Archives for category: Teachers

This statement by a student was published anonymously at Reddit. He wanted to explain what is happening in his school in regards to COVID. The situation, as he puts it, is “beyond control.” There are many absences, students as well as teachers. There is very little learning going on. The writer makes clear that he hates remote learning, but given the conditions in the school, he thinks remote learning is preferable to no learning.

The article has created quite a buzz. It has thus far received more than 5,000 comments, mostly from other students, reporting on their schools, but also from teachers. Meanwhile, the new Mayor, Eric Adams, assures the public that all is well.

The statement begins like this:

I’d like to preface this by stating that remote learning was absolutely detrimental to the mental health of myself, my friends, and my peers at school. Despite this, the present conditions within schools necessitates a temporary return to remote learning; if not because of public health, then because of learning loss.

A story of my day:

– I arrived at school and promptly went to Study Hall. I knew that some of my teachers would be absent because they had announced it on Google Classroom earlier in the day. At our school there is a board in front of the auditorium with the list of teachers and seating sections for students within study hall: today there were 14 absent teachers 1st period. There are 11 seatable sections within the auditorium … THREE CLASSES sat on the stage. Study hall has become a super spreader event — I’ll get to this in a moment.

– Second period I had another absent teacher. More of the same from 1st period. It was around this time that 25% of kids, including myself, realized that there were no rules being enforced outside of attendance at the start of the period, and that cutting class was ridiculously easy. We left — there was functionally no learning occurring within study hall, and health conditions were safer outside of the auditorium. It was well beyond max capacity.

Open the link and read the rest.

Some schools are managing very well with in-person learning. Others are not. Schools cannot make up for “learning loss” if there is no instruction going on.

An important point to bear in mind. For everyone, this is an unprecedented time. We are in the midst of a global pandemic. None of us has lived through one before. No one knows what will happen a week or a month or six months from now. We follow the science, protect health and life as best we can, don’t take risks, and hope it ends soon. Odds are COVID will become less virulent, manageable with vaccines, and fade into the long list of diseases from which we must protect ourselves. Maybe next winter, the doctors will remind us to get a flu shot and a COVID shot. Meanwhile, we do the best we can.

Last week, I posted my thoughts on “Who Demoralized the Nation’s Teachers?” I sought to identify the people and organizations that spread the lie that America’s public schools were “broken” and that public school teachers were the cause. The critics slandered teachers repeatedly, claiming that teachers were dragging down student test scores. They said that today’s teachers were not bright enough; they said teachers had low SAT scores; and they were no longer “the best and the brightest.”

The “corporate reform” movement (the disruption movement) was driven in large part by the “reformers'” belief that public schools were obsolete and their teachers were the bottom of the barrel. So the “reformers” promoted school choice, especially charter schools, and Teach for America, to provide the labor supply for charter schools. TFA promised to bring smart college graduates for at least two years to staff public schools and charter schools, replacing the public school teachers whom TFA believed had low expectations. TFA would have high expectations, and these newcomers with their high SAT scores would turn around the nation’s schools. The “reformers” also promoted the spurious, ineffective and harmful idea that teachers could be evaluated by the test scores of their students, although this method repeatedly, consistently showed that those who taught affluent children were excellent, while those who taught children with special needs or limited-English proficiency or high poverty were unsatisfactory. “Value-added” methodology ranked teachers by the income and background of their students’ families, not by the teachers’ effectiveness.

All of these claims were propaganda that was skillfully utilized by people who wanted to privatize the funding of public education, eliminate unions, and crush the teaching profession.

The response to the post was immediate and sizable. Some thought the list of names and groups I posted was dated, others thought it needed additions. The comments of readers were so interesting that I present them here as a supplement to my original post. My list identified No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Common Core as causes of demoralization that tied teachers to a standards-and-testing regime that reduced their autonomy as professionals. One reader said that the real beginning of the war on teachers was the Reagan-era report called “A Nation at Risk,” which asserted that American public schools were mired in mediocrity and needed dramatic changes. I agree that the “Nation at Risk” report launched the era of public-school bashing. But it was NCLB and the other “solutions” that launched teacher-bashing, blaming teachers for low test scores and judging teachers by their test scores. It should be noted that the crest of “reform” was 2010, when “Waiting for Superman” was released, Common Core was put into place, value-added test scores for teachers were published, and “reformers” like Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, and other became media stars, with their constant teacher-bashing. For what it’s worth, the National Assessment of Educational Progress flatlined from 2010 onwards. Test score gains, which were supposedly the point of all this “reform” activity, were non-existent on the nation’s most consequential test (no stakes attached).

Readers also blamed demoralization on teachers’ loss of autonomy, caused by federal laws and the testing imposed by them, and by the weakness of principals and administrators who did not protect teachers from the anti-education climate caused by NCLB, RTTT, ESSA, and the test-and-punish mindset that gripped the minds of the nation’s legislators and school leaders.

Readers said that my list left off important names of those responsible for demoralizing the nation’s teachers.

Here are readers’ additions, paraphrased by me:

Michelle Rhee, who was pictured on the cover of TIME magazine as the person who knew “How to Fix American Education” and lionized in a story by Amanda Ripley. Rhee was shown holding a broom, preparing to sweep “bad teachers” and “bad principals” out of the schools. During her brief tenure as Chancellor of D.C., she fired scores of teachers and added to her ruthless reputation by firing a principal on national television. For doing so, she was the Queen of “education reform” in the eyes of the national media until USA Today broke a major cheating scandal in the D.C. schools.

Joel Klein, antitrust lawyer who was chosen by Mayor Bloomberg to become the Chancellor of the New York City public schools, where he closed scores of schools because of their low test scores, embraced test-based evaluation of schools and teachers, and opened hundreds of small specialized schools and charter schools. He frequently derided teachers and blamed them for lagging test scores. He frequently reorganized the entire, vast school system, surrounding himself with aides with Business School graduates and Wall Street credentials. Under his leadership, NYC was the epitome of corporate reform, which inherently disrespected career educators.

Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York City, billionaire funder of charter schools and of candidates running for state or local offices who supported privatization of public schools. He claimed that under his leadership, the test-score gap between different racial gaps had been cut in half or even closed, but it wasn’t true. He stated his desire to fire teachers who couldn’t “produce” high test scores, while doubling the size of the classes of teachers who could. His huge public relations staff circulated the story of a “New York City Miracle,” but it didn’t exist and evaporated as soon as he left office.

Reed Hastings, billionaire funder of charter schools and founder of Netflix. He expressed the wish that all school boards would be eliminated. The charter school was his ideal, managed privately without public oversight.

John King, charter school leader who was appointed New York Commissioner of Education. He was a cheerleader for the Common Core and high-stakes testing. He made parents so angry by his policies that he stopped appearing at public events. He was named U.S. Secretary of Education, following Arne Duncan, in the last year of the Obama administration and continued to advocate for the same ill-fated policies as Duncan.

Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Secretary of Education despised public schools, unions, and teachers. She never had a good word to say about public schools. She wanted every student to attend religious schools at public expense.

Eli Broad and the “academy” he created to train superintendents with his ideas about top-down management and the alleged value of closing schools with low test scores

ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), which writes model legislation for privatizing public schools by opening charters and vouchers and lowering standards for teachers and crushing unions. More than 2,000 rightwing state legislators belong to ALEC and get their ideas directly from ALEC about privatization and other ways to crush public schools and their teachers.

Rupert Murdoch, the media, Time, Newsweek, NY Times, Washington Post for their hostility towards public schools and their warm, breathless reporting about charter schools and Teach for America. The Washington Post editorialist is a devotee of charter schools and loved Michelle Rhee’s cut-throat style. TIME ran two cover stories endorsing the “reform” movement; the one featuring Michelle Rhee, and the other referring to one of every four public school teachers as a “rotten apple.” The second cover lauded the idea that teachers were the cause of low test scores, and one of every four should be weeded out. Newsweek also had a Rhee cover, and another that declared in a sentence repeated on a chalkboard, “We Must Fire Bad Teachers,” as though the public schools were overrun with miscreant teachers.

David Coleman, the architect of the Common Core, which undermined the autonomy of teachers and ironically removed teachers’ focus on content and replaced it with empty skills. The Common Core valued “informational text” over literature and urged teachers to reduce time spent teaching literature.

Margaret Raymond, of the Walton-funded CREDO, which evaluates charter schools.

Hanna Skandera, who was Secretary of Education in New Mexico and tried to import the Florida model of testing, accountability, and choice to New Mexico. That state has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the nation, and the Florida model didn’t make any difference.

Governors who bashed teachers and public schools, like Chris Christie of New Jersey, Andrew Cuomo of New York, and Gregg Abbott of Texas

“Researchers” like those from the Fordham Institute, who saw nothing good in public schools or their teaching

Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, who turned Denver into a model of “reform,” with everything DFER wanted: charter schools and high-stakes testing.

Poorly behaving students and parents who won’t hold kids accountable for bad behavior

Campbell Brown and the 74

The U.S. Department of Education, for foisting terrible ideas on the nation’s schools and teachers, and state education departments and state superintendents for going along with these bad ideas. Not one state chief stood up and said, “We won’t do what is clearly wrong for our students and their teachers.”

The two big national unions, for going along with these bad ideas instead of fighting them tooth and nail.

And now I will quote readers’ comments exactly as they wrote them, without identifying their authors (they know who they are):

*Rightwing organizations like the American Enterprise Institute, (AEI), the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, the Heritage Foundation, even the allegedly Democratic-leaning Center for American Progress (CAP) for publishing white papers masquerading as education research that promotes privatization.

*Wall St moguls who invented Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) to gamble on & profit from preK student test scores.

*Rogues Gallery. One body blow after another. A systematic 💦 water boarding with no respite. And then we add the Broad Foundation who sent Broad-trained “leadership” so drunk on arrogance and ignorance that the term “School Yard Bully” just doesn’t capture it.
Operating with the Imprimatur and thin veneer of venture capital, plutocratic philanthropy, these haughty thugs devastated every good program they laid eyes on. Sinking their claws instinctively into the intelligent, effective and cultured faculty FIRST.A well orchestrated, heavily scripted Saturday Night Massacre.

*Congress and the Presidents set the stage, but the US Department of Education was instrumental in making it all happen. They effectively implemented a coherent program to attack, smear and otherwise demoralize teachers. And make no mistake, it was quite purposeful

*This list is incomplete without members of Democrats for Education Reform. Add in Senator Ted Kennedy, whose role in the passage of No Child Left Behind was critical. Same for then Congressman and future Speaker of the House, John Boehner, who noted (bragged!) in his recent autobiography that he was essential in keeping President George W. Bush on track with NCLB.

*Let’s not forget Senate Chair Patty Murray. She has been an important player in keeping the worse of Ed Reform legislation alive.

*You have presented a rogue’s gallery of failed “reformers” that have worked against the common good. In addition to those mentioned, there has also been an ancillary group of promoters and enablers that have undermined public education including billionaire think tanks, foundations and members of both political parties. These people continue to spread lies and misinformation, and no amount of facts or research is able to diminish the drive to privatize. While so called reformers often hide behind an ideological shield, they are mostly about the greedy pursuit of appropriating the education that belongs to the people and transferring its billions in value into the pockets of the already wealthy. So called education reform is class warfare.

*The Clintons, whose 1994 reauthorization of ESEA set the stage for NCLB

*Don’t forget the so called ‘liberal’ media, publications such as the New York Times and the Boston Globe who have published pro charter piece after pro charter piece, while simultaneously dumping all over public schools

*I’d like to include a cast of editorialists like George Will, Bill Rhoden, and many others, who have parroted the plutocratic-backed Ed Reform line. Armstrong Williams would certainly be part of this.

*Going back even further into the origins of this madness, I would add to Diane’s excellent rogues gallery those unknown bureaucrats in state departments of education who replaced broad, general frameworks/overall strategic objectives with bullet lists of almost entirely content-free “standards” that served as the archetype of the Common [sic] Core [sic] based on the absurd theory that we should “teach skills” independent of content, all of which led, ironically, to trivialization of and aimlessnessness in ELA pedagogy and curricula and to a whole generation of young English teachers who themselves NOW KNOW NEXT TO NOTHING OF THE CONTENT OF THEIR SUBJECT, typified by the English teacher who told one of the parents who regularly contributes comments to this blog, “I’m an English teacher, so I don’t teach content.” So, today, instead of teaching, say, Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” as part of a coherent and cumulative unit on common structures and techniques and genres of poetry, one gets idiotic test-practice exercises on “inferencing” and “finding the main idea,” with any random piece of writing as the “text.”

*It’s driven by how teachers have been treated the past 4-5 years, especially during the pandemic. Teachers are first responders. We should have been on the list of first-to-be-vaccinated. Schools should have strict mask and vaccine mandates. Teachers are professional educators. We should not be told what and how to teach by ignorant, conspiracy-driven MAGA parents. Public education is a cornerstone of democracy, and we teachers are motivated by a sense of civic duty. We are demoralized by attempts to destroy public education, led by anti-education bible-thumping “leaders” like Betsy DeVos and (in my home state) Frank Edelblut. Public education is being dismantled by gleeful right-wingers, while naive, well-intentioned moderates wring their hands and do little to defend it. It’s tiring to be under constant attack on the front lines, with no support. That’s why teachers are leaving today.

*One tiny example of a routine phenomenon. Teachers got the message pretty clearly: They were at the bottom of the pecking order. The absolute bottom. Micromanaged and undercut at every turn.Excellent points. The heavy handed top-down, bureaucratic demands for “data,” basically serve one goal, to justify the existence of administration.Don’t forget the voracious appetite of publishing companies…We had a district administrator prance around in our “professional; development days” tell use could not read novels or other picture books to the students…ONLY USE PEARSON.”And then 7 or so years later, the district made us THROW OUT every book from Pearson, and they bought new crap curriculum…that program was written by testing industry, not educators, I think it was “Benchmark,” real junk.

*I’d like to mention how I often lose my student teachers when they see the edTPA requirement. They switch majors, and the teaching pool gets even smaller.

*After Skamdera in NM came the TFA VAM sweetheart Christopher Ruszkowski. At least he had 3 years in a classroom, Skammy had none, but the Florida model, you know?

*Children’s behavior is in large part in response to the drill and kill curriculum and endless testing and teaching to the test that has been driving public education since NCLB and the back-to-basics movement that ushered it in. No room for creativity, no room for self expression, no room for innovation. Highly scripted Curriculum like Open Court turned children into little automatons, barking their answers like well trained dogs and turned teachers into task masters. It was a drive to dummy down the curriculum for fear of teaching too much free thinking. And a drive to turn teachers into testing machines and teacher technicians, easily replaced by anyone who can walk in a classroom and pick up the manual. Only it doesn’t work. It was and is developmentally inappropriate and the resulting rebellion in the classrooms if proof of that. No wonder teachers are leaving in droves!

*Under threat of closure of the MA school board in the mid 1800s, Horace Mann turned to the cheapest labor he could find, literate northern females, and deployed the Protestant ethic “teacher as a calling” trope to institute state free-riding on teachers (as opposed to the free-riding of which teachers are accused). Everything in this piece is correct except for the “almost” in the final paragraph. There’s no “almost” about it … free-riding on teachers is an operational feature of a system imported from Prussia, designed to produce cheap, obedient labor by underpaying women. As of 2012, teachers would need to make around 1/3 higher salaries to be paid on the same level as their professional peers. Everyone mentioned in the article is simply this generation’s enactment of the long-standing, systemic class war that preys on gender and race to continue and exacerbate inequity. While naming the current situation is very important, we also need to discuss, address, and shift these deep issues.

*It’s the boiled frog effect over the last 50 years that began as a response to mini-courses, sixties curriculum, obsession over college attendance, professors and teachers walking out to protest with their students, Viet Nam… and the Civil Rights Act. Since 1964, Intentional segregation influenced Local, state, and federal decision making on transportation, health care, insurance, zoning, housing, education funding, hiring, and more. When whites fled the cities and insured two sides of the tracks in towns and two systems evolved, quick fixes became that accumulation of bad decisions and leadership – and slowly, slowly, deterioration became acceptable.

*The list is not dated. It’s illustrative of the accumulation of negativity, quick-fix seeking, acronym-filled, snake-oil salesmen, desperate mayors and governors, obsession with rankings, publisher fixation on common core, NCLB votes hidden under the shadow of 9/11, and keep-everyone-happy state and national professional organizations.

*At the end of 2021 it is far right and left of politics and their rhetoric like CRT and homophobic slurs. So much for especially the “Christian Right.” In their god’s (yes lower case since not The Lord Jesus Christ’s New Testament words of love) name they exclude instead of include to share the good news/word.

*Data, data, data. Yesterday, I commented that I feel sympathetic toward the anti-CRT petitioners. I do. They’re not bad people. They’re just afraid of changing social rules. Their actions are demoralizing, but not dehumanizing. Wealthy corporations and individuals on the other hand , through their untaxed foundations, gave carrots to governments the world over to give the stick to education so that greater profits could be made through privatization and data monetizing. I was once called a 2. I was once labeled the color grey. I was numbered, dehumanized by test score data in an attempt to make education like Uber or Yelp. Not just demoralized, dehumanized. It’s not just who but what dehumanized teachers. It was the wrongheaded idea that education can be measured and sold by the unit. That idea was insidious. The marketing ploy to make my students into consumers who consider their efforts junk unless they are labeled with the right number or dashboard color was insidious. I have no sympathy for the investor class. They are not people with whom I disagree about social issues; they are hostile, corporate takeover wolves out to tear the flesh of the formerly middle and deeply impoverished classes for profit. Not one of the investors in education “reform” or any of their revolving door bureaucrats is any friend of mine. The list of who is long. The list of what is short.

*Jonah Edelman (Founder, Stand on Children); brother Josh Edelman (Gates Foundation: Empowering-?!–Effective Teaching; SEED Charter Schools); Charles & David Koch. Pear$on Publishing monopoly&, of course, ALEC (interfering in our business for FIFTY long years!)

After the inspiring teachers’ strike in 2019, which closed every public school in the state, the billionaire Governor Jim Justice of West Virginia promised to veto any charter school legislation. He lied. The legislation passed, and the Governor signed it.

The state established a state charter board, which proceeded to award seven charters, mostly to a for-profit charter corporation that manages low-performing charters in Ohio.

But a county judge stopped the clock by issuing an injunction to halt the new charter schools.

A Kanawha County judge has temporarily blocked five public charter schools from opening in West Virginia.

Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey granted a preliminary injunction Monday sought by parents and education union members.

They filed a lawsuit against Gov. Jim Justice and leaders of the state Senate and House.

In the suit, the plaintiffs claim residents should be able to weigh in on any charter school established in their county.

They are challenging the authority of the Professional Charter Schools Board, a group that has its members appointed by the governor.

Last month, the board approved charter schools in Morgantown, Nitro and in Jefferson County, along with two online charter schools.

The judge outlined her logic in granting the temporary injunction.

“The plain language of Article 10, Section 12 of our state constitution provides that no independent school district or organization shall hereafter be created except with the consent of the school district or districts, out of which the same is created, expressed by a majority of the voters voting on the question,” Bailey said.

One of the arguments in the lawsuit was that the transfer of the student – and the tax money that goes with that student – is the same thing as creating an independent school district, and there is a specific prohibition against that in the state constitution – unless there is a public vote.

The two parents bringing suit are members of the American Federation of Teachers union.

“It is unconstitutional to create a new school system within our current school system and that’s what this bill seems to do,” AFT-WV President Fred Albert said.

After some county school boards voted no to approving a charter school in their areas, lawmakers created the Professional Charter Schools Board, which could OK charter schools without a county school board’s approval.

State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said the injunction is wrong because acts of the Legislature are presumed to be constitutional and because the parents should have sued the charter school board not the governor and legislators. He said he will seek relief from the state Supreme Court.

In 1996, a group of Black and Hispanic teachers sued the City of New York for requiring them to pass tests that were, they said, racially discriminatory and not relevant to their work. The city will be required to pay nearly $600 million to the 350 plaintiffs, a sum that might rise to nearly $2 billion. The state was dropped from the lawsuit in 2006, even though it imposed the tests as requirements on the city.

A massive decades-long lawsuit against New York City over the use of two teaching certification tests is winding to a conclusion, with nearly $660 million and pension benefits in damages awarded to plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit claiming the tests were discriminatory against Black and Latino teachers and prevented them from achieving full seniority, pay and benefits.

The city could be further liable for hundreds of millions of dollars more in damages yet to be determined, with an estimated maximum payout of about $1.8 billion for the 4,700 plaintiffs in the Gulino v Board of Education class action suit — in what city officials say is the highest amount of damages that New York City has ever paid.

In 1996, three teachers filed the lawsuit against the city and state education departments, claiming that the mandated certification tests—the National Teacher Examination (NTE) and its successor the Liberal Arts & Sciences Test (LAST)—had a “disparate impact on African-American and Latino test takers.”

White test-takers passed the tests 83.7% of the time while Black test takers passed at 43.9% and Latino test takers passed at 40.3% of the time, according to the complaint.

No matter what subject a New York City teacher taught—whether it was preschool, special education, or athletics—they were required to pass these certification tests, which have been described as covering “scientific, mathematical, and technological processes; historical and social scientific awareness; artistic expression and the humanities; communication and research skills; and written analysis and expression.”

“The test obviously didn’t test anything relevant to the jobs that people were doing or being hired to do. But the city used it in many cases to demote people,” said Joshua Sohn, the plaintiffs’ lead lawyer.

Teachers who didn’t pass were paid less, denied full pension, and many were relegated to substitute status, according to a court brief filed with the Second Circuit of Appeals in 2007: “Even though they never achieved a passing score on the LAST, many teachers continued teaching full-time in the City’s schools for many years, albeit at salaries well below that of their certified colleagues. And those teachers who ultimately achieved a passing score, remained at a salary step level far below that of their colleagues with equivalent seniority in the City school system. In practice then, the City and State used the LAST not to determine whether teachers should be allowed to teach, but rather to determine their level of compensation and benefits.”

Governor Gregg Abbott wants to win the competition to be the most immoral, dishonest, loathsome, and extremist Governor in the nation.

Pastor Charles Foster Johnson, leader of Pastors for Texas Children, called out Abbott for his latest, most disgusting ploy.

Pastor Johnson writes:

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued not one but two letters this month calling for Texas public schools to “ensure no child is exposed to pornography or other inappropriate content.”

The first letter on Nov. 1 to the Texas Association of School Boards stated that “Texas public schools should not provide or promote pornographic or obscene materials to students,” and that “the organization’s members have an obligation to determine the extent to which such materials exist or are used in our schools and to remove any such content.”

Dan Troxel, executive director of the Texas Association of School Boards, responded in a Nov. 3 letter reminding the governor that his organization “has no regulatory authority over school districts and does not set the standards for instructional materials, including library books. Rather, we are a private, nonprofit membership organization focused on supporting school governance and providing cost-effective services to school districts.”

Charles Foster Johnson

Furthermore, Troxel took the opportunity to give the governor a civics lesson, informing him that the responsibility for the review of schoolbooks and materials belongs to the State Board of Education and the Texas Education Association — two organizations over which the governor himself has responsibility and authority. Both organizations are led by individuals appointed by Greg Abbott.

Presumably now embarrassed, but not to be outdone, Abbott then issued a second letter to the two bodies his appointees oversee, instructing them “to immediately develop statewide standards to prevent the presence of pornography and other obscene content in Texas public schools, including in school libraries.”

Instead of apologizing for his error in misidentifying the role of the Texas Association of School Boards, the governordoubled down on his attack on them, saying “Instead of addressing the concerns of parents and shielding Texas children from pornography in public schools, the Texas Association of School Boards has attempted to wash its hands clean of the issue by abdicating any and all responsibility in the matter. Given this negligence, the State of Texas now calls on you to do what the Texas Association of School Boards refuses to do.”

What is going on here? Why, after seven years of gubernatorial tenure, is Greg Abbott now launching a crusade against public school books? If the governor believed our Texas public schools were teaching objectionable material, why didn’t he address the issue years ago? Why is he only now concerned about it?

Here’s why: Greg Abbott knows it is open season on public schools in our current political climate, and he is cynical enough to capitalize on every single misconception of it.

“Greg Abbott knows it is open season on public schools in our current political climate, and he is cynical enough to capitalize on every single misconception of it.”

Abbott faces not one but two opponents in the upcoming primary elections next spring, former State Sen. Don Huffines of Dallas and former U.S. Congressman and state Republican Party chairman Allen West of Garland. Both are rightwing firebrands who constantly question Abbott’s conservative credentials and bona fides. And his own lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, continues to pressure Abbott from the far right.

Nothing like a good old-fashioned book ban to throw some red meat to his right flank.

With the rampant COVID chaos afflicting our nation at this time came opportunity for well-funded forces of confusion to wreak their havoc on our most cherished institutions, including medicine, science and education

In September 2020, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, right, listens to Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, left, during a news conference where they provided an update to Texas’ response to COVID-19. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

This is what spawned the national meltdown over so-called Critical Race Theory alleged to be taught in our public schools. When cooler heads finally prevailed, one could hardly find a K-12 public educator who knew what Critical Race Theory was, much less committed to teach it. But that didn’t prevent national fringe organizations from funding the disinformation campaign against our public schools on the basis of it.

What resulted was trumped up legislation all over the country, including Texas, that was designed to put a chilling effect on any content or curriculum that addressed complex issues of race and our country’s sordid history surrounding it. Abbott and his counterpart, Lt. Gov. Patrick, pushed such a bogus bill in Texas, and it passed.

But with the 2022 election season upon us, and with chaos and confusion on the winning ticket, why let clarity and calm prevail? Having wielded the ruse of reverse racism so effectively, Abbott reached into the demagogue’s favorite bag of tricks again and found — voila! — that old saw of adolescent sexuality as his next contraption of chaos.

“Abbott reached into the demagogue’s favorite bag of tricks again and found — voila! — that old saw of adolescent sexuality as his next contraption of chaos.”

Anyone with a lick of sense knows we have long-established and effective safeguards to prevent inappropriate content in local public schools. With such content readily available on the world wide web, child protection is one of the main responsibilities of our public educators, and they discharge this moral duty with astonishing distinction.

Pastors for Texas Children sees through this stunt. We are not amused.

To imply that our public schools are centers of pornography and our educators purveyors of smut is a devil’s lie. Greg Abbott knows it. And does it anyway.

Here is the real moral crisis: The highest office in our land advancing his political ambition on the backs of dedicated, deeply moral public school teachers, who work hard all day at low pay in the work of love for our children, most of whom are poor. It is beyond cynical. It is morally reprehensible.

The de rigueur political attack on public education is based on lies. Our children suffer from it. We must find the moral courage to stop it now.

Charles Foster Johnson is founder and executive director of Pastors for Children.

Dan Greenberg is a teacher in Ohio and a member of the board of the Network for Public Education. He teaches high school English in Sylvania, in the northwest of the state.

Here he writes about the power of teachers, who are trusted by parents and the community to refute slanders about their schools.

He writes:

About a week before the November 2nd election, a colleague of mine sent me a picture of a campaign literature piece supporting candidates for school board in my community.

“Kids and Taxpayers FIRST! Keep ‘Woke’ politics out of our classrooms.”

The postcard was paid for by the NW Ohio Coalition for Public School Excellence, a group that was not only supporting conservative candidates in my community, but a neighboring community, with the exact same yard signs just different names.

Not to be outdone, the Northwest Ohio Conservative Coalition blanketed voters in my school district with robo-call messages telling voters to support the conservative candidates and “…keep woke politics out of the classroom.” The calls seem to go out indiscriminately; even the President of Democratic Club in my community received one.

These campaign tactics, filled with lies about schools teaching Critical Race Theory, had an interesting impact. I don’t know how much they motivated conservatives to head to the polls, but the group I saw them motivate most was the teachers. At a time when teachers are emotionally and physically exhausted, when they seem to be focused on making it through one day at a time, these campaign lies seemed to tap some reserve of strength and energy teachers did not know they had. Teachers started posting to social media, pushing back on the CRT lies. They started posting images of the four teacher union-endorsed candidates on their Facebook pages. They sent text messages to friends and family with the names of the teacher-endorsed candidates. One teacher even wrote a message across the entire back window of her van (in excellent teacher handwriting) telling community members to support teachers by voting for our endorsed candidates.

On November 2nd, as results came in the teacher-supported candidates were leading, and in the end, the four candidates in the two districts who were coming to the school boards with a priority of taking on “Woke politics” and Critical Race Theory lost.

The campaign money, the campaign literature, the yard signs, the robo calls… they could not beat the voice of teachers and the voice of truth.

A wave of labor activism is underway. Amazon workers in Staten Island in New York City are trying to organizing a union. Bloomberg News reports:

Deere & Co. employees, who launched a 10,000-person strike Oct. 14, cited the mandatory overtime that can stretch their shifts to 12 hours. At Kellogg Co., the union went on strike this month after decrying the toll of seven-day workweeks that had kept cereal flowing to stuck-at-home customers during the pandemic. And at Frito-Lay Inc., workers have this year challenged what they called“suicide shifts”: being made to leave late and return early, with only eight hours of turnaround time in between.

Scranton teachers announced their decision to strike on November 3.

SCRANTON, Pa.—The Scranton Federation of Teachers, which represents more than 800 teachers and paraprofessionals, announced today that it will set up picket lines and go on strike at 12:01 a.m., Nov. 3. The union has been working under a contract that expired in 2017.

“We’ve reached the end of the line and our patience with the Scranton School District. The district has refused to address our concerns about the slash-and-burn budget cuts that are significantly affecting the quality of education,” said Scranton Federation of Teachers President Rosemary Boland. “Strikes are always the last resort. We held off for many months, hoping, in vain, we could agree on conditions that are good for kids and provide decency, fairness, respect and trust for our educators.”

Boland expressed optimism that new members will be elected to the Scranton School Board on Nov. 2 and that the needs of students and educators finally will be prioritized.

SFT gave the district more than the required 48 hours’ notice before starting a strike. Picket lines will begin early Wednesday morning on Nov. 3 at most schools.

Teachers and paraprofessionals want realistic solutions to reversing the teacher turnover crisis; raising educator pay that has been frozen since 2016; returning Scranton’s esteemed and essential preschool program; and restoring libraries, bus routes and electives such as consumer[LBC1] science and music.

The austerity budget that is starving Scranton classrooms of the necessary resources, coupled with the administration’s disrespect for teachers, are issues reminiscent of what led to the walkouts in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado and Chicago in 2018 and 2019, SFT said.

“Teachers and paraprofessionals don’t want to walk out, but they will when their students’ needs are ignored and schools are starved of resources,” Boland said.

Scranton public schools are operating under a state Recovery Plan, which is akin to a state takeover.

“The Recovery Plan prioritizes financial recovery over student achievement, balancing the budget on the backs of students. Yet the plan has not been amended to factor in the $60 million in federal aid that should be used to stabilize the district and pay teachers decent, competitive wages,” she said, noting that the Recovery Plan originally factored in the use of “windfall funds,” such as federal aid when defining “recovery.”

“Since the recovery plan began in 2019, more than 100 teachers and paras have left the district, demonstrating a serious recruitment and retention problem that has harmful ramifications for students,” she said. Classes are severely overcrowded. Special education students are not being served adequately because teachers are pulled into other classrooms. Students aren’t getting individualized attention. In the COVID-19 environment, overcrowded classrooms pose a health hazard.

Boland said teachers and paraprofessionals deserve a pay raise. Teachers have not received a raise for more than four years, which has prompted many of the teacher defections to other school districts. Several paraprofessionals were furloughed, only to be brought back at a lower salary after public outrage. The district also is insistent on an inferior health scheme that would directly impact the Scranton community, as they are still dealing with the impact of COVID-19, the union said.

“It’s time for a contract that’s good for students and fair to educators,” Boland said.

State Senator Lincoln Fillmore is very worried about the teaching of “critical race theory,” although there is no evidence that anyone is teaching it in Utah schools. He is calling for a law requiring social studies teachers to post their daily lesson plans online, so parents and other concerned members of the community can scrutinize them. Teachers are rightly furious.

A Utah lawmaker wants to require that all materials for social science classes in K-12 be vetted and posted online for parents to review in advance — and teachers are pushing back.

Educators say the proposal shows a lack of trust in their judgment. They call it micromanaging. Some argue that it will hamper their ability to teach students about what’s happening in the world in real time. One called it a “classic witch hunt.”

“The ‘witches’ are social studies teachers who dare discuss current events,” said Deborah Gatrell, a teacher at Hunter High in Granite School District, in a post about her concerns.

The controversial idea comes Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, as a continuation of the effort by conservative Utah leaders to control what’s being taught about history in the classroom. Fillmore was also the Senate sponsor on the bill last session that banned discussion of critical race theory in public schools in the state.

Steven Singer is a veteran teacher in Pennsylvania. In this post, he offers five ways to slow the teacher exodus.

He begins:

As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, schools across the United States are on the brink of collapse.

There is a classroom teacher shortage.

There is a substitute teacher shortage.

There is a bus driver shortage.

There is a special education aide shortage.

The people we depend on to staff our public schools are running away in droves.

It’s a clear supply and demand issue that calls for deep structural changes.

However, it’s not really new. We’ve needed better compensation and treatment of school employees for decades, but our policymakers have been extremely resistant to do anything about it.

Instead, they’ve given away our tax dollars to corporations through charter and voucher school initiatives. They’ve siphoned funding to pay for more standardized testing, teaching to the test, and ed tech software.

But the people who actually do the work of educating our youth. We’ve left them out in the cold.

Now with the smoldering pandemic and increased impacts on the health, safety and well-being of teachers and other staff, the exodus has merely intensified.

Frankly, I’m not holding my breath for lawmakers to finally get off their collective asses.

We need a popular, national movement demanding action from our state and federal governments. However, in the meantime, there are several things our local school districts can do to stem the tide of educators fleeing the profession.

These are simple, cheap and common sense methods to encourage teachers to stay in the classroom and weather the storm.

However, let me be clear. None of these can solve the problem, alone. And even ALL of these will not stop the long-term flight of educators from our schools without better salaries and treatment.

To read his five proposals, open the link.

Peter Smagorinsky is a Distinguished Research Professor of English Education, emeritus, at the University of Georgia. He taught in K-12 classrooms for 14 years before becoming a teacher educator. This column that he wrote appeared on Maureen Downey’s blog “Get Schooled” at the Atlanta Journal.

He begins:

The AJC Get Schooled Blog is one of many this fall in which educational stakeholders have asked, Would you recommend a teaching career to young people? Even school administrators are wondering, Who would want to be a teacher right now?

Most of the concern around this question relates to the potential deadliness of school buildings and classrooms, the absence of teachers in decision-making during the pandemic, the hostility of the public toward teachers who have no control over their work conditions, the callousness of school board members who remain aloof from danger while requiring others to risk their lives, the politicization of science at the expense of reality, the meddling of politicians who know nothing about either health or education, and more additional challenges than I can list in a single column.

And that’s just the health crisis.

Teachers can be punished for mentioning the historical fact there is racism in the United States, and that it’s built into institutions. They are being told to do more with less, an administrative bromide that has never been based in reality. They are required to maintain curricular schedules in the face of spotty attendance, greater worries than diagramming sentences, community environments saturated in grief, their own families’ health concerns, and many other social challenges.

He goes on to ask: Who would want to be a school bus driver? Who would want to be a sub? Who would want to be a school administrator? Who would want to be a school board member?

Open the link and read his column.

It might help to remember that the Koch network and other rightwing foundations are funding the attacks on public schools as part of their effort to discredit them and promote privatization.