Category Archives: K-12 Education

They just never get tired of it

As we all know by now, Governor Corbett’s budget-slashing attacks aren’t aimed solely at PASSHE. He seems willing to destroy any school system at any level if doing so hurts teachers’ unions and allows his private/charter school patrons to make more money.

This account of the situation in nearby Reading, PA from today’s Huffington Post is enough to infuriate even the most heartless person–except members of the Corbett administration, apparently.

As always, the Governor, in a radio interview, tries to pass off the attacks as “tough decisions”:

Representatives from Corbett’s office did not return requests for comment, but Corbett did address the budget on a recent radio program. “You have to make tough decisions, and nobody really likes them,” Corbett told Q106.9-FM.

No, it’s not a tough decision to sell off our schools, systems, students, their families, their futures, teachers, their careers, and the health of our entire Commonwealth to his friends. That’s a really easy, lazy decision, and it’s long past time for him to be at least honest about it. He should have to make clear to voters that he knows when they voted for “fiscal responsibility,” they weren’t voting for him to cut millions of dollars out of school budgets so kids in “America’s Poorest City” couldn’t go to pre-kindergarten. And we should make clear to him that’s not what we meant too.

I better stop there before I say something unprofessional (!).

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Filed under Access, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, charter schools, Collective Bargaining, Communities, Education reform, K-12 Education, PASSHE, Privatization, Public education, Public employee unions, public employees, Shock Doctrine, Teacher unions, Tom Corbett, Unions

APSCUF-WCU President on Anti-Union Attacks in Education

APSCUF-WCU President Lisa Millhous published this guest column in today’s (June 7) West Chester Daily Local News.

She makes several crucial points, at the core of which is the point that, especially in PA, attacking teacher and other public unions is almost all a diversion from the Governor’s (and his allies’) agenda–selling off public K-16 education to whichever bidder contributes the most to their campaigns. Dr. Millhous doesn’t put the point quite so belligerently, of course, nor should she have!

If you have the stomach for it, feel free to engage the anti-union thugs who tend to populate Comments sections of newspapers and websites. Or, let them have their echo-chamber to themselves since there’s probably not much you can say that will sway them.

Either way, share this piece with anybody you think needs to understand what anti-teacher-union attacks are really about. It ain’t about teachers or students, folks.

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Filed under APSCUF, charter schools, Corporate University, Education reform, K-12 Education, PASSHE, Private higher education, Privatization, Public education, Public employee unions, public employees, Shock Doctrine, Teacher unions, Tom Corbett, Unions

Call for support for the Neshimany Federation of Teachers

Just got this e-mail, via Lisa Millhous, via the PA Federation of Teachers:

Please read this important announcement from brother Ted Kirsch, President, AFT Pennsylvania:
As you may know, teachers in the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers bargaining unit have been on strike for 9 days.  We are returning back to the classroom, but unfortunately, have not persuaded our school board to return to the bargaining table to negotiate a fair contract.

The board has refused to engage in good faith negotiations and has offered one proposal that decimates our rights as professionals.  This impasse has lasted for way too long — almost 4 years — and needs to end.  Please help us by signing our petition asking the board to negotiate.

At this point, it is not about who is wrong or right — it is about sitting down at the table to negotiate — something our board is refusing to do. Sign our petition here.

Feel free to forward the petition information to anyone who is concerned about education.

Thank you!

Take 5 seconds to sign the petition. This is beyond ridiculous.

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Filed under AFT, Collective Bargaining, Contract Negotiations, K-12 Education, Public education, Public employee unions, public employees

Statewide “Call” to Action for Public Education

Folks:

An organization called Education Voters for PA is organizing a Statewide ‘Call’ to Action phone-in campaign for Monday, Dec. 5.

From their website–

Education Voters, joined by several allies, is organizing our firstStatewide “Call” to Action for Public Education! One week from today, on Monday, December 5th.  Thousands of people will set aside 5 minutes to call their local State Representatives and Senators with a short message about education being our highest priority as taxpayers and voters. CLICK HERE to pledge to call!

  • Class sizes are increasing in many communities.
  • Kindergarten, tutoring, arts, sports …. all being cut.
  • We keep reducing education to the point where someday soon, we could be teaching only subjects that will be on standardized tests.
  • We are raising taxes at the community level, putting more pressure on property taxes instead of having a statewide funding formula that is aligned to learning standards, fiscally responsible, fair and both Constitutional and ethical.

APSCUF members and other people concerned about education should support this effort. For further details, check out their website. All they ask is that you make the call to your legislator and then notify the organization that you’ve done it. It’s five minutes if you feel chatty with whoever answers the phone at your legislator’s office.

Please share with people you know who care about public education in PA, anywhere in the state.

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Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Communities, K-12 Education, Public education, Rally

Our ‘friend’ Michele Rhee is at it in Pennsylvania

Another day, another effort by education ‘reformer’ Michele Rhee to destroy public education in the name of reforming it.

This time it hits closer to home, as according to Laura Clawson at Daily Kos Labor, Rhee is working with former Lynn Swann campaign manager Ray Zaborney on a bill to lobby for passage of school privatization (masked as “vouchers”) legislation.

In case you’re wondering why efforts to privatize K-12 education get so much air (screen?) time on a blog representing a university faculty union, I have at least these two answers for you: (1) what happens to K-12 is often a harbinger of what policy makers want to do to us; and (2) in the not-very-deep subtext of Rhee’s (and Gates’ and Duncan’s and others) push to privatize public education is an anti-labor, anti-union impulse that we as a union should be utterly committed to stomping out in any way, at any time we cross paths with it.

Simple as that.

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Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Arne Duncan, charter schools, Education reform, K-12 Education, lobbying, Michelle Rhee, PA Senate Bill 1, PASSHE, Privatization, Public education, Public employee unions, public employees, StudentsFirst, Teacher unions, Vouchers/School Choice

Mike Rose responds at length to Education Reform

For those of you not familiar with Mike Rose, he’s a Professor of Education at UCLA who has written several influential books about literacy education and the politics of school over the last 25-30 years. He’s one of those rare thinkers and writers who’s able to say very incisive and critical things while maintaining a tone that’s respectful and at times even affectionate, even when he’s talking about people he strongly disagrees with.

This link goes to a series of essays Prof. Rose posted at the indie-news-blog-service Truthdig; I don’t know how I missed it until now because I read Truthdig pretty faithfully and it’s been up for months.

There are several, and the series is a long read to do in one sitting, but each of them has at least one gem of an argument in it, if not more, and I can’t recommend highly enough that you spend some time with it. If you’re an angry rabble-rouser like me, you’ll find moments of calm hope. If you’re cynical and feeling burned, you’ll find moments of inspiration. If you’re starry-eyed optimistic (or believe that all’s well and those of us who struggle are just paranoid–although if you’re that person you probably don’t read this blog!), you’ll find reasons to be more concerned.

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Filed under Access, Advocacy, charter schools, Communities, Education reform, K-12 Education, liberal arts, Mike Rose, Privatization, Public education, public employees, Teacher unions

As we fight for public education, let’s not forget the “public” part

It’s not just about keeping costs down and providing access. It’s about our contract to live in civilized society.

I didn’t write this letter, and there’s a point or two I’d never say personally, but for the very most part it’s a brilliant statement to students of what we’ve done to their generation and what they need to do in response.

A letter to my students

Michael O’Hare, professor of public policy | 8/24/10 | 273 comments | Leave a comment

Michael O'HareWelcome to Berkeley, probably still the best public university in the world. Meet your classmates, the best group of partners you can find anywhere. The percentages for grades on exams, papers, etc. in my courses always add up to 110% because that’s what I’ve learned to expect from you, over twenty years in the best job in the world.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that you have been the victims of a terrible swindle, denied an inheritance you deserve by contract and by your merits. And you aren’t the only ones; victims of this ripoff include the students who were on your left and on your right in high school but didn’t get into Cal, a whole generation stiffed by mine. This letter is an apology, and more usefully, perhaps a signal to start demanding what’s been taken from you so you can pass it on with interest.

Swindle – what happened? Well, before you were born, Californians now dead or in nursing homes made a remarkable deal with the future. (Not from California? Keep reading, lots of this applies to you, with variations.) They agreed to invest money they could have spent on bigger houses, vacations, clothes, and cars into the world’s greatest educational system, and into building and operating water systems, roads, parks, and other public facilities, an infrastructure that was the envy of the world. They didn’t get everything right: too much highway and not enough public transportation. But they did a pretty good job.

Young people who enjoyed these ‘loans’ grew up smarter, healthier, and richer than they otherwise would have, and understood that they were supposed to “pay it forward” to future generations, for example by keeping the educational system staffed with lots of dedicated, well-trained teachers, in good buildings and in small classes, with college counselors and up-to-date books. California schools had physical education, art for everyone, music and theater, buildings that looked as though people cared about them, modern languages and ancient languages, advanced science courses with labs where the equipment worked, and more. They were the envy of the world, and they paid off better than Microsoft stock. Same with our parks, coastal zone protection, and social services.

This deal held until about thirty years ago, when for a variety of reasons, California voters realized that while they had done very well from the existing contract, they could do even better by walking away from their obligations and spending what they had inherited on themselves. “My kids are finished with school; why should I pay taxes for someone else’s? Posterity never did anything for me!” An army of fake ‘leaders’ sprang up to pull the moral and fiscal wool over their eyes, and again and again, your parents and their parents lashed out at government (as though there were something else that could replace it) with tax limits, term limits, safe districts, throw-away-the-key imprisonment no matter the cost, smoke-and-mirrors budgeting, and a rule never to use the words taxes and services in the same paragraph.

Now, your infrastructure is falling to pieces under your feet, and as citizens you are responsible for crudities like closing parks, and inhumanities like closing battered women’s shelters. It’s outrageous, inexcusable, that you can’t get into the courses you need, but much worse that Oakland police have stopped taking 911 calls for burglaries and runaway children. If you read what your elected officials say about the state today, you’ll see things like “California can’t afford” this or that basic government function, and that “we need to make hard choices” to shut down one or another public service, or starve it even more (like your university). Can’t afford? The budget deficit that’s paralyzing Sacramento is about $500 per person; add another $500 to get back to a public sector we don’t have to be ashamed of, and our average income is almost forty times that. Of course we can afford a government that actually works: the fact is that your parents have simply chosen not to have it.

I’m writing this to you because you are the victims of this enormous cheat (though your children will be even worse off if you don’t take charge of this ship and steer it). Your education was trashed as California fell to the bottom of US states in school spending, and the art classes, AP courses, physical education, working toilets, and teaching generally went by the board. Every year I come upon more and more of you who have obviously never had the chance to learn to write plain, clear, English. Every year, fewer and fewer of you read newspapers, speak a foreign language, understand the basics of how government and business actually work, or have the energy to push back intellectually against me or against each other. Or know enough about history, literature, and science to do it effectively! You spent your school years with teachers paid less and less, trained worse and worse, loaded up with more and more mindless administrative duties, and given less and less real support from administrators and staff.

Many of your parents took a hike as well, somehow getting the idea that the schools had taken over their duties to keep you learning, or so beat-up working two jobs each and commuting two hours a day to put food on the table that they couldn’t be there for you. A quarter of your classmates didn’t finish high school, discouraged and defeated; but they didn’t leave the planet, even if you don’t run into them in the gated community you will be tempted to hide out in. They have to eat just like you, and they aren’t equipped to do their share of the work, so you will have to support them.

You need to have a very tough talk with your parents, who are still voting; you can’t save your children by yourselves. Equally important, you need to start talking to each other. It’s not fair, and you have every reason (except a good one) to keep what you can for yourselves with another couple of decades of mean-spirited tax-cutting and public sector decline. You’re my heroes just for surviving what we put you through and making it into my classroom, but I’m asking for more: you can be better than my generation. Take back your state for your kids and start the contract again. There are lots of places you can start, for example, building a transportation system that won’t enslave you for two decades as their chauffeur, instead of raising fares and cutting routes in a deadly helix of mediocrity. Lots. Get to work. See you in class!

UPDATE: Like your political science in musical form? Here’s the way people thought about this stuff back in the day, and maybe should again. Bet there’s a good rap along these lines waiting to be born…

Cross-posted from the blog The Reality Based Community.

 

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Filed under Advocacy, Budget, Budget Deficit, Communities, K-12 Education, Public education, Shock Doctrine, Student activism