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

Sunday, April 15, 2012

NOLA Teachers Use the "F" Word

Two very brave teachers in New Orleans finally called the ALEC driven education reform and agenda sweeping through statehouses across the country what it really is - fascism.

Well it's about f........ing time!!

As teachers and the citizens of NOLA work to recall another fascist governor trying to destroy the last bastion of democracy and the last line of defense (teachers and educators) in this battle to corporatize and privatize every last resource and breath of fresh air and water in this country, it is a teachable moment for the nation.

Thanks for the history lesson. Perhaps the people of New Jersey will THINK about doing the same for Chris Christie, another governor introducing legislation that coincidentally matches those of ALEC.

Two teachers have launched a recall drive to oust Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) and state House Speaker Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles) from office.

Angie Bonvillain and Brenda Romero, teachers in Calcasieu Parish, have launched recalls for both over the education reform policies recently passed by the legislature. The policies include relaxing teacher tenure rules, increased power for school administrators to fire teachers, tying test scores to teacher performance and the promotion of school vouchers, along with the creation of new charter schools.

"This is not education reform," Bonvillain said. "It will gut public schools in a lot of ways. We do not feel like this will help education."

Bonvillain and Romero said that Jindal's policies, which were enacted in recent weeks by legislators, convinced them there is a need to change the state's leadership. The move comes less than a year after Jindal was reelected to a second term by 49 points over a little known Democratic opponent, teacher Tara Hollis.

The two said the policies pushed by Jindal will be destructive to public schools, moving money toward private schools and relying on test scores to gauge teacher performance. Romero noted that the group also is looking at Jindal's plans for the state's retirement system and his efforts to privatize state prisons to galvanize support.

"He waited until he was elected for a second term and then unleashed this entire change of the education system. Now he is going after the retirement system," Romero told HuffPost. "This is all very fascist to me."

Romero suggested that Jindal is not working alone, saying that she believes the American Legislative Exchange Council is behind Jindal's efforts.

"The governor is doing the job of ALEC," she said. "They are doing an overhaul of the entire state. It is a scripted ALEC overhaul."

Romero and Bonvillain face an uphill battle. Under Louisiana law, they must gather signatures from a third of all registered voters in the state to force a Jindal recall and a third of all registered voters in Kleckley's House district to recall him. The signature counts are roughly 10,000 for Kleckley and 900,000 for Jindal within 180 days of the start of the petitions. The requirements have been called some of the toughest in the nation.

Bonvillain declined to say how many signatures have been collected since the petitions went out three weeks ago, but said there has been an enthusiastic response.

Romero said she is meeting with statewide organizers this weekend to discuss the signature drive and also will meet those behind the effort to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R). The teacher's union and Democratic Party are not behind the effort, said Romero, but it has been bipartisan in terms of who has signed.

"Bobby Jindal has accomplished something I have not seen anyone else do: He has blurred the lines between parties," Romero said. "Republicans are signing just as quickly. They feel betrayed."

In addition to the June recall pending against Walker, two other governors in American history -- North Dakota's Lynn Frazier (R) in 1921 and California's Gray Davis (D) in 2003 -- have faced recalls; both were removed from office. Former Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham (R) had a recall qualify against him in 1988 but was impeached prior to the election. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) are also facing recall drives against them this year.

Jindal's spokesman said the governor is not worried about the effort. "No. We're not concerned and not surprised that the coalition of the status quo is trying to intimidate folks who want to reform our schools and make them better for our children," Jindal spokesman Frank Collins said.

Kleckley told HuffPost Friday afternoon that he believes he is being targeted by Bonvillain and Romero because of his work on education reform, but noted that he has done the right thing for the state. He is not concerned about the recall attempt, he said.

"If education reform was easy, it would have been done years ago," Kleckley said. "When you've got a state that is 47th in the nation in the area of K through 12, and 44-percent of our schools are graded D or F, I think that there is a good case for education reform in Louisiana."

Kleckley stressed that he is a product of public schools, that his two daughters are public school teachers and that his wife volunteers in public schools. "I think the people will measure me on the success of 12 years of public service and not one bill," he said.

He and other legislators have turned their attention to the state's retirement system, said Kleckley, who added he is also working with Jindal to develop a balanced budget for the state with no tax hikes.

Only one state legislative leader -- Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce (R) in 2011 -- has been recalled in American history.

Bonvillain said that she and Romero are not deterred by the odds. "Do I think it is going to be easy, no. Do I think it's right, yes," she said. "I always tell my children to stand up for what's right. It doesn't matter how popular you are."

UPDATE: 4:50 p.m. -- This story was updated to include the comments of state House Speaker Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles). The speaker responded to the reporter's request for comment after the story was originally published.

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