Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Charter School Challenge

Understanding the complexity of the Charter School movement, and the so called "school reform" movement is an important step in defending public education.  This week the Sacramento Bee has been running a series by various advocates of "school choice".  Most of these efforts are anti teacher union.   I and Seth Sandronsky wrote a response to one of these.

School Choice Does Not Respond to Problem of Poverty

Ben Boychuk trumpets school choice, but at the same time, he ignores that a majority of kids in U.S. public schools live in poverty.

Leo Casey of the Shanker Institute has just published a well informed piece on Charter Schools.
I recommend it for your reading.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Should California Drop Common Core?

When will California drop Common Core? 

Of the 24 people selected to write the Common Core standards, none of them were working K-12 classroom teachers, and two-thirds had no K-12 teaching experience. No one had experience at the elementary level. The standards were not based on any existing successful standards, and they were never pilot tested. 
It is not surprising that both child development researchers and experienced teachers have found that the standards are developmentally inappropriate. For the first time in history, the state standards are frozen by a copyright protection held by a private entity, and they provide no provision for changing them. The only way to fix them is to drop them. Five states have already done just that and more are certain to follow this year. How long will it take California? 

Read more here:

Sunday, January 25, 2015

California ends out of school suspensions.

AB 420: Getting students back to school – for good

Starting January 1, California became the first state in the nation to eliminate in and out-of-school suspensions for its youngest children – K-3, and all expulsions for what is known as “willful defiance.” 

Teacher Karen Junker at Davidson Middle School put it this way: “AB 420 puts California on the path to being a state where we can ensure that all 5-8 year old students have access to good academic and social outcomes, even when they make mistakes and get themselves in trouble. This will focus our efforts at the youngest grades on giving teachers and students opportunities to learn to build community and repair harm where harm is done.”

Governor Brown signed AB 420 last year because of the incredible support from community and civil rights groups and educators. AB 420 was co-sponsored by Public Counsel, Children Now, Fight Crime Invest in Kids, and the ACLU of California.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Teacher Voice: Randi Weingarten, president, American Federation of Teachers

The American Labor Movement at a Crossroads.
Co sponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute, the AFT, the Hillman Foundation and others.
The American labor movement is at a critical juncture. After three decades of declining union density in the private sector and years of all-out political assaults on public sector unions, America’s unions now face what can only be described as existential threats. Strategies and tactics that may have worked in a different era are no longer adequate to today’s challenges. The need for different approaches to the fundamentals of union work in areas such as organizing, collective bargaining and political action is clear. The purpose of this conference is to examine new thinking and new  initiatives, viewing them critically in the light of ongoing union imperatives of cultivating member activism and involvement, fostering democratic self-governance and building the collective power of working people. Jan.15, 2015.
Sit down, watch, educate yourself.  Prepare DSA and working families  for the coming conflicts.
The conference has a number of leaders, including major DSA activists and former DSA leaders, to understand the  reality of unions today and organizing the working class.

Revolving Doors and Edupreneurs- How Capital Seeks to Make Profit from Public Schools

The Selling of Public Services.
By Seth Sandronsky
Do failed policy proposals from public education officials enjoy an afterlife when their creators depart Washington for the private sector? This is no academic question. In fact, the career arcs of two former federal policymakers may well have foreshadowed the life-or-death clash over the accreditation of San Francisco City College (CCSF), one of California’s 112 community colleges. The state is home to about 10 percent of America’s 1,100 two-year colleges.
As San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow’s ruling on the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior College’s bid to decertify CCSF draws near, the story of Margaret Spellings becomes instructive. Spellings, who was George W. Bush’s second-term Secretary of Education, commissioned a controversial 2006 report called “A Test of Leadership: Charting the Future of U.S. Higher Education.”
The report’s language was very much in tune with the pro-business Bush zeitgeist. The commission’s chairman was Charles Miller, a private investor who was joined by Nicholas Donofrio, the executive vice president of IBM Corp., and by James J. Duderstadt, the corporate vice president for Microsoft Corp. Their report predicted disaster unless colleges began protecting their “market share” by preparing  students for the “global marketplace.”

Monday, January 19, 2015

Democracy and social justice teachers' unions

If we don’t transform teacher unions now, our schools, our profession, and our democracy—what’s left of it—will likely be destroyed. I know. I am from Wisconsin, the home of Scott Walker and Paul Ryan 
by Bob Peterson.
In 2011, in the wake of the largest workers uprising in recent U.S. history, I was elected president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA). Unfortunately, that spring uprising, although massive and inspirational, was not strong enough to stop Gov. Walker from enacting the most draconian anti-public sector labor law in the nation.
That law, known as Act 10, received support from the Koch brothers and a cabal of national right-wing funders and organizations. It was imposed on all public sector workers except the police and firefighter unions that endorsed Walker and whose members are predominantly white and male.
Act 10 took away virtually all collective bargaining rights, including the right to arbitration. It left intact only the right to bargain base-wage increases up to the cost of living. The new law prohibited “agency shops,” in which all employees of a bargaining unit pay union dues. It also prohibited payroll deduction of dues. It imposed an unprecedented annual recertification requirement on public sector unions, requiring a 51 percent (not 50 percent plus one) vote of all eligible employees, counting anyone who does not vote as a “no.” Using those criteria, Walker would never have been elected.
Immediately following Act 10, Walker and the Republican-dominated state legislature made the largest cuts to public education of any state in the nation and gerrymandered state legislative districts to privilege conservative, white-populated areas of the state.
Having decimated labor law and defunded public education, Walker proceeded to expand statewide the private school voucher program that has wreaked havoc on Milwaukee, and enacted one of the nation’s most generous income tax deductions for private school tuition.
Under these conditions, public sector union membership has plummeted, staff has been reduced, and resources to lobby, organize, and influence elections have shrunk.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

More testing from renewed NCLB

AFT’s Weingarten on Secretary Duncan’s ESEA Reauthorization Remarks

In discussing priorities for a revision of No Child Left Behind Secretary of education, Arne Duncan, insisted on  January 5, that the administration would not back away from annual testing for students and performance evaluations of teachers based in part on the results of the tests.

Annual testing has become a point of contention in the often-bitter discussions about how best to improve public education.

Monday, January 12, 2015
WASHINGTON—Statement from American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s speech regarding the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
"As I've said before, any law that doesn't address our biggest challenges—funding inequity, segregation, the effects of poverty—will fail to make the sweeping transformation our kids and our schools need. Today, it was promising to hear Secretary Duncan make a call for equity, stressing, as we did through the Equity and Excellence Commission, the importance of early childhood education and engaging curriculum. It was encouraging to hear him laud the hard work of educators, who have had to overcome polarization and deep cuts after a harsh recession. And it was heartening to hear him acknowledge the progress our schools have made. However, the robust progress we saw in the first 40 years after the passage of ESEA has slowed over the last 10 years.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Proposed California Budget

 State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Comments On Governor's Proposed Budget for Fiscal Year 2015-16

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson issued the following statement today on Governor Brown's proposed budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year:
"This budget gets an 'A' for K-14 education. Governor Jerry Brown clearly did his homework researching the needs and priorities of schools and proposing to allocate money to meet many of those needs.
"The extra money under Proposition 98 is good news for schools across the state. I am also very pleased with the additional funds to help maintain and expand career technical education programs; implement the Local Control Funding Formula and the rigorous new California state standards in mathematics, English language arts, and science; upgrade technology and connect schools to the Internet; and maintain adult education programs across the state.
"I applaud the governor for outlining a plan that can help bring needed funds to help improve and repair broken and outdated school facilities.
"This budget increases our investment in schools, but we still have a long way to go. California is 46th in the nation in per-pupil spending and that is unacceptable.
"My homework is to work with the Governor, the Legislature, educators, and community leaders across the state to help refine these education spending proposals and increase and stabilize school funding in the long term."

 California Budget Project Analysis: Increased Revenues Boost the Minimum Funding Level for Schools and Community Colleges

Approved by voters in 1988, Proposition 98 constitutionally guarantees a minimum level of funding for K-12 schools, community colleges, and the state preschool program. The Governor’s proposed budget assumes a 2015-16 Proposition 98 funding level of $65.7 billion for K-14 education programs, $2.6 billion above the revised 2014-15 minimum funding level. Because changes in state General Fund revenue tends to affect the Proposition 98 guarantee, the Proposition 98 funding levels included in the Governor’s proposed budget reflect increases in 2013-14 and 2014-15 estimated revenue compared to the levels that had been assumed in the 2014-15 budget agreement. Based on these revised revenue estimates, the Governor’s proposed budget assumes a 2014-15 Proposition 98 funding level of $63.2 billion, $2.3 billion more than the level assumed in the 2014-15 budget agreement, and a $58.7 billion 2013-14 Proposition 98 funding level, $371 million above the level assumed in the 2014-15 budget agreement.
The Governor’s proposed budget increases funding for the state’s new education funding formula and pays off outstanding obligations to K-12 school districts. Specifically, the Governor’s proposed budget:
· Provides $4.0 billion to continue implementation of the state’s new education funding formula. As part of the 2013-14 budget agreement, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) restructured the state’s education finance system. The LCFF provides school districts a base grant per student, adjusted to reflect the number of students at various grade levels, as well as additional grants for the costs of educating English learners, students from low-income families, and foster youth. The Governor’s proposed budget increases LCFF funding by $4.0 billion to fund grants for K-12 school districts and charter schools in 2015-16. Increasing LCFF funding
may reduce the amount of time it takes to fully implement the LCFF, which depends on funding that is sufficient for all districts to reach a target base grant.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The role of teachers and their unions

Building power beyond elections: The unique
role of educators and their unions

By Joshua Pechthalt, President, California Federation of Teachers

The Republican victory in November reminds us that organized labor and the progressive movement can’t rely on elections to advance our agenda. Our power to improve the lives of members and community allies flows from our ability to organize the kind of powerful labor-community alliance that can demand change from politicians.
In spite of the national drubbing inflicted on Democrats, there were a few bright spots. The reelection of Tom Torlakson as state superintendent of public instruction demonstrated once again that mobilized educators can beat a multi-million dollar, anti-teacher campaign.
Significant victories across the country suggest that voters are not necessarily moving to the right on key issues. Voters passed measures to raise the minimum wage, legalize marijuana, and protect a woman’s right to control her body. In California, Democrats won every statewide office and continue to hold strong majorities in both the Assembly and Senate. They also picked up one congressional seat.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Democracy in 2015


We Don’t  have to engage in grand heroic actions
to participate in the process of defending  
Our Democracy
from the ongoing  assault by  Corporate Robber Barons.
Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people can
transform our nation.

Derived from a statement by Howard Zinn.
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