Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Money and Politics

| A Growing Wariness About Money in Politics
By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 29, 2005; A01

For several years now, corporations and other wealthy interests have made ever-larger campaign contributions, gifts and sponsored trips part of the culture of Capitol Hill. But now, with fresh guilty pleas by a lawmaker and a public relations executive, federal prosecutors -- and perhaps average voters -- may be concluding that the commingling of money and politics has gone too far.
After years in which big-dollar dealings have come to dominate the interaction between lobbyists and lawmakers, both sides are now facing what could be a wave of prosecutions in the courts and an uprising at the ballot box. Extreme examples of the new business-as-usual are no longer tolerated.
Republicans, who control the White House and Congress, are most vulnerable to this wave. But pollsters say that voters think less of both political parties the more prominent the issue of corruption in Washington becomes, and that incumbents generally could feel the heat of citizen outrage if the two latest guilty pleas multiply in coming months.
No fewer than seven lawmakers, including a Democrat, have been indicted, have pleaded guilty or are under investigation for improper conduct such as conspiracy, securities fraud and improper campaign donations. Congress's approval ratings have fallen off the table, in some measure because of headlines about these scandals.
"The indictments and the investigations have strengthened the feeling that people have that in fact there's too much money in Washington and that the money is being used to influence official decisions," said William McInturff, a Republican pollster with Public Opinion Strategies. "Polls show that neither party is held in high regard."
The latest court case came yesterday in San Diego when Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) wept openly after pleading guilty to tax evasion and conspiracy. His plea bargain came less than a week after public relations executive Michael Scanlon coolly admitted his role in a conspiracy to try to bribe a congressman.
Members of Congress, lawyers and pollsters recognize that both events taken together could signal the start of a cyclical ritual in the nation's capital: the moment when lawmakers and outsiders are widely seen as getting too cozy with each other and face a public backlash -- and legal repercussions -- as a result....

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Understanding Media Failure

The Press: The Enemy Within
By Michael Massing

New York Review of Books
Volume 52, Number 20
December 15, 2005

The past few months have witnessed a striking change in
the fortunes of two well-known journalists: Anderson
Cooper and Judith Miller. CNN's Cooper, the one-time
host of the entertainment show The Mole, who was known
mostly for his pin-up good looks, hip outfits, and
showy sentimentality, suddenly emerged during Hurricane
Katrina as a tribune for the dispossessed and a scourge
of do-nothing officials. He sought out poor blacks who
were stranded in New Orleans, expressed anger over
bodies rotting in the street, and rudely interrupted
Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu when she began thanking
federal officials for their efforts. When people
"listen to politicians thanking one another and
complimenting each other," he told her, "you know, I
got to tell you, there are a lot of people here who are
very upset, and very angry, and very frustrated." After
receiving much praise, Cooper in early November was
named to replace Aaron Brown as the host of CNN's

By then, Judith Miller was trying to salvage her
reputation. After eighty-five days in jail for refusing
to testify to the grand jury in the Valerie Plame leak
case, she was greeted not with widespread appreciation
for her sacrifice in protecting her source but with
angry questions about her relations with Lewis Libby
and her dealings with her editors, one of whom, Bill
Keller, said he regretted he "had not sat her down for
a thorough debriefing" after she was subpoenaed as a
witness. The controversy revived the simmering
resentment among her fellow reporters, and many Times
readers, over her reporting on Iraq's weapons of mass
destruction. In the Times's account, published on
October 16, Miller acknowledged for the first time that
"WMD--I got it totally wrong." Bill Keller said that
after becoming the paper's executive editor in 2003, he
had told Miller that she could no longer cover Iraq and
weapons issues, but that "she kept drifting on her own
back into the national security realm." For her part,
Miller insisted that she had "cooperated with editorial
decisions" and expressed regret that she was not
allowed to do follow-up reporting on why the
intelligence on WMD had been so wrong; on November 8,
she agreed to leave the Times after twenty-eight years
at the paper.[1]

These contrasting tales suggest something about the
changing state of American journalism. For many
reporters, the bold coverage of the effects of the
hurricane, and of the administration's glaring failure
to respond effectively, has helped to begin making up
for their timid reporting on the existence of WMD.
Among some journalists I've spoken with, shame has
given way to pride, and there is much talk about the
need to get back to the basic responsibility of
reporters, to expose wrongdoing and the failures of the
political system. In recent weeks, journalists have
been asking more pointed questions at press
conferences, attempting to investigate cronyism and
corruption in the White House and Congress, and doing
more to document the plight of people without jobs or a
place to live.

Will such changes prove lasting? In a previous article,
I described many of the external pressures besetting
journalists today, including a hostile White House,
aggressive conservative critics, and greedy corporate
owners.[2] Here, I will concentrate on the press's
internal problems--not on its many ethical and
professional lapses, which have been extensively
discussed elsewhere, but rather on the structural
problems that keep the press from fulfilling its
responsibilities to serve as a witness to injustice and
a watchdog over the powerful. To some extent, these
problems consist of professional practices and
proclivities that inhibit reporting --a reliance on
"access," an excessive striving for "balance," an
uncritical fascination with celebrities. Equally
important is the increasing isolation of much of the
profession from disadvantaged Americans and the
difficulties they face. Finally, and most
significantly, there's the political climate in which
journalists work. Today's political pressures too often
breed in journalists a tendency toward self-censorship,
toward shying away from the pursuit of truths that
might prove unpopular, whether with official
authorities or the public.


In late October 2004, Ken Silverstein, an investigative
reporter in the Washington bureau of the Los Angeles
Times, went to St. Louis to write about Democratic
efforts to mobilize African-American voters. In 2000,
the Justice Department later found, many of the city's
black voters had been improperly turned away from the
polls by Republican Party officials. Democrats were
charging the Republicans with preparing to do the same
in 2004, and Silverstein found evidence for their
claim. Republican officials accused the Democrats of
similar irregularities, but their case seemed flimsy by
comparison, a point that even a local Republican
official acknowledged to him.

While doing his research, however, Silverstein learned
that the Los Angeles Times had sent reporters to
several other states to report on charges of voter
fraud, and, further, that his findings were going to be
incorporated into a larger national story about how
both parties in those states were accusing each other
of fraud and intimidation. The resulting story, bearing
the bland headline "Partisan Suspicions Run High in
Swing States," described

the extraordinarily rancorous and mistrustful
atmosphere that pervades battleground states in the
final days of the presidential campaign. In
Wisconsin, Ohio, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Oregon and
other key states, Democrats and Republicans seem
convinced their opponents are bent on stealing the

The section on Missouri gave equal time to the claims
of Democrats and Republicans.

Troubled by this outcome, Silverstein sent an editor a
memo outlining his concerns. The paper's "insistence on
'balance' is totally misleading and leads to utterly
spineless reporting with no edge," he wrote. In
Missouri, there was "a real effort on the part of the
GOP...to suppress pro-Dem constituencies." The GOP
complaints, by contrast, "concern isolated cases that
are not going to impact the outcome of the election."
He went on:

I am completely exasperated by this approach to the
news. The idea seems to be that we go out to report
but when it comes time to write we turn our brains
off and repeat the spin from both sides. God forbid
we should...attempt to fairly assess what we see
with our own eyes. "Balanced" is not fair, it's
just an easy way of avoiding real reporting and
shirking our responsibility to inform readers.

This is not to deny that the best newspapers run many
first-rate stories, Silverstein said, or that reporters
working on long-term projects are often given leeway to
"pile up evidence and demonstrate a case." During the
last year, he has written articles on the ties between
the CIA and the Sudanese intelligence service; on
American oil companies' political and economic
alliances with corrupt third-world regimes; and on
conflicts of interest involving Pennsylvania
Congressman John Murtha. When it comes to political
coverage, though, Silverstein told me, newspapers are
too often "afraid of being seen as having an opinion."
They fear "provoking a reaction in which they'll be
accused of bias, however unfounded the charge." The
insistence on a "spurious balance," he says, is a
widespread problem in how TV and print organizations
cover news. "It's very stifling."

As Silverstein suggests, this fear of bias, and of
appearing unbalanced, acts as a powerful sedative on
American journalists--one whose effect has been
magnified by the incessant attacks of conservative
bloggers and radio talk-show hosts.[3] One reason
journalists performed so poorly in the months before
the Iraq war was that there were few Democrats willing
to criticize the Bush administration on the record;
without such cover, journalists feared they would be
branded as hostile to the President and labeled as
"liberal" by conservative commentators.

The Plame leak case has provided further insight into
the relation between the journalistic and political
establishments. It's now clear that Lewis Libby was an
important figure in the White House and a key architect
of the administration's push for war in Iraq. Many
journalists seem to have spoken with him regularly, and
to have been fully aware of his power, yet virtually
none bothered to inform the public about him, much less
scrutinize his actions on behalf of the vice-president.
A search of major newspapers in the fifteen months
before the war turned up exactly one substantial
article about Libby--a breezy piece by Elisabeth
Bumiller in the The New York Times about his novel The

In reporting on the government, the Los Angeles Times,
like other papers, faces another serious constraint. As
a result of budget cuts imposed by its corporate owner,
The Tribune Company, the Times recently reduced its
Washington staff from sixty-one to fifty-five (of whom
thirty-nine are reporters). Doyle McManus, the bureau
chief, says the paper is stretched very thin. Since
September 11, 2001, he has had to assign so many
reporters (eight at the moment) to covering news about
national security that many domestic issues have been
neglected. The Times has only four daily reporters to
cover everything from health care to labor to the
regulatory agencies, and it has no regular reporter in
Washington dealing with the problems of the
environment. "It's nuts for a California paper to have
its environmental job open this long," McManus says.
The Chicago Tribune, he said, has a full-time
agriculture writer whose beat includes agribusiness and
its activities in Wash-ington. Despite the huge
national political influence of agricultural interests,
the Los Angeles Times, like most other big US papers,
lacks the resources to report on them regularly.

The same is true of most of official Washington. At no
time since before the New Deal, perhaps, has corporate
America had so much power and so much influence in
Washington. Between 1998 and 2004, the amount of money
spent on lobbying the federal government doubled to
nearly $3 billion a year, according to the Center for
Public Integrity, a watchdog group. The US Chamber of
Commerce alone spent $53 million in 2004. During the
last six years, General Motors has spent $48 million
and Ford $41 million. Before joining the Bush White
House, chief of staff Andrew Card worked as a lobbyist
for the big auto companies. To what extent have such
payments and activities contributed to the virtual
freeze on the fuel-efficiency standards that have long
been in effect in the US and which have helped to
produce the current oil crisis? More generally, how
have corporations used their extraordinary wealth to
win tax breaks, gain no-bid contracts, and bend
administrative rules to their liking? On November 10,
The Wall Street Journal ran a probing front-page piece
about how the textile industry, through intensive
lobbying, won quotas on Chinese imports--an example of
the type of analysis that far too rarely appears in our
leading publications. "Wall Street's influence in
Washington has been one of the most undercovered areas
in journalism for decades," according to Charles Lewis,
the former director of the Center for Public Integrity.

Of course, corporations are extensively covered in the
business sections of most newspapers. These began
growing in size in the 1970s and 1980s, and today The
New York Times has about sixty reporters assigned to
business. The Times, along with The Wall Street
Journal, runs many stories raising questions about
corporate behavior. For the most part, though, the
business sections are addressed to members of the
business world and are mainly concerned to provide them
with information they can use to invest their money,
manage their companies, and understand Wall Street
trends. Reflecting this narrow focus, the business
press in the 1980s largely missed the savings and loan
scandal. In the 1990s, it published enthusiastic
reports on the high-tech boom, then watched in
bafflement as it collapsed. Of the hundreds of American
business reporters, only one--Fortune's Bethany
McLean--had the independence and courage to raise
questions about the high valuation of Enron's stock.
The criminal activities in recent years of not only
Exxon but also WorldCom, Tyco, Adelphia, and other
corporate malefactors have largely been exposed not by
the business press but by public prosecutors; and the
fate of the companies involved, and of those who were
damaged by their lies, has been only fitfully followed

While business sections grow larger, the labor beat
remains very solitary. In contrast to the many
reporters covering business, the Times has only one,
Steven Greenhouse, writing full-time about labor and
workplace issues. (Several other Times reporters cover
labor-related issues as part of their beats.)
Greenhouse seems to be everywhere at once, reporting on
union politics, low-wage workers, and corporate labor
practices. More than any other big-city reporter, he
has called attention to Wal-Mart's Dickensian working
conditions. Yet he could surely use some help. When,
for instance, General Motors recently announced that it
was scaling back health benefits for its workforce, the
story appeared on the Times's front page for a day,
then settled back into the business section, where it
was treated as another business story. As a result, the
paper has largely overlooked the painful social effects
that the retrenchments at GM, the auto-parts company
Delphi, and other manufacturing concerns have had on
the Midwest. More generally, the staffs of our top news
organizations, who tend to be well-paid members of the
upper middle class living mostly on the East and West
Coasts, have limited contact with blue-collar America
and so provide only sporadic coverage of its concerns.

This summer, Nancy Cleeland, after more than six years
as the lone labor reporter at the Los Angeles Times,
left her beat. She made the move "out of frustration,"
she told me. Her editors "really didn't want to have
labor stories. They were always looking at labor from a
management and business perspective--'how do we deal
with these guys?'" In 2003, Cleeland was one of several
reporters on a three-part series about Wal-Mart's labor
practices that won the Times a Pulitzer Prize. That,
she had hoped, would convince her editors of the value
of covering labor, but in the end it didn't, she says.
"They don't consider themselves hostile to working-
class concerns, but they're all making too much money
to relate to the problems that working-class people are
facing," observed Cleeland, who is now writing about
high school dropouts. Despite her strong urging, the
paper has yet to name anyone to replace her. (Russ
Stanton, the Los Angeles Times's business editor, says
that the paper did value Cleeland's reporting, as shown
by her many front-page stories. However, with his
section recently losing six of its forty-eight
reporters and facing more cuts, he said, her position
is unlikely to be filled anytime soon.)

for the rest of this story, go to


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Gates Foundation: No clear data to support small school reform

"We had good intentions..."--Gates Leader

“I think it’s fair to say we’ve learned a number of important lessons, and it’s quite clear that over the last six years I created a number of grant programs that were well-intentioned but had some weak assumptions.”

Tom Vander Ark, the executive director of education initiatives for the Gates Foundation, deserves some praise. It’s rare to see a corporate or private foundation leader with a self-critical attitude, especially in public.

Vander Ark is a former businessman and Federal Way, Washington, school superintendent, who now has the difficult, and enviable, job of overseeing the biggest, privately-funded school reform initiative in history. The Gates Foundation has invested more than a billion dollars (nearly twice what they spend combating malaria in Africa), to create hundreds of new, small high schools nationwide and to restructure hundreds of large, traditional high schools. However, things are not going well, according to their own commissioned study conducted by the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), proving that a billion dollars and a good idea are not necessarily sufficient when it comes to such a monumental task as changing the American high school.

In a recent Education Week article, Vander Ark was self-critical: “I think it’s fair to say we’ve learned a number of important lessons, and it’s quite clear that over the last six years I created a number of grant programs that were well-intentioned but had some weak assumptions.” Vander Ark’s contrition is commendable, but it’s important to look at just which assumptions are being reevaluated and which lessons the Gates team has learned.

The SRI evaluation must have been devastating to the Gates management team, not to mention and the hundreds of consultants they put out in the field to drive the reform effort. After a ton of money and five years of work, the study concludes: “…the quality of student work in all of the schools we studied is alarmingly low.” Yes, you read it right. It said in ALL OF THE SCHOOLS they studied. And get this, results were actually lower in the new Gates’ start-up schools than in the restructured high schools. The new charters, mostly under private management, actually had worse scores that did the conversion high schools, which according to common lore, are much more difficult to change.

Vander Ark says he “found nothing surprising” in the report. The evaluation isn’t all negative and in many ways supports the effectiveness of smaller learning communities, particularly when it comes to improved climates leading to jumps in attendance, personalized teaching/learning and respectful behavior on the part of students. But these factors didn’t seem to rate very highly with the researchers. Instead they relied heavily on math and reading scores on standardized tests and found that improved teaching and learning just didn’t happen anywhere they looked.

Think of the scope of the troubled initiative. Gates is funding more than 850 new schools and nearly 700 conversion schools. Funding goes to nearly 275 school districts (I’m assuming that as test scores don’t increase rapidly enough for the foundation, struggling districts will lose their funding as Seattle and San Francisco have done in the past few weeks ). If you just take the 1,550 schools as a group, you have the equivalent of a district twice the size of Chicago’s, but one where ALL the schools are doing low-quality work.

The Gates schools actually did worse, in terms of improved learning outcomes, than did many of our neighborhood urban schools, who made great improvements without any Gates funding and with little in the way of district support. I can show (and have shown) Vander Ark many Chicago small schools where there is a high quality of student work. A recent study of Chicago schools showed 144 of them that had made substantial improvements in reading and math over the past 10 years, without private management and with their teaching faculties and student populations left basically intact.

The Gates grants were made to school districts in partnership with other private foundations and business groups. Private management companies were brought in to start new charters. The main ones left out of the planning process were the teachers and students. Communities were rarely engaged (the Ohio initiative led by the Knowledgeworks Foundation was a notable exception). Parents had a minimal role. Instead, the Gates initiative relied mostly on “replicable models,” “scaling up,” and top-down restructuring. But are these the lessons and assumptions that Vander Ark talking about? Let’s look and see. Here are some of the changes Vander Ark is talking about implementing as part of the Gates strategy.

--He says he will build a new approach to school improvement that is in the context of a system, a school district, rather than one focused at the school level. This shift is necessary because without district-level support, no school-based change can be sustained. But seeing the district as the basic unit of change (foundation style) can also mean simply cutting deals with superintendents and politicians as they did in San Francisco, without engaging the school community.

--The foundation will now focus on “well-specified school models," i.e., Big Picture and KIPP, and scale up. But this is more of the same old replication strategy. While replication of good small schools and charters is possible on a reasonable scale, Gates has pushed schools to replicate 50 or more times in a few years, often without adequate support from school districts and with no base in communities. What's more, many of the private replicators (not the ones mentioned above) are anti-union and resistant to community engagement. This is bound to cause more divisiveness and resistance.

--The foundation will reduce its emphasis on school autonomy. Vander Ark says autonomy should be only for successful schools and not for “failing” (read poor and heavily minority) schools. This is a major shift in strategy. Previously, autonomy was seen as part of the solution to top-down imposition of stupid rules and mandates which were seen as part of the cause of failure. But as Gates becomes more tied up with the district bureaucracy, autonomy is only for the schools that don’t really need it.

--More money will be spent on professional development with a focus on content areas like math and science. But while more resources for improvement of teaching are badly needed, it begs the question: what kind of professional development? Is this just another brick in the anti-teacher wall—another thing being done TO teachers? I think so.

I hope the self-critical evaluations keep coming. But let’s go deeper, please.

Evaluation reports on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's high school initiatives are posted by the organization.

Tuesday, Nov 22, 2005 - 01:59pm (PST)

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Date: Wed Nov 16, 2005 6:56 am
Subject: Gates high schools get mixed review in study michaelklonsky
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“[W]e concluded that the quality of student work in all of the schools we studied is alarmingly low,” the evaluation says. “This is not surprising, however, because students cannot demonstrate high-quality work if they have not been given assignments that require … deep understanding” and higher-order thinking skills.

Published: November 16, 2005
Gates High Schools Get Mixed Review in Study

By Erik W. Robelen
A new evaluation of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s campaign to improve U.S. high schools offers a decidedly mixed picture of the early returns the foundation is getting from the roughly $1 billion it has invested in the initiative so far.

The in-depth study, commissioned by the foundation and scheduled for release this week, identifies several shortcomings in the high schools that have been started or redesigned with the philanthropy’s support, especially in instruction and student performance in mathematics. It also cites signs of progress in reading and language arts, and concludes that many Gates-funded small schools, particularly those built from scratch, offer a positive learning climate for students.
For More Info

Evaluation reports on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's high school initiatives are posted by the organization.

“In summary, the first returns are promising for English/language arts but worrisome for mathematics,” the researchers say in the report.

The study’s authors caution, though, that the achievement data available to them were insufficient to draw definitive conclusions about student performance. They supplemented the data with analysis of teacher instruction and student schoolwork to provide a more meaningful portrait.

Among the most disheartening findings of that analysis—and one the researchers said also applied to comparison schools in their study that do not receive Gates support—was the lack of rigor in teacher assignments and student work, especially in math.

“[W]e concluded that the quality of student work in all of the schools we studied is alarmingly low,” the evaluation says. “This is not surprising, however, because students cannot demonstrate high-quality work if they have not been given assignments that require … deep understanding” and higher-order thinking skills.
The study, the third in a series financed by the foundation, was conducted by researchers at the Washington-based American Institutes for Research, or AIR, and the Menlo Park, Calif.-based SRI International. It comes as the foundation is awarding new grants this fall aimed at helping districts with high school improvements, including the school systems in Portland, Ore., Los Angeles, and Atlanta, with more expected in the coming weeks.

Tom Vander Ark, the executive director of education initiatives for the Gates Foundation, said the evaluation’s findings were consistent with information he’s gleaned over the past couple of years, and he said the Seattle-based philanthropy had taken steps to adjust accordingly.
He cited, for instance, a greater emphasis on districtwide measures intended to improve the quality of curriculum and instruction, as well as an emphasis on using proven school models.
“I didn’t find anything surprising in the report,” he said in an interview last week. “I think it’s fair to say we’ve learned a number of important lessons, and it’s quite clear that over the last six years I created a number of grant programs that were well-intentioned but had some weak assumptions.”
Math Found Lagging

The Gates Foundation has committed about $1 billion since 2000 to support the start-up of small high schools or the restructuring of large existing schools into smaller units.
Gates officials often emphasize that school size is not an end in itself, but a tool to build strong relationships between teachers, students, and families, and to deliver a rigorous curriculum that is relevant to students’ lives.
Foundation officials say that, in all, the philanthropy has supported more than 850 new schools and nearly 700 existing high schools. Funding has gone to schools in nearly 275 districts. (Education Week also receives funding from the foundation.)
Return on Investment
An evaluation of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s national high school initiative finds that schools started or redesigned with the philanthropy’s support are achieving mixed early results in student performance, school climate, and academic expectations. Researchers stress, however, that achievement data are too limited to draw definitive conclusions.
Student Outcomes
• Achievement appears “promising for reading and English/language arts but worrisome for mathematics.”
• Overall quality of student work in both new and redesigned schools appears “alarmingly low.”
• Students typically began high school academically behind those in other schools in the same district.
School Climate
• Learning cultures marked by “close interpersonal relationships, common focus, and mutual respect and responsibility.”
• Sustainability of schools threatened by staff burnout, teacher layoffs, and pressures to swell class sizes.
• Attendance in new schools is strong, but redesigned schools “need to address attendance problems.”
Instructional Quality
• Rigor of math assignments was typically poor and “not significantly better” than other schools studied.
• English/language arts assignments were more rigorous and relevant to students’ lives than elsewhere.
• Curriculum materials and outside guidance on teaching math are “very much needed, as are well-qualified math teachers.”
SOURCE: American Institutes for Research, SRI International
In general, the nearly 300-page study found more positive outcomes, from achievement and student work to academic climate, in schools that were newly created than in those that had undergone redesign.
“Based on the data currently available, it appears that new schools have been successful with respect to attendance, test scores, and the quality of students’ work in English/language arts,” the researchers write.
Math appears to present the biggest problem, in student test scores as well as instruction and student schoolwork.
“In general, the math achievement level of students attending new schools is on par with or lagging behind other schools in the same district,” the report says.
The report provides standardized-test data from one or two school years from four unidentified urban school systems. The researchers also examined results from four other districts for purposes of analysis.
Attendance rates at new schools were generally higher than at other schools in the district. Average reading scores were lower than the district average in some systems, but that finding was reversed, the study found, after statistically controlling for the level of students’ prior achievement.
In two of the three districts where trends on state test data could be examined, the study found larger improvements in reading and English language arts achievement over time in foundation-backed schools than elsewhere in the district. The third district saw gains in that area “on a par with the rest of the district.” The reading gains were larger in the system with new schools than in the district with redesigned schools.
And the researchers stress that the Gates-funded schools tend to serve largely disadvantaged students who enter high school well behind grade level.
“When we look at 8th grade achievement levels, we find almost universally … students start substantially behind other students going elsewhere in the district,” said David A. Rhodes, an AIR researcher involved in the study.
‘A Huge Challenge’

For redesigned schools, the researchers were still more cautious about drawing conclusions on test-score data.
They found slightly lower-quality student work than in the Gates-funded start-up schools. But in examining the rigor of teacher assignments in math, the report says the results were “similarly poor” across the two school types.
“Half of the assignments at both types of [Gates-funded] schools exhibited little or no rigor,” the report says.
Mr. Vander Ark cited several factors that he believed contributed to the problems in math.
“Five years ago, the nation’s attention was … more on literacy than on mathematics,” he said. He also noted that in small schools, there may well be extra faculty support for addressing students’ language arts difficulties, since those areas overlap with several disciplines.
“The same is less true for mathematics,” he said. “In a small school, you may have two math teachers working on their own with students that are a number of years below grade level, and they face a huge challenge with limited support.”
As for student attendance, it was relatively strong at new schools but fell short at the redesigned campuses.
The researchers cautioned that the redesigned schools have a history of underperformance that must be changed.
“You really need to think of the redesign reform as on a longer time frame,” Mr. Rhodes of AIR said. “And that’s going to emerge out of an existing stream of data that, to be blunt, is going to be dismal to start with, because a school isn’t going to reinvent itself if it’s already doing a good job.”
Some of the most promising findings had to do with what the researchers termed “creating a culture for learning.”
Still, the redesigned schools were seeing what the researchers described as “slower progress as they work to change existing structures, cultures, and beliefs.” Those schools, too, showed signs of improvement over time, most notably in fostering the creation of a school culture in which students feel known by their teachers and supported by them both in academics and personally.
Strategic Shifts

Mr. Vander Ark of the Gates Foundation said the philanthropy has been shifting its grantmaking approach, particularly in the past past two years, to help address many of the problems the research spells out.
First, he said, “we try to approach school improvement in the context of a system, a school district. ... One way to think about it is, we took school-as-the-unit-of-change too far.”
Second, the foundation is focusing its school efforts on “well-specified school models that provide really strong support,” including a well-developed curriculum and instructional approach, Mr. Vander Ark said. Models he cited included the networks of schools affiliated with the Providence, R.I.-based Big Picture Company and the San Francisco-based Knowledge Is Power Program, or KIPP.
Mr. Vander Ark said the foundation has much more explicit expectations for school-level change than it initially did.
“Another thing I got wrong at the beginning was autonomy,” he said. “I visited 100 great schools and made the observation that they were all small, autonomous, and assumed that was a path to school improvement. It turns out giving a failing school autonomy is a bad idea.”
On the subject of change throughout whole districts, he cited the foundation’s $2.3 million grant last spring for a planning effort to improve Chicago’s districtwide approach to curriculum and instruction.
Another grant just issued, $1.4 million to the Atlanta public schools, will pay for district plans to redesign high schools’ curriculum and instruction, and will consider the role of new schools in that effort.
“With an investment of $2 million in a plan, you can help a city make better use of a billion-dollar budget,” he said. “Those plans typically incorporate small schools and small learning communities, but they pay more attention to curriculum and instruction.”
The AIR-SRI evaluation offers a series of recommendations, including a call for the foundation to support professional development, technical assistance, coaching around math content and instruction, and efforts to provide curricular materials.
It also focuses on the need for sustainability, noting that new and redesigned schools are “vulnerable organizations, with limited internal capacity and numerous external challenges.”
“The foundation and its grantees may want to focus more of their energy and resources on protecting the schools that have already been started,” the report says, “even if means starting fewer new schools.”
Vol. 25, Issue 12, Pages 1,20
Subscriber Options

Monday, November 21, 2005

Villaraigosa threatens to take over schools

Mayor Talks Tough to Push School Takeover
Villaraigosa accuses officials of obstructing reform. Some are taken aback by the rhetoric.
By Joel Rubin and Richard Fausset
Times Staff Writers

November 21, 2005

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has begun selling his plan to seize control of the ailing Los Angeles Unified School District with strident language that is worrying and confusing the city's education leaders.

In three speeches and an interview last week, he accused the teachers union and the school board of standing in the way of crucial reform.

"I have been an absolute supporter of L.A. public schools, but I have come to the conclusion that there is no way to reform these schools without taking on the status quo," Villaraigosa told The Times. "I am not looking to alienate anyone, but I am going to make the case for public accountability … right now, no one's accountable."

Villaraigosa has set an ambitious agenda as mayor, but the school takeover may be his most daring gambit, throwing him into the treacherous thicket of education politics.

His strong rhetoric has electrified some audiences. But it has also left school board members and district officials in a tricky position. On the one hand, they are frustrated by what they say are the mayor's unfair and untruthful characterizations of the district; on the other, they don't want to appear defensive or antagonistic toward him.

"I think the mayor's entire conversation is based on an assumption that the district is moving in the wrong direction," said school board President Marlene Canter. "And that is flat-out wrong."

Recently, Villaraigosa's team has begun developing a takeover strategy for the nation's second-largest school district. They are studying how other big-city mayors, including Richard Daley in Chicago and Michael Bloomberg in New York, took control. But so far mayoral aides have offered few, if any, specifics on a takeover plan.

The mayor has been unapologetic about his ramped-up rhetoric yet he continues to insist that "consensus" is key to success. Those apparently mixed messages are leaving some of his supporters confused.

Many acknowledge that Villaraigosa — a former organizer for the city teachers union and speaker of the state Assembly — is a master negotiator. But they also wonder if he should be risking a fight fraught with deep political implications.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger suffered a costly loss this month when he took on the powerful California Teachers Assn. and others in labor with his special election propositions.

"The teachers union is an incredible force to be reckoned with," said Darry Sragow, a political strategist who recently ran the district's successful $4-billion school bond campaign. "To a significant degree, teachers at a statewide level are responsible for bringing down a popular governor. Now, the difference with our mayor is he was one of them … so maybe he's decided they'll cut him more slack."

Former Mayor Richard Riordan, a longtime proponent of a takeover, said he hoped Villaraigosa could keep everyone at the table.

"I'm an optimist," Riordan said. "Antonio is a great lover of the unions and loved by the union members. And I think he could make some sort of compromise."

During his election campaign, when many voters were citing education reform as a top priority, Villaraigosa said he would support mayoral control of Los Angeles Unified. But the issue has been a persistent frustration for the new mayor.

He has never wavered in his support of the idea, but he has been criticized for moving too slowly. Soon after his swearing-in, the mayor refused to back a state Senate bill that would have given him the power to hire the superintendent and replace the seven elected board members.

Villaraigosa argued that the bill was unconstitutional, but he also said he needed time to do what he does best — that is, subtly cajole and persuade his opponents until they relent.

In the meantime, Villaraigosa convened his own panel of education experts. In public, the mayor praised the group's recommendations, which addressed such issues as safe routes to school. But Villaraigosa found them underwhelming, said sources close to the mayor.

Carolyn Webb de Macias, the mayor's senior advisor, is refining those ideas. Mayoral counsel Thomas Saenz is heading the effort to draft a takeover plan. Among the proposals: that the mayor appoint only some of the board members.

Any plan would probably require the approval of the state Legislature, local voters and possibly the City Council, Saenz said.

The takeovers in Chicago and New York have yielded mixed results. The Illinois Legislature gave Daley control of public schools in 1995, a few years after then-Education Secretary William Bennett had called them the worst in the nation.

Daley won authority to appoint the school board and hire the superintendent and other top officials. He helped raise money for schools and eased labor unrest. Although the schools posted academic gains, their largely impoverished students still remain below national norms.

Bloomberg persuaded the state Legislature to give him broader powers over the nation's largest school system in 2002. That included authority to abolish the school board in favor of an advisory panel and to turn the school system into a city department.

Education experts have said it is too soon to tell whether New York City's schools will fare better in the long term. Reading scores have remained generally flat, while math scores are rising, a trend that began before Bloomberg took over.

Villaraigosa said in an interview that he isn't trying to pick a fight with the unions or the school board, but he acknowledged that a fight could be inevitable. He anticipates a costly local ballot campaign to persuade voters to give him control.

He said he wants to enact a plan before the end of his first term. But the opposition appears formidable.

In a poll of 700 L.A. voters conducted in July for the California Teachers Assn. — an opponent of the idea — 55% opposed mayoral control of schools. And 70% said school board members should be elected.

In Sacramento, Villaraigosa has a strong ally in Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles), who said he would help pass a takeover bill.

"If the mayor says, 'This is important to me,' I'm going to roll up my sleeves and I'm going to deliver it for him,' " he said.

It's questionable, however, whether even the Democratic-controlled Legislature would approve such a bill. Lawmakers would risk the wrath of the state teachers union. The local union, United Teachers Los Angeles, also remains adamantly against a takeover.

"A school board elected by the people is vitally important," said UTLA President A.J. Duffy. "It's important for the teachers union to support candidates for the school board that we feel will be good for public education."

Neither Duffy nor Barbara Kerr, president of the CTA, would comment on the mayor's recent remarks.

Schools Supt. Roy Romer, typically outspoken on district issues, has remained neutral. Taking a position, he said, would undermine his ability to work with the school board.

Romer and Canter said that in order to counter the mayor's attacks, the district needs to devise a public relations strategy to tout its successes.

They are quick to point out that the district has raised test scores at a faster rate than the state. And an ambitious construction program has opened nearly 50 campuses, with more than 100 others planned.

The district continues to struggle, however, to raise graduation rates and boost performance at many of its crowded middle and high schools.

A number of skeptics, including Canter and Duffy, say Villaraigosa hasn't recently met with them to discuss his plans. The mayor's office said those meetings could still happen.

Veteran board member Julie Korenstein, who stormed out of one of the mayor's speeches, said Villaraigosa's "offensive" language risks alienating all seven members of the panel.

"He's going about this in a way that is making him a lot of enemies along the way," she said.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Wall Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices

First, thank you so much to everyone who came out and made our screening of Wal-Mart: The High Price of Low Cost such a tremendous success! We packed the Hinde Auditorium last night, just as Sacramentans packed the Crest Theatre and several other venues around town all week long. The movie is great. If you missed it, you buy your own copy for $12.95 here: http://www.walmartmovie.com/watch.php. We will also send out an announcement shortly about how you can join the growing movement to hold Wal-Mart accountable for it's retrograde practices that are devastating our exploiting workers at home and abroad, destroying our environment, and devastating our communities.

Friday, November 18, 2005

California School Progress?

Calif. Schools Progress?
Reality Check: Expectations For California Students Outstrip Resources

State Sets Tougher Academic Standards Than Rest of Nation, But Gives Schools Significantly Fewer Resources

SAN FRANCISCO, California, October 29, 2003— California schools face a strange paradox: State standards for academic performance are some of the most rigorous in the nation, yet schools here lack many of the resources available to students in the rest of the country, according to a study released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). The state sets ambitious curriculum standards for what students should learn in each grade, expects strong performance on standardized tests, and ranks individual schools using the stringent Academic Performance Index (API). But California schools spend less per pupil and have considerably fewer teachers per pupil than schools in other states.

The differences between California and the nation are striking on both dimensions. For example, California has 25 percent fewer teachers per pupil and spends approximately 9 percent less per student than schools in the rest of the United States. Yet, to meet the state’s performance goals under the API system, approximately 70 percent of students at every school would have to exceed the national median on the Stanford 9 achievement test. “These are exceptionally high standards by any measure,” says PPIC research fellow Heather Rose, who co-authored the study, High Expectations, Modest Means: The Challenge Facing California’s Public Schools. “California expects students to do much better than students in other states, but with fewer means.”

Not surprisingly, these lofty expectations stand in sharp contrast to actual performance, with few schools achieving state goals. In 2002, only 20 percent of elementary schools, 13 percent of middle schools, and 4 percent of high schools met or exceeded California’s standards.
California’s relatively modest school resources have less to do with low state spending generally than with a lower percentage of spending on K-12 education, higher cost of living, and larger population of school age children, according to the study. In 1999-2000, 22 percent of total government spending in California went to public schools compared to 25 percent in the rest of the nation. At the same time, there were 8 percent more pupils per capita in California than in the rest of the country. Additionally, in 2000, teachers here earned salaries that were 16 percent higher on average than teachers in the rest of the country, making hiring more expensive.
The report also raises important questions about the effectiveness of California’s system of school finance, where the amount of money provided to schools is based on previous funding levels rather than on independent needs assessments. “The way we finance schools operates on an automatic pilot mentality — doing what was done before — instead of addressing what schools really need or taking into account what specific resources really cost,” says Rose. The study also suggests that some state initiatives and propositions have restricted the way in which schools can spend money, potentially diminishing the effectiveness of the funds they do receive. Rose co-authored the study with PPIC senior fellow Jon Sonstelie, PPIC education specialist Ray Reinhard, and PPIC research associate Sharmaine Heng. The report is the first in a three-volume series made possible by a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
The Public Policy Institute of California is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research on major economic, social, and political issues. The institute was established in 1994 with an endowment from William R. Hewlett.

Note: there has been no improvement in school funding since this report.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

CTA Statement on the election

Students, Teachers and Public Schools Winners as Voters Reject Governor's Agenda and 'Special Interest' Initiatives
November 9, 2005

SACRAMENTO – Barbara E. Kerr, president of the 335,000-member California Teachers Association, released the following statement on the successful defeat of Governor Schwarzenegger's "special interest" initiatives, Propositions 74, 75 and 76:

"The real winners today are the students of California. By rejecting the governor's 'special interest' initiatives, California voters proved once again that improving public education and providing funding to our schools remains their top priority. It's time for the governor to keep his promises to our students by giving our schools the resources they need so all children can succeed. We are proud to have joined nurses, firefighters, police officers and all public employees in turning back these attacks.

"Let's hope the governor has finally heard the real will of the people and understands that his agenda was wrong for California. The people of California want real solutions that include adequate funding of our schools, protecting our minimum school funding guarantee and affordable health care for all.

"The governor owes all Californians an apology. He wasted $50 million on a special election that no one wanted, simply to give himself more power. But voters saw through his attempt to create a 'phenomenon of anger' against teachers, nurses and firefighters.

"The teachers of California will not be silenced when the future of our public schools is at risk. And in the future, no one should doubt that CTA and its 335,000 members have the will and the resources to stand up for students, our public schools and our profession."

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Arnold Terminates himself and Margaret Fortune

Arnold Terminates Himself

By Harold Meyerson

The Washington Post
Thursday 10 November 2005

Los Angeles - Arnold Schwarzenegger's nine mad months of governing
Democratic California as a partisan Republican came to the most predictable of
unhappy endings here on Tuesday. Each of the four ballot measures he inflicted
on voters in his special election lost decisively - his spending-limit proposal
tanking by 24 percent, and his measure to curb the clout of public-sector unions
(Proposition 75) by 7 percent. The mystery of this election is what on earth
Schwarzenegger could have been thinking: No comparable elected official in
recent memory has picked a fight so gratuitously and come out of it so beat up.

Back in January Schwarzenegger's approval rating stood at 62 percent in
the Public Policy Institute of California's poll. Then, in short order, he
called for axing the pensions of the state's public employees, which would have
eliminated the survivor benefits for widows and orphans of police officers and
firefighters. He tried to stall the implementation of a law mandating a
nurse-to-patient ratio in hospitals and attacked the nurses' union as a special
interest. He reneged on a commitment to restore funding for the state's schools.
He went after the public employees unions by backing Proposition 75. And the sky
fell on him.

California's unions produced a torrent of advertising that featured
cops, nurses, teachers and firefighters condemning the governor. They revved up
the most effective Democratic voter mobilization operation in the nation. When
they were done, not only did the governor's propositions fail but his approval
rating in the most recent PPIC poll collapsed to a Bushian 35 percent.

"Arnold's mistake was to try to leverage his popularity to advance the
Republican platform, which doesn't have much support in California," the
state's Democratic Assembly speaker, Fabian Nez, remarked a few days before the
vote. "The Republicans see him as a vehicle to move their agenda, and he's done
that rather than try to enlarge their agenda."

You'd think the Governator would know better. He was elected less as a
partisan Republican than as an outsider who could forge bi- and nonpartisan
solutions in a fractious Sacramento. Sometime last winter, though, he forgot
who he'd been when the voters elected him. He began spouting the gospel
according to Grover Norquist, the anti-tax, anti-union Republican strategist.
But Norquist's Proposition 226 - a 1998 anti-union California ballot measure
that essentially prefigured this year's Proposition 75 - had gone down in a
heap. Why did Schwarzenegger think he could prevail with a warmed-over version
seven years later? Particularly since California is just about the only state
in which union density has actually increased over the past half-decade?

The answer is: the special election. By calling yet another election in
election-weary California, Schwarzenegger was counting on engendering so much
voter revulsion at the election itself that only a relative handful of
disproportionately Republican voters would actually go to the polls. After all,
the past two special elections to feature only propositions and no candidates on
the ballot - one in 1979, the other in 1993 - both had roughly 37 percent
turnout. The unions understood that their task was to push turnout over 40
percent, and on Tuesday they did just that.

The conventional wisdom out here is that Schwarzenegger, like the
Terminator, will be back - that he'll seek reelection next year and mount a
strong and quite possibly successful candidacy. I don't buy that. He'll run,
all right, but I think the damage he's inflicted on himself precludes much hope
of a comeback. His polling among independents and moderates is almost as low as
it is among Democrats and liberals. His approval rating among Latinos has
toppled to a ghastly 25 percent.

More broadly, Schwarzenegger's fierce opposition to raising taxes to pay
for state services is profoundly at odds with the wishes of state voters. Over
the past couple of years, while he has raised tuition and restricted admissions
to the state's universities rather than hike taxes on the rich, voters in more
than 100 municipalities around the state have levied higher property taxes on
themselves to pay for new schools.

Indeed, the repudiation of Schwarzenegger's propositions, coupled with
the defeat in Virginia of the Republicans' taxophobic gubernatorial nominee,
Jerry Kilgore, and last week's decision by Colorado voters to partially
overturn a spending limit that was blocking road and school construction,
strongly suggests that the Republicans' anti-tax revolt is running out of
steam. All politics may be local, but when you lose in dissimilar localities
all across the country, in large part because the central theme of contemporary
conservatism isn't resonating anymore, you have yourself a national problem. And
that's not even counting the issue of George W. Bush.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The End of News?

The End of News?

By Michael Massing

[Cut] The developments at the Tribune Company mirror those in
the newspaper industry as a whole. For most big-city
papers, circulation is declining, advertising is
shrinking, and reporters and editors are being let go.
The full extent of the crisis became apparent in May,
when the Audit Bureau of Circulations reported
circulation figures for 814 daily papers for the six
months ending last March. Compared to the same period
the year before, total daily circulation fell by 1.9
percent and Sunday circulation by 2.5 percent. Sunday
circulation fell by 2 percent at The Boston Globe, 3.3
percent at the Philadelphia Inquirer, 4.7 percent at
the Chicago Tribune, and 8.5 percent at the Baltimore
Sun. At the Los Angeles Times, circulation fell 6.4
percent daily and 7.9 percent on Sundays. Even The
Washington Post, the dominant paper in a region of
strong economic growth, has suffered a 5.2 percent
daily circulation decline over a two-year period.

There are a few exceptions. The New York Times and USA
Today, both national newspapers, have had modest
circulation gains. Even so, the New York Times Company
announced in October that it was going to eliminate
five hundred jobs, including forty-five in the Times
newsroom and thirty-five in the newsroom of The Boston
Globe. (The Globe recently announced that it was
dismantling its national desk.) The Wall Street Journal
has been holding its own in circulation, but its ad
revenues have sharply declined.

It is a striking paradox, however, that newspapers, for
all their problems, remain huge moneymakers. In 2004,
the industry's average profit margin was 20.5 percent.
Some papers routinely earn in excess of 30 percent. By
comparison, the average profit margin for the Fortune
500 in 2004 was about 6 percent. If the Los Angeles
Times were allowed to operate at a 10 to 15 percent
margin, John Carroll told me earlier this year, "it
would be a juggernaut."

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, when most papers went
public, they had little trouble maintaining such
levels. Many enjoyed a monopoly in their markets, and
realtors, car dealers, and local stores had no choice
except to advertise in them. The introduction of new
printing technology helped to reduce labor costs and to
shift power away from unions and toward management. But
papers have since faced successive waves of new
competition-- first from TV, then from cable, and now
from the Internet. Yet Wall Street continues to demand
the same high profits. "Of all the concerns facing
newspapers," Carroll told me,

Cornel West at CSU-S on Dec.1

Scholar Cornel West to speak on race issues
Cornel West

Black activist and philosopher Cornel West, author of the best-selling book Race Matters, and Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism, will speak on campus at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 1 in the University Union Ballroom.

A professor in Princeton University’s African American Studies program, West is renowned for his controversial support of reparations to blacks for slavery and for his ardent attention to social issues such as prison racism. He is also known for his efforts in the Million Man March and involvement in community empowerment programs such as national youth gang summits.

West’s political resume includes his role as senior advisor to 2000 Democratic presidential candidate Bill Bradley and advisor to Rev. Al Sharpton during his 2004 presidential campaign.

West is from Sacramento. He received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, and a master’s and a doctorate in philosophy from Princeton, where he served as director of African American Studies. He has also taught at Yale, Union Theological Seminary and the University of Paris.

Tickets are $15 general and $10 for Sacramento State students, and are available from the Sacramento State Ticket Office at (916) 278-4323 or Tickets.com.

Cornel West is an Honorary Chair of Democratic Socialists of America, along with Barbara Ehrenreich and Dolores Huerta.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Weintraub: No mea culpa

Dan Weintraub gives a detailed accounting of the last campaign. He is descriptive of the governor's role and the internal debates. He does not describe his own role in repeatedly using his column for partisan purposes.
There are several letters to the editor in today's Bee which point out his latest attack on public workers similar to the post on this blog by Sean Campbell .

How would you describe the differences between Weintraub's form of pundrity and that of Jill Stewart? He is better informed and less of a flamethrower. If you read past his obvious strong biases there is often useful information in his colums.
If you are looking for specific examples of these claims see the prior posts about Weintraub's role in the recent campaigns.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Media failure

This is an excerpt from an essay by William Grieder. He refers to the Washington media elite.
He could as well be writing about Sacramento media pundits. See the several articles on Daniel Weintraub on this blog.
If you click on the title, it will take you to the complete original.

The burnt odor in Washington is from the disintegrating authority of the governing classes. The public's darkest suspicions seem confirmed. Flagrant money corruption, deceitful communication of public plans and purposes, shocking incompetence -- take your pick, all are involved. None are new to American politics, but they are potently fused in the present circumstances. A recent survey in Wisconsin found that only 6 percent of citizens believe their elected representatives serve the public interest. If they think that of state and local officials, what must they think of Washington?

We are witnessing, I suspect, something more momentous than the disgrace of another American President. Watergate was red hot, but always about Richard Nixon, Richard Nixon. This convergence of scandal and failure seems more systemic, less personal. The new political force for change is not the squeamish opposition party called the Democrats but a common disgust and anger at the sordidness embedded in our dysfunctional democracy. The wake from that disgust may prove broader than Watergate's (when democracy was supposedly restored by Nixon's exit), because the anger is also splashing over once-trusted elements of the establishment.

Heroic truth-tellers in the Watergate saga, the established media are now in disrepute, scandalized by unreliable "news" and over-intimate attachments to powerful court insiders. The major media stood too close to the throne, deferred too eagerly to the king's twisted version of reality and his lust for war. The institutions of "news" failed democracy on monumental matters. In fact, the contemporary system looks a lot more like the ancien régime than its practitioners realize. Control is top-down and centralized. Information is shaped (and tainted) by the proximity of leading news-gatherers to the royal court and by their great distance from people and ordinary experience.


William Greider is National Affairs Correspondent for The Nation. He is the author of, most recently, "The Soul of Capitalism" (Simon & Schuster).

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Two fun web sites

We beat Arnold.
Now, we can celebrate.
Enjoy the sites.



Next Steps after the victory

We won the election with hard work and appeals to the voters. That is excellent.
Now we have won this election and we deserve to be proud of our win. See CFA statement.
What is next?
We earned the right to define a more positive future. Here are some elements.
The cities voted No (with us and labor). The suburbs voted Yes ( with Arnold).
Sacramento County and Yolo voted No; Placer and El Dorado voted Yes.
There was a strong Yes vote on Prop. 75 in Sacramento as well as Placer, Nevada, and El Dorado. These areas are residents of 100,000 state workers.
There is a clear problem within CSEA. Many workers do not support their union. Some of these folks would vote for no union. They will not be changed. However the CSEA needs an internal education system to educate its members about the advantages of union contracts. Dissent within unions is fine. It is democratic. But a group associated with the National Right to Work movement are trying to defeat union gains. They must be opposed.
A number of CTA members expressed their dissent with Props 74 & 75. As within CSEA, some of this is bedrock Republican viewpoints. Both CSEA and CTA have significant number of Republican members. They are an organized opposition. This must be recognized.
A second question is, What should we do about poor teachers? As we know there are some weak teachers. The first response should be additional preparation and support. They need expert coaches. They need quality administrators.
However, at the end of the day, there are some teachers who need to be removed. What should be a progressive union position on this? Should we work toward a Toledo Plan where teachers are involved in mentoring and dismissal?
And, what should be done with state workers who abuse the system. We know of abuses of workman’s comp and other problems. What should progressives do in response? If we do nothing at all, we open ourselves up to the kind of political attacks seen in Propositions 74, 75 & 76.
What should we expect of a Democratic majority in the legislature? Their record has been less than stellar. And, safe districts do protect legislators from competition. Perhaps we need a new system of drawing districts, and we certainly need public financing of elections such as that passed in Arizona.
A couple of more post election thoughts.
Dan Weintraub tried and tried to promote Republican pollsters as legitimate.
They were wrong.
What did work? An aggressive anti Arnold campaign by the Nurses, teachers, and firefighters worked well. They moved outside of the political campaign managers and paid advertising. Boldness organizes!
You can post your thoughts by using the reply link.

We Won! From CFA

We Did it — Against all the Odds

Message from CFA on the Special Election

Back in June who would have believed that by November 8th the 23 point lead of Prop 75 and the 29 point lead of prop 74 would melt away before our very eyes like the Wicked Witch of the West? It almost seems magical but it was not.

This win was the result of the hard work of thousands of working people in the state and, for the first time in CFA's history, our members became an integral part of the campaign.

How did we win?

We were focused. We knew that this election would be a "tipping point" for the state. We understood that there was nothing more important this fall for the future of the CSU than defeating these initiatives. The stakes were very high; everything we had gained or hoped to gain was on the table.

We developed a plan and carried it out. >From the beginning we knew that winning or losing this election depended on which side did the best job at turning out its voters. In August 180 CFA leaders and student interns met to train and prepare themselves for the arduous work ahead. We educated our campus communities and by October we began to move our faculty, staff and student volunteers into phone banking and precinct walking. By November 8 CFA had covered over 700 volunteer shifts!

Members of the California Faculty Association should be proud. We have won this election because we pushed ourselves with more intensity and tolerated more inconvenience, pain, and long hours than the other side. We stepped up to the plate; all of the hard work we did on our campuses actually made a difference.

What have we accomplished?

Above all, we have sent a resounding message to the Governor and others who attack us that it takes more than a bunch of corporate donors to win an election. When teachers, nurses, fire fighters and all public employees stick together we can do it.

We have won the first round leading up to the 2006 gubernatorial race. Because of the ground campaign we have waged, we have solidified our base and are in a much better position to elect a new Governor who values public higher education and will fight to fund it.

But for most of us, we got involved in this campaign because of our commitment to the CSU, our colleagues, and our students. Faculty, students and staff at the CSU worked together to defeat these propositions and we demonstrated the power of a united campus community. Having averted the disaster this election could have spelled for the CSU, we can move forward once again with our most important goal of rebuilding the CSU.

It is now time for the many, many faculty and student who have played a role in this victory to revel in a job well done—it has truly been a collective effort to be proud of!

California Faculty Association

We won! Arnold Lost! Weintraub Lost!

We won our key battles yesterday. Arnold's educational advisors lost.
We should celebrate!

From the Secretary of State's office.
State Ballot Measures
100.0% ( 17726 of 17726 ) precincts reporting as of Nov 9, 2005 at 7:27 am

Statewide Returns County Returns | County Status

Propositions Yes Votes Pct. No Votes Pct.
73 N Minor's Pregnancy 3,130,062 47.4 3,465,629 52.6 Map
74 N Teacher Tenure 2,987,010 44.9 3,662,932 55.1 Map
75 N Public Union Dues 3,092,495 46.5 3,551,011 53.5 Map
76 N Spending/Funding 2,522,327 37.9 4,115,388 62.1 Map
77 N Redistricting 2,673,530 40.5 3,920,487 59.5 Map
78 N Rx Drug Discounts 2,719,999 41.5 3,821,957 58.5 Map
79 N Rx Drug Rebates 2,523,803 38.9 3,950,763 61.1 Map
80 N Electric Regulation 2,189,126 34.3 4,182,374 65.7 Map

Y - Proposition is passing
N - Proposition is not passing

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Weintraub: Debate Over Unions isn't personal

Poor Dan Weintraub. As an opinion columnist he is charged with presenting a point of view on a topic and providing evidence for his argument. Weintraub’s Trojan horse for the last few months has been the public employee unions and their supposed stranglehold on politics in California. His latest column ‘Debate Over Unions Isn’t Personal”, (November 6) reaches a new low even for his trite brand of punditocracy.

Weintraub’s first attempt at framing the issue is to establish his regular-joe bonafides; we learn that his family includes a number of public employees, therefore he must not be pushing a partisan agenda. Sound familiar? This is the logical equivalent of “I’m not a bigot, I have lots of black/gay/whatever friends!”. His central point, that “public employee unions have tied our government in knots, et. al, is laughable. Most mainstream political observers consider California to be ungovernable for totally different reasons, ones that have a lot to do with Schwarzenegger’s brand of B-movie politics. As majority opinion and voter apathy demonstrates, government by proposition is both unpopular and irresponsible. How many of the major, controversial propositions have been both funded by big business and the radical right and been used as weapons by the California GOP? Props. 13, 187, 209, 226, 227 in the past; Props. 73, 74, 75, 76, 78 in this election. Unable to gain traction with an electorate that rejects Placer/Orange County politics of fear, the state GOP continues to call up the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the Business Roundtable to fuel the soft bigotry of low-turnout elections.

Later Weintraub uses the canard making the rounds of “respectable, moderate” opinion, that unions were useful at one time for minworkers, steelworkers, etc., but are negative forces hurting the state. His examples point to unions opposing the employment of lower-wage workers for state services. We live in the most brazenly free-market country in the world. Our lack of a social safety net means that working people are at the mercy of the ruthless efficiency of the market. Since the de facto legalization of public sector unions in the 1970’s California has been governed by anti-tax conservatives for most of the period. The state’s beggar-thy-neighbor tax policy and white flight has much more to do with the dwindling quality of state services than public employee unions do. As far as pensions and benefits go, state government negotiators often pushed pensions and health-care benefits (amounting to delayed compensation) in leiu of pay increases to avoid the spectre of raising taxes on the wealthy, the ultimate crime in Republican circles. The state kicked the can down the road just like United and Delphi did, and now we actually have to pay for it. How shocking.

I’ve seen a lot of jealousy and envy in regards to the hard-earned benefits won by state employees, understandable in light of the Republican economy of “economic growth” without wage increases. The politics of greed and envy are manifesting themselves in these populist sentiments, with the millions of Californians losing ground yearly looking for answers. Are there lazy and incompetent state employees? Sure, I know a couple myself. Attacking state workers is not the way to solve the state’s problems. California needs to look at the way that the unholy alliance of big business and Christian fundamentalism has been behind the most unpopular and damaging political events in my lifetime.

Sean Campbell

Friday, November 04, 2005

Teachers and professional status

Supporters of Proposition 74 assert that teachers must be held to the “same standards” as other professionals. If we use this logic, then we should start with: raising teachers’ salaries to a level commensurate with other professions that require a B.A./B.S. plus 3 additional semesters of post-baccalaureate study, 150 hours of professional development each year, and passage of at least 3 licensure exams. As long as we are creating uniform standards across the professions, why not hold other professionals to some of the “same standards” that teachers labor under? For example, we could take away the phones and internet access of other professionals, so that they, like teachers, could try to do their jobs without these important tools. We could underfund their programs so that they lack proper materials needed to do their jobs adequately. We could create great instability in their ranks by giving them with pink slips each March only to hire them back again in July, once the unpredictable state budget is figured out. And, we could undercut their professional expertise by putting a range of propositions on the ballot so that the average California voter could weigh in on all kinds of matters related to their professional work life.

Prof. Pia Wong.
College of Education. CSU-Sacramento.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

LA. Times: Schwarzenegger Losing


Only Proposition 74 is now opposed by fewer than half of the likely voters.
Proposition 74
(school teachers)
Yes 45%
No 47%
Proposition 75
(union dues)
Yes 40%
No 51%
Proposition 76
(state spending)
Yes 31%
No 60%
Proposition 77
Yes 34%
No 56%


Pols not interested

For your information. The news story below reveals that the actual case of a teacher dismissal referred to in the Yes on Prop.74 ad by Margaret Fortune, is quite different than the portrayal in the ad. For your information, I have passed this discrepency along to several political writers including Daniel Weintraub of the Bee and ad watch of KCRA.
They do not seem interested.
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