Archives for category: Supporting public schools

Jennifer Ramsey is a 17-year veteran teacher in Texas. She watched Donald Trump Jr. insult public schools and their teachers on national television, and she was outraged. She asks: What does he know about public education? We know he attended an elite and pricey boarding school (The Hill School in Pennsylvania), which costs $55,000 a year. But has he ever set foot in a public school?

Public education is a foundational institution in this great nation, promoting democracy by educating students to become active citizens. It is a truly American establishment. Unlike elite private schools, public schools do not pick and choose which Americans we teach. We teach students of all races, religions and economic levels. We teach brilliantly gifted students, as well as children with severe disabilities….

Does Donald Trump Jr. know that?

I will begin my 18th year teaching in a Texas public school. Unlike Donald Trump Jr., I know something about public education.

Public education is a foundational institution in this great nation, promoting democracy by educating students to become active citizens. It is a truly American establishment. Unlike elite private schools, public schools do not pick and choose which Americans we teach. We teach students of all races, religions and economic levels. We teach brilliantly gifted students, as well as children with severe disabilities.

As for Trump’s assertion that public schools are run for the benefit of teachers and administrators rather than for the students, again, I must ask: What does know about public education? Has he ever stepped foot in a public school?

Trump doesn’t know that in public schools, teachers spend hundreds of dollars out of their own pockets and hours beyond the workday preparing their classrooms to be fun and happy environments for the new group of American learners coming in. He doesn’t know that teachers help little ones learn the social skills they may be lacking at home, or how often teachers buy clothes for the little ones who are sent to school in clothes with holes and stains and too-small shoes.

Trump doesn’t know what it’s like to comfort a middle-school child whose mother beat him before he came to school, with his mouth still a bloody mess. Or what it’s like to try every single teacher strategy you know to reach the girl who is shut down, hates school and everyone in it — only to find out that her mother is selling her to grown men for drug money. He doesn’t know the heartbreak and real American life that teachers experience every day while interacting with their students.

Trump doesn’t know the love most teachers feel for their students. He doesn’t know our students are always “ours” — even years later. He doesn’t know how often teachers give their students lunch money, snacks, second chances, a shoulder to cry on and hugs. He doesn’t know the tears of pride and joy we cry when our students walk across the stage at graduation. He doesn’t know the anguish we feel when our students die.

The truth is that Trump and the public school bashers like him don’t know anything about public education. I am proud to be an American public school teacher, and I have heard enough of the un-American rhetoric that politicians and businessmen like him use to tear down a truly American establishment and condemn the millions of Americans working hard to care for the children of this nation.

Hillary Clinton’s choice for her running mate is Tim Kaine, Senator from Virginia. Tim Kaine is one of the few people in American politics who has been elected mayor (of Richmond, Virginia), governor, and senator.

He is also a steadfast supporter of public education, even though he graduated from a Jesuit high school. His own children attended primarily black schools in Richmond. His wife is now Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virgina.

This is what he wrote three years ago about his life as a public school parent in Richmond.

Anne and I are now empty-nesters. Combined, our three kids spent 40 school years in the Richmond Public Schools. While we both interact with the school system in our professional lives, we’ve learned even more from back-to-school nights, parent-teacher conferences, attending school events and pulling crumpled notes to parents out of our kids’ backpacks. The lessons learned as parents have made me think about what works and what doesn’t work in Pre-K-12 education. Here are seven changes I’d like to see:

It’s about the individual!

Most policy debate these days seems to be about charter schools or high-stakes testing. But I’m convinced that the most important reform has been under our noses since 1975, when legislation was passed to guarantee children with diagnosed disabilities receive individualized learning plans tailored to meet their specific needs.

Each child brings a mix of strengths and challenges to the classroom. Let’s use the insight gained through advances in educating kids with disabilities to leverage new technologies and teaching methods that can individualize learning for each child.

Early childhood education works

My daughter was able to attend a year of high-quality pre-K in our city schools. This experience made me a believer, and it’s one of the reasons why I greatly expanded pre-K for at-risk 4 year olds when I was governor.
The research is powerful — if you invest in high-quality programs that coordinate with K-12 curricula and have mandatory teacher standards, the gains from early education are lasting. It’s also important that we focus on coordinating investments made in early childhood programs — such as Head Start — to ensure we are effectively using our funding, eliminating any waste and bolstering the structure of our education system.

The article goes on to add other recommendations, including the importance of arts education and the necessity of reducing testing.

His article ended like this:

Finally, a note of gratitude. Our kids were blessed to have many wonderful teachers. There were some weak ones, but RPS teachers were mostly solid, some spectacular and a few life-changing for our children. As I listen to public debate, it often sounds like our main issue is how to get rid of bad teachers. But this problem pales beside the larger issue of how to keep good teachers.

Too many great prospective teachers never enter the profession and too many great teachers leave too early over low salaries, high-stakes testing pressure, discipline challenges and an overall belief that society doesn’t value the profession. We need a robust debate about how to value and attract good teachers.

Better yet, Tim Kaine’s wife Anne is a long-time champion for children and for public schools. Reformers will not find an ally in her. She cares about children and has a deep commitment to improving their lives.

As a schoolgirl in 1970, she was on the front lines of the fight to desegregate Virginia’s public schools. Holton is the daughter of Virginia Gov. A. Linwood Holton (R), who championed integration in a state that was known for its vigorous efforts to resist it. To drive home this point, he sent his daughters to a historically all-black Richmond City public school, escorting Anne Holton’s sister to class in a gesture captured in a historic photograph.

“I have spent much of my working life focused on children and families at the margin, with full appreciation of the crucial role education can and must play in helping young people escape poverty and become successful adults,” Holton wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in June 2015.

Holton and Kaine also sent their three children, who are now grown, to Richmond public schools.

The pair met at Harvard Law School, from which they both graduated. She became a legal aid lawyer representing low-income clients in Richmond and eventually a judge in the city’s juvenile and domestic relations court. She stepped down when her husband was elected governor in 2005 and as first lady made a priority of finding and stabilizing homes for teens in foster care.

She continued to work on improving opportunities for foster youth after Kaine left the governor’s office.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) chose her as the state’s education secretary in 2014. In that role, she has worked to reform a standardized testing regime that had been criticized as unnecessarily time-consuming and onerous.

“Teachers are teaching to the tests. Students’ and teachers’ love of learning and teaching are sapped,” she wrote in 2015. “Most troublesome, Virginia’s persistent achievement gaps for low-income students have barely budged,” she continued, arguing that “our high-stakes approach” with testing has made it more difficult to persuade the best teachers to work in the most difficult, impoverished schools….

She continued to work on improving opportunities for foster youth after Kaine left the governor’s office.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) chose her as the state’s education secretary in 2014. In that role, she has worked to reform a standardized testing regime that had been criticized as unnecessarily time-consuming and onerous.

“Teachers are teaching to the tests. Students’ and teachers’ love of learning and teaching are sapped,” she wrote in 2015. “Most troublesome, Virginia’s persistent achievement gaps for low-income students have barely budged,” she continued, arguing that “our high-stakes approach” with testing has made it more difficult to persuade the best teachers to work in the most difficult, impoverished schools.

Tim and Anne will be great advocates for public schools. Unlike many reformers, who never set foot in a public school, they actually know from personal experience what they are talking about.

Okay, so I wrote this post on my iPhone, using the WordPress app, and as I should have expected, the content disappeared.

It is a flaw in WordPress.

This is the speech I gave to the SOS March on July 8.

If you have five minutes to spare, you might enjoy watching.

The resistance continues, and the movement grows stronger!

Karen Wolfe reports here the precise language of the amendments that were added to the Democratic platform on charters, testing, restorative justice, and other important topics.

This is heartening.

When the election is over, and I hope that Hillary Clinton is elected, we will count on her to remember the party platform.

We also bear in mind that policy comes from people, more than from the platform. It is important to get the platform right but even more important to see who is named Secretary of Education, and who is chosen for top education policy positions. Those of us who want to see better public schools for all children must keep up the pressure, now and in the future.

Steven Singer reports here that big money failed to block the new pro-public school superintendent Anthony Hamlet.

Elite reformers tried to stop his appointment but they failed. Even the corporate media pitched in to criticize him. But the elected board prevailed (the same board that ousted TFA) and Hamlet won a five-year contract.

This is one of the best posts ever, written by a Chicago public school parent and blogger.

Julie Vassilatos asks the question: whose schools? Who do they belong to? In Chicago, they are currently “owned” by the mayor and his hand-picked board. In other major cities, they are being given away to boards controlled by hedge fund managers, entrepreneurs, and corporate chains.

In Chicago, the mayor wants to cut the schools’ budget by 39%. Unimaginable!

Julie has a different understanding: These schools belong to US. They are OURS.

She writes:

The public schools belong to us. They are ours. In a very personal way, in a theoretical way, and in an actual, absolute financial way. Chicago Public Schools belong to us, the families who pay taxes to sustain them.

They do not belong to a handful of small-minded men who want to break them down, write them out of their budgets, and sever our communities from each other. They do not.

They. Are. Ours.

Our buildings, some of them historic, we have upheld and gardened and and repainted with our own volunteer efforts. We have papered their walls with our children’s art. We have forged relationships with our teachers, we have worked at this and so have they. We have struggled to get educational access for our special needs kids–struggled to create conditions in which our kid can learn despite draconian state-imposed limits, struggled together with our counselors and caseworkers and teachers and paraprofessionals.

We have chaperoned field trips and ridden on noisy bouncing buses, we have invented, organized, and staffed creative fundraisers, we have helped out in the classroom from stapling papers to reading to kids to finding and putting tennis balls on chair feet.

We have served on PTAs and LSCs, anxious and striving, weeping and sweating, laughing over shared meals and cheering over bake sale profits, working out and forging action on critical things like who our principal is and how we can best allocate our few paltry dollars.

In many cases our kids go to the same schools we went to, and our hearts can be filled with pride over this or with shame that they may be using the same textbooks we used. These schools are ours over generations.

These schools are ours. We pay for them. They are for our children and our society. They are not for the profit and manipulations of a ruler class, some of whom we elected in foolishness, and many of whom are appointed and about whom we have no say whatsoever. These educational overlords have shown that they do not care about our children’s educations. They care about their own children’s educations, as indeed so do we for our own children. It’s comfortable and easy for them, but the costs for this are high–a shrinking Chicago tax base, an exodus out of the city that will soon become a torrent, a generation of kids’ educations in jeopardy, and the moral cost of all the effort to maintain a lower class whose educational opportunities are denied.

Friends, readers, CPS parents, public school parents of the nation, hear this. Your school is yours. Our schools belong to us. Do not forget it. We have some power we need to retake here. We have a district to reclaim.

If you live in the 71th district in Michigan, I urge you to help elect Theresa Abed to the legislature  as a member of the House.

 

The 17th is Eaton County, west of Lansing.

 

Theresa is a career school social worker (for 30 years) when she decided to run for office to support the schools. She was twice elected to the post of County Commissioner. She served as state representative from 2012-2014, the first Democrat to win that seat in 50 years.

 

When end she ran for re-election in 2014, she lost by only 148 votes to a candidate funded by the Koch brothers.

 

She is running for state representative for her district in 2016, and she needs our help. She is fighting for public education. She understands children and schools and will be a great advocate for Real Reform in the legislature. She is a member of the Network for Public Education; she attended our annual conference in 2015 in Chicago.

 

If you live in her district, please volunteer to help. If you don’t, please consider a gift to her campaign. She will be a great advocate for children and schools in the Michigan legislature.

 

You can send a contribution to Theresa at:

 

Friends for Theresa Abed
605 Schoolcraft St.
Grand Ledge, MI 48837

I wrote before that I would support the nominee of the Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton won a decisive victory in California last night, and she will be the nominee, opposing the execrable Donald Trump.

I will vote for her.

Readers will say that she is too close to the people who are promoting charters, high-stakes testing, and the destructive policies of the Bush-Obama administrations. That is true. I have fought with all my strength against these terrible policies. I will continue to do so, with redoubled effort. I will do my best to get a one-on-one meeting with Hillary Clinton and to convey what we are fighting for: the improvement of public schools, not their privatization or monetization. The strengthening of the teaching profession, not its elimination. We want for all children what we want for our own.

Which is another way of saying what John Dewey said: “What the best and wisest parent wants for his child, that must we want for all the children of the community. Anything less is unlovely, and left unchecked, destroys our democracy.”

Hillary Clinton wants the best for her grandchildren: a well-equipped school in a beautiful building; experienced and caring teachers and principals (not amateurs who took a course in leadership); arts classes; daily physical education; the possibility of a life where there is food security, health security, home security, and physical security. That is what we want for our children. That is what we want for everyone’s children. I think she will understand that. Not schools run by for-profit corporations; not schools where children are not allowed to laugh or play; not schools where testing steals time from instruction; not inexperienced teachers who are padding their resumes. That is what I want to tell her. I think she will understand. If she does, she will change the current federal education policies, which are mean-spirited, demoralizing to teachers, and contemptuous of the needs of children.

Now we must turn our energies to fighting together to make clear that we are united, we are strong, and we are not going away. We will stand together, raise our voices, and fight for public education, for our educators, and for the millions of children that they serve. And we will never, never, never give up.

I am grateful to Bernie Sanders for pushing the Clinton campaign to endorse the issues of income inequality and economic fairness. I am glad that he made the privilege of the 1% a national issue. I am glad that he will continue the struggle to really make this country just and fair for all. Bernie has made a historic contribution. He has organized millions of people, enabling them to express their hopes and fears for our nation and our future.

We must work together to harness that energy to save our schools. We must remind the Clinton campaign that every one of the policies promoted by the privatization movement, ALEC, and the whole panoply of right-wingers and misguided Democrats have been a massive failure. They have destroyed communities, especially black and Hispanic communities. They have hurt children, especially children of color. They are destroying public education itself, which is a bedrock of our democracy. We can’t let this happen.

Our task is clear. We must organize as never before. We must push back as never before.

Start by joining the SOS March on July 8 at the Lincoln Memorial.

I will be on a <a href="http://“>webinar tonight at 8 pm to discuss the SOS March and the issues we now face. The timing is perfect to plan for the future.

Please join us at 8 pm EST. We need you. We need your energy and your voice.

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8824328855840974852&#8221;

The BadAss Teachers Association is calling for a White House Conference on Education and Equity. Please support their efforts by signing your name.

To learn more about the BAT proposal, read here.

Bernie Sanders said recently that tax rates under Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower were as high as 90% for the highest income bracket.

 

Politifact assessed that claim and shows here that it is true.

 

What if Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Walton family, the Koch brothers, Art Pope, Michael Bloomberg, Paul Tudor Jones, John Arnold, Jonathan Sackler (Mr. OxyContin) and all the other billionaires had their income taxed at Eisenhower rates? We would be able to repair our schools, pay our teachers, hire school nurses, and provide a world-class education. No wonder they prefer to promote school choice. It works for them.

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