Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The legacy of Cesar Chavez and the economic crisis of 2011

Cesar Chavez and Duane Campbell,1972

 César Chávez:
By  Duane E. Campbell

On March 31, 2011, California and ten  other states will celebrate the life and work of labor organizer Cesar Chavez.  State workers will have the day off.  Ironically, however, farm workers will not.  It is interesting that these states take a day off to recognize the contributions of a labor leader while cutting vital services for poor people.   Meanwhile the spirit of Cesar Chavez lives on in the struggle for union rights and justice in the fields of California, Ohio, and Florida as well as  in the struggles for union rights and workers dignity in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania.  What can we learn from the creation of the UFW that is useful today?
 Along with Dolores Huerta, Philip Vera Cruz, and others, César created the United Farm Workers  (UFW) the first successful union of farm workers in  U.S. history.  There had been more than ten prior attempts to build a farm workers union.
            Each of the prior attempts to organize farm worker unions were destroyed by racism and corporate power. Chávez chose to build a union that incorporated the strategies of social movements and community organizing  and allied itself  with the churches, students,  and organized labor.  The successful creation of the UFW changed the nature of labor organizing  in the Southwest  and contributed significantly to the growth  of Latino politics in the U.S. The UFW has shown unions that immigrants can  and must be organized.   
        César Chavez, Dolores Huerta,  Philip Vera Cruz, and others deliberately created a multiracial organization, Mexican immigrants,  Mexican American, Filipino, African-American, Dominican, Puerto Rican and Arab workers, among others, have been part of the UFW.  This cross racial organizing  was necessary in order to combat the  prior divisions and exploitations of workers based upon race and language. Dividing the workers on racial, language lines and immigration status  always left the corporations the winners.

18,000 teachers given lay-off notices in California

I am writing today to ask for your help with compiling information about the number of pink slips and lay-off notices being issued, and the program cuts being proposed, by the Local Education Agencies in your jurisdiction.
As you know, should the state budget resolution require an all-cuts solution, our schools could face an additional $4.5 billion in cuts—a dire situation for our schools already facing a state of fiscal emergency. Are most of your districts producing layoff and program reduction plans based on the “all-cuts” budget assumption? I think it is vital for the public to know the full impacts of the worst-case budget scenario.
Given the urgency we face, I ask you to share the pink slip, layoff notice, and program cut information with me as soon as it becomes available to you. I am interested in learning specific information about the pinks slips issued to certificated staff and lay-off notices given to non-certificated staff.
Teacher Reduction In Force Tally
As of March 15, 2011, the number of estimated teachers receiving Reduction In Force notices is 18,886 with 300 local educational agencies reporting. Please check back often, because this number may change.
Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction

What Obama said about testing


Q My name is Lisa and I'm going to attend my last year here at Bell Multicultural High School. Students go through a lot of tests. Could you reduce the amount of tests? For example, we found a student passes a test, he shouldn’t take the same test next year.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think probably what you're referring to are standardized tests -- because if you're just talking about your math or your science or your English test, tough luck -- (laughter) -- you’ve got to keep on taking those tests, because that's part of the way that teachers are going to know whether you're making progress and whether you understand the subject matter.
What is true, though, is, is that we have piled on a lot of standardized tests on our kids. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a standardized test being given occasionally just to give a baseline of where kids are at. Malia and Sasha, my two daughters, they just recently took a standardized test. But it wasn’t a high-stakes test. It wasn’t a test where they had to panic. I mean, they didn’t even really know that they were going to take it ahead of time. They didn’t study for it, they just went ahead and took it. And it was a tool to diagnose where they were strong, where they were weak, and what the teachers needed to emphasize.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Is the goal school achievement or teacher bashing ?

Re: the prior posts about Michele Rhee and Kevin Johnson.
What can we learn from Ontario?
Here is some sound research to indicate that working with teachers in capacity building produces better schools.  There is no research to show that teacher bashing produces improved schools.

OECD (2010). Strong performers and successful reformers in education: Lessons from PISA for the United States. Paris: OECD. 

It can be downloaded at:

Here is one sentence that sums up the gist of it:

To this end, the ministry drew a sharp contrast between its capacity-building approach to reform and the more punitive versions of accountability used in the United States, and, to a lesser extent, in Britain. They chose to
downplay the public reporting of results, and they emphasised that struggling schools would receive additional support and outside expertise rather than be punished or closed.

Despite the positive assessment, there are many gaps in Canadian provision for bilingual/EL students but there is nothing like the teacher-bashing that is going on in the US and SES disparities are much less than in the US. Also, the pendulum in reading instruction has not swung the way it has in the US--the vast majority of Canadian school systems would happily see themselves as adopting a "balanced" approach with a lot of emphasis on actual reading.

I also recently prepared a short paper for the Council of Europe that drew heavily on recent OECD findings. It is entitled:

Jim Cummins

The Myth of the Korean Super Teacher

Myth of the Korean Super Teacher and the 3 Bird Tragedy

   Recently, teachers at my elementary school were subjected to a poke in the eye with “data” confirming that we were among the lowest 5% of performing schools in California.  A presenter threw out the latest mantras. “It’s all about teachers. Teachers matter. In Korea, teachers are held in high esteem.”
    Whoa, stop right there reformer. Pull out a factoid (It’s all about teachers) with: no inkling of the realities accompanying it. Then “reform incorporated” pushes to transfer that one little factoid without the rest of the support pyramid beneath the factoid.  I lived in Korea, taught in Korea, my wife is Korean and although it is wretched I can speak some Korean.
      Korea’s phenomenal educational performance has little to do with teachers. It is entirely about parents. Parents who were weaned on a Confucian ethic which echoed for centuries - education is the route to success and status. Korean parents sacrifice all for their kids. One of the most disturbing and tragic outcomes is the three bird syndrome. Many educationally inspired families are separated, moms live overseas with their kids from New Zealand to Canada, anywhere the natives speak English. The dad’s reside in Korea or other nations and they work to pay the overseas bills.  If they make lots of money they can fly often and see their kids and wife regularly (eagle dads), some less monied fathers only visit once a year like a migratory bird (goose dads), saddest of all are the fathers who toil in dire solitary poverty, and reside in horrible conditions. They are separated by miles and years. These wingless dads rarely see their families. (Penguin dads) Their willingness to sacrifice their families for educational opportunity is commendable, yet sad and shocking. Teachers play no role in this.
      Educational intensity in Korea is off the scale – one-hundred days before the one and only national test date, moms and dads go to churches and temples and pray three or four times - a day and for each of those one hundred days. They are praying for high scores. Church calendars even come with these days pre-marked.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

London Protest of budget cuts grows to 400,000

Anti-Cuts March Swells to 400,000
 London hosts largest protest since Iraq war as
    workers and public demonstrate against

Around 400,000 people have joined a march in London to
oppose the coalition government's spending cuts.

In what looks like being the largest mass protest since
the anti-Iraq war march in 2003, teachers, nurses,
midwives, NHS, council and other public sector workers
were joined by students, pensioners and direct action
supporters, bringing the centre of the capital to a

Tens of thousands of people streamed along Embankment
and past police barriers in Whitehall. Feeder marches,
including a protest by students which set off from the
University of London in Bloomsbury, swelled the crowd,
which stretched back as far as St Paul's Cathedral.

The biggest union-organised event for over 20 years saw
more than 800 coaches and dozens of trains hired to
bring people to London, with many unable to make the
journey to the capital because of the massive demand
for transport.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Budget cuts in Portugal and California

The Austerity Delusion
Portugal’s government has just fallen in a dispute over austerity proposals. Irish bond yields have topped 10 percent for the first time. And the British government has just marked its economic forecast down and its deficit forecast up.
What do these events have in common? They’re all evidence that slashing spending in the face of high unemployment is a mistake. Austerity advocates predicted that spending cuts would bring quick dividends in the form of rising confidence, and that there would be few, if any, adverse effects on growth and jobs; but they were wrong.
It’s too bad, then, that these days you’re not considered serious in Washington unless you profess allegiance to the same doctrine that’s failing so dismally in Europe.
It was not always thus. Two years ago, faced with soaring unemployment and large budget deficits — both the consequences of a severe financial crisis — most advanced-country leaders seemingly understood that the problems had to be tackled in sequence, with an immediate focus on creating jobs combined with a long-run strategy of deficit reduction.
Why not slash deficits immediately? Because tax increases and cuts in government spending would depress economies further, worsening unemployment. And cutting spending in a deeply depressed economy is largely self-defeating even in purely fiscal terms: any savings achieved at the front end are partly offset by lower revenue, as the economy shrinks.
This is the same policy being recommended for California by the Republicans. 
 Read the entire column. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/25/opinion/25krugman.html

 Read the entire column. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/25/opinion/25krugman.html

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Gates spends millions to promote his view of school change

Gates spends millions to sway public ( and you) on ed reform
By Valerie Strauss - Washington Post 
The Bill and  Melinda Gates Foundation is spending at least $3.5 million to create a new organization whose aim is to win over the public and the media to its market-driven approach to school reform, according to the closely held grant proposal.
The organization is tentatively called “Teaching First,” and already has a chief executive officer: Yolie Flores, a member of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, who has championed such issues as public school choice and teacher effectiveness. Flores did not immediately return phone calls for comment. A Gates foundation spokesman said she would take over the job fulltime when her board term is up in June.
The Gates proposal lays out a strategy to win public approval for the foundation’s investment of more than $335 million in teacher effectiveness programs in four school districts that involve controversial initiatives including linking teacher pay to student standardized test scores. Critics say this “value-added” model-based test scores is unfair measure of how well a teacher is doing because there are many factors that go into how well a student does on a test.
The plan includes campaigns to reach out to parents, teachers, students, business and civic and religious leaders, and to build “strong ties to local journalists, opinion elites, and local/state policymakers and their staffs.” The plan explains how the organization will ensure “frequent placement ... in local media coverage of issues related to teacher effectiveness and equitable distribution of effective teachers” in accordance with the Gates approach. 
Read the entire piece at  http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/gates-spends-millions-to-sway.html   See posts below. 

Mayor Johnson active in school criticism

SACRAMENTO, CA – Today Mayor Kevin Johnson and STAND UP held the first ‘State of Schools’ meeting in Sacramento at the Guild Theater. Mayor Johnson was joined by Russlynn Ali, Assistant Secretary for Civil
Rights at the U.S. Department of Education, in a conversation on the urgent need for reform in Sacramento’s
public schools.
Today’s meeting focused on the condition of public schools in Sacramento and issued a call to action. The
meeting was sponsored by the Black Parallel School Board, Greater Sacramento Urban League, Sacramento
Chapter for 100 Black Women, Sacramento NAACP, and the Sacramento Observer in honor of Black History
Currently, less than half of Sacramento schools are meeting academic targets. While Sacramento’s public schools have shown slight increases in academic achievement over recent years, Mayor Johnson believes that the gap is not closing quickly enough.
Johnson stated, “Over the last seven years, city school third graders have improved by an average of two percent per year. This may sound positive, but think about it from this perspective: at the current rate, it will take 20 years before close to 80 percent of our third graders are on grade level. That’s an entire generation.”

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Michele Rhee ( of Sacramento) continues her assaults on teachers

Though all modern presidents like to think of themselves as leading the national education debate, they rarely are; most important decisions are made at the state, mayoral, or school-board level. But if this decentralized uprising can be said to have a leader, it is the youthful, tough-talking, and telegenic Michelle Rhee. Four years ago, Rhee was chosen to run Washington, D.C.’s troubled school district by a young Democratic mayor, Adrian Fenty. She resigned just as abruptly this past fall, after Fenty was thrown out of office. But while Rhee’s head-cracking, heresy-spouting attempt to revamp the school system was a major contributor to Fenty’s electoral defeat, she left in a blaze of martyrdom, reveling in the extravagant admiration of national ­opinion-makers, as well as her commanding role in the polemical pro-charter-school documentary Waiting for “Superman.”
Over the past few months, rather than taking another municipal gig, Rhee has been campaigning through flash-point states, like a sort of wonky Che Guevara, lending celebrity, credibility, and covering fire to political leaders who endorse her vision of school reform. Last week, she was touring Ohio, as Governor John Kasich, a big fan of Waiting for “Superman,” promised “more choice, more accountability, more dollars in the classroom instead of bureaucracy.” The week prior, she was in Tennessee and Michigan; before that, she testified on Scott’s behalf before the Florida Legislature, where she was hailed as a “movie star.” At each stop, Rhee promotes her platform: expanding charter schools; connecting teacher pay to performance; revamping a pension-and-benefit system that “ends up excessively rewarding longevity”; ending tenure and seniority-based layoffs.

Local School Districts face financial trouble

We are told this morning that each of the major school districts in the county are in financial trouble. Last year, when Natomas was in trouble, the Sacramento Bee and County Superintendent David Gordon opined that the Board of Education was financially irresponsible. However, realistically, the economic troubles were caused by the state and national economic crisis. The state has provided schools with $18 billion less in state aid over the last three years- thus the local districts are going broke.
Note to Sacramento Bee.  It wasn't the School Board, it was the economic crisis!
How did we get into this fix? Well, first was the economic collapse caused by the bankers and the real estate fraud artists. That took 13 Trillion from the economy crashing the U.S. and the international economy. That produced a dramatic drop in sales tax and property taxes and a California economic crisis. School funding reveals the nature of crisis. We have larger classes and fewer teachers. School reform has stopped- except for the politicians hot air. School funding makes up a total of 30% of the state budget. Any crisis in the state budget and any cuts in the state budget will make school budgets worse. The crisis will get worse.
Politicians and editorial writers discuss the economic crisis as if the crisis is a neutral act, or as if a natural act. Like rain or snow. The school budgets are a disaster not because of some natural phenomena. The crisis was created by people and policies of our government and of the financial system.

"The reality is that we got into this mess because of an overwhelming excess of greed and stupidity on the part of the Wall Street bankers and the people deciding economic policy. We continue to face excessive rates of unemployment because of a continuing reluctance to pursue policies that can restore the economy to health.”says economist Dean Baker.

California will need to extend the current taxes to fund the schools and to repair the social safety net. Anti tax radicals and Republicans oppose any tax increases and they oppose allowing these issues to be placed on the ballot so the people can vote.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Organizing for Equity

Organizing for Equity. Can Parents Fill the Void?
By Michael B. Fabricant
At least since the civil rights movement, Americans have documented and decried—but done little to decrease—the achievement gap. This gulf, one of many that divide us by race and class, has festered in part because the larger question of inequitable investment in poor communities of color has long been neglected. Demonstration projects of various kinds have been tested in selected communities—but little has been made of the successes. Demonstration projects, if they work , are meant to be scaled up; however, amore ambitious, transformative investment in a cross section of poor communities across the nation has never been attempted.
The reticence to make such an investment has to do with the magnitude of resources required and a lack of political will. Presently, any call for such investment is undercut by both the recession and a political reluctance to tax even the wealthiest citizens. Income inequality in the United States is now at its highest level since the Census Bureau began tracking household income in 1967. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the “top 10 percent of the income distribution has claimed almost two-thirds of the gain to overall incomes since 1979, with the top 1 percent alone claiming 38.7 percent of overall gains.”1 Child poverty is increasing, the middle class is disappearing, and the wealthy are becoming dramatically wealthier. In 1983, the net worth of the wealthiest 1 percent of households was 131 times greater than the median family net worth. By 2007, it was 181 times greater—and by 2009, it was 225 times greater.2 Such inequality is neither natural nor inevitable: the United States has the highest income disparity among Western industrialized nations.3
…Because the problems in our inner cities are not new, I see little reason to hope that any positive change will emerge from our nation’s elite policymaking circles. When it comes to public education, our leaders are far too insulated from the consequences of their choices. Those closest to the disasters of growing inequality, long-standing underinvestment, and new recession-related disinvestment in public education must organize a counterbalancing power to challenge present policymaking trends.
Read more; http://www.aft.org/pdfs/americaneducator/spring2011/Fabricant.pdf

Monday, March 21, 2011

Budget Cuts = Jobs Cut

We can afford to re-hire teachers

  If the U.S. can spend millions to bomb Libya (see below) then the government can spend millions to re-hire the thousands of teachers that have been laid off this year, and the tens of thousands scheduled for lay offs next year.

  Leaders in the Tunisian Federation of Labor, themselves organizers  of the mass mobilization that led to the overthrow the Tunisian Dictator called for support of the Libyan revolution and for support of Tunisian unions and the  Egyptian Democracy Movement  at a solidarity dinner held by  the Sacramento Central Labor Council and the California Labor Federation  in Sacramento on March 20, 2011.  Delegates and members of community based organizations heard a direct report from the leaders of the labor side of the mass mobilizations.  The Tunisian revolution was the first of the over 6 major revolutions presently changing the nature of politics and freedom in the Middle East.  The success of the Tunisian revolution sparked the hopes and encouraged the other revolutions.
            Labor unions in Tunisia were  suppressed by the government for over two decades.  These labor union leaders  have been active in the resistance to the dictatorship for these decades.
             As of today, the Libyan revolution is still being resisted by the armed forces of Colonel Gadafi with planes, tanks and guns.  Non violent  revolutions are shaking Yemen and Bahrain (where oil workers are on strike), among others.  The revolutionary movement in Egypt has won initial success, by toppling the Murbarak dictatorship,  but consolidation of the revolution is still precarious.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Libya- Eisenhower " every gun that is fired"

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron. — Dwight D. Eisenhower


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Teacher Unions Matter

By Tom Alves, SJTA Executive Director

Unions matter to this country. And teacher unions matter to public education. The panic that is piling up in Wisconsin and other Republican states over whether collective bargaining rights should exist is real.  This is a concerted effort by political lackeys of powerful corporate interests (it’s easy to follow the money on this) to step on the throat of unions by framing the false message that collective bargaining is the culprit of the current economic woes.  Corporate profiteers have created this diversion to take our eye off their own culpability for the 2008 crash and the subsequent greed of corporate leaders that profited from the federal bailout.  The latest shiny ball-like distraction is that public sector pensions are the major cause of the current economic woes.  This is manipulative messaging at its finest as it shifts one’s eye off the irresponsible behaviors of corporate leaders and drives a wedge between workers.
Practically speaking, white collar and public sector unionism is all that remains of a middle class movement that has fought to guarantee equity and fairness in the workplace for the past 100 years, that includes the forty-hour workweek, health care benefits, sick leave, safety requirements, and modest pensions.  Only 12.3 percent of today’s workforce belongs to a union as opposed to nearly 35 percent in the 1950’s.  This is not because workers don’t want unionized workplaces.  As Philip Dine writes in his recent book, State of the Unions, polling reveals that 53 percent of non-union employees would belong to a union if they could.  This loss is mostly due to manufacturing and production leaving the country — nearly three million jobs (mostly unionized) have been shipped overseas since 1998.
California will not escape this attack on collective bargaining rights.  Ultra conservative forces are already planning to place an initiative on the 2012 ballot that will gut the collective bargaining law.  Wealthy right-wingers and venture capitalists have targeted their deregulation attack on public education as they advocate for reforms that force school closures, more charters and takeovers by outside organizations, and overly simplistic and flawed assessment systems for accountability purposes.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Who will pay for the Great Recession ? You and I

President, Institute for America's Future
Who Gets Hit With the Tab for the Great Recession?

Wall Street excess and conservative deregulation (by law and lassitude) blew up the economy, causing the Great Recession. The bankers were bailed out. Working families took the hit from the downturn -- in lost jobs, lost savings, weakened pensions, declining home values, pay and benefit cuts.
The recession blew a large hole in public finances at every level. Tax revenues plummeted. Expenses -- from unemployment insurance to food stamps to public health -- rose. Public pension funds suffered investment losses. States and localities face severe deficits with a mandate to balance their budgets. At the federal level, the recession doubled the national debt, and drove deficits up to 10% of GDP (much of this the result of plummeting tax receipts).

Governor Scott Walker and a gaggle of Republican governors assault the right of workers to bargain collectively in states across the country. Teachers get laid off as school budgets are cut across the country. Colleges hike tuitions and shut down course offerings. Public workers face furloughs, layoff, cuts in health care and pension benefits. Congress is tied in knots about how much and what to cut. And Republican and bipartisan pressure to go after Social Security and Medicare is escalating.
We should be very clear about what unites these stories, for these struggles will say much about what kind of America emerges from the rubble of the Great Recession.
Who gets stuck with the bill for the Great Recession?
From the tea party Republican caucus to the Obama White House, leaders of both parties have moved from worrying about the recovery to worrying about how to pay for the costs of the Great Recession. With 25 million Americans in need of full time work, this is bipartisan folly. With Japan melting down, the Middle East erupting, energy and food prices soaring, housing prices and starts sinking, states and localities enacting brutal budget cuts, it is callously irresponsible, risking a double dip recession that will explode public deficits.

Stop the Republican effort to limit Finance Regulatory Reform

This is not a drill. This is an emergency.

Our financial system is being attacked in Congress, and if it collapses again because of reckless greed, working people will bear the brunt. CEO-backed politicians will raid our Social Security, our Medicare and our public services to bail out the fat cats. Take action now.

Tell your members of Congress: Deregulation leads to financial crises. Don't deregulate Wall Street and then rob working people to pay for the bailouts that will follow: [ http://act.aflcio.org/c/18/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=1736 ].

In 2008, Big Banks and Wall Street CEOs created the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. As a result, 14 million Americans still are unemployed today. 

But even though unemployment is high and our economic recovery is pathetically slow and fragile, corporations are lobbying furiously to undo the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. 

Many parts of this new Wall Street Reform Act--including a requirement that outrageous CEO pay be publicly compared with worker pay--haven't even gone into effect yet. But already, House Republicans are siding with corporate CEOs, trying to repeal the bill piece by piece. 

What's the Big Bank/CEO/House Republican plan? Deregulate. And if the economy collapses again because of reckless greed, rob working Americans to pay for bailouts while the rich get richer.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Republicans- let the people vote

 The California legislature made at least $ 12 billion worth of cuts that will cost doctors, nurses, medi cal patients, students, prisons, low income families,  in a brutal budget cut vote on Thursday.  The cuts were made by a majority vote as permitted by Proposition 25 passed last year.
However, the extensions of present taxes required to prevent even worse cuts requires a vote of the people. And, to get that vote, the Legislature needs to place these items on the ballot- and that requires a 2/3 vote.  The Democrats do not have the 2/3 votes needed.  To get to the ballot, at least 2 Republicans in each chamber must vote to place the extensions on the ballot.  They refuse.
Under the present cuts the U.C. and the CSU would each lose $500 million on top of the billions cut from prior years. And community college tuition would raise from $26 per unit to $36 per unit.  If the extensions are not passed, these  fee increases will grow dramatically in all three systems
What kind of state cuts food aid to hungry pregnant women and children in the middle of an economic crisis—while giving a giant tax break to billionaires?
A partial solution is to allow the voters to vote on these cuts and the tax extensions.

Monday, March 14, 2011

How Bill Gates misinterprets education data

Posted at 5:00 AM ET, 03/11/2011

How Bill Gates misinterprets ed facts

This was written by Richard Rothstein, a research associate at theEconomic Policy Institute, a non-profit created in 1986 to broaden the discussion about economic policy to include the interests of low- and middle-income workers. This appeared on the institute's website.

By Richard Rothstein
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates authored an op-ed published in The Washington Post late last month, “How Teacher Development could Revolutionize our Schools,” proposing that American public schools should do a better job of evaluating the effectiveness of teachers, a goal with which none can disagree. But his specific prescriptions, and the urgency he attaches to them, are based on the misrepresentation of one fact, the misinterpretation of another and the demagogic presentation of a third. It is remarkable that someone associated with technology and progress should have such a careless disregard for accuracy when it comes to the education policy in which he is now so deeply involved.
Gates’ most important factual claim is that “over the past four decades, the per-student cost of running our K-12 schools has more than doubled, while our student achievement has remained virtually flat.” And, he adds, “spending has climbed, but our percentage of college graduates has dropped compared with other countries.” Let’s examine these factual claims:
Bill Gates says: "Our student achievement has remained virtually flat."
The only longitudinal measure of student achievement that is available to Bill Gates or anyone else is the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). NAEP provides trends for 4th, 8th, and 12th graders, disaggregated by race, ethnicity, and poverty, since about 1980 in basic skills in math and reading (called the “Long Term Trend NAEP”) and since about 1990 for 4th and 8th graders in slightly more sophisticated math and reading skills (called the “Main NAEP”).[*]
On these exams, American students have improved substantially, in some cases phenomenally. In general, the improvements have been greatest for African-American students, and among these, for the most disadvantaged. The improvements have been greatest for both black and white 4th and 8th graders in math. Improvements have been less great but still substantial for black 4th and 8th graders in reading and for black 12th graders in both math and reading. Improvements have been modest for whites in 12th grade math and at all three grade levels in reading.

Teachers given pink slips

I am writing today to ask for your help with compiling information about the number of pink slips and lay-off notices being issued, and the program cuts being proposed, by the Local Education Agencies in your jurisdiction.
As you know, should the state budget resolution require an all-cuts solution, our schools could face an additional $4.5 billion in cuts—a dire situation for our schools already facing a state of fiscal emergency. Are most of your districts producing layoff and program reduction plans based on the “all-cuts” budget assumption? I think it is vital for the public to know the full impacts of the worst-case budget scenario.
Given the urgency we face, I ask you to share the pink slip, layoff notice, and program cut information with me as soon as it becomes available to you. I am interested in learning specific information about the pinks slips issued to certificated staff and lay-off notices given to non-certificated staff. The program and funding details of the cuts being proposed will be more difficult to share, but I would appreciate any level of detail you may be able to provide.

Save Our Schools March

On Friday, March 18, Rethinking Schools editors Bob Peterson and Stan Karp will be featured in a 90-minute web "teach-in" designed to build this summer's Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action. The webinar begins at 8pm Eastern/7pm Central/5pm Pacific time and is open to the first 100 people who sign up here:http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RethinkingSchoolsWebinar
This event is part of a series of web discussions with supporters of the National Call to Action leading to coordinated events around the country and a march in Washington, D.C. on July 30. The July events are built around four demands:
  • Equitable funding for all public school communities
  • End to high stakes testing for student, teacher, and school evaluation
  • Curriculum developed for and by local school communities
  • Teacher and community leadership in forming public education policies

For more info, visit the SOS March web site, www.saveourschoolsmarch.org

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Dear President Obama

(Letter from a teacher) 
I mean this with all respect. I’m on my knees here, and there’s a knife in my back, and the prints on it kinda match yours. I think you don’t get it.

Your Race to the Top is killing the wrong guys. You’re hitting the good guys with friendly fire. I’m teaching in a barrio in California. I had 32 kids in my class last year. I love them to tears. They’re 5th graders. That means they’re 10 years old, mostly. Six of them were 11 because they were retained. Five more were in special education, and two more should have been. I stopped using the word “parents” with my kids because so many of them don’t have them. Amanda’s mom died in October. She lives with her 30-year-old brother. (A thousand blessings on him.) Seven kids live with their “Grams,” six with their dads. A few rotate between parents. So “parents” is out as a descriptor.

Here’s the kicker: Fifty percent of my students have set foot in a jail or prison to visit a family member.

Do you and your secretary of education, Arne Duncan, understand the significance of that? I’m afraid not. It’s not bad teaching that got things to the current state of affairs. It’s pure, raw poverty. We don’t teach in failing schools. We teach in failing communities. It’s called the ZIP Code Quandary. If the kids live in a wealthy ZIP code, they have high scores; if they live in a ZIP code that’s entombed with poverty, guess how they do?

Save Our Schools Now.mov

The Birth of the People’s Party?

Look at the outrage in Madison, Wisconsin. Look at the crowds in DesMoines, Iowa. Look at the demonstrations in Indiana and Ohio and elsewhere around America.
Hear what they’re saying: Stop attacking unions. Stop making scapegoats out of public employees. Stop protecting the super-rich from paying their fair share of the taxes needed to keep our schools running.
Stop gutting the working middle class.
Are we finally seeing average Americans stand up and demand a fair shake in an economy now grotesquely tilted toward the wealthy and the privileged? Are Americans beginning to awake to the fact that our economy now delivers a larger share of total income to the very top than at any time in living memory? That big corporations are making more money and creating more jobs abroad than in the United States?
That this concentration of income and wealth has so corrupted politics that corporations can extort whatever they want from the government — tax breaks, loan guarantees, subsidies — while the super-rich can take most of their income as capital gains (taxed at 15 percent), and the rest at the lowest top rate in 25 years? And that because of this our kids are crowded into classrooms, our streets and highways and bridges are falling apart, and our healthcare bills are out of control?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Then they came for the trade unionists

 On this day, it behooves us to remember the words of Martin Niemoller. "First they came for the communists," he wrote, "and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me." I am a trade unionist, and Wednesday in Wisconsin, they came for me. They came for you. They came for every working person in America, and their intent could not be more clear.
William Rivers Pitt

Cut head start while giving tax subsidies to big oil ?

Robert Creamer 
Earth to Boehner... come in! When you look carefully at Republican Speaker John Boehner's spending proposal for the rest of 2011 you'd think these guys must have been hanging out on one of those newly-discovered exo-planets on the outer edger of our solar system.
The Republican proposal, HR1, actually proposes cuts in the Head Start program that would mean:
  • 218,000 children from low income families will lose Head Start/Early Head Start services;
  • 16,000 Head Start/Early Head Start classrooms will close;
  • 55,000 Head Start/Early Head Start teachers and staff will lose their jobs;
  • 150,000 low-income families and their children will lose assistance in paying for child care.
They say they need to make these cuts because we must "tighten our belts" to cut spending because "America is broke." But at the very same time they voted to cut Head Start, the Republicans voted tocontinue $4 billion worth of subsidies to Big Oil. That's right, they want to continue to hand over $4 billion of the taxpayers' money to companies like Exxon-Mobil, the most profitable company in human history.
These subsidies are suppose to provide an incentive for them to produce more oil -- as if the price of oil that closed yesterday at $105.02 per barrel does not do the trick.
In the last quarter of 2010, Exxon-Mobil's profits surged 53% to $9.25 billion on the strength of rising oil prices and increased demand for petroleum products. That means Exxon-Mobil is earning profit at a rate of about $37 billion per year.

Trumka on Wisconsin moment

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Oppose attacks on union workers - Wisconsin and California

Brothers and sisters, 

Last night in Madison, Wis., in the dead of night, Senate Republicans rammed through a bill that strips Wisconsinites of the collective bargaining rights their parents and grandparents bargained for, marched for, went on strike for and sometimes even died for. 

This assault on workers' freedom will not stand.

As the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO said last night: 

"Scott Walker and the Republicans' ideological war on the middle class and working families is now indisputable, and their willingness to shred 50 years of labor peace, bipartisanship and Wisconsin's democratic process to pass a bill that 74 percent of Wisconsinites oppose is beyond reprehensible." 

What we saw in the dead of night in Wisconsin wasn't democracy. It was back-door deal-making, partisan politics taken to the limit. That isn't worthy of America. And working Americans simply won't stand for it. Not in Wisconsin, and not anywhere.

Brothers and sisters, it's time to turn outrage into action. 

Take action now: Tell your CA state legislators that what happened in Wisconsin last night is unacceptable in any state: [http://act.aflcio.org/c/18/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=1691 ].
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