Educate All Students, Support Public Education

March 21, 2012

Teach For America Exposed in Seattle

Filed under: Teach For America — millerlf @ 8:15 am

A letter to the Seattle School Board from Dr. Barbara Torre Veltri regarding Teach for America, Inc.

Posted on March 20, 2012 by seattleducation2011

March  16,  2012

Seattle  Board  of  Directors

Seattle,  Washington  98124-­1165

Dear  Mr.  DeBell,  Ms.  Smith-­Blum,  Ms.  Patu,  and  Executive  Committee Members,

Thank  you  for  your  interest  in  children  and  your  advocacy  for  education  in  Seattle.  I  have  had  the  pleasure  of  preparing  teachers  at  Northern  Arizona  University  who  are  Seattle  natives  and  are  teaching  in  your  schools.  I  have  also  been  privileged  to  work  with  Seattle  Public  School  teachers  and  administrators  in  the  capacity  of professional  development  presenter  over  the  last  two  decades.

While  in  your  city,  I  felt  the  commitment  of  your  teachers  and  administrators,  who not  only  participated  in  faculty  development  sessions  (Thematic  Teaching  with  Sports…Baseball),  but  also  were  hungry  for  new  ideas,  innovative  teaching  methods,  and  ways  to  motivate  and  engage  their  elementary  and  middle  school  students.

I  write  to  you  now  because  I  am  very  concerned  about  what  appears  to  be  the  national  erosion  of  the  professional  educator.  I  am  eager  to  offer  my  expertise  on  a  program  that  I  have  spent  nearly  a  dozen  years  examining.  By  chance,  I  became  the  mentor,  coach,  instructor  and  university  liaison  for  Teach  For  America’s  novice  teachers  and  they  have  become  the  primary  research  area  of  my  professional  work.

Like  many  Americans,  who  appear  impressed  with  the  patriotic  sounding  name, Teach  For  America,  and  their  work,  I  assumed  that  I  knew  about  the  program,  even  though  I  had  no  firsthand  knowledge  or  information  about  the  organization.    I  never  imagined  that  I  would  learn  about  the  corps  experience,  recruitment,  training,  professional  development,  grade  level  placement,  and  why  recent  college  graduates  even  apply  to  an  organization  that  suggests  that  their  two-­‐year  commitment  is  a  type  of  “service”  directed  at  poor,  children  of  color.

Over  seven  years  of  consecutive  interactions  with  alums,  corps, administrators  and current  corps  members,  I  found  out  through  direct observation  in  classrooms  and  as  an  invited  presenter  at  TFA’s  All-­‐Corps Meetings  and  the  even  small  gatherings  that  TFA  teachers  requested  I attend,  when  things  began  to  unravel,  that  TFA  teachers  do  not  have  a command  of  what  it  takes  to  execute  the  necessary  classroom  skill  sets.


March 20, 2012

Milwaukee Teachers’ Union Leadership Proposes Bold Move for Kids with “MPS Children’s Week” Campaign

Filed under: MPS,MTEA — millerlf @ 1:26 pm

My Pledge:

Larry Miller

Scott Walker is like the feudal magistrate who destroys the dam, floods the valley and then criticizes the villagers for not stockpiling enough sandbags.

Dealing with the aftermath of Walker’s horrific cuts has been devastating to our public schools and to the community. And teachers have been at the forefront of the struggle to stand up and reclaim our state.

But right now we have to do something to stop the flooding. Cuts in staffing have meant growing classroom sizes in MPS – and that’s putting our students’ success in jeopardy. MPS Children’s Campaign, as proposed by the MTEA leadership, offers support to our classrooms, changes the Milwaukee education dialog, and calls upon the community to do its part to save our children’s future and counter the havoc of Walker’s racist policies.

After teaching in MPS for nearly two decades, I ran for the school board with the desire to serve Milwaukee’s communities. Fundamental to this task is supporting classroom teachers and the profession they represent. Like the teachers’ union, I want to avert a crisis and change education politics in this city.

I, as a School Board member, pledge to:

-Ensure that every penny of the money raised will not be interfered with at any level and will go directly to the classrooms.
-Work tirelessly to convince the Milwaukee community to give financial support to the MPS Children’s  Campaign; and
-Donate at least one week of my pay and ask others to do the same.

Milwaukee Parents Support Milwaukee Teachers

Filed under: MPS,MTEA,Parent Involvement — millerlf @ 1:17 pm

From: I Love My Public Schools

For Immediate Release – Friday, March 15

Contact: Angela McManaman, 414‐793‐4815

MILWAUKEE – Parents in Milwaukee Public Schools today are praising a bold initiative undertaken by the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association (MTEA) to invest more resources in district classrooms and help Milwaukee’s children. “Good things are happening in MPS,” adds Tanya Ingvolstad‐Otero, an MPS alumna and mother of four bilingual MPS students. “MPS has excellent teachers who succeed against all odds. I stand with the teachers today just as they stand every day with my children and all of Milwaukee’s children.”

“I know how hard our teachers work every day to meet the needs of our children,” says Jasmine Alinder, an MPS parent who co‐founded I Love My Public School, a parent‐led advocacy group for public education. “They deserve nothing but respect and praise. That they would even consider making a contribution to help offset the devastating cuts from the Walker administration shows who is truly on the side of Milwaukee’s children. The Governor has turned his back on our children in Milwaukee, but Milwaukee’s teachers are stepping up to the plate.”

Other parents in Milwaukee Public Schools amplified their support of MTEA leadership, MPS Superintendent Greg Thornton, and the district’s Board of Directors after the coalition negotiated with the Legislature for an immediate and structured reopening of MTEA contracts – a move that could keep more dollars and teachers in MPS’ budget‐battered classrooms. This request comes the same year that Wisconsin public schools deal with the largest cut to public education in state history and one of the largest education cuts in the nation.

“We are proud of the hard work our teachers and administrators do in our kids’ MPS classrooms,” say Michael Bannister and Laura Matthew, parents of two MPS students. “They continue t o d o the best they can despite how much harder their jobs have become over the past year. We are grateful that they have initiated difficult conversations about what is right for everyone, and most especially for students. We applaud their, the school board’s, and the district administration’s latest efforts to keep as much money in the classrooms as possible next year.”

Parents are asking politicians, labor leaders, and others to respect the integrity of the MTEA negotiation process as the wider MTEA membership considers more concessions.

“The best way to solve our education and budget problems is by working together,” says Angela McManaman, a public worker and MPS parent of three. “By re‐opening MTEA contracts, the Legislature admits that collective bargaining works for our kids and shows us a path forward. By working together, MPS leadership and the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association are setting a powerful example.”

“We need to fix the education funding system and re‐invest in our children,” says Alinder. “The rest of us in Milwaukee, parents, community leaders, and the business owners, need to follow MTEA’s lead and find ways to support our schools now. It’s time to recognize that a cooperative posture is necessary to fix our state’s school funding formula, and our state’s politics. In our view, that includes fully restoring collective bargaining for all public workers.”

MTEA membership will have 30 days to consider and approve self‐imposed reductions in pay or fringe benefits without violating other terms of their contract.

MPS Public Hearing for Student Bill of Rights To Be Held This Thursday at 5:30

Filed under: General — millerlf @ 1:12 pm

Following is a Student Bill of Rights written by student members of Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES), a youth organization associated with Voces de la Frontera. Over one thousand students, mostly in Milwaukee and Racine, have reviewed the document and given input to its content. YES has also received input from a number of youth organizations and education activists.

The resolution supporting the Student Bill of Rights will be discussed at  a board committee meeting and public hearing this Thursday at 5:30 at central office. Please try to attend and support YES.

Student Bill of Rights
Written by the students of Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES)

Student Power and Voice
I. Students have the right to organize and have a voice in their school.
II. Student representatives should be included in any decision-making that significantly affects
the student body.
III. Students have the right to full disclosure by administration, as do parents, teachers, staff, and
the community.
IV. Students have the right to organize across schools. The students of a district have the right to
establish an inter-school organization in which the issues of different schools are shared and
the entire student community can provide support to ensure that no school is isolated.
V. Students and parents/guardians are to be informed of the students’ rights. Students shall
present the Student Bill of Rights peer-to-peer annually and have access to a copy.
VI. Students have a right to a school environment where all teachers and staff have the right to
collectively bargain.
VII. Students have the right to a desegregated public education system that is not undermined by

School and Classroom Environment
I. Students have the right to a reasonable class size where the teacher can give adequate attention
to each and every student.
II. Students have the right to a focused and peaceful environment through mutual respect between
teachers and students. This should translate into equal power dynamics in the classroom and
expectations applied equally to both students and adults.
III. Every student has the right to a quality education that meets his or her needs. Students have the
right to additional support such as tutoring and support for students with disabilities.
IV. Students have the right to hands-on and cultural activities to enhance their learning experience,
including access to technology, arts, and music. Student input should be listened to in regards
to teaching style and classroom activities in order to craft a classroom environment in which
students learn best.
V. Schools should hold events that foster a positive relationship between the school, parents, and
the community. Schools should also foster inter-generational relationships in order to establish
a stronger school community.
VI. Students have the right to an affordable, nutritious, and dignified lunch that is properly cooked,
as well as a lunch period that allows sufficient time to eat.
VII. If a student’s family financial situation prohibits them from paying school fees, they should
have the right to financial assistance.
VIII. All students deserve access to good transportation to and from school.
IX. All students deserve a school facility that is a safe and adequate space for learning.

Bilingual Education
I. Students have the right to learn two languages, including their home language.
II. Students who are in the process of learning English deserve access to their school’s curriculum
with support in their native language.
III. Students who are proficient in English should still be given the opportunity to continue to
develop their native language fluency and literacy skills.
IV. Bilingual students deserve access to teachers who are certified in bilingual education by the
Department of Public Instruction, bilingual curricular resources and materials, and bilingual
guidance counseling.

Freedom from Discrimination
I. Students have a right to freedom from all forms of discrimination. This includes but is not
limited to discrimination based on ethnicity, class, sex, disability, pregnancy, religion, native
language, sexual orientation, gender expression, housing status, self-expression/personal style,
or immigration status.
II. Students have the right to teachers, staff, and administrators who understand the community in
which they are working and have taken anti-racist/anti-bias training.
III. Every student has the right to access high-level curriculum and advanced classes, and to be
encouraged to take these classes.
IV. Students have the right to a culturally diverse, anti-racist curriculum that values ethnic studies
and reflects the student body and the diversity of the United States.
V. Students have the right to form any student organization or group free from discrimination, as
long as the group does not advocate discrimination or harm toward others.
VI. Schools are required to equally enforce policies with all students (dress code, disciplinary
actions, etc.), without discrimination or favoritism. Schools also must evaluate their policies to
be sure they are not inherently discriminatory.
VII. Schools must document the demographics of students who are reprimanded by police in
school, suspended, or expelled, in order to track and protect against racial profiling.
VIII. Students have the right to appeal if they feel they have been discriminated against.

Security and Discipline
I. Every student has the right to a school environment in which they feel safe.
II. Schools should not reflect prison-like conditions or perpetuate this mentality towards the
student body.
III. Schools should attempt to resolve safety issues by investing in the culture of the school,
through anti-bullying initiatives and other programs, rather than relying only on enforcement
IV. Students have the right to be informed of security’s reasonable cause before being singled out
for searching or questioning.
V. Any disciplinary action should seek to address the root of the problem the student is
experiencing, instead of just removing them from the learning environment.
VI. Schools should not rely upon the police to resolve issues that can be handled by mediation by
students, administration, or faculty members through a restorative justice model.
VII. Police and security officers cannot be aggressive, violent, or disrespectful toward students.
VIII. Students have the right to a clear and simple complaint process that produces real results if
they feel they have been unfairly searched or punished, or disrespected by an officer.

Life After School
I. All students have the right to qualified staff who will assist them through their college
application process and encourage them to attain a post-secondary education.
II. Students have the right to access college information such as scholarships, colleges to choose
from, financial aid opportunities for low-income or undocumented families, and the positive
impact of college education.
III. Students have the right to organized counseling programs that will guide and advise them
throughout their high school years. Students have the right to confidentiality in these programs
with the exception of direct and imminent harm to the student or another person.
IV. Students have the right to beneficial activities aimed at improving their self-esteem, physical
well-being, and overall person. This includes the right to health information including full
information about sexual health.
V. Students have the right to be presented with unbiased truths that aid the students in the
transition from school to higher education or the work force. Students who have plans to enter
the work force should be provided with worker rights orientation in the same way that collegebound
students receive support to continue their education.
VI. Students have the right to know what kind of activities and courses favor them in the college
admission process, and to have access to the courses and programs that colleges look for.
VII. Undocumented students should have the right to access in-state tuition rates at the colleges and
universities in their state of residence.

March 17, 2012

City of Milwaukee Charter System Needs Watchful Eye

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 9:25 am

The City of Milwaukee is creating its own school system. This is being done with far too little accountability and oversight, along with some questionable entanglements.

Please join the effort to give oversight to the City of Milwaukee Charter process. There is a pubic hearing Monday.

The City Charter School Review Committee is meeting  Monday, March 19, at 5:00 PM. at City Hall. Three schools will be discussed at the hearing.

Past Charters granted by the City of Milwaukee:

CEO Leadership Academy, closely connected to Howard Fuller, was given a charter even though they were a totally failing voucher school.

Darrell Hines Academy was recently given a new 5 year contract even though some of their test results fell short of good success. Darrell Hines is the brother of  Common Council President Willie Hines.

Rocketship Education was recently given a contract with the invitation to start 8 schools in the future. Howard Fuller’s wife, Deborah McGriff, is on the national board of Rocketship, a company based in San Jose, California. Rocketship is becoming notorious for keeping the number of special education students below 20, as shown in all three of their “model” schools. This means that special education is not considered as a subgroup required to make “adequate yearly progress” under No Child Left Behind.

March 3, 2012

Money Pours Into Coffers of Heartland Institute, The Propaganda Arm of the Right Wing

Filed under: Heartland Institute — millerlf @ 2:46 pm

Right Wing Heartland Institute Moves to Exclusive New Offices

One South Wacker #2740

Chicago, Illinois 60606

See map: Google Maps

After 15 years in offices on South LaSalle Street, Heartland Institute recently moved to an exclusive larger new office on the 27th floor of One South Wacker across the street from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

As an elected school board member in Milwaukee, each month, I receive a stack of polished newspapers from this Chicago-based right-wing ”think tank” called the Heartland Institute. Under the banner of “free market” solutions to education, healthcare, taxes, the environment, telecommunication regulation and budgetary issues the Heartland Institute is a highly funded propaganda publishing house advancing the arguments of the most reactionary elements of corporate America. They are connected to Tea Party activism and see themselves as a “…clearinghouse for the work of 350 other think tanks and advocacy groups.”

Heartland publishes 5 slick monthly newspapers. They are:

  • Budget & Tax News
  • Environment & Climate News
  • Health Care News
  • Infotech & Telecom News
  • School Reform News

Their claimed audiences are the nation’s 16,700 national, state and local government officials. They wish to affect policy at every level of government in the U.S.

In their most recent expenditure statement they reported spending over $28,132,000 since 1998 receiving funding from right wing foundations including the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, Reason Foundation, Manhattan Institute along with corporations and individual. The Koch brothers are supporters.

This dangerous “think tank” represents an ideological movement whose goal is for corporate America to have a free hand to do anything they wish for profit and without regulation. They are working for complete privatization of the public sector and either elimination or privatization of the public’s safety net at the federal, state and local level.

They are key propagandists to the present right wing movement in the U.S, supporting any demand that increases corporate profits and weakens the peoples’ movements and democratic rights. In education vouchers are at the center of their reform demands. Their healthcare goal is to cut and privatize Medicare and Medicaid, giving the insurance industry free reign over the market. They fuel the movements at the state government level with “data” and arguments against unions, for cutting education and any safety net spending, including healthcare for the poor and elderly,  while supporting enormous tax breaks to businesses.

Their propaganda on the environment is clearly exposed in the April issue of their Environment and Climate News. Articles include:

  • Arguing that Japan’s “nuclear crisis” is more a media-contrived crisis than a real one. Explosions at a nuclear power facility damaged by the mid-March earthquake and tsunami did not expose civilians to dangerous levels of radiation. The science director for the Heartland Institute said of nuclear meltdown in Japan, “It is likely that at least one of the Fukishima reactors will totally melt down, but the danger to human health will remain slight.”
  • Celebrating a new study from the United Kingdom casting doubt on the claimed environmental benefits of reusable shopping bags.
  • Encouraging the U.S. House to keep the U.S. economy free of EPA-mandated carbon dioxide restrictions.
  • Welcoming the New Hampshire House vote by an overwhelming margin to end the state’s cap-and-trade program. The 246-104 vote approved a halt to the state’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The bill now moves to the New Hampshire Senate.
  • Defending fracking, drilling and advancing unlimited nuclear energy.
  • Ridiculing San Francisco’s rebate program to induce installation of low-flow toilets.

They are completely opposed to renewable energy sources publishing studies that say they “kill jobs.” They deny global warming even claiming that “rising CO2 benefits plant life.” One of their tactical goals is to eliminate the EPA and base environmental controls at the state level. This would allow Governors to decimate environmental protections.

Ultra Right Wing Heartland Institute Under Scrutiny in Wisconsin

Filed under: Heartland Institute — millerlf @ 2:19 pm

Leaked Document Details “Operation Angry Badger”

Institute cries foul, says some memos may be faked

By Bill Glauber of the Journal Sentinel Feb. 16, 2012
A Chicago-based free-market think tank has prepared a strategy to sway the recall debate in Wisconsin, including detailing “the shortcomings of public schools,” according to leaked documents that appeared this week on the Internet.
“Operation Angry Badger” purportedly describes a Heartland Institute proposal that would cost about $612,000 and focus on promoting Wisconsin Act 10, which curtailed collective bargaining for most public-sector workers.
“The recall elections of 2012 amount to a referenda on collective bargaining reform at the state level, making them of national interest,” the document says. “Successful recalls would be a major setback to the national effort to rein in public sector compensation and union power.”
The information from the organization’s purported 2012 fundraising plan appeared with other documents on the DeSmogBlog and ThinkProgress websites.
In a statement Wednesday, the Heartland Institute said, “Some of these documents were stolen from Heartland, at least one is a fake, and some may have been altered.”
The authenticity of the documents had not been confirmed, the organization said, but Heartland declared a two-page document on climate change to be a forgery. The organization also asked for “all activists, bloggers and other journalists” to take down the documents and publish retractions.
Thursday, Jim Lakely, a Heartland Institute spokesman, wrote in an email to the Journal Sentinel: “Our standing policy is to not discuss confidential documents. We are also in the process of taking legal action against the individuals who stole documents, possibly altered them, forged a memo, posted these documents online, and who commented on them without acknowledging that they were stolen or forged. Our previous statement is all we have to say about the matter at present.”
According to its website, the Heartland Institute aims “to discover, develop and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems.” The organization backs “parental choice in education.”
According to tax filings from 2001 to 2010, the Heartland Institute received $905,000 in funding from the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation.
Michael W. Grebe, president and chief executive of the Bradley Foundation said: “It’s the first time we at Bradley have seen or heard about it (Angry Badger). We have not been approached to fund this Angry Badger project and haven’t been told about it by Heartland.”
Grebe added that “over the years we have provided some funding to Heartland. I think last year we gave them some money for some climate-change work. We have a proposal pending from them now in the health care area.”
The document that has circulated on the Internet described five potential projects the Heartland Institute considered for Wisconsin:
“Recruit and promote superintendents who support Act 10.”
“Explain the benefits of Act 10.”
“Document the shortcomings of public schools in Wisconsin.”
“Expose teacher pay in key districts.”
“Create blogs that shadow small town newspaper coverage of the controversy.”
Maureen Martin, a Heartland senior fellow for legal affairs, will be the project’s chief researcher and writer, the document says. Martin, a resident of Green Lake, declined to comment when reached Thursday.
John Johnson, a spokesman for the Department of Public Instruction, said what was contained in the document was “just breathtaking.”
“This year and next year school districts are dealing with the biggest budget cuts ever,” he said. “Instead of supporting 860,000 kids who go to public schools in Wisconsin, people organize money to discredit the schools. It’s pretty sad.”
“When did we lose our clean state?” said Miles Turner, executive director of the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators.
“I wish our local political situation could be left to our local state people,” he added. “I wish Wisconsin was not being such a heavy target of national groups of both sides.”

A powerful argument for blocking Wisconsin’s voter ID law

Filed under: Voter Suppression — millerlf @ 2:08 pm

Cap Times editorial  Posted: Friday, March 2, 2012

University of Wisconsin political scientist Ken Mayer is one of the most serious and responsible analysts of the politics of the state. Widely respected as fair player, whose work is well regarded by members of both major political parties, Mayer is someone conservatives and liberals listen to for reasoned comment on the political processes of the state. So when Mayer talks about the challenges raised by Wisconsin’s new voter ID law, we should all take him seriously.

In testimony this week before Dane County Circuit Court Judge David Flanagan, Mayer estimated that roughly 220,000 potential voters would be unable to cast ballots in coming elections because of the new voter identification measure.

In his testimony on a motion for a temporary injunction against the law sought by the Milwaukee branch of the NAACP and Voces de la Frontera, Mayer said his estimate was based on a 2005 analysis by a UW-Milwaukee professor that showed a “surprisingly large” number of people in Wisconsin lack valid driver’s licenses — a key form of ID. Additionally, Mayer argued that the state Department of Transportation’s estimates for individuals with proper ID are flawed.

When attorneys for the state questioned Mayer about the error rate, he said that “the error is more likely to increase the number of people who lack ID, but I can’t say how much. I made an effort to be conservative.”

Countering arguments by the state that it would be possible for voters to obtain other forms of identification before the April Wisconsin election, Mayer explained that “for some people it’s extremely difficult if not virtually impossible to obtain a photo ID.”

”Wisconsin’s law is the strictest requirement in the country,” said Mayer, who noted that remedies available in other states with ID requirements were not available under Wisconsin’s law.

Mayer’s testimony was powerful — and damning.

It is difficult to imagine that Flanagan would refuse to issue the temporary injunction.

Such a failure would run the risk of disqualifying voters who want to cast ballots for the municipal, school board and county posts that make the most definitional decisions regarding the delivery of public services, the education of our children, the taxes that Wisconsinites pay and the priorities for spending revenues that are raised. Nothing could be more damaging to the very premise of democracy.

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.
Read more:

Blog at