Saturday, May 23, 2015

Ken Derstine on Attack on PubEd in Philadelphia Election and Randi Visit, Followed by Her Appearance in NYC at Oppi Conference With Deformers Wendy Kopp Et al

Also elected as a Democratic nominee to a City Council-at-Large seat was Helen Gym. Gym is a founder of Parents United for Public Education and has been one of the leaders of those campaigning for defense of Philadelphia’s public schools. On the day of the election, the head of Boys’ Latin charter sent out an email urging people not to vote for Helen Gym because “she hates us.”.... Ken Derstine
We love Helen Gym who has been a freedom fighter against ed deform and her election is a positive for public education, or what is left of it in Philadelphia.

Ken, a member of the MORE-like WE Caucus in Philly, does his usual bang up job or research, the heart of which is a chronicle of the attempted destruction of public education in Philadelphia and the impotent response of the union. I'm only posting the Randi part. Go to his blog for the entire post, Common Sense in Philadephia.
On Friday, May 15th, four days before the election, a rally for Helen Gym was held at the School District headquarters. It is apparent that there was not much interest in getting parents and teachers out to the rally since it was held at 10:30 a.m. Joining this photo op of politicians and labor leaders who had endorsed Helen Gym was American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. Reporters were told she had flown in from Los Angeles, after international travel, just to be at the rally.

Weingarten gave her usual stump speech with much fist pumping and effusive praise for Helen Gym as the Superwoman we have been waiting for. As usual, it was much “sound and fury signifying nothing.” There is no way that one Councilwoman, no matter how gifted, can stop the privatization onslaught. While a seat in City Council will give Helen Gym a powerful platform to fight for public schools, it will be within a Democratic Party which places priority on the interests of real estate developers, corporate interests such as Comcast, the Chamber of  Commerce, and the banking community, not the common good.

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan has not proposed any trade union fight against the attacks. His response to both the privatization of substitute teaching and nursing is that the PFT would be "pursuing every option available to stop the privatization of our public schools." This is his weak-kneed response to the balkanization of the Philadelphia School District despite his acknowledgement that privatization has been prepared by the Boston Consulting Group for several years. For details see “Who is killing Philly schools?” 5/2/12 and “Who’s Still Killing Philly Schools?” 5/22/2013 by Daniel Denvir in the Philadelphia City Paper.
For all her bluster, Weingarten does not want a mobilization of the Philadelphia labor movement as those seen in 1973 and again in 1981 when teacher strikes were ended after the threat of a general strike by the city labor movement.

Glaringly missing from her bombast was any mention of the Opt Out movement against standardized testing being led by parents across the country. Weingarten is a supporter of the Gates Foundation promotion of annual standardized testing and the Common Core.

Immediately after the rally, Ms. Weingarten rushed off to New York City where she joined Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America, officials from the Gates Foundation and other educational technology enthusiasts at the Oppi Learning Festival 2015. The program says “Oppi Festival is a unique learning event which allows all education key stakeholder groups from around the world to come together, share ideas and experiences, tackle challenges and form new partnerships.

Ms. Weingarten was part of the welcoming ceremony where she had a conversation about Global Kids. Missing from the speakers were American K-12 teachers or educators from the academic world of higher education who have decades of experience with American education. NYC teachers were invited to be in the audience to learn how they to could collaborate with corporate education.

Weingarten returned to Philadelphia Tuesday to campaign for Kenney and Gym and to join the victory celebration at Helen Gym’s campaign headquarters.

On May 9thMs. Weingarten appeared on HuffPost Live. Using the standardized testing crisis as a smoke screen, she attempted to rescue the Common Core, heavily funded by the Gates Foundation, from parent and teacher opposition to it.

To bolster her credentials for promoting the Common Core, she made much of her teaching experience as the basis for supporting Common Core. This has been her practice of late: to deflect questions about why she continues to promote Common Core and take attention from her alliance with the Gates Foundation. At an appearance at a forum of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute on June 28, 2014, Ms. Weingarten went on for several minutes about her teaching experience.
Norm Scott of Ed Notes Online, who was in the NYC United Federation of Teachers when Weingarten became its President, said of her credentials recently: 

Randi has distorted the reality of her teaching experience, often by parsing the language to give an impression that she taught for 6 years when in fact she taught full time for only 6 months at Clara Barton HS in Brooklyn. The rest of the time she taught a few classes a day before going off to her other job at the union - a unique arrangement not exactly available to the average teacher. (My guess is that once Shanker came down with life-threatening cancer around 1989 or 90, he and Sandra Feldman, then UFT president, had to decide on succession and Randi, a fairly recent arrival at the UFT, was chosen over people who had worked for the UFT since its inception, leading to some resentment.) Since Randi was a lawyer - she was the UFT counsel - with no teaching credentials, they had to scramble to get her certified and find her a "teaching" part-time gig before she could claim the mantle of UFT president. They found her a "safe" school near her home. Clara Barton, across the street from Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, was a vocational school focused on nurse and health care worker training, a school that attracted a number of girls. Unity Caucus member Leo Casey was the chapter leader and would cover Randi's back when needed. Everyone in the school knew they were getting a "celebrity" staff member who would one day be the president of the union. By never having taught in real conditions like her constituents, Randi never had a sense of what it was really like.

As is the case many times in history, young people who have their whole lives in front of them and want a say in what kind of world they will live in, are unencumbered by past practices and political connections. On May 12th, hundreds of Philadelphia High School students Opted Out by not attending school at the beginning of the Pennsylvania Keystone standardized tests. Some administrators threatened the students with being denied the right to participate in the Prom or walk in their graduation.
A Philadelphia teacher was suspended for four days without pay for informing parents about Opting Out when asked.

Philadelphia high school student Giancarlos Rodriquez on The Rick Smith Show on why students opted out of the PA Keystone test.
A parent from Kensington High School talks on The Rick Smith Show about the suspension of her daughter for a week for organizing a walkout to Opt Out of PA Keystone Exams.
A Philadelphia teacher shares what it’s like to subject students to hours of standardized testing and what it is doing to his students.

On May 19th, Election Day, the Caucus of Working Educators in the PFT held workshops at Central High School about various issues in education today. This video has excerpts from the Opt Out session which shows the testing crisis that is deepening in Pennsylvania.

The young people Opting Out are showing what must be done to stop the privatization onslaught. Only such acts of civil disobedience, combined with a mass mobilization against corporate education reform, can change the trajectory of events. Out of this mass mobilization a political movement must be developed which declares independence from the two-party system and develops a program for the needs of the 99%.

More on questions about Randi Weingarten’s teaching experience:
Public Lives; Hoping to Continue Education as Union Head | New York Times – January 20, 1998
How long did Weingarten teach? | Linking and thinking on education – July 14, 2011
Did AFT's Randi Weingarten last much more than “10 minutes in a classroom?” | Whitney Tilson’s School Reform Blog – July 21, 2011
An Open Exchange with AFT President Randi Weingarten | Mercedes Schneider @ The Chalk Face – November 4, 2013
 Here is the link to the entire piece, which Ken opens with one of my fave historical figures:
This sacrifice of common sense is the certain badge which distinguishes slavery from freedom; for when men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon.          Thomas Paine

Common Sense in Philadelphia


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