Category Archives: Money

A War Has Started

Have you seen the video where Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin, expresses his strategy to destroy collective bargaining for public employees? Here it is:

The way to destroy unions is to eliminate collective bargaining, which will benefit corporations (who generally support only one side of the aisle). And, it only makes sense. If your interests are to make corporations more powerful and profitable, then paying workers less and reducing their opportunities to vote is a viable strategy.

Get active in your locals to campaign ahead of time. Don’t wait until after a bad election to get active. You might become Ohio or Wisconsin or Idaho.

Extortion from Duncan and Obama?

Recently, Secretary of Education Duncan continued his push for the Obama Administration’s education policies as he provided an escape from the faulty and unrealistic mandates of the No Child Left Behind law. However, instead of simply admitting that NCLB does not work, needs an overhaul, and is being repealed, a press release was presented which says that states can be excused from NCLB if they sign onto other requirements. Here is part of that press release:

The administration’s proposal for fixing NCLB calls for college- and career-ready standards, more great teachers and principals, robust use of data, and a more flexible and targeted accountability system based on measuring annual student growth. Barnes and Duncan will note that the final details on the ESEA flexibility package will reflect similar goals. The specifics of the package will be made public in September.

Sounds like value-added scores or evaluations based on standardized test scores and Common Core standards being adopted, the same ideas in Race to the Trough Top.

Is this just a choice of the lesser of two evils? Escape from a bad law by agreeing to bad legislation? Essentially, Duncan seems to be telling the states that NCLB doesn’t work and the states can be excused from it if they agree to potentially worse (and unproven) legislation.

The federal level is not the place to solve local education decisions. Duncan even admits that the best decisions for schools comes from the local level:

There is no magic bullet for fixing education and the best ideas will always come from the local level—from the hardworking men and women in our schools doing the hard work every day to educate our children.

This offer from Duncan’s office and the Obama Administration appears at best to be an administration trying to push its education agenda onto states and at worst to be an open extortion of suffering states.

Reject this offer. Force the government to fix NCLB. Make the administration do what it promised.



Great Teachers Aren’t Enough

With budget cuts to education and social services, schools are struggling across the nation to do more with less. However, the current approach used by the Obama Administration, Arne Duncan, and other so-called reformers is that a good teacher can overcome everything thrown at them.

You’re a great teacher? Have some extra students.

You’re a great teacher? Here are the toughest students to teach.

You’re a great teacher? Mentor other teachers.

You’re a great teacher? Go to the toughest school.

But a great teacher can’t overcome the damage done by budget cuts, bad education theory, and poor home lives. Ellie Herman, a teacher in Los Angeles, recently wrote a compelling and eloquent piece detailing the false assumptions at the heart of the reform movement today. She says:

The kid in the back wants me to define “logic.” The girl next to him looks bewildered. The boy in front of me dutifully takes notes even though he has severe auditory processing issues and doesn’t understand a word I’m saying. Eight kids forgot their essays, but one has a good excuse because she had another epileptic seizure last night. The shy, quiet girl next to me hasn’t done homework for weeks, ever since she was jumped by a knife-wielding gangbanger as she walked to school. The boy next to her is asleep with his head on the desk because he works nights at a factory to support his family. Across the room, a girl weeps quietly for reasons I’ll never know. I’m trying to explain to a student what I meant when I wrote “clarify your thinking” on his essay, but he’s still confused.

It’s 8:15 a.m. and already I’m behind my scheduled lesson. A kid with dyslexia, ADD and anger-management problems walks in late, throws his books on the desk and swears at me when I tell him to take off his hood.

The class, one of five I teach each day, has 31 students, including two with learning disabilities, one who just moved here from Mexico, one with serious behavior problems, 10 who flunked this class last year and are repeating, seven who test below grade level, three who show up halfway through class every day, one who almost never comes. I need to reach all 31 of them, including the brainiac who’s so bored she’s reading “Lolita” under her desk.

I just can’t do it.

This theory seems to show that the teacher as savior myth is alive and well. At what point do people wake and realize that schools reflect the communities in which they reside? That teachers can’t overcome every social obstacle? That those making the decisions in education are harming more kids than they are helping?

Herman counters the Asia and Norway arguments with this:

But a huge percentage of students in Japan and South Korea pay for after-school tutoring to make up for a lack of individualized attention at school. Finland, with the best scores in the world, has average class sizes in the 20s, and it caps science labs at 16.

She also details the challenges faced by teachers:

A whole chunk of my students are alienated by this highly structured environment: the artists, the rebels, the class clowns — in other words, some of my smartest kids.

On a good day, about a fourth of my students don’t do the reading or the homework; if I set up a conference after school, they might show up and they might not. Why? Because one kid thinks he has an STD, and another girl’s brother just got out of juvie, and another guy wandered to the ice cream truck and forgot. Because they’re teenagers. Because they’re human.

She follows this with the increasing disparity between the affluent and the poor:

But nobody talks that way about the children of the wealthy, who can pay for individual attention in tutoring or private schools with small classes. I understand that we need to get rid of bad teachers, who will be just as bad in small classes, but we can’t demand that teachers be excellent in conditions that preclude excellence.

Our children — even our children growing up in poverty, especially our children growing up in poverty — deserve to have not only an extraordinary teacher but a teacher who has time to read their work, to listen, to understand why they’re crying or sleeping or not doing homework.

Teachers are being set up for failure. And, when they do, it will signal a marshaled call to destroy completely the old system and to create a new one, a private one, one that will favor the affluent and condemn the destitute.

A great teacher can overcome much, but a great teacher is not a panacea.

Bill Gates Has Deep Pockets

The only reason anyone listens to Bill Gates when it comes to education is because he has lots and lots of money.

Here’s more proof that he’s simply funding his corporate agenda in education–sadly, through unproven methods and un-researched or disproved approaches– through the so-called reform movement. Check out the full article linked above.

All three — the League of Education Voters, the Partnership for Learning, and Stand for Children — also receive significant financial support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Sometimes I wonder if those actually in the field will ever truly have any power.

Update: Here’s another story of a Gates-funded project.

Teach for America Doesn’t Get It

I suppose Teach for America had to respond, had to try and make itself look defensible, but TfA got it wrong. In a response to the NEA denouncing some of its practices, the group stated: “we do not and would not engage in union busting or silencing activities.”

Now, this in response to a business item at the NEA Representative Assembly in Chicago (which passed) and stated in part: that the NEA opposes TfA contracts in districts “where there is no teacher shortage or when districts use TFA agreements to reduce teacher costs, silence union voices, or as a vehicle to bust unions.” (I commented on this briefly in a recent post.)

The NEA business item itself came from teachers in Seattle whose district allowed TfA teachers to apply for jobs within the district even though the district had a glut of teachers recently let go because of budgets and teachers looking for jobs already. Seattle had no need for TfA teachers. Teach for America continuously claims that their teachers only go where job shortages exist or in high-need areas, neither of which describes Washington State.

It’s true that TfA teachers are often union members (and this was brought up at the NEA rep. assembly), but it’s also true that TfA teachers come with a “fee for each member” making these teachers more expensive in a time of budget cuts.

Plus, this comes during a time when Washington State is clearly a target of union busting groups like Stand For Children and as Jonah Edelman explained in a much-distributed video. Besides Stand For Children, Washington State has locally-funded groups backed by Bill Gates attacking the schools in Washington State and who sent funding specifically to Teach for America. (And, the only reason anyone engages Gates on education is that he has a fat pocket book, but zero education experience.)

TfA is trying to force themselves into areas where they are unnecessary. TfA is really looking to supplant the teachers already there (as in Seattle where over 46,000 teachers applied for 4,500 jobs and this infusion also hurts our local education programs). Beyond this, TfA has a very poor record of keeping its teachers in education for very long but is very well funded in numerous ways.

If Teach for America was solely looking to help kids not served by public education, it would stay in the identified high-needs areas, it would not need to pay districts to allow it to enter, it would not need to sway board members by promising extras, and it would work alongside public educators instead of working against them.