Monday, January 18, 2016

Bill Gates Testifies at the USDOE!
On Monday, January 11th four members of the Badass Teachers Association drove to DC, on their own dime, and testified at the USDOE about ESSA (the new education law passed this year).  The department was accepting testimony on Title 1 and seeking advice and recommendations.

You can see their testimony here

Jamy Brice Hyde 1:16:23
Julie Borst 55:00
Marla Kilfoyle 3:20:18
Melissa Love Light Tomlinson 4:55:32
(Sandy Goodwick is set to testify on Jan. 19th in California, and her testimony will be put here)

Once they saw the program, they became concerned because it was obvious that out of the over 50 groups/people testifying 24 of them had accepted a ton of cash from The Gates Foundation.  Here is the full list of folks who testified and who got money from the Gates Foundation (since 2013).

So, in essence, the Gates Foundation paid $341,170,557 to make sure their beliefs on education get heard at the USDOE.   As an aside, and not added to the chart above, TFA has received $50 million from the Walton Foundation  

and $50 million  from the Broad Foundation   Both of these foundations are huge supporters of the privatization efforts directed at public education.
If we add Gates $341,170,557 to Walton/Broad money we are looking at $441,170,557 that corporate education reform paid to make sure their voice is heard at the USDOE!  

Should testimony count when it is bought off and pushing policies that are not good for education or children?
Bill Gates is Wrong.
The Walton Foundation is Wrong.
The Broad Foundation is Wrong.
Not one of the above has done anything good for public education, children, or teachers!
It is perplexing that the department held these hearings on a weekday when most teachers and administrators could not testify and lend some authentic (aka not bought off) voice to the day. It was obvious to all of that it was scheduled on a Monday during the time teachers are teaching, and most working class folks are in a 9-5 job. Even Lily Eskelsen Garcia, President of NEA, snarkily informed the panel that her members were in the classroom doing what they do best,  teaching our nation's children.

Well, it is NOT perplexing the hearings were held at this specific time and on this specific day.  The department, over the course of the Duncan regime, has let Bill Gates and his foundation determine the course for education in America.  
We all know how well that IS NOT working.  

It seems that most of the groups who can fly folks all over the country to “testify”, due to substantial money from Gates, all gave the same speech.  The word “high standards” must have been mentioned at least a hundred times and many pleaded with the USDOE to enforce the 95% participation in annual testing rule.  Jamy Brice Hyde was happy to inform them that if 95% of the kids participated in those tests, the data mined from the results would not reveal what these kids needed in their schools. We all know that American classrooms have NEVER held kids to high standards until the magic of Common Core came along (NOT). 

When you listen to the testimony of Jamy Brice Hyde you will see that she explains very clearly that she had to pay her way to DC, she drove 6 hours and had to take a union day to attend.   No one paid her to testify.  Melissa Tomlinson clearly points out that ESSA and Title 1 should be about children and NOT standards, data, or technology.  Julie Borst clearly laid out how Social Impact Bonds would allow Wall Street to get their grubby hands on tax dollar money at the expense of our special needs children.  Marla Kilfoyle spoke about the harm that was being done to ESL students due to the “new” and amazing “high standards” (not).  She also discussed concerns about the tech language in the new ESSA bill (which we all know was put there to benefit the tech companies, testing companies, and of course Bill Gates).  Jamy was brought to tears by the lack of teacher voice in the room. All were disgusted by the Gates dollars represented in the room through various groups.  Jamy further lets the USDOE know if they asked the teachers parents and students what their schools needed they would get precise answers along with REAL solutions on how to improve public schools.

In a December 22nd letter, written by Ann Whelan, the USDOE threatened to withhold Title I funding from those schools and states that do not meet the 95% participation rate in annual tests.  Both Marla and Jamy informed them that the opt-outs will continue until the USDOE wins the trust of teachers and parents across the country. Their THREATS continue to perpetuate the DIVIDE and do not foster the positive relationships that schools MUST have with their communities.   Former Commissioner King (aka Acting Secretary of Education)  will have no problem instituting programs that are harmful to our kids with a deaf ear to parents and teachers. Why? He did it in New York resulting in catastrophic chaos for NY public schools and leaving a generation of children and their education in utter shambles! TEACHERS, PARENTS, and STUDENTS MUST HAVE THEIR VOICES HEARD!
So, here is the ask - many of us could not be there because we were teaching or perhaps we were  working a 9-5 job.  Here is what you MUST do- the window of time that the USDOE has allowed to provide comments, and testimony ends shortly (Jan. 21st). Only available for less than a month, it is apparent that the USDOE still does not want to operate with neither the transparency that is needed and not include the actual stakeholders of education - students, parents, and teachers. During this small window, the site will even be down for maintenance on Monday, January 18th.
Once again, it is looking like all attempts will be made to exclude the voices of educators in the decision-making process and now is the time to call them out on that, while we are pushing for change. Short time spans for comments, weekday public sessions, and a lack of publicity are all tools being used to silence us.
Submit your letter here and  include Docket #ED-2015-OESE-0109!submitComment;D=ED-2015-OESE-0109-0001

You can go here for letter writing tips

Immediate pushback is necessary. States are already being asked to submit their assessment programs for approval and need to have that squared away before accountability plans are approved. This process is not allowing for collaboration and input. ESSA was written with the spirit of real collaboration in mind. The USDOE's attempt to move this through quickly is in direct contempt and denial of the original intent and spirit of the legislation.

Are we going to have a fresh start or have we merely continued the NCLB/RttT connection, under a new name?

The USDOE has already listened to the will of $441,170,557
Will they have the courage to listen to the will of the people?

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