Archives for the month of: March, 2016

The tabloid press in New York City, which has consistently supported corporate reform, such as charters and high-stakes testing, regularly claims in its editorials that the parents’ opt out movement is secretly funded and manipulated by teachers’ unions.


This is absolutely untrue. There are teachers involved in the opt out movement, but as individuals and parents, not as representatives of their unions. When Karen Magee, the president of the New York State teachers’ union, endorsed opt out last spring, right before the testing started, it was big news. (My blog got the biggest one-day readership in its history [about 140,000 views in one day] when I reported Magee’s decision).


The New York City United Federation of Teachers never endorsed opt out, never funded it.


Please, editorial writers for the New York Post, the New York Daily News, and yes, even the New York Times, please take note: The opt out movement is parent-led, parent-organized, and depends on parents for its energy and passion. It is not union-led, union-funded, or union-controlled. In short, the opt out movement is a grassroots uprising against the absurd emphasis on standardized tests that consume instructional time without any benefit to students and without providing any useful information to teachers.



Michelle Gunderson has taught in the Chicago public schools for 29 years; she teaches first grade.


In this post, she describes why the Chicago Teachers Union decided to strike on April 1. The House of Delegates’ vote to strike was overwhelming, but it was not unanimous. It was 486-124. Some teachers wanted a longer strike. Others had other reasons to dissent. Some Chicagoans predict that the strike will be joined by other unions, to protest Mayor Emanuel’s failure to fund the public schools, by his open hostility to public schools and their teachers, and by his clear favoritism toward charter schools opened by his friends and funders. Some think it may be close to a general strike. We will see. In the meanwhile, those of us who do not live in Chicago send our love and support to our allies who are fighting for the equitable treatment of the children they teach.


Gunderson writes:


In many schools around Chicago teachers experienced losing their colleagues through the recent cuts. When a teacher leaves a job they do not simply pack their personal effects into a banker’s box and walk out the door. Most teachers need a U-Haul to pack up all the materials they have personally brought into the school. And they leave behind them grieving children (losing your teacher is akin to losing a parent) and colleagues who must take up the additional workload.


In these schools which were cut to the bone, the argument to strike for revenue was easy. It is not a coincidence that the argument is harder at schools on the north and northwest side where race and class divide us on lines that were construed by injustice in the first place.


You will hear stories of teachers and parents who disagree with the strike. You will read news articles that amplify this message and comment sections in our Chicago papers that promote this injustice and often pure hate of teachers and children.


The facts remain – our city is divided, our children are suffering, and the Chicago Teachers Union has a vision of the world that makes this not so.


Join the strike on April first.

John Thompson, historian and teacher, thought that corporate reform was happening elsewhere, but not in Oklahoma City. But now they have arrived in full force, with all their failed and demoralizing strategies. It is such a good post that I am quoting a lot of it, but not all of it. I urge you to read the whole thing.


He writes:


It wasn’t until I left the fulltime classroom in 2010 that I saw out-of-state corporate reformers, ranging from the Walton Foundation and the Parent Revolution to ALEC, try to bring their competition-driven, edu-politics to Oklahoma City. I saw plenty of examples of Sooner state Reaganism, and the gutting of the social safety net. After all, we expect businessmen to play political hardball, as well as take risks and leverage capital in order to increase their profits. That is why we need the checks and balances of our democratic system to counter the “creative destruction” of capitalism. Some free market experiments will fail, but “its only money.” When schools gamble on market-driven policies, however, the losers are children.



Actually, even the economic game involves more than money, as we in Oklahoma have learned after our state adopted so much of the ALEC agenda of shrinking the size of government. Even as we cut funding by about 1/4th since 2008, national corporate reformers have imposed incredibly expensive and untested policies (such as Common Core testing and test-driven teacher evaluations), while encouraging the creaming of the easiest-to-educate (and the least-expensive-to-educate) students from neighborhood schools and into charter schools.



Before 2010, I only read about national conservative and neo-liberal school reformers who adopted a strategy of “convergence” or “flooding the zone” to drive rapid, “transformational change” in selected districts and schools. I didn’t personally witness the way that they used mass charterization, now called the “portfolio strategy,” to avoid the messiness of constitutional democracy. Freed of local governance, corporate reformers promoted a school culture of risk-taking, and urgent experimentation to produce “disruptive innovation.”



Now, it looks like local edu-philanthropists have joined with the Billionaires Boys Club and they may be ready to pull the plug on the OKCPS. Before embracing the policies pushed by national reformers, Oklahoma City and other urban areas should consider Sarah Reckhow’s and Megan Tompkins-Stange’s “‘Singing from the Same Hymnbook’: Education Policy Advocacy at Gates and Broad.” It begins in the glory days of test-driven, market-driven reform, from 2008 to 2010, when the Broad Foundation proclaimed,



“We feel the stars have finally aligned. With an agenda that echoes our decade of investments—charter schools, performance pay for teachers, accountability, expanded learning time and national standards—the Obama administration is poised to cultivate and bring to fruition the seeds we and other reformers have planted.”

Reckhow and Tompkins-Stange explain how this dramatic change was conducted in the “absence of a robust public debate.” An alphabet soup of think tanks, funded by “venture philanthropists, produced the best public relations campaign that money could buy, and they did so while playing fast and loose with the evidence. As a Gates insider explained:


“It’s within [a] sort of fairly narrow orbit that you manufacture the [research] reports. You hire somebody to write a report. There’s going to be a commission, there’s going to be a lot of research, there’s going to be a lot of vetting and so forth and so on, but you pretty much know what the report is going to say before you go through the exercise.”

It should now be clear that corporate reform failed. The ostensible leader of the campaign, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is gone, as are the highest-profile leaders of transformational reforms in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Newark, Houston, Memphis, Washington D.C. and other districts. The quantitative portions of teacher evaluations are all but dead, and Common Core has replaced NCLB as the most toxic brand in education. After the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replaced NCLB, and after Hillary Clinton distanced herself from charter schools, it is likely that federal support for this top-down social engineering experiment is history.



The prospect of the eminent demise of test-driven, competition-driven reform seems to have prompted the most fervent reformers in the Broad and Walton Foundations to double down on mass charterization, i.e. the “portfolio” model, in Los Angeles, Oakland, Chicago, Newark, D.C. and, apparently, Oklahoma City. I believe it is also obvious why top-down, corporate reform failed. It came with the sword, dismissing educators as the enemy. The “Billionaires Boys Club” hatched their secret plans without submitting them to the clash of ideas. These non-educators ignored both social science and the hard-earned wisdom of practitioners. The “astroturf” think tank, the Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), has gained a foothold in Tulsa and they seem to have the ears of competition-driven reformers in Oklahoma City. The CRPE may best illustrate the way that reformers are doubling down on the edu-politics of destruction, even while they belatedly try to cultivate a kinder, gentler image.



I hope that Thompson is right about the demise of corporate reform. It is so lucrative that I don’t expect the hedge-fund-manager-driven demand for privatization to go away quietly, nor do I expect Broad and Gates to abandon their obsession with privatizing the nation’s public schools. I think that once they realize that the public rejects their malignant beneficence and that their reputation is endangered, and that history may view them as scoundrels for the damage they have inflicted on a democratic institution, then they might desist and pick some other sector to micro-manage.


By the way, it was Paul Hill, founder of the Center for Reinventing Public Education who invented the idea of the portfolio strategy about a dozen years ago. His theory was that the school board should look on their schools as akin to a stock portfolio: get rid of the weak ones, hold on to the top performers. Open and close schools to balance the portfolio. This is already a failed strategy because it ignores the reasons for low academic performance.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley allegedly had an affair with his top staffer, but he insists it wasn’t “physical.” 
Not many people believe him, and the resignation watch is on. 
He is a “family values” guy, but hypocrisy is dangerous. 
Worse, the whole state government is looking incompetent. 
And to think these phonies complain about teachers! 
Alabama passed an academic accountability act. How about a politicians’ accountability act? 

The gossip website Gawker reports that a liberal blogger started the petition to allow GOP delegates to carry guns at their Cleveland convention. It was intended as a satire, but the petition gathered 51,000 signatures.


I am reminded of an incident in the early 1960s when a little-known group sent out a press release protesting animal nudity. The press release referred with disgust to cows that had their breasts exposed, and other animals displaying their genitalia. The group proposed that animals should be properly dressed. I don’t recall whether any news outlet took this group seriously.


But we live in such strange times that nothing is beyond belief.


Earlier today, the US Supreme Supreme Court split 4-4 on the Friedrichs case, leaving the lower court decision undisturbed. At issue was whether teachers should be required to pay union fees. Not at issue was paying for the union’s political activities, which was previously decided (members don’t have to).

A reader asked what supporters of Friedrichs were saying about the decision. Here are “expert opinions” from the conservative Heartland Institute, which opposes unions.

“Heartland Education Experts React to Decision in
Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

On Tuesday, March 29, the United States Supreme Court issued a one-sentence ruling in the case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court.” The 4–4 tie from the Supreme Court means the lower court ruling remains intact, compelling public employees to pay union agency shop dues even if they do not belong to the union.

The following statements from education experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact New Media Specialist Donald Kendal at and 312/377-4000.

“The ramifications of Justice Scalia’s death are seen early in this Court session with the continued protection of public-sector unions. Non-union members will continue to be forced to pay for the political agenda of union bosses. This case should be reheard once a new justice is seated. “

Lennie Jarratt
Project Manager, Education
The Heartland Institute

“After the death of Justice Scalia, it appeared Friedrichs was fated to a split decision, and this was indeed the case. While the plaintiffs plan on filing again, it is yet to be determined if the justices will take it up a second time, and what the makeup of the court will be at that time.

“Even though this split was almost assured, it is still a disappointment. Lovers of liberty can at least hang their hat on the knowledge that more and more states are ending mandatory dues collections on their own.”

Tim Benson
Policy Analyst
The Heartland Institute

“This Supreme Court decision, favoring the California Teachers Association, effectively forces teachers who declined union membership to be forced into it. In a blue state like California, these teachers have alternatives, but none of their options will be easy to exercise. Could they become non-unionized teachers in charter schools or private schools? Not easily. Would they move to a state, such as Wisconsin, that has a right-to-work law? Getting hired there might be easier but moving and the uprooting would be their challenge.”

David Anderson
Senior Fellow, Education
The Heartland Institute
The Heartland Institute is a 32-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.

The world of rightwing corporate reform is ever-changing. It seems like only yesterday that Michelle Rhee announced her intention to challenge teachers’ unions, destroy tenure, and take away due process from teachers across the nation. She said she would raise $1 billion in a year and gather 1 million members for her new organization, which she called StudentsFirst, because (she said) teachers don’t care about students, only billionaires really care. She did raise some money–only $7 million or so, far from $1 billion–and she spent it trying to elect Tea Party Republicans and others who support charters and vouchers. Her organization turned into the public voice of anti-teacher, anti-public school activism. But in 2014, she stepped back from the national stage to help her husband Kevin Johnson, the Mayor of Sacramento (whom she married in 2011), and joined the board of Scott’s Miracle-Gro. She also assumed the chairmanship of her husband’s charter chain, St. Hope.


And now we learn that Michelle Rhee is folding the tents of StudentsFirst and merging it with 50CAN. The latter organization is funded by hedge fund managers and the Sackler family of Connecticut, whose fortune was made from pharmaceuticals, specifically the opiod drug Oxycontin, that is now causing so much addiction and death across the nation. Forbes says they are the 16th richest family in America. Jonathan Sackler’s daughter Madeleine made a documentary about Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter chain called “The Lottery.” It gave viewers the impression that these were the world’s most magical schools, and any child lucky enough to win the lottery would have a blessed life. Never having attended a public school, she bought into the myth that they are horrid places that one must escape from, and that charter schools are sort of like the private school she attended in Greenwich.


The leader of StudentsFirst is Jim Blew, who most recently worked for the Walton Family Foundation (e.g., Walmart money), which funds StudentsFirst, Teach for America, KIPP, and every organization that promotes the privatization of public education. Now Blew will head the California branch of StudentsFirst, whatever is left of it after the merger.


What a close and tight knit world the corporate reformers live in!




You will love the photograph of the Board of Aldermen of the town of Carrboro, North Carolina. The mayor and the entire board passed a resolution calling on the legislature to repeal HB2, which discriminates against Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, and Bisexual People.



Here is their resolution:








WHEREAS, on February 22, 2016, the Charlotte City Council demonstrated admirable leadership by approving a local ordinance that adds marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression to its list of categories protected from discrimination in city contracting and public accommodations; and
WHEREAS, on March 23, 2016, in response to the Charlotte ordinance, the North Carolina General Assembly in special session ratified, and Governor Pat McCrory signed, House Bill 2 (Session Law 2016-3), the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act; and
WHEREAS, House Bill 2 appears to repeal the Charlotte ordinance by establishing new statewide standards for what constitutes discriminatory practice in employment and public accommodations; and by establishing new statewide requirements for bathrooms and changing facilities in all public agencies, including schools; and
WHEREAS, the omission of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and other categories from the statewide list of categories protected from discrimination means that not only do protections on these bases appear to be unavailable under state law, but further, that local governments appear to be preempted from offering these protections to their residents; and
WHEREAS, the legislation also appears to eliminate the right of any person to bring a civil action in a North Carolina court for a claim of discrimination in employment or public accommodations on account of race, religion, color, national origin, age, or biological sex (as well as handicap for employment only); and
WHEREAS, by enacting House Bill 2, our state’s political leaders have once again taken extreme measures to attempt to diminish the legislative authority of local governments, and have once again used the laws of the State of North Carolina to codify discrimination and division rather than to advance the rights and dignity of North Carolinians; and
WHEREAS, the legislation, its brief twelve-hour legislative history, and lawmakers’ public statements clearly demonstrate a discriminatory intent; a lack of knowledge and understanding of the experiences of transgender people; and a lack of respect for the dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people on the part of the General Assembly and Governor McCrory; and
WHEREAS, the legislation is inconsistent with the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution, which provides that no state shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction “the equal protection of the laws” (US Const amend XIV, § 1); and the legislation is mean-spirited and “born of animosity toward the class of persons affected” (Romer v Evans, 517 US 620 [1996]); and
WHEREAS, the General Assembly expended an estimated $42,000 to hold an urgent special session to enact House Bill 2, meanwhile neglecting to act with urgency to address real challenges facing the people of North Carolina: the state’s 18% poverty rate (including 25% of children and 27% of African Americans); expansion of the Medicaid program and access to high-quality health care for all; funding for public education, including historically black colleges and universities; protection of the natural environment; mitigation of and adaptation to the effects of global climate change; and job opportunities and fair and living wages for all workers; and
WHEREAS, Carrboro is a community dedicated to the principles of equality, nondiscrimination, and full inclusion and engagement by any resident in the civil rights, benefits, and privileges of all residents; and
WHEREAS, Carrboro has a proud history of advancing the rights of LGBT North Carolinians, including being the first municipality in the state to create a domestic partner registry and to extend eligibility for employment benefits to same-sex partners of Town employees; being the first to elect a gay mayor and, later, the first to elect a lesbian mayor; among the first to support civil marriage for same-sex couples and inclusion of LGBT families in comprehensive immigration reform; and one of several municipalities and counties to oppose the General Assembly’s discriminatory and arguably unconstitutional Senate Bill 2 (Session Law 2015-75).




SECTION 1. The Board of Aldermen reaffirms its support for protecting and advancing the constitutional rights and equitable treatment of all residents and its opposition to discrimination, prejudice, homophobia, and transphobia.
SECTION 2. The Board of Aldermen applauds the people of Charlotte and the members of the Charlotte City Council for their historic achievement, and particularly for their courageous leadership in standing for dignity and equality in North Carolina’s largest city.
SECTION 3. The Board of Aldermen extends gratitude to the Orange County Board of Commissioners, which approved a resolution in support of the Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance on March 22, 2016.
SECTION 4. The Board of Aldermen urges the North Carolina General Assembly to repeal House Bill 2 at the earliest opportunity. Meanwhile, the Board will look to the court system for remedy, seeking opportunities to partner with other local jurisdictions and advocacy organizations in taking appropriate legal action against this unconstitutional legislation; to adopt appropriate local ordinances to advance the cause of equal protection; and to encourage other local governments to exercise their legislative authority to promote equal protection and nondiscrimination.
SECTION 5. The Board of Aldermen encourages all businesses providing public accommodations in Carrboro and throughout North Carolina to demonstrate their support for the dignity of all people by openly welcoming LGBT people to their places of business, and by providing gender-nonspecific bathroom facilities for their customers and employees wherever practicable.
SECTION 6. The Board of Aldermen encourages all municipalities, counties, and boards of education in North Carolina to adopt similar resolutions at a special meeting or at their next regular meeting calling for the repeal of House Bill 2; and to use this resolution as a model from which to craft their own resolutions, or to use a more succinct version available by email from the Office of the Mayor at
SECTION 7. The Board of Aldermen asks the town manager and staff to raise the Town’s rainbow pride flags on Monday, March 28, in a demonstration of the Town’s solidarity with LGBT North Carolinians and visitors.
SECTION 8. The Board of Aldermen asks the town clerk to send copies of this resolution to the members of the Orange County delegation to the General Assembly, the chair of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, and the mayors of the Town of Chapel Hill, the Town of Hillsborough, and the City of Charlotte.

This the 26th day of March, 2016.




Please join the Network for Public Education from April 15-17 as we convene in Raleigh, North Carolina. Register here.


Come and join us on the front lines of our struggle against legislation that is intended to cripple public education and demoralize teachers. Join us as we battle on behalf of equity and justice for all, and make clear our opposition to legislation that infringes on the rights of LGBT persons.


Join us where YOU are needed.


Meet fellow activists from across the country.


Meet your favorite bloggers.


Hear from the great Rev. William Barber, who is often called the successor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Hear from Bob Herbert, former columnist for the New York Times and author of the terrific book “Losing Our Way.”


Choose from many workshops where you can learn about the efforts to restore public education and to push back against failed corporate reforms.


Register now!

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered a 4-4 decision on the case of Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association. Fredrichs wanted to receive the benefits of collective bargaining without paying dues to the union. She wanted to be a “free rider.” The untimely death of Justice Scalia,  however, eliminated the possibility that Friedrichs would win. The tie vote is a victory for the union, because nothing changes.