Saturday, March 31, 2018

Commentary on: It’s Oklahoma’s Turn to Strike - Jacobin

Kentucky teachers
.... bad conditions and attacks on working people never lead automatically to mass movements. Political resignation is usually more common than resistance since workers, particularly where labor organizations are weak, tend to search for individual solutions to collective problems. “Until very recently,” says Miller, “Oklahoma teachers have been going without any hope, feeling like nothing could be done to change things. People would say, ‘It is what it is; it’s out of our power.’” In recent years, union-led efforts to reverse the attacks on public services and education have yielded few results in Oklahoma.... Oklahoma unions deserve credit for helping keep the issue of teacher pay and school funding squarely in the public eye over recent years. Yet, as in West Virginia, the initiative for the current movement has mostly come from below...... The fact that Oklahoma, like West Virginia, is a so-called “red state” has obscured the existence of majority support for progressive working-class policies. In the 2016 primaries, Bernie Sanders received more votes than any candidate of either party.
....... Jacobin 
These excerpts offer a lot of food for thought.
One of the major lessons of the teacher revolt in red states is that much of the militarism may be coming from the center/right, not from the left. Not only that, from the photos, the protestors are overwhelmingly white.

I have a theory - and that is based on a lot of guessing - so as more info comes in I may toss this theory away:

That many people who voted for Trump are expressing a form of frustrated outraged militarism. Labor movement people's militancy has been dampened from a weak-kneed union leadership that is often more liberal than they are and these sparks are beginning to fly in these states because their Republican leaderships have just gone too far in cutting education.

Diane Ravitch posted a link to the article from Jacobin (a strong left wing journal) which gives us excellent background on events  in Oklahoma and how things may differ from West Virginia. You might want to see how the Jacobin piece dovetails with the view from Mike Antonucci on the right - How Oklahoma Will Be Different From West Virginia. 

The Jacobin article mentions Oklahoma teacher Larry Cagle and others but never seems to delve into their politics. Are they avoiding dealing with those politics because if the emerging leadership is coming from the non-activist center/right, it may undermine some of the premises so many on the left operate under:

That a left enlightened "vanguard" will lead the workers out of their darkness.

I see a lot of that mentality in MORE, while my sense (from a distance) is that there is a lot of latent militancy in the non-active UFT members, many of whom may leave post-Janus. That the MOREs may find themselves outflanked from the right if the shit every hits the fan here in NYC, which compared to the red states, has a long way to go. You also hear a lot of talk about race in MORE. But when the red state teacher story is told, the race of the teachers is not talked about.

So, where do these militant teachers from Red Trump states come from politically? I imagine they might be more liberal on the whole than others in their state since they are teachers but probably compared to here in NYC there would be Trump supporters, red dog Democrats and probably some liberals.

How about leftists - socialists? Did radical activists play much of a role in WV or currently Oklahoma? Larry Cagle is one of the independent leaders in Oklahoma and very strong in pushing back against the union leaders, who I bet are more liberal than he is. Larry, in his phone call to the Jacobin/DSA/ISO/MORE March 10 event said "Here it's Trump against Trump?"

Would Larry Cagle, who is being lauded as one of the heroes by the left, otherwise be branded a "deplorable?" Would the liberal/left anti-Trumpers even want to talk to him if he was a teacher in NYC?

Now what does this say for the opposition in the UFT to Unity Caucus, the leaders of whom maintain they are more liberal than the mainstream NYC teacher while the main opposition maintains it wants to focus on reaching the activist/left oriented teacher?

Here are excerpts from the Jacobin article - a must read - though always with a critical eye. Read it all at:

It’s Oklahoma’s Turn to Strike

Friday, March 30, 2018

Three Articles on the New Teacher Rebellion: Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona

Teachers in Kentucky shut down school districts with a sickout:

Teachers in Oklahoma are going on strike despite getting a 16,000 dollar raise, because the state is still not meeting their demands on school funding:

Teachers in Arizona are prepared to strike:

Oklahoma approves teacher pay increase but union says it's not enough, walkout still on
State ranks 49th teacher salaries
Posted: Mar 29, 2018 02:16 AM PDT
Updated: Mar 29, 2018 04:11 PM PDT

(CNN) - Oklahoma legislators approved a measure including a $6,100 pay raise for teachers, but the state teacher's union says the bill doesn't go far enough and plans to walk out Monday.
House Bill 1010XX, which was described as "the largest teacher pay raise in the history of the state" passed both the state House and Senate this week. Gov. Mary Fallin signed the bill on Thursday.
"This is a very historic moment in Oklahoma's time," Fallin said of funding measures that included the pay boost. "It was not easy getting here."
For weeks, Oklahoma teachers have been considering a walkout over what they say is their breaking point over pay and education funding. The state ranks 49th in the nation in teacher salaries, according to the National Education Association, in a list that includes Washington, D.C. Mississippi and South Dakota rank lower.
Inspired by the West Virginia strike in which teachers demanded and got a pay raise from state leaders earlier this month, similar efforts have taken off in Oklahoma and Arizona.
The Oklahoma Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union that represents nearly 40,000 members and school personnel, called the passage of the bill "a truly historic moment," but one that remains "incomplete," according to its president, Alicia Priest.
Teachers and school staff will walk off their jobs on Monday and descend on the state Capitol, she said in video comments posted on Facebook.
Oklahoma City Public Schools said all classes and activities are canceled for that day because of the walkout.
"While this is major progress, this investment alone will not undo a decade of neglect," Priest said. "Lawmakers have left funding on the table that could be used immediately to help Oklahoma students."
"This package doesn't overcome shortfall caused by four-day weeks, overcrowded classrooms that deprive kids of the one-on-one attention they need. It's not enough," Priest said. "We must continue to push for more annual funding for our schools to reduce class size and restore more of the 28% of funds they cut from education over the last decade."
The OEA had also called for $10,000 pay raises for teachers over the next three years and $5,000 pay raises for full-time support professionals such as custodians, secretaries, bus drivers and food service workers.
"We asked for $10,000 over three years. This gets us part of the way there, and so we need to have the Legislature guarantee that we are still working to get to that," Priest had told CNN affiliate KFOR.
Arizona teachers: 'I don't want to strike, but I will.'
In Arizona, thousands of teachers and supporters wearing red swarmed the state Capitol on Wednesday, calling for higher pay and better education funding under what they called #REDforED.
The color red was meant to convey their frustration, which they say has reached a crisis level. Teachers have been wearing red shirts every Wednesday and encouraging supporters to do the same, according to the Arizona Education Association, which has 20,000 members who are teachers, counselors, bus drivers and retired educators.
Educators wore stickers reading: "I don't want to strike, but I will." The rally drew about 2,500 people, the Arizona Department of Public Safety told CNN affiliate KNXV.
Arizona Educators United, a coalition of educators, demands a 20% salary increase for teachers, competitive pay for all education support professionals, as well as education funding restored to 2008 levels.
"Our classrooms go without updated textbooks, basic supplies, and technology. We have among the highest class sizes and school counselor loads in the nation, making it difficult to meet the individual needs of our students," the group stated.
Arizona ranks 43rd in the nation in teacher salaries, according to the National Education Association.
Teachers say they are overworked and underpaid. They want better pay and are encouraging each other to organize via social media. They're hoping their very public display of frustration will pressure state leaders, such as Gov. Doug Ducey.
State Sen. John Kavanagh, the Appropriations Committee chairman, told KNXV that tax increases to pay for K-12 education are off the table, as voters have opposed the idea in the past.

Ravitch - Kentucky: Teachers Walk Out in Response to Legislators’ Attack on Pensions

The teacher wildfire in Trump territory keeps growing.
I wanted to repost this piece from Diane.

Schools in eight Kentucky school districts were closed Friday as teachers across the state protested Republican changes to their pension system, CBS News reports.
In Lexington and Louisville — the state's two largest school districts — hundreds of teachers took sick days or refused to show up for work after state lawmakers passed a bill changing the structure of pension benefits for future teachers.
The strike may be hard for reformers and the libertarians in the GOP to understand: the teachers in Kentucky are not striking for themselves but for their profession.
This wildcat strike follows weeks of protest by teachers to the Legislature and the Governor.
The action in Kentucky follows the wildcat strike in West Virginia and precedes the likely walkout in Oklahoma, scheduled for Monday April 2. Teachers in Oklahoma demand higher pay (pay in Oklahoma is at or near the worst in the nation despite a booming energy industry in the state that gets huge tax breaks).
These strikes and walkouts are happening in states where unions are not strong. In fact, Kentucky,  West Virginia, and Oklahoma are "right to work" states.
Note to reformers: If the Janus decision goes against the unions, you will still have to contend with the power of organized teachers. No matter what law is passed, teachers who are underpaid and disrespected have the power to walk out. There are not enough TFA scabs in the nation to replace them all.
No teachers, no schools.

Kentucky: Teachers Walk Out in Response to Legislators’ Attack on Pensions

by dianeravitch

How Oklahoma Will Be Different From West Virginia - EIA, Antonucci

In West Virginia all 55 superintendents and school boards closed schools for the duration of the strike. That isn’t happening in Oklahoma... Mike Antonucci,
With many Oklahoma teachers planning to walk on Monday, we will try to drill down. One thing to point out is that many of the teachers from Oklahoma may have been Trump supporters - especially if you heard Larry Cagle at the Jacobin event. He said here it's Trump people against Trump people. See:
Tulsa went 65% for Trump.

This is a story played down by all those excitable children on the left who think the same militancy is sweeping everywhere but they don't want to talk about how many of the most militant may fall into their "deplorable" category. This is especially true about my colleagues in NYC who think they see over the rainbow but really don't want to talk to people in the UFT who just might end up being more militant than the rhetorical militancy they lug around with them.

Another one of the major stories on OK is how the grassroots teachers are more militant than the union leaderships in the NEA and AFT, with the AFT being less militant - hey, it's Randi. In an upcoming post tomorrow I will connect some of those dots.

But here Mike Antonucci, a right wing anti-union guy, provides some very useful information on

How Oklahoma Will Be Different From West Virginia

It seems nothing will stop a teacher walkout in Oklahoma next Monday. The state House passed a substantial tax increase to pay for average salary increases of $6,000, but it’s still short of what the unions are asking for. Besides, the strike has a momentum of its own now.

No one is quite sure how long the work stoppage will last, and some school boards have already authorized closures of a week or more. But don’t expect an exact rerun of the West Virginia strike. There are already significant differences.

For one thing, West Virginia is a state with 55 county school districts. Coordination and unity of purpose were relatively easy to achieve. Oklahoma has more than 500 school districts, the vast majority of which employ fewer than 100 teachers.

In West Virginia all 55 superintendents and school boards closed schools for the duration of the strike. That isn’t happening in Oklahoma.

A consortium of school administrator organizations surveyed 264 districts that account for 80 percent of the state’s K-12 enrollment. It found 172 districts will close for at least a day, with 48 of those prepared to close indefinitely.

That leaves 92 districts remaining open, or haven’t decided yet. In at least some of these, the teachers themselves voted against a walkout.

But the amount of participation isn’t the key to success or failure. The previous Oklahoma teacher strike, in 1990, forced the closure of only 143 school districts. It still resulted in a tax increase to fund higher teacher salaries. Coincidentally, that strike was also preceded by a teacher strike in West Virginia.

Even if the amount of participation is down, the amount of dedication may be up. The unions will turn out their members, but as in West Virginia, fewer than half of school employees in Oklahoma belong to a union. The number of non-members who walk out will determine the strength of the strike.

Also, teachers in districts that remain open will have to use personal days in order to join the rallies. Sacrificing pay or a benefit isn’t something the West Virginia teachers had to do.

While the circumstances are different, the result will be the same. Oklahoma teachers will get a big raise. Teacher unions across the country will ride this train as long as it reaches its destination. And as long as the economy is good, it will.
Here are a few articles I posted on Ed Notes recently on OK:

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Robert Jackson Challenges IDC Slug Marison Alcantara - Stringer Endorses Him

It's time to get rid of the Independent Democrat Caucus traitors who caucus with the Republicans. Who better than Robert Jackson who has been in the fight for public education for decades.

And we'll always give Scott Stringer an edge because he appointed Patrick Sullivan to the PEP - the only one to stand up to BloomKlein and their hench people - who by the way are embedded all over the nation inside the ed deform movement.

Stringer to Back 2 Candidates Challenging Breakaway Democrats in Albany

A campaign to unseat eight state Democratic senators — members of a renegade group that has helped empower Republicans to rule the Senate in Albany — will receive a significant boost from the city comptroller, Scott M. Stringer.
Mr. Stringer on Thursday will endorse two Democratic challengers trying to topple members of the group, the Independent Democratic Conference, in the September primary.
“When you run for office as a Democrat and caucus with the Republicans, you are not acting like a Democrat.” Mr. Stringer, a Democrat, said in an interview. “This has gone on for too long. I want to break the dam.”
The cooperation of the eight-member body has helped allow Senate Republicans to control the chamber even though they are outnumbered by Democrats.
Mr. Stringer will endorse Robert Jackson, who is challenging Marisol Alcantara in Manhattan, and Jessica Ramos, who is challenging Jose R. Peralta in Queens.
Full article at:

Scott Stringer, the city comptroller, will become the first citywide official to back primary challengers to members of the Independent Democratic Conference.

Here is another message from one of our faves - Janine Sopp:

As you may not have known, it was Robert Jackson who facebook livestreamed our NYCOO press conference on Tuesday. He has been a strong supporter of public education for decades, and standing with parents and students is nothing new for him. What is timely is that he is running for state senate, after his long held position on the city council and serving his community and our city for years. If there was ever a time to throw your support behind a candidate, now is the time. He is running against Marison Alcantara, who caucuses with the IDC, so it is very important to remove her from this position. RJ is someone who can do it! The IDC may have the money, but we have the people power and votes, and having the money will help expand this vote. Please consider giving a donation to RJ's campaign and know that he values the activists who are a part of all these advocacy efforts.
This is my personal pledge, so thank you for letting me share this as someone who believes strongly that the more we can put people with strong characters to do good in these positions, the more likely our views will be taken seriously.

Big news this morning: City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who grew up in the Washington Heights section of this district, represented the Upper West Side portion and has been a leader for reform in Albany and New York City, today endorsed Robert Jackson for State Senate.

Now with the end-of-quarter fundraising deadline Monday, we need every one to step up and keep the momentum going.  Can I count on you Janine to click here and chip in to end Republican control of the State Senate and make Andrea Stewart-Cousins the first woman Senate Majority Leader, breaking up the so-called “three men in a room?” I would not ask if it were not so important, and we cannot do it without your help. We promise not to bother you through the holiday weekend, so if you can, please donate today!
In endorsing Robert, Comptroller Stringer said:
“Robert Jackson is a proven progressive fighter, who has time and again stood up for the people against the powerful.  From his landmark suit to fund our public schools, to fighting for tenants, small businesses and justice, Robert Jackson has fought with integrity, courage and passion for our values and gotten results. Robert understands the diversity of the District and we can count on him to be there, fighting side-by-side with us for the change we so desperately need in Albany. I’m proud to endorse Robert Jackson today and will work hard to help him win.”  
We must defeat the rogue Democrats – the IDC - who continue to put their own perks and power above serving the people. We must fully fund our public schools, pass New York’s single payer health plan, reform our loophole ridden, landlord written rent laws and protect LGBT rights, women’s rights and immigrant rights. And we can do that together.
It doesn’t matter whether you can give a little or a lot. Every donation helps us build our people-powered campaign. In the last filing, we set a state record for the amount of people who were part of it.  We want to keep that momentum going now.

Here is the link:
We thank all the many people who have already contributed. Your help and support means so much to this campaign and it’s what's going to help us win. 
Very grateful,
Willa Hahn
Jackson for Senate 2018
Finance Director
P.S. If you prefer to mail your check, please send it today to: Jackson for Senate 2018, PO Box 765, New York, NY 10033.
Paid for by Jackson for Senate 2018
Jackson for Senate 2018
P.O. Box 765
New York NY 10033 United States

Opt Out Press Conference: Attacking DOE Propaganda and Lies

...none of the changes the DOE's latest propaganda video brags about would have happened without the action, dedication, and hard work of the Opt Out movement. This video is enraging, our public dollars being used much like the way the charter schools market to us. A big price tag production to push these already expensive tests, while our teachers pay for supplies and parents sell cupcakes for enrichment programs. We are speechless and appalled. (For this, I call BS.) ... Janine Sopp

Janine’s speech is near the end of the livestream. She’s probably too modest to say so, but it was a barn burner.... 
Magnificent! I was shaking---over and over--- as I listened to all the great things Janine had to say. Yes Janine's speech was a barn burner---and the rest of you were tremendous too, including the kids! ...
---Comments re: press conf March 27, 2018 at City Hall
Janine Sopp is a lion of the opt out movement. I met her when we premiered our film, The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman in May, 2011. From then on Janine has been unstoppable. Here are her comments to the change the stakes listserve after the press conference: See her speech near the end of the livestream feed.

Janine Sopp, March 27:
Thanks to all of you who made it to City Hall this afternoon, and to those who showed support in other ways. It was quite an adventure getting all the pieces together, and so many of you had a role in making it happen. This was a big undertaking and you were all so fantastic to work with. I feel the need to share my report and my insights:

We had a wonderful turn out of students, parents and teachers, and a strong message from our City Council Education Committee Chair, Mark Treyger along with statements by CM Lander and Dromm. There was not much press, probably due to our 4 pm timing and/or late alert, but Robert Jackson was kind enough to livestream on Facebook. We certainly called out the DOE, and as promised, they updated their FAQ to include a paragraph about opt out. We are being told by our Council Member's office that a hard copy will be sent home in backpack mail. We certainly know tremendous damage has already been done, and their suppression campaign has been effective. For sure, if it weren't for strong activists in our city, nothing would have been done to counter this damage. We are so proud of the children who stood in front of the camera and spoke. I think we need to give them the mic more often!

This needs to be seen far and wide, so please share where you can. We made the point that none of the changes the DOE's latest propaganda video brags about would have happened without the action, dedication, and hard work of the Opt Out movement. This video is enraging, our public dollars being used much like the way the charter schools market to us. A big price tag production to push these already expensive tests, while our teachers pay for supplies and parents sell cupcakes for enrichment programs. We are speechless and appalled. (For this, I call BS.)

We were so proud of our youth for speaking truth to power, for their ability to tell their stories, and for the amazing speakers who addressed not only the issue of testing and parent rights, but issues around equity and whole child education. IMO, whatever happens this year in terms of numbers, we know we are up against some very strong forces who want to see their agenda come into our reality. We are still a small group of organizers in a city that is impossible to cover without a huge team. It's also getting more and more clear to me that our efforts will need to expand beyond opt out and by building alliances with other groups and across a variety of subjects. We have to find a way to bring all these factors into a huge mobilizing effort.

In my most recent conversations on our opt out hotline, I've spoken or met with many parents who express such appreciation to know they have this right. They learn by different means and are willing to take this step, even if they are the only one in their school. They say this information is power, and they are motivated to advocate for their children. I believe opting out and the advocacy around it can be a gateway to further engagement and parent empowerment in schools. These parents I speak with have expressed so much ​about what they observe is happening in education and to their children. They are not unaware, in fact, they are very aware of what is happening, how testing has taken the place of learning, and the ills it creates. And they want better and they want more, and they feel this step is their way to protest. I only wish we could find ways to bring their voices to the forefront. We are beginning to, they are willing to speak out and speak up. I guess this is the part I value more than anything. That families begin to understand they have a voice.

I hope we can find the strength we need to slay this Golliath. Our ​statewide ​ opt out numbers clearly scared the powers that be, and they needed to squash us much like they did Occupy Wall Street. What our youth are doing now, we must support to grow. I look forward to discovering what our next steps will be, as I remember this is a journey.

I didn't expect to write this much, but after today's press conference, the incredible effort that went into the crafting of these points and working alongside such great minds and talented visionaries, I am humbled and needed to share. Don't forget to read the press release below and watch the livestream.)

​It is an inspiration and a motivation! Wishing everyone a wonderful spring break before the tests, and do all you can to keep spreading the word that parent's have the right to refuse. If you need more postcards, give a holler. Hoping to have the new one by the end of this week.

W​hose schools? Our schools!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Public School Students (& a Few Parents) Call Out NYCDOE for Spreading Lies to Suppress Test Refusal; Declare NYS Grade 3-8 Tests Harm Children, Exacerbate Inequities in Schools

Johanna Garcia |
Kemala Karmen |
Janine Sopp |


Public School Students (& a Few Parents) Call Out NYCDOE for Spreading Lies to Suppress Test Refusal; Declare NYS Grade 3-8 Tests Harm Children, Exacerbate Inequities in Schools

At the March 23rd meeting of the City Council Education Committee, Council Member Brad Lander described as “disturbing” a change in the NYCDOE testing FAQ, "Whereas last year's [FAQ] let parents know about their right to opt out, the new guide does not include any language about parents’ rights to opt out; it is significantly different.”

Disturbing, but just the latest disregard for parent rights when it comes to test refusal rights.

“Once again, I call upon the NYC Department of Education to inform all parents of their right to opt their children out of high-stakes standardized tests,” said NYC Council Member Daniel Dromm. “These exams, originally intended to assess academic development, are still being used inappropriately by state and federal education departments. Standardized tests were never meant to be used the way in which they are used today. The Department has still not done an adequate job of informing parents of their right to opt out despite the City Council unanimously passing a resolution in 2015 calling on school officials to do just that.”

CM Dromm’s characterization of the tests’ use as inappropriate is correct. Too blunt an instrument to be used diagnostically (60-70% of all students fail, rising to 90+% for special education students, and 95% for English Language Learners) and arriving far too late in the year to be useful for planning instruction, the tests are good primarily for one thing: providing data that Betsy Devos and others can use as cover to legitimize the closing of schools, the purchase of costly and unproven technologies and materials that enrich for-profit testing and publishing companies, and the replacement of public school communities with corporate or privately-controlled education.

“The Department of Education has a responsibility to ensure that parents or guardians are fully informed about the options available regarding their children’s education, including their child’s right to opt out of standardized testing,” said NYC Council Member and Education Committee Chair Mark Treyger. High stakes tests do not holistically measure student and school achievement. The DOE must ensure that our city’s families are informed of their right to opt out, and should work to advance more inclusive and accurate methods of assessing academic progress and school success.”

Because test scores tend to correlate with income, it is no surprise that the schools being closed or the schools doubling down on test prep in a frantic effort to boost scores (because they fear being closed), are schools that serve large numbers of low-income students. The use of the tests, then is not only inappropriate, but discriminatory.  “When the tests are essentially weapons aimed at our schools and our children by federal mandate, I expect our state and city departments of education to do everything they can to stand with us against this onslaught,” said Sharna Tucker, a Brooklyn parent currently studying to be a teacher. “I understand that districts are obligated to administer the tests, but they don’t have to, and shouldn’t be trying to, ‘sell’ us on their supposed virtues with backpacked flyers and deceptive emails. And they definitely should not be withholding or distorting information about our right to refuse the tests, when test refusal is the most effective strategy to shift our schools’ myopic focus away from improving test scores and back to the public good of preparing young people to be curious, engaged citizens,” added Rosemarie Maldonado-Wright.

Johanna Garcia, Washington Heights mother and President of Community Education Council 6, added, “Our local school officials are cowering down to scare tactics from the White House and the state house. Threats of withholding money or other punitive measures are unsubstantiated and even if they were legitimate, we should be acting the same way as when they threaten to pull funding for not cooperating with ICE agents. Otherwise, we lose any remaining sense of autonomy and make it open season on our children's public education and parents' civil liberties.”

The children are listening. “Emma Gonzalez said, ‘Adults like us when we have strong test scores, but they hate us when we have strong opinions,’” said Matilda Seki, a Brooklyn 6th grader. Her twin Eliza, added, “As a student who has been opting out and fighting the state tests for years, I know that it is important for youths to use their voice, and in doing that, make a difference.” Fifth grader Zoe Alperin noted that not everyone knew they could refuse, “It is unfair that I know I have a right to opt out, but kids in other schools don't have the same info.”

We call on the DOE and the Mayor to stop and desist from sharing misinformation about the "ramifications" of opting out. Stop pressuring principals to pressure their parent bodies. Immediately issue a memo to principals and ed staff clarifying--not spinning-- information about test participation, including the distinction for “institutional exclusion” (as opposed to parent-initiated refusal) written into NYS’s ESSA plan.  As is the case in some of our neighboring suburban districts, parent communications should acknowledge a parent’s right to refuse the tests and even provide a simple city-issued form where parents can indicate whether they will have their children participate in or refuse the tests. Work with parents and educators to achieve policies that support public education rather penalize it. Strive to  make classrooms places that empower all our children by encouraging exploration and the asking of questions rather than constricting their paths to the selection of someone else’s “right” answer.

Parents’ voices should be heard and honored when it comes to their children's education.

The voices of teachers and administrators should be honored for advocating authentic student learning; they should  not be pressed into service for top-down policy makers who don’t know or work with our children. Students' voices should be heard and honored when it comes to participating in a rich and engaging learning environment that values who they are and all their talents.  

NYC Opt Out is a loose coalition of NYC parents who are concerned about the impact of high-stakes testing on New York City's schools, children, and teachers. NYC Opt Out represents families in schools all over the city and is 100% volunteer-driven, with no corporate, foundation, or union sponsors. Parent volunteers have paid for flyers and website costs from their own pockets.

Lawsuit filed to stop the closure of PS 25, the 4th best public elementary school in NYC according to the DOE

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Contact: Leonie Haimson,

Lawsuit filed to stop the closure of PS 25, the 4th best public elementary school in NYC according to the DOE

Today a lawsuit was filed in the Brooklyn State Supreme Court against the proposed closure of P.S. 25 Eubie Blake in District 16, Brooklyn, a zoned neighborhood school, which Chancellor Carmen Farina and the Board of Education are attempting to close without the prior approval of the Community Education Council.
Last month, on February 28, the Panel on Educational Policy voted to close the school which will require students to seek enrollment in other schools, with no assurance of admission.  Not only is it a violation of NY State Education law 2590-e to close the only zoned school in the neighborhood without the district CEC’s prior approval, but P.S. 25 is also the fourth best public elementary school in NYC in the estimation of the Department of Education, and the second best in the borough of Brooklyn, when the need level of its students is taken into account.
According to the DOE’s School Performance Dashboard, which according to Chancellor Fariña is ““the most advanced tool of its kind,” the positive impact of P.S. 25 is greater than all but three of the city’s 661 public elementary schools, and its closure would leave the entire city-owned building to Success Academy Bed Stuy 3, a charter school. [1]  
Achievement levels of P.S. 25 students have steadily climbed over the last three years, and the school now exceeds the city average in state test scores, despite the fact that a large percentage of students are homeless, economically disadvantaged, and/or have disabilities. According to DOE’s figures, the school’s students outperform similar students by 21 percentage points in ELA and math.  The achievement of the more than thirty percent of students with disabilities is also exceptionally high.
The school also meets or exceeds standards in all the following areas:  Effective School Leadership, Trust, Collaborative Teachers, Rigorous Instruction, Strong Family-Community Ties, and Supportive Environment.
Said Shakema Armstead, a plaintiff who has a third grader at PS 25, “My son, who has an I.E.P, loves the school.  It gives him and other students with a sense of community and stability that allow them to thrive.  There is no reason for them to be thrown into another school where they would have to re-adjust to an entirely new environment, especially as P.S. 25 is doing so well.”
There is a precedent for this lawsuit. In 2009, a lawsuit was filed against Chancellor Joel Klein on behalf of parents at three neighborhood zoned schools, in Harlem and Ocean Hill-Brownsville area, to prevent the closure of these schools without a vote of the relevant CECs.  The lawsuit was joined by Randi Weingarten, then President of the UFT, and NYC Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum. Within weeks, Chancellor Klein withdrew the closure proposals.[2]  He subsequently signed the following settlement agreement:
The [plaintiffs and the DOE] agree with regard to the three schools identified in the Complaint and any other traditional public school that, for those grades that are within the province of school attendance zones, [the DOE] will not close, phase-out, remove, alter or engage in conduct designed to effect the closure of any such school in a way that deprives residents of the right to send a qualifying child to his or her zoned traditional school, without either (1) obtaining, pursuant to 2590-e(11) of the Education Law, the approval of the relevant Community Education Council as to such change or (2) timely replacing such school with another zoned school within the same attendance zone.
In this case, DOE has no plans to create another zoned school for these children, and yet no vote of Community Education Council 16 has occurred.  The DOE claims that the school is being closed because it is under-enrolled, but this ignores several important factors:  Parents have not been told of the exceedingly high quality of the school according to the DOE’s own metrics, and if they had been informed of this, more of them would likely enroll their children in the school.  The DOE could also install another preK or a 3K program in the school.   The availability of space has also allowed for very small classes, which in turn have provided PS 25 students with an exceptional opportunity to learn.
Said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters, “It would be tragic if the second best elementary school in Brooklyn were closed.  PS 25 has very small classes of 10 to 18 students, which are ideal for such high-poverty students.  Given how the DOE refuses to align the school capacity formula with smaller classes, that alone makes the school appear underutilized.  It would be extremely disruptive if this closure occurs, especially for the large number of homeless children at PS 25, because the school is a sanctuary of stability in their lives. Instead of closing PS 25, the DOE should celebrate, emulate and expand it—and give more NYC children the same chance to succeed.”
A copy of the lawsuit is posted here:

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Rockaway Theatre Company Gala

Friday night was the annual RTC gala at El Caribe in Mill Basin. This is one of the most fun nights of the year as all participants in all performances in the 2017 season are invited, including the teens. I think I was the 2nd oldest person in the room of about 150 people.

We got home pretty late and despite what looked like such an energizing day of marching and rallying, there wasn't a lot of energy left for trekking into Manhattan. I got to feed off the wonderful posts of everyone and the coverage.

Jim Peithman, who has been a cameraman for CNN and NY1 put together a great video of the 2017 theater year at the RTC. Check it out and see why RTC productions are Must-See.

A few pics from the party.

John Dewey HS Scandal: Audit slams city over ‘troubling’ grade-fixing fallout | New York Post

... 87% of credit recovery courses in their sample providing insufficient instructional time and 75% of students taking them wrongly given Hs diplomas.... Leonie Haimson
Elvin no longer works as a principal, but collects $169,916 a year as an administrator in the DOE’s Office of Safety Youth Development.... NY Post
Long-time Ed Notes readers know all about the scandals at John Dewey -- we published numerous articles about Elvin, the principal.

Leonie sent this to the listserve:
Rare but welcome NYsed audit confirms how egregious the grade-fixing scandal at Dewey Hs was — with 87% of credit recovery courses in their sample providing insufficient instructional time and 75% of students taking them wrongly given Hs diplomas.

Yet the former Dewey principal is still earning big bucks at Tweed because of Carmen’s failure to act —despite numerous articles in the DN, NYP and on Channel 2 News for over a year exposing the corruption, with courageous teacher whistleblowers proving the bounteous evidence.

A reminder to those who have been swept up in the undue praise awarded Carmen on the eve of her leaving office just how poor her judgement has been in confronting corruption and abuse.

If anyone can find the audit please share.

Riveting Video : Jeanette Deuterman, Opt-Out Leader

Among all the reasons to Opt out is to undermine the massive profits of the educational-industrial complex - and I include the charter industry - imagine all that draining of public funds out of the classroom. Michael Elliott has another in a series of short films out today. Make it go viral.
Jeanette Deutermann was the inspiration for this whole series of films about public education. She links Opt Out to so many other issues. It's the canary in the coal mine. How to we value our kids and their education, what does it mean for the future, are we empowering them or are we just force feeding them and killing their innate curiosity? She knows the answer
.... Michael Elliott
The tests are coming and we know the outcomes of the ent

Our latest video from the event in Brooklyn last April features Jeanette Deutermann, the founder of Long Island Opt Out, telling a very personal story of her own awakening. It launches on social media SUNDAY March 25th @10 AM Eastern.

Testing season is upon us and we need to reach as many potential parents as possible, so please share this video, comment on it, and like it on every page you find it.

Please share this video!!!  But first, please read specific sharing/re-Tweeting strategies below. This IS VERY IMPORTANT IN LIGHT OF CHANGES TO THE FACEBOOK ALGORITHM!

1) Watch the video in its entirety (2 mins 20 secs). It will be in the following places, watch/like/comment on one or all (the more, the merrier): Shoot4Education & Network for Public Education Facebook pages and Twitter. (It will be the pinned post on all of these, starting at 10AM eastern time.)

2) Share the video from Shoot4Education Facebook & re-Tweet from Shoot4Education Twitter, according to the instructions below.

3) It is essential that you create a personal framing of the video in your own post. So please tell other parents how you came to be involved in opt out and how you discovered your voice in this movement.  OR Tell them opt out is our most potent weapon to gain the attention of politicians and to regain our control over education policy. No matter what you say, make it personal. Don’t just click the share button and post, you must write your own headline!

4) Do not mention the words “like" or “share" in your own post.

5) Adding specific recipients (your friends or people you know to have good social media followings): On FB: Use the tagging feature to tag friends in the body of your post (not comments) On Twitter: add handles (quote tweet)

The closer to 10 AM that you can do any or all of the above, the more likely that the video will pick up steam and take off; everyone sharing at once at the very start really fuels visibility.

The  more you interact with the video through watching, liking/reacting, commenting, reTweeting, etc. the greater the probability that it will push into more feeds.


Michael and Kemala


Saturday, March 24, 2018

WIWRD - The Storm Before The Storm - Roman History c. 146-78 BC

I'm starting a new feature here at Ed Notes - What I'm Watching, Reading, Doing - WIWRD,  - pronounce it as "weird" - an appropriate sounding acronym for my life. Not that you all give a shit about what I'm watching, reading or doing but a way for me, as brain cells die daily, to keep a record of sorts. So skip WIWRD labeled articles if you are in the Do I Give A Shit (DIGAS)? what Norm is doing or reading?  

When I start reading a book I am going to open a page on the book and keep adding to it as I read. If interested, check back. Currently I'm reading 3 books so there will be a separate page for each one.

The rise and fall of empires and civilizations is fascinating stuff. They all fall at some point and we will be no different. Wars and or environmental disasters are often the cause. But internal stuff happens too. Is Trump the beginning of the end? Or was it Bush? Or Clinton? Or maybe the Carter/Ford/Nixon tandem. But then again what about Johnson and the Vietnam War? Or maybe it was the Kennedy assassination.

An excellent model is Roman history - I was a history major in college and also had an almost Masters but never studied Roman history. (I didn't finish the masters when I went into teaching and switched to an MA in education.)

I just started reading Mike Duncan's "The Storm Before The Storm - The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic" - the somewhat unreported 75 years before shit really began hitting the fan that led to the undermining and destruction of democracy (The Republic) in Rome and the rise of the Empire (Augustus). (Of course Star Wars is based on this model).

Duncan is a podcaster with a full history of Rome.

Check out Dan Carlin's history podcasts especially this one with Mike Duncan where he talks about the book.
I'll give you one guess why this book is relevant for us today. The Roman Republic lasted hundreds of years and the Empire that followed it another 500 years. So we may be fairly young in comparison. But at the accelerated rate in today's world, the phase Duncan writes about is somewhat analogous to where we are. In other words, Trump is not Caesar but more like the guys Duncan is writing about before Uncle Julius was born. Some really fascinating stuff.

There is a Roman timeline that is analogous to later dominant cultures. Duncan's phases are the origin, revolutionary, global conquest, rise of the Caesars. I would add some phases in between like consolidation after the revolution, internal conflict - Civil War, the massive growth phase between the Civil War and WWI. 

The fall of the Soviet Empire (c. 1989.) might be analogous to the final fall of Carthage (146 BC - the beginning of the Storm) which Duncan says, "The triumph of the Roman Republic was also the beginning of the end of the Roman Republic." But here is the important points he makes in the introduction:
led to increasing economic inequality, dislocation of traditional ways of life, increasing political polarization, the breakdown of unspoken rules of political conduct, the privatization of the military, rampant corruption, endemic social and ethnic prejudice, battles over access to citizenship and voting rights, ongoing military quagmires, the introduction of violence as a political tool, and a set of elites so obsessed with their own privileges that they refused to reform the system in time to save it.
Holy shit -- tell me none of this has been happening since 1989 - in fact I would go back to the election of Reagan in 1980 for the real beginning of the process when the massive assault on unions -- no matter how undemocratic some of them were - they were still a bulwark.

Since I'm in the earliest stages of the book I will continue to add to this post as I read. But I wanted to add one more item about democracy in Rome and what they considered built-in protections against tyranny. (This has some relevance to an upcoming post on democracy in MORE and the UFT.)

Remember that our founding fathers studied Roman democracy and put in a system of checks and balances, which Rome had. Rome began as a kingdom until 509 BC when a group of Senators revolted (American Revolution). Rome had a Senate (the wealthy patricians) which ruled until the regular people (plebians - plebs) became restive - think the Andrew Jackson years (c. 1830) when voting was extended - culminating in the early 20th century with the direct election of Senators and Women's right to vote -- plus of course the abolition of slavery.

When the plebs refused to muster for military service, the die was cast and an elected assembly was established - closed to patricians. Any citizen could seek election as a tribune -- they were untouchable sentinels against tyranny of the aristocracy - the Senate.

The consuls- think president -  came from the Senate - and were elected in pairs - each could veto the actions of the other -- and were term limited to one year. In case of emergency, a Dictatorship could be established to break deadlocks -- but that expired after 6 months. An interesting sidelight --- "the Senate authorized any citizen, at any time, to kill another citizen caught seeking regal
power," a legal justification of sorts for the assassination of Julius Caesar, who made Trump look like a pussycat (not to trivialize but think Cleopatra vs. Stormy).

We shall see how all these institutions were subject to erosion as certain conditions began to escalate. And we're seeing that happen here today. Trump is only the beginning. We may see some retrenchment at times but the tensions on society (automation, environmental disasters, wars) will only increase and the end will not be pretty.

Now what does this have to do with democracy in MORE and in the UFT? Think of the UFT and MORE (origin phase, etc.) and where they lie in their respective life cycles.

Things to explore in the future.