Archives for category: Disruption

Leonie Haimson assesses Bill de Blasio’s record on education after eight years as Maor of New York City. He succeeded Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who served for 12 years and completely upended the schools, first, by getting the state legislature to give the mayor total control of the city’s public schools, then by closing scores of schools and replacing them with hundreds of small schools and charter schools. De Blasio had served on a local school board and offered the hope of restoring stability and ending Bloomberg’s era of constant disruption. (New York City has a two-term limit for its mayor but Bloomberg persuaded the City Council to make an exception for him and themselves).

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, reviews de Blasio’s record here.

She begins:

When he first ran for Mayor, Bill de Blasio portrayed himself as a leader who would make a host of progressive changes in our schools. He promised to be a far different leader than Michael Bloomberg, who had expanded high-stakes testing, proceeded to grade teachers and schools primarily via test scores, closed dozens of public schools displacing thousands of students, and helped charter schools expand in their place.

Bloomberg and his schools chancellors had done all this by ignoring community opposition, and despite any tangible evidence that this was the right way to improve education, particularly for disadvantaged students. Though Bloomberg had promised during his campaign to lower New York City schools’ excessive class sizes, they increased sharply during his administration, and by the time he left office he said he would “double the class size” if he could, and that would be “a good deal for the students.”

De Blasio said he would do things differently: to listen to and be responsive to parent and community concerns, de-emphasize test scores, and focus on improving public schools rather than providing space and funding to help charter schools expand. Instead of closing schools, he pledged to increase equity and strengthen learning conditions, including by lowering class sizes.

And yet his record on each of these issues was decidedly mixed. He did attain his primary goal in education – to provide universal, publicly-funded pre-kindergarten to every four-year-old, but in a manner that could have been better achieved, as will be discussed later.

There were some bright spots in the de Blasio record, including the Community Schools initiative, begun in the fall of 2014, in which schools partnered with community-based organizations to provide after-school programs, mental health supports, and other resources. By 2018, more than 200 community schools had been established. An independent study found that in these schools, there were lower rates of chronic absenteeism, more students graduating on time, and in elementary and middle schools, higher math scores and fewer disciplinary referrals.

Open the link to read the rest of this important article.

Since there is now a deep partisan divide over what happened on January 6, it’s helpful to remember that there is extensive video footage of the events. Some footage was taken by the media, some by video cameras installed in the Capitol, some by police body cameras, and some by the participants who wanted to have a record of what they did. Hundreds of arrests have been made of participants in the riot; many recorded their actions. Others were identified by friends, acquaintances, and family members who recognized faces in the video and reported them to the FBI.

Anyone who believes that nothing unusual happened in January 6 should watch these videos, as should anyone who believes the intruders were peaceful. They were not peaceful. They brutally beat officers of the law that day.

On January 6, our democracy was in peril. If the intruders had managed to capture Vice President Pence or Nancy Pelosi or any other members of Congress, there might have been political assassinations. I give Vice President Pence credit for refusing to turn the election over to Trump, as Trump wanted.

How close we came to a disaster. Imagine this mob beating, abusing, even murdering the leaders of Congress in public view. Thanks to the Capitol Police and other law officers, our nation was spared from such an atrocity.

This is the video that was shown at the first meeting—July 27, 2021– of the House Committee investigating the events of January 6. It lasts 5 minutes.

This is the Washington Post video, published on January 16, 2021. It was the first effort to provide an overall picture of what happened.

This is the New York Times’ video, probably the fullest account available. It was released June 30, 2021. It lasts 40 minutes.

This video was released by CNN on December 24, 2021. It is new video footage taken by security cameras inside the Capitol. CNN wrote:

CNN)—The Justice Department this week released a three-hour video of a battle between rioters and the police at the US Capitol Building on January 6 where rioters brandished weapons, officers were viciously beaten, and a member of the mob died on Capitol steps. The assault on the Lower West Terrace was one of the most violent confrontations between Capitol Police and the crowd. Officers held the line until the building was cleared without letting rioters inside. Some officers have since said they did not know the Capitol had already been breached in other areas. The video, taken from a Capitol security camera, does not have sound. It starts as officers retreat, helping each other as they stumble inside and washing their eyes out with water from chemical spray. Rioters crowd in behind them, coordinate efforts to attack and push through in infamous moments that have haunted the public, and officers, ever since.

The Justice Department released the videos after CNN and other outlets sued for access. It is the longest video from the riot released by the government thus far.

January 6, 2021, was the day we almost lost our democracy. Those who say that nothing happened or that the crowd was peaceful should watch the videos.

January 6 was an insurrection, planned by scoundrels to overturn the election of Joe Biden and maintain a sore loser in power, a man who knows no history and never read the Constitution that he wanted to shred. Having failed, he has spent the past year doing his best to persuade the public that our system of elections is corrupt. Having failed to destroy democracy by mob violence, he now hopes to weaken Americans’ belief in democracy itself. Trump has succeeded this far in destroying and corrupting the Republican Party, which repeats his lies and dutifully accepts his leadership. We cannot allow him or his lackeys to return to power.

After the inspiring teachers’ strike in 2019, which closed every public school in the state, the billionaire Governor Jim Justice of West Virginia promised to veto any charter school legislation. He lied. The legislation passed, and the Governor signed it.

The state established a state charter board, which proceeded to award seven charters, mostly to a for-profit charter corporation that manages low-performing charters in Ohio.

But a county judge stopped the clock by issuing an injunction to halt the new charter schools.

A Kanawha County judge has temporarily blocked five public charter schools from opening in West Virginia.

Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey granted a preliminary injunction Monday sought by parents and education union members.

They filed a lawsuit against Gov. Jim Justice and leaders of the state Senate and House.

In the suit, the plaintiffs claim residents should be able to weigh in on any charter school established in their county.

They are challenging the authority of the Professional Charter Schools Board, a group that has its members appointed by the governor.

Last month, the board approved charter schools in Morgantown, Nitro and in Jefferson County, along with two online charter schools.

The judge outlined her logic in granting the temporary injunction.

“The plain language of Article 10, Section 12 of our state constitution provides that no independent school district or organization shall hereafter be created except with the consent of the school district or districts, out of which the same is created, expressed by a majority of the voters voting on the question,” Bailey said.

One of the arguments in the lawsuit was that the transfer of the student – and the tax money that goes with that student – is the same thing as creating an independent school district, and there is a specific prohibition against that in the state constitution – unless there is a public vote.

The two parents bringing suit are members of the American Federation of Teachers union.

“It is unconstitutional to create a new school system within our current school system and that’s what this bill seems to do,” AFT-WV President Fred Albert said.

After some county school boards voted no to approving a charter school in their areas, lawmakers created the Professional Charter Schools Board, which could OK charter schools without a county school board’s approval.

State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said the injunction is wrong because acts of the Legislature are presumed to be constitutional and because the parents should have sued the charter school board not the governor and legislators. He said he will seek relief from the state Supreme Court.

Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City, announced yesterday that Bloomberg Philanthropies will spend $750 million to expand the charter school sector. Declaring that “the American public education system is tragically broken,” Bloomberg pledged to add 150,000 seats in “high-quality charter schools” over five years, with the intention of “closing the achievement gap.”

As mayor, Bloomberg had total control of the New York City public school system, which he reorganized and disrupted repeatedly. His first pick for chancellor of the schools was antitrust corporate lawyer Joel Klein, who distrusted experienced educators and turned to McKinsey and Goldman Sachs for advice. Bloomberg’s second pick for chancellor was a magazine publisher with no experience in education; she lasted just 90 days.

Bloomberg apparently decided that he couldn’t achieve sweeping change in the public schools, so he became a champion for outsourcing students to privately managed charter schools. As his press release shows, he continues to believe his own puffery. The NYC public schools continue to be plagued with crowded classrooms, while charter schools enjoy privileged status, such as co-locations inside public schools, depriving them of facilities, and rent in private spaces paid by the city.

Although the press release claims that Bloomberg’s decision is based on “evidence,” it completely ignores the large number of charter schools that close every year, the high attrition rates of charter students and teachers, and the multiple studies showing that charter schools are outperformed by public schools, except when the charters curate their enrollment to exclude students who are unlikely to succeed or conform.

One of the richest men in the world, Bloomberg loves market solutions to public problems. In his 12 years as mayor, he did not transform the public school system that he controlled. Evidently he has learned nothing about education in the eight years since he left office.

How does it help the 85-90% of students in public schools to invest in a privately run sector that, contrary to his claims, has not demonstrated success in closing the achievement gap and that poaches students and resources from public schools?

How will it “close the achievement gap” to spend $750 million to add 150,000 seats to the charter sector?

Steve Nelson, a retired educator, describes the calculated and underhanded effort to destroy public education, a ruse that proceeds by stealth and loaded language.

He begins:

The same fine folks who brought us the Critical Race Theory (CRT) scare tactic to win the Virginia gubernatorial election are now poised to bring our public education system to its knees and then put it out of its misery.

In an alarming New York Times column, Michelle Goldberg recounts an exchange with Christopher Rufo, the manipulative wizard behind the weaponizing of CRT for broad political purposes.  Rufo gleefully admits that the CRT gambit, combined with widespread pandemic frustration, provides a perfect storm for completion of the decades-long conservative goal of weakening and effectively eliminating “government schools.”

Conservatives have similarly weaponized the phrase “government schools” as an emotional trigger intended to disingenuously characterize public schools as institutional agents of a sinister plot to indoctrinate children into a socialist, anti-religion agenda that violates parental rights, freedom of choice and traditional values.  That none of this is true is of no consequence to the likes of Rufo or other conservatives.  An example of Rufo’s propaganda landed on my desktop as I wrote this post, fresh from his Twitter account: 

Language tip: school choice advocates should always say “scholarships” instead of “vouchers.” It gives a connotation of opportunity and forces our opponents to take the unenviable position of denying scholarships to families and children.

This calculated campaign gives fresh energy to persistent efforts to divert billions of tax dollars into religious education, voucher schemes and charter schools.  Despite all the claims made by charter advocates, study after study shows that public schools do as well or better than charters, even by the relatively meaningless metric of test scores.

The pandemic has turbocharged the school choice movement by also mobilizing anti-mask and anti-vaccine sentiments.  In communities all through the nation, efforts to follow public health protocols have subjected school officials to attacks, up to and including death threats.   The few school systems that have begun to offer vaccinations are under vicious attack for supposedly sacrificing innocent children to a government campaign to impose unproven medical treatments.

These falsehoods run in tandem with local and state elections for school boards and state legislatures.  The evidence is rapidly mounting that this mandate for parental “rights” will spawn new voucher legislation and other school choice measures in unprecedented numbers.   Dissatisfaction with pandemic online programs, mask policies and the myth of CRT training has already led to drops of 4-5% enrollment in New York City and other major public school systems.  These students are migrating to the charter school of choice, Christian schools, or homeschooling, whichever is most consistent with the parents’ “beliefs,” whether rational, mythical or ignorant.  

Inform yourself! Open the link and read the rest.

Peter Greene realized that supporters of public education have been lacking the very thing that catches the attention of the public and the media: reports backed by data. Especially reports that rank states as “the worst” and “the best.”

Greene’s Curmudgation Institute constructed rubrics to rate the states and developed the Public Education Hostility Index. He has created a website where he defines his methodogy and goes into detail about the rankings.

The #1 ranking, as the state most hostile to public education, is Florida.

The state least hostile to public education is Massachusetts.

Where does your state rank? Open the link and find out.

A month ago, the National School Boards Association wrote a letter to President Biden, asking for help on behalf of local school boards that were under attack and subject to threats by groups angry about masking and critical race theory.

The letter said, in part,

America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) respectfully asks for federal law enforcement and other assistance to deal with the growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation occurring across the nation. Local school board members want to hear from their communities on important issues and that must be at the forefront of good school board governance and promotion of free speech. However, there also must be safeguards in place to protect public schools and dedicated education leaders as they do their jobs.

NSBA believes immediate assistance is required to protect our students, school board members, and educators who are susceptible to acts of violence affecting interstate commerce because of threats to their districts, families, and personal safety. As our school boards continue coronavirus recovery operations within their respective districts, they are also persevering against other challenges that could impede this progress in a number of communities. Coupled with attacks against school board members and educators for approving policies for masks to protect the health and safety of students and school employees, many public school officials are also facing physical threats because of propaganda purporting the false inclusion of critical race theory within classroom instruction and curricula.1 This propaganda continues despite the fact that critical race theory is not taught in public schools and remains a complex law school and graduate school subject well beyond the scope of a K-12 class

As these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.

Bianca Quilantan of Politico reported that the NSBA has now apologized for the letter and withdrawn it in response to the actions of a group called “Parents Defending Education.”

About a month after the association sent its initial plea letter to the Biden administration, the NSBA has faced outrage on all sides — from its members, state attorneys general, lawmakers and parent advocacy groups. These critics say the involvement of the FBI in school board meetings would chill parents’ free speech. “The NSBA seems more concerned about suppressing speech with which it disagrees than real threats of violence,” more than a dozen attorneys general wrote.

— Nicole Neily, president of Parents Defending Education, a group “working to reclaim our schools from activists imposing harmful agendas,” said her group has emailed 47 state school board associations for comment on the NSBA’s Sept. 29 letter. Neily said 19 have distanced themselves from the group’s letter, and many state school boards said they had not been made aware of the NSBA’s request ahead of time.

— “On behalf of NSBA, we regret and apologize for the letter,” a memo from NSBA’s board to its members said. “There was no justification for some of the language included in the letter. We should have had a better process in place to allow for consultation on a communication of this significance. We apologize also for the strain and stress this situation has caused you and your organizations.”

Parents Defending Education is a rightwing group fighting ”indoctrination” in the schools. Its president formerly worked at the Cato Institute and Independent Women’s Forum.

Before the NSBA withdrew its letter, Anya Kamenetz of NPR wrote about the groups that have organized to harass local school boards. In several states and districts around the country, protestors have been disrupting school board meetings. They’re opposed to mask policies. Vaccine mandates. LGBTQ rights. Sex education. Removing police from schools. Teaching about race and American history, or sometimes, anything called “diversity, equity and inclusion” or even “social-emotional learning.”

So the shouting, screaming, and threats of violence at school board meetings will go on. Who will dare to stand up for civility and democracy? Who will want to run for their local school board?

In this opinion piece in the Baltimore Sun, Kalman R. Hettleman describes the creation in Maryland of a new state agency that has the same functions as the Maryland State Department of Education and the power to override local control. This agency is supposed to guarantee “accountability,” but it’s limitless power leaves many unanswered questions.

A bombshell, with uncertain force, is about to land on school reform in Maryland. It’s the startup in the next several weeks of the Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB) created under the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. More than any other part of the blueprint, the AIB is a radical experiment in school governance — untested anywhere in the U.S. — with virtually limitless authority to make or break school reform for generations to come.

The AIB’s super-muscle comes from its unambiguous power to fully govern public schools. This means it can usurp the functions of the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) and control local school policies.

As a member of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (known as the Kirwan Commission) that drafted the blueprint, I favored the concept of the AIB. I still do. But I recognized that opponents, though some were overwrought, had a point. The seven-member board, to be appointed by the governor from a list of nine persons just selected by the AIB nominating committee, could actually cause more bureaucracy and less accountability, unless it acts wisely.

Predictably, formidable political groups opposed such a drastic departure from current law and practice. The MSDE board, state superintendent and local school district boards and superintendents argued that they would be micromanaged; in the process, they said, local control — so sacrosanct for so long — would be emasculated.

In addition, Maryland just appointed a State Superintendent with impeccable reform credentials.

Read the article. If you understand why the state is creating a powerful new agency to run its schools, please let me know.

James Harvey, leader of the National Superintendents Roundtable, reported that federal authorities will investigate violent threats made against school personnel and school boards in response to mask mandates. Stories in the Washington Post and elsewhere have demonstrated that some of the groups harassing educators and school boards about masking and “critical race theory” are funded by the Koch Network and other rightwing foundations and are intended to sow chaos and discredit public schools.

AP picks up Roundtable report on superintendents quitting
The Roundtable’s report on superintendents’ stress amidst the pandemic has received widespread attention. The Associated Press picked up the press release describing the report, which was initially distributed by Cision (PR Newswire). Within 48 hours of the distribution of the press release, Cision estimated that it had been distributed to 84 major outlets with a potential viewing audience of 122 million people. 
The outlets included Business Insider and AP, which in turn distributed the release to 963 different outlets, including C-SPAN, CBS News Radio, the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Download the report at the link above. By all means share it with your colleagues and via your social media.
NSBA asks the Feds for help
It’s unprecedented. In the last week, the National School Boards Association (NSBA), the group that represents school boards and school board members around the country, asked the White House for federal assistance to investigate and stop threats against school boards by citizens incensed about school pandemic policies, such as mask mandates. The association likened the vitriol experienced by some of its members to a form of domestic terrorism.
According to a story filed by Carolyn Thompson of the Associated Press, “The request by the National School Boards Association demonstrates the level of unruliness that has engulfed local education meetings across the country during the pandemic, with board members regularly confronted and threatened by angry protesters.”
Justice Department to look into violent threats against school leaders
On October 4, Andrew Ujifusa of Education Week reportedthat the Justice Department agreed to have the FBI examine violent threats against school leaders, including board members and superintendents.
Ujifusa reports that the “FBI will work with federal attorneys, as well as state and local leaders, to discuss strategies for countering threats against teachers, principals, school board members and other educators.”“In addition, the U.S. Department of Justice announced plans to create a federal task force to address ‘the rise in criminal conduct towards school personnel,’ ” reported Ujifusa, “as school boards and other educators have faced anger and harassment in response to COVID-19 restrictions and other controversial issues in schools.”

It’s happening across the nation: Angry anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers are undermining democracy, science, and civil society. They are disrupting school board meetings, town council meetings, any gathering where a loud minority can shout down elected officials.

What’s happening in New Hampshire is emblematic of a frightening national trend. Garry Rayno of writes here about the collapse of civility in the Granite State.

He writes:

Anyone who follows politics in New Hampshire had to be disturbed by what happened at the Executive Council meeting last week at Saint Anselm College.

To have the workings of government halted by a small group of aggressive and vocal mobsters is new for New Hampshire and a sad day for state government.

The meeting was halted after Department of Health and Human Services employees felt threatened and left the building under State Police escort, not something that has happened in New Hampshire before.

The state has long been known as fiscally conservative, but socially moderate or tolerant. That has changed in recent years, largely over abortion or reproductive rights for women.

But what happened last week is far more than the erosion of the state’s moderate views on social issues and that is also apparent in this year’s legislative session, when bills passed that never would have in the past.

New Hampshire’s political discourse can be heated and passionate, but it has always been essentially civil.

A new group of activists is creating foundational change to the political playing field.

The anarchistic outburst that halted the Executive Council meeting, was not the first and it surely will not be the last.

Traditional political philosophy is not the driving force for Free Staters, Libertarians, Rebuild NH or Liberty 603, individual freedom at all costs is and the consequences are monumental.

The goal of the uproar was ostensibly to prevent the Executive Council from approving $27 million in contracts to expand the state’s lagging COVID-19 vaccination programs to protect more people from the virus.

The COVID-19 pandemic and government actions to stop its spread have been the target of the groups, some that even propose the state secede from the union.

This movement does not follow the usual political processes to achieve its goal, but instead uses intimidation, threats and other tactics best described as bullying.

What they want to achieve is minority rule, because the vast majority of the state’s citizens do not agree with them.

The insurrectionists have had help along the way, as they have been allowed to drive the “Republican agenda” in the legislature and Gov. Chris Sununu, who was one of their main targets at the council meeting, tried to placate the near anarchists and signed a budget largely dictated by the Free Staters and Libertarians.

What happened at the Executive Council meeting was a significant victory for a couple hundred protesters who achieved far more than stopping the approval of a couple of contracts.

And that is the real problem New Hampshire faces going forward.

With about 50 law enforcement officers at the meeting, a number of particularly vocal, abrasive and threatening activists were allowed to “do their thing” to shut down the meeting and not one was arrested.

The next time there is no reason to stop going a little further and a little further.

Many of the same people picketed Sununu’s Newfields home after he instigated a mask mandate, the last one in New England and the first to be rescinded.

Protests at the State House or where a governor is making an appearance are acceptable behavior, but a governor’s or senator’s or official’s home has always been off limits, but not any more.

The anti-maskers planned to disrupt Sununu’s outdoor inauguration ceremony in January, but Sununu cancelled the event.

Instead he was sworn in with few present at the State House and gave his inauguration speech remotely.

Several weeks ago, a public hearing on proposed rules for the state’s vaccination registry had to be cancelled when the same groups turned out protestors and overflowed a hearing room in Concord.

And last month, they shouted down Republican legislative leaders at a press conference called to criticize President Biden’s vaccine mandates. The protesters told GOP leaders they and the governor had not done enough to protect them.

At a press conference after the council meeting Sununu downplayed the council protest and said it was a few unruly aggressive actors who crossed the line and that there was passion on both sides.

That sounded similar to President Trump saying there are good people on both sides after white supremacists’ violent protest in Charlottesville that claimed one life and injured many more.

And while Sununu, the Executive Council and state employees had a couple of dozen police to protect them, many school boards and selectmen do not and face the same aggressive behavior and unruly people objecting to whatever the boards decide.

People need to understand what the protesters and some politicians want. They want to stop the state from spending federal money on programs to increase vaccinations to stop the spread of COVID-19.

They do not want to be vaccinated, which is short-sighted in itself as they are willing to infect others for their “personal freedom,” and they are trying to stop anyone else from being vaccinated.

It is not enough for them not to be vaccinated, they don’t want you to be either and they don’t want you to wear a mask.

That is not freedom, that is tyranny. And it is just as tyrannical as they claim Biden’s mandates are.

While the state has fallen behind others in the percentage of citizens fully vaccinated, still almost 60 percent of the state’s residents are showing at least that many people do not agree with the anti-vaccers and maskers.

What is happening with disruptions like the one at the Executive Council meeting and at school boards around the state is tribalism and not democracy. It is mob rule by intimidation and threats. How civilized is that?

The real target here is not masks and mandates, it is government and their hate for it or anyone they perceive to be telling them what to do.

Please open the link and read the rest of this important article.