Archives for the month of: May, 2014

Governor Cuomo is trying to persuade other statewide candidates to refuse the Working Families Party endorsement if they choose an independent to run against him. His goal is to punish the party if it does not endorse him.

There is a battle going on for the future of the Democratic Party. Will it be a progressive party, or will it vie with Republicans to hold the line on taxes and budgets? Will it fight for public education or for privatization?

Who supports the Common Core standards? who opposes them? Are the critics right or left?

A new group in Néw York has been created to spend $500,000 to promote Common Core. This article says the group consists of business organizations but its prominent supporters are the Gates Foundation, the Helmsley Foundation, Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, and the Gates-funded Educators for Excellence.

Allegedly, business wants “higher standards” because the CCSS will close the skills gap and produce more qualified workers. Is there any evidence for this belief? No. On the first round of Common Core testing, 70% of students in New York failed. The failure rate for minorities, English learners, and students with disabilities was even higher. Among students with disabilities, for example, 95% failed the Common Core tests.

Where is the evidence that Common Core will make all students college-ready? There is none.

Would business groups be equally willing to invest in a campaign for equitable school funding, reduced class sizes, universal pre-school, pre-natal care, after-school programs, school nurses, and a raise in the minimum wage? All of these have a solid research base. They are proven strategies for reform.

Do the business leaders think that CCSS makes those investments unnecessary?

It is certainly appealing to fiscal conservatives to believe that higher standards can somehow magically solve the problems of huge economic and social inequality. CCSS, they imagine, can compensate for the fact that nearly one-quarter of our children live in poverty. Someday, maybe 12 years from now, they think, all children will be college-ready, even if they live in squalor or have no home, even if they attend overcrowded classes with inexperienced teachers. Are they gullible? Or do they believe the public can be easily deceived? Remember when the same groups believed that tougher standards, tests, and accountability would raise up all children and “no child” would be “left behind”? We spent billions on tests and consultants, on closing schools and opening schools, and that didn’t work out.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

New Mexico recently released teacher ratings, 50% based on standardized test scores. The teachers are hopping mad, because they know that the evaluations do not truly measure their quality, and the tests are not good measures of what students know and can do.

In Taos, teachers burned their evaluation reports. Teachers in Albuquerque also burned their evaluations as a sign of protest.

During the Vietnam war, anti-war protestors burned their draft cards. Feminists burned their bras in protest at the Miss America contest in 1968.

This is a venerable protest activity against injustice.

The Working Families Party, a small party in Néw York state, will hold its convention Saturday in Albany.

At that time, the party will decide whether to endorse Governor Cuomo for re-election or run its own candidate. Polls show that Cuomo wins easily if he does not face a credible challenger on the left. He has lined up Mayor Bill de Blasio’s support and is wooing labor leaders who are active in the WFP.

Many on the WFP executive committee have expressed interest in the candidacy of Zephyr Teachout, a professor at Fordham Law School with an impressive record as a champion of ethics in government.

There is likely to be a heated floor fight.

Governor Cuomo has been a disaster on education issues. He has cut state aid, and districts are not allowed to raise their own school taxes above Cuomo’s cap of 2% unless they get a supermajority vote of 60%. A vote of 59.9%, and your budget goes down to defeat. He has ably represented the 3% of students enrolled in charter schools, because their allies on Wall Street are major donors to Cuomo’s campaign. He just doesn’t care much for public schools. Large numbers of parents and educators are looking for an alternative to Cuomo, who will speak up for public schools and reduce the state’s obsession with high-stakes testing.

So who is Zephyr Teachout?

Here is a testimonial by a law professor at Duke Law School, where she earned her law degree and graduated summa cum laude.

Here is her official Fordham University bio.

And here is the statement she released today:



Contact: Zephyr Teachout,

New York, NY — Gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout released this statement Friday on her decision to seek the Working Families Party nomination for Governor of the State of New York:

“I’m seeking the WFP nomination because New Yorkers deserve an economy and democracy that works for all of us, not just the wealthy and well-connected. The system is rigged for the rich and powerful, and as part of that broken system, Andrew Cuomo isn’t going to fix it. People’s voices aren’t being heard,” said Gubernatorial Candidate Zephyr Teachout. “Cuomo not only failed to do anything real to prevent wealthy and corporate donors from buying our politicians, but proposed severe cuts in education funding while giving massive tax breaks to bankers and billionaires. I am strong supporter of public education, a democracy responsive to our voices, and an economy grounded in good jobs and many small businesses, not a few powerful corporations.”


Parents, there is one sure way to stop the testing mania that is devouring your child’s education: Say NO to the next round of field tests, scheduled for June 2 to June 11. Don’t let Pearson and the State Education Department steal more time from your child that should be spent learning, playing, dancing, singing, and studying.

Want to learn more about the campaign to Change the Stakes? Open this link to go to the webpage of Change the Stakes. You will find practical information about how to opt out of the field testing.

Jersey Jazzman goes through the reasons why the corporate elites and rightwing think tanks love charter schools.

It is not because they get better results. They don’t.

It is not because they save money. They don’t.

They are very effective at busting unions. Nearly 90% of the nation’s charters are non-union. This makes possible a flexible workforce that works long hours, accepts whatever pay management wants to pay, and makes no demands.

Teachers College Press has published a major study of venture philanthropy and its efforts to introduce market forces into teacher education. It was written by Kenneth Zeichner and Cesar Pena-Sandoval of the University of Washington in Seattle.

The article focuses on the key role of the NewSchools Venture Fund in promoting legislation to authorize charter academies to train teachers and principals. This close examination of the NSVF is especially pertinent now that its most recent CEO, Ted Mitchell, was named as Undersecretary of Education, and will play a large role in shaping higher education policy.

The strategy of the venture philanthropists is by now familiar: first, proclaim that traditional institutions are failing; second, declare a crisis; third, propose market-based solutions accompanied by grandiose promises.

Here is a summary of the study:

“Background & Purpose:

“This article focuses on the growing role of venture philanthropy in shaping policy and practice in teacher education in the United States. Our goal is to bring a greater level of transparency to private influences on public policy and to promote greater discussion and debate in the public arena about alternative solutions to current problems. In this article, we focus on the role of one of the most influential private groups in the United States that invests in education, the New Schools Venture Fund (NSVF), in promoting deregulation and market-based policies.

“Research Design:

“We examine the changing role of philanthropy in education and the role of the NSVF in developing and promoting a bill in the U.S. Congress (the GREAT Act) that would create a system throughout the nation of charter teacher and principal preparation programs called academies. In assessing the wisdom of the GREAT Act, we examine the warrant for claims that education schools have failed in their mission to educate teachers well and the corresponding narrative that entrepreneurial programs emanating from the private sector are the solution.


“We reject both the position that the status quo in teacher education is acceptable (a position held by what we term “defenders”) and the position that the current system needs to be “blown up” and replaced by a market economy (“reformers”). We suggest a third position (“transformers”) that we believe will strengthen the U.S. system of public teacher education and provide everyone’s children with high-quality teachers. We conclude with a call for more trenchant dialogue about the policy options before us and for greater transparency about the ways that private interests are influencing public policy and practice in teacher education…

“This article examines the increasing role of venture philanthropy (Reckhow, 2013; Saltman, 2010; Scott, 2006) and the ideas of educational entrepreneurship and disruptive innovation in influencing the course of federal and state policies and practices in teacher education in the United States.”

During the decade or so in which Mayor Michael Bloomberg totally controlled the public schools of New York City, he relied on test scores as the measure of students, teachers, principals, and schools. His was a managerial mindset devoid of any philosophy of education or of any concern for the lives of individuals or communities. Collateral damage was unimportant, and many people fell under his wheels. His primary strategy was to close schools with low scores and open new schools. He believed in small schools, even though few of these schools had the facilities or staff for English language learners, students with disabilities, or advanced classes in math or science or anything else. After he had been in office for a number of years, he was closing some of the new schools. The central office could literally murder a school by directing large numbers of low-scoring students to it, which was a death sentence. As schools began to die (and he had a particular hatred for large schools), good students moved out and the death cycle was accelerated as the stats looked worse and worse.

What happened to the teachers in the schools marked for closure? Some got out as fast as they could, others stayed in their post, either because they were devoted to the school and hoped it would be saved if they tried harder or because they felt committed to the students. When the school at last was closed, many tenured teachers were set adrift. They could apply to other schools but because they were experienced, they were expensive and many principals preferred to have two new teachers than one veteran. So the teachers without a school were placed in what was called the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR), where they stayed on salary but floated through the system as substitutes or short-timers. The press regularly ridiculed them as incompetents, although most had lost their job through no fault of their own, and some or many were expert teachers.

In this post, Lynne Winderbaum tells the story of the ATRs. She is a retired ESL teacher.

Bill Boyle writes that it is time to get over the illusion that privatization is “for the kids.” That privatization will “save poor kids from failing schools.”

After reading Ruth Conniff’s writing about the Economic Policy Institute’s study of privatization in Milwaukee, Boyle says we are “sacrificing our kids,” not saving them.

Boyle asks:

“Can we finally be honest about that fact that for profit charters simply move money from that which is set aside for the common good to corporate profits at the expense of children, particularly those in poverty and of color?”

Carol Burris eloquently explains why she will vote for Anybody But Cuomo.

She remembers when Democrats fought for good public schools for all.

She remembers when Democrats saw funding public schools as a civic obligation, not as “throwing money at the problem.”

She wants a governor who believes in public schools, and that is not Andrew Cuomo.

She writes:

“I stood with one thousand others on a Wednesday evening outside the recent Democratic Convention. The chant of the crowd was clear—ABC—Anybody but Cuomo. There was a hunger in the crowd for a candidate who will respect the work of teachers. There was hunger for someone who will respect the pleas from parents to roll back testing and the Common Core. There was hunger for someone who instead of claiming he will be the “student lobbyist” will actually stand up for all children, by equitably funding their schools rather than cutting taxes on millionaires. Words and commissions are not enough. A change in direction is what is needed.

“Now is the time to courageously stand and say we will not be bullied by the fear posed by false choices. The Working Families Party must put forth a candidate who respects its ideals if it is to have credibility and voice. I want to be able to respond to the question, “Where will you go?” with an answer. I want that answer to be, “I will go to the WFP who believes in our public schools.”

“If you feel the same, contact the Working Family Party today. Email director Bill Lipton at

“Let him know that you too want an alternative to Andrew Cuomo, too!”