Friday, December 31, 2010

Anti Teacher Union efforts and Waiting for Superman

           I have posted here several critiques of  the film, “Waiting for Superman,” so I do not need to repeat these criticisms.  The most fact based criticism is here What Superman got wrong.
My goal in the following is to share my own reaction to the film.
 First, it is an important film and I encourage people to see it.  It illustrates to a rather uninformed public  several of the important issues including the budget crisis in schools and the importance of having quality teachers.  

In October the film, “Waiting for Superman” dominated the television talk shows, forums, and press with a message that public schools are failing, the teachers’ unions are to blame, and that charter schools are the answer to the problems of public schools.   Superman is not only a film about schools, it is also a part of a wider sophisticated assault on unions and particularly public sector unions.  In the Fall 2010  election in California  Meg Whitman extended the criticism of the teachers union and made it  a major issue in her  $160 million dollar self financed campaign  for Governor.  The film and the Whitman campaign  illustrate how corporate funding produces a political narrative.  The corporations and the foundations involved  are distinct, but the process of corporate or oligarchy funding to shape the political and economic dialogue are similar.
The film  Waiting for Superman is a part of the effective  strategy of corporate take over of education policy and corporate victories in framing the issues of education reform . Historian Diane Ravitch describes  this corporate take over in her well written  book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System; How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education. (2010).  There are several specific criticisms of the  facts and the framing in the film including  Ira Shor of the City University of New York saying  “Overall it benefits the hedge fund billionaires now bankrolling charter schools and conservative politicians,”  on the site
             Prominent education historian Diane Ravitch, formerly an Under Secretary for Research in the Department of Education during the Reagan Administration, criticizes the film  as propaganda citing  substantial evidence that charter schools do not have a record of producing better achievement than public schools . ( NYReview of Books). ). [ full disclosure.  This writer has long criticized Ravitch for her positions on multicultural education and particularly for her role in writing the California  History/Social Science Framework, the document that shapes whose history is taught in California school textbooks.]  Ravitch argues  that Superman  is a propaganda master piece blaming unions for the many problems of public schools including the budget crises and  alleged problems recruiting and keeping  quality teachers.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Looting of the U.S. economy: Les Leopold

1."Honest, we didn't do it!" 
Two years ago Wall Street's colossal greed crashed our economy. Our financial elites created and spewed highly leveraged toxic assets around the globe. These poisonous "innovations" pumped up the housing bubble and Wall Street grew insanely rich in the process. When it all burst, we learned that the big Wall Street institutions that had caused the crash were far too big to fail -- and too connected. High government officials came to their rescue with trillions in cash and guarantees -- underwritten, of course, by we taxpayers. Everyone knew this at the time. But if you asked just about anyone on "The Street" they denied all culpability and pointed the finger everywhere else: Fannie, Freddie, the Fed, the Community Reinvestment Act, tax deductions for home buying, bad regulations, not enough regulations, too many regulations, too much consumer debt, the rating agencies, the Chinese -- and on and on. Sadly, their blame-shifting strategy worked, bamboozling the media and people across the political spectrum. The GOP members of the Financial Crisis Commission are so drunk with this Kool-Aid that in their minority report, they refuse even to use the words "Wall Street" or "speculation" in assessing the causes of the crash. Hypocrites? Crooks? Morons? Take your pick.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Blogging as if public schools matter

This post is based upon an interview with veteran reporter and author William Greider. Social Security in Perspective, Part III A conversation with William Greider by Trudy Lieberman in the Columbia Journalism review  posted on Dec.21,3010.   The interview with Grieder is about how the press miss report the condition and the so called “crisis” of social security.   For this post I have taken Greider’s points and applied some of them to reporting on school reform.  I am relying upon Greider’s extensive knowledge of economics reporting and applying some of  the ideas to reporting on school reform where I see a parallel problem

Why do many reporters not report on the realities of school change?
  They too often  rely upon the wisdom of selected “spokespersons” and other elites. 
They have been sold a framework of  a corporate view of accountability. Corporate sponsored networks and think tanks such as the the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, the Broad Foundation,  the Bradley Foundation, the Pacific Research Institute,  and the Olin Foundation provide “experts” prepared to give an opinion on short notice to meet a reporters deadline.  Most reporters assume that these notables are telling the truth when in fact they are promoting a particular propaganda such as in the film “Waiting for Superman”.  Who do they not speak with?-  Experienced teachers, professionals with experience working to improve inner city schools for decades for equal opportunity. 

The Obama Administration’s appointment of Arne Duncan was symptomatic of the problem.  He represents the  kind of corporate/media approach to reform.   So, reporters can go to the corporate funded foundations and provide “balance” by asking the appointees of the government- they get the same story.  In particular recently they have been turning to the Gates and Broad Foundations  or the conservative Democrats for Education Reform.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Khodorkovsky and the U.S. press

Interesting U.S. news coverage of the trial of  Russian billionaire Mikhairl Khordorkovsky.   He has been tried and convicted of corruption and the U.S. Department of State and U.S. press report this as evidence of the lack of a rule of law in Russia.
Well, that is half of the story.  What they don’t say is that Khordorkovsky really was a crook.  He stole at least $20 Billion from the Russian people.  In 2006 he was the 16th. richest person in the world- based upon his looting of the Russian oil giant Yukos Oil which he acquired by market manipulation and theft.  The resources were taken from the Russian people in the time of rapid transition to a market economy.
He was tried and found guilty of corruption and not paying taxes. 
It is true that he was not the only robber baron who stole these resources.  This is selective persecution.  There are at least 10 major oligarchs and up to a hundred minor oligarchs, but Khodorkovsky was the boldest, most blatant, and became the richest.  A nation with a troubled economy might not be able to take down an entire oligarchy.  That would be like having banks too big to fail.
Why is it wrong to prosecute him?
Now, lets compare this to the U.S. corruption creating the financial crisis of 2007- 2009 when some  $13 Trillion was looted from the U.S. economy by Wall Street financiers.  The CEO’s of the major firms are walking free – some had to pay fines

Monday, December 27, 2010

There but for Fortune- the Phil Ochs story

As our country continues to embroil itself in foreign
wars and pins its hopes on a new leader's promise for
change, Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune is a timely
and relevant tribute to an unlikely American hero. Over
the course of a meteoric music career that spanned two
turbulent decades, Phil Ochs sought the bright lights
of fame and social justice in equal measure - a
contradiction that eventually tore him apart. From
youthful idealism to rage to pessimism, the arch of
Ochs' life paralleled that of the times, and the anger,
satire and righteous indignation that drove his music
also drove him to dark despair. In this brilliantly
constructed film, interview and performance footage of
Ochs is illuminated by the ruminations of Joan Baez,
Tom Hayden, Pete Seeger, Sean Penn, Peter Yarrow,
Christopher Hitchens, Ed Sanders, and others. [See
trailer and opening dates in various cities at the link
below. Thanks to TM Scruggs for this submission. --

Friday, December 24, 2010

Democrats ? for Education Reform 2

The Sacramento Bee today has well written  front page article on Democrats? for Education Reform.
Here is a preliminary response.  Be certain to look at the more detailed description of Democrats? below by Michael Hirsch.

Well done article on the group Democrats ? for Educational Reform. There is more on here.
There is no evidence that the group has improved schools.  Politicians have seldom improved schools.  Improved schools require teachers working together.  There is some evidence in my book, Choosing Democracy, and in the effort of Quality  Investment in Education Act schools sponsored by CTA.
A positive side of the effort of Democrats? For Educational Reform is that they point out, create a megaphone, to describe and criticize the failure of some of our schools, particularly urban schools. 
Instead of talking about the most basic cause- the lack of adequate funding for schools and for school reform- they offer a series of ideas centered on the problem is the teachers unions.  Well. No.  The problem is the significant under funding of California schools as well developed in prior posts and in the suite Robles v. California.  And, given the current state budget, the underfunding of schools is going to get much worse.
In the last two years the k-12 budget “solutions” have cut 4.6 billion dollars from the schools. 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.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dropout prevention

Grad Nation: A Guidebook to Help Communities Tackle the Dropout Crisis - a resource that echoes many of the strategies NEA advocates - is available online from America’s Promise Alliance, one of NEA’s national dropout prevention partners.
The user-friendly guidebook is an excellent resource for NEA state and local affiliates that want to help communities develop tailored plans for keeping students on track to graduate from high school, prepared for college, work and life.
Grad Nation contains research-based guidance for addressing a community’s dropout crisis, links to additional online resources, and ready-to-print tools such as informational handouts to build support for community action, forms and tables to help organize and analyze local data, and charts to guide local decision making. 

Kaplan, MTI, Phoenix, and other for profit universities

Chris Kirkham. The Huffington Post.
Arlen Castillo had just begun an online associate's degree program at Kaplan University when a family emergency forced a change of plans. Her mother in Florida learned she needed extensive surgery that entailed months of recuperation. Only two weeks into her first term, Castillo promptly withdrew to lend her mother support.
As Castillo recalls, a Kaplan academic advisor told her she could simply fill out a withdrawal form and incur no additional expenses beyond the registration fees she had already paid. But a year and a half later, in 2006, collections agents began hounding her, she says, demanding that she pay some $10,000 in supposedly overdue tuition charges. Despite having attended only two online sessions, Castillo had remained officially enrolled at Kaplan for nearly a year after her withdrawal.
Far from an aberration, Castillo's experience typifies the results of a practice known informally inside Kaplan as "guerilla registration": academic advisors have long enrolled students in classes they never take, without their consent and sometimes even after they have sought to withdraw from the university, in order to maximize the company's revenues, according to interviews with former employees.
Managers at Kaplan--the highly profitable educational arm of the Washington Post Co.-- have for years pressured academic advisors to use this method to boost enrollment numbers, the former employees said, offering accounts consistent with dozens of complaints filed by former students with the Florida Attorney General's Office and reviewed by The Huffington Post.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Year the White House became Business Friendly

  • The Year Washington Became “Business Friendly”

    MONDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2010

    History will record 2010 as the year Washington became “business friendly.”

    Not that it was all that unfriendly before. Some would say the bailouts of Wall Street, AIG, GM, and Chysler were about as friendly as it can get. In addition, Washington gave windfalls to drug companies and health insurers in the new health bill, subsidies to energy companies in the stimulus package, and billions to domestic and military contractors.
    But for corporate America it still wasn’t friendly enough. Before the midterm elections, Verizon CEO and Business Roundtable chair Ivan Seidenberg accused the President of creating a hostile environment for investment and job-creation. In the midterms, business leaders overwhelmingly threw their support to Republicans.
    So the White House caved in on the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, and is telling CEOs it will be on their side from now on. As the President recently told a group of CEOs, the choice “is not between Democrats and Republicans. It’s between America and our competitors around the world. We can win the competition.”
  • Saturday, December 18, 2010

    Natomas school district budget crisis

    A news story in today's Bee recounts the budget balancing of the Natomas School District by teachers giving wage concessions.

    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.  In the last two years the k-12 budget “solutions” have cut 4.6 billion dollars from the schools. 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.
    California will need to raise taxes to fund the schools and to repair the social safety net.  Anti tax radicals and Republicans  oppose any tax increases.
    Natomas was one of the early casualties.  Many more will follow- even with the teachers giving up salary.  The states and California are in a downward spiral and it will continue for at least 3-4 years.  The children, and the working people are paying for the robbery of the financial classes. And, they just held up unemployment benefits until the Republicans gave them a $700 Billion tax benefits. 
    See the prior posts on the financial crisis and the state budget crisis.

    Friday, December 17, 2010

    Democrats (?) for Education Reform

    Note: the preceding post on Diane Ravitch and Democrats for Educational Reform.

    Thursday, December 16, 2010

    Review: The Death and Life of the Great American School System

    How Testing and Choice Undermine Education. 2010 by Diane Ravitch.
    Review by Duane Campbell.

    The Death and Life of the Great American School System; 
    Historian  Ravitch, formerly a prominent conservative critic of efforts toward multicultural school reform has now reversed many of her earlier positions and in particular criticizes the over use and abuse of testing and the development of for profit charter schools.  Ravitch is currently a research Professor of Education at New York University, formerly a Fellow at the Hoover Institute, and an Assistant Secretary of Education under George H.W. Bush.   It is interesting a welcome to have a  prominent scholar reverse her earlier positions.  She seems to have changed her positions because she continued to look at the data, and the test based reforms which she earlier promoted are not working out.  And, she examines the specifics of testing limitations. There is no evidence in the book  that she has reversed her earlier advocacy opposing  pluralism and multicultural education.
    The Death and Life of the Great American School System   provides an important description of the media savvy campaign of the pro charter groups- such as Democrats for Education Reform, and the groups Ravitch calls the “Billionaires Boy’s Clubs” .  This is one of the best chapters in the  well written book.  She describes how the Broad Foundation, the Gates and others have taken a leadership in criticizing schools.  Their advocates clearly have the ear of Secretary of Education Duncan and Barack Obama.   A central purpose of their work is to weaken teachers unions.  A part of their effort is organized in the Democrats for Education Reform.
    One of the points not developed by Ravitch is the ploy these groups use is  that you are either for the charter based reforms and privatization, or you are for continuing public schools as they are – a deceptive premise  at best.  There are thousands of dedicated school reformers who have worked for decades to improve schools.  And, we have improved some.  We should continue to improve and reform schools. 

    Tuesday, December 14, 2010

    How to fix education and schools

    How to "fix things fast" in education: Support libraries and librarians
    Sent to TIME Magazine, Dec 14, 2010

    TIME's report that the US "lags behind" countries like Finland and South Korea" 
    on the PISA reading test ("In school, China on the rise," Dec 20), and TIME's 
    positive evaluation of the film Waiting for Superman (The Best Movies of 2010, 
    Dec. 20), leads to the conclusion that there is something seriously wrong with 
    American education and that "we have to fix things fast." A closer look at the 
    data shows that what is wrong is our unacceptably high rate of child poverty.

    Poverty had a huge impact on American PISA reading test scores. American 
    students in schools with less than 10% of students on free and reduced lunch 
    averaged 551, higher than the overall average of any of the 34 member countries 
    of the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development).  Those in 
    schools with 10 to 25% of students qualifying for free and reduced lunch 
    averaged 527. Among the OECD countries, only Korea and Finland did better.

    In contrast, American students in schools with 75% of more of children in 
    poverty averaged 446, second to last among the 34 OECD countries. 

    Our overall scores are less impressive because we have one of the highest rates 
    of child poverty among all the countries tested. According to a 2005 UNICEF 
    report, the US has a child poverty rate of over 21.9%; in contrast, the rate in 
    high-scoring Finland is only 2.8%. 

    Monday, December 13, 2010

    Rethinking Immigration

    David Bacon: "Rethinking Immigration."

    Please note location: Our lectures are held at the Sol Collective, 2574 21st Street, Sacramento, CA (1 blk south of Broadway).
    Bacon is a photojournalist based in the Bay Area, who has devoted his career to chronicling the conditions, history and struggles of immigrant workers.
    Thursday. Dec. 16, 2010.  7 PM. 

    Saturday, December 11, 2010

    How the ruling class rules: A Secretive Banking elite

    A Secretive Banking Elite Rules Trading in Derivatives
    On the third Wednesday of every month, the nine members of an elite Wall Street society gather in Midtown Manhattan.
    The men share a common goal: to protect the interests of big banks in the vast market for derivatives, one of the most profitable — and controversial — fields in finance. They also share a common secret: The details of their meetings, even their identities, have been strictly confidential.
    Drawn from giants like JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, the bankers form a powerful committee that helps oversee trading in derivatives, instruments which, like insurance, are used to hedge risk.
    In theory, this group exists to safeguard the integrity of the multitrillion-dollar market. In practice, it also defends the dominance of the big banks.
    New York Times

    Thursday, December 09, 2010

    House passes Dream Act- Senate delays vote

    In a significant  win for supporters of equitable treatment of immigrants—and for smart startegies to assure that America's best-and-brightest young people have a chance to pursue higher education—the House voted 216-198 late Wednesday to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. Written to address the challenges faced by young people who arrived in the country without proper dicumentation but who have excelled in high school, the legislation extends conditional legal status for five years to students who were younger than 16  when they entered the country, have lived in the US for at least five years and have earned a degree from a US high school, or the equivalent.
    John Nichols in the Nation.

    California Budget crisis

     Feeding the Goose that lays the golden eggs.
    It is clear that the California budget is in crisis, and the issues were  clarified in the budget summit sponsored by Governor elect Jerry Brown on Wednesday, December 7. There are no quick nor easy solutions. We can not simply cut our way out of the crisis, budget cuts and lay offs make the recession worse.
    School funding reveals the nature of crisis.  In the last two years the k-12 budget “solutions” have cut 4.6 billion dollars from the schools. 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.
    California will need to raise taxes to fund the schools and to repair the social safety net.  Anti tax radicals and Republicans  oppose any tax increases.   The state ‘solutions’ of the last three years depended upon receiving federal stimulus money.  The stimulus monies are almost finished and with the Republican winning control  of Congress there will probably not be more funds.
    The California economy , if it were a country, would be the 8th. largest economy in the world.   The California economy is larger than that of Brazil, Spain, Canada, India, Russia, Australia and most of the rest of the world.  California can and should use Keynesian economic policies to find  our way out of this economic crisis.  We are, of course, a state integrated into a national economy, so the collapse of the U.S. economy will have a direct effect on our ability to use Keynesian stimulus to grow the economy.   For description of Keynesian economics see here.

    Wednesday, December 08, 2010

    Michele Rhee in Sacramento

    The Sacramento Bee has an interesting news/ promotion piece   about Michele Rhee and her new foundation. It is here.

    Yes, Michele Rhee is controversial.  More important, while firing and evaluation changed, there really is no solid evidence that her approach improved schooling for kids in D.C.  Please look at the data.
    Just because Michele Rhee and her cohort make unfair and uninformed attacks on U.S. Schools, that does not mean that there are not serious problems in our schools.
    I encourage you to read Diane Ravitch’s book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System; How Testing and Choice Are undermining education. (2010).  She used to be on their side, until she looked closely at the evidence.

    Tuesday, December 07, 2010

    Obama's position on tax deal

    THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. Before I answer a few questions, I just wanted to say a few words about the agreement we've reached on tax cuts.

    My number one priority is to do what's right for the American people, for jobs, and for economic growth. I'm focused on making sure that tens of millions of hardworking Americans are not seeing their paychecks shrink on January 1st just because the folks here in Washington are busy trying to score political points.

    And because of this agreement, middle-class Americans won't see their taxes go up on January 1st, which is what I promised -- a promise I made during the campaign, a promise I made as President.

    Because of this agreement, 2 million Americans who lost their jobs and are looking for work will be able to pay their rent and put food on their table. And in exchange for a temporary extension of the high-income tax breaks -- not a permanent but a temporary extension -- a policy that I opposed but that Republicans are unwilling to budge on, this agreement preserves additional tax cuts for the middle class that I fought for and that Republicans opposed two years ago.

    It was a hold up. Hostages were taken.

    It was a hold up.  The rich held us all hostage.  In order to get the votes needed to extend unemployment benefits for the out of work and to keep the current tax rates for 95% of families, the Republican Party and 4 Democrats and Joe Lieberman blocked passage of reasonable bills for unemployment extensions and tax extensions.
    The current deficit was caused by three major items, the Bush era tax cuts, the two wars,  and the economic crisis.
    Finance capital- that is to say rich people- caused  the crisis, this recession and this unemployment. Now, they continue to insist on profiting from their heist.  They insist on tax breaks for millionaires.

    Monday, December 06, 2010

    Taxes and deficits.

    The tax extension forced by the Republicans will make the deficit problem worse.  Republicans claim that they want to cut the deficits, but what they have done is increase the deficit to give millionaires a tax cut.
    The two deficit commissions have begun a consideration of the growing national debt.  It is important to notice what they have not considered.  The Simpson-Bowles group actually proposed to cut taxes on the corporations while cutting benefits to social security and other programs.
                There are alternatives.  First, the Congress  should restore the Clinton era tax levels on millionaires, the top 2% of the nation.  Republicans have said no and have blocked unemployment benefits to force their way.  It seems that the Obama Administration has given in.  Note.  The Democrats  did not have the votes in the Senate to win.  Losing elections has a cost. 
     The Economic Policy Institute has developed a balanced fair plan that does not tax the middle class while giving tax breaks to the rich.  And they note, as most agree, social security is not in crisis. (
                Another alternative would be to establish a 2% sales tax on stocks, bonds, and securities.  You and I pay 8% sales tax in the county while the “dealers” on Wall Street pay no sales tax.  Such a  tax would quickly reverse our debt problem.  It would tax the very people who created the financial crisis 

    Friday, December 03, 2010

    Republicans kill extended unemployment benefits

    Senate Republicans and a handful of Democrats Saturday defeated a bill to reauthorize unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless and a plethora of tax provisions for the middle class not because of the bill's trillion-dollar deficit impact, but because it did not include tax cuts for the rich.
    Two bills were defeated. By a vote of 53-36, the Senate rejected a measure by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) that would have preserved Bush era tax cuts for lower- and middle-income taxpayers, but would have allowed cuts for people earning more than $200,000 a year to expire. Democrats Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Jim Webb (Va.), Russ Feingold (Wisc.) and Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman (Conn.) joined Republicans in voting nay. 

    Bee editorial board bargains against the teachers

    Today's Sacramento Bee editorial calls for an infusion of new leadership to keep Natomas Unified from failing.  As described yesterday in the post below - Natomas is not failing.  It is under funded as are almost all schools districts in the state.  The Bee editorial board calls for "civic leaders"  to let Natomas Unified teaches know that they should settle and take a 7.9 % pay cut to balance the budget.
    However, California school budgets are all in crisis and they will continue in crisis for several years as a consequence of the economic collapse of the housing market and the financial heist of Wall Street. ( See "the Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One" in the archives of this blog.)
    I would like to see the "civic leaders", including the Bee editorial board insist that the state adequately fund our schools.  Poll after poll show that the tax payers want their schools adequately funded, but the legislature has refused, and has been unable to fund the schools in this crisis. The Robles-Wong suite against California on school funding makes these points well.
    This kind of crisis will engulf more and more school districts.  Those unwilling to take on the corporate elite- like the Sacramento Bee editorial board- will continue to call for the teaches to take the pay cut.  The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission chaired by Phil Angelides will soon make their report showing who really caused the crisis and who profited from the economic crisis. The Bee calls for new leadership but does not call upon the financial insiders to be held accountable and to pay for the crisis they have created.  The students will have a reduced education and the Bee will castigate the teachers. That is our future for the next few years.

    Thursday, December 02, 2010

    School district not going broke- Natomas

    The headline in the Sacramento Bee today  says, “School district is going broke,” Dec.2,2010. P. B1.  The article by Diana Lambert.
    The article, and the headlines, miss the major points, create a distorted frame for the story, and assign blame for the wrong problem.
    The issue is that the Natomas schools have cut their budgets by $31.2 million, and now, due to the failure of the legislature to adequately fund the schools, they must cut even more. Natomas is not a troubled school district. Like all districts it must respond to the draconian cuts imposed from the state.

    The new superintendent and the school board wants the teachers to take a bigger pay cut.  That is, they insist that teachers take pay cuts to respond to the failure of the legislature to adequately fund the schools.  The Bee regularly argues that teachers should take these cuts.

    These cuts hurt children. Already the district has raised its class size from 20 to 25 in k-3. This means that some children will not learn to read and some will not learn math. It is difficult to make these cuts since they damage the quality of education.

    Wednesday, December 01, 2010

    Unemployment extension blocked by Republican Senator

    The extension of unemployment was not passed in the U.S. Senate.  A vote on the extension was blocked by Republican  U.S. Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts.
    From the California Budget Project:


    Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    Diane Ravitch v. Bill Gates on School Reform

    Ravitch answers Gates

    By Valerie Strauss
    In a paean to Bill Gates, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter calls Diane Ravitchthe Microsoft founder's "chief adversary."
    It's the world's richest (or second richest) man vs. an education historian and New York University research professor.
    Gates, through his philanthropic foundation, has invested billions of dollars in education experiments and now has a pivotal role in reform efforts. Ravitch, the author of the bestselling The Death and Life of the Great American School System, has become the most vocal opponent of the Obama administration's education policy. She says Gates is backing the wrong initiatives and harming public schools.
    In the Newsweek piece, Gates poses some questions aimed at Ravitch. I asked her to answer them. Below are the questions Gates asked, in bold, and the answers, in italics, that Ravitch provided in an email.

    Gates: “Does she like the status quo?"
    Ravitch: "No, I certainly don't like the status quo. I don't like the attacks on teachers, I don't like the attacks on the educators who work in our schools day in and day out, I don't like the phony solutions that are now put forward that won't improve our schools at all. I am not at all content with the quality of American education in general, and I have expressed my criticisms over many years, long before Bill Gates decided to make education his project. I think American children need not only testing in basic skills, but an education that includes the arts, literature, the sciences, history, geography, civics, foreign languages, economics, and physical education.

    Monday, November 29, 2010

    The budget deficit and debt

    The Budget Deficit and the Debt
    What You Need to Know

    1. The deficit is the gap between what the government spends and the revenues it collects each year. We didn’t always run deficits. When President Clinton left office, the federal budget was running a surplus of $236 billion, or about 2% of the U.S. economy. And that extra revenue was being used to pay down the national debt. To understand how we moved from big surpluses to a growing deficit, it’s helpful to examine each of the major factors driving our nation’s current deficits.
    2. Every million additional jobs we generate reduces the deficit by $54 billion.
    3. It’s misleading (and dangerous) to confuse the short-term budget shortfall with the medium-term deficit or the long-term debt. Here’s a way of understanding it:
      1. The Short-Term Recession Shortfall (1-3 years): The Great Recession wasresponsible for 61 percent of the deficit last year.

    What Tom Friedman got wrong about schools

    What Tom Friedman got wrong [in the NY Times] about schools and why it matters
    By Valerie Strauss
    November 29, 2010

    The great New York Times columnist Tom Friedman wrote in a recent piece that if he were a cub reporter today, he’d want to be “covering the epicenter of national security -- but that would be the Education Department.”
    Then he goes on to quote liberally from Education Secretary Arne Duncan, taking no account of what veteran teacher Anthony Cody, in a recent piece on his blog, described as a serious mismatch between the secretary's words and actions.
    If Friedman the cub reporter had turned this piece in, a veteran education editor would have sent it back, asking him to back up his contentions with research. He’d have a hard time.
    Look at just a few things Friedman got wrong. He wrote:
    “Duncan, with bipartisan support, has begun several initiatives to energize reform — particularly his Race to the Top competition with federal dollars going to states with the most innovative reforms to achieve the highest standards. Maybe his biggest push, though, is to raise the status of the teaching profession. Why?
    “Tony Wagner, the Harvard-based education expert and author of “The Global Achievement Gap,” explains it this way. There are three basic skills that students need if they want to thrive in a knowledge economy: the ability to do critical thinking and problem-solving; the ability to communicate effectively; and the ability to collaborate.

    Sunday, November 28, 2010

    Pedagogy and Politics- Ohanian

    Good points on what is wrong with NCLB, Race to the Top, and the Obama-Duncan agenda in education.

    Susan Ohanian's session was great.  She did not mince words yet she did not mince them with grace, dignity, and called us all to action.  Her talk is posted on her website at:

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    Economic changes leaving U.S. behind

    The U.S.  economic crisis was severe in part because of the   growth of finance capital as the  dominant actor  in our economy .  Finance was in crisis first, then the production of goods and services collapsed taking some $13 Trillion out of the  U.S. economy and caused a  $ 34 Trillion loss in the world economy.  The extreme  income inequality produced  by the three-decade rise of the financial industry has significant  societal consequences including fundamental changes in employment  and education opportunities .
    As a consequence of the last thirty years of  the dominance of finance capital and income stagnation, the U.S. is losing its power in the world economy.

                This is how one author describes the economic shifts,
    “The earthquake of the past few years has damaged western economies while leaving those of emerging countries, particularly Asia, standing. It has also destroyed western prestige. The west has dominated the world economically and intellectually for at least two centuries. That epoch is over. Hitherto, the rulers of emerging countries disliked the west’s pretensions, but respected its competence. This is true no longer. Never again will the west have the sole word. The rise of the Group of 20 leading economies reflects new realities of power and authority.” -- Martin Wolf, Financial Times, July 14, 2010 .

                The U.S.  is no longer the  one dominant economic power in the world.  Here is a listing of the major economic powers.

    Approximate GDP- Purchasing Power Parity
    United States of America
    United Kingdom

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