Friday, March 29, 2013

Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta recognized for leadership

Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta recognized for their life long contributions to organized labor and social justice.         
  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, 2013.
The  year  2012 was the 50th. anniversary of the founding of the U.F.W.  by Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Philip Vera Cruz and others.  The   celebrations focused  on  the struggle for union rights and justice in the fields of California. 
 The United Farm Workers  (UFW) was 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  were destroyed by racism and corporate power. Ch├ívez and Huerta  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.
            Today, under the leadership of UFW president Arturo Rodriguez, only about 25,000  farm workers enjoy benefits on the job. Wages and benefit in farm labor have again been reduced to the pre union levels.  The UFW has shown unions that immigrants can and must be organized.   

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Senator Steinberg recognizes School Dropout Problem

Steinberg Unveils Measure to Enhance Industry and Education Partnerships in Student Career Pathways

SB 594 – The Dropout Reduction and Workforce Development Bond Act of 2013
(Sacramento) – Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg has announced the Dropout Reduction and Workforce Development Bond Act of 2013, which will provide more career-oriented curriculum and training for California students by enhancing the connections between schools and industry. Through these new business-school partnerships, students will have more opportunities for career training leading toward middle class jobs, while business and industry will benefit from growth in California’s skilled workforce.
SB 594 would provide three new tools to finance the development of career pathways through these public-private partnerships. Programs serving economically disadvantaged students in school districts with high dropout rates will be given priority for funding.
“Too many of our students are dropping out because they don’t see any connection with what they’re learning in school and the careers they want to pursue. At the same time, many in our high growth industries complain that there’s a shortage of skilled workers,” said Steinberg. “When we recently visited Long Beach Unified, students told us that with career academies and small learning communities they were more engaged and focused on their studies. We want a pragmatic way to get industry and business involved in education, combining academic rigor and career relevance. Encouraging their investment will pay off with more success for our students and a stronger workforce in our state.”

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

CFA position on on-line education

California Faculty Association.

While CFA believes that online education can be a successful mode of instruction for some students and while we wholeheartedly support the goal of expanding access to higher education in California, we have deep concerns about some proposed legislative solutions that mandate online instruction or call for blanket standardization of curriculum across a variety of institutions.
CFA also fundamentally rejects the belief that after years of deep cuts in state support for the CSU the solution to restoring the greatness of the system lies in throwing open the doors to private vendors and privatizing operations. CFA fought for additional revenue and the voters of California overwhelming supported those efforts. In a post-Prop 30 world, the focus should be on restoring funding to the CSU and focusing on the core mission of education, not turning it into an experiment with student success hanging in the balance.
We believe that it is a strength of our system that the 23 campuses of the CSU (and the campuses of the UC and CC systems as well) each offer rich and unique educational experiences that are shaped by the needs of students on that particular campus and by the needs of the community surrounding the campus. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Federal Sequester hurts our schools

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Urges Congress to Prevent Devastating Cuts

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today urged Congressional leaders to work together and immediately pass legislation that would repeal drastic budget cuts set to take effect Friday under sequestration.
"Without Congressional intervention, automatic budget cuts from sequestration will take effect on March 1," said Torlakson in aletter to Congressional leaders. "After years of extensive state and federal budget cuts to education, these cuts will devastate communities across California…. These automatic cuts will cause long-lasting and irreparable harm."
Sequestration cuts could represent a $262 million funding reduction to California’s federal education program. These include estimated cuts of:
  • $91 million for Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, intended to improve education for disadvantaged students;
  • $72 million in special education funding for programs that serve the needs of students with disabilities;
  • $2.8 million for public charter schools;
  • $6.9 million for Career and Technical Education;
  • $9.6 million in funding for English learners; and
  • $3.7 million in Impact Aid affecting students in federally impacted school districts in California, including children of active duty service members.
"Further, these cuts come at a time when California is just beginning a recovery from state-level cuts of over $20 billion to education spending over the last five years," Torlakson added. "The California Department of Education, school districts, and local educational agencies will need to find ways to cut costs even further under sequestration. This could result in school closures; teacher and administrator layoffs; increased student-teacher ratios; the elimination of college counselors and school-based mental health personnel; and deferred purchases, renovations, and repairs. These cuts would come at a crucial time in a student’s life. Many of these students may never make up the lost ground."
Statement of Feb. 26.  Since then, the sequester has happened. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Chicago Teachers Union oppose school closings

This is what austerity looks like. 
CTU Communications
March 21, 2013
Chicago Teachers Union
Closing 50 of our neighborhood schools is outrageous and no society that claims to care anything about its children can sit back and allow this to happen to them. There is no way people of conscience will stand by and allow these people to shut down nearly a third of our school district without putting up a fight. Most of these campuses are in the Black community. Since 2001 88% of students impacted by CPS School Actions are African-American. And this is by design.

Mahalia Jackson Elementary second- grade teacher Tamara Faggins passionately condemns the CEO's recommended school closings., Photo by Nathan Goldbaum, CTU Communications.,

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said the following at a news conference regarding proposed school closings:
"We are standing here today in the beautiful Mahaila Jackson elementary school in our city's Auburn-Gresham neighborhood. This school was named for one of the greatest gospel singers in our nation's history, a woman who sang at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s funeral, a woman who was instrumental in our Civil Rights struggle. Unfortunately, we are gathered here today not to talk about this pioneer or even about how this school does an outstanding job of providing a great learning community for some of our special needs students. We are standing here because this school, along with scores of others, has been targeted for closure by Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Chicago Public Schools district.
"Closing 50 of our neighborhood schools is outrageous and no society that claims to care anything about its children can sit back and allow this to happen to them. There is no way people of conscience will stand by and allow these people to shut down nearly a third of our school district without putting up a fight. Most of these campuses are in the Black community. Since 2001 88% of students impacted by CPS School Actions are African-American. And this is by design.  
"Closing 50 schools is not grand or glorious. This is nothing to celebrate or marvel.
"These actions unnecessarily expose our students to gang violence, turf wars and peer-to-peer conflict. Some of our students have been seriously injured as a result of school closings. One died. Putting thousands of small children in harm's way is not laudatory.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Dolores Huerta recognized for leadership

Dolores Huerta. California Hall of Fame – 2013.
Induction will be March 20, 2013

DSA  Honorary Chair  Dolores Huerta  will be inducted into the   California Hall of Fame (2013) for her labor and community leadership.  She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.

 Huerta has contributed to movements for union rights and  social justice  since the founding along with Cesar Chaves, Philip Vera Cruz   and others  of the United Farm Workers (UFW) union and continues  through her current work in supporting union democracy,   civic engagement and empowerment of women and youth in disadvantaged communities. The creation of the UFW changed the nature of labor organizing in the Southwest and contributed significantly to the growth of Latino politics in the U.S.  In her frequent public engagements at college, universities and high schools  she presents  a Latina feminist perspective to civil rights and immigration issues.  Dolores continues active as  a supporter on union picket lines and union struggles throughout the state.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Teachers Lay Offs decline.

Excellent news.  Teachers lay offs have  declined.  Only 2,900 teachers received these notices this week in time for the mandatory lay off notices.  Less than 350 teachers received these notices in Sacramento county.  How did this happen?  WE – the voters- passed Proposition 30 and to a lesser extend Prop. 39 in the 2012 elections.  If you didn’t vote- you did not contribute.  Voting makes a difference.
Working together we passed Prop. 30, to fund schools, universities and social services.  This is a floor under austerity.   It raises taxes on the rich to pay for services.  It does raise sales tax by ¼ of  percent – but 90% of the tax increases are on the rich . A tax of 1-3 % on those who make over $250,000 per year.
Bad news  The number of police officers is shrinking  reducing public safety.   This is happening as a result of government austerity programs included in the California budget. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

This is about digital capitalism, not digital democracy

This is not about digital democracy. It is about digital capitalism.  I woke up this morning to my usual New York Times and was astounded to read that my state senator, Darrell Steinberg, is proposing a bill to require the CSU, UC, and community colleges to grand credit to massive on-line courses, known as MOOCs.  Senator Steinberg is working with former Senator Dean Florez who is financed to promote such arrangements ( usually known as lobbying).
They claim that this is a response to lack of courses in the universities.   Note. This is not about offering more educational opportunities.  It is about making money for private corporations.
There is much to be said about this direction.  Future posts will develop several ideas in detail.  But, let us begin.
This move is a part of a much larger assault on public education including the massive expansion of Charter Schools.  See the post below by Stan Karp.  The state- ie. Senator Steinberg, creates a problem by underfunding the universities and colleges, and then offers a technological alternative-  one that will make certain corporations such as Pearson’s  very wealthy at state tax payers  expense.
This run at public education by offering what claims to be open education is primarily a corporate run for public funds- similar to the mass expansion of the Univ. of Phoenix and other for profit schools that get up to 80% of their funds from taxpayers while giving great profits to their owners and poor service to their students.  (See the Harkin committee report of the U.S. Senate).
Steinberg’s proposal will enrich the well connected with state funds while not adequately funding the state universities and colleges.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Charter Schools and school reform

Stan Karp
March 12, 2013
New Jersey Education Association (NJEA)
It's time to refocus public policy on providing excellent public schools for all.

Somewhere along the way, nearly every teacher dreams of starting a school. I know I did.
More than once during the 30 years I taught English and journalism to high school students in Paterson, I imagined that creating my own school would open the door to everything I wanted as a teacher:
* Colleagues with a shared vision of teaching and learning
* Freedom from central office bureaucracy
* A welcoming school culture that reflected the lives of our students and families
* Professional autonomy that nourished innovation and individual and collective growth
* School-based decision-making that pushed choices about resources, priorities, time and staffing closer to the classrooms where it matters the most.
But reality can be hard on daydreams, and I got a glimpse of how complicated these issues are when my large comprehensive high school embraced the reform-trend-of-the-day and moved to create small theme academies inside the larger school. As the lead teacher of a new Communications Academy, I soon faced a host of thorny questions: Who would our new academy serve? What would the selection process be? How would the academy share space and resources with the rest of the school? How would our academy team be formed, and what impact would overlapping circles of authority have on teachers' contractual and evaluation processes? What would be the effect of the new academies on the larger school around us, which still opened its doors to everyone?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Senate Banking Committee Hearing - Bank Money Laundering

Teachers and students win in Los Angeles, Michelle Rhee loses

On Tuesday night, an exhausted Steve Zimmer celebrated his against-the-odds re-election victory for the Los Angeles Unified School District board against Kate Anderson, whom he defeated with 52 percent of the vote. The next morning he was at Occidental College, preparing to teach his popular course on education policy that evening. This is Zimmer's second year as an adjunct professor at Occidental, where he teaches two courses that have generated enormous enthusiasm among students interested in education issues.
That night, Zimmer followed his prepared lesson plan, but he could have taught a seminar on community organizing and the importance of grassroots activism in overcoming the influence of big money in politics.
Thanks to a huge infusion of campaign contributions from corporate titans like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, media mogul Rupert Murdoch and business big-wig Eli Broad, Anderson's campaign spent almost twice as much as Zimmer's -- $1.9 million to $1 million -- in the race for the school board's District 4 seat, according to the City Ethics Comission. District 4 stretches from the West Side to the West San Fernando Valley.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Michelle Rhee and California School Elections

Michelle Rhee's biggest foray yet into local politics in California yielded mixed results yesterday as voters in West Sacramento rejected the school board candidate backed by her education advocacy group while voters in Los Angeles handed a victory to one of the three candidates StudentsFirst supported.
Rhee, the former chancellor of Washington, D.C., schools who is married to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, created StudentsFirst to counter the power of teachers unions in state and local politics.
The group formed a campaign committee that supported Francisco Castillo for school board in Washington Unified, the West Sacramento school district. Castillo works as a spokesman for StudentsFirst. Voters in West Sac elected Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez, who was backed by the local teachers union.

Budget Sequestration Cuts and California Schools | California Progress Report

Budget Sequestration Cuts and California Schools | California Progress Report

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Cancel the Sequester

Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) supports the bill advanced by John Conyers (D-MI), HR 900, to simply cancel the $85 billion in “sequestration” cuts. These cuts will harm millions of low-income Americans, while weakening an already anemic, jobless recovery. According to the Congressional Budget Office, if the cuts are fully carried out, they will cause a 0.6% drop in GDP and a loss of over 700,000 jobs. The layoffs of 700,000 public employees since 2008 have already contributed to unconscionable levels of unemployment.
   The sequester will cut 10,000 teaching jobs, 70,000 spots for preschoolers in Head Start, $43 million for food programs for seniors, $35 million for local fire departments, and access to nutrition assistance for over half a million women and their families.

   And the reason congressional Republicans let these cuts go into effect is because they simply wouldn't support closing tax loopholes for millionaires and billionaires -- for things like yachts and corporate jets
We do not have a deficit crisis in this country; we have a jobs crisis. Sequestering will increase the deficit--not decrease it--by slowing the economic recovery and by keeping more people out of work and not paying taxes.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

CDE Analysis of Governor's budget for schools

February 26, 2013
Dear County and District Superintendents, Direct-Funded Charter School Administrators, and County Chief Business Officers:
On January 10, 2013, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. released his proposed budget for the 2013–14 fiscal year. This letter, prepared by the California Department of Education (CDE), provides information on the Governor’s proposals that affect K–12 education and child development programs.
Copies of this document, as well as other budget-related documents, are available through the CDE Education Budget Web page at Official state budget documents, including proposed trailer bill language, are available through the Department of Finance Web site at The budget bills are Assembly Bill (AB) 73 and Senate Bill (SB) 65.
The 2013–14 Governor’s Budget reflects a significant improvement in the state’s finances due to the economic recovery and voter approval in the November 2012 election of temporary increases in sales and use tax and personal income tax (Proposition 30) as well as increased corporate income taxes for multistate businesses (Proposition 39). The Governor’s budget summary document indicates that economic recovery has begun and provides a plan to reduce the “wall of debt” the state has accumulated after years of deficits.
For the first time since 2008–09, the state does not face a multi-billion-dollar deficit. The Governor’s budget projects General Fund (GF) revenues and transfers of $98.5 billion and proposes $97.7 billion in GF expenditures. These budget figures include an estimated $1 billion reserve and would result in an $851 million operating surplus at the end of 2013–14. Including all fund sources, the spending plan proposes $138.6 billion in GF and special fund expenditures, up 4.5 percent from 2012–13.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Republican austerity campaign hurts schools/ students

The Republican campaign for austerity  makes educators and students, as well as millions of others,  the victims in a  strategy to make the middle class and the poor pay for the excesses of the banking /economic crisis.
California schools have just begun to recover from 4 years of extreme budget austerity and recklessness at the state level.  It would take at least 3 years to return to normal.   Now, the federal sequester will impose new cuts on school districts which receive federal funds- such as Title I, and Migrant Education.  The Obama Administration estimates that California schools will lose about $88 million this year.  The vast majority of schools and districts will not be directly affected until the 2013–14 school year because of the “forward funded” nature of federal education spending. However, when children have less food to eat, don't receive their vaccinations and lack medical care, schools suffer. 

From the Coalition on Human Needs
“The Sequester’s Beginnings.  Congress included sequestration – or across-the-board cuts in all but a number of exempted programs – in its deficit reduction legislation, the Budget Control Act of 2011. 

Friday, March 01, 2013

Obama and GOP Shared Austerity Vision Will Deepen Recession

Philadelphia Teachers May Strike

Will Bunch
February 27, 2013
Philadelphia Daily News
Here come the contract demands that the Philadelphia School District would like to cram down the throat of the city's unionized school teachers. The so-called City of Brotherly Love is on the brink of setting a new standard in squeezing middle- class workers to death. It's not like we haven't seen this story before: Working men and women asked to take a sizable pay cut...and work longer hours...and pay more for shrinking benefits.

Chicago teachers on strike at the beginning of September 2012., credit - CNN,

Apparently the old saying is wrong: You can get blood from a stone after all. In a world where "the American Dream" has become a year in which your salary stays the same, the so-called City of Brotherly Love is on the brink of setting a new standard in squeezing middle- class workers to death. It's not like we haven't seen this story before: Working men and women asked to take a sizable pay cut...and work longer hours...and pay more for shrinking benefits. Usually such reports alternate with the news that the CEO of that same outfit is leaving with a golden parachute worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe millions.
But just when you think it can't get any worse, here come the contract demands that the Philadelphia School District would like to cram down the throat of the city's unionized school teachers. The news -- first reported by Kristen Graham of the Inquirer -- is a jaw- dropper:
-- Large pay cuts imposed in teachers up to 13 percent for those making (a whopping) $55,000 a year or more. then frozen until 2017.
-- A sizable jump in out of pocket costs for health coverage.
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