Archives for the month of: January, 2019

The UTLA hired an independent auditor to document that charter schools in LAUSD were siphoning $600 million a year from the public schools. It is probably more now.

A reader who signs in as “Scisne” left this comment:

A big problem that teachers’ unions locals have is that they are managed by teachers who lack a background in accounting, and especially in forensic accounting.

After a career in business that included being a CEO, I joined my wife in the teaching profession. I was soon elected to the union board and eventually became president and led a strike and a school board recall that resulted in four trustees being recalled. I did it with accounting. I knew forensic accounting from my business career, and a quickly learned about the accounting methods and laws that applied to the school districts.

It was easy to find where and how the district I was in had stashed money, often illegally, and I published a 60-page analysis of what was going on and distributed it to the media and to parents and went on a district-wide public-speaking campaign at social clubs and churches where I also distributed the analysis.

The local media were hostile to teachers unions, so they ignored the analysis — but the parents, especially the professional accountants among them, were outraged at how the district trustees were lying to them and were withholding money from educating their children.

The recall was historic and left the city and county political power structure stunned. Teachers unions at the local level critically need to acquire the accounting know-how and an thorough understanding of applicable state law so that they can competently challenge district budget claims and can educate parents and the general public about the games that school boards play with the money that should be spent on educating children.

Chris Hedges writes about what happens when corporations run government. Number one is the subjugation of workers, which cuts costs and drives profits.

https://www.truthdig.com/articles/the-private-governments-that-subjugate-u-s-workers/

He begins:

Corporate dictatorships—which strip employees of fundamental constitutional rights, including free speech, and which increasingly rely on temp or contract employees who receive no benefits and have no job security—rule the lives of perhaps 80 percent of working Americans. These corporations, with little or no oversight, surveil and monitor their workforces. They conduct random drug testing, impose punishing quotas and targets, routinely engage in wage theft, injure workers and then refuse to make compensation, and ignore reports of sexual harassment, assault and rape. They use managerial harassment, psychological manipulation—including the pseudo-science of positive psychology—and intimidation to ensure obedience. They fire workers for expressing leftist political opinions on social media or at public events during their off-hours. They terminate those who file complaints or publicly voice criticism about working conditions. They thwart attempts to organize unions, callously dismiss older workers and impose “non-compete” contract clauses, meaning that if workers leave they are unable to use their skills and human capital to work for other employers in the same industry. Nearly half of all technical professions now require workers to sign non-compete clauses, and this practice has spread to low-wage jobs including those in hair salons and restaurants.

The lower the wages the more abusive the conditions. Workers in the food and hotel industries, agriculture, construction, domestic service, call centers, the garment industry, warehouses, retail sales, lawn service, prisons, and health and elder care suffer the most. Walmart, for example, which employs nearly 1 percent of the U.S. labor force (1.4 million workers), prohibits casual conversation, which it describes as “time theft.” The food industry giant Tyson prevents its workers from taking toilet breaks, causing many to urinate on themselves; as a result, some workers must wear diapers. The older, itinerant workers that Amazon often employs are subjected to grueling 12-hour shifts in which the company electronically monitors every action to make sure hourly quotas are met. Some Amazon workers walk for miles on concrete floors each shift and repeatedly get down on their hands and knees to perform their jobs. They frequently suffer crippling injuries. The company makes injured employees, whom it fires, sign releases saying the injuries are not work-related. Two-thirds of workers in low-wage industries are victims of wage theft, losing an amount estimated to be as high as $50 billion a year. From 4 million to 14 million American workers, under threat of wage cuts, plant shutdowns or dismissal, have been pressured by their employers to support pro-corporate political candidates and causes.

As a nation, we are hypnotized by standardized tests and the scores they produce. We forget that the tests and the answers are written by human beings. The tests are not objective, except for the scoring, which is done by machine. Giving the same bad questions to all students does not reveal who learned the most or who is smartest. They do reveal who is best at figuring out what the person who wrote the question wants them to answer.

Bob Shepherd, who has written about curriculum, assessment, and is now teaching in Florida, writes:

“the field testing that ensued laid bare the intellectual bankruptcy of the testing”

It’s been 18 years now since the passage of NCLB. We’ve had this two-decade-long national “field test” of standardized testing–a study larger in duration and scope than any other, ever. The verdict? Standardized testing has been far worse than a failure. Not only has it failed, completely, to improve educational outcomes. It has narrowed and distorted curricula and pedagogy and produced a whole generation of kids who think that studies in English aren’t about writing essays and poems and stories or reading and discussing great poems and plays and novels but about scanning text snippets to figure out what the correct answers are to convoluted, tortured, indefensible multiple-choice questions.

“My teachers should have ridden with Jessie James
for all the time that they stole from me.”
–Richard Brautigan

Who should write tests? Teachers should write their own tests. They know what they taught.

Who should grade tests? Teachers should be trusted to grade tests.

Any test without diagnostic value should be banned.

 

Jeff Bryant went to Los Sngeles to interview teachers during the strike. He discovered that they see charters as privatization, and as such, an existential threat to public education. A few years ago, UTLA commissioned an independent audit of the cost of charters and learned that they drain $600 annually from the district.

https://www.salon.com/2019/01/25/los-angeles-teachers-make-the-case-that-charter-schools-are-an-existential-threat-to-public-education_partner/

Jeff Bryant reports:

 

This article was produced by Our Schools, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
“Isn’t it reasonable to have some regulations on charters?” asked Ingrid King, a kindergarten and dual language teacher at Latona Avenue Elementary School in Los Angeles. She and two of her colleagues spoke to me from the picket lines during the recently resolved teacher strike in her city. When she and over 30,000 teachers and school personnel walked off the job, it closed the nation’s second-largest school system of nearly a half-million students for six days and filled the streets with huge protests.The strike ended when the district conceded to give teachers a 6 percent pay raise, limit class sizes, reduce the number of student assessments by half, and hire full-time nurses for every school, a librarian for every middle and high school, and enough counselors to provide one for every 500 students.But the concessions teachers won that will likely have the most impact outside of LA are related to charter schools. The teachers forced the district leader to present to the school board a resolution calling on the state to cap the number of charter schools, and the teachers made the district give their union increased oversight of charter co-locations — a practice that allows charter operations to take possession of a portion of an existing public school campus.

Los Angeles Unified has 277 charter schools, the largest number of charter schools of any school district in the nation. The schools serve nearly 119,000 students, nearly one in five students. The vast majority of charters are staffed by non-union teachers. (Teachers at a chain of unionized charter schools in the city that joined district teachers on the strike are still on strike.) So the quick takefrom some is the teachers’ union made curbs on charter schools part of their demands because these schools are a threat to the union’s power.

But when you talk to teachers, that’s not what they say. They tell you they want to curb charter school growth, not because it threatens their union, but because charters threaten the very survival of public schools.

Read on!0

 

MEDIA ADVISORY
1.29.19
Media Contact:
Anna Bakalis, UTLA Communications Director
(213) 305-9654 (cell)

UTLA statement on LAUSD School Board votes, including approval of a resolution calling for a charter moratorium

Today the LAUSD School Board approved unanimously a historic UTLA contract that prioritizes what students need in their schools. This is a reaffirmation of the effectiveness of our 6-day strike and the overwhelming parent and public support for LA educators. Additionally, in a 5-1 vote, the School Board passed a resolution calling for a state study and an 8- to 10-month moratorium on new charters in the district until the study is complete.

The charter moratorium vote is a groundbreaking moment in the fight for public education in LA, one that is reflective of what UTLA members, parents and our communities have fought so hard for: A sustainable public school district that serves all students.

“LAUSD has joined the NAACP and other key organizations in calling on the state of California for a moratorium on charters,” said UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl. “This is a win for justice, transparency, and common sense. We need to invest in our existing schools, not follow a business model of unregulated growth when new schools are fundamentally not needed in LA.”

The California Charter Schools Association bused students to the meeting, leaving a day of instruction behind to attend. CCSA did so under the false pretense that the board was considering a ban of all charter schools. Teary-eyed students talked during public comment, thinking that their school would be closed if the resolution passed.

Charters have grown exponentially at LAUSD, from 10 in the 2000-01 school year to 277 this year, with the district now the largest charter school authorizer in the nation. The current oversaturation of charter schools means that more than 80 percent of charter schools cannot meet their projected enrollment numbers. This calls into question the charter industry’s assertion that their schools have waiting lists and underscores that there are already more than enough charter schools to meet demand.

Nick Melvoin, who disavows any responsibility over charter school regulation despite being on the school board of the largest charter school authorizer in the country, was the lone vote against the resolution.

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A statement by LAANE: Los Angeles for a New Economy.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 29, 2018

Contact: Haley Potiker – 714-457-2852hpotiker@laane.org

Parents Are Standing Tall as LAUSD Board of Education Votes in Favor of Charter Moratorium

Los Angeles parents who were leaders in teachers’ strike support celebrate an important step towards regulating the charter industry

LOS ANGELES — Parents who spent much of the last few years organizing for better charter industry regulation declared victory this afternoon as the school board voted 5-to-1 in favor of a resolution to impose a moratorium on new charter schools in LAUSD. Board Member Nick Melvoin was the lone “no” vote.

“We came to this meeting to hold the board accountable to the agreement they made with the teachers,” said Alicia Baltazar, a parent at Fries Avenue Elementary School in Wilmington. “It is gratifying to see that all but one member of the board were able to make good on an important promise they made to the community.”

The vote comes two weeks after a tentative agreement was struck between UTLA and LAUSD, which included a commitment by the district to ask the state of California to impose a moratorium on charter growth in LAUSD.

“We want all our children to have the opportunity to learn and succeed in school. But in our neighborhoods, LAUSD can open a new charter school without considering how it affects other public schools, even other charter schools,” Baltazar said. “Today’s vote gets us one step closer to ensuring that LAUSD will better regulate the charter industry so that we can protect funding for our existing schools.”

# # #

Founded in 2016, Reclaim Our Schools LA is a broad-based coalition of parents, educators, students, and community members working to improve access and advance opportunities in public education for all students in Los Angeles. This event is a part of a series actions that will take place in the coming week in support of the demands being advanced by Los Angeles teachers, parents and community groups.  

 

                                                        
Haley Potiker
Communications Specialist
E hpotiker@LAANE.org
T 213.977.9400 x114
M 714.457.2852

                                                        

 

464 Lucas Ave. Suite 202

Los Angeles, CA 90017

www.laane.org 

 

In a stunning turn of events, the Los Angeles Unified School District board passed a resolution asking for a moratorium on new charter schools.

https://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-edu-lausd-teachers-contract-vote-20190128-story.html

This was part of the new contract with the UTLA, the United Teachers of LA, but many observers predicted that the board would never pass the resolution because four of its six members were elected by the charter lobby’s money.

Apparently the only no vote was cast by Nick Melvoin, whose campaign received more than $5 million from the charter advocates.

More than 1,000 charter students and parents massed outside the building to oppose the moratorium, although none of their schools would be affected by it. They were brought out by charter operators hoping to open more charters, even though 82% of current charters have vacancies, according to board member Scott Schmerelson.

The decision about a moratorium will be made by the legislature.

 

This is a shocking development: The infamous billionaire Koch brothers have a plan to disrupt American education, beginning with five states.

Their goal is to break up the public education system and enable public funding to flow to every kind of school, whether religious, private, homeschooling, for-profit, anything and everything. They call it “educational pluralism.” At the Koch Conference last year (700 people who paid $100,000 to attend), they declared that K-12 schooling was “the lowest hanging fruit,” and they planned to enter the field to disrupt public schools. Their ally Betsy DeVos paved the way.

The Koch brothers are living proof that this country needs a new tax structure to disrupt their billions, which they use to destroy whatever belongs to the public.

The Washington Post reports:

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — The donor network led by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch will launch a new organization next month to focus on changing K-12 education as we know it.

The effort will begin as a pilot project focused on five states with a combined school-age population of 16 million kids, but officials said Monday that they aren’t ready to identify them yet because they’re still finalizing partnerships with some of the country’s leading educational organizations.

The still-unnamed entity purportedly plans to focus on three buckets: changing public policy to address “the root causes” of failing schools, developing new technologies to promote individualized learning, and investing in teachers and classrooms.

The announcement came Monday at the end of a three-day seminar where 634 donors who have each committed to contribute at least $100,000 annually to Koch-linked groups gathered under palm trees at a luxury resort in the Coachella Valley.

The Koch team is modeling its amped-up education efforts on its successful overhaul of the criminal justice system, which began in friendly states before moving to the federal level. In that case, Koch World sought out unlikely allies and played the long game for years before any big legislation passed.

In the past, most conversations about education at these twice-annual Koch confabs have quickly turned into bashing teachers unions. So it was notable when Brian Hooks, the chairman of the Koch network, went out of his way to praise teachers and acknowledge that many have been picketing recently.

“For too long, this issue has been framed unnecessarily as us vs. them, public vs. private, teacher vs. student, parent vs. administrator,” Hooks told a ballroom of donors. “The teachers who have expressed frustration in the past several months are good people. I mean, they’re teachers. We all remember the positive impact that a teacher or several teachers have had on our lives. They’re expressing legitimate concerns. But the current approach means that nobody wins, so they need better options.”

Hooks recognizes that many will question their motives, but he said the goal is to “really shake things up” by “coming alongside concerned teachers” to “find a better way.” Teachers union leaders, who are closely aligned with the Democratic Party, have accused the Koch groups of trying to undermine traditional public schools. Koch and his allies say the system is broken and requires wholesale changes. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been a longtime ally of the network.

“This is a tough one, no doubt,” Hooks said. “It’s a challenge that a whole lot of people look at and say is impossible. But we see a tremendous opportunity to unite people to help ensure that every kid has the opportunity to succeed.”

Philanthropist Stacy Hock of Austin, a major Koch donor who has been funding education efforts at the state level in Texas for years, says that traditional forms of classroom instruction encourage “soul-crushing” conformity, and she has emerged as an outspoken advocate of “personalized learning.”

“Families are getting more and more comfortable with experimenting and taking risks,” she said on the sidelines of the meeting. “Education should be getting way, way better and way, way cheaper, but the opposite is happening.”

Hock said the new Koch initiative, as it ramps up, will identify what’s working at the local level and push for those things to be replicated elsewhere. “What we’re seeing all across the country are little flames,” she said. “What I don’t yet know is how to throw gasoline on all those flames….

— Previewing their K-12 push, Koch strategists pointed to research being conducted with their financial support by Ashley Berner at Johns Hopkins University’s Institute for Education Policy. Her main interest is expanding what she calls “educational pluralism,” which is when the government funds all types of schools, including explicitly religious ones, but does not necessarily run them.

“Berner points to examples such as the Netherlands, which funds 36 different types of schools, from Islamic to Jewish Orthodox to socialist,” the Charles Koch Foundation notes in a summary of her work. “Alberta, Canada, funds homeschooling along with Inuit, Jewish, and secular schools. In Australia, the central government is the nation’s top funder of independent schools. Other countries with plural school systems include Denmark, Finland, Germany, and Sweden.”

“It’s the democratic norm around the world. In pluralism, choice and accountability are two sides of the same coin,” said Berner, who wrote a book in 2017 called “Pluralism and American Public Education: No One Way to School.” “We’ve got to start supporting politicians who are willing to make compromises. Americans are tired of the battles between charters and district schools; these take up too much energy and resources. A pluralistic system doesn’t pit entire sectors against one another.”

 

 

 

Harold Meyerson of The American Prospect writes about the unique power of the youngest freshman in Congress:

 

AOC’s Achievement: Making Americans’ Progressive Beliefs Politically Acceptable. Of all the reasons that Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is driving the right crazy, one of the most important is this: She’s advancing presumably radical ideas (by the right’s standards, anyway) that actually have massive public support.

Green New Deal? Fuzzy though its meanings may be, it brings together regional development policies for the huge region of the country that private capital has long since abandoned, climate change policies in a nation where climate-change apprehension is at an all-time high, full employment and decent wage policies for a nation where even voters in Republican states are casting ballots for higher wages and better jobs. Before AOC, whose radar was a Green New Deal even on? Since she joined the protestors in Nancy Pelosi’s office, a far-flung majority of Americans now see it as a way to address all manner of problems.

Likewise with taxing the rich. When AOC made the case for a 70 percent tax rate on annual income over the $10 million threshold, CNN’s Anderson Cooper responded as if she’d just called for collective farms. Now that Senator Elizabeth Warren is proposing a wealth tax that would compel the rich to pay an even fairer share of their bounty to support the common good, pundits are beginning to notice that the public has been supporting much higher taxes on the rich for a very long time. Since 2003, Gallup has annually asked the public whether they believe the level of taxes the rich pay is too high, too low or just right. The percentage saying “too low” has been in the 60-percent-to-70-percent range every year.

So it’s not hard to see why AOC is driving the right crazy. Forget the dancing, not to mention the racism and sexism that underpins many of the right’s complaints. It’s that she’s giving voice to progressive ideas that the public actually supports but that have long gone unvoiced by nearly everyone in power who has a megaphone they could use. She’s game-changingly brilliant at promoting progressive public policy. To the right, if I may steal from the Bard, such women are dangerous. ~ HAROLD MEYERSON

 

 

Jan Resseger spent her professional life as a social justice crusader in Ohio, fighting for equitable treatment of all children, especially the most vulnerable. Since her retirement, she has written powerful and significant posts about children, education, and equity. Ohio and the nation needs to hear her clear voice.

She attended a session at the Cleveland City Club to hear Linda Darling-Hammond speak. The Cleveland City Club is one of the most prestigious speaking platforms in the country. The civic and political elite gather  to listen.

Jan expected to hear LDH speak about equity, racism, about policies that harm children of color and punish them for being poor. For someone like Jan, LDH is an icon, a clarion voice for the children left behind.

Jan expected that LDH would talk about equity, racism, and the policies needed to create a fairer education policy for all children.

What she heard instead was a lecture on social-emotional learning.

Jan was disappointed. 

LDH expressed her confidence that the harsh accountability measures of NCLB were fading away, replaced by ESSA.

But Ohio, writes Jan, is still locked in the NCLB era.

She wrote:

“Despite that Darling-Hammond told us she believes the kind of punitive high-stakes school accountability prescribed by No Child Left Behind is fading, state-imposed sanctions based on aggregate standardized test scores remain the drivers of Ohio public school policy. Here are some of our greatest challenges:

  • Under a Jeb Bush-style Third Grade Guarantee, Ohio still retains third graders for another year of third grade when their reading test scores are too low. This is despite years of academic research demonstrating that retaining children in a grade for an additional year smashes their self esteem and exacerbates the chance they will later drop out of school without graduating.  This policy runs counter to anything resembling social-emotional learning.
  • Even though the federal government has ended the Arne Duncan requirement that states use students’ standardized test scores to evaluate teachers, in Ohio, students’ standardized test scores continue to be used for the formal evaluations of their teachers.  The state has reduced the percentage of weight students’ test scores play in teachers’ formal evaluations, but students’ test scores continue to play a role.
  • Aggregate student test scores remain the basis of the state’s branding and ranking of our public schools and school districts with letter grades—A-F,  with attendant punishments for the schools and school districts that get Fs.
  • When a public school is branded with an F, the students in that so-called “failing” school qualify for an Ed Choice Voucher to be used for private school tuition. And the way Ohio schools are funded ensures that in most cases, local levy money in addition to state basic aid follows that child.
  • Ohio permits charter school sponsors to site privately managed charter schools in so-called “failing” school districts. The number of these privatized schools is expected to rise next year when a safe-harbor period (that followed the introduction of a new Common Core test) ends.  Earlier this month, the Plain Dealer reported: “Next school year, that list of ineffective schools (where students will qualify for Ed Choice Vouchers) balloons to more than 475… The growth of charter-eligible districts grew even more, from 38 statewide to 217 for next school year. Once restricted to only urban and the most-struggling districts in Ohio, charter schools can now open in more than a third of the districts in the state.”
  •  If a school district is rated “F” for three consecutive years, a law pushed through in the middle of the night by former Governor John Kasich and his allies subjects the district to state takeover. The school board is replaced with an appointed Academic Distress Commission which replaces the superintendent with an appointed CEO.  East Cleveland this year will join Youngstown and Lorain, now three years into their state takeovers—without academic improvement in either case.
  • All this punitive policy sits on top of what many Ohioans and their representatives in both political parties agree has become an increasingly inequitable school funding distribution formula. Last August, after he completed a new study of the state’s funding formula, Columbus school finance expert, Howard Fleeter described Ohio’s current method of funding schools to the Columbus Dispatch: “The formula itself is kind of just spraying money in a not-very-targeted way.”

“Forty-two minutes into the video of last Friday’s City Club address by Darling-Hammond, when a member of the Ohio State Board of Education, Meryl Johnson [a member of the State Board of Education] asked the speaker to comment on Ohio’s state takeovers of so called “failing” school districts, Darling-Hammond briefly addressed the tragedy of the kind of punitive systems that now dominate Ohio’s public school policy: “We have been criminalizing poverty in a lot of different ways, and that is one of them… There’s about a .9 correlation between the level of poverty and test scores.  So, if the only thing you measure is the absolute test score, then you’re always going to have the high poverty communities at the bottom and then they can be taken over.” But rather than address Ohio’s situation directly, Darling-Hammond continued by describing value-added ratings of schools which she implied could instead be used to measure what the particular school contributes to learning, and then she described the educational practices in other countries she has studied.”