Archives for category: Resistance

Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider reveal the secret ingredient to the success of the Resistance to privatization/portfolio district strategy in Denver in this podcast.

For years, Denver had been a feather in the cap of DFER and other advocates of privatization. Betsy DeVos lauded Denver for its commitment to school choice, although she was disappointed that it had not yet adopted vouchers. the Brookings Institution praised Denver for its deep commitment to choice.

Michael Bennett rose from Denver superintendent to the U.S. Senate and still touts his success as a school reformer.

But in the last school board election, the critics of school closings, portfolio strategies, and charter schools won the seats to control the board, to the amazement of everyone.

How did it happen?

Jennifer Berkshire wrote: It’s a fascinating and inspiring story. The movement to “flip the board” started in Denver’s Black community and was then taken up by teachers. But the most amazing part of the story may be how young people – the products of the Denver reform experiment – have risen up to demand change. I don’t think that’s what DFER envisioned! 

Listen to the podcast.

SLAYING GOLIATH will be published on January 21. Please consider giving a pre-order for Xmas to your friends.

On that date, I will appear in conversation with Carol Burris to discuss the book and the issues it raises. That event will be sponsored by the Community Bookstore at Congregation Beth Elohim at 274 Garfield Place (Eighth Avenue) in Park Slope, Brooklyn at 6:30 pm on January 21. The bookstore or synagogue charges a $10 admission fee.

SAVE THE DATE!

All are welcome.

This review in Library Journal goes out to libraries across the nation. It is a starred review, which is a kudo.

Knopf. Jan. 2020. 352p. ISBN 9780525655374. $27.95. ED
COPY ISBN

In this incisive, meticulously researched book, Ravitch (education, New York Univ.; The Death and Life of the Great American School) argues persuasively that the U.S. school privatization movement has resulted in poor test scores, the closure of public schools, and attacks on the teaching profession. Ravitch blames the so-called school reformers, whom she renames the disruptors, such as Bill Gates, Alice Walton, Michelle Rhee, Mark Zuckerberg, and Eli Broad, who spend millions to replace public schools with charter schools and private institutions that are run like businesses. Though disruptors view themselves as opposing the status quo, Ravitch contends that they are doing everything they can to maintain it. She devotes most of her book to the resisters, or the teachers, parents, and union leaders who have taken on the disruptors and are working to keep their local public schools open. Through this lens, Ravitch discusses the Common Core teaching standards, standardized testing, the Obama administration’s Race to the Top grant program, and Teach for America.

VERDICT This extensive analysis is required reading for anyone concerned about American education. [See Prepub Alert, 7/8/19.]

On November 26, the New York Times published an article that had this headline: ‘Minority Voters Chafe As Democratic Candidates Abandon Charter Schools.’

The point of the article was that many black and Latino families are very disappointed that all the Democratic candidates have turned their backs on charter schools, excepting Cory Booker, currently polling around 1-2%. The article was especially critical of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who have, as the article put it, “vowed to curb charter school growth.”

The article implied that the shift was due to the candidates’ pursuit of the support of the teachers’ unions, and charter schools are mostly non-union. Thus, if you want the union vote, you oppose non-union charters. (In my experience, neither the AFT nor the NEA is anti-charter, since they seek to organize charters to join their unions and have had some modest success; still, about 90% of charters are non-union.)

The article was prompted by an organized disruption of a speech in Atlanta by Elizabeth Warren, who was talking about a washerwomen’s strike in Atlanta in 1881, led by black women. The disruption was led by Howard Fuller, who, as the article notes, has received many millions from rightwing foundations, not only the Waltons but the Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee, to sell vouchers and charters to black families.

Not until paragraph 25 does the article mention that the national NAACP, the nation’s largest organization representing black families, called for a charter moratorium in 2016. That fact alone should raise the question of how representative the protestors are.

I wrote this post about the article. The gist of my complaint was that the Times’ article gave the impression that black and Latino families are clamoring for more charters, when in reality there are many cities in which black and Hispanic families are protesting the destruction of their public schools and the loss of democratic control of their schools.

I questioned why the article relied on a five-year-old press release from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools as evidence for its claim that the “wait list” for charter schools was in the “hundreds of thousands.” Actually, the 2014 press release from the charter advocacy group said the “wait list” topped one million students. My comment was that “wait lists” have never been audited or verified and that a claim by a lobbying group is not evidence.

I added to my post a commentary by Robert Kuttner, the editor of the American Prospect,  who was also critical of the article.

Both Kuttner and I heard from a reporter from the New York Times. In the response posted below, he acknowledges he made an error in citing poll data in the article, without reading the underlying poll.

I heard from one of the writers of the Times article. She said my post had many inaccuracies. I invited her to write a response and promised I would post it in full. I pleaded with her to identify any inaccuracies in my post and said I would issue a correction. She did not send a response that I could post nor a list of my “inaccuracies.”

The Times posted an article last July about the growing backlash against charter schools. But I do not think the Times has exhausted the question of why the charter “movement” is in decline.  It would surely be interesting if the Times wrote a story about why the NAACP took a strong stand against charter expansion, despite the funding behind charters. Or why Black Lives Matter opposes privatization and supports democratic control of schools. Or why black families in Little Rock, Chicago, Houston, and other cities are fighting charter expansion. None of those families are funded by the Waltons, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Charles Koch, or Michael Bloomberg, so they don’t organize buses to take hundreds or thousands of people to demonstrations.

The Times should take note of the fact that white Southern Republicans have made the charter issue their own, and they are using it to recreate segregated schools. Indeed, the Republican party has made charter schools and vouchers the centerpiece of their education agenda, and Democrats in most state legislatures have resisted that agenda and support public schools. There is also the fact that DeVos and Trump are pushing charters and school choice even as they dismantle civil rights protections.

I wish the Times had noticed a court decision in Mississippi a few months ago that upheld the right of the state to take tax money away from the predominantly black public schools of Jackson, Mississippi (which are 96-97% black), and give it to charter schools authorized by the state, not the district. They might note that the sole black justice on the Mississippi Supreme Court, Justice Leslie King, dissented from that decision. The district, under black leadership, fought that decision and lost. The black parents of Jackson, Mississippi, are fighting for adequate funding of their public schools, while the white Republicans in state government are imposing charter schools.

In Justice Leslie King’s dissenting opinion, which Justice James Kitchens joined, he wrote “This Court should not be a rubber stamp for Legislative policies it agrees with when those policies are unconstitutional.”

Public school districts in Mississippi receive local funding from ad valorem tax receipts. When a student enrolls in a charter school, which is a free public school, money that would have gone to the district follows the student to the charter school instead.

My view is that we need a great public school in every neighborhood, with experienced teachers, a full curriculum, a vibrant arts program, a nurse, and all the resources they need for the students they enroll. I think that charter schools should be authorized by districts to meet their needs and supervised by district officials to be sure that there is full transparency and accountability for the academic program, the discipline policies, and the finances. Charter schools should complement public schools, not compete with them or supplant them.

Here is Robert Kuttner’s second commentary on the article:

americanprospect

 

DECEMBER 2, 2019

Kuttner on TAP

Charter Schools and the Times: a Correction and Further Reflections. I made an error in my On Tap post last week on the New York Times feature piece on black public opinion and charter schools.

My post criticized the Times for publishing a page-one story with an exaggerated headline, “Minority Voters Feel Betrayed Over Schools.”

The Times piece cited a poll showing black support for charter schools at 47 percent. My mistake was to infer from this figure that black support and opposition were about equally divided. As one of the story’s authors pointed out in an email, the actual poll showed support at 47 percent, opposition at 29 percent, and no opinion or similar for the rest.

That 29 percent opposed figure was not mentioned in the Times piece. Nonetheless, I should have pursued the underlying poll and reported it, and not just made assumptions. I regret the error.

That said, polling results vary widely depending on the wording and framing of the question, the sponsor of the poll, and the context. For instance, a poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, in a state that has more charters than any other, reverses the finding of the Education Next poll cited by the Times. In California, blacks, with just 36 percent support, were far less likely to support charters than whites.

One of the two polls that the Times linked to used the phrase “public charter schools.” Most charter schools are public only in their taxpayer funding; their actual accountability to public systems varies widely. Many are for-profit, or nominally nonprofit but managed by for-profit management companies.

Another poll, which my post cited, by Peter Hart Associates (for the American Federation of Teachers), finds that black parents are strongly opposed to the idea of reducing funds for public schools and redirecting them to charters, which is often the practical impact of increased spending on charters. As this study shows, the practical effect of charters, in a climate of fiscal scarcity, is often precisely to divert funds from public schools.

I owe our readers a much deeper look at the charter school controversy, as well as error-free reading of polls. Both will be forthcoming. ~ ROBERT KUTTNER

Robert Kuttners new book is The Stakes: 2020 and the Survival of American Democracy.

Follow Robert Kuttner on Twitter

The Network for Public Education is fortunate to have the leadership and energy of Marla Kilfoyle, former national director of BATS.

She has developed connections with dozens of organizations fighting to protect and improve public schools.

Read her latest report here.

The report includes a call to action to protect student privacy. The deadline for taking action is December 8. Please open the link and join thousands of allies in speaking out against unwanted invasion of student privacy.

The NPE Grassroots Education Network is a network of over 145 grassroots organizations nationwide who have joined together to preserve, promote, improve, and strengthen our public schools. If you know of a group that would like to join this powerful network, please go here to sign on. 

If you have any questions about the NPE Grassroots Education Network please contact Marla Kilfoyle, NPE Grassroots Education Network Liaison at marlakilfoyle@networkforpubliceducation.org

Notes from Marla

CALL TO ACTION FOR ALL ORGANIZATIONS!

Dear NPE Grassroots Education Network – this is a specific call to action that needs to be completed BEFORE December 8th.  The Network for Public Education is sending a letter to the FTC as part of a formal public comment process in which the Commission has asked for input about the potential change in the regulations for COPPA, the Children’s Online Protection Act, originally passed by Congress in 1998. 

 We are urging the FTC NOT to weaken this important privacy law through regulation, as the law wisely provides for parent consent before the online collection of personal data directly from children younger than 13.  Instead, the FTC appears intent on allowing schools and/or teachers to consent on the part of parents when collecting student personal data directly from children. 

 Please read our (brief) letter and if you would like to sign it on behalf of your organization, please enter your contact info and that of your organization on this google form.

 The deadline for signing onto our letter is Dec. 8, as all comments are due to be submitted to the FTC no later than Dec. 9.  You are also encouraged to add your own comments online. You can do so at this link

 For more background on this issue, you can check out the blog post and comments submitted by the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy.

There is also pertinent information about how you can register for the national conference of the Network for Public Education Action in Philadelphia  in 2020.

You will enjoy meeting your friends and allies there.

Registration is open for the NPE Action 6th National Conference to be held in Philadelphia, March 28-29. Seats are limited this year to 500, so DO NOT delay your registration. Go hereto register and book your hotel! Please do not delay, reserve your seat today!  

And there is much, much more from our allies across the nation:

Public Schools Week will be held from February 24th-28th. Start planning NOW by doing the following:

  • Begin to ask your Governor, state and federal lawmakers, Mayor, City Council, or Board of Education to adopt a resolution in support of Public Education. Begin to do this now. You can adopt, edit, or modify this resolution from The School Superintendents Association. If you get a resolution please send it to Marla Kilfoyle at marlakilfoyle@networkforpubliceducation.org and we will forward it along.
  • National organizations please cut a three-minute video that encourages your members to participate in Public Schools Week. Here are the instructions for the video. To see sample videos please go here.  
  • Please share and ask your members to take the pledge in support of Public Schools week. You can do that here.
  • Please consider hosting an event. Starting planning NOW and register your event here  
  • To learn more about Public Schools Week, messaging for 2020 and the #PublicSchoolProud campaign please go here and the toolkit has all kinds of amazing things you can do to support the week on social media.

Jan Resseger gives thanks for the teachers and other educators who boldly walked out and went out on strike over the past two years. So do I.

These courageous educators challenged the national narrative that had been so deviously cultivated by billionaires and Wall Street about “failing schools” and “bad teachers,” in an effort to destroy public faith in public schools and promote privatization of public funds.

Thanks to #Red4Ed, the new and realistic narrative is about crowded classrooms, crumbling schools, underpaid teachers, and schools without nurses, social workers, or librarians.

#Red4Ed said, “No more!”

The first walkout was in West Virginia in the spring of 2018. That walkout closed every school in the state and unleashed a wave of strikes and walkouts that continues now.

Reading about the West Virginia walkout inspired me to start writing a book that will be published January 21, called SLAYING GOLIATH. I will be in West Virginia on February 22 to meet those brave teachers and thank them for what they have done for all of us.

 

Staff and parents of students in the remaining public schools of the Chester-Upland district in Pennsylvania, are planning a rally to protest the charter proposal to take over all the elementary students. The district’s big charter, owned by a for-profit corporation that belongs to a wealthy lawyer, has lower scores on state tests than the public schools it wants to close.

Chester Community Charter School, owned by wealthy Republican donor Vehan Gureghian, is a low-performing charter.

The charter aims to eliminate one choice: local public schools.

If the supporters of the public schools had external funding, they could buy everyone a matching T-shirt, like charters do.

Chester Upland School District employees will hold a rally with parents and other community members next week with the hope of staving off a “charter school takeover” of all elementary schools in the district.

“They’re trying to take over pre-K through eighth grade,” said Dariah Jackson, a life skills teacher at Stetser Elementary School and vice president of the local teacher’s union. “We would just have our high school students.”

Chester Community Charter School, the largest brick-and-mortar charter school in the state with more than 4,300 students, already educates more than half of the district’s elementary school children.

The charter filed a petition earlier this month in the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas asking the court to direct the district and Pennsylvania Department of Education to issue requests for proposals for charters to educate the remaining elementary school students in the district….

The charter schools – they’re sucking up our funding,” said Jackson. “They’re getting a higher percentage of school district funds. We don’t have enough money because it’s going to the charter schools. That’s one of the arguments, that financially we’re not doing well, but financially we’re not doing well because we’re giving them the money.”

Jackson added that the idea of placing all elementary school students into charters goes against the very “school choice” idea proponents of charters espouse.

They’re taking away the parents’ choice and they’re only giving them one option,” she said. “The charter school was created to give the parents an option other than a public school district. We have parents who want to send their children to the public school district, but they’re taking that option away.”

Jackson added that Chester Upland’s traditional elementary schools outperform CCCS in Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests and said that with more funding, they could do even better. She also pointed to extracurricular activities available in the public schools like football and soccer that are not offered elsewhere in the city.

LeAnna Erls Delph is a veteran teacher of sixth grade students in social studies and language arts in Asheville, North Carolina. She is a member of the Governor’s Teachers Advisory Committee, is the North Carolina Association of Educators regional director for the far west, and is a member of the Red4EdNC advisory board.

She explains here why teachers owe it to their students, their communities, and their profession to become politically active.

On a recent Sunday morning, I woke up to see tremendous chatter on social media concerning the budget impasse in the North Carolina General Assembly. The discussion included the lack of educator raises, the failure to expand Medicaid, unacceptable working conditions, and a shortage of support staff. This discussion quickly evolved into the formation of a new social media group discussing the possibility of a large scale collective action or strike of North Carolina educators.

This kind of discussion is not new to me. I’ve been a sixth grade social studies and language arts teacher for 18 years, working my whole career in a diverse community confronted with significant economic struggle. I love my community, and they have always inspired me to advocate for my students and their families. Recently, I decided to take an Inquiry to Action class through the Western Region Education Service Alliance (WRESA) to earn continuing licensure credits and build my activist skills. Here, a small group of educators studied educator activism in both theory and practice.  Each week we discussed a different education-related activist tool, theory, and issue. The culminating project was to take our “inquiry” and put it into “action” in some way.

The group decided to focus on “making the invisible visible.” In other words, we seek to deepen critical consciousness — the notion that we go through life oblivious to the world around us on the largest scale. A famous example of this precept is the analogy of the fish in water. If you asked a fish what water is, the fish wouldn’t understand the question because it has a fish brain.

Joking aside, it is because the fish is completely immersed in the water and always has been. The fish just doesn’t notice because it is so “normal” and so ubiquitous. In human life, this would be like the systematic racism that we all live within. Or, it may be ideas that are simply taken as “common sense.” For educators, we may struggle to apprehend fundamental truths about our own environments. I believe that public educators swim in a sea of politics which is all too often invisible — so that is the concept I choose to render more visible. 

Most North Carolina local school boards have policies which hold that employees may not engage in political activities during the school day. However, because public schools are supported by public monies which are controlled by politicians, the very act of teaching, while not partisan, is an inherently political activity. In fact, North Carolina’s evaluation instrument for educators insists upon educators taking part in political activities. Standard 1 (Teachers Demonstrate Leadership) states, “Teachers advocate for schools and students. Teachers advocate for positive change in policies and practices affecting student learning.” What is advocating for policies if not political?  

Please open the post to see her wonderful infographics and finish learning her thoughts on teacher activism.

LeAnna is a member of the Resistance!

 

 

Watch these stirring videos that show the huge crowd of teachers and their allies amassed in Indianapolis in a demonstration for public education!

See the dramatic and inspiring gathering of #Red4Ed in Indiana!

After years of being mistreated by the Republican governor and legislature in the Hoosier State, teachers are rising up and saying “Enough is enough!”

#Red4Ed is on the march!

If you want to understand what is happening in the Little Rock school District today, read Eric Blanc’s article. 

Eric Blanc has covered every one of the teachers’ strikes since the West Virginia strike in the spring of 2018. Now he is in Little Rock, where he interviewed teachers who went on strike yesterday to protest the State Board of Education’s heavy-handed control of the district and its decision to strip school employees of collective bargaining rights.

Teachers are outraged that the State Board of Education, which took control of the district in 2015, utterly failed to improve student outcomes, yet refuses to relinquish control to a democratically elected board. Teachers believe that the state wants to resegregate the district.

Blanc writes:

Little Rock teachers today are not demanding raises for themselves, but an end to the state’s push to resegregate schools, its takeover of their district, its decertification of their union, and its disrespect for school support staff. As second grade teacher Jenni White explains, “this is literally about standing up for our kids and not dividing our community…

The immediate roots of this week’s action go back to January 2015 when the Arkansas State Board of Education announced that it was taking over Little Rock’s schools due to low standardized test scores. By all accounts, the ensuing state takeover failed to accomplish its nominal goal of improving stability and educational opportunities for the town’s low-performing schools. Yet rather than return Little Rock School District to local control in 2020 as promised, the state board instead proposed in September of this year that it would continue to oversee so-called “F”-rated schools, those with the lowest test scores.

Since all but one of the “F” schools were in black and brown neighborhoods south of I-630, teachers and parents saw this an attempt to create a two-tier school system. “The plan was blatantly racist, it separated the haves and the have notes,” Jenni White told me.

In a dramatic protest on the evening of October 9, thousands of teachers, support staff, students, and community members congregated on the steps of Central High, where the Little Rock Nine had famously confronted the National Guard decades earlier. Teresa Knapp Gordon, president of the Little Rock Education Association (LREA), closed the rally with the following declaration: “Either we accept segregation, or we stand and fight.”

This public outpouring forced the state board to change tactics. At the next evening’s contentious Arkansas Board of Education meeting, it dropped the proposal to split Little Rock’s school district. But surprisingly, the board then immediately proceeded to cease recognition of the LREA as the educators’ representative, thereby scrapping the last remaining collective bargaining agreement for school workers in Arkansas. The decision was blatant retaliation against not only teachers but also Little Rock’s school support staff, who were in the midst of negotiating a pay raise.

Next, the board issued a draft “Memorandum of Understanding” explaining that instead of returning full local control to the school board set to be elected in November 2020, the state would appoint a parallel “advisory board” that could veto local decisions. The Memorandum also insists on closing up to eleven neighborhood schools — which would thereby accelerate privatization, since state law gives charters first access to any vacant school. Stacey McAdoo, a teacher at Central High, told Labor Notes, “they are trying to charterize the [district] like what happened in New Orleans and disenfranchise people and make a separate school system out of the areas that are primarily Black and Latino.”

As in so many other states across the country, this offensive against the labor movement, public education, and working-class communities of color is being directly funded by billionaires. And it’s not just any billionaires: Little Rock teachers and students are up against the Arkansas-based Waltons, founders of Walmart and the richest familyin America.

The Walton family: the Death Star of Public Education. The ingrates who graduated from Arkansas public schools but now want to destroy them and public schools everywhere. Rich and shameless.

Thousands of teachers from across Indiana will rally in Indianapolis on November 19, seeking better pay and more resources for their students.

Indiana has one of the most reactionary state governments in the nation.

Over 100 districts will close or switch to e-learning for the day.

The state’s largest school district, the Fort Wayne Community Schools, announced that it would close because so many teachers will be joining the protest at the State Capitol.

Many will wear buttons remembering our dear Phyllis Bush, a founding member of the board of the Network for Public Education, a teacher activist and founder of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, who died eight months ago but left behind hundreds and thousands of admirers inspired by her passion for public education. Phyllis’s wife, Donna Roof, and her many former students and friends will be at the rally on November 19, remembering the dedication, love, and wit that Phyllis brought to her role as a teacher and as an advocate for public schools.