Archives for category: Resistance

Emma Tai is executive director of United Working Families of Chicago. She describes in Jacobin the powerful lesson that she learned from Karen Lewis.

She writes:

At a time of austerity and teacher demonization, Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis — whose death at age sixty-seven was announced today — dared to believe that educators and the working class as a whole could fight back and win...

The 2012 strike put tens of thousands of people in the streets of Chicago. At a time of austerity and widespread demonization of teachers, both in Chicago and around the country, the CTU walked off the job insisting that we deserved, and could actually win, schools and a city that served Chicago’s working class. The strike put black, Latinx, and working-class people, and a workforce that is overwhelmingly women, in the streets by the tens of thousands against a neoliberal mayor, Rahm Emanuel, to say that the schools and city belonged to us. Astonishingly, they won.

That strike changed the political landscape of Chicago and the whole country, touching off a wave of teachers’ strikes that continue to this day and that have even put ideas like a general strike back on the table for the first time in generations.

Up to that point, I had been trained as an organizer to pick winnable fights. I had been to dozens of Board of Education meetings where community members and students waited in line for hours in order to compete for a lottery spot to have two minutes to speak to the school board — a board that, in a travesty of basic democracy, was and still is handpicked by the mayor rather than elected by Chicagoans, and thus has no form of accountability to the average parents, students, and residents of the city they serve. I had watched parents and students, crying, dragged out of those meetings by security guards, their voices going unheard by the board.

But seeing the streets filled with tens of thousands of teachers and supporters in red changed my whole conception of what I thought we could win and transformed what I let myself imagine. We didn’t have to fight for crumbs from the people who ran the city. We, the working class, could run the city ourselves...

Karen Lewis taught all of us a lesson: Not to settle. If you fight, you can win. If you capitulate early, you never win. If your cause is just, don’t give in.

This is a beautiful tribute to a great teacher, a great labor leader, and a woman of valor by the people who knew her best: the union she led.

Chicago Teachers UnionSTATEMENT: 
For Immediate Releasectulocal1.orgCONTACT: Ronnie Reese 312-329-6235RonnieReese@ctulocal1.org

Karen did not just lead our movement. Karen was our movement.

CHICAGO, Feb. 8, 2021 — The Chicago Teachers Union released the following statement today regarding the passing of President Emerita Karen GJ Lewis:

Our union is in deep mourning today at the passing of our sister, our leader and our friend, President Emerita Karen GJ Lewis. We are sending heartfelt condolences to her husband, John Lewis, and her surviving family and friends. She will be dearly missed. 

Karen taught us how to fight, and she taught us how to love. She was a direct descendant of the legendary Jackie Vaughn, the first Black, female president of our local. Both were fierce advocates for educators and children, but where Jackie was stately elegance, Karen was a brawler with sharp wit and an Ivy League education. She spoke three languages, loved her opera and her show tunes, and dazzled you with her smile, yet could stare down the most powerful enemies of public education and defend our institution with a force rarely seen in organized labor. 

She bowed to no one, and gave strength to tens of thousands of Chicago Teachers Union educators who followed her lead, and who live by her principles to this day. 

Karen had three questions that guided her leadership: ‘Does it unite us, does it build our power and does it make us stronger?’ Before her, there was no sea of red — a sea that now stretches across our nation. She was the voice of the teacher, the paraprofessional, the clinician, the counselor, the librarian and every rank-and-file educator who worked tirelessly to provide care and nurture for students; the single parent who fought tremendous odds to raise a family; and the laborer whose rights commanded honor and respect. She was a rose that grew out of South Side Chicago concrete — filled with love for her Kenwood Broncos alumni — to not only reach great heights, but to elevate everyone she led to those same heights. 

But Karen did not just lead our movement. Karen was our movement. In 2013, she said that in order to change public education in Chicago, we had to change Chicago, and change the political landscape of our city. Chicago has changed because of her. We have more fighters for justice and equity because of Karen, and because she was a champion — the people’s champion.  

Our hearts are heavy today, but it brings us joy to know that Karen has joined Jackie Vaughn, Marion Stamps, Addie Wyatt and Willie Barrow as the vanguard of Black women who have forged a heroic path of labor, justice and civil rights in our city. Karen now sits among them, still guiding our every move, and still guiding our vision for the schools our students and their families deserve.

###The Chicago Teachers Union represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in schools funded by City of Chicago School District 299, and by extension, over 350,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information, please visit the CTU website at www.ctulocal1.org.

It is with immense sadness that I share with you the news that the brilliant, charismatic Karen Lewis has died. As leader of the Chicago Teachers Union, she led the union to strike for “the schools our children deserve.” She understood that the union had to organize families and communities, not just their own members. She fearlessly confronted the powerful. She was considering a run against Rahm Emanuel for mayor when she learned she had an aggressive brain tumor.

Karen and her devoted husband John were dear personal friends. I saw them when I was in Chicago a year ago. She was in a nursing home. It was terribly sad.

All of us who care about children and their schools will miss her dynamic leadership.

Every time teachers strike for better education for children, they should remember this tireless, inspiring woman, our friend, Karen Lewis.

AZ lawmakers think they can pull a fast one on AZ voters: They’re trying to force through Senate Bill 1452, a gigantic expansion of ESA vouchers that robs funds from public education in ways even more harmful and wide-ranging than any of their previous attempts. SB1452, sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chair and *charter school teacher* Paul Boyer (Republican, Legislative District 20), is a “kitchen-sink” voucher expansion bill that would gut public schools hurting low-income areas the most. Bottom line: This will drain hundreds of millions more dollars out of Arizona public schools every year, and will drain Prop 208 funds out as fast as voters can put them in. Public school teachers are frantically cleaning classrooms, simultaneously teaching online and in-person, reusing PPE, and putting buckets under leaks — while these lawmakers try to siphon away tax dollars that voters intend for our neighborhood schools. THIS IS WRONG. We need you to GET LOUD. Call bill sponsor Paul Boyer at 602-926-4173 and email pboyer@azleg.gov and ask him to withdraw SB1452Tell Senator Boyer to respect Arizona voters—we want MORE public school funding, not LESS. Call Senate President Karen Fann (602-926-5874kfann@azleg.gov) and ask her to hold SB1452In 2018, AZ voters said #NoNewVouchers and we meant it. 95% of Arizona families choose public schools, and we want those schools funded. Call and email today. Then call again tomorrow, and again on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. The education committee will consider this bill on Tuesday, February 2, at 2 p.m. This is a bill that dark-money special interests and greedy profiteers want, not Arizona voters. 
 #WeSaidNoNewVouchersIt’s in our name: Save Our Schools Arizona
    

In 2015, I wrote about a group of high school students in Houston who sued the state for underfunding public schools. Valerie Strauss wrote about them too. She wrote: ““The two students who filed the brief on behalf of the HISD Student Congress, an organization that represents about 215,000 students in the district, are Zaakir Tameez, a member of the 2015 class of Carnegie Vanguard High School, and Amy Fan, a member of the 2016 class of Bellaire High School.”

I have always believed that students have more power than they know and they need to speak up about their education.

The two young people who founded the HISD Student Congress–Tameez and Fan–filed an excellent brief, but their appeal on behalf of underfunded school districts was rejected 9-0 by the Texas Supreme Court, which is elected statewide and consists of Republicans. The court complimented the students on their brief on page 24 of the ruling, footnote 100:  “High school students Zaakir Tameez and Amy Fan, with the help of other students, have filed an excellent amicus brief.”

These are remarkable young people, our hope for the future.

After graduating from HISD, Amy Fan went to Duke University, where she graduated in 2020. She returned to Houston and is now the official advisor to HISD StuCon. She helped co-found a local civic engagement collective with other HISD StuCon alumni called Institute of Engagement. They just launched Shift Press, an online publication for Houston youth to tell their stories. 

Zaakir Tameez is a remarkable young man. After he graduated from high school, he enrolled at the University of Virginia. He was an intern with the President of the University of Virginia and with Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz. After his graduation, he was selected as a Fulbright Scholar and is currently studying in the UK. He will begin Yale Law School in the fall.

So much for the detractors of Houston public schools!

Zaakir Tameez recently wrote to alert me that the school district (HISD) is trying to take control of the HISD Youth Congress away from students.

HISD is now trying to take over the Student Congress and replace it with a “district-sanctioned vehicle” that operates “under the direction” of administrators. In other words, district staff recommended that the board dissolve the student-run, student-led group that has been operating for seven years now to create something new that they can control. 

It would mean so much to us if you could speak on this – a short blog post, or even a tweet. We are trying to raise awareness to fight back. It’s a sad situation, really. We’ve spent years advocating for greater funding & resources for HISD and to prevent the board takeover that is being planned by the State of Texas. 

But then, this. Without any heads up, they are attempting to take us over.  Not one board member or member of district staff has reached out to us yet to inform us of the resolution. I am attaching the resolution text and an FAQ on the situation…Your response would be so greatly appreciated. We’re proud that you came from the same schools that we did. 




Jeff Bryant writes in Alternet about the renewed strength of the voucher forces, which have been energized by Republican gains in the states in the 2020 elections. They aim to defund the public schools that enroll most children and send public money to private and religious schools, even to home schoolers and entrepreneurs.

He begins:

Supporters of public education and school teachers were relieved to see Betsy DeVos leave her job as head of the Department of Education, knowing full well the education policies she and former President Trump supported would go nowhere in a President Biden administration. But they should remain incensed over how her efforts to privatize public schools are being rolled out in state legislatures across the country.

In states as politically diverse as WashingtonArizonaGeorgiaVirginia, and New Hampshire, state legislators are introducing bills to increase the number of charter schools and create new school voucher programs or greatly expand current ones. According to the Educational Freedom Institute (EFI), a think tank that advocates for vouchers, charter schools, and other forms of “school choice,” there are at least 14 states actively considering legislation to pour greater sums of taxpayer dollars intended for public education into privately operated schools. Many of the bills have been introduced since the November 2020 elections, which ousted Trump and DeVos but resulted in big gains for Republicans down-ticket.

These proposals to privatize public schools are taking on new forms that are less transparent, would be easier to pass through legislation, and take larger sums of money from public schools, which educate between 80 and 90 percent of American children. Further, the bills are surfacing when public education is highly vulnerable due to the pandemic and the ensuing economic havoc it is wreaking.

Supporters of public education and the common good must mobilize and push back against efforts to weaken and/or destroy the public schools. Republican legislators are ignoring their own state constitutions, and the historic American tradition of separation of church and state by pushing public money to religious schools. Their obvious goal is to cut funding to education, and they don’t care if it reduces the quality of education in their states, as it surely will. Religious schools and the other private schools that take vouchers hire uncertified teachers, are free of state oversight, and teach prejudice.

Governor Kim Reynolds has proposed legislation to take money away from Ohio public schools and divert it to privately managed schools, vouchers for religious schools, charter schools, and home schooling. She is following in the footsteps of Betsy DeVos, who spent four years trying to eradicate public schools.

If you live in Iowa, contact your legislator and Governor Reynolds! Speak up for your public schools! Resist the privatization of public funds!

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds proposed SSB 1065, (now known as SF 159) which is being fast-tracked through the state Senate.  The vote may be today. This “school choice” bill would:

  • Provide up to $5,200 per student in “state scholarships” for parents to use for private school tuition or homeschooling expenses. 
  • Greatly expand charter schools in the state by allowing applicants to start a charter school by going straight to the state board, bypassing the school district.  No longer would districts be the only decider for charter schools. 

If you love your public schools, you need to drop what you are doing and get to work!

1. Call your state senators NOW and ask them to support public schools by OPPOSING Senate File 159, SSB 1065. Or say, “I oppose the school choice voucher/charter bill.” You can find your Senator and their phone number by going here. Click on their name for their phone number.

2Click here and send an email in opposition to SSB 1065/SF 159  NOW.

3. Share this link with friends and family who live in the state

https://actionnetwork.org/letters/save-iowa-public-schools-oppose/

Don’t wait. Act now. 

Carol Burris

Executive Director

Network for Public Education

Ann Cronin, retired teacher in Connecticut, posted a letter on her blog written by another Connecticut teacher and addressed to Secretary of Education-Designate Miguel Cardona:

Jeannette C. Faber writes to tell Dr. Cardona that it is time to end standardized testing, now!

Dear Commissioner Cardona:

Connecticut is proud that you, our Commissioner of Education, was chosen as the Biden/Harris administration’s Secretary of Education. 

Educators support your dedication to: increasing graduation rates, closing the achievement gap, and ensuring equity for all students. All educators should be committed to making these goals a reality. America’s children need and deserve this. 

However, educators also know that the regime of profit-driven standardized testing will not improve teaching and learning. They never have.

  • If educators are forced to teach to a test in order to increase graduation rates, students are merely learning how to take a test. This is antithetical to what 21st-century learning should look like: problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, project-based learning, capstone projects, creativity, and more. 
  • If schools are pressured to close the achievement gap, but their only tools are computer programs that hold students hostage to rote “learning”, then students are not experiencing rich and meaningful learning. Only 21st-century learning experiences will increase graduation rates that are credible and that actually prepare students for a growingly complex world.
  • If equity means giving students in impoverished areas less rich and meaningful learning, by continuing the standardized testing regime, the equity gap will only increase. What students in impoverished areas need is much more of what students in more affluent areas already have. Connecticut’s discriminatory per-pupil expenditure disparity tells the whole, sad story. 

Dr. Cardona, what holds schools back from making meaningful progress are ill-conceived federal mandates. These mandates have never improved the quality of teaching and learning. They never will. Test scores may have increased. As well as graduation rates. However, those are meaningless if they are not products of rich and meaningful teaching and learning. 

No standardized test can measure 21st-century skills. Hence, standardized tests cannot cultivate the acquisition of those skills.

We ask you, Dr. Cardona, to recommit yourself to the vital goals you have set by shifting the paradigm. Shift how we achieve those goals. That requires ending the testing regime started with George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind (2002 – 2015) and continued with Barack Obama’s “Race to the Top” (2012 – 2016).

We, Dr. Cardona, are asking Connecticut’s teachers, parents, and students to send a strong message to you by refusing the standardized testing planned for this spring.  

We are also asking all who oppose the standardized-testing regime to sign this petition, which will be delivered to you, Dr. Cardona.

We are all trying to survive a global pandemic. In my 25 years in the classroom, I have never seen my students so stressed, depressed, and anxious. It is unnecessary and insensitive to add to the weight of their mental health struggles by adding the stress of standardized testing. Also, when thousands of stressed, depressed, and anxious students are forced to take a standardized test, will the results be accurate? Were they ever really accurate? Able to capture what students know and can do? Teachers know the answer: No!

Now is the time to end standardized testing

#RefuseTheTest 

#DoNotTakeTestingToDC. 

A faithful teacher,

Jeannette C. Faber – MS, MALS, EdD

If you live in Missouri, get active to stop this dangerous effort to destroy your public schools!

Dear Friend,

If you love your public schools you need to drop what you are doing and get to work.

There is only one intent of Senate Bill 55–to destroy public education in Missouri. It was pushed through the Senate Education Committee early this morning and may go to the Senate floor for a vote as early as next week. 

1. Call your state senators NOW and ask them to support public schools by OPPOSING Senate Bill 55. You can find your Senator and their phone number by going here

2. Click here and send an email in opposition to Senate Bill 55 NOW.

3. Share this link with friends and family who live in the statehttps://actionnetwork.org/letters/oppose-senate-bill-55/

Below is the notice we just received from the Missouri School Boards Association information that provides background on the bill.

“The Senate Education Committee jammed through a mega bill on Thursday that will be heard on the Senate floor soon. Senate Bills 23 and 25 started out creating voucher schemes and expanding charter schools but were loaded up on SB 55 at the last minute with a long list of provisions hostile to public education that have never even had a public hearing. The bill now includes:

  • School Board Member Recall: Requires an election to recall a school board member if a petition is submitted signed by at least 25% of the number of voters in the last school board election.
  • Education Scholarship Account/Vouchers:Creates up to $100 million in tax credits for donations to an organization that gives out scholarships for students to attend a home school or private school – including for-profit virtual schools.
  • Charter School Expansion: Authorizes charter schools to be opened in an additional 61 school districts located in Jackson, Jefferson, St. Charles, and St. Louis counties or in cities of 30,000 or more and allows charters opened in provisionally and unaccredited districts to remain open even after the school district regains accreditation.
  • Turning MOCAP into Virtual Charter Schools: Allows students enrolling in MOCAP full time to apply directly to the vendor and cuts the resident school district and professional educators out of the process.
  • Home school students allowed to participate in MSHSAA activities. Districts are prohibited from belonging to MSHSAA unless home schooled students are allowed to participate in district athletics and activities governed by MSHSAA.
  • Limiting State Board of Education: Restricts members of the state board of education to serve only one full term.”

Read more on these issues here.

Please send your email, make your calls and thank you for all you do. 

Carol Burris

Executive Director

Network for Public Education

FAIRTest and other assessment reform allies call on the new Biden administration to suspend high-stakes standardized testing this spring. Please add your name to their petition! Open the link to add your name to this petition.

To: U.S. Secretary of Education and state education policymakers 
From: [Your Name]

We call on the U.S. Department of Education to waive provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act that require states to administer standardized exams to students in the 2020-2021 academic year. We also call on the states to cancel their own additional testing mandates and to waive any consequences attached to their results, at least for the current school year.

Simply reducing testing stakes is not enough. It is critically important to suspend all government-mandated standardized exams so that educators, who know their students firsthand, may focus on teaching and learning, address students’ social and emotional well-being, and connect with families.

The use of standardized tests in public education has long raised concerns. Too often, these tests have supplanted teacher assessments of student performance; forced schools to focus on a narrow set of skills and subjects; limited opportunities for low-income students, students of color, English language learners, and students with disabilities; and penalized schools for test results without providing them with the support they need to succeed. Instead of being a good measure of teaching and learning, test scores have always correlated closely with students’ socioeconomic status.

In light of the disruptions caused by COVID-19, waiving standardized testing requirements is especially important right now. The time and resources required to test students this year would be better spent educating and supporting them. 

● The results won’t be valid, reliable, or useful. Teaching, learning, and testing conditions vary widely and continue to be in a state of flux. Since students will not have covered all the material the tests are supposed to measure, the results will not be comparable to results from other years or jurisdictions. We don’t need test scores to know that low-income children in poorly resourced schools have fallen even farther behind in a pandemic. In addition, more parents than usual are likely to opt their children out of taking the tests, further skewing the results.

● There are better ways to know how students from different backgrounds and learning needs fared during the pandemic. In addition to classroom-based assessments, sampling exams can provide data on trends in learning without distorting the curriculum or subjecting all students to standardized tests this year. Instead of more testing, we should be focusing on solutions that address poverty, racial inequities, and school funding disparities.

● Most parents oppose testing this spring. According to the Understanding America Study done by the University of Southern California, support for canceling the tests rose from 43 percent in mid-April to 64 percent in mid-October. The opposition is strong across all demographic groups but is especially high among Black parents, 72 percent of whom favor cancellation.

In a time of scarcity, funding must be used to support underserved and at-risk students, not enrich commercial test makers. It’s time to waive federal testing requirements and eliminate high stakes for state and local assessments.

Let’s seize this opportunity to provide better options for our students. 
Our children, their families, and their teachers deserve it.