Archives for category: Supporting public schools

Colin Powell wrote an inspiring article in the Wall Street Journal titled “What American Citizenship Makes Possible.”

It’s ostensible purpose was to argue on behalf of immigrants and their contribution to our nation.

But in the course of making his case, he told a story about himself. His parents were immigrants from Jamaica. If they had chosen to go to England, he might have ended up as a sergeant. But as an American, he had the opportunity to rise to the top of the nation’s military. Why? Because of his free public education, from grade school through university.

The key paragraph:

“I’m a public-education kid, from kindergarten through to Morris High School in the South Bronx and, finally, City College of New York. New York University made me an offer, but tuition there was $750 a year. Such a huge sum in 1954! I would never impose that on my parents, so it was CCNY, where back then tuition was free. I got a B.S. in geology and a commission as an Army second lieutenant, and that was that. And it all cost my parents nothing. Zero.”

This article is especially enjoyable to see in the Wall Street Journal, because the WSJ is the nation’s most passionate media supporters of charters and vouchers. It never, never has a good word for public schools.

Read what Colin Powell wrote:

Colin Powell

July 26, 2016 7:05 p.m. ET

Many years ago, after I had become a four-star general and then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Times of London wrote an article observing that if my parents had sailed to England rather than New York, “the most they could have dreamed of for their son in the military was to become a sergeant in one of the lesser British regiments.”

Only in America could the son of two poor Jamaican immigrants become the first African-American, the youngest person and the first ROTC graduate from a public university to hold those positions, among many other firsts. My parents arrived—one at the Port of Philadelphia, the other at Ellis Island—in search of economic opportunity, but their goal was to become American citizens, because they knew what that made possible.

Immigration is a vital part of our national being because people come here not only to build a better life for themselves and their children, but to become Americans. With access to education and a clear path to citizenship, they routinely become some of the best, most-patriotic Americans you’ll ever know. That’s why I am a strong supporter of immigration-law reform: America stands to benefit from it as much as, if not more than, the immigrants themselves.

Contrary to some common misconceptions, neighborhoods with greater concentrations of immigrants have lower rates of crime and violence than comparable nonimmigrant neighborhoods, according to a 2015 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Foreign-born men age 18-39 are jailed at one-quarter the rate of native-born American men of the same age.

Today’s immigrants are learning English at the same rate or faster than earlier waves of newcomers, and first-generation arrivals are less likely to die from cardiovascular disease or cancer than native-born people. They experience fewer chronic health conditions, have lower infant-mortality and obesity rates, and have a longer life expectancy.

My parents met and married here and worked in the garment industry, bringing home $50 to $60 a week. They had two children: my sister Marilyn, who became a teacher, and me. I didn’t do as well as the family hoped; I caused a bit of a crisis when I decided to stay in the Army. “Couldn’t he get a job? Why is he still in the Army?”

We were a tightknit family with cousins and aunts and uncles all over the place. But that family network didn’t guarantee success. What did? The New York City public education system.

I’m a public-education kid, from kindergarten through to Morris High School in the South Bronx and, finally, City College of New York. New York University made me an offer, but tuition there was $750 a year. Such a huge sum in 1954! I would never impose that on my parents, so it was CCNY, where back then tuition was free. I got a B.S. in geology and a commission as an Army second lieutenant, and that was that. And it all cost my parents nothing. Zero.

After CCNY, I was lucky to be among the first group of officers commissioned just after the Army was desegregated. I competed against West Pointers, against grads from Harvard and VMI and the Citadel and other top schools. And to my surprise, I discovered I had gotten a pretty good education in the New York City public schools. Not only in geology and the military, but also in wider culture. I had learned a little about music, about Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” and theater and things like that. I got a complete education, all through public schools, and it shapes me to this day.

This amazing gift goes back to 1847 when the Free Academy of the City of New York was created with a simple mandate: “Give every child the opportunity for an education.” And who would pay for it? The citizens and taxpayers of New York City and State. They did it and kept at it when the Academy became CCNY in 1866, because they knew that poor immigrants were their children. They were the future.

They still are. Today some 41 million immigrants and 37.1 million U.S.-born children of immigrants live in the U.S. Taken together, the first and second generations are one-quarter of the population. While some countries, like Japan and Russia, worry that population decline threatens their economies, America’s economic future vibrates with promise from immigrants’ energy, creativity and ambition.

Every one of these people deserves the same educational opportunities I had. It wasn’t, and isn’t, charity to immigrants or to the poor. Those early New Yorkers were investing in their own future by making education and citizenship accessible to “every child.” They knew it—and what a future it became!

We still have that model. But today too many politicians seem to think that shortchanging education will somehow help society. It does not. It hurts society. We need people who know that government has no more important function than securing the terrain, which means opening the pathways to the future for everyone, educating them to be consumers, workers, leaders—and citizens.

We are all immigrants, wave after wave over several hundred years. And every wave makes us richer: in cultures, in language and food, in music and dance, in intellectual capacity. We should treasure this immigrant tradition, and we should reform our laws to guarantee it.

In this political season, let us remember the most important task of our government: making Americans. Immigrants—future Americans—make America better every single day.

Gen. Powell was secretary of state (2001-05); chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989-93); and national security adviser (1987-89). This is adapted from his comments at a May 25 forum hosted by Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership at City College of New York.

Bill Honig was State Superintendent of Schools in California in the late 1980s. I came to know and admire him at that time. Bill Honig has spent many years dedicated to the improvement of education. He continues to work in schools, providing ideas and support.

He recently created a website to share what he has learned about education.

The site is designed to present the research and experience supporting the “build and support” approach and show why the more extreme measures of the “test and punish” approach haven’t worked. It has 16 short articles about the major issues in the debate including a piece about experience in California and is designed for educational and political policy makers and members of the media. The site provides accessible background, research, and evidence and could be a useful tool. If you read the home page and the introductory remarks you can get the flavor of the effort.

I urge you to read it. Bill is a staunch friend of public education.

You know how important it is to elect informed people to school boards and state legislatures and Congress. That’s the way we will save our public schools from the grasp of privatizers and defend our teachers from punitive laws that intrude on their ability to teach.

That is why I am happy to endorse Rachel Barnhart for the New York State Assembly, representing the 138th district in Rochester.

Rachel Barnhart grew up in Rochester. Her parents are retired Rochester City School District educators. Rachel’s parents were strong believers in public education, sending her to Rochester city schools. Rachel graduated from John Marshall High School and Cornell University.

Rachel worked as a television journalist in Rochester since 1999. Rachel’s reputation in the broadcasting industry is that she is one of the brightest and most insightful reporters in ferreting out corruption and finding the truth. She frequently reported on financial mismanagement in Rochester public schools, earning her the respect and admiration of many teachers. Rachel often blogged about growing concerns regarding Common Core, testing, school closures and teacher evaluations. She also used her blog and huge social media presence to talk about poverty and segregation.

As a reporter, Rachel challenged politicians, including Governor Andrew Cuomo. (The governor once called her a cynic when she questioned a big drop in the labor force.) She won’t be afraid to challenge Albany’s culture. She will represent citizens, not the governor, the speaker or special interests.

Rachel gave up her job to run for the Assembly. She will be a champion for public schools.

I urge you to support her, contribute to her campaign, and vote for her if you live in her district.

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

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