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

 

 

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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.

 

 

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