Saturday, July 31, 2010

Secretary Duncan and Race to the Top

Jim Horn

Arne Duncan stood before the NAACP convention last week to repeat his claim that "education is the civil rights issue of our generation." He also declared "the only way to equality in society is to achieve equality in the classroom." Since Mr. Duncan did not spell out what he meant by equality or civil rights, let's see if we can extrapolate his meaning from the policies he is pushing hard to be adopted across America, even if his heavy-handed forcing means ignoring the lawful Congressional role in making federal education policy. 

Apparently, Mr. Duncan does not believe that the equality shortage in classrooms that we have known about ever since poor children started going to school can be helped by fair housing policies, better transportation policies, improved health policies, or new jobs policies, any of which we know could affect the poverty levels of urban and rural America, where rates are now the highest, after taxes, of any industrialized nation. According to Mr. Duncan, it would seem that policy shifts or new efforts in these areas are unimportant, for it is "only" in the classroom that we may hope to achieve equality. 

Well, what kind of equality in the classroom would that be? Apparently, it is first and foremost a segregated kind of equality, a segregation that is aided by the spread of charter schools, which remains a top priority of the Administration. Two studies last year, in fact, showed incontrovertible evidence for the segregative effects of charter schools, whether run by non-profit or for-profit corporations. 

Friday, July 30, 2010

Teachers' jobs blocked by Republican vote

Your vote in November will make a difference; Boxer vs Fiorina. Republicans on Thursday again filibustered and stopped the effort to provide funds to schools to stop some 130,000 layoffs of teachers.  (see below)
“Senate Republicans on Thursday rejected a bill to aid small businesses with expanded loan programs and tax breaks, in a procedural blockade that underscored how fiercely determined the party’s leaders are to deny Democrats any further legislative accomplishments ahead of November’s midterm elections.”
All Democrats voted to break the filibuster, all Republicans supported the filibuster.  California Senator Boxer voted to break the filibuster. How would Republican candidate Carly  Fiorina have voted?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Barack Obama- I support teachers

"I am 110 % in support of teachers. " Watch the video.

Now, I know some argue that during a recession, we should focus solely on economic issues. But education is an economic issue - if not the economic issue of our time. It's an economic issue when the unemployment rate for folks who've never gone to college is almost double what it is for those who have. It's an economic issue when eight in ten new jobs will require workforce training or a higher education by the end of this decade. It's an economic issue when we know countries that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow.---

Eliseo Medina on Arizona's anti immigrant movement

Eliseo Medina at Netroots Nation: Unite to Defeat anti-immigrant, anti-Latino movements from Talking Union on Vimeo.
Wait. It takes some time to load.
Eliseo Medina, international vice president of the Service Employees International Union, spoke at a panel on “civil rights in the modern era” at the just concluded Netroots Nation convention in Las Vegas.  Medina reviewed the impact of Arizona’s SB 1070.

Medina is an honorary chair of Democratic Socialists of America and was the 2004 recipient of Chicago DSA’s Debs-Thomas-Harrington Award.  He was described by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the most successful labor organizers in the country” and was named one of the “Top 50 Most Powerful Latino Leaders” in Poder Magazine. He is currently leading the Service Employees International Union‘s efforts to achieve comprehensive immigration reform that “rebuilds the nation’s economy, secures equal labor- and civil-rights protections for workers to improve their wages and work conditions and provides legal channels and a path to citizenship.”  He  played a leading role in the effort to unite the unions of the Change to Win federation and AFL-CIO around a comprehensive framework for reform.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Civil Rights leaders criticize Obama Administration's Race to the Top

Civil Rights Framework for Providing All Students an Opportunity to Learn through Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights under Law
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
National Council for Educating Black Children
National Urban League
Rainbow PUSH Coalition
Schott Foundation for Public Education
Today there is nothing short of a state of emergency in the delivery of education to our nation’s communities of color. As our communities quickly grow on pace to become a numerical majority, it is clear that confronting the issues we face is not just our challenge alone but all of America’s challenge. As a nation, we are failing to provide the high quality educational opportunities that are critical for all students to succeed, thereby jeopardizing our nation’s ability to continue to be a world leader.

Prominent Civil Rights Leaders Unite to Push for a Federal Education Agenda That Gives All Students an “Opportunity To Learn”
WASHINGTON – July 26, 2010 –Prominent civil-rights leaders today joined force to call for the adoption of federal education policies that create the framework and conditions necessary to achieve equitable opportunities for all.
The leaders called on the Obama Administration and Congress to revamp the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) by leveraging federal resources available to all states. As a part of extending an opportunity to learn as a right, the leaders asked the President to demand and support universal access to early education for students in all states. They also seek to ensure that all students have access to highly effective teachers. Their plan calls for providing incentives to recruit and retain highly effective educators and improve the teaching and learning conditions in high–need, low-income, and rural areas. Their plan also urges the federal government to institutionalize a national resource accountability system so that all students and parents will live within communities with the type of educational systems where students can achieve high outcomes.
Addressing Resource Inequities
To help address longstanding resource inequities that exists nationwide, the civil rights framework calls for a pairing of the common standards movement with efforts to define common resource standards that support important priorities, such as access to early education, highly effective teachers, college-bound curricula and equitable instructional resources. The civil rights leaders also urge federal officials to promote and support state-level systemic innovations that can help encourage alternatives to state and local property-based education funding which inherently leads to resource inequities.
Inherent Inequities in “Race to the Top” Funding Strategy

Judge blocks part of Arizona law- cites U.S. constitution

Judge Blocks Key Parts of Immigration Law in Arizona

PHOENIX — A federal judge, ruling on a clash between the federal government and a state over immigration policy, has blocked the most controversial parts of Arizona’s immigration enforcement law from going into effect.
In a ruling on a law that has rocked politics coast to coast and thrown a spotlight on the border state’s fierce debate over immigration, United States District Court Judge Susan Bolton in Phoenix said some aspects of the law can go into effect as scheduled on Thursday.
The parts of the law that the judge blocked included the sections that called for officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws and that required immigrants to carry their papers at all times. Judge Bolton put those sections on hold until the issues are resolved by the courts.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Great Recession - How the rich live

The American people are hurting. As a result of the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street, millions of Americans have lost their jobs, homes, life savings and their ability to get a higher education. Today, some 22 percent of our children live in poverty, and millions more have become dependent on food stamps for their food.
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And while the Great Wall Street Recession has devastated the middle class, the truth is that working families have been experiencing a decline for decades. During the Bush years alone, from 2000-2008, median family income dropped by nearly $2,200 and millions lost their health insurance. Today, because of stagnating wages and higher costs for basic necessities, the average two-wage-earner family has less disposable income than a one-wage-earner family did a generation ago. The average American today is underpaid, overworked and stressed out as to what the future will bring for his or her children. For many, the American dream has become a nightmare.

But, not everybody is hurting. While the middle class disappears and poverty increases the wealthiest people in our country are not only doing extremely well, they are using their wealth and political power to protect and expand their very privileged status at the expense of everyone else. This upper-crust of extremely wealthy families are hell-bent on destroying the democratic vision of a strong middle-class which has made the United States the envy of the world. In its place they are determined to create an oligarchy in which a small number of families control the economic and political life of our country.

Race to the top?

AFT Has Mixed Reaction to Latest Race to the Top Finalists

AFT president Randi Weingarten on July 27 congratulated the 19 finalists for
phase 2 of Race to the Top, but raised concerns about some aspects of the
competitive federal grants program. The best of those finalists, Weingarten
says, "have made a concerted effort to bring together parents, educators and
community leaders to develop a thoughtful, student-focused approach to improving
public education." (Final grant winners will be announced in September.)

"AFT members in states like Florida, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Ohio,
Pennsylvania and Rhode Island fought for and won a seat at the table, and their
management counterparts engaged with them in a respectful, professional way,"
Weingarten says. "Fully recognizing that Race to the Top is far from perfect,
our members nevertheless worked tirelessly to ensure that stakeholders in these
states focused on students' interests and offered solutions that make sense in
their classrooms.

"The centerpiece of Race to the Top is meaningful teacher evaluations developed
with teacher input and focused on student learning. The Department of
Education's rhetoric, and its scoring rubric, purport to reward states that work
with teachers to develop this kind of evaluation system. Logically, then,
Washington, D.C.'s application, which includes an evaluation system developed
and implemented solely by the chancellor, without regard to considerable
criticism this year from frontline educators, should have ranked among the
lowest. By naming D.C. a finalist, the Education Department is sending a message
that is completely opposite to its earlier calls for states to engage all
community members, including teachers, in the effort to improve schools. No one
wants bad teachers, but no one should want bad teacher evaluation systems

"While we encouraged our local and state affiliates to be involved in every
aspect of Race to the Top, we have always been troubled that this competition,
by its very construct, leaves out millions of students across the country.
Rather than picking winners and losers, our education policies should represent
a comprehensive approach focused on preparing every student to succeed in
college, work and life. Last month in Seattle, delegates to the AFT's convention
embraced such an approach: namely, to ensure that every neighborhood school is
an excellent school; to build on what works and replicate it for all kids; to
create a school environment in which students have what they need to succeed,
including a well-rounded curriculum; and to provide teachers the necessary
support so they can constantly improve.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Civil Rights Groups criticize Race to the Top

A coalition of civil rights organizations, including the NAACP, issued a scathing report about RTTT, calling on President Obama and Arne Duncan to dismantle core components of the law...

"The Race to the Top Fund and similar strategies for awarding federal
education funding will ultimately leave states competing with states,
parents competing with parents, and students competing with other
students..... By emphasizing competitive incentives in this economic
climate, the majority of low-income and minority students will be left
behind and, as a result, the United States will be left behind as a
global leader."

Friday, July 16, 2010

Republicans, deficit hawks, make the economy worse

Christopher Hayes. The Nation.
First, the facts. Nearly the entire deficit for this year and those projected into the near and medium terms are the result of three things: the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Bush tax cuts and the recession. The solution to our fiscal situation is: end the wars, allow the tax cuts to expire and restore robust growth. Our long-term structural deficits will require us to control healthcare inflation the way countries with single-payer systems do.
But right now we face a joblessness crisis that threatens to pitch us into a long, ugly period of low growth, the kind of lost decade that will cause tremendous misery, degrade the nation's human capital, undermine an entire cohort of young workers for years and blow a hole in the government's bank sheet. The best chance we have to stave off this scenario is more government spending to nurse the economy back to health. The economy may be alive, but that doesn't mean it's healthy. There's a reason you keep taking antibiotics even after you start to feel better.
And yet: the drumbeat of deficit hysterics thumping in self-righteous panic grows louder by the day. Judging by its schedule and online video, this year's Aspen Ideas Festival was an open-air orgy of anti-deficit moaning. The festival is a good window into elite preoccupations, and that its opening forum featured ominous warnings of future bankruptcy from Niall Ferguson, Mort Zuckerman and David Gergen does not bode well. Nor does the fact that there was a panel called "America's Looming Fiscal Emergency: How to Balance the Books." This attitude isn't confined to pundits. The heads of Obama's fiscal commission have called projected deficits a "cancer."

Republicans block Extended Unemployment insurance

The expiration of the special unemployment compensation provisions enacted earlier in the recession has brought the problems of long-term unemployment and the role of unemployment compensation to the fore.
The June unemployment rate was 9.5%, and 45.5% of the unemployed have been seeking work for more than six months. Roughly a quarter of the unemployed have been jobless for more than a year. In this context, more than 2 million unemployed workers have already lost their unemployment insurance benefits because of the failure to renew the program that provides extended benefits to the long-term unemployed. This is unfortunate because providing unemployment benefits during a recession fulfills two important national needs: assisting those most hurt by the recession and generating jobs in the midst of a deep downturn.
First, unemployment benefits help cushion the blow of unemployment for millions of unemployed workers. This recession has caused the most job loss by far of any recession in the last seven decades. 

Financial overhaul-Boxer Yes, Fiorina No

Here is the take away. The Senate passed a bill to reform the financial system to limit the kind of bankers robbery that occurred in 20008.  Senator Barbara Boxer voted yes.  Candidate Fiorina said she would have voted No.  That is a difference of substance.  If Fiorina would have been there, the Democrats could not get the 60 votes needed, and we would still be under the rules- or lack of rules- that lead to the Second Great Recession.

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday voted 60-39 to approve the most sweeping overhaul of the nation's financial regulatory system since the Great Depression, clearing the historic legislation for President Barack Obama to sign into law.

Teachers jobs- education funding

The U.S. House of Representatives just delivered a major victory for America’s educators. Now, we have to keep up the pressure and get the Senate on board.

Thanks to your calls, letters, and visits, the House approved $10 billion in new funds to prevent over 130,000 educators from being laid off -- averting severe cuts that would hurt students, teachers, education support professionals, and our public schools.

Now the bill moves to the Senate, where we face a challenging path. It’ll take a massive show of support from members like you to make sure the Senate votes to approve these vital funds.

Call 1-866-608-6355 to be automatically connected to your Senator’s office. Make sure your Senator knows that education jobs are important to you.

With many states facing budget shortfalls, hundreds of thousands of teachers’ and education support professionals’ jobs are at risk.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Finance Reform bill passes - finally

Democrats successes so far.
January 29: Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

February 4: Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act

February 11: DTV Delay Act

February 17: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act;
         Allocation of some $8 billion to California schools allowing districts
         to preserve some 16,000 teacher jobs and 15,000 jobs in higher ed.

March 30: Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009

April 21: Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act

2010. Plus. 3 allocations of addition funds for Supplemental Unemployment insurance to the states.  Currently Unemployment Insurance can extend up to 99 weeks.  Appropriations to extend the supplemental unemployment are currently blocked by a Republican filibuster in the Senate.
July 17,2010.  Financial regulation bill passed. ( Wall Street Reform).
This is as important as the Health Care reform bill. 

The Blame the teachers crowd

by Randi Weingarten 
The blame-the-teacher crowd would have Americans believe that there is only one choice when it comes to public education: either you’re for students, or you’re for teachers.
That is a bogus choice.
When a school is good for the kids, it’s also good for the teachers, and vice versa. And if our leaders fail to recognize this, and fail to create a positive vision for our schools, we must lead the way.
I never thought I’d see the superintendent of a major city’s public school system call public education, and I’m quoting here: “crappy.”
I never thought I’d open a major newspaper to see us described as (again I’m quoting): “selfinterested adults trying to deny poor parents choice for their children.”
I might have expected to hear the House Republican Leader say that preventing teacher layoffs is a scheme to, quote, “Pad the education bureaucracy.”
But I never thought I’d see a Democratic president, whom we helped elect, and his education secretary applaud the mass firing of 89 teachers and staff in Central Falls, R.I., when not a single one of the teachers ever received an unsatisfactory evaluation.

And I never thought that I’d see a documentary film about helping disadvantaged children in which the villain wasn’t crumbling schools, or grinding poverty, or the lack of a curriculum, or overcrowded classrooms, or the total failure of No Child Left Behind.
No, the villain was us.

Democratic Legislative work 2009/2010

Democrats successes so far.
January 29: Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

February 4: Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act

February 11: DTV Delay Act

February 17: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act;
         Allocation of some $6 billion to California schools allowing districts
         to preserve some 16,000 teacher jobs.

March 30: Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009

April 21: Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act

May 20: Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act

May 20: Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009
Plus. 3 allocations of addition funds for Supplemental Unemployment insurance to the states.  Currently Unemployment Insurance can extend up to 99 weeks.  Appropriations to extend the supplemental unemployment are currently blocked by a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Economic Report, Christina Romer

Christina Romer, Advisor to the President.
The Council of Economic Advisors submitted a crucial report today on the state of the economy.
“White House economists touted the success of the government’s $787 billion stimulus program on Wednesday, saying it had saved or created 2.5 million to 3.6 million jobs since it was signed a year ago.
The new report by the Council of Economic Advisers showed that the pace of fiscal stimulus had accelerated, with spending growing to $116 billion in the second quarter from $108 billion in the first quarter and $80 billion in the final three months of 2009.
The White House also estimated that gross domestic product, a measure of overall economic output, was 2.7 percent to 3.2 percent higher than it would have been without the $787 billion in stimulus. The new estimate is in line with projections by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office..

California school spending; How do we rank?

How Do California’s Education Spending and
Staffing Levels Compare  to Other States?
California’s spending for public schools lags that of the rest of the US.1 California’s schools:
·      Ranked 44th among the 50 states in K-12 spending per student, spending $2,546 less per student than the rest of the US in 2009- 10 (Table 1). To reach the level of spending per student of the rest of the US, California’s schools would have had to spend an additional $15.4 billion in 2009-10, an increase of 28.9 percent.
·      Ranked 46th in education spending as a percentage of personal income – a measure that reflects the size of a state’s economy and the resources available to support public services. To reach the level of the rest of the US, California would have had to spend an additional $15.3 billion on education in 2008-09, an increase of 29.5 percent.
California has more students per school staff than the rest of the US. California’s schools:
• Ranked 50th in the nation with respect to the number of students per teacher.
California averaged 21.3 students for each teacher in 2009-10, more than 50
percent larger than the rest of the US, which averaged 13.8 students per teacher.2
• Ranked 46th in the nation with respect to the number of students per
administrator.3 California’s schools averaged 358 students for each administrator
in 2007-08, compared to 216 students for each administrator in the rest of the US.
• Ranked 49th in the nation with respect to the number of students per guidance
counselor. California’s schools averaged 809 students for each guidance counselor
Source: California Budget Project.  Race to the Bottom.
Meanwhile the anti tax radicals continue to denounce our schools.  

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bankers, hustlers and con men doing well in this economy

Outside the Casino

The hustlers and high rollers at Wall Street’s gaming tables are starting to feel lucky again.
Hiring is beginning to pick up in the very sector that led the country to the edge of a depression. An article on the front page of The Times on Sunday noted that this turnaround “underscores the remarkable recovery of the biggest banks and brokerage firms since Washington rescued them in the fall of 2008, and follows the huge rebound in profits for members of the New York Stock Exchange, which totaled $61.4 billion in 2009, the most ever.”
The hustlers and high rollers are always there to skim the cream, no matter what’s happening in the real world of ordinary American families.
In a column that was published a few days before Christmas 2007, the very month that the great recession began, I wrote about the record-breaking seasonal bonuses being handed out on Wall Street: an obscene $38 billion, the highest total ever. The subprime mortgage debacle was already upon us and the economy was sinking like a stone, but the casino crowd was celebrating as never before. “Even as the Wall Streeters are high-fiving and ordering up record shipments of Champagne and caviar,” I noted, “the American dream is on life support.”
The fattest of the fat cats live in a perpetual heads-I-win, tails-you-lose environment. But if you step outside the Wall Street casino, you’ll notice that things aren’t going too well in the rest of the country. More than 14 million Americans are out of work, and nearly half of them have been jobless for six months or longer. The unemployment rate for black Americans is 15.4 percent.
School districts across the country are taking drastic steps to cope with collapsing budgets: firing personnel, increasing class sizes, cutting kindergarten and summer-school programs and, in some cases, moving to a four-day school week. The Associated Press, in a demoralizing report, recently noted: “As the school budget crisis deepens, administrators across the nation have started to view school libraries as luxuries that can be axed rather than places where kids learn to love reading and do research.”

Monday, July 12, 2010

A vision of improved schools

Saying America’s teachers would “lead and propose, not wait and oppose,” AFTPresident Randi Weingarten outlined a vision to “build a system of public education as it ought to be.”
Photo credit: DigiSmile/Flickr Creative Commons 

She said real changes could be made by focusing on good teaching, creating a curriculum that provides opportunity for students to learn and sharing responsibility and accountability with parents and administrators.
Weingarten spoke yesterday at AFT’s biennial convention in Seattle, which runs through Sunday. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will address the convention tomorrow.
She told the more than 3,000 delegates that the “blame the teacher crowd” would rather “affix blame than fix schools.” These critics, she continued, “would have Americans believe that there is only one choice when it comes to public education: either you’re for students, or you’re for teachers,” which Weingarten called a “bogus choice.”
It’s simply wrong to suggest that there is an epidemic of bad teachers and at the same time to ignore poverty, budget cuts, the absence of curriculum, the huge attrition of good teachers—all things we know truly hamper student success.
No teacher—myself included—wants a bad teacher in any classroom. The AFT and our locals are taking real steps to solve the problem and to strengthen teaching.
Weingarten outlined the steps to creating better public schools:
  • Focus on good teaching, including better evaluation procedures. Teacher evaluations should include measures of student learning but, Weingarten said, there’s a huge difference between using multiple indicators of student learning as part of a teacher’s evaluation, and basing a teacher’s hiring, firing and promotion on standardized test scores.
  • Create curriculums that provide opportunities for students to learn. Weingarten  reaffirmed the union’s support for  wraparound services—such as after-school, nutrition, health and early childhood programs—to be available in traditional public schools, not just charter schools.
  • Share responsibility and accountability. Weingarten described a vision of accountability “that is meant to fix schools…and holds everyone responsible for doing their share.” She said that “shared responsibility should extend to the bargaining table” and described the growing number of AFT affiliates that have used “collective bargaining as a creative tool to codify collaborative approaches that improve teaching and learning.”
The complete text of Weingarten’s speech is available here.

Myths of Austerity: Krugman


When I was young and naïve, I believed that important people took positions based on careful consideration of the options. Now I know better. Much of what Serious People believe rests on prejudices, not analysis. And these prejudices are subject to fads and fashions.
Which brings me to the subject of today’s column. For the last few months, I and others have watched, with amazement and horror, the emergence of a consensus in policy circles in favor of immediate fiscal austerity. That is, somehow it has become conventional wisdom that now is the time to slash spending, despite the fact that the world’s major economies remain deeply depressed.
This conventional wisdom isn’t based on either evidence or careful analysis. Instead, it rests on what we might charitably call sheer speculation, and less charitably call figments of the policy elite’s imagination — specifically, on belief in what I’ve come to think of as the invisible bond vigilante and the confidence fairy.
Bond vigilantes are investors who pull the plug on governments they perceive as unable or unwilling to pay their debts. Now there’s no question that countries can suffer crises of confidence (see Greece, debt of). But what the advocates of austerity claim is that (a) the bond vigilantes are about to attack America, and (b) spending anything more on stimulus will set them off.
What reason do we have to believe that any of this is true? Yes, America has long-run budget problems, but what we do on stimulus over the next couple of years has almost no bearing on our ability to deal with these long-run problems. As Douglas Elmendorf, the director of the Congressional Budget Office, recently put it, “There is no intrinsic contradiction between providing additional fiscal stimulus today, while the unemployment rate is high and many factories and offices are underused, and imposing fiscal restraint several years from now, when output and employment will probably be close to their potential.”

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Progressive Groups form an alliance

Progressives hope 'One Nation' coalition can recapture grass-roots fervor
By Krissah Thompson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 12, 2010; A03
 If imitation is the highest form of flattery, the "tea party" movement must be honored.
In an effort to replicate the tea party's success, 170 liberal and civil rights groups are forming a coalition that they hope will match the movement's political energy and influence. They promise to "counter the tea party narrative" and help the progressive movement find its voice again after 18 months of foundering.
The large-scale attempt at liberal unity, dubbed "One Nation," will try to revive themes that energized the progressive grass roots two years ago. In a repurposing of Barack Obama's former campaign slogan, organizers are demanding "all the change" they voted for -- a poke at the White House.
But the liberal groups have long had a kind of sibling rivalry, jostling over competing agendas and seeking to influence some of the same lawmakers. In forming the coalition, the groups struggled to settle on a name. Even now, two of the major players disagree about who came up with the idea of holding a march this fall.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sacramento Libraries found lacking

In the 2009 America's Most Literate Cities report, six California cities placed in the bottom seven places in public library quality: Bakersfield (69th), Los Angeles (70th), Anaheim (71st), Sacramento (72nd), Stockton (74th) and Santa Ana (75th).

California also has the worst-supported school libraries in the country, in terms of both holdings and staffing.

Study after study shows that library quality is related to higher scores on reading tests. It is therefore not surprising that California children do poorly on reading tests: Children get better in reading by reading a lot, and they read more when they have access to books.

Let's divert some of the huge sums spent on testing to funding libraries. Let's invest in promoting learning, not just measuring it.

Stephen Krashen
The writer is a professor emeritus at USC's Rossier School of Education.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Researchers criticize Arizona school treatment of English Learners

Be sure to note Margaret Garcia Dugan's comment that the teachers they talk to "love the program" and that based on the state's reclassifcation rates, the program works, especially if it is adhered to "with fidelity." 

The program separates students for up to 4 hours per day of intensive instruction in English.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Not talking about the real school issues

The Sacramento Bee editorial writers again attack teachers unions in their support of SB 1285 to alter seniority rules. Lets look at what they  are actually advocating. In low performing schools, new teachers, teachers with 1 -3 years of experience would not be laid off. So, more experienced teaches, teachers with 4-6 years of experience would be laid off. There is little gain here.
 It is a tragedy that young teachers will be laid off. It will impact their lives, their careers, and the future of the schools. But, what are the Bee editorial writers not saying ?  The national economic crisis produced a fiscal crisis in the states, and now California has cut over $16 billion from its schools.   The financial crisis caused the lay offs, not seniority.
It is most interesting that writers focus on teachers and seniority.  Why would that be?   In an excellent editorial, What’s Up with All the Teacher Bashing?   in the Summer issue of Rethinking Schools  the editors say,
 “But if these attacks on teachers aren’t about ending the systemic racism that continues to undermine our education system, what is the goal?  With forces as seemingly disparate as the Obama administration, the Walton Foundation, the late Milton Friedman, and the New York Times all pushing the same ideas, this is a complicated question, but there are at least two major goals: destroy the power of the teachers’ unions, and turn the public school system from a public trust into a new market for corporate development. From the time of Reagan, who used his “welfare queen” stories to scapegoat the poor as a basis on which to destroy the welfare system, this has been a tried-and-true approach to privatization: use visceral anecdotes to whip up hysteria that a system is “broken,” argue that only market competition can fix the situation, and then sell off pieces of the public sector to private corporations. This time, teachers are the scapegoats.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

NEA delegates slam Obama Administration policy

Delegates to the National Education Association voted on Sunday to take a position of "no confidence" in the U.S. Department of Education's Race to the Top guidelines and in the use of competitive grants as a basis for the reauthorization of ESEA -the Elementary and Secondary Education Act formerly known as No Child Left Behind.
It was a  notable slam on the Obama administration.  "Arne Duncan was not on the ballot. The policies of the Department of Education are the policies of the Obama administration," one  delegate said. "We have to step up and say that the policies of the Obama administration, we do not agree with those."
NEA President Dennis Van Roekel,  was quoted in the New York Times as saying, “Today our members face the most anti-educator, anti-union, anti-student environment I have ever experienced,”  No one from the Obama Administration was scheduled to speak at the convention.
Meanwhile over 100,000 teachers nation wide face lay offs as Senate Democrats fail to overcome a filibuster to pass a new stimulus package.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Battling the Banksters

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Teacher bashing, budget cuts and the media

From Rethinking Schools.

But if these attacks on teachers aren’t about ending the systemic racism that continues to undermine our education system, what is the goal?  With forces as seemingly disparate as the Obama administration, the Walton Foundation, the late Milton Friedman, and the New York Times all pushing the same ideas, this is a complicated question, but there are at least two major goals: destroy the power of the teachers’ unions, and turn the public school system from a public trust into a new market for corporate development. From the time of Reagan, who used his “welfare queen” stories to scapegoat the poor as a basis on which to destroy the welfare system, this has been a tried-and-true approach to privatization: use visceral anecdotes to whip up hysteria that a system is “broken,” argue that only market competition can fix the situation, and then sell off pieces of the public sector to private corporations. This time, teachers are the scapegoats.
So it’s no accident that a major thrust of the media and political campaign has been the elimination of teacher tenure, which is blamed for making it hard to fire “bad” teachers. Everyone—as student, parent, or colleague—has felt the impact of teachers who should not be in the classroom. But don't blame tenure. Tenure is not a guaranteed job for life; it’s the right, which all employees deserve, not to be fired without due process and without just cause. If the goal were really better teaching, Race to the Top would be promoting union/district peer review and mentoring programs that are effective in helping struggling teachers and removing those who can’t make the grade. Instead, President Obama and Secretary of Education Duncan have made linking retention and salaries to test scores a precondition for Race to the Top funds, and encouraged states to break the power of teachers’ unions.

School budget cut proposals- Joel Klein

Joel I. Klein, the chancellor of the New York City school system, which is competing for Race to the Top money, said Congress should save the $800 million elsewhere, even if it meant cutting federal aid for schools with high-poverty students. “Here’s a chance with Race to the Top to really change the game,” he said. “Why would you take the money out of that?”
Mr. Obey, however, said the cut approved by the House would leave $3.2 billion for the favored programs. “To suggest we are being unduly harsh is a joke,” he said.
Remember, Joel Klein was considered for Secretary of Education 

Friday, July 02, 2010

School budget cuts - Oregon

By Joanne Yatvin 

The job of destroying America's public schools, left unfinished by No Child Left Behind, has now been taken over by our economic recession.

In nearly every state, teacher layoffs, a shortened school year, class-size increases and elimination of vital parts of the school curriculum are in progress, So far, Congress has failed to respond. Apparently our public schools, unlike Wall Street banks, are not "too big to fail." Ironically, the business community, the leading advocate of school reform in recent years, remains silent. 

To make matters worse, the only assistance the Obama administration has offered to states is a Faustian bargain: Allow the unlimited proliferation of charter schools that drain the most dedicated students, their families and funds from public schools; evaluate teachers' competence by their students' scores on flawed, once-a-year state tests; and accept national standards designed by people who haven't been inside a classroom or near any kids but their own since they graduated. Then -- maybe -- we'll give you enough money to keep school buildings open. 

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Schools and the economic crisis

Schools and the budget crisis
SACRAMENTO — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell today announced that since the beginning of this year the number of school districts that may be unable to meet future financial obligations because of the continuing state budget crisis and inadequate funding for public education has increased by 38 percent. For the list of school districts, please visit Second Interim Status Report, FY 2009-10 - Fiscal Status.
"We are seeing an alarming spike in the number of school districts that are having trouble meeting their financial obligations," said O'Connell. "Schools on this list are now forced to make terrible decisions to cut programs and services that students need or face bankruptcy. This trend will worsen if the Governor's proposed cuts to public education are enacted in the 2010-11 budget. I have grave concerns that more and more school districts will face financial crisis unless state lawmakers find solutions to the state budget crisis and provide adequate funding for our schools."
Public education in California received $17 billion less in state funding than anticipated over the last two budget years. As a result, more than 20,000 teachers have received pink slips this year. Summer school has been eliminated, class sizes are increasing, and art, music, libraries, school nurses, and sports programs have been cut.

Republicans extend the Great Recession

It is clear from recent legislative actions that the Republicans in Congress want to ensure large electoral gains in November by undermining any possible economic recovery. This cynical ploy needs to be called out by Democrats, so that the American people will see how Republicans will do anything to gain political power.
Republicans know that the surest way of sustaining the recession is to refuse to consider another stimulus. Using the fear of a growing deficit as their main political strategy, the Republicans have successfully blocked the extension of unemployment benefits, while they have convinced the Democrats to move off of their earlier desire to bail out the states that are facing huge deficits. The Republican strategists believe that if unemployment stays high through November, they stand a good chance of taking back both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The Great Employment Meltdown
Many states with record deficits have been waiting for the federal government to come up with funds for increased Medicaid costs, and now that the Republicans have blocked this funding source, we will begin to see massive cuts to state programs, which in turn, will cause an increase in unemployment. Not only will state workers and teachers lose their jobs, but retail businesses will lose customers at a time when they are already facing large financial difficulties. Also, the viral spread of unemployment will help to push thousands, if not millions, of people into foreclosure, and we will see a further deterioration of construction and real estate jobs.
Without a new stimulus infusion of funding for states, the next round of job cuts may make the first fiscal meltdown seem like a cakewalk. Last year, states were able to put off the misery by relying on billions of dollars from the federal stimulus, but now that this money is going away, there is no safety net left.
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