Sunday, October 31, 2010

Yes on Prop. 25

Budgets reflect the priorities and values of a state. Public dollars dedicated to schools, safe communities, healthy kids demonstrate that a state is committed to creating a high quality of life for residents. California’s budget tells a whole different story. Because California has a two-thirds vote requirement to pass a budget, a small group of partisan legislators can withhold their votes to extract concessions from the majority. As a result, California’s budget process ends up full of corporate loopholes, special favors  for the few.
California is only one of three states, including Rhode Island and Arkansas, that requires a two-thirds majority to pass a budget. The result has been gridlock, late budgets and backroom deals.
In the 2008 and 2009 budget negotiations, a deal was cut to get the required two-thirds vote that blew a massive hole in the state’s budget. The deal will significantly reduce the taxes that a small number of corporations pay, costing the state an estimated $2 billion a year. Once again, the budget “solution’ created an even bigger hole in the already tattered budget—all to get the votes needed to pass a budget.
 The 2/3 rule means that a minority of legislators- as few as 8 Senators, can hold up the budget to demand what they want- such as more tax breaks for the corporations and more cuts to education.
The Solution.
Vote Yes. On Prop. 25.  End the minority rule of the legislature.  With majority rule the voters decide how to write the budget.  You and I decide what the state’s financial needs are and how best to respond.
By voting Yes on 25 you can end significant government gridlock .  We can bring some economic sanity to our state.
Or, we can continue with our current dysfunctional system.

Obama: Don't sit this one out.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Ami Bera for Congress

Dr. Ami Bera is one of the few Democrats who might win a seat away from a sitting Republican Congressman.  Photo is of Ami Bera  and Professor Jim Shoch at a  Progressive Alliance  Election Forum on Thursday, October 28, in Sacramento.
The Democratic Congress as a whole is  assault from the Republicans. There are  several liberal and progressive Democratic elected officials who are likely to lose. 
(photo: Dr. Jim Shoch and Dr. Ami Bera) 

 There is an energized, right-wing assault from the Tea Party Republicans.
Big Oil joined with Wall Street to rescue one of their staunchest allies: Dan Lungren. Under the direction of Karl Rove's shadowy organization American Crossroads, these two corporate special interests began pouring thousands of hidden dollars into the Sacramento media market.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Volunteer for Bera

The Progressive Election Forum was a success.

Bera For Congress Get Out The Vote! from BeraForCongress on Vimeo.

Yes on Prop 24

Prop 24 prevents $1.3 billion in tax breaks to big corporations that would impose further budget cuts to schools, public safety and critical services. Prop 24 would save thousands of much needed jobs.

·         Why Proposition 24 should get your vote:
o   The Tax Fairness Act will prevent another $1.3 billion in cuts to our public schools
o   It will save 22,000 jobs for teachers, nurses and firefighters
o   It will keep corporate taxes as they are today and prevent $1.3 billion in tax giveaways to 2% of California’s wealthiest corporations from kicking in next year

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Enthusiasm and voting- Bill Fletcher

There has been a lot of discussion about the apparent enthusiasm gap between Democratic voters and Republican voters.  While it is beyond question that the Obama administration has accomplished significant reforms in its first two years, the manner in which these have been accomplished, combined with the fact that they were generally not deep enough, has led many liberal and progressive voters to despair.
So, what should we think as we quickly approach November 2nd? First, there were too many magical expectations of both the Obama administration and most Democrats in Congress.  Many of us forgot that while they represented a break with the corrupt Bush era, they were not coming into D.C. with a red flag, a pink flag or a purple flag. They came to stabilize the system in a period of crisis.  President Obama chose to surround himself with advisers who either did not want to appear to believe or in fact did not believe that dramatic structural reforms were necessary in order to address the depth of the economic and environmental crises we face.  They also believed, for reasons that mystify me, that they could work out a compromise with so-called moderate Republicans.  

5 days until the election

There are just 6 days until the election: This is not a time when progressives can stand on the sidelines.

Participate in the Progressive Election Forum by the Progressive Alliance on Oct.28.
Can the student vote make a difference ?
Is there a difference between Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman on jobs?  On tuition?
Is there really a marijuana initiative on the ballot?  What about Propositions 23 and 25? and more.
 Progressive Election Forum;  Oct.28, 2010. Orchard Room.  U. Union  12 -2PM.
Professor Jim Shoch, Dr. Ami Bera, students, and more.
If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.
Sponsored by the  Faculty Progressive Alliance, Sacramento Progressive Alliance., the Sac State Coalition,  CFA-Capitol Chapter, and Capitol Area Progressives.

In a week most pundits are predicting massive Republican victories  in the mid-term election. These poll-based predictions assume a model of a very different electorate than turned out in the 2008 election.  What the pundits don't tell you is that if they are wrong about who turns out to vote next week, their predictions will also be wrong.

Monday, October 25, 2010

7 days until the election

There are just 7 days until the election: This is not a time when progressives can stand on the sidelines.

In a week most pundits are predicting massive Republican victories  in the mid-term election. These poll-based predictions assume a model of a very different electorate than turned out in the 2008 election.  What the pundits don't tell you is that if they are wrong about who turns out to vote next week, their predictions will also be wrong.
Frankly the stakes could not be higher. A Republican takeover of the House of Representatives or the Senate would put an end to  any chance of meaningful reform until after the 2012 election. More over the limited gains of the last two years would be put at risk.  Republicans  have made it perfectly clear that their primary goal is to repeal all of the legislation  --from health care reform  to student loan reform to the modest reforms that  were intended to rein in the Wall Street speculators who were the primary cause of the economic crisis that we still suffer from today--  that the current congress passed and the president signed into law.
Such a result would further diminish the prospects of restoring the economy and would legitimize the campaign of obstruction, vilification, and mendacity that they have carried out for the last two years. Further,  a Republican wave would bring into political office a new class of political extremists representing the worst elements of the right-wing fringe.
This group would immediately join with other Republicans and  Democratic deficit hawks to cut Social Security  and  Medicare benefits.  Some think that nothing can be done, but each of us can take steps between now and the election to change the character of the electorate and push back against the right.

4 things you can do now!
Friends don't let friends forget to vote

We are counting on you to spread the word far and wide that getting up early or staying late at the polls on November 2 matters.  Make sure  all of your friends and associates know that you are not standing on the sidelines in this election and they shouldn't either. You can use the forward to a friend button at the very bottom of this email message to let others  know what you think.
Use your FACE BOOK page (or other social media) and friends list to spread the word. Here is a link to some ICONS that you can post on your page to let others know why you are voting.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Problems of Use of Student Test Scores

October 22, 2010
Dear Colleague:
It is encouraging that there has been increased attention paid to improving the educational achievement of students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. However, it is unfortunate that much of the new policy discussion has focused on the mistaken belief that educational outcomes can be significantly improved by heavy reliance upon students' scores on standardized tests in mathematics and reading to evaluate, reward, and remove the teachers of these tested students.  We have recently co-authored a paper, Problems With the Use of Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers, which shows that even the most sophisticated use of test scores, called value added modeling (VAM), is a flawed and inaccurate way to judge whether teachers are effective or ineffective.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Unemployment and Meg Whitman

Grand Hotel in Sacramento. October 14,2010.
Greenhagen and Escalera joined more than 100 other union members and community allies to protest Whitman’s opposition to high-speed rail and the hundreds of thousands of jobs it would create.
I know what it feels like to be unemployed. It hurts. Meg Whitman doesn’t know the first thing about us, and she doesn’t care what we’re going through. I came on this tour to raise awareness about this election and where the candidates stand on jobs. The more I talked with my brothers and sisters about the situation across the state, the more I came to understand that none of us is alone in this struggle for jobs. We need leaders who will stand up for us and help get us back to work. Meg Whitman says she’ll kill this project and the hope of jobs it brings. Jerry Brown will put us back to work. We all need to get out and vote because our jobs depend on the outcome of this election.
The Sacramento protest was the final stop on the Good Jobs Express Tour, which rallied construction trades members and working families in the cities of Anaheim, Bakersfield, Fresno, Modesto and Sacramento. Greenhagen and Escalera were joined at each stop by elected officials, labor leaders, environmental advocates and community allies to make the case for high-speed rail and candidates who support it.
From Steve Smith. AFL-CIO, posted on the California Progress Report.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Scapegoating teachers does not improve schools

Scapegoating teachers cannot improve the education of our children

On Sunday, October 10, Joel Klein, chancellor of the New York City public school system, and Michelle Rhee, formerly the Washington, D.C. chancellor, published a "manifesto" in theWashington Post claiming that the difficulty of removing incompetent teachers "has left our school districts impotent and, worse, has robbed millions of children of a real future."
In a new brief, How to Fix Our Schools: It's more complicated, and more work, than the Klein-Rhee 'manifesto' wants you to believe, EPI Research Associate Richard Rothstein critiques the Klein-Rhee approach, and calls for a different agenda, which includes improving teacher quality but also many other equally, if not more important school and out of school initiatives. Among these are improving school leadership, curriculum, and teacher collaboration, and taking other initiatives to improve children's ability to succeed by coming to school in better health and with more adequate experiences in early childhood and in out-of-school time. The brief also warns that school leaders cannot ignore the disastrous consequences of the current economic crisis for their ability to nurture and educate our youth.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Proposition 24.

Prop 24 prevents $1.3 billion in tax breaks to big corporations that would impose further budget cuts to schools, public safety and critical services. Prop 24 would save thousands of much needed jobs.

·         Why Proposition 24 should get your vote:
o   The Tax Fairness Act will prevent another $1.3 billion in cuts to our public schools
o   It will save 22,000 jobs for teachers, nurses and firefighters
o   It will keep corporate taxes as they are today and prevent $1.3 billion in tax giveaways to 2% of California’s wealthiest corporations from kicking in next year

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How to fix our schools: a manifesto

Manifesto' should be resignation letter
 By Kevin G. Welner

For a concise compilation of today's fads and gimmicks in education, go read "How to fix our schools: A manifesto by Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee and other education leaders," published in the Outlook section of Sunday's Washington Post [].

The sort of nonsense about education found in the new manifesto [] has become astoundingly commonplace, but this time it came not from a Hollywood filmmaker or a Washington think-tank advocate but from the leaders of 16 of the nation's major city school districts.
According to the manifesto [], "It's time for all of the adults -- superintendents, educators, elected officials, labor unions and parents alike -- to start acting like we are responsible for the future of our children." Absolutely. Members of each of these groups can do more - a lot more.

In fact, we should start by removing the irresponsible signers of this manifesto from any position of power over "the future of our children."

Are the adults who signed this manifesto acting responsibly when they bash teachers, and only teachers? What about the "superintendents" and "elected officials" who are conveniently never mentioned again in the Manifesto but who actually have some control over the resources available to students and their teachers?

Are these adults acting responsibly when they advocate for even more test-based accountability and school choice? Over the past two decades, haven't these two policies dominated the reform landscape - and what do we have to show for it? Wouldn't true reform move away from what has not been working, rather than further intensifying those ineffective policies? Are they acting responsibly when they promote unproven gimmicks as solutions?

Are they acting responsibly when they do not acknowledge their own role in failing to secure the opportunities and resources needed by students in their own districts, opting instead to place the blame on those struggling in classrooms to help students learn?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Testing is distorting reported "reform"

This is a report on testing problems in NYC.  The NYC reform effort, led by Joel Klein, is one of a few who make up the media preferred definition of reform.  See posts below.

On New York School Tests, Warning Signs Ignored
By JENNIFER MEDINA from New York Times.
When New York State made its standardized English and math tests tougher to pass this year, causing proficiency rates to plummet, it said it was relying on a new analysis showing that the tests had become too easy and that score inflation was rampant.
But evidence had been mounting for some time that the state’s tests, which have formed the basis of almost every school reform effort of the past decade, had serious flaws.
The fast rise and even faster fall of New York’s passing rates resulted from the effect of policies, decisions and missed red flags that stretched back more than 10 years and were laid out in correspondence and in interviews with city and state education officials, administrators and testing experts.
The process involved direct warnings from experts that went unheeded by the state, and a city administration that trumpeted gains in student performance despite its own reservations about how reliably the test gauged future student success.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fact based and perspective challenges to Waiting for Superman

I have posted here several critiques of  the film, “Waiting for Superman,” so I do not need to repeat these criticisms.  The most fact based criticism is here What Superman got wrong.
My goal in the following is to share my own reaction to the film. First, it is an important film and I encourage people to see it.  It illustrates to a rather uninformed public and an often poorly informed press   several of the important issues including the budget crisis in schools and the importance of having quality teachers. 
Second. The film makes two glaring claims that were assertions by anti union advocates  when the film was made and now are wrong.  The film claims that the teachers union leadership in Washington D.C. would not allow the Michele Rhee offered contract to come to a vote.  In fact, since the film was made, the contract was submitted to a vote and it passed.  That is Rhee got the contract she wanted- which the film claims was made impossible by union obstruction.  Also, the film supports its claim that incompetent teachers are difficult to remove by citing the extreme case of the New York City room, called by the press the “rubber room.”  It is a compelling story.  However, the so called “rubber room was eliminated last year by the very union contract which the film makers claim was protecting incompetent teachers.

Friday, October 08, 2010

States lay off 58,000 teachers

State and local governments laid off nearly 58,000 teachers and other education workers in September, the government announced on Friday. The layoffs happened even though some have said the $26 billion bill passed by Congress in August was nothing but a sop for teacher unions.
Progressive economists said Friday that the layoffs would have been much worse without the aid, $10 billion of which was expressly allotted to prevent teacher layoffs.
"Back in the spring when they made their budgets, states assumed they were getting the aid in a lot of instances," said Ed Muir, a researcher with the American Federation of Teachers. "If you unpack the state budgets, more than half of that money was already assumed layered into state budgets. So that money saves jobs but you don't see it."

The California budget crisis

What caused this  budget crisis?
The proposed state budget takes 3.1 billion from k-12 schools, closes parks, forces state worker furlough’s and more.  County and city budget cuts reduce our police protection, cause limits on fire protection, and close mental health facilities pushing some of the mentally ill into jails and prisoners out of our jails early  on to the streets.
While  state budget reforms are needed, the basic cause of this crisis is the economic crisis in the nation.
 Crisis in the states.
The current  economic crisis has forced the cutting of higher education, of k-12 education, and of social welfare systems.  This crisis was caused by the greed and avarice of the financial class and aided by the politicians of both major political parties.
First came the housing bubble and the selling of near fraudulent home mortgages.  To make a profit m ajor banks and corporations looted the economy creating an international meltdown.  Now, they have been rewarded with bail out money.  The crisis was not caused by students, teachers, public employees  nor recipients of social security.   Now we have cuts in parks,  in universities, in nurses, libraries.  School children did not create this crisis.

The state budget stall

This morning the state budget waits to be passed. Three Senators are holding up the passage, imposing more pain on working people, state vendors, and the schools. Why does this happen?
Because California has a 2/3 rule to pass a budget. This 2/3 rule can be ended by voting for Proposition 25 in the November election.
At present a small minority of legislators hold up the budget. It takes as few as 8 Senators. The 8 at present are usually  Republicans. They can do this because of the requirement for a 2/3 vote to pass the budget. They cause millions to lose their jobs and to face layoffs. Proposition 25 will lower the requirement to pass a budget from two-thirds ( 67 percent) to a majority ( more than 50 percent) vote of each house. Only 3 states in the U.S. have this 2/3 rule. The effect of the rule is to promote minority rule. Passing Prop. 25 is one step toward essential budget reform in California.
Update. The budget finally passed this AM.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Teachers' Unions as an agent of school reform

Baltimore teachers union is the hero, not a villain

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

After that, the new Davis Guggenheim movie "Waiting for Superman," which merely asserts that teachers unions are to blame for the deficiencies in American education, is almost a letdown.
 In the world of "Waiting for Superman," every public school is a disaster, every charter school is a rigorous (but nurturing) little Harvard or Oxford, and the blame for the plight of public schools and the paucity of charter schools can be laid entirely on the unions' doorsteps. You'd never know from the film that charter schools produce test results that aren't any better than those of public schools, or that the teachers at a number of charter schools -- including charter schools that do produce high test results -- are, horror of horrors, unionized.
Still, the narrative that education reformers and teachers unions are eternal and implacable enemies is a hardy one, and one that Washingtonians in particular may well believe after four years of pitched battle between Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and the D.C. teachers union. The intensity of the local battle might blind them to the experience of cities where the school district and the union have jointly embraced a reform agenda, even including a version of merit pay. And yet, such an agreement -- an impossibility, if we are to believe the conventional narrative -- was reached just two weeks ago in the faraway city of Baltimore.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Bill Gates et al and Waiting for Superman

            When Generosity Hurts: Bill Gates, Public School Teachers and the Politics of Humiliation
Tuesday 05 October 2010
by: Henry A. Giroux, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed
So-called reformers such as Michelle Rhee, who took over the District of Columbia public schools three years ago, have become iconic symbols for enacting educational policies based on a mix of market incentives such as paying students for good grades, merit pay for teachers and firing teachers en masse who do not measure up to narrow and often discredited empirically based performance measures.(18) Reform in this case is driven by a slash-and-burn management system that relies more on punishment than critical analysis, teacher and student support and social development. The hedge fund managers, billionaire industrialists and corporate vultures backing such policies appear to view teachers, unions and public schools as an unfortunate, if not threatening remnant, of the social state, and days long past when social investments in the public good and young people actually mattered and public values were the defining feature of the educational system, however flawed. This hatred of public values, public services, public schools and teachers is only intensified by a wider culture of cruelty that has gripped American society.
Read the entire post here:

Monday, October 04, 2010

Clean up the California budget mess

 The budget resolution being hammered out at the Capitol could have been completed and signed by July 1,2010. They are negotiating how schools will be repaid for past spending cuts- a Prop. 98 requirement, and how to deal with the 2.1 billion dollar tax  giveaway to the corporations last year.
This deal was not completed earlier because the two sides; Republicans and Democrats refused to compromise, and because of the 2/3 requirement to pass a budget which allowed the minority party (the Republicans) to block passage of any reasonable tax increase and to insist on harsh budget cuts.
Irrespective of how you support or do not support these tax devices, the 2/3 vote rule imposes minority rule on the legislature and produces these stalled budgets. Prop. 25 would eliminate the 2/3 vote rule for the budget.
Without the ability of a minority party to hold the budget hostage, the Democrats would have passed a budget in June, and the Republican governor would have used his line item veto to eliminate many programs.  At present the Governor is holding out for a deal that would cut pensions for state workers.  Only a 2/3 vote could overturn the line item vetoes.   We would be in the place we are now, but we would have been there in July.
I urge all to vote Yes and Prop. 25 and stop this minority rule.  It does not serve the people of California.  The majority should make decisions and should be held accountable.
I urge you to vote Yes on Prop 24.  This would take away the tax windfall given to several corporations in the budget negotiations last year.  The Republicans insisted on a tax windfall to large corporations  to get the needed 2/3 vote.
It is past time to fix the budget mess. Vote Yes on Prop. 25.
Duane Campbell
This message has not been approved by the Sacramento Bee. 
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