Archives for category: Teachers

Kentucky’s outgoing Republican Governor Matt Bevin made clear that he wanted funding for charter schools, but he lost the recent election to Democrat Andy Beshear. The new governor made clear that one of his top priorities was supporting public schools.

However, the State Board of Education and the State Commissioner were appointed by Bevin, and they seem to be holding on until their terms expire.

The Bevin-appointed State Board met to announce its priorities for the 2020 legislative session, which begins in early January. Its list did not include funding for charter schools, which was one of Bevin’s demands. Bevin was a close ally of Betsy DeVos, who visited the state earlier this year to promote school choice.

Even though the board was appointed by Bevin, the members’ priorities show that they heard the voters’ message.

Kentucky Board of Education members unanimously approved a legislative agenda Wednesday that they may not be able to see through. 

Education officials plan to push for full-day kindergarten, reading interventions for the youngest learners and more flexibility for schools in Kentucky’s 2020 legislative session, according to documents made public Wednesday morning. 

And they’ll ask lawmakers to solidify Gov. Matt Bevin’s reorganization of an education board through executive order — the very power Gov.-elect Andy Beshear said he will use to disband the Board of Education.  

School choice initiatives, including funding for charter schools, are missing from the proposed list. Citing waning appetite for charters, Lewis said he only wanted to include legislation that had “some chance of passing.” 

It’s a shift toward the education priorities of Kentucky’s superintendents and its largest school district after more than a year of disconnect between educators and their leaders….

Beshear, who takes office in less than a week, vowed to replace the education boardon “day one.” The new board, he has suggested, would then oust Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis. 

Beshear ran on an education-fueled platform, and said his board replacements would value public education more than “a for-profit charter school company.”

It is possible a new board will elect to push for different education bills in 2020. 

Lewis’ contract allows the board to fire him without cause but requires a 90-day notice. He told reporters Tuesday night he would stay for those 90 days — which would last most of the legislative session. 

The 2020 legislative session begins on Jan. 7.

KDE’s legislative wish list for 2020 signals a slight shift from 2019’s agenda, which focused on school choice measures and increasing flexibility for districts….

Unlike last year, KDE does not specifically ask for a third grade retention law, a controversial measure that holds back third graders until they read at grade level. 

A retention law filed last session was ultimately gutted before failing to make it to a vote. 

Jan Resseger gives thanks for the teachers and other educators who boldly walked out and went out on strike over the past two years. So do I.

These courageous educators challenged the national narrative that had been so deviously cultivated by billionaires and Wall Street about “failing schools” and “bad teachers,” in an effort to destroy public faith in public schools and promote privatization of public funds.

Thanks to #Red4Ed, the new and realistic narrative is about crowded classrooms, crumbling schools, underpaid teachers, and schools without nurses, social workers, or librarians.

#Red4Ed said, “No more!”

The first walkout was in West Virginia in the spring of 2018. That walkout closed every school in the state and unleashed a wave of strikes and walkouts that continues now.

Reading about the West Virginia walkout inspired me to start writing a book that will be published January 21, called SLAYING GOLIATH. I will be in West Virginia on February 22 to meet those brave teachers and thank them for what they have done for all of us.

 

Angie Sullivan regularly writes blast emails to every member of the state legislature and to the state’s journalists. Here is her latest:

CCEA members voted at a General Meeting yesterday to raise dues.  
Those teacher union dues will be used to campaign for a billion dollars.  
Yes, billion. 
Yes, dollars.  
We need to think big to win big.  
Teachers need those funds to fund class-size reduction.   We need additional teachers.   We need additional classrooms. 
Nevada teachers have the largest class-sizes in the nation.  
It is not reasonable to keep piling more and more students into small spaces.  
Our eye is on the 2021 Nevada Legislative Session.  We will get a billion dollars for kids.   
We demand political will to take care of kids.  
Here we come. 
#Fight4Kids #Billion4Kids
#NVed #NVTeach #Nevada #Vegas
The Teacher MotherJonesing,
Angie. 

This is one reason why unions are valuable for teachers and public schools. Unions have the resources to go to the courts to fight capricious actions, like the pending takeover of the Houston Independent School District based on the low test scores of one school.

 

HFT_release_VOCUS 2018 new.jpg

For Immediate Release
November 19, 2019

 

CONTACT:
Zeph Capo
713-670-4348

Zcapo@hft2415.org
   
HFT Files Federal Lawsuit over Proposed State Takeover of School District
HOUSTON—The Houston Federation of Teachers filed a federal lawsuit in Austin today, stating the proposed state takeover of the Houston Independent School District is unconstitutional under U.S. and Texas law because it disenfranchises and discriminates against people based on race and national origin.   

Gov. Greg Abbott and Education Commissioner Mike Morath claim the state takeover of the entire Houston school district, which earned an 88 (out of 100) academic accountability rating, was triggered due to one chronically failing school, Wheatley High School, which is attended by predominantly black and brown students. The takeover decision was made just days after voters elected new school board members in Houston, who would not be able to take their seats under the takeover, effectively silencing the democratic electoral process.

“The state’s action to take over the HISD is flagrantly unconstitutional and has nothing to do with giving kids a strong public education,” said Zeph Capo, president of HFT and Texas AFT.

“Gov. Abbott and Education Commissioner Mike Morath will do just about anything to give private charter operators a chance to get their hands on our schools—even violate the state and U.S. constitutions. We can’t allow our government officials to unconstitutionally marginalize black and brown children, deny them their right to a quality public education, or defy the voice of voters who have just elected new school board members,” he said.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in Austin.

The suit, which seeks injunctive relief, alleges that the proposed takeover violates the 14th and 15th amendments of the U.S. Constitution because it disenfranchises minority voters and discriminates against the plaintiffs (three educators, one of whom is a parent of children in the district) on the basis of race and national origin and deprives people, no matter their race, color or ethnicity, of participating in the political process or electing representatives of their own choice. Further, the suit states the proposed takeover violates Texas’ Equal Rights Amendment, which states: “Equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of sex, race, color, creed or national origin.”

The educator plaintiffs explained why they are participating in the lawsuit:

Jackie Anderson, a special education teacher at Ortiz Middle School, said the takeover would erase citizens’ legitimate votes. “Growing up, my parents instilled the value of civic responsibility. I voted for the first time with my mother. I was taught the value of my vote. Voting is something that you have an obligation to do. Everyone’s vote should count. My choice should be respected. To say that it doesn’t matter is a violation of my right as a citizen,” Anderson said.

Maxie Hollingsworth, a math teacher at Red Elementary and parent of HISD students, said her experience growing up in Little Rock, Ark., cemented her strong feelings about the sanctity of voting rights. “I was raised with the idea of the importance of equitable education and every person’s right to vote. It offends me to my core that people of privilege and power truly don’t care about communities of color and poor people. This takeover is a very targeted and intentional process and amounts to illegal disenfranchisement. It would take away my vote and everyone else’s who voted in the school board election. I can’t look at myself in the mirror and say this is OK. It’s not OK,” Hollingsworth said.

She added that she believes a takeover would result in fewer resources available to students and a greater turnover of educators. “All the progress HISD has made will all be for naught,” Hollingsworth said.

Daniel Santos, a social studies teacher at Navarro Middle School, said he became a naturalized citizen in 2008, when he voted for the first time in his life. “Through voting, I am holding policymakers accountable and making sure that minorities are not disenfranchised. I view the takeover of our recently elected school board as unconstitutional. It’s a serious violation of my civil rights that prevents me as a citizen from holding our policymakers accountable,” Santos said.

Following a state takeover, Santos predicted, “We will see market-based reforms that have failed to improve student achievement in other cities. We cannot let that happen.”

The HFT believes the state’s clear goal is to convert Houston’s public schools to privately operated charter schools, which the previously elected Houston school board had refused to do. However, Capo noted, several Houston charter schools are doing worse than Wheatley but are still being allowed to continue operating and are not being singled out in the takeover. Morath is justifying the takeover using a rule he enacted in 2018 that allows the Texas Education Agency to downgrade a school’s rating if it did not pass three of four measures, even if it would have passed otherwise. Wheatley had a passing 63 grade, or a D, but was curved down to a 59, or an F.

“The real shame is that the focus is on a scheme to charterize the district, not to get Wheatley the resources it needs to improve student achievement. Experience shows that charters do not produce the improvements their supporters claim,” Capo said.

 

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LeAnna Erls Delph is a veteran teacher of sixth grade students in social studies and language arts in Asheville, North Carolina. She is a member of the Governor’s Teachers Advisory Committee, is the North Carolina Association of Educators regional director for the far west, and is a member of the Red4EdNC advisory board.

She explains here why teachers owe it to their students, their communities, and their profession to become politically active.

On a recent Sunday morning, I woke up to see tremendous chatter on social media concerning the budget impasse in the North Carolina General Assembly. The discussion included the lack of educator raises, the failure to expand Medicaid, unacceptable working conditions, and a shortage of support staff. This discussion quickly evolved into the formation of a new social media group discussing the possibility of a large scale collective action or strike of North Carolina educators.

This kind of discussion is not new to me. I’ve been a sixth grade social studies and language arts teacher for 18 years, working my whole career in a diverse community confronted with significant economic struggle. I love my community, and they have always inspired me to advocate for my students and their families. Recently, I decided to take an Inquiry to Action class through the Western Region Education Service Alliance (WRESA) to earn continuing licensure credits and build my activist skills. Here, a small group of educators studied educator activism in both theory and practice.  Each week we discussed a different education-related activist tool, theory, and issue. The culminating project was to take our “inquiry” and put it into “action” in some way.

The group decided to focus on “making the invisible visible.” In other words, we seek to deepen critical consciousness — the notion that we go through life oblivious to the world around us on the largest scale. A famous example of this precept is the analogy of the fish in water. If you asked a fish what water is, the fish wouldn’t understand the question because it has a fish brain.

Joking aside, it is because the fish is completely immersed in the water and always has been. The fish just doesn’t notice because it is so “normal” and so ubiquitous. In human life, this would be like the systematic racism that we all live within. Or, it may be ideas that are simply taken as “common sense.” For educators, we may struggle to apprehend fundamental truths about our own environments. I believe that public educators swim in a sea of politics which is all too often invisible — so that is the concept I choose to render more visible. 

Most North Carolina local school boards have policies which hold that employees may not engage in political activities during the school day. However, because public schools are supported by public monies which are controlled by politicians, the very act of teaching, while not partisan, is an inherently political activity. In fact, North Carolina’s evaluation instrument for educators insists upon educators taking part in political activities. Standard 1 (Teachers Demonstrate Leadership) states, “Teachers advocate for schools and students. Teachers advocate for positive change in policies and practices affecting student learning.” What is advocating for policies if not political?  

Please open the post to see her wonderful infographics and finish learning her thoughts on teacher activism.

LeAnna is a member of the Resistance!

 

 

Watch these stirring videos that show the huge crowd of teachers and their allies amassed in Indianapolis in a demonstration for public education!

See the dramatic and inspiring gathering of #Red4Ed in Indiana!

After years of being mistreated by the Republican governor and legislature in the Hoosier State, teachers are rising up and saying “Enough is enough!”

#Red4Ed is on the march!

LilSis (also known as the Public Accountability Project) pays careful attention to the networks and money behind nefarious efforts to destroy the public sector.

In this report, LilSis describes the corporate backers of school privatization against whom Little Rock teachers went on strike. The money behind this network of interlinking organizations and individuals is the Walton family, whose wealth clocked in at $163 Billion (that’s Billion with a B) in 2018.

LilSis writes:

A major backer of the anti-union, pro-charter agenda in Arkansas is the Walton family, whose foundation is a huge funder of the school privatization infrastructure that exists across the state. In addition to the Waltons, corporate elites from Murphy Oil, the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, the Arkansas Democrat Gazetteand others are backers of the school privatization efforts. These corporate interests are close to Governor Hutchinson, who supports their agenda, and they have close ties to the state Board of Education. In addition, they are also interlocked with a host of lobbyists and academics that push their agenda…

The Waltons are major advocate of charter schools nationally, and they carry out their school privatization agenda through their Walton Family Foundation, which showers hundreds of millions on pro-charter groups and schools. The foundation claims it has invested a whopping $407 million into pushing charter schools since 1997.According to a recent report put out by the Arkansas Education Association, the Waltons pump millions into propping up the state’s school privatization infrastructure – or what the report calls the “Arkansas’s School Privatization Empire.” 

It’s not just that the Waltons give big money to a few groups – it’s also that these groups then distribute that money to other organizations, lobbyists, consultants, and academics, creating a vast network of billionaire-funded activity to attack unionized teachers and push charter schools. 

For example, the Walton family Foundation gave $350,000 to the Arkansans for Education Reform Foundation (AERF) in 2017 – around 80% of all the contributions the organization took in that year. 

The AERF board includes other powerful funders and advocates of school privatization in the state, such as Claiborne Deming, the former CEO of Murphy Oil, a big backer of charter schools in Arkansas; William Dillard III, part of the Dilliard family that owns the Dilliard’s department stores; and Walter Hussman, publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the state’s flagship newspaper. Jim Walton is also on the board.

In addition to the $350,000 that the Walton donated to the AERF in 2017, Deming gave $60,000 and Dilliard III gave $10,000, while the National Christian Foundation gave $15,000, according the the group’s 2017 990 form.

AERF has in turn used the money it receives from the Walton billionaire fortune and other Arkansas elites to fund other school privatization efforts. For example, it gave $115,000 to Arkansas Learns, which describesitself as “the Voice of Business for excellent education options – including industry-relevant career pathways…” The CEO of Arkansas Learns, Gary Newton, is also the Executive Director of the AERF (for which he earned $189,639 in compensation in 2017). 

In turn, Arkansas Learns has the same board members as AERF, and Randy Zook, the CEO of the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce, whose wife Dianne Zook is on the state Board of Education that decided to end recognition of the Little Rock teachers’ union, is also a board member. Dianne Zook is also the aunt of Gary Newton.

What a cozy and mutually beneficial arrangement: The Waltons have a lot of money to hand out to achieve their goal of privatizing public schools and breaking unions, and the recipients take the money and carry out the Waltons’ wishes.

Any time you see a group called “XXXXXXX for Education Reform,” you can be sure it is committed to charter schools, union-busting, and privatization, and the odds are high that there is Walton money behind it.

The Waltons have claimed credit for subsidizing one of every four charter schools in the nation.

LilSis creates wonderful graphical depictions of networks.

Here is the LilSis graphic of the Little Rock school privatization network. 

If you want to understand what is happening in the Little Rock school District today, read Eric Blanc’s article. 

Eric Blanc has covered every one of the teachers’ strikes since the West Virginia strike in the spring of 2018. Now he is in Little Rock, where he interviewed teachers who went on strike yesterday to protest the State Board of Education’s heavy-handed control of the district and its decision to strip school employees of collective bargaining rights.

Teachers are outraged that the State Board of Education, which took control of the district in 2015, utterly failed to improve student outcomes, yet refuses to relinquish control to a democratically elected board. Teachers believe that the state wants to resegregate the district.

Blanc writes:

Little Rock teachers today are not demanding raises for themselves, but an end to the state’s push to resegregate schools, its takeover of their district, its decertification of their union, and its disrespect for school support staff. As second grade teacher Jenni White explains, “this is literally about standing up for our kids and not dividing our community…

The immediate roots of this week’s action go back to January 2015 when the Arkansas State Board of Education announced that it was taking over Little Rock’s schools due to low standardized test scores. By all accounts, the ensuing state takeover failed to accomplish its nominal goal of improving stability and educational opportunities for the town’s low-performing schools. Yet rather than return Little Rock School District to local control in 2020 as promised, the state board instead proposed in September of this year that it would continue to oversee so-called “F”-rated schools, those with the lowest test scores.

Since all but one of the “F” schools were in black and brown neighborhoods south of I-630, teachers and parents saw this an attempt to create a two-tier school system. “The plan was blatantly racist, it separated the haves and the have notes,” Jenni White told me.

In a dramatic protest on the evening of October 9, thousands of teachers, support staff, students, and community members congregated on the steps of Central High, where the Little Rock Nine had famously confronted the National Guard decades earlier. Teresa Knapp Gordon, president of the Little Rock Education Association (LREA), closed the rally with the following declaration: “Either we accept segregation, or we stand and fight.”

This public outpouring forced the state board to change tactics. At the next evening’s contentious Arkansas Board of Education meeting, it dropped the proposal to split Little Rock’s school district. But surprisingly, the board then immediately proceeded to cease recognition of the LREA as the educators’ representative, thereby scrapping the last remaining collective bargaining agreement for school workers in Arkansas. The decision was blatant retaliation against not only teachers but also Little Rock’s school support staff, who were in the midst of negotiating a pay raise.

Next, the board issued a draft “Memorandum of Understanding” explaining that instead of returning full local control to the school board set to be elected in November 2020, the state would appoint a parallel “advisory board” that could veto local decisions. The Memorandum also insists on closing up to eleven neighborhood schools — which would thereby accelerate privatization, since state law gives charters first access to any vacant school. Stacey McAdoo, a teacher at Central High, told Labor Notes, “they are trying to charterize the [district] like what happened in New Orleans and disenfranchise people and make a separate school system out of the areas that are primarily Black and Latino.”

As in so many other states across the country, this offensive against the labor movement, public education, and working-class communities of color is being directly funded by billionaires. And it’s not just any billionaires: Little Rock teachers and students are up against the Arkansas-based Waltons, founders of Walmart and the richest familyin America.

The Walton family: the Death Star of Public Education. The ingrates who graduated from Arkansas public schools but now want to destroy them and public schools everywhere. Rich and shameless.

Wow! Talk about a surprise! Teacher Glenn Sacks managed to get an article with the title of this post in the Wall Street Journal, the newspaper that regularly vilifies teachers’ unions and praises privatization of public funds.

Yes, Sacks–a teacher in Los Angeles–contends that teachers’ unions fight to get teachers the time and support staff they need to do their jobs, so they are necessary and valuable.

The link that Sacks provided is not behind a pay wall.

The article begins:

The rookie science teacher looks at me with the same “Am I understanding this job correctly or am I crazy?” look I’ve often seen in the eyes of new teachers.

“No, you understand,” I say. “You’ve been thrown into a situation that requires an enormous amount of work and a good amount of ability, and it’s sink or swim. You might naturally expect the system to help you, or at least acknowledge the position you’ve been put in. It won’t.”

Teachers have come under considerable scrutiny in recent decades, and everybody claims to have the silver-bullet reform that will fix education. No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Common Core, charter schools, raising the qualifications to become a teacher, limiting or abolishing tenure, and countless other measures have been taken up by Congress and state legislatures since I took my first teaching position in 1989.

Yet there is little public discussion about the education system’s central problem: Teachers don’t have enough time to do our jobs properly. Teachers unions understand this and fight to protect our ability to do our jobs.

He points out that some students can be assessed more accurately with an oral exam that with a written one, but teachers don’t have the time for that.

He writes:

Here are some ways to make teachers more effective:

  • Reduce class sizes, an issue in both the October teachers’ strike in Chicago and the Los Angeles teachers’ strike in January.
  • Provide teachers with support staff for clerical work.
  • Hire sufficient staff to eliminate extraneous chores.

Limiting class size and hiring sufficient staff would save teachers’ time from being squandered. That in turn would allow us to focus more on creating imaginative lessons and interacting with students.

Seeing Glenn Sacks’ article in the WSJ gives me hope that some people in the business world might read it and pay attention.

If they do, they will understand what real education reform looks like from the perspective of those who do the work, rather than those who sit in armchairs in think tanks.

 

Thousands of teachers from across Indiana will rally in Indianapolis on November 19, seeking better pay and more resources for their students.

Indiana has one of the most reactionary state governments in the nation.

Over 100 districts will close or switch to e-learning for the day.

The state’s largest school district, the Fort Wayne Community Schools, announced that it would close because so many teachers will be joining the protest at the State Capitol.

Many will wear buttons remembering our dear Phyllis Bush, a founding member of the board of the Network for Public Education, a teacher activist and founder of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, who died eight months ago but left behind hundreds and thousands of admirers inspired by her passion for public education. Phyllis’s wife, Donna Roof, and her many former students and friends will be at the rally on November 19, remembering the dedication, love, and wit that Phyllis brought to her role as a teacher and as an advocate for public schools.