Archives for the month of: December, 2016

Rhode Island state officials gave their permission to triple the enrollment of politically connected no-excuses charter chain Achievement First.


As reported here previously, increasing the enrollment of these charters will drain students and millions of dollars from the public schools of Providence.


Thousands of children in the Providence public schools will suffer budget cuts so that a much smaller number may enroll in a dual system under private control.


The final decision is up to the mayor of Providence, who is also chair of the charter chainboard.



Mike Klonsky, a longtime political activist in Chicago, warns that the rise of Trumpism in the US and Europe signals a dangerous white nationalism that threatens the fabric of civil society.


The rise and seizure of political and military power by a narrowly-based clique of white supremacists and neo-fascists, in the U.S. and much of Europe, combined with an inadequate response on the part of liberal democrats, is plunging the world closer to a global conflagration than it’s been since World War 2 and Trump hasn’t even been inaugurated yet. The Trumpists are too weak and their base too narrow to rule primarily through diplomacy and negotiation. Their strong suit is their control of military (including nuclear capacity) and police powers (including an apparent willingness to use torture)….


Then there’s the Trump’s war on the press; trade war with China; Betsy DeVos’s war on public schools; Trump’s war on science; Trump/Pudzer’s declared war on labor unions; Trump/Perry/Tillerson’s war on the environment; Sessions’ war on civil rights; and so it goes….


As for teachers and educators, we have a significant role to play in resisting the Trumpists drive towards war and in defense of civil society. War is the enemy of education, families, children, women, and democracy. Resistance to Betsy DeVos war on public education will be a key part of the opposition movement. Defense of public space and of public decision-making, teaching students to think critically and to become shapers of their own future, are some of the essential pieces of the resistance movement based in the schools.





The Buffalo School Board voted to demand Carl Paladino resign within 24 hours or they would ask the New York Commissioner of Education to remove him. Paladino was co-chair of the Trump campaign in New York.


The board was outraged by Paladino’s vile racist remarks directed at President Obama and his wife, published last week in a local journal.


“Words matter, Mr. Paladino,” said Barbara Seals Nevergold, the president of the board.
The words in question came in response to a survey about hopes for 2017, sent to members of the Buffalo community by Artvoice, a local weekly newspaper.
In it, Mr. Paladino said he wished Mr. Obama would die of mad cow disease. He also wished Ms. Obama would “return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.” Mr. Paladino, a wealthy builder and political ally of President-elect Donald J. Trump, ran for governor in 2010 as the Republican nominee.



Veteran journalist John Merrow suggests “thoughtful gifts” for those who make year-end donations.


I am pleased to see that the Network for public Education is one of the worthy groups he recommends.


Thank you, John! And happy 2017!


Thoughtful Gifts

“Singin’ in the Rain” is my favorite all-time movie, so of course I was saddened by the deaths of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher. I had the good fortune to see Carrie’s one-woman show, “Wishful Drinking.” And I appreciated that she transformed the image of a princess from a helpless prima donna waiting for a prince to rescue her into a smart, strong, resourceful woman who rescues men.


I started googling her, Debbie, and her father Eddie Fisher. Eddie abandoned Debbie for Elizabeth Taylor, Debbie’s best friend. I found this in Eddie’s bio.


“In 1981, Fisher wrote an autobiography, Eddie: My Life, My Loves (ISBN 0-06-014907-8). He wrote another autobiography in 1999 titled Been There, Done That (ISBN 0-312-20972-X). The later book devotes little space to Fisher’s singing career, but recycled the material of his first book and added many new sexual details that were too strong to publish before. His daughter Carrie declared, upon publication: “That’s it. I’m having my DNA fumigated.”

Carl Paladino released a disgusting racist statement expressing his hopes for 2017.


The Buffalo school board, of which he is a member, passed a resolution calling on him to resign. Paladino has already declared that he won’t resign.


It now falls to MaryEllen Elia, the State Commissioner of Education, to remove him for conduct unbecoming a public official.


Here is the resolution:



Resolution Regarding the Conduct of Board Member Carl Paladino


December 29, 2016


Submitted by Board Member Hope Jay


Whereas, in a December 23, 2016 edition of the publication Artvoice, School Board Member Carl Paladino made the following statements in response to the questions of “What would you most like to happen in 2017?” and “What would you like to see go away in 2017?”:


1. Obama catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a Hereford. He dies before his trial and is buried in a cow pasture next to Valerie Jarret, who died weeks prior, after being convicted of sedition and treason, when a Jihady cell mate mistook her for being a nice person and decapitated her.


2. Michelle Obama. I’d like her to return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.” And,


Whereas, Mr. Paladino acknowledged that he made these statements; And, Mr. Paladino is an elected official charged with the responsibility to represent children and families in a district comprised of over 70% Black, Brown, Asian, Immigrant and other minority students and families; And, Mr. Paladino took an oath to ensure that students are afforded an environment which is free from fear and respects diversity within the school district and the community and is subject to all district policies;



Whereas, These unambiguously racist, morally repugnant, flagrantly disrespectful, inflammatory and inexcusable comments by Mr. Paladino have garnered both local, national, and
international attention that reflects negatively on the Buffalo Board of Education, the City of Buffalo and its leadership and its citizens, the State of New York, and every decent human being in America and abroad who has been shocked and offended by his words;



Whereas, Mr. Paladino’s behavior has irrevocably impacted the work of the Buffalo Board of Education by negatively impacting the Buffalo City School District in its goal of safeguarding
the rights of all students in promoting a safe and healthy environment in which students are treated respectfully, by everyone, And, the inalienable right, guaranteed by the New York State Constitution and the Dignity for All Students Act, afforded to the children of the City of Buffalo to be provided an education free of discrimination and harassment;



Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Buffalo Board of Education demands that Mr. Paladino immediately resign within 24 hours from his position with the Board. In the event that Mr.
Paladino declines to resign within 24 hours, the Board resolves that it shall retain outside legal counsel to file a 306 Petition with NYS Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to pursue Mr. Paladino’s removal from the Buffalo Board of Education. Recommendations for outside counsel shall be made by the General Counsel.



President Barbara A. Nevergold, Theresa Harris-Tigg, Paulette Woods, Sharon Belton-Cottman, Jennifer Mecozzi, Hope R. Jay

Peter Beinart published this article in The Atlantic in October, before the election.


The article explains why Hillary lost.


He had no way of knowing that she would lose. Yet when you read his article, her loss is comprehensible.

Mercedes Schneider reviews the ruination of public education in Detroit while under the thumb of Betsy DeVos. She relies on an article that appeared in Truthout by Joseph Natoli.


Natoli wrote:


“Privatization of all things public has slammed Detroit as gentrifying investors seek to put price tags on what was previously public domain. In predatory fashion, privatizers are targeting the city’s struggling students as a new frontier for profit.


“How weak and vulnerable is public education in Detroit? The Nation’s Report Card, published by an independent federal commission, named Detroit Public Schools the country’s “lowest-performing urban school district” in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015. In 2011, a Republican state legislature and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder repealed a statewide cap on the number of Detroit charter schools. The floodgates were opened and privatizing predators rolled in.


“Bankruptcy following the collapse of the jobs that fueled the “Motor City” has exposed Detroit to the dynamics described by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine. A crisis, either arranged or accidental, precipitates a rush to recuperation. Lobbyists of wealthy investors petition a government that wealthy investors have put in place. A much-quoted “checks and balances” security shield for democratic governance is thus so easily disarmed.


“The more startling, dire and urgent the crisis, the greater the rush to a “saving” privatization. Low reading and math scores, shared by both charter and public schools, do not as dramatically make the case that crisis exists, as does a more observable infrastructure rot and decay. When statistics do not show charter schools to be better spaces for learning than public schools, privatizers instead focus on appearances. In the case of Detroit public schools, appearance alone makes the case of crisis and failure in the eyes of parents. And, similarly, coats and ties or uniforms in classrooms shiny with new computers make the case for achievement and success.


“Still, the state of physical decay of Detroit schools is alarming: “Black mold in school buildings. Classroom heating systems that fail during frigid Michigan winters. Leaky roofs, warped floors, and collapsed ceilings,” enumerates writer Eli Savit. The crisis has, of course, been financially engineered. The collapse of physical infrastructure in Michigan schools is funded solely through property taxes, thus less revenue is garnered in Detroit, where the average home is $40,000. Meanwhile, the average home in nearby Bloomfield Hills is worth 10 times that.


“Weakening Strategies


“Weakening public education to the point that privatization looks like rescue is accomplished by funding that is decreased when tax funds are siphoned off to for-profit charter schools. It is also inequitably allocated within the wide divide between poverty and wealth that exists in the US. When you allocate based on property ownership, you are at once solidifying the gap between rich and poor and, most grievously, extending that gap into the future.”


This morning I posted a question written by Doug1943, rehashing corporate reformer arguments about “allowing children to escape failing public schools.” I invited readers to answer his question(s).


Peter Greene put his answer into a post. 


This should satisfy Doug (or not), and this is only an introduction to the rest of the post where Doug will find answers:


Most public ed advocates that I know and interact with would agree that, particularly in some large urban districts, there are some schools with serious problems. I would never tell you that all public schools are flawless and there are no huge problems. There are, from serious underfunding to long-standing institutional racism to a lack of any sort of vision from leaders. There are absolutely some serious issues, but it does not appear to me that choice-charter-voucher advocates are proposing anything that will actually solve any of the problems.


They call to mind lying with a broken leg on the sidewalk, and someone runs up with a chain saw and says, “Hey, I’m going to take off your arms” and I ask what help that will be and are they even a doctor and they reply, “Well, no– but we have to do something!” No, thanks.


Do charters generally do a better job? There’s no clear evidence that they do– often they get the same results with the same kids (as far as we can tell, given that we have no good way in place to measure school success– your reservations about standardized tests are on point) and a little too often they do worse. Do charters solve poverty? No. Do charters and choice spur competition that leads to greatness? There’s zero evidence that they do. Do they allow children to “escape” bad schools? Maybe– but here’s the big problem as charters are currently handled: the escape comes at the cost of making a bad school worse by stripping it of resources. And as I frequently point out, the free market can’t handle this problem. The free market survives by picking winners and losers and dropping the losers out– there is not one single business or business sector in this country that serves every single citizen, but serving 100% of US students is exactly the education gig.


So in short, yes, there are problems and no, the charter-choice-voucher idea doesn’t solve any of them.


So what are my alternative suggestions? Let me first note that the guy who wants to treat my broken leg by chainsawing off my arms is the person carrying the burden of proof. But as someone who is invested in public education, and who has already noticed most of the issues that charter fans holler about in their marketing materials. In the interests of not writing an entire book, let me offer just a quick list of some major steps that, I believe, would help.


Michelle Gunderson teaches first grade in Chicago Public Schools. She thought about her own childhood on a farm. She thought about what to give the children she teaches. 


I have been struggling with what safety and caring look like inside a society that seems to care very little for children. Education budgets have been cut to the bone, teachers are overrun with needless mandates for paperwork and policy that take us away from the heart of teaching, both adults and children are judged and labeled by meaningless tests. And the list goes on.


And then we have the forthcoming presidency of Donald Trump and his incoming Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. If we believe their words, schools will become contested spaces where market driven practices will govern policy. And the world will become a contested space where dominant race and religion rule. I feel these times are as tumultuous as the times adults faced in 1968 when my world was safe. How do I take the lessons from my childhood and apply them now?


I gave the six year old children in my classroom small, beautiful tangerines for a celebration. They were perfect, fragrant, and yummy. We ate them mindfully – looking at them, smelling them, peeling slowly apeacend savoring – as if they were a gift from the world.


I teach in Chicago – it is difficult, and I do not have a fairy tale view of childhood. But I do believe that it is our role to bring simple beauty and peace into children’s lives.


In response to this world around us, I ask you, educators and parents alike, to share a “store bought” orange with children, to think of simple acts of caring, that will help our children gain the strength and courage to lead us out of this mess.