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The Ratliff family in Texas are heroes of public education, they are moderate Republicans, and they been steadfast advocates for public schools.

They recently co-wrote an article that explains why vouchers are the wrong path for Texas.

“Bill Ratliff of Mount Pleasant is a former state senator and lieutenant governor of Texas; Thomas Ratliff of Mount Pleasant represents District 9 on the State Board of Education; state Rep. Bennett Ratliff of Coppell represents District 115 in the Texas House.”

Tom Ratliff, a member of the Texas state Board of Education, wrote this article for the Longview News-Journal. It is a warning to parents not to assume that charter schools are better than public schools. On average, he says, the opposite is true.


Public schools ranked higher for financial accountability:


During the 2012-13 school year (the most recent year of the rating), Texas’ traditional public schools far outperformed charter schools in both academic and financial measurements. Don’t take my word for it, look at the information straight from the Texas Education Agency:
Financial accountability:
Academic accountability:
To summarize these reports, I offer the following:
The FIRST rating is the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas and, according to the education agency, is designed to “encourage public schools to better manage their financial resources in order to provide the maximum allocation possible for direct instructional purposes.” I think we all agree, that’s a good thing to measure.
According to the agency, the FIRST rating uses 20 “established financial indicators, such as operating expenditures for instruction, tax collection rates, student-teacher ratios, and long-term debt.” How did the schools do? Glad you asked.
Traditional ISDs: 89 percent ranked “superior” and 1.2 percent ranked “substandard.”
Charter schools: 37 percent ranked “superior” and 20 percent ranked “substandard.”
Yes, one out of five charter schools ranked “substandard” on how they spend the tax dollars supporting them, while almost 9 out of 10 ISDs ranked “superior”.


And public schools outperform charter schools academically too:


Let’s shift our attention to academic performance. If the academic performance is good, the taxpaying public might be more understanding of a low rating on a financial measure. Unfortunately, the charters do not compare well there, either, under the 2014 TEA Accountability System.
Traditional ISDs: 92.6 percent met standard, while 7.4 percent did not.
Charter schools 77.7 percent met standard, while 17.3 percent did not.
Again, almost one out of five charter schools failed to meet the state’s academic standards.


And then Tom Ratliff asks the best question of all:


“Where is the outrage from groups like the Texas Association of Business or the Austin Chamber of Commerce?” Those groups rarely miss an opportunity to criticize the shortcomings of traditional ISDs. Why not express concerns when numbers like these relate to charter schools? If these numbers were attributable to ISDs, you can bet those groups would be flying planes around the Capitol and holding press conferences like they have in the past. A little consistency would be nice when asking for taxpayer-funded schools to perform as expected.”


Ratliff points out that his father wrote the original charter law. It is refreshing to see a policymaker looking at the data and seeing that competition does not translate into better education or more accountability. By the way, Tom’s father Bill Ratliff –former Lieutenant Governor of Texas–is already a member of the blog’s honor roll for his willingness to speak up and think for himself. A good Texas family.

What is not to love about Monica?

She beat the Billionaires Boys Club, which had assembled a massive campaign fund to defeat her.

She was trained as a lawyer, worked in civil rights law, then became a teacher.

She has taught for 12 years in a high-poverty school.

She won election to the LAUSD school board as a long-shot underdog.

Here she gently explains to a host on the Fox Morning Show that all the claims he has heard about the public schools of Los Angeles and about teachers are not true. She patiently explains how excited teachers are to return to their classes, how they pay for supplies out of their own pockets, and how dedicated they are to the success of their students.

Go, Monica, go!

Since she upset the heavily-funded favorite in the recent Los Angeles school board runoff, many eyes are on Monica Ratliff.

Some of her supporters were concerned when she appeared at an event where the Gates-funded Educators for Excellence presented a report on teacher evaluation. The event was attended by Superintendent John Deasy and school board president Monica Garcia, an ally of Deasy.

Immediately the tweets began to fly claiming that Ratliff supported paying teachers by student test scores. Some worried that she had crossed over to the side that opposed her in the election.


I wrote Monica Ratliff, we had a candid conversation, and Monica advised that we should judge her by her votes as a board member, not by tweets that did not come from her.

She wrote:

“Dear Diane,

“When I advocate for fixing the LAUSD teacher evaluation system and professional development system, I am NOT advocating that we link test scores to monetary gain for teachers or administrators.

“Across LA, there are public schools where scores have been rising over the years sans any monetary gain for teachers or administrators. If we link test scores to monetary gain, I have no doubt that we will see some increases in test scores but at what cost and by what means?


Mónica Ratliff

I received a letter from a veteran teacher who recognized herself as my teacher Mrs. Ratliff, whom I wrote about in chapter 9 of my recent book The Death and Life of the Great American School System. When I read about all the schemes to measure the worth of students by the test scores of their students, I thought about Mrs. Ratliff, who was both my homeroom teacher and my literature teacher. She had high standards, she was no-nonsense, she demanded the best of her students, and students lined up to get into her classes. I wondered if there would be more Mrs. Ratliffs, in light of the new demand that everything and everyone be measured by standardized tests. Mrs. Ratliff didn’t give any standardized tests. I wondered what she would think of the autocratic, mindless new world in which we live now.

Beverly Hart wrote (and I post here with her permission):

Dear Diane:

I was reading your latest book and came to the chapter “What Would Mrs. Ratliff Do?” The more I read about her, the more I realized that I was reading about myself! I was stunned to see the parallels: I teach high school English (and U.S. History), I insist on accuracy in students’ writing (do it over until you get it right), I wield a hefty red pen, I am stingy with A’s (you really have to earn an A, none of this grade inflation), and I love teaching the great writers and thinkers. (For many years I also taught Latin until, unfortunately, it died out.)

I am in my 45th year of teaching at the same small rural high school in central Illinois and am teaching children of my former students. I believe passionately in the value of a strong public education system, and I am troubled when bureaucrats who really know nothing about teaching proscribe from on high and reduce the art and science of teaching to standardized test scores that are based on many untenable assumptions. I feel like an anachronism as I try to uphold standards of excellence in a world of mediocrity.

I know why I have continued to teach for these many years—it’s all about my students. I get positive feedback from former students who have gone on to success in higher education and in careers. “Thank you, Mrs. Hart, for teaching me how to write” is an oft-heard comment. I also have my current students evaluate my classes anonymously. Recently my American Studies students (a double period class that integrates American literature and U.S. History) evaluated how the class was going so far after the first 9 week grading period. “I love this class” appeared on several papers. “You can definitely tell you enjoy teaching this class” wrote one student. “You really know your stuff. I’m excited to have a teacher who loves history so much” wrote another. “I appreciate your passion in this class. I come in here every day, and I learn” stated another student. I have a whole file bulging with student evaluations, but one comment has really stuck with me: “A very good teacher, the kind of teacher that makes it worth coming to school.” No standardized test can ever measure the impact of the Mrs. Ratliffs of the world.

For 14 years I served on the Board of Education in my home district and am now also an assistant principal with a focus on curriculum and professional development (in addition to a full teaching load). I certainly give the taxpayers their money’s worth. When students attempt to dissuade me from giving them an assignment, I remind them that I have to give them their money’s worth. Groans and the rolling of eyes follow this lecture about no free lunch.

Well, I have rambled on, and now it is time to close. I admire your taking a stand and speaking out on the state of public education in this country. I remain a strong advocate of a quality public education system that has made this country great.


Beverly Hart

Imagine this: a candidate for the school board who was constantly thinking of students, not hoping for a political stepping stone.

Imagine this: a candidate who thinks of students–not in the abstract–but as real children with names and faces, children she knows.

Imagine this: a candidate who doesn’t make absurd campaign promises because she understands the problems and needs of children, teachers, and schools.

That’s Monica Ratliff. She hated asking people for money. She taught her class every day instead of campaigning. She didn’t wring her hands and long for someone who had the power to make changes that helped students and teachers and schools..

She took responsibility and ran for the Los Angeles school board. She was the longest of long shots. She didn’t have powerful backers. She was outspent nearly 50-1. And she won. She is the real deal.

She is a challenge to the status quo.

She is the embodiment of the famous statement by Margaret Mead:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Howard Blume has a terrific article
explaining how Monica Ratliff beat Antonio Sanchez and his multi-million $$$ campaign fund.

Sanchez had millions of dollars, a large staff, the endorsement of the LA Democratic Party (thanks, Mayor Villarigosa), and major labor unions.

Monica raised $52,000, had no paid staff, and taught her class every day. She never told her students that she was running for office.

Howard neglected to mention the contributions that came to Monica from teachers across America–in denominations of $10, $25, $50, and the endorsement by the Network for Public Education.

Monica Ratliff won by the same margin of victory as Steve Zimmer, 52-48.

Zimmer had the full support of the UTLA.

Ratliff did not.

UTLA gave her a contribution of $1,000, but endorsed both candidates.

On election night, UTLA leaders were seen at Sanchez headquarters.

What gives?

How do you spell “egg on your face?”

Monica Ratliff won a historic upset in Los Angeles!

She won with 52% of the vote!

She had less than $50,000 in small contributions.

Her opponent Antonio Sanchez had the support of billionaire Eli Broad, billionaire Michael Bloomberg, and organized labor groups.

People power beat money power!!!

The run-off for Los Angeles school board is Tuesday May 21.

As Howard Blume’s excellent overview in the Los Angeles Times shows, Monica Ratliff is clearly the better candidate. She is an experienced teacher who understands the needs of children and the schools.

She has raised $42,000.

Her opponent has great political contacts. He worked for Mayor Villaraigosa. His qualifications to sit on the city school board are nil, although it is true that he was once a student.

He has raised, with the help of the Mayor, more than $3 million.

Will money decide the election?

The choice is clear.

If you live in their district, please take the time to vote for Monica.