Archives for the month of: September, 2015

A federal district court threw out the case of Bain v California Teachers Association, which was a victory for the unions. The suit was funded by Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, in an effort to cripple the union. For an explanation of the suit, read this. As Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times explained,

“Attacks on public employee unions, especially teachers unions, have become a permanent feature of the political landscape. But you’d be hard pressed to find one as incoherent and dishonest as a lawsuit filed last month in federal court in Los Angeles against six California and national teachers unions.

“The lawsuit purports to defend the “free speech” rights of its plaintiffs, four California schoolteachers. But its real goal is to silence the collective voice of union members on political and educational issues. Its lesson is simple: If you don’t like the decisions your organization or community reaches through the democratic process, just refuse to pay for them.

“The plaintiffs in Bain vs. California Teachers Assn., et al, say the conditions of union membership coerce them into supporting “political or ideological” viewpoints they don’t share. StudentsFirst, an education reform group supported by wealthy hedge fund managers and the Walton family, is bankrolling the lawsuit. StudentsFirst was founded by onetime Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, who, before leaving the organization in 2014 under a cloud, established its philosophy that the problem with education is that teachers have too much power and job protection.”

The national leaders of NEA and AFT were jubilant.

The NEA released this statement today:

“Hi Diane – Hope all is well. I wanted to make sure you saw our statement on the dismissal of April Bain et.al. v. California Teachers Association (aka “Bain v. CTA). Thanks!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 30, 2015

CONTACT: Staci Maiers, NEA Communications, 202-270-5333 cell, smaiers@nea.org

Federal court dismisses meritless lawsuit seeking to silence voices of educators
Bain v. CTA is another attack on educators ‘bankrolled by wealthy special interest groups’

WASHINGTON—A federal district court in California today dismissed Bain v. California Teachers Association, a lawsuit that sought to undermine the ability of teachers, school employees, and other educators to join together and speak up for public education and their students.

The court concluded that the lawsuit—brought with funding from anti-teacher group Students First against the National Education Association, the California Teachers Association, NEA’s state-level affiliate, and several other unions—was without merit and did not state any viable legal claims. The court’s decision came just days after it heard argument on the union defendants’ motion to dismiss the case.

The following statement can be attributed to NEA President Lily Eskelsen García:

“The National Education Association is pleased that the court today saw through the thinly veiled attempts to silence the voice of educators and rightly dismissed Bain v. California Teachers Association. The court, like every other court that has considered such claims, found the plaintiffs’ case without merit. No teacher is required to join a union and no teacher is required to pay any fees that go to politics or political candidates.

“This case is just another attack on educators and their unions that is being bankrolled by wealthy special interest groups whose objective is to undermine public education. Teachers unions are made up of educators who join together to make their voices heard on issues that affect their students, classrooms and schools.

“The stark reality is that America has swung out of balance. It’s getting harder to get by, let alone get ahead, and the gaps between the haves and have-nots is only widening. This case is about making it even harder for working people—like school bus drivers, nurses, counselors, custodians and classroom teachers—to come together, speak up for their students and each other, and get ahead by negotiating to ensure better learning and working conditions. Lawsuits like Bain v. CTA are just another distraction and do nothing to help students.”

# # #

For Immediate Release
September 30, 2015

Contact:
Kate Childs Graham
202-393-6354
kchilds@aft.org
http://www.aft.org

AFT’s Weingarten on Granted Motion to Dismiss in Bain Case

WASHINGTON—Statement from American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on the motion to dismiss being granted in the Bain v. California Teachers Association case.

“Through their union, educators join together to make their voices heard on issues that affect our children: fighting for smaller class sizes; advocating for enough nurses and librarians; calling for full and fair funding of our schools; and making sure every child has the resources they need to succeed. The only way to do that is by using our strength in numbers—banding together and speaking with one voice.

“This case was yet another tactic by wealthy special interests, led by Students First, to pull working people apart and silence teachers. It’s no surprise that every court that has considered the claims outlined by the plaintiffs in this case has rejected them.

“As the U.S. Supreme Court session begins next week, we have renewed hope for justices who will stand with working people and reaffirm their right to democratically come together, negotiate for fair pay and benefits, and, most importantly, speak up for our children and our communities.”

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The Albany Times-Union published a letter written by corporate reformers who support Common Core, charter schools, and high-stakes testing.

The signatories applaud the idea of giving the Common Core standards a new name. That’ll mollify parents, for sure. Call them New York’s Very Own Unique Standards. Rebranding will fool almost everyone, on the assumption that the parents of the 220,000 children who opted out are dumb and won’t notice that New York’s Very Own Unique Standards are the Common Core! Apparently the trick worked in other states, so why shouldn’t it work in New York?

The shortening of the tests by 90 minutes is a step forward, but it does not really solve the problem of tests that currently are 8-11 hours long. Why should tests require 6.5 hours for an 8-year-old to see if they can read or do math? Even that is way too long.

The corporate reformers are certain that the Common Core standards (aka “New York’s Very Own Unique Standards”) offer a brighter future for the children of New York.

But they don’t explain how children who are English language learners will have a brighter future when 97% of them “failed” the Common Core tests for three years in a row.

How will students with disabilities have a brighter future when 95% of them “failed” the Common Core tests for three years in a row?

How will African-American and Hispanic children have a brighter future when more than 80% “failed” the Common Core tests for three years in a row?

Will they be promoted to the next grade even though they failed the CC test? Will they be allowed to graduate?

If they can’t be promoted, and they can’t graduate because the CC standards are developmentally inappropriate, and the tests have passing marks far above their capacity, why kind of future will they have?

It won’t be bright. What will they be able to do without a high school diploma?

Ideas?

A reader in Ohio shared this unbelievable link.

You may recall that David Hansen was in charge of monitoring charter schools in Ohio. You may recall that his wife, who was John Kasich’s chief of staff, is now running his presidential campaign. You may recall that Hansen was compelled to resign when he was caught manipulating charter school test scores to protect some big Republican donors. Well, Hansen may be gone but his legacy lives on, thanks to the U.S. Department of Education, which ignores scandals if they involve charter schools.

A top Ohio Department of Education official who resigned in July after manipulating data to boost charter schools also participated in a successful effort to obtain $71 million in federal money that could allow the wholesale takeover of urban school districts.

The U.S. Department of Education this week announced that it is providing $249 million to six states and the District of Columbia over the next five years for the expansion of charter schools.

The single-largest grant of $71 million goes to Ohio, which ranks near the bottom nationally for charter-school academic performance and has a history of financial failures. [My emphasis].

Records show that David Hansen, a longtime advocate for charter schools hired by State Supt. Richard Ross to run his school-choice office, was involved in the grant application that will facilitate the takeover of Youngstown city schools and other targeted urban districts.

The takeover of so-called “recovery school districts” such as Youngstown was secretly negotiated by Ross, Kasich’s then chief of staff Beth Hansen and Youngstown business officials and approved by the legislature in June in a stunning last-minute maneuver.
David and Beth Hansen are husband and wife, and she left Kasich’s staff in July to run his presidential campaign.

Records released by the Ohio Department of Education Sept. 3 in response to newspaper investigations of Hansen’s role in the data manipulation also show that he assembled the supporting documents for the federal grant.
In those supporting documents, charter schools, charter-school advocates and members of the U.S. Congress painted a positive picture of Ohio.

This is an astonishing story. The charter school scandals run from the state departments of education, which have been caught playing games with data to bolster politically-connected charters, right to the U.S. Secretary of Education:

In those supporting documents, charter schools, charter-school advocates and members of the U.S. Congress painted a positive picture of Ohio.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in announcing the $71 million this week, cited a Stanford University report suggesting that charter schools nationwide are showing improvement.

He didn’t mention another Stanford report that says Ohio charter schools are among the lowest-performing in the country.

Instead, the federal officials gave the state a perfect score for “High-Quality Authorizing and Monitoring Processes” — or policing of charter schools — although it is the manipulation of that system that resulted in Hansen’s forced resignation.

He resigned two days after the filing deadline for the grant application. Duncan’s office reviewed the application and provided feedback on Sept. 4, months after the Ohio Department of Education rescinded the manipulated evaluations.

Kim Norris, a spokeswoman for ODE, said federal officials were notified of the flawed accountability formula. “They approved the grant with that knowledge,” she said.

The state application also lacked academic data to show whether Ohio’s charter schools, which cost taxpayers more than $1 billion annually, turn tax dollars into student success.

Education Week noted that Ohio’s charter sector was riddled with scandals and had lower performance than public schools:

Among the seven states and the District of Columbia to receive the grant money, Ohio is getting the largest grant. Charter school critics, and even some charter supporters, point to Ohio as an example of the kind of dysfunction that can arise from a lightly regulated charter sector.

The state has come under a lot of scruitiny lately following multiple federal, state, and press-led investigations into corruption among some Ohio schools and their CMOs over the last few years. And a December study by the Stanford University Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) found that Ohio charter school students on average learn less in a year than their district school peers.

So, yes, the U.S. Department of Education knew the Ohio charter data was phony but they gave Ohio $71 million anyway.

Why did ED decide to give the most money to the state with the most dysfunctional charters?

Governor Brown has until October 11 to sign or veto legislation that would ban for-profit charter schools in California. it is outrageous to squander taxpayer dollars on profits for investors and outrageous executive salaries. This bill should be a slam dunk for Governor Brown, a man with a keen sense of justice. Now I hope the legislature tightens oversight of nonprofit charter schools and reviews their executive salaries to be sure that they really are nonprofit. And while they are at it, they should ban charter schools in affluent communities, which violate the spirit if the charter movement, which wassupposedto help the neediest kids, not to enable rich parents to create a publicly-funded private school for their children.

Here is the legislation awaiting Governor Brown’s signature:

“For-profit charter schools: Charter schools run by for-profit corporations would not be allowed in California under the terms of AB 787, authored by Assemblyman Roger Hernández, D-West Covina, which passed the Legislature. Six for-profit charter schools operate in the state, and California Virtual Academies, managed by the for-profit K12 Inc., is the largest. The bill’s author noted that K12 paid its top six executives a total of nearly $11 million in 2011-12, while the average California Virtual Academies teacher’s salary was $36,150, about half of the average teacher pay in the state. The author raised the question of whether a for-profit corporation would try to limit services to students to increase profits.”

Governor Nathan Deal likes to point out that both his parents taught school, but it’s not clear what kind of school they taught. Clearly he doesn’t like public schools. He has proposed legislation based on Tennessee’s failing “Achievement School District.”

Jack Hassard, a Professor Emeritus of Science Education at Georgia State University, explains that Governor Deal’s plan will set in motion “the infrastructure to tear Georgia’s public schools apart.”

The author of the plan was a young reformer with three years of teaching experience. Her name is Erin Haimes. She has now set up a consulting firm and is being paid to help districts figure out how to avoid the consequences of the law she wrote.

Hassard writes:

“Where does this path take public education in Georgia? It’s a path that is based on fear. It’s a path that is based on competition. It’s a path that is based on greed. It’s a path that is based on opinion and not knowledge.

“As others have said, the plan that will be voted on in the 2016 election, and will be supported by a group that Hames will lead, and will be targeted by organizations and families outside of Georgia who stand to make a financial killing in the state.”

Jonas Persson of the Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch reports on a panel discussion in Néw Orleans about speeding up the dismantling of public education.

The event was a conference sponsored by the voucher-loving American Federation for Children, celebrating the privatization of Néw Orleans schools.

The panel Persson describes was called “Knocking out Yesterday’s Education Models” but a panelist “joked that the working title of the panel had been “What Happens After You Blow it All Up?”

Persson writes:

“But in the absence of a new hurricane that would sweep away public schools, a man-made calamity might do the trick. Such was the argument of Rebecca Sibilia, who is the CEO of a new non-profit education group: Edbuild.

“When you think of bankruptcy … this is a huge opportunity. Bankruptcy is not a problem for kids; bankruptcy is a problem for the people governing the system, right? So, when a school district goes bankrupt all of their legacy debt can be eliminated . . . How are we going to pay for the buildings? How are we going to bring in new operators when there is pension debt? Look, if we can eliminate that in an entire urban system, then we can throw all the cards up in the air, and redistribute everything with all new models. You’ve heard it first: bankruptcy might be the thing that leads to the next education revolution,” Sibilia explained.”

This has already happened in Chester Uplands, Pennsylvania, where the district’s exorbitant payments to charter schools has brought it to fiscal collapse, requiring a loan from the state to make payroll. It could happen in cities like Philadelphia and even Los Angeles, as the charter sector siphons away the best students and resources that cause the district to cut programs and lay off teachers.

At some point the tipping point comes, and the parasite sucks the life out of the host. That’s the reformers’ end game,

– See more at: http://www.prwatch.org/node/12932#.dpuf

I have been on many talk shows. I do so with a sense of urgency because I want to inform the public about the all-out corporate assault on public education. Before I speak, I think of all the parents, teachers, and principals who have contacted me with heartbreaking stories about children and schools injured by what is now happening across the nation. My two favorite experiences were with Jon Stewart and Bill Moyers. I have also gone on Chris Hayes, Ed Schultz, and Charlue Rose, among others. I even got to debate Geoffrey Canada on NBC’s Education Nation. The two shows that have never invited me to speak for Anerucan public education are Rachel Maddow and Morning Joe. Maddow almost never mentions education. But Morning Joe has invited all the big-time reformers on to bash teachers and public schools.

It turns out that Joe’s obsession this season is Hillary hating. In this post, two Hillary supporters catalogue Joe’s relentless effort to destroy Hillary.

I am well aware that most readers of this blog strongly support Bernie. I am not making any commitments until I learn more about the candidates’ views on the issues I care about, as well as the viability of their candidacy.

Be that as it may, I urge you to read this article. There is something sick, repulsive, and sexist about Joe (and Mika’s) hatred for Hillary. Read it and you will see how low NBC has sunk to allow this vitriol. reminded me of the one-sided slant of Education Nation. It is as if Fox News got a slot on NBC.

My favorite Education Nation line: when Brian Williams proclaimed, “Bill Gates paid for this programming, and we are relying on his facts.” That was the most truthful comment of the show.

From the article:

“You can set your clock by this: turn on MSNBC any morning of the week and you’ll immediately be served a big, rancid dose of Hillary hate. Women will instantly recognize the bullying taunts, the condescending eye rolls, the seething sarcasm. It is the sound and sight of misogyny in action, the verbal bashing of a woman because she’s a woman.

“No male candidate is ever treated with the same disdain and disrespect. No self-respecting network would ever stand for it. Hillary Clinton is the sole exception; the rules of decency and dignity do not apply to her when it comes to Morning Joe.

“Named for former Florida congressman Joe Scarborough, a reliably radical right-wing member of Newt Gingrich’s infamous Contract with America crew, Morning Joe is Opie and Anthony for the Beltway political set. In the 2016 cycle, MSNBC’s “morning zoo for politics” has devolved into a daily frat boy fest of grins, sneers, giggles and endless sexist dog whistles.

“All that’s missing is Baba Booey.

“As Hillary Clinton attempts to make history as America’s first woman president, Morning Joe has emerged as the global headquarters of the He-Man Hillary Haters Club, with Scarborough and co-host Mika Brzezinski presiding over a daily boys club that relentlessly attacks Hillary’s candidacy, her accomplishments, her very humanity. It is an ugly and self-righteous spectacle, rife with misleading allegations, insinuations and false indignation. Searching for words to describe Morning Joe’s particular brand of anti-Hillary invective, we’ve described it as “an unhealthy and unhinged combination of envy, awe, muted rage and dripping disdain.”

Leaders of the Opt Out movement are disgusted by Governor Cuomo’s appointment of a commission that ignores parents of the 220,000 children who opted out of state testing. Does the Governor expect to get fresh thinking or a serious curriculum review from the chairpersons of the Senate and Assembly Education Committee? Or from the President of the State University of New York, who has a full-time job (and is a strong supporter of Common Core)?

Here is a full list of Commission members.

Jeanette Deutermann, leader of Long Island Opt Out, did some research on some of the educators and parents who are members of the Cuomo commission. She was assisted by parent leader Michele Trageser.
She shared it with me and allowed me to post it here.

The chair of the Commission is Richard Parsons.

Richard Parsons – appointed chair of the task force. His bio states he is Chairman of the Board of Citigroup, in addition to being senior Advisor of Providence Equity Partners. He left Citigroup in 2012 to focus on a new jazz club an Italian vineyard, and various board memberships. He has been CEO of the LA Clippers since 2014. Mr. Parsons was also head of Cuomo’s previous Education Reform Commission in 2012. You know the one that recommended expanding charter schools to Pre-K. The one that said NY should “promote increased access to educational opportunities by encouraging school district restructuring and consolidation. He must like Charters considering he spent time on the advisory board of Deborah Kenny’s Charter network, Harlem Village Academies.

Here are sketches of some of the other members:

Mr. Geoffrey Canada – founder of Harlem Children’s Zone and who was the “star “, along with his ed reform agenda of Waiting for Superman. A New York Times Article called the Harlem Children’s Zone, “One of the most ambitious social policy experiments of our time”. In April of 2014, Governor Cuomo appointed Mr. Canada as one of three members of the Smart Schools Commission, who were charged with advising the state on how to best invest the $2 billion Smart School Bond money.

Constance Evelyn – Superintendent of Valley Stream District 13 on Long Island. Ms Evelyn has made no secret of her love for Common Core up until now. In a piece on the engage NY website on December 2013, she states that the implementation has been difficult, but is worth it. She then proceeds to state what teachers and students say they the like and are different (aka better) with common core. She claims teachers say that with common core, students “read like detectives”, “respond to difficult text with details and dig deeper into the text”, and “collaborate with peers and think critically”. Again, are they saying that these things are because of common core, and that they didn’t happen before? In a response to a memo from John King, Ms Evelyn stated “ We must challenge our students differently than we have in the past. The Common Core represents a necessary and dramatic shift that strengthens both the call and case for rigor. These standards focus our attention on learning targets that systematically integrate skills in reading, literacy, writing, and higher order thinking. I’m excited about the doors that will be opened by the new standards for my child and every student that has the good fortune of living in a state that made the decision to adopt them.”

Ms. Heather Buskirk – . In addition to being a national Board Certified Teacher of physics and math , she is one of the 2015 America Achieves NY Educator Voice Fellows: The people who get paid a stipend to promote Common Core . The Fellowship website states the educators in the fellowship need to write and publish op eds, and utilize social media to “positively communicate and elevate the conversation in support of college and career ready standards” aka the Common Core Standards.

Carol Conklin Spillane – Principal of Sleepy Hollow High School. While she has spoken out against linking student performance to accountability , it was more along the lines of it happening too fast. She stated, “In my opinion, the move to Common Core is a good initiative that is unfortunately mired in the multiplicity of political agendas (Race to the Top).

Kishayna Hazelwood – third grade teacher from PS 156 in Brooklyn. No info aside from her task force bio is available.

Carrie Remis – listed as Rochester area parent. A former Catholic School administrator and head of the Parent Power Project. She also served on a member of Cuomo’s previous Education Reform Commission. She also serves on several boards including the Opportunity in Education Coalition, the National School Choice Week Coalition, and the Center for Educational Justice. The Opportunity in Education Coalition lobbied alongside Campbell Brown for the Education Investment tax credit this past spring. The National School Choice week partners include Students First, The national Alliance for Public Charter Schools, The Fordham Institute, etc… In her testimony as head of the Power Parent Project before the State Senate Ed Committee hearing in October 2013, she stated that she believed parents opposed to the Regents Reform Agenda were in the minority. (Her son at the time was a sophomore in “one of the best” high schools and given his age was not ever affected by Common Core ). She also stated that “special interests-namely the New York State United Teachers and their surrogates——are expertly taking advantage of parents who feel excluded, amplifying our concerns and distorting the truth”. She also said that school district officials were deliberately misinforming parents about Common Core so that it seemed Common Core was “replacing NCLB as the new education boogey man”.

Sam Radford – Buffalo parent. Head of the District Parent Coordinating Council of Buffalo. In the past he has said that teachers should be evaluated on student growth or lack of it. “ A teacher should be evaluated on some scale for every student they teach”, he said in an interview. A February 2014 article featuring him in the Buffalo news said people either see him “as a champion for educational equality and accountability, or as a self promoting dissenter more focused on causing trouble than finding answers”. Mr. Radford is married to an “educator who runs a charter school.” His 14 children have attended public, Catholic and charter schools. He “pushes for the rights of parents to transfer their children out of struggling schools and into better ones, be they public, charter or private.”

Like Fox News might say: Fair and balanced.

Mike Klonsky reports that Chicago Public Schools is cutting special education.

“Our autocrat at City Hall appears bent on dismembering special education in Chicago by a thousand cuts. SpEd took its first major deep cut over the summer eliminating 500 positions at CPS. More cuts announced late Friday mean approximately 160 schools would lose special education teachers, while 184 would lose aides.”

Let the lawsuits begin. There is a federal law to protect children with disabilities.

This morning, Amplify laid off two-thirds of its staff–some 800 people. Amplify is a division of Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp. Its CEO is education reformer Joel Klein. Murdoch invested $1 billion in Klein’s Amplify. NewsCorp has been trying to find a buyer for Amplify since it has never earned a profit in the five years of its existence. This past year it lost $371 million.

“In a tweet this morning, Alex Modestou wrote that Amplify Education laid off 800 employees today. The Observer has reached out to the company to confirm. NewsCorp has been looking for an investor to take over the division, as the Observer previously reported.

“Multiple sources inside and outside the company said that most of its staff lost their jobs today, effective immediately, at around 10:30 a.m.

“Mr. Modestou told the Observer in a phone call that he worked part time on the math curriculum for the company in its Durham office, before being let go today at 10:30 a.m. Mr. Modestou wrote the tweet, he told us, because full time employees had been offered three months salary in a lump sum in exchange for signing a non-disclosure agreement. He did not sign because he was not offered any kind of package.

“He said, “This is like the cold, inhumane hand of capitalism at work, and it seems wrong that they could stay in the shadows.”

“The 800 employee figure was based on an estimate Mr. Modestou made based on documents he’d seen before leaving. When Amplify announced it was first looking for a buyer, he said that people in the company had warned staff to expect layoffs of a sixth of the company. That rose to half over time. If 800 people were laid off, that would be roughly two-thirds of the reportedly 1,200-person company.

“Another source told the Observer in a phone call that employees in New York City were taken to meetings in the company’s Manhattan office and its Dumbo offices today. Employees in the Manhattan office were told that they were either keeping their job or they would be staying longer to help with the transition, in some new role.

“Mr. Modestou said that he and his fellow employees were told by Amplify CEO Joel Klein and Amplify Learning President Larry Berger via a conference call. We’ve also heard that this is how employees sent to the Brooklyn office were told. Mr. Modestou described the call for us, saying that “They didn’t say anything but ‘we’re letting you go’ in very lawyerly terms.”

“He added that the pair added a note of appreciation for their service and an apology that they had let the company grow larger than its revenue could support.”