Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Challenge To The TeachStrong Campaign
By:  Marla Kilfoyle, Executive Director, The Badass Teachers Association 

Yesterday astroturf groups launched a new campaign to fix teaching.  It was called #TeachStrong.  It sadly included my two national unions.  I say “my” because they are my unions.

…and by the way, I did not give them the permission to align with groups that have a long history of destroying our profession and public education.

I’ll just leave that here…

The TeachStrong campaign seeks to “modernize and elevate the teaching profession.”   To many career teachers, we have a problem with this statement, a HUGE problem.   It insinuates that the teaching profession needs “fixing” and that once again teachers are the problem.

Reality check is this – many of the organizations that have joined the TeachStrong coalition are:

Education policy organizations that have done nothing but damage to the American education system

Education policy organizations that choose to make the teacher the scapegoat but refuse to address how poverty influences a child in school.

Education policy organizations who choose to use the millions they get not to address the things that kids need in public education like a neighborhood public school, nurses, psychologists, librarians, small class size, and much more.

Education policy organizations that choose to ignore the gentrification of neighborhoods throughout America and the institutional racism that is rampant in education policy as seen in the expansion of the charter movement and mass closure of schools, and whole school districts, specifically in black and brown communities.

To sum it up the #TeachStrong Campaign is just another corporate education reform coalition that ignores
Child poverty
Institutional racism
Destruction of the local school board
Destruction of the teaching profession (specifically targeted at Teachers of Color and Veteran Teachers)
Destruction of public education

Quickly examine the money that some of the "partners" involved in #TeachStrong have gotten from the Gates, Broad, or Walton Foundations.

Gates Foundation grant money received in either 2014 or 2015

Alliance for Excellent Education $600,000
Center for American Progress $850,000
Council of Chief State School Officers $6,148,749
Deans for Impact  $260,906
The Education Trust  $100,000
Hope Street Group $1,512,142
Leading Educators $850,000
National Center for Learning Disabilities $124,315
National Center for Teacher Residencies $6,847,720
National Council on Teacher Quality $3,427,639
National Women’s Law Center $315,000
Stand for Children $3,580,000
Teach for America $261,500
Teach Plus $7,500,000
TNTP $12,000,000

You can search all the donations that the Gates Foundation made in any given year here 

The Walton and Broad Foundations, equally destructive to public education, have financed a few of the coalition partners.

Education Post got  $12 million from the Broad Foundation, Walton Foundation, and an anonymous donor

Teach for America got  $50 million from the Walton Foundation

When we add up all the money that these organizations have taken from foundations that have been more destructive to public education, and most destructive to public education in black and brown communities, that number would be well over $100 million.

Here would be my humble, "teacher of 29 years in public education", suggestion for a 6 point plan to challenge TeachStrong to do something  that could actually help children and teachers.
1.  Rehire the 7,000 teachers who were fired in Chicago over the last two years.
2. Return the over 7,000 teachers who lost their jobs in New Orleans after Katrina and use them to help rebuild the public school system.
3.  Start to assist in the rebuilding of the Detroit  Public School system and promote the return of its exiled elected school board.
4.  Promote and create PUBLIC SCHOOLS  with wrap around services in every community of need in America.  End school closings and use teachers to set policies for schools that struggle.
5.  Begin a campaign that promotes the hiring of teachers of color and an end to pushing out our  veteran teachers.
6.  Begin a campaign that includes all government agencies to eradicate child poverty, gentrification of neighborhoods around America, and address issues of systemic racism that not only exist in education policy but also in our communities.

I dare you to try that 6 point plan.


  1. That is scary. I believe now is the time to act and wrote my first petition: Hi,

    I am a first generation college graduate and I have been and am witnessing the split of the middle class in the last twenty years due to the funneling of public taxes to private companies. These loopholes need closed and, today, people do recognize that gender equality is accomplishable. We must ask for it, talk about it, and work together to create classrooms nationwide where every child and teacher work together to build finer versions of ourselves.

    That's why I created a petition to The Oregon State House, The Oregon State Senate, and 4 others.

    Will you sign this petition? Click here:


  2. WRONG TURN: So sad to see Lily Eskelsen-Garcîa agree that the top education policy issue of 2016 is "modernizing" the teaching profession.

    THE RESEARCH: We know in-school factors do not contribute to learning obstacles as much as out-of-school factors like poverty, trauma, nutrition, teen parenting, crime, drugs, etc. To single out "teaching" as the #1 priority is simply a political scam to distract us from policies of glaring inequity and keep the revolving door spinning.

    After all the protests, it's hard to see these corporate lobbyists and PACs offering money to politicians who will double down on Common Core, test-based accountability, centralized planning and privatization when the boots on the ground are so clearly going the other way. If I was advising Hillary or Bernie or a coalition of "concerned" education advocacy organizations, I'd the biggest priorities are:

    1 - declare opportunity inequality the biggest priority in education, with a new focus on whole-child factors and economic disparity

    2 - end the federal mandate for annual standardized testing and restore local control to states and school districts, including democratically elected officials accountable to the community

    3 - pivot from standardization to individualization, educating children based on actual need and realistic functioning level instead of age-based benchmarks and cookie-cut methods emplyed "at scale"

    4 - banish for-profit entities from doing business in the public education space, not only to restore funding robbed from classrooms, but to eliminate profit-based incentives from perverting policy

    5 - require all outside contractors to work directly with students, testing and evaluating their products under real world learning conditions and demonstrating efficacy before exporting practices

  3. It's actually a six-point plan. And her's a 7th point. Get rid of the goddamn tests that reflect the wealth gap and do nothing to narrow it!

  4. I'm torn. I understand the "seat at the table" discussion. If we talk to North Korea and Iran, we can talk to TFA and the Chamber of Commerce. Yes, if I sit down at that table I'll be tempted to throw food. I hope we shout more than we listen...


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