Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cesar Chavez from The Fight in the Fields

Celebrate Cesar Chavez Day - 50 th Anniversary

  Cesar Chavez Day is a state holiday in California – one of eight states to recognize the  date, and one of the few holidays  in the nation  dedicated  to a labor leader.   Sacramento and dozens of cities, counties and labor federations will celebrate the life of Cesar Chavez on March 31, 2012,
On March 26, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis honored Cesar Chavez and the UFW founders by dedicating the auditorium at the Department of Labor in Chavez’s name.
Mexican labor leader Jose Humberto Montes de Oca of the SME, electrical workers union will lead the Sacramento  march on March 31.   Montes do Oca and the SME  in Mexico are fighting for survival against a repressive government.  In central Mexico 44,000 Electrical Power Workers (SME) were fired to  privatize the industry and destroy the union.
This year, 2012 is the 50th. anniversary of the founding of the U.F.W.  The Cesar Chavez celebrations focus on  the struggle for union rights and justice in the fields of California.  Along with Dolores Huerta, Philip Vera Cruz, and others, César created the United Farm Workers  (UFW) the first successful union of farm workers in  U.S. history.  There had been more than ten prior attempts to build a farm workers union.
            Each of the prior attempts to organize farm worker unions were destroyed by racism and corporate power. Chávez chose to build a union that incorporated the strategies of social movements and community organizing  and allied itself  with the churches, students,  and organized labor.  The successful creation of the UFW changed the nature of labor organizing  in the Southwest  and contributed significantly to the birth of Latino politics in the U.S.

Monday, March 26, 2012

How the anti tax argument is framed

Well. The Sacramento Bee certainly found a conservative voice for the attack on the proposed tax measures  to be faced by voters in fall 2012.  Lets look at the distractions Ben Boychuk  throws up and the issues he chose to not discuss in his piece in the Sacramento Bee for March 22,2012.
First,   in arguing that “Progressives are deluding themselves”   he describes  Governor Brown and SEIU as moderates, then he labels the California Federation of Teachers as  “ far left”.  The reason for this name calling approach to argumentation?  To criticize the compromise tax proposals worked out by Governor Brown, the various unions and the California Federation of Teachers  last week.
 Boychuk    goes on to make the argument that the very wealthy should not be taxed more  and to claim that those who argue for more taxes are “ far left”.  This is a ploy.
If you are standing as far right as the Boychuk’s employer the  Manhattan Institute then almost everyone appears to be on the far left. See the conservative Manhattan Institute web page at   Under the label “make the rich pay” Boychuk  accurately  calculates  how much the wealthy currently pay, but he does tell you that the wealth pay less as a percentage of the income on taxes than do all the rest of us- the 90%. 
A report of the California Budget Project notes that “measured as a share of family income”, California’s lowest-income families pay the most in taxes. The bottom fifth of the state’s families, with an average income of $12,600, spent 11.1 percent of their income on state and local taxes.  In comparison, the wealthiest 1 percent, with an average income of $2.3 million, spent 7.8 percent of their income on state and local taxes.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Romney Attacks Teacher Unions

Mitt Romney has pledged to push back against teachers unions as president.
The former Massachusetts governor said on "Fox News Sunday," "But the role I see that ought to remain in the president's agenda with regards to education is to push back against the federal teachers unions." He continued, "Those federal teachers unions have too much power, in some cases, they overwhelm the states, they overwhelm the local school districts. We have got to put the kids first and put these teachers unions behind."
Romney said he would not "necessarily" eliminate the Department of Education, but said that it may combined with agencies and that its "reach" into the states has to be "pulled back."
Romney also criticized teachers unions in the context of the No Child Left Behind Act. "I support the principle of having states test their kids ... I did support No Child Left Behind and do support continuing to test our kids," he said. "I want to know which school districts are succeeding and which ones are failing and where they are failing. I want there to be action taken to get the teacher unions out and to get the kids once again receiving the education they need."

Monday, March 19, 2012

Public Education is too much about score manipulation

Paul Karrer,
Ten years of No Child Left Behind have left an educational wasteland, a privatized public school system, a further gap between the haves and the have-nots. A demoralized teaching force. And a new rule in the land. Students can't fail, only teachers can.
Yet our president uttered the words, "We can't tolerate teaching to the test anymore."
But all educators can do is teach to the test. They have to. Just ask your children what they do at school all day — test prep.
How can it be that soon, nearly 90 percent of California schools will be considered failing? Answer — they aren't. But the measure for failure is so flawed, even the neo-cons who once touted it now turn their backs on NCLB.
In Monterey County, we have one of the highest murder rates in California. We have an obscene level of child poverty. Unemployment is off the charts. Livable-wage jobs are decreasing. An economic recovery might be on the horizon, but it will be a jobless recovery. Deficits and the fear of underfunded budgets throw terror into educational boards, which then increase class sizes, reduce class offerings and impose furlough days.
Yet teachers are expected to overcome these "challenges" and pretend they have no impact on test outcomes.
Many states are forcing furlough days on teachers. Furlough days are school closure days, but the all-important state testing still takes place with fewer actual learning days. The demands are the same: an impossible requirement of 100 percent proficiency. Schools labor under the eyes of state and federal watch groups while parasitic consultants herd teachers like sheep dogs.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Schools and Taxes - Welcome to Mississippi

            California public schools are in crisis- and they are getting worse. This is a direct result of massive budget cuts imposed by the legislature and the governor in the last four years.  Total per pupil expenditure is down by over $1,000 per student. The result- massive class size increases.  Your students are in often classes too large for learning.  Supplementary services such as tutoring and art classes have been eliminated.  Over 14,000 teachers have been dismissed, and thousands more face lay offs this fall.
            California schools are now 47th. in the nation in per pupil expenditure and 49th in class size.  Our low achievement scores on national tests reflect this severe underfunding.
            Of course the economic crisis of 2007 to the present made matters worse.  The state took in some $30 billion less in taxes and thus had less to send to the schools.  School budgets have been cut by some $10 billion.  K-12 education receives about 40% of the California budget.  Thus any decline in the state budget leads directly to cuts in school services.
            The question for the corporate agenda, such as the Chamber of Commerce is can the economy prosper with a poorly educated work force.  California grew and prospered from 1970- 1994 based upon a well educated work force.  Then, in the 1994-2008 period over $10 billion of tax cuts were passed – making the current crisis much worse.  California suffers from a decade of disinvestment.  Today,  instead of following the education  approach,  conservative anti tax forces have imposed an Mississippi approach on California.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

No Funds Left Behind

No Funds Left Behind
Schools budget slashed and private foundations increasingly control decision making.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Irish Famine in history textbooks

by Bill Bigelow 
 So go ahead: Have a Guinness, wear a bit of green, and put on the Chieftains. But let's honor the Irish with our curiosity. Let's make sure that our schools show some respect, by studying the social forces that starved and uprooted over a million Irish -- and that are starving and uprooting people today.
"Wear green on St. Patrick's Day or get pinched." That pretty much sums up the Irish American "curriculum" that I learned when I was in school. Yes, I recall a nod to the so-called Potato Famine, but it was mentioned only in passing.
Sadly, today's high school textbooks continue to largely ignore the famine, despite the fact that it was responsible for unimaginable suffering and the deaths of more than a million Irish peasants, and that it triggered the greatest wave of Irish immigration in U.S. history. Nor do textbooks make any attempt to help students link famines past and present.
Yet there is no shortage of material that can bring these dramatic events to life in the classroom. In my own high school social studies classes, I begin with Sinead O'Connor's haunting rendition of "Skibbereen," which includes the verse:

Why Are Many of Our Children’s Teachers Still Students Themselves? | California Progress Report

Why Are Many of Our Children’s Teachers Still Students Themselves? | California Progress Report

Office of Civil Rights report

Civil Rights Data Collection
Minority students across the country face harsher discipline, have less access to rigorous coursework, and are more often taught by lower-paid and less-experienced teachers, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

A national survey of more than 72,000 schools serving 85 percent of the nation’s students illuminates gaping discrepancies among student groups related to college and career readiness, discipline, school finance, student retention, and teacher quality.

The key findings include the following:
  • Black students, particularly boys, are far more likely to be suspended or expelled from school than their peers. Black students represent 18 percent of the students in the survey sample, but constitute 35 percent of the students suspended once, 46 percent of those suspended multiple times, and 39 percent of those expelled.
  • Sixty-five percent of high-minority high schools offer Algebra II, compared to 82 percent of high schools with the lowest black and Hispanic enrollment. Similarly, only 29 percent of high-minority high schools offer Calculus, compared to 55 percent of low-minority schools.
  • Although black and Hispanic students make up 44 percent of the student population in districts offering gifted and talented programs, they represent only 26 percent of the students enrolled in those programs.
  • Black students represent 16 percent of middle school students, but 42 percent of students in those grades who are held back a year.
  • Teachers in high-minority schools are paid on average $2,251 less per year than their colleagues teaching in low-minority schools in the same district.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Urban school reform

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has produced a remarkable document describing a vision for schooling that is truly equitable and high-quality.  The plan addresses, head-on, the historic inequality in education and refuses to compromise on quality. 
The Chicago Teachers Union argues for proven educational reforms to dramatically improve education of more than 400,000 students in a district of 675 schools. These reforms are desperately needed and can head Chicago towards the world-class educational system its students deserve.
The following are essential:
1.     Recognize That Class Size Matters. Drastically reduce class size. We currently have one of the largest class sizes in the state. This greatly inhibits the ability of our students to learn and thrive.
2.     Educate The Whole Child. Invest to ensure that all schools have recess and physical education equipment, healthy food offerings, and classes in art, theater, dance, and music in every school. Offer world languages and a variety of subject choices. Provide every school with a library and assign the commensurate number of librarians to staff them.
3.     Create More Robust Wrap-around Services. The Chicago Public Schools system (CPS) is far behind recommended staffing levels suggested by national professional associations. The number of school counselors, nurses, social workers, and psychologists must increase dramatically to serve Chicago’s population of low-income students. Additionally, students who cannot afford transportation costs need free fares.

School Reform Again: From Pillar Back to Post | California Progress Report

School Reform Again: From Pillar Back to Post | California Progress Report

Could it be because two decades of reform-driven emphasis on rote learning of the “basics” in math and reading have driven out not only what E.D. Hirsh called cultural literacy but any preparation for the problem solving, the analytical skills, the critical thinking and the creativity that advanced skills require? Have we reformed ourselves into marginal incompetence?
Peter Schragg. 

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

No Public Education, No Democracy !

Brave New World
I teach English at Montgomery High School in Santa Rosa, California.  I love my school, my amazing colleagues, and the kids who enter my classroom each year.  But I hate what is happening to public education.
From the national to the local level, our public schools are under attack, and that means our students are under attack.  This attack takes more than one form.  The cuts to vital education services are horrifying enough, but they’re only half the picture.  The other half is the violation of our public trust by private interests.
It’s not a pretty sight, but we must look squarely at the vultures of privatization that prey on the damage to our schools, from New York to New Orleans to Wisconsin to California.  Diane Ravitch, former Assistant Secretary of Education in the first Bush administration, refers to the three big education funders, Bill Gates, Eli Broad and the Walton Family, as the Billionaire Boys Club in her excellent book The Death and Life of the Great American School System.  Ravitch has come a long way since her days of working under Bush Sr.  I’ve even heard people refer to her as the Noam Chomsky of education, a sure sign of how far to the right our political culture has drifted.
But we were talking about vultures.  These corporations are poised to supply the artificial heart of learning to a wounded public school system they fully intend to finish off.  But they won’t succeed. No they won’t because our communities are going to fight for our beloved schools, we teachers are going to fight for our students, and our students are going to demand the education they deserve!

Monday, March 05, 2012

6000 students march on California Capitol

More than 6,000 students from Central and Northern California marched on the California Capitol today to demand full funding of education,  student debt relief and Tax the Millionaires to pay for it. The impressive demonstration was organized primarily by student associations of the community colleges, the CSU and U.C. campuses in the northern half of the state.
Key legislative leaders addressed the crowd and offered legislation to fund public education- which they can not pass do the constitutional requirement of a 2/3 vote to raise taxes.
There have been many promises of an occupation of the capitol, and the police presence was immense.

The first rally of the day was to end at 12:30.  Occupy folks have set up a site on the North Side of the Capitol where they held  a general assembly and non violence training.  The occupy supporters numbered about 100.   
Yet a third event today was the  5:30 PM rally organized by labor.   About 400 trade unionists showed up and supported the students and workers.  See photos.
The several unions supporting and funding the Tax the Millionaires signature gathering used an effective strategy which we used in March of 2010 while gathering signatures for the California Democracy Act.   They printed several hundred well done posters saying Tax the Millionaires.  They went to the student assembly points where thousands were arriving without signs and gave the posters away free.  In the march at least one of every six marchers was carrying a Tax the Millionaires sign – an impressive showing.  Tax the Millionaires is supported by the California Federation of Teaches (AFT), the California Nurses (CNA) and most recently Moveon.  In addition to tabling, some 60 signature gatherers traveled through the crowd to collect signatures of voters. 
  UC Davis YDS members at the rally.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

March 5- Education Rally in Sacramento

On March 5th, to top off a week of action around student debt, tens of thousands of students and allies will march on the capitals of California and New York, demanding relief from the shackles imposed by being thousands upon thousands of dollars in debt. Can you join students in Sacramento or Albany to show solidarity for higher education and demand relief for those struggling with student debt?

Higher education has historically been a vital component of the American Dream, and yet, for more and more Americans, going to college is out of reach.Student debt has officially topped credit card debt in the US, and total loans outstanding will hit $1 trillion for the first time in history during the next few months.2 This year, campuses in states around the country will face even more cuts -- in Pennsylvania, for example, the Governor has proposed 20% more in cuts to public universities. In California, the cost of attending a University of California has nearly tripled in the last decade.3

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Occupy Education: Teachers, Students Fight School Closings, Privatization, Layoffs, Rankings | NationofChange

Occupy Education: Teachers, Students Fight School Closings, Privatization, Layoffs, Rankings | NationofChange
School closings in Chicago and New York. Evaluation of teachers.

Stop Starving Public Universities and Shrinking the Middle Class | California Progress Report

Stop Starving Public Universities and Shrinking the Middle Class | California Progress Report

Sacramento Student Demonstrations Today

Join Us on March 1 Day of Action
CSU –Sacramento. Rally at Noon
U.C. Davis.  Teach In.

To Demand that the California Government:
Fully fund public education, which is a public good and is the cornerstone of a democratic society, a vibrant economy, and the social and intellectual development of every individual.

Fully fund social services, which to a large part provide a crucial safety net for the most vulnerable members of society and therefore serve as a measure of society's moral standard.

Thousands of U.S. college students will walk out of class Thursday in a coordinated day of protest against what may be another year of significant higher-education budget cuts by state legislatures.
Young Democratic Socialists  at UC Davis   mobilized to participate in protests during National Student Debt Week, Feb.27- March 2, across the country.   Cornel West joined in the effortAction.
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