Archives for category: Unions

The United Teachers of Los Angeles is militantly fighting back against the privatizers who are attacking public schools and seek to divert public money to charters and vouchers. The UTLA embodies Resistance to privatization and to those who oppose full funding of Los Angeles’ public schools.

UTLA has created a billboard portraying the “Corporate Special Interests Vs. Our Public Schools.”

Open the link to see the billboard.

The billboard portrays Donald Trump, Betsy DeVos, and others who are undermining the funding of public schools attended by the majority of students.

Los Angeles— United Teachers Los Angeles has launched a new phase of the “We Are Public Schools” campaign that includes more than 75 billboards across LA. One billboard features Donald Trump and posted the same day he attacked teachers and called public schools “failed government schools” in his State of the Union speech.

The billboard, overlooks Highway 5 heading into downtown LA – one of the most viewed billboards in the country. It shines a light on Trump and those who are trying to buy our elections, divide our schools into winners and losers, and take important funding away from our neighborhood public schools.

“Billionaires and corporate special interests are not a part of our school communities, yet they have an undue influence on our elections and the direction of our neighborhood public schools,” said Kimberly Hinkston, an early childhood educator at Wilton Place Early Education Center. “It’s time to stand up against privatization and vote for the needs of our communities over the politics of fear and hate.”

Dozens of other billboards highlight the needs of our students and real-life stories of UTLA members — including classroom teachers, arts teachers, teacher librarians, nurses, counselors, psychiatric social workers, pupil services and attendance counselors, academic counselors as well as adult and bilingual education professionals. Read more at www.WeArePublicSchools.org

UTLA is also calling on our communities to elect truly pro-public education candidates on March 3 to the LAUSD School Board and support Jackie Goldberg in BD5, Patricia Castellanos in BD7, Scott Schmerelson in BD5 and George McKenna in BD1. These candidates will stand with L.A. students, parents and educators to defend our schools against the corporate charter industry.

We know that 40 years of privatization schemes and disinvestment in public education cannot be fixed overnight or with one strike. That’s why UTLA is back at the bargaining table now for more special education staffing and support, including lower caseloads and more school psychologists; more resources for bilingual education; a fair and competitive salary for educators; and increased mental health staffing and resources for all students. California is the wealthiest state in the nation yet ranks 39th out of 50 in per-pupil funding.

Those who are trying to attack public education and who are featured in the Trump billboard are:

Donald Trump: Most dangerous President in modern history. In his State of the Union on Feb. 4, Trump declared war on public schools and says he wants more taxpayer money to fund privatization and voucher schemes. He continues his destructive, racist polices and attacks on women, immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ+ and our most vulnerable communities.

Betsy DeVos:  In her role as the secretary of the Department of Education, she calls American public schools a “dead end.” In 2018 DeVos cut federal funding of public education by $9 billion, at the same time, allocating $440 million to the Charter Schools Program which also subsidizes school vouchers.

Rob Walton: The 17th richest person in the world and has an estimated net worth of $53 billion. The Walton Foundation is the single largest private funder of charter schools and vouchers in the US. In just 2018 alone, the Walton Foundation spent $210 million to fight unions and promote privatization of our public schools.

Ben Austin: Lead strategist in the war against public education in LA and lobbyist for California Charter Schools Association. In a leaked confidential memo, sent 6 days after UTLA’s successful strike, Austin lays out a plan to buy the LAUSD School Board election, sue LAUSD in order to “trump district policy and even UTLA contract rights” and “rebrand education reform as progressive” by “funding Black and Latino civil rights and community groups.”

Bill Bloomfield. Conservative businessman has funneled more than $500,000 in a smear campaign against Jackie Goldberg in BD 5. Bloomfield, also supporting CCSA candidates in BD 3 and BD 7. He also funneled $3.5 million into a failed campaign to elect Marshall Tuck as State Superintendent.

Robert Gutierrez: In his role as the president & CEO of the California Taxpayers Association, has funneled $139,000 to oppose the ballot initiative Schools and Communities First which would bring in much-needed funding to our public schools; continues to spread lies and misinformation about SCF in order to protect wealthy corporations from paying their fair share in taxes.

Maria Salinas: In her role as the president & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, vehemently opposed Measure EE, which would have brought in $500 million in much-needed money to our classrooms.

 

Reclaim Board of Ed political Disclaimer
Ad paid for by Students, Parents and Educators in Support of Castellanos, Goldberg, McKenna, and Schmerelson for School Board 2020, Sponsored by Teachers Unions, Including United Teachers Los Angeles. Committee major funding from: Political Action Council of Educators – United Teachers Los Angeles American Federation of Teachers Solidarity Committee

National Education Association Advocacy Fund

This ad was not authorized by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate.

 

 

Despite my ongoing struggle to overcome the remnants of the flu, I managed to get through an event last night with the United Educators of San Francisco. I have become very comfortable with a new format, in which I don’t give a speech but instead engage in conversation with the interlocutor. Last night, my partner was Susan Solomon, the union president. I learned from her about the difficulty that teachers have affording a place to live in one of the nation’s most expensive cities. A one-bedroom apartment typically costs about $3,500 a month, she said. Most teachers have long commutes, and many move to districts where living costs are affordable.

Teachers in San Francisco seem hopeful, as they enter contract negotiations, because the elected school board has their back. The board banned TFA because it did not want a continuing influx of inexperienced, unprepared teachers to instruct the highest-needs students. The district has few charters and doesn’t want more. What it wants is more funding from the state. Even though California is one of the richest states in the nation, its per-pupil spending is about at the national median, or somewhat below. Last year when I checked, I found that California’s per-pupil funding on par with South Carolina.

As you walk through this affluent, booming city, it’s hard to understand why its schools are underfunded. Its teacher salaries are “high” compared to poor states, but the cost of living is sky-high.

I especially enjoyed meeting school board member Alison Collins, who worked closely with Julian Vasquez Heilig and Roxana Marachi, both NPE board members, to support the NAACP call for a charter moratorium in 2016. She is a dynamo.

The weather in San Francisco was picture-perfect. Sunny, in the 60s. Perfect for everything. One morning we took the trip to Alcatraz, “the Rock.” The weather and the boat trip were delightful. I found the historic prison very depressing. Men trapped for years in squalid little cells. The pervasive sense of hopelessness, rage, and despair lingered in the air.

Andy Stern was once a powerful labor leader as head of the SEIU (Service Employees International Union). Since stepping down, however, he has turned against the movement he once led and is an outspoken foe of teachers’ unions. He even joined the board of the Broad Foundation, which is anti-union and anti-public school. I don’t know Stern, but I have seen one article that describes his change of views.

Stern developed a reputation as a business-friendly union leader, known for striking deals with companies that were often seen as too weak by many in the labor movement. Under the guise of modernization and growth, Stern seemed to lose his connection to the grassroots, radical, people-powered aspects of the union world. In 2010, The Nation quoted one union leader as saying, “Andy Stern leaves pretty much without a friend in the labor movement.”

His post-SEIU years have only intensified this feeling. Stern has spent the past decade serving on corporate boards, touting the idea of a universal basic incomeas an economic solution superior to building labor power, and further ingratiating himself to corporate America as a sort of post-union ambassador to the Aspen Institute world. He also took a seat on the board of the Broad Foundation, a billionaire-funded group that pushed charter schools—raising eyebrows from teacher’s unions, who are often cast as the villain by wealthy reformers seeking to build alternatives to America’s public education system.

Of course, he is not the only labor leader who flipped to the other side. George Parker was president of the Washington, D.C., teachers union at the time when Michelle Rhee became chancellor and started her famous campaign to crack down on teachers. At the end of his term in 2011, he teamed up with Rhee and spoke out against the same issues he had once championed. He went to work for Rhee’s StudentsFirst and joined her campaign for charters, vouchers, merit pay, and test-based evaluation. Now he works with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Paul Toner was vice-president, then president of the Massachusetts Teachers Union from 2006 to 2014. After his term ended, he joined the “reform” movement, as a Pahara-Aspen Institute Fellow, a graduate of the Broad Academy,  and currently executive director of the Gates-funded Teach Plus, which is generally pro-testing and anti-union (its CEO is John B. King Jr. and its board includes DFER favorite, former Congressman George Miller). For criticism, see here and here.

In 2011, Sam Dillon of the New York Times called out TeachPlus for its role in pushing through policies in state legislatures that Gates favored, but unions did not. Dillon was one of the first journalists to realize that Gates was creating Astroturf groups to advance his agenda:

INDIANAPOLIS — A handful of outspoken teachers helped persuade state lawmakers this spring to eliminate seniority-based layoff policies. They testified before the legislature, wrote briefing papers and published an op-ed article in The Indianapolis Star.

They described themselves simply as local teachers who favored school reform — one sympathetic state representative, Mary Ann Sullivan, said, “They seemed like genuine, real people versus the teachers’ union lobbyists.” They were, but they were also recruits in a national organization, Teach Plus, financed significantly by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

For years, Bill Gates focused his education philanthropy on overhauling large schools and opening small ones. His new strategy is more ambitious: overhauling the nation’s education policies. To that end, the foundation is financing educators to pose alternatives to union orthodoxies on issues like the seniority system and the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers.

In some cases, Mr. Gates is creating entirely new advocacy groups. The foundation is also paying Harvard-trained data specialists to work inside school districts, not only to crunch numbers but also to change practices. It is bankrolling many of the Washington analysts who interpret education issues for journalists and giving grants to some media organizations.

Toner was succeeded at the Massachusetts Teachers Association by firebrand Barbara Madeloni, who led the successful fight to block a Walton-funded referendum in Massachusetts in 2016 to stop charter school expansion.

Just last year, Madeloni wrote an article about Toner’s switching sides. She writes that as soon as someone becomes a union president, he or she is offered the “soft handshake” by corporate and political leaders who want to woo them to the other side. She wrote:

As an elected leader of the largest union in Massachusetts, I found myself with many invitations to meet and cut deals with the very people whose policies the members opposed.

I wasn’t elected to get a better bad deal. I was elected to refuse their deals and reestablish the power of educators, students, and families.

Everyone has a right to change his or her mind. I did it myself. Still, I was not the leader of an organization; I was an individual who said, “I was wrong.” I admit that I don’t entirely understand how someone goes from being the president of a labor union to opposing the people they previously represented. 

 

 

 

This is the most curious news story of the week, written by the GoLocalProv News Team.”*

It says that the fate of the reform of the Providence public schools lies in the hands of the Providence Teachers Union, led by Maribeth Calabro; she, the story warns, may be able to veto the new state commissioner’s  plans to transform the Providence public schools. It does not mention that the state commissioner taught for two years in New York City as a fast-tracked Teach for America teacher, has no prior experience as either a school principal or superintendent and has kept her plans to transform the district a deep secret.

But here is where the article goes strange.

In 2011, newly-elected Providence Mayor Angel Taveras fired all the teachers in Providence — it was a big and bold decision, and it was reversed within days.

Not too many politicians, especially Democrats. will take on teachers unions in this country and especially in the heavily union-based Rhode Island.

The action in 2011 drew national attention. In a statement, the American Federation of Teachers national President Randi Weingarten called the decision “stunning,” especially given that the union and city “have been working collaboratively on a groundbreaking, nationally recognized school transformation model.”

“We looked up ‘flexibility’ in the dictionary, and it does not mean destabilizing education for all students in Providence or taking away workers’ voice or rights,” said Weingarten, whose organization includes 1.5 million teachers and staff. “Mass firings, whether in one school or an entire district, are not fiscally or educationally sound.”

Well, the teachers union claim that Providence Schools were a ‘transformational model’ did not prove to be correct. Providence Schools are considered to be among the worst in America.

Infante-Green has said she believes she has the power to “break contracts.” 

The News Team seems to believe that firing all the teachers in the district is a “big and bold” idea that is worth a try. The mayor wanted to do it in 2011, but the union got in his way.

Apparently the News Team wants the state commissioner to fire all the teachers now and is egging her on to do so.

Exactly how will that improve the district?

Exactly how will that affect morale?

Who will want to teach in a district where teachers are disposable, like tissues?

Will Teach for America supply the new teachers after the existing workforce has been fired? Will they agree to stay longer than two years?

Where is the evidence that firing all the teachers is good for students?

*The original version of this post misattributed the article to the Providence Journal, which is owned by Gatehouse Media.

 

Jennifer Berkshire writes in The Nation about the quandary of Democratic candidates. For years, charter schools had bipartisan support. Clinton and Obama both supported charter schools, and joined with Republicans to expand the federal Charter Schools Program, which is now the single biggest source of funding for charter schools at $440 million annually (the second biggest source is the Walton Family Foundation).

Then came the Trump administration and Betsy DeVos, with their full-throated advocacy for school choice, including vouchers. In red states like Ohio, voucher programs are exploding, and Democrats are pushing back against school choice. They are also pushing back against charter schools, as we saw in Kentucky and Virginia, where pro-public education governors were elected.

Meanwhile, the current crop of Democratic candidates are weaving and bobbing. Sanders and Warren have come out against charter schools and privatization. Other candidates are trying to thread the needle, not fully rejecting charter schools, but opposing “for-profit” charter schools (which are legal only in Arizona, but are found in almost every state with charters that are managed by for-profit EMO managers).

Berkshire begins:

When seven of the Democratic presidential candidates descended on Pittsburgh recently for a day-long forum on public education, one of Pennsylvania’s unlikeliest new political stars was on hand to greet them. Working Families Party candidate Kendra Brooks, a black single mom from North Philly, won an at-large seat on the Philadelphia City Council this fall, stunning the political establishment. At the heart of Brooks’s insurgent campaign was her resistance to Philadelphia’s two-decade-long experiment with school privatization, including the explosion of charter schools and the mass closure of neighborhood schools. “If we as community members don’t commit to this public institution that we fought so hard for generations ago, we’re going to lose control of it,” says Brooks.

Her message resonated with Philly’s voters, and thrilled the audience of teachers and activists who were on hand in Pittsburgh to hear a long list of presidential hopefuls weigh in on the future of the country’s schools. But just outside of the convention center, on a rain-slicked plaza, the resistance to the Democrats’ leftward swing on education was on vivid display. Over 100 charter school parents, part of the same school choice network that disrupted an Elizabeth Warren campaign event last month, came armed with a message of their own: Black Democrats support charter schools.

Welcome to the Democrats’ school choice wars. For the last three decades, charter schools have attracted bipartisan love, amassing an unlikely—and unwieldy—amalgam of supporters along the way: GOP free marketeers, civil rights advocates, ‘third way’ Democrats, and hedge fund billionaires. But in an era of fierce political partisanship, that coalition is now unraveling.

Progressive Democrats recognize that charters are a step towards vouchers and are fully a part of the DeVos crusade to eliminate public schools. We will watch to see what happens to the other candidates.

And we will also watch as DeVos hands out yet another $440 million to corporate charter chains, charter advocacy organizations, and even to states that don’t want the money (see New Hampshire and Michigan, both of which said they did not want more money for charter schools).

We now know that the core constituency for charters and vouchers are Wall Street financiers, hedge fund managers, billionaires, libertarians, right-wingers, ALEC, and the far-right. Where do Democrats fit into this coalition?

 

Jesse Sharkey is president of the Chicago Teachers Union.

 

Diane-

Last week, schools across the country sat through the most recent episode of a show that jumped the shark years ago: “Test Score Blues.” This particular episode featured the release of Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) scores showing that the U.S. wasn’t at the top (again) of national rankings. Of course, the test itself doesn’t matter. The performative outrage that follows is the main event, headlined by predictable hand-wringing editorials about how schools need to do better.

Those editorials don’t address the massive increase in student poverty across the country, or discuss any history since the Coleman Report in 1966 showed that poverty and segregation have horrific negative impacts. They also don’t examine the more recent history of constant educational social experiments in places like Englewood’s Hope High School, which Chicago Public Schools plans to close after years of neglect.

CPS has, in fact, been ground zero for testing mania. The district labels schools according to those tests via the School Quality Rating Policy (SQRP), the so-called standard of school comparisons that is the basis for principal evaluations and is two-thirds based on test scores in elementary schools. Poverty isn’t included. A school’s suite of art offerings isn’t included. A school’s curriculum, debate program or robotics team isn’t included. Faulty school “quality” metrics like the SQRP reinforce continued tests through perverse incentives that legitimize gaming of the system to goose test scores, but lose focus on things that matter.

It’s clear why teachers across the country have gone on strike after strike after strike, and that’s to save one of our country’s hallmark institutions: public education. The way forward is to invest in public education. Ensure that schools have sufficient revenue and distribute it to those most in need; ensure that every school has a social worker and a nurse; ensure that students with special needs have appropriate staff to meet those needs; ensure that class sizes are developmentally appropriate; and ensure that students have arts curriculum and sports and other extracurricular programs that teach creativity and collaboration.

Teaching to the test does not work. Well-rounded curriculum, hands-on experiential learning, proper nutrition and exercise, and positive and loving schools do work, but they aren’t counted so they don’t count, according to CPS. The district instead looks to SQRP, which relies on metrics like test scores, attendance and school culture surveys that directly harm our most vulnerable students—including students in poverty, students in unstable housing arrangements, students with disabilities and students learning English as a second language.

The fact that test scores are stagnant, or growing in some places, is incredible given that students—especially those in Chicago—come to school with more challenges: language, trauma, malnutrition, and a lack of physical and mental health care. We accept sports teams that intentionally lose so they can improve in the future, but schools that give their all for students in the face of great obstacles are punished for not churning out the same student “product” as schools with fewer challenges. This is backwards, and presents an obstacle to school districts making better decisions.

Our union will continue to push the district to abolish the SQRP system, and abolish all measures that have adverse affects on students in high-poverty school communities, special education students, homeless students and refugee/recent immigrant students.

In the end, why does any of this matter? How does an analysis of our PISA scores explain anything? Why is a test score the barometer as opposed to the elimination of illiteracy and poverty, eradication of communicable diseases, and an end to sexual and physical violence?What is this country really doing to help lower-achieving students?

Educators have the answers. Fortunately, for those who get tired of the same old tropes, we are actually good at facilitating learning, and many people—from parents to presidential candidates—are joining us in standing up for what truly matters.

In solidarity,


Jesse Sharkey
CTU President

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Steven Singer participated in the Public Education Forum in Pittsburgh, where the leading Democratic candidates (and a few not-leading candidates) spoke to an audience of teachers, members of civil rights groups, and teacher unionists.

These are his ten take-aways from the day. 

A few highlights:

 

The fact that it happened at all is almost miraculous.

 

Who would have thought Presidential hopefuls would care enough about public schools to address education issues and answer our questions?

 

Who would have thought it would be broadcast live on TV and the Internet?

 

And – come to think of it – who would have EVER thought it would happen in my hometown of Pittsburgh!?
But it did.

 

I was there – along with about 1,500 other education activists, stakeholders and public school warriors from around the country.

 

It was an amazing day which I will never forget.

 

Perhaps the best part was getting to see so many amazing people in one place – and I’m not talking about the candidates.

 

There were members of the Badass Teachers Association, the Network for Public Education, Journey for Justice, One Pennsylvania, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and so many more!

 

I wish I could bottle up that feeling of commitment to our children and hope in the future…

 

Here’s my top 10 most important lessons:

 

1) Charter School Support is Weak

 

When the forum was announced, Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform wrote a blistering memoabout how the charter school community would not put up with politicians listening to constituents critical of their industry. Allen is a far right Republican with close ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) who even used Donald Trump’s public relations firm to publicize her protest. But when we got to the forum, all it amounted to were a dozen folks with matching yellow signs trudging through the rainwho didn’t even stay for the duration of the forum. YAWN! Silly school privatizers, that’s not how you protest!

 

2) Michael Bennet Doesn’t Understand Much About Public Education

 

The Colorado Senator and former school superintendent really doesn’t get a lot of the important issues – even when they intersect his life. As superintendent, he enacted a merit pay initiative for teachers that resulted in a teachers strike. He still doesn’t comprehend why this was a bad idea – that tying teachers salaries to student test scores makes for educators who only teach to the test, that it demands teachers be responsible for things beyond their control, etc. Moreover, he thinks there’s a difference between public and private charter schools – there isn’t. They’re all bankrolled by tax dollars and can be privately operated.

 

But I suppose that doesn’t matter so much because few people know who Michael Bennet is anyway.

 

3) Pete Buttigeig is Too Smart Not to Understand Education – Unless He’s Paid Not to Understand

 

Mayor Pete came off as a very well spoken and intelligent guy. But he also seemed about as credible as wet tissue. He said a bunch of wrongheaded things. For instance, he said that “separate has never, ever been equal,” but he supports charter schools. Separate but equal is their business model.

 

It’s the kind of misunderstanding that only happens on purpose, and it’s not hard to see why. He’s taken so much money from anti-education billionaires like Netflix Founder Reed Hastings, no one else can trust him. How are we supposed to think he works for us when his salary comes from the super rich? You never recover from ignorance when it’s your job to be ignorant.

 

Read the rest of his post to see what he wrote about Warren, Sanders, Steyer, Klobuchar, and Biden.

 

 

 

Hats off to Randi Weingarten and Lily Eskelsen Garcia for organizing today’s MSNBC Public Education Forum!

It was a wonderful event, and it was thrilling to see all of the major Democratic candidates competing to win the support of America’s millions of teachers, vowing their love for teachers and their dedication to public schools.

Best of all was that they all recognized that the United States has been underinvesting in education for years, and they pledged to reverse that policy.

It was wonderful to hear the candidates speak about the importance of public education.

It was good to hear Joe Biden attack standardized testing (he forgot all about Race to the Top, as did everyone else).

I was disappointed that Rehema Ellis of NBC asked almost every candidate about NAEP scores, distorting what they meant. She said that only 1/3 of American students are “proficient” in reading, which is true, but NAEP proficiency is not grade level, it represents mastery. It would be wonderful if every student reached mastery, but that has never happened. As long as she threw it out there, she should have followed it up (or candidates should have followed up) by saying, “Doesn’t this statistic show the failure of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Common Core? Doesn’t it show that two decades of federally mandated reforms have failed? Where do we go from here?”

But the follow-up never happened.

What did happen, though, was that every candidate vied to demonstrate their love for public schools and for teachers and their determination to establish equal opportunity and excellent schools for all.

This was a wonderful balm for the soul after years of nay-saying, nitpicking, and teacher-bashing.

No teacher-bashing today.

Just teacher love.

Respect for the mission of public schools.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

And it sounded wonderful.

 

On November 26, the New York Times published an article that had this headline: ‘Minority Voters Chafe As Democratic Candidates Abandon Charter Schools.’

The point of the article was that many black and Latino families are very disappointed that all the Democratic candidates have turned their backs on charter schools, excepting Cory Booker, currently polling around 1-2%. The article was especially critical of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who have, as the article put it, “vowed to curb charter school growth.”

The article implied that the shift was due to the candidates’ pursuit of the support of the teachers’ unions, and charter schools are mostly non-union. Thus, if you want the union vote, you oppose non-union charters. (In my experience, neither the AFT nor the NEA is anti-charter, since they seek to organize charters to join their unions and have had some modest success; still, about 90% of charters are non-union.)

The article was prompted by an organized disruption of a speech in Atlanta by Elizabeth Warren, who was talking about a washerwomen’s strike in Atlanta in 1881, led by black women. The disruption was led by Howard Fuller, who, as the article notes, has received many millions from rightwing foundations, not only the Waltons but the Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee, to sell vouchers and charters to black families.

Not until paragraph 25 does the article mention that the national NAACP, the nation’s largest organization representing black families, called for a charter moratorium in 2016. That fact alone should raise the question of how representative the protestors are.

I wrote this post about the article. The gist of my complaint was that the Times’ article gave the impression that black and Latino families are clamoring for more charters, when in reality there are many cities in which black and Hispanic families are protesting the destruction of their public schools and the loss of democratic control of their schools.

I questioned why the article relied on a five-year-old press release from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools as evidence for its claim that the “wait list” for charter schools was in the “hundreds of thousands.” Actually, the 2014 press release from the charter advocacy group said the “wait list” topped one million students. My comment was that “wait lists” have never been audited or verified and that a claim by a lobbying group is not evidence.

I added to my post a commentary by Robert Kuttner, the editor of the American Prospect,  who was also critical of the article.

Both Kuttner and I heard from a reporter from the New York Times. In the response posted below, he acknowledges he made an error in citing poll data in the article, without reading the underlying poll.

I heard from one of the writers of the Times article. She said my post had many inaccuracies. I invited her to write a response and promised I would post it in full. I pleaded with her to identify any inaccuracies in my post and said I would issue a correction. She did not send a response that I could post nor a list of my “inaccuracies.”

The Times posted an article last July about the growing backlash against charter schools. But I do not think the Times has exhausted the question of why the charter “movement” is in decline.  It would surely be interesting if the Times wrote a story about why the NAACP took a strong stand against charter expansion, despite the funding behind charters. Or why Black Lives Matter opposes privatization and supports democratic control of schools. Or why black families in Little Rock, Chicago, Houston, and other cities are fighting charter expansion. None of those families are funded by the Waltons, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Charles Koch, or Michael Bloomberg, so they don’t organize buses to take hundreds or thousands of people to demonstrations.

The Times should take note of the fact that white Southern Republicans have made the charter issue their own, and they are using it to recreate segregated schools. Indeed, the Republican party has made charter schools and vouchers the centerpiece of their education agenda, and Democrats in most state legislatures have resisted that agenda and support public schools. There is also the fact that DeVos and Trump are pushing charters and school choice even as they dismantle civil rights protections.

I wish the Times had noticed a court decision in Mississippi a few months ago that upheld the right of the state to take tax money away from the predominantly black public schools of Jackson, Mississippi (which are 96-97% black), and give it to charter schools authorized by the state, not the district. They might note that the sole black justice on the Mississippi Supreme Court, Justice Leslie King, dissented from that decision. The district, under black leadership, fought that decision and lost. The black parents of Jackson, Mississippi, are fighting for adequate funding of their public schools, while the white Republicans in state government are imposing charter schools.

In Justice Leslie King’s dissenting opinion, which Justice James Kitchens joined, he wrote “This Court should not be a rubber stamp for Legislative policies it agrees with when those policies are unconstitutional.”

Public school districts in Mississippi receive local funding from ad valorem tax receipts. When a student enrolls in a charter school, which is a free public school, money that would have gone to the district follows the student to the charter school instead.

My view is that we need a great public school in every neighborhood, with experienced teachers, a full curriculum, a vibrant arts program, a nurse, and all the resources they need for the students they enroll. I think that charter schools should be authorized by districts to meet their needs and supervised by district officials to be sure that there is full transparency and accountability for the academic program, the discipline policies, and the finances. Charter schools should complement public schools, not compete with them or supplant them.

Here is Robert Kuttner’s second commentary on the article:

americanprospect

 

DECEMBER 2, 2019

Kuttner on TAP

Charter Schools and the Times: a Correction and Further Reflections. I made an error in my On Tap post last week on the New York Times feature piece on black public opinion and charter schools.

My post criticized the Times for publishing a page-one story with an exaggerated headline, “Minority Voters Feel Betrayed Over Schools.”

The Times piece cited a poll showing black support for charter schools at 47 percent. My mistake was to infer from this figure that black support and opposition were about equally divided. As one of the story’s authors pointed out in an email, the actual poll showed support at 47 percent, opposition at 29 percent, and no opinion or similar for the rest.

That 29 percent opposed figure was not mentioned in the Times piece. Nonetheless, I should have pursued the underlying poll and reported it, and not just made assumptions. I regret the error.

That said, polling results vary widely depending on the wording and framing of the question, the sponsor of the poll, and the context. For instance, a poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, in a state that has more charters than any other, reverses the finding of the Education Next poll cited by the Times. In California, blacks, with just 36 percent support, were far less likely to support charters than whites.

One of the two polls that the Times linked to used the phrase “public charter schools.” Most charter schools are public only in their taxpayer funding; their actual accountability to public systems varies widely. Many are for-profit, or nominally nonprofit but managed by for-profit management companies.

Another poll, which my post cited, by Peter Hart Associates (for the American Federation of Teachers), finds that black parents are strongly opposed to the idea of reducing funds for public schools and redirecting them to charters, which is often the practical impact of increased spending on charters. As this study shows, the practical effect of charters, in a climate of fiscal scarcity, is often precisely to divert funds from public schools.

I owe our readers a much deeper look at the charter school controversy, as well as error-free reading of polls. Both will be forthcoming. ~ ROBERT KUTTNER

Robert Kuttners new book is The Stakes: 2020 and the Survival of American Democracy.

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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.