Archives for category: Resistance

Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of Mercedes Schneider’s wonderful blog!

I learned about it last night, too late to mark the actual blog birthday.

Mercedes is one of the sharpest, smartest voices of the Resistance to privatization. She is a hero of the Resistance thanks to her incisive, brilliant exposés of “reform” hoaxes.

She is a high school English teacher in Louisiana. She has a Ph.D. in statistics and research methodology. She could have been a professor but she wanted to teach high school students.

I started my blog in April 2012; she started hers in January 2013. We exchanged emails, and we met when I came to speak in Louisiana. We became fast friends. Mercedes has been a regular at annual conferences of the Network for Public Education, where she most recently gave lessons on how to obtain tax forms and other public data about “reform” groups, which sprout like weeds, with new names, lots of money, and the same set of actors.

Mercedes is relentless. While teaching and blogging, she wrote four books over the past decade.

In 2014, her first book was A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of Public Education, a vivid portrayal of the cast of characters who pursued privatization and teacher-bashing while calling themselves “reformers.” Might as well have called themselves “destroyers,” because that’s what they are.

In 2015, she published Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, with a foreword by Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education.

In 2016, she published School Choice: The End of Public Education?, with a foreword by Karen Lewis, the late and much-loved President of the Chicago Teachers Union.

In 2020, she gathered her advice about research and published A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies.

In her blogday post, she reflected on some positive developments in the past decade

Of course, the fight continues, but allow me to celebrate a few realities:

  • Bobby Jindal is no longer governor of Louisiana, and his 2016 presidential ambitions were a flop.
  • John White is no longer Louisiana state superintendent. In fact, he is not a superintendent anywhere at all.
  • Michelle Rhee is no longer DC school chancellor. She, too, is chancellor of nowhere at all.
  • Hanna Skandera is no longer NM school chief. She, too, is school chief of nowhere at all.
  • Joel Klein holds no sway over NYC schools. Chief of nowhere.
  • Teach for America (TFA) is losing its luster. Though it tries to reinvent itself, the bottom line is that the org depends upon class after class of willing recruits– a well that appears to be hitting bottom.

Yes, the fight continues. But today– today I take a moment to celebrate just a wee bit.

Happy Blogday to me.

I celebrate Mercedes too and happily name her to the honor roll of this blog.

Love you, Mercedes! May you keep on making a difference.

At ex-Governor Cuomo’s urging several years ago, the Legislature passed a law requiring the New York City Department of Education to provide free space to charter schools, and if no space was available, to pay their rent in private space. This requirement gave rise to the dreadful practice of “co-location,” in which a new charter school was crammed into an existing public school. The public school typically lost space for class size reduction, performances, special education services, and everything else that was not designated as a classroom. Meanwhile, the charter school got fresh new furniture and the best of everything. There was no collaboration between the schools under the same roof.

A few days ago, charter advocates were stunned when the Department of Education rejected three requests for co-location by the rich and politically powerful Success Academy charter chain. The Wall Street Journal immediately published an editorial blasting Mayor Eric Adams (whose campaign was bankrolled by charter billionaires) and who put charter advocates on the city’s school board. The decision was made by Chancellor David Banks and never reached the pro-charter city board.

For Eva Moskowitz of Success Academy, this was a surprising rejection. She is accustomed to cowing politicians (she has her own PAC) and getting her way.

Charter fans and the pro-charter media blame “the unions,” their usual enemy, but this isn’t correct. Parents and educators in these communities contacted their legislators and won their support. And the legislators and local officials killed the deal.

Congressman Jamaal Bowman stepped up to oppose the co-location in a school that he knew. He wrote a thread on Twitter (@JamaalBowmanNY) that began:

The @NYCSchools proposal to open and co-locate a new @SuccessCharters school in Building X113 is absolutely outrageous. The Panel for Education Policy has to vote against this plan, and I urge my colleagues and neighbors to get loud in opposition. Here’s why: 🧵

As a former educator & principal of a middle school in the same district as X113, I’ve seen up close how the educators there have done a tremendous job serving their students & families. Our community is incredibly grateful for the love they pour into their work every day.

I’ve also seen how charter schools can harm students, educators, and traditional public schools in our communities. We can’t let that happen at X113.

Big charter networks have a history of draining students & funds from traditional public schools, and violating the rights of their students. Last year, Success Academy had to pay out $2.4 million in a federal court settlement for pushing out students with disabilities.

The plan will decrease available space for the existing schools at Building X113 – both district-run public schools – and prevent them from lowering class sizes adequately. Class size matters. We’ve got to demand schools get the resources & physical space to meet student needs.

As many charter school expansions do, this destructive plan will also disproportionately harm students with disabilities. The plan does not include sufficient analysis of what intervention rooms are necessary to provide students with IEPs with the services they need.

Another surprise: the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post got the story right. The story recognized that the pressure to block the co-locations came not from the union but from parents. The Post has been a vocal supporter of charters, and Murdoch himself has contributed to them.

Elected officials helped kill a plan to open three new charter schools in existing public schools or other city-owned buildings — after hearing fierce opposition from local parents.

Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson — who last week spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new DREAM Charter High School in Mott Haven — suggested Tuesday that her hand was forced against the planned Success Academy in Williamsbridge.

“Parents of School District 11 spoke to us loud & clear. The deep rooted history of disinvestment at the Richard R. Green Campus must be recognized. So much progress has been made,” she tweeted.

A City Hall insider also cited “a lot of pushback” from community members opposed to the new charter schools.

“They vote and they hold folks accountable,” the source said.

Schools Chancellor David Banks’ unexpected withdrawal of the proposal came even though Mayor Eric Adams packed the board in charge of the decision with pro-charter allies.

Historian Heather Cox Richardson reflects on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. We now look on him as a hero, but during his lifetime, he was treated shamefully by many whites, and militant African-Americans scorned him as well, preferring the angry approach of Stokely Carmichael and Malcolm X. Dr. King was principled and fearless. He faced death daily, and he never back down. It is usually forgotten that he was assassinated in Memphis while there to support striking sanitation workers, who were trying to organize a union. He knew that unions offered the best protection for working people. White conservatives who fraudulently praise him now, claiming that racism is a thing of the past and should not be taught or discussed (so that everyone can be judged by “the content of their character, not the color of their skin”), oppose everything he fought and died for.

You hear sometimes that, now that we know the sordid details of the lives of some of our leading figures, America has no heroes left.

When I was writing a book about the Wounded Knee Massacre, where heroism was pretty thin on the ground, I gave that a lot of thought. And I came to believe that heroism is neither being perfect, nor doing something spectacular. In fact, it’s just the opposite: it’s regular, flawed human beings, choosing to put others before themselves, even at great cost, even if no one will ever know, even as they realize the walls might be closing in around them.

It means sitting down the night before D-Day and writing a letter praising the troops and taking all the blame for the next day’s failure upon yourself, in case things went wrong, as General Dwight D. Eisenhower did.

It means writing in your diary that you “still believe that people are really good at heart,” even while you are hiding in an attic from the men who are soon going to kill you, as Anne Frank did.

It means signing your name to the bottom of the Declaration of Independence in bold print, even though you know you are signing your own death warrant should the British capture you, as John Hancock did.

It means defending your people’s right to practice a religion you don’t share, even though you know you are becoming a dangerously visible target, as Sitting Bull did.

Sometimes it just means sitting down, even when you are told to stand up, as Rosa Parks did.

None of those people woke up one morning and said to themselves that they were about to do something heroic. It’s just that, when they had to, they did what was right.

On April 3, 1968, the night before the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by a white supremacist, he gave a speech in support of sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. Since 1966, King had tried to broaden the Civil Rights Movement for racial equality into a larger movement for economic justice. He joined the sanitation workers in Memphis, who were on strike after years of bad pay and such dangerous conditions that two men had been crushed to death in garbage compactors.

After his friend Ralph Abernathy introduced him to the crowd, King had something to say about heroes: “As I listened to Ralph Abernathy and his eloquent and generous introduction and then thought about myself, I wondered who he was talking about.”

Dr. King told the audience that, if God had let him choose any era in which to live, he would have chosen the one in which he had landed. “Now, that’s a strange statement to make,” King went on, “because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land; confusion all around…. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars.” Dr. King said that he felt blessed to live in an era when people had finally woken up and were working together for freedom and economic justice.

He knew he was in danger as he worked for a racially and economically just America. “I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter…because I’ve been to the mountaintop…. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life…. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”

People are wrong to say that we have no heroes left.

Just as they have always been, they are all around us, choosing to do the right thing, no matter what.

Wishing you all a day of peace for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 2023.

Notes:

Dr. King’s final speech:

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/martin-luther-kings-final-speech-ive-mountaintop-full/story?id=18872817

John Merrow shares his wisdom and makes a list of worthy recipients of your holiday giving. I’m happy to note that he included the Network for Public Education.

Bill Phillis, leader of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy, reports good news in the battle against the state’s expensive and ineffective voucher program.

Private School Voucher Lawsuit Given Green Light to Go to Trial

Effort by Attorney General and Out-of-State Interest Groups to Dismiss Foiled

COLUMBUS – The lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the harmful private school voucher program was given the green light on Friday to go to trial sometime in 2023.

Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Jaiza Page dismissed motions by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and out-of-state pro-private school interest groups like the Institute for Justice to dismiss the case, and instead gave the go ahead to the coalition of public schools suing the state to present their case.

“We are one step closer to proving that private school vouchers are unconstitutional, and hurt Ohio, our public school students, educators, parents, taxpayers and our communities,” said William L. Phillis, Executive Director for the Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding. “Facts matter in the court of law. The Ohio Constitution is clear. There shall be a single system of public schools, not a separate and unequal system of schools that can apply a discriminatory litmus test against students based on race, religion, income, or any disqualifying factor that strikes their fancy.”

“School board members like me owe it to our taxpayers to bring this lawsuit because my district, like so many others, has been forced to increase our property taxes with local levies to make up for the public tax dollars lost to private school vouchers. We know the vast majority of these parents are using the voucher as a refund or a rebate and they never intended to enroll their children in public schools,” said Dan Heintz, a school board member with plaintiff district Cleveland Heights-University Heights.

To read the Motion for Judgement on the Pleadings click here.

To read the Motion to Dismiss click here.

The Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding is working with Vouchers Hurt Ohio, a growing coalition of public school districts that have come together to sue the state over the unconstitutional and harmful private school voucher program.

For the past few weeks, Iran has been rocked by protests over the death in police custody of a twenty-two-year-old Kurdish woman, Mahsi Amini, who was arrested by the infamous Morality Police for wearing her hijab incorrectly. Apparently a few strands of hair were showing, and she was beaten to death for defying the strict law about head covering.

Since then, women and men have joined to protest the harsh “morality” laws that govern women’s dress and hair covering. Led by women, the protests have featured women tearing off their hijabs and throwing them in bonfires. And women cutting their hair. In some demonstrations, young people have ripped down posters of the Ayatollah Homeini, the leader of the revolution that overthrew the secular Shah and created the strictly religious Islamic Republic of Iran.

The New York Times posted dramatic videos of the protests. They are amazing. You will see young women taking off their hijabs, twirling them in the air, then throwing them into the flames, as hundreds of other young people cheer.

The Times wrote:

Protests erupted in more than 80 cities across Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini, known by her first Kurdish surname Jina, after her detention by the morality police under the so-called hijab law. Footage of the demonstrations posted to social media has become one of the primary windows into what is happening on the ground and revealed what is different about this latest show of resistance inside Iran.

The New York Times analyzed dozens of videos and spoke with experts who have followed the country’s protest movements to understand what insights the often blurry, pixelated footage contains about what is propelling the demonstrations.

Attacking Symbols of the State

Now in their third week, protests have continued even as dozens of people have been killed. Many of the videos appeared on social media during the first week of the protests, before Iran’s government began limiting internet access in an effort to silence dissent.

The Washington Post wrote:

Iran’s bold and bracing protests, stretching across an unsettled nation for more than two weeks, have been marked by defiant acts and daring slogans that challenge the country’s clerical leadership and its stifling restrictions on all aspects of social life.
Government security forces have responded with deadly, uncompromising force. At least 52 people have been killed, according to Amnesty International, including women and children.
The ongoing protests began in response to the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who fell into a coma after being detained by the country’s hated “morality police.”


Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, claimed Monday that the unrest had been instigated by foreign powers and blamed protesters for the violence: “The ones who attack the police are leaving Iranian citizens defenseless against thugs, robbers and extortionists,” he said.
Khamenei gave his full backing to the security forces, signaling a further wave of repression could be coming.


To understand the extent of the government’s crackdown against protesters, The Washington Post analyzed hundreds of videos and photographs of protests, spoke to human rights activists, interviewed protesters and reviewed data collected by internet monitoring groups. The Post geolocated videos of protests in at least 22 cities — from the Kurdistan region, where the protests began, to Bandar Abbas, a port city on the Persian Gulf, to Rasht on the Caspian coast.

Beth Lewis, the director of Save Our Schools Arizona, thought that vouchers were a dead issue after 2/3 of voters rejected them in 2018.

But the Republican legislature, egged on by the usual billionaires, came back with a voucher plan even worse than the one that was defeated. They probably figured that the volunteers couldn’t muster the energy and resources to fight another round.

Beth Lewis writes:

This June, hours before adjourning their legislative session, Republican majority lawmakers delivered a massive blow to Arizonans by passing a universal voucher program that will siphon public dollars away from public schools to private schools with zero accountability to the public. Even worse, this program is significantly larger than a similar voucher program that was rejected by voters in 2018 by a margin of more than 2-1.

Make no mistake, lawmakers did not pass this bill at the urging of their constituents — who overwhelmingly support and rely on local public schools — but at the behest of special interest groups like Betsy DeVos’ American Federation for Children who aim to dismantle the public education system.

Lawmakers tried to sell these expanded vouchers as “school choice,” but we all know it has nothing to do with school choice and in fact harms the choice of the 1 million students who choose AZ’s public schools.

Republican lawmakers have long argued that universal vouchers would “free children from a broken school system.” But that argument was utterly destroyed recently when the Arizona Department of Education reportedthat 75% of families seeking new Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, which is what this voucher program is called, have never stepped foot in a public school.

And that’s just the start. Approximately 85,000 students already in private school and homeschool will become eligible for ESA vouchers overnight, potentially diverting another $600 million in funding away from public schools every year. This amounts to a 20% blow to local public schools across the board – a blow they cannot withstand. But of course, Governor Doug Ducey, DeVos and their cronies know that.

These deep dips into the school funding bucket drain the funding of the choice of 1 million AZ students who choose public schools. That’s not school choice— it’s highway robbery.

The only goal this disastrous bill accomplishes is fattening the bank accounts of special interests and for-profit operators at the expense of Arizona kids. Universal vouchers leave our taxpayer dollars ripe for fraud and abuse at the hands of extremist charlatans like Charlie Kirk and his radical Turning Point Academies (founded the same month as passage of Ducey’s voucher expansion). Using taxpayer dollars to indoctrinate children on bigotry and intolerance is not school choice – it’s dangerous.

Public funds belong in public schools where there is oversight and transparency, not in privately operated businesses with no accountability to taxpayers. There is nothing in this voucher expansion that would stop a bad actor from opening up a “private school” in a strip mall, lying to the parents, taking $7000 per child and closing up shop. Ducey’s expansion gives the state no mechanism to recover misspent or fraudulently used funds. There is zero oversight of academics, performance, curriculum, safety, or teacher credentials. And there is nothing to stop voucher schools from discriminating against students who don’t “fit” their ideology or mold. That’s not school choice – it’s indoctrination and segregation.

The entire program is a walking permission slip for future scandal, segregation, fraud and abuse. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Arizona kids sit in overcrowded school classrooms with outdated textbooks, leaking roofs, and under-resourced teachers.

Save Our Schools Arizona is working to stop this law by turning in 118,823 valid signatures on Sept. 23, so that AZ voters will have the final say on the 2024 ballot. Find locations to sign the petition at teamsosarizona.com.


Beth Lewis is a mom, public education advocate, and K-12 policy expert who fights for a fully and equitably funded school for every Arizona child. As Director of Save Our Schools Arizona, Beth works to bring parents, educators, elected officials, business leaders, and community members together in support of Arizona’s public schools, which strengthen our communities and our great state. Beth has taught elementary and middle school in Arizona for 12 years. She holds a BA from the University of Notre Dame and a Master’s in Education from ASU. Reach out to her at beth@sosarizona.org

Beth L. Matters on is a college professor in Florida. She describes how she will respond to DeSantis’ censorship laws: She will ignore them.

She writes:

In a couple of weeks, I’ll walk back into my college classroom and continue my second decade of teaching at one of Florida’s universities. Despite the recently passed HB 7 Amendment (Stop WOKE Act), I won’t be adjusting my syllabi to remove readings or discussions that make students “uncomfortable,” and I won’t pretend that systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia and other forms of oppression do not exist. I will not “whitewash” our country’s history or minimize the challenges and oppression that so many still experience, especially those who are women and/or members of the BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities.

Instead, I will do what I have always done. I will select the creative work of writers who belong to all sorts of communities, and I will require students to read their stories and discuss the work and their themes. Some of those themes are difficult and may make many of us uncomfortable, no matter how we identify or what community we’re in….

I purposefully select work by members of marginalized communities, because many of my students have not yet heard these voices… and many of my students belong to these communities. Recently, among other work, my students read, “Heavy: An American Memoir″ by Kiese Laymon and poems by Danez Smith. Both of these authors address race, class, whiteness, sexuality, politics, family and body image. Smith’s work also addresses homophobia and police brutality, and other topics that are “uncomfortable.”

What if every teacher in Florida did the same? They can’t arrest everyone.

Massive resistance.

Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee invited Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, to open 100 charter schools in Tennessee. Arnn scaled it back to 50, but Hillsdale’s patriotic charters are not getting a warm welcome in the state. A third district rejected an “American Classical Academy.” It seems they like their local public schools and don’t want to divert money away from them. The teachers are their neighbors, and the school board knows them and respects them.

A charter school program tied to the controversial Hillsdale College suffered a third rejection by a Tennessee school board Tuesday night as the Clarksville-Montgomery County school board said it wanted nothing to do with the school pushed by Gov. Bill Lee.

With no debate, the Board of Education unanimously voted to reject the application of the Hillsdale-affiliated American Classical Academy. That follows similar votes by school boards in Rutherford County and Madison County.

The group could still appeal to the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission, which can override the local school board.

School board member Jimmie Garland said Lee needs to understand that local residents do not want a privately operated charter school siphoning taxpayer dollars from a school system that is already serving the community’s needs.

“I am asking him if he sends them here, that he pay for it — not the community, not the Clarksville-Montgomery County school system, not the 200,000-plus residents of Clarksville,” Garland told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

“We shouldn’t have to foot that bill.”

The community school board was aware of Arnn’s absurd and insulting claim that anyone can teach, and they didn’t like it.

Georgia educator Anthony Downer announced a call for sponsors for a rally on July 23.

Hi y’all,

As we gather and reflect on this complicated holiday weekend, I think about how my students are processing their world. Like many of you, I’m motivated by my ancestors’ struggles. I wonder how we’re preparing our young scholar-leaders to fight for equality and liberty, for equity and liberation. The recent education laws in Georgia hinder educators like me from doing just this. So we must continue to organize.

Georgia Educators for Equity and Justice and other education organizations are planning a Rally for Education (name TBA) on Saturday 7/23 at a school in metro Atlanta (location and time TBA). The goal is to highlight the voices of educators as we prepare for the implementation of new education laws during the 2022-2023 school year. Educators from across the state will speak to the negative effects of these laws on our schools and scholars. As we know, while politicians limited public comment and signed into law their draconian restrictions on education, educators were performing their primary duties. Now that we have more time, we have more to say. See below the initial details.

When? Saturday 7/23, time TBA – Please complete this form to share your opinions.

Where? At a school, ground-zero for the implementation and impact of the new education laws

Who? Everyone who opposes the attacks on public education in Georgia – This is an opportunity for our communities to rally to protect educators and students’ education. If you are an educator who is interested in speaking OR would like to sponsor the rally, please complete this form.

We will meet on Wednesday, July 13 at 4 PM. More details about this meeting and the event to follow over the next week. As we continue planning, we are eager to include as many voices and encourage as much participation as possible. This rally belongs to all of us. Once again, if you plan on attending, want to speak, want to sponsor, or have some ideas and opinions, please complete this form. Spread the word to your comrades and communities and we will follow up with additional details. Onward!

Best,

Anthony Downer