Friday, February 24, 2017

Opt-out leaders running for NYSUT board: Politico Reports on ST vs Unity NYSUT Election

ST leadership was shortsighted not to give MORE a seat - we signed up a lot of people to join ST -- I can't vote in this election and can only give moral support to ST -- but if they make this election about opt out, in a state with the highest opt out numbers in the nation out of NYC, they can inflict some damage on Unity even if ST can't win.... NS
I've been following the sturm and drang about the fate of the St
caucus and its run against Unity in the NY State union elections coming up April 7-9 at the NY Hilton. I don't have time to compile the various blogs from Arthur, James, Peter Z and the comments of Mike Schirtzer. Only James is supporting the ST effort. The big sticking point for some people is that there was an attempt by ST to reach out to Randi to broker a deal for a united slate. That would clearly have left MORE out of the equation -- last time MORE sort of ran in coalition for seats they could not win - only Arthur Goldstein was on the top slate, running against Andy Pallotta who was the Ex VP of NYSUT - the big money position occupied by Al Shanker and Alan Lubin before him.

Shanker brokered a deal over 40 years ago that helped forge the NEA/AFT merger in the state whereas the UFT would control the Ex VP money while non-UFT - upstate and Long Island - would get the presidency and 2 of the 5 seats. The UFT would get the other seat, thus creating a balance of sorts even though everyone knew the real gorilla in the room.

So when Unity decided to dump Dick Iannucci 3 years ago and form a phony caucus to challenge him, Stronger Together formed in opposition around Iannucci. And MORE played a role in that, giving ST somewhat of a city presence, though we never ran on their slate -- they were the ones who were nervous. Karen Magee was put in as the non-UFT president but broke ranks at one point in taking too strong a stand against testing, which doomed her.

Now the UFT is pulling its biggest power play since the Shanker merger by openly taking over the presidency and installing Pallotta -- and I imagine they will also keep tight control of the Ex VP money position. They will win of course.

But ST by putting itself out there as the opt out movement vs Unity is a very smart move. Now there is the Jia Lee conundrum -- ST is not running 5 candidates but 4 and there was pressure to include Jia at the 5th candidate. What voice has been stronger for opt-out than Jia? The current leadership of ST is still nervous about being associated with the only direct opposition to Mulgrew. And they did try to make a deal but were rejected. I get the picture.

Some of my good friends do not agree and have smashed Lillis. However at this point I don't see why not back ST against another Unity Caucus power play? Given the reality of state politics, at this point MORE is not a relevant player. On the other hand, ST leadership was shortsighted not to give MORE a seat - we signed up a lot of people to join ST -- I can't vote in this election and can only give moral support to ST -- but if they make this election about opt out, in a state with the highest opt out numbers in the nation out of NYC, they can inflict some damage on Unity even if ST can't win.

Some posts from other blogs- read some of the weird comments on this ICE piece from James who endorses Lillis:


And James posts sections of Pen is Mightier than the Person blog:

Arthur takes a counter position:
NYC Educator:
Stronger Together Minus Jia Lee=Neither Stronger nor Together
Without Jia Lee Stronger Together is Weaker Apart (UPDATED 2/22/17) 

Here is a great piece on the election from Politico.
Opt-out leaders running for teachers' union board
By Keshia Clukey 02/23/2017 05:16 AM EDT

ALBANY — Members of a group that has championed the test refusal movement are running for positions on the executive board of the state’s largest teachers’ union. The candidates say they want to better mobilize the union and its 600,000 members on behalf of the opt-out movement.

Three of the four candidates running for leadership roles at New York State United Teachers as part of the “Stronger Together Caucus” have been active in the opt-out movement in their communities.

The caucus nominations come as leaders of the test refusal movement have begun to expand their activism beyond simply encouraging parents to opt their students out of the state standardized, Common Core-aligned math and English language arts exams. 

Opt-out activists became involved in local and state elections this fall, backing candidates and trying to oust those who they felt didn’t do enough to change education law and policy in the state. 
Some of the parents, who also are teachers, are now looking for further solidarity from the union in terms of testing and pushing harder to repeal legislation that more heavily weighs the use of students’ state test scores in teacher evaluations.

“They have not been using the power that they have,” Bianca Tanis said of the current union leadership. Tanis, an Ulster County parent and special education teacher, is running for executive vice president under the Stronger Together Caucus line.

A statement on the Stronger Together Caucus website says that "very little has changed for students still being compelled to sit for flawed assessments that are too long and yield little to no usable information,” adding that the “message from headquarters to locals was not strong enough.”

The caucus is involved in other issues, including the union's governance, in addition to the opt-out movement.

Michael Lillis, a teacher in Lakeland and a parent who supports the opt-out movement, is the caucus' nominee for NYSUT president. He said he wants the union to take a stronger position on standardized tests. “I refuse to accept NYSUT’s ineffective action on issues which are critical to our profession,” he said in a campaign statement. “The struggles of educators will be the struggles of NYSUT.”

NYSUT, under the current leadership of president Karen Magee and executive vice president Andy Pallotta, has said that not enough progress has been made to restore the trust and confidence of parents and educators in the state tests. Pallotta and Magee could not be reached for comment.

The union vehemently opposed the heavy use of students' state math and ELA test scores in teacher evaluations, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo championed. That battle and the union's relationship with Cuomo became less adversarial after the Regents placed a moratorium on the use of the test scores in evaluations in December, 2015, at the suggestion of a Cuomo-appointed task force that included union leaders.

Official nominees for the union’s leadership positions will be likely be announced Monday. Delegate members from across the state will gather April 7-9 in New York City to elect a president, executive vice president, first and second vice presidents, and a secretary-treasurer, for three-year terms.

The Stronger Together Caucus candidates include Lillis, Tanis, who is a founding member of the statewide coalition of parent groups, New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE); Shenendehowa elementary school teacher Megan DeLaRosa, who is running for first vice president; and Malone high school teacher Nate Hathaway, a leader of the opt-out movement in his community, who is running to be secretary/treasurer.

NYSAPE, the group that lead the test refusal movement, has expressed frustration over the continued use of student test scores in teacher evaluations, over-testing and the use of the Common Core standards, which they say are not developmentally and age appropriate.

The parent coalition last spring called for the resignation of state Board of Regents members and endorsed new candidates for the board. 

Tanis said the Stronger Together Caucus would push for another review of the standards, as well as repealing the teacher evaluation law all together. "We would push for more transparency," she said.

Read Tanis’ campaign statement here and Lillis’ statement here.
To view online:

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Democrats and DeVos - 2 noteworthy Blogs

I wanted to call attention to these blogs for their analysis of the Democrats' links to DeVos and DeForm. I watched some of the DNC debate last night on CNN and the issue of public schools and where the choice movement and the charter as "public school" argument needs to be addressed. I don't accept the UFT argument that if charters were unionized that would be OK. That is not OK to me. Charters are not OK at all as I pointed to Bob Braun's blog last week - Charters are cancers. There are no good cancers–and charter schools are metastasizing throughout education.

Here are 2 more blogs:

Jersey Jazzman:
Give [Dem for Ed Reform Shavar]Jeffries credit: the man knows how to stay on message -- he never turns down a chance to beat up public schools. He also brazenly tries to lump a fundamentalist free-marketer like DeVos in with "traditionalists," which we all know (at least, those of us up to our necks in education policy) is code for "teachers unions."

But what's remarkable here is the attempt to separate DeVos from the entire "reform" project -- just like the center-right is trying to separate itself from Trump. Sorry, my reformy friends, but you don't get away that easily. In the same way "moderate conservatives" have set up Trump, you've set up DeVos.

Republicans Must Own Trump; "Reformers" Must Own DeVos

Daniel Katz:

Democrats, after all, have been full members of the education reform club for some time now. As Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post notes, Democrats who opposed DeVos’ confirmation have not been shy about joining the education reform coalition in the past two decades:

Betsy DeVos Broke the Ed. Reform Coalition – For Now

City Hall Rally Friday Against Townshend Harris Principal Jahoda

Peter Lamphere to MORE Listserve:

I'm unfortunately out of town, but for those of you who haven't heard, the abusive assistant principal who I battled (along with my 19 colleagues from the math department), at Bronx Science, was recently promoted to be the interim acting principal at the renowned Townsend Harris HS in Queens. She immediately managed to provoke resistance from the faculty, parents and students (who staged a sit in within months of her arrival), and there is an ongoing campaign to make sure she doesn't end up being appointed to the permanent principal position.

There is a rally at City Hall on Friday at 11 - please join the students there to support them (I'm unfortunately out of town but will be there in spirit).



Alex Chen, THHS Senior and SU President, and the students are rallying Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday, February 24th from 11am-noon on the steps of City Hall to remove the interim acting principal immediately while the C-30 process is ongoing and before she does any more damage to our school and their futures.

Alex has asked THAA to invite alumni, Susan Karlic to invite the parents, and (CL) Franco Scardino to invite the faculty - friends and family are welcome too- to join them at the demonstration. Elected officials will be addressing the students at the rally. Please arrive at 10:30. The demonstration permit includes City Hall Park for any overflow beyond the 300 person limit for City Hall plaza. Please share and invite others.

In a letter to the Classic, Alex writes, "Freshmen, make your first year at THHS memorable. Sophomores, mark THHS history. Juniors, inspire the underclassmen. Seniors, all of whom can now vote this November, make your voices heard as Bill de Blasio prepares to run for re-election. As Mayor of NYC, he has authority over the Department of Education, which has not been hearing our voices even though they keep saying they are."

Alumni, as voters who live in NYC, let's go support the students and let Mayor de Blasio know that the THHS community share the same goal.

As Alex points out, "The last line of the Ephebic Oath says, 'I shall not leave my city any less but rather greater than I found it.' In the history of Townsend Harris High School, this line has never mattered more."

Comrades, let's keep fighting with them.

For Alex's full letter, please click on the link below:

I'm out of town too so can't make the rally. Where does the UFT stand on supporting

Monday, February 20, 2017

Is CIA the Good Guys? US Secret War in Laos - CIA Killed 10% of the Population

I watch the outrage over Trump and the intelligence agencies coming from so-called liberals, most of whom attacked the shit out of the CIA/FBI assassins for 60 years. Because we hate Trump so much are we lining up with the bad guys?

And by the way -- let's not forget the crap Obama pulled. This is not a defense of Trump but let's be real.

Read the NY Times book review of  The Not-So-Secret War: Revisiting American Intervention in Laos

This excerpt is a key:
“How many did we kill in Laos?” Nixon asked Henry Kissinger one day in a conversation caught on tape. Kissinger replied: “In the Laotian thing, we killed about 10, 15” — 10,000 or 15,000 people, he meant. The eventual death toll would be 200,000.
What made “the Laotian thing” possible was secrecy and deception. C.I.A. officers created a fake headquarters for Vang Pao to receive visiting congressmen and other dignitaries and fool them into believing they were supporting a shoestring, purely Hmong operation. Testifying to the Senate in 1971, Sullivan blatantly lied about the United States’ role in Laos, and blithely assured the senators that his appearance was “a very sincere token of an open society.”

Saturday, February 18, 2017

DeVos to Tour Schools With Randi - Marshals Doubled to Protect Randi From Union Members' Outrage

With Betsy DeVos mocked throughout the nation and  on the run, Randi Weingarten has legitimized, or normalized, her by arranging to go visit public schools with her. Some people are speechless. For long-time Randi observers this is totally in line with her modus operendi. Thanks to Abby in Newark for the story.
DeVos faced a storm of criticism before her confirmation vote, with critics arguing she lacked public school experience.
Protesters then tried impeding DeVos’s entrance into Washington, D.C.’s Jefferson Middle School during a Feb. 10 visit after she was sworn in.
DeVos ultimately entered the school, and Weingarten condemned those attempting to stop the visit, which was organized by the Washington Teacher’s Union, a group which also opposed DeVos’s confirmation.

“Just heard a protester blocked & almost knocked Secy @BetsyDeVos down at Jefferson,” she tweeted Feb. 10. "We don’t condone such acts. We want her to go to pub schls."

Right to Work Coming Soon to a State Near You as Iowa Joins Other States in Assault on Public Unions

If you check comments on some blogs there are a whole batch of NYC teachers who just can't wait for Right to Work to come along so they won't have to pay dues.
Garotte is New Iowa state symbol

As Iowa joined Wisconsin and other states in the assault, we can see that there is a lot more than paying dues involved.
Under the legislation, most public-sector union contract negotiations will be limited only to base wages. Unions will be banned from negotiating with their employers over issues such as health insurance, evaluation procedures, staff reduction and leaves of absence for political purposes. However, public safety workers such as police and firefighters will have a broader list of issues to be considered in contract talks. All unions will be barred from having union dues deducted from public employees' paychecks and unions would need to be recertified prior to every contract negotiation.
The legislation also changes the arbitration process when contract talks reach an impasse. Currently, the union and management would make their best offers and an independent arbitrator would be required to choose the most reasonable of the two. The legislation requires an arbitrator to consider the employer's ability to finance any wage increase. It also puts a cap on how much an arbitrator can raise wages. The wage increase could not exceed whichever is lower: 3 percent, or a percent equal to the cost of living increase outlined in the consumer price index.

An often hapless Democratic Party is left without any means to stop these assaults and the unions are so weak internally, they can barely mount a response. Too many people just don't give a crap.

Well, maybe as they see the joint assault that is coming from Betsy DeVos in destroying public schools our non-dues payers may very well find themselves fighting for their jobs and even pensions and possibly health care.

Now, does our union have a plan to battle this? From what I can tell from scuttlebutt, their plan is to retrench and shrink -- cut staff positions and salaries and offer less services. Watch what happens as each school has 2 lists -- UFT members and non-union members. The latter can be barred from union meetings and even though technically they are entitled to the same rights. But imagine a chapter leader trying to collect dues when faced with a non-payer who needs help. A mass of FUs will issue from school after school.
Reality is that the end will be near - a slow drip or a quick garrote.

I mean my plan would be to make it worthwhile to be in the union.

Friday, February 17, 2017

I Come Neither to Bury Nor to Praise Liberalism - Norm in The WAVE

Published Feb. 17, 2017

I Come Neither to Bury Nor to Praise Liberalism
By Norm Scott

My wife and I got a major dose of American history last week when she won the Hamilton $10 lottery – first row baby. (Sorry, I had to brag at the paying off of my wife’s year long quest of entering the lottery every day.) The experience (the show was even better than I thought it would be) got me to thinking, which can be a dangerous thing. So let’s talk a bit about “liberalism.”

When people on the real “left” as opposed to branded “left” hear the NY Times and the Democratic Party – and Obama and the Clintons branded as “left” they pull their hair out. Maybe liberal or neo-liberal – which can mean different things but not what I consider the real left. But we’ll deal with my view of the left another time.

All people to the right of Genghis Trump have been branded as liberals, and by the more extreme alt-right wing as “libtards.” The liberal label has been much misused and misunderstood. For instance, I have not considered myself a liberal since the 1960s. I find no easy way to label my politics, which has ranged from Marxist to social democratic (Bernie Sanders style) to center-left. Many of us who have been on the defense of public education bandwagon have classified the assault by the “school choice” movement as a neo-liberal free market based attack on public institutions. One of the many contradictions in the choice movement is that they refuse to let the public hold votes on charter expansion and vouchers because the public almost always votes them down. So in essence they suppress democracy in the name of the free market. We’ll explore this contradiction another time.

Liberal, liberty, libertarian, and libertine all come from the Latin liber (free). Our system of government was one of the first liberal democracies (along with England) based on the European Enlightenment during the 17-18th centuries. The key was to reduce the power of the monarchy and to hold kings accountable. Early democracy was not for everyone. Certainly not women or the poor.

A major event was the beheading of Charles II* and the Glorious Revolution of the late 1600s which was a pretty effective way to show monarchists that they were going to be under some level of control. (It took the French another century to do the same to their king). The monarchy was kept in England but with major controls, like parliamentary supremacy, a bill of rights, habeas corpus and other basic building blocks of a liberal democracy. John Locke laid the groundwork for our own nation when he wrote about the consent of the governed and the rights of individuals and even the separation of church and state (hello Mike Pence) in the 1690s.

You may have noticed recently a lot of talk about checks and balances between the 3 branches (executive, legislative, judiciary) with the press (the 4th estate) being another check. On the French side, Voltaire and Montesquieu actually laid out many of the ideas (3 branches of government, separation of powers) used by the founding fathers to frame the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Constitution which took shape from 1787 and was ratified in 1789. Hamilton and Madison played major roles in the process but once the nation began to function in the 1790s found themselves on opposite sides in the political wars – and there were political wars just as vicious as we have today. (See Aaron Burr/Hamilton duel which ended that feud in a pretty definitive way --- imagine settling our elections that way.)

Checks and balances are designed to prevent tyranny but don’t always succeed in many liberal democracies. But that can also lead to gridlock and a growing impatience over the messiness of democracy where maybe the trains always don’t run on time (see MTA transit) and a wish for a strong man (or woman) to shake the tree, democratic institutions be damned – see Mussolini and Putinism and the growing threats to European liberal democracies as the right wing rises.

Note: the far right is anti-liberal democracy, anti-globalism, anti-immigrant and pro-nationalist, which leads to some interesting thoughts on where we started. If liberal equates with free and individual rights, where does that leave us as the far right morphs into the mainstream?

Norm wrestles, not duels, with the alt right, the right, the left, liberals and the center on his blog

*From James Eterno:
Hey Norm,

From Ed Notes:

A major event was the beheading of Charles II and the Glorious Revolution of the late 1600s which was a pretty effective way to show monarchists that they were going to be under some level of control. (It took the French another century to do the same to their king). The monarchy was kept in England but with major controls, like parliamentary supremacy, a bill of rights, habeas corpus and other basic building blocks of a liberal democracy.

Charles I got his head chopped off mid 17th century, not Charles II. Charles II died of kidney failure or the cures doctors tried to give him. James II was the king during the Glorious Revolution in 1688. He fled the country and lived out his life in exile in France after he failed to take back Ireland.

The following article is republished from Uncle John's Ahh-Inspiring Bathroom Reader. Next time you feel yourself coming down with a cold, thank your lucky ...

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

DOE to Hire Former Principals to Do Hits on Tenured teachers - PEP Feb. 28 Vote

Consultants are assigned to cases involving teachers and other pedagogues who were rated unsatisfactory, and they prepare documentation related to the underperforming personnel. Team Leaders act as liaisons who offer support among the attorneys, Labor Support Consultants, and school administrators.  ....
Teachers ought to go and give the PEP some input on Feb. 28. Note than any mention of the word "support" doesn't mean support of the teachers but of the administrator.

When Mulgrew sang the praises of de Blasio in his endorsement this wasn't mentioned. Let's spend another million bucks to support DOE legal. I know one of these guys. Believe me - you go in guilty. Will the UFT have any presence at the Feb. 28 PEP to address this?

San Diego School Board Pulls DeVos Invite

Monday, February 13, 2017

Charters are cancers. There are no good cancers–and charter schools are metastasizing throughout education

Has the public ed ship sailed? After rigthly declaring charters are cancers, Bob Braun asks a very pertinent question on his blog:
Do public school advocates have the will to fight Trump? Open question.
Sadly, we think not. On Saturday Braun attended a conference in New Jersey organized by advocates for public education. The conference included members and staff of such pro-public education groups as the Education Law Center and Save Our Schools. They were searching for some reason for hope given the lack of a sense of militancy in fighting off charters.
Don’t forget these were the activists, the advocates, the good guys, at the conference. But they argued against tinkering with the school aid formula, wrung their hands about seeking an end to charter schools completely, held out little hope about seriously integrating the public schools of the state, and believed that a mayor who hires school board members really means it when he talks about independent public education.
Even if Phil Murphy is elected, public education in New Jersey–and throughout the nation–is in serious trouble. 
Braun was clearly disheartened by what he heard.
Participants in the conference danced around the danger of charters–but they are starving public schools. Yet even charter critics like Mark Weber–better known as the blogger Jersey Jazzman–offered palliatives when, in fact, bulldozers are needed. Charters suspend and expel 20 to 30 times more students than do public schools, a good way of enhancing their student test results, and such behavior raises serious moral as well as political issues.
I too am often disheartened by the response to Trump where people are running around often chasing their tails -- like little yappy dogs seeing 10 balls and racing after every one until they get tired and lay down to rest. Watching our teacher unions scratch their asses as they face the end of the cliff is almost comical - almost. [UFT Message in Times of Right to Work--Do As I Say, Not As I Do]

I also attended a an event on Saturday - the monthly MORE meeting. I think at least the people attending see charters for the cancer they are - though I would like to see MORE get in the face of the union leadership for playing little games about how they can support charters that are open to more monitoring and unionization -- it is about dues after all.

Braun touches on NJ Ed Assoc Phil Murphy:
Part of the problem is that, among this group of advocates–and others, including the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), the state’s largest teachers’ union–Phil Murphy is the heir apparent for what passes for progressivism in New Jersey politics.  Yet Murphy–like Jon Corzine, a Goldman-Sachs alumnus–has said virtually nothing about public education and his message is as inspiring and thought-provoking as a lecture on lawn mowing.
Trump and DeVos want to turn public education upside down and shake out all the money from its pockets so it can flow to corporate managers. We know that. What will Murphy do? What do these advocates want done?
 It’s not as if the problems aren’t known. Bruce Baker, the Rutgers professor who is probably the smartest and most cutting critic of state educational policy, warned both about the regressive nature of school funding under Christie–and the growing acceptance of the segregating effects of charter schools, privately-operated, public-funded schools that help frightened parents run away from public schools. “We’ve lost momentum on the idea that pubic schools should be inclusive,” he said. “They”–the critics of public schools–“are making the opposite argument and they are winning.”
In short, the fundamental idea that public schools are and should be  engines of equality and diversity is losing support.

Braun wants more resistance and less tinkering at the edges.
And how will it [support for public schools] be restored? Baker and others–including Theresa Luhm of the Education Law Center (ELC)–were not hopeful. No, it’s not that they were pessimistic–they were all hopeful the last eight years of Christie’s contempt for public education could be reversed. But they also warned that any effort to rewrite school funding laws were inherently dangerous because they invited political interference in the pursuit of true equity. Better to leave well enough alone and tinker with the edges.
Like Phil Murphy’s expected candidacy, this is simply not enough. Something akin to a political tsunami has occurred that is about to wash away public education as we know it and something more than the restoration of the Bourbons to public education is needed.
Mary Bennett, a former Newark high school principal,  spoke about governance–specifically the return of local control to the Newark schools. But she neglected to mention that the path to local control was impeded, not by the will of the Newark people willing to fight for their schools, but by the unfortunate deal cut between Christie and Mayor Ras Baraka to end criticism of Christie’s policies in the city, including the vast expansion–doubling in ten years–of charter school enrollment.
Baraka, in short, impeded the pace of a return to local control and now takes credit for expediting it. The dangers public schools face now cannot allow such delusional political thinking–the enemies in Washington are too real and too powerful.
 Braun lists the dangers facing public education:
It is underfunded.
It is racially segregated.
It is in danger of being swept away by charters.
Its employees are demoralized.
It has been targeted for destruction by a national administration unlike any other in the history of the republic.
In short, without aggressive action to restore the promise of public education, it will continue to lose support among those who will turn to nuts like Trump and DeVos to find answers in alternatives like vouchers, private schooling, and home-schooling.
The leaders taking aggressive action should be the unions which should go after the very concept of charter schools with guns blazing. Instead we get

Chris Hedges: Our Democratic Institutions Eroded

The four-decade-long assault on our democratic institutions by corporations has left them weak and largely dysfunctional. These institutions, which surrendered their efficacy and credibility to serve corporate interests, should have been our firewall. Instead, they are tottering under the onslaught. 
Labor unions are a spent force. The press is corporatized and distrusted. Universities have been purged of dissidents and independent scholars who criticize neoliberalism and decry the decay of democratic institutions and political parties. Public broadcasting and the arts have been defunded and left on life support. The courts have been stacked with judges whose legal careers were spent serving corporate power, a trend in appointments that continued under Barack Obama. Money has replaced the vote, which is how someone as unqualified as Betsy DeVos can buy herself a Cabinet seat. And the Democratic Party, rather than sever its ties to Wall Street and corporations, is naively waiting in the wings to profit from a Trump debacle.

“The biggest asset Trump has is the decadent, clueless, narcissistic, corporate-indentured, war-mongering Democratic Party,” Ralph Nader said when I reached him by phone in Washington. “If the Democratic strategy is waiting for Godot, waiting for Trump to implode, we are in trouble. And just about everything you say about the Democrats you can say about the AFL-CIO. They don’t control the train.".....  Chris Hedges, The Elites Won’t Save Us
I've been around people on the left for many decades and many disparaged our democracy as being somewhat of a phantom -- and as a student of history I often agree. Think of the Red Scares, McCarthyism, slavery, money buying politicians. So it is interesting so many people from conservatives to liberals claiming we will see even these fragile institutions disappear into fascism.
Hedges pretty much trashes every institution and says the only thing that will save us is resistance. But I don't see how non-organized resistance can work. I hate the Democratic Party but also feel that if a lot of the energy out there went into forcing change that might be worth it. But maybe not.

He closes with:
We are in the twilight stages of the rolling corporate coup d’├ętat begun four decades ago. We do not have much left to work with. We cannot trust our elites. We cannot trust our institutions. We must mobilize to carry out repeated and sustained mass actions. Waiting for the establishment to decapitate Trump and restore democracy would be collective suicide.
Below is the Hedges article continued with some great analysis.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Irony surealism: I’m Just Wild About Betsy (sort of) - Norm in The Wave

Published Friday, Feb. 10, 2017 at

I’m Just Wild About Betsy (sort of)
By Norm Scott

While most of my colleagues rend their clothes in anguish over Betsy DeVos becoming education secretary after VP Mike Pence had to break a tie vote in the Senate, the first time in history, I am seeking out the positives, one of which is the negative reaction to DeVos of so much of the pro-charter, pro-choice movement for which on the surface, this should seem to be a slam dunk.

Pro-choice advocate Marco Petruzzi writes:

Following DeVos’ controversial congressional hearing, on the eve of the Senate’s vote to confirm her nomination, charter supporters and leaders like myself must pause and consider what it means to be an Education Reformer. A wholesale embrace of Betsy DeVos and President Trump’s pro-choice policies ­ — and whether they include vouchers, for-profit charters, and more freedom from transparency and accountability as has been hinted — poses serious threats to our movement and potentially to public education in America…..

He wants do defend public education from DeVos. The difference between us is that he views charters as public schools. I don’t since public schools are open to all and managed by a public agency accountable to elected officials. But some important elements of the charter industry are clearly nervous about DeVos and Trump.

When billionaires like Eli Broad, who helped found and support so much of the anti-teacher, anti-union rhetoric came out against DeVos I knew something interesting might end up brewing ¬ – that an aggressive move to voucher the nation and undermine the entire concept of the public school system might actually lead to the public turning away from the entire concept of a free market approach to education and return to supporting the concept of making sure every neighborhood has a quality zoned public school that has the support of the community.

In fact, to some extent that is already happening as the battle over DeVos brought a lot of people to start thinking of their own public school experience in their own neighborhood and how they were not willing to throw that away. For two Republican Senators from Alaska and Maine, both women who represent mostly rural states where there is no budget to put competing schools all over the place, voted against DeVos, that was ground-breaking as a few others on the fence were besieged by calls and emails from around the nation. Anytime DeVos does something dumb they will be reminded. For a change the Democrats hung together, many of them in fear of their own base rising up in a left version of the tea party. There were actually hundreds of people marching to Chuck Shumer’s house to protest his voting for some of the cabinet appointments.

What I think is happening is that the charter industry is trying to continue to brand itself as part of the public schools and get the benefits of their sudden popularity. Our job is to point out that putting competing schools across the street from each, with the charter having enormous outside resources for ads and recruitment while the public schools had to use every resource internally, is an existential attack on public schools.

What is interesting about DeVos is that she doesn’t care about school quality or even spending much time or money monitoring schools. She cares more about profit than performance. Her attitude is “It is not our job to tell parents their school sucks. Let the market decide. If parents don’t like the school, they can vote with their feet. We will offer them some money towards a private school.” I know this may make sense to some but wherever it has been tried it hasn’t worked. DeVos’ own state of Michigan where her family has enormous influence is a disaster area for education.

Petruzzi expresses his fears:
There is real danger in conflating the idea of choice and quality. What makes charter schools successful isn’t a free market approach of unregulated education…. a dramatic acceleration of charter growth is likely to lead to a decrease in quality…. Any effort to grow charters by deregulating the sector would spell long-term doom…

From his mouth to you know who’s ears.

Are we entering a zone of surrealism where Trump/DeVos ed policy in some weird ways end up dovetailing with the anti-testing movement? We do seem to have some right/left alignment on the interference of the feds that we saw from the Bush and Obama administrations. There is a lot of irony in that it has always been the Democrats and the left that wanted the feds involved to address racism and segregation and other ills perpetrated by some states. Having seen the abuse by the feds, now the left is advocating for more state controls. NY State and Massachusetts and California – Hillary territory -- have generally had the higher performing schools and the past 16 years of both Dems and Rep have been disruptive.

The south and rural areas --- Trump support ---- have always suffered. Think having teacher unions have anything to do with that? But even that may not last much longer as the Trump admin aims its arrows at unions, especially teacher unions. The outcome for all will not be good but things weren’t going too well anyway.

At least the beast is rising.

Norm feeds the beast at

Friday, February 10, 2017

A Public School Teacher: Looks like public education is going the way of the dinosaurs

There is a push to defend out public schools in response to Trump and Betsy. And to defend teacher unions. Given my contact with both public schools and the UFT over the past 50 years sometimes I wonder exactly what am I defending? Twenty years of Giuliani and Bloomberg in charge of the city, followed by 4 more under de Blasio and Farina? A one party undemocratic UFT for the past 60 years? One teacher emailed me this morning with this:
Looks like public education is going the way of the dinosaurs. And the Democrats including union leaders all had a hand in it.
If public schools were doing the right thing, there would be nothing to worry about. However huge class sizes, low quality curriculum, schools budgets spent on countless vendors not classrooms, no supplies or even books, veteran educators jumping ship, students being denied or delayed special ed services, bad district and school leaders, parent and teacher voice shut out, etc
Now tell me... why would parents keep their kids in a district public school???? As for teachers - they should start thinking about 2nd careers. And it's not just Trump. This is has been a long time coming. He's just sped up the process..
It is true that the UFT alliance with the Democrats has led us to Betsy DeVos and even to Trump. Where are we to go? I find so much from the left annoying. The right is - well it is the right. And the center is the Democrats. I find it funny that there is now something called The Resistance -- I've considered myself part of the Resistance since 1970 -- but this might be something interesting to watch. I'm not ready to throw in the towel like some others.

And then just as I'm about to post, this comes in:
A 90-minute Training on Nonviolent Action

Presented by NYU's
Wagner Graduate School of Public Service; Gallatin School of Individualized Study; School of Law's Public Interest Law Center; and Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development

The history of democracy in the US and abroad is in large part a history of popular protest—from the Civil Rights Movement, LGBTQ activism, or the Tea Party movement in the US to the ousting of dictators around the world. Despite the centrality of protest to the expansion and dynamism of democracy, the skills needed to bring democracy to the streets are rarely taught in contrast to other forms of political and civic engagement.

Popular protest—like other forms of political action—requires passion to be effective, but also planning, organizing, training, and discipline. Drawing on the deep expertise of leading practitioners, this 90-minute training on nonviolent organizing, advocacy, and action will start to develop the skills needed to be an effective, informed, and prepared activist.

Session 1—Developing a Strategy of Protest: Target, Demand, and Power
Daniel Altschuler, Managing Director, Make the Road Action Fund

Session 2—Into the Streets in Civil Resistance: Engagement, Mobilization, and Action
Rev. Noelle Damico, Senior Fellow, Work with Dignity, National Economic and Social Rights Initiative

Session 3—Telling the Story and Massaging the Message: How to Communicate an Unarmed Struggle
Jamila Brown, Digital Communications Strategist, The Opportunity Agenda

Session 4—How to Confront Violence, Coercion, and Arrest With Nonviolence: What You Need To Know
NY Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU)

Event Details:
Thursday, February 23, 2017

Time: 6:30pm – 8:00pm 
Location: Eisner and Lubin Auditorium
Kimmel Center for University Life
60 Washington Square South

RSVP purple button

Report from Success Academy on non-Snow Day

Just overheard, three Success Academy staff members talking about their day yesterday. One was joking about how in one class, the teacher preached all day from a Bible. (Is that on the test???) Then they went on to make fun of a child who apparently spoke up about this. Real nice..... .......Public school teacher in co-located school