Tell Cuomo: Keep DeVos Out of NY State

cuomo devosGovernor Cuomo has called the State Senate and Assembly back into session in order to extend mayoral control for NYC schools for the coming year. Most members of the legislature support mayoral control.

However, Republicans in the State Senate, led by Majority Leader Flanagan, are trying to force through a bill that would extend mayoral control only if NYC accepted a dramatic increase in the number of new charter schools permitted to open in the city. Their legislation would also remove all caps placed on charter school expansion in areas outside the city and introduce tax credits for parents who send their children to private schools.

This is right out of the Betsy DeVos playbook and would be devastating for public schools and public school students in the city.

Here’s why:

  • Research demonstrates that unchecked charter school expansion has fueled resegregation in urban school districts. Charter schools also suspend more black students and children with disabilities than their public school counterparts. As a result, the NAACP recently joined a growing chorus of civil rights groups calling for a nationwide moratorium on charter schools.

 

  • Charter schools lack the financial and instructional oversight of district public schools and are consequently more prone to fraud and profit-driven corporate corruption.

 

  • There is growing evidence that many rapidly expanding charter school networks intentionally exclude and fail to meet the needs of students with disabilities. In fact, charter schools in NYC “lose” an average of 6-11% of their students annually, whereas public schools tend to gain students as children get older. These “lost” students are usually struggling children who wind up in their district public schools after being expelled or counseled out of charters.  

 

  • Although there are some excellent charter schools in NYC (which will be unhindered by keeping the current cap), there is no evidence that charter schools, on the whole, perform better than neighborhood public schools, or that shutting down community schools and replacing them with privately-run charters is the best way to help our underserved communities.  

 

  • Most important, increasing the number of charter schools permitted to open in NYC means increasing the number of public schools that will be starved of resources via a loss of per-pupil funding and will ultimately be shut down.

Concerned?

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Call your state senator: https://www.nysenate.gov/find-my-senator

*Note: If your state senator is a member of the IDC (Independent Democratic Conference), he/ she voted yes on Flanagan’s bill to increase the charter cap.

2. Call your assembly member: http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/search/

3. Call Governor Cuomo: 518-474-8390

Script: Hi, my name is… and I’m a constituent from… (zip). [Insert personal details: I am a public school parent, teacher, graduate etc.] I am calling because I believe we should renew mayoral control for NYC schools without lifting the charter school cap. We need well-funded public schools with qualified teachers not more chain charter schools. [Feel free to include more reasons from above]

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/senate-leader-bill-ties-mayoral-control-charter-schools-article-1.2239324

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/02/28/separating-fact-from-fiction-in-21-claims-about-charter-schools/?utm_term=.c31fdb9517c7

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2016/12/08/when-public-goes-private-as-trump-wants-what-happens/

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/08/black-lives-matter-naacp-moratorium-charter-schools

 

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The GOP Hates Children

The AHCA will be devastating for children, families and the elderly in so many ways. It will make it harder for people like me, who have pre-existing conditions to get healthcare. It will kick millions- that’s millions of Americans off their insurance, including children.

But that’s not all.

The AHCA also cuts over 800 billion in funding for Medicaid- that’s more than a 25% cut. It would also impose a “per-capita cap” on funding for certain groups of people, such as children and the elderly — a dramatic change that would result in the reduction of a myriad of services- including special education.

On average, school districts get more than 4 million dollars from Medicaid for special education services annually. Without this funding- all the services that help students with disabilities- from physical therapy, to occupational therapy to counseling could disappear for millions of children. At my Title 1 school, almost 20% of students  receive Special Ed services.  They NEED these services in order to learn and become independent, successful adults. This is not something extra. (Unlike Mar a-Lago visits- THOSE are extra)

So not only are Republicans destroying healthcare for 24 million Americans just so they can claim a legislative “win,” but also, they’re drastically shrinking services for the most vulnerable children in our schools.

And the GOP wants to massively slash taxes for corporations while cutting services for MY students?

You’ve got to be kidding me. 2018 started yesterday.

Education advocates, teachers, administrators and parents should ALL be up in arms about this bill. I don’t care who you voted for. This bill hurts ALL of our children.

Rise up.

 

 

 

To the Trump Supporter Who Yelled at Me About My Unborn Children at the Women’s March

While I walked to the rally for the Women’s March on Washington, carrying a sign that read “Liberty and Justice for ALL” you, an older white man,  yelled something incoherent about my unborn children. At first I kept walking and ignored you, and then what I shouted back was “I wish you were unborn.”

You might be wondering why I said that. So, I thought I would offer a more thorough explanation. Please respond at your convenience and feel free to share this letter with your old men friends who are similarly motivated by a concern for my unborn children.

Dear Champion for the Unborn,

You seem to think that concerns about my unborn children should preclude my protesting the presidency of Donald Trump. You are mistaken.

Here’s why.

1. I am a 30 year old woman. I have been fortunate enough to never get pregnant unintentionally.  If I do, I might choose to have an abortion. This decision would be based on my understanding of fetal development and scientific consensus about when life begins. I truly respect your right to make your own decision about the morality of abortion based on your religion. Thankfully, no one is going to force you to have an abortion. In fact, you can’t even get pregnant. Because you are an old man! So stop worrying so much! I promise I won’t force your sexual partners to get abortions either, if you do in fact manage to attract any sexual partners.

2.  I’m going to be honest with you.  Part of the reason that I joined the Women’s March is that I too am concerned about my unborn children. In fact, as a 30 year old woman in a stable relationship, I think about my unborn children quite often.  And here’s the kicker:  I’m pretty sure that Donald Trump poses the biggest threat to my unborn children of any US president. I assume you must have not noticed this, hence the incomprehensible shouting at me yesterday,  so let me lay it out for you.

Trump aims to dismantle and defund public education- very bad for my unborn children. Trump promotes rape culture- terrible for my unborn children. Trump wants to slash environmental regulations that keep our air and water clean- disastrous for my unborn children. Trump has already begun the process of denying millions of Americans, including pregnant mothers,  access to healthcare- also harmful to my unborn children. Trump chooses to deny the urgent threat of climate change, with rising seas, food and water insecurity and imminent displacement of millions of people around the world- horrific for my unborn children.   Are you seeing the pattern here?

3. Here’s another question for you. Did you know that some children have already been born? And their lives are not all perfect? I know this may come as a shock. Maybe you didn’t realize that fetuses grow into babies. And come out of women, who need jobs and equal pay to take care of their former fetuses, aka children. Maybe you don’t know that babies need things like food, housing and healthcare to survive. Is that what’s going on here?  I’m wondering, because it seems your aggressive concern for my unborn children has clouded your judgement a bit. I just have this nagging thought that it makes no sense to support policies that keep fetal cells alive, but hurt babies and children after they’re born.

4.That’s the other reason  I marched yesterday.  For the kids who already have been born. For the hundreds of already living children I have had the privilege to work with over the years. Because  I am a public school teacher.  In fact, I work about 50 hours a week to help children learn and grow. Given your tremendous concern for the unborn, I can only expect you similarly have dedicated your life to helping real live, already born children. As a teacher with years of experience and a basic understanding of how science works, I have some news for you.

By ignoring climate change and devoting all of your energy to hassling marchers about their wombs, you are ensuring that all children- born and unborn,  have no future. By sanctioning DeVos style defunding of public schools and attacks on children with disabilities, title 1 funding and teachers, you are hurting all children. By promoting white supremacy and a president who wants to deport millions of people, you are hurting children. By promoting the interests of a corporate oligarchy at the expense of unions, the free press, kids, patients, workers, women,minorities not to mention our national security(RUSSIA) you are hurting children. By supporting a Republican leadership that has poisoned thousands of kids in Flint, Michigan, that fights environmental regulations designed to eradicate childhood asthma nationwide, and that wants to deprive mothers of pre-natal care, you are hurting children.

Let me say that again. YOU ARE HURTING CHILDREN. Actively. Daily. And not just the unborn ones- the millions who have already been born and need grownups like you to fight for them, not against them.

If I could have fit all that on my sign yesterday I would have. But now you know the whole story, the reason why protesting the Trump presidency is the best thing I could do for my unborn children.

I assume, as a champion of the unborn, now that I have informed you of Trump and the GOP’s true impact on present and future generations, you will write me a letter of apology and join the next Women’s March on Washington. Or better yet, the Climate March scheduled for this spring.

If, however, through some incredible feat of cognitive dissonance, you continue to support the GOP and Donald Trump despite your supposed love of children,  I  assure you that when  I have children of my own, they will grow up proud of their mom- for yelling back at you, and for gearing up to fight your ass for the next four years.

Sincerely,

1 of the 3.5 million people who marched yesterday (The one you yelled at!)

 

This is Not Normal- And the Kids Know it

This is not normal. Deep down, we all know it’s not normal- down to my 4 year old pre-k students. So please stop telling me it will be okay. Stop telling me to calm down.

A destructive, vengeful, unqualified sociopath is about to become the most powerful man in the world and his every act confirms his intent to destroy the institutions that safeguard our democracy- from a free press, to a just judiciary, to our electoral process, to civil rights, to public schools, to national security, to our health and to the safety of our planet. Armed vigilantes are raiding pizza stores, hate crimes are spreading like wildfire, (not to mention the wildfires that are spreading due to drought) white supremacists and conspiracy theorists are primed to have the presidents’ ear, and the man himself refuses to attend national security briefings and instead is intent on getting rich off public office, rewarding corrupt cronies and gas-lighting a nation via twitter.  This is the guy who’s getting nuclear weapons and unprecedented executive power.  This is not normal and it will only be okay if we all fight like hell to make it ok.

90% of 10,000 teachers say the tone has changed in their classrooms since the election- with new fears, cruelties and tension permeating classroom culture. I feel it too. There is more anxiety, more distraction. My students talk about Trump every day. Every day. On a field trip to a museum in Manhattan yesterday one 6 year old said, “Oh I hope we’re not going near Trump tower, are we going to be near Trump tower? I hope not, that’s bad luck.” Kid is 6 and riding a bus over the Queensborough bridge freaks him out because of the proximity to Trump Tower.  Not normal.

Election results should not make roomfuls of 9 year olds cry, but this year’s did. Presidents shouldn’t terrify children, but this one does. Cabinet appointments shouldn’t worry elementary schoolers, but these do.  I’m talking about 10 year olds actually discussing cabinet appointments in worried tones during lunch.

The kids know. They know something is at stake beyond the grown-up world of politics- something essential to their safety and future. They know this is the life or death of our institutions- our schools, our social services, our constitutional rights and the urgent movement for our planet. The kids know that this is not normal. They know that we should all be terrified and that pretending will not make it okay. That nothing will make it okay unless every progressive, every moderate, every apolitical go about my business type, every worker, every leader, every thinking conservative and for God’s sake already- every Democrat official, stands up and fights back.  Kid’s know how urgent this is. And they are counting on us, the grown ups, to make this right.

 

Gifts That Fight Back: Holiday Gifts for the Activist

Once again it feels frivolous to go holiday shopping this year with everything good under attack by the people (Republicans +Trump) who hold power. But I think my family will be less than pleased if all I give them this year are donations in their name, so I made an activist  gift giving plan. Here it is:

Gifts that Fight Back

To fight for civil rights:

To support a free and creditable press:

To support women’s reproductive health:

To support public education:

To fight climate change and stand for science:

Support public institutions:

If you have more ideas, organizations or links- please share via comments! I will keep adding as I find more. Spread the word: Give gifts that fight back this holiday season!

 

Trump Vs. Democracy and Education

Donald Trump is threatening to destroy public education and American Democracy. If you don’t see that- it’s time to wake up and check your sources.

I have spent over three years writing about the impacts of Ed Reform in the classroom. But with Trump-Pence in the white house, John King looks like a sweet angel. This new presidency threatens to destabilize our democracy, civic institutions, and the rights of all Americans.

All signs point to the rise of a dictator- the press is already being silenced and discredited, our president elect is an impulsive, reactive tyrant who has no regard for knowledge, science or reality, hate crimes are flaring up across the country unchecked and public education could be completely destroyed.

Education has long been regarded as a cornerstone of democracy- the goal being to learn to question, think critically and cultivate a sense of responsibility to others and to society. But Trump is doing everything he can to discredit those who think critically- journalists, educators, instituions of learning, everything he can to undermine our sources of knowledge and information in both his treatment of the press and his views on public education.

Trump and his cronies are spreading lies to discredit news sources, higher education, and the truth.Without a free press, and without trusting sources of information and institutions of higher learning we will lose our tenous grip on democracy. As educators, we know the difference between opinion and fact and we teach our students to always find sources and provide evidence for their claims. Meanwhile, as president elect, Trump has already backpedaled on countless promises, he has lied and complained about the press on twitter, limited press access and threatens to stock his cabinet full of ignorant, corrupt crazies who think facts are debatable. Including Ben Carson. And if Ben Carson has his way with our public schools, democracy will die.

Trump himself has referred to public schools as “monopolies” that need to be broken up, (meanwhile he has vested business interests in the dakota access pipeline and wants his kids to get security clearance) and Ben Carson has said that the best school is homeschool. Yes that’s right. Home school. AKA no school. Our new possible secretary of education doesn’t really believe in schools.

Not to mention- he thinks the world is 7000 years old, he doesn’t believe in climate change, he has no experience whatsoever in education  and worst of all he wants to defund colleges and universities that are “too liberal.” Meaning he wants to use the education department to silence enemies. This is fascism.  All teachers- no matter who you voted for- need to stand up against Trump, Carson and  for our schools. Democracy depends on public education and science, civility and respect are the cornerstones of a democratic education. Democracy is depending on us.

We teach our children to give evidence to support their claims and we need to hold ourselves and the president elect to the same standards. Read more than one newspaper. Check your sources. Watch more than one news show. Ask yourself- am I really going to accept at face value what a billionaire pseudo populist who has been charged with fraud, rape and discrimination says? Is Ben Carson qualified to hold any position in government at all?

Stop believing everything you read on the internet and stop buying into the attacks on journalism and the press. There are many creditable news sources out there. Find them. Read AP and Reuters. American teachers- remember what we teach our students. Find multiple sources of evidence for your claims. Know the difference between fact and opinion. Be kind. The earth is 4.5 billion years old. Stand up against Donald Trump and his cabinet of horrors.

Here are my sources.

http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/egads-ben-carson-dept-education

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/bernie-sanders-could-replace-president-trump-with-little_us_5829f25fe4b02b1f5257a6b7

http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/heres-big-trump-media-story

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/15/us/politics/donald-trump-holdings-conflict-of-interest.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=b-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/ultimate-inside-job-donald-trumps-transition-team-sordid-new-swamp-lobbyists-donors

https://newrepublic.com/minutes/138669/brace-yourselves-education-secretary-ben-carson

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/ben-carson-has-odd-plan-the-dept-education

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/11/11/us/politics/what-trump-wants-to-change.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=b-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

Calling All Science Educators

In the new, surreal and scary era we stumbled into on Tuesday being a science educator has taken on new meaning. Our new president, Voldemort, I mean Trump, plans to appoint a climate change denier to head the EPA, drill just about everywhere and cut all funding currently dedicated to addressing climate change.

I propose a broad coalition of science teachers, museums, non-profits, public gardens, schools, colleges and universities to come together and spend the next four years teaching about climate change and advocating for clean energy, conservation and climate solutions.  We are at a critical moment in hundreds of ways, but if we don’t take on climate change now we will lose our opportunity to do so at all. Trump is planning to do battle against the environment and we need to fight back.  If every museum, every school, every garden, every research institution pledges to take on and teach about climate change for the next four years maybe, just maybe we can stem the rising tides in our future.

We are the leaders that remain in the moral vacuum of a Trump white house. More than ever, public institutions that serve and educate the public need to band together and toil to promote diversity, tolerance, equity and sustainability for all. We need a broad alliance dedicated to protecting those most vulnerable to the hate Trump inspires. We need to come together to protect our democratic institutions and our civil, natural and reproductive rights. There is so much to do, and so much to fight for, and amidst all that we can’t forget our planet.

Please share widely.