Here is my RTC column
School Scope: On Ed Policy, It’s Democrats vs. DemocratsBy Norm ScottI’ve been writing in this space on education policy for about a dozen years. About the massive nationwide assault by both political parties on educators, their unions, the concept of the local community school as a neighborhood hub, the use of high stakes testing as an instrument and charter schools as the spearhead of disruption. Let me restate this point in bold letters – BOTH POLITICAL PARTIES – in case you are now aware, known as the Republicans and the Democrats. While there are some differences – the Dems moderate their positions just enough to keep a carrot in front of the teacher unions so they keep running after each other. But make no mistake about it – both parties deserve the label of “ed deformers.”As a left leaning Bernie Sanders supporting social democrat, I’ve been particularly harsh on the Dems who should be the natural allies of teachers and their unions and on the surface they seem to be. On the surface. But just witness the new NY State law extending mayoral control by one year but handing another giveback to the charter school lobby.Jeff Bryant has an interesting article in Common Dreams, How Long Can Big Money Keep Democrats In The Charter School Camp?http://www.commondreams.org/views/2016/06/18/how-long-can-big-money-keep-democrats-charter-school-campBryant points to the recent California primary. “While the Democratic Party’s presidential candidates, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, ran on populist platforms denouncing “the corrosive role of money in politics” and “condemning the plutocratic consequences of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision,” many Democratic Party candidates down ticket funded their campaigns with big money from two corporate interests. One interest flooding the election with campaign donations is hardly new to the scene. For decades, the petroleum industry has stuffed the coffers of candidates in both parties to ensure legislation continues to favor oil consumption, stall alternative energy sources, and ensure lax environmental regulations. The other source of corporate cash in Democratic politics is much newer: charter schools. ….Many Democratic Party candidates relied on money from the petroleum industry and “education reform” advocates backing charter schools to win their contests over more progressive candidates.”Obama is a Republican on ed policyWhile be see a barrage of criticism from Republicans over anything Obama should happen to do no matter how insignificant, one thing you will not hear is criticism of anything he has done on education. Hillary will continue most of these policies. Trump? Don’t even think about it. Educators who call themselves Republicans are basically voting to end their life work. Just desserts for these people, especially those on pensions would can watch their hero executing an overt attack on their pensions as being “too expensive” and urging us to take 25 cents on the dollar to “make America great again.”When it comes to ed policy the charter industry doesn’t even have to worry about the Republicans.Back to Bryant: “According to a report from the Center for Media and Democracy, an organization calling itself Democrats for Education Reform has been effective in a number of states at getting Democratic candidates to team up with traditionally Republican-leaning financial interests to defeat any attempts to question rapid expansions of unregulated charter schools. According to the CMD study, DEFR is a PAC “co-founded by hedge fund managers” to funnel “dark money” into “expenditures, like mass mailings or ads supporting particular politicians, that were ‘independent’ and not to be coordinated with the candidates’ campaigns.” The organization and its parent entity also have ties to FOX’s Rupert Murdoch and Charles and David Koch.”With Bernie pretty much done for pro-public education supporters are left with little choice in the election. (Not that Bernie has said very much about education.) We know that the Clintons have been ed deformers since their Arkansas days. Observers of the UFT and AFT, our local and national unions also note that our own unions have been allied with the Clintons on education policy since the alliance built with the Clintons in the 80s by the late Albert Shanker. While if I were the deciding vote I would still vote for Hillary over Trump, as a NY State voter I think I can afford to vote “other” and still not help Trump get elected. I don’t stop at ed policy. We need massive reform at all levels of policy.I want to continue to make a point that neither of the parties in our 2-party system is satisfactory to me and what is needed is a 3rd force as we are seeing in Italy where the 7-year old Five Star Movement just elected female mayors of Rome and Turin. I can only hope the Bernie movement goes beyond Bernie. This past weekend a couple of hundred Bernie people met in Chicago to plan future actions which include beginning to get involved in local politics to either change the Democratic Party from the grass roots are start a 3rd way real reform movement like 5 Star.Next: Why can’t a so-called progressive Dem who is bringing Rockaway a subsidized ferry at metrocard rates find love in Rockaway?
See Norm fume at ednotesonline.org.
Memo from the RTC: Final Follies Kudos as La Cage Aux Folles is ComingBy Norm ScottWell, the Follies set is down and La Cage… (opening August 4) is on the way up as the rehearsal schedule begins getting intense. There are so many sets for Tony Homsey and crew to build, there may be scarcely a tree left standing on Rockaway.I had to miss the final two performances of Follies at the Rockaway Theatre Company this past weekend (and the cast party) because we had tickets to see the legendary Brian Wilson sans the rest of the Beach Boys (except for Al Jardine) at Tanglewood in Massachusetts. I’m still feeling those good vibrations so I want to say a few final words about the show, the cast and the behind scenes people involved in this complex production of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies. Many people just don’t like Sondheim music or shows and so there was some resistance even within the RTC family. So the show got mixed reviews. Even one of the lead actors made some comments early in rehearsals about how he was not a fan. Yet by the end of the run he was totally enveloped. I found myself running song after song in my head all day – once in a while I even broke out into song, only to see my cat (and my wife) cover their ears.
The Sunday June 11 matinee had to survive a crisis as the fire on Flatbush Ave closed down the Gil Hodges bridge and delayed 3 performers by an hour and a half. The audience was offered their money back if they couldn’t stay for the delayed performance, which began at 3:30. Most remained and were treated to pie, coffee and ad hoc performances by various members of the cast who came out and sang for them. When the show ended around 6PM there was a palpable love fest between audience and cast.Director Peggy Page Press threw herself into the project with enormous energy and commitment (12 facebook or more cheerleading and encouraging messages a day) and the cast and production crew came through with flying colors. Peggy’s usual partner, Michael Wotypka, co-directed. There are the usual dedicated suspects who delivered a bang-up job. Music director and sound designer Richard Louis-Pierre and Choreographer Nicole DePierro-Nellen played primary roles and will also be doing the upcoming La Cage…. Costumier Kerry O’Conner, despite being very pregnant, was in charge of what was one of the most complex costuming jobs the RTC has seen. Andrew Woodridge, as always, took care of the increasingly professional lighting.One of the major jobs on any show is the sound technician who must make 20 remote mics work so the actors can be heard. This job fell to 15-year old Alex Stabiner who Peggy praised as one of the heroes of the production for taking on this complex task with humor and dedication. Also behind the scenes were RTC Young People regulars Mia Melchiorri and Reilly Mangano who were racing around all over the place taking on tasks that needed to get done. I find one of the most impressive things about Peggy is her faith in kids as performers and back-stage people. Our current 20-something crew came up through these ranks over the past dozen years and this 3rd generation is so hooked on the RTC we know things will be in good hands for a long time to come.In addition to doing the Wave’s School Scope column, Norm blogs about education and politics at ednotesonline.org.