Dr. Jill Stein is the Best 2016 Presidential Candidate, But Can She Win?

 

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In 2008, I shook Barack Obama’s hand.

 

Yesterday Dr. Jill Stein gave me a hug.

 

Eight years ago, I was so inspired by Obama’s campaign speech in my hometown of Pittsburgh that I rushed forward along with the crowd to grab his hand. It was soft but firm with a tinge of moisturizer. Now I look at his incredibly regressive education policies and feel the need to scrub my palm.

 

This weekend in Philadelphia, I was at the United Opt Out Conference and saw Stein sitting in the audience.

 

I walked past the Green Party Presidential candidate the first time thinking I must be mistaken. Then her name tag removed all doubt.

 

“You’re Jill Stein!” I stuttered.

 

She smiled warmly, stood up and said, “You’re Steven Singer!”

 

I want to believe she knew who I was, but I was wearing a name tag, too.

 

We talked for a moment about what most of us were here for – education policy. She reaffirmed that she wanted to end all high stakes testing and school privatization.

 

Think of it – a presidential candidate speaking in specifics. Not “We test too much.” Not “Some charter schools are bad.” But I want to end these two perverse school policies!

 

And to top it all off, before she hurried off to tidy up as the time approached for her campaign speech, she game me a warm, tight hug.

 

Compare that to Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

 

As part of the Badass Teachers Association, we reached out to all the Democratic and Republican candidates on these exact same issues. The Republicans ignored us entirely, but both Democrats gave us phone calls by campaign aides.

 

Even then, the Democratic response was far from convivial. It mostly came down to something like “Education is important.” Well, duh.

 

In Sanders’ case, we had to conduct an impromptu sit-in at the Senator’s Washington office before anyone would talk to us about policy. And Hillary only started to speak in measured tones about public schools after our national teachers unions voted to endorse her – well, the leaders of those unions voted. No one ever really asked us, rank-and-file.

 

Moreover, when Sanders voted for the horrible Murphy Amendment of what became the Every Child Succeeds Act, several teachers including myself wrote him an open letter asking him to explain his apparent support for a Test and Punish education provision. One of his aides sent us a replysome nonsense about accountability.

 

And Jill Stein just gave me a hug.

The difference is huge!

 

When activists were holding this conference centering on the movement to Opt Out of Standardized testing, Sanders and Clinton didn’t even send campaign literature. Stein came in person and even gave a keynote address!

 

Don’t get me wrong. Hillary is far preferable to any Republican candidate seeking the office. I just wish her Presidential bid wasn’t funded by the very people we’re fighting against.

 

I love Bernie, too. I’ve even got the t-shirt to prove it. I just wish he loved us as much by throwing out a few more specifics. The general thrust of his campaign seems tailor-made to support test resistance and a fight against corporate education reform, but he rarely connects the dots with anything that we could hold him accountable for saying.

 

And then you have Stein, perhaps the most human politician I’ve ever met.

 

One look at her platform and it’s obvious she’s the best candidate for President in 2016. But is she electable?

 

Think about that for a moment.

 

What does it say about our country?

 

Design an excellent platform that benefits the most people, organize a movement to get your message out there, draw on the experience of experts in various fields… and you’re an incredible long shot to win the office.

 

The media says the same thing about Sanders as he speaks to overcapacity crowds and struggles against party politics seemingly written to hobble any populist campaign like his.

 

Yet Stein has no giant crowds. She has no adoring fans, no comedian on Saturday Night Live giving her friendly jibes.

 

She’s almost completely ignored by the media. Yet her actual policies make even a progressive like Sanders look like… well… Hillary Clinton!

 

For instance, Sanders wants to make college free to everyone. Stein wants to do that, too, AND erase all existing student debt.

 

Sanders is (kind of) against for-profit charter schools but has been vaguely supportive of Test and Punish school accountability practices. Stein is unequivocally against all forms of school privatization and high stakes standardized testing.

 

Sanders wants single-payer healthcare paid for by raising taxes (but net savings over all). Stein wants single-payer healthcare paid for by cutting our bloated military budget with no raise in taxes.

 

In fact, while Sanders is against unnecessary military action and an increase in military spending, he is in favor of keeping the $1 trillion military budget mostly intact. Stein wants to cut it by 50%, stop selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, stop giving weapons to Israel, freeze terrorist-funder’s bank accounts, end the War on Terror and engage in a policy of peace.

 

Moreover, Stein wants the savings from slashing our biggest federal expenditure to be used to fund a New Green Deal, creating full employment and a living wage all while transitioning to 100% clean energy by 2030!

 

Correct me if I’m wrong, but all of Stein’s policies sound rather sane and measured. Yet she is the one the media labels a radical and out-of-touch – if they talk about her at all.

 

It’s a testament to how perverted our politics have become: Sanity looks like the exact opposite. Logic and intelligence are revolutionary concepts.

 

And only the activists and intellectuals seem to know this is happening.

 

When Stein was done speaking, someone asked her the inevitable question about Ralph Nader. Wouldn’t casting a ballot for her just divide the Democratic vote and give the race to the Republicans as it did in 2000?

 

Her response was a bit evasive – the only time, in fact, where she seemed a bit uncomfortable.

 

She said that Nader wasn’t a member of the Green Party, where she is. She is engaged in building the party and the movement even beyond 2016.

 

On the one hand, it sounded like she was suggesting that even if she loses, it will bring real progressive issues into the limelight. However, this is not what happened when Nader lost as a third party candidate against Bush and Gore.

 

On the other hand, she stressed that she actually could win. About 43 million people are trapped by student debt, which she wants to unilaterally eliminate, she said. That’s a large enough chunk of the population that if they all voted for her, she would win.

 

It’s time for a Hail Mary moment, she said. We have to take a chance to vote for the best policies and not continue to compromise by supporting the lesser evil. Concession is the road to what we have now – continued oligarchy and global hegemony.

 

We need a functioning world for our children. If we don’t do something about Climate Change, the Earth may not be habitable in as little as five decades.

 

It’s now or never, she said.

 

I offer all this not as an endorsement of Stein. Nor of Sanders or Clinton (though seriously stay away from the Republicans, they’re freaking crazy).

 

I offer this only as food for thought.

 

Stein is offering us the best platform, bar none. But can we afford to vote for her? Can we afford not to?

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How Radical Must We Be To Get the Schools Our Children Deserve? United Opt Out Musings

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There was a point during Chris Hedges keynote address today when I could barely catch my breath.

 

My chest was heaving, tears were leaking from my eyes and I wasn’t sure I would be able to stop.

 

The Pulitzer Prize winning journalist had his audience enraptured at the United Opt Out Conference in Philadelphia Saturday morning.

 

I’ve read Chris before. We’ve all read Chris before. But I had never seen or heard him speak.

 

It was kind of like hearing a good sermon by a pastor who felt every word he said. And that really was it – Chris FELT every word.

 

When I’ve read Hedges’ articles on Truthdig, I’ve found myself getting angry. He stirs me up. He disturbs me, makes me feel uncomfortable. And when I heard him speak today I was surprised that he seemed to be reacting the same way to his own words.

 

When he talked about teaching teenage prisoners, he was emotionally invested in the story he was telling. When he criticized American neoliberal policies, he was just as angry as his audience.

 

The only difference was that his sorrow and rage somehow became transformed in his throat into something akin to poetry.

 

He turned the struggle of the oppressed into something beautiful. He transformed the hurt in my chest into something profound. He mutated my disturbance into a sense of actions-to-be.

 

I won’t repeat the words he said. I’d never be able to reproduce them with anything resembling his eloquence. But I will remark on one of his closing remarks because it hit me like a splash of cold water.

 

Rebellion, he said, is not about changing the world. It’s about changing yourself.

 

When you stand up for what is right, you become a better person – whether you achieve your goal or not. In a sense, it doesn’t matter if we destroy the testocracy. But in trying, we transmute ourselves into something better.

 

I don’t know if that’s true, but I’d like to think so.

 

I don’t know if we will ever destroy the system of Test and Punish, but I know I can try. I know I can put myself on the line and damn the consequences.

 

All weekend at the United Opt Out Conference we’ve been talking about rebellion and revolution. There’s no weak tea here in the City of Brotherly Love. No half measures. We’ve been discussing tearing the system down piece-by-piece.

 

A timid voice speaks up in the back of mind, “Do we really need to do all that? Do we really need revolution just to keep our public schools and make them into something worthy of our children?”

 

I think I’ve been trying to answer that question for a while now. Maybe a lot of us have.

 

In a rational country, our demands wouldn’t be so radical.

 

We want public schools centered on the good of all, not the profit of some. We want educationally valid curricula for our children. We want some control over the school system – both as parents and teachers.

 

Is that so much to ask? Is that such a lunatic request?

 

And as I listened to Hedges and Dr. Antonia Darder, Dave Green, Jonathan Pelto, Dr. Denisha Jones, Ceresta Smith, Yohuru Williams, Aixa Rodriguez and many, many others, I heard another timid voice begin to answer the first.

 

“Yes.”

 

The system of standardization and privatization of public education confronts students of color and impoverished students head on. They are in the front lines. Yet few people outside of activists seem willing to admit it.

 

Perhaps the most impressive thing about this conference has been its ability to put issues of human rights at the center of the argument. That’s the essential concept. We’re not just talking about bad education policies. We’re not just talking about schemes for billionaires to make more money. We’re talking about the systematic oppression of a group of people and the widespread complacency and complicity of the majority of the populace.

 

How do you combat such a monster without being revolutionary? How do you fight for your child without being a rebel?

 

More has happened at this conference than I can adequately put into words. I’ve met so many incredible people. Some of them I knew, some I had met before, some had only been names I had seen on my computer screen.

 

I will leave here Sunday feeling refreshed and energized, ready for the battles ahead.

 

Am I a radical?

 

Am I becoming a better person?

 

I don’t know.

 

But I will keep fighting.

 

Because I love my daughter, I love my students and I love all children everywhere.


 

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NOTE: This article was given a shout out on Diane Ravitch’s and Jonathan Pelto’s blogs.

 

United Opt Out Conference Highlights Dual Role of Technology in Education

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Technology is the most powerful weapon we have against corporate education reform.

 

It is also our greatest foe.

 

Such were the remarks of Dr. Stephen Krashen at the United Opt Out Conference on Friday.

 

The linguist, educational researcher and activist gave the opening keynote address to hundreds of people who traveled to Philadelphia for the conference.

 

Krashen, who is known for his work on second language acquisition and bilingual education, has been a strong critic of the test and punish policies of the Barack Obama administration.

 

He warned the assembly of parents, students, teachers, professors and activists about the dangers of Competency Based Education (CBE), the next big thing in the movement to dumb down public schools.

 

CBE is touted as a way to reduce high stakes standardized testing by allowing students to work at their own pace while on various computer programs. However, Krashen sees this is an increase in testing.

 

In effect, it’s testing everyday. The computer programs used in CBE are little more than the same kinds of questions you’d see on a standardized test. An emphasis on CBE would replace a robust school curriculum with never-ending test preparation and multiple-choice assessment.

 

In the hands of a classroom teacher, technology can be an excellent tool to help kids learn. However, top-down policies like CBE only take away educators’ autonomy and turn them into mere facilitators of prepackaged materials of dubious quality.

 

He noted that the National Governors Association – an organization promoting CBE and Common Core State Standards – admits that there is no research supporting this new policy. But they’re suggesting we do it anyway. In fact, provisions to increase CBE are embedded in the new federal education law – the Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA).

 

He sees this as a massive boondoggle to swipe the $600 billion we spend on technology in schools. After all, CBE will require increasingly newer computers at every school that will need to be constantly replaced as they become obsolete.

 

Krashen quoted Gerald Bracey: “There’s a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things we shouldn’t be doing at all.”

 

There is light at the end of the tunnel though.

 

The same technology that is being used to pervert the education system can be used to help save it.

 

Krashen advised activists to use the power of social media to spread the word about CBE and other Trojan Horse reforms – policies that look like they’re helping children while actually hurting them.

 

“The Internet is our underground,” he said, “Facebook and Twitter are our weapons.”

 

Though policymakers and journalists rarely listen to experts like classroom teachers, the Internet allows us to spread our message. We don’t need anyone’s permission to speak up. We are all free to do so and should do it more often.

 

I know many people are scared to speak up, he said, but we can all educate ourselves about what’s happening and then share it and retweet it. We need to do more of this. We need to reach a critical mass. We need to show the world the truth and that it can’t be ignored and buried under the dominant media and political narrative being sold to the public as if it were truth.

 

These policies, while dangerous in and of themselves, also overshadow the real needs of our school children – namely devastating, generational poverty.

 

When Congress passes No Child Left Unfed, No Child Without Healthcare, and No Child Left Homeless, then when can talk about No Child Left Behind and Every Child Succeeds, he said.

 

Dr. Martin Luther King spoke about this issue, claiming that solving poverty would in turn solve any problems with education.

 

Krashen’s keynote was an exciting beginning to a conference that promises to be eye-opening, exciting and energizing to the community of people fighting to take back our schools from the oligarchy.


 

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How to Get Rich From Public Schools (Without Actually Educating)

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Gold!

 

There’s gold in them thar schools!

 

Don’t believe me?

 

When you drive by an inner city school, it doesn’t exactly look like the Taj Mahal. Does it? Even relatively upscale suburban schools wouldn’t be mistaken for a house on MTV Cribs. And some of those fly-by night charter schools look more like prisons than Shangri-La.

 

But I’ve got it on good authority that there’s $1.3 trillion available for someone who knows how to take it.

 

That someone is Harold Levy, an expert on how to get rich through school privatization.

 

The former chancellor of the New York City School System has begun a second career managing an investment company.

 

“For-profit education is one of the largest U.S. investment markets, currently topping $1.3 trillion in value,” according to the Website for one of his master classes for rich investors.

 

Wooo-weee! That’s a lot of money!

 

To put it in context, that’s more than 10 times the amount the federal government spends on education per year. And it’s all yummy profit!

 

So how do you get your hands on some of those delicious taxpayer greenbacks?

 

You gotta’ invest.

 

No! I don’t mean increase education budgets for traditional public schools that can barely make ends meet! I mean invest in shiny new charter schools.

 

Here’s how it works.

 

Lend money to a for-profit company to build a new charter school. If you do it just right, you’re almost guaranteed to double or triple your money in seven years.

 

You’ll want to take advantage of the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC), which began in 2000 at the end of President Bill Clinton’s administration. This will give you a whooping 39 percent tax credit. But here’s the best part, since it’s money you’re lending, you also get interest on it! And if that weren’t enough, you can piggyback all kinds of additional federal tax credits on top of that – things like historic preservation or job creation or Brownfield’s credits.

 

That doesn’t sound legal, does it? But it is!

 

In case that has you feeling queasy, you can hide what you’re doing by funneling the whole thing through a large non-profit organization like the Gates Foundation. They’ll be more than happy to help. They’ve done it for so many before you anyway.

 

However, make sure you whisk this money through something called a Community Development Entity (CDE). The federal website explains this can be either a “domestic corporation or partnership.” And it must have “a primary mission of serving LICs [Low Income Communities].” (Snicker!)

 

Here’s the best part. A CDE isn’t required to release information about who its donors are or how much they’re spending. So on paper the CDE – not you – gives the money to the non-profit, which, in turn, loans the money to a charter management organization. It’s like money laundering. No one can tell where the funds came from and thus it’s easy to escape from federal regulations or any appearance of wrongdoing.

 

There is a catch, however. You’re probably going to need a substantial amount of capital to put forward – at least a million bucks or so. No bank’s going to waste its time with only a few hundred thou.

 

This method is perfect for those who are already wealthy and want to increase their wealth or hedge fund managers out to boost their clients’ portfolios.

 

But maybe you just aren’t into the whole hedge fund game. Maybe you’re not the banking and investing type.

 

You can still make oodles of cash off public schools through real estate.

 

Here’s what you do – buy up cheap inner city properties that can be renovated or repurposed for charter schools. Then when a school privatization firm wants to set up shop in an impoverished city like Philadelphia, Chicago or Detroit, it needs someone like you to open the door.

 

You’ll get to charge the charter corporation rent and – get this – that’s not price capped! You can charge whatever you want! As long as you’ve got a good spot and no one else is trying to beat you to it, charter corporations are willing to pay bookoo bucks to get their money-making enterprises rolling!

 

A good rule of thumb comes from privatization expert Charter Schools USA, which recommends rental costs not exceed 20 percent of a school’s budget. However, there are plenty of examples of charter schools paying 25, 30 even up to 43 percent of their money just on rental costs! Ca-Ching!

 

And if you really want to boost the bottom line, open a charter school, yourself! That way you can both rent out the real estate and pay for it!

 

Think about it. Who sets the rental price? You do. Who pays the rental price? You do. So you can pay yourself WHATEVER YOU WANT! And where does the money come from? The taxpayers!

 

Doesn’t sound legal does it? But it is!

 

According to the Miami Herald, which conducted an in-depth investigation into these practices, many of the highest rents are charged by landlords with ties to the management companies running the schools. Property records show at least 56 charter schools in Miami-Dade and Broward counties sitting on land whose owners are tied to management companies.

 

Of course there are so many other ways to set things up like this with a charter school. Unlike most traditional public schools, charters contract with for-profit companies for everything from curriculum development to construction. So there are many opportunities for creative investors to figure out how to both set the price and pay it TO THEMSELVES!

 

Moreover, every state has different laws about charter schools so check for loopholes. You’ll find ‘em!

 

Just don’t forget to set up that CDE to hide your shady dealings from the public. After all, if taxpayers could easily see how you’re sucking up their hard-earned money that they thought was going to help school children (Tee-hee!) they wouldn’t be happy.

 

And if you’re reading this from somewhere outside of the USA, don’t despair. You, too, can make a ton of money off school privatization in the United States. It’s like the Statue of Liberty says – wealthy foreign nationals welcome! (Or something like that.)

 

Since the Immigration Act of 1990, investors have been allowed to purchase visas for their families by investing in U.S. corporations. Just stash some cash into a hotel, ski resort or charter school and – voilà! – Move directly to GO and collect way more than $200!

 

It’s called the EB-5 visa for Immigrant Investors. For the low price of at least $1 million -or $500,000 to a rural or high unemployment neighborhood — you can get visas for the whole family.

 

Sounds like some crazy new loophole – right? It isn’t. It’s been around for decades. Every year, the federal government hands out 10,000 of these visas. So while Syrian refugee children drown seeking asylum, wealthy foreign nationals get an express ticket to the US of A.

 

You might be thinking, ‘That gets me into the country, but where do I cash in?’ Easy. You now have a stake in a U.S. charter school and have access to all the same easy money as native-born investors.

 

It’s an incredibly lucrative model even for those more interested in the Prophet than profit.

 

Just look at Gulen charter schools. It’s the largest single charter school network in the country. More than 150 schools in Texas, Ohio, Illinois and other cities are funded by Turkish investors following an Islamic nationalist named Fetullaf Gülen. These schools are part of a “worldwide religious, social and nationalistic movement in his name,” according to the New York Times.

 

Be warned. Many of these schools are under investigation for using U.S. taxpayer dollars meant to educate U.S. children in non-educational or otherwise shady ways. Some of this tax revenue has allegedly been spent on political and religious causes championed by the Prophet Gülen. Other funds have gone to controversial educational practices. For instance, instead of hiring local teachers, the chain is infamous for shipping in Turkish educators to the United States. As if it wouldn’t be cheaper to hire locals! And guess where the money comes from to pay for these Turkish teachers’ visas? That’s right – from the charter school’s funding!

 

Still. Even with a few setbacks, there’s never been a better time to invest in the privatization of public education. Sure there are financial, behavioral and educational scandals at charter schools throughout the country being discovered everyday. But fortune favors the brave!

 

Money is just hanging on the tree waiting to be plucked. It’s hard to walk into a charter school and not come out with pockets fit to bursting with cold, hard cash.

 

In fact, the only folks not making bank in this whole scheme are the teachers!

 

Don’t be one of them.

 

Teachers at charter schools – where unionizing is often prohibited – take home even less than those working at traditional public schools. And those traditional educators aren’t getting rich, either.

 

A new report by the Center for American Progress argues that U.S. teachers usually have bad starting pay and are unlikely to see major salary gains even after several years of teaching.

 

Growth in teacher salaries is especially bad when comparing the U.S. to other developed countries:

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“The bottom line is that mid- and late-career teachers are not earning what they deserve, nor are they able to gain the salaries that support a middle-class existence,” the report concluded.

 

There appears to be a golden rule in education: the less you actually help students learn, the more money you get to take home.

 

Perhaps if public schools were kept out of private hands where profit is the overwhelming motivation for everything you do, things would be different. But thank goodness that isn’t happening!

 

Someday people may wake up and demand more for their tax dollars and for their children. But until then…

 

There’s gold in them thar schools!

 

Don’t be a sap. Don’t be a teacher. Don’t help children. Invest in a fly-by-night charter school and get rich!


NOTE: This article also was published in Commondreams.org.

 

 

‘We’re Sorry Teachers are Unfairly Blamed’ says John King – Man Responsible for Unfairly Blaming Teachers

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Sometimes the messenger matters.

You wouldn’t expect Native Americans to believe an apology from Christopher Columbus.

You wouldn’t expect African Americans to believe an apology from David Duke.

So why the heck do the Democrats expect teachers to believe an apology from John King!?

The acting U.S. Secretary of Education is – himself – responsible for more attacks on public educators than almost anyone else.

In his former role as New York Chancellor of Education, he refused to fix a school system he was responsible for destroying all the while pointing his finger at teachers.

However, late last month in his new federal position, King gave a speech at a Philadelphia high school acknowledging the mistakes of the Obama administration in tying teachers’ evaluations to student test scores – a practice he was guilty of in New York.

“I think there’s just such an urgency around making sure that teachers feel valued in our society,” King said in an interview with the Washington Post in January.

“It’s one of the things I worry a lot about. I want young people to see a future for themselves as teachers.”

Seriously!?

Were you worried about teachers in New York when you tied their evaluations to unproven and inferior Common Core tests? Were you worried about students when you approved an obviously fraudulent charter school run by an obviously fraudulent con man? Were you worried about the profession when you ignored and dismissed parents at various education forums? Were you worried about public schools when you sparked the largest opt out movement in the country?

I’m sorry, but this apology rings hollow to most educators. We know you. We know that your biggest qualification for your position in charge of the nation’s public school system is a three year stint teaching in a “no excuses” charter school with a high suspension rate.

It’s kind of hard to believe you mean a thing you say. And by extension, it’s hard to believe a thing President Barack Obama says about education, either. He was the dunderhead who picked Arne Duncan to be his first Secretary of Education and then you to succeed him.

It must be an election year.

Since a few months before the Presidential Primaries, the Democrats have been apologizing for the damage they’ve done to public education.

Obama says he wants to reduce standardized tests. That’s great – with less than one year left in his second term! After increasing it beyond even the wildest dreams of his predecessor George W. Bush!

But since we’re talking apologies here, are you, Mr. King, willing to actually do anything to make things better for the nation’s teachers?

For instance, do you think the U.S. Department of Education should be exempt from regulatory capture? In other words, should a regulatory agency like the Department of Ed advance the commercial or political interests of special interests that dominate the industry it is charged with regulating?

In other words, should any employee of the department or their immediate family be permitted to collude with the corporate interests seeking special favor in the field of education? Should a prominent member of the department also be allowed to work for an industry seeking to profit off our public schools? Should his wife?

No? Then perhaps your wife Melissa Steele King shouldn’t be accepting a position at Bellwether Consultants, a leading corporate education reform organization. They represent The New Teachers Project, New School Venture Fund, KIPP, IDEA Charter Schools, Gulen Charter Schools, Rocketship Charters and many others.

So while classroom teachers will only be able to communicate with you through official correspondence, a representative of the standardization and privatization movement will be right across from you at the dinner table every night!

If you really wanted us to take you seriously, your family wouldn’t be pulling this crap.

Your latest apology is just an attempt to smooth over your own Senate education committee confirmation hearing on Thursday, Feb. 25. You want to show how much bipartisan support you have so you can become the official Education Secretary and not just acting Education Secretary.

Look, you might say. I just threw a bone to teachers. They love me!

What a steaming pile of bullshit!

Does that offend you? Oh. Then please accept my most heartfelt apology.


NOTE: Diane Ravitch also posted about this article on her blog.

 

Charter School Champion Hates Bernie Sanders, Prefers Hillary Clinton

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Bernie Sanders doesn’t like charter schools enough.

To me that’s an endorsement.

But to Shavar Jeffries, it’s a condemnation.

Jeffries took to the pages of the New York Daily News to decry Sanders position and champion Hillary Clinton’s.

Jeffries is the executive director of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), a hedge fund front promoting the privatization of public education.

Despite its name, the group doesn’t represent the views of most Democrats. It represents the neoliberal branch of the party that has heavily influenced the education policy of Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, Cory Booker, Bill Gates and other prominent so-called liberals.

One can see why Jeffries isn’t Feeling The Bern. Sanders famously said THIS in January about the industry DFER promotes:

I’m not in favor of privately run charter schools. If we are going to have a strong democracy and be competitive globally, we need the best educated people in the world. I believe in public education; I went to public schools my whole life, so I think rather than give tax breaks to billionaires, I think we invest in teachers and we invest in public education. I really do.

More to Jeffries’ taste is Hillary Clinton who he says backed off on her own charter school criticism.

Back in November, Clinton correctly condemned most charter schools for not enrolling the most challenging students.

She said:

Most charter schools — I don’t want to say every one — but most charter schools, they don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids, or, if they do, they don’t keep them. And so the public schools are often in a no-win situation, because they do, thankfully, take everybody, and then they don’t get the resources or the help and support that they need to be able to take care of every child’s education.

Anne O-Leary, a Clinton aide, eventually clarified these comments saying Clinton supports those charters that are both equitable and accountable.

Neither candidate for the Democratic nomination for President has given an in-depth policy speech on K-12 education.

These statements on charter schools are some of the most substantial made by either candidate on the issue.

Clinton has been lambasted in the media for her comments. Many publications – leaning both left and right – complained that she was caving in to powerful teachers unions like the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) both of which endorsed her in the primaries. On the other hand, Clinton also has been criticized for not going far enough against the school privatization industry. Some observers highlight her continuing ties to Wall Street and many of the same neoliberal figures responsible for our disastrous corporate education reform policies.

By contrast, Bernie’s comments have been met with mostly praise from his base and shrugs from his opponents.

Both candidates views on the subject have evolved over the years. Sanders has gone from being pro- to anti-charter. Clinton has gone from being pro-charter to pro-charter with some provisos.

Back in 1998, Congressman Sanders voted in favor of the Charter School Expansion Act. Now he’s against the industry. Meanwhile, Clinton has long been a champion of charter schools. Her criticism of some of these schools is a new wrinkle.

It’s nice to see the issue getting some attention.

Charter schools have increased exponentially across the country in the last two decades, but they have little transparency or accountability. As a result, monetary scandals have exploded like wildfire from state-to-state. Millions of public dollars have disappeared into private corporations’ bank accounts leaving little to show for it.

Nationally, research shows that charter schools do no better at educating children than public schools. In fact, in many cases they do a much worse job. And when it comes to cyber charter schools, the situation is even more unevenly stacked in traditional public school’s favor.

Scandals also are surfacing about how charters treat their students. Stories of harsh discipline policies and violating students rights are emerging everyday. Moreover, there are countless accusations that – as Clinton points out – many charters select only the easiest students to educate and sometimes expel struggling students before state-mandated standardized tests.

Finally, charters increase the cost of educating children in a particular district by adding another parallel school system. However, these extra costs are taken out of the traditional public school’s budget thereby further destabilizing it and forcing less services and higher class sizes for students who don’t enroll in new charters.

I’m glad both Democratic candidates are critical of this status quo.

However, Jeffries denunciation of Sanders and defense of Clinton may backfire.

If an odious organization like DFER is in favor of Clinton, shouldn’t the rest of us back Sanders?


NOTE: This article also was published on the Badass Teachers Association blog.

 

Should Teachers Have Strong Opinions?

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I am an opinionated person. I am also a public school teacher.

 

Those two things should not be mutually exclusive.

 

You should not have to give up the one to be able to do the other.

 

Teachers should not have to relinquish their judgment in order to run an effective classroom. In fact, you might expect good judgment to be a prerequisite to doing the job well.

 

Yet it seems many people disagree. They like their teachers tame, docile and opinion-free.

 

That’s just not me.

 

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying teachers should instruct their students to think just like them. I’m not saying they should indoctrinate or unduly influence the young people in their care.

 

Just the opposite. They should spur their students to think for themselves. They should teach the young how to entertain an idea without immediately accepting it.

 

But they have no business telling students, “This is what I believe.” They have no business misusing their authority to make their views seem normative.

 

So I agree that teachers should be careful about expressing their opinions in the classroom. The problem comes after the school day is through.

 

When a teacher goes home, all bets are off. When a teacher is not in front of a class of impressionable children, he or she should be afforded the same rights and privileges of any other citizen – and that includes the right to form an opinion and express it publicly.

 

I am an educator. Hear me roar.

 

That’s why – like many people in my field – I write an education blog.

 

I’m sick of the media reporting on K-12 schools but never asking classroom teachers their opinions.

 

Almost all major education policy in our country is made with little-to-no input from teachers: Common Core, high-stakes testing, value added measures, charter schools, Teach for America, school funding – the list goes on and on.

 

No one asks us what we think so many teachers scribble down their private musings and send them adrift on the Nile of the Internet.

 

This makes some people very angry.

 

These folks often respond: How dare they!? No one asked their opinion!

 

EXACTLY.

 

Some of us, teachers, even dare to address issues that don’t directly affect the classroom: racism, sexism, police brutality, the prison system, parenting – Heaven forbid – POLITICS!

 

Those who criticize us for commenting on such disparate matters have a very narrow view of relevance. Just because a subject doesn’t include the word “school” doesn’t make it irrelevant to the classroom. Most of my students are impoverished and minorities. You think racism doesn’t impact their lives? You think I see nothing of the effects of poverty? You think I have nothing to say about my children’s relationship with the police?

 

Still, few things upset some readers as much as the knowledge that I both teach and think.

 

“I’m glad my child doesn’t have a teacher like you,” some of them say. Or “No one who feels the way you do should be allowed in a classroom.” Or “This is why I homeschool.”

 

It’s funny. You never hear people speak this way of any other profession. Only teachers. We are demanded to pass a purity test from which even the priesthood is exempt.

 

The clergy are rarely instructed to keep their noses out of politics. They’re even invited to do so from the pulpit. But teachers? No way! Not even on our off hours.

 

It’s almost as if some folks think teachers are incapable of forming an opinion and not blurting it out in class. “Stop coloring, children! I must regale you with the inadequacies of former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia!”

 

It’s ridiculous. But it makes me wonder. How much of this restraint do these critics practice in their own homes?

 

Do these same people who fear a teacher’s opinion stop themselves from influencing the views of their own children? Do they let their little ones make up their own minds about the world or do they tell them what to think?

 

It’s not surprising that most people hold the same religion as their parents. Do we all start with an unbiased view of faith and just magically find the beliefs of our fathers the most suited to our own lives? Or do most parents stack the deck? Don’t most of us actively teach our children THIS is the way to believe?

 

I wonder if these critics of teachers are really just afraid educators will disrupt their own work. How many parents want their own children to believe the same way they do? How many are afraid the schools will allow children to come to different conclusions? How many are afraid of being alienated from their own progeny?

 

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m a parent, too.

 

And, yes, I say things to my own child that I would not tell my students. If she asks a question, I give her a full answer including what I think about it. That’s a parent’s prerogative.

 

However, I don’t insist she believe as I do. My daughter knows I want her to make up her own mind. I appreciate our differences and love her even more because of them.

 

I don’t want her to be a carbon copy of me. Nor do I want that of my students or my readers.

 

I just want a fair hearing.

 

Hello, World! This is what I think! This is why I think it!

 

And I wait for the world to answer back.
I send my little message in a bottle onto the waves of the Interwebs.

 

I just wish it sometimes didn’t return with a note telling me to shut up because I’m a teacher.


NOTE: This article was also discussed on Diane Ravitch’s blog.