Sunday, June 19, 2016

Democrats Will Remain in Charter Schools' Camp if Clinton is Their Party's Nominee

From Common Dreams "How Long Can Big Money Keep Democrats In The Charter School Camp?"
This change won't happen if Hillary Clinton is the Democrats' Choice.
The record in the past generation has been that the Clintons and the Demoocrats have been steadfastly in favor of the charter schools.

It will stay this way as long as Democratic politicians think along with the Clintons that anything is necessary to keep their funders happy.
It’s obvious 2016 is an election year when Democratic candidates need to draw a bright line to differentiate themselves from Republican opponents.

With Donald Trump leading the GOP ticket, and most leaders of his party getting in line behind him, it’s doubtful Democrats will find urgent need to “meet in the middle” on issues such as civil rights, women’s reproductive health and equal pay, immigration, minimum wage, gender equity, and climate change.

There may be some issues that still tempt Democrats to collude with conservatives in order to woo mythological “swing voters.” But the number one fear among top Republican strategists is that Democrats will run “a base campaign, directed toward liberals, maximizing that vote, and electing a devastating ticket.”

How then, do you explain the results of the recent California primary?

A Toxic Mix

As Harold Meyerson recently wrote in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, while the Democratic Party’s presidential candidates, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, ran on populist platforms denouncing “the corrosive role of money in politics” and “condemning the plutocratic consequences of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision,” many Democratic Party candidates down ticket funded their campaigns with big money from two corporate interests.

One interest flooding the election with campaign donations is hardly new to the scene. For decades, the petroleum industry has stuffed the coffers of candidates in both parties to ensure legislation continues to favor oil consumption, stall alternative energy sources, and ensure lax environmental regulations.

The other source of corporate cash in Democratic politics is much newer: charter schools.

As Meyerson explains, in the California Democratic Party’s primary race – where only the top two candidates, from either party, move on to the general election in the fall – many Democratic Party candidates relied on money from the petroleum industry and “education reform” advocates backing charter schools to win their contests over “more progressive” candidates.

According to Meyerson, the combo of big oil and education reform mustered at least $24 million in donations to back candidates who opposed “Gov. Jerry Brown’s effort to halve motorists’ use of fossil fuels by 2030” and who supported “expanding charter schools.”

Meyerson spotlights a number of races around the state where candidates who benefitted from the big oil-education reform combo defeated more progressive Democrats.

Across the Golden State, reports LA School Report, “Education reformers spent big ahead of California’s primary … The millions paid off with all of the candidates they supported advancing to November’s general election.”

That article cites a source stating, “State campaign finance records show that about one-third of a record $27.9 million spent … by independent expenditure committees in legislative races statewide came from three groups supporting education reform.”

How did the charter school industry get mixed up with big oil to gets its way in Democratic Party contests?

Big Money Behind Charters

As education historian Diane Ravitch explains on her personal blog, “Public education in California is under siege by people and organizations who want to privatize the schools, remove them from democratic control, and hand them over to the charter industry.”

Ravitch points to Eli Broad, who made his money in the home building and insurance industries, Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of Netflix, and Michael Milken, of junk bond industry fame, as members in a group of “billionaires” who push legislation to expand charter schools and limit regulation of the industry.

The big money, top down campaign to expand charter schools in California is well documented in a recent series of articles by Capital & Main. One article in the series adds the Walton Family Foundation, the philanthropy related to the family that owns the Walmart retail chain, to the list of charter “power brokers” who invest billions in creating and expanding these schools.

Big money from these foundations and philanthropists, according to the report, pours into the charter industry to direct fund charter schools, pay for “academic studies” that promote charters, and create “grassroots” organizations that make charter school advocacy look like a parent-led movement.

To influence policy, these same organizations finance “powerful political lobbies such as the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) and “contribute millions of dollars to school board elections in order to replace those perceived to be anti-charter with pro-charter board members, as seen in recent elections in Los Angeles and Oakland, two cities where charter-expansion partisans have been particularly aggressive.”

Democrats Vs. Democrats

In California and beyond, charter school advocates also team up with big finance to influence Democratic Party candidates in state and local elections.

According to a report from the Center for Media and Democracy, an organization calling itself Democrats for Education Reform has been effective in a number of states at getting Democratic candidates to team up with traditionally Republican-leaning financial interests to defeat any attempts to question rapid expansions of unregulated charter schools.

According to the CMD study, DEFR is a PAC “co-founded by hedge fund managers” to funnel “dark money” into “expenditures, like mass mailings or ads supporting particular politicians, that were ‘independent’ and not to be coordinated with the candidates’ campaigns.” The organization and its parent entity also have ties to FOX’s Rupert Murdoch and Charles and David Koch

Colorado is another states where local elections often pit “Democrat versus Democrat” in campaigns where the interests of big money oppose progressive candidates who question the need to expand charter schools and exempt them from transparency laws.

In Tennessee also, the interests of right-wing organizations such as Americans for Prosperity often overlap with Democratic government officials intent on expanding charter schools.

Even in traditionally liberal states such as Massachusetts, progressive Democrats assailing the state’s conservative Republican governor for his push to “privatize” education with more charter schools are opposed by DEFR and other big money interests who declare support for charters, because these schools have had the backing of the Obama administration and, well, it’s about “kids.”

NYS Legislature Hands Giant Gift to Charter Schools, Escalating the Unfair Bias Against with Public Schools

Last week the New York State legislature handed a great gift to charter schools. It implemented a separate system of rules for charter schools, institutionalizing a practice already in place in many municipalities.

From Diane Ravitch's blog post, "New York Legislature Frees Charter Schools of Regulations and Oversight"
In late night negotiations, rushing to finish the legislative session, the New York Legislature reached a package deal to extend mayoral control by only one year. Part of the package creates a parallel system for charter schools, which can switch authorizers and choose one (either the State University of New York or the Board of Regents) that will give them freedom from any regulations and standards that apply to public schools. In other words, there will be one set of rules for public schools, and no rules for charter schools. This will be the first time in New York state’s history that the Legislature has officially established a publicly-funded dual school system: One sector is subject to democratic control, the other is not. One must accept (or take responsibility for) all students, the other is free to accept and reject whichever students it wants.

A one-year extension, with few or no caveats, had seemed all but cemented when lawmakers went to bed on Thursday evening. But the morning found Mr. Flanagan [Senator-R] pushing for the funding transparency requirement, followed by the charter-school provision in the afternoon. It would effectively create a parallel system of charter schools within the city, allowing “high-performing charter schools in good standing” to switch to join the State University of New York umbrella or the Board of Regents of the State Educational Department.

Not since the era preceding the Brown decision of 1954 has a state legislature so brazenly established a two-tier system of K-12 schools.

Friday, June 3, 2016

NYC DOE Continues the Target the Teacher Madness, Carrying Over from Bloomberg/Walcott Days

The New York City Department of Education's prime credo is to harass and intimidate teachers. This way, teachers will not assert themselves.  This has worsened in recent years, as the old style administrators have left the city school system, and Leadership Academy administrators have taken the positions. We see with the case of Todd Friedman of Brooklyn.
The New York Chief, a teacher-friendly newspaper, a rarity in this city, reported last week on his troubles with the DOE. He was following a tradition in his school, a tradition that had been followed for decades with no problems. Then, a Leadership Academy administrator with the philosophy of hatcheting the teachers makes a federal case out of it, putting the teacher's career in jeopardy.
In Midwood High School the tradition was that Advanced Placement (AP) English students were encouraged to buy their books for class. This way, they could mark them up, in preparation for college, when students often mark up books. And there was no problem if the student could not afford the book the teachers would provide the book, free of charge. The prices were very modest. The charge in question was only for $2 per book, a very low price. In fact, even with the students paying this price the teacher took a loss in his buying the books from the publisher.
What happened was a student remarked about this practice to the relatively new administrator. And this administrator is pursuing this all the way to the 3020-a hearing.

Friedman's status? He has had mixed help from the union. And his fate looks dire. The city is taking this case to the highest punishment. It is pursuing the hearing to take his license away. This is rather rash. If the new administrator wanted to be a stickler for the city regulations ishe could have written a counseling memo or she could have just had a warning conference with him. But this is the vindictive DOE. Punish quickly, with no discussion. In Friedman's case we see that there has been no post-Bloomberg/Walcott housecleaning. The most nasty positions of the DOE have been continued. Farina may have sought more years of actual teaching from principals, but she is allowing principals to continue the harsh Bloomberg era rules.
Friedman suggested that the ulterior motive in all this was to punish him for dissenting from a particular curriculum. If this was the case, this would show that the city is attacking academic freedom and freedom of speech. (For more details on the curriculum and other particulars of the case, get yourself a hard copy of "The Chief." The newspaper is probably the fairest to workers, of all the different newspapers of the city. Make sure to support the newspaper with your dollars.)

Friday, May 27, 2016

MORE/New Action Win HS Seats on UFT Executive Board; Jia Far Ahead of Francesco

BREAKING NEWS: The ICEUFT blog reported that the seven MORE/New Action candidates for the executive board exceeded the votes for all if the Unity Caucus candidates.
For the presidential race, these figures are available: Michael Mulgrew (Unity), 39,176; Jia Lee (MORE/New Action), 10,743; Francesco Portelos (Solidarity), 1,456. This was the first time that an opposition caucus presidential candidate had broken 10,000 since 2001. And Lee's vote was 7.4 times the vote for Portelos. This is testimony to the growth of a caucus that is building at the school level, district by district, and a group that mainly organizes via online projects.
The high school vote was certainly a vindication for MORE-New Action over Solidarity. Coming into the vote, Solidarity looked ready to play the spoiler. It didn't field candidates for the at large executive board seats, but it did field many candidates at the high school level, creating the potential for a three-way split, helping Unity. Yet, MORE beat Unity and Solidarity across the board at the high school level.
In terms of turnout, perennially a problem for the UFT, which occurs by mail, instead of in the school (as happens in the Chicago Teachers Union), turnout improved for all the school division levels, including the functional sections. And compared to the last election, this time the number of active teachers voting exceeded the number of retirees voting, in contrast to what happened in 2013.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

How You Should Cast Your Ballot and Why You Should Vote for the MORE and New Action slate

Here are images of how you should cast your ballot. First, here's the one page view, presenting how you should cast your ballot.
Here's how the process in a few practical steps. Find the envelope indicating that it contains the official UFT ballot. Check off the ballot box that is marked for the MORE/New Action slate. Put the ballot in the envelope, and then put that envelope into the final envelope.
Still needing guidance? Here are some FAQs from the MORE Caucus UFT website.

When you vote for Michael Mulgrew and the Unity slate you are voting for the evaluations based on high stakes and Value Added Modeling, or VAM (rebuked by a judge last week in the Shari Lederman case). Furthermore, remember that Mulgrew has consistently supported Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his ill-minded policies. (Mulgrew took his support so far that in 2014 he threatened to defund the Working Families Party if it endorsed Zephyr Teachout for governor over Cuomo).
A major negative development under Mulgrew's tenure has been the change to the new evaluation system used at the city level. The evaluations have increased in number and have followed the absurd Danielson model. Mulgrew endorsed every worsening step of the evaluation Advance Evaluation system. He even asked for the DOE to evaluate teachers along more areas than even the DOE first sought in the negotiations.

And remember that Cuomo has supported the regressive education reform forces that led New York State education: John King and Merryl Tisch. And remember that Cuomo failed to listen to parents and educators that Common Core was an inherently flawed set of standards. (See this analysis of how Mulgrew endorsed Cuomo's New York State-level evaluation dictates.) Yet, Mulgrew has aggressively supported the standards, at one union function, threatening violence to anyone who dared to take them away. Mulgrew perpetuated the fiction that teachers had a role in writing the standards, when the truth is that no K through 12 educator wrote them.

Locally, Mulgrew has continued the Unity tradition of liking for a friendly mayoral candidate, and then failing to criticize the mistakes of that politician's policies once they are in office. Witness his continued support for mayor Bill DeBlasio whose chancellor Carmen Farina has proven to be no better than Bloomberg's chancellors. He has not challenged the DOE administration to part from the Bloomberg ways, and he has ignored the continuing problem of charter school encroachment on community schools and other district schools. By contrast, Jia Lee and the MORE caucus have challenged the administration on this enduring problem.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

NYC Eye Endorses Jia Lee and the MORE slate for UFT's election in May

Vote for MORE & New Action. Elect a new leadership for the UFT. Leadership that's actually working in the classroom.
Hear WBAI interview Jia Lee (Presidential candidate), Camille Eterni (Secretary) and Jonathan Halabi (High School seat on the Executive Board) on the issues facing New York City teacher. Tune in to the "Building Bridges" show, Monday, April 25, 7:00-8:00 pm at 99.5 FM. If you're out of the broadcast area, catch the live stream at

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Another Big Storm Hitting Northeast Next Week: NYC Teachers, Put a Snow Day Out of Your Thoughts

Another big storm is hitting the northeast next week.

You know the drill: the governor will solemnly intone: STAY OFF THE STREETS AT ALL COSTS.

And New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina will say that it is business as usual and all New York City Schools staff must show up to work.

Never mind that Public Advocate Letitia James and an ever growing chorus of critics are questioning the No School Snow Closure policy.

Never mind that roads and sidewalks are often treacherous.
We have this eerie and tragic story from Mahwah, New Jersey of a woman caught dead in the snow:

How will it sit in de Blasio or Farina's conscience if such a perished person is a student on their way to school?

De Blasio will read this from Accuweather and say, "Great. Just rain next week. I'll keep schools open."