The Weekly Update: For the news and views you might have missed

First up, more Facebook pages are popping up on the subject of education:

Our Village Our Schools

Public Education Crusaders

Long Island Chapter Save Our Schools March

350 This one is related to the climate crisis and I post it on this blog because it does affect our children.

Next up, a petition to be sent to President Obama. Maybe one of these days he’ll start to listen to the rest of us.

Stop education policies that promote massive closing of traditional public schools while expanding charter schools.

Mass school closings have proven to be disruptive to low-income minority communities, and the negative impact could outweigh the benefits. Students who transfer as a result of school closings could initially lose up to 6 months in academic achievement. Under-performing neighborhood schools are typically replaced by charter schools that perform no better. It takes at least 5 years for new schools to fully develop. In some districts nearly 40% of charters have experienced serious cash flow problems, and a significant number are having difficulty complying with state-mandated pension funding requirements. Across the nation, it is expected that 15% of charter schools will fail. Low-income minority students, who are already struggling, cannot afford such instability.

Speaking of charter schools:


Public or Private: Charter Schools Can’t Have It Both Ways

An excerpt:

Are charter schools public? Are they private? Are they somewhere in between?

There is a lively debate in the education community over these questions. Charter advocates claim that charter schools are, of course, public schools, with all the democratic accountability that this entails. The only difference, they say, is that charters are public schools with the freedom and space to innovate. On the other side, charter critics argue that contracting with the government to receive taxpayer money does not make an organization public (after all, no one would say Haliburton is public) and if a school is not regulated and governed by any elected or appointed bodies answerable to the public, then it is not a public school.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) was recently forced to weigh in on this question. It came out with a clear verdict that charter schools are not, in fact, public schools.

The ruling came in response to a case regarding a charter school in Chicago, the Chicago Math and Science Academy (CMSA). In 2010, two thirds of CMSA’s teachers voted to unionize, in accordance with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act, which grants the employees of all public schools the right to form unions. In an attempt to invalidate this vote, charter officials filed papers with the National Labor Relations Board arguing that CMSA should not be covered under the state law because it does not qualify as a public school.

And that is precisely what NLRB concluded, ruling that CMSA is a “private entity” and is consequently covered under the federal law governing the private sector. According to the federal government, the debate is settled—charter schools are not public schools, and that is all there is to it.

To read this article in full, go to

And from Diane Ravitch, an excerpt from her post:

Courts and NLRB: Charters Are Not Public Schools

Courts have repeatedly ruled that charter schools are not public schools. These rulings have been sought not by charter critics, but by the charters themselves, to enable them to avoid complying with state laws.

Julian Vasquez Heilig of the University of Texas warns African American students and their families that charters are not considered public schools by the courts when it comes to discipline policies. Student rights are protected in public schools, but with few exceptions, not in charter schools. On matters of student discipline, the courts have decided that charters are not public schools.

The same is true for state labor laws.

Just a few days ago, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that charter schools are “private entities,” not public schools, and are therefore subject to different requirements when dealing with employees. This means that teachers at charter schools “are now subject to private-sector labor laws, rather than state laws governing public workers.” Charters sought this ruling when two-thirds of the teachers at the Chicago Math and Science Academy voted to unionize. The board said that charters are akin to private contractors that win government contracts. The charter schools view this ruling as a victory because they prefer to be treated as private organizations, not public schools governed by state law. See Valerie Strauss’s report of this decision here.

When charter teachers say they have been treated unfairly and go to court, the courts typically rule that charters are not public schools. This is a link to an article I wrote for my “Bridging Differences” at Education Week. Follow the links in my article and you will see decisions by courts in several states that charter schools are not public schools. These were rulings sought b charter schools, which insisted that they are NOT public schools because they did not want to be covered by the state laws.

To read this post in full, go to Diane Ravitch Blog.


Speaking of differences between charter school franchises and what many of us see as the ideal and more realistic approach to education, Anthony Cody created a wonderful table in his post The Education Reform Dichotomy: Big Choices Ahead clearly showing the difference in approaches between what we have come to term “education reform” and what he refers to as Social Context Reform.

As Cody quotes educator Paul Thomas:

Social Context Reformers are primarily educators and education scholars who call for a combination of social and education reforms committed to addressing equity: Poverty is destiny, in society and schools, but poverty should not be destiny, argue Social Context Reformers.

To follow is the chart that Cody has developed based on Paul Thomas’ original description:

Problem “No Excuses” Reform solution or side effect Social Context reform solution
Low income children lag in educational success, compared to children with higher socioeconomic backgrounds. Three decades of standards-based testing and corporate-controlled, data-driven accountability to close the test-based achievement gapLegislated, top-down reform policies that blame teachers of low-income children.Narrow test prep-focused curriculum, especially for students in high poverty schools. Actively recognize inequities in society and work to reverse them systematically.Teacher preparation closely linked to practice, and opportunities to work alongside experienced teachers, who work closely with parents and community leaders to improve education.Rich curriculum, and authentic assessment of student learning.
Public schools in lower income communities produce much worse outcomes, and in the poorest areas, outcomes are tragic. Reward affluent and middle-class schools in affluent and middle-class neighborhoods and punish schools in impoverished neighborhood.Close down the public schools in low income communities. Desegregation programs, with an emphasis on high quality schools for all.Support struggling schools, building stability and enhancing the resources they offer.
Urban and rural communities and school systems are struggling under the weight of escalating child poverty among all ethnic groups.Children arrive at school lacking vision, dental and health care. None. Provide adequate and equitable funding for all schools, including nurses, social workers, and support services where needed.Universal healthcare (including eye care, dental care) for children and families with children
Increasing segregation, as the most economically needy children are trapped together by residency requirements in desperately dysfunctional, under-resourced schools, in physically dangerous environments where the problems of violence and social disconnectedness impact all the children in a school. Drain public school funding for parental choice policies that reinforce stratification found in those parental choices.Privately operated charter schools, segregated by race and socioeconomic statusRigid school environment, zero tolerance policies Pursue “mass localism,” with educators, parents and community engaging in place-based education, rooted in community history and needs.
The accumulated public and individual wealth of this generation was somehow “lost” in the financial collapse, so we have insufficient funds available to educate our children Strip elected local school boards of authority, so corporate leaders appointed by mayors and governors can allocate resources.Turn whole public districts over to for-profit management companies.Mandate “cost-saving”, privately operated online education for children in low-income districts.Vouchers replace right to equitable public education. Mobilize communities to regain control of our public education system.
Poor, Latino/Black, special needs, and ELL students assigned disproportionately inexperienced and un-/under-certified teachers. Ignore the conditions that promote high turnover, and instead recruit TFA or other alternatively certified teachers for these students. Address conditions that promote high turnover. Develop teaching talent from the local community, reflecting the ethnic and cultural composition of the students. Create residency programs to train and retain teachers. Honor experience to retain teachers.

To read Anthony Cody’s article in full, go to Living in Dialogue.

Some other news you might have missed is the:

Illinois rally

Rally at Illinois Capitol

Representatives Abandon Teachers and All

We Are One Illinois created a massive Jan. 3, 2002 rally in the capitol to address the pension crisis created by state representatives. The representatives canceled their scheduled legislative session.

Shakespeare famously wrote, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” The reason for this is simply that Springfield, Illinois had not yet been founded when he wrote the line.

The Illinois Education Association was a major organizer of the teachers who are most harmed by the prospective legislative bill. The teachers and retirees who traveled hundreds of miles in the dead of winter from all over the state arrived at offices abandoned by the representatives who fail to solve the actual problem. Because the state legislature has failed to pay the teachers’ pension money into the pension fund for decades, this legalized pillage has been renamed a Pension Crisis.

Let’s be perfectly clear about this. There is no pension crisis; there is a revenue crisis.

To read this post in full, go to Reclaim Reform.

Because of budget cuts to public education and the focus on math and a narrowed version of English, our children are losing an opportunity to enjoy learning on many levels and grow intellectually in different ways. Many students are losing their time to play, explore, think critically, dance, sing, draw, paint, discuss ideas, learn from history, mythology and great literature or understand that they are different approaches to solving a problem.

I came across the following article this week and it brought it home to me that this is also occurring in our institutions of higher learning. This is a sad day for America.

Only a select few will be able to study in a liberal arts program in the near future.


Emory University Eradicates its Visual Arts Department, Portending an Ominous Trend in University Education

Since the economic downturn in 2008, liberal arts colleges and universities across the country have reshaped their curriculums. They have narrowed the fields of study to prepare students for vocational work quantified by employment and statistical analysis, shearing the visual arts––in part or whole––from the intellectual mold that has underpinned students’ critical thinking in the United States over the past century.

Since the economic downturn in 2008, liberal arts colleges and universities across the country have reshaped their curriculums. They have narrowed the fields of study to prepare students for vocational work quantified by employment and statistical analysis, shearing the visual arts––in part or whole––from the intellectual mold that has underpinned students’ critical thinking in the United States over the past century.

To read this article in full, go to Art and Education.

And finally, a new play is premiering in Portland titled “A Noble Failure”. As described by the Third Rail Repertory Theater:

a nobel failure

In this call-to-arms, Mach shares an eye-opening look at the current state of America’s public education system. Navigating a minefield of competition, quotas, retention, privatization, class size, corporate welfare, and litigation is tricky on the best of days, but what does any of it have to do with teaching Johnny to read? Told with empathy and humor, and featuring a rich cast of characters, A NOBLE FAILURE is startling in its immediacy and passionate in its plea to “Save Our Schools.”

A Noble Failure will be presented as a part of Fertile Ground 2013, Portland’s festival of new and developing works.

Teacher and activist Brian Jones will be in Portland to promote this play which some have described as a “powerful presentation on education reform”.

The January 10th performance at the Winningstad Theatre is free . Third Rail and Oregon Save Our Schools will be hosting a pre-event reception with Brian Jones at the Unitarian Church from 5: 30-7:00 pm.

On January 11th:

Real vs. Phony Education Reform — How to Know the Difference

Redeemer Lutheran Church

5431 Northeast 20th Avenue  Portland, OR 97211

Friday w January 11th, 2013 w 5:00 – 6:30 P.M.

Tickets are free and donations will be accepted to offset costs

Please contact SOS for child care needs at

Parking available in the church lot and on the street

To know more about Brian Jones, check out  Still Separate, Still Unequal: Racism, Class and the Attack on Public Education, with Brian Jones

And, of course, the movie that he co-wrote and produced, The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman:

See you next week.

Dora Taylor