Educate All Students, Support Public Education

March 30, 2010

Judge Blocks Closing of 19 New York City Schools

Filed under: Uncategorized — millerlf @ 2:44 pm


A judge on Friday blocked the closing of 19 schools for poor performance, finding the city engaged in “significant violations” of the new state law governing mayoral control of city schools.

The ruling, a setback to one of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s signature education policies, means the city will have to start over in making its case to close the schools, this time, the judge wrote, with “meaningful community involvement.”

Unless the decision is overturned, it will most likely result in all the schools’ remaining open for at least another year. The law requires the closing process to begin at least six months before the start of the next school year.

The decision cleared the path for high school acceptance letters, which had been delayed because of the lawsuit, to go out to eighth graders around the city.

The decision, by Justice Joan B. Lobis of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, was a victory for the United Federation of Teachers and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which joined more than a dozen elected leaders and parents in suing to stop the closings.

They argued that the city had failed to comply with the mayoral control law passed last year, which required the Department of Education to give detailed “educational-impact statements” describing the effect of each closing on students and surrounding schools.

Justice Lobis agreed with the plaintiffs’ contention that the department had issued boilerplate statements, which she found lacked “the detailed analysis that an impact statement mandates.” She found other procedural violations, including insufficient public notification before hearings.

“Today, the court has told the chancellor and the Department of Education that they are not above the law,” said Michael Mulgrew, the president of the teachers’ union.

The response from the city was quick — disagreeing with the judge’s decision and the rationale behind it. It promised an appeal.

“My view is that you don’t send students to failing schools, schools that can’t provide them what they need,” the schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, said. “The sad thing is that the union would bring a lawsuit to resign kids to failing schools in order to save jobs. And ultimately, that is what this is about.”

Mr. Klein argued that the city had included the public sufficiently in the process. “I think the process was robust,” he added. “We literally met with thousands of people who expressed their views. We heard them, and in the end, we disagreed.”

The schools that received at least a temporary reprieve included Jamaica High School and Beach Channel High School in Queens; Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx; Paul Robeson High School in Brooklyn; and Norman Thomas High School in Manhattan, along with smaller schools, including the Global Enterprise High School in the Bronx and the high school grades of the Choir Academy of Harlem.

“We are thrilled,” said Christine Rowland, a teacher and the United Federation of Teachers’ representative at Columbus High School. “I think there’s a chance now. It was so hard for us to get anyone to listen in the very tight space of time we’ve had.”

The city has closed 91 schools since 2002, many of them large high schools, replacing them with clusters of smaller schools and charter schools in the old schools’ buildings. Mr. Bloomberg credits the closings with significantly improving graduation rates, which average over 70 percent at the small schools and 63 percent citywide.

When a school closes, current students are allowed to stay until graduation, but no new classes are admitted.

The moves have always generated controversy, particularly when schools proposed for closing had shown some progress. For example, 12 of the schools scheduled to close this year received a grade of “proficient” on their last city quality review, and hundreds of students and alumni citywide spoke out in favor of effective programs at the closing schools, like one devised for mothers and pregnant teenagers at Robeson that offers day care and teaches parenting skills.

The judge wrote that the impact statement for Robeson, for example, did not say where young mothers in Brooklyn could find similar programs. This year, for the first time, the mayoral control law required a significant public role in closing decisions, requiring hearings, detailed statements of how the closings would affect the communities and a vote by the Panel for Educational Policy before the decisions were final.

On Jan. 26, the panel, which is controlled by the mayor, affirmed all 19 closings after nine hours of angry public comment from hundreds of teachers, students and parents.

Justice Lobis, who voided the panel’s decision, said the new law “created a public process with meaningful community involvement regarding the chancellor’s proposals.” The entire mayoral control law, she wrote, “must be enforced, not merely the portion extending mayoral control of the schools.”

While the ruling was a defeat for the mayor and the chancellor, it did not dispute the city’s right to close the schools or assert that the schools, which often have low graduation rates, were worth saving.

The city had argued in court that any violations of the law were too minor to warrant overturning the closings. Mr. Klein said Friday that he stood by his decision and that the ruling would not change his commitment to close the schools, and others. Mr. Bloomberg has vowed to close the lowest 10 percent of schools by the end of his term.

The lawsuit had held up some 85,000 high school acceptance letters that were due out on Wednesday. The city’s interpretation of the ruling is that it clears the way for all those letters to go out next week, although the plaintiffs disagree.

Students were required to state their high school preferences in early December, around the time the department began to reveal which schools it wanted to close. About 8,500 applied to the schools proposed for closing and were notified later that they could not attend them. Those students will receive acceptance letters from other schools next week, along with a note saying that they could revert to their original choice if the school remains open.

Destiny Donaldson, 13, an eighth grader at Frank D. Whalen Middle School in the Bronx, applied to Columbus and said that when she got a letter saying the school was no longer accepting new ninth graders, “I cried.”

“I thought it was wrong. I always wanted to go there. My friend went there and she went on to college.”

Nate Schweber contributed reporting.

Janesville Charter School’s Curriculum Questioned

Filed under: Uncategorized — millerlf @ 2:38 pm

Wis. Charter School 12-Step Program at Church Draws Complaint

March 29, 2010

How can a public charter school be housed at a Lutheran church? Should its students be required to attend 12-step recovery sessions that are religious in nature?

Those are questions a resident of the School District of Janesville, Wis., asked the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which has filed a complaint with the district for violating the U.S. Constitution and state law. The Foundation has about 1,200 Wisconsin members and nearly 15,000 nationwide.

CRES Academy is a small charter school for students in grades 9-12 who have completed a 12-step program for addiction recovery. Addiction counseling is woven into the educational framework, according to the school’s Web site. CRES stands for Community Recovery Education Service.


An Analysis of the Tea Party Movement, Written in the Nation

Filed under: Uncategorized — millerlf @ 2:33 pm

The Mad Tea Party

By Richard Kim

This article appeared in the April 12, 2010 edition of The Nation.


Leftists like to say that another world is possible, but I was never quite sure of that until I started reading tea party websites. There, a government of leftists is not only possible, it’s on the cusp of seizing permanent power, having broken American capitalism and replaced it with a socialist state. Down that rabbit hole, Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel are communists, and “The Left”–which encompasses everyone from the Democratic Leadership Council to Maoist sectarians–is a disciplined and near omnipotent army marching in lockstep to a decades-old master plan for domination called the “Cloward-Piven strategy” or, as of January 20, 2009, “Cloward-Piven government.”

What is this plot? According to David Horowitz, who apparently coined the expression, Cloward-Piven is “the strategy of forcing political change through orchestrated crisis.” Named after sociologists and antipoverty and voting rights activists Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, who first elucidated it in a May 2, 1966, article for The Nation called “The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty,” the Cloward-Piven strategy, in Horowitz’s words, “seeks to hasten the fall of capitalism by overloading the government bureaucracy with a flood of impossible demands, thus pushing society into crisis and economic collapse.” Like a fun-house-mirror version of Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine theory, the Cloward-Piven strategy dictates that the left will exploit that crisis to push through unpopular, socialist policies in a totalitarian manner.

Since Obama’s election and the financial crash of 2008, Horowitz’s description has been taken up by a clutch of tea party propagandists–from TV and radio hosts Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin to WorldNetDaily editor Joseph Farah, National Review editor Stanley Kurtz and The Obama Nation author Jerome Corsi–to explain how both events could have happened, here, in the U-S-A. In their historical narrative, it was Cloward and Piven’s article that gave ACORN the idea to start peddling subprime mortgages to poor minorities in the 1980s, knowingly laying the groundwork for a global economic meltdown nearly thirty years later. Beck calls Cloward and Piven the two people who are “fundamentally responsible for the unsustainability and possible collapse of our economic system.” It was Cloward and Piven who had the diabolical idea of registering (illegal or nonexistent) poor and minority voters through Project Vote and the Motor Voter Act, thus guaranteeing Obama’s “fraudulent” victory. And it is the Cloward-Piven strategy that guides the Obama administration’s every move to this day, as it seeks to ram through healthcare reform, economic stimulus and financial regulation (all of which, in reality, have enjoyed majority support in many polls taken during the last two years).

As proof, Beck & Co. point to what they see as a shadowy web of associations: Cloward and Piven worked in alliance with welfare rights organizer George Wiley, who mentored Wade Rathke, who went on to found ACORN, which sometimes coordinated registration drives with Project Vote (whose board of directors Piven just recently joined), a previous incarnation of which employed Obama to run a Chicago chapter in the early ’90s. They also repeatedly cite Emanuel’s statement, made in November 2008 after the passage of TARP but before the stimulus, that “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” From The Nation‘s pages to the White House’s brains and muscles–it took only forty-four years!


March 28, 2010

Alan Borsuk Talks to Diane Ravitch About Milwaukee, Charters and Choice

Filed under: Uncategorized — millerlf @ 6:44 pm

John Gee, director of the Wisconsin Charter Schools Association, calls MPS the sinking “Titanic” as he tries to flood Milwaukee with charter schools.

Milwaukee, in the strongly revised opinion of Diane Ravitch, is almost a textbook example for showing that the prediction that the tide of school choice will lift all educational boats is wrong.

“One might wonder about how much (Milwaukee Public Schools) is coming apart at the seams because of the competition,” Ravitch said in a telephone conversation. “The competition was supposed to make things better.”

A few years ago, Ravitch was a prominent voice for that latter sentiment. But in a way that has caused a stir in education circles nationwide, she now has come down emphatically in the opposite camp when it comes to private school vouchers, charter schools and the testing-based accountability regimen that is at the heart of the No Child Left Behind education law.

Those ideas just haven’t worked, she argues in “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.” It is time to return to emphasizing better curriculum and instruction as the key to better success, she says, and it is time for emphasizing the needs of the mainstream of public school students.


March 25, 2010

Tea Partiers Drop N Bombs, Anti-gay Slur, and Spit on Democratic Lawmakers at Capitol Hill Protest

Filed under: Uncategorized — millerlf @ 11:35 pm

Teabagging racists chanted ‘Nigger’ 15 times at civil rights hero Congressman John Lewis, as they spit on Congressman Emanuel Cleaver.

In a separate incident, inside the capital building, Teabagging homophobes screamed “Faggot” and Congressman Barney Frank.

Teabagging anti-Semites mocked Congressman Anthony “Schlomo Weiner.”

Teabagger even brought signs threatening gun violence if health care passes.


Video of Teabaggers Waving Confederate Flag, Shouting Racial Slurs and Harassing a Protestor with Parkinson’s

Filed under: Uncategorized — millerlf @ 2:11 pm

To view March 21st protest click below:

To view Tea Party Activists Harassing a Man with Parkinson’s Disease 03/17/2010 click below:

See Music Video of House Minority Leader John Boehner’s Tirade in Congress

Filed under: Uncategorized — millerlf @ 1:48 pm

See music video showing House Minority leader John Boehner’s tirade in congress. The title of the music video

is “No You Can’t/ Yes We Can.” Click below.

MSNBC Show Calls New York City Public School Reforms an “Education Miracle”

Filed under: Charter Schools,School Finance — millerlf @ 11:38 am

New York City continues to be held up as the gold standard for school reform even though they have little to show. NY State and NYC have made little or no progress on the English Language Arts NAEPs over the course of the last eight years; in fact, 8th grade results have been abysmal and worse than any other city tested over this period.

The MSNBC Morning Joe Show today did a special on the “education miracle” being led by New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg. One of the New York schools said to show the way is Harlem Village Academy. Below is a blog by Steve Koss who tells the real story and asks the right questions about this “education miracle.”

The Harlem Village Academy (HVA)  is one of the New York schools that is being  advertised as a model for urban schools. Recently Bob Herbert, in the New York Times, raved about HVA. Following is a blog posting by Steve Koss that raises some important questions.

Steve Koss

In his latest NY Times column, Bob Herbert has shown that he belongs to the Nick Kristof club of “journalists” who helicopter into an issue, traipse around for a few hours, get treated like royalty and receive a king’s tour, hear a one-sided pitch, watch a show being put on for their benefit, and then go write a story as if they actually know something about the broader topic.

Herbert decided to dabble for a few hours in NYC public school education, and the Potemkin village story he presents is about the marvels of Harlem Village Academy (HVA) charter school on West 144th Street. Herbert makes much of one his one selected statistic: “In 2008, when the math and science test scores come in, Ms. Kenny’s eighth graders had achieved 100 percent proficiency.” That’s commendable, of course, but here are a few figures he overlooked or failed to mention:

— In 2006-07, the first year on which DOE reports data for HVA, the school had a Grade 5 class of 66 students. HVA has no students in Grades K-4, so Grade 5 appears to be the school’s primary intake class. The next year, that same cohort as Grade 6 students numbered 45. A 32% loss of students in a single year for such a stellar school, even in the middle school crossover year, is worth explaining.

— In 2006-07, HVA had a Grade 7 class of 42 students, but the next year’s Grade 8 cohort numbered just 31, another 26% loss of students that raises an eyebrow or two.

— One-third of the school’s classes in 2008 were “taught by teachers without appropriate certification” according to the DOE’s own data, and 42% of the teachers were reported either without certification (18%) or teaching outside their area of certification (24%). HVA did not report its teacher turnover rates for the DOE’s 2007-08 report, nor does it appear to have ever disclosed those figures for the DOE’s public reporting.

— In 2006-07, HVA had zero students out of 200 classified at Limited English Proficient (LEP); in 2007-08, that number was still only three out of 233. By comparison, PS/IS 210, located just eight blocks away on West 152nd Street, had 173 LEP students out of a student population of 360 in 2007-08, or 48%.

— In 2006-07, 53% of the HVA student body qualified for free lunch, rising to 61% in 2007-08. By comparison, 91% of the student population at nearby PS/IS 210 qualified for free lunch in 2006-07 (no data reported for 2007-08).

— HVA reported an average class size of 31 for 2007-08. By comparison, PS/IS 210 reported a Grade 1-6 (common branch) average class size of 40 for the last three consecutive years.

— HVA reported 75 student suspensions in 2005-06 and 87 suspensions for 2006-07. The student body in those two years totaled 200 and 233, respectively. Nearby PS/IS 210 reported just 10 suspensions in each of those two years for student populations of 192 and 257, respectively. Both schools reported 94% attendance rates for 2006-07, the only year reported by HVA.

— For 2007-08, HVA reported a Grade 8 cohort of 31 students. Thirty took the Grade 8 Math exam, but only 25 took the Grade 8 Science exam in which 96% were rated Proficient. What happened to the other six students, almost 20% of the class? If they were all too weak academically to have reached Proficient, the school’s percentage would have dropped to 77% — still good, but not as chest-thumping as 96%. Curiously, 41 of HVA’s 43 Grade 8 student the previous year took the Science exam for 2006-07, and their proficiency percentage came in just there, at 76%.

— A recent executive search letter seeking teachers on HVA’s behalf included the following statement: The organization [Harlem Village Academies] recently completed a $67 million capital campaign to build a new high school in the heart of Harlem and has a robust pipeline of donors. Harlem Village Academies recently held its first ever gala, hosted by Hugh Jackman, with performances by John Legend, Patti LaBelle, and Joss Stone. The event, attended by Mayor Bloomber and Governor Patterson, generated net revenues of nearly $2 million. I can’t resist adding here that the DOE is still aggressively pursuing its edict that NYC public school students are forbidden from selling homemade brownies, cupcakes, or cookies to raise $50 or $100 for their clubs and activities; if they could just get Hugh Jackman and Patti LaBelle!

Other recent news items from HVA’s own website cite the involvement of Jack Welch (GE), Dick Parsons (Citigroup), Brian Williams (NBC), and Tiki Barber. Again, compare all this to the (steadily shrinking) resources DOE provides to PS/IS 210 and its much needier student population nearby. Note as well that Mayor Bloomberg is repeatedly quoted in the school’s literature and on its website as describing HVA as “the poster child for this country.” Is this really the Mayor’s vision for NYC public schools: dependent on celebrities and the feel-good charitable funding fad of the moment among NYC’s corporatocracy and its nouveau riche hedge fund managers?

— Principal Deborah Kenny, as chief executive of Harlem Village Network (which includes one other school in East Harlem, the Leadership Village Academy Charter School), commanded a neat little compensation package totaling slightly under $420,000 last year. She is not the acting principal of any of her network’s three schools, yet her compensation, spread over the 400-odd students in her network, adds a $1,000 per student overhead burden. If the entire NYC public school system operated in the same manner for its one million students, the combined compensation for all the comparable “network chief executives” would add one billion dollars to the city’s education budget!

I should state here that I am not categorically opposed to charter schools in principle, any more than I have ever been opposed to parochial schools (from which, in Indianapolis, I am a partial product). What I object to is the unthinking, unquestioning acceptance by people like Mr. Herbert, who are supposed to know better, that privatizing public education based on hidden investors (with potentially their own agendas), paying outsized salaries to members of the club, dumping at will any kids who are difficult to teach or control, ignoring kids with English language or special education needs, and then blindly comparing these cream-skimmed apples to a wholly different and far more inclusive set of underfunded oranges somehow represents “the answer” for urban education in America. Mr. Herbert owes us much better than the misleading storyline he has provided in this instance, whatever his personal feelings and connections are.

Schools like Harlem Village Academy may indeed work well for the population they create for themselves after dumping the kids they don’t want back into the “traditional” public school system, and they deserve to be credited for what they achieve as a result since their students appear to be benefiting. But that’s not public education, that’s just a tuition-free private school operating on public money in public space, supplemented by lots and lots of private money and making a few more, mostly white people like Ms. Kenny and Ms. Moskowitz shamefully well-paid.

Posted by Steve Koss

Threats Against House Dems Seen Around the Country

Filed under: Racism,Uncategorized — millerlf @ 2:03 am

Attacks against Democrats mount. John Boehner, the House Minority leader calls Rep. Steve Driehaus a “dead man.”
Driehaus, a vulnerable member whose district includes part of Cincinnati, took explicit issue with House Minority Leader John Boehner, who represents a neighboring district. In an interview with National Review Boehner intoned that, if he voted for the bill, Driehaus would be a “dead man.” Boehner was talking politics, but for Driehaus, it’s become all too real.

“I think it’s really important for folks around here, especially leader Boehner, to understand that his words have consequences,” Driehaus said. “Leader Boehner suggested that if I vote yes on this bill and go home to the west side of Cincinnati, that I could be a dead man…. It really calls into question his ability to lead. He should be a statesman.”

See music video showing House Minority leader John Boehner’s outbursts at:

Vandals target Democrats over health-bill vote

By Seattle Times news services

WASHINGTON  As opponents’ anger has built over the Democrats’ passage of health-care legislation, Internet posts urging opponents to take action may have sparked a viral spate of vandalism and other threats against members of Congress and their families.

On Tuesday, the brother of Rep. Tom Perriello discovered that the gas line connecting a propane tank to an outdoor grill at his Virginia home had been severed. Days earlier, members of conservative tea-party groups in the area had posted his address online, urging people to “drop by” what they mistakenly believed was the congressman’s home.

The incident  which is under FBI investigation, according to Jessica Barba, Rep. Perriello’s press secretary  is possibly the latest in a string of acts against Democrats who voted in favor of the health-care legislation, which was vehemently opposed by tea-party groups.

“We’ve had very serious incidents that have occurred over the last 48, 72 hours,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters on Wednesday. “Anyone who feels at risk is getting attention from the proper authorities.”

The reports of threats, coming after a tense weekend when protesters hurled racial and homophobic slurs at Democrats and spit on one congressman, left many Democrats shaken.

On Saturday, anti-health-legislation demonstrators outside the Capitol called Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, who is black, a racial epithet and spat on another black lawmaker, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, according to Kristie Greco, a spokeswoman for Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina.


Madison School Board Facing Significant Budget Gap

Filed under: School Finance — millerlf @ 1:38 am

School Board moves forward with tax hike to help plug budget gap


Related Stories

Action taken Monday by the Madison School Board means the owners of an average $250,000 home will see their property taxes rise by at least $127 this winter, school district officials said Tuesday.

At the close of Monday’s packed public hearing on the district’s 2010-11 budget, School Board members voted unanimously to claim $4 million in tax authority granted by voters in a 2008 referendum, plus another $7.7 million allowed under revenue caps.

That vote helped shrink the district’s looming budget hole for the 2010-11 school year from $29.8 million to about $18.1 million.

In two additional votes, the board voted to drop school consolidation plans and remove nearly 100 full-time jobs from the district’s list of $30 million in possible cuts.

The board’s work is far from done. Its seven members will continue to discuss the budget in public meetings scheduled for April 5, 12 and 26 and will hold a second public hearing at 1 p.m. on April 12 at Warner Park Community Recreation Center, 1625 Northport Drive.

Under revenue caps, the board must make at least another $1.2 million in cuts. It also must decide how to deal with a remaining budget hole of $16.9 million, either by further raising property taxes, making more cuts within the district, or a combination of the two.

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