut to allow for more test prep time, I take it personally.

“When I see children fearing they’ll be held back if they don’t pass a high stakes test, I take it personally.

“When I see neighborhood schools being closed, I take it personally.

“When I see fine arts classes and programs being cut to allow more time for test prep, I take it personally.

“When I see students walking great distances on unsafe roads because there are no busses due to transportation cuts, I take it personally.

“When I see no joy in learning and teaching due to the demands of tests, tests, and more tests, I take it personally.

“When I see teachers with 40+ students in their classes, I take it personally.

“When I see teachers without sufficient resources for their classroom, I take it personally.

“When I see less funding for public schools, I take it personally.

“When I see the outrageous amount of money being wasted on high stakes testing, I take it personally….”

And it ends:

“When you see that I am doing all that I can to ensure you are not re-elected, don’t take it personally.”

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh gave no indication in 2013 when he ran for office that he was a supporter of school privatization; his opponent John Connolly clearly was. Walsh accused Connolly–a charter school supporter of wanting to “blow up” the school system. Yet now Walsh is working closely with the Gates Foundation and the far-right, union-busting Walton Family Foundation to close 36 public schools and replace them with privately managed charter schools. In 2012, Boston was one of seven cities that signed a “Gates Compact,” agreeing to treat public schools and charter schools as equals. Boston received $3.25 million to sell out  public education to the Gates Foundation and the billionaire-backed charter movement.


If you live in or near Boston, show up for the meetings of the “Boston Compact” committee listed below. Don’t let them steal our democracy!



Blogger Public School Mama used the Freedom of Information Act to discover the sneaky backdoor deal that the mayor is hammering out with the billionaire boys to shutter 1/4 of Boston’s public schools.


She writes:


“This proposal is not being driven by the wishes of Mayor Walsh’s constituents. These plans are not being hammered out in open meetings where the citizens of Boston can hold policy makers accountable. These decisions are being made in closed meetings with the Gates Foundation and the Walton Foundation where Mayor Walsh is hoping to receive funding for his education agenda….


“I think everyone can agree that our education policy should be driven by the people of Boston and not outside foundations.


“On October the 14th, the unelected Boston School Committee voted unanimously to renew the Boston Compact.


“Here are the last Boston Compact meetings:


“Here are the last meetings:


“Thursday, November 12
6:30 – 9:00 pm
1st Church of Jamaica Plain


“Tuesday, November 17
5:30 – 8:00 pm
West End Boys and Girls Club”



Mitchell Robinson, professor of music education and blogger, ponders whether the education wars are winding down. He thinks not. The contention over policy issues remains profound.

To help explicate the issues, he has compiled a brief guide to the different “sides.” In a recent post by Sam Chaltain, who does think the battles are subsiding and a new convergence is on the horizon, one side is the “practitioners, and the other is the “policymakers.” Robinson says the labels illustrate a clash of views.

Robinson writes:

“Mr. Chaltain’s descriptors for the two sides in the war on education are revealing, in that he sees a clear distinction between those who actually teach (the “practitioners”), and those who establish and enforce the rules and policies that govern that practice (the “policy makers”). Perhaps unintentionally, his labels also highlight a major flaw in our current education enterprise: public education policy is being written and administrated largely by persons who have not themselves attended public schools, have no degrees or certification in education, have never taught, and have spent little time in public schools. Whatever meager educational background that the members of what I term the Deformer “edu-tribe” may have is often accrued through alternative routes to the classroom (i.e., Teach for America, The New Teacher Project, the Michigan Teacher Corps), and their educational credentials are often received via online programs that require little or no actual teaching experience, residencies or interactions with other teachers or professors with actual teaching experience.

“Many of the “foot soldiers” in the Deformer army wind up in high-level positions in state departments of education, policy think-tanks, on school boards and as leaders of high-profile charter school networks. They reach these positions of power and authority with shockingly little experience in classrooms, or working with children, but exert out-sized influence on the shape and nature of public education. These members of the Deformer “advance force” parrot a regressive agenda of union-busting, tenure-smashing, and teacher-demonizing, paired with an obsessive devotion to standardized testing, “data driven decision making”, charter school expansion, and privatization as the “answers” to the “crisis in public education”–while remaining seemingly oblivious to the fact that it was their policies that manufactured the crisis they claim to be addressing, and which are paying off so handsomely for the investors who fund their charter schools and pay their generous salaries.”

On the other side are what Robinson calls “the Guardians of Oublic Education.”

“The members of this army largely consist of teachers, retired teachers, and teacher educators, most of whom have significant experience as classroom teachers, multiple degrees in education, and a career commitment to children, schools and education. Few Guardians entered the profession by alternative routes, instead earning their credentials in traditional colleges and universities, under the tutelage of professors who had themselves been classroom teachers before moving to higher education. Many of these activists earn graduate degrees in their chosen field–even as states now refuse to pay for additional degrees–and seek out weekend and summer professional development opportunities at their own expense in order to remain certified.

“The activism practiced by these Guardians is not their sole focus as professionals–rather, these teachers blog at night after lessons have been planned, and kids put to bed, or on rare quiet weekend mornings and afternoons when a few minutes can be stolen from other tasks and responsibilities. And the conflict in which they are engaged is a non-linear war–they are fighting not just the Deformers, but also their support staff in their underground bunkers, typing away on banks of sleek laptops as they push back against kindergarten teachers furiously hammering out their frustrated rants on the ridiculousness of testing 6 year olds, or 3rd grade teachers pointing out the illogic of retaining 8 year olds who struggle with reading.”

The “Deformers” are well-paid. But the Guardians work not for money but for conviction.

“These writers and activists don’t receive a penny for their efforts, in stark opposition to the Deformers’ forces, who are stunningly well-compensated for their work. Instead, these bloggers often toil away in anonymity, providing a voice for the thousands of teachers that have been silenced for speaking out against the reform agenda.”

He provides a list for each side. My lists would be longer. Make your own lists or additions. I would certainly place ALEC, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, John Kasich, Rick Scott, Rick Snyder, and a number of academics and philanthropists on the Deformer list.

Jamaal Bowman is principal of Cornerstone Academy for Social Action in the Bronx, a borough of Néw York City. Knowing that Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy was planning a mass rally today, he wrote an article saying that schools need to focus on the whole child not just test scores.

Bowman describes the harsh disciplinary policies at Success Academy schools to the supportive environment at his school. Unlike SA schools, school has very little teacher turnover, very minor student attrition, and low suspension rates.

He writes:

“During a recent conversation with a sixth grader who attends a Success Academy charter school, she referred to her learning environment as “torturous.” “They don’t let us be kids,” she told me, “and they monitor every breath we take.”

Although praised by many for its test scores, the draconian policies at Success are well documented. Students must walk silently in synchronized lines.

In classrooms, boys and girls must sit with their hands folded and feet firmly on the ground, and must raise their hands in a specific way to request a bathroom break.


Most disturbingly, during test prep sessions, it has been reported that students have wet their pants because of the high levels of stress, and because, simulating actual test-taking, they’re not permitted to use the restroom except during breaks.

Regarding the praise for Success Academy’s test results, we must be mindful of overstating the quality of an education based on test score evidence alone….

“As reported by Juan Gonzalez in the Daily News, the first Success Academy opened in 2006 with 73 first graders. By 2014, only 32 of the 73 had graduated from the school.

“What happened to most of that student cohort? Did they leave willingly just because their families were moving? Did they leave for other schools because Success Academy wasn’t right for them? Were they pushed out?

“Further, school suspensions and teacher turnover at Success are disproportionately higher than district schools. Said one teacher in a recent New York Times article, “I dreaded going into work.” Another teacher, when requesting to leave work at 4:55 p.m. to tend to her sick and vomiting child, was told, “it’s not 5 o’clock yet.”

At Bowman’s school, 99% of the students are black or Hispanic.

He writes:

“Although 90% of our students enter sixth grade below grade level, we’ve had success on the state standardized tests, ranking number one in New York City in combined math and English Language Arts test growth score average in 2015.

“But testing is not how we measure success.

“Our mission is to create a learning environment anchored in multiple intelligences. Student voice and passion are embedded into the curriculum. In addition to traditional courses like mathematics and humanities, S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art of Architecture, Mathematics), computer science, the arts, leadership and physical education provide a rich and robust learning environment.

“A favorite course of both the staff and students of C.A.S.A. is “Genius Hour.” Borrowing from the 20% time concept of Google, Apple and Facebook, we give students two 60-minute blocks per week to work on “passion projects.” Using design thinking, students explore issues within their community that frustrate them and conduct research into how to create solutions to identified problems.

“Finally, at C.A.S.A., during the 2014-15 school year, only 2.3% of our students received a suspension. Our teacher turnover rate is 1.5% annually. We also have an average of less than a 1% student attrition rate annually over a six-year period.

“Parents and students of Success Academy schools will rally Wednesday against Mayor de Blasio’s agenda of investing in public schools to turn them into community schools and otherwise improve their learning environments. Their goal instead is presumably to turn ever more schools into privately run charter schools — though it’s unlikely Moskowitz would agree to take over any struggling schools if she had to keep the student body intact.

“Our city needs more public schools that serve the whole child without an obsessive focus on tests. Only then will our children truly feel at home. This is a cause worth rallying for.”

Whenever anyone dares to challenge the corporate reformers’ ideas, whenever anyone points out that all their plans have come to nought, when anyone says that they are demoralizing teachers and promoting privatization, they will inevitably get the reply:

“Do you have a better idea?”

This is a curious response because it could apply in any number of dreadful situations: Suppose someone is pounding someone on the head with a rock, and you say “stop!” Would they answer, “Do you have a better idea?” Suppose a train is headed for a cliff, and you urge the engineer to change course; would he answer, “Do you have a better idea?”

Well, Peter Greene has better ideas. (So do I; read “Reign of Error,” which responds to that question.) Peter is a high school teacher in Pennsylvania who apparently reads everything and writes faster than anyone else on the planet.

He begins:

As much time as I spend writing about what I think people get wrong, it’s important to keep some focus on what I want to see done right. So let’s look at the major issues in education these days and consider what the positive outcome would be in a perfect world, and what would be a hopeful outcome in the real world.


Turning schools into a competitive marketplace is toxic for education. It does not drive improvement and, as currently practiced, it does not empower parents, but instead more commonly disempowers them.

In a Perfect World…

Choice pushers like to say that no child should be trapped in a failing school just because of her zip code. I say that no child should have to leave her neighborhood just to find a decent school. People don’t want choice; they want good schools.

So in my perfect world, every child is able to attend a great school in his own neighborhood, with his neighbors, near where his family lives. Every school receives the funding and support it needs to be excellent.

In this world…

No more building a well-funded, well-supported school as an excuse to abandon the school already existing school. If we must have choice, let it be between excellent schools with, perhaps different focuses, or with the goal of improving a city and community through creating a diverse learning community.

But all schools must be fully funded and fully supported. No more “Well, a thousand students are trapped in this failing school, so we’re going to invest millions of dollars in creating a great school for 100 of them.”

He has a good idea about standardized testing:


In a perfect world…

It just stops. It’s done. We don’t do it, at all, ever. Period, full stop.

In this world…

The BS Tests are uncoupled from any stakes at all. They don’t affect student standings or promotion. They aren’t used to evaluate teachers or to rank schools or to affect anybody’s professional future. “But how will we hold teachers and schools accountable?” someone cries out. Here’s the truth that some folks just refuse to see– the BS Tests do not hold anybody accountable for anything except test scores, and they do so at a cost to the real goals that most real humans expect from their teachers and their schools.

And once you do all of that, the market pressure is on test manufacturers to come up with tests that are actually useful, and not junk.

He offers other good ideas of what public education should look like. Read it and offer your own ideas.

David Gamberg is the superintendent of the Southold Public Schools and the Greenport Public Schools, two small contiguous districts on the North Fork of Long Island. I have visited the elementary school in Southold and was wowed by the student garden and by the musical groups. These are schools and communities that care about their children, not just their test scores. Large proportions of students in both districts opted out of state testing last spring.

Gamberg spoke out against the Common Core standards and testing to his local newspaper. When Governor Cuomo announced that the Common Core was “not working” and that he would appoint a commission to find out why, Gamberg agreed that the standards and tests are not working. He worried that the Governor’s commission might not be independent.

He said:

The group might not sufficiently represent educators’ beliefs, Mr. Gamberg cautioned, if Gov. Cuomo hand picks the members.

“We need a completely independent commission, not one that is constructed by the governor who has no right nor position to do so,” he said. “When we look to bring expertise into the equation, we should be the ones developing and finding those individuals.”

In this video on YouTube, Gamberg addresses the faculty and staff at the opening of school and poses a question: What is worth fighting for? The answer: public education. He discusses the philosophy of the districts he leads, which prioritize children and their needs and help them grow into responsible adults. He offers no bonuses or threats to his staff. He knows they are working as hard as they know how to meet common goals, focused on the students in their care.

David Gamberg is a stand-up superintendent and leader.


Thousands of parents, educators, students and community leaders will hold “walk-ins” on Friday, September 18 at more than 100 public schools across the city of Milwaukee to celebrate public schools and to share information about how a proposed public school takeover will hurt students and the Milwaukee economy. In addition to Milwaukee, all public schools in LaCrosse, Wisconsin will also hold walk-ins in solidarity with Milwaukee students.

When we walk in on Friday, we are demanding justice for our kids and our city, and we are willing to unleash all our collective power to win that justice. When we walk in tomorrow we will be saying that we will not stop until our students have the schools and communities they deserve.

The Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association and the Schools and Communities United coalition are organizing the walk-ins in response to a public school takeover plan passed as part of Wisconsin’s 2015-17 state budget. The takeover is part of a coordinated attempt by Governor Walker and state legislators to turn as many public schools as possible over to private operators, whether it be through takeovers, statewide voucher expansion, special needs vouchers, or additional charter school authorizers.

The takeover plan charges Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele with appointing a takeover czar this fall. The takeover commissioner would then choose 1-3 schools and attempt to convert them into privately run charter or voucher schools in 2016-17. In subsequent years, up to five schools per year could be targeted for takeover.

Milwaukee parents and community members are concerned about this takeover plan for several reasons:

• The takeover threatens the entire school district – not just the schools targeted for takeover. In Milwaukee, more than 40% of students already attend privately run charter or voucher schools. Similar challenges have brought school systems to their financial brink in cities from Detroit to Chester Uplands, PA.

• The takeover plan offers no new ideas or resources to help students succeed. Simply changing who runs a school does not automatically lead to student success.

• Many students will be left without critical services. The takeover schools are not required to meet the needs of special education students or English language learners.

• School takeovers eliminate good jobs, particularly for African Americans and Latinos. Takeovers have hurt the economy in New Orleans, Memphis and Detroit. They have eroded middle class communities of color, and have led to a less diverse teaching force.

• Takeovers eliminate democratic local control, and disenfranchise African American and Latino communities. A recent report by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools shows that across the nation, school takeovers target almost exclusively African American and Latino students: of nearly 50,000 students whose schools were taken over nationwide, 97% were Black or Latino.

Milwaukee parents have a better plan to promote and strengthen public schools, and make sure all students – regardless of zip code – get a great education. Community Schools, a nationally recognized model that increased graduation rates in Cincinnati by more than 30%, have begun to take root in Milwaukee and have wide support from Milwaukee-based state legislators.

Wayne Au, a professor at the University of Washington, explains why the Washington Supreme Court declared charter schools unconstitutional and why this decision has national implications.

The Court’s decision, he writes, was a “major rebuke” to the charter industry (and to Seattle’s richest resident, Bill Gates, who plunked millions into the 2012 referendum allowing charter schools, which passed by 50.69% of the vote).

At the heart of the Washington State’s Supreme Court ruling was the idea that charter schools, as defined by the law, were not actually “public schools.” The key issue is this: Washington State’s constitution has a provision that only “common schools” receive tax dollars allocated for public education. The law in Washington State is structured so that charter schools are governed at both the school level and state level by an appointed board, not an elected one. As such, charter schools in Washington State would receive public monies without any guarantee of accountability to any democratically elected, public body. The Washington State Supreme Court decided that this lack of public oversight of charter schools meant that did not meet the definition of “common schools” and therefore are not eligible to receive public monies made available for public schools.

Au was a plaintiff in the lawsuit; before that, he frequently spoke and wrote about the dangers that privately managed charter schools pose to public education. He understood that they are a precursor to privatization and a direct threat to community responsibility for public schools for all children.

As background, he points out that the Washington Supreme Court had previously ordered the legislature to fully fund the state’s public schools and is fining the legislature $100,000 a day for its failure to do so (since August 15).

Charter school supporters are furious about the Court’s decision and are now trying to persuade the legislature to create a separate funding stream for charter schools. Au asks how this make sense: Why should the legislature create a separate fund for charters enrolling 1,300 students when it has not properly funded public schools enrolling 1 MILLION students?


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