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Commonweal editors mark the departure of Scott Walker from the 2016 field with relief.

“The departure of Gov. Scott Walker from the Republican race for president should come as a relief to American working people. His campaign against public-employee unions in his home state of Wisconsin, underwritten by billionaire businessmen Charles and David Koch, proved devastatingly effective, and his goal was to take it nationwide. Not that he was the only Republican candidate to take aim at what is, by general agreement, a fading target—organized labor as both a political force and an advocate for workers is perhaps weaker now than it’s ever been. But Walker, even more than fellow Republican Chris Christie, had been especially vocal in demonizing unions. That put him at odds with many of his fellow citizens: Support for unions has been rising since 2008, according to an August Gallup survey, with 58 percent of Americans—and 42 percent of Republican voters—now viewing them favorably.

“A plan Walker issued days before stepping down, costumed in the rhetoric of freedom, flexibility, and expanded opportunity, was essentially a proposal for finishing off organized labor once and for all. Its title was “Power to the People, Not the Union Bosses,” as if Walter Reuther and Albert Shanker still strode the land, legions of auto-workers and schoolteachers massed behind them. Empowering people, in Walker’s view, would mean abolishing the National Labor Relations Board, rewriting federal law to make Right to Work “the default position for all private, state, and public-sector workers,” replacing overtime pay with unpaid time off, and stripping employees of their ability to bargain collectively. The plan appears to have died with Walker’s candidacy. But its spirit is very much alive among many in the GOP—those who recall Ronald Reagan’s decision in 1981 to fire eleven thousand employees in the air-traffic controllers union the way some remember, say, the establishment of Social Security. That they speak so cynically about labor is not surprising. That Democrats seem to speak so little of it is not reassuring.

“According to the Economic Policy Institute, since the beginning of the “Reagan Revolution” in 1980, American workers have seen their hourly wages stagnate or decline, while real gross domestic product has grown by nearly 150 percent and net productivity by 64 percent in this period. More and more of the jobs Americans hold today come without reliable, living wages or benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, training, and job security. Measures like Walker’s aren’t meant to improve things, but rather accelerate what began some time ago. The decoupling of wages and benefits from productivity has been evident over the past two decades, according to the EPI, a period that has “coincided with the passage of many policies that explicitly aimed to erode the bargaining power of low- and moderate-wage workers in the labor market.”

Most of the time, we engage in covil discourse, even with people whom we know are rigid ideologues whose minds are blted closed. but every once in a while, someone opens a window and yells out, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.” And they say what’s really on their mind.

Rep. Brian Sims did that in Pennsylvania recently. He called out the conservative Comminwealth Foundation after he received a mailing from it. He wrote on his Facebook page:

“See, I already know that you are all racist, homophobic, sexist, classist, ableist, anti-American, bigots whose single driving motivation is to secure the wealth of your multimillionaire donors at the expense of every single working person and family in the Commonwealth. See, I told you I already get it so you don’t need to waste money sending me proof…actually go ahead and waste that money!”

Thanks to reader GST for bringing this important story to our attention: a court in Pennsylvania ruled that the School Reform Commission may not cancel the contract of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. This is a battle that has gone on for two years, as the unelected School Reform Commission looks for ways to cut the budget. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia schools are suffering from former Governor Tom Corbett’s deep budget cuts, and the Legislature has refused to fulfill its responsibility to the children of Philadelphia.

 

Commonwealth Court judges have handed a win to the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, ruling that the School Reform Commission cannot throw out the teachers’ union’s contract and impose new terms.

 

The decision was confirmed by Jerry Jordan, PFT president, on Thursday morning.

 

“This is a very big victory,” Jordan said.

 

After nearly two years of negotiations, the district had moved on Oct. 6 to cancel the teachers’ contract and impose health-benefits changes that would save the cash-strapped system $54 million annually, officials said.
In the decision, judges said that neither the state Public School Code nor the Legislature have expressly given the SRC the power to cancel its teachers’ contract.

 

“This Court is cognizant of the dire financial situation which the Districtcurrently faces and the SRC’s extensive efforts to achieve the overall goal of properlyand adequately meeting the educational needs of the students,” Judge Patricia A. McCullough wrote for the court. “There have been numerous difficult decisions that the SRC has been forced to make in an effort to overcome these economic hurdles, including a one-third reduction in staff and theclosing of 31 schools in recent years.”

 

But the law does not give the SRC the power to cancel a collective bargaining agreement.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/school_files/District-cant-impose-contract-court-rules.html#GVqP31QcrCMOdFmZ.99

Hillary Clinton’s choice for her running mate is Tim Kaine, Senator from Virginia. Tim Kaine is one of the few people in American politics who has been elected mayor (of Richmond, Virginia), governor, and senator.

He is also a steadfast supporter of public education, even though he graduated from a Jesuit high school. His own children attended primarily black schools in Richmond. His wife is now Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virgina.

This is what he wrote three years ago about his life as a public school parent in Richmond.

Anne and I are now empty-nesters. Combined, our three kids spent 40 school years in the Richmond Public Schools. While we both interact with the school system in our professional lives, we’ve learned even more from back-to-school nights, parent-teacher conferences, attending school events and pulling crumpled notes to parents out of our kids’ backpacks. The lessons learned as parents have made me think about what works and what doesn’t work in Pre-K-12 education. Here are seven changes I’d like to see:

It’s about the individual!

Most policy debate these days seems to be about charter schools or high-stakes testing. But I’m convinced that the most important reform has been under our noses since 1975, when legislation was passed to guarantee children with diagnosed disabilities receive individualized learning plans tailored to meet their specific needs.

Each child brings a mix of strengths and challenges to the classroom. Let’s use the insight gained through advances in educating kids with disabilities to leverage new technologies and teaching methods that can individualize learning for each child.

Early childhood education works

My daughter was able to attend a year of high-quality pre-K in our city schools. This experience made me a believer, and it’s one of the reasons why I greatly expanded pre-K for at-risk 4 year olds when I was governor.
The research is powerful — if you invest in high-quality programs that coordinate with K-12 curricula and have mandatory teacher standards, the gains from early education are lasting. It’s also important that we focus on coordinating investments made in early childhood programs — such as Head Start — to ensure we are effectively using our funding, eliminating any waste and bolstering the structure of our education system.

The article goes on to add other recommendations, including the importance of arts education and the necessity of reducing testing.

His article ended like this:

Finally, a note of gratitude. Our kids were blessed to have many wonderful teachers. There were some weak ones, but RPS teachers were mostly solid, some spectacular and a few life-changing for our children. As I listen to public debate, it often sounds like our main issue is how to get rid of bad teachers. But this problem pales beside the larger issue of how to keep good teachers.

Too many great prospective teachers never enter the profession and too many great teachers leave too early over low salaries, high-stakes testing pressure, discipline challenges and an overall belief that society doesn’t value the profession. We need a robust debate about how to value and attract good teachers.

Better yet, Tim Kaine’s wife Anne is a long-time champion for children and for public schools. Reformers will not find an ally in her. She cares about children and has a deep commitment to improving their lives.

As a schoolgirl in 1970, she was on the front lines of the fight to desegregate Virginia’s public schools. Holton is the daughter of Virginia Gov. A. Linwood Holton (R), who championed integration in a state that was known for its vigorous efforts to resist it. To drive home this point, he sent his daughters to a historically all-black Richmond City public school, escorting Anne Holton’s sister to class in a gesture captured in a historic photograph.

“I have spent much of my working life focused on children and families at the margin, with full appreciation of the crucial role education can and must play in helping young people escape poverty and become successful adults,” Holton wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in June 2015.

Holton and Kaine also sent their three children, who are now grown, to Richmond public schools.

The pair met at Harvard Law School, from which they both graduated. She became a legal aid lawyer representing low-income clients in Richmond and eventually a judge in the city’s juvenile and domestic relations court. She stepped down when her husband was elected governor in 2005 and as first lady made a priority of finding and stabilizing homes for teens in foster care.

She continued to work on improving opportunities for foster youth after Kaine left the governor’s office.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) chose her as the state’s education secretary in 2014. In that role, she has worked to reform a standardized testing regime that had been criticized as unnecessarily time-consuming and onerous.

“Teachers are teaching to the tests. Students’ and teachers’ love of learning and teaching are sapped,” she wrote in 2015. “Most troublesome, Virginia’s persistent achievement gaps for low-income students have barely budged,” she continued, arguing that “our high-stakes approach” with testing has made it more difficult to persuade the best teachers to work in the most difficult, impoverished schools….

She continued to work on improving opportunities for foster youth after Kaine left the governor’s office.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) chose her as the state’s education secretary in 2014. In that role, she has worked to reform a standardized testing regime that had been criticized as unnecessarily time-consuming and onerous.

“Teachers are teaching to the tests. Students’ and teachers’ love of learning and teaching are sapped,” she wrote in 2015. “Most troublesome, Virginia’s persistent achievement gaps for low-income students have barely budged,” she continued, arguing that “our high-stakes approach” with testing has made it more difficult to persuade the best teachers to work in the most difficult, impoverished schools.

Tim and Anne will be great advocates for public schools. Unlike many reformers, who never set foot in a public school, they actually know from personal experience what they are talking about.

Foundations are tax-exempt because they are supposed to do good works on behalf of society. But more and more foundations are putting their vast, untaxed wealth into the national effort to undermine public education and to hand it over to entrepreneurs, amateurs, fast-buck operators, and religious institutions. Privatization does not promote the common good. Privatization is harmful to the commonweal.

Tom Ultican, a high school teacher of advanced math and physics, takes a look at the powerful San Diego Foundation. Sadly, most of its funding in education goes to nonpublic schools. Public schools seem to be an afterthought.

He writes:

San Diego Foundation was established in 1975 and has grown to almost $700 million in assets. It’s self-described purpose: “As one of the nation’s leading community foundations, The San Diego Foundation strives to improve San Diegans’ quality of life by creating equity and ensuring opportunities to be WELL (Work, Enjoy, Live & Learn).” In 2014, they gave over $10 million to educational endeavors. The following table illustrates the spending bias against public education.

Of that $10 million, only $373,000 went to public schools. That’s odd, because the overwhelming majority of children in San Diego attend the neglected public schools.

Another favorite recipient of San Diego Foundation funds is competency-based education. The goal of CBE is to put every child on a computer. We know from multiple studies that children learn best from human teachers who respond to them. Yet the San Diego Foundation has jumped on the Bandwagon to Nowhere.

And here is another strange pattern:

The largest single grant bestowed by the SD Foundation was $2,6 5 0,7 0 9 to the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego. The JC Foundation had net assets at the end of 2014 of $171,593,990.

The Jewish Community Foundation spending on education follows a similar pattern as the San Diego Foundation. They spent $466,830 for groups working to privatize public education most of which went to TFA ($406,330). They also spent lavishly on private schools including $146,000 to La Jolla Country Day, a decidedly upscale K-12 private school.

By far the largest grant by the Jewish Community Foundation was the $25,817,228 bequeathed to University of California San Diego. A major patron of both the Jewish Community Foundation and UCSD is the Qualcomm founder and billionaire, Irwin Jacobs.

Three more grants from the Jewish Community Foundation were interesting. They gave Cornell University $5,511,000. They also gave the Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund $6,362,171. The Goldman Sachs fund asset total at the end of 2013 was $1,500,395,380. And the JC Foundation gave the SD Foundation $1,515,800. Why give money back? It is like the Charter School Growth Fund giving their benefactors from Walmart $15,000,000 in 2013. Why?

Why would any foundation give a donation to the Goldman Sachs fund, which has assets of $1.5 billion? Puzzling.

The arrogance of the charter industry is getting to be boundless. They want the authority to expand without limits, with no accountability or transparency.

If the Democrats don’t stand up to this brazen effort to privatize public education, who will?

Steven Singer writes here about the latest raid on the public treasury in Pennsylvania.

Singer writes:

Fund my charter school.

Come on, Pennsylvania.

Let me just swipe tax dollars you set aside to educate your children and put them into my personal bank account as profit.

Please!

I’ll be your best friend. Or at least I’ll be your legislator’s best friend.

Chances are, I already am.

That’s why lawmakers in Harrisburg are once again looking to pass a school code bill (House Bill 530) that would let charter schools expand exponentially almost completely unchecked and without having to do any of that nasty, sticky accountability stuff you demand of your traditional public schools.

Sure there are a few provisions in there to make charters fill out more paperwork, but the benefits for privatization and profitization of your child’s education are huge!

For me, that is. For your child, not so much.

For instance, the proposed legislation would set up a charter school funding advisory commission. This august body would have many duties including the ability to authorize charter schools in your local school district.

No longer would prospective charter operators have to come before your duly-elected board members and plead and beg to set up shop and suck away hard to come by education funding. They could just appear before the commission and sidestep your local democracy completely.

Who will be on this commission? I’m glad you asked.

We’ve got eight legislators. Got to give THEM a voice. But they’re usually pretty cheap. A few bucks in the re-election campaign and we’ll be golden. We’ll also have the state secretary of education and the chairman of the state board. We’ve got to make the thing look legit, right?

But here’s the best part! We’ll have four public education representatives and FIVE representatives of the charter school industry!

Isn’t that great!? There are significantly more traditional public schools throughout the state, but they’ll have less representation on the commission! It’s stacked with charter friendly votes! The forces of privatization have a built-in majority! Ring the dinner bell, Baby! Once this bill gets passed, it’s charter school time all across the Commonwealth!

Once a charter school is authorized, it can expand as much as it wants, without the local district’s permission. It can even enroll students from outside the district and charge the district!

Worse, the bill authorizes “education savings accounts,” a euphemism for vouchers.

Is the Pennsylvania legislature is a wholly-owned subsidiary of ALEC and the privatization movement.

The Network for Public Education is encouraging people who live in Pennsylvania to be informed and get involved. Don’t let them destroy public education that your community paid for. The schools belong to the public–or they should. Don’t let the privatizers take them away.

If you live in Pennsylvania, please, contact your legislators and ask them to oppose this terrible bill. The Network for Public Education has made it very easy. Just click HERE and you can shoot off a letter to your representatives in moments.

Oppose HB 530. Fight for public education.

Articles like this are sad and even sickening. It is the story of a 29-year veteran in Brookline, Massachusetts, who teaches first grade. He is leaving.

It is outrageous to see beloved, dedicated teachers leave the classroom. Yet when you think of the steady barrage of hostile propaganda directed at them by the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, D.C. think tanks, and others, you can understand why they find it impossible to stay. I hope there is a new wave of articles about teachers who said: No matter what, I will not leave! I love my kids! I love my work! I will not let the reformers drive me away!

David Weinstein is throwing in the towel. He is in his early 50s. He shouldn’t be leaving so soon. He explains how teaching has changed, how much pressure is on the children, how much time is wasted collecting data that doesn’t help him as a teacher or his students.

He sums up:

I guess the big-picture problem is that all this stuff we’re talking about here is coming from on top, from above, be it the federal government, the commonwealth of Massachusetts, the school administration. But the voices of teachers are lost. I mean, nobody talks to teachers. Or, if they do talk to teachers, they’re not listening to teachers.

Barbara Madeloni, the firebrand insurgent who won the presidency of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, was re-elected last week on a platform of fighting high-stakes testing and charters.

 

Madeloni first rose to prominence in 2012 when she fought the EdTPA, the Pearson test required for certification. She refused to administer it to her students and lost her job (she later regained it, then took an unpaid leave, then lost it again, but may be rehire again, or maybe not.)

 

At that time, she said about teacher certification:

 

““This is something complex and we don’t like seeing it taken out of human hands,” said Barbara Madeloni, who runs the university’s high school teacher training program. “We are putting a stick in the gears.”

 

Last week, the MTA filed an amicus brief as part of a lawsuit to stop the legislature from lifting the cap on charter expansion.

 

Charter advocates filed a lawsuit last year claiming that the state’s cap on charter schools violates the civil rights of students who could then not have an opportunity to attend a charter. The state attorney general, Maura Healey, filed a motion to dismiss and the Massachusetts Teachers Association just filed an amicus brief in support of the AG’s motion to dismiss. The MTA brief confronts the lie behind the charter advocates’ ‘civil rights’ argument.

 

For her fight for public schools, students, teachers, education, and democracy, I am glad to place Barbara Madeloni on the honor roll.

Denis Smith, who served in the Ohio Department Olof Education, monitoring charter schools, has often reflected on the incoherence of the basic idea of chartering schools to compete with public schools. He reminds us here of the deep divide between traditional conservatives, who try to preserve community institutions and the new market-based “conservatives,” who love disruption and count themselves successful to the extent they destroy traditional institutions, icons, and brands.

 

In this post, he analyzes a column by David Brooks about how excessive individualism is tearing apart our social fabric. Smith wonders why conservatives don’t recognize that their own ideas contribute to the attack on social cohesion.

 

He writes:

 

 

“It’s not often that some of us can find common ground with the conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks, but his recent piece warning about “four big forces coursing through modern societies” struck a chord. On the other hand, while many might agree with him on some of the causal factors of massive societal change, Brooks and his fellow conservatives may in fact be enabling or even accelerating some of this change as a result of one of their public policy positions.

 

“The column and commentary by Brooks arose from his analysis of a new book, Commonwealth and Covenant, where the author, Marcia Pally, writes about the tendency in modern life to both explore as well as be “situated” – i.e., having a sense of community.

 

“Leave it to others to dissect the long-term impact of global migration, globalization, and the Internet to transform both individuals and those political entities called nation-states. But Brooks’ exploration of the fourth big force, individual choice, should make us want to further examine his identification of choice as one of the keys to social change and instability.

 

“All of these forces have liberated the individual … but they have been bad for national cohesion and the social fabric,” he observes. Nevertheless, he continues, “The emphasis on individual choice challenges community cohesion and settled social bonds.”

 

“Brooks is concerned about a now weakened social fabric that, as a result of global migration, globalization and the Internet, might appeal to alienated youth and, as one example, make ISIS attractive for those who might opt for that fourth force – individual choice. He then asks his readers: “In a globalizing, diversifying world, how do we preserve individual freedom while strengthening social solidarity”?

 

“Pally’s individualism, or “separability,” inevitably results in undesirable outcomes, including greed and control of scarce resources, but it is not clear if Brooks clearly discerns the consequences of this in our society caused by his party’s promotion of educational choice, and how such a policy further adds stress to scarce public resources while also impairing the process of community-building.

 

“His question about how we preserve freedom serves to illustrate the certainty of unintended consequences for conservatives, viz., how can you promote the concept of choice, particularly educational choice, as a desired public policy outcome, while also warning about weakened community cohesion and a frayed, tattered, strained social fabric?

 

“Can conservatives have it both ways? Nope.

 

“If Brooks is correct when he says “We’re not going to roll back the four big forces coursing through modern societies,” why would he and his fellow Republicans nevertheless encourage further weakening community cohesion and place additional stress on our social fabric by developing a parallel system of “public” education through charters, let alone vouchers?”

 

 


Jamie Gass excoriates the Common Core standards for de-emphasizing classic literature and replacing it with informational text. The decision by state officials in Massachusetts to drop its outstanding English language arts standards–which were rich in literature–and adopt the mundane Common Core was a disservice to the children of the Commonwealth.

 

He writes:

 

“Until recently, classic literature and poetry saturated the commonwealth’s K-12 English standards. Between 2005 and 2013, Massachusetts bested every other state on the reading portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, called “the nation’s report card.” Great fiction and poetry contributed to Massachusetts’ success on virtually every K-12 reading test known to the English-speaking world.

“But in 2010, Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration succumbed to the temptation of $250 million in one-time federal grant money, killing off our edifying English standards in favor of inferior nationalized benchmarks known as Common Core. These national standards – an educational gooney bird – cut enduring fiction and poetry by 60 percent and replaced it with “informational texts.”

 

Since then, he says, Massachusetts has lost its position as first in the nation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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