Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Karrer criticizes NEA for Obama Endosement

NEA Betrayal of Teachers  
 Paul Karrer 
The NEA’s (National Educators Association) warm corpse has felt a final jolt of  rigor mortis recently. Any pretense of testicular fortitude or, for that matter, a pulse has dissipated with its needless early endorsement of President Obama.  In essence, President Obama and Arne Duncan (Secretary of Education) have passed off to teachers embalming fluid (RTTT) in the guise of vitamins.  If ever there was a time to negotiate against No Child Left Behind or Race To The Top – this would have been it.  It is more than a year before the Presidential election. 

                 The NEA has left its 3.2 million members with a quick knee to the groin and a sharp pain in the back from a knife.  A knife thrust in by an enfeebled union leadership too wimpy to actually negotiate: 1) What is right for kids; and 2) What is good for public education.

Rarely has a teachers’ union endorsed a candidate so early. A candidate who in words and facial grinning seems to do so much for teachers, but in reality who has done public education so much actual on-the-ground harm.

                President Obama undermined public education with his own destructive Race To The Top federal contest of financial grants given to some states if they comply with the obscene No Child Left Behind law, a law which frames the impossible measure of 100% proficiency as the goal and punishes all schools which don’t reach this trap; a law every bit as wrong as prohibition or the Dread Scott decision.  

RTTT has four evil elements:
1. The continued condemning of poor schools and pretending poverty and social conditions have nothing to do with outcomes.

                2. The ongoing punitive actions taken against low-performing schools, such as  transferring principals, closing schools, moving teachers, etc.

3. Teacher evaluations based on standardized test outcomes taken by students, which pays no heed to certain conditions of the real world, e.g.  student mental illness, poverty concentrations, gang contact, lack of parents,  parents/guardian incarceration, moving, second language learners, “special education realities”, huge classes, unemployment, low reading levels at home, absenteeism, motivation, etc.

                 4. Ultimately the wholesale sellout of a social contract between society and public education replaced with an outrageous new focus on profitability and a market-based outcomes.  This plays itself out with the privatization “for profit” charter schools and the undermining of the public good with vouchers for private schools.

The NEA should have held their cards a little closer to the chest and “negotiated” the end of NCLB, declaring the 100% proficiency law - a statistically unachievable abomination. It should have insisted on ending RTTT.  President Obama needs to admit that poverty is the issue. He needs to help and actually assist teachers and kids in poor communities - not pillory them. Even Arne Duncan had a brief moment of clarity with his revelation that 82% of public schools will be failing by 2014.

           Think about it. Can 82% of the teachers in all public schools be that bad? Of course not. Such an assertion is simply absurd.  The measurement of their failure is wrong. It is called No Child Left Behind and its love affair with the publishing/ testing industry and the gold rush of money to be made with standardized testing.

Final outcome: - the NEA may have endorsed our President, but it is very unlikely that large numbers of teachers will.  He hosed us. So did the NEA. Many of us are going to quit both.

These are dark times for teachers and students on the front lines.

                      Paul Karrer

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