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

Thursday, February 03, 2011

The New New Federalist Plan to Crush Teachers and Public Schools

Here is the conclusion of George Will's most recent tribute to Arne Duncan for moving forward on Obama's plan to re-focus the war against teachers and public schools down to the state level, whereby Obama can then be shielded from blame for the anti-union, anti-democratic, and anti-civil rights actions that his own federal policies encourage:
Regarding grades K through 12, federal education policy — if such there must be — should permit, indeed encourage, 50 laboratories of educational experimentation. Federal policy should be confined to providing financial rewards contingent on improvements confirmed by national metrics — Duncan’s single goal post.

The Education Department sits at the foot of Capitol Hill, where many new legislators consider “federal education policy” a constitutional oxymoron. They have a point. They might, however, decide that the changes Duncan proposes — on balance, greater state flexibility in meeting national goals — make him the Obama administration’s redeeming feature. 
Take Tennessee as a prime example.  As one of the first two states to land big money ($500 million) from Race to the Trough Top,  the State set out immediately to remove the cap on charter schools and to promote them as the prime school turnaround option, to undergird its test-score analysis and archival systems, and to begin to hurriedly design a teacher evaluation system based on test scores. 

Bill Sanders, testing guru and former adjunct professor at UT, has moved back to Nashville from the SAS campus in North Carolina to be close to the action.  So far Sanders has remained mum on the fact that the National Academy of Sciences has nothing good to say about using value-added modeling for assessment of anything or anyone involving high stakes.  But, then, for some teachers don't matter--it is only the students' test scores that matter.

Now combine these developments with the corporate-funded election success by Tennessee Tea Party Republicans who now suddenly control both State Houses and the Governor's Chair, and you have a perfect storm aimed squarely at sweeping away the teaching profession, teacher preparation, collective bargaining, due process, retirement, school governance and oversight. 

In short, public education as we know it will cease to exist if these guys prevail, with the federal government doing nothing except to help the process along with huge infusions of cash.  Here is a list of pending legislation now zooming through the legislative chambers in Nashville:

HB130, abolishes teacher unions’ ability to negotiate conditions of employment with school districts.

SB102, eliminates Tennessee Education Association-selected positions on Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System board of directors.

HB159, prohibits public employees having dues deductions for either political action committees or dues, if the organization engages in political activity “in any way.”

HB145, blocks Tennessee Education Association from recommending appointees to the Tennessee Financial Literacy Commission board of directors.

These guys make Fathead Christie in New Jersey look a Deweyean progressive. 

And don't expect the new governor, Bill Haslam, to veto any of these draconian measures if they are voted through.  As CEO and majority owner of Pilot Oil (yes, the ones you see on every interstate), Haslam is the corporationist's poster boy.  Here are few of his holdings that he dumped prior to his election in order to avoid ethics questions:
The multimillionaire Knoxville mayor sold stocks of U.S. tobacco giants Lorillard Inc. and Philip Morris International, several oil companies, Canadian payday loan company Cash Store Finance Services Inc. and Amazon, the Internet retailer that refuses to collect sales taxes from customers on behalf of states such as Tennessee.
He also got rid of investments in two major state contractors, CVS Caremark, which manages state pharmacy benefits, and United Health Group, which owns TennCare contractor AmeriChoice.
Good folks.

So, yes, there is a new new federalism, or is that feudalism?  Unless people organize in every state, a piece of the national juggernaut will be show up in every state. 

Today there are signs that teachers are hitting back, suing a local school board that could not wait for the new laws crushing collective bargaining to go into effect.  That's a start.  Now if the prostisuits who run the AFT and NEA would come out their spider holes and say something, that might help.  Oh, I forgot--they're listening to Arne and Bill Gates.

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