Archives for category: Resistance

Jersey Jazzman (aka Mark Weber) just celebrated his first 10 years as a blogger.

He explains that he started blogging because he was so outraged by Chris Christie’s constant attacks on teachers, unions, and public schools.

Along the way, he decided that he needed to upgrade his skills and analytical ability, so he earned a doctorate at Rutgers University.

It has been my pleasure to post many of JJ’s blogs, which have been consistently honest, thoughtful, and rigorous (in the best sense of the word).

By telling the truth, JJ became a leader of the Resistance.

Happy BlogDecadeDay, JJ!

The parents and educators who created SOS Arizona blocked the last expansion plan for vouchers by getting a referendum on the state ballot in 2018. They had to fight the governor, the legislature, the Republican party, the Koch brothers, the DeVos family, and other monied interests, who wanted to keep expanding vouchers until every student in the state was eligible for a voucher.

The all-volunteer SOS Arizona group gathered over 100,000 signatures to put a referendum on the ballot, fought the efforts of the Koch brothers to kick them off the ballot, and the referendum went to the public, where voucher expansion was overwhelmingly defeated by a margin of 65-35%.

Now SOS Arizona needs your help to put another referendum on the state ballot, to end voucher expansion. Volunteers must collect 350,000 signatures to initiate this referendum. They need YOUR help!

Save Our Schools Arizona (SOSAZ), the grassroots group responsible for stopping universal voucher expansion in Arizona in 2018, has gone on offense. In spite of their overwhelming 2-to-1 defeat of Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) voucher expansion, the Arizona state legislature attempted to pass 6 different voucher bills in 2019–all killed by SOSAZ and in 2020 is working to allow ESA vouchers to expand vouchers across state lines. Save Our Schools, once again, said “Enough!”

On February 26, 2020, Save Our Schools Arizona filed a statewide citizens’ initiative (read it here). A critical next step in fighting the privatization movement, capping the program once and for all. The Save Our Schools Act:

Limits private school vouchers to 1% of the AZ student population, allowing current students to stay in the program while blocking ALL new voucher programs in AZ FOREVER

Prevents taxpayer dollars from going to out-of-state private schools

Prevents taxpayer dollars from being deposited into personal accounts to pay for college expenses (a recent public records request by the Arizona Republic uncovered $33 million sitting in unspent recipient accounts including 9 families with a balance of more than $100,000 and dozens of others with more than $50,000.

Prioritizes existing ESA vouchers for special needs students, for whom the program was originally designed

Creates a “Taxpayer Protection Fund” to sweep remaining ESA voucher funds at the end of the fiscal year to enforce the law and increase accountability; remaining funds will transfer to the Exceptional Special Needs public school fund

To successfully place the Save Our Schools Act on the November 2020 ballot, SOSAZ has launched a statewide effort to gather 350,000 signatures by July 2. Please help by donating to this critical cause at https://secure.everyaction.com/gTzwyTPPjU2EeS_rLATvZA2

Rev./Dr. Anika Whitfield of Grassroots Arkansas issued this stern complaint against school board member Chad Pekron:

In case any of you reading this post for one minute thinks/thought that Gov. @AsaHutchinson is not working the plan of the billionaire Walton family, the Stephens, Hussman and other millionaires to profit off the backs of African American/Black and Latinx American children and families by destroying the LRSD and public schools in Arkansas, think again.

Atty @ChadPekron was appointed to the AR State Board of Education in July 2019, the same time the State Board of Education should have been preparing the LRSD community for a November 2019 school board election.

***We still don’t have an elected school board five years after the state stole the LRSD from our community.***

What unfolded in his short time as a State Board of Education director/member was a planned distraction. Pekron appeared to be one of the few board members who realized that the LRSD community was being attacked unfairly. But, just when you thought he might have a heart for justice (considering he is an attorney), he was the one, in the end, who pulled out the dagger and bludgeoned the hope for local control to be restored to the LRSD and justice to be realized civilly.

Not sure how this parent of five children can rest any night knowing he has caused so much trauma and destruction in the lives of tens of thousands of children, their families, their educators, and their neighborhoods?

Atty #ChadPekron, would you ever stand for any attorney, Governor or billionaires denying your children, family and community their human rights, Democracy and justice as you participated in so ruthlessly doing to innocent children and families in Little Rock?

Shame on you. SHAME on you!

Local activists who fight to return democratic control refuse to bow to the powerful Walton family, who own the governor and the legislature.

Wendy Lecker is a civil rights lawyer for the Education Law Center who writes regularly for the Hearst Connecticut Media Group and the Stamford (CT) Advocate.

https://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-A-fighter-against-bad-education-15111892.php

She writes:

Diane Ravitch is rare in American public policy — a public figure who very publicly admitted that the positions she once championed were wrong. Dr. Ravitch is a historian of education and former assistant secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush — and was once a vocal champion of two pillars of education “reform”: school choice and standardized testing. In 2010, she published a book, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System,” in which she meticulously critiqued these policies, and rued her role in pushing them.

Since then, Dr. Ravitch has tirelessly fought ill-conceived and harmful education policies and promotes a vision of public education that she believes is better for children and truer to our democratic ideals. She not only writes and speaks out herself, she also gives voice to many others fighting for public education, known and unknown. In her blog (dianeravitch.net), which has been viewed by tens of millions, she posts articles and commentaries on education policy from journalists, activists, teachers, parents, scholars and students. It is a must-read blog for anyone who wants to keep up with what is happening around the country in public education. (Full disclosure — Dr. Ravitch has posted many of my columns on her blog). In addition, Ravitch started, along with other activists, the Network for Public Education, a research and advocacy organization that connects supporters of public schools nationwide.

For all her critiques of education reform, or more accurately, “education disruption,” as she calls it, Ravitch is an optimist. Her new, well-researched, yet accessible book, “Slaying Goliath,” exemplifies this positive outlook.

The book doesn’t start out terribly optimistically. Early on, Ravitch presents a daunting list of the many billionaires and foundations that have funded this disruption, and the think tanks and policy organizations they fund to convince state and national politicians to impose their schemes.

For example, Ravitch notes that in North Carolina, that Tea Party extremists killed that state’s successful Teaching Fellows program — which worked with public universities to build a pipeline of career teachers- and diverted that program’s funding to Teach for America, whose minimally trained teachers make no more than a two-year commitment. Interestingly, in North Carolina’s long-running school funding case, a court ordered plan approved in January to ensure state compliance with its constitutional duty to provide an adequate education to all children, calls for reinvigorating and expanding the Teaching Fellows program.

Ravitch maintains that the influence these Goliath philanthrocapitalists buy, installing their chosen public policies and often trampling community will, is corrosive to democracy.

The book chronicles the failures of the reforms pushed by disrupters. For example, Ravitch details how standardized test-based teacher evaluation was devoid of evidence from the start, yet was pushed by Bill Gates and other influential disrupters, then imposed across the nation. Eventually, this scheme was exposed as fatally flawed, invalidated by experts and courts, and mostly abandoned. Even the Gates foundation ultimately admitted that it was a failed idea, but not before billions of dollars was wasted. Ravitch also surveys the corruption and dark money that pervades many of the disrupters’ privatization schemes, providing a clue as to why, despite their clear failures, these bad ideas seem to persist.

In every Diane Ravitch book, I always find new light shed on a topic I thought I knew. “Slaying Goliath” is no exception. In one fascinating chapter, Ravitch reviews the research on intrinsic motivation and its connection to the flawed reward-and-punishment philosophy that underpins education disruption policies. She describes in detail how renowned experts studying these concepts alerted Congress in 2011 to the faulty logic behind and dangers of test-based accountability, to no avail.

The author profiles some of the Davids battling these disruptive Goliaths: from Providence high school students objecting to standardized testing, to community members such as Jitu Brown, fighting school closures and privatization in Chicago, to the teachers around the country protesting deplorable conditions in their underfunded schools.

While these underdogs have not always succeeded, Ravitch’s book provides hope that sanity can be restored to education policy. Throughout the book she places the opposition to educational disruption in the context of the growing awareness about big money’s toxic influence on American politics and policy in general. She reminds readers that “no genuine social movement is created and sustained by elites.” Ravitch notes that those who have risen have shown others that grassroots organizing can have an impact.

Let us hope that Ravitch is right and these Davids will, for the sake of all our children, ultimately prevail.

Wendy Lecker is a columnist for the Hearst Connecticut Media Group and is senior attorney at the Education Law Center.

Some of the nation’s leading civil rights legal teams are supporting parents in Memphis and Metro Nashville who have sued to block the enactment of a voucher bill that applies only to their cash-strapped districts. The bill passed by one vote, after that legislator was promised that his own district would not get vouchers.

CONTACTS:
Ashley Levett, SPLC, ashley.levett@splcenter.org / 334-296-0084
Sharon Krengel, ELC, skrengel@edlawcenter.org / 973-624-1815, x 24
Lindsay Kee, ACLU-TN, communications@aclu-tn.org / 615-320-7142
Christopher Wood, Robbins Geller, cwood@rgrdlaw.com / 615- 244-2203
Nashville, Tenn., March 2 – Public school parents and community members in Nashville and Memphis today filed suit in the Chancery Court for Davidson County challenging the Tennessee Education Savings Account (ESA) voucher law as an unconstitutional diversion of public education funding to private schools.

In the lawsuit, McEwen v. Lee, the plaintiffs contend that diverting millions of dollars intended for Memphis and Nashville public schools to private schools violates public school students’ rights to the adequate and equitable educational opportunities guaranteed under the Tennessee Constitution. The lawsuit also charges that the voucher law violates the constitution’s “Home Rule” provision, which prohibits the state legislature from passing laws that apply only to certain counties.

The Tennessee voucher program would siphon off over $7,500 per student – or over $375 million in the first five years – from funds appropriated by the General Assembly to maintain and support the Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) and Shelby County (Memphis) Schools, according to the lawsuit. The controversial state law could go into effect as early as the 2020-21 school year.

The voucher law passed by a single vote in May 2019, over the objections of legislators from Shelby and Davidson Counties, as well as others.

If the voucher program is implemented, Metro Nashville Public Schools and Shelby County Schools will lose substantial sums from their already underfunded budgets, resulting in further cuts to educators, support staff, and other essential resources, the lawsuit states.

“We love my daughter’s school, but it is already underfunded,” said Roxanne McEwen, whose child is an MNPS student. “There isn’t enough money for textbooks, technology, to pay teachers, or to keep class sizes down. Taking more money away from our schools is only going to make it worse. I joined this lawsuit because I want to be a voice for my child and for kids who don’t have a voice.”

“I believe that Shelby County Schools do not have enough funding to provide all children with the resources they need to learn. At one of my son’s middle school, they do not offer geometry, and one of my other sons did not have a science teacher for two years in a row,” said Tracy O’Connor, whose four children attend Shelby County Schools. “If the district loses more funds due to the voucher program, I worry that we will lose more guidance counselors, reading specialists and librarians, and there will be more cuts to the foreign language and STEM programs.”

The complaint highlights numerous ways in which private schools receiving public funds are not held to the same standards as Tennessee public schools, in violation of the state constitution’s requirement of a single system of public education. Private schools do not have to adhere to the numerous academic, accountability, and governance standards that public schools must meet. They can discriminate against students on the basis of religion, LGBTQ status, disability, income level, and other characteristics. And they are not required to provide special education services to students with disabilities.

“Public schools are open to all children, while private schools receiving voucher funds are not held to the same standards,” said Nashville mother Terry Jo Bichell. “My son is non-verbal and receives extensive special education and related services in his MNPS school, including being assigned a one-on-one paraprofessional. I do not know of a single private school in the state that would be willing or able to enroll a student like my son. Even if a private school was willing to enroll my son, we would have to waive his right to receive special education.”

The voucher law also violates the Tennessee Constitution’s requirement that the General Assembly appropriate first-year funding for each law it passes. No money was appropriated for the voucher law, and recent hearings have revealed that the Tennessee Department of Education used funds from an unrelated program to pay over $1 million to a private company for administration of the voucher program.

The plaintiffs are represented by Education Law Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which collaborate on the Public Funds Public Schools (PFPS) campaign. PFPS opposes all forms of private school vouchers and works to ensure that public funds are used exclusively to maintain, support and strengthen our nation’s public schools. The plaintiffs are also represented by the ACLU of Tennessee and pro bono by the law firm Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP

# # #

The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Alabama with offices in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Washington, D.C., is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. For more information, visit http://www.splcenter.org.

Founded in 1973, Education Law Center is a national leader in advancing the rights of public school students to equal educational opportunity under state and federal law through litigation, policy, advocacy and research. For more information, visit http://www.edlawcenter.org.

The ACLU of Tennessee, the state affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union, is a private, non-profit, non-partisan public interest organization dedicated to defending and advancing civil liberties and civil rights through advocacy, coalition-building, litigation, legislative lobbying, community mobilization and public education. For more information, visit http://www.aclu-tn.org.

Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP is one of the world’s leading complex litigation firms representing plaintiffs in securities fraud, antitrust, corporate mergers and acquisitions, consumer and insurance fraud, multi-district litigation, and whistleblower protection cases. With 200 lawyers in 9 offices, Robbins Geller has obtained many of the largest securities, antitrust, and consumer class action recoveries in history, recovering tens of billions of dollars for victims of fraud and corporate wrongdoing. Robbins Geller attorneys are consistently recognized by courts, professional organizations and the media as leading lawyers in their fields of practice. Visit http://www.rgrdlaw.com/.

Sarah Lahm writes here that teachers in St. Paul, Minnesota, are on the verge of striking to secure better funding for the public schools and their students.

In the early morning of February 26, a chill hung in the air as a line of teachers and school support staffers clad in bright red union hats, jackets or some combination thereof stood on a busy street corner outside of Highland Park Middle School in St. Paul, Minnesota.

As cars sped past, some with horns blaring in support, the teachers and school workers—who are members of the St. Paul Federation of Educators (SPFE)—hoisted signs proclaiming their willingness to fight on behalf of students.

SPFE represents more than 3,500 teachers, education assistants and school and community support staff members. Minnesota state law requires districts to negotiate with their unionized employees every two years, and the current round of contract talks between SPFE and the St. Paul Public Schools, under the leadership of Superintendent Joe Gothard, has been going on since last May.

Now, SPFE President Nick Faber says the union and the students and families they serve can no longer wait for Gothard and his team to step up and negotiate in good faith. On February 20, a majority of SPFE members voted to authorize a strike against the St. Paul Public Schools.

If an agreement between the union and the school district is not reached by March 10, thousands of SPFE members will walk off the job for the first time since 1946.

The key contract items SPFE is pushing for include fully staffed mental health teams in all schools, a greater investment in special education staffing and programming, and an increase in the number of multilingual staff members.

This puts the union squarely in line with other social justice-oriented labor movements that have been revived in recent years, as seen in events such as the teacher strikes in Chicago and Los Angeles in 2019. Like SPFE, the Chicago and Los Angeles unions also advocated for more than the typical bread-and-butter issues of union contracts, such as salary increases and seniority rights, and additionally pushed for better living and learning conditions for students.

MEDIA ADVISORY
March 2, 2020
Contact: Anna Bakalis, 213-305-9654

Los Angeles — The stakes are high in the LAUSD School board race to elect Patricia Castellanos in District 7, Scott Schmerelson in District 3, Jackie Goldberg in District 5 and George McKenna in District 1. As of Monday morning, the California Charter Schools Association PAC and billionaires like Bill Bloomfield, who sits on the CCSA PAC board, have funneled more than $6.2 million into the race against these candidates, making it the most expensive primary school board race in US history. They are spending $1 million every other day since last week.

“What our kids don’t need are billionaires spending $20,000 an hour every day to buy our school board election. Imagine if the millions they are spending against public education were redirected into our schools?” said UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl. “Our school libraries could be open five days a week. We could hire more nurses, counselors, mental health professionals and social workers and invest in ethnic studies, arts and music programs.”

UTLA members, parents and supporters are in final sprint to get out the vote for the March 3 election. See ads in today’s LA Times and La Opinion, attached.

Monday Media Availability
Teachers in support of Patricia Castellanos in District 7
When: Today, Monday March 2
Time: 4:30 – 6 PM
Who: UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl, teachers and supporters will be precinct walking, phone banking and texting for Castellanos. Interviews available in English and Spanish.
Location: 103 W Carson St. (Carson and Main Sts.) near Seafood City.
Onsite Contact: Mario Valenzuela, 213-447-3957

Flash mob with teachers in support of Scott Schmerelson in District 3
When: Today, Monday March 2
Time: 4-6 PM
Who: Teachers, parents and students lining the streets with signs, cars honking in support of Schmerleson. Interviews available in English and Spanish.
3 Intersection locations:
Tampa Ave. & Nordhoff St., Northridge (main site)
Ventura Blvd & Laurel Canyon Blvd., Sherman Oaks
Topanga Canyon & Victory Blvds., Canoga Park
What: Teachers holding signs, cars honking in support
Onsite Contact: Scott Mandel, 818-970-7445

Last week, I had a whirlwind visit to Chicago to talk about my new book. Fortunately before my flight to Charleston, West Virginia, I had time in the morning to visit Karen Lewis at an assisted living facility where the care is excellent.

Karen is a brilliant charismatic woman who taught science in the Chicago public schools for more than 20 years. In 2010, Karen led a faction of the Chicago Teachers Union called the Caucus of Rank and File Educators, which swept to victory in the union elections. She became president of the CTU. She was a strategic organizer who worked to build alliances with parent and community groups. In 2012, the CTU voted to strike. The legislature, egged on by Gates-funded Stand for Children, passed a law that they thought would make a strike impossible by requiring a vote of 75% of the membership. Karen and her team won the approval of about 90% of the members and led a successful strike that had the support of parents and communities because they understood that teachers were striking for their children.

Karen was an articulate and greatly admired visionary. She planned to run for mayor against Rahm Emanuel in 2015, and her own polling suggested that she would beat him handily.

Tragically, Karen was diagnosed with a brain tumor in October 2014. Since then, she has had a series of setbacks, including a stroke. Life is so unfair. Karen is only 66.

When I saw her, she was happy that I visited. As I expected, she is disabled and has limited mobility. But despite the terrible blows that life has dealt her, she is spirited, still has a sense of humor, and is interested in what’s happening in the world. I told her that wherever I go, people remember her as the Mother of the Resistance. They remember that she stood up to a bully and won. I showed her the photo of her in my book and told her that her legacy is there whenever teachers stand together and demand better conditions for teaching and learning. I told her she was the spark that lit the fire by her example and the powerful union she created. I told her she will never be forgotten.

She was a strong labor leader, a saucy woman who was fearless, wise, and funny.

I was glad I saw her but sad to see the tragedy she endured when she was at the peak of her promise. Her beloved husband John sees her every day and has been by her side through the best of times and the worst of times.

I wrote a note in the book I gave her. Simply, “Karen, I love you. Diane.”

Jan Resseger, tireless champion for social and economic justice, reflects on the fading reputation of the charter industry. The decision by the Trump administration to axe the federal Charter Schools Program (DeVos’s slush fund for corporate charter chains) is the latest affront to an industry that once was regarded as the great hope for innovation and effectiveness but got overwhelmed by scandals and profiteering.

Resseger credits the dramatic turn in the public reputation of the charter industry to the work of the Network for Public Education and its executive director Carol Burris.

Burris brings to her work the experience of a veteran educator, a teacher and principal who spots scams quickly. Burris also has a rock solid sense of integrity that makes her unwilling to tolerate organizations that are designed to benefit the adults, not the students. She is the quintessential embodiment of the “David” I wrote about in my book SLAYING GOLIATH. She works with passion and dedication because of a sense of mission, not for love of money. She is a mortal threat to the Goliaths who wear the fake mantel of education reform. She can’t be bought and she can’t be stopped. Unlike the hirelings of Goliath, she really does work for the children, for whom she has worked all her life.

John Thompson, historian and retired teacher in Oklahoma, reviews SLAYING GOLIATH in two-parts.

This is part one. 

He begins:

Diane Ravitch’s Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance to Privatization and the Fight to Save America’s Public Schools is the history of the rise and fall of corporate school reform, but it is much more. It isn’t that surprising that a scholar like Ravitch, like so many researchers and practitioners, predicted over a decade ago how data-driven, competition-driven “reform” would fail. Technocratic “reformers,” who Ravitch calls “Goliath,” started with a dubious hunch, that socio-engineering a “better teacher” could overcome poverty and inequality, and then ignored the science that explained why evaluating teachers based on test score growth would backfire.

It may be surprising that Ravitch, an academic who had once worked in the Education Department of President George H. W. Bush, and served on the board of the conservative Fordham Foundation, become the leader of the grass roots uprising of parents, students, and educators which she dubs the “Resistance.” But it soon became clear why Ravitch inspired and guided the Resistance. In contrast to Goliath, who “ignored decades of research” and assumed the worst of their opponents, Ravitch respected and listened to practitioners and patrons.

One big surprise, which is explained in Slaying Goliath, is how Ravitch presciently understood why output-driven, charter-driven reform devolved into “privatization.”  She had firsthand experience with the hubris of the Billionaires Boys Club, understanding the danger of their desire to hurriedly “scale up” transformational change. And being an accomplished scholar, she had insights into how top-down technocrats’ embrace of behaviorism in the tradition of Edward Thorndike and B.F. Skinner, led to their commitment to “rigidly prescribed conditioning via punishments and rewards.”

Ravitch was among the first experts to fully grasp how, “Behaviorists, and the Disrupters who mimic them today, lack appreciation for the value of divergent thinking, and the creative potential of variety. And they emphatically discount mere ‘feelings.’”

Ravitch witnessed how corporate reformers “admire disruptive innovation, because high-tech businesses do it, so it must be good.” Rather than take the time to heed the wisdom of those who had no choice but to become Resisters, Goliath’s contempt for those in the classroom drove an evolution from “creative destruction” to “Corporate Disruption.”

Disrupters were in such a rush that they used children as “guinea pigs in experiments whose negative results are clear.” But they “never admit failure,” and remain oblivious to the fact that “The outcome of disruption was disruption, not better education.”  And these billionaires not only continue to “fund a hobby injurious to the common good.” They’ve ramped up their assault on public education and its defenders, perpetuating a “direct assault on democracy.”

Ravitch predicts, “Historians will look back and wonder why so many wealthy people spent so much money in a vain attempt to disrupt and privatize public education and why they ignored income inequality and wealth inequality that were eating away at the vitals of American society.”

Thompson goes on to tell some of the important events in which I was a participant. Such as the decision within the first Bush administration to trash the infamous Sandia Report, which disputed the desperate findings of “A Nation at Risk.” And my discussions with Albert Shanker about what charter schools should be in the American system. He saw them as part of a school district, operating with the approval of their peers as collaborators, as R&D labs, not as competitors for funding and students. And my 2011 meeting at the Obama White House, when the top officials asked what I thought of  Common Core and I urged them to launch field trials; they rejected the idea out of hand.

And Thompson quickly understood that, unlike the Disrupters, who wanted to reinvent and disrupt the public schools, I listened to practitioners. I assumed they knew far more than I, and I was right about that. I understood the negative effects of NCLB and the Race to the Top because I saw them through the eyes of those who had to implement shoddy ideas.

Thompson concludes:

Ravitch observes that in contrast to the Resistance, “So as long as billionaires, hedge fund managers, and their allies are handing out money, there will be people lined up to take it. But their transactions cannot be confused with a social movement.” Moreover, “The most important lesson of the past few decades is that “Reform doesn’t mean reform. It means mass demoralization, chaos, and turmoil. Disruption does not produce better education.”

I’ll conclude this post with Ravitch’s words on the two dogmas that the Disruption movement relied on:

First, the benefits of standardization, and second, the power of markets. Their blind adherence to these principles has been disastrous in education.    These principles don’t work in schools for the same reasons they don’t work for families, churches, and other institutions that function primarily on the basis of human interactions, not profits and losses.