Twenty-One Reasons People Hate, Hate, HATE Betsy DeVos



Lesley Stahl: Why have you become, people say, the most hated Cabinet secretary?


Betsy DeVos: I’m not sure exactly how that happened…

I’m more misunderstood than anything.



The above exchange from last night’s 60 Minutes interview highlights an important point about our Education Secretary.


She is deeply unpopular, but not because she’s misunderstood. If anything, she’s understood too well.


We know what she stands for and we don’t like it.


If she was really so misunderstood, why didn’t her answers in the interview veer away from the same usual canned responses she’s given time-and-time-again to the same type of questions?


What’s wrong with schools? NOT ENOUGH CHOICE.


How do we prevent school shootings? LET SCHOOLS ARM TEACHERS.


You didn’t really even need DeVos to show up to the interview to be able to guess with a high degree of accuracy what her answers would be.


In fact, many of her responses seemed to have been coached – as if someone had prepared her with talking points before the interview even took place.


So without further ado, here is my exhaustive list of all the reasons I can think of why people really, REALLY hate Betsy Devos. If I’ve left something out, please feel free to add it in a comment.




1) She didn’t earn her position as Education Secretary. She bought it. And even then it took a tie breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence to shove her down our throats.


2) She wants to spend tax dollars to boost privatized schools in which she has a financial stake.


3) She doesn’t mind taking funding away from public schools to do it.


4) She wants to destroy the entire system of public schools which enroll 90% of America’s children.


5) She doesn’t really know what public schools are, having never attended one or having never sent her children or grandchildren to one.


6) She wants to arm teachers not because it will protect kids from school shooters, but because that boosts her family’s investment portfolio. (i.e. her brother’s mercenary army for hire, Blackwater)


7) She won’t make charter and voucher schools give the same services to special education kids as those provided by traditional public schools.


8) She’s getting rid of students’ civil rights protections while adding protections for nefarious student loan providers and fly-by-night on-line schools.


9) She’s rescinded rules that protected trans students.


10) She’s considering rescinding rules that protect minority students from being unfairly and disproportionately disciplined by schools.


11) She’s made it harder for victims of sexual assault and harassment to report abuse and easier for those accused to avoid prosecution.


12) She talks about state’s rights to determine their own education systems while using the power of the federal government to coerce them to doing things her way.


13) She wastes public tax dollars. She is the only Cabinet member protected by Federal Marshals, which costs us nearly $1 million a month. Whether this is necessary or not, as a billionaire she could save the taxpayers money by taking on this cost, herself.


14) She doesn’t care if the public doesn’t want her at their school or event. She goes anyway and then pretends to be angry that protestors showed up. She doesn’t seem to understand that as a public servant she should serve at our pleasure – not the other way around.


15) She uses tragedy as a photo-op – as she did when she visited the Parkland school to promote arming teachers. She didn’t meet significantly with students or staff. She didn’t listen to their concerns. She even bailed on her own press conference there when the queries weren’t to her liking.


16) She has no problem whitewashing black history as she did when she claimed historic black colleges were pioneers of school choice. In reality they had no choice. For many African Americans at the time, it was create black colleges or forgo post-secondary education at all.


17) She is ignorant (purposefully or not) of the results of her own policies. Her advocacy of school choice in her home state of Michigan has weakened that state’s public schools, not strengthened them.


18) She’s out of touch with average Americans. She’s the richest member of Trump’s cabinet and often travels in her on super luxury yacht.


19) She’s rich not because she earned it, but because she was born into it and married into even more wealth. Moreover, much of her wealth is due to her family’s Amway fortune – basically it’s founded on rooking average people out of their hard earned money with what’s essentially a pyramid scheme.


20) She’s arrogant. She smiles vacantly at topics that don’t deserve a smile – they deserve serious regard.


21) She is extremely biased and partisan. She is supposed to serve the public interest, but her radical Christian Fundamentalism and anti-LGBT activism make her untrustworthy to serve in that capacity. Statements such as “There is enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the need in education… Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom,” do not help.


Okay. That’s all I can think of – though more may pop into mind as soon as I publish this. If I missed something please include it in the comments.


Hopefully this answers DeVos’ question about why she’s hated.


Rampant Ignorance of What a School Should Be



From politicians confusing a living wage with a handout—


To a white supremacist teacher podcast.


From a tone deaf government flunky using tragedy to do anything to stop gun violence except regulate firearms—


To a Bronx principal barring a black history lesson during Black History Month.


All-in-all, it’s been a crazy news cycle.


If one thing was made clear during the last seven plus days, it’s this:


Many people have no idea what a school should be.


Take West Virginia, the site of a recently resolved statewide teacher strike.


After years of watching the cost of living rise while wages remained stagnant, educators took to the streets to demand enough money that they wouldn’t have to quit their teaching jobs and look for work elsewhere.


It’s a reasonable request.


Imagine if we didn’t pay doctors enough to afford to practice medicine. Imagine if we didn’t pay lawyers enough to afford to practice law.


Teachers just wanted enough money so they could focus on educating the next generation and still get perks like food and shelter.


However, West Virginia is a self-confessed conservative state where self-identifying conservatives unashamedly explain that a full-throated expression of their conservative values includes the idea that you shouldn’t have to pay people a living wage for a hard day’s work.


Or as state Senator Lynne Arvone (R-Raleigh) put it:


“The teachers have to understand that West Virginia is a red state, and the free handouts are over.”


What, Sen. Arvone? Are you high?


A salary is not a “free handout.”


That’s redundant – there is no such thing as a free handout. Handouts are by definition free. That’s something you would have known had you paid more attention to your third grade language arts teacher. But, whatever.


Moreover, a salary is neither free nor a handout.


It is a fixed regular payment – often weekly or biweekly – made by an employer to an employee in exchange for doing a job.


West Virginia teachers are doing their job. State representatives like Arvone aren’t doing theirs.


They aren’t making teaching an attractive career and thus encouraging the best and brightest to become teachers. When you’ve already got a shortage of people willing to become educators, you have to invest. That’s economics 101! Basic supply and demand.


Admittedly, after 8 days of a state-wide strike, the legislature caved and gave teachers a 5% raise, but only moments before introducing a bill to reduce the requirements to become a West Virginia teacher in the future.




It’s like lawmakers are saying: Oh. So you want your raise? Here you go. But the next generation of teachers hired in the state will be more ignorant, less experienced, more unskilled and less professional. In short, they won’t expect to be paid a living wage because we’ve made teaching right up there with being a WalMart greeter!


So there!


If passed, the academic quality of education provided by West Virginia will drop.


But so will the cost. And that seems to be the only thing lawmakers like Arvone and her “conservative” colleagues seem to care about.


You know, I don’t think they know what conservative means, either.


It’s certainly not what a public school should be.


Want another example?


Take Dayanna Volitich, a 25-year-old Florida teacher who allegedly ran a white supremacist podcast until non-Aryans heard it, put two-and-two together and removed her from class.


On a recent episode she bragged about spreading racist and prejudiced ideas to her students.


According to an article in the Huffington Post describing her latest podcast:


Volitich also agreed with her guest’s assertion that more white supremacists need to infiltrate public schools and become teachers. “They don’t have to be vocal about their views, but get in there!” her guest said. “Be more covert and just start taking over those places.”


“Right,” Volitich said. “I’m absolutely one of them.”


Great. Just what we need. An army of undercover white supremacists being encouraged to enter the teaching profession – taking those newly minted minimum wage jobs vacated by more expensive but less biased educators.


As a more than 15-year veteran of the public school classroom, I have some advice for white supremacists thinking about becoming teachers: Don’t.


We don’t want you here.


No one has the time for your warmed over master race lullabies.


We don’t need another generation of privileged white people who think the world owes them something just because of the color of their skin.


We need an America made up of people of all colors and creeds who believe in a meritocracy. You get what you work for, what you earn.


And we need lawmakers to actually create a system that supports this ideal.


We need political parties and grassroots movements to push for such an America.


Nazi propaganda belongs in one place only – the history books. It is not part of our future.


And on a personal note, let me just say that becoming a teacher often makes you more progressive than you were when you started.


I know it did me.


Especially if you work at a high poverty, high minority district like I do.


Your job is to serve students’ needs. You push them to think, you don’t tell them what to think.


If that’s not what you’re up for, you’re not up for being an educator.


Indoctrination is not what school should be.


And that brings me to Betsy DeVos, our billionaire Education Secretary who bought her government position with campaign contributions and political connections.


She went to Parkland, Florida, this week to visit with students, teachers and administrators who survived a school shooting a couple weeks ago.


Or at least that’s what it probably said on the press release.


It was really just a publicity stunt to push for arming teachers instead of sensible gun control.


Parkland students have been rocking it holding demonstrations and speaking truth to power demanding that we keep them safe from future violence by banning assault rifles, mandatory background checks on all gun sales and other common sense measures favored by almost 70% of the nation.


DeVos took about five questions before walking out of her own press conference.


She didn’t meet with students – didn’t even try.


She was just there for a photo op.


Well, time’s up, Betsy.


The next generation isn’t putting up with your tone deaf water carrying. With your own family ties to mercenary soldiers for hire, it’s no surprise you’d be against gun control and in favor of firearms to chase away all the Grizzlies attacking our public schools.


It won’t stop the bloodshed but an increase in gun sales will boost your portfolio.


Arming teachers is one of the dumbest things on an agenda full of real whoppers from this absurd Presidential administration.


Teachers touting guns, shooting it out with armed terrorists – no. That’s not what a school should be, either.


So finally we get to the Bronx, where some dimwit who somehow became a principal told an English teacher not to teach a unit on the Harlem Renaissance.


You know, the Harlem Renaissance – Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois, Louis Armstrong, Zora Neale Hurston, Duke Ellington… Nobodies like them.


And if that’s not bad enough, she did it in February during Black History Month.


This number crunching pedant thought it was inappropriate because the teacher wasn’t in the social studies department.


This is what happens when you try to put education in a box with things like Common Core. Don’t teach background information, just look at every text divorced from everything else around it – the author’s personal history, what was happening in the world at the time or even how the reader responds to it.


Administrators like this need to take a seat and get out of teachers ways.


This kind of subtly racist micromanaging isn’t a part of what schools should be either.


Schools should be places where dedicated professionals are prized and valued. They’re given the autonomy to teach what they know is important and they make these decisions informed by the empiricism of what their students need.


Schools should be places without prejudice or racism. They should be cultural melting pots free from segregation and preconceived notions. They should be about academic freedom and the joy of learning.


I wish more people understood it.


Maybe then we could work to make our schools and our country more like the ideals of the overwhelming majority of the people living here.


Instead of continually letting the rich and privileged set the agenda.

Arming Already Stressed Out Teachers Will Only Increase the Chance of School Shootings



It happened in Georgia yesterday.


A beloved social studies teacher locked himself in his classroom while his students stood outside the door.


When the principal came with the key, the teacher fired a handgun through an exterior window.


Students ran, one even twisting her ankle in the escape.


Thankfully, no one else appears to have been injured.


However, the incident brings into focus a vital component of the gun debate.


Teachers are already under tremendous stress.


Arming them won’t stop gun violence. All it does is add another potential shooter.


It’s only been about two weeks since a shooting at Stonemason Douglas High School in Florida left 17 dead.


That’s at least 19 school shootings so far in 2018 – and it’s only the beginning of March!


In that time, the national media and the Trump administration have focused on one specific solution to stopping such violence from happening again: giving teachers guns.


The latest incident in Georgia underlines why this is such a terrible idea.


Teachers are not super heroes.


Take it from me. I’m an almost 15 year veteran of the middle school classroom in western Pennsylvania.


We’re just human beings.


My colleagues and I have all the same human failings and weaknesses as everybody else.


We get tired and overworked and put upon and stressed and sometimes…


…Sometimes we don’t handle it well.


I know some people don’t want to hear it.


Society has piled all kinds of responsibilities and unreasonable expectations on our shoulders.


We’re no longer allowed to be just educators.


We’re parents, counselors, disciplinarians, doctors, psychologists, lawyers, nutritionists…. The list goes on-and-on.


And now politicians actually want us to add law enforcement to the job description?


We’re already under colossal pressure, and some folks want to add a gun to that situation?


That’s lighting a fuse.


But don’t just take my word for it.


Back in 2015, tens of thousands of educators filled out the Quality of Worklife Survey conducted by the American Federation of Teachers and the Badass Teachers Association.


After responses from 91,000 school employees and 31,000 who completed the entire 80-question survey, a picture of the emotional landscape became clear.


A total 73% of respondents said they often feel stressed at work.

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The reasons? Adoption of new initiatives without proper training or professional development (71%), negative portrayal of teachers and school employees in the media (55%), uncertain job expectations (47%) and salary (46%) were the most common responses.

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The survey identified the following as most common everyday stressors in the workplace – time pressures, disciplinary issues and even a lack of opportunity to use the bathroom.

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Focusing just on the classroom, top stressors were mandated curriculum, large class sizes and standardized testing.

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Many teachers claimed to be the victims of violence at school.


A total 18% of all respondents said they had been threatened with physical violence – though the percentage jumped to 27% when looking solely at special education teachers.


A total of 9% of all respondents claimed to have been physically assaulted at school. Again the percentage jumped to 18% of all special education teachers.


But it’s not just physical assault.


A total of 30% claim to have been bullied by administrators (58%), co-workers (38%), students (34%) and student’s parents (30%).

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This is the situation where policymakers want to throw firearms.


Most gun violence doesn’t involve a shooter doing harm to others. The great majority of gun deaths are self-inflicted.


Even without adding guns to the mix, several high profile teachers and administrators already have committed suicide.


In October of 2010, for example, a California elementary school teacher named Rigoberto Ruelas, Jr. took his own life after the Los Angeles Times published a report labeling him a “less effective teacher.” Despite the fact that students and parents praised Ruelas, who taught in one of poorest schools in his district and who also was born, raised and continued to live in area where his school was located, the Times targeted him among other so-called “less effective” teachers as part of a major propaganda campaign.


And this isn’t an isolated incident. In July of 2015, a New York City principal under investigation for altering Common Core test scores, killed herself by jumping in front of a subway car.


Adding guns to this situation will just mean more teachers taking their own lives with a bullet.


That may have been the intent of the Georgia teacher in yesterday’s shooting.


Local police said they didn’t think he was trying to injure anyone else. When he shot his gun out of the window, he appeared to be trying to get others to leave him alone.


Arming teachers is a terrible solution to school violence. It’s taking an already stifling room and turning up the heat.


We need sensible gun regulations to reduce the pressure, not increase it.


We need sensible school policies that treat teachers and students like human beings and not just cogs in the system.


But this requires us to break out of a dangerous pattern in how we deal with social problems.


When we see a problem, we generally just shrug and leave it up to public schools and teachers to solve.


Inadequate resources – leave it to teachers to buy school supplies out of pocket.


Inequitable funding – increase class size and leave it to teachers to somehow make up the difference.


We can’t do the same with gun violence. We can’t just toss teachers a gun and tell them to sort it out.


Teachers can’t solve all of society’s problems alone.


That’s going to take all of us.


And we’ll need more than disingenuous proposals like answering gun violence with more guns.

Teaching is Hard Enough Without the Threat of Imminent Death




I am so sick of coming to school and having an impromptu meeting to discuss why my students and I might die today.




Every time there’s a major school shooting somewhere in the nation it seems a copycat makes a threat in my own backyard, and we react.


The police tell us it’s not a credible threat so school stays open.


However, be vigilant.


Be aware that our students know about the threat and will be talking about it.


We’ll bring in bomb-sniffing dogs…


But try to maintain calm and order.


There will be a lock down drill in a few days…


But try to make the kids feel safe and secure.


An older student violently attacked a classmate last week after threatening to go on a spree…


But attempt to establish an atmosphere conducive to learning.


To which, I say: are you freaking kidding me?


I know Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.




There are certain basic necessities anyone must have in order to become a fully actualized person.


After physiological necessities like food and water, safety is absolutely fundamental.


Without it, you can’t get people to focus much on anything else.


You can’t get children to pay attention to nouns and verbs, for instance, if they’re afraid they’re going to be shot and killed.


You can’t get them to care about writing a complete sentence, if they feel like they may have to duck and cover at any moment.


You can’t get them to bother with abstract reading comprehension if they’re afraid of imminent death!


Oh, and by the way, I’m not exactly at my best either!


My lesson plans aren’t going to win any awards when the best solution our legislators can come up with is giving me a loaded pistol to keep in my desk drawer!


Well, Yippee Ki Yay! I’m a teacher! Pew! Pew!


My 7th grade students are literally frightened that going to school on any given day may lead to the end of their lives.


Every couple of weeks on the news it’s another school shooting and another body count, while lawmakers do nothing to ensure it won’t happen again tomorrow.


Every few days, it’s a rumor about this or that troubled kid we all know snapping and throwing a gun in his backpack. Or it’s an anonymous threat scrawled on a wall or a social media page.


Today it was teaching classes where half the kids were missing because their parents held them out of school afraid a vague rumor of imminent violence was true.


And as I tried to assure those who did show up that everything was okay, law enforcement checked the lockers with K-9 police dogs looking for weapons or drugs.


What the heck are we coming to?


I work in a police state and my students are being asked to learn in a penitentiary.


And the teachers should get guns.


And the principals should get guns.


And the parents should get guns.


And the guns should get little tinier guns to protect themselves from even more guns!


This is madness.


We’re begging for a political solution but our political system is a shambles. Nothing puts that in starker contrast than the gun debate.


The overwhelming majority of Americans want sensible gun laws – an assault weapons ban, closing the gun show loophole, mental health screenings, etc.


If we lived in an authentic Democratic Republic, we’d have them. But we don’t, because we live in a plutocracy.


One industry has enough power and influence that the only solution our policymakers can safely suggest is one that increases that same industry’s bottom line.


It’s like Tony the Tiger suggesting the only cure for obesity is to eat more Frosted Flakes! They’re Ggggrrrreeeaaaattt!


A teacher’s job is hard enough without society crumbling all around us.


But that doesn’t mean the children aren’t learning.


They’re watching the world burn with wide eyes. They’re taking in every flame, every bullet hole, every cowardly senator, representative and chief executive.


They’re watching and taking names.



At the end of the year, policymakers will wag their fingers at the nation’s teachers about failing standardized test scores.


They’ll bemoan sinking academic standards, powerful labor unions and a lack of moral fiber as the cause of a generation of children who lost out on an education while cowering under bulletproof backpacks.


But this generation refuses to be lost.


Despite everything, they’ve left a trail of breadcrumbs back to sanity.


They are emotionally damaged by a country that no longer functions, but they know the truth.


They know who’s responsible. And they know what to do about it.


When they reject our society, we’ll know why.


Because the next generation will be nothing like us.


And on a day like today, that’s the most hopeful thought I can offer.

Economists Don’t Know Crap About Education



I hate to be blunt here, but economists need to shut the heck up.



Never has there been a group more concerned about the value of everything that was more incapable of determining anything’s true worth.



They boil everything down to numbers and data and never realize that the essence has evaporated away.



I’m sorry but every human interaction isn’t reducible to a monetary transaction. Every relationship isn’t an equation.



Some things are just intrinsically valuable. And that’s not some mystical statement of faith – it’s just what it means to be human.



Take education.



Economists love to pontificate on every aspect of the student experience – what’s most effective – what kinds of schools, which methods of assessment, teaching, curriculum, technology, etc. Seen through that lens, every tiny aspect of schooling becomes a cost analysis.



And, stupid us, we listen to them as if they had some monopoly on truth.



But what do you expect from a society that worships wealth? Just as money is our god, the economists are our clergy.



How else can you explain something as monumentally stupid as Bryan Caplan’s article published in the LA Times “What Students Know That Experts Don’t: School is All About Signaling, Not Skill-Building”?



In it, Caplan, a professor of economics at George Mason University, theorizes why schooling is pointless and thus education spending is a waste of money.


It would be far better in Caplan’s view to use that money to buy things like… oh… his new book “The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money.”


His argument goes something like this: the only value of an education is getting a job after graduation.


Businesses only care about school because they think it signifies whether prospective employees will be good or bad at their jobs. And students don’t care about learning – they only care about appearing to have learned something to lure prospective employers. Once you’re hired, if you don’t have the skills, employers have an incentive to give you on the job training. Getting an education is just about getting a foot in the door. It’s all just a charade.


Therefore, we should cut education funding and put kids to work in high school where they can learn how to do the jobs they’ll need to survive.


No wonder economics is sometimes called “The Dismal Science.” Can you imagine having such a dim view of the world where THAT load of crap makes sense?


We’re all just worker drones and education is the human equivalent of a mating dance or brilliant plumage – but instead of attracting the opposite sex, we’re attracting a new boss.


Bleh! I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.


This is what comes of listening to economists on a subject they know nothing about.


I’m a public school teacher. I am engaged in the act of learning on a daily basis. And let me tell you something – it’s not about merely signifying.


I teach 7th and 8th grade language arts. My students aren’t simply working to appear literate. They’re actually attempting to express themselves in words and language. Likewise, my students aren’t just working to appear as if they can comprehend written language. They’re actually trying to read and understand what the author is saying.


But that’s only the half of it.


Education isn’t even just the accumulation of skills. Students aren’t hard drives and we’re not simply downloading information and subroutines into their impressionable brains.


Students are engaged in the activity of becoming themselves.


Education isn’t a transaction – it’s a transformation.


When my students read “The Diary of Anne Frank” or To Kill a Mockingbird, for example, they become fundamentally different people. They gain deep understandings about what it means to be human, celebrating social differences and respecting human dignity.


When my students write poetry, short fiction and essays, they aren’t merely communicating. They’re compelled to think, to have an informed opinion, to become conscious citizens and fellow people.


They get grades – sure – but what we’re doing is about so much more than A-E, advanced, proficient, basic or below basic.


When the year is over, they KNOW they can read and understand complex novels, plays, essays and poems. The maelstrom of emotions swirling round in their heads has an outlet, can be shared, examined and changed.


Caplan is selling all of that short because he sees no value in it. He argues from the lowest common denominator – no, he argues from the lowest actions of the lowest common denominator to extrapolate a world where everything is neatly quantifiable.


It’s not hard to imagine why an economist would be seduced by such a vision. He’s turned the multi-color world into black and white hues that best suit his profession.


In a way, I can’t blame him for that. For a carpenter, I’m sure most problems look like a hammer and a nail. For a surgeon, everything looks like a scalpel and sutures.


But shame on us for letting one field’s myopia dominate the conversation.


No one seems all that interested in my economic theories about how to maximize gross domestic product. And why would they? I’m not an economist.


However, it’s just as absurd to privilege the ramblings of economists on education. They are just as ignorant – perhaps more so.


It is a symptom of our sick society.


We turn everything into numbers and pretend they can capture the reality around us.


This works great for measuring angles or determining the speed of a rocket. But it is laughably unequipped to measure interior states and statements of real human value.


That’s why standardized tests are inadequate.


It’s why value added teacher evaluations are absurd. It’s why Common Core is poppycock.


Use the right tool for the right job.


If you want to measure production and consumption or the transfer of wealth, call an economist.


If you want to understand education, call a teacher.

When Will It Happen Here?




It could happen at anytime in my classroom.


The thing we’ve all been dreading.


A hasty announcement of lock down. An unexpected fire alarm. The sounds of shouting, running feet and… gunshots.


The lights could go out. The door could burst in.


There’s really very little we could do.


My room has no windows. No closets. Nowhere to hide.


These are the thoughts going through my head as my students sit at their desks during homeroom this morning.


Jayden is taking off his hoodie before the principal catches him out of dress code.


Alaina is pestering me for a pass to the library.


Darnell is surreptitiously munching on a pixie stick stashed in his book bag.


It’s all so mundane, so subdued, so quiet.


A few kids are on the computers in the back, others at their desks reading books, writing papers, or listening to music on their iPads.


But there’s very little conversation.


The class of middle schoolers is restrained, thoughtful – which is unusual for children of 12 or 13.


I sit slumped at my desk – exhausted though I haven’t even taught my first class yet.


The news from last night still plays in my head.


Seventeen people killed by an expelled student at a high school in Parkland, Florida.


Or was it two killed in Kentucky?


How long was it since the last one?


And now here we are – back in the line of fire.


I can’t help but think about my daughter somewhere across town. She’s probably just entering her third grade classroom maybe munching on the remains of a candy heart from Valentine’s Day. Just like me and my students, she’s in the cross hairs.


But what can we do about it?


I can’t hold her out of school forever. I can’t quit my job and work from home. Even if I could, there’s absolutely nothing I can do for the twenty children quietly sitting at their desks in the room with me, abiding the rules of a society too broken to protect us.


After last night, it feels like things have changed somehow.


There have been 18 school shootings so far this year. And it’s only February. Most have resulted in zero injuries.


Of those where people were hurt, the person most in danger was the shooter. But I can’t stop thinking about those cases where a hunter came to school to kill children and teachers.


As an educator, I’ve been taught how to handle just about every situation.


If one of my children acts out, or doesn’t hand in her homework, or even throws up – I know what to do.


But none of my training has prepared me to out teach a semiautomatic weapon.


I can’t differentiate past a bullet.


There is no paperwork that will invalidate the gunpowder or slow the endless rounds through whatever they come into contact.


If someone comes to school with a gun and a will to kill, I will be little more than a target.


But don’t get me wrong.


This doesn’t mean society should gift me a handgun to keep in my desk next to the chalk.


I am not a law enforcement officer or an action hero. I’m a teacher.


You don’t want me returning fire at every mindless bureaucratic hitch in the schedule. You want me assigning essays and chapter readings. You don’t want me keeping a gun out of reach of curious youngsters always at my desk and in my personal space. You want me safeguarding student assignments and – heck – my cell phone that kids keep trying to snatch and look through my camera roll.


What we need is real gun control legislation.


We need an assault weapons ban.


We need to close the gun show loophole.


We need buyback programs to get the mountains of firearms off the streets and out of the arsenals of a handful of paranoid “survivalists”.


In short, we need lawmakers willing to make laws.


We need legislators who will represent the overwhelming majority of the public and take sensible action to protect the people of this country.


What we don’t need are the trolls who hijack every conversation arguing the semantics of the term “assault rifle” or “terrorist.”


We don’t need weak politicians cautioning against “politicizing” mass shootings because the violence is too fresh.


We don’t need anyone’s thoughts and prayers.


We need action.


And we need it yesterday.


Some people are calling on teachers to take action to force our lawmakers to finally do something.


They suggest a national teachers strike on May 1st – May Day – if Congress refuses to act.


That sounds like a good idea to me.


I’m game.


But we need more than that.


We need everyone who feels the same way to join in the fight.


Parents, children, grandparents, principals, police, firefighters, soldiers and nurses – the multitudinous faces of America must come together to fight this monstrosity as one.


I may sit in that classroom.


My students and my daughter may be in danger.


But America must be the shield.


America must rise up and protect our future.


WE must take charge.


Otherwise, it is not a case of can it happen here.


It is a case of when.

Go Ahead, SCOTUS. Rule Against Unions in Janus Case. You’ll Only Make Us Stronger





The corporate owned far right has been trying to destroy labor unions for decades.


But this time they may have finally overplayed their hand.


The upcoming Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 case set for a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb 26 has been billed as the final nail in the coffin for public sector unions.


With the pitifully weak Democrats giving up President Obama’s pick for the bench in favor of Trump’s absurd choice, Neil Gorsuch, the court has a decidedly conservative bias.


So court watchers expect the latest challenge to collective bargaining rights to come out in favor of the corporations and billionaires who have spent truckloads of money to ensure the little guy has less of a say in the workplace.


BUT! They aren’t taking into account how stupid these far right shills truly are!


The case comes down to this: some people working in a union job don’t think they should have to pay union dues even though they benefit from the contract negotiated by their union. They affirm that being part of a union is political speech and thus they cannot be compelled to pay – yet somehow they should be able to keep all the benefits of being in a union, anyway.


So the union gets me a raise and better healthcare, but – even though none of my dues go to pay for political campaigns (that money is donated separately and voluntarily) – just being in a union is a political act.


If the court rules in favor of this position, unions would no longer be able to compel members to pay dues.


Pay them, don’t pay them – there’s nothing the union could do.


Conservatives are betting that if dues become voluntary on a person-by-person basis, at least a few members will opt out and thus weaken union finances and ability to collectively bargain for everyone.


But what they don’t seem to understand is that a decision like this would overturn decades of established law.


It would overturn mountains of legal decisions that provide the foundation for how our government works.


In short, how many times are we compelled to pay for things we don’t necessarily believe in?


Answer: every freakin’ day!


How much of my tax dollars go to the military? What if I don’t want my taxes used to pay for a bloated war machine?


How much of my hard earned money is wasted on corporate subsidies? What if I don’t want to prop up huge multinational businesses already making record profits?


How much of my money go to privatized schools? What if I’m against charter and voucher schools and want my taxes instead to fund fully public schools with elected boards, transparency and who have to accept all students regardless of ability?


If the court rules against unions, then I guess I won’t have to pay my taxes anymore – or at very least, I will have to be given the option of where my tax dollars go.


Not just SOME of my tax dollars – every single penny on a line-by-line basis for every single tax payer in the United States!


An Illinois based engineering union wrote in detail about exactly how such a ruling would change the landscape. Operating Engineers Local 150, wrote on their blog titled, “Union Busters Set Themselves Up for Janus Backfire”:



“If not bargaining is protected free speech, then bargaining will conversely be protected free speech, giving union workers new protections that we’ve never enjoyed before.  For example:

  1. Governor Scott Walker’s now infamous Act 10, the law that destroyed public sector collective bargaining in Wisconsin, will be declared an unconstitutional, content-based restriction on speech and association.


  1. Every state in America will now be subject to bargaining with their public sector employees, even if they didn’t previously.



  1. Local municipalities will be subject to numerous taxpayer lawsuits based upon forced contributions to lobbying groups.


  1. The municipal lobbying industry, currently an extremely large source of revenue for lobbyists, will be decimated as taxpayers now have a First Amendment right to demand their tax dollars are not used for lobbying or political advocacy.



  1. Public Sector pensions will be adversely affected as participants demand that their forced pension contributions are not used for corporate speech.


  1. Municipal advertising, tax increment financing, and all other types of tax breaks (think Foxxcon in Wisconsin) will be subject to litigation based upon taxpayers’ First Amendment rights to opt-out of this type of speech. The same burdensome calculations that are currently leveled only upon unions would become widespread.”


Shaun Richman, a former organizing director for the American Federation of Teachers, agrees.


In an article for In These Times called “How A Supreme Court Decision to Gut Public Sector Unions Could Backfire,” he writes:



“The ruling could both wildly increase workers’ bargaining power and clog the lower courts with First Amendment challenges to routine uses of taxpayer money. At a minimum, it has the potential to turn every public sector workplace dispute into a constitutional controversy…”



Frankly, this is kind of exciting.


In trying to stifle workers’ free speech, conservatives may unravel the statutes that have muzzled us for years.


A decision against unions by the Supreme Court would open the way for thousands of cases throughout the court system – challenge after challenge. Certainly conservative justices would try to staunch the tide, but they simply couldn’t stop every case – especially after such a dangerous precedent has been set!


The SCOTUS would be unleashing chaos on the justice system, and I, for one, hope that every workers union takes advantage of it.


Every individual across the political spectrum should file suit against whichever political peccadillo they want. Evangelicals can file against public schools using their tax dollars to teach evolution. Libertarians could file against having a standing army. Liberals could file against oil pipelines.


And on and on and on.


Meanwhile, those workers unions that conservatives are hoping will be destroyed will be just fine.


You think workers won’t pay their union dues? Some might try, but doing so will have immense personal ramifications. At very least, it will make those individuals social pariahs. Who wants to associate with someone who thinks they should get all the benefits without paying like everyone else?


Moreover, I don’t advocate violence against anyone, but stiffing your co-workers on your union dues is a sure fire way to get slashed tires. Do you put your lunch in a communal fridge? I wouldn’t eat that after word gets out you’re a free rider. Not unless you like to share your co-worker’s saliva.


Again, I’m not advocating for any of that, but it’s just the way humans behave. We don’t like paying for any other able-bodied person whose “political” decision puts our lives and livelihoods in jeopardy.


The end result of a ruling against unions would forever put collective bargaining rights firmly under the protection of the First Amendment.


It would protect all speech – including union rights.


So I say, go ahead, SCOTUS, make our day!