This is What Corruption Looks Like

Betsy DeVos was confirmed yesterday despite unprecedented national and even bipartisan opposition, despite Senators from both parties across the country being flooded with calls like never before, despite weeks of nationwide protests and vigils.

Why?

Because instead of listening to their constituents, Republican Senators turned off their phones, dismissed callers as “paid protesters” and voted with their wallets. Because Betsy DeVos bought this appointment. This is what corruption looks like. And it is precisely this kind of monied self interest that has been steering school privatization for years, against the wishes of parents, educators and communities.

If we are going to save public schools in this country- if we are going to save democracy, we’ve got to get corporate money out of politics and out of education. And every stakeholder in public education needs to make it their mission to do so.

The nationwide movement against DeVos proved that the “choice” parents want for their children is a quality, well funded community public school. Deciding between a for-profit prison to pipeline charter school, an “online virtual school” or private Christian school is not the choice most parents are looking for. And I certainly hope to avoid “teaching” in an online school where I’m barred from mentioning climate change, civil rights or evolution.

It’s time for all parents, all kids, all educators, all progressive politicians to stand up and get organized for public schools. Being a teacher, now more than ever, is a political act. Going to work and keeping your head down is no longer an option.

And to all the Trump supporting teachers out there, (Yes, I know about you) when thousands of schools lose their Title One funding, would you mind just quitting? Just step down okay? Because you know, budgets will be tight and people are going to lose their jobs. And you did this. I’m sure you can find work at the one of the fancy, new for-profit, online Christian schools for grizzly bear defense that will be popping up across the country.

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!)

 

Step It Up, UFT

Today was Betsy DeVos’ confirmation hearing. But for some reason, today was a day like any other day at school. There was a science experiment. There were math stations. Everyone smiled. No one talked about the hearing. No one marched out of the building. No email from the UFT came to my inbox.

Meanwhile, I haven’t had time to write for weeks because I have been too consumed with calling my Senators and getting every human I interact with to call their Senators every single day to vote against the supremely unqualified billionaire Betsy DeVos.

With DeVos in power, we are looking at a future where not all children can even go to school. Where private schools are funded by taxpayers and can then exclude minorities and students with disabilities with impunity. Where more and more children go to schools that are not evaluated, non-accredited, that indoctrinate students in intolerance, that don’t teach science, that exploit children for the sake of a profit.Where public schools are shuttered after being deliberately underfunded  again and again. Where for-profit schools funnel our taxpayer dollars into private pockets with no oversight. Where the few high- quality independent charters are pushed out by for-profit corporations that spend money on advertising and recruiting students. Apparently, even where people are free to bring their guns. (If you missed it, Betsy DeVos doesn’t think schools need to be “gun free zones.”)  Public schools have been privatized elsewhere and it always, always fails. We know what a DeVos future holds, and it is millions of children left behind.

DeVos has all but destroyed public education in Michigan, and she has less experience in public education than my 4 year old pre-school students.  This is no joke. This is life or death- not just for  education but for a democratic future.  Without public schools that accept and strive to educate all students, that meet standards, are evaluated regularly and cultivate research based pedagogy, we will lose the only remaining tool we have to “level the playing field.”  Hello oligarchy.

And what I’m wondering is… where the hell is the UFT? Why have I not been called to action? Why aren’t NYC teachers walking out in droves? Why aren’t we in the streets? Why isn’t the UFT holding press conferences, staging protests, mass mailing letters? Why aren’t they raising money for a strike fund? Why is it that all I heard about was a “twitter storm?”

If the UFT won’t step it up and fight hard for NYC public schools, who will?

Guys, this is no time for twitter storms. This is a real life, serious, all out, long term fight. We need to be in the streets. NYC teachers and the UFT- we need to be ready. The vote is next Tuesday. What’s the plan? 

Read This if DeVos Doesn’t Scare You-Yet

 

 

Cabinet of Horrors: A Guide To Calling Your Senators

The appointments just get scarier and scarier- from climate deniers to DeVos’ agenda to destroy public schools, life under Prez. T is looking dark for us normal, non- old white billionaires. So, thinking of calling your Senator? In the doc below,  are scripts you can use for 9 of the worst Cabinet appointments.

Scripts for Sessions, Pruitt, Tillerson, Devos and phone numbers for Schumer and Gillibrand included! If you’re one of the lucky constituents of any of the key Senate Committee chairs- Chuck Grassley, Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker or Lisa Murkowski, specifically, those numbers are included as well.

Click, call and share.

Cabinet of Horrors: A Guide

Calling your Senator every day is a good start. So anyway, make some calls. Share the guideContact Your Senator

For more information- a rundown of all the appointments here: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/us/politics/donald-trump-administration.html

And one more thing… Unfortunately, two of T’s non-cabinet appointments, white supremacist Steve Bannon and conspiracy theorist Islamaphobe Michael Flynn, do not need to be confirmed by the Senate. All the more reason to stay vocal- neither should be in a position of power.

Here’s a script for Bannon.

I’m a constituent from… and calling to ask that the Senator issue a public statement expressing his/ her intent to refuse to work with the Trump administration in any way until Steven Bannon is dismissed.  Bannon is a white supremacist, sexist, anti-semite who shouldn’t be allowed near the white house. 

Here’s one for Flynn.

I’m a constituent from… and calling to ask that the Senator issue a public statement expressing his/ her intent to refuse to work with the Trump administration in any way until Michael Flynn is dismissed. Flynn is a conspiracy theorist who spreads fake news and a danger to our national Security. 

Unprez Trump’s cabinet of horrors must be shut down. Luckily, all of his cabinet appointments, including DeVos, do require Senate confirmation. So, have you called yet?

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!

 

Betsy Devos: New but Same Old Disaster for Public Ed

Betsy Devos, a right wing billionaire from Michigan who has no experience as an educator or even as a parent of public school children, may very well be our new secretary of education. Her platform?  Increasing unregulated, for-profit charters and school voucher programs to send America’s children to private christian schools. AKA: Destroying public education.

Let’s get a few things straight.

Unregulated, for-profit charters should be illegal. They take taxpayer money, provide sub-par education, cherry pick kids leaving the hardest cases for public schools and make money for people who are already rich. How is this ok with anyone?

Children are not commodities.

Quality public education is a right and a service- not a for-profit opportunity.

Teachers are public servants, who work very hard for very little. Without the security provided by unions and retirement benefits teaching is a completely unsustainable career. Hence the insane turnover at charter schools.

There is no evidence that charter schools are better than public schools. There is definitely no evidence that dubious for-profit charters and online schools are better than public schools. But there is evidence that adequately funded public schools and unionized teachers DO provide quality education.

The federal government has no business funding private, unregulated christian schools.

In Michigan, Devos’ home state, public schools have been so neglected that buildings are rotting, students are drinking poisoned water and teachers are making do without any supplies at all. Meanwhile, Betsy Devos gets to be the new Ed Secretary.

But this is nothing new. Amidst all the outrage about Devos’ appointment there is a group of people, mostly teachers and parents, who have been fighting these very same battles for years. John King and Arne Duncan also steered education policy around billionaire interests and the false promise of “choice” all while sending their own children to progressive private schools.  Unqualified, often right-wing billionaires- the Waltons, Gates and Devos families among them- have been calling the shots in education for a very long time and teachers and parents have been sounding the alarm for just as long. We have been protesting school closures, organizing strikes, opting out of test and punish and voting to keep caps on charter schools around the country while Republicans and Democrats alike champion the decimation of public schools and organized labor.

Maybe it’s time for everyone on the left and above all- for educators- whether you work in a public, private or charter school, to wake up and realize that privatization is at best ineffective and at worst perpetuating the plutocracy we are rapidly becoming. It’s time to think critically about an unregulated “reform” movement funded by hedge fund managers, tech billionaires and fundamentalist christian “philanthropists” like Devos. It’s time for a unified Democratic platform that stands up for public schools and public school teachers.

Teachers and leaders like Carol Burris and Diane Ravitch have been speaking out for years. It’s time to listen.

 

 

For this Thanksgiving: Write Letters to Electors

The president elect has already proved himself a danger to our democracy (not to mention our public schools)- from the appointments of white supremacists, to his secrecy, his threats to free speech and a free press, his refusal to condemn hate crimes committed in his name all while he complains that peaceful protests are “unfair” to his many conflicts of interest, and the inclusion of lobbyists, tycoons and his children in his transition team, we have a scary road ahead unless we get him out.

Here’s a letter you can use to send to electors to ask them to abstain or vote for another candidate. Sit with your family on Thursday and have a letter/ email writing party.

Link for email addresses: http://flipthe37.blogspot.com/

Dear __________,

Thank you for your service.

I’m writing to beg you to decline to cast your electoral vote for Donald Trump. Over the course of his career, as well as this election, he has proven himself to be unfit for the role of commander-in-chief and has been charged with fraud, sexual assault and discrimination.

Since the election, he has threatened free speech, revealed numerous conflicts of interest, failed to respond to hate crimes committed in his name and appointed white supremacist extremists to top government posts. This is the road to authoritarianism.

His close ties to Putin, his volatile temperament, his bigotry and disregard for science and democracy make him a serious threat to all Americans and to the planet. We do not believe that he represents the views of the majority of the American people, regardless of political affiliation. In fact, he lost the popular vote by the most significant margin in history.

Please consider casting your vote for another candidate, or abstaining from voting entirely. As a representative of the people, you have a responsibility to listen to your constituents, and millions of us have spoken: do not elect Donald Trump to the White House.

Thank you for your time and have a happy Thanksgiving.

 

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.