Educate All Students, Support Public Education

June 29, 2010

An Alternative Vision for Public Education from the National Council of Churches

Filed under: Education Policy — millerlf @ 11:10 am

May 2010

Dear President Obama and Members of Congress,

The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA is a community of 36 Christian communions with a combined membership of 45 million persons in more than 100,000 congregations across this country. Our member churches – from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches – do not agree on all things! We stand united, however, in our conviction that the church is called to speak for justice in public education. We affirm that each life is infinitely precious, created in the image of God, and therefore, that every child should be given opportunity for fullness of life, including a quality and affordable education.

We further affirm that our society’s provision of public education—publicly funded, universally available, and accountable to the public—while imperfect, is essential for ensuring that all children are served. As a people called to love our neighbors as ourselves, we look for the optimal way to balance the needs of each particular child and family with the need to create a system that secures the rights and addresses the needs of all children. We know that such a system will never be perfect, and we pledge as faithful citizens to continue to improve the schools in our communities and to make our system of schools more responsive.

We value democratic governance of public schools.


A New Fed Study: Charters Becoming the New Vouchers

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 10:51 am

Advocates saying that charters are the silver bullet for solving the problems of urban education are going through the same machinations that voucher advocates in Milwaukee have danced around for the last 20 years, yet showing no significant improvement of performance.

A new report released this month “finds no clear edge” as stated by an article in Education Week by Lesli Maxwell. “Students who won lotteries to attend charter middle schools performed, on average, no better in mathematics and reading than their peers who lost out in the random admissions process and enrolled in nearby regular public schools.”

The federally commissioned study, involving 2,330 students who applied to 36 charter middle schools in 15 states, represents the first large-scale randomized trial of the effectiveness of charter schools across several states and rural, suburban, and urban locales. The charter schools in the sample conducted random lotteries for admissions, so that only chance determined who attended.

The study was conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, of Princeton, N.J., and concludes that the lottery winners did no better, on average, than the lottery losers on non-academic outcomes such as behavior and attendance.

The findings on academic performance echo, in part, those of researchers at Stanford University, whose 2009 nonrandomized, multistate study of charter schools sparked fierce debate when they concluded that, in general, most charters were producing similar or worse achievement results for students than traditional public schools were. (“Study Casts Doubt on Charter School Results,” June 15, 2009.)

June 28, 2010

Neo-Nazi and Neo-McVeigh Elements Join Tea Party Movement

Filed under: Racism,Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 8:12 am

A recent observer to my blog describes the Tea Party as “…a legitimate and passionate group of people who are exercising their rights and voicing their dissatisfaction with the direction the United  States is heading.” Supporters of this movement are either naive, charlatans or just plain reactionaries. Please read the following blog to get acquainted with some of the “legitimate” people in the Tea Party movement.

OPINION: Neo-Nazis And Neo-McVeighs Crash Tea Party

By Casey Gane-McCalla February 16, 2010

Neo-Nazis (Modern Day White Supremacists) KKK and Nazi sympathizers also known as white nationalists

A group that has managed to infiltrate the tea party has been the Neo-Nazis. The white nationalists have seen the anger over a Black President and the mostly white make up of the tea party protesters and have decided to use the Tea Parties as a vehicle to spout their racist views and recruit new members.

Neo-Nazis speak openly about their involvement and support for the Tea Party movement on the White Supremacist Site, Stormfront. Here are some quotes from white supremacists regarding Tea Party events.

“One thing I noticed about the Tea Party crowds is that they are 99% WHITE!
These are my people and they are your people as well. Just because they haven’t fully awakened doesn’t mean that they are our enemy. The polls on these people is that they do not support any (R) or (D) candidate, but instead support the person who is more constitutional.
My suggestion to all you do-nothings is that you join your local Tea-Party at make changes from within instead of criticizing from the outside. I love my fellow white neighbor and deep down these good Tea-partying white folks want the the basic same freedoms and rights as we all do. I say we establish ourselves in there before the filthy frikin joos do.


Some History of Tea Party Movement

Filed under: Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 8:00 am

Following is a breakdown of the financial backing and leadership of the Tea Party movement. It is clear that this right-wing populist movement is connected to the Republican Party and funded by reactionary corporate interests. It is at least 99% white and willingly unites with anyone, including neo-nazis and neo-McVeighs, to its ranks.

In a New York Times op-ed column by economist Paul Krugman, writing that “the tea parties don’t represent a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment. They’re AstroTurf (fake grass roots) events, manufactured by the usual suspects. In particular, a key role is being played by FreedomWorks, an organization run by Richard Armey.”[165]

According to Atlantic Monthly, the three main groups that provide guidance and organization for the protests FreedomWorks, dontGO, and Americans for Prosperity state that the demonstrations are an organic movement.[167]

FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity both originated from a campaign called Citizens for a Sound Economy, which split in two in 2004. CSE was set up by businessman David Koch (Koch Industries), who has also promoted liberty and research organizations (Cato Institute and Reason Foundation).[4] Citizens for a Sound Economy (grassroots machine) merged with Empower America (policy expertise) in 2004 and was renamed FreedomWorks, with Dick Armey, Jack Kemp and C. Boyden Gray serving as co-chairmen, Bill Bennett focusing on school choice as a Senior Fellow, and Matt Kibbe as President and CEO.[5] Empower America was founded in 1993 by William Bennett, former Secretary of HUD Jack Kemp, former Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, and former Representative Vin Weber.[6] There is no relation today beteween FreedomWorks and the Koch family or foundation, despite its partial origins in Citizens for a Sound Economy. FreedomWorks has received no funding from the Koch family or foundations.[7]

FreedomWorks is a conservative non-profit organization based in Washington D.C., United States. FreedomWorks trains volunteer activists and wages campaigns to encourage them to mobilize, engage fellow citizens, and influence their political representatives. Several of FreedomWorks’ campaigns have been described as “astroturfing,” or projecting the false impression of grassroots organizing.[1][2][3] FreedomWorks’ spokesmen have denied this characterization.

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is a Washington, D.C.-based conservative political advocacy group which advocates for limited government and free markets on the local, state and federal levels. It was founded in 2004, by billionaire David H. Koch of Koch Industries,[1] who in 1984, had also established its predecessor, Citizens for a Sound Economy,[2] from which Americans for Prosperity split in 2003. (Citizens for a Sound Economy rebranded as FreedomWorks.)

In 2003, an internal rift between Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) and its affiliated Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation led to a split in which the latter organization was renamed as a separate organization, called Americans for Prosperity, while Citizens for a Sound Economy rebranded as FreedomWorks.[3]

Its foundation’s chair and founder is David H. Koch of Koch Industries,[1] which runs oil refining and pipeline companies. One of the Koch Family Foundations provides grant funding to AFP. Koch ranked #19 on Forbes magazine’s 2009 list of the world’s billionaires.

Citizens for a Sound Economy/CSE (1984–2004) was a conservative political group operating in the United States, whose self-described mission was “to fight for less government, lower taxes, and less regulation.” In 2004, Citizens for a Sound Economy split into two new organizations, with Citizens for a Sound Economy rebranding as FreedomWorks, and Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation becoming Americans for Prosperity.

Reports of inappropriate incidents

On March 20, 2010, before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Bill was voted on by lawmakers, it was reported that protesters against the bill used racial and homophobic slurs at a rally at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.. Several black lawmakers said that demonstrators shouted “nigger” at them.[152][153] Congressman Emanuel Cleaver said he was spat upon, and Congressman Barney Frank, who is gay, was called a “faggot.”[154][152] Representative André Carson said that as he walked from the House office building with Representative John Lewis, amid chants of “Kill the bill” he heard the “n – word at least 15 times”.[155] One man “just rattled it off several times.” Carson quoted Lewis as saying, “You know, this reminds me of a different time.”[156][156]

On March 21, 2010, Springboro Tea Party founder, Sonny Thomas, posted racist slurs against Hispanics on the group’s Twitter webpage, including one post that said, “Illegals everywhere today! So many spics makes me feel like a speck. Grrr. Wheres my gun!?”. The posts triggered cancellations by several local and statewide political candidates scheduled to speak at a Springboro Tea Party rally on April 17. Other Tea Party officials say the posts were “classless” and way out of line, but say they don’t represent the Tea Party movement as a whole.[159]

On March 22, 2010, a Lynchburg, Virginia Tea Party activist, attempting to post the home address of Congressman Tom Perriello on his blog, incorrectly posted the address of Perriello’s brother, who also lives in Virginia, and encouraged readers to “drop by” to express their anger against Rep. Perriello’s vote in favor of the health care bill. The following day, a severed gas line was discovered in Perriello’s brother’s yard which connected to a propane grill on the home’s screened-in porch. Local police and FBI investigators determined that it was intentionally cut as a deliberate act of vandalism. The website issued a response saying the Tea Party member’s action of posting the address “was not requested, sanctioned or endorsed” by the group.[160][161][162]

Tea Party Express leader Mark Williams referred to the Muslim god as a “Monkey God”. Williams’ comments elicited strong rebukes from New York City Mayor Bloomberg, NY State Senators and Muslim leaders. In a subsequent blog posting, Williams said, “I owe an apology,” he wrote on his blog, “to millions of Hindus who worship Lord Hanuman, an actual Monkey God. Hanuman is worshiped as a symbol of perseverance, strength, and devotion … Those are hardly the traits of whatever the Hell (literally) it is that terrorists worship.” When questioned by The Washington Post about his comments about Islam and Obama, Williams has claimed the controversy has “been fantastic for the movement.” [163][164]

Excerpts from Utne Reader on Tea Party Movement

Filed under: Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 7:39 am

Tea Party Crashers

Despite the real idealism of some of its activists, the latest conservative movement is nothing more than a Republican-managed tantrum

July-August 2010 Utne Reader

The following is part of a series of articles on activism in the United States. For more, read The New Face of Activism and Lessons from the Godfather.

Judy Pepenella, codirector of New York’s Tea Party Patriots, insists that she has just blown my mind. “It’s ‘We the People,’ ” she repeats. “That’s the Tea Party—those three silly words: We. The. People.” She says it’s impossible to explain to an outsider, even a sympathetic one. “It doesn’t make any sense, but it makes all the sense in the world. In Massachusetts the people put out the call, and we helped Scott Brown. And no one can figure us out.”

Pepenella might not be able to define the Tea Party appeal, but she has the ingredients right. It is loud, self-regarding, incoherent, and endowed with a bottomless confidence that it speaks for real Americans. It sounds just like Republicans did circa 1994.

The year-old movement is credited with reviving right-wing populism, damaging health care reform, and electing Brown to Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat. Opinion polls reveal that Americans have a more favorable view of it than they do of the Republican Party. The Wall Street Journal compares it to the Whiskey Rebellion, heralding it as the fruition of Ross Perot–style populism, a great third force in American politics.

But in reality, the Tea Party is not Pepenella’s mysterious vehicle of democratic will, nor does it signal the emergence of an alternative to Republicans and Democrats. It’s a leaderless coalition of conservative activists who for all their revolu­tionary vim look less likely to take over the Grand Old Party than to be taken over by it.

At a recent Tea Party confab in Nashville, Tennessee, Sarah Palin suggested that the GOP would be “smart to start trying to absorb” the Tea Party movement. But it doesn’t have to absorb anything. The two are already inseparable. Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele, who recently used teacups as a prop during a speech, says, “If I wasn’t doing this job, I’d be out there with the Tea Partiers.” Eating rubber chicken and collecting a pretty good paycheck, no doubt.

The partiers provide a wellspring of fund-raising and volunteers, as they did for Scott Brown and currently are doing for Republican candidates across the country. During the health care debate, they supplied GOP shock troops for town hall meetings. At its sharpest edge, the Tea Party phenomenon represents the angry conservative base, punishing incumbent Republicans for any number of infractions: bailouts, support for amnesty, softness on terrorism, or, in the case of Charlie Crist, hugging President Barack Obama. But even the most militant rebels aren’t upending the establishment. They’re still playing safely within the confines of Republican orthodoxy.

The madness began on February 19, 2009, as a bizarre suggestion by CNBC’s Rick Santelli. In a disjointed and explosive rant, Santelli asked why we should “subsidize the losers’ mortgages.” The former Drexel Burnham Lambert exec thought Washington was going too far in trying to help home­owners. After shouting that Americans hadn’t made an attractive car since 1954, Santelli screamed, “We’re thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July. All you capitalists that want to show up at Lake Michigan, I’m going to start organizing.”

Santelli’s yawp came precisely, perhaps suspiciously, at the same time that Beltway institutions were encouraging their activists to start protesting. Brendan Steinhauser, who directs federal and state campaigns for FreedomWorks, a libertarian-leaning D.C. operation, recalls that in the week leading up to Santelli’s rant, the nonprofit had been bombarded with calls from conservative activists awaiting orders. “They had already jammed the phone lines on Capitol Hill,” he says, “so we sent out a newsletter, signed by [former Texas congressman] Dick Armey, telling them to go out into the streets.”

FreedomWorks had the resources to break the Tea Parties big; the group commands a budget in the $8 million range and claims 902,000 members. As the outcry rose, Steinhauser made himself a kind of switchboard operator, connecting activists to one another and arranging lessons in how to get permits. “It’s very Saul Alinsky,” he says of FreedomWorks’ role.

Within 10 days of Santelli’s rant, Tea Party protests were put on in 40 cities and began to gain national notice. But as the movement transitioned from Facebook to Fox News, its character began to change. “One of the signs I saw at the first D.C. rally read simply, ‘Atlas Shrugged,’ ” Steinhauser recalls. “But as the movement went out to the rural areas, it took on a more traditional Republican image, more hawkish on foreign policy, more conservative on social issues.” Less Ron Paul, more Sarah Palin. Talk of abolishing the Federal Reserve gave way to partisan shouts about Obama’s socialism. The young revolution began to sound a lot like the brash talk-radio right.

The Tea Partiers moved to institutionalize themselves, which also helped to lash the movement to the GOP. Tea Party Patriots, the largest group, boasts 1,000 local organizations with 15 million “associates.” Then came Tea Party Express, which played a major role in Glenn Beck’s 9/12 demonstration in Washington. Another group, Tea Party Nation, put on the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville, grabbing headlines when it nabbed Sarah Palin as speaker in return for a fat $100,000 fee.

Brilliantly, Sarah the Maverick mentioned her husband’s “independence” from the GOP during her Tea Party Convention appearance, referring to the fact that Todd Palin is not a registered Republican. Her suggestion of outsider status charged her bond with the conventioneers, but the veep nominee was not introducing Tea Partiers to possibilities outside their GOP abode. She was merely validating their feeling that Republicans have to win them over. Eventually, they will give in. They always do.

Judson Phillips, who runs Tea Party Nation, told the crowd that just two words scare our nation’s liberals: President Palin. He could easily have come up with two words to scare Republicans: third party. He could have found a pair that would rock the entire establishment: Revolution now! But that’s too risqué, even when everyone is hopped up on tea.

The Tea Party movement may be a bit frisky and unpredictable, but it will always have a warm cup to serve the GOP. In Nashville, the chanting went up tentatively at first, then gained force: “Run, Sarah, run!” She graciously accepted their adoration—then left in the company of the Republican professionals who make up her entourage.

Michael Brendan Dougherty, a former associate editor of The American Conservative, is a Phillips Journalism Fellow. Excerpted from The American Conservative (April 1, 2010), a journal of “old conservative” ideas.

The Rise of Market Populism: America’s New Secular Religion

The Rise of Market Populism: America’s New Secular Religion October 26, 2000 Amanda Luker

Conservative Media Outlets Make All the Right Moves

Forget Fox News. Conservatives are launching a media-savvy revolution….

Sexing Up the Christian Conservative Religious Right

Conservatives are getting down and dirty to spread their social agenda…

Rally Against Teacher Layoffs: Coverage by Milwaukee Courier and Speech by Bob Peterson

Filed under: Fightback,School Reform — millerlf @ 7:16 am

Speech by Bob Peterson at the Step Up for Children Rally

June 21, 2010 Milwaukee, WI

On behalf of Educators Network for Social Justice, I thank you for attending today’s rally.

I speak as a classroom teacher for more than 30 years, a union activist, and a founding member of Educators network. In 1982 I was laid off from MPS for a year, so I sympathize with you educators who have been laid off.

My message today is simple: These layoffs in MPS are not inevitable.  There are solutions. And we must fight for these solutions at the local, state and federal level.

At the federal level, there is the “Put our Educators Back to Work” bill introduced by Iowa Senator Tom Harkin. In essence, it is a stimulus bill focused on counteracting the estimated 300,000 layoffs in schools across the country. Clearly, this is a national problem that needs a national solution.

Please call Senators Kohl and and Feingold and demand they support the Harkin bill.

If this country has the money to bail out Goldman Sachs and the banks — to say nothing of spending billions of dollars on wars that have no end in sight — it certainly has the money to fund our children’s future.

At the state level, legislators must support the Penny for Kids campaign led by the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools. And in the long run, we must insist that our policymakers fix what everyone agrees is our broken system of how we fund education.

Finally, we must demand that our locally elected officials support the solutions at hand. Mayor Barrett and County Exec Scott Walker are running for governor on a jobs platform. Well, they must walk their talk. If a Milwaukee factory were eliminating 700 jobs, they would be bending over backwards with financial incentives. Why are they silent about the 700 MPS layoffs?

Remember. There are solutions to not only these layoffs but the larger problem of funding public education.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Rally to support students in face of layoffs

26 June 2010 Milwaukee Courier

Wendell Harris, vice-president of Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP and chair of the NAACP Education Committee stands with students, teachers, parents and other rally organizers with signs in support of laid off MPS staff and 700 pair of shoes, demonstrating the 700 layoff slips sent out. The ‘Step Up for Our Children’ Rally was held on Monday, June 21, 2010 outside of the Federal Building. (Photo by Robert A. Bell)

Teachers and parents held a rally Monday afternoon in support of the hundreds of Milwaukee Public School teachers who are losing their jobs. Organizers want emergency federal funding to keep more teachers in the classroom.

The district mailed out layoff notices to 482 teachers, 600 substitute teachers, and 233 educational assistants. Including Mayor Barrett’s wife Chris, who is a teacher. The teachers union is fighting the cuts.

Organizers of the rally put 700 pairs of shoes on the steps of the federal building to symbolize the number of teachers laid off. “Who will fill my teachers shoes” was the theme.

Wendell Harris, vice-president of the Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP and chair of the Education Committee of the NAACP opened the rally, where teachers, parents, students and advocates spoke in support of the students who are losing educators due to these cuts.

“It is unfortunate for everyone involved, my children are in the district as are many other aldermans’ and constituents’ children.” said Alderman and Common Council president Willie Hines, Jr. “We need structural changes within the system and we need to create new business partners.” he continued.

According to MPS, the emergency money that the organizers are asking for will not be enough for any long term solutions, however organizers say that it will keep teachers in for some time, and during that time other solutions could be worked on.

Congresswoman Gwen Moore spoke at the rally as well, and she stated that the rally was an act to exercise emergency democracy. Not only are our children’s futures at risk here, so are the realities and day to day lives of those being threaten with layoffs.

Rally attendees were encouraged to call on Senators Feingold and Kohl to support the ‘Keep Our Educators Working Act’, a bill that would provide $23 billion to financially strapped school districts.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin, one of the sponsors of Monday’s rally released a statement: The economic recession has devastate state and local revenue which provides the vast majority of education funding.

Only the federal government can provide the immediate funding necessary to rehire laid off MPS educators and staff. Without the help of Congress, the cuts in MPS will deeply damage the educational future of our children and the economic future of the City of Milwaukee.

Popular Interests In This Article: Gwen Moore, Herb Kohl, Milwaukee Public Schools, NAACP, Robert Bell Photography, Russ Feingold, Step Up for Our Children Rally, Teacher Layoffs, Wendel Harris, Willie Hines

June 26, 2010

Journal Sentinel Preparing to Circle the Wagons Around Scott Walker’s Malfeasance

Filed under: Elections — millerlf @ 8:55 am

Editorial MJS Posted: June 25, 2010

Let investigators work

A thorough investigation needed – and until it’s done, think of the victims and hold off on speculation.

We stand with the rest of the community in our heartfelt sympathy for the victims and families of those killed and injured in the collapse of a façade at the parking structure under O’Donnell Park on Thursday. Jared Kellner, 15, was killed and two others were injured in the tragedy.

Clearly, closing the structure is the proper step, and determining the cause of the collapse is the first priority. At a news conference on Friday morning, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. and District Attorney John Chisholm promised a thorough investigation of the cause.

But until a cause is determined, officials and citizens should withhold judgment and refrain from idle speculation. Was this a matter of maintenance or construction or something else entirely? This structure had problems while under construction; were they a contributing factor? Was the slab that fell attached properly to the wall behind it? Could Wednesday’s earthquake felt here have played a contributing role? Right now, no one knows. Let’s wait for real answers.

A consultant’s report noted in 2006 that the structure was in need of $600,000 in repairs. The report lists 17 problems as “currently critical” or “potentially critical,” including a water leakage problem, a sprinkler system problem and a variety of electrical problems, according to an article by Journal Sentinel reporter Steve Schultze. Under a category of “necessary but not yet critical,” the report also lists cracks in the parking structure’s concrete walls, rusting metal work, aged expansion joints and water damage.

Parks Director Sue Black reported to Walker Friday that the majority of the issues listed in the report have been or are being addressed and that none of the items “are related in any manner to the façade of the structure.”

Walker told us there was no indication that deferred maintenance was an issue. And it seems unlikely that a chunk of concrete that fell off the Milwaukee County Courthouse this spring can be related in any way to this incident, an issue County Board Chairman Lee Holloway speculatively raised in a statement after the accident on Thursday.

Speculation does no one any good, as Walker correctly pointed out at the news conference Friday.

Allow authorities to conduct a thorough investigation, but let’s hold off judgment until more is known.

And above all, offer your prayers and sympathies for the victims.

What should be done in wake of the O’Donnell Park facade collapse? To be considered for publication as a letter to the editor, e-mail your opinion to the Journal Sentinel editorial department.


  1. 1. This editorial reads like it was written by Scott Walker’s campaign manager.
    Of course lackadaisical management of County assets by Walker is the reason this tragedy happened. The only reason to wait is to permit Walker and his investigators time to concoct an lie to cover his malfeasance.
  2. 2. This one is a no brainer. Scott Walker this is the price of your policies…… put every person in and around that building at risk.

MPS Joins Boycott of Arizona

Filed under: Immigration — millerlf @ 8:47 am

Press release from Voces De La Frontera

A teachable moment: Milwaukee Public Schools join national boycott against Arizona’s racist laws

As MPS parents and children held signs reading, “Wisconsin is Not Arizona” the Milwaukee Public School Board, representing 82,500 students, the largest and most ethnically diverse public school system in Wisconsin, voted 5-2 with one abstention to condemn Arizona’s racial profiling legislation, SB1070, and HB2281 which bans ethnic studies. The Board also voted to support a national boycott of Arizona until these laws are repealed.

Arizona’s SB1070 has ignited a national boycott movement, similar to a previous national boycott of Arizona, when the state legislature refused to recognize Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday as a national holiday.

Arizona’s’ SB1070 legalizes discrimination by forcing local and state law enforcement to question and arrest individuals who they “reasonably suspect” are undocumented and requires all persons to carry papers proving their immigration status or risk arrest and fines. The law also criminalizes immigrants, including children.

Arizona’s HB 2281 outlaws the teaching of ethnic studies to children and acts of solidarity between different ethnic groups.

As Director Terry Falk, MPS board member explained, “this resolution directly relates to public education and children.” He explained that SB1070 requires schools to inquire about a student’s immigration status-inconsistent with our Supreme Court laws that provide equal educational opportunities for all children (K-12) and in alignment with Wisconsin’s own recent passage of in-state tuition rates for undocumented students that graduate from Wisconsin schools. He affirmed the danger of similar laws gaining ground in other states like Wisconsin.

Director Larry Miller, who introduced the resolution stated, “Back in the 1960s, I promised myself, when I marched with Father Gropi crossing the 16th Street bridge for open housing, that anytime I saw injustice I would oppose it.”

Director Peter Blewett, reported he had received positive comments from Milwaukee residents and questioned the logic of people who called from around the state to say, “why are you sticking your nose in Arizona’s business? “and he asked: “Why are they sticking their nose in Milwaukee’s business?” Director Blewett spoke forcefully about the importance of challenging hate and reaffirming the value of all families and children in our schools.

In a prior committee meeting, an MPS teacher, close to tears, described how two of her students had a parent deported and the devastating impact this had on the children and their academic performance.

According to Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Director of Voces de la Frontera, “I applaud the MPS board for their principled stance against discrimination. When I saw a few members vote “no”, I recalled the spirit of Martin Luther King’s letter from the Birmingham jail, where he essentially said that the greatest obstacle to social progress is not our enemies, but good people who fail to act. The Arizona resolution was a teachable moment and the MPS board members who voted for this resolution affirmed MPS’s commitment to its children, their families and the values of justice and equality that are fundamental to our national identity.”

June 25, 2010

LA Green Dot Charter School Raises Major Issues

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 10:45 am

“… progress is coming at considerable cost: an estimated $15 million over the planned four-year turnaround, largely financed by private foundations.”

School Is Turned Around, but Cost Gives Pause

By SAM DILLON Published: June 24, 2010

LOS ANGELES — As recently as 2008, Locke High School here was one of the nation’s worst failing schools, and drew national attention for its hallway beatings, bathroom rapes and rooftop parties held by gangs. For every student who graduated, four others dropped out.

Now, two years after a charter school group took over, gang violence is sharply down, fewer students are dropping out, and test scores have inched upward. Newly planted olive trees in Locke’s central plaza have helped transform the school’s concrete quadrangle into a place where students congregate and do homework.

“It’s changed a lot,” said Leslie Maya, a senior. “Before, kids were ditching school, you’d see constant fights, the lunches were nasty, the garden looked disgusting. Now there’s security, the garden looks prettier, the teachers help us more.”

Locke High represents both the opportunities and challenges of the Obama administration’s $3.5 billion effort, financed largely by the economic stimulus bill, to overhaul thousands of the nation’s failing schools.

The school has become a mecca for reformers, partly because the Department of Education Web site hails it as an exemplary turnaround effort.

But progress is coming at considerable cost: an estimated $15 million over the planned four-year turnaround, largely financed by private foundations. That is more than twice the $6 million in federal turnaround money that the Department of Education has set as a cap for any single school. Skeptics say the Locke experience may be too costly to replicate.

“When people hear we spent $15 million, they say, ‘You’re insane,’ ” said Marco Petruzzi, chief executive of Green Dot Public Schools, the nonprofit charter school group that has remade Locke. “But when you look closely, you see it’s not crazy.”

Locke High, with 3,200 students, sprawls across six city blocks in south-central Los Angeles. The school’s principal in 2007 complained publicly that the Los Angeles Unified School District had made it a dumping ground for problem teachers.

Kevin Rauda, a senior, recalled a teacher who read newspapers in class instead of teaching. In spring 2008, only 15 percent of students passed state math tests.

Green Dot, which operates charter schools in Los Angeles and one in the Bronx, won control of Locke from the district in 2008 and began a turnaround effort.

In August 2008, Kevin King, a retired police lieutenant hired by Green Dot, toured Locke’s campus and found broken windows, smashed lights, and security cameras that did not work. Teachers’ cars were parked helter-skelter, including on some handball courts; gang members were selling drugs on others.

“Kids couldn’t even go to the bathroom without being pocket-checked or hassled,” Mr. King said.

He put together a new security force to expel the gangs. Green Dot fixed the lights and cameras, painted over graffiti, reorganized the parking, and hired bus companies to transport 500 students who previously walked dangerous streets to school.

Green Dot divided Locke into small academies. Several, modeled on the charters it operates elsewhere, opened in fall 2008 with freshman classes of 100 to 150 students and are to reach full enrollment of 500 to 600 students by fall 2011.

Other academies concentrate on remedial classes for older students, including some returning from jail. Another focuses on preparing students for careers in architecture.

Green Dot required Locke’s 120 teachers to reapply for their jobs. It rehired about 40, favoring teachers who showed enthusiasm and a belief that all Locke students could learn. The campus stays open each day until early evening for science tutoring, band and other activities.

Although state test scores administered in spring 2009, just months after the Green Dot makeover began, showed modest gains, Locke remained among California’s lowest-performing schools. Still, a dozen students said in recent interviews that the school was safer and instruction had improved.

Hundreds of school districts across the nation will soon be trying makeovers, prodded by the Obama administration’s push to remake the nation’s 1,000 worst schools, and the availability of $3.5 billion in federal money.

But if they rely on federal money alone, they will have to spend less than Green Dot.

Under rules set by Congress, districts can apply for up to $6 million for each failing school, to be spent over three years.

During a Senate hearing in April, Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, congratulated Mr. Petruzzi on the Locke transformation, but also suggested its reliance on philanthropic donations would make it difficult to imitate.

“I’m thinking, how scalable is this?” Mr. Franken said.

In interviews, Mr. Petruzzi and other Green Dot officials offered a budget overview. Before and since Green Dot’s takeover, tax dollars have financed Locke’s annual operating budget of upward of $30 million, which during the four-year turnaround will total about $115 million, he said.

By then, expenditures will have exceeded that four-year, taxpayer-supported budget by about $15 million, with philanthropies making up most of the difference.

Over the four years, Green Dot is set to spend about $2 million on increased security and busing. It spent about $700,000 to create a classroom for a new architecture academy.

Green Dot has also spent several million dollars for additional classroom space because hundreds of students who had cut school or dropped out now show up for class, Mr. Petruzzi said.

Dividing Locke into academies resulted in extra personnel costs, Mr. Petruzzi said, because each academy has its own principal and other staff members.

Another cost: the salaries of two psychologists and two social workers who help students endure hardships like losing a sibling to gang warfare, or being evicted. They have helped prevent several suicides this year, said Zeus Cubias, an assistant principal.

Some new services for students have cost Green Dot nothing. Ms. Maya’s grades have improved since a teacher noticed she could not see the blackboard. Her parents are unemployed, and she had no money for glasses. But she had her eyes tested at a mobile eye clinic that visited Locke in October, where Vision Service Plans, a nonprofit provider, donated eyeglasses to her and 200 other students.

Experts are debating whether Locke is a good model for other turnarounds.

Justin Cohen, a turnaround expert at MassInsight, a Massachusetts nonprofit organization, said most districts could expect to spend $2 million to $3 million over three years to overhaul a failing school. Costs often include teacher training and extending the school day, he said.

“I don’t doubt they’re putting all those resources to good use,” Mr. Cohen said of Locke’s $15 million costs. “But that’s high.”

Tim Cawley, a managing director at the Academy for Urban School Leadership, a nonprofit group leading several turnaround efforts in Chicago, disagreed, arguing that even expenditures surpassing $15 million on a big school could be a smart national investment.

“We’re wasting billions every year by not fixing these schools,” Mr. Cawley said, “because the students they’re not educating end up filling our prisons.”

June 23, 2010

Racist, Charles Murray, Brought to Speak in Oshkosh by Senate Candidate Ron Johnson

Filed under: Racism — millerlf @ 3:36 pm

(Here’s a candidate that Charlie Sykes and the Tea Party can support.)

Ron Johnson Brought An Extremist Education “Expert” (Charles Murray) To Oshkosh Who Promotes Divisive  Race-Based Education Theories

Murray wrote “the Bell Curve” , a racist depiction of minorities and intelligence. Murray received funding to write this book from the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation which is also a major funder for vouchers.

MADISON — According to a new report in U.S. Senate Candidate Ron Johnson’s hometown newspaper, the Oshkosh Northwestern, Johnson led an effort to bring extremist education “expert” Charles Murray to speak to education and business leaders in Oshkosh – leading the community to demand an apology for Murray’s elitist, offensive theories.

Murray has made a career trying to “resume some of the most poisonous battles of the late 1960s and ’70s,” by making the case that some groups and ethnicities are more superior to others for biological or genetic reasons.

Johnson told the Northwestern that “he was not familiar” with Murray’s controversial views.

But the paper reported that as the board member of a community group, Johnson played a “key role” in bringing Charles Murray as the keynote speaker for the event in March over the objections of other members who questioned Murray’s credibility because he wrote that “Too many students go to college, and America’s future depends on the truly gifted.” Johnson suggested Murray despite the objections of others, “Because he had read some of his writings and felt it was a good fit,” one council member told the Northwestern.

In addition, according to the newspaper’s report, Murray told a member of the audience after his speech that, “East Asians have more of the visual-spatial abilities associated with engineering than whites or any other ethnic group.”

“It’s simply not credible for Johnson to claim he was not familiar with Murray’s divisive past, he is not shooting straight with voters,”  said Mike Tate, Chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. “The fact is Johnson embraces the sort of elite extremism that Murray spews and now that he is a candidate for U.S. Senate, Ron Johnson is trying fool people and distance himself from himself.”

In 1994, Bob Herbert, columnist for the New York Times wrote:

“Mr. Murray gets his kicks by thinking up ways to drape the cloak of respectability over the obscene and long-discredited views of the world’s most rabid racists.”

Johnson’s invited guest Charles Murray has a long history of glorifying elitism and intolerance. Among his writings:

In April 2005 he asked, “Where are the female Einsteins?” — an article that sought biological and genetic explanations to justify “why men and women differ at the highest levels of accomplishment.” National Post, Nov. 22, 2005

“The educational system is living a lie. The lie is that every child can be anything he or she wants to be.” Wall Street Journal, Aug. 22, 2008

Elites throughout the West are living a lie, basing the futures of their societies on the assumption that all groups of people are equal in all respects.” Commentary Magazine, Sept. 1, 2005

“Only a small minority of high-school graduates have the intelligence to succeed in college.” National Affairs Magazine, Oct. 1, 2009

Murray described the Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind Act: “It’s an idiotic goal that refuses to accept that many children just aren’t smart enough to become proficient in reading and math.” Sept. 10, 2008

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