Don’t let the door smack you too hard on the way out, Traitor Duncan

Arne Duncan cartoon
Caricature Credit: DonkeyHotey
Good news today for people who care about students and the state of public education in America. As HuffPost put it: Arne Duncan Resigns Amid Legacy-Threatening Student Debt Crisis. And this summer, the Center for Media and Democracy wrote this about Duncan’s failed initiative to replace public schools with charters: Charter Program Expansion Looms Despite Probes into Mismanagement and Closed Schools.

Developer-owned charter schools are publicly funded but managed privately, without the obligation to provide any public accountability for either their teaching methods or financial expenditures. Not surprising that they’re a virtual breeding ground for a level of corruption so exaggerated that it turned GW Bush’s former Assistant Secretary of Education, Diane Ravitch, into one of the country’s leading public education advocates.

The shockwaves of public education destruction and suffocating college student debt, has emanated out around the country from the Chicago hub where Arne Duncan and Rahm Emanuel kicked it off and from the White House where Duncan somehow came to roost as Education Secretary. How many times have I – and countless other social justice advocates – prayed that some real information about the horrific abyss into which American education has been shoved, would get through to our President and jolt him awake from the slumber into which his close relationship with Duncan lulled him: Duncan, the Judas who betrayed the trust of his friend and leader along with the values of the American public, all in one go. May the man’s soul be awarded whatever fate it deserves.

Al Gore
Photo Credit: Charu Gulati @teachgulati
It cannot be purely coincidental that this week at Vice President Al Gore’s Climate Reality Training in Miami, a fellow participant told Mr. Gore about the #Dyett15‘s recent 34 day hunger strike to save Chicago’s Dyett High School (achieved) and have it designated as a STEM and green technology school (not achieved). The VP asked, “Wait. Are you saying people held a hunger strike because they wanted so much for a green technology school to be created, and this wasn’t made to happen for them?”

Well yes. In a nutshell, that’s exactly what happened.

Brother Jitu Brown of the Journey 4 Justice Alliance led the education activists in the strike and on about day 20, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel agreed that Dyett would not be shut down – as had been previously announced. The activists additionally also won an “audience” with Arne Duncan. But their second most important demand – the one which motivated the strikers to continue without solid food for another two weeks – was summarily ignored by Duncan, even though it aligns perfectly with the education policy his boss framed and has promoted throughout his years in office. I mean, seriously, what was Duncan thinking?

So, today, President Obama finally announced Duncan’s resignation … and I for one, am really pleased.

ss Al Gore letter about green schools Mr. Gore asked for information about the hunger strikers and as I happen to have spent some time with the Journey 4 Justice and follow its activities, I sent him the letter you see on the right (click to enlarge).

Dawn will shine tomorrow on a brand new day in the saga of American education. I look forward to seeing how Pres. Obama, now that his vision has cleared, will use his remaining time in office to help set public education back onto the solid footing it should always occupy.

Today also marks the day of our country’s first community college shooting at Umpqua College in Oregon. I pray that the injured benefit from rapid and complete recoveries … that the family of victims who became late are comforted by the loving embrace of Our Lord and Creator and that the deceased enjoy a golden peace in the world to come, sitting at God’s right hand.

Duncan caricature by DonkeyHotey

Are New Jersey gentrifiers taking us for a ride?

1934 school bus
1934 Chevrolet Schoolbus by DBerry2006 via Flickr
Believers in gentrification understand neither fairness, nor justice. Yet, since Christie signed bill A-355 into law in 2010, they’ve been provided with yet another powerful arrow in the arsenal of neighborhood destruction and running the vulnerable out of town. This is a racial issue in New Jersey, since our poor are mostly urban Blacks and Latinos.

Christie’s education voucher law allows public school students to attend schools in another district, with your tax dollars paying the receiving school’s tuition fees and the complete bill to, “provide and pay for students’ transportation to new schools up to 20 miles away.” Sounds a bit like specially chartered buses and other things extraordinarily expensive, doesn’t it? Wowza!

The Star Ledger reported, “It’s unclear who would bear the cost if a student sought admission to a school more than 20 miles from his or her home district.” Good question, though.

Thanks to David Berry for the great foto and to Elizabeth McGrady for sharing the article. I just asked the other day, what our state’s status is concerning school vouchers. Hoped for better news but at least, now I know where the battle line has been drawn.

Newark Students’ May 22 walkout and protest over 2000 strong

Newark 1505 student walkoutOn May 22 2015, over 2000 students and supporters shut downtown Newark NJ down for several hours to create visibility and bring awareness to the horrors Newark students have experienced at the hands of Chris Christie, Cory Booker and Cami Anderson, who jointly created a plan to break the back of public education in this city.

Anderson’s “One Newark” plan has young children from a single family barred from attending the school local to their home and instead, being sent far outside their neighborhood to 4 different schools in different corners of the city. Each child must take 2-3 bus rides and spend an hour of commuting time each way to reach school. Throughout the city, public school students are denied books and sanitary food; the principals and administrative staff of the city’s most successful schools are fired; and police charges were filed against a PTA president for hanging flyers announcing the PTA’s next meeting.

As the walkout and protest clearly show, a growing number of students and their supporters are completely fed up. In the words of my esteemed friend and public education advocate Johnnie Lattner, “Enough is enough.”

Here’s some news coverage of yesterday’s walkout, many links courtesy of Bashir Akinyele, host of All Politics Are Local, America’s #1 political Hip Hop radio show

25 year study shows poverty as greatest determinant in children’s success

One student from the studyTwo John Hopkins professors tracked the scholastic and employment developments of 790 students via annual interviews conducted over 25 years from the time the students were 1st graders in Baltimore’s public school system until age 28. Their findings are disturbing, although certainly not surprising. The Washington Post article tell us,

A mere 4 percent of the first-graders Alexander and Entwisle had classified as the “urban disadvantaged” had by the end of the study completed the college degree that’s become more valuable than ever in the modern economy. A related reality: Just 33 of 314 had left the low-income socioeconomic status of their parents for the middle class by age 28.

And the John Hopkins HUB frames the research results a bit grimly:

In a groundbreaking study, Johns Hopkins University researchers followed nearly 800 Baltimore schoolchildren for a quarter of a century, and discovered that their fates were substantially determined by the family they were born into.

“A family’s resources and the doors they open cast a long shadow over children’s life trajectories,” Johns Hopkins sociologist Karl Alexander says in a forthcoming book, The Long Shadow: Family Background, Disadvantaged Urban Youth, and the Transition to Adulthood. “This view is at odds with the popular ethos that we are makers of our own fortune.”

Alexander has sometimes been asked about the impact his team had on the lives of their subjects … if they

… followed the children long enough to learn something meaningful about their lives as independent adults. Occasionally, people ask him whether the study itself became an intervention. Did the presence of these curious researchers alter the course of any child’s life?

Alexander suspects that the forces they documented — the family backgrounds, the problem behaviors and the economic prospects — were much more powerful than any annual conversation.

“If it were that easy to reroute peoples’ life paths,” he says, “we should be doing it all the time for everyone.”

Can the Jewish approach to education benefit public schools?

education is a rightI don’t agree with the Orthodox Jewish practice of choking public schools of money in order to fund transportation to, and expenses for, their own community’s schools. But, I do understand why the Orthodox community does feel that the taxes they pay should be funding their children’s education as well as other students’. And I understand why the Orthodox want their children to have yeshiva educations.

Yeshivas are better academically than public schools; they have dual language (Hebrew and English) curricula; midot (values) are taught; and a completely different approach to learning is part of the Torah (biblical) studies component, where students challenge the knowledge and positions of the study mates they partner up with and school days stretch from 7am until almost midnight. The learning culture at traditional yeshivas is fantastic and exceeds anything else I’ve encountered in a school environment.

However, I believe in egalitarian public education and the benefits that accrue to a society when students of many different cultures and religions come together under one roof and have the chance to appreciate each other through the experience of shared proximity. After all, people jointly share a planet and we are co-dependent.

I often ask myself, why can’t Orthodox Jewish children get their education basics at public school and then go on to after-school programs where students finish up their day with the Jewish and Torah studies that public school does not provide? Maybe special-curriculum needs communities could enjoy public education days that are a bit shorter and a bit less costly, to provide the time and money for after-school programs that meet those special curriculum needs.

Economies of scale and the obvious need for mass public education means it is most logical and efficient for all students to get their English-based educations at public schools. And no single community should be allowed to divert money away from public schools in order to fund private institutions that will benefit only their community’s children.

I would also love to see yeshiva educated parents get involved with reforming public education (real, community-engaged reform and not the drive to privatize that passes for reform today). Yeshiva educated parents could help bring real quality learning and a focus on personal values (midot) to our school systems. After all, public schools need improvement: by the time I was 15 years old, my school system in Englewood, NJ had nothing much to offer me academically and the social problems there were fierce. I was regularly attacked by young women who wanted to beat out of me the bass-line of the different drummer to which I marched. Drugs were for sale on campus, the party life raged on nights and weekends with many kids drinking alcohol and exploring sexually.

My sons recently finished public high school in a different town and their high school environments were pretty similar. My younger son comments that his classmates’ sensually permissive behaviour started, “as early as elementary school.” Both my sons completed their education in a school district considered to be superior and yet, they finished high school without having read great literature; did not know how to write a research paper and their math skills were basic, at best. They had not learned life skills like how to budget money, apply or interview for a job or maintain their health well through diet and regular exercise. How can young men and women go out into the world of higher education or the need to earn a living, lacking these basic skills?

The Jewish community knows that school needs to be the time and place for learning, personal development .. acquisition of skills for career shaping .. discovering academic interests and the type of passions that can be parlayed into fulfilling employment; and the development of collaboration skills. Students of Jewish day schools and traditional yeshivas – no matter how poor are the communities in which schools are situated – are graduating with all of this knowledge.

Yeshiva parents also have the ability to hold teachers and administrator personally and socially accountable for their children’s education. School board campaigners might also want to take a look at how Orthodox communities go about identifying candidates and getting them elected, because they are doing both of these tasks well.

Well, I’ve certainly wandered far enough over the vista of multi-cultural education. Time to move on to something else today. If you have a relevant thought, please share it.

Dems don’t offer Blacks enough support but GOP is worse

Baratunde Thurston

Friend Bryan Alexander reminded me tonight that Dems take the Black vote entirely for granted. He’s so right. This is probably one of the big reasons that communities of color aren’t getting the help they expected with fighting public school takeovers by charters (Philly) … schools being just closed down (Chicago (where 49 schools were closed in one day – by Dem mayor Rahm Emmanuel) and Newark) and why Dems supported the devious Governor Christie’s 2013 re-election bid instead of getting behind Democratic Party candidate Barbara Buono – a progressive with a long, strong record of promoting excellence in public education, and transparency and accountability in the realm of public service and politics.

Sir Ken Robinson at TED
Sir Ken Robinson is the best-known global authority on the benefit of creative and supportive education

It’s about developing the people of the future, though!

TED speaker Sir Ken Robinson understands and reveals the importance of developing native creative thinking and enthusiasm in school children. Other positive voices are beginning to make themselves heard …

Hat tip to Bill De Blasio who recently emerged onto the NYC charter take-over scene this year as a notable and refreshing champion of public education. God bless him. Days after informing the charter industry that New York was cutting their funding by a couple hundred million, Mayor De Blasio gave them more bad news: he’s denying charters free space in NY public school buildings.

BTW, the Republicans are way worse

As imperfect as the Democratic Party is, the Republican party is worse for people of color. Daily Kos writer futurebird wrote in 2008,

The reason that many black people are democrats has nothing to do with social welfare programs. It’s about respect. Being a republican would mean being a member of a party that has not done enough to purge itself of racists– a party that has held black voters in contempt and characterized us as a legion of welfare moms who steal tax dollars from “real hard working Americans.” No self-respecting person would put up with that. This is why even wealthy black people remain democrats.

@Baratunde Thurston probably agrees with this statement. When he attended the Republican National Convention as a member of the press, Baratunde saw so few Black people amoung the crowd of 50,000 that he decided to count them and called his tally #negrospotting. Including hotel and convention staff, the total was 238.

Join Newark students in mass rally & boycott for local control on Mon. Nov 4

Newark Student Union/No ChristiebuttonsThe Newark Students Union (NSU) organized a massive 1,000 student walkout last April and on Monday Nov 4, they will stage another mass boycott demanding that quality education be returned to Newark. The students want Gov. Christie to fund schools at court ordered levels and to repair school buildings, which are currently unsafe – two legal obligations which Christie has refused to honor. Spread the word about the rally and be there if you can. The social media hashtag is #npsboycott.

Boycott & Rally to Protest Gov. Christie’s Control of Newark Public Schools
November 4 2013 @ 9am
30 Clinton Street in Newark NJ

“The boycott and protest will demonstrate that Newark Public Schools students care deeply about our education,” says Luis Marquez, a high school senior and member of the Newark Students Union. “We’re rebelling against the control of politicians that don’t care about or respect for us. A few months ago Christie bragged, ‘I don’t care about the community criticism. We run the school district in Newark, not them.'”

Davian Rodriguez, a senior at Science Park High School, expands on this theme, “The education of Newark’s students directly affects the future of the city. Christie-appointed Superintendent Cami Anderson is purposely ignoring the cries of protest echoing across the city. She and Christie are in effect, condemning Newark to a perpetual cycle of state-sponsored ignorance and poverty. If the government won’t support the students it is legally pledged to protect and nurture, then we students need to come together and take the fate of Newark Public Schools into our own hands.”

“Students of the Newark Public School System have come together to speak with a single, clear voice,” says Josephine Stewart, a grandparent of one NPS student. “Our students deserve a seat at the table whenever decisions are being made that will shape their future. And, after nineteen years of political meddling it is high time for the supervision of Newark students’ education to be returned to the local residents who care deeply for our youth and have a personal interest in chaperoning them on to successful educations, careers and lives.”

facebook.com/NewarkStudentsUnion/
@newarkstudents
The social media hashtag is #npsboycott

“School reform” aka diverting school funds to the rich

profiting by closing schools

profiting by closing schoolsDavid Sirota helps us see that the true mission of the corporate backed charter school initiative is to bust unions and divert public funds earmarked for student education. The goal is to remove barriers to corporate control of society and for rich guys to get all the money in the world (or at least the US). These people didn’t get the memo that you can’t take it with you.

The bottom line is clear: In attempting to change the mission of public education from one focused on educating kids to one focused on generating private profit, corporate leaders in the “reform” movement are pursuing a shrewd investment strategy. Millions of dollars go into campaign contributions and propaganda outfits that push “reform,” and, if successful, those “reforms” guarantee Wall Street and their investment vehicles much bigger returns for the long haul.

…in the standard fairy tale sold as education journalism, these “reformers” are presented as having had an honest, entirely altruistic “epiphany” that led them to discover that “the reforms that are necessary” (ie., only the policies Wall Street deems acceptable) comprise “the civil rights issue of this era.”

In this framing, millionaires and billionaires trying to eviscerate traditional public education from their Manhattan office suites are the new Martin Luther Kings — even though the empirical data tell us that their schemes to charter-ize and privatize schools have been a systemic failure, often further disadvantaging the most economically challenged students of all (one example: see Stanford’s landmark study showing more than a third of kids whom reformers ushered into charter schools were educationally harmed by the move).

The truth, of course, is that for all the denialist agitprop to the contrary, corporate education “reformers” are motivated by self-interest, too.

…At the same time, major banks are reaping a windfall from “reformers’” successful efforts to take public money out of public schools and put it into privately administered charter schools.

The New York Daily News reports:

Wealthy investors and major banks have been making windfall profits by using a little-known federal tax break to finance new charter-school construction. The program, the New Markets Tax Credit, is so lucrative that a lender who uses it can almost double his money in seven years…

The credit can even be piggybacked on other tax breaks for historic preservation or job creation. By combining the various credits with the interest from the loan itself, a lender can almost double his investment over the seven-year period.

No wonder JPMorgan Chase announced this week it was creating a new $325 million pool to invest in charter schools and take advantage of the New Markets Tax Credit.

What’s happening is actually old news just beginning to blossom in mainstream national dialogue. Also see:
David A. Love’s Profiteering and Union-Busting Repackaged as School Reform
Daily Kos’ Political Rhetoric (3): “Education reform?” STOP IT! Privatization or union-busting, please!
Where Are Progressives In The Fight To Save Public Schools? and
Why Romney, Obama are education twins

This cartoon shows us where we DON’T want to be – in a place of hate

Nazi education for death

Nazi education for deathMy friend David Meza sent me this anti-Nazi propaganda cartoon created by Disney during WWII to stimulate United States citizen’s hatred for Germans. I’m a Jew who lost family in Hitler’s holocaust, so I’m far from being a Nazi sympathizer. But, I like to remember that not everything that reinforces my experiential and cultural judgments is factual or true. And I am a lover of truth. So, please, when watching this disturbing 10 minute cartoon portraying how Nazis killed love and hope in their young men to make them into the optimal fighting machines they wanted them to be, keep in mind that this is the American propaganda version of Germany. What really went on there may have been quite different from what this film portrays.

The cartoon disturbed me for another reason. In the militaristic, unfeeling youth mindlessly pledging obedience to the heartless Nazi philosophy, I see too many parallels with American society today. Which makes sense, right …. as this film is an American brainchild. Today in America, there are too many parents and children taking an approach to education and career preparation that embraces arrogance, elitism and a willingness to hurt anyone who blocks a student’s path to academic success, job security and the acquisition of material goods. In today’s education system, financially stable parents want their children to be separate from those who are not; standardized tests which are culturally skewed to favor middle class children over others and are used as leverage for separating students by economic class or ethnicity. And Blacks, Latinos and other students who struggle with the challenges poverty exerts on their school performance – and their lives overall – are ruthlessly deemed by financially secure student families to be worthy only of condemnation, and neither of inclusion nor assistance.

I am so sure we can do better. Let’s get busy creating a collaborative society that makes room for everyone to find their strength and the place where it fits into our world.

PBS & TED review the state of education today

Malcolm London at TED

Malcolm London at TEDThe Chicago Tribune has a fabulous article on PBS’ TED Talks Education hour long show on May 8 2013, which brought

… together a diverse group of teachers and education advocates delivering short, high-impact talks on the theme of teaching and learning. You’ll also see Chicago’s Malcolm Xavier London performing a spoken word poem about the racial and class tensions he experienced … London, who just turned 20, is a terrific fit for TED — which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. The nonprofit organization bills itself as being devoted to ideas worth spreading and often features people who have taken unorthodox paths giving talks about what they’ve learned


Cornel West calls London the Gil Scott-Heron of this generation, who recorded The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.

The article continues,

Here’s an excerpt from “High School Training Ground,” which London performed for TED: “My high school is Chicago, diverse and segregated on purpose. Social lines are barbed wire. Labels like regulars and honors resonate. I am in honors but go home with regular students who are soldiers in a territory that owns them. This is a training ground.”

… although he was a double honors student, (London) graduated in 2011 with only a 1.9 GPA; he said he got drunk the night before he took the ACT and received a score of 25; he graduated late because he was missing half a credit “… I felt whatever I was learning in class, wasn’t teaching me why people on the West Side were dying every day,” London said. “And why my white friends in my honors classes didn’t go to jail if they got caught with drugs, but my black friends from my neighborhood did.”

My personal education speech maker favorite is Sir Kenneth Robinson, who’s famous for the most watched TED talk in history entitled Ken Robinson Says Schools Kill Creativity. The 10 TED Talks by others Ken best loves are listed here. In April he filmed a new talk for the PBS Special How to Escape Education’s Death Valley.

Warning: when you browse TED talks, be prepared to spend some time doing it as each subsquent talk is equally as fascinating as the one you just finished watching.

Principal Kafele shares inspiring thoughts on mission and passion

Principal Kafele

Principal KafeleI love Principal Kafele‘s positive approach to solving today’s educational issues. He also shares great advice on personal achievement. This 11 minute video is an excellent sample of his practical approach for achievement and success.

Principal Kafele counsels:

If you see in your mind’s eye what you’re striving to achieve, the chances increase exponentially that your vision will become your reality … Everything starts with an idea. From the idea we create a goal – we devise a plan – we become firm in our purpose – we embark on a mission – a mission that is vision oriented. What we are going to achieve … (is) already locked into our mind’s eye …

and he also advises:

Be careful who you align yourself with because your passion is not necessarily for them: it’s for you. … be around others who will lift you up.

Motivating Black Males to Achieve coverPrincipal Baruti Kafele’s best-selling book, Motivating Black Males to Achieve in School and in Life, offers proven strategies for getting black male students in middle school and high school to value learning, improve their grades, and maintain high standards for themselves. The author shows how simple but powerful measures to instill self-worth in young black males can not only raise these students’ achievement, but also profoundly alter their lives for the better.

HIPAA offers no privacy or protection to an ill child

Monkeys demonstrate HIPAA compliance

Monkeys demonstrate HIPAA complianceJoey Furlong is a Bethlehem, NY 4th grader interned in hospital for a life-threatening condition and awaiting brain surgery. This week, he was approached by one of the teachers employed by the hospital, who wanted the boy to take a standardized test. CBS News reports (Tami is Joey’s mom),

Tami’s husband was in the room when one of the teachers came in talking about the test but she wonders what would have happened had he not been, “I would like to hope she would not have taken his arm that has an IV and oximeter on it and put a number 2 pencil in it, I would like to hope that she would wait to talk to the family.”

Indeed. Public education advocate Diane Ravitch sums it up well: “No child escapes testing. Even while they are waiting for brain surgery.”

This is disturbing on so many levels:

  1. How could the hospital participate in the harassment of that poor, unwell child by sending an employee to upset him and his family over a test?
  2. Standardized tests have apparently come to occupy a place of value in US society that exceeds the value of a child’s life.
  3. Since so much importance has been placed on standardized testing, real learning has gone downhill.
    See What’s Wrong With Standardized Testing and Why It’s Time to Get Rid of Standardized Testing
  4. The hospital shares patient information with the teachers it employees. This is the very reason I won’t sign paperwork acknowledging receipt of my doctors’ HIPAA privacy policies (more on this below).
  5. Why did the hospital teacher learn that Joey had not taken the test, but failed to learn that his parents had arranged for him to be exempt from the requirement to take it until his health improved?

My medical practitioners inform me in HIPAA privacy policy statements which I routinely refuse to acknowledge receipt of (by signing them), that they will do everything in their power to protect my privacy. However, I know that these people haven’t got much power and that my medical records, and whatever other sensitive personal data end up in my medical file, may be shared with government and even pseudo-government workers without either my consent or my knowledge.

Acknowledging receipt of privacy policies which offer no protection might make it look like I’m in agreement with having my privacy violated. But I don’t agree. I believe that medical information should be completely confidential outside of the circle of medical and pharmaceutical staff a patient chooses to share it with. In other words, little Joey Furlong’s medical information should never have been shared with the educational department of the hospital he’s in, or his school district, or New York State, without his parents’ express consent. Joey and his family deserve both privacy and protection.

Just for the record, I also agree that medical records should be shared with urgent care medical personnel if they’re trying to save a life and viewing medical records would help them do that.

Poverty creates poor school performance. Time to stop it.

Kennedy with kids

Kennedy with kidsBobby Kennedy made hunger and poverty relief a top priority with his Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, but 50 years later the United States has the 2nd highest rate of poverty among industrialized nations. And Dale Hansen of the Detroit News is asking, if poverty is the biggest problem education faces, why aren’t we more focused on relieving it? Dale supplies his own answer: Republicans are way too committed to their war on public education to allow positive change to get in their way.

Huh?

History says that public education has been one of the leading mechanisms for lifting families out of poverty, so what statement is being made by Republicans and their allies who are systematically destroying public education in New Jersey Chicago, Philly, Michigan and other states? In New Jersey, for example, even though school districts directly controlled by the State are failing miserably, Christie just took over the Camden school district and has announced plans to facilitate privatization there as he has done in the three other State takeover school districts. Dale says,

… The reality is that the our-education-system-is-broken argument is .. fundamentally flawed. Republicans use it as an excuse to push their alternate agenda to corporatize our children’s education. Corporatization has been shown to be no better than the system they are working so hard to replace … Republicans … claim our education system is broken, insisting that teachers unions and bad teachers are the crux of the problem. Unfortunately, this is all based on anecdotal evidence as the data shows no such correlation.

And he shows another way private backers are scheming to get hold of public education funds: Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s education project, “aims to take more money away from public schools and funnel it to private organizations using what smacks of a voucher program.”

Education advocates have learned that school privatization backers around the country are part of a well-oiled machine backed by ALEC and the Koch Brothers, who are intent on destroying public education in favor of charter schools. The charters they back are privately run organizations managed with public tax dollars but no accountability to the local residents who pay those taxes; and charter schools are being built in vulnerable urban hubs populated by families of color with a high incidence of poverty level incomes. The charters are hugely profitable to founders who build and run them and to the investors who finance their construction. In fact, investments are doubled in under 7 years through use of New Markets Tax Credits.

Instead of combat poverty, the privatization of school administration, food, janitorial, secretarial and even in-class aide staff is institutionalizing it. Earlier this month (April 2013), kids in Attleboro Massachusetts were denied lunch if they owed as little as 5¢ on their cafeteria cards. They were sent away from the food line to finish the rest of their school day hungry. The principal blamed the food service, whose spokesman blamed the cafeteria workers. But it seems highly unlikely that the food service workers would dare to make a policy decision in a matter such as this.

It’s highly unlikely that food workers would want to deny poor children their midday meal for another reason: the workers, themselves, are victims of poverty. Typically, these (mostly) ladies earn only minimum wage, may not be given full-time working hours and they receive few to none of the benefits enjoyed by personnel directly employed by schools. It’s an interesting side-note that the wellbeing of school food service workers who are underpaid by their employers ends up being yet another cost to taxpayers. The Rutgers University Center for Women and Work/School of Management,

… ascertained that 64 percent of NJ K-12 school districts contract their food service to an outside company and that those private sector cafeteria jobs are largely part-time and typical(ly offer) no affordable health benefits. As a result, most workers are uninsured or forced to turn to the state’s public health insurance programs – a result that contributes largely to the school food service industry acting as one of the biggest drains on New Jersey FamilyCare, as over 6,300 employees and their children (are) covered by the taxpayer-funded state health assistance plan.

The GOP backed war on public education is carried out through the vehicle of privatization, which creates wealth for investors, poverty for employees and is used to tear down quality of life in communities by replacing neighborhood public schools with charters that lack community accountability and are not accessible to all of the students who need a place to be educated after charter school invasions cause their own neighborhood schools to close. It’s time for us to stand up in support of public education and take a stand against unscrupulous charter school owners, investors and the politicians who help move the school privatization agenda forward. We need to support strong public education, community engagement in schools and neighborhoods, and make this the agenda we move determinedly forward – to the farthest point we can take it.

New report shows ed reform is failing our kids

Market-oriented reform report cover

Market-oriented reform report coverThe report Market-oriented education reforms’ rhetoric trumps reality issued this month (April 2013) by the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education concludes that so-called education reforms have led to bigger gaps and lost ground, “for the students they were supposed to support” – low-income, low achieving and Abbot District students. Outcomes were measured in Chicago, New York City, and Washington, D.C. Market-driven education is a concept introduced by Milton Friedman in his 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom.

Education reform initiatives currently being applied across the northeast US include standardized test-based teacher evaluations; the increasingly controversial practice of assessing student development through standardized testing; proliferation of charter schools (especially in poor communities where a legal funding loophole makes it extremely profitable for developers to found charter schools); public school closures; reduced funding for public education, after school programs and enrichment programs such as clubs and music instruction and public school takeovers from Maryland to Ohio. The report concludes that these reforms “… deliver few benefits, often harm the students they purport to help,” and fail to address or relieve, “the link between poverty and low educational attainment.”

Powerful information.

Read the Executive Summary
Read the full report
Read about the recent New Jersey State takeover of Camden, New Jersey Public School District