Archives for category: Injustice

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, delivered the following remarks today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. She vigorously defended public schools against current efforts to destroy them. She named names. She explained the purpose of public schools, which makes them a precious part of our democratic aspirations but also a target for those who hate democracy.

Randi said:

Today, we once again grieve for families shattered by senseless gun violence. Please join me in a moment of silence for the lives lost at the Covenant School in Nashville, and for all victims of gun violence.

Today we renew our call for commonsense gun safety legislation including a ban on assault weapons. This is an epidemic that our great nation must solve.

There’s a saying: You don’t have to love everything about someone to love them. I’m sure my wife doesn’t love everything about me, but she loves me. (I, on the other hand, love everything about her.) Nothing is perfect. Banks aren’t. Congress isn’t. And neither are our public schools—not even our most well-resourced and highest-performing schools. Those of us involved in public schools work hard to strengthen them to be the best they can be. But only public schools have as their mission providing opportunity for all students. And by virtually any measure—conversations, polls, studies and elections—parents and the public overwhelmingly like public schools, value them, need them, support them—and countless Americans love them.

Public schools are more than physical structures. They are the manifestation of our civic values and ideals: The ideal that education is so important for individuals and for society that a free education must be available to all. That all young people should have opportunities to prepare for life, college, career and citizenship. That, in a pluralistic society such as the United States, people with different beliefs and backgrounds must learn to bridge differences. And that, as the founders believed, an educated citizenry is essential to protect our democracy from demagogues.

Thomas Jefferson argued general education was necessary to “enable every man to judge for himself what will secure or endanger his freedom.” Franklin D. Roosevelt said: “The real safeguard of democracy … is education.” And Martin Luther King Jr., in accepting the United Federation of Teachers’ John Dewey Award, made clear, “Education is the road to equality and citizenship.”

When kids go to school together, they become part of a community; their families become part of a community. That community comes together at school concerts, basketball games and science fairs, and for shelter and comfort, when people are displaced by natural disasters or, far too often, at vigils for victims of gun violence. In good times and bad, public schools are cornerstones of community, of our democracy, our economy and our nation.

But some people want that cornerstone to crumble—and they’re wielding the sledgehammers.


Attacks on public education are not new. The difference today is that the attacks are intended to destroy it. To make it a battlefield, a political cudgel. After former President Trump lost re-election, Steve Bannon, his key ally, declared that their fight goes through school boards. In a speech last year, culture war operative and Governor Ron DeSantis’ appointee Christopher Rufo put it bluntly, “To get to universal school choice, you really need to operate from a premise of universal public school distrust.” To this end, he says, his side has “to be ruthless and brutal.”

And, I would add, well-funded, which it is. The DeVos, Bradley, Koch, Uihlein and Walton family foundations and others have poured many millions of dollars into anti-public education, pro-privatization groups like the American Federation for Children and EdChoice.

The Betsy DeVos wing of the school privatization movement is methodically working its plan: Starve public schools of the funds they need to succeed. Criticize them for their shortcomings. Erode trust in public schools by stoking fear and division, including attempting to pit parents against teachers. Replace them with private, religious, online and home schools. All toward their end goal of destroying public education as we know it, atomizing and balkanizing education in America, bullying the most vulnerable among us and leaving the students with the greatest needs in public schools with the most meager resources.

It’s an extremist scheme by a very vocal minority of Americans.It’s hurting our efforts to do the work we need to do, which is educating the nearly 50 million kids who attend America’s public schools. And the urgent work of helping kids recover from learning loss, sadness, depression and other effects of the pandemic.

And it’s not what parents or the public want.

Let’s start with defunding: This year alone, 29 state legislatures are considering bills to either create or expand existing voucher programs. This is on top of the 72 voucher and tax credit programs in 33 states already subsidizing private and home schooling, costing billions every year. Voucher programs are proliferating even though research shows that, on average,vouchers negatively affect achievement—the declines are worse than pandemic learning loss. In fact, vouchers have caused “some of the largest academic drops ever measured in the research record.”

Proponents of vouchers used to argue that they were a way for low-income and minority families to transfer out of low-performing schools. No longer. Today most vouchers go to families who already send their kids to private schools. And private schools are not required to follow most federal civil rights laws protecting students, so they can—and many do—discriminate, especially against LGBTQ students and students with special needs.

The universal voucher program signed by Florida Gov. DeSantis yesterday will divert $4 billion from the state’s public schools. Florida ranks 44th in the nation in per pupil spending, and 48thin average teacher salaries. DeSantis is sending taxpayers’ dollars in the wrong direction.

And then there are the culture wars. What started as fights over pandemic-era safety measures has morphed into fearmongering: False claims that elementary and secondary schools are teaching critical race theory; disgusting, unfounded claims that teachers are grooming and indoctrinating students; and pronouncements that public schools push a “woke” agenda, even though they can’t or won’t define what they mean. Banning books and bullying vulnerable children. School board meetings descending into screaming matches. This is an organized and dangerous effort to undermine public schools.

Over the last three years, legislators in 45 states proposed hundreds of laws placing public schools at the center of culture wars: laws seeking to ban books from school libraries—even books about Ruby Bridges and Anne Frank and Roberto Clemente; laws restricting what teachers can teach and students can learn—particularly about about race, gender, LGBTQ issues, current events and American history; and laws attacking kids who are transgender. Students and staff should feel welcome, safe and respected in school—but the culture wars are fueling hostility and fear.

A torrent of enacted and proposed legislation targeting even the mention of “controversial” topics—sweeping and open-ended restrictions on what can be taught—has teachers teaching on eggshells. In Florida, the Department of Education has threatened teachers and librarians with felony prosecution if they provide students with books that the state later decides are inappropriate. If Florida lawmakers have their way, colleges will no longer have diversity, equity or inclusion policies; or tenure;or academic freedom. And AP courses and the mere utterance of LGBTQ will be banned in all K-12 schools. And forget about facts. Many laws and pending bills allow any individual to sue schools and teachers for perceived violations. The intent and effect are to create a climate of fear and intimidation.

This takes a toll on the quality of education teachers can provide our students, and on the trust and connection that are so important. Shouldn’t teachers be free to talk with students who are withdrawn or in distress, and to answer students’ questions? Don’t we want students to learn both our nation’s achievements that make us proud and the failings that make us strive to do better? Isn’t that our job?

Teachers should have the freedom to teach. And students should have the freedom to learn.

These same governors who are pushing vouchers and culture wars are also trying to defund and weaken teachers unions, so educators don’t have the wherewithal to fight back against censorship, attacks on their academic freedom, threats to their livelihoods and criminal prosecution.

These attacks aren’t about protecting kids. If they were, they would be working with us to address learning loss and the youth mental health crisis. They would be working with us to take on social media companies for contributing to that crisis.

If these attacks were about protecting kids, they would be working with us to fight against the leading cause of death for American children—gun violence.

If this were about protecting kids, instead of putting LGBTQ youth at risk and banning books about Black people and by Black authors, they would give a damn about these kids’ safety and well-being, including the youth suicide crisis.

Forty-five percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered suicidein the last year. And the suicide rate among Black youth of all sexual orientations has been increasing as well.

This is literally a matter of life and death. These attacks on public education make it increasingly difficult to create the welcoming, safe environment that our students need and deserve.

School climate and culture

It is a fraught time in our country. The effects of COVID-19; the climate of conflict; drug abuse; gun violence; economic insecurity; and the youth mental health crisis have all taken a heavy toll. Hate crimes have surged against many Americans—Asian, Black, Latino, Jewish and Muslim Americans.

School staff report a rise in bullying, verbal altercations and physical violence among students, as well as this behavior directed at them.

I recall a teacher saying that when her students are disruptive, it’s not because they are bad; it’s because they’re sad.

So many students have experienced isolation and trauma. They need help. But there weren’t enough mental health specialists before the pandemic, and they are in critically short supply now.

The persistent demonization and disrespect of teachers—from screaming matches at school board meetings to the former secretary of state saying teachers teach “filth”—have contributed to a culture of disrespect that seeps into our schools.

I just got a report from Florida. In Flagler County, a 17-year-old student with special needs pushed a paraprofessional so hard she went airborne and was knocked unconscious. A teacher in Osceola County was monitoring students in the hallway when a student sucker-punched him. And there are others. The educators who were hurt all cited lack of staff in the schools and lack of mental health support for students as the main reasons leading to the attacks.

And this crisis will only get worse as Gov. DeSantis’ universal voucher bill kicks in. What will the loss of $4 billion do to safety in Florida’s public schools? What will that do to the quality of academics, to the condition of school buildings, to teacher pay, to staffing shortages?


Even before the pandemic, there were steep declines in teachers’ satisfaction. The percent of teachers who were “very satisfied” fell from 62 percent in 2008 to just 12 percent in 2022.

The stresses of the COVID-19 era—plus the culture wars, attacks on teachers, inadequate pay, poor teaching and learning conditions, and the threat of school shootings—have made recent years the toughest in modern times for educators.

Despite it all, teachers have thrown themselves into the mission of helping students recover academically, socially and emotionally. You heard Tamara (Simpson). I witness these acts of teaching, of nation-building, every day. Yet, according to our critics, we’re responsible for all the woes of society.

Even before the pandemic, nearly 300,000 teachers were leaving the profession each year. Now, it’s closer to 400,000.

And the teacher pipeline has collapsed as college students and career-changers choose not to go into education. How are we going to recruit and retain the staff schools need in this climate?

Our teaching profession is in crisis.

It’s in crisis because of the poor teaching and learning conditions created by inadequate funding for public schools. It’s teacher pay, which has been falling relative to other college graduates’ pay for the last 40 years. It’s giving teachers all the blame and little authority. And it’s the de-professionalization of teaching that demoralizes an already beleaguered profession.

I hear it all the time—teachers just want to teach.


IV.Strategies for Powerful Education

So where do we go from here?

The American Rescue Plan, and the programs it spawned, particularly the tutoring programs, have really helped. And we are grateful to President Joe Biden, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and the last Congress for the much-needed resources. Of course we will continue to fight this defunding of our public schools and this dividing of our communities. But we also must do better to address the learning loss and disconnection we are seeing in our young people. And we can. We can make every public school a school where parents want to send their kids, educators want to work and all students thrive.

Four strategies can help transform our schools to realize the promise and purpose of public education. Not just to overcome learning loss or get back to normal, but to truly help us prepare all children with the knowledge and skills they need for their lives, for college, for career and for citizenship. These strategiescan help us create safe and welcoming environments and bring joy back to learning. And in tandem, they have a catalytic effect. I have seen it work. But we need to do these strategies at scale—for every child and in every school. These four strategies are expanding community schools, scaling experiential learning, addressing staff shortages, and deepening the partnership between families and educators.

Community Schools

First and foremost, we need to make sure our kids are OK. That’s why we need community schools, which are hubs for neighborhoods, combining academics with extended learning opportunities, family and community events, and an infusion of medical, mental health and other social services. They are the best system I know to connect students and families to the support they need to learn, live and thrive.

A recent University of Calgary study found that youth suicide attempts increased 22 percent during the pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1 in 3 teen girls seriously considered suicide in 2021—up nearly 60 percent from a decade ago. More than 42 percent of high school students reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness.

What helps? The Calgary report found that “school connectedness, defined as feeling close to people at school, has a long-lasting, protective impact for adolescents well into adulthood.”

Our schools must be equipped to support and connect with students, and there is no better model for this than community schools. There is another tragic reality in the United States: Half the students in America’s public schools live in poverty. Community schools mitigate the effects of poverty by providing essential services right where students are and where families can be.

Once kids’ physical and emotional needs are met, they are ready to learn, and teachers can focus on their primary role—which is to teach.

A few weeks ago I went back to Wolfe Street Academy, a community school in Baltimore, to see how they were doing.

Ninety-six percent of the students there qualify for free- or reduced-price lunch. Since converting to a community school nearly 20 years ago, Wolfe Street has gone from the 77th-most successful elementary school in Baltimore (out of 80) to the second-most successful. And, like other community schools,when COVID-19 hit it was a matter of ramping up services, not having to start from scratch.

Students have access to medical checkups, clothing and mental health services. Families have food assistance, language support and legal aid.

And this school is fun! Wolfe Street offers a wide variety of after-school programs, including chess club, robotics club, Mexican folkloric dance, orchestra, a soccer league and more.

And, by the way, Wolfe Street is a unionized public charter school.

There are successful community schools in rural and suburban areas, as well.

The Rome (New York) Teachers Association started a community school with help from the AFT in 2016. Today itsConnected Model has spread to 14 school districts and provides everything from access to mental health services and dental care, to food packages for weekends and holidays, and prom dresses!

A recent Rand Corp. study of community schools in New York City found positive impacts on both attendance and graduation rates. In New Mexico, community schools in operation for five or more years have better-than-average student achievement growth and higher attendance rates, and employed more highly effective teachers. And Robeson High School in Philadelphia went from nearly closing to a 95 percent graduation rate after implementing the community school model.

AFT members have helped create 700 community schools across the country, and we see how they meet kids’ needs. From Kimball Elementary School in Washington, D.C., to the Oyler School in Cincinnati, to Roybal-Allard Elementary in Los Angeles. That’s why the AFT is calling for 25,000 community schools by 2025 and our call is gaining steam. California just approved another $45 million to make 1 in every 3 schools in the state a community school. And President Biden’s budget doubles federal community school investment. We need to make this happen everywhere.

Experiential Learning

Second, we can re-engage students through experiential learning, transforming their educational experiences. Why do kids skip school, or slump in the back of the classroom? They may feel unsafe or unseen. Or just uninterested. We must do better. And we can.

Of course, fundamental academic subjects are important. But so is how we teach them. Experiential learning engages students through problem-solving, critical-thinking, teamwork, and learning by doing. We need to help kids engage with the world, with ideas and with each other—not just with their devices.

Experiential learning embeds the things that make kids want to be in school: The excitement of learning that is deeply engaging, and the joy of being together, especially after the isolation of the last few years. The camaraderie and responsibility of working together on a team.

And in the age of AI and chatGPT, this type of learning is critical to being able to think and write, solve problems, apply knowledge and discern fact from fiction.

Experiential learning can be applied to any content area from math to computer science to social studies, and often weaves subjects together in powerful interdisciplinary instruction. It can be adapted to any grade level. It can take place in rural, urban and suburban schools. And it nurtures kids’ natural curiosity and creativity. That is what robotics and debate teachers do all the time. It’s what I did as an AP government teacher at Clara Barton High School. These opportunities need to be the norm not the exception.

This type of learning makes clear just how outmoded the standardized test-based accountability system is. Of course, the country needs data on how our kids are doing, but if we are talking about student success, research shows classroom grades, not tests, are the best predictor of that. And experiential learning takes the classroom to a new level.

Experiential learning is assessed by teachers in their classrooms and focuses on mastery of the skill. It can include capstone projects that allow students to research a topic they’re passionate about and present it to their teachers and peers. It can include nature-based pre-K, where youngsters learn by exploring natural surroundings while building social skills with other kids. It can include students working together to code and build robotics projects; service-learning projects to support community members; and summer learning on a farm caring for crops or animals; or reporting for and producing a neighborhood newsletter. And it can start with field trips, during and after school.

Experiential learning has long been embedded in career and technical education programs where students use their minds and their hands to learn everything from auto repair, to nursing, IT, graphic design, welding and culinary skills. CTE students learn skills that give them a head start when they go to college or start their careers. Shouldn’t every student have that opportunity?

It’s also a proven strategy. Ninety-four percent of young people who concentrate in CTE graduate from high school, and 72 percent of them go on to college.

Talk to any employer about the skills and knowledge they look for in a successful employee, be it a plumber, a nurse or a lawyer, and you’re bound to hear similarities—employees who are creative, self-starters, critical-thinkers, problem-solvers;have empathy; and can build relationships. This type of learning provides every student with more options to develop those skills and to find their passion, their purpose and their pathway to good jobs and fulfilling careers.

Carpentry students use math when they’re figuring out the right cuts to make and how the pieces will all fit together. They’re using their hands and their minds to construct something. They’re acquiring literacy, technology and writing skills in developing business plans or a website. They’re building self-confidence and public speaking skills when they explain plans and work with customers or their peers. They have a sense of pride in the finished product. When a project doesn’t turn out as expected, they have to problem-solve what went wrong and try a new approach.

On Governors Island in New York City, students attending the Harbor School pursue industry certification in specialties like marine science and oceanography. In Louisiana, the Teaching and Reaching initiative is a two-year dual enrollment program that gives high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to earn credits and get a head start on pursuing a degree in education. In Peoria, Ill., CTE programs are preparing students for green energy jobs. And the Rio Rancho, N.M., public schools partner with the local college to provide stackable microcredentials in robotics, coding and automotive technology.

President Biden’s remaking of the economy through the CHIPS and Science Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the climate provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act will create millions of new high-paying jobs in renewable energy, broadband, semiconductors, construction, cybersecurity, transportation, small business, entrepreneurship and so much more. Then there’s healthcare and education, which have huge staffing crises right now. There are so many incredible opportunities for our young people in the job markets of today and tomorrow. They need to be ready to seize them. This dynamic new economic vision requires a dynamic new workforce vision.

We are all in, but this requires more than educators. And doing this at scale will require new approaches. We need to start by high school. We need employers to partner with us, giving students internships and apprenticeships, including paid opportunities so students who need to work can afford to participate. That’s why the AFT donated stipends for high school kids in Newark, N.J.’s Red Hawks Rising teacher pathway program. Teachers need experiential learning, too, and more externship opportunities in industry.

The potential for all of this is in our grasp, but we all need to do better on the alignment of people, preparation and professions. And it means all of us making changes. That is why we are working with the AFL-CIO, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su, and the Bloomberg Philanthropies on this work. We are reaching out to business groups large and small, as experiential learning can take place in the private sector, the public sector and nonprofits. The formula of starting by high school and identifying school-to-career pathways, including community colleges, partnering with employers, and ensuring the opportunities are paid, can be replicated everywhere.

Revive and Restore the Teaching Profession

Third, for us to meet the needs of the 50 million children in our public schools, we need to revive and restore the teaching profession. That starts with addressing the teacher and school staff shortage crisis. And taking care of the educators we still have.

We know how to solve this. At our 2022 convention, AFT members unanimously approved the report our Teacher and School Staff Shortage Task Force had been working on for seven months. That report is a blueprint with scalable solutions that every district and state in the nation can implement. But it boils down to treating educators like the professionals they are, with appropriate pay and time to prepare for classes, the chance to collaborate with colleagues, the opportunity to participate in meaningful professional development, and the authority to make day-to-day classroom decisions. And ensuring they have the conditions that help students learn like buildings in good repair, with safe ventilation and smaller class size.

The Kansas City Federation of Teachers recently negotiated a new contract, and they used the AFT staffing shortage report as their blueprint. Now, every first- and second-year teacher will be mentored by an exemplary teacher, who will be paid for serving as a mentor. The union secured the highest starting teacher salaries in the region and increases to keep teachers in the profession. They won paid family leave for any parent, making them the first district in the state having this essential family benefit. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Thank you, Jason Roberts, the KCFT president, for being with us today.

I’m really worried about the well-being of teachers and school staff. We are working with groups like Educators Thriving on strategies that address well-being. Their program has helped teachers reduce emotional exhaustion, a leading indicator of burnout. And as a union, we are providing a trauma benefit to all our members and have worked hard to reduce student debt and make the bipartisan Public Service Loan Forgiveness program work. That’s been life-changing for those who qualify. But I am asking politicians to do their part as well.

A word to politicians—rather than using educators as cannon fodder, why not work with us? Like New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who enacted a $10,000 raise for teachers in that state. And Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who signed a bipartisan education budget that will make the highest state investment in Michigan history, investing in school infrastructure, teacher recruitment, school safety and mental health resources. And Sen. Bernie Sanders and Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson, whose bills would raise teacher salaries. And New York Rep. Jamaal Bowman, who has introduced a bill to reduce federally mandated standardized tests.

Parents and Community as Partners

Fourth, the pandemic proved what we always knew: In-person learning is essential for kids, and public schools are centers of their communities.

It’s beyond obvious that the school-family connection, the parent-teacher connection, is vital to children’s success. But as others are trying to drive a wedge in that connection, we need to deepen it.

PTAs are remarkable organizations; so are so many parent groups and parent-teacher groups like Red Wine and Blue, Parents Together, MomsRising and the Campaign for Our Shared Future. And we are honored to work with them and others. But we know we need to create this muscle of working together everywhere.

That’s why the AFT created the Powerful Partnerships Institute, which supports family and community engagement. In our inaugural year, the institute has given out 27 grants to AFT locals across the country. Montana is engaging thousands of public education-supporting families and educators across the state. New Haven is working with educators, families and students on fair school funding. And you just heard a little about our partnership in Houston.

Let’s be role models for how we deal with conflicts and disagreement. During the pandemic, we met via Zoom with parent groups that often disagreed with us on COVID-19 safety measures and school closures. We heard each other out and talked things through. We need more of that in America.

Two years ago, the AFT increased our legal defense fund, so we could help if a member was put in jeopardy for teaching honest history or answering a student’s question. But in too many places, there are no unions, or educational associations, or parent groups. People feel alone and isolated. Teachers. Parents. Children.

That’s why, in conjunction with the Campaign for Our Shared Future, we are launching a new Freedom to Teach and Learn hotline for teachers, parents or students to use if they need support. It’s a place to call if you’ve been told to remove a book from the curriculum or from the library, or that there are topics that can’t be discussed in your classes, or that you cannot teach honestly and appropriately, or if politicians in your district or state are targeting vulnerable student groups to score political points. The Freedom to Teach and Learn hotline number is 888-873-7227.

These four strategies are worthy on their own. Together, they are transformative. Community schools will help young people not just recover from these punishing years and the scourge of poverty, but thrive. Experiential learning will prepare our youth with the knowledge and skills to seize the opportunities in our changing economy. To nurture and educate our young people, we need an educator workforce that is supported, respected and compensated befitting their vital role. And we need students’ circle of care—family, educators and community members—to be united in their support.


This is our agenda. But this can’t just be the work of our union or of school staff and schools alone. This is the work of a great nation—to ensure that our children’s basic human needs are met so they are ready to learn to their full potential. To exchange outmoded and test-driven ways of teaching and learning for effective and engaging approaches that excite students and prepare them to live their dreams and aspirations.

Our public schools shouldn’t be pawns for politicians’ ambitions. Or defunded and destroyed by ideologues.

We are at a crossroads: Fear and division, or hope and opportunity.

A great nation does not fear people being educated.

A great nation does not fear pluralism.

A great nation chooses freedom, democracy, equality and opportunity.

All of that starts in our public schools. We are that great nation, and we must act together—to defend, support and strengthen our public schools. And we must do that now.

Our children deserve no less.


Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, recently joined parents, students, and teachers at a rally in Austin, Texas, to protest the state’s decision to take control of the Houston Independent School District. The district is no longer “independent,” since the state asserted its control. And Republicans showed that they don’t really believe in “local control,” any more than they believe in “parents rights.”

As a graduate of HISD, I feel especially outraged by the state takeover on flimsy grounds. Governor Abbott and Commissioner Mike Morath are playing politics. These kids are the future of Texas. Why are they being used as pawns?

Burris wrote the following explanation of the state takeover. It appeared on Valerie Strauss’s “Answer Sheet” blog at the Washington Post website.

Strauss begins:

The administration of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced this month that the state was taking over the public school district in Houston even though the Texas Education Agency last year gave the district a “B” rating. The district, the eighth-largest in the country, has nearly 200,000 students, the overwhelming majority of them Black or Hispanic, and opposition to the move in the city, which votes Democratic, has been strong.

Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath said the takeover was necessary because of the poor performance of some schools in the district — even though most of the troubled schools have made significant progress recently.

Here is the real story of the takeover, written by Carol Burris, an award-winning former New York school principal who is executive director of the Network for Public Education. The nonprofit alliance of organizations advocates the improvement of public education and sees charter schools — which are publicly funded but privately operated — as part of a movement to privatize public education.

By Carol Burris

Houston parents, teachers, and community leaders are protesting the decision by Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath to take over the Houston Independent School District. Some see the takeover as grounded in racism and retribution; others as big-government intrusion.

For Houston mom Kourtney Revels, the decision represents a hypocritical dismissal of parents by Gov. Greg Abbott (R). “How can Governor Abbott pretend to support parent empowerment and rights when he has just taken away the rights of over 200,000 parents in Houston ISD against their will and has not listened to our concerns or our voice?” she asked.

The takeover is the latest move in a long list of actions by Abbott’s administration to attack public school districts and expand privatized alternatives, including poorly regulated charter schools and now a proposed voucher program that would use public money for private and religious education. And critics see them all as connected.

State Rep. Ron Reynolds, a Houston Democrat, told the Houston Chronicle, that the takeover of the Houston district is part of Abbott’s attempt “to push” vouchers and charter schools, and to “promote and perpetuate the things that Governor Abbott believes and hears about, and that obviously isn’t diversity, equity and inclusion.”

The first takeover forum sponsored by the Texas Education Agency, which Morath leads, was described in the Houston Chronicle as “emotional and chaotic.” This week, the Greater Houston Coalition for Justice is leading a protest march before another TEA hearing. U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D), who represents the city, has asked the Biden administration to open a civil rights investigation into the takeover.


The Houston Independent School District is Texas’s largest school district, with 284 schools and almost 200,000 students. It is also the eighth-largest district in the nation. Eight in 10 students come from economically disadvantaged families, and more than 1 in 3 students are not proficient in English. Fewer than 10 percent of the students are White.

The first attempted takeover of HISD by Morath was in 2019. The rationale for the takeover was school board misconduct and the seven negative ratings of Phillis Wheatley High School, one of the district’s 284 schools. Wheatley had been rated “academically acceptable” almost every other year until the YES Prep charter school opened nearby in 2011. During the 2021-2022 school year, Wheatley served 10 times as many Black students and more than twice as many students with disabilities as YES Prep, located just a five-minute drive away.

The district went to court to stop the takeover, and the debate wove through the courts until the Texas Supreme Court gave the green light for the takeover in January.

Almost four years have passed since the first takeover attempt, and the district has made impressive strides. The electorate replaced the 2019 school board, and a highly respected superintendent, Millard House, was appointed.

By every objective measure, the district is on a positive trajectory. The district is B-rated, and in less than two years, 40 of 50 Houston schools that had previously received a grade of D or F received a grade of C or better. Wheatley High School’s grade, the school that triggered that 2019 takeover attempt, moved from an F to a C, just two points from a B rating.

While there is a law that triggers a TEA response when a school repeatedly fails, the state Supreme Court did not mandate the takeover of the district. Under Texas law, Morath had two options — close the school or take over the district by appointing a new Board of Managers and a superintendent. He chose to strip local control. For those who have followed the decisions of Morath, his choice, the harsher of the two, comes as no surprise.

Mike Morath and charter schools

Mike Morath, a former software developer, was appointed education commissioner by Abbott in 2015. Morath had served a short stint on the Dallas school board, proposing that the public school district become a home-rule charter system, thus eliminating the school board and replacing it will a board appointed by then-Mayor Mike Rawlings, the former chief executive of Pizza Hut. Transformation into a charter system would also eliminate the rights and protections of Dallas teachers, making it easier to fire staff at will.

Morath and the mayor were supported in their quest to privatize the Dallas school system by a group ironically called Support Our Public Schools. While many of its donors remained anonymous, one did not — Houston billionaire John Arnold. Morath admitted encouraging the development of Support Our Public Schools and soliciting Arnold’s help in founding the organization.

Arnold, a former Enron executive and Houston resident, is a major donor and board member of the City Fund, a national nonprofit that believes in disruptive change and “nonprofit governing structures” for schools rather than traditional school boards. The City Fund touts New Orleans as the greatest school reform success. Arnold is joined on the board of the City Fund by billionaire and former Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who has blamed public school woes on elected school boards and said 90 percent of all students should be in charter schools.

The plot to turn the Dallas school system into a charter system fizzled by January 2015. In December of that year, Abbott plucked Morath from the school board to become Texas education commissioner based on his record as a “change-agent.”

As commissioner, Morath has unilaterally approved charter schools at what many consider to be an alarming rate. Patti Everitt is a Texas education policy consultant who closely follows the decisions of the Texas Education Agency. Everitt noted that Morath “has the sole authority to approve an unlimited number of new charter campuses in Texas — without general public notice, no community meeting, and no vote by any democratic entity.” According to Everitt, he has used this power more frequently than his predecessors. “Since Mike Morath became Commissioner, data from TEA shows that he has approved 75 percent of all requests from existing charter operators to open new campuses, a total of 547 new campuses across the state,” she said.

In 2021, according to Everitt, Morath approved 11 new campuses for International Leadership of Texas Charter Schools, even though 28 percent of the chain’s schools had received D or F grades in prior ratings.

Georgina Cecilia Pérez served two terms on the Texas State Board of Education, from 2017 to 2022. During that time, she observed the Texas Education Agency up close. A 2017 state law provides financial incentives for districts to partner with open-enrollment charter schools, institutions of higher education, nonprofit organizations or government entities. She said that several charter partnerships with the Houston school district have been in the works waiting for the state takeover. She predicts Morath will approve them, “with no public vote.”

Abbott, Morath, and vouchers

Few were surprised this year when Abbott declared that establishing an Education Savings Account (ESA) voucher program would be one of his highest priorities this legislative session. ESA vouchers, the most controversial of all voucher programs, provide substantial taxpayer dollars, through an account or via a debit card, to private school and home-school parents to spend on educational services. Eight states presently have ESA vouchers, with three new programs in Arkansas, Iowa and Utah approved to begin in coming academic years. Other legislatures in red states, notably New Hampshire and Florida, are pushing for ESA program expansion.

Abbott had been reluctant to embrace vouchers — possibly because of a lot of opposition in Texas, especially in rural areas — causing some to speculate that his newly expressed support for them is linked to presidential ambitions. School choice is a pet cause of one potential rival for the Republican presidential nomination, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

Two voucher bills are now weaving their way through the Texas Senate. S.B. 8 would give families a voucher of $8,000 per child a year and institute a parents’ “bill of rights” that allows parents to review public school curriculums through parent portals. A second bill, S.B. 176, would give private school and home-school families a $10,000-per-child annual voucher. Although Abbott has not endorsed either bill, he has made it clear that he supports a universal voucher program, promoting universal vouchers in speeches at some of the state’s most expensive private Christian schools.

Last year, Morath gave tacit support for vouchers, claiming that “there is no evidence” that vouchers would reduce public school funding. In February 2023, however, when questioned during a state Senate hearing, the commissioner admitted that voucher programs could have a negative fiscal impact on public schools.

That same month, his second-in-command, Deputy Commissioner Steve Lecholop, encouraged an unhappy parent from the Joshua Independent School District to work with the governor’s speechwriter to promote vouchers, saying it would be a great way to “stick it to” the school district.

The lack of success of district takeovers

Regardless of Abbott’s and Morath’s ultimate objective — whether it be flipping some or all of Houston’s public schools to charters — research on state takeovers has consistently shown that state takeovers nearly always occur in majority-minority districts and rarely improve student achievement. Student results in takeover districts, with only a few exceptions, have remained the same or decreased. That was the conclusion of a comprehensive cross-state study published in 2021. The study’s authors, Beth Schueler of the University of Virginia and Joshua Bleiberg of Brown University found “no evidence that takeover generates academic benefits.”

This intervention does not help students, and it mutes community voices, undermines democracy in Black and Hispanic communities, and pushes charter schools and other privatized alternatives to democratically governed schools.

An example is the takeover of Philadelphia’s public schools in 2001. Then-Gov. Tom Ridge (R) hired Edison Learning, a for-profit management company led by Chris Whittle, to study the district at the cost of $2 million. Edison Learning made a recommendation that it play a significant role in the reform and proposed running up to 70 schools. After community outrage, the number was reduced to 20. A few years later, the number of managed schools increased to 22. It was not long, however, before Edison Learning and the district were embroiled in a lawsuit concerning liability damages after a student was sexually assaulted in an Edison-operated school. By 2008, all for-profit management companies, including Edison, were gone. By 2017, the state takeover experiment ended.

Retired teacher Karel Kilimnik of Philadelphia had a first-row seat. She taught at a school taken over by the for-profit management company called Victory Co., which ran six schools under the School Reform Commission. The Reform Commission “promised academic and financial improvements that failed to materialize over their 16 years of control,” Kilimnik said. “Instead of improving the district, they opened the door to privatization and charter expansion and laid out the welcome mat for graduates of the uncertified Broad Superintendents Academy. They paved the way for the doomsday budget resulting in massive layoffs, larger class sizes, and the elimination of art and music.”

In his 2017 book, “Takeover,” New York University professor Domingo Morel concluded that, based on his extensive research, state takeovers are driven more by the desire of state actors to take political control away from Black and Hispanic communities than about school improvement. Recently in the Conversation, Morel described the seizure of the Houston school district as motivated by a need by the Republican establishment to thwart the growing empowerment of Black and Latinos as their numbers increase in Texas.

“The Houston public school system is not failing,” Morel said. “Rather, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, Education Commissioner Mike Morath, and the Republican state legislature are manufacturing an education crisis to prevent people of color in Houston from exercising their citizenship rights and seizing political power.”

Allison Newport, a Houston mother of two Houston public school elementary students, agrees. “The commissioner should be congratulating Houston ISD and Wheatley High School for such incredible improvement in performance instead of punishing the students, parents, and teachers who worked so hard to make it happen.”

Glenn Sacks teaches social studies at James Monroe High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District. He is one of the UTLA (United Teachers of Los Angeles) representatives for his school and also a strike captain in both 2019 and 2023. I was pleased to join the 2019 strike and walk the picket line with UTLA. Wish I could have been in L.A. for this one too.

The public schools of Los Angeles were closed this past week by a three-day strike, led by the low-wage staff represented by SEIU 99—about 30,000 workers, including bus drivers, teacher aides, custodians, cafeteria workers, gardeners, and special education assistants. The UTLA struck in support of the SEIU; UTLA’s 35,000 members include teachers, counselors, therapists, nurses and librarians.

A tentative settlement was reached after Mayor Karen Bass intervened to mediate. The SEIU was seeking a 30% wage increase, and they won it. The agreement must be approved by the membership.

Glenn Sacks reported the unions’ victory directly to me:

Friday afternoon SEIU and LAUSD reached an agreement which addresses SEIU’s central demands. The agreement includes:

• a 30% wage increase

• Retroactive pay of $4000-$8000, depending on job classification, including a $1000 bonus for all
• Increase to average annual salary from $25,000 to $33,000
• 7 hours of work guaranteed for Special Education Assistants
• Fully paid health care benefits, including family coverage, for Teacher Assistants, Community Representatives, After School Program Workers and others)

The average pay for SEIU workers went from $15.00 an hour to $22.52 an hour.

As the UTLA often says: “When we fight, we win.”

Sacks wrote this article for FOX News. Good for him for getting published in a place usually dominated by anti-union views!

I don’t blame our bosses for being surprised.

For decades Los Angeles Unified School District’s workforce has been divided into eight different unions. Our contracts expire at different times and labor law often ties our hands, so LAUSD plays us off against each other, to the detriment of all employees.

Service Employees International Union Local 99 represents 30,000 LAUSD bus drivers, teaching assistants, maintenance workers and cafeteria staff. Recently SEIU announced a three-day “Unfair Practice Charge” strike based on its well-founded accusations that LAUSD’s mistreatment of SEIU workers violates California labor law.

LAUSD probably expected that with teachers coming in to work, along with personnel brought in from LAUSD headquarters on an emergency basis, they could roll right over SEIU, as school districts often do to campus workers in similar situations.

Except this week, Los Angeles teachers said “No.”

Over half of LAUSD’s SEIU workers have children in LAUSD. Many of our students have aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins and older siblings who work at LAUSD.

There is only one way UTLA educators could keep faith with our students, their families and the workers whose labor enables us to educate our students — by honoring SEIU’s picket lines.

Our sympathy strike (aka “solidarity strike”) is very much in line with the traditions of American labor. American labor unions were built through labor solidarity, and in recent decades, unions have been undermined because union leaders have abjured sympathy strikes.

On this issue, recently one publication often critical of teachers unions unwittingly paid UTLA a complement:

“State law allows one bargaining unit to go on a sympathy strike with another union, but
Bradley Marianno, an assistant education professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said it’s ‘highly unusual,’ for a teachers union to join a walkout with non-teaching employees.

“‘They may issue statements of support, but to join in strike is a different, and relatively rare, matter.’”

SEIU has historically been a much weaker union than UTLA. Their membership is divided into many different job classifications, they are often on campus at different times, and their heavily minority, immigrant and female membership is at a much lower socioeconomic level.

Despite this, SEIU’s performance this week was remarkably strong, reflecting the raw anger of its members over low wages and LAUSD abuses, which were well-documented by the national media this week.

UTLA has its own contract battle with LAUSD, but its robust showing this week also reflects our sympathy for our SEIU colleagues and the fact that UTLA has become a strong, disciplined labor union.

LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho has found himself increasingly isolated, as many key players in Los Angeles education, including Austin Beutner, LAUSD superintendent from 2018 to 2021, school board Member Kelly Gonez, who served as president of the LAUSD Board of Education from 2020 until earlier this year, and LAUSD school board President Jackie Goldberg have all made statements undermining Carvalho in his battle against SEIU.

Earlier this week dozens of CA Legislators signed a letter backing SEIU, telling Carvalho to “resolve this.”

As in 2019, many of LAUSD’s own school administrators made it clear their hearts aren’t in this battle either, with some walking early morning picket lines with us or bringing us coffee and donuts.

Carvalho, humbled by the firestorm he foolishly ignited, has pivoted, shifting from stonewalling and even mocking SEIU workers towards a humble, “I feel your pain” posture.

Some of our critics claim our strike hurts our students, yet meeting SEIU demands will improve our schools.

To pick one example among many, each day special education students are deprived of two hours of their special education assistants’ time. Why?

LAUSD keeps these paraprofessionals at only six hours a day, so they won’t be considered full-time employees. This petty chiseling at the expense of our students typifies the way LAUSD mistreats its SEIU employees.

Other critics assert that parents have turned against teachers unions. These people are kidding themselves.

Polls show LAUSD parents support educators. A Loyola Marymount University poll taken earlier this year asked “LAUSD teachers requested an increase in salary. If labor negotiations cannot reach an agreement, would you support or oppose LAUSD teachers going on strike to meet their demands?”

Among those living within LAUSD’s boundaries, 76% supported teachers. Among those aged 18-29 — people who most likely attended LAUSD schools not long ago — 88% supported teachers.

Moreover, throughout this week of picket lines and massive rallies, the public showed they were behind us with continual honking horns, raised fists and shouts of approval.

As we walk to and from rallies in our union colors, we’ve had truck drivers and firefighters walk up to us, pat us on the back, and tell us, “Good luck.”

Leaving one rally a construction worker walked up to me, shook my hand, and said, “Give ’em hell!”

We did.

I read this story with a sense of incredulity and impotence. Could this be happening in Tennessee in 2023?

A couple were driving through rural Tennessee on their way to a funeral in Chicago. They had with them in the car their children, one of who was breastfeeding. A police car pulled them over for a minor traffic violation. They had tinted windows and were driving in the left lane on the highway.

Instead of giving them a warning or a ticket, the couple was detained. Both were given drug tests, then hair follicle tests. The authorities decided they were unfit parents. Their children were taken away, including the breast-feeding baby.

A Black family from Georgia is fighting for the return of their five young children from the custody of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services after a traffic stop in Manchester, Tenn. last month.

Bianca Clayborne and Deonte Williams were on Interstate 24 heading to a family funeral in Chicago — kids asleep in the back of the car — when a Tennessee Highway Patrol officer pulled them over for “dark tint and traveling in the left lane while not actively passing,” according to Feb. 17 citations issued to the couple.

The trooper searched the family’s Dodge Durango then arrested Williams for possession of five grams of marijuana, a misdemeanor in Tennessee. Clayborne was cited but not arrested.

Clayborne said she was told she was free to leave with the children, but could follow a THP car to find her way to the Coffee County Justice Center in order to bond Williams out.

Six hours after the traffic stop, as Clayborne sat on a bench in the criminal justice center waiting for Williams’ release, the five children — a breast-feeding baby now four months old along with 2-, 3-, 5- and 7-year-olds — were forcibly removed from her side while an officer restrained her from reaching for her crying baby, she said….

Inside, “the process seemed slow,” Clayborne said. She waited on benches with her children until about 3 p.m. — nearly six hours after the 9:40 a.m. stop. It was then, according to court records, the children were taken from her.

Uniformed police officers approached Clayborne and her children and “circled me,” she said.

“Then my baby started crying so I reached for my son, and as I’m reaching, a man held me and told me, ‘don’t touch him. He’s getting taken away from you,’” Clayborne said.

One woman was walking her five year old son out the door; another picked her daughter and walked away. Someone else took the stroller with her baby inside.

“I just sat there crying, crying, crying,” she said, her voice shaking as she recounted the events via a Zoom meeting from Georgia.

Clayborne said no one asked her for any information – her phone number, the children’s health or nutritional needs and no one immediately provided her contact information so she could learn where they were or a court order showing why they were taken.

“My kids – they have asthma and you’re not asking about nothing,” she said. “I breastfeed.They didn’t give me anything. They just ran off with my kids.”

When the hearing concluded, the court decided to retain custody of the five children and ordered the parents to take additional drug tests, including hair follicle tests, which are not reliable but might show drug use months ago.

Your Critical Race Theory quiz: Please read the articles in full and respond to these questions:

If the couple were white, do you think the police would have acted differently? How? Why? Why not?

If the couple were white, would they have been subject to search to arrest and detainment? Why or why not?

If the couple were white, would they have lost custody of their children? Why and why not.

NOTICE: this post should not be read or shared in Florida, as it is illegal to discuss these questions.

Our reader Carolmalaysia received a letter from the Indiana State Teachers Association, protesting two bills to undercut public schools, teachers and librarians. She signed the petition.

1.] TAKE ACTION: Tell legislators to prioritize public schools and reject private school voucher expansion in radical state budget

All kids, no matter where they live, should be able to pursue their dreams in a great public school. However, the currently proposed radical budget increases spending on private school vouchers by 70%, while increasing traditional public school funding, where 90% of Hoosier students attend, by only 5%.

The current budget would provide more than $1 billion for wealthy families making up to $220,000 to attend private school for free, while neighborhood public schools continue to struggle to provide enough resources for students and pay hard-working educators a competitive salary.

Urge lawmakers to prioritize public education and oppose this huge expansion of unaccountable private school vouchers in the budget. Ask them to increase their commitment to public schools.


SB 12 is yet another culture war bill furthering a false narrative about our public schools. Rather than locally addressing issues over content, the bill would open teachers and librarians to criminal prosecution over educational materials. The bill would remove existing legal defenses schools and school libraries may use when locally determining educational materials. These matters will end up in litigation without administrative steps.

This bill has passed out of the Senate and is now under consideration by the House. Tell your representative to oppose SB 12.

ProPublica wrote recently about a powerful organization of far-right conservatives that carefully avoids public scrutiny. They are wealthy, powerful, and networked, thanks to the Federalist Society and its mastermind Leonard Leo. Leo is the guy who picked judges for Trump and engineered the selection of Brett Kanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett.

Please read this article about Teneo, an organization with long tentacles and a goal of crushing liberal ideas, ideas that are central to our democracy.

A few tidbits:

ProPublica and Documented have obtained more than 50 hours of internal Teneo videos and hundreds of pages of documents that reveal the organization’s ambitious agenda, influential membership and burgeoning clout. We have also interviewed Teneo members and people familiar with the group’s activities. The videos, documents and interviews provide an unfiltered look at the lens through which the group views the power of the left — and how it plans to combat it.

In response to questions for this story, Leo said in a statement: “Teneo’s young membership proves that the conservative movement is poised to be even more talented, driven, and successful in the future. This is a group that knows how to build winning teams.”

The records show Teneo’s members have included a host of prominent names from the conservative vanguard, including such elected officials as U.S. Sens. J.D. Vance of Ohio and Missouri’s Josh Hawley, a co-founder of the group. Other members have included Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, now the fourth-ranking House Republican, as well as Nebraska’s attorney general and Virginia’s solicitor general. Three senior aides to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential 2024 presidential candidate, are members. Another is the federal judge who struck down a Biden administration mask mandate. The heads of the Republican Attorneys General Association, Republican State Leadership Committee and Turning Point USA — all key cogs in the world of national conservative politics — have been listed as Teneo members…

Teneo co-founder Evan Baehr, a tech entrepreneur and veteran of conservative activism, said in a 2019 video for new members that Teneo had “many, many, many dozens” of members working in the Trump administration, including in the White House, State Department, Justice Department and Pentagon. “They’re everywhere….”

Soon after Leo took an interest in Teneo, the group’s finances soared. Annual revenue reached$2.3 million in 2020 and nearly $5 million in 2021, according to tax records. In 2021, the bulk of Teneo’s income — more than $3 million — came from one source: DonorsTrust, a clearinghouse for conservative, libertarian and other charitable gifts that masks the original source of the money. In 2020, the Leo-run group that received the Chicago business owner’s $1.6 billion donation gave $41 million to DonorsTrust, which had $1.5 billion in assets as of 2021.

Teneo’s other funders have included marquee conservative donors: hedge fund investor Paul Singer, Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, the Charles Koch Foundation, the Bradley Foundation, and the DeVos family, according to Baehr.

As the group’s finances improved, its videos became much more professionally produced, and its website underwent a dramatic upgrade from previous iterations. All of this was part of what Baehr called “Teneo 2.0,” a major leap forward for the group, driven in part by Leo’s guidance and involvement….

Many of the connections happen at Teneo’s annual retreat, which brings together hundreds of members and their spouses, plus allies including politicians like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and DeSantis as well as business leaders and prominent academics. Speakers at past Teneo retreats have included luminaries spanning politics, culture, business and the law: New York Times columnist David Brooks, federal judge Trevor McFadden, Blackwater founder Erik Prince, “Woke, Inc.” author and 2024 presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, former Trump cabinet official and 2024 presidential hopeful Nikki Haley, ultrawealthy donors and activists Dick and Betsy DeVos, and Chick-fil-A board chair Dan Cathy.

These are the only posts today. Read them. Think about it. What did you learn? What should we do? None of us is a billionaire. How can we save our democracy?

Organize. Be informed. Vote.

I had the pleasure of speaking by Zoom to a meeting of the Pastors for Florida Children. The event was reported by Baptist Global News.

The morning session was also addressed by Baptist minister and retired Arkansas Judge Wendell Griffen. Although we have never met, our messages were in synch: Do not let the authoritarian Governor Ron DeSantis intimidate you!

Baptist minister and retired Arkansas judge Wendell Griffen stood before an audience of faith leaders and education advocates in Tallahassee, Fla., March 9, pointed to his lapel and dared Gov. Ron DeSantis to have him apprehended for being politically and racially aware.

“I wore a ‘woke’ button on purpose. I want to get arrested for being woke. I plead guilty to being woke. I want to be convicted of being woke,” Griffen said during a prayer breakfast sponsored by Pastors for Florida Children.

Wendell Griffen

Griffen, a BNG columnist and pastor of New Millennium Church in Little Rock, urged the in-person and virtual interfaith and multiracial audience to be equally defiant of Florida’s political leaders. “Be a community of prophets but teach as one and correct, confront, organize, interact, defy, dissent, disrupt.”

Jewish, Christian and Muslim participants who prayed ahead of the speeches by Griffen and education historian Diane Ravitch focused on DeSantis’ prohibition of books that teach about racial injustice and inclusion….

Please open the link and read his bold, wise, and brave advice.

Ravitch opened with a double-barreled barrage at DeSantis’ efforts to dismantle freedom of inquiry in public schools.

“I write a daily blog, and I find that it’s being overwhelmed by the bad news from Florida,” she said. “There doesn’t seem to be anything good coming from your elected officials. If anything, it seems to be building a more and more authoritarian empire to control the thinking of everybody in the state.”

She said DeSantis seems to be going out of his way to disprove Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous saying that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

“Your governor and your legislature are trying to flatten that arc so that it does not bend
towards justice,” she declared.

Current political events in Florida do not impact public schools alone, Ravitch said. “Florida today is at the very apex of a movement to turn the clock back a century, to turn the clock back on religious freedom, on racial justice and on all the evolution we have experienced over this past century to make ours a more just society. Your governor is creating a model of thought control and calling it freedom. Every time I see him standing in front of a banner that says ‘freedom,’ I’m reminded of George Orwell’s 1984, where freedom equals slavery.”

The conservative attack on the concept of “woke” is another sign of burgeoning authoritarianism, she said.

“We have to redeem that word. It means being awake — awake to injustice, awake to history, awake to all the things that are wrong in our society and that have been wrong over the centuries. And his (DeSantis’) idea of woke is simply to eliminate critical thinking about history and even knowledge of history. And this is very dangerous.”

And that’s only the beginning.

A reader named JCGrim posted an important fact about vouchers: Voucher schools are not required to comply with the federal law that protects the rights of students with disabilities.

Vouchers are a backdoor scheme to make kids with disabilities disappear. Move them off the books & into unaccountable, unstable, non-transparent places.

The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) oppose vouchers on the grounds that voucher & voucher-like programs fail to comply with IDEA’s provision of a free, appropriate, public education (FAPE).

Position on Use of Public Education Dollars to Fund
School Vouchers and Other Voucher-Type Programs
Approved July 2020 CEC opposes school vouchers and voucher-type programs for all children and youth including those with disabilities. Such programs are contrary to the best interests of all children and youth and their families, the public-school system, local communities, and taxpayers.

Here the link to the full position paper.

Click to access Public%20Funds%20-%202020.pdf

I received the following notice from Dr. Angela Valenzuela of the University of Texas. She has written extensively about diversity, exclusion, inclusion, equity, and history. Her original letter was sent to executives at the American Educational Research Association. She shared it with me, and I am sharing it with you.

As I am sure everybody knows, we are in the throes of a major fight here in Texas over DEI, academic freedom, CRT in higher education, tenure, and so much more and these folks are loaded with hubris—like they can just roll right over us. That’s what DeSantis is demonstrating. So I and others have been working for close to a year now in trying to unite our communities. We are doing this through an organization we’ve named, Black Brown Dialogues on Policy and now, so that we don’t become Florida by uniting as black and brown humanity. Intersectional. Intergenerational. Civil rights, Gen Z inclusive, white allies—and all people of good conscience. This is the Beloved Community, El Pueblo Amado.I just love how it sounds in Spanish.

There’s more that unites than divides us. We’ll have the program up soon, as well, on our website.

Next Saturday, March 11, BBDP is organizing a Virtual Town Hall on DEI and Ethnic Studies and all are welcome to attend:

MEDIA ADVISORY: Black Brown Dialogues on Policy hosts Virtual Town Hall—Sat. March 11, 2023 from 10:00 AM—4:30PM CST

We get going at 10AM CST and you can view it and post questions from our Facebook page:

We hope to have the Virtual Town Hall program up on our website soon.

AERA luminaries Drs. Francesca Lopez, Christine Sleeter, Kevin Kumashiro and Stella Flores are part of the program. Texas legislators and two Gen Z panels, too.

Media industry professionals are producing it and we are using this Virtual Town Hall as an informational opportunity and organizing tool through which to, on the one hand, pass Ethnic Studies legislation (HB 45), and on the other, defeat terrible bills like those listed below.

HB 45 is about Ethnic Studies. It doesn’t make ES a requirement. Rather, it creates a pathway to a high school diploma through the taking of either Mexican American or African American Studies, courses that are currently electives in state policy at the high school level. Native American Studies and Asian American Studies were “passed,” along with the other two courses in 2018. I and so many others were involved in its passage. And the SBOE has waited for a more conservative board to get in to decide whether and when to align Native American Studies and Asian American Studies to state standards. They’re foot dragging. What we need is a law, or HB 45.

Check out these horrible bills.

The specific bills represent an attack on DEI in higher education: House Bill 1006, House Bill 1607, and House Bill 1046. I heard there was one more, too. We can’t keep up. But these are sufficiently draconian to be concerned.

House Bill 1006 seeks to “prohibit: (A) the funding, promotion, sponsorship, or support of: (i) any office of diversity, equity, and inclusion; and (ii) any office that funds, promotes, sponsors, or supports an initiative or formulation of diversity, equity, and inclusion beyond what is necessary to uphold the equal protection of the lawsunder the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

House Bill 1607 is the higher education analogue to Senate Bill 3 last legislative session that some have dubbed the “Texas anti-CRT” bill, House Bill 1006.

HB 1046 seeks to prohibit what they’re calling “political tests” in higher education utilized in hiring decisions or in student admissions as a condition of employment, promotion, or admission, to identify a commitment to or make a statement of personal belief supporting any specific partisan, political, or ideological set of beliefs, including an ideology or movement that promotes the differential treatment of any individual or group based on race or ethnicity.

It will really make a difference if folks from all over the country attend to convey solidarity with our cause. Public statements, letters to Governor Greg Abbott and the Lt. Governor Dan Patrick in defense of Ethnic Studies, CRT, and DEI are also much appreciated.

I’m sure I missed some folks, so apologies if I left you out. We have a lot on our plates at the moment.

Hasta pronto! Buenas noches. May all have a blessed week.

Peace / paz,

Angela Valenzuela, Ph.D.

Co-founder and convener

Black Brown Dialogues on Policy

Two educators in the District of Columbia were fired because they refused to implement the harsh, no-excuses pedagogy of the so-called “Relay Graduate School of Education.”

One of the fired educators was a respected principal of an elementary school, Dr. Carolyn Jackson-King. She objected to the practice of barking out commands to students and demanding unquestioning compliance. She said it was racist. She and another school employee who agreed with her—Marlon Ray—were fired.

I was invited to write a deposition on behalf of the fired educators, and I did. The Relay “no excuses” pedagogy would never be acceptable to middle-class parents of any race. Children are not dogs. They should not be trained like dogs. Why is this harsh treatment reserved for low-income Black children?

Peter Greene wrote about the case, which is going to trial in a few weeks at Forbes, where is a senior contributor.

When Relay Graduate School of Education was brought in by D.C. Public Schools to do staff training, administrators Carolyn Jackson-King and Marlon Ray blew the whistle on the disciplinary methods they mandated. The two lost their jobs, in what they claim was retribution for speaking out. They sued the district; now that lawsuit is finally moving forward.

Carolyn Jackson-King spent almost two decades working in the District of Columbia Public School system, including seven years as principal of Lawrence E. Boone Elementary School.

Jackson-King started there is 2014, inheriting a school that was chaotic, with fighting, low morale, and weak academics. Jackson-King started there when the school was still named Orr Elementary, after Benjamin Orr, D.C.’s fourth mayor. When a student in the predominantly Black school discovered that Orr had been a slave owner, Jackson-King worked with the school community to have the name changed to honor the school’s first Black principal.

Jackson-King was respected in that community (they reportedly called her Dr. J-K or Principal JK). She told WAMU, “In order to have a culture like the one we have at Boone, we have to build relationships and that’s what we do best.” Boone’s rating went from 1 star to 3 star. Jackson-King appeared to be a successful, well-respected principal who had lifted up a struggling school in an underserved community. Then Relay Graduate School of Education came to town.

The defendants opposed the Relay methods and refused to comply.

Their argument is not that complicated: They stood up for the students against a program they saw as abusive and racist (a point on which many authorities agree, including charter schools that had previously implemented the model), and the district retaliated by taking their jobs…

What is Relay GSE?

Relay Graduate School of Education was launched in 2007 as Teacher U. It was set up by three founders of charter school chains as a way to beef up the teacher pipeline for their schools. The founders had little formal teacher training of their own. In 2011 they changed the name to better reflect their expansive new plans, expanding Relay’s operations across the country.

Relay is not a graduate school in any traditional sense of the word. As Lauren Anderson, chair of the Education Department at Connecticut College, once put it:

It is a charter-style network of independent teacher preparation programs created by the leaders of three prominent charter school chains (Uncommon Schools, KIPP, and Achievement First), primarily as a means to bypass traditional teacher education.

Education historian Diane Ravitch wrote of Relay:

It has no scholars, no researchers, no faculty other than charter teachers. It is a trade school for teaching tricks of test-taking and how to control black and brown children and teach them to obey orders without questioning.

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

If you have any personal experience with Relay and its pedagogy, please let me know or write a letter to the lawyer representing the two educators. The lawyer who represents them is Raymond C. Fay. He can be reached at:

Frankly, it is shocking that a successful principal would be fired because she refused to bow to the demands of a pretend “graduate school” led by charter school teachers with far less experience than she has. Relay’s leaders undoubtedly attended prep schools and elite suburban public schools where they were never subjected to “no excuses” pedagogy.