Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The National Nature of the Attack on Public Ed

Before you read one word there are two must follow links:

Read LA Teacher Dennis Danziger's: Shut Up and Strike in which he says he ain't marchin' anymore - unless it's to strike

and Susan Ohanian's posting of this wonderful (and long - but it's a snow day so you have time) of Danny Weil's wonderful assault on Arne Duncan. Weill closes with:


It is the Obama administration that gave us Arne Duncan, but he was probably dropped in Obama's lap by the privatizers who realized the federal, state and local governments are broke. Enchanted with his paranoid schizophrenic behavior and policies, charmed by his athletic prowess and familiarity with Obama, they embraced him like the lap dog he is.

So now what do we see? Corporatized health care, corporartized education, corporatized war, corporatized social services, and corporatized surveillance and incarceration to name just a few of the increasingly privatized policies. The whole Obama administration is deranged and their behavior, both individually and socially, would put them right into the straightjacket with Arne, or at least in the 'day room'. But to get Arne the help he needs it will take organization and effort on the part of the American public that day by day sees the social and economic horror mouthed, applauded and implemented by the Obama administration and especially the chainsaw massacre of public schools and education promoted by Duncan.

This is why we must mobilize on March 4th to tell the maniacs who now own America and its institutions that we’ve had enough; that schizophrenic economic and social policies that favor the egocentric and pathological needs of a ruling class bent on turning America into a low-paid gulag is not acceptable. And we need to tell them loud and clear, for they don’t seem to be taking their medication, forcing us instead to accept their evil prescriptions and their corporate medicine for social life.

Enough is enough: Duncan must go. His statements betray his interests and his interests are not those of working people, they are aligned with the interests of the powerful elite bent on destroying America for private profit. The same elite who display the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia one can find in any medical journal. The inmates are now truly running the asylum. It is time to lock them up and get them the help they need.

Karen Horwitz, teacher activist and author of White Chalk Crime, responded to a comment I made about not putting all the emphasis on Joel Klein and even Michael Bloomberg:

Although NY does lead this nation on most things, even if we were able to pin the corruption on the NY gang, the rest of the nation has it in full swing and it would be back with a vengeance without mayoral control. Mayoral control only makes it easier, but is far from the only path for ravaging our schools.

Emphasizing Bloomberg makes it appear as a NY thing when it is national, diabolical epidemic that is positioned to totally undermine our democracy with its helpful companion, the latest Supreme Court decision.

After all when lousy schools produce brainless people, I can't say citizens since citizenship isn't taught either, the corporate money will easily influence them against their own interests. (Actually the decision is not all that significant since special interests have been doing this for years illegally; perhaps this decision is a blessing that will wake up more people to what is going on so they will unite against this calculated end of democracy.)

Although I appreciate and respect all the hard work activists put into exposing their own systems, it is important to keep all of this in context within the intentional destruction of our democracy that it promises to accomplish. You are so correct that Vallas was replaced with Duncan and Klein can be replaced with another White Chalk Criminal. This will keep happening until we the people rise up to protect our democracy, not just our schools.

I agree that this is a national attack on public schools and teacher unions and the focus on Bloomberg and Klein can be misleading at times. But the answer goes way beyond joining NAPTA. Last summer activists from 5 cities met in LA and formed a loose alliance. People went back to their local areas to build the movement. Some are getting together again in Detroit at the Labor Notes Troublemakers conf in April. Others are going to the tri-national meetings of 3 nations - Canada, Mexico and US in May and some are hooking up in Seattle at the AFT convention in July.

March 4 all of these cities and more are joining in a national day to save public education. Oakland teachers voted to strike that day. LA is in a state of flux. Chicago's CORE teachers caucus is challenging for union leadership. Detroit teachers who got the worst contract in history - which Randi helped broker and has praised - voted to recall their union leader, a Randi ally but he is refusing to go. In Washington Nathan Saunders is running for union president.

In NYC, things are in the early stages of organizing, galvanized by the massive closing of schools and the charter school invasion. Many groups are forming and some are coming together in various configurations to join with parents and even students. The Jan 21 rally at Bloomberg's house was a success and of course the massive outpouring on Jan. 26 opened a lot of eyes.

Stay tuned.



  1. More status-quo BS.

    If traditional schools are so great, why is there such a demand for charters? Nobody ever seems to want to answer that question.

    Also, to correct the record, many charter schools are run by non-profit orgs. It's NOT "privitization". Charters must take the same tests and publish their results, just like traditional schools.

    I wish that some of these anti-charter folks would have the guts to look a low-income parent in the eye and tell them that they'd be better off sending their kids to a failing traditional school.

  2. Who's creating the demand for charters knuckle-head? And yes it is an attempt to privatize public education. Get real. Separate and unequal. Tell your sob story to the NAACP. Better start looking for a new state buddy!

  3. More coded crap from the for-hire ed deform privatizing crowd. The "status quo" term is hackneyed and out of date.

    Funny how many parents came out - almost all of them people of color - to the PEP on Jan. 26 to eviscerate charters and the ed deformers. I didn't see too many defenders of charters get up at that meeting. Where were you all - hiding under the seats?

  4. As a teacher who has taught in a failing school (bad scores, out-of-control discipline, violence, apathy, etc), I am a strong supporter of charter schools.

    Many of my students' parents were single and low-income. They couldn't afford a private school or to move to another area.... but they were desperate to get their kids a good education.

    How could I, in good faith, tell a parent NOT to send their kids to the high performing charter school just 5 blocks down the street??

    If a traditional school is doing a better job, great, I would support that. But if a charter school can do it better, then parents should have that option.

    My point is, let's give parents of all incomes school choice, but with public accountability.

    Ultimately, I'm for SCHOOL CHOICE that doesn't discriminate based on who can pay. Charter schools provide that.

    Some will choose traditional schools, others will not. That's the beauty of CHOICE.

  5. Would someone please explain...

    Why would you honestly tell a low-income parent that they should keep sending their kids to a mediocre, failing school??

    Are you telling these parents that their kids should "take one for the team?"

  6. Ahhh! The beauty of "choice." What a wonderful thing. Why aren't you telling people in high crime areas they can have a charter police department to give then a "choice?"

  7. As to mediocre failing schools: who says and what are the criteria? I taught for 27 years in a school that could be classified as mediocre and failing or as pretty good and successful. It all depends on which kids and parents. There was school choice. There were at least 5 other elementary schools within walking distance. Not choice enough? Oh, I know. They weren't charters which seems to be the only way to meet your "choice" test.

  8. Don't know. Your scenario is purely hypothetical. However, it has been shown that when police partner with non-profit community groups and other organizations, that can have a positive impact on reducing crime.

    My broader point is this: Charters may not be right for every single person.....but they have the potential to help MANY who need/want it.

    Why let the perfect be the enemy of the good?

  9. I know from my own experience at the school that it was mediocre.

    The students were well below grade level in nearly every subject (and that's based on what I saw from student work, not test scores).

    Similarly, the school had widespread discipline problems, along with parent, teacher, and student apathy.

    It's true, that some schools can turn themselves around....but how many years should one wait?

    School choice can come from many sources, not just charters....but what good is it to choose between 5 failing schools?

  10. I get it. All 5 schools must have been failing schools because they were public schools. And gee, you had experience in one school. And assume the neighboring schools were the same. I bet you had one thing and that was a lousy principal who could have and should have been replaced if things are as you say. And by the way did you stand up for the kids and fight for changes or tuck in your tail and run?

    You see I stood and fought. I challenged my principal. I fought to stop the idiot test prep all the time. I went to school board meetings (remember those?) and criticized the superintendent for hiring supervisors instead od reducing class size. I aligned myself with other progressive teachers and we published a newpaper. And I challenged my union for being part of it all.

    So if you are trying to brand me a status quoer you are barking up the wrong tree.

  11. To anonymous 1:12. I don't get why we need 2 school systems. Why isn't there a will to figure out what is wrong and fix it? I bet your answer lies in the fact that a union is involved doesn't it?

  12. Exactly, why not fix the public schools. Take all the money being spent on starting new schools and give the public schools more resources and help. Smaller class sizes, high quality after school and summer programs, more school counselors to help parents and students,intervention teachers... are only a few ideas.

  13. Charter schools are not a "2nd school system" as you call it. I would point out that we also have traditional schools that are specialized (such as for arts or technology) and have voluntary enrollment. Some of those are successful. Charter schools are the very similar, but free of many of the bureaucratic restrictions.

    The school I refer to in my earlier posts was in Atlanta, where union influence is I'm not singling out unions as the only issue.

    The real issues at my school were two fold: 1) a series of bad principals, and 2) bureaucracy. For example, the principal had very limited control over hiring/firing, and was only permitted to hire for positions that are "official" district-recognized positions...rather than being able to hire what was needed for the school. That's one example among others.

    One reason I support charters is because I feel that the odds of system-wide reform are stacked against the traditional schools. Sure, we might have a few turnaround stories here and there....but overall, I think the inertia is too great.

    Sure, we could wait around for a handful of rock-star principals to come in and turn around the failing schools....but how long will that take?

    Now many of the newer generation of school leaders are gravitating toward charter schools for reasons like the ones I mentioned above.

  14. Since you're a long-time educator, Ed Notes, I'm sure you are interested in seeing the schools get better too. I"m not trying to label you as a pure "status-quoer".

    I just think that there has been a lot of misinformation spread around about charter schools. There are many charter schools that are doing right by the kids. I've visited them. I've sat in the classrooms, I've spoken to parents, and I've spoken to the kids.

    All I'm saying is that STUDENTS should be our primary focus and not an allegiance to a particular system.

    Unions have a role in this too...I don't advocate their demise. I just want them to show more openness to new solutions and new ideas.

    The problems in our education system are complex...and there is no single solution.

    Charter schools, while not perfect, are a valid solution for many students. We need to recognize that the solution may involve many different kinds of school models.

  15. So are you saying it was the teachers' fault at your school, including you in this statement:
    For example, the principal had very limited control over hiring/firing, and was only permitted to hire for positions that are "official" district-recognized positions...rather than being able to hire what was needed for the school."

    Who makes that decision if there is so little union involvement? And why is there such a policy? You must ask those questions.

    You support charters full well knowing that only a portion of kids get to go leaving the rest in what you consider a failing public school system. SO you believe in triage and put energy into supporting what will serve the few rather than fighting to improve all the schools for the many.

  16. Only a few students get to go to charters because they are limited in number. It's basic math...There are only so many seats. That's not the fault of the charter schools themselves.

    All of the charter schools that I have been familiar with do not exclude students based on test scores, behavior, or income. So they're not screening out the "worst" students either.

    As for my previous school in Atlanta, I most certainly stood up for the students. I was very often one of the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave at the end of the day. I also took many steps to engage parents at the school, including home visits, etc.

    I (along with a couple of like-minded peers) was chosen to sit on the school's restructuring committee and shared many ideas for improving the school with them, only to be outnumbered by teachers/admins who were more interested in making cosmetic changes to appease the state than in really doing the hard work required to make a difference in the school climate.

    It's also difficult for a few teachers to make a difference in the face of a revolving-door administration and a faculty comprised of many recalcitrant veteran teachers.

  17. I find it interesting that most of the arguments I've heard against charter schools are related to the system itself:

    "Charter schools only help some students, not all"
    "Charter schools have outside organizations involved"
    "Charter schools are anti-union."

    But rarely do I hear anyone argue that traditional schools are doing a better job of educating our children.

    My bottom line is this:
    ALL students, regardless of race, income, circumstances, etc. should have access to a quality education, WHATEVER IT TAKES.

    If charters part of it, great. If traditional schools can do the job on their own, that's great too.

    Students should be priority number one. We can't wait a whole generation (or more) for failing schools to fix themselves.

  18. It's like we're talking apples and oranges. Why are public schools fixing themselves? We gave enormous money to Bear Sterns and AIG. Why is it impossible to fix the schools instead of the charter diversion? There is not evidence that charters do better than public schools and I know many people at public schools that are fine. Take the PS 15/PAVE situation where a successful public school is being undermined.

    It is not kumbaya - la di da - if charters do well so be it. The real battle should be about fixing the public schools not the charter school battles. Everyone knows that you can't scale up the numbre of charter schools to public school levels without a total disaster - like that ENY school. so let's not forget the argument that charters will always be for the few.

    That is why we will oppose charters no matter what. It is not about students being number one. It is about a political/profit motive agenda. Charter school supporters are sweating because the scam is finally being revealed.

    Watch as the New Orleans experiment falls apart and the Chicago disaster gets wider and wider coverage and people will be begging for public schools.


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