Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

May 15, 2017

Diane Ravitch on Los Angeles School board Election

Filed under: Ravitch — millerlf @ 6:47 am
Will the Trump-DeVos Alliance Win Control of Los Angeles Public Schools?

“In the Public Interest,” an organization that keeps track of privatization of the public sector, points out that Trump and DeVos have a lot riding on the outcome of the school board election in Los Angeles on May 16.

Their allies have invested millions of dollars in gaining control of the school board so they can turn students and schools over to private hands.

If they can defeat Steve Zimmer and Irma Padilla in run-offs, they will be able to divert public funding to charter entrepreneurs and corporate charter chains. They will squash democratic control of public schools. They will send tax dollars to corporate entities that are neither accountable nor transparent. They will widen the reach of an unregulated industry that has been marred by scandal, theft, fraud, misappropriation of funds, and self-dealing.

Citizens of Los Angeles. Stand up for democracy and public education! Vote for Steve Zimmer and Imelda Padilla!

Peter Dreier: Who Are the Corporate Plutocrats Trying to Defeat Steve Zimmer in Los Angeles?

Peter Dreier, professor of political science at Occidental College in Los Angeles, warns that a cabal of billionaires are trying to defeat Steve Zimmer in order to take control of the public schools and privatize them. The vote on May 16 is in the national spotlight.

Can a handful of billionaires buy control of the nation’s second largest school district?

Before naming names, Dreier writes:

Some of America’s most powerful corporate plutocrats want to take over the Los Angeles school system but Steve Zimmer, a former teacher and feisty school board member, is in their way. So they’ve hired Nick Melvoin to get rid of him. No, he’s not a hired assassin like the kind on “The Sopranos.” He’s a lawyer who the billionaires picked to defeat Zimmer.

The so-called “Independent” campaign for Melvoin — funded by big oil, big tobacco, Walmart, Enron, and other out-of-town corporations and billionaires — has included astonishingly ugly, deceptive, and false attack ads against Zimmer.

This morning (Friday) the Los Angeles Times reported that “Outside spending for Melvoin (and against Zimmer) has surpassed $4.65 million.” Why? Because he doesn’t agree with the corporatization of our public schools. Some of their donations have gone directly to Melvoin’s campaign, but much of it has been funneled through a corporate front group called the California Charter School Association.

To try to hoodwink voters, the billionaires invented another front group with the same initials as the well-respected Parent Teacher Association, but they are very different organizations. They called it the “Parent Teacher Alliance.” Pretty clever, huh? But this is not the real PTA, which does not get involved with elections. In fact, the real PTA has demanded that this special interest PAC change their name and called the billionaires’ campaign Zimmer “misleading,” “deceptive practices,” and “false advertising.”

These out-of-town billionaire-funded groups can pay for everything from phone-banks, to mailers, to television ads. Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez described the billionaires’ campaign to defeat Zimmer, which includes sending mails filled with outrageous lies about Zimmer, as “gutter politics.”

As a result, the race for the District 4 seat — which stretches from the Westside to the West San Fernando Valley — is ground zero in the battle over the corporate take-over of public education. The outcome of next Tuesday’s (May 16) election has national implications in terms of the billionaires’ battle to reconstruct public education in the corporate mold.

The contest between Melvoin and Zimmer is simple. Who should run our schools? Who knows what’s best for students? Out-of-town billionaires or parents, teachers, and community residents?

Bernie Endorses Steve Zimmer and Imelda Padilla

The critical runoff election for school board in Los Angeles is Tuesday May 16.

There are two crucial races. One is Steve Zimmer Vs. Nick Melvoin. Melvoin has received millions from leaders of the charter industry, such as Eli Broad, Alice Walton, Michael Bloomberg, and Reed Hastings. He is the beneficiary of millions from people who do not live in Los Angeles.

The other is Imelda Padilla vs. Kelly Fitzpatrick Nonez. Nonez is a charter school teacher.

Steve Zimmer has been endorsed by Eric Garcetti, the Mayor of Los Angeles, and other current city officials.

He has also received the endorsement of Senator Bernie Sanders.

If you live in one of their districts in Los Angeles, please vote on Tuesday. The future of public education in Los Angeles depends on your vote.

 

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September 26, 2016

How Democrats For Education Reform (DFER) Hijacked Public Education

Filed under: DFER,Ravitch — millerlf @ 12:55 pm

Diane Ravitch Post 2014

This post was written in 2014, but it remains relevant today. DFER (Democrats for Education Reform) raises large sums of money from hedge fund managers to promote charter schools. The free market has been very good to hedge fund managers, and they think that public schools should compete in a free market too. They are not in the game to make money, but to promote their ideology of free-market competition. DFER and its related organizations, like Education Reform Now, and Families for Excellent Schools, are spending millions of dollars in places as far-flung as Denver and Massachusetts. It may be confusing to the public to see “Democrats” promoting school choice and accountability, since these have always been Republican ideas for school reform. But, it made no sense to create a group called Republicans for Education Reform because Republicans don’t need to be convinced to private public schools.

Leonie Haimson, parent advocate (and a member of the board of the Network for Public Education), asks:

How did this happen? How did our electeds of both parties enable corporate interests to hijack our public schools?

Her answer:

A small band of Wall St. billionaires decided to convert the Democratic party to the Republican party, at least on education — and succeeded beyond their wildest dreams – or our worst nightmares. And now we have electeds of both parties who are intent on helping them engineer a hostile takeover of our public schools, which has nothing to do with parent choice but the choice of these plutocrats.

What can you do about it?

Contact the Network for Public Education and find out how you can become active in your local or state organization that supports public schools and opposes privatization.

If you live in Massachusetts, join parents and educators who are fighting Question 2, which would allow unlimited expansion of charters to replace public schools.

Get involved.

dianeravitch | September 25, 2016 at 12:00 pm | Categories: Accountability, Charter Schools, Corporate Reformers, Democrats for Education Reform, Education Industry, Privatization | URL: http://wp.me/p2odLa-f2H

February 25, 2015

Diane Ravitch Speaking in Milwaukee March 18

Filed under: Ravitch — millerlf @ 11:12 am

Diane Ravitch will be giving an address on Wednesday March 18 in Milwaukee.
Time: 6 PM
Place: MATC Cooley Auditorium, 700 W. State

To access the brochure to advertise this event, go to:

ravitch_flyer_2015

November 26, 2014

Diane Ravitch Reviews Important Book on New Orleans “Recovery” School District

Filed under: Ravitch,Recovery District — millerlf @ 9:18 pm

Diane Ravitch 9/23/2014

The first thing to be said about Kristen Buras’ new book is that the publisher overpriced the book ($125). As the author, she had nothing to do with that poor decision. This is a book that should be widely read, but at that price, it won’t be. There will eventually be a softcover edition, but probably not for a year. Urge your library to buy it, or get together a group of friends to pool the cost. Or contact the author directly, and she will send you a coupon that gives you a 20% discount (kburas@gsu.edu).

Although it has its share of academic jargon, it is a major contribution to the literature about post-Katrina New Orleans that directly challenges what you have seen on PBS or heard on NPR or read in the mainstream media. Buras has written her narrative from the grassroots, not from the top. She has spent countless hours interviewing students, parents, teachers, and reformers. She has read all the relevant documents. This is the other side of the story. It is important, and you should read it.

In 2010, I went to New Orleans at the invitation of my cyber-friend Lance Hill, who was running the Southern Institute for Education and Research. Lance arranged for me to speak at Dillard University, a historically black institution in New Orleans, and he invited some of the city’s leading (displaced) educators. There were advocates for the charter reforms in the audience, and they spoke up.

But most of the audience seemed to be angry teachers and administrators who had been fired, and angry parents whose neighborhood school had been taken over by a charter. What I remember most vividly from that evening, aside from meeting the direct descendants of Plessy and Ferguson, who now work together on behalf of racial and civic amity, was a woman in the audience who stood up and said, “After Katrina, first they stole our democracy, then they stole our schools.”

I understood that she was unhappy about the new regime, but I understood it even better after I read Kristen L. Buras’ Charter Schools, Race, and Urban Space (Routledge). It is just published. As i said at the outset, the publisher priced it out of the reach of most people who want to read it. What a strange judgment at a time when so many cities are closing down their public schools and handing their children over to charter operators because they want to be “another New Orleans.” If there is one lesson in Buras’ book, it is this: Do not copy New Orleans.

Buras, now a professor of educational policy at Georgia State University, spent ten years researching this book. She describes fully the policy terrain: the Bush administration’s desire to turn Katrina-devastated New Orleans into a free enterprise zone. The support of New Orleans’ white-dominated business community and of the leadership of Tulane University, for privatization of the schools. Privatization also was encouraged by the Aspen Institute, whose chairman Walter Isaacson (former editor in chief of TIME) was simultaneously chairman of the board of Teach for America. A swarm of market-oriented “reformers” saw a chance to turn New Orleans into a model for the nation. They had no trouble getting tens of millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, from the federal government and foundations to create the enterprise zone of independently operated charter schools they wanted.

Obstacles were quickly swept away. Some 7,500 veteran teachers, three-quarters of whom were African-American, the backbone of the African-American middle class in New Orleans, were abruptly fired without cause, making room for a new staff of inexperienced young TFA recruits. Public schools were soon eliminated, even those that were beloved in their communities, some with fabled histories and vibrant ties to the neighborhood.

Buras relates the troubled history of New Orleans, with its background of white supremacy and the disempowerment of African Americans, whether enslaved or free. She recoils at the accusation that black teachers were somehow responsible for the poor condition and poor academic results of the public schools of New Orleans before Katrina. She documents that those in power in the state systematically underfunded the schools until the charters came; then the money spigot opened.

Reviewing this history, and especially the years since the destruction caused by Katrina in 2005, Buras reaches some strong judgments about what happened to New Orleans that ties past to present.
When the new power elites were debating the best way to manage the schools, what became clear was that they distrusted local school boards as “politicized and ineffective,” and preferred either state control, mayoral control or appointed leadership. Behind their models was the Reconstruction-era assumption that “African Americans have no capacity for self-government.”

“Whether in terms of how [charter] boards are constituted or in terms of how student or familial challenges are addressed, the charter school movement in New Orleans is closely bound to the protection of whiteness as property, as the clearest beneficiaries are upper-class white (and a few black) entrepreneurs who seek to capitalize on public assets for their own advancement while dispossessing the very communities the schools are supposed to serve.”
Buras tells the counter-stories of community-supported public schools that resisted the charterization process. One chapter is devoted to Frederick Douglass High School, the heart of the Bywater neighborhood in the city’s Upper 9th Ward. It opened in 1913 as an all-white school named for a Confederate general who was Reconstruction governor of Louisiana after the Civil War. With desegregation in the late 1960s, white flight commenced, and it eventually became an all-black school. Not until the 1990s was it renamed for abolitionist Frederick Douglass. As Buras shows, the local African American community tried to save the school, which was important to the neighborhood, but it was eventually handed over to KIPP.

Buras points out that most of the charter schools did not hire veteran teachers, and none has a union. They prefer to rely on the fresh recruits, “most of them white and from outside the community.” After Katrina, she writes, state officials and education entrepreneurs shifted the blame for poor academic results onto the city’s veteran teachers. She quotes Chas Roemer, currently the chair of the state education board, as saying “Charter schools are now a threat to the jobs program called public education.” (Roemer’s sister heads the state’s charter school association.) Buras concludes that his remark echoes the old racist view that African Americans are shiftless and lazy and dependent on state welfare. She counters that teachers in New Orleans before Katrina contended with “racism and a history of state neglect of black public schools.” Several teachers told her of the unfit conditions of the schools in which they taught. They did not have access to the bounty that arrived in the city for charter schools.

Beneath the chatter about a New Orleans “miracle,” Buras sees the unfolding of a narrative in which whites once again gain power to control the children of African American families and take possession of schools that once belonged to the black community and reflected their culture and their aspirations.

“Knowingly or unknowingly,” she writes, inexperienced white recruits with TFA undermine the best interests of black working-class students and veteran teachers to leverage a more financially stable and promising future for themselves.” Buras is especially scornful of TFA, which she holds culpable for treating its recruits as “human capital,” while helping to dismantle democratic institutions and take the place of unjustly fired black teachers.

In the end, she offers up her book as a warning to urban districts like Philadelphia, Newark, Detroit, Indianapolis, Nashville, and others that New Orleans is not a model for anyone to follow. The entrepreneurs grow fat while families and children lose schools that once were the heart of their community. Schools are not just a place to produce test scores (and the evidence from the New Orleans-based “Research on Reforms” shows that New Orleans’ Recovery School District is one of the state’s lowest performing districts). Schools have civic functions as well. They are, or should be, democratic institutions, serving the needs of the local community and responsive to its goals. Schooling is not something done to children, but a process in which children learn about the world, develop their talents, and become independent, self-directed individuals and citizens.

September 15, 2014

Public Schools in Texas Outperform Charter Schools

Filed under: Charter Schools,Ravitch — millerlf @ 9:17 am

Tom Ratliff: Public Schools in Texas Outperform Charter Schools
by dianeravitch

Tom Ratliff, a member of the Texas state Board of Education, wrote this article for the Longview News-Journal. It is a warning to parents not to assume that charter schools are better than public schools. On average, he says, the opposite is true.

Public schools ranked higher for financial accountability:

During the 2012-13 school year (the most recent year of the rating), Texas’ traditional public schools far outperformed charter schools in both academic and financial measurements. Don’t take my word for it, look at the information straight from the Texas Education Agency:

To summarize these reports, I offer the following:
The FIRST rating is the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas and, according to the education agency, is designed to “encourage public schools to better manage their financial resources in order to provide the maximum allocation possible for direct instructional purposes.” I think we all agree, that’s a good thing to measure.
According to the agency, the FIRST rating uses 20 “established financial indicators, such as operating expenditures for instruction, tax collection rates, student-teacher ratios, and long-term debt.” How did the schools do? Glad you asked.
Traditional ISDs: 89 percent ranked “superior” and 1.2 percent ranked “substandard.”
Charter schools: 37 percent ranked “superior” and 20 percent ranked “substandard.”
Yes, one out of five charter schools ranked “substandard” on how they spend the tax dollars supporting them, while almost 9 out of 10 ISDs ranked “superior”.

And public schools outperform charter schools academically too:

Let’s shift our attention to academic performance. If the academic performance is good, the taxpaying public might be more understanding of a low rating on a financial measure. Unfortunately, the charters do not compare well there, either, under the 2014 TEA Accountability System.
Traditional ISDs: 92.6 percent met standard, while 7.4 percent did not.
Charter schools 77.7 percent met standard, while 17.3 percent did not.
Again, almost one out of five charter schools failed to meet the state’s academic standards.

And then Tom Ratliff asks the best question of all:

“Where is the outrage from groups like the Texas Association of Business or the Austin Chamber of Commerce?” Those groups rarely miss an opportunity to criticize the shortcomings of traditional ISDs. Why not express concerns when numbers like these relate to charter schools? If these numbers were attributable to ISDs, you can bet those groups would be flying planes around the Capitol and holding press conferences like they have in the past. A little consistency would be nice when asking for taxpayer-funded schools to perform as expected.”

Ratliff points out that his father wrote the original charter law. It is refreshing to see a policymaker looking at the data and seeing that competition does not translate into better education or more accountability. By the way, Tom’s father Bill Ratliff –former Lieutenant Governor of Texas–is already a member of the blog’s honor roll for his willingness to speak up and think for himself. A good Texas family.
dianeravitch | September 14, 2014

March 31, 2014

Diane Ravitch on Charters in New York City

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

New York Schools: The Roar of the Charters
Diane Ravitch March 27, 2014

In his speech at Riverside Church last Sunday, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio tried to end weeks of attacks on his schools policies by striking a conciliatory tone toward the city’s privately managed charter schools. He used the charter sector’s own rhetoric of “crisis” and “failure” to describe the school system that he inherited from Mayor Bloomberg. He spoke of parents eager to escape failing schools and condemned the “status quo” without noting that it was Bloomberg’s status quo. He opposed the idea that public schools and charter schools are competing and called for a new era “in which our charter schools help to uplift our traditional schools.” According to The New York Times, he called some of the financial leaders on Wall Street, the billionaires who have paid millions of dollars for the ads attacking him, to plead for a truce.

De Blasio decided he could not win this war. The other side had too much money and proved it could drive down his poll numbers. He said that the charter schools could help public schools, but in reality, charter schools could learn a few things from the public schools, like how to teach children with disabilities and second-language English learners. Contrary to popular myth, the charter schools are more racially segregated than public schools and have performed no better than the public schools on the most recent state tests. But what they have behind them is vast resources, and de Blasio capitulated.

The underlying question remains: How did a privately managed school franchise that serves a tiny portion of New York’s students manage to hijack the education reforms of a new mayor with a huge popular mandate?

When Bill de Blasio was running for mayor of New York City last year, he set out an ambitious plan for reforming education. After twelve years of Mayor Bloomberg’s obsession with testing, the public was eager for a fresh approach, one that was focused more on helping students than on closing their schools. Bloomberg’s haughty indifference to public opinion did not endear him to parents. He displaced tens of thousands of students from their public schools, with never a show of remorse, as he opened hundreds of new small public schools and nearly two hundred privately managed charter schools. Bloomberg’s preference for small public schools came at a price; they were unable to offer the full array of advanced courses in math and science, electives, and the choice of foreign languages that larger schools offered. He appointed three chancellors who were not professional educators, one of whom—a publisher—lasted all of ninety days before he removed her. He showed preferential treatment to the hundreds of small public schools that his administration opened, granting them extra resources and allowing them to exclude the neediest students. And he boasted about the explosion of privately managed charter schools, which now enroll 6 percent of the city’s children, on whose boards sit titans of Wall Street, the hedge fund managers who belong to Bloomberg’s social set.

During the campaign, de Blasio wanted to change the subject from Bloomberg’s boutique ideas to a larger vision. He wanted to address the needs of the vast majority of New York City’s 1.1 million students. His big idea was to provide universal access to pre-kindergarten, a research-based program that would give a better start to the city’s neediest children, and after-school activities for adolescents in middle schools. During the campaign, the public widely supported de Blasio’s plans, while Bloomberg’s education policies usually registered about 25 percent approval.

When asked about charter schools, de Blasio made clear that he felt they had gotten far too much media attention, considering that they serve a small fraction of the population. He pledged that he would charge them rent for use of public space and would not allow any more co-locations—the practice of inserting a new school into a building with an existing school—without community hearings. Co-location happens when a charter school is offered shared space in a building with a public school; it also happens when large schools are divided into four, five, or six small schools operating under the same roof. Public school parents strongly oppose these arrangements. The host public school is often forced to give up its art room, its dance room, its computer room, every room used for any purpose other than classroom instruction, to make way for the unwelcome newcomer. The co-located schools must negotiate over access to the library, the auditorium, the playground. Co-locations cause overcrowding, as well as a competition for space and resources among students and multiple administrators within a single building.

De Blasio’s skeptical campaign comments about charter schools unleashed the wrath of New York City’s most outspoken charter school leader, Eva Moskowitz. Her Success Academy chain of twenty-two charter schools now enrolls 6,700 students. Because she doesn’t have to follow the public school regulations forbidding political activities on school time, she can turn her students and their parents out on short notice for political demonstrations and legislative hearings, dressed in matching t-shirts, carrying posters and banners. A few weeks before last fall’s mayoral election, she closed her schools and led a march of students and parents across the Brooklyn Bridge to protest de Blasio’s criticism of charter schools. She was accompanied by de Blasio’s Republican opponent, Joe Lhota. Voters were unconvinced, however, and de Blasio won in a landslide.

After coming to office, the newly elected mayor focused his energies on trying to persuade Governor Cuomo and the legislature to enact a new tax in New York City to pay for his goal of universal pre-kindergarten. De Blasio called for a modest tax increase for those who earn over $500,000 a year. It would cost each of them, he said, about $1,000 a year, or less than a cup of soy latte every day at Starbucks. The billionaires were not amused. Nor was Governor Cuomo, who wants to be perceived as a conservative, pro-business Democrat who does not raise taxes.

While de Blasio was pressing for universal pre-kindergarten (or UPK, as it is known), he was faced with a decision about how to handle the dozens of proposals for co-locations and new charter schools that had been hurriedly endorsed by Bloomberg’s Panel on Education Policy in the last months of his term. The panel had approved forty-five new schools, seventeen of which were charters. De Blasio decided to approve thirty-six, including fourteen of the seventeen charter school proposals. He did not hold community hearings, as he had promised, so he managed to enrage public school parents whose schools would now suffer the unwanted entry of a new school into their building and, in many cases, an overcrowded building.

The three charter proposals the mayor rejected were part of the Moskowitz charter chain. She had asked for eight new schools—more than any other single applicant—and de Blasio gave her five. Most school leaders would be thrilled to win five new schools. But Eva cried foul and publicly accused the mayor of “evicting” her students. This was despite the fact that two of the three rejected schools did not exist, so no students were affected. The third was Moskowitz’s request to expand her elementary school that was already co-located with P.S. 149 in Harlem; Moskowitz wanted to add a middle school. But adding a middle school meant kicking out students with disabilities in P.S. 149, which de Blasio refused to do.

Moskowitz was ready. Her friends on Wall Street and the far-right Walton Family Foundation paid out nearly $5 million for television ads attacking Mayor de Blasio as a heartless, ruthless, possibly racist politician who was at war with charter schools and their needy students. The ads showed the faces of adorable children, all of them being kicked out of “their” school by a vengeful Mayor who hates charter schools. The ads never acknowledged that the Mayor had approved fourteen out of seventeen charter proposals. Moskowitz, whose charter chain pays more than $500,000 a year for the services of for SDK Knickerbocker, a high-powered D.C. public relations firm, also made the rounds of television talk shows, where she got free air time to lash out at de Blasio for allegedly “evicting” her needy students from “the highest performing school in New York state.” Meanwhile, the Murdoch-owned media—not only The New York Post but also The Wall Street Journal and Fox News—kept up a steady barrage of hostile stories echoing Moskowitz’s claims against de Blasio.

None of the talking heads checked the facts. None knew or acknowledged that approving the middle school Moskowitz was denied would have meant the actual eviction of the most needy students of all—students at P.S. 149 with special needs. Or that her own existing school in that building has no students with high levels of disability, in contrast with Harlem’s neighborhood public schools, where such students account for 14 percent of the school population. Or that Moskowitz’s school has half as many students who are English learners as the neighborhood public schools. Or that her school is not the highest performing school in the state or the city. (In English language arts, Moskowitz’s Harlem Success Academy 4 ranked eighty-first in the city, with 55 percent of its students passing the latest state test; in math, the school was thirteenth in the city, with 83 percent of students passing the state test.) Or that nearly half her students leave within a few years. Or that her schools spend $2,000 more per student than the neighboring schools. Or that Moskowitz is paid $485,000 a year to oversee fewer than seven thousand students.

All of these facts were known by the de Blasio administration. But the new mayor seemed helpless. Somehow this man who had run a brilliant campaign to change the city was left speechless by the charter lobby. His poll numbers took a steep dive. He never called a press conference to explain his criteria for approving or rejecting charter schools, each of which made sense: for example, he would not approve a charter if it displaced students with disabilities; if it placed elementary students in a building with high school students; if it required heavy construction; or if it had fewer than 250 students. Reasonable though his criteria were, they were not enough for the charter lobby. His speech at Riverside Church offered an olive branch, all but conceding that the charter lobby had beaten him. He followed up his conciliatory remarks by creating a committee to review the space needs of the city’s schools and appointed to it representatives of the charter sector, which remains hungry for more free space from the Mayor.
Meanwhile, Moskowitz began using political leverage as well. On the same day that de Blasio organized a rally in Albany on behalf of raising taxes on the rich to pay for UPK, she closed her schools and bused thousands of students and parents to Albany for a pro-charter school rally. Governor Andrew Cuomo stood by her side, pledging to “save” charter schools and to protect them from paying rent; his ardent devotion to the charter cause may have been abetted by the $800,000 in campaign contributions he received from charter advocates in the financial industry.

For its part, the Republican-dominated State Senate demonstrated loyalty to Eva Moskowitz by passing a budget resolution with language forbidding the mayor from displacing a co-located charter school and forbidding him from charging rent to a private corporation (a charter school) using public space. Not only had Moskwitz cleverly portrayed herself as a victim; she had managed to make her narrow cause more important than universal pre-kindergarten and after-school programs for teens. She demonstrated that she was more powerful than the mayor or his schools chancellor. She won the battle of the moment.

But Moskowitz unknowingly taught the public a different lesson, which may be important in the future. Her schools do not operate like public schools. They are owned and managed by a private corporation with a government contract. They make their own rules. They choose their own students, kick out those they don’t want, and answer to no one. No public school would be allowed to close its doors and take its students on a political march across the Brooklyn Bridge or bus them to Albany to lobby the statehouse; the principal would be fired instantly.

Consider the court battle initiated by Moskowitz that played out in the midst of the confrontation with the mayor: a judge in New York’s State Supreme Court ruled, as Moskowitz hoped, that the State Comptroller has no power to audit her schools, because they are “not a unit of the state.” Put another way, her schools are not public schools. And, as the public begins to understand what that means, that lesson may ultimately be the undoing of this stealth effort to transfer public funds to support a small number of privately managed schools, amply endowed by billionaires and foundations, that refuse to pay rent and are devoted to competing with, not helping, the general school population.

What will it mean for New York City to have two school systems, both supported with public money, with one free to choose and remove its students and the other required to accept all students? A recent study found that New York State has the most segregated schools in the nation, and that the charters are even more segregated than the public schools. In 2014, the year that we remember the sixtieth anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, it is passing strange to find that New York City—and school districts across the nation—are embarked on the re-creation of a dual school system.

 

March 28, 2014

Spend an evening with Diane Ravitch

Filed under: Ravitch — millerlf @ 8:38 am

Spend an evening with Diane Ravitch, author of Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

MATC Cooley Auditorium, 700 W. State, Milwaukee

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Presentation at 6:30 p.m.

Drawing on her over 40 years of research and experience, Diane Ravitch has become a champion for public schools across the country. Ravitch takes sharp aim at the mythology of so-called educational reformers and makes the case for real changes that will mean equitable, high quality public education for all children.

Presenting Sponsors: Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, Wisconsin Education Association Council, National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin, AFT Local 212.

Community Sponsors: Southeast United Educators, UWM Urban Studies, MATC Latino Student Organization. Sponsoring Friends: Parents for Public Schools, Opt Out Milwaukee, Wisconsin Jobs Now, American Civil Liberties Union, Educators Network for Social Justice, Leigh Wallace, Racine Education Association, Schools and Communities United, Administrators’ and Supervisors’ Council.

Tickets: $5 in advance; $8 at the door.

Tickets can be purchased through MTEA (414-259-1990), AFT Local 212 (414-765-0910) and other sponsors.

October 5, 2013

Diane Ravitch: On How to Save Public Education

Filed under: Ravitch — millerlf @ 4:36 pm

Following is a section of an article by Diane Ravitch from the Progressive Magazine.

Saving Our Public Schools, October 2013

Pregnant women should see a doc­tor early in their pregnancy and have regular care and good nutrition. Poor women who do nor receive early and regular medical care are likely to have babies with developmental and cog­nitive problems. From the day they are born, young children need a loving caregiver, good nutrition, and medical care; their parents should get the help they need to learn how to care for their babies.

Children need pre-kindergarten classes that teach them how to social­ize with others, how to listen and learn, how to communicate well, and how to care for themselves, while engaging in the joyful pursuit of play and learning that is appropriate to their age and development and that builds their background knowledge and vocabulary.

Children in the early elementary grades need teachers who set appro­priate goals for their age. They should learn to read, write, calculate, and explore nature, and they should have plenty of time to sing and dance and draw and play and giggle. Classes in these grades should be small enough—ideally fewer than twen­ty—so that students get the individu­al attention they need. Testing in the early grades should be used sparingly, not to rank students, but diagnosti­cally, to help determine what they know and what they still need to learn. Test scores should remain a pri­vate matter between parents and teachers, not shared with the district or the state for any individual stu­dent. The district or state may aggre­gate scores for entire schools, but should not rank individual students by test scores or judge teachers or schools on the basis of these scores.

As students enter the upper ele­mentary grades and middle school and high school, they should have a balanced curriculum that includes not only reading, writing, and math­ematics, but also the sciences, litera­ture, history, geography, civics, and foreign languages. Their school should have a rich arts program, where students may learn to sing, dance, play an instrument, join an orchestra or a band, perform in a play, sculpt, or use technology to design structures, conduct research, or create fanciful artworks.

Every student should have time for physical education every day.

Every school should have a library with librarians and media specialists.

Every school should have a nurse, a psychologist, a guidance counselor, and a social worker.

And every school should have after-school programs where students may explore their interests, whether in athletics, chess, robotics, history club, science club, nature study, Scouting, or other activities.

Teachers should write their own tests and use standardized tests only for diagnostic purposes.

Classes should be small enough to ensure that every teacher knows his or her students and can provide the sort of feedback to strengthen their ability to write, their non-cognitive skills, their critical thinking, and their mathematical and scientific acumen.

As a society, we must establish goals, strategies, and programs to reduce poverty and racial segregation. Only by eliminating opportunity gaps can we eliminate achievement gaps. Poor and immigrant children need the same sort of schools that wealthy children receive—only more so. Those who start life with the fewest advantages need even smaller classes, even more art, science, and music to engage them, to spark their creativity and fulfill their potential.

If you want a society organized along the survival of the fittest and the triumph of the most advantaged, then you will prefer the current course of action, where chil­dren and teachers and schools are “racing to the top.” But, if you believe the goal of our society should be equality of opportunity for all children and that we should seek to reduce the alarming inequalities chil­dren now experience, then my pro­gram should win your support.

My premise is straightforward: You can’t do the right things until you stop doing the wrong things. If you insist on driving the train right over the cliff, you will never reach your hoped-for destination of excellence for all.

Instead, you will inflict harm on mil­lions of children and reduce the qual­ity of their education. You will squan­der billions of dollars on failed schemes that should have been spent on realistic, evidence-based ways of improving our public schools, our society,, and the lives of children.

Stop doing the wrong things. Stop promoting competition and choice as answers to the very inequality that was created by competition and choice. A good society requires both a vibrant private sector and a respon­sible public sector.

We must not permit the public sector to be privatized and eviscerat­ed. In a democracy, important social goals require social collaboration. We must work to establish programs that improve the lives of children and families. To build a strong education system, we need to build a strong and respected education profession. The federal government and states must develop policies to recruit, support, and retain career educators, both in the classroom and in positions of leadership.

If we mean to conquer education­al inequity, we must recognize that the root causes of poor academic per­formance are segregation and pover­ty, along with inequitably resourced schools. We must act decisively to reduce the causes of inequity. We know what good schools look like; we know what great education con­sists of. We must bring good schools to every district and neighborhood in our nation. Public education is a basic public responsibility: We must not be persuaded by a false crisis nar­rative to privatize it. It is time for par­ents, educators, and other concernedcitizens to join together to strengthen our public schools and preserve them for future generations. The future of our democracy depends on it.

   More than any other institution in American life, the public schools have broken down the barriers of class, race, reli­gion, gender, ethnicity, language, and disability status that separate people. They have not eliminated those divi­sions, but have enabled people from different walks of life to learn from one another, to study together, play togeth­er, plan together, and recognize their common humanity More than any other institution, the public schools have created the connective tissue that binds together our society, to make us able to exchange ideas, to debate, to disagree, and to take into account the views of others in making decisions.

Over time, as the public schools opened their doors to all, they expanded opportunity to more peo­ple, distributed the benefits of knowledge to more people, and strengthened our nation. Public edu­cation has been an American melting pot, an American salad bowl, an American orchestra, an American mosaic. The public schools have taught us how to be one society, not a collection of separate enclaves, divided by race, language, and cul­ture. They have contributed directly to the growth of a large middle class and a dynamic society. Our nation’s public schools have been a mighty engine of opportunity and equality. They still are.

But no matter how much we improve our public schools, they alone cannot solve the deeply rooted, sys­temic problems of our society. Federal, state, and municipal policies have iso­lated many children, especially in urban districts, into schools that are segregated by race, class, and income. Many of our public schools have also been badly underfunded, regularly pummeled by budget cuts, rising class sizes, wrongheaded policies, and dam­aging mandates that have served to

further undermine their mission. The inevitable result of such segregation and underfmding is low academic performance, which is then blamed on the schools. The failure of public poli­cy is not the failure of the public schools. The challenge to our society today is to repair public policy and to give our public schools the care and support they need to thrive, in all communities and for all children, rather than abandon them to the idiosyncrasies of the free market.

Our communities created public schools to develop citizens and to sus­tain our democracy. That is their abid­ing purpose. This unique institution has the unique responsibility of devel­oping a citizenry, making many peo­ples into one people and teaching our children the skills they need to prepare for work and further education.

The public schools have made real the promise of e pluribus ‘mum, with­out sacrificing either the pluribus or the unum.

When public education is in dan­ger, democracy is jeopardized.

We cannot afford that risk.

The way forward requires that education policy be shaped by evi­dence and by the knowledge and wis­dom of educators, not by a business plan shaped by free-market ideo­logues and entrepreneurs.

We must take care not to reestab­lish a dual school system, with pri­vately managed charters for the most motivated and most able students, and public schools as the repositories for those unable to get into the char­ter system. We must take care to avoid a future in which the rich have small classes with teachers, while the poor are taught by computers.

If we take seriously the charge to improve education, we must improve both schools and social conditions for children and families. To reduce the achievement gap, we must reduce the opportunity gap. We must invest in early childhood education and make sure that all children have the medical care they need.

If we truly care about the welfare of the most vulnerable children in our society, we will turn our efforts to reducing segregation and poverty. These are the root causes of poor aca­demic performance. We must lower the child poverty rate. It is a national scandal. Other nations have figured out how to protect the well-being of children and families, and we have not. It’s time to get to work on policies and programs that address root causes.

Only well-qualified, well-prepared teachers should be hired to work in our schools. We must stop giving them orders and scripts and let them teach. In turn, teachers need to be evaluated by human beings, includ­ing their principals and their peers, rather than computer-driven metrics.

Yes, we must improve our schools. Start now, start here, by building the bonds of trust among schools and communities. The essential mission of the public schools is not merely to pre­pare workers for the global workforce but to develop individuals of good character, to prepare citizens with the mind, heart, and character to sustain our democracy into the future.

Genuine school reform must be built on hope, not fear; on encour­agement, not threats; on inspiration, not compulsion; on trust, not carrots and sticks; on belief in the dignity of the human person, not a slavish devotion to data; on support and mutual respect, not a regime of pun­ishment and blame. To be lasting, school reform must rely on collabora­tion and teamwork among students, parents, teachers, principals, admin­istrators, and local communities.

Despite its faults, the American system of democratically controlled schools has been the mainstay of our communities and the foundation for our nation’s success. We must work together to improve our public schools. We must extend the promise of equal educational opportunity to all the children of our nation. Pro­tecting our public schools against pri­vatization and saving them for future generations of American children is the civil rights issue of our time. •

May 4, 2011

Diane Ravitch on Corporatization of Public Education

Filed under: Ravitch — millerlf @ 10:45 am

The Outrage of the Week By Diane Ravitch on May 3, 2011

It is way past time to get mad. Each week, it is hard to know which of the latest outrages against American public education is the worst.
Perhaps it was the agreement between the Gates Foundation and the Pearson Foundation to write the nation’s curriculum. When did we vote to hand over American education to them? Why would we outsource the nation’s curriculum to a for-profit publishing and test-making corporation based in London? Does Bill Gates get to write the national curriculum because he is the richest man in America? We know that his foundation is investing heavily in promoting the Common Core standards. Now his foundation will write a K-12 curriculum that will promote online learning and video gaming. That’s good for the tech sector, but is it good for our nation’s schools?
Oh, and one more outrage: The Gates Foundation and the Eli Broad Foundation, both of which maintain the pretense of being Democrats and/or liberals, have given millions to former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s foundation, which i s promoting vouchers, charters, online learning, test-based accountability, and the whole panoply of corporate reform strategies intended to weaken public education and remove teachers’ job protections.
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