Archives for category: Teachers

Betsy DeVos likes to point with pride to her husband’s charter school. See, she implies, I know what I am talking about. My husband started a charter school called the West Michigan Aviation Academy, located at the Gerald Ford Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where the DeVos family lives.

 

Jersey Jazzman found that there is another side to the story. 

 

Dick DeVos’s charter school has one of the lowest shares of special education students in its county.

 

Understand that Betsy DeVos is absolutely fine with this. In her opinion, we would be better off segregating children who “struggle” from those who do not….

 

Dick DeVos’s charter school enrolls relatively few Limited English Proficient students….

 

We can debate whether it’s a good idea to isolate many of these students from the rest of the community. But we all have to agree — unless we’re totally ignorant of the realities of school finance — that schools serving more students with special needs must have more resources. One would think, therefore, that a school like WMAA, with its relatively small special education and LEP populations, wouldn’t be spending nearly as much as the other high schools in the area.

 

One would be wrong….

 

Dick DeVos’s charter school spends more on salaries for all employees per pupil than almost every other high school in its county. Hmm… well, Betsy DeVos says she wants to pay “good” teachers more. Maybe all that extra money is going into instructional salaries…

 

Or not….

 

Despite its high spending on total salaries, Dick DeVos’s charter school spending on instructional salaries is fairly typical. Which leads me to wonder: where is all that extra money going?

 

It is not going to pay highly experienced teachers. Like other charter schools in Michigan, DeVos’s charter school has a large proportion of inexperienced teachers.

 

Teachers gain the most in effectiveness over the first few years of their careers; yet nearly half of the teachers at Dick DeVos’s charter school have less than three years of experience. 

 

The takeaway:

 

High spending schools, enrolling proportionally fewer students with special needs, taught by inexperienced teachers. That’s Betsy DeVos’s vision for American education — just ask her husband.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A reader sent the following good news:

I would like to share some public education wins in New Mexico. There were twenty-two educators running for the NM State Legislature, fourteen were educators from AFT NM and eight from NEA NM. Unfortunately, not all of the twenty-two educators won their races. The good news is that nine of the AFT NM educators did win their seats and three of the NEA NM educators won their seats. We now have twelve educators in the NM State Legislature fighting for public education and labor along with other non-educators who are champions of both public education and labor.

Twelve of the 22 educators who ran for the state legislature won! Now, that is great news! The legislature will hear their voices when they make decisions about the schools.

Teacher Mark Weber, who blogs brilliantly as Jersey Jazzman, was invited to deliver the keynote address the New Jersey Education Association. He thought he might speak about charters or testing or teacher evaluation, but decided instead to talk about how the election of Donald Trump would affect teacher unions and the teaching profession and how teachers must help students who feel targeted by Trump’s divisive rhetoric.

He said that the battle to destroy unions would intensify:

“This union here, the New Jersey Education Association, will be one of the prime targets in the new anti-teachers union era. This union has stood strong for teachers and proudly used its political and other capital to advocate for the best interests of its members, which also – and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise – happens to be the best interests of this state’s students and their families.

“I am constantly amazed and appalled when people try to make the argument that somehow teacher work conditions and student learning conditions aren’t the same thing. Middle-class wages with decent benefits are necessary if we are to draw talented young people into the profession.

“Job protections, including tenure, are necessary to protect the interests of taxpayers and students, who count on teachers to serve as their advocates within the school system. Safe, clean, well-resourced schools make teaching an attractive profession, but they also lead to better learning outcomes for children.

“Teachers unions are the advocates for these necessary pre-conditions for student learning. Teachers unions are the political force that compels politicians to put necessary funds into public schools. Teachers unions are the groups who make the conditions of teaching better, ensuring that this nation will have a stable supply of educators for years to come.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that right now, public education hangs in the balance. Teacher workplace rights are in serious jeopardy. The ability of NJEA to protect the future of New Jersey’s outstanding public education system – by any measure, one of the finest in the world, in spite of this state’s recent abdication of its role to fully fund its schools – is under dire threat.

“There is only one course to take: we must organize. We must stand strong, we must stand together, and we must refuse to give into desperation. Our families, our colleagues, and our students have always counted on us when they needed us the most – we must not now, nor ever, stop fighting for them or yes, that’s right, for ourselves.”

Turning to the greatest threat from the campaign, Weber spoke about teachers’ duty to protect their students:

“No one should think for one second that our children have not been deeply, deeply affected by this outpouring of hatred. It is worst of all for any child who has been transformed into an “other” by the rhetoric that had infected this campaign.

“I fear for any child who shows up to school after the election wearing a hijab. I fear for any child who wears a hoodie and walks to school through a neighborhood that doesn’t include people who look like him. I fear for any child who is not conforming with our society’s preconceptions about gender. I fear for any child who was not born within our borders, yet who loves the promise of America as much as any of her native sons and daughters.

“The only thing that can ever hope to protect these children is the love of the adults in their lives who know better. If you know better, you can no longer sit on the sidelines. If you know better, but you stay silent, your silence will become violence.

“I pray that I am wrong about Donald Trump. I pray he will grow into his position. I pray he will find some measure of conscience, some level of decency, within himself and rise to the enormous task ahead of him.

“But even if he does, his campaign has emboldened dark forces within our democracy. We saw them in those ugly, violent rallies. We saw them when the so-called “alt-right” said and wrote unspeakably horrible words, spewed across our media and the Internet.

“Those forces will have absolutely no qualms about taking out all their anger and all their hatred on our children. We, my fellow teachers, are an integral part of those children’s defense.

“We can no longer tolerate racially biased classroom and disciplinary practices within our schools: the stakes have just become too high. We can no longer tolerate racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic language that, yes, sometimes, sadly, comes from our less-enlightened colleagues: the stakes are now too high. We cannot stand by and allow one kind of schooling to be foisted on one kind of student while another enjoys all the benefits of a truly meaningful education: the stakes are now too high.

“And we can not, we will not, we will refuse to allow politicians to use the alleged “failures” of our urban students to deprive them of adequate funding; to deprive them of a broad, rich curriculum; to deprive them of experienced teachers who look like their students; to deprive them of beautiful, healthy, well-resourced school facilities; and to deprive them of lives outside of school that are free of economic injustice and racial hatred.

“The stakes are too damn high….

“Our civil liberties have been under assault since 9-11; now, they are in even greater peril. And on Tuesday our world may well have become far more dangerous. If there is another leader of a democratic country who has said that he is fine with the use of nuclear weapons, I don’t know who he is.

“I pray I am wrong, but when I rationally consider the future, everything tells me that our students may well soon be living in a world that is less prosperous, less healthy, less free, and less safe.

“They will need us more than ever. They will be hungry and scared and stressed. They will be confused, because, even as we preach to them the importance of self-sacrifice and modesty, this country rewards too many who have lived lives of gluttony and arrogance.

“We must be there for them. We must never stop fighting for them. We must never stop believing in them.”

This just happened in Los Angeles: Educators at four LAUSD public schools turned away money from the two billionaire backers of privatization. Broad and Walton are offering funding to these schools at the same time that their charters are diverting hundreds of millions of dollars from the district’s public schools.


For immediate release
Media Contact:
Anna Bakalis
UTLA Communications Director
213-305-9654

UTLA Educators Overwhelmingly Vote Against Broad-Walmart Grant Funding

Los Angeles, CA – This week, educators at four LAUSD schools voted to reject grant money from “Great Public Schools Now,” the public face of a group backed by the California Charter School Association and bankrolled by billionaires Eli Broad and the Waltons of Walmart.

Educators say that this is a PR stunt, not a genuine effort to fund schools in need and are calling on the District to uphold the vote by not accepting the grant money from GPSN, in any way. These four schools are within the targeted 10 areas for Broad-Walmart funding.

The vote was 98% in favor of rejecting the money; ballot counts at Drew Middle School, Pacoima Middle School, San Fernando High School, and Gompers Middle School were, respectively, 35 to 1, 58 to 0, 72 to 0, and 22 to 3.

Jared Dozal, who voted against his school receiving Broad-Walmart money, is a math and computer science teacher at San Fernando High School. He says this is a distraction from real, lasting efforts for sustainable funding for all public schools.

“We know that some will see this as an opportunity missed for funding, but the amount offered is peanuts for the billionaires behind this effort,” Dozal said. “We won’t let this distract us from saving our schools from a corporate takeover, paid for by the people who only want to destroy public education.”

Dozal said the grant’s offer of “up to” $250,000 per year for three years is insulting, considering the amount of money siphoned from public schools to subsidize rampant charter school growth.

For example, according to LAUSD’s own numbers, Gompers Middle School has $1.4 million less in its budget than 2013. Since school budgets are in large part determined by enrollment, the rapid expansion of charter school growth has clearly impacted the middle school.

In the zip code that Gompers is in, and in the nearby zip codes, there are 21 charter schools. Thirteen of these are the largest corporate charters, including Green Dot, Alliance, Aspire and Kipp. The Waltons of Walmart have contributed generously to these four corporate charters, and Eli Broad alone has contributed more than $75 million over the last few years. In fact, in the June 2015 GPSN plan, Broad and Walton say they will be raising $135 million more for these charter school operators.

Getting the funding and resources our students need requires meaningful and sustainable initiatives. To that end, members of United Teachers Los Angeles join with parents and community members to address issues like school site improvements and student safety, enriched curriculum that includes funding for arts, music and ethnic studies as well as fully staffed schools with full-time nurses, librarians and counselors.

UTLA is also working to pass Prop. 55 on next week’s ballot, pursuing long-term funding solutions in Sacramento, and supporting efforts such as the Make It Fair campaign to close corporate property tax loopholes.

Marla Kilfoyle is a teacher on Long Island and executive director of the BATS.

In this post, she describes the well-funded effort to privatize public education in New York State.

We have lived with it for so many years that it seems to be just one more issue, although it is an issue that the mainstream media completely ignores. It is the “Sound of Silence,” as she says.

She writes:

“Election season is always a difficult time for many educators and education activist. We begin to look at all the campaign donations that fly to politicians from people, and organizations, that seek to destroy public education. It is the same old players emerging here in N.Y.

“The Waltons, The Koch Brothers, StudentsFirstNY funded by Wall Street Hedge Funders like Paul Singer, Dan Loeb, and John Paul Tudor.

“The NYS Senate Republican Committee are HUGE cheerleaders for the charter movement and have received millions for this election cycle from the folks listed above. For the sake of transparency, our Governor, and a smattering of Democrats, are also cheerleaders for charter expansion and the privatization movement.

“I will have to say that NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE, is a bigger cheerleader for privatization than John Flanagan, the Republican majority leader in our Senate. He is also a member of ALEC

“The ALEC education agenda is model legislation that travels around the nation when they need to defund schools, close them, and open up unaccountable charters. They support ending public education for a competitive model of education. The problem with a competitive model is that there are always winners and losers. We should have NO losers when it comes to education in this country….

“Republican Carl Marcellino, who is running against Democrat Jim Gaughran, got not one but two, yes two, $142,590 independent expenditure from StudentsFirstNY (A20133) for media. Republican Elaine Phillips, who is running against Democrat Adam Haber, got a $271,950 independent expenditure from StudentsFirstNY (A20133). Anyone who follows the fight to save public education KNOWS that StudentsFirst has been on the frontlines of the attack on public education and public school teachers. They have been the cheerleaders for Common Core, High-Stakes Testing, School Closures, vouchers, choice, and charter expansion. The sad thing is that Marcellino is on the NYS Education Committee. Call me crazy but shouldn’t that mean he should fight for public education NOT privatization? The larger question is – who will Marcellino and Phillips be accountable to when it comes to education policy? We all know the answer to that question. The Money!

“The PAC that is distributing all this money to StudentsFirstNY – New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany is funded by anti-public education billionaires. The other PAC, New Yorkers for Independent Action, is also supported by billionaires who are anti-public education. This money is being distributed to politicians who will support their destructive agenda for public education in NY.
Bottom line is – we must get to the polls and vote anyone out who takes this money – Republican or Democrat.

“As a public educator, education activist, and mother I will NOT be voting for anyone who takes money from StudentsFirstNY, New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany or New Yorkers for Independent Action. Public education is for the public good and we should be funding that equitably, not defunding and destroying it. Public education should not be competitive where you have winners and losers. Public education is the cornerstone of our democracy and is the great equalizer.

“So, why did I title this piece the sound of silence?

“While the NYS Senate Republican Committee is raking in all this cash from anti-public education billionaires, NOT many of them have said a word about Donald Trump’s behavior. To me, silence means acceptance.

“It’s OK to malign immigrants and it’s OK to malign women….

“Oh, and by the way, the NYS Senate Republican Committee thinks it is OK to pay for and distribute anti-semitic flyers. This is a flyer that the Senate Republican Committee distributed about Adam Haber, who is Jewish and running against Republican Elaine Phillips.

“To add insult to injury this was distributed during the week of Yom Kippur.”

Open the link to see the anti-Semitic image that the New York State Republican Committee distributed about Adam Haber. This is the same committee that received millions in contributions from former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Our friend Peter Greene is now writing for the Progressive, as well as writing prolifically for his blog. He never runs out of material, because the madness that he lacerates never seems to end.

This is a different kind of Peter Greene essay, one that reflects on his feelings about returning to school on the first day. All of us, or nearly all of us, are familiar with the Unprepared Student Dream. Late in life, it recurs. You find yourself going into a classroom in high school or college and you realize that you never read the assigned books and are completely unprepared for the crucial test that you will take that day. You wake up and shake yourself, happy that it was only a dream. Peter tells you what a teacher dreams.

Stuart Egan, NBCT high school teacher in North Carolina, wrote a sharp rebuke to Phil Kirk, chairman emeritus of the State Board of Education, for defending the Republican efforts to defund public schools, demoralize teachers, and cut spending. Kirk claims that all the criticism is based on myths; the Tea Party majority in the General Assembly really do care about public schools, as does Governor McCrory.

Egan goes through each “myth” to demonstrate that the Kirk is cherrypicking data to defend the Republican leadership of the state.

This article, an open letter, demonstrates why teachers need tenure.

This is a powerful, deeply moving article by Kristina Riga about the loss of black teachers in the school districts that have embraced “reform.” It appears in Mother Jones, where Rizga has been a staff writer for many years.

Rizga focuses on the story of one teacher, Darlene Lomax. But the story she tells is about the widespread shedding of black teachers, women and men who were the backbones of their communities. In Philadelphia, almost 20% of black teachers are gone; in New Orleans, 62%; in Chicago, 40%; in Cleveland, 34%. School closings have been concentrated in historically black communities. Black teachers have been disproportionately displaced by “reform.”

She begins:

One spring morning this year, Darlene Lomax was driving to her father’s house in northwest Philadelphia. She took a right onto Germantown Avenue, one of the city’s oldest streets, and pulled up to Germantown High School, a stately brick-and-stone building. Empty whiskey bottles and candy cartons were piled around the benches in the school’s front yard. Posters of the mascot, a green and white bear, had browned and curled. In what was once the teachers’ parking lot, spindly weeds shot up through the concrete. Across the street, above the front door of the also-shuttered Robert Fulton Elementary School, a banner read, “Welcome, President Barack Obama, October 10, 2010.”

It had been almost three years since the Philadelphia school district closed Germantown High, and 35 years since Lomax was a student there. But the sight of the dead building, stretching over an entire city block, still pained her. She looked at her old classroom windows, tinted in greasy brown dust, and thought about Dr. Grabert, the philosophy teacher who pushed her to think critically and consider becoming the first in her family to go to college. She thought of Ms. Stoeckle, the English teacher, whose red-pen corrections and encouraging comments convinced her to enroll in a program for gifted students. Lomax remembers the predominantly black school—she had only one white and one Asian American classmate—as a rigorous place, with college preparatory honors courses and arts and sports programs. Ten years after taking Ms. Stoeckle’s class, Lomax had dropped by Germantown High to tell her that she was planning to become a teacher herself.

A historic Georgian Revival building, Germantown High opened its doors in 1915 as a vocational training ground for the industrial era, with the children of blue-collar European immigrants populating its classrooms. In the late 1950s, the district added a wing to provide capacity for the growing population of a rapidly integrating neighborhood.

By 1972, Lomax’s father, a factory worker, had saved up enough to move his family of eight from a two-bedroom apartment in one of the poorest parts of Philadelphia into a four-bedroom brick house in Germantown. Each month, Darlene and her younger sister would walk 15 blocks to the mortgage company’s gray stucco building, climb up to the second floor, and press a big envelope with money orders into the receptionist’s hand. The new house had a dining room and a living room, sparkling glass doorknobs, French doors that opened into a large sunroom, an herb garden, and a backyard with soft grass and big trees. Darlene and her father planted tomatoes and made salads with the sweet, juicy fruit every Friday, all summer long.

To the Lomax children, the fenceless backyard was ripe for exploration, and it funneled them right to the yards of their neighbors. One yard belonged to two sisters who worked as special-education teachers—the first black people Darlene had met who had college degrees. As Lomax got to know these sisters, she began to think that perhaps her philosophy teacher was right: She, too, could go to college and someday buy a house of her own with glass doorknobs and a garden. She graduated from Rosemont College in 1985, and after a stint as a social worker, she enrolled at Temple University and got her teaching credential.

On February 19, 2013, Lomax was in the weekly faculty leadership meeting at Fairhill Elementary, a 126-year-old school in a historic Puerto Rican neighborhood of Philadelphia where she served as principal. A counselor was giving his report, but Lomax couldn’t hear what he said. She just stared at her computer screen, frozen, as she read a letter from the school superintendent. She read it again and again to make sure she understood what it said.

Then, slowly, she turned to Robert Harris, Fairhill’s special-education teacher for 20 years, and his wife, the counselor and gym teacher. “They are closing our school,” she said quietly. They all broke down weeping. Then they walked to the front of the building in silence and unlocked the doors to open the school for the day.

Five miles away, as Germantown High School prepared for its 100th anniversary, its principal was digesting the same letter. In all, 24 Philadelphia schools would be closed that year. These days, when Lomax visits her father in the house with the glass doorknobs, she drives by four shuttered school buildings, each with a “Property Available for Sale” sign.

Back when Lomax was a student in Philadelphia in the 1970s, local, state, and federal governments poured extra resources into these racially isolated schools—grand, elegant buildings that might look like palaces or city halls—to compensate for a long history of segregation. And they invested in the staff inside those schools, pushing to expand the teaching workforce and bring in more black and Latino teachers with roots in the community. Teaching was an essential path into the middle class, especially for African American women; it was also a nexus of organizing. During the civil rights movement, black educators were leaders in fighting for increased opportunity, including more equitable school funding and a greater voice for communities in running schools and districts.

Watch the teachers of Bayshore on Long Island in New York at their conference day as they create a flash mob that satirizes Common Core, stats, and Governor Cuomo!

https://gadflyonthewallblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/18/i-teach-the-toughest-kids-and-i-love-it/

In recent years, there has been a new genre of writing from teachers who are fed up and explain why they are leaving.

But fortunately most teachers rise every day to do what they love, and they refuse to be intimidated by mandates, administrative nonsense, or tough kids.

Steven Singer says he teaches the toughest kids in his school, and he loves it. He loves the kids, he loves the challenge, he loves meeting them as adults when they come up to hug him and thank him.

Do you want to know what keeps this teacher inspired and motivated?

He begins like this:

It was rarely a good thing when LaRon smiled in school.

It usually meant he was up to something.

He was late to class and wanted to see if I’d notice. He just copied another student’s homework and wondered if he’d get away with it. He was talking crap and hoped someone would take it to the next level.

As his teacher, I became rather familiar with that smile, and it sent shivers down my spine.

But on the last day of school, I couldn’t help but give him a smile back.

A few minutes before the last bell of the year, I stood before my class of 8th graders and gave them each a shout out.

“I just want to say what an honor it’s been to be your teacher,” I said.

They shifted in their seats, immediately silent. They wanted to hear this.

“Some of you have been a huge pain in my butt,” I conceded.

And almost all heads in the room turned to LaRon.

And he smiled.

Not a mischievous smile. Not a warning of wrongdoing yet to come.

He was slightly embarrassed.

So I went on:

“But I’m proud of what you’ve accomplished this year. Each and every one of you. It has been my privilege to be here for you,” and I nodded at LaRon to make sure he knew I included him in what I was saying.

Because I do mean him.

Students like LaRon keep an old man like me on my toes. No doubt. But look at all he did – all he overcame this year.

His writing improved exponentially.

Back in September, he thought a paragraph was a sentence or two loosely connected, badly spelled full of double negatives and verbs badly conjugated. Now he could write a full five-paragraph essay that completely explained his position with a minimum of grammatical errors.

Back in September, the most complex book he had read was “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” Now he had read “The Diary of Anne Frank” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.” How did I know? Because I had read it with him. We had all read these books together and stopped frequently to talk about them.

Back in September, if he raised his hand to ask a question, it was usually no more complex than “Can I go to the bathroom?” Now he was asking questions about where the Nazis came from, what happened to Mr. Frank after the war, did Harper Lee ever write any other books, and is the fight for civil rights over.

The last day of school is one of the hardest for me, because my classes are doubled. I don’t just have my students – I also have the ghosts of who they were at the beginning of the year.

They all change so much. They’re like different people at the end, people I helped guide into being.

Read and be inspired.