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Action Alert: Rally at the DNC!
Parents Across America founding member, Pamela Grundy, is one of the organizers of the following events that will occur in Charlotte, NC next week.
To follow is the information.
Rally for Public Education at the Democratic National Convention
Our nation’s public schools face tremendous challenges. Parents, educators, communities and elected officials need to work TOGETHER to build the schools that will prepare our children to face a changing world.
Unfortunately, too much precious time, energy and money has been sidetracked by policies that harm our schools rather than help them. These flawed policies have led to:
• Excessive high-stakes testing
• Demoralization of dedicated, hardworking teachers
• School closings and charter school policies that destabilize families and communities, especially in low-income areas
Proponents of these flawed policies have scheduled two events during DNC week here in Charlotte – a film and panel discussion on Monday and a “town hall” on Tuesday.
We need to tell convention-goers and elected officials that parents on the ground do not support these efforts. Many of us have seen first-hand the damage these policies have done to students, schools and communities. We also know they have no track record of success.
Please join us before both events to rally in support of a more dynamic vision of an excellent public education for every student – one centered on parent and community involvement, greater support for dedicated educators and a vigorous, creative approach to learning and evaluation at all public schools. We also urge you to sign up to attend the events and voice your thoughts.
Monday, September 3: “Won’t Back Down” film and panel discussion sponsored by Michelle Rhee’s Students First, by Parent Revolution and by Democrats for Education Reform. Funders of these well-heeled groups include the Broad, Walton and Gates foundations, Rupert Murdoch and Wall Street hedge funds. To sign up: http://www.studentsfirst.org/page/s/dnc-signup. EpiCentre Theater: 210 E. Trade St. Rally: 12:30-1 p.m. Event: 1-3 p.m.
Tuesday, September 4: Democrats for Education Reform Town Hall. The panel will feature elected officials who have supported legislation on policies such as high-stakes testing, charter school expansion and private school vouchers. Some of these bills are now being pushed by the ultra-conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). To sign up: http://www.dfer.org/events/2012townhall. Knight Theater: 430 S. Tryon St. Rally: 12:30-1:30 p.m. Program: 1:30-4 p.m.
If you or your group plan to participate, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And speaking of Rhee, it’s all about the money for Rhee & Co.
Education reform seems to create strange bedfellows…or not.
Next month, the film Won’t Back Down will be released in theaters nationwide. This drama starring Maggie Gylenhall and Viola Davis — and backed by Walmart and the right-wing Anschutz Film Group — promotes the “parent trigger,” an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) idea that would make it easier for schools to be turned over to private firms and for teachers to be fired.
The Daily Change has obtained documents showing collaboration between StudentsFirst — the group started by the anti-union former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee — and a group in Connecticut, the Connecticut Parents Union (CTPU), that is promoting Won’ t Back Down and ALEC’s parent trigger bill.
On March 14th, Rhee’s group held a rally on the steps of the Connecticut capitol to promote its education “reforms,” including the parent trigger. In doing so, it allied with CTPU. Unfortunately for Rhee and CTPU’s education privatization agenda, very few people showed up to the event. Governor Malloy (D) declined to make an appearance, saying through a spokesman that Rhee had been a “divisive figure.”
The letter we received shows bitter infighting between StudentsFirst and CTPU. In a letter to CTPU, StudentsFirst General Counsel Angelia Dickens complains of the Connecticut astroturf group’s “effort to obtain financial compensation from StudentsFirst.” Dickens notes that StudentsFirst had repeatedly told CTPU founder Gwendolyn Samuel that it will not offer direct payments to her group and that Rhee’s group declined repeated requests from Jason Bartlett, a former state representative that now works with CTPU, to “put him on a financial retainer.”
In short, the letter exposes CTPU as being just as interested in if not more interested in enriching its staffers as it is in improving the state’s education system. But the document also shows StudentsFirst spending tons of cash promoting CTPU’s activities. Dickens notes that StudentsFirst spent $10,000 to promote the March rally, and even paid for 300 sandwiches for attendees (meaning sandwiches outnumbered attendees 3-to-1).
And what do Rhee and her backers want for the children that they purport to be helping?
Below is an excerpt:
Masking Racism and Classism Behind Slogans
Let me start with an example. This is a true story, although it is necessarily anonymous. It is also increasingly typical of teacher, student, and school conditions because the new “norm” of schooling in the U.S. is the “no excuses” model first popularized and associated with KIPP (a charter chain that has a strong relationship with TFA—a dynamic captured in the propagandistic documentary Waiting for “Superman”).
A talented and exceptional public school teacher was driven out of a high-poverty public school that embraced “no excuses” policies; that teacher now teaches in a “no excuses” urban charter school serving a high-minority student population.
First, let’s not discount how the national move to de-professionalize teaching by dismantling unions, eradicating tenure, and reducing teacher evaluation and compensation to test-based metrics has created a job market and workforce culture wherein this teacher would have had to choose to leave teaching to avoid what appears to be a lateral move—”no excuses” public school for a “no excuses” charter.
The reality of “choice” for the American worker is a much different animal than the idealized “choice” promoted among politicians, corporate America, and the media.
What has this teacher discovered at the new “no excuses” charter school? Let me outline here:
• The school is primarily test-prep oriented, rigidly authoritarian, and distinctly segregated (race and class).
• At orientation, all students not conforming to the dress code were pulled out in front of the entire student body and had pointed out what was wrong with their outfits. [“No excuses” culture is a culture of shaming.]
• Students are required to use complete sentences at all times, and call female teachers “Miss”—with the threat of disciplinary action taken if students fail to comply.
• Demerits are assigned for slouching, not making eye contact with teachers when speaking, and a maze of detailed clothing rules. The most prevalent discipline issue, however, is students failing to comply with the enormous homework requirement for all students in all classes. [Homework, though, remains a failed traditional practice discounted by the weight of research, but in “no excuses” schools, excessive homework, like longer school days, perpetuates a false veneer or “rigor.”]
• Teachers were told in orientation that the school was a “culture, not a cult.”
• Teachers are bombarded with data/stats without care to distinguish between correlation and causation (see below how this manifests itself).
• The faculty is overwhelming white/female, though serving a minority population of students; over 50% is TFA, and almost all are under 30. Most of the teachers live in affluent areas away from students/school.
• Students are nearly silent in class (to quote this teacher) “mostly because they’ve been trained like dogs [emphasis added] to never speak — I had to repeatedly tell one class that it was ok to talk to their group during GROUP discussion — foreign concept for them.” [“No excuses” schools confuse “training” with “learning.”]
• The students have primarily been taught to be compliant; again to quote the teacher:
“They [the students] can’t think for themselves, they have no concept of style and author’s craft (they’re skill drilled their 9th grade year), and they have a very prescriptive method for annotating texts to the point where the students are annotating in the margins so they won’t get in trouble [emphasis added], but they’re not making any meaning with the text. One student today asked me how many annotations per paragraph they needed, and when I told her she needed to note where she saw fit, she looked so confused and upset.”
This next article goes into the “Not in my backyard” category. It might be good for those kids on the other side of town but not for my children.
Three proposed charter schools are seeking to come into St. Johns County, including two run by what’s been called “Florida’s richest charter school management firm” and the third with ties to a Tampa area educational company.
Why they’re coming to what’s considered one of the best school districts in the state puzzles two charter school supporters from opposing political parties — state Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, and state Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee.
Montford warned that the charter schools would have a detrimental effect on St. Johns County schools.
Charter school proponents say the schools help students gain better academic results through innovative programs, greater parent involvement and educational choice. They see charter schools as providing an opportunity for students in failing schools.
But St. Johns County schools aren’t failing. Based on Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores, the district has ranked No. 1 in the state for four years in a row.
Charter schools have to be not-for-profit, but they can be under a management group that can earn a profit.
Academica LLC, the umbrella organization for two of the schools seeking to open, is the state’s largest charter school management company and one that has long “cultivated political influence” in Tallahassee, according to the Miami Herald. At least two Miami legislators have had their roles with the company questioned, the Herald reported.
The company has some top-performing schools.
The Herald report in 2011 that Academica Corp., had a total annual revenue of $158 million with more than $9 million a year in management fees for its South Florida charter schools. Those fees, noted the Herald in its in-depth series on charter schools, “ultimately come from public tax dollars.” Through ownership in more than two dozen other companies, the company’s owners, Fernando and Ignacio Zulueta, “control more than $115 million in South Florida real estate,” the Herald reported. Property taxes showed the land was all exempt from property taxes as public schools, according to the Herald.
To read this article in full, go to: jacksonville.com.
Two rather important items that the corporate reformers choose to ignore in their battle to privatize anything left standing, is that in education, we have underfunded our schools over the last several decades and one of the greatest impacts on how well a student does in school is based on their readiness to learn. That means that the student had a good breakfast, a good night’s rest in a bed of their own with no distracting family or emotional issues, is clean and healthy, is dressed properly and comfortably and has the necessary supplies to begin their work. With 22% of our children in poverty at this time, many of our students are not able to focus on what is happening in the classroom.
Unfortunately, poverty has also been ignored by our politicians.
This week I will leave you with Bill Moyers and his thoughts on poverty.
The impoverished and the silent treatment