Monday, November 28, 2016

Better Education for Kids!

“Better Education for Kids!” Now, who does not want a better education for kids?

This was what I saw when I started to look at information about Better Education for NJ Kids. I started this research after reading a NY Post article that blamed the teacher’s union for the current NJ Pension crisis.

The NJEA...not the governor that has failed to fund the pension...not the hedge fund managers that have profited from the fees of managing the pension portfolios...not the legislators that have failed to hold the state accountable for honoring the commitment of Chapter 78 to make the required pension payments…

Looking at the B4KNJ website, their section about teachers makes this claim:

Research has shown that no in-school factor – not class size, not school attended, not facilities has a greater impact on student performance than a great teacher, and we believe that every New Jersey student should have the opportunity to learn from a great teacher.

So, am I to believe that if you put the best teacher in a room of 30 students within a rundown classroom with little resources that this teacher will be able to create miraculous results and achieve success with every student in the class? After all, this is the best teacher, right?

Their website also states:

Put simply, our teachers are the single most important part of the NJ public education system, and it is inconceivable that any significant reform could occur without due regard for teachers and the teaching profession.

Ask classroom teachers what reforms they really want to see in the classrooms. It will not be the reforms that B4KNJ are promoting. Teachers want a reduction in paperwork (SGOs = nightmare), a decoupling of standardized tests and teacher evaluations (Refuse PARCC!), access to resources, teacher-led professional development, a collaborative work environment, a stake in decision making processes and policy decisions, protection of tenure to be able to advocate for their students, small class sizes, and the freedom to make curriculum and instructional decisions.

Instead, this is how B4KNJ wants to improve the NJ Education system

1 - Teach NJ - including “value added measures”

2 - Align Personnel Policies with Teacher Performance - merit pay and stripping of teacher tenure

3 - Empower Principals and Hold Them Accountable for Excellence in Their Schools - extension of TeachNJ for principals, holding them accountable for the performance of others that includes factors that are not under their control

B4KNJ focuses only on teachers as the main target for reform - again emphasizing the point that if a great teacher is in front of every classroom, then nothing else will matter.

And where does B4KNJ want to recruit good teachers from? Why Teach for America of course!

Furthermore, we must expand opportunities for the recruitment of non-traditional teaching candidates such as outstanding college students (via programs like Teach For America)...

Here is a breakdown of the people behind B4KNJ who proclaim to want what is best for kids in NJ.

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From there, I started researching some of the people involved in B4KNJ.

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Better Education for Kids NJ is not really new on the scene, but they seem to be rearing their ugly head again in the education reform scene. Most recently, this was evidenced in Jersey City where their mailings for the Jersey City School Board race must have cost a pretty penny.

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I urge you to read some of the past history so you can become educated about this reform group.

Additional interesting information:

Starting to dig deeper into the financial hedge fund companies that surround David Tepper some connections were noted:

Connection of Appaloosa Management to Palomino Fund, based in the tax-exempt Cayman Islands.

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My Union
By:  Anonymous Teacher

There's been a a lot of talk lately about busting teachers unions, and how unions help "bad teachers" keep their jobs. I've worked in non-union schools and have been in a union in a public school since 2000. I can say without a doubt that it is FAR easier to be an advocate for kids in a union school. So I thought I would take a minute to list out the ways my union has helped me stand up for kids.

1- When I was teaching inclusion and my principal decided to start pulling me on a regular basis to cover classes (because of lack of subs), my union stepped in on my behalf and put a stop to it (thus ensuring my students' IEPs were not violated).

2-Same principal lied about me and tried to get me in huge trouble with the superintendent while I was fighting for 1:1 aide services during lunch, recess, and gym for a child with a visual impairment. (I honestly believe this whole crazy mess was retribution for going to the union about being pulled to cover classes).

3-Different principal wanted me to test prep my self-contained students. When I refused he started watching me like a hawk, looking for every tiny mistake I made and threatening to write me up. Same principal told me that my kids were not successful because I "didn't believe in them". My union stepped in and protected my right to run my classroom as I saw fit (again, ensuring that IEP goals were addressed and time was not wasted on useless test prep).

4-My union made it possible to testify in front of the state legislators about the impact of high stakes testing on my special needs students.

5-My union made it possible for me to speak again about high stakes testing in front of the state chancellor, regents, and legislators at the John King roadshow at local high school (name of school deleted to protect identity of the teacher).

6-My union made it possible for me to speak about the impact of common core on my students at the CC task farce (aka force) hearing at a local university (name of university deleted to protect identity of the teacher).

Do unions protect teachers? Of course. But teachers protect kids. I would have stood up for my kids in all these situations regardless. But if I didn't have my union protection, I honestly believe I would have been fired after the first two. In the second example, my principal was laying the groundwork to get me out.

We really need to stop perpetuating the "failing schools", "bad teachers", "greedy unions" narrative. All it does is play into the hands of the education reformers that are just looking to make a quick buck off our kids

The Problem with Choice

By:  Pauline Hawkins

I know too many people who are not educators (and some who are) that are in favor of the choice movement in education. The biggest reason people want choice is to improve the education for their own children and then create competition so that other schools will be forced to improve or shut down. Unfortunately, both reasons are based in misconceptions about education.
I will concede that “choice” is not a bad thing when you are talking about businesses, service industries, and commodities. We definitely want businesses to compete for our money. Competition makes businesses strive for excellence. That’s why people, outside of education mostly, thought that “choice” would make all schools better, but it hasn’t.
Why? First, because education is not a business; it is a human right (Article 26) that is protected as part of our inalienable fundamental rights to which people are entitled simply because they are human beings, “without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour (sic), sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”
In other words, if a business fails, the owners can start over, maybe poorer and a little wiser, but no real harm done. If a school fails, it has negatively affected the human rights of every child that went to that failing school.
So how does the “choice” movement hurt human rights? Bear with me as I try to explain this point.
If you are for “choice” in education, you want better “service” for your child. We all want what is best for our children–I’m not arguing that. But if your child is going to a failing school, and you have the money to pay for private schools, which is part of that choice movement, then you will no longer care about that failing school because you can give your child something better (unless your child makes a mistake which will result in an expulsion with no chance of return to that private school). That is great for you and your family, but what about all the other children who can’t afford to pay for private schools?
The next question is usually, isn’t that why people came up with charter schools, so that people who can’t afford private schools can still get a quality education? Yes. Charter schools, in general, are another great idea–on paper. You don’t have to pay for charter schools out of your own pocket—technically—but your tax dollars go to those schools. Our government gives charter schools a certain amount of money for every child enrolled in that charter school; so just like public schools, our government pays for your child’s education—that is if you are lucky enough to get selected, and your child behaves well enough to stay at that school. Most charter schools operate on a lottery system, so not all students will get in, and most schools will kick students out who make mistakes or make the school look bad in any way.
Once again, for those parents who want choice, this sounds great because those children who are selected have a great atmosphere for learning.
However, what people forget is that there are many students who will have to continue going to that failing school. If you can’t worry about someone else’s children, then just consider this: Pulling your child out of the failing school does not pull them out of the society in which they live. One way or another, the negative effects of that failing school will still affect you and your children.
Just to summarize the first point, education is not a business; it is a human right. Therefore, educational choice is about people only caring about their children—no one else’s. Those who can afford it will choose to pay for their children to go to private schools. Out of those that remain, some parents will apply to charter schools and a few lucky students will get selected. That leaves the rest in public schools because public schools will take every rejected and expelled student and do the best they can to educate those students within the confines of the system. Public schools also have incredible students who are successful despite the “choice” movement.
Is it any wonder our public schools look like they are failing if the wealthy and well behaved students are all going somewhere else? Along these lines, by eliminating the heterogeneous classroom in all three options, it makes it harder for those struggling students to see what work ethic, study skills, and perseverance looks like. On the other hand, a classroom that has students with different genders, talents, abilities, interests, backgrounds, and cultures will help all students work toward a higher standard. The students in heterogeneous schools can relate to the world better because they experience diversity on a daily basis. The homogeneous classrooms found in private and charter schools miss out on this necessary part of children’s education. Also, when you remove the top tier of motivated students, the learning culture deteriorates on multiple levels. Students with average ability, motivation, or interest lose that interest, and kids who struggle for whatever reason just give up. Remember, we want our children to be civic-minded and global citizens. How can they understand the global world or empathize with the struggles in our society if they grow up only relating to people just like them? Denver Post cartoon satirizing the effect of standardized tests on public education.
Denver Post cartoon satirizing the effect of standardized tests on public education.
Second, it is important to note that private and charter schools don’t operate under the government’s watchful eye, which allows them to reject the highly controversial Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and refuse to participate in the corresponding state tests. Since these schools operate independently, they don’t have to participate in the very reasons that people are complaining about public schools. As a matter of fact, many private and charter schools saw the CCSS as a flawed document right from the start and opted out of it.
Remember, CCSS and the state tests are mandated for public schools by the government, while at the same time, the government is pushing for more charter schools that do not have to follow the mandates of the government. Does that make sense? So how can this “choice” movement improve the quality of all schools, when public schools don’t have the autonomy to fix their schools?
Third, to make matters worse, the government is giving money to private and charter schools because of that “choice” movement in the form of vouchers—money that could be given to public schools to improve those failing schools. Of course private and charter schools are going to appear as the right “choice” when they have money to purchase the newest technology, have the freedom to be innovative, and can reject the foolish educational reforms that are more about money than about our children.
Those outside of education do not understand that public schools cannot choose to change their operating methods, so it is impossible for public schools to compete in this so called “business market.” Besides the fact that education is a human right and not a business, the business competition model cannot change public schools because public schools are at the mercy of the government that continues to cut the budget of public schools to pay for tests and to give vouchers to private and charter schools.
Fourth, people and the government are not paying attention to the problems with some charter schools. John Oliver did this great piece on charter schools that exposed the problems with the government funding these unregulated entities. Many “nonprofit” charter schools are finding deceptive was to make a profit. Once again, if “choice” education is supposed to create competition and a striving for excellence among all schools, Oliver’s research shows how that business model is failing even in the charter school industry.
On the other side of this issue, though, I will admit, there are some amazing charter schools out there. This is my biggest frustration: If there are innovative schools that are working, why can’t we adopt those innovations in public schools?
If parents truly want choice, this is where we as parents and educators need to concentrate our efforts. In Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the statement that “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children” should be taken literally and used to fix public education for all, not to give choice only to the wealthy and the fortunate.
If we want true education reformation, we need to make sure the public tax dollars are being used correctly to create an actual choice movement within the public school system itself: Increase money being spent on public education to improve ALL schools, regardless of location; increase teachers’ salaries to create a true competition for quality teachers; increase public school autonomy so that principals and teachers can use their knowledge and experience to innovate and create the right learning environment for their students.
If people are really concerned about choice, they should make sure their local public school is doing what their children need in order to thrive. Imagine a public school that has the elite academic prep curriculum of Phillips Exeter Academy for those students who are college bound; the innovation of The Ron Clark Academy for those who are creative or learn differently; the care and nurturing of the Learning Skills Academy for those with learning disabilities; and The Independent Project ( for those who want independence and a nontraditional education. Using these innovative schools as models to transform public schools would meet the needs of every student regardless of race, gender, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status—not just the wealthy and lucky few.

The Essential Selfishness of School Choice

By Steven Singer, Director BATs Blogging/Research

Say your friend Sheila invites you over to her house.
Sheila has just made a fresh pumpkin pie.
She offers you a slice.
You politely refuse, but she insists. She hands you the knife so you can take as big a piece as you like.
You start to cut and then ask, “Does it matter where I cut from?”
Sheila says, “No. Take whatever you want.”
You don’t like crust, so you cut a perfect triangle piece from the middle of the pie.
Sheila’s face reddens.
This wasn’t exactly what she meant, but what is she going to do? You took your slice, and now the rest of the pie is ruinedNo one else can take a whole piece. Your choice has limited everyone else’s.
It privileges the choice of some and limits the choices of others.
Advocates say parents should be able to choose the school their children attend.
And parents today do have many choices. About 90% send their kids to traditional public schools. Others home school, pay for private schools or opt for charter or voucher schools.
The problem comes with these last two options. In both cases, tax money meant to help all children is siphoned off for just one child. In the case of vouchers, tax money goes to pay part of the tuition at a private or parochial school. In the case of charters, we’re diverting tax money to a school that’s public in name but privately run.
That means less money for traditional public schools and more money for privately run institutions. That’s really what school choice is – a way to further privatize public schools.
Why is that bad?

First, it increases the cost and reduces the services for everyone.

Public schools pool all the funding for a given community in one place. By doing so, they can reduce the cost and maximize the services provided. One building costs less than two. The same goes for one staff, one electric bill, one infrastructure, etc.
When you start adding additional layers of parallel schools, you increase the costseven if you somehow divided the children evenly between the two systems (which hardly ever happens). You buy less with the same money. That translates to fewer services for the same kids, larger class sizes, narrowed curriculum, etc. Why? So that parents could choose School A or School B. So that privatizers get a bigger slice of the pie – right from the middle.

Second, each type of school has different goals.

Public schools are designed to educate. Corporate schools are designed to profit.Those are their very reasons for existing. It’s built into their DNA and is reflected in the way they’re administrated.
By law, public schools are not for-profit. They pay for goods and services, but at the end of the day, they aren’t beholden to shareholders or investors. They don’t need to bring in more money than they spend. All they have to do is educate children, and if they somehow end up with extra money at the end of that process, that money is bound by law to be reinvested as savings for next year.
Charter and voucher schools are not so constrained. Their reason for being is not education – it is profit. Where they can, they will cut services for children and reduce quality so that they can increase the bottom line. Even a casual glance at the news will show you a plethora of charter and voucher school scandals where privateers have stolen millions of dollars of taxpayer money instead of educating. To return to the dessert metaphor, they don’t care what their slice does to everyone else – they only care about the size of the slice.

Third, charter and voucher schools aren’t as accountable as traditional public schools.

Each type of school is supported by tax money. Therefore, each school should be held accountable for spending that money wisely. But the rules are radically different for pubic schools vs. choice schools.
Public schools have elected school boards made up of taxpayers from the community. Choice schools often do not. They are run by appointed boards who are only accountable to investors. Public schools are required to be transparent. Their documentation, budgets and meetings must be available to the media and community for review. This is not true of privatized choice schools.
If taxpayers are unhappy with the way a traditional public school is being run, they have multiple options for changing it. With choice schools, their only option is to withdraw their child. And in the case of taxpayers who do not have children in the system at all, they have no recourse at all. This is fiscally irresponsible and amounts to taxation without representation. This alone should be enough to make any true conservative withdraw support – however ideology has trumped logic and reason. Not only do they ruin the pie, they get to do so in secret.

Fourth, school vouchers rarely cover the entire cost of attending private schools.

They end up subsidizing costs for rich and upper middle class students while keeping away the poor. As such they create a system of cultural and racial education segregationThey create tiers of schools – the public schools being only for the poor, cheaper private schools for the middle class and expensive private schools for the rich.
This is not the best way to educate children. It is not the best way to organize a society. It entrenches social and class differences and builds in entitlements and racism for the wealthy. Surely our public schools have become more segregated even without vouchers, but that is no reason to make the situation exponentially worse. The size and placement of one’s slice shouldn’t depend on the color of your skin or the size of your bank account.

Fifth, all schools are not equally successful.

Though the media would have you believe otherwise, traditional public schools do a much better job of educating children than charter or voucher schools. Some choice schools have better outcomes, but the majority do no better and often much worse than traditional public schools. Moreover, children who continually move from school-to-school regardless of its type almost always suffer academically.
So when parents engage in these choice schemes, they often end up hurting their own children. The chances of children benefiting from charter or voucher schools is minimal. You can cut a slice from the center of the pie, but it’s likely to fall apart before you get it on a plate.
So in summary, school choice is essentially selfish. Even in cases where kids do benefit from choice, they have weakened the chances of everyone else in the public school system. They have increased the expense and lowered the services of children at both types of school. They have allowed unscrupulous profiteers to make away with taxpayer money while taxpayers and fiscal watchdogs are blindfolded. And when students return to their traditional public school after having lost years of academic progress at a substandard privatized institution, it is up to the taxpayers to pay for remediation to get these kids back up to speed.
Choice advocates talk about children being trapped in failing schools, but they never examine what it is about them that is failing.
Almost all public schools that are struggling serve impoverished students. That’s not a coincidence. It’s the cause. Schools have difficulty educating the poorest children. Impoverished children have greater needs. We should be adding tutoring, counseling and mentor programs. We should be helping their parents find jobs, providing daycare, healthcare and giving these struggling people a helping hand to get them back on their feet.
But instead we’re abandoning them. Most impoverished schools serving poor children receive less funding than those serving middle class or wealthy populations. In other western countries, it’s just the opposite. They provide more funding and resources for poor students to meet their greater needs.
School choice ignores all of this. If I may momentarily switch metaphors, instead of fixing the leak in our public school system, advocates prescribe running for the lifeboats. We could all be sailing on a strong central cruise-liner able to meet the demands of a sometimes harsh and uncaring ocean together. Instead we’re told to get into often leaky escape craft that even under the best of circumstances aren’t as strong as the system we’re abandoning.
Many of them own charter school companies or otherwise invest in the field. They aren’t advocating a policy to help children learn. They’re enriching themselves at public expense. Sure they point their fingers at union teachers making a middle class wage. Meanwhile these choice advocates rake in public money to buy yachts, condos and jewelry.
Make no mistake – school choice is essentially about selfishness. At every level it’s about securing something for yourself at the expense of others. Advocates call that competition, but it’s really just grift.
Public education is essentially the opposite. It’s about ensuring that every child gets the best education possible. Yes, it’s not perfect, and there are things we could be doing to improve it. But it is inherently an altruistic endeavor coming from the best of what it means to be an American.
We’ve all got choices in life. The question is what kind of person do you want to be? A person who takes only for his or herself? Or someone who tries to find an option that helps everyone?

Sunday, November 27, 2016

NEA BAT Caucus NBI Update

What is an NBI?  NBI stands for New Business Item.  An NBI is what caucuses and state/local unions can do to set the course of NEA for the coming year. 

The NEA RA was held in DC this past summer.  BATs has a strong NEA BAT Caucus that did amazing work at the NEA RA this summer.  To read  more about that work from NEA BAT Caucus Chair Becca Ritchie go here.

This is an approximate list of action taken by NEA on NBI’s that the NEA BAT Caucus got passed.  Some are missing due to the fact that they may have been bundled, referred, and/or tabled.  Some of the missing were policy amendments.  We will list them below this article.
If you think you are going to be a delegate to NEA RA this year, you can join the NEA BAT Caucus here

Please celebrate the amazing work of the NEA BAT Caucus.  Here is an update from the NEA on the NBI's that they worked on and got passed.  

12. Monitoring Water Quality
The NEA will encourage its membership through existing media to advocate for annual monitoring of their school district’s water quality. NEA Government Relations will work actively with the EPA to develop national environmental regulations requiring annual monitoring of water quality in all U.S.
public school districts, with follow-up remediation plans where needed. NEA will lobby the Environmental Protection Agency and Members of Congress to develop regulations
for monitoring school districts’ water quality. We will encourage members to advocate for water
quality monitoring and any proposed legislation using NEA social media platforms, the Legislative
Action Center, the Education Insider and

33. Complaints against States that Limit Educator Opinions
Using the successful complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in New Mexico as a model, NEA will collaborate with the ACLU and state member organizations to file complaints against states that limit or prevent educators from openly and freely voicing their opinions on Common Core State Standards (CCSS), Next Generation Science Standards, or other state standards, and/or district/state mandated assessments as these laws/regulations/codes violate the First Amendment rights of educators. NEA has reviewed the complaint filed by the ACLU in the New Mexico case and will alert state and local affiliate counsel about the case through the quarterly NEA E-Letter to lawyers who represent NEA affiliates and/or members. In that alert, NEA will also offer to partner with state affiliates on similar lawsuits. Finally, NEA will reach out to ACLU New Mexico as well as the national ACLU office and offer to partner on similar lawsuits.

41. Save Our Schools March for Public Education and Social Justice
NEA will donate $10,000 to the Save Our Schools March for Public Education and Social Justice Rally and Activist Conference.
NEA donated $10,000 to the Save our Schools March.

43. Public Access to Quality Water Supplies
NEA will engage, collaborate, and partner with organizations prioritizing the crafting of federal
legislation that will ensure public access to quality water supplies that meet EPA standards for public
health free of poisons, toxins, and pollutants for all citizens, regardless of race, income, or zip code.
NEA will work with coalitions and other like-minded organizations to support and advocate for
legislation that will ensure public access to clean water in accordance with Environmental Protection
Agency standards.

44. Lead Poisoning
NEA will communicate, through digital media properties, the dangers of lead poisoning to infant,
toddler and child cognitive development, as well as the potential genetic effect on future generations
born of our members that are exposed to lead through drinking water and other means.
NEA has covered this topic extensively on numerous media properties since the onset of the Flint
water crisis (See, for example,
Additional research and writing related to lead poisoning has been assigned for a article to run in late 2016 or early 2017.

48. Facts and Evidence to Support Claims and Policies
NEA will encourage and empower its members to question, challenge and demand other stakeholders
and themselves to provide facts and evidence to support their claims, ideas and policies.
NEA is in the process of updating a systematic process to provide facts and evidence to support claims, ideas and policies. We are also updating tools to assist members in questioning and challenging, in an  appropriate and convincing way, ideas and claims not based on fact.

55. National Charter Schools Week
The NEA will petition the President of the United States to remove the “National Charter Schools Week”designation from the week that has traditionally been reserved for “Teacher Appreciation Week.”  NEA will lobby the White House and key Members of Congress to remove the “National Charter
Schools Week” designation from the week that has traditionally been reserved for “Teacher
Appreciation Week.”

58. Experienced Educators in the Protected Age Category
The NEA will utilize existing resources to publish and promote a position statement stressing
contributions made by experienced educators in the protected age category in terms of dedicated
service to students and mentorship to new educational employees. The statement will cite news
accounts of experienced educational employees being targeted for harassment and dismissal; will
condemn the discriminatory practices that lead to targeting, harassment and forced retirements of
members; and will advocate for the support and retention of experienced educational employees.
NEA is currently researching and collecting the contributions made by experienced educators and
news accounts of experienced educators targeted for harassment and dismissal. This research will be
used to inform the position statement. We are also exploring the best avenue to publish and promote
the position statement.

72. State Labor Councils
NEA will publicize through existing media the benefits of joining and encouraging state affiliates to
become members of their state’s labor council.
NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia sent a memo to state affiliates publicizing the NEA/AFL-CIO Labor Solidarity Partnership, which sets forth the terms and conditions under which NEA affiliates can participate in AFL-CIO state and/or local labor councils. The memo highlighted NEA’s belief that labor collaboration and solidarity are important elements in building a strong labor movement, enhancing the rights and benefits of our members, helping working families and their communities and promoting social and economic justice for all; and provided a link to the complete Partnership Agreement detailing the affiliation process (

108. Alternate Assessments for Students with Disabilities
NEA will compile critical information from state work groups who are designing alternate assessments for students with disabilities. As states draft plans with intent to comply with ESSA guidelines and regulations, this information will be posted quarterly on NEA will provide an opportunity for  members to comment and respond to this compilation of information on existing NEA online forums.  NEA is working closely with coalition partners and disability rights groups, i.e., Accountability Systems and Reporting, State Collaborative on Assessment and Student Standards, Assessing Special Education Students – sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers – and the National Disability Rights Network, as well as NEA’s IDEA Resource Cadre. NEA staff monitor, provide input and correspond with the U.S. Department of Education in the promulgation of regulations in concert with the Every Student Succeeds Act on academic assessments, including alternate assessments. NEA will use existing forms of communication (i.e., edCommunities and to share this information as it becomes available.

Here are a list of NBI's that the NEA BAT Caucus worked on that were not listed in the NEA update.

#37 – HB1 impact referred 
#42 – Grassroots Activist Award referred
#48 – Truth in Reforms  passed as modified
#56 – Letter to Bernie referred
#92- Define Privatization referred

Policy Amendments
C-1 – Charter Definition referred

c-2 – Charter Opposition referred

Friday, November 25, 2016

The DeVostater: Public School Advocate Unite! by Dr. Michael Flanagan

The DeVostater: Public School Advocates Unite!
By Dr. Michael Flanagan

Like most public school teachers, I was disheartened at the nomination of billionaire education reformer Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. Her vendetta against public education is renowned, and rightly so. She has put together quite the anti-public education resume: philanthropist funder of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Education Excellence, pro-voucher fanatic, charter school profiteer and Common Core proponent (Diamond, Acosta, 2016).

If you were writing a screenplay, where the antagonist has devised a sinister master plan to destroy public education, you could not do better than creating a character like Betsy DeVos. Heir to the ponzi-scheming AMWAY fortune, she’s never taught a day in her life. She has no education degrees, certification or teaching license. DeVos and her children have never even attended public schools. She brags about buying political influence (Mayer, 2016), which has led the State of Michigan to install the most unregulated charter schools in the nation (Michigan AFL-CIO, 2016).  All of this has flown in the face of overwhelming evidence that none of the privatization policies she champions have actually benefitted children (Tyler, 2016). It is at this point in the screenplay that the plot would take its turn. We now have a rallying point for the divided forces of the pro-public education movement.  
I recently watched former public school teacher and NYS Green Party candidate Brian Jones debating DeVos on John Stossel (Stossel, 2014). He would have been better off debating a brick wall. Since the announcement education activists, union leaders and teacher groups like the Badass Teachers Association, have been kicking her billionaire butt all up and down the social media street (Ravitch, 2016). The memes against her nomination have been shared millions of times. It is a beautiful thing. We needed a clear-cut enemy to focus and galvanize education activists and the unions. Maybe we can stop our infighting for a bit. There’s a totally different vibe happening right now. Almost feels like…unity?
The DeVos nomination has clearly demonstrated what public school students and teachers will face under the Trump administration. That has caused an immediate avalanche of push back against her nomination. DeVos is a textbook villain to public education. Her focus is clearly on privatization. In addition, Trump's supporters are still expecting him to denounce Common Core. His nomination for Secretary of Education shows he won't be doing that. The anti-Common Core parents who voted for him will probably come out against DeVos as well. It feels like fear has turned to determination in the EdActivist movement.

Until now, education activists have fought against privatization with one hand tied behind our backs. The attacks on public education were instituted by the Obama administration, and supported by our union leaders. That is no longer the case. If the education reformers’ tactic was to divide and conquer the parents, teachers and unions, then the DeVos appointment will be a pyrrhic victory. She will indeed dismantle and sell off the public schools to enrich herself and her cronies with the taxpayer funding, but ultimately she will fail. With our villain clearly defined in this surreal screenplay, we can marshal our forces. The rebellion can begin.

Unfortunately though, things will get worse before they get better. Sometimes you have to let things break before you fix them, instead of pretending they still work. So this is a call to action for all education activists. Whatever differences we may have had are done. We have met the enemy, and she is DeVos. Time to up our game. Public school advocates unite! We are all we have.

Here are two actions you can start with: