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PUBLIC EDUCATION GROUPS WILL HOST TOP DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES AT 2020 PUBLIC EDUCATION FORUM

MSNBC Will MODERATE AND LIVESTREAM PITTSBURGH FORUM
ON DEC. 14

 

 

PITTSBURGH—The Network for Public Education Action will join with other public education groups, unions, civil rights organizations and community groups to host a forum for Democratic presidential candidates on Saturday December 14 in Pittsburgh. 

The “Public Education Forum 2020: Equity and Justice for All” will be held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh. MSNBC will moderate and exclusively livestream the forum on public education issues.

Ali Velshi, host of “MSNBC Live,” and Rehema Ellis, NBC News education correspondent, will serve as the forum’s moderators, together interviewing candidates on priority issues facing students, educators and parents in public education today. The event will be streamed live on NBC News Now, MSNBC.com and NBC News Learn, and will be featured across MSNBC programming.

Each candidate will provide opening remarks and then answer questions from Velshi and Ellis, forum attendees and others from across the country who submitted questions.

 

WHO:              

Alliance for Educational Justice

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees

American Federation of Teachers

Center for Popular Democracy Action

Journey for Justice Alliance

NAACP

National Education Association

Network for Public Education Action

Schott Foundation for Public Education—Opportunity to Learn Action Fund

Service Employees International Union

Voto Latino

 

WHAT:            Public Education Forum 2020: Equity and Justice for All

 

WHEN:            Dec. 14, 10 a.m.

 

WHERE:          David L. Lawrence Convention Center

1000 Fort Duquesne Blvd.

Pittsburgh, PA 15222

 

 

Jennifer Hall Lee lives in Pasadena, California. Her child is now enrolled in the high school, but Lee continues to volunteer and raise money for the middle school, where she is needed. In a note to me, she said that 45% of the students in Pasadena are attending private schools, charter schools, or home schooled. The public schools are suffering because of this splintering of civic energy.

She explained why she cares about the middle school:

The annual fund committee raises money throughout the year to help Eliot pay for teacher salaries, supplies, programs, technology and more–all of which keeps Eliot an arts magnet school. Annual funds, once the staple of private schools, are now necessary for many public schools. Pasadena Unified doesn’t receive money from a parcel tax and California ranks very low in per-pupil spending. Let me explain that by referring to the words of Pasadena School Board Member Pat Cahalan as he explains the funding disparity well: “Wisconsin funds public education at about $2,000 more per student. If California funded PUSD at that rate, the district would have over $30 million more every year.”

Eliot is a Title 1 school, which means that our student body is over 50% socio-economically disadvantaged. Moreover, we have to deal with reality: low statewide spending on students, no parcel tax, and misperceptions about PUSD. When the annual fund committee meets to discuss fundraising ideas, we have to deal with those three realities. They are in the room with us, underscoring our ideas as we decide which events to hold and what monies we can reasonably expect to raise. It’s difficult, but also joyful.

During the first year of the Eliot annual fund, we reached the goal of $50k; believe me, it was a huge lift. It took 12 months, but we succeeded, and I have to say this: we couldn’t have done it without everyone, including community members who had no children in Eliot but who participated, reached out to us, donated, and encouraged us. We are so grateful.

In today’s political climate we need everyone’s generosity and interest in our school to help us succeed. Children need to know that everyone in their community cares about them.

 

Candidates for Public office endorsed by NPE Action won big. 

We didn’t give them money.

We gave them our valued Seal of Approval, demonstrating that they are the real deal, genuine supporters of public schools.

We also celebrate the apparent victory in Kentucky of Andy Bashear and the apparent defeat of Governor Matt Bevin, who mistreated teachers and sought Betsy DeVos’s approval. Kentucky has a charter law but no funding for charters.

And we congratulate the brave Democrats in Virginia, who won control of the legislature.

And salutations to the new school board members who won control of the Denver school board. Aloha   to Senator MIchael Bennett and other pseudo reformers.

November 5 was a great day for public schools and teachers!

Democrat Andy Beshear, Attorney General of Kentucky, defeated hard-right Republican Governor Matt Bevin!

Hooray!

Bevin made war on public schools and teachers and threatened teachers’ pensions. He allied himself with Trump and Betsy DeVos. Bevin threatened to cut healthcare insurance. Teachers in Kentucky walked out and demonstrated at the state capitol to oppose Benin’s efforts to destroy their pension rights.

Trump visited Kentucky to help Bevin.

Bevin wanted to make the election a referendum on Trump’s impeachment proceedings. He wanted to distract voters from his agenda to privatize schools and shred the social safety net..

Bevin lost. He hasn’t conceded yet. But he lost.

Here is local news.

“After a hard-fought race marked by angry rhetoric about teachers and the intervention of national politics, Kentucky voters finally got the chance to make their decision at the ballot box.

“In the end, Attorney General Andy Beshear was able to emerge victorious in a gubernatorial race being watched as much for what it says next year’s national elections as it does about the direction of the commonwealth.

“Both men were with supporters in Louisville on Tuesday night watching as the results came in.

“The Democrats — Beshear and his running mate, Jacqueline Coleman — placed much of their focus on Kentucky’s educators and their anger over moves by the Bevin administration to make changes to their pensions.”I believe the more Kentuckians that come out, the better our chances are, because people are hungry for a governor that listens more than he talks and solves more problems than he creates,” Beshear said earlier Tuesday.

”Bevin, a Republican who has polled consistently as among the least popular governors in the nation, highlighted his anti-abortion rights agenda and close ties with President Donald Trump. He switched his lieutenant governor running mate this time out to Ralph Alvardo.”

Lesson in Kentucky: Don’t run against public schools!

PS: The Associated Press says the race is too close to call. CNN has declared Beshear the winner.
With 100% of the vote counted, Beshear is ahead by about 4,500 votes.

From the New York Times:

Next update in :02
Latest: The Associated Press says the race is too close to call.2m ago
Candidate Party Votes Pct.
Andy Beshear Democrat 711,955 49.2%
Matt Bevin* Republican 707,297 48.9
John Hicks Libertarian 28,475 2.0

1,447,727 votes, 100% reporting (3,659 of 3,659 precincts)

* Incumbent

The governor’s race in Kentucky has been cast as a showdown between an unpopular governor and an unpopular party. The Republican incumbent, Matt Bevin, has focused his campaign on his alignment with President Trump and his opposition to impeachment, with the president holding a rally on Monday in Lexington to reciprocate the support. The Democratic challenger, Andy Beshear, the state’s attorney general, has been buoyed by the governor’s diminished popularity — Mr. Bevin is among the least popular governors in the country. 

 

 

 

Mercedes Schneider loves Elizabeth Warren’s plans for K-12 education.

Note that in Warren’s plan, the term, “public school” means traditional public school– the neighborhood school, sufficiently supported and defended against much of the corporate ed reform attack against it.

Warren’s education plan is refreshing to read, and extensive. I encourage readers to view Warren’s entire ed plan firsthand.

Below are some of my favorite parts. But my favorites-of-favorites is the ending of federal funding for charter schools and Warren’s pledge to fight against charter schools’ outsourcing operations to for-profit companies.

She proceeds to describe what she likes best in the Warren plan.

Schneider is a tough critic with a keen nose for fraud. When she likes something, pay attention.

 

 

Steven Singer was excited to read Elizabeth Warren’s plan for K-12 education. 

There was just one thing he was troubled by.

He begins:

My daughter had bad news for me yesterday at dinner.

She turned to me with all the seriousness her 10-year-old self could muster and said, “Daddy, I know you love Bernie but I’m voting for Elizabeth.”

“Elizabeth Warren?” I said choking back a laugh.

Her pronouncement had come out of nowhere. We had just been discussing how disgusting the pierogies were in the cafeteria for lunch.

And she nodded with the kind of earnestness you can only have in middle school.

So I tried to match the sobriety on her face and remarked, “That’s okay, Honey. You support whomever you want. You could certainly do worse than Elizabeth Warren.”

And you know what? She’s right.

Warren has a lot of things to offer – especially now that her education plan has dropped.

In the 15 years or so that I’ve been a public school teacher, there have been few candidates who even understand the issues we are facing less than any who actually promote positive education policy.

But then Bernie Sanders came out with his amazing Thurgood Marshall planand I thought, “This is it! The policy platform I’ve been waiting for!”

I knew Warren was progressive on certain issues but I never expected her to in some ways match and even surpass Bernie on education.

What times we live in! There are two major political candidates for the Democratic nomination for President who don’t want to privatize every public school in sight! There are two candidates who are against standardized testing!

It’s beyond amazing!

Before we gripe and pick at loose ends in both platforms, we should pause and acknowledge this.

Woo-hoo!

 

I am happy to endorse Scott Baldermann for District 1 on the Denver school board.

Scott is a native of Denver, a graduate of Aurora public schools, and a parent of children who attend Denver public schools.

He is an architect and software developer. He sold his small business and is now devoted to his children and their school. He is president of the PTA.

He has been endorsed by the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, the Colorado Education Association, and other professional groups, as well as by former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb.

Former Mayor Webb put the issue succinctly:

The Denver Public Schools philosophy of education reform has destroyed Cole Junior High and Manual High School, which houses three different schools. The current DPS Board of Education’s philosophy of education reform is not addressing these concerns and other issues. Therefore, I am endorsing a slate of three new candidates for the board supported by the Denver Classroom Teachers Association. They are: Tay Anderson for At-Large, Scott Baldermann for District 1, and Brad Laurvick for District 5.

Baldermann’s critics complain that he is funding his own campaign. This is the reverse of the usual scenario in Denver, where out-of-state groups like Democrats for Education Reform spend large sums to maintain control of the board by advocates for charters and testing.

If Scott can pay for his campaign, good for him!

Too often, the genuine supporters of public schools have been beaten by plutocrat money.

Scott Baldermann doesn’t need money from the Waltons, Charles Koch, Eli Broad, Reed Hastings, Michael Bloomberg or others who want to disrupt and privatize Denver’s public schools.

Scott is exactly the kind of public-spirited good citizen who should serve on the school board.

He is a true friend and supporter of Denver’s public schools.

I hope he is elected.

Another reason to vote for Scott Baldermann and the other grassroots candidates: Arne Duncan showed up in Denver to endorse their opponents and urge voters to continue supporting Obama’s “legacy” of charter schools, school closings, and high-stakes testing.

Vote for Scott Baldermann and vote for real public schools and a board led by public school parents, not NYC hedge funders or out-of-state billionaires.

 

 

 

Karen Lewis is the inspiration for today’s teacher’s strikes.

She is one of a kind.

She is a hero, a woman of courage, character, integrity, intellect, and steel.

The Chicago Teachers Union just released this video tribute to Karen.

Karen is a product of the Chicago Public Schools. She went to elite Ivy League colleges, first to Mount Holyoke, then transferred to Dartmouth College, where she was the only African American female in the class of 1974.

Karen returned to Chicago and became a chemistry teacher in the Chicago Public Schools, where she taught for 22 years.

In 2010, an upstart group of unionists called the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) ousted the leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union and elected Karen Lewis as its president. The new leadership cut its own salaries and began building relationships with community organizations and parents.

The city’s political and financial elite rewrote state law in hopes of preventing the union from striking. Assisted by Jonah Edelman of the turncoat “Stand for Children,” the city’s financial elite hired the state’s top lobbyists (so that none would be available to help the union), raised millions of dollars (outspending the unions), and passed a state law saying that teachers could not strike unless they had the approval of 75% of their members. They thought this was an impossible threshold. Jonah Edelman, seated alongside James Schine Crown, one of Chicago’s wealthiest financiers, boasted of their feat at the Aspen Institute in 2011. Surrounded by their union-hating peers from other cities at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Edelman said “If It Could Happen Here, It Could Happen Anywhere,” meaning that with enough financial and political clout, unions could be crushed. (The event was transcribed by Parents Across America and blogger Fred Klonsky copied the video before the Aspen Institute took it down). Edelman subsequently apologized for his candid remarks, but Stand for Children has continued to act as a proxy for philanthrocapitalists. (The Aspen video and Edelman’s apology is here on Fred Klonsky’s blog).

Needless to say, the elites were shocked when Karen Lewis and her team called for authorization to strike and won the support of more than 90% of the union’s membership.

In 2012, the union struck for 10 days and won important concessions, including protections for teachers laid off when Rahm Emanuel closed schools, prevention of merit pay (which she knew has failed everywhere), and changes in the teacher evaluation system. The union had carefully built relationships with parents and communities, and the strike received broad public support.

In 2014, Karen Lewis was urged to challenge Rahm Emanuel in the 2015 mayoral election. She set up an exploratory committee, and early polls showed she was likely to win. But in the fall of 2014, Karen was afflicted with a cancerous brain tumor. She was 61 years old. She stepped down as president of the CTU. She is cared for by her devoted husband, John Lewis, who was a physical education teacher in the Chicago Public Schools.

Karen Lewis exemplified courage, fearlessness, Resistance, leadership, and concern for teachers and children.

Every teacher who took the bold step of striking to improve the conditions of teaching and learning in their school  stands on the shoulders of Karen Lewis. Every teacher and parent who wears Red for Ed is in the debt of this great woman.

She is our hero. She should be the hero of everyone who cares about the rights of children and the eventual triumph of the common good.

Watch here to see Karen Lewis before her illness, speaking at the first annual conference of the Network for Public Education in Austin Texas on March 1, 2024. Her speech was preceded by that of John Kuhn, superintendent of a school district in Texas. Karen starts speaking about the 14-minute mark. Both are worth watching.

I interviewed Karen Lewis at the second annual conference of the Network for Public Education in Chicago in 2015. You can see it here. 

And this is my account of how I met Karen for the first time and why I love her.

She inspires me every day. I miss her very much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jan Resseger is a profound thinker and a clear writer. I love reading what she writes. Jan is one of the Resistance leaders in my new book SLAYING GOLIATH: THE PASSIONATE RESISTANCE TO PRIVATIZATION AND THE FIGHT TO SAVE AMERICA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS.

In this post, she explains to Democratic candidates why they should not waffle in their support for public schools.

Her explanation is a rallying cry for educators and parents. Print it out and pin it on the bulletin board next to your computer or tape it to your filing cabinet. Read it over and think about it.

She writes:

Here are my seven reasons for believing Democrats running for President ought to express strong support for public schools and opposition to charter schools:

First:   The scale of the provision of K-12 education across our nation can best be achieved by the systemic, public provision of schools.  Rewarding social entrepreneurship in the startup of one charter school at a time cannot possibly serve the needs of the mass of our children and adolescents. In a new, September 2019 enrollment summary, the National Center for Education Statistics reports: “Between around 2000 and 2016, traditional public school, public charter school, and homeschool enrollment increased, while private school enrollment decreased… Traditional public school enrollment increased to 47.3 million (1 percent increase), charter school enrollment grew to 3.0 million students (from 0.4 million), and the number of homeschooled students nearly doubled to 1.7 million. Private school enrollment fell 4 percent, to 5.8 million students.”

Second:   Public schools are our society’s most important civic institution. Public schools are not perfect, but they are the optimal way for our very complex society to balance the needs of each particular child and family with a system that secures the rights and addresses the needs of all children. Because public schools are responsible to the public, it is possible through elected school boards, open meetings, transparent record keeping and redress through the courts to ensure that traditional public schools provide access for all children. While our society has not fully realized justice for every child in the public schools, it is by striving systemically to improve access and opportunity in the public schools that we have the best chance of securing the rights of all children.

Third:   Charter schools are parasites sucking essential dollars from the public school districts where they are located. The political economist Gordon Lafer explains that the expansion of charter schools cannot possibly be revenue neutral for the host school district losing students to charter schools: “To the casual observer, it may not be obvious why charter schools should create any net costs at all for their home districts. To grasp why they do, it is necessary to understand the structural differences between the challenge of operating a single school—or even a local chain of schools—and that of a district-wide system operating tens or hundreds of schools and charged with the legal responsibility to serve all students in the community.  When a new charter school opens, it typically fills its classrooms by drawing students away from existing schools in the district…  If, for instance, a given school loses five percent of its student body—and that loss is spread across multiple grade levels, the school may be unable to lay off even a single teacher… Plus, the costs of maintaining school buildings cannot be reduced…. Unless the enrollment falloff is so steep as to force school closures, the expense of heating and cooling schools, running cafeterias, maintaining digital and wireless technologies, and paving parking lots—all of this is unchanged by modest declines in enrollment. In addition, both individual schools and school districts bear significant administrative responsibilities that cannot be cut in response to falling enrollment. These include planning bus routes and operating transportation systems; developing and auditing budgets; managing teacher training and employee benefits; applying for grants and certifying compliance with federal and state regulations; and the everyday work of principals, librarians and guidance counselors.” “If a school district anywhere in the country—in the absence of charter schools—announced that it wanted to create a second system-within-a-system, with a new set of schools whose number, size, specialization, budget, and geographic locations would not be coordinated with the existing school system, we would regard this as the poster child of government inefficiency and a waste of tax dollars. But this is indeed how the charter school system functions.”

Fourth:   While some predicted the expansion of charter schools would improve academic achievement on a broad scale, children in traditional public schools and charter schools perform about the same.  According to the new report from the National Center for Education Statistics, “Academic Performance: In 2017, at grades 4 and 8, no measurable differences in average reading and mathematics scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) were observed between students in traditional public and public charter schools.”

Fifth:   Opposing for-profit charter schools misses the point.  In most states, charter schools themselves must be nonprofits, but the nonprofit boards of directors of these schools may hire a for-profit management company to operate the school. Two of the most notorious examples of the ripoffs of tax dollars in nonprofit (managed-for-profit) charter schools were in my state, Ohio. The late David Brennan, the father of Ohio charter schools, set up sweeps contracts with the nonprofit schools managed by his for-profit White Hat Management Company.  The boards of these schools—frequently people with ties to Brennan and his operations—turned over to White Hat Management more than 90 percent of the dollars awarded by the state to the nonprofit charters. These were secret deals. Neither the public nor the members of the nonprofit charter school boards of directors could know how the money was spent; nor did they know how much profit Brennan’s for-profit raked off the top. Then there was Bill Lager, the founder of Ohio’s infamous Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow—technically a nonprofit.  All management of the online charter school and the design and provision of its curriculum were turned over to Lager’s privately owned, for-profit companies—Altair Management and IQ Innovations. ECOT was shut down in 2018 for charging the state for thousands of students who were not really enrolled. The state of Ohio is still in court trying to recover even a tiny percentage of Lager’s lavish profits.

Sixth:   Malfeasance, corruption, and poor performance plague charter schools across the states. Because charter schools were established by state law across the 45 states where charters operate, and because much of the state charter school enabling legislation featured innovation and experimentation and neglected oversight, the scandals fill local newspapers. The Network for Public Education tracks the myriad examples of outrageous fraud and mismanagement by charter schools.  Because neoliberal ideologues and the entrepreneurs in the for-profit charter management companies regularly donate generously to the political coffers of state legislators—the very people responsible for passing laws to regulate this out-of-control sector, adequate oversight has proven impossible.

Seventh:   The federal Charter Schools Program should be shut down immediately. Here is a brief review of the Network for Public Education’s findings in last spring’s Asleep at the Wheel report.  A series of federal administrations—Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump have treated the federal Charter Schools Program (part of the Office of Innovation and Improvement in the U.S. Department of Education) as a kind of venture capital fund created and administered to stimulate social entrepreneurship—by individuals or big nonprofits or huge for-profits—as a substitute for public operation of the public schools. Since the program’s inception in 1994, the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP) has awarded $4 billion in federal tax dollars to start up or expand charter schools across 44 states and the District of Columbia, and has provided some of the funding for 40 percent of all the charter schools across the country. The CSP has lacked oversight since the beginning, and during the Obama and Trump administrations—when the Department of Education’s own Office of Inspector General released a series of scathing critiques of the program—grants have been made based on the application alone with little attempt by officials in the Department of Education to verify the information provided by applicants. The Network for Public Education found that the CSP has spent over a $1 billion on schools that never opened or were opened and subsequently shut down: “The CSP’s own analysis from 2006-2014 of its direct and state pass-through funded programs found that nearly one out of three awardees were not currently in operation by the end of 2015.”

Last June in The American Prospect, Robert Kuttner defined the political philosophy known as neoliberalism and showed how this kind of thinking has driven privatization across many sectors previously operated, for the public good, by government: “Since the late 1970s. we’ve had a grand experiment to test the claim that free markets really do work best… (I)n the 1970s, libertarian economic theory got another turn at bat…  Neoliberalism’s premise is that free markets can regulate themselves; that government is inherently incompetent, captive to special interests, and an intrusion on the efficiency of the market; that in distributive terms, market outcomes are basically deserved; and that redistribution creates perverse incentives by punishing the economy’s winners and rewarding its losers. So government should get out of the market’s way.”

For three decades, neoliberalism has reigned in education policy. The introduction of the neoliberal ideal of competition—supposedly to drive school improvement—through vouchers for private school tuition and in the expansion of charter schools has become acceptable to members of both political parties.

The late political philosopher Benjamin Barber explains elegantly and precisely what is wrong with neoliberal thinking in general. I think his words apply directly to what has been happening as charter schools have been expanded to more and more states. The candidates running for President who prefer to waffle on the advisability of school privatization via charter schools ought to consider Barber’s analysis:

“Privatization is a kind of reverse social contract: it dissolves the bonds that tie us together into free communities and democratic republics. It puts us back in the state of nature where we possess a natural right to get whatever we can on our own, but at the same time lose any real ability to secure that to which we have a right. Private choices rest on individual power… personal skills… and personal luck.  Public choices rest on civic rights and common responsibilities, and presume equal rights for all.  Public liberty is what the power of common endeavor establishes, and hence presupposes that we have constituted ourselves as public citizens by opting into the social contract. With privatization, we are seduced back into the state of nature by the lure of private liberty and particular interest; but what we experience in the end is an environment in which the strong dominate the weak… the very dilemma which the original social contract was intended to address.” (Consumed, pp. 143-144)

 

 

Charles Foster Johnson, executive director of Pastors for Texas Children, delivered a powerful lecture at Baylor University on the importance of public schooling. 

PTC has been an important advocate on behalf of public schools in several states. It has led the successful effort to block voucher legislation in Texas by forging a coalition of urban Democrats and rural Republicans.

An account of the lecture said:

Public schools in the United States offer the “meeting place for widening diversity” where students learn to live with others who hold different views, a Baptist preacher and advocate for public education told a Baylor University gathering.

Charles Foster Johnson, executive director of Pastors for Texas Children, addressed “Religious Liberty, the Public School and the Soul of America” at the G. Hugh and Beverly C. Wamble Symposium, presented by Baylor’s J.M. Dawson Institute for Church-State Studies.

“I contend that public schools are the proving ground for religious liberty and church-state separation,” Johnson asserted.

In public school classrooms, students learn that their own religious beliefs are not to be given preference over the beliefs of their classmates, nor are their classmates beliefs to be preferred above their own, he said.

In an increasingly pluralistic society, understanding and honoring religious liberty may be more important than ever, he stressed.

“Our neighbor of another faith is right next to us now. … We share this absurdly small space called planet Earth, and we’ve got to learn to love each other,” said Johnson, former pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio and Second Baptist Church in Lubbock. “One of the ways we do that is to accord every human being the freedom to follow God by the mandate of conscience.”

He decried any attempt to coerce compliance to any religion or compel religious expression.

“All faith in God is voluntary. If it is not voluntary, it is not faith,” he said.