Archives for category: Supporting public schools

Pastors for Children made a short video to show in direct terms why people should beware of the “school choice” claims. Most people love their local schools and their teachers. “Friday Night Lights” are the lights on the high school football field. There are many more reasons to protect what belongs to the community, the public schools that welcome all children.

Watch it.

Have you lost faith in our elected officials? Let me introduce you to my personal hero. Rosa DeLauro. I have met with her several times, and she was always attentive and thoughtful. I love her values, and I love her too. It’s a very small tribute to this great woman, but I take this opportunity to add her to the blog’s honor roll for standing up forcefully to the bullying of the charter lobby.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro is one of the most powerful members of Congress. She is a Democrat from Connecticut. She is an outstanding liberal who fights for children and working people.

Please read her bio.

Rosa DeLauro is the Congresswoman from Connecticut’s Third Congressional District, which stretches from the Long Island Sound and New Haven, to the Naugatuck Valley and Waterbury. Rosa serves as the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee and sits on the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, and she is the Chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, where she oversees our nation’s investments in education, health, and employment.

At the core of Rosa’s work is her fight for America’s working families. Rosa believes that we must raise the nation’s minimum wage, give all employees access to paid sick days, allow employees to take paid family and medical leave, and ensure equal pay for equal work. Every day, Rosa fights for legislation that would give all working families an opportunity to succeed.

Rosa believes that our first priority must be to strengthen the economy and create good middle class jobs. She supports tax cuts for working and middle class families, fought to expand the Child Tax Credit to provide tax relief to millions of families, and introduced the Young Child Tax Credit to give families with young children an economic lift.

Rosa has also fought to stop trade agreements that lower wages and ships jobs overseas, while also protecting the rights of employees and unions. She believes that we need to grow our economy by making smart innovative investments in our infrastructure, which is why she introduced legislation to create a National Infrastructure bank.

Rosa is a leader in fighting to improve and expand federal support for child nutrition and for modernizing our food safety system. She believes that the U.S. should have one agency assigned the responsibility for food safety, rather than the 15 different agencies that lay claim to different parts of our food system. Rosa fights against special interests, like tobacco and e-cigarettes, which seek to skirt our public health and safety rules.

As the Chair dealing with appropriations for Labor, Health, Human Services, and Education, Rosa is determined to increase support for education and make college more affordable for more American students and their families. She is also fighting to protect the Affordable Care Act so that all Americans have access to affordable care. Rosa strongly believes in the power of biomedical research and she is working to increase funding so that we can make lifesaving breakthroughs in science and medicine.

Rosa believes that we have a moral obligation to our nation’s veterans and their families, and her concern for these heroes extends to both their physical and mental well-being. Rosa supports a transformation in how the Department of Veterans Affairs is funded, including advanced appropriations for health services, to ensure its fiscal soundness; and she successfully championed legislation to guarantee that troops deploying to combat theaters get the mental health screening they need both before and after deployment, as well as championed legislation that now provides assistance to today’s Post-9/11 veterans choosing to pursue on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs.

Rosa belongs to 62 House caucus groups and is the co-chair of the Baby Caucus, the Long Island Sound Caucus, and the Food Safety Caucus.

Soon after earning degrees from Marymount College and Columbia University, Rosa followed her parents’ footsteps into public service, serving as the first Executive Director of EMILY’s List, a national organization dedicated to increasing the number of women in elected office; Executive Director of Countdown ’87, the national campaign that successfully stopped U.S. military aid to the Nicaraguan Contras; and as Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd. In 1990, Rosa was elected to the House of Representatives, and she has served as the Congresswoman from Connecticut’s Third Congressional District ever since.

Rosa is married to Stanley Greenberg. Their children—Anna, Kathryn, and Jonathan Greenberg—all are grown and pursuing careers. Rosa and Stan have six grandchildren, Rigby, Teo, Sadie, Jasper, Paola and Gus.

Download Congresswoman DeLauro’s Biography

Download Congresswoman DeLauro’s Official Photo

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and I in 2018: My hero.

Several years ago, I endowed a lecture series at my alma mater, Wellesley College, focused on education issues. This year’s lecture will be live-streamed on April 12, and the speaker is Helen Ladd, an emeritus professor at Duke University and one of the nation’s leading economists. I hope you will mark the event on your calendar and tune in.

The Diane Silvers Ravitch ’60 Lecture

How Charter Schools Disrupt Good Education Policy

Tuesday, April 12, 4 p.m. ET


LIVESTREAMED at www.wellesley.edu/live

Speaker: Helen F. Ladd ’67, Susan B. King Professor Emerita of Public Policy and Economics at Duke University

Ladd will draw on her many years of education research and discuss the four central requirements of good education policy in the U.S., and how charter schools, as currently designed and operated, typically do far more to interfere with, rather than to promote, good education policy in the U.S.

Sacramento City Unified School District teachers, school staff and supporters take part in a rally at Rosemont High School

Sacramento City Unified School District teachers, school staff and supporters take part in a rally at Rosemont High School on March 28 as they have been gone on strike due to the staffing crisis in the district . All SCUSD schools shut down and will remain closed for the duration of the strike.

I have read many articles about the shortage of teachers and school staff. I have read many that were laden with statistics. This is one of the best. It appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

BY ANITA CHABRIA COLUMNIST

A few weeks ago, Sacramento teacher Kacie Go had 56 kids for second period.

That day, there were 109 students at her eighth- through 12th-grade school who were without an instructor because of staff shortages. So she crammed the students into her room and made it work, but “it’s not sustainable,” she said.

No kidding.

Go told me the story standing with hundreds of other teachers and support staff Tuesday morning in the parking lot of an empty high school, as “We’re Not Gonna Take It” blared from speakers and the mostly female workers gathered for day five of a strike that has closed down schools in the Capitol City.

Like Go, these teachers, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and instructional aides are fed up with being asked to do more with less. It’s a problem that goes beyond the Sacramento City Unified School District, with 48,000 students in 81 schools. Frustration among teachers and school workers is rampant across California — pushed to a breaking point by the pandemic and a shortage of more than 11,000 credentialed teachers and thousands of support staff as the state tries to expand pre-kindergarten and bring 10,000 mental health counselors on campuses.

From school closure protests in Oakland to Sacramento’s all-in strike, those who work in our schools are telling us they cannot do this job under the conditions we are imposing. These include mediocre pay, sometimes vicious political blowback from COVID-19 safety measures, a witch-hunt-like scrutiny around hot-button topics, a mental health crisis, the reality of too few people doing the work, and the general disrespect of a society that swears it loves teachers and values education but does little to invest in it. Worrying about school shooters, once an urgent concern of educators and parents, doesn’t even make the top three problems anymore.

It’s the same story playing out in hundreds of other districts not just in California but across the country. Minneapolis teachers just ended a 14-day strike that shared some of the same issues of pay and support, underscored by the same teacher chagrin that we talk a good game about supporting public education but don’t always come through with actions. Minneapolis Federation of Teachers Chapter President Greta Callahan summed it up, sounding like she could be standing in Sacramento.

“We shouldn’t have had to [have] gone on strike to win any of these things, any of these critical supports for our students, but we did,” she said.

Go, who has been a teacher for 20 years and earned a master’s degree along the way — bringing her to the top of the district’s salary scale at just more than $100,000 a year — estimates she’s losing about $500 a day during the walkout.

But she’s more worried about support staff such as Katie Santora, a cafeteria worker who was also on the picket line.

Santora is the lead nutrition services worker at a high school, expected to churn out 1,500 meals a day between breakfast and lunch — with a staff of nine people (though they started the year with only five). Most are part-timers because the district doesn’t want to pay them benefits, and they make about minimum wage.

Santora, with 13 years at the district, makes $18.98 an hour for what is essentially a management role. She’s in charge of ordering, planning, receiving and keeping the joint running.

On the last day before the strike, that included making popcorn chicken bowls for lunch. What does that look like? Five 30-pound cases of chicken, oven-baked, 22 bags of potatoes, boiled and mashed, corn and gravy — all assembled after her staff finished making steak breakfast burritos and scrambled egg bowls. Did I mention every student is required to take a piece of fruit, which means washing somewhere along the lines of 1,700 apples?

Santora says high schoolers are the “most misunderstood” people on the planet, teetering between child and adult. Their well-being, she says, depends on being fed so “their bellies aren’t rumbling in class” and seeing a friendly face when they walk in her cafeteria. She loves delivering both.

“When they come through the line, I like to say, ‘Thank you for having lunch with me,’” she says.

But the money isn’t enough to pay her bills. Four or five nights a week, she gets about an hour at home before she heads to her second job loading grocery bags for delivery drivers at Whole Foods. She’s working two jobs just to pay for the privilege of doing the one she likes.

Go, the teacher, feels the hardships in other ways. One of her twin daughters recently had a “pretty severe concussion,” she said, but Go felt like she couldn’t stay home with her. If she did, one of her co-workers would likely be stuck with a jampacked classroom — and all the other unofficial jobs she has to do on a daily basis, from fill-in parent to police officer to relationship advisor when her teenage students’ hormones go into overdrive. Substitutes are hard to come by, she thinks, because the pay — $224 a day — isn’t competitive compared with other jobs with less stress.

“Subs don’t have an easy life,” Go said. “Why would you want to do that when you could go to In-N-Out and worry about if it’s animal-style or not for the same amount of money?”

The unions involved in the Sacramento strike contend that there are hundreds of open positions in the district in virtually every job. Nikki Milevsky, a school psychologist and vice president of the teachers union, puts it at 250 vacancies for teachers and 400 for classified staff — in a district with 2,069 teachers and 1,656 classified staff. That classified staff and teachers walked out together shows the depth of problems in Sacramento — it’s unusual for both to strike at the same time, and it has forced schools to shut down because there was no one left but administrators to watch kids.

Chris McCarthy, a first grade teacher in the Sacramento Unified School District, joined other teachers, parents, students and supporters, in the rain at a rally in support of their strike against the school district at Rosemont High School in Sacramento.

The teachers union says that 10,000 students lack a permanent instructor, and on some days, up to 3,000 don’t even have a substitute. About 547 kids who signed up for independent study haven’t been given a teacher yet, meaning they are learning nothing.

The district says it’s down 127 certificated staff and 293 classified positions. Take the difference as you will, but the district doesn’t dispute it’s in a staffing crisis.

Sacramento teachers want a pay raise to make the district more competitive in hiring. Right now, some surrounding districts pay more but have lesser benefit packages. (Please don’t make me tell you that healthcare is a right, not a privilege.) The teachers want the district to back off of a proposal to make current and retired teachers pay hundreds more to keep a non-HMO health plan. The district says it has made an offer of a pay increase and recruitment bonus and a one-year stipend to offset the health plan issue.

From there it turns contentious. Teachers reject the district’s offer as lowball and assert there is money available to do better, just not the will to invest it in staff. The district says the teachers need to compromise because it can’t afford all of their asks.

For days, there were no negotiations. State Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond tried to bring everyone to the table, only to be rebuffed by the district. Back home again instead of in the classroom, my eighth grader, a student in Sacramento schools, ate lots of chocolate chip pancakes and watched “Turning Red” on repeat.

There is no end in sight. Though negotiations with both unions have resumed, the shutdown is another blow to parents and families already anxious and stressed out. The last time my daughter had a normal school year, she was in fifth grade. So I understand the frustration, and even anger, of parents that schools are once again closed — and the resentment of parents across the state who are sick and tired of problems with schools, many of which predate the pandemic.

But I went to the strike line three times and I can tell you this — it’s not about the money for these teachers. You can roll your eyes at the unions all you want, but these teachers and support staff want their schools to work, for their students, for themselves, and for our collective future. Because democracy depends on an educated populace and education is a right. And because they are educators, and they’re invested in our kids.

Go doesn’t want to do anything else but teach, even if it means 56 kids sometimes. Even if it means losing $500 a day and striking. Even if it means making some people mad to make schools better.

“I freakin’ love it,” she said. “I do.”

Tuesday’s school board election in New Hampshire was a triumph for parents and citizens who love their public schools!

This must have shocked Republican Governor Chris Sununu, the Republican-controlled legislature, and State Commissioner Frank Edelblut, who home-schooled his own children and is pushing a sweeping voucher plan for the state.

AfterGlenn Youngkin was elected Governor of Virginia by pandering to parents angry about “critical race theory,” mask mandates, and eager to control what children learned and what books they read, the media bombarded us with stories predicting that Republicans would win next November by running against public schools.

New Hampshire families and citizens said on Election Day, “Not so fast! We love our public schools.”

I Love Public Education Sign Visibility

In first town elections since onslaught of attacks on public education and a honest, accurate education, voters send clear message that they support strong public schools and a honest, accurate education

CONCORD, NH – In race after race across New Hampshire on Town Meeting Day, concerned parents and community members in communities large and small successfully organized to elect pro-public education candidates and reject those seeking to dismantle public education and censor history.

“These results should raise serious doubts about any Republican 2022 election strategy that is built around pitting parents against local public schools and educators,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress. “In nearly every school board race, Granite State voters chose out-spoken champions for public education and an honest, accurate, inclusive education. This is a big win for public schools and for our future. These leaders are committed to keeping our public schools strong and making sure every student’s history and experience is valued.”

The results from the election are all the more astounding for record-shattering voter turnout, and for the blatant differences between the candidates on everything from public education, COVID public health measures, and attempts to whitewash American history and censor educators. A priority list of school board results can be found here.

Key examples from around the state:

  • Merrimack Valley School District, home to some of the state’s most vocal anti-vaccine, anti-mask, and classroom censorship activists, experienced a 56% increase in voter turnout from 2019, and supported public education candidates while also defeating a classroom censorship/anti-equity warrant resolution.
  • Bedford experienced a 36% increase in voter turnout and elected pro-public education candidate and teacher Andrea Campbell with 2832 votes, compared to 1293 votes for Sean Monroe, a candidate supported by right-wing organization Defend Our Kids, and 856 for incumbent John Schneller; both of whom supported efforts to censor teachers and ban conversations about race and racism in public schools.
  • Londonderry elected pro-public education candidates Amanda Butcher and Kevin Gray, defeating vocal anti-masker Rachel Killian (seen here harassing school board members during a public meeting). Voters also rejected a warrant resolution to make masks completely optional and the sole decision of parents instead of school leaders and public health experts; a significant decision given Gov. Sununu’s recent decision to ban schools from enacting COVID public health measures like masks.
  • Governor Wentworth School District elected Republican State Rep. Brodie Deschaies over far-right activist Jessica Williams, who believes public schools are indoctrinating students and was arrested at a GWSD school board meeting on September 13, 2021.
  • Weare elected pro-public education candidates William “Bill” Politt and Alyssa Small, and passed full-day kindergarten; and Hollis elected pro-public education candidates Carryl Roy, Krista Whalan, and Holly Babcock.
  • Exeter and SAU 16 elected a full slate of pro-public education and honest education candidates, despite a nearly $20,000 effort by the opposition and months of voter mailings from those who oppose diversity, equity, and inclusion justice efforts in the school districts.

“We are in awe of how our communities have come together to protect and support public education,” said Sarah Robinson, Education Justice Campaign Director for Granite State Progress. “Parents, students, educators, and community leaders have been working for months to organize, recruit strong candidates, and support pro-public education campaigns. Watching the results come in and knowing that so many public education champions are going to be serving in these roles gives us all hope. Our schools have been under constant attack from privatization schemes, neo-Nazi’s, and of course Governor Sununu’s statewide ban on a honest education. We all know that serving on a school board right now is challenging, and we thank these leaders for stepping up for our students. We hope the folks at the State House are paying attention, because this showdown will play out again in November unless they stop the attacks on our public schools.”

President Biden’s choice for the U.S. Supreme Court is a graduate of a Florida public high school, where she was a member of the debate team. Justice Jackson has described her participation on the debate team as a crucial factor in her intellectual development. Debate taught her critical thinking skills, writing, speaking, and self-confidence. The school still exists but the Governor and Legislature have done everything possible to destroy the state’s public schools by favoring charters and vouchers and diverting billions of public school dollars to “choice.”

PINECREST, Fla. — Let Miami Palmetto Senior High School brag for a moment: It has a swoon-worthy alumni roster. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, class of ’82. Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general, class of ’94. And Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court, class of ’88.

Decades have passed since Jackson, 51, was a stellar student at Palmetto, a large public school nestled among the palm trees of the South Florida suburbs. But the school held outsize importance in her life, thanks to a competitive speech and debate team led by a famed coach who molded her protégés into sharp-tongued speakers and quick critical thinkers.

“That was an experience that I can say without hesitation was the one activity that best prepared me for future success in law and in life,” Jackson said at a lecture in 2017.

From the tightknit and wonky debate team emerged accomplished professionals who remain unusually close 30 years later. (Jackson’s prom date? A guy who would become a U.S. attorney, the chief federal prosecutor in Miami.) Now the team offers a glimpse into how Jackson’s early life led to a Supreme Court nomination — and how her success is inspiring a new generation of debaters to dream big.

“I learned how to reason and how to write,” she said in the lecture, “and I gained the self-confidence that can sometimes be quite difficult for women and minorities to learn at an early age.”

One former teammate, Craig Tinsky, who is a visual artist in Washington, D.C., recalled Jackson delivering a powerful speech about confronting and overcoming fears, as well as a humorous interpretation of the Neil Simon play “Fools” that had the audience in stitches.

Jackson has spoken often, including in her 2013 swearing-in as a judge, about how much high school meant to her. She was the class president and has helped organize class reunions. But above all, she was a top debater.

Not everything was easy. As a 17-year-old, she sat on a panel discussion about race and ethnic relations and recounted having a drama teacher tell her she would not be able to win a role in a play because it was about a white family.
“If you don’t talk about it, you never deal with it,” she said of prejudice in the school, where the student body was 73% white, 16% Black and 11% Hispanic.

Jackson grew up in what she has described as a predominantly Jewish suburb of Miami, attending her friends’ bar and bat mitzvahs. At the time, Palmetto was in an unincorporated residential neighborhood known as East Kendall that is now the upscale village of Pinecrest.

Pastors for Texas Children have worked with a bipartisan coalition to support public schools and stop privatization. Rural Republicans have been an important part of the coalition that has repeatedly stopped voucher legislation and slowed charters.

Big Night for Pro-Texas Public School Legislative Candidates

GOP Candidates Again Rebuke Extremist Insurgents Financed By Ultra-Right-Wing Billionaires

Candidates that support Texas public schools celebrated significant victories in the Republican primary last night. On the eve of Texas Independence Day, these incumbents declared their independence from the deep pockets of right-wing extremists that are trying to destroy your neighborhood schools. We congratulate those candidates: Stan Lambert, Ken King, David Spiller, Gary VanDeaver, Travis Clardy, Reggie Smith, Ernest Bailes, Giovanni Capriglione.

“Yesterday’s primary elections proved decisively, in the reelection of pro-public education incumbents, that Texans overwhelmingly support their neighborhood and community public schools – and oppose the privatization of them through vouchers and charters,” said Reverend Charles Foster Johnson, founder and Executive Director of Pastors for Children. “These House seats cannot be bought by a couple of right-wing billionaires, no matter how many millions they put up.”

Pastors For Children will continue the fight in the upcoming May runoffs and launch an unprecedented pro-public education campaign for the November General Election.

Pastors For Children stands firm for the belief that there is a moral obligation before God to educate every school kid in Texas. We are also strong proponents of Article 7 in the Texas Constitution, which mandates the State Legislature to support and maintain a free public school system. It is the only way for the Texas economy to continue to outpace the rest of the country.

Pastors For Children is a 501c4 that engages parents, teachers, and all Texans to fight for Texas neighborhood public schools through their votes in the ballot box.

PO Box 471155, Fort Worth, Texas, 76147

The well-organized Pastors for Texas Children is engaged in rhetorical battles with the well-funded privatizers. Whether by Tweet, in the media, or on the lecture platform, Pastor Charles Foster Johnson and his colleagues lead the battle on behalf of public schools, taking on the rich and powerful and their political lackeys.

After Congressman Chip Roy attacked Pastors for Texas children and classroom teachers on Twitter, Pastor Johnson responded forcefully:

On Twitter, the group responded to Congressman Roy: “Congressman @chiproytx, your repeated lies about our [public school] teachers & the pastors who support them, are shameful, embarrassing, and shockingly immoral. You may mock them and us with your political lies against these servants. But you cannot mock God.”

Pastors For Texas Children, a Fort Worth-based organization, says it is an independent organization that advocates for public schools

Last week, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, accused “left-wing educators” of showing children “explicit pornography” in schools.

Cruz would not cite specific examples, according to Business Insider, “but instead pointed to books that have made parents angry at school board meetings in general.”

“Take a look at some of the portions from books that parents are going to school boards and reading out loud; this is what my child is being taught,'” the senator told the on-line publication.

Rev. Johnson said it’s all a political smokescreen to create chaos.

“If CRT (critical race theory) is a problem, if pornography is a problem, you guys have been in charge in Texas for 27-years,” Johnson said. “Are you just now discovering it? Are you producing it? What if we were to go all over the state and say that you were pornographers? You’re more responsible than our public school teachers. Obviously, we’re not going to do that, but you get the point.”

“We’re in this program of sheer destructive chaos,” he added. “That’s their only agenda. The only agenda. And that is wrong.”

Teachers are an easy target, Johnson continued, because the far-right knows that educators are too busy in the classroom to push back. Many school districts also drew the ire of Texas Republican leaders during COVID-19 when some – even in conservative areas – refused to ban masks like the governor ordered.

In an op-ed last week for Baptist News Global, publisher Mark Wingfield argued that “it’s time to stop the insanity that is killing public education.”

“It is disgusting, dismaying and disheartening to see the continued attack on public education from conservative evangelical Christians and people who pretend to be evangelical Christians but couldn’t find John 3:16 in the Bible if you asked them,” Wingfield wrote. “It is time to stop being shocked at this behavior and stand up against it.”

You see why I admire, respect and love Pastors for Texas Children? They are fearless, wise, and animated by a sense of mission.

Veteran teacher Nancy Flanagan was asked by a candidate for advice about education policy. Nancy wrote a list of ten ideas that she thought would be useful guideposts. She now updates her guide for legislators.

She writes (and I summarize):

#1. You don’t know education just because you went to school…

#2. Plan to pay many non-photo op visits to lots of schools…

#3. Take the tests that kids have to take…

#4. Be picky about what you read, listen to, and believe…

#10. Honor our democratic foundations. Public education is the most democratic of our institutions, one of our best ideas as Americans. Public schools may be tattered and behind the technological curve, but systematically destroying the infrastructure of public education is profoundly selfish and immoral. Don’t be that legislator.

This is a thoughtful and thoughtful-provoking post. She updates it.

What would you add to her list?

On January 27 at 7 p.m. (Central Time), Illinois Families for Public Schools and other groups will sponsor a Zoom meeting on the subject, “Confronting the Rise of School Board Disruptions.”

Throughout the country and in Illinois, we have seen the rise of well-funded disinformation campaigns targeting school boards and educators.

This event will cover: Who’s behind the disinformation campaign around masks/vaccines mandates, an erosion of LGBTQ+ rights and the way race is being taught in our schools? How can we band together to support our school boards and staff who are being threatened and to protect public education?

Hear from an excellent panel and connect with others around Illinois who are organizing in their communities to stand up for inclusion, safety, and teaching a full and accurate history in our schools that protects all students

Panelists include:
— Jennifer Berkshire, Co-Author “A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door”
— State Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas, Former VP Policy for Erikson Institute and ISBE board secretary and member
— Nathaniel Rouse, Director of Equity, Race, and Cultural Diversity Initiatives, Barrington 220
— Julie Harris, Educator of 31 years Tinley Park CCD146

Hosted by Indivisible Illinois, Illinois Families for Public Schools, Indivisible Illinois Social Justice Alliance and more.

Jan 27, 2022 07:00 PM in Central Time (US and Canada)

Open the link to register and get the Zoom link.