Archives for category: Supporting public schools

John Merrow writes here about the Governor’s Inaugural Address. It could be delivered in any state. It should be delivered in every state.

It is about the importance of education to creating the future we all hope for.

Read the entire address and email it to your governor. Perhaps he or she will crib a few lines.

Let’s remind ourselves that public education serves an important public purpose.  Yes, of course there is an undeniable private benefit to getting education: children who finish high school and college will earn significantly more over their lifetimes than high school dropouts.  Parents know that, which is why they seek out communities reputed to have ‘the best schools.’

However, in addition to the individual’s private gain, education provides significant public benefits.  Investing in one child’s education helps all of us.

Think about it: Educated citizens have better jobs, pay more taxes, are more likely to vote, get involved in civic life, and work cooperatively with their neighbors.  Educated citizens are less likely to be on welfare, live in homeless shelters, or require public benefits.

It’s a win-win when people are educated.  That’s why we–government–cannot stand by and leave it to parents to see their children get educated. We need to enable, and we need to provide.  And we need to pay the bills!

Let me remind you that, until fairly recently, America understood that. The GI Billpaid for the college education of millions of returning World War II veterans, creating the middle class and the greatest economic boom in history.  In the mid-1960’s generous Pell Grants opened the door to college opportunity for millions of low income young people, creating another economic surge.

But during the Reagan years government walked away from a public commitment to education. Pell Grants were cut.  States cut their commitments to their public colleges and universities. Government began making students borrow for college, rather than using public dollars to help them.  Basically, we swapped grants for loans, and now student debt is over $1.5 trillion!

There have been other harmful changes.  For the past 20 or more years, those controlling public education have emphasized test scores to the detriment of just about everything else.  Adding to those bad policies, two major economic downturns did serious damage to school budgets, harm that most of our communities have not yet recovered from.  School spending here in _______ is down from 2008, just as it is in 31 other states.  And because too much money is being spent on testing and too much time on test-preparation, our young people are not enjoying art, music, drama, physical education, field trips, and other extra curricular activities–all the good stuff that (at least for me) made school enjoyable.

Schools need less testing and more money.  Making that happen will require the courage cited in the ‘Serenity Prayer,’ because we also must change how we pay for schools here in _______.  Back in 1973, the US Supreme Court ruled that education is not a federal constitutional right; it’s the job of individual states to educate its citizens.  As in most states, here in ______ we have passed down the job to cities and towns and let them figure out how to pay for it.

 

Amy Frogge is a member of the elected school board in Metro Nashville. She is a parent activist and a lawyer. She is also one of the heroes of my new book SLAYING GOLIATH: THE PASSIONATE RESISTANCE TO PRIVATIZATION AND THE FIGHT TO SAVE AMERICA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS (Knopf), which will be published January 21.

When Amy ran for the school board, the Disruption movement funded her opponents. Groups like Democrats for Education Reform and Stand for Children poured money into the race to beat her, and she won. They outspent her, but she had troops, volunteers, parents as passionate as she was.

Amy recently spoke to the Nashville Chamber of Commerce about public education in Nashville.

This is what she told them:

Good morning. I would like to start out this morning with a confession, speaking only on my own behalf: Since I was first elected, I’ve bristled at the very idea of the business community grading the school system with a yearly report card. If I, as a school board member, decided to “grade” the Nashville Chamber for the dismal state of Metro’s finances and offered suggestions as to how you might better conduct your business dealings to avoid such poor outcomes, I’d wager that you would take offense. You would likely respond that I’m not qualified to make such an assessment, since I have no background in business, and you’d be right.

 

This is how our educators feel. Our teachers and public schools are continually scapegoated for the societal ills that impact student learning. Our schools and teachers are often labeled as “failing,” which destroys morale and is an entirely inaccurate statement. They are faced with a constant barrage of new policies, procedures, assessments, and ratings tools crafted by those with no real expertise in education- by politicians, by lawyers (like me), and by business leaders. The metrics used to assess our teachers and students are often deeply flawed and ever-changing. We must begin to respect our teachers, grant them the autonomy they need to succeed, and pay them handsomely. They are our true experts. Our school staff members best understand how to reach students and how to help them grow academically. They often give of their own limited resources to ensure that our children have what they need- food, clothing, shoes, supplies, etc., and even the love and care many do not receive at home.

 

That said, I want to commend you today for the general focus of this year’s Report Card: investment, equity and support. These are the true keys to success in public education. It’s become painfully obvious that Nashville schools and teachers are underfunded and that there exist vast inequities within our school system. As a city and larger community, we must ensure that every child in Nashville has access to an excellent, well-rounded education. ALL children- not just those in private schools or wealthy neighborhoods- should have access to the arts, to physical activity (recess, PE, athletics), to proper nutrition, to time in nature, to books and school libraries, to learning through play when they are young, to enrichment activities that spark their creativity and interests as they grow, and to healthy, evidence-based educational practices. So many of Nashville’s students come to school having experienced trauma and adverse childhood experiences, which impact their ability to focus on learning. That’s why the Chamber’s emphasis on social emotional learning has been so very important. We must also maintain focus on whole child education. We need more school counselors, social workers, and nurses. MNPS needs greater support and increased partnerships from our larger community.

 

But our current national fixation on ridiculous amounts of flawed standardized testing, which ultimately measures little, has impeded progress toward these goals. The number one factor impacting a child’s test scores is the socioeconomic status of the child’s family. This does not mean, of course, that children who come from impoverished backgrounds cannot succeed; it simply means that we as a community must provide the extra support to help these children thrive. School privatization efforts also impede progress toward these goals. Conversations about vouchers and charter schools are ultimately about equity- whether we want to fund the few at the expense of the many and whether we can continue to support a parallel, competing set of school systems when we cannot afford to support our existing schools. These conversations are also about accountability, the need for public regulation and transparency, the misuse of tax dollars intended for children, and school segregation- again issues of equity and fairness. Ultimately, though, these issues are a distraction from the hard work at hand- a band-aid on a much larger problem. It is a sad day when we all rally around the idea of “Adopting a Teacher” in a city as rich and thriving as Nashville. It’s embarrassing that we have come to this point.

 

I’ll close today by adding to this Report Card a few ways that you, sitting here in this room, can help MNPS succeed:

 

First, I invite each of you to tour your zoned schools before deciding where to enroll your own child. My husband and I opted to send our children to our zoned schools, and it has been an excellent choice for our family. We have utilized schools that our neighbors once warned us against, those with poor ratings on sites like greatschools.org- and yet, my children are both thriving, academically and otherwise. Their test scores are just as high as those of their friends who have attended elite private schools, and my children have benefitted from diverse learning environments. It saddens me that we in Nashville have somehow come to view our public schools as charities meant to serve only those without means. Children in our public schools shouldn’t be viewed as future worker bees for businesses, and our city’s schools are not just for other people’s children. Public schools are the very hearts of our community, and if everyone in Nashville actually utilized our public schools, we would have very different outcomes. Socioeconomic diversity, as well as racial diversity, in schools are proven drivers of success.

 

And when we all get involved in public schools, small miracles happen. When I was PTO President at our local, Title I elementary school, I helped bring in community partnerships and local support for the school. As a result, test scores went up, the school’s culture improved, and a waiting list developed at that school. This could happen throughout the whole city with your support.

 

On a related note, please do not recruit businesses to Nashville with the promise that they can live in surrounding counties and send their children to school in places like Williamson County. This increases the divide between the haves and the have-nots and paints a misleading picture of our city.     

 

Second, in addition to the suggestions you’ve made in this year’s Report Card, I hope that you will consider a greater investment in MNPS’s Community School programs, which provide wrap-around services to children and families in need. Businesses could partner with local schools to meet student needs and provide community volunteers. This would absolutely change a school’s outcomes.

 

Third, please help us advocate at the state level for our needs- increased funding, greater teacher pay and autonomy, and local control of schools so that Nashville can make the best decisions for our community.

 

Finally, I hope that you, as leaders in our business community, will put effort into advocating for larger changes in our city that will have the greatest impact on our schools and children. We need more affordable housing. Last year, over 3,400 of the children in our school system qualified as homeless. And as you are aware, our teachers and support staff desperately need better pay. Many can no longer afford to live in the New Nashville. We must stop investing in shiny things at the expense of infrastructure and community needs. When our city becomes more equitable, this will be reflected in our schools.

 

Thank you for your time this morning and for your commitment to public education. I know that a lot of hard, thoughtful work goes into your Report Card each year. I will leave you with the encouragement that Dr. Battle, Mayor Cooper, and the board are already working on the issues that your Report Card Committee has identified. It’s a new day for Nashville, and I hope we can all work together in partnership to make a difference for Nashville’s children.

Peter Greene, as usual, is sharp and on target in reviewing the Public Education Forum in Pittsburgh.

He fact checks the candidates. He was pleasantly surprised by Amy Klobuchar, which seems to be a common reaction.

Ignore a few spelling errors and enjoy.

Steven Singer participated in the Public Education Forum in Pittsburgh, where the leading Democratic candidates (and a few not-leading candidates) spoke to an audience of teachers, members of civil rights groups, and teacher unionists.

These are his ten take-aways from the day. 

A few highlights:

 

The fact that it happened at all is almost miraculous.

 

Who would have thought Presidential hopefuls would care enough about public schools to address education issues and answer our questions?

 

Who would have thought it would be broadcast live on TV and the Internet?

 

And – come to think of it – who would have EVER thought it would happen in my hometown of Pittsburgh!?
But it did.

 

I was there – along with about 1,500 other education activists, stakeholders and public school warriors from around the country.

 

It was an amazing day which I will never forget.

 

Perhaps the best part was getting to see so many amazing people in one place – and I’m not talking about the candidates.

 

There were members of the Badass Teachers Association, the Network for Public Education, Journey for Justice, One Pennsylvania, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and so many more!

 

I wish I could bottle up that feeling of commitment to our children and hope in the future…

 

Here’s my top 10 most important lessons:

 

1) Charter School Support is Weak

 

When the forum was announced, Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform wrote a blistering memoabout how the charter school community would not put up with politicians listening to constituents critical of their industry. Allen is a far right Republican with close ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) who even used Donald Trump’s public relations firm to publicize her protest. But when we got to the forum, all it amounted to were a dozen folks with matching yellow signs trudging through the rainwho didn’t even stay for the duration of the forum. YAWN! Silly school privatizers, that’s not how you protest!

 

2) Michael Bennet Doesn’t Understand Much About Public Education

 

The Colorado Senator and former school superintendent really doesn’t get a lot of the important issues – even when they intersect his life. As superintendent, he enacted a merit pay initiative for teachers that resulted in a teachers strike. He still doesn’t comprehend why this was a bad idea – that tying teachers salaries to student test scores makes for educators who only teach to the test, that it demands teachers be responsible for things beyond their control, etc. Moreover, he thinks there’s a difference between public and private charter schools – there isn’t. They’re all bankrolled by tax dollars and can be privately operated.

 

But I suppose that doesn’t matter so much because few people know who Michael Bennet is anyway.

 

3) Pete Buttigeig is Too Smart Not to Understand Education – Unless He’s Paid Not to Understand

 

Mayor Pete came off as a very well spoken and intelligent guy. But he also seemed about as credible as wet tissue. He said a bunch of wrongheaded things. For instance, he said that “separate has never, ever been equal,” but he supports charter schools. Separate but equal is their business model.

 

It’s the kind of misunderstanding that only happens on purpose, and it’s not hard to see why. He’s taken so much money from anti-education billionaires like Netflix Founder Reed Hastings, no one else can trust him. How are we supposed to think he works for us when his salary comes from the super rich? You never recover from ignorance when it’s your job to be ignorant.

 

Read the rest of his post to see what he wrote about Warren, Sanders, Steyer, Klobuchar, and Biden.

 

 

 

Hats off to Randi Weingarten and Lily Eskelsen Garcia for organizing today’s MSNBC Public Education Forum!

It was a wonderful event, and it was thrilling to see all of the major Democratic candidates competing to win the support of America’s millions of teachers, vowing their love for teachers and their dedication to public schools.

Best of all was that they all recognized that the United States has been underinvesting in education for years, and they pledged to reverse that policy.

It was wonderful to hear the candidates speak about the importance of public education.

It was good to hear Joe Biden attack standardized testing (he forgot all about Race to the Top, as did everyone else).

I was disappointed that Rehema Ellis of NBC asked almost every candidate about NAEP scores, distorting what they meant. She said that only 1/3 of American students are “proficient” in reading, which is true, but NAEP proficiency is not grade level, it represents mastery. It would be wonderful if every student reached mastery, but that has never happened. As long as she threw it out there, she should have followed it up (or candidates should have followed up) by saying, “Doesn’t this statistic show the failure of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Common Core? Doesn’t it show that two decades of federally mandated reforms have failed? Where do we go from here?”

But the follow-up never happened.

What did happen, though, was that every candidate vied to demonstrate their love for public schools and for teachers and their determination to establish equal opportunity and excellent schools for all.

This was a wonderful balm for the soul after years of nay-saying, nitpicking, and teacher-bashing.

No teacher-bashing today.

Just teacher love.

Respect for the mission of public schools.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

And it sounded wonderful.

 

The Network for Public Education Action is one of the pro-public education groups that will participate in the forum on Public Education Issues in Pittsburgh on Saturday.

The event will be livestreamed on MSNBC. 

Since the event was announced, candidates Cory Booker and Michael Bennett have joined the list of speakers.

Each group will have the opportunity to ask one question of one candidate.

Please note that the event will start at 9 a.m.

NPE Action will be there with a stellar group of supporters of public schools.

The charter industry has lobbied for years to promote the idea that public schools and their teachers and teachers unions are uniquely responsible for denying educational opportunity to children of color. Ever since the propaganda film “Waiting for Superman,” produced by billionaire charter supporter (and rightwing evangelical zealot Philip Anschutz), the charter industry has promoted the claim that supporters of public schools are hostile to children of color while they—funded by billionaires like the Waltons, the Sacklers, the Koch brothers, the DeVos family, and every Republican governor—claim to be champions of civil rights.

”Malarkey!” says FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting).

FAIR offers a “close reading” of media bias against public schools and demonstrates how the charter industry has deceptively labeled any opposition to charters as the work of teachers’ unions, never admitting that supporters of public schools include parents, grandparents, and graduates of public schools, as well as members of the public who understand the importance of public education in a democracy.

After thirty years of charter advocacy, only 6% of American students are enrolled in them.  In the only city that is all-charter, New Orleans, the only choice that is forbidden is a public school. This decision was not the result of a vote by the citizens of New Orleans, but a decision imposed by the white Republicans who control the State Legislature. Southern white Republicans are not typically perceived as concerned about the well-being of children of color.

Tune in!

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!