"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, February 28, 2011

A response to Bill Gates

The First Step: Protect Children from the Effects of Poverty

Sent to the Washington Post, Feb 28, 2011

Stephen Krashen

Bill Gates proclaims that "other countries have raced ahead" of the US in education, and in order to catch up, our teachers must improve ("How teacher development could revolutionize our schools," Feb. 28). The premise is false: American education has been successful. The problem is poverty.

American students from well-funded schools who come from middle-class families outscore students in nearly all other countries on international tests. Our average scores are not spectacular because the US has the highest percentage of children in poverty of all industrialized countries (over 20%; in contrast, high-scoring Finland has less than 4%).

All educators are interested in improving teaching quality, but there is no national crisis in teaching quality. Our first step should be to protect children from the damaging effects of poverty: better nutrition (Susan Ohanian suggests the motto "No Child Left Unfed"), excellent health care for all children, and universal access to reading material. The best teaching in the world is useless when students are hungry, sick, and have little or nothing to read.

Stephen Krashen

Some sources:

American students in well-funded schools …

Berliner, D. The Context for Interpreting PISA Results in the USA: Negativism,

Chauvinism, Misunderstanding, and the Potential to Distort the

Educational Systems of Nations. In Pereyra, M., Kottoff, H-G., & Cowan, R. (Eds.). PISA under examination: Changing knowledge, changing tests, and changing schools.

Amsterdam: Sense Publishers. In press.

Bracey, G. 2009. Education Hell: Rhetoric vs. Reality. Educational Research Service

Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics

achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13.

Poverty and hunger, health and access to books:

Berliner, D. 2009. Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/poverty-and-potential

Krashen, S. 1997. Bridging inequity with books. Educational Leadership 55(4): 18-22.

Martin, M. 2004. A strange ignorance: The role of lead poisoning in “failing schools.” http://www.azsba.org/lead.htm.

How teacher development could revolutionize our schools

By Bill Gates
Monday, February 28, 2011;

As the nation's governors gather in Washington for their annual meeting, they are grappling with more than state budget deficits. They're confronting deep education deficits as well.

Over the past four decades, the per-student cost of running our K-12 schools has more than doubled, while our student achievement has remained virtually flat. Meanwhile, other countries have raced ahead. The same pattern holds for higher education. Spending has climbed, but our percentage of college graduates has dropped compared with other countries.

To build a dynamic 21st-century economy and offer every American a high-quality education, we need to flip the curve. For more than 30 years, spending has risen while performance stayed relatively flat. Now we need to raise performance without spending a lot more.

When you need more achievement for less money, you have to change the way you spend. This year, the governors are launching "Complete to Compete," a program to help colleges get more value for the money they spend. It will develop metrics to show which colleges graduate more students for less money, so we can see what works and what doesn't.

In K-12, we know more about what works.

We know that of all the variables under a school's control, the single most decisive factor in student achievement is excellent teaching. It is astonishing what great teachers can do for their students.

Yet compared with the countries that outperform us in education, we do very little to measure, develop and reward excellent teaching. We have been expecting teachers to be effective without giving them feedback and training.

To flip the curve, we have to identify great teachers, find out what makes them so effective and transfer those skills to others so more students can enjoy top teachers and high achievement.

To this end, our foundation is working with nearly 3,000 teachers in seven urban school districts to develop fair and reliable measures of teacher effectiveness that are tied to gains in student achievement. Research teams are analyzing videos of more than 13,000 lessons - focusing on classes that showed big student gains so it can be understood how the teachers did it. At the same time, teachers are watching their own videos to see what they need to do to improve their practice.

Our goal is a new approach to development and evaluation that teachers endorse and that helps all teachers improve.

The value of measuring effectiveness is clear when you compare teachers to members of other professions - farmers, engineers, computer programmers, even athletes. These professionals are more advanced than their predecessors - because they have clear indicators of excellence, their success depends on performance and they eagerly learn from the best.

The same advances haven't been made in teaching because we haven't built a system to measure and promote excellence. Instead, we have poured money into proxies, things we hoped would have an impact on student achievement. The United States spends $50 billion a year on automatic salary increases based on teacher seniority. It's reasonable to suppose that teachers who have served longer are more effective, but the evidence says that's not true. After the first few years, seniority seems to have no effect on student achievement.

Another standard feature of school budgets is a bump in pay for advanced degrees. Such raises have almost no impact on achievement, but every year they cost $15 billion that would help students more if spent in other ways.

Perhaps the most expensive assumption embedded in school budgets - and one of the most unchallenged - is the view that reducing class size is the best way to improve student achievement. This belief has driven school budget increases for more than 50 years. U.S. schools have almost twice as many teachers per student as they did in 1960, yet achievement is roughly the same.

What should policymakers do? One approach is to get more students in front of top teachers by identifying the top 25 percent of teachers and asking them to take on four or five more students. Part of the savings could then be used to give the top teachers a raise. (In a 2008 survey funded by the Gates Foundation, 83 percent of teachers said they would be happy to teach more students for more pay.) The rest of the savings could go toward improving teacher support and evaluation systems, to help more teachers become great.

Compared with other countries, America has spent more and achieved less. If there's any good news in that, it's that we've had a chance to see what works and what doesn't. That sets the stage for a big change that everyone knows we need: building exceptional teacher personnel systems that identify great teaching, reward it and help every teacher get better.

It's the thing we've been missing, and it can turn our schools around.

The writer is co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

A Suggestion: Dump Striving Readers, Give the Money to School Libraries in High Poverty Areas

A Suggestion: Dump Striving Readers, Give the Money to School Libraries in High Poverty Areas

Stephen Krashen

The House of Representatives has recommended cutting the Striving Readers program, a program aimed at adolescents. I think this is a good idea. Striving Readers costs 200 million per year, and has not produced impressive results.

To get an idea of the effectiveness of Striving Readers, take a look at a 239 page document, Summary of 2006 Striving Readers Projects, by Abt, submitted to the US Department of Education A full description of the programs used is presented starting page 224. The programs are clearly skill-based, with only a brief mention of actual reading. There is variation among the specific programs, but they all emphasize direct instruction, including phonics, vocabulary instruction, and instruction in comprehension strategies. There appears to be no awareness of the possibility that a great deal of phonics, vocabulary and mastery of strategies emerge as a result of reading.

It is a mystery to me why this program has lasted so long with such poor results. It is also a mystery why there is not more support for libraries: The House also wants to cut a program that supports libraries in high poverty areas and that costs only 19 million per year, The Improving Literacy Through School Libraries program. In contrast to Striving Readers, the research showing the positive impact of libraries on literacy development is consistent and impressive.

The 200 million yearly cost of Striving Readers would be far better spent investing in libraries. Studies consistently show that children of poverty have very little access to books, and that increasing access increases reading, which in turn improves literacy development. The current level of funding, 19 million, amounts to less than $1.50 per child in poverty. Two hundred million would mean about $15 per year, or one book per year per child. This could rapidly close the gap, giving all children a chance to do extensive reading.

I present the results for Striving Readers programs in several different locations, in their own words. The measure used was "effect size" which measures the size of the impact of a treatment. An effect size of .2 or less is considered small. The results are dismal. The differences between Striving Readers and comparisons was quite small, with effect sizes close to zero, and typically statistical significant.

Results for Chicago: (pp. 167-8) (tier 1 = highest readers, tier 3 = struggling readers).

"After one year of intervention, there were no significant impacts on the reading achievement of grade 6 struggling readers (those assigned to Tiers 2 and 3). The non-significant effect sizes for Tier 2 and Tier 3 were .08, for both.

After two years of intervention, there were no significant impacts on the reading achievement of grade 6 struggling readers (those assigned to Tiers 2 and 3). The non-significant effect sizes for Tier 2 and Tier 3 was .04 and .08, respectively."

Danville (p. 175)

"There was a significant impact of the targeted intervention on reading achievement of students in grade 9 who received one year of treatment, with effect size of .15. There were no significant impacts of the targeted intervention on the reading achievement of students in grade 6 who received one year of the treatment, with effect sizes of.08."

Memphis (used READ 180) (p. 182)

"There were no statistically significant impacts on the reading achievement of struggling readers in grades 6-8 after one year of exposure to READ 180, with effect sizes of .05 on ITBS, and .04 on TCAP.

There were no statistically significant impacts on the reading achievement of struggling readers in grade 6-8 after two years of exposure to READ 180, with effect sizes of .01 on ITBS, and .05 on TCAP."

Newark (READ 180) (p. 189)

"For treatment students who had one year of READ 180, there were no significant effects on any of the three subtests of the Stanford Achievement Test. The effect sizes for the three subtests, vocabulary, comprehension, and language arts, were .09,.10, and .07, respectively.

For treatment students who had two years of READ 180 there were significant effects on two of the three subtests of the Stanford Achievement Test. The effect sizes for vocabulary and comprehension were .09 and .17, respectively. No significant effects were found on the language arts subtest; the effect size was .10."

Ohio (READ 180) (p.197-198)

"There was a significant impact of one year of READ 180 on grade 9-12 student reading scores on the SRI assessment. The effect size was .17. There was no significant impact of one year of READ 180 on grade 9-12 student reading scores on the California Achievement Test. The effect size was .08."

Portland (Xtreme Reading) (p. 204):

"There was a significant impact of one year of Xtreme Reading on the reading achievement of grade 7 and 8 students on the GRADE and on the Oregon State Assessment Test. The effect sizes of the impacts were .27 and .11, respectively. There were no significant impacts of one year of treatment on the reading scores of grade 9 and 10 students; on the GRADE, the effect size was .09, and on the Oregon State Assessment Test, the effect size was -.01."

San Diego (p. 213):

"After one year of intervention, there were no significant impacts on the reading achievement of grade 7 and 8 or grade 9 and 10 struggling readers. The effect sizes were.04 and .05, respectively, on the California Standards Test. The effect sizes were .12 and .05, respectively, on the DRP.

After two years of intervention, there were no significant impacts on the reading achievement of grade 7 and 8 or grade 9 and 10 struggling readers. The effect sizes were .08 and -.01,respectively, on the CST. The effect sizes were .09 and .00, on the DRP respectively."

Springfield and Chicopee: (Xtreme Reading or READ 180) (p. 222)

"After one year of implementation, READ 180 had statistically significant impacts on students reading scores at the end of grade 9. The effect size was .20. Xtreme Reading had no statistically significant impacts on student reading scores at the end of grade 9 after one year of implementation. The effect size was .04."

Friday, February 25, 2011

Franken's Boneheaded Push for More Testing

From Detroit Lakes-Online:

“One of the things I think is a major change that we’re going to make is measuring growth,” Franken said. “What we need are tests that are used to help teachers teach.”

Rather than one high-stakes test given in the spring, he said, he’d like to see a series of lower-stakes tests given throughout a school year. They would be similar to the Northwest Evaluation Association testing many school districts already do.

The change in testing would allow ongoing evaluation of how students are performing and tell teachers what sort of help their students need, according to Franken.

“I think that’s what parents thought No Child Left Behind was going to be,” he said. “It didn’t turn out that way at all, it turned out a very boneheaded way.”

It's good to use diagnostic instruments to inform teaching. Teachers already do that, some of it formally and some of it informally. But Franken needs to be very careful here or we'll end up using one test to accomplish two very different (and incompatible) goals: use an instrument to help teachers understand what their students know, and use an instrument to evaluate a teacher. Considering the push to use "student growth" in teacher evaluations, we'd be wise to tread quite carefully lest we create a system that bastardizes formative assessments while encouraging a "teach to the test" pedagogy that cannot possibly prepare kids for any future (21st or otherwise).

Franken isn't just another Senator - he's on the Senate's Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. To his credit, the article above also contains some very legitimate criticisms of school turnarounds in rural communities. But he also falls victim to the schizophrenic ramblings of the business class, which says they want creative thinkers but then push high-stakes testing that focuses on only the most basic of skills (and kills creativity):

When he travels around the state, he asks employers what they want from employees, he said, and most ask for the same things: Someone who is creative, able to do critical thinking and able to work in a team. “None of that is really measured by NCLB tests.”

And none of that will be measured by the new tests, Sen. Franken. None of it. But you'll still push for "growth models" and more testing (which you say will be low-stakes, but you're likely wrong). It won't prepare our children for the future jobs nor life in a democratic society, unless those skills require a heck of a lot of testing (and then a little more testing sprinkled on top for good measure).

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thank You, Wisconsin, For Carrying the Fire

This is what democracy looks like as people begin to reclaim what is theirs.

An attempt to manufacture a reading crisis in Wisconsin

On Feb 22, CNSnews.com proclaimed that "Two-Thirds of Wisconsin Public-School 8th Graders Can’t Read Proficiently": They stated that only 32% of Wisconsin eighth graders scored at the "proficient" level or above on the 2009 NAEP.

Actually, the percentage is 34%. And this figure is not shockingly low.

Gerald Bracey published several penetrating critiques of the NAEP performance levels (see, for example, his book Reading Educational Research: How to Avoid Getting Statistically Snookered) pointing out that NAEP's “proficient” level is set very high, and that other countries that consistently rank near the top of the world in reading would not do well on our NAEP: For example, only one-third of Swedish children would be considered “proficient” on the NAEP, nearly the identical percentage of Wisconsin's fourth (33%) and eighth (34%) graders reaching or exceeding the proficiency level ).

The suspicion is that the definition of “proficient” is deliberately set too high, in order to create the illusion that there is, in fact, a crisis in American education, an application of what Naomi Klein has called the “Shock Doctrine,” the deliberate creation of a crisis in order to create an environment to institute policies that would be normally unacceptable.

Buried deep in the CNS report is the fact that Wisconsin's children did slightly better than the national average.


Corporate Full Court Press in Missouri: Teachers, Administrators, School Boards Fight Back

Corporate lobbyists, corporate foundation stooges, and ed industry bottom feeders are descending on state legislatures across America, trying to take advantage of shortfalls in public funds following the Heist of the Century by Wall Street banksters in 2008.

Bare-knuckled tactics abound, pushing cheap vouchers, cheap charters, and cheap teaching, all under the control of corporate boards, foundations, and the local crooks hired to implement these testing factories that further segregate, contain, and behaviorally sterilize urban children. 
But parents and educators are fighting back. It is time to say No and then, Hell NO.  Make your voices heard.  Let your legislators know you want good public school choice for all:

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Groups representing teachers, administrators and school boards lined up Wednesday to oppose a bill that would allow charter schools to be established statewide.

Opponents said that before Missouri permits more of the nontraditional public schools, officials should beef up oversight of the 51 existing charter schools, many of which fail to meet state standards.

At issue was a bill sponsored by Rep. Tishaura Jones, D-St. Louis. It would allow charter schools — which are currently confined to St. Louis and Kansas City — to be created anywhere in the state.

In addition, the bill would set up a new statewide commission to sponsor charters and trigger regular reviews resulting in closure if students failed to meet certain benchmarks.

Supporters of charter school expansion said the schools could be alternatives that are needed in other areas where public schools are foundering.

Noting that eight districts outside St. Louis and Kansas City are provisionally accredited, Cheri Shannon, executive director of the Missouri Charter Public Schools Association, said those children 'should not be condemned to a failing school."

About a quarter of children who attend public schools in St. Louis attend 21 charter schools. As a group, they have not performed any better on standardized tests than their peers in the city school system. . . .

Chris "Rush" Christie's Corrupt Administration and the Taking of Citizen Hostages

The morbidly-obese Gov. Chris Christie loves to throw his weight around while demonstrating an utter disdain for the people who have dedicated their working lives to making New Jersey first in the nation as measured by the Nation's Report Card, NAEP, an accomplishment that Christie's previous Education Commissioner for NJ dismissed as irrelevant.

After that one was fired for screwing up the RTTT application, thus costing NJ hundreds of millions, NJ has another Acting Commish, this one as decidedly corrupt as the last one was ignorant.  And while the new Commish, Mr. Cerf, figures out ways to siphon his cut from privatizing New Jersey's urban schools, the Gov works on ways to divide and conquer the citizens who foolishly elected him to lead them into the ditch. From Bloomberg News"New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is holding homeowner tax credits hostage until he gets state unions and their legislative allies to give up some benefits as part of his $29.4 billion budget for fiscal 2012."

This compilation of stories on the lucrative exploits of Mr. Cerf compiled by Stan Karp:
Acting N.J. education chief founded consulting firm hired to overhaul failing Newark schools

A consulting firm hired by Newark’s mayor to overhaul the city’s failing schools was founded a few months ago by Christopher D. Cerf, the state’s acting education commissioner, and still lists his Montclair home as its New Jersey address….

Educational leaders in Newark were also swift to react, saying such a detailed plan should have drawn input from a wider swath of community leaders before it was ever assembled.

"I received it this morning after a member of the press sent it to me," complained school advisory board chairman Shavar Jeffries on Tuesday. "I find that ridiculous and I find it offensive."

Crowds protest plan to close Newark schools, replace them with charters

Droves of parents and community members at tonight's Newark school board meeting expressed vociferous outrage about a plan to close and consolidate failing Newark schools in an effort to clear space for charter schools. The meeting became so raucous and hostile at moments that Advisory Board President Shavar Jeffries threatened to remove audience members or stop the meeting. About 300 people attended the meeting at the 15th Avenue School, one of the facilities slated for consolidation.

The complex proposal was written by an outside consulting firm and distributed to a group of Newark school principals Friday. Several struggling public schools, including Quitman Street School and Martin Luther King Jr. School could be phased out and have their students sent to other schools under the plan.

Five members of the school board expressed disbelief about the lack of transparency surrounding the new plan, which makes recommendations about the district's lowest performing schools.

Acting N.J. education chief Cerf revises account of ties to mysterious firm
“The acting commissioner gave a revised account of his ties to the firm — acknowledging he had been more involved than he first indicated earlier this week. Cerf had first maintained he had done little more than lend his address for the incorporation papers.”

N.J. education chief Cerf: 'My very short involvement occurred when I was a civilian'

“A story in The Star-Ledger Wednesday revealed that Newark Mayor Cory Booker hired a consulting company founded by acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf to help overhaul Newark public schools. The company, Global Education Advisors, used Cerf’s home address as its New Jersey address. Cerf gave an extended e-mail interview yesterday to Star-Ledger columnist Bob Braun.”

A valuable lesson: Newark shouldn't leave the public out of the school reform process
“What was promised here was public engagement, and it should start with transparency in major decisions about the use of that funding. The public should be informed of every step in the process.”

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gov. Scott Walker Reveals Devious Plans to "Koch Brother" and Makes Plans to Celebrate Victory on Koch's Tab

Updated 11:15 pm 

Today Scottie is surely wanting to be beamed up after being punk'd big time by a guy pretending to be David Koch, Scott Walker's patron oligarch who provides the money for all the pro-Walker protesters, astroturf organizations, and the ads to demonize workers.  Not only do we find out that Walker has a baseball bat ready for those dangerous teacher types, but he powwows daily with Koch stooge in the Ohio Governor's office, Kasich.  Oh yeah, my favorite part: at the end of the 20+ minute de-briefing to his patron, Walker accepts an offer for a special treat out in "Cali" when the unions have been crushed.  Whoopsy!

Oh yes, and don't miss the part where Walker admits to considering goon squads to instigate violence during the demonstrators.

And oh yes, his plan to trick Dems into thinking he wants to negotiate in order to jam through his Bill.

From Daily Kos and YouTube:

Here the Transcript:
Walker: Hi; this is Scott Walker. Koch: Scott! David Koch. How are you?
Walker: Hey, David! I’m good. And yourself?
Koch: I’m very well. I’m a little disheartened by the situation there, but, uh, what’s the latest?
Walker: Well, we’re actually hanging pretty tough. I mean—you know, amazingly there’s a much smaller group of protesters—almost all of whom are in from other states today. The State Assembly is taking the bill up—getting it all the way to the last point it can be at where it’s unamendable. But they’re waiting to pass it until the Senate’s—the Senate Democrats, excuse me, the assembly Democrats have about a hundred amendments they’re going through. The state Senate still has the 14 members missing but what they’re doing today is bringing up all sorts of other non-fiscal items, many of which are things members in the Democratic side care about. And each day we’re going to ratchet it up a little bit…. The Senate majority leader had a great plan he told about this morning—he told the Senate Democrats about and he’s going to announce it later today, and that is: The Senate organization committee is going to meet and pass a rule that says if you don’t show up for two consecutive days on a session day—in the state Senate, the Senate chief clerk—it’s a little procedural thing here, but—can actually have your payroll stopped from being automatically deducted—
Koch: Beautiful.
Walker: —into your checking account and instead—you still get a check, but the check has to be personally picked up and he’s instructing them—which we just loved—to lock them in their desk on the floor of the state Senate.
Koch: Now you’re not talking to any of these Democrat bastards, are you?
Walker: Ah, I—there’s one guy that’s actually voted with me on a bunch of things I called on Saturday for about 45 minutes, mainly to tell him that while I appreciate his friendship and he’s worked with us on other things, to tell him I wasn’t going to budge.
Koch: Goddamn right!
Walker: …his name is Tim Cullen—
Koch: All right, I’ll have to give that man a call.
Walker: Well, actually, in his case I wouldn’t call him and I’ll tell you why: he’s pretty reasonable but he’s not one of us…
Koch: Now who can we get to budge on this collective bargaining?
Walker: …I think the paycheck will have an impact…secondly, one of the things we’re looking at next…we’re still waiting on an opinion to see if the unions have been paying to put these guys up out of state. We think there’s at minimum an ethics violation if not an outright felony.
Koch: Well, they’re probably putting hobos in suits.
Walker: Yeah.
Koch: That’s what we do. Sometimes.
Walker: I mean paying for the senators to be put up. I know they’re paying for these guy—I mean, people can pay for protesters to come in and that’s not an ethics code, but, I mean, literally if the unions are paying the 14 senators—their food, their lodging, anything like that…[* Important regarding his later acceptance of a Koch offer to “show him a good time.” *]
[I was stunned. I am stunned. In the interest of expediting the release of this story, here are the juiciest bits:]
Walker: …I’ve got layoff notices ready…
Koch: Beautiful; beautiful. Gotta crush that union.
Walker: [bragging about how he doesn't budge]…I would be willing to sit down and talk to him, the assembly Democrat leader, plus the other two Republican leaders—talk, not negotiate and listen to what they have to say if they will in turn—but I’ll only do it if all 14 of them will come back and sit down in the state assembly…legally, we believe, once they’ve gone into session, they don’t physically have to be there. If they’re actually in session for that day, and they take a recess, the 19 Senate Republicans could then go into action and they’d have quorum…so we’re double checking that. If you heard I was going to talk to them that’s the only reason why. We’d only do it if they came back to the capital with all 14 of them…
Koch: Bring a baseball bat. That’s what I’d do.
Walker: I have one in my office; you’d be happy with that. I have a slugger with my name on it.
Koch: Beautiful.
Walker: [union-bashing...]
Koch: Beautiful.
Walker: So this is ground zero, there’s no doubt about it. [Talks about a “great” NYT piece of “objective journalism.” Talks about how most private blue-collar workers have turned against public, unionized workers.]…So I went through and called a handful, a dozen or so lawmakers I worry about each day and said, “Everyone, we should get that story printed out and send it to anyone giving you grief.”
Koch: Goddamn right! We, uh, we sent, uh, Andrew Breitbart down there.
Koch: Yeah.
Walker: Good stuff.
Koch: He’s our man, you know.
Walker: [blah about his press conferences, attacking Obama, and all the great press he's getting.] Brian [Sadoval], the new Governor of Nevada, called me the last night he said—he was out in the Lincoln Day Circuit in the last two weekends and he was kidding me, he said, “Scott, don’t come to Nevada because I’d be afraid you beat me running for governor.” That’s all they want to talk about is what are you doing to help the governor of Wisconsin. I talk to Kasich every day—John’s gotta stand firm in Ohio. I think we could do the same thing with Vic Scott in Florida. I think, uh, Snyder—if he got a little more support—probably could do that in Michigan. You start going down the list there’s a lot of us new governors that got elected to do something big.
Koch: You’re the first domino.
Walker: Yep. This is our moment.
Koch: Now what else could we do for you down there?
Walker: Well the biggest thing would be—and your guy on the ground [Americans For Prosperity president Tim Phillips] is probably seeing this [stuff about all the people protesting, and some of them flip him off].
[Abrupt end of first recording, and start of second.]
Walker: [Bullshit about doing the right thing and getting flipped off by “union bulls,” and the decreasing number of protesters. Or some such.]
Koch: We’ll back you any way we can. What we were thinking about the crowd was, uh, was planting some troublemakers.
Walker: You know, well, the only problem with that —because we thought about that. The problem—the, my only gut reaction to that is right now the lawmakers I’ve talked to have just completely had it with them, the public is not really fond of this…[explains that planting troublemakers may not work.] My only fear would be if there’s a ruckus caused is that maybe the governor has to settle to solve all these problems…[something about '60s liberals.]…Let ‘em protest all they want…Sooner or later the media stops finding it interesting.
Koch: Well, not the liberal bastards on MSNBC.
Walker: Oh yeah, but who watches that? I went on “Morning Joe” this morning. I like it because I just like being combative with those guys, but, uh. You know they’re off the deep end.
Koch: Joe—Joe’s a good guy. He’s one of us.
Walker: Yeah, he’s all right. He was fair to me…[bashes NY Senator Chuck Schumer, who was also on the program.]
Koch: Beautiful; beautiful. You gotta love that Mika Brzezinski; she’s a real piece of ass.
Walker: Oh yeah. [story about when he hung out with human pig Jim Sensenbrenner at some D.C. function and he was sitting next to Brzezinski and her father, and their guest was David Axelrod. He introduced himself.]
Koch: That son of a bitch!
Walker: Yeah no kidding huh?…
Koch: Well, good; good. Good catching up with ya’.
Walker: This is an exciting time [blah, blah, blah, Super Bowl reference followed by an odd story of pulling out a picture of Ronald Reagan and explaining to his staff the plan to crush the union the same way Reagan fired the air traffic controllers]…that was the first crack in the Berlin Wall because the Communists then knew Reagan wasn’t a pushover. [Blah, blah, blah. He's exactly like Reagan. Won't shut up about how awesome he is.]
Koch: [Laughs] Well, I tell you what, Scott: once you crush these bastards I’ll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time.
Walker: All right, that would be outstanding. [* Ethical violation much? *] Thanks for all the support…it’s all about getting our freedoms back…
Koch: Absolutely. And, you know, we have a little bit of a vested interest as well. [Laughs]
Walker: [Blah] Thanks a million!
Koch: Bye-bye!
Walker: Bye.
I wonder if Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough will continue to cheer for the guy after hearing how he laughed at a sexist joke aimed at Mika.

Two Davids Have Goliath Reeling

The battle for public education is a huge front in the war to preserve the public space.  The war to preserve the public space is the war for democracy, for the public space is the only place that democracy can operate.  It does not operate in the corporate board rooms where oligarchs and their stooges are hatching other Scott "Hosni" Walker plans to destroy the public space.

When teachers and parents join hands as they are now in Wisconsin and Indiana, New Jersey and Florida, the Oligarchs' clumsy think tanks cannot deal, cannot maneuver, cannot counter the creativity and the determination behind to power of doing the right thing for our children based on the compelling immediacy to act. 

From Valerie Strauss' blog:
By Valerie Strauss
This was written by Rita M. Solnet, a nonpartisan businesswoman, parent, and Florida education activist.

By Rita M. Solnet
It wasn’t just the type of slingshot or the shape of rock David used when he defeated Goliath. David’s determination was steadfast, his belief system strong, when, with a do or die mindset, he fought Goliath and won. But why did he succeed when others just as determined and just as brave do not?

This question dominated my thoughts this weekend as I watched events unfold in Wisconsin, where teachers are protesting efforts to strip them of collective bargaining rights, and elsewhere: What helps you win when all the power and the money and legislative rule is stacked against you?

My search began. I discovered that despite the odds, "Davids" win nearly one third of the time!

Two years ago, political scientist Ivan Arreguin-Toft studied every war fought in the past 200 years between strong and weak combatants. He analyzed cases where one side was at least ten times more powerful than the other, and he determined that Goliaths win 71% of the time.

Under the circumstances, this was encouraging, but I still wondered what mystical quality the "Davids" possessed which enabled them to win against the odds?

When the underdogs acknowledged their weakness and employed unanticipated strategies, they won, according to Arreguin-Toft. It wasn’t just David’s determination and fearlessness alone. David did the unexpected. Goliath laughed at the absurdity of David approaching him without armor. David unpredictably broke the rhythm of battle. He acted quickly with one rock and fortuitously lunged forward. He interrupted Goliath’s pace. That’s how David won.

Teachers were not expected to organize parents and students as allies and close down schools in Wisconsin; but, they did. Senators were not expected to leave the state to avoid a quorum; but, they did. The "Davids" are breaking the rhythm of this combat and atypically they’re doing the unexpected.They are, in my opinion, on their way to winning this war!
I read articles last week detailing nearly a half dozen states who plan to launch legislative actions which will severely impact public education. With a spotlight beaming on the Wisconsin turmoil, I wondered if it would be days or weeks before Ohio, Tennessee, Florida, Illinois, Indiana would erupt similarly.

Seeking common ground and compromise is always my preference. But common sense does not appear to prevail in some states where egregious proposals are introduced to strip workers of bargaining rights and to drastically impact the stability of the teaching profession as well as reduce teachers’ salaries. This is not a highly paid profession to begin with. I hasten to add, I am not a teacher.

Initiatives now disguised as "education reforms" are malignant attempts to gain increased power over unions. And parents are fed up watching this disaster unfold as children are sentenced to yet another year of reduced education funds, overcrowded classrooms, and a narrowed, un-enriched curriculum due to riveting focus on a senseless standardized bubble test.

Methods concocted by lawmakers and policymakers today (non educators and non parents of public school children for the most part) are the opposite of what academically high performing countries employ. Finland, for example, is nearly 100% unionized. Finland strengthened their social welfare for children and families, as Diane Ravitch explained in this piece on her Bridging Differences blog). They invested in teachers decades ago and that investment paid off.

It is time for involved parents to react atypically as well. Children’s futures are at stake. Parents should visit, write, and phone their legislators, school boards, chancellors, mayors and governors to tell them to stop using the education of our nation’s children as leverage in their war with unions.

Parents have been disenfranchised in the effort to improve the quality of public education. As "Davids" ourselves, that is no longer acceptable. We are joining forces to break the rhythm of this war as well.

Our schools. Our children. Our voices will be heard.

Three Koch Bros. Governors Back Off Union Eradication Plan

Mitch "Red Menace" Daniels' announcement yesterday that he and his legislative goon squad would ease back is a sign that the wingnuts have overplayed their hand--or that Daniels and Co. can now proceed with the public school eradication plan while appearing as compromising moderates.  I suspect the latter.

From FireDogLake:
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, responding to the flight of Democratic lawmakers from the state House, denying Republicans a quorum to pass union-busting bills, asked Republicans in his party to stop work on the bill, allowing the Democrats to return and operations in the legislature to continue.
Daniels told reporters this afternoon that he expects House Democrats will return to work if the bill dies. It would be unfortunate if other bills are caught up in the turmoil, he said.
He will not send out state police to corral the Democrats, the Republican governor said.
The Democrat (sic) minority has right to express its views, he added.
The governor clung to his view that this is not the year to tackle right to work.
Daniels has basically held this position for a while, that he didn’t want to bring up the “right-to-work” bill this year. He would rather see Republicans in the legislature work on his education reform and criminal justice reform proposals.

That doesn’t mean Daniels is some big union supporter, however. He has said he supports the policy, but he just doesn’t want it to go forward at this time. In 2005, Daniels de-certified all public employee unions in Indiana, so he’s well ahead of Scott Walker in terms of union-busting. He has, in fact, called public employee unions the most powerful special interests in America today. So let’s not be fooled by this kinder, gentler approach from a potential Presidential candidate.

But it’s significant to see Daniels pull back so quickly from the fight. Rick Snyder in Michigan and Rick Scott in Florida are two other Republican Governors who backed away from any Walker-style plan to take away public employee collective bargaining rights. The polling shows antipathy toward these kinds of plans. And even Republicans follow the polls sometimes. . .  .

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wisconsin's Hosni Walker Jamming Websites Inside Capitol?

From Think Progress:
According to pro-labor protesters in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker (R) may be taking a page from former Egyptian Dictator Hosni Mubarak and cutting off internet access to key protest organizers within the state Capitol building.

If you are in the Capitol attempting to access the internet from a free wifi connection labeled “guest,” you cannot access the site defendwisconsin.org. The site has been used to provide updates on what is happening, where you can volunteer, and where supplies and goods are needed to support protesters. Administrators of the website were notified on Monday that the page is being blocked. Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate says that the site was put on a blacklist typically used to filter out pornography sites so that protestors inside the Capitol could not access this key site.

Former Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Charles Hoornstra said that, if Walker is blocking the website, it could be a violation of state and federal laws concerning free speech laws. The accusation by the Wisconsin Democratic Party accompanies an accusation by the Teaching Assistants Association that Wisconsin state authorities cut off wifi access to a room they had taken over as a headquarters inside of the Capitol. . . .

The Latest Excuse In TN to End Teacher Rights and TEA: Evolution and Gays

In the current all-out assault triggered nationwide against teachers and other workers, the old lies used by the corporate reform crowd have been supplanted by the truth, especially in Tennessee where the spineless TEA has gone along with every miseducative notion in the Business Roundtable playbook. The enemies of democracy and the public space, however, see their privatization agenda waning, however, because the American people are sick and tired of their public schools being ruined by ideologues with dollar signs in the eyes.  That and every deforming reform on the list has been proven ineffective where tried or too risky to be endorsed by science and research.

So now every idiot reason that can be dreamed up is broadcast as the rationale for crushing teachers in Tennessee.  Now the reason for taking away workers' rights:  TEA likes homosexuals and Darwin

Who put the John Birch Society in charge of education policy in Tennessee?  Was that Haslam?

This can be stopped if Tennesseans show show that volunteer spirit and volunteer to call their legislators, write letters, and make their voices heard above the ignorant hate of the wingnuts.

. . . .Although teacher pay in Tennessee is below the national average, tea party and anti-tax leader Ben Cunningham said he attended Wednesday's hearing to support the bill because he believes collective bargaining leads to higher taxes. "The TEA is invariably in favor of higher taxes and bigger government. They are a political organization," he said.

The bills surfaced when lawmakers reconvened Feb. 7 from a three-week recess. But the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, FACT, Eagle Forum and Professional Educators of Tennessee -- a small conservative alternative to TEA -- quietly laid groundwork. PET and the School Boards Association held a forum on the issue Feb. 10.

In its 2011 "Legislators Guide to Issues," the Center for Policy Research -- which proclaims its views as "free markets, individual liberty, limited government" -- calls for allowing schools and teachers to opt out of salary scales and encourages performance pay for teachers.

Fowler said conservatives are rallying behind the bills because they "have been frustrated with positions taken by the NEA and TEA -- more so by the NEA." These include, he said, support for the "Darwinian view of evolution."

Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, charged last year that TEA advocated a "homosexual lifestyle" -- which TEA chief lobbyist Jerry Winters angrily denied in a hearing.

TEA declines labeling the bills an attack by Republicans in general. Winters cites its agreement to a controversial measure that passed last year with heavy GOP support requiring 50 percent of a teacher's annual evaluation to be based on student performance measures. TEA also says it is willing to talk with Gov. Bill Haslam about his tenure-weakening proposals unveiled Thursday.

But Winters did say the 51,000-member TEA is under assault by conservatives. "The fact that the tea party and the Eagle Forum and some of these far-right, out-of-the-mainstream groups are supporting this ought to send a message to the citizens that this is not about education, it's about politics." . . .

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tea Party Goons Initiate Dirty Tricks Against Workers

From AlterNet:

Tea Party Leader Hatches Diabolical Plan to Infiltrate and Embarrass Union Protesters in WI and Other States

Does the name Mark Williams ring a bell for you? He's the former Tea Party Express chairman who was ousted from the group last summer for publishing an unbelievably vile NAACP parody in the form of an "open letter" from Abraham Lincoln to the "coloreds," who wanted to "buy flat-screen TVs" with white people's money. (Happy President's Day!) Three weeks later, Williams was back in business at the helm of a new Tea Party group, the Citizens for Constitutional Liberty.
Now that you know what a class act this guy is, it will surely come as little surprise that this is the same Mark Williams who wrote a blog post over the weekend entreating his fellow Tea Partiers to infiltrate the union workers who are protesting in Wisconsin and elsewhere this week, with the goal of getting himself on TV so he can say embarrassing things to tarnish the movement.
In his own words:
Here is what I am doing in Sacramento, where they are holding a 5:30 PM event this coming Tuesday:  (1) I signed up as an organizer (2) with any luck they will contact me and I will have an “in”  (3) in or not I will be there and am asking as many other people as can get there to come with, all of us in SEIU shirts (those who don’t have them we can possibly buy some from vendors likely to be there)  (4) we are going to target the many TV cameras and reporters looking for comments from the members there  (5) we will approach the cameras to make good pictures… signs under our shirts that say things like “screw the taxpayer!”  and “you OWE me!” to be pulled out for the camera (timing is important because the signs will be taken away from us) (6) we will echo those slogans in angry sounding tones to the cameras and the reporters.  (7) if I do get the ‘in’ I am going to do my darnedest to get podium access and take the mic to do that rant from there…with any luck and if I can manage the moments to build up to it, I can probably get a cheer out of the crowd for something extreme.
Sacramento organizers, beware!
In fact, organizers all over the country, beware. Williams says he's been "flooded" with requests from Tea Partiers who want to participate in his ruse at protests in Iowa, Massachusetts, Colorado, and elsewhere. As he writes, "Chances are that because I am publishing this they’ll catch wind, but it is worth the chance if you take it upon yourself to act."
Here's Mother Jones' take on the right-wing effort to undermine the union supporters:
Anti-union protesters, led by media mogul Andrew Breitbart, GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, and "Joe the Plumber," largely fizzled after a rally on Saturday. And the image of union workers that Williams seeks to portray seems to run uphill against the images of the employees' leaders seen thus far. But as labor disputes spread to other states, it remains to be seen whether tactics like those proposed by Williams will be effective in embarassing the public employees...or embarrasing the tea party "plants" themselves.
It sounds like Williams stole his game plan from the Yes Men, who have done awesome work over the years pretending to be corporate goons so they can get media attention and tell the truth about corporations' evil ways. The critical difference, of course, is that the Yes Men carry out their exploits for the good of mankind, while Williams' aim is to undermine hard-working Americans. Like I said, a real class act.
By Lauren Kelley | Sourced from AlterNet

Posted at February 21, 2011, 6:30 am

Texas Considers More Corporate Welfare for Charter Schools

The only national peer-reviewed research study of charter schools concluded in 2009 that only 17% of corporate charter schools produce better test scores than matched public schools.  From the press release:
. . .17 percent of charter schools reported academic gains that were significantly better than traditional public schools, while 37 percent of charter schools showed gains that were worse than their traditional public school counterparts, with 46 percent of charter schools demonstrating no significant difference.
The study also disaggregated their findings by state, with some states showing better results than the national picture and some worse.  Texas was among the worse. From the Texas study:
The typical student in a Texas charter school learns significantly less than their virtual counterparts in their feeder pool in both reading and mathematics.
Now Texas is facing big money problems, despite the fact that it has more than its fair share of millionaires and billionaires.  Oh, I forgot, they don't pay taxes.  Here is a partial list of the proposed cuts on Gov. Rick Perry's list (why does Rick Perry remind me of Jim Jones?):

Medicaid: Patients on Medicaid could have a harder time finding doctors who will accept them because of a 10 percent reduction in Medicaid provider rates. That's on top of the 1 percent reduction implemented last year.

Independent living: Almost 12,000 Texans could lose services that help them live independently, including attendant care, home health services, home delivered meals and relocation services.

Deaf and hard-of-hearing: Less money would be available for vocational training and independent-living services.

Children with disabilities: Reductions would "pause" a state autism program and reduce client services in the blind children's program, which provides support for people until they are 22.

At-risk children: Funding for prevention and early intervention services would be almost cut in half.

Public education

School finance: Schools are looking at nearly $5 billion in cuts from current levels, which would leave Texas about $10 billion short of meeting the funding levels required by state law. Budget officials recommend legislation that would alter formulas to cut about 14 percent of state funding to school districts.

Special programs: Officials propose major cuts to programs and grants that pay for pre-kindergarten classes, arts education, teacher-incentive pay and technology.

Higher education
Community colleges: Four community colleges would be shut down statewide, including Ranger College, west of Weatherford, under the House budget. The Senate's version of a first-draft budget would spare the four campuses.

College financial aid: No new applicants would be accepted for Texas Grants and several other financial aid programs now used by tens of thousands of college students statewide.

Natural resources
No Cash for Clunkers: The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality would severely scale back its efforts to get old, polluting vehicles off the road. One program that is expected to repair or replace 17,000 old vehicles this year alone would be eliminated.

Air and water tests: The environmental agency would halve its resources toward water and air monitoring, including eliminating more than 40 full-time employees working in air quality assessment and planning. An agency spokesman said the cuts wouldn't affect current air monitors in the Barnett Shale.

Oil and gas inspections: The Texas Railroad Commission would get a 12.5 percent cut in funding for monitoring and inspection of oil and gas sites. Critics already charge that the agency doesn't have enough inspectors to keep up with natural gas activities in the Barnett Shale. An agency representative said all other positions would be looked at before inspector reductions are considered.

Indigent defense: Officials propose cutting $8.6 million for programs statewide.
Second Court of Appeals, Fort Worth District: Officials propose cutting the district's budget from $5.8 million to $5.6 million.

Public safety and criminal justice
Community support: More than $9 million would be cut from youth education programs, environmental cleanup and State Military Tuition Assistance.

Parole release processing, supervision and residential facilities: More than $27 million would be cut from halfway houses, intermediate sanction facilities, and parolee assistance and supervision.

Correctional managed health care: More than $200 million would be slashed from providing mental and physical care and prescriptions for inmates.

Community supervision funding: More than $110 million would be slashed from programs, services and supervision for offenders on probation. Cuts would be made to impact treatment initiatives, misdemeanor supervision, treatment alternatives to incarceration programs and more.

General government
Aid to local libraries: Officials propose cutting the Loan Star Libraries grants, which fund service enhancements. One of these grants last year, for nearly $142,210, went to the Seminary South Branch Library and saved a science program, jazz concerts and a reading challenge. Cutting the grants, along with a loss of federal library service funds and other cuts, drops help by 72 percent for libraries statewide.

Arts grants: Funding for art programs would drop more than 50 percent, as a result of the loss of stimulus funds and the abolition of the Commission on Arts endowment fund. Officials also suggest cutting funding for cultural tourism grants, which are given to organizations for events that draw tourists. Funding is proposed to drop from $12.9 million to $5.9 million.

Child Support Services: Funding is proposed to drop from $665.9 million to $553.7 million., by slowing down the process of redesigning the agency's child support business process and providing less counseling to non-custodial parents and more. To offset some costs, officials suggest raising fees and beginning a new $25 annual service fee on all non-TANF cases where $500 or more has been collected in child support payments.

So with all these proposed slashes to public services, it must asked why Perry and his corporate stooges in the Legislature would consider underwriting charter school expansion, yes?  I would suggest you ask the vulture capitalists and hedge funders who are bankrolling the KIPPs and the KIPP knock-offs, despite the fact that these corporate brainwashing camps for the poor have hundreds of millions in the bank.   Insane? You bet--that's why they call it Texas:
. . .The proposal to expand access to the fund has prominent backers, including Senator Florence Shapiro, Republican of Plano and chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, who introduced the legislation. Her House counterpart, Representative Rob Eissler, Republican of The Woodlands and chairman of the Public Education Committee, filed a companion bill last week.

Not everyone is on board: traditional school districts do not like the idea. The Texas Association of School Boards opposes opening the bond guarantee program to charters, Dax Gonzalez, a spokesman for the association, said, adding that charter schools are generally deemed to be poor credit risks.

“We’ve had around 280 charters awarded over the last few years,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “Out of those, 71 are no longer operating anymore. That’s about a quarter of charters that have been abandoned or closed down. That doesn’t show that they are going to be around for the state to recoup their investment.”

In fact, charter schools, many of them now defunct, currently owe the state $21 million — some since 2001 — mostly because of discrepancies in student enrollment figures.

Traditional districts and charters alike are financed through their estimates of enrollment at the beginning of the year. The state then adjusts the financing — through a process called settle up — for the number of students who actually attend. When a charter closes, the state may be unable to retrieve the money it has advanced the school.. . .

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Koch Bros. Own Wisconsin's Scott Walker and the Demonstrators Who Support Him

The Wisconsin chapter of the Billionaire Boys Club bought themselves a governor last Fall who is proving to be a quick study for the script that the Koch henchmen have written for him.  Their effort, however, to roll back labor arrangements to the 19th Century was a slight misjudgment, you might say. 

The violated workers of Wisconsin and America have been been awakened from their historical anesthesia (Freire), and they are carrying the fire once more.  What are two befuddled oligarchs who made their billions by poisoning our mother earth to do in the face of people re-committed to the political struggle for fairness and equality and sanity in the workplace?  

Well, of course, they call out their paid demonstrators to march in favor of their bought Governor.  From Think Progress:
Wisconsin’s newly elected Republican Gov. Scott Walker is facing a growing backlash over his attempt to cut pay and eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees in his state. Although Walker is claiming his power grab is an attempt to close a budget gap, the budget “crisis” was engineered by Walker as soon as he got into office. As Brian Beutler reported, half of the budget shortfall comes from Walker’s own tax cuts for businesses and other business giveaways enacted in January.

A number of the big business interests standing with Walker are beneficiaries of his administration’s tax giveaways. But the greatest ally to Walker is the dirty energy company Koch Industries. In response to the growing protests in Madison, Koch fronts are busing in Tea Party protesters to support Walker and his union-busting campaign. Last night, MSNBC’s Ed Schultz reported on the involvement of Club for Growth and the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity in the pro-Walker protest scheduled tomorrow. Watch it:

Koch Industries is a major player in Wisconsin: Koch owns a coal company subsidiary with facilities in Green Bay, Manitowoc, Ashland and Sheboygan; six timber plants throughout the state; and a large network of pipelines in Wisconsin. While Koch controls much of the infrastructure in the state, they have laid off workers to boost profits. At a time when Koch Industries owners David and Charles Koch awarded themselves an extra $11 billion of income from the company, Koch slashed jobs at their Green Bay plant:
Officials at Georgia-Pacific said the company is laying off 158 workers at its Day Street plant because out-of-date equipment at the facility is being replaced with newer, more-efficient equipment. The company said much of the new, papermaking equipment will be automated. [...] Malach tells FOX 11 that the layoffs are not because of a drop in demand. In fact, Malach said demand is high for the bath tissue and napkins manufactured at the plant.
Koch Industries was one of the biggest contributors to Walker’s gubernatorial campaign, funneling $43,000 over the course of last year. In return, Koch front groups are closely guiding the Walker agenda. The American Legislative Exchange Council, another Koch-funded group, advised Walker and the GOP legislature on its anti-labor legislation and its first corporate tax cuts.

According to the EPA, Koch businesses are huge polluters, emitting thousands of pounds of toxic pollutants. As soon as he got into office Walker started cutting environmental regulations and appointed a Republican known for her disregard for environmental regulations to lead the Department of Natural Resources. In addition, Walker has stated his opposition to clean energy jobs policies that might draw workers away from Koch-owned interests.

Moreover, other organizers for the pro-Walker protest are from groups associated with corporate and Koch interests. American Majority, a Virginia-based front group founded by organizers funded by millionaire investor Howie Rich, is on the ground contacting Wisconsin Tea Parties to support Walker in Madison. Austin James, an American Majority official who was caught teaching Tea Party members to spam Amazon.com profiles of liberal books with negative comments, is the contact for the Facebook page organizing the pro-Walker protest. Eric O’Keefe, a longtime conservative operative who helps lead American Majority, attends Koch strategy meetings.

Update Koch's Americans for Prosperity group has launched a new website and petition called www.standwithwalker.com. The new site attacks all collective bargaining, not just for public sector unions. Koch's front group also declares: "In fact, every state should adopt Governor Scott Walker's common sense reforms."

The Education Reform Fig Leaf Is Finally Stripped Away

I worked as a Tennessee teacher for almost 20 year before coming to higher education, where I have taught for the past dozen years or so.  Never would I have imagined when I left Tennessee schools in 1996 that 15 years later I would be watching a full frontal attack waged to eliminate or neutralize collective bargaining, job security, due process, and the last shreds of academic freedom of Tennessee teachers.  But then, it’s not just in Tennessee or just teachers, for this war is being waged on workers in the public or private sectors in Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, New Jersey, and elsewhere.  This crusade is inspired, funded, and directed by a handful of billionaires who are guided neither by political allegiance nor moral compass.  These oligarchs, rather, see workers’ rights to organize and collectively bargain as the final stumbling block to the creation of a corporate state that is unimpeded in its aspirations for social control and unrestrained greed and, thus, unchecked by either labor laws or considerations or workers' rights. 

Pitted now against this billionaires’ campaign on teachers in Tennessee is the tepid and weak-kneed Tennessee Education Association.  This is the same TEA that I remember from my time as a Tennessee teacher, the professional organization that we joined for the liability insurance coverage, not any anything significant they did for teaching.  As easy as TEA was to roll in those days, the big difference now is that TEA is even friendlier to “education reform” than it was in the 80s and 90s.  Back then, at least there was some modest and low-key protestation when Governor Lamar Alexander installed the Career Ladder Program, which left teacher salaries so low that I and many of my Career Level III colleagues back then worked part-time in the evenings so that we could afford to buy a house or take our families on a vacation.

Today the TEA is a weaker version of the reform-friendly national organization, NEA, which has been regularly bad-mouthed by the Bush and the Obama Administrations any time they raise a finger against the never-ending reforms that move our schools closer and closer to privatization and to what Diane Ravitch calls more “test and punish” school programs that benefit corporations much more than they do children.  Much to the chagrin of those of us who believe that 25 years of more and more testing should be enough to show that it doesn’t work to make schools or children better, both the NEA and AFT have decided that compromise with the “reform agenda” is the only way to maintain a seat at the feast where billions are served by the Feds and by the corporate foundations to those who are polite and wait their turn.  Just one quick example:  this past summer Bill Gates became keynote speaker at the AFT Convention after passing across the table an “innovation fund” grant worth several hundred thousand dollars that helped AFT, in fact, stage their convention.   But I digress.

In terms of support from teacher organizations for the corporate education agenda, it was the vocal support by the TEA that pushed Tennessee’s Race to the Top application over the top, so to speak, so that Tennessee ended up with $500 million in federal money, even as other states couldn’t convince their teachers that charter schools, more testing, and test score based evaluation is good for public education. The TEA has actually embraced the reformer-friendly teacher evaluation scheme that the corporate reformers demanded, despite warnings (Letter Report) by the National Research Council and other top researchers regarding the dangers of using students’ value-added test scores to make high stakes decisions about teachers or children.  The TEA, in fact, has yielded to every major demand that is on the corporate education agenda, including lifting the cap on charter school expansion and relaxing standards for replacing faculty and staff in schools listed for federal turnaround efforts.

Even so, there doesn’t seem to anything that can satisfy the demands of the extremists now in charge of corporate education reform in many states, including Tennessee and Wisconsin.  Appeasement clearly has not worked, and the war that is now being waged in Wisconsin and elsewhere on teachers and other workers shows an insatiable hunger that cannot be satisfied by more attempts to preserve a place at the table as the chair is being pulled out from under every teacher’s professional organization across the nation.  One can make a strong argument, in fact, that the Obama Administration’s early embrace of the Bush education agenda has encouraged the Far Right to move farther right faster, thus opening up public education to threats that are now shocking in their ferocity, velocity, and callousness.

The pending anti-teacher bills speeding through legislative committees in Nashville, Columbus, Trenton, and other state capitols have finally stripped away the fig leaf of “reform” that has previously tried to cover an otherwise naked attempt to achieve corporate control of K-12 education.  The harsh measures against teachers, children, and their schools have never been about real achievement or real accountability or real choices or even real “economic competition in the global economy,” per the mantra of the Business Roundtable.   The great majority of the increasingly-draconian reforms have deformed our schools, in fact, as they serve to mask takeover and control strategies that have placed a stranglehold on teachers and principals and school boards who work in pressure cookers as they strive to achieve the unachievable that gets even more so with each testing season. 

When Gerald Bracey, David Berliner, and a handful of other researchers and educators began saying 10 years ago that NCLB was designed to created failed schools, most people wrote them off as nuts.  Now that understanding of the impossible Adequate Yearly Progress targets is common wisdom among school board members, parents, and, yes, even some politicians who see that Adequate Yearly Progress has always meant progress toward dismantling public schools.  Teachers of poor children have known this in their souls since 2002, but most of them have been so busy trying to perform the impossible that they have not had the time or energy to look inside the political realities that have driven these deforming reforms. 

The NCLB chimera with its social justice and civil rights packaging has disguised for too long a monstrous assault on the most vulnerable that leaves achievement gaps gaping as more of the test and punish reforms turn urban teachers against their students, whose scores will determine if their teachers keeps their jobs. We are reminded, finally, at this late date that NCLB represents the vehicle for the realization of the Reagan education agenda for replacing public education with “free market solutions.”  Not new, not a conspiracy, just an agenda forgotten in all the lovely rhetoric about not leaving children behind.  A soft padding for a hard fist, which exactly describes the corporate KIPPs and the KIPP knock-offs that will replace the urban public schools unless citizens decide otherwise. 

The problem now for the corporate reformers is that the takeover of public education is not happening fast enough, as Americans are sick and growing sicker of the years of strong-arm tactics that have left their children hating school, stressed out, and less prepared for the tests of living—or for competing in the global economy, which was, indeed, exported by the oligarchs some years back as they declared new education disasters.  And thus the bare-knuckled actions of Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin and the radicals of the Tennessee Legislature, which finally make the naked realities impossible to ignore any longer.  

As the backward social and economic agendas of the anti-democratic corporate oligarchs can no longer wait for their failing reforms to provide the final death blows to end of public education and collective bargaining, so neither can the teachers, parents, and children wait on the sideline to see our workers’ rights and our human rights stifled by the enemies of the public space, which is the only laboratory for democratic living.  For even as the teachers have waved through the entire corporate education reform agenda in Tennessee, for instance, these sacrifices have done nothing, obviously, except to escalate the animosity and thuggish attacks on teacher job security, academic freedom, due process, and collective bargaining of Tennessee’s, Wisconsin’s, or New Jersey’s professional corps of dedicated advocates for children who educate the 20 percent of our population that represents a hundred percent of our future, as David Tyack reminds us. 

Teachers and parents and students can’t wait any longer to reclaim what has always been theirs, had their energies not been subverted for the past 30 years by phony and endless disaster drills dreamed up by manipulative corporate technocrats.  Now is the time to focus all that determination, that fortitude, and that resolve, which heretofore has been wasted on trying to mollify the enemies of the public space—and to reclaim the public space that remains ours even as it has been stolen away by the abusers of power.  The time for sitting on the sidelines is over— the oligarchs must take their money and leave us to get back to the business of working to create a more perfect union, rather than colluding to perpetuate a caste system of haves and have nots. Enough. No mas.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Our Egypt

Wherever brothers and sister join together to rebuke repression, social injustice, and the abuse of power, the spirit of Cairo lives.  Today it breathes strongly in Wisconsin, sending a fresh air into Michigan and Ohio, Indiana and New Jersey. 

When the Oligarchs led by the Koch Brothers and Grover Norquist made this fateful decision to actuate their movement to crush working people's rights, they made a tragic error in their crusade to make the world safe for unrestrained greed and criminal abuse of the environment. 

The oligarchs have fanned the coals that have been burning deep in the souls of the American people since the banksters of Wall Street and their paid stooges in Washington staged the Heist of the Century in 2008, leaving the country in turmoil.

Now the fire is lit, and it burns with the same determined intensity that sent the thug, thief, and murderer Mubarak into retirement.  This murderous assault on American values of fairness in the work place will not stand.  The Kochs and Norquist have severely overplayed their hand, and now they have been called.

From Stan Karp:

Unions aren't to blame for Wisconsin's budget
Ezra Klein, Washington Post, 2.18.11
Let's be clear: Whatever fiscal problems Wisconsin is -- or is not -- facing at the moment, they're not caused by labor unions. That's also true for New Jersey, for Ohio and for the other states. There was no sharp rise in collective bargaining in 2006 and 2007, no major reforms of the country's labor laws, no dramatic change in how unions organize. And yet, state budgets collapsed. Revenues plummeted. Taxes had to go up, and spending had to go down, all across the country. Blame the banks. Blame global capital flows. Blame lax regulation of Wall Street. Blame home buyers, or home sellers. But don't blame the unions. Not for this recession.

ON WISCONSIN: Live Reports From Ground Zero for Labor Rights
WI Protests – Students Fuel Round The Clock Hearing
Students testify at a Wisconsin legislative hearing about why Senate File 11, an anti-union measure, should not be passed. The hearing has been going on round the clock for more than 90 hours so the state of Wisconsin is forced to keep the Capitol building in Madison open to protesters

Wisconsin union fight trickles into N.J.
“I support Gov. Walker,” Christie said.
Wisconsin is America's Egypt

Photos of the Wisconsin protests

Duncan Brings Comedy Improv to Denver to Sell Evaluation for All Based on Test Scores

In the looming shadow of a Chicago scandal that is in the process of sinking any minor mayoral hopes of Gerry Chico in Chicago, the Billionaire Boys' Club (BBC) brought Arne Duncan and some Second City comics to Denver for a big feel-good feed for school board members, school administrators, and teachers from around the country.  While reiterating the U. S. Chamber's corporate education reform plan, Duncan urged school boards, administrators, and teachers to put their differences aside for the sake of test scores and to agree to advance the corporate reform agenda.  No questions, please.

In a garish and cynical ploy not-so-clerverly disguised as a concession to teachers, the BBC's real goal for the Denver conference was to introduce new mandates for the same kind of evaluation by test score results for school administrators and even school boards (at least until school boards can be eliminated).

Are teachers really supposed to feel better about being unethically evaluated based on invalid and unreliable testing methodologies if their bosses are treated the same??

Stacy Khadaroo at the Christian Science Monitor, who is obviously trying take on the role that Ben Feller played for Margaret Spellings, has this:
Secretary Duncan called on them to take on tough issues such as teacher benefits, layoff policies, and the need for more evaluations of administrators and school boards, not just teachers. “The truth is that educators and management cannot negotiate their way to higher [student] performance. The [labor] contract is just a framework. Working together is the path to success,” he said in opening remarks Tuesday.
All of these kumbaya moments were unfolding just as the other wing of the Corporate Socialist Party, the Republicans, were initiating a state by state blitzkrieg beginning in Wisconsin to make the possibility of labor negotiations a thing of the past.  So with the democratic right of workers to organize and bargain at stake, the Democratic Secretary of Education is meeting with educators from around the nation to downplay the need for bargaining.  Does this make anyone else feel a little creepy?

Of course, if teachers and school boards stop bickering and get all the kids test scores up and into college--the poor ones in the online diploma mills and the rest in brick and mortar colleges--then, hey, we can all be or pretend to be management, even though most will be underemployed or unemployed like the Ants in China and India.  Crazy talk, right?  And the untouchables poor people, well, someone has to pick up and/or eat the garbage.

But don't worry, AFT and NEA.  Arne is on it--he said day before yesterday that he was going to call Gov. Scott "Hosni" Walker in Wisconsin.  What was he going to say?  We don't know what he said because he wouldn't say, but the promise to call is apparently enough to calm the nerves of AFT and NEA leaders, while protecting their "place at the table."
DENVER--U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says that the move in Wisconsin and other states to strip teachers of bargaining rights worries him.

Duncan said Wednesday at a Denver conference of teacher unions and school administrators that he'd make a personal call Thursday to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Duncan didn't elaborate on what he'd tell the GOP governor, but he promised the educators that he'd put pressure on governors to work with unions, not antagonize them.

The head of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents about 1.5 million members nationwide, praised Duncan's vow to stick up for teachers' unions.

All praise! Arne Duncan for his post-partisan pandering--at least until his involvement in the former fraudulent enterprise, SALF, hits the New York Times--or the Christian Science Monitor.  How likely is that!

Photo shows Arne Duncan (right) and Ronald McDonald (left) with SALF (Save a Life Foundation) Director, Carol Spizziri, before exposed fraud finally sank an organization that lies could not keep afloat.

From HuffPo:
The collapse of the foundation was politically uncomfortable for a number of major figures in Illinois, from President Barack Obama to now-Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who were connected to it in some way.