Archives for category: Poverty

If you live in Northeast Wisconsin, I urge you to support Tom Nelson for Congress.

He has never accepted money from DFER or any other privatizers.

He has fought Scott Walker over Walker’s full-blown efforts to privatize public funding for public schools.

He has served in the state legislature and as a county executive.

Elect a friend of public education to Congress!

Before the second debate tonight, the Journey for Justice asks the candidates to respond to these questions:


NEWS RELEASE MEDIA CONTACT: Jaribu Lee
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(773) 548-7500
October 8, 2016
info@j4jalliance.com

Education activists release statement ahead of second presidential debate: “Will the next president be tone deaf…”

CHICAGO – Today, Jitu Brown, national director of the Journey for Justice Alliance (J4JA) released the following statement ahead of the second presidential debate in St. Louis on Sunday, September 9th. Thousands of African American and Latino parents, students and activists have challenged both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (and third-party candidates) to release their K-through-12 public education platforms, as well as identify how, if elected, they will work to end federal education policies that have destabilized communities and hurt students of color:

“As parents, students and residents of communities impacted by corporate education interventions in 24 cities across this nation, we are dismayed by the omission of public education as an issue during this presidential election season. Public education repeatedly polls as a top tier issue, but has been largely ignored by both major and third party candidates,” said Brown.

“Will the next president be tone deaf to the tremors from the ground? As a national network of grassroots community organizations across America, we have seen first-hand a determined resistance to failed, top-down corporate education interventions that cannot be ignored; Title VI civil rights complaints filed in 12 cities, thousands of people in determined protest against school closings, sit-ins and traffic blockades, students occupying the superintendent’s office in Newark, a 34-day hunger strike to save a neighborhood’s last open-enrollment high school in Chicago, the rejection of punitive standardized test across the nation and from those who wish to be the leader of the free world; silence.

“The next president must base their advocacy in relationship with people’s lived reality, not corporate relationships. When a mother cries in Detroit because her child’s school is being closed, or students walk-out by the thousands in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Camden and Newark, Baltimore and Philadelphia; it matters. The next president must understand that the United States ranks 19th in the world in public education among OECD countries but when you remove poverty we are number 2. The next president must have the courage to stare down inequity in public education with a commitment to hear the voices of the people directly impacted. The next president must understand that we do not have failing schools in America, as a public we have been failed,” he continued.

“We are asking the next president to meet with the Journey for Justice Alliance and adopt our education platform. Include J4J on your education transition team so that public policy can be rooted in our lived experiences, not someone’s opinion of our communities. We were disappointed that the vice-presidential candidates said nothing about public education in their October 4th debate. We want to hear from both candidates on October 9th about their education agenda. Will they be honest about the harm inflicted on our communities by school closings and the unwarranted expansion of charter schools? Will they acknowledge that the “illusion of choice” must be erased by the reality of strong, high quality neighborhood schools within safe walking distance of our homes? We will be watching.”

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The Journey for Justice Alliance (J4J) (www.j4jalliance.org) is a national network of inter-generational, grassroots community organizations led primarily by Black and Brown people in 24 U.S. cities. With more than 40,000 active members, we assert that the lack of equity is one of the major failures of the American education system. Current U.S. education policies have led to states’ policies that lead to school privatization through school closings and charter school expansion which has energized school segregation, the school-to-prison pipeline; and has subjected children to mediocre education interventions that over the past 15 years have not resulted in sustained, improved education outcomes in urban communities.

Journey For Justice Alliance
4242 S. Cottage Grove
Chicago, IL 60653
773-548-7500

This link will take you to the opening pages of the revised “Death and Life of the Great American Dchool System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.” The book was originally published in 2010. It became a surprise national bestseller.

The publisher at Basic Books, Lara Heimert, invited me to lunch a year ago and made an unusual offer. She said that I could revise the book any way I wanted. This was an extraordinary offer. Publishers usually warn you not to add or subtract unless you keep the line count exactly the same. They want to avoid the expense of resetting the entire book. But I was offered the opportunity to change, add, delete as I wished. It was an offer I could not refuse.

The two big changes I made were these:

I removed my long-standing support for national standards and tests in light of the Common Core debacle.

Second, I revised my estimation of the 1983 report, “A Nation at Risk,” which gave rise to the myth that American education was broken.

I hope you will take the time to read this new edition. It reflects much of what I have learned from YOU on this blog over the past four years.

Diane

Thanks to Mike Klonsky for calling attention to this article about state takeovers of districts and schools. A takeover nullifies parent and community voice. A disproportionate number of takeovers have been inflicted on African-American communities. As we know from the failure of the Achievement School District, these takeovers have a bad track record. What do they accomplish? They nullify parent and community voice.

In New Jersey – which, in 1987, became the first state to take over a school district – Camden is among several urban districts that have come under state control. The state hired Camden’s superintendent, while the mayor appoints school board members – a practice that predates the state takeover of the district in 2013.

A judge last week dismissed a lawsuit from Camden residents seeking the right to elect school board members, questioning the rationale for electing a board that has been stripped of its power by the state.

In Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia School District is governed by a five-member School Reform Commission, with three members appointed by the governor and two by the city’s mayor. The Chester Upland district is also under state control. Camden, Philadelphia, and Chester Upland have large minority populations.

Be sure to read the descriptions of districts where democracy was snuffed out.

They are districts hollowed out by poverty, deindustrialization, and white flight. The state takeover didn’t help. It stripped away one of the few ways in which residents had a voice. Now they have lost that too.

This is how the story of Highland Park, Michigan, begins:

“Highland Park, Michigan, a small city within Detroit’s boundaries, was once called the “City of Trees.” Thick greenery lined suburban blocks crowded with single-family homes built for a growing middle class. Henry Ford pioneered the assembly line at his automobile plant on Woodward Avenue, the city’s main thoroughfare. The suburban school district was considered one of the top 10 in Michigan, according to a report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 1962.

“Today, most of Highland Park’s trees are gone. Overgrown, empty lots and burned-out houses outnumber occupied homes on some blocks. The Ford plant stands empty. And parents say Highland Park’s once-proud school district has collapsed, hastened by four years under state control.”

As you read these stories, ask yourself the question: seeing the problems, why was state takeover of the schools supposed to be a good idea?

Perhaps you don’t know who Peter Cunningham is. I didn’t know until he went to Washington as Arne Duncan’s chief PR guy (Assistant Secretary for Communications). I met Peter a few times, and I thought he was charming. We always disagreed with a smile or a laugh. He knew he would never persuade me, and I knew I would never get him to admit that Race to the Top was all wrong.

I recall a discussion of testing. I tried to persuade him that the most important things in life can’t be measured. He replied, “You measure what you treasure.” I of course responded, “what you really treasure can never be measured.” What about your children? Your spouse? Your parents? Your pets? Come on! I love certain paintings, certain music, certain movies. How much? I don’t know. What difference?

Mike Klonsky has been arguing on Twitter with Peter.

Peter has decided that it’s too late to worry about racial segregation. Apparently he thinks that talking about poverty is a distraction from school reform. Peter has become the voice of corporate reformers. They have controlled the narrative for at least 15 years. Where are the success stories?

School reform officials in Michigan announced that more public schools would be closed based on their test scores over the past three years.

Blogger Bill Boyle called the “The Politics of Cruelty.” It implies that the adults in the building are not trying, don’t care, or are incompetent.

He wrote:


I could write how many of the so-called “failing” schools are under the auspices of the Educational Achievement Authority (EAA), a state-run school district that was created to turn around so-called “failing schools.” We know how that has worked.

Boyle notes a strange coincidence:

Under the state’s emergency control, authorities decided to cut off the water to people who didn’t pay the water bill.


As most know, the city of Detroit was under the control of a state appointed Emergency Manager beginning in March, 2013, before it began the process of bankruptcy. This is important history. In May of 2014, while under the control of the state of Michigan, it was determined that those unwilling or unable to pay their water bills would have their water shut off.

Boyle wrote in an earlier blog:


“In May of this year, the Detroit Water and Sewage Department began a crusade to collect unpaid fees by residents of Detroit. They are currently shutting off water access to any Detroit resident who is either $150 or two months behind in payment. This will affect over 120,00 account holders over a 3 month period at a rate of 3,000 shut offs per week. (The suspicion of many is that the shut offs are occurring in the midst of Detroit’s bankruptcy in order to make DWSD more attractive for privatization.)

Mind you, this is occurring in a major US city, the richest country in the world, that has a poverty rate of 44%, is over 80% black, whose residents have already have their democratic vote similarly cut off, in a state that is surrounded by 4 of the largest fresh water lakes in the world.”

Boyle says that Pershing High School, which was moved into the EAA, is likely to be on the closure list.


It is not surprising to find that this high school exists in one of the neighborhoods most affected by water shut offs and home foreclosures. It’s a neighborhood, in other words, whose existence is in peril. Students show up to school hungry, thirsty and homeless. This is undeniable, but it is obscured by the talk of “failing schools.” And to deny it, to allow it to be obscured, is cruel. To close a school in a community such as this, to take one more piece of property out of a neighborhood that has had its water stolen, its homes stolen, and now its school threatened, is simply, callously cruel.

A Democratic legislator said the school closing plan was “irresponsible.”

The state official referred to schools with low scores as “failing schools.” Here’s a prediction: the vast majority of schools identified as “failing” will have large enrollments of children who are poor, children of color, children who don’t read English, and children with disabilities. In addition, they will be highly segregated.

Do you think the state will offer the displaced students the opportunity to enroll in excellent suburban schools?

Neither do I.

Mike Klonsky notes that Peter Cunningham (former flack for Arne Duncan, now paid millions to run a blog promoting charters schools and testing) basically gives up on any meaningful effort to reduce segregation and poverty. Arne himself once said that he opposes “forced integration,” strangely enough, the same phrase used by southern segregationists.

Poverty and segregation may be root causes of poor school performance, but Cunningham says it is just too darn expensive and politically too hard to change things.

Better to keep on reforming schools without addressing root causes.

A high school teacher in Chicago writes a guest post for EduShyster about a charming, charismatic student she calls Darrell.

Darrell was far behind in his school work. His attention was elsewhere. Darrell was murdered.

If Darrell had been born White and privileged, he would have been in the twelfth grade, ready to graduate from high school and move on to college. He would have been an entrepreneur, a politician. He was that charismatic, that magnetic. Peers gathered around him like steam over coffee. He had a sharp wit. He cracked up everyone he met, including his teachers. But because he was poor, lived in the hood, couldn’t read, and didn’t have the patience or inclination for formal education, Darrell used his talents in the ways that he could. Ways his teachers vainly protested, seeing the basic sweetness and goodness in this giant who seemed to us strangely vulnerable, despite his hulking frame and the $1000 in twenty dollar bills he regularly displayed, like a fan, when he couldn’t focus in class.

We, his teachers, knew how he got his money. We called his mother, expressing concern. But Darrell was caught up in something bigger than his block, more sinister than his gang and his guns and his drugs. He was stuck in the purgatory of hopeless, helpless poverty, whose victims know they’ll eventually end up in hell, but plan to enjoy the party while it lasts.

It’s a different thing, teaching the living dead. It’s a different thing to understand that you will likely outlive your students, praying that they’ll be jailed, just so they’ll still be drawing breath. It’s a different thing to see your students rocking guns and bags of drugs on their Facebook pages, the ones you stalk after they die. It’s a different thing to call and call and call and call a parent, and never get an answer, or to hear the parent kicking the crap out of the kid as you listen on the other end, or to hear the parent tell you, as a parent told me earlier this year, that she had no idea where her child even was—a young man in a similar situation to Darrell. Not for that moment or that hour, but for six months.

It’s a different thing when your own peers don’t get why you teach students like these, why you love their infectious enthusiasm, their humor, their undying spirits, the respect they show you when you treat them like human beings.

Do reformers understand hopelessness? They certainly don’t understand teachers like this one. They blame her for Darrell’s poverty and his academic failure. Why?

Jersey Jazzman takes pundit Alexander Russo to the woodshed in this post.

Russo is a good writer who leans reformy and can be counted on to stick a dagger in critics of corporate reform, like me. He recently slammed me on Twitter for daring to express concern about segregation as a problem. He claimed this was unheard of from me. I suggested he read “Reign of Error,” wherein I identify segregation and poverty as a “toxic mix” that harms children.

This is not the first time he has given me one of his not so subtle jabs. Usually I ignore them because I know that he lashes out in hopes of driving traffic to his Twitter account.

JJ doesn’t worry about defending me–I can do that on my own–but he takes the time to correct Russo’s mistaken belief that social justice is somehow disconnected from over-testing and underfunding. JJ argues that you can’t separate these issues from any discussion of social justice in schools, because there will be no sustained social justice in our schools in the absence of adequate and equitable funding.

JJ has honed his research skills and his rhetorical skills to a point where it is fruitless for critics to take him on. He wins every time. That’s what his experience as a teacher, a writer, and a doctoral student has produced. He is formidable. And right.

Mercedes Schneider describes here a lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center to block the public funding of charter schools.

SPLC cites the state constitution, which requires that all public funds go to public schools that are overseen by the local district and the state. Charter schools are overseen by neither.

Currently the state has three charter schools operating in Jackson, with another 14 set to open this fall. Eleven of the 14 will be in Jackson.

Mercedes provides an excerpt from the lawsuit:

Section 206 of the Mississippi Constitution provides that a school district’s ad valorem taxes may only be used for the district to maintain its own schools. Under the CSA, public school districts must share ad valorem revenue with charter schools that they do not control or supervise. Therefore, the local funding stream of the CSA is unconstitutional.

Section 208 of the Mississippi Constitution forbids the Legislature from appropriating money to any school that is not operating as a “free school.” A “free school” is not merely a school that charges no tuition; it must also be regulated by the State Superintendent of Education and the local school district superintendent. Charter schools– which are not under the control of the State Board of Education, the State Superintendent of Education, the Mississippi Department of Education, the local school district superintendent, or the local school district– are not “free schools.” Accordingly, the state funding provision of the CSA is unconstitutional. …

The CSA heralds a financial cataclysm for public school districts across the state. … The future is clear: as a direct result of the unconstitutional CSA funding provisions, traditional public schools will have fewer teachers, books, and educational resources.

The SPLC is right to point out the devastating financial impact that the funding of charters will have on public schools. This is a point that is always overlooked, ignored, or dismissed by corporate reformers. As long as they get what they want, they don’t care what happens to the majority of children.