Wednesday, March 26, 2008

UFT in a Race To Avert a School Revolt

Emergency PTA Meeting of Parents at Its Charter

BY ELIZABETH GREEN - Staff Reporter of the Sun
March 25, 2008

Top United Federation of Teachers leaders are moving to avert a crisis at a
charter school run by the union after an ultimatum by parents upset by what
they say is a lack of security guards, poor communication with
administrators, and high teacher turnover.

Union officials agreed to address and study the issues, promising changes
that seem intended to avert what some worried could become a publicly
embarrassing parent revolt.

The concerns were aired before several top UFT officials at an "Emergency
PTA Meeting" last night. The meeting was hastily organized after more than
25 dissatisfied parents turned a regular PTA meeting last week into an
emotional grievance session, ultimately threatening to publicize their
troubles if the school's top administrator, Rita Danis, declined to give
them an audience.

"If Ms. Danis refuses to attend Emergency PTA meeting on Monday Mar 24 2008
[parents] will contact the media and their politicians for outside help,"
the PTA president, Rosa Cribb, wrote in her meeting notes.

The charter school was opened in 2005 by the UFT to great fanfare. Across
the country teachers unions usually oppose charter schools, which are
publicly funded but operate outside ordinary regulations - including, in
many cases, teachers' contracts. Here in New York, the UFT has pledged
instead to bring non-unionized charter schools under its wing and start its
own charter schools.

Along with the elementary school at issue in the current flare-up, the union
runs a secondary charter school and is planning to open a third charter
school with the California-based group Green Dot.

Ms. Cribb said she adores the UFT Elementary Charter School, where her
grandson is a student, and moved quickly to ask Ms. Danis and top UFT
officials to attend an emergency meeting because she feared that, if
concerns went unaddressed, the whole school would suffer.

"The parents are very unhappy. Some of the parents are talking about taking
their kids out of the school," Ms. Cribb said before the meeting. "I don't
want parents to take their kids out."

A regular review of the school issued by the State University of New York's
Charter School Institute about the 2006-2007 school year called teacher
quality "limited," describing "a lack of student engagement throughout most
classrooms" and widespread misbehavior.
The report also noted that, "Teachers did not capitalize on 'teaching

The union's vice president for elementary education, Michelle Bodden; its
general manager, David Hickey; a parent official; and its top charter school
official, Jonathan Gyurko, attended the meeting. So did Ms. Danis, who acts
in the role of principal but, in keeping with the school's philosophy, is
known as a "teacher leader" and is a UFT member, not a member of the
principals' union.

About 50 parents came to the meeting, some armed with concerns and some out
of curiosity at the flier that had been sent home in their children's
notebooks and blown up on an oversized poster to hang in the school's foyer.
The meeting was originally slotted to be held in the school library, but was
moved to the auditorium to accommodate all the parents who came, many with
several children in tow.

Union officials declined a request by a reporter to sit in on the meeting,
but many parents spoke on their way in and on their way out.

They said one man, a former parent who is a city firefighter, gave a
stirring description of challenges his son faced at the school that
ultimately led him to pull his son out.

"Things like that should not happen," the father of two children at the
school, Daniel Morgan, said as he left the meeting. "I've had an excellent
experience with my children, but I would like to make sure it remains that

Another parent who recently joined the school's board of trustees, Zakiyah
Ansari, raised concerns about teacher turnover rates.
Ms. Ansari said she did not have specific figures on turnover but had
observed several departures. "You notice people not here, and being
in a small school, it's easier to notice," she said.

School officials said two teachers left in the school's first year, and five
left in the 2006-07 school year. Other additions are a result of the
school's expansion; it began serving just kindergarten and first graders and
has added a new grade every year.

Ms. Danis is quoted in a 2007 union publication as saying the school was
adding 19 new staff members.

Several parents praised the quality of the teachers, saying they are pleased
with their children's high level of work and how much they are being

Others raised complaints.

Parent Rachel White said the school leader is not respected. "A lot of
parents did not come because, if she's here, they're not going to say
anything," she said.

One parent, Taisha Robinson, said she considered pulling her son out of the
school after he was unexpectedly asked to repeat the second grade this year.
She said the reason was that he did not score high enough on a test, but
that a private tutor who is a Department of Education employee she hired
disputed the decision, saying he should have been moved forward.

School officials said seven students were held back this year, including
three second-graders. Test scores and attendance data are used to make the
decisions, they said.

On her way out last night, Ms. Bodden said the meeting was positive. "There
is a real receptiveness on everybody's part to making the school work," she

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Forum: Puerto Rico Teachers' Strike '08 Apr. 4 at Hunter College

Education and Labor Collaborative Forum

Please join us at The Education and Labor Collaborative Forum Friday and Saturday, March 28-29, 2008 at the UFT headquarters in New York City.

There are no fees to attend.

We believe that educators, in collaboration with unions and community organizations, can change the cultural climate that denigrates poor and working families and help pave a path towards a more equitable society. Join us as we begin this conversation.

The forum will open with a kick-off party Friday, followed by a panel discussion. Saturday will include breakfast social, panel discussion, and workshops. You may register for either day or both.

Details and (free) registration at:

Space is limited so please rsvp online.

Confirmed speakers include:
Stanley Aronowitz, CUNY Graduate Center
Daniel Walkowitz, New York University
John Mayher, New York University
Susan Schurman, Rutgers University
Bill Scheuerman, National Labor College
Patrick & Mary Finn, & Lauri Johnson, SUNY Buffalo
Joel Sosinsky, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Mike Mulgrew, United Federation of Teachers
Ed Ott, New York City Central Labor Council
Leigh Benin, Rob Linne, Adelphi University
Fred Glass, California Federation of Teachers

This forum is made possible by the generous participation of co-sponsors including Adelphi's Ammon School of Education, SUNY Buffalo, The United Federation of Teachers, The American Labor Studies Center, The California Federation of Teachers, The Dolores Huerta Institute, The American Association of University Professors, New York State United Teachers, and The Laborers International Union.

Please circulate this invitation..

Rethinking Schools at AERA

Dear Friend of Rethinking Schools,

As many of you know, the biggest education conference in the country is the annual American Educational Research Association gathering -- held this year in New York City, March 24-28.

Once again, Rethinking Schools will be there.

And if you'll be there, too, or know someone who will be, you can help. -- Are you speaking at a session? Urge participants to check out Rethinking Schools materials. Are you attending some sessions with a social justice focus? Come by the booth -- Hilton, Americas Hall II, Booth #2122 -- and get some RS catalogs and book flyers to take along with you.

Exhibits will run Tuesday (9-5), Wednesday (9-5), and Thursday (9-4). Again, Rethinking Schools will be in Americas Hall II of the Hilton, booth #2122. (Note that this year there are two exhibit halls.) Come by and say hello and check out our latest books, including the hot-off-the-presses Keeping the Promise: The Debate Over Charter Schools. Also, just out, is our latest special issue of Rethinking Schools: "Rewriting the Script," featuring a collection of outstanding articles on testing, NCLB, scripted curricula, Reading First -- and creative resistance. We'll have all our books and many back issues of Rethinking Schools magazine -- all for sale at heavily discounted conference rates.

Joining me at the Rethinking Schools booth will be Rethinking Schools editor Bill Bigelow. Editors Wayne Au and Stan Karp will also be doing stints in the booth throughout the week.

And we invite you to attend sessions that Rethinking Schools editor Wayne Au will be participating in:

1. "Culture, Politics, and Activism: Critical Pedagogy and Content for the 21st Century." Monday, 12-1:30pm, Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers, Riverside Ballroom, 3rd Floor

2. "The Civics of Educational Inequality: High-Stakes Testing and the Sociology of School Knowledge." Wednesday, 2:15-3:45 pm, Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers, Carnegie Suite West, 3rd. Floor.

3. With Sophia Ward - "Civic Responsibility and the Challenge of High-Stakes Testing: Exercising our Right to an Equitable Educational System." Thursday, 11:25 am-12:05 pm. New York Marriott Marquis Times Square, Broadway Ballroom, Broadway North, 6th Floor.

If you'll be coming to AERA, we hope to see you. Thanks for your support of Rethinking Schools.

Mike Trokan
Business Manager
Rethinking Schools

George Schmidt on Alexander Russo and Social Promotion

March 21, 2008

Norm and friends:

Consider the following a quick and dirty draft. More to come if you need it. Feel free to share, as usual...

Russo quote:

Student retention, one of several lightning rod issues that bring parents, union leaders, politicians, and academics together—to fight—is not a task for the faint of heart.

It’s thus fitting that the city of broad shoulders, guided by a mayor named Daley, should lead the way. Chicago’s pioneering program is now in its eighth year, having withstood its share of icy gusts from multiple directions. For those who have been paying close attention, the brawl that broke out last spring was just the latest in a rolling clamor to control one of education’s linchpin topics. The stakes are high; the questions, many and complicated.

This whole thing is typical Russo bullshit, and the quote above is typical of the way his brand of journalism does the propaganda for the ruling class.

More metaphors ("brawl")than facts. As usual.

Here are some facts.

At the time Chicago declared that dictatorship was the way to run an urban school system, the verdict was in about "ending social promotion." The New York Gates program had proved it didn't work, and nothing Chicago has done since has nullified that verdict. But there were tremendous pressures (and millions of dollars) behind the Chicago push, so it continued despite the facts (and ethics; and bona fide research).

Contrary to Russo's latest apologetic for Chicago style corporate "school reform", the issues were not as "complicated" as he tries to make them out to be (before simultaneously oversimplifying his version of reality to land squarely on the side of the lucrative status quo).

From the beginning, the "ending social promotion" mantra was a carefully crafted talking point, not a factual statement of history or policy.

Chicago at various times had "promoted" students who went overage in elementary school, and at other times didn't. The underlying triage of the school system, based initially on economic class, then (by the 1950s) on racial segregation had always resulted in a large number of "failing" students at the "bottom."

Each time Chicago didn't promote kids based on age, there grew a backlog of students in the elementary schools who either dropped out before high school or who eventually became too big for their desks in elementary school.

They were then eventually put into high school. Remember: by 1995, when Mayor Daley took over, Chicago had more than 300 segregated all-black public schools (out of 600). No other place in the Northern Hemisphere was nearly as segregated as Chicago, and most people from outside Chicago couldn't believe the extent of the segregation (or the viciousness with which the all-black schools were generally deprived of the resources to educate some of the most challenging children in the USA). Note, as this discussion evolves, how segregation is left out of the facts that are rendered. It was massively important to shift the discussion from white supremacy to "standards and accountability" and the times demanded guys like Alexander Russo to do the job on behalf of Mayor Daley and Chicago's corporate rulers.

Russo ignores this history, because his version of the histories (and Catalyst's for which he works) depends on ignoring many facts.

I'll leave aside the massive social contexts (especially racial segregation) and just deal with the actual versions (that's plural) of "standards and accountability". Just for starters, CPS announced it was "ending social promotion" in 1996 (not 1997, as Russo reports). By 1997, Mayor Daley was speking before the National Press Club in Washington D.C. that he had "successully" "ended social promotion" and repeating all of those right wing talking points about how all we need is firm "standards and accountability". This is long before No Child Left Behind. Chicago's children were the guinea pigs in all this.

By 1997, most educational researchers were warning Chicago that the retention policy would hurt the kids who were most at risk. The studies were conclusive. Many, as you know in New York, were based on the New York "gates" experiences. By 1998, Chicago was replicating the same dismal realities. In 1998, the Consortium (Melissa Roderick, ten years ago) admitted that the Chicago ban on "social promotion" had failed to improve things for the kids who were being held back (the more times they were held back, the more likely they were to drop out, which is what the pre-1990s research had already shown). But, Roderick wrote at the time, there was a possibility that keeping the "failing kids" back (even at the expense of their futures) had a salutory effect on the rest of the kids. The argument, which many people here challenged Roderick on at the time, was sort of like the one for torture -- or public executions. Even if they aren't good for the victim, they have a "good" social effect.

By 2000, even Roderick was no longer claiming the public execution version of why ending "social promotion" was OK. All of the data were showing that the policies of "ending social promotion" had failed by any reasonable statistical or educational measure. But the political insistence that the policies be in place were stronger than ever, because No Child Left Behind was about to launch the same series of lies across the USA, with Chicago as one of the supposed models for "success."

For two years in the early 00s, Roderick's work was compromised (and the work of the Consortium, perhaps fatally). In 2001 and 2002, she and John Easton (the other main person at the Consortium) went to work for the Chicago Board of Education and their neighbor Arne Duncan, a former professional basketball player and son of a University of Chicago professor who had been named "Chief Executive Officer" of Chicago's public schools (following Mayor Daley's ouster of Paul Vallas, who was sent to Philadelphia with the blessings of then Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge).

Roderick became, for a year, Arne Duncan's chief of strategic planning. John Easton became a chief research type (actual title and powers, unclear).

Ironically, this interregnum (Duncan had gotten rid of both of them by late 2002) was the last time Chicago actually had people at the top who understood the complex data and statistical realities that were underlying the CPS policies and praxis. Since then, CPS has settled for "research" chiefs whose degrees are in "public policy" and who know less about statistics and research than the average high school student who passes Advanced Placement Statistics.

What Russo is doing is recycling conservative talking points, then dressing them up with some twists as "fact." Note that he never actually talks about numbers, but froths into metaphor and some quips. The reason is that at every point, the numbers are nasty. The kids who are kept back are screwed -- just as the data showed from as far back as the New York Gates programs -- for life. The schools don't improve, either. What happens is a massive triage, with the minority of better scoring children (usually, middle class) slowly being siphoned off into magnet, charter and selective enrollment schools, while the remaining public schools receive the "leftover kids" (as they have been called in New Orleans, and in some schools here).

Russo has a way of dodging facts and ignoring data, except when he is cherry picking to fit his conservative biases. No mention is made, for example, of the fact that at every point CPS has been a moving target as far as its actual "standards" for promotion are concerned. The Board of Education has literally revised them every year for the past ten years. Until four years ago, the promotion "standards" were based on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (and the high school TAP tests), despite the clear warnings that these tests are not supposed to be used for such things. Prior to that, the Illinois tests (IGAP, for Illinois Goals Assessment Program) were used. Since CPS was finally forced to unload the ITBS and TAP, the ISAT (Illinois State Assessment Tests) have been used. But the ISAT have a funny kink in them. Two years ago, they were made easier (by extending the time kids had and changing some of the parts of the test) just in time for the Governor's election. Honest.

What's amazing about Russo's piece is that he can ignore what now amounts to more than ten years of history and information, then spin out the same lies about "ending social promotion" that were being served up by right wing pundits a decade ago, when Chicago was in the vanguard of test-based "standards and accountability" long before No Child Left Behind.

I could add more for you and friends, but I hope this gives you some flavor of what's taking place here. Anything published by Russo -- and not just stuff in obvious right wing venues -- should be carefully reviewed, because it's more likely than not propaganda for the "standards and accountability" corporate "school reform" crowd.

Thousands of children have been screwed by the policies Russo praises. The fact that most of them were poor and black just meant that they were easy to ignore while the dirty deeds were being done to them. We're working on making sure that the next ten years are not as easily lied about as the last ten years. And that "reporting" like the kind Russo does gets deconstructed as soon as possible with as many facts as possible.

George N. Schmidt
Editor, Susbtance

As some observers have noted, student retention policies are not really about the students who are retained as much as they are about the way the rest of the school system operates when it knows that there is no social promotion. Researchers like G. Alfred Hess, an education professor at Northwestern University, are quick to point out that the justifications for retaining students should not be based solely on their impact on retained students, but rather on the effect of the threat of retention on all students and their families. “This dual intent for ending the social promotion policy is frequently ignored by its opponents and is rarely considered in evaluating the effectiveness of the policy,” Hess writes in School Reform in Chicago (2004).


Norm (and colleagues):

I really wish we had been able to get to New York this week for AERA and to spend some time with y'all. But just to have the time to look over this stuff you forwarded makes part of it fun. (I wish we had a conference and I could dissect Russo during a panel that included Russo).

But here's the most interesting.

If you read the Russo paragraph above, would you know that "G. Alfred Hess" (Northwestern Univesity) has been dead for 26 months? Fred died January 27, 2006.

Or would you know that Hess's "research" at Northwestern was completely financed by money from the Daley administration (most, to the tune of three quarters of a million dollars a year at one point) from the Chicago Board of Education?

Or that Hess's doctorate was in anthropology (or divinity) and that he really didn't know much about complex research -- either through formal training or later experience?

I knew "Fred" Hess (the Chicago one) long before he became relatively wealthy for slanting his research in the direction of the people who were paying for it: CPS and the Daley administration.

For a time, we worked together and I liked him. As he became more the spokesman for the official version of "reform" (and a proponent of Chicago's "ending social promotion" among many other nasty things), we had fewer and fewer things in common.

In fact, after he authored a truly mendacious "study" praising Chicago for the Bookings Institution (one that was unveiled, by the way, at a private briefing in Chicago where press people like me were explicitly barred), I had some back and forth with him about his funding and his methods. By the end of our review of what he had published, he was backtracking on just about everything, especially that nonsense about the benefits of public executions (quoted approvingly by Russo, above). Interestingly, by the time I was done going back and forth with him privately (but with an intention of utilizing it for Substance, which he knew about), he was being publicly criticized by others for the same problems with his "research." As Richard Elmore noted in one critique (published for Brookings): "Hess has written a kind of teleological paper, communicating a sense of manifest destiny. Things are essentially getting better in Chicago and progress is based on a rational, straight-ahead model..." Despite its academic politeness, Elmore's critique is as applicable to what Hess was doing as I would suggest we need to be to what Russo is doing, in the tradition of Hess. I would just be a bit unprofessorial and call both Bullshit, because that's what they are.

Now, from the dead Hess, to Russo, to the living Hess (there are two "Fred Hess" guys in ed research, and it's important to distinguish between them, even though both are (were) cheerleaders for top down "standards and accountability" reform).

As I noted earlier to you, CPS long ago shifted from using the ITBS (and TAP) to using the ISAT (and Prairie State). For some reason, Russo misses that fact, too.

So whether it's quoting dead professors as if they are alive or citing dead data long after they've been replaced, Russo's work is truly a piece of work.

Typical of the kind of "reporting" we face every day.

Anyone want to discuss the other Fred Hess, while we're on fact versus other.

George Schmidt

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Defend the Freightliner 5


THE FREIGHTLINER 5—Robert Whiteside, Allen Bradley, Franklin Torrence, Glenna Swinford and David Crisco—are members of the negotiating committee of United Auto Workers Local 3520 in Cleveland, NC. They were fired by Freightliner in April 2007 after leading a walkout when management broke off negotiations without extending the union contract.

Since then, the workers have been appealing for support to keep up the fight as an arbitrator prepares to hear their case. Their speaking tour has included stops in Detroit, Chicago, San Francisco, L.A. and Portland (Freightliner’s corporate headquarters). The importance of a victory in this struggle is magnified due to the historic weakness of the U.S. labor movement in the South. Join us in the spirit of solidarity with these dedicated and heroic trade unionists as they seek justice. Help raise money for their defense campaign and find out how you can help win their jobs back! Learn more at

March 29th 5pm
Musicians Local 802 Hall
322 West 48th Street
Take the 1 or C/E train to 50th Street

Robert Whiteside
Union official and strike leader, UAW Local
3520 and NAACP activist.

Allen Bradley
UAW’s Voluntary Organizing Committee (VOC),
strike leader, UAW local 3520 and NAACP.

Stanley Aronowitz
Professor of Sociology at the Graduate Center
of the City University of New York. Author
of several books on labor and the economy.
Member of PSC, AFT Local 2334.

Sponsored by the Ad-Hoc Committee to Support the Freightliner 5
For information or to endorse, contact: 917-969-5658 or

Endorsed by: Chris Silvera, Secretary-Treasurer, Teamsters local 808; Labor Notes; AAUP-AFT (Rutgers); UFTers to Stop the War; New York City Labor Against the War

On the web at

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Corporate Surge and A Tale of Two Cities

The Corporate Surge Against Public Schools
By Steven Miller and Jack Gerson
The Educator Roundtable

[Note: The Report discusses how privatizers have moved to take control of public education in the past year. It is 17 pages long and includes many voices on several important topics. A basic bibliography accompanies the text. Below is the Summary. Please email Steven Miller, for the whole report.]

The Summary

It’s more than a year since we wrote “Exterminating Public Education” (

about/issues/slate/126874.htm) in response to the “Tough Choices or Tough Times” report of the National Commission on Skills in the Workplace (

That report, funded in large part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and signed by a bipartisan collection of prominent politicians, businesspeople, and urban school superintendents, called for a series of measures including: (a) replacing public schools with what the report called “contract schools”, which would be charter schools writ large; (b) eliminating nearly all the powers of local school boards - their role would be to write and sign the authorizing agreements for the “contract schools; (c) eliminating teacher pensions and slashing health benefits; and (d) forcing all 10th graders to take a high school exit examination based on 12th grade skills, and terminating the education of those who failed (i.e., throwing millions of students out into the streets as they turn

These measures, taken together, would effectively cripple public control of public education. They would dangerously weaken the power of teacher unions, thus facilitating still further attacks on the public sector. They would leave education policy in the hands of a network of entrepreneurial think tanks, corporate entrepreneurs, and armies of lobbyists whose priorities are profiting from the already huge education market while cutting back on public funding for schools and students.

Indeed, their measures would mean privatization of education, effectively terminating the right to a public education, as we have known it. Many of the most powerful forces in the country want the US, the first country to guarantee public education, to be the first country to end it.

For the last fifty years, public education was one of only two public mandates guaranteed by the government that was accessible to every person, regardless of income. Social Security is the other. Now both systems are threatened with privatization schemes. The government today openly defines its mission as protecting the rights of corporations above everything. Thus public education is a rare public space that is under attack.

The same scenario is being implemented with most of the services that governments used to provide for free or at little cost: electricity, national parks, health care and water. In every case, the methodology is the same: underfund public services, create an uproar and declare a crisis, claim that privatization can do the job better, deregulate or break public control, divert public money to corporations and then raise prices.

In the past year, it’s become evident that the corporate surge against public schools is only part of a much broader assault against the public sector, against unions, and indeed against the public’s rights and public control of public institutions.

This has been evident for some time now in New Orleans, where Hurricane Katrina’s devastation is used as an excuse for permanently privatizing the infrastructure of a major American city: razing public housing and turning land over to developers; replacing the city’s public school system with a combination of charter schools and state-run schools; letting the notorious Blackwater private army loose on the civilian population; and, in the end, forcing tens of thousands of families out of the city permanently. The citizens of New Orleans have had their civil rights forcibly expropriated.

Just as the shock of the hurricane was the excuse for the shock therapy applied to New Orleans, so the economic downturn triggered by the subprime mortgage crisis is now the excuse for a national assault on the public sector and the public’s rights.

In California, where we live, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has convened an emergency session of the legislature, demanding that the state’s $14.5 billion “budget deficit” be closed by slashing vital services including housing, health care, and education. He has proposed lopping $4.8 billion off next year’s K-14 education budget. That the deficit exists largely as a result of the Governors corporate friendly tax policies is not considered part of the debate.

In public education, the corporate surge has grown both qualitatively and quantitatively. Where two years ago the corporate education change agents were mainly operating in a relatively small number of large urban areas, they have now surfaced everywhere. The corporatization of public education is the leading edge of privatization. This has the effect of silencing the public voice on every aspect of the situation.

Across the US, public schools are not yet privatized, though private services are increasingly benefiting from this market. However, increasing corporate control of programs - a different mix in every locale - is having a chilling influence on the very things that people (though not corporations) want from teachers: the ability to relate to and teach each child, a nurturing approach that nudges every child to move ahead, human assessments that put people before performance on standardized tests.

Perhaps the single most dramatic development of the corporate approach was the launching of the $60 million Strong American Schools / Ed in ‘08 initiative, funded by billionaires Bill Gates and Eli Broad. This is a naked effort to purchase the nation’s education policy, no matter who is elected President, by buying their way into every electoral forum.

Ed in ‘08 has a three-point program: merit pay (basing teachers’ compensation on students’ scores on high stakes test); national education standards (enforcing conformity and rote learning); and longer school day and school year (still more time for rote learning, less time for kids to be kids). The chairman of Ed in `08/Strong American Schools program is Roy Romer: former governor of Colorado; former chair of the Democratic National Committee; most recently superintendent of schools in Los Angeles (he was persuaded to take that job by Eli Broad). Its executive director is Mark Lampkin, a Republican lobbyist and former deputy campaign manager for George Bush.

Other steering committee members include Eli Broad; Louis Gerstner (former CEO of IBM); Allan Golston (head of the Gates Foundation’s U.S. programs); and John Engler (president of the National Association of Manufacturers and former Governor of Michigan [where he gutted the state’s welfare program]). A truly stunning array of corporate wealth and bipartisan political power in the service of privatization.

Where two years ago charter schools were still viewed as experiments affecting a relatively small number of students, in 2007 the corporate privatizers - led by Broad and Gates - grossly expanded their funding to the point where they now loom as a major presence.

In March, the Gates Foundation announced a $100 million donation to KIPP charter schools, which would enable them to expand their Houston operation to 42 schools (from eight) - effectively, KIPP will be a full-fledged alternative school system in Houston. Also in the past year, Eli Broad and Gates have given in the neighborhood of $50 million to KIPP and Green Dot charter schools in Los Angeles, with the aim of doubling the percentage of LA students enrolled in charter schools. Oakland, another Broad/Gates targets, now has more than 30 charter schools out of 92. And, as we shall see below, the same trend holds across the country.

NCLB in 2008 is still a major issue. It continues to have a corrosive effect on public schools. It is designed an unfunded mandate, which means that schools must meet ever rigid standards every year, though no more money is appropriated to support this effort. This means that schools must take ever-more money out of the class room to meet federal requirements when schools with low test scores are in “Program Improvement”. Once schools are in PI for 5 years they can be forced into privatization.

NCLB is a driving force that decimates the “publicness” in public schools. In California, more than 2000 schools are now in “Program-Improvement”. This means that they have to meet certain specific, and mostly impossible standards, or they must divert increasingly greater amounts of money out of the classroom and into private programs.

For example, schools in 3rd year PI must take money out of programs that helped schools with a high proportion of low achieving schools and make it available to private tutors. (East Bay Express. February 13-19,
2007. “Career Opportunities” (

The struggles of the Civil Rights Era made people realize that quality education was a right that everyone deserves. Education today, whether public or private, is a social policy. We make choices about how far it is extended, what the purpose is, what quality is offered, and to whom. Now that wealth is polarizing in this country, corporate forces are determined to create a social system that benefits the “Haves” while excluding the “Have-Nots”.

Privatizing public schools inevitable leads to massive increase in social inequality. Private corporations have never been required to recognize civil rights, because, by definition, these are public rights. If the corporate privatizers succeed in taking over our schools, there will be neither quality education nor civil rights.

The system of public education in the United States is deeply flawed. While suburban schools are among the best in the world, public education in cities has been deliberately underfunded and is in a shambles. The solution is not to fight backwards to maintain the old system. Rather it is to fight forward to a new system that will truly guarantee quality education as a civil right for everyone.

Central to this is to challenge the idea that everything in human society should be run by corporations, that only corporations and their political hacks have the right or the power to discuss what public policy should be. As Naomi Klein stated so well in The Shock Doctrine, privatization “will remain entrenched until the corporate supremacist ideology that underpins it is identified, isolated and challenged”. (p 14)

The real direction is to increase the role and power of the public in every way, not eliminate it. If we can spend $2.5 billion a week for war in Iraq, we can certainly build quality schools. It’s not a matter of money. The issue is who will benefit and who will control. Should schools be organized to benefit the super-rich, or should they be organized to benefit everyone?


The sections below examine only some of the major privatizing in public education in the last year.

* “A Tale of Two Cities” examines how corporate- dictated educational policies seriously eroded the quality of education in Oakland, Ca and New Orleans.

* “Creating and Education Market (The Plan)” looks at corporate objectives for education,

* “Philanthropreneurs (The Agents)” the people who are implementing their attack.

* “Further Inroads into Public Education (The Campaigns)” discuss other specific situations.

* “Public Education and Health Care” treats the many parallels in how corporations control these essential human rights in America today.

[Steven Miller and Jack Gerson, are executive board members of the Oakland (CA) Education Association]

A Tale of Two Cities

● The public schools in Oakland, California were seized by the state in 2003 because the district supposedly could not pay off a state loan. Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is a heavily minority majority school district in a city that lost much of its industry as manufacturing was automated. The take-over meant that the parents, students and teachers of the city lost their civil rights to make decisions about their schools. This loss is central to everything that followed.

The state came in with a pretense of fiscal responsibility, but quickly doubled the debt. The real purpose was to change a captive city’s public education into the corporate model. Randolph Ward, the first state-administrator, quickly shut down the high school newspapers, closed schools, opened charters, eliminated libraries, counselors, electives and support staff, especially in the poor Flatland schools. Schools became profit centers, based on high-stakes testing and scripted learning. This was a classic bait and switch scheme, similar to what is now happening in New Orleans, Washington DC and other cities.

For four years, the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) has been a captive laboratory for corporate-style education:

“It has been hailed as a national model of education reform, a school district where public-private partnerships combined with strong leadership and vision to completely transform a long struggling public education system.”

“School districts from coast to coast had seen pieces of what Oakland was experiencing, but rarely – if ever – had all the planets supporting meaningful reform aligned themselves together like they did in Oakland back then” (2005 –ed).

“Together these forces (a state-appointed administrator, philanthropists and key community organizations – ed) set out to turn the Oakland school system on its head by creating a marketplace of schooling options for families, shifting school budgets from the central office to the schools and forcing the entrenched bureaucracy to reinvent itself as a bona fide support organization for schools.”
(“Oakland – National Model or Temporary Opportunity?” by Joe Williams, September, 2007. Center for Education Reform (

Despite the alignment of the planets, after 4 years of state-appointed administrators, the district was further in debt than ever with little positive to show for it. In fact, the state take-over was virtually a hostile corporate take-over by billionaire Eli Broad, who hand-picked all important district personnel. Since the community had lost its voice, 42 of 98 schools have been closed, charterized or made into “small schools”. 62% of Oakland’s schools have been forced into PI under NCLB.

Suddenly, to everyone’s surprise, it turns out that charter schools actually cost the district money. The district loses Average Daily Attendance (ADA) revenue from the state for every child that went to a charter school. Furthermore in California public property, often including buildings, supplies, computers and all manner of resources, is usually handed over to charters at no cost. However OUSD steadfastly keeps increasing the number of charters.

Under the state regime, every cut in the educational program lead to an attack on teachers and every attack on teachers guaranteed cuts to the educational program. Libraries, counselors, nurses and psychologists disappeared in schools in the poor parts of town. Kindergarten was extended to a full day schedule, without naps, so the children could take standardized tests. However, since younger students cannot be trusted to bubble in the forms correctly, teachers are forced to fill out hundreds of forms for them on their own time. As always, when corporate forces take control, the quality of education is dramatically reduced.

To support this effort, corporate forces came forward to raise more than $40 million for OUSD “to redesign the central office” and refused to allocate even a penny of this money to the classroom. However, administrators are leaving the schools at an alarming rate, the highest in the state, despite the money. Meanwhile, the debt is being paid for by the children, since a portion is deducted from the classroom, from the (ADA) that the city receives from the state. The children are forced to pay off the loan.

Until the last few years, and since World War II, Oakland has had an African-American population of over 40%. This is the highest concentration of African-Americans west of Houston. The city was also proud to have the highest number of families from New Orlean - until Katrina hit in 2005 and families were dispersed in all directions. Suddenly that Fall, State-Administrator, Randolph Ward, was missing from the city for several weeks. Ward, it turns out, was spending his time in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, touting charter schools.

● The publication of Naomi Klein’s important book, The Shock Doctrine, in 2007 tore the veil away from the vast efforts to privatize every aspect of government that has been a growing trend in the US since 2001. New Orleans, of course, has become the laboratory to develop these policies.

“The Bush administration immediately seized upon the fear generated by the attacks to not only launch the “War on Terror” but to insure that it is an almost completely for-profit venture, a booming new industry that has breathed life in to the faltering US economy. Best understood as a “disaster capitalism complex” it has much farther-reaching tentacles than the military-industrial complex Dwight Eisenhower warned against at the end of his presidency…

“To kick-start the disaster capitalism complex, the Bush administration outsourced, with no public debate, many of the most sensitive and core functions of government – from providing health care to soldiers, to interrogating prisoners, to gathering and ‘data mining’ information on all of us.” (Klein. The Shock Doctrine. P 12)

“Within weeks, the Gulf Coast became a domestic laboratory for the same kind of government-run-by-contractors that had been pioneered in Iraq…. As many remarked at the time, within days of the storm, it was as if Baghdad’s Green Zone had lifted off from its perch on the Tigris and landed on the bayou. To spearhead its Katrina operation, Shaw (a corporation - ed) hired the former head of the US Army’s reconstruction office. Fluor (another Iraq contractor - ed) sent its senior project manager from Iraq to the flood zone.”
(Klein. The Shock Doctrine, p 410-411)

Though in declining health, the guru of privatization, Milton Friedman wrote an article entitled “The Promise of Vouchers” in the December 5, 2005 Wall Street journal, where he demanded the privatization of every public school New Orleans city through vouchers. George Bush quickly appropriated $30 million. However, in 2006, the Florida’s Supreme Court found vouchers unconstitutional in Jeb Bush’s own state. So George Bush quickly switched gears and earmarked the money for charter schools for New Orleans.

The schools were summarily closed and reopened as charters. Every teacher was fired and then selectively re-hired. The control of the schools was given to Paul Vallas, the first “CEO” of Chicago Public Schools who pioneered the corporate approach. Vallas had been head of Philadelphia’s schools until a series of political and financial crises (including a deficit he said didn’t exist) lead him to consider new cities to plunder.

The result is described by New Orleans Loyola University Law Professor, attorney Bill Quigley:

“There is a massive experiment being performed on thousands of primarily African American children in New Orleans. No one asked the permission of the children. No one asked permission of their parents. This experiment involves a fight for the education of children.

“This is the experiment.

“The First Half

“Half of the nearly 30,000 children expected to enroll in the fall of 2007 in New Orleans public schools have been enrolled in special public schools, most called charter schools. These schools have been given tens of millions of dollars by the federal government in extra money, over and above their regular state and local money, to set up and operate. These special public schools are not open to every child and do not allow every student who wants to attend to enroll. Some charter schools have special selective academic criteria which allow them to exclude children in need of special academic help. Other charter schools have special admission policies and student and parental requirements which effectively screen out many children. The children in this half of the experiment are taught by accredited teachers in manageable size classes. There are no overcrowded classes because these charter schools have enrollment caps allowing them to turn away students. These schools also educate far fewer students with academic or emotional disabilities. Children in charter schools are in better facilities than the other half of the children. These schools are getting special grants from Laura Bush to rebuild their libraries and grants from other foundations to help them educate. These schools do educate some white children along with African-American children. These are public schools, but they are not available to all public school students.

“The Other Half"

“The other half of public school students, over ten thousand children, have been assigned to a one-year-old experiment in public education run by the State of Louisiana called the "Recovery School District" (RSD) program. The education these children receive will be compared to the education received by the first half in the charter schools. These children are effectively what is called the "control group" of an experiment Ð those against whom the others will be evaluated.”

“The RSD schools have not been given millions of extra federal dollars to operate. The new RSD has inexperienced leadership. Many critical vacancies exist in their already-insufficient district-wide staff. Many of the teachers are uncertified. In fact, the RSD schools do not yet have enough teachers, even counting the uncertified, to start school in the fall of 2007. Some of the RSD school buildings scheduled to be used for the fall of 2007 have not yet been built.

“In the first year of this experiment, the RSD had one security guard for every 37 students. Students at John McDonough High said their RSD school, which employed more guards than teachers, had a "prison atmosphere." In some schools, children spent long stretches of their school days in the gymnasium waiting for teachers to show up to teach them.

“There is little academic or emotional counseling in the RSD schools. Children with special needs suffer from lack of qualified staff. College-prep math and science classes and language immersion are rarely offered. Classrooms keep filling up as new children return to New Orleans and are assigned to RSD schools.

“Many of the RSD schools do not have working kitchens or water fountains. Bathroom facilities are scandalous. Teachers at one school report there are two bathrooms for the entire school - one for all the male students, faculty and staff and another for all the females in the building.

“Hardly any white children attend this half of the school experiment. These are the public schools available to the rest of the public school students.’
(“New Orleans's Children Fighting for the Right to Learn” by Bill Quigley. T r u t h o u t | Report, Thursday 09 August 2007)

Quigley accurately describes how charter systems quickly evolve towards well-funded, niche schools for the Haves and schools of depravation for the Have-Nots. He also clearly exposes the lie that charter schools are “public schools”. Their management lacks the public accountability of public schools, do not have to report to the public and can pick and choose their students, something that public schools cannot do.

At the same time charter schools often receive vast private donations of funds that provide them with tremendously greater resources than public schools. Nevertheless, the do not show significant achievement. (“Blowback – The Myth of Charter School Success”, LA Times, February 12, 2008 -,0,938309.story)

How strange that public schools are increasingly tied to standards, regimented learning, and high stakes testing, while charter schools are urged to innovate and experiment! Certainly there exist both public and charter schools that are creative. People are also not always in the position when they can pick and choose. However in New Orleans and across the country, most charters are run by corporations and entrepreneurs, not visionary educators.

Both in Oakland and New Orleans, state power was used to usurp the public’s control of their schools and to force into place a corporate vision of schools without public discussion. In both cases, the loss of civil rights over public schools has meant a drastic worsening in the quality of educational delivery. This experience is a huge indicator for the direction of public education in other cities, where corporate power is beginning to make in roads.

Creating an Educational Market… (The Plan)

A year ago we wrote in “Exterminating Public Schools”:

“The significance of the report (“Tough Choices” –ed) is that the march towards the privatization of public schools came completely out of the closet in 2006. No longer is it a hidden agenda. Now the open campaigning will begin, the lobbying and bribery will ensue and laws will be debated to change public schools in the corporate direction”.

This report presents some of the most significant efforts towards privatization.

In May, the NY Sun published an example of the corporate attitude to public education, in this case, from Fortress Investment Corp:

“As investors, the group's leaders spend their days searching for hidden diamonds in the rough: businesses the market has left for dead, but a savvy investor could turn for a profit. A big inner-city school system, Mr. Tilson explained, is kind of like that — the General Motors of the education world. ‘I see very, very similar dynamics: very large bureaucratic organizations that have become increasingly disconnected from their customers; that are producing an inferior product and losing customers; that are heavily unionized,’ he said. A successful charter school, on the other hand, is like ‘Toyota 20 years ago.’”
(“How New Generation of Reformers Targets Democrats on Education”. Elizabeth Green. NY Sun, May 31, 2007)

Time Magazine’s glowing praise of privatization could not hide the cynicism of people who intend to profit from the misery of others:

“Paul Vallas, the man who took over the troubled school systems of Chicago and then Philadelphia and upended them, stood before a crowd of New Orleans parents in a French Quarter courtyard earlier this summer and offered a promise. ‘This will be the greatest opportunity for educational entrepreneurs, charter schools, competition and parental choice in America,’ he said.

Call it the silver lining: Hurricane Katrina washed away what was one of the nation's worst school systems and opened the path for energetic reformers who want to make New Orleans a laboratory of new ideas for urban schools. “ (Time, 9-6-07)

This is the corporate approach to what are left of the public schools. Apologists blithely call this “creating an education market”. How exactly do you take something that most Americans still consider a public entitlement and make a profit out of it? Bush’s educational law, No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) plays an essential role:

“There are steps that would make K-12 schooling more attractive to for-profit investment, triggering a significant infusion of money to support research, development and creative problem-solving. For one, imposing clear standards for judging educational effectiveness would reassure investors that ventures will be less subject to political brickbats and better positioned to succeed if demonstrably effective. A more performance-based environment enables investors to assess risk in a more informed, rational manner.
(Educational Entrepreneurship: Realities, Challenges, Possibilities, 2006, edited by Fredrick M Hess, p 252)

“In sum, NCLB represents an enormous challenge to the status quo in public education and has the potential to create a major opening for entrepreneurs inside and outside of the public system. Since NCLB passed, a large number of schools across the country have been identified as ‘in need of improvement’ for failing to meet AYP targets”.
(Educational Entrepreneurshjp. p 80)

Almost all the entrepreneurial proposals are aimed at central cities, where the corporate vision is touted as the historic solution to decades of discrimination in public education.

Suddenly, out of the blue in 2007, we hear about Educational Maintenance Organizations (EMOs). These private corporations, like HMOs, are proposing to dispense services that people used to expect from our governments. Corporations now realize that owning individual schools is not the major direction for profit. Rather they intend to provide services to schools in the aggregate, regardless of schools succeed or fail. Thus these corporations become targets for investment. Whether private corporations actually can provide public education will be examined in the last section below.

Congressmen quickly anointed themselves as experts in education and proclaimed that merit pay for teachers could be “measured” by considering their “value-added” – the amount that student test scores improved or declined! It is a tribute to central city teachers that they did not immediately move to the suburbs, so that their students could suddenly achieve so much better!

Interestingly enough, the corporate model for public schools is 100% untested. In fact, recent studies done by the government on scripted learning show that it does not work very well at all. In 2007, Peter Henry published an important, easily accessible, and well documented report, “The Case Against Standardized Testing” (

”But, putting all this aside, let’s return to the central premise: student effort will increase when there is ‘more’ riding on a test’s outcome. Astoundingly, there is no research data showing that such ‘high-stakes’ environments actually work to improve effort, achievement or scholarship. None.” (p 43)

“Let me say this again because it is terribly important: There are no large-scale, peer-reviewed academic studies that prove, or even suggest, that a high-stakes, standardized testing educational program improves learning, skill development or achievement for students.” (p 45)

Therefore, the entire justification for the corporate educational model is completely and absolutely unproven. The whole high-stakes scam is deconstructed in detail at The poor have always been forced to endure scripted learning and high stakes testing, simply because it is cheaper than providing the same enriching educational experiences that the wealthy receive.

Corporate corruption, however, inevitably blooms when public control is gutted. Reading First – a $4 billion scripted reading program favored by George Bush – was charged, in a scathing report, by the Inspector General’s Office with a variety of scams in 2006. (

Philanthropreneurs (The Agents)

This apparatus is directed by a group of billionaire “philanthropreneurs” who are dead-set on engineering the corporate take-over of US public schools. Including billionaires Bill Gates, Michael Milliken, the Dell family, the Waltons and Donald Fischer (The Gap), the group’s point billionaire is Eli Broad (as in “toad”) who has defined the current strategy. Using their vast private wealth and their base in private corporations, they have moved to take over the debate over how to improve America’s schools. That these “philanthropreneurs” often have more disposable cash than most cities is a result of changes in tax laws in recent years.

In the past six years, The Broad Foundation has invested more than $56 million to support the growth of charter schools in a small number of cities including Los Angeles, New York City, Oakland and Philadelphia. Last November, The Broad Foundation announced a $10.5 million grant to Green Dot Public Schools to open 21 new small high schools in Los Angeles over the next four years. The Alliance grant brings The Broad Foundation’s support of charter schools in Los Angeles to $36 million. Broad also provides significant funding to Teach for America.

Broad is quite open about billionaires’ ability to do end runs around local governments, “What smart, entrepreneurial philanthropists and their foundations do is get greater value for how they invest their money than if the government were doing it.” (“Age of Riches - Big Gifts, Tax Breaks and a Debate on Charity”. Stephanie Strom. September 6, 2007)

The Broad Institute trains school superintendents, school boards and even union leaders in what they consider “appropriate corporate approaches”. A central problem for corporate privatizers is the issue of governance, ie who has legal authority over the schools. Broad favors state take-overs (New Orleans, Washington DC, Oakland, Ca, St. Louis) or mayoral takeovers (Chicago, Pittsburg, attempted last year by Villaregosa in LA) to eliminate messy interference from the public.

The “Tough Choices” report mentioned above is quite clear about eliminating the public’s right to control their schools:

“First, the role of school boards would change. Schools would no longer be owned by local school districts. Instead, schools would be operated by independent contractors, many of them limited-liability corporations owned and run by teachers. The primary role of school district central offices would be to write performance contracts with the operators of these schools, monitor their operations, cancel or decide not to renew the contracts of those providers that did not perform well, and find others that could do better. … The contract schools would be public schools, subject to all of the safety, curriculum, testing and other accountability of public schools”.
(“Tough Choices” - “Executive Summary”, p 16, emphasis added)

The “Tough Choices” study was quickly followed by a report from Stanford University called “Getting Down to Facts”( The report claims that California’s school system “is broken” even though it acknowledges that the state’s schools have been underfunded by over $1 trillion in the last 30 years. It called for restoring this money after issues of governance were resolved.” Most of these are designed to implement the Broad agenda of breaking teacher unions, differential pay, longer school days, and fewer union rights.

This is a classic example of how corporations usurp public debate with glitzy reports from private research groups, entrepreneurial donations and influencing government decisions behind the scenes.

By April 2007, Gates and Broad announced that they were tired of the incremental approach to school change. They donated $60 million to build a multi-media campaign to influence the 2008 election by forcing the corporate vision of education into elections across the country. Instead of addressing historically neglected populations, segregation and issues of equal, quality education, the campaign, Strong American Schools, will focus on three issues. Supposedly a standardized national curriculum, merit pay and lengthening the school year will solve all problems.

The Ed in ‘08/Strong American Schools program is an unheard-of, private effort to completely change public policy on schools essentially by buying their way into every electoral forum.
Gates and Broad intend to use this effort to completely change the debate about public education in the corporate direction.

Further Inroads into Public Education (The Campaigns)

● In Washington DC, Adrian Fenty, was elected as the “education mayor”. After getting schooled by Broad, he proposed that Congress take over the DC schools. Next he proposed a law similar to one in California, that charter schools have automatic access to “vacant public school property”. In California, this has meant the transfer of millions of dollars of school property into charter hands at no cost whatsoever.

Corporate nepotism grew even more incestuous in August, when Oakland’s second state-administrator, Kim Statham (a Broad trainee), quit and was immediately hired to be the chief academic officer of Washington DC schools by Broad graduate and past Oakland city Manager, Robert Bobb.

Bobb is on record supporting Broad's many educational initiatives, among them the 10-month leadership academy he attended in 2005. The academy, Bobb said, taught him a lot about the use of data and getting access to experts and other resources. "He is putting his money where his mouth is," Bobb said.

Money is definitely an issue alright. Brenda Belton, former charter oversight chief for the DC Board of Education plead guilty in 2007 to massive theft from the low-performing school system. She admitted to arranging about $649,000 in illegal school payments and sweetheart contracts to herself and her friends.

Not to be outdone, in California, the CEO of one of the state’s largest charter school networks, C. Steven Cox, was indicted on 113 felony counts of misappropriating public funds, grand theft and tax evasion (SF Chronicle, 9-5-07). Meanwhile, in Oakland, the principal of Urban Prepatory Charter Academy, Isaac Haqq, resigned after it was proven that he changed many failing student grades to A’s and B’s. Of course, the students do not get their school year back (SF Chronicle, July 23, 07).

● In New York, Joel Klein, school superintendent and signatory of “Tough Choices”, carried off the 2007 $1 million Broad education prize. Klein called for making every single school into a charter school. Teachers union leaders meanwhile signed on to implementing differential pay for teachers. Then Klein began an experiment to evaluate teachers based on how their test scores increase. Some 2000 teachers are involved - without their knowledge – although cooperating principals do know.

Corporate education policies and privatizations spread in 2007 from a few large urban school districts to cities across the country, including Oklahoma City, Pittsburg, Houston, Los Angeles and St Louis to name a few.

● The June Supreme Court decision cut the legs out from the 1954 Brown v Board of Ed decision, which held that segregation was inherently unequal, further advanced the corporate agenda. By recognizing de facto segregation, the decision is a statement of things to come.

It is well known that schools in America are more segregated that they were in 1954. So why did the Supreme Court do this now? Why not just maintain the fig leaf that integration has succeeded? The essence of the decision is that school districts may not use race, in individual cases, but still may consider it in the aggregate (whatever that means). Since the big trend is privatization, this decision clears the ground for a district that institutes charter schools across the board.

How can anyone now use the courts to block schools that discriminate based on individual cases? As corporate charter schools come in – and they regularly either reject low-achieving children or drive them out (the accountability issues multiply with each new charter) – how can we legally fight for equality or equal education?

There is another side to Brown. Before Brown the issue of the quality of education never before appeared in law. No one had a problem if African-American kids in Mississippi received text books that were 10 years out of date, soggy and mildewed, with their covers missing.

By saying that separate education was inherently unequal, Brown set the floor for the quality of public education. This was the first time that the quality of public education gained an legal standing. The current decision definitely guts this. In their future, the quality of education will be what corporations demand.

 In another decision – the “Honk for Peace” case from Indiana - the courts stepped up like good team players to facilitate the corporate agenda. They examined a case, where a teacher was fired for telling her elementary school class that she would honk for peace.

As a federal appeals court in Chicago put it in January, a teacher's freedom of speech is "the commodity she sells to an employer in exchange for her salary." The Bloomington, Ind., school district had just as much right to fire Mayer, the court said, as it would have if she were a creationist who refused to teach evolution. They indicated that it was legal for teachers to agree with the government, but they had no right to disagree with government policy, from the war in Iraq to, presumably, efforts to privatize school.

 At the beginning of 2007, the renewal of NCLB seemed inevitable. Petitions to end it began on the Educatorroundtable website and others around the country. Opposition grew rapidly and public pressure on politicians greatly increased. By the end of the year, the issue was postponed, unresolved, into 2008. Law suits were filed to attack one of the most destructive elements of NCLB, that it is unfunded. This fact alone, of all the inequities built into the law, reveals the bankruptcy of the corporate model in all of its ramifications. Those that have are imposing educational standards for those that don’t, ostensibly to raise them up, but really to keep the down.

Public Education and Health Care

There is an unspoken assumption about privatizing public schools that corporations and EMOs really don’t want to discuss. The question is this: will privatizing the schools actually lead to better public education? Let’s examine this more closely.

Public education is quite similar to health care, a human need that is already highly privatized in the United States. For health care, the rise of HMOs was a result of the corporatization of health care. This development meant that the government gave up any responsibility to provide a service of quality. Now that responsibility is shifted to corporations, the government’s role is to collect taxes, which are sent to HMOs in various ways to “cover health care costs” and maintain their profit. The corporations determine the quality they provide. It’s no longer part of the public debate. If you want better service, you pay for it.

HMOs make their money dispensing medications and treatments, not by providing the quality of care. Both hospitals and nurse salaries are usually considered a necessary loss to corporate profit. Consequently they both are being curtailed across the country. The entire health industry is now configured by Wall Street as a bundle of investment opportunities. This completely undermines the quality of service. This too is the “entrepreneurial” direction for public schools.

Both health care and education heavily rely on human labor to provide services. Both require nurturing and direct personal care to get results. Everyone remembers the teachers that made a real difference to them, the people who took their time and worked with them until they finally got it right. Therein lies the problem for corporations.

The value of any commodity is the amount of human labor-time involved in its production. This law however clashes directly with profit-making for both health care and education. Nurses must put more time into clinically assisting terminally ill patients. Teachers put less time into a straight A student than they so into a Special Education student. In each case, this means that, for corporations, too much labor is being put in the wrong direction. Hence, charter schools have the right to pick their students. Quite consistently, they refuse to accept students with Special Ed needs or students they perceive to be low-achievers.

The direction of health care is to seek profitability with niche hospitals that cater to the needs of the wealthy, just as Exeter educates the scions of the rich. As we already see in New Orleans, charter systems inevitably polarize into quality schools for the few and collapsing schools for most people.

The privatization of public education will be driven by the profit motive in the same direction. As we have seen above, investment possibilities and corporate profits are increasingly usurping the discussion. Even a decade ago, America still debated how to guarantee education as a civil right. This discussion has been drowned by privatizers and their political agents. To all intents and purposes it is now off the table.

The result for education will be identical to health care. Privatization means the withdrawal to the right of quality education. Government will no longer accept responsibility for the quality of public education. This will be taken over by private corporations who, as they already do in most charter schools today, refuse to be held accountable.

The big difference between public education and health care is that a national system of public schools was constructed during the last century, while health care has always been private. Public schools have taught six generations of Americans social values that corporate privatizers would prefer to ignore: “play fair”, “share, “If you break it, clean it up, “ and “everybody gets to play”. If you ever attended a private school, including universities, you know that these values do not exactly lead the discussion.

Privatizing public education will destroy that system, just as privatizing the rain forest leads to carving it up for sale. Public schools and public values do not have to become a thing of the past. While this process is well underway, it does not have to come to pass. We can fight forward to a cooperative system where real public control will build schools that can truly open up our human potential. Qualilty public education is a civil right!

Steven Miller –
Jack Gerson - (

Background & Resources
(These are just a few resources that detail the corporate assault on public education.)

Eli Broad et al

“Eli's Experiment”. Robert Gammon, East Bay Express, October 10, 2007

“The Broad Connection”. Berkeley Daily Planet, July 24, 2007,

“Filling the Civic Gap – Meet Donald Fisher”. Matt Smith. SF Weekly 6-21-06.

“Age of Riches” - Big Gifts, Tax Breaks and a Debate on Charity. Stephanie Strom.
September 6, 2007

“Foundation money may aid city high school makeover”. By Joe Smydo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Monday, January 15, 2007

Los Angeles City Beat 2007-10-21

“District's Ex-Charter Schools Chief Admits Fraud”. Carol D. Leonnig. Washington Post. Friday, August 10, 2007

“TFA Teams With Districts to Groom Aspiring Principals”. By Lynn Olson. Education Week
Published in Print: October 3, 2007

“Out-of-state consultants critique city school district”. Jeff Raymond.
The Oklahoman. ( Tue July 24, 2007.

A Crisis in Education?

“Just Another Big Con: The Crisis in Mathematics and Science Education”. Dennis W. Redovich. Center for the Study of Jobs & Education in Wisconsin And United States.
November 2007

“High-stakes Flim Flam”. Bob Herbert. October 9, 2007

“Five Myths About U.S. Kids Outclassed by the Rest of the World”. Paul Farhi
Sunday, January 21, 2007

Getting Down to Facts: School Finance and Governance in California.
Susanna Loeb, Anthony Bryk, and Eric Hanushek
Stanford University, March 2007

“Getting Down to Facts” is an independent research project commissioned by The
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation,
The James Irvine Foundation, and The Stuart Foundation.

“Schools, teachers agree on merit pay”.,0,4066984.story. October 17, 2000

New Orleans

“NOLA's Failed Education Experiment - Privatization runs amok in the post-Katrina New Orleans school System”. Ralph Adamo.The American Prospect
August 15, 2007 (web only)

June 2007 New Orleans Teachers Report available at: presscenter/releases/downloads/NoExper Report_07.pdf

Substance. September 2007.

“The Charter School Flood” The Nation, September 10, 2007

Charter Schools

“Exploding the Charter School Myth”. August 27, 2006

Hill, Angel, Christensen. Charter School Studies. -

Jim Vail. “Charter School Hypes and Hoaxes”. Substance, January 2008

Public vs Private

“The Corporations vs. Public Education”. Peoples Tribune - September, 2007.

Steven Miller. “Should the Future Be Privatized?”, “Strategic Grant Making”

Alfie Kohn. “Case Against ‘Tougher Standards’ - One-Size-Fits-All Doesn't Make the Grade”

Peter Henry. “The Case Against Standardized Testing”

“Open Court”.

Fred Smith. “Up The Down School Tests”.

“Career Opportunities - No Child Left Behind set off a gold rush for tutoring companies, but California isn't keeping up”. East Bay Express

Gerald Bracey. “Growing an Achievement Gap”. The Huffington Pose
Posted July 15, 2007

Gerald Bracey. What You Should Know About the War Against America’s Public Schools. 2003

Kathy Emery and Susan Ohanian. Why Is Corporate America Bashing Our Public Schools. 2004

Kenneth Saltman. Capitalizing on Disaster. Taking and Breaking Public Schools. 2007

Kenneth Saltman. Schooling and the Politics of Disaster. 2007

Supreme Court Decision

Joint Statement of 9 University-Based Civil Rights Centers Supreme Court Rulings

Web Sites

DC schools:

Marion Brady -

Susan O’Hannion -

Gerald Bracey -

Alfie Kohn -

Teacher Performance pay Unpopular in Florida

St Petersburg (FL) Times

Merit pay plan's unintended lesson
A Times Editorial
Published March 13, 2008

In its first year, a teacher performance pay plan has proved so unpopular
that 60 of Florida's 67 school districts have walked away from the
$147.5-million pot of money. But lawmakers who are eager to blame reluctant
teacher unions must now confront a disturbing trend at the district they
hold up as a model. Hillsborough, the largest district to enact merit pay,
has discovered that teachers in the most affluent schools are the ones
benefitting the most.

That result, documented by Times reporter Letitia Stein, is precisely what
school officials around the state had feared. It also works at cross
purposes with the state's goal of putting the best teachers at the schools
with the greatest needs, and lawmakers cannot ignore it.

Hillsborough school officials have worked earnestly on merit pay and deserve
credit for their willingness to confront the daunting challenges. Under the
state's Merit Award Program, at least 60 percent of a teacher's evaluation
must be based on how students perform on standardized tests. That test-heavy
formula has skewed the playing field.

As Stein reported, three-fourths of the roughly 5,000 teachers who received
$2,100 bonuses worked at the county's most affluent campuses. Only 3 percent
worked in the high-poverty schools. As if to underscore the disconnect
between merit pay and other performance measures, only half of district's
Teacher of the Year finalists received the bonus.

These results cannot be encouraging to other districts that have stayed on
the sidelines. Many districts with concerns about disparate impacts tried to
build protections into their plans but were rejected by the state Department
of Education. Pinellas had seven different plans turned down before it threw
in the towel. St. Lucie offered a "complexity factor" that DOE rejected,
presumably, for being too complex.

The state's formula for assessing teachers is so rigid that is not clear
whether DOE will allow Hillsborough to amend its plan so that teachers at
low-achieving, high-poverty schools have a better chance at receiving the

These are the jarring contradictions that can result when teacher pay gets
caught up in political agendas. Leave aside that Florida teachers are paid,
on average, $5,700 below the national average. The state now has three
different legislatively created bonus plans, for national certification and
state-assigned school grades and "merit," that are based on three different
sets of standards. Merit Award is the fourth different merit pay plan in the
past six years.

The biggest obstacle to performance pay in Florida schools is not the
unions. It's the hamhanded attempts by lawmakers and DOE to dictate how
teachers must be judged. The Hillsborough experience suggests that the
performance-pay law is, at best, a work in progress. Unless lawmakers are
willing to give the districts more discretion, they are not likely to see
the results they want. More troubling, they could end up rewarding
hard-working teachers for leaving the kind of schools where they are needed

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Death of Florida's First Charter School

by Paul Moore

The Miami-Dade School Board put Florida's first charter school out of its misery today. Buried under a mountain of debt and suffering from gross neglect the Liberty Charter School will close its doors for good at the end of this school year.
When the end finally came for their history making showcase school its founding fathers were in hiding. Oh, what a difference twelve years makes! Remember the bells Jeb Bush rang and whistles T. Willard Fair blew when they brought forth in this fair state their Liberty Charter School. ''Our opening had national implications,'' Principal Katrina Wilson-Davis recalled. ``I remember CNN and MSNBC coming down to our school site. Everybody wanted to see what accountability was all about. We were leading the charge.''
Liberty Charter would be the shining school of choice on the hill for inner-city victims of the public schools. Turns out it was just an electoral device and the African-American children inside were just props in a campaign photo-op. You see in 1994 Jeb Bush ran for governor for the first time. He came very close but Lawton Chiles bested him by less than two percentage points. The fact that Bush got only 4% of the Black vote was probably the difference. Jeb realized that when asked during the campaign what a Bush Administration would do for Black Floridians it was unwise to have answered, “Probably nothing.”
So in his second run for Florida’s top job, Jeb set out to polish up his image with the Black community. He got together with T. Willard Fair and established the first charter school in Florida in 1996. They set their school up near Liberty City and called it Liberty Charter School. In a paper co-authored by Bush and Fair called A New Lease On Learning: Florida’s First Charter School they promised the school “will be different from other public schools in many ways. For one, the total student body and class sizes will be small to maintain a human, loving environment. In addition, it will focus much more on character and discipline then (sic) most public schools. Our children will know the difference between right and wrong. The curriculum will reflect this with games, exercises and discussions about virtues such as honesty and integrity.”
Sincere or not, the Liberty Charter School proved to be an effective electoral strategy. In the 1998 election Jeb Bush got 17% of the Black vote and swamped Buddy McKay to become the governor of Florida. Shortly after taking office, Bush severed his ties with Liberty and appointed T. Willard Fair to the Florida Department of Education. The two men have grown quite fond of one another since. Fair recently regaled Bush with, "In my judgment, there is no greater person on this Earth than you. I love you."
The Miami Herald sought reaction from Jeb Bush and T. Willard Fair as their baby was faced with a life or death vote. Fair refused to comment at all but Bush wrote back, `I am not aware of what this is about. I do know that the school was an A-[rated] school, which warmed my heart.'' In fact the school that Jeb built was a C-[rated] school when it failed.
Paul A. Moore
Miami Carol City Public High School

Lisa Donlon Testimony at City Council on Mayoral Control

I. A. My name is Lisa Donlan and I am currently President of the CEC in Dist One, where I have served as an officer over the last 3 years.

During that time I have tried to untangle the issues that derive from the actual governance structure of mayoral control, those that follow from the letter of the law vs the sprit of the law or those that stem from the values and style of the present administration and their interpretation, or misinterpretation of the law.

At the same time I have been working to try and protect the gains made in the District One schools by my community school board over 15 years ago against the numerous roadblocks that mayoral control has created to that progress.

In the short time available to me to speak to you today, I would like to leave you with 3 thoughts:
1. Governance alone can not provide a solution to the structural inequities and failings endemic to NYC public schools. It is the underlying values that direct education reform that should be examined.
2. Democratic participation, discussion and debate are necessary to determine the core set of values that direct that education reform.
3 An example of how local control that worked in District One

1.Mayoral Control and accountability were enacted as a response to a system that had failed many of our public school students who suffer from great inequities and neglect.
Given the societal forces of poverty, racism and deprivation that shape the lives of so many of our children both in and out of school, I ask you, how much progress have we made to better serve these kids after 7 years of MC and accountability?
Have we narrowed the achievement gap?
Do we graduate more than half of our kids?
Are parents involved in their children’s education?
The Chancellor has said so but I could also point you to numerous sources that would refute those claims.

2. The strength of democracy is that our core values are not dictated but are debated.
centralization of power under mayoral control by the current administration has created a system that disconnects communities, deprofessionalizes teachers and discourages parents, especially low income parents, parents of color, from participating in the debates on education policies and budget.
This is particularly troublesome given the research that shows a high correlation between parent involvement and academic success.

3. More than 15 years ago, a coalition of parents and political activists in District One took back the local school board by reinvigorating the political process, driving parents to the polls for school board elections. By engaging the community around issues of equity in education, the district school board successfully instituted a host of policies that brought about real improvements in the local schools. Those policies, ranging from full day pre-k in all of our schools, to removing the catchment areas that were reinforcing the patterns of housing segregation in our schools, implemented a set of community values that are still in effect today.
That school board policy, designed to reduce racial isolation in our gentrifying neighborhood, has just been replaced by the DoE with a one-size-fits-all citywide policy that fails to accommodate the values, history and demography of our community. Despite centralized control that continually threatens these reforms and the progress they have led to, parents and educators in District One continue to fight to maintain academic, racial, ethnic and economic diversity in our district schools.

To be successful in this fight, we need more than just opportunities for input- we need the possibility to engage in practices of shared decision making of the policies that shape and affect our local school community, much the way local control allowed.

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.
Frederick Douglass

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The PS 106Q Saga....

... in chronological order

Feb. 8
Queen Bee Meets Queen Bee

by Norman Scott

There’s a story floating around about a recent visit Randi Weingarten made to PS 106 in Rockaway to address the issue of whether Principal Marcella Sills deserves designation as one of the UFT’s top ten “Principals from Hell.” Weingarten was not happy when she was forced to go upstairs to sign in, Sills’ way of showing her who was the boss. Weingarten said she was going to complain about the way Sills treats teachers (and most other people) to good buddy Kathy Cashin, who appointed Sills. Lot of good that will do since Cashin is currently fairly powerless (we’ll see where she stands when the post BloomKlein smoke clears) while running a Learning Support Network where she has to hustle to get client schools.

At least one teacher at the school claims there are records of observations in her folder signed by her that never took place, and that she never signed.

If you believe the stories going around the school community, there may well be more than one teacher involved.

The Wave worked on that story in June, at the end of the last school year, but the teacher involved, who acknowledged to a Wave editor that Sills had inded forged the teacher’s name to bogus evaluations, refused to go public, saying that the school investigator was going to take care of the problem and she did not want any further trouble from bogus ratings.

BloomKlein empowered principals. So, what’s a little forgery?

I had my own run-in with the haughty Sills a few years ago. She sure is a snappy dresser – I guess she doesn’t have to worry about little kids clutching at her with affection. I came to the school to give teachers leaflets from the opposition caucus, ICE, and she denied me access to the mailboxes, one of the few principals in Rockaway to do so. She used the term, “Not in MY school.” I should have asked to see her deed.

Ironically, the literature was critical of Randi Weingarten and the UFT leadership. But no matter how critical of Weingarten I’ve been, when it comes to the Battle of the Queen Bees, I’m rooting for Randi on this one.

Feb. 22, 2008

PS 106 Parents: UFT Says 'Sabotage Test Scores'
By Miriam Rosenberg
Asmall group of parents at PS 106 in Edgemere withstood the freezing cold early Tuesday morning to protest the way their children are treated by school staff, as well as other "internal problems" in the school.

Parents of PS 106 students protest across the street from the school Tuesday morning. PA president Joy Bunch, right, pointed out the low turnout was due to the short notice given to parents who have to work. Photos by Miriam Rosenberg
Parents say that, at a recent meeting at the school, UFT President Randi Weingarten called the principal unflattering names and urged teachers to sabotage the all-important standardized testing program.

"There's a crisis in PS 106," said Joy Bunch, the president of the Parent's Association. "We have safety issues surrounding the school, problems regarding the back gates being left open. There's no safety protocol in the school. There's a lack of communication between teachers and parents."

Sandra Prendergast, another parent at the school, highlighted safety issues as her main complaint.

Even though the protestors were not on school grounds, school safety officers were called and would not leave until the small group of parents did.
"You can't have the [back] gate open and anybody can walk in at any time," said Prendergast. "Kids need protection."

India Jackson, who has a child in first grade at the school, elaborated on what she believes is a lack of communication between parents and teachers.

"[Teachers] don't want us to share our views on how they're educating our children," said Jackson.

In a separate issue, parents claim that a handful of teachers are verbally and physically abusing students at the school.

"I walked down the stairs last week and saw a student being dragged by his ankles," said Bunch, who added she is not the only PA member to witness such incidents. "Last year I saw a teacher violently shaking a child. There have been reports that children have been placed under their desks by the same teacher, as a means of discipline."

The PApresident told The Wave that she has in her possession signed statements by parents whose children were abused.

As of press time, The Wave had not received promised copies of those statements.

The PA official further stated that reports of the incidents were given to the principal, who reportedly had investigated the teachers alleged to have committed the abuse, but these teachers remain at the school.

Bunch also said internal problems between Principal Marcella Sills and the teachers are affecting the students.

At the end of the last school year, charges were made that Sills had falsified teacher observations and forged at least one teacher's name to those observations. A Department of Education spokesperson told The Wave at the time that the incident was under investigation, but that it appeared to be a "simple misunderstanding between the teacher and the principal."

Just last week, a group of teachers contacted The Wave, contending that Sills had sent a letter to parents urging that some of the teachers be relieved of their duties, but The Wave has not been able to obtain a copy of the letter to confirm that contention.

According to Michael Catron, a learning leader/certified volunteer, Sills has received a negative reaction from some of the teachers.

Bunch believes the involvement of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) is making things worse.

Two weeks ago, the teachers requested a closed-door meeting with Weingarten to take place at the school.

By all reports, the interaction between Weingarten and Sills was contentious.

And, although no parents were present at the meeting, several parents claim to know what went on and that Weingarten was extremely critical of Sills.

Bunch and several others, who were at this week's protest, said the UFT and Weingarten have their own agenda. Parents say they were told that when Weingarten showed up for a union meeting at the school on January 30, she called Sills unflattering names.

"Randy Weingarten called Miss Sills a bitch and said that sometimes the children have to take a back seat to teacher's issues," said Catron. "And that's wrong."

Catron said he got his information from a teacher who "came out and told us what happened [at the union meeting]."

While parents have only hearsay about what went on at the meeting, some say they were told by teachers that the union president told teachers to stop teaching the test prep classes for the state math exam, which would result in lower test scores in an attempt to make PS 106 a UFT targeted school and force Sills out.

"Teachers have come up personally and told me themselves what was said in the meeting," said Bunch.

The test prep rumor is just one of the reasons a pregnant Eva Bennett, whose daughter attends PS 106, came out on one of the coldest days of the year to join in the protest.

"You don't come in calling names and spewing rhetoric and crying that teachers should sabotage test scores," said an angry Bennett. "You sabotage a kid's test scores [and] you're getting our kids left back. Did anybody talk about that? It has not been proven untrue, and in fact every person we've talked to about the test prep rumor would not deny it. I feel that it needs to be on record that there was a rumor to sabotage their tests scores, because if a large enough amount of kids fail this test you need some sort of recourse [to demand a retest]."

Bunch's position is that all the problems at the school can be handled inhouse without the outside interference of the UFT.

"We can work this out on our own," said Bunch, referring to Principal Sills, the UFT chapter representative in the school and herself.

AUFT spokesperson declined to comment on what went on at the closeddoor meeting, stating that the meeting was a clear exchange of ideas between union members and their president.

Feb. 22, 2008
Livid Over Scott's PS 106 Portrayal
Dear Editor,

I am livid about Norman Scott's commentary in School Scope (Queen Bee Meets Queen Bee). Scott needs to get the story straight before he goes off on a one-sided tirade against Principal Sills or UFT President Randi Weingarten.

It is a well-established fact that before Ms. Sills was the principal of PS 106 anyone could walk onto school property and take a child off the premises. Principal Sills established a security control where EVERYONE has to sign in with the security guard showing proper identification, which is recorded by the security guard or office employee.

Weingarten got upset because she expects to be treated above the rest of our community. If parents have to sign in and then sign out to come onto school premises, then what makes Ms. Weingarten above this very important security procedure? Especially, as quoted by an article in The Wave, the amount of pedophiles that live all around our school. So as far as there being a battle of whose boss, Ms. Weingarten loses, as Principal Sills is the boss of that school and has every right to insist that EVERYONE who enters PS 106 to sign in. I know for a fact that the UFT meeting was held on the top floor in the library and she had to climb the stairs anyway… so her argument is moot. The school office is on the second floor and the library is right above that using the same staircase.

As for Scott's ICE pamphlets, Principal Sills' remark that she won't have any political agenda entering her (My) school is more than appropriate. Hitting below the belt and attacking Principal Sills dress is another personal remark that Mr. Scott should keep to himself or at least share only with his other misogynistic brethren. Principal Sills embodies what a young successful woman should dress like.

She is a glowing example of a successful woman and human being. The catty remark made by Scott that she doesn't have to worry about messing up her clothes to hug or comfort her students is ludicrous and immoral. I have witnessed Principal Sills on a daily basis getting tears, snot, vomit, etc. on her clothes. She is a hands-on Educator and Scott needs to take his own personal inventory before jumping on her simply because she would not let him have his way. Principal Sills is a competent and confident principal, deserving our respect and admiration.

She has brought in a teaching paradigm that has had a huge effect on her student's ability to learn and retain that knowledge along with the fact that she supports the parents of this community with a maternal and nurturing character. Mr. Scott you should be ashamed of yourself and withdraw any further contributions to The Wave. You have clearly shown yourself to be a sexist impotent moron when it comes to passing judgments on qualified and hardworking principals that make their student's priority number one. Mr. Scott please, keep your ill informed opinions to yourself.



PS 106

Feb. 29, 2008
Dear Editor, February 18, 2008

After reading the School Scope column by Norman Scott {QUEEN BEE MEETS QUEEN BEE} and the subsequent hodge podge of fabrications by others who responded, I felt compelled to set the public straight by detailing the pure and unexpurgated truth.
I have been a staff member of PS106Q for eighteen years. I have seen many principals come and go, along with changes in policy and various respective initiatives.
First the facts: the UFT meeting was not held on the third floor of the main building, but was in fact held in the auxiliary building, fondly known as the mini-building and recently renamed by Principal Sills as the “Early Childhood Academy.” I agree, all visitors should sign in following the protocol for safety, but be advised that this has ALWAYS been the protocol in the school and in fact all schools in New York City. This procedure was not a new initiative by our current principal. In fact, Ms. Weingarten signed in at the security desk and was told that she was to be “escorted” to the UFT meeting room.
The statements made by writer Miriam Rosenberg are totally false. There was never ANY mention of testing or of sabotaging test scores at any UFT meetings. I would question the lack of integrity of one who spreads such untruths as opposed to the integrity of hard working educators. It appears to most of the staff that someone is deliberately feeding the PA and President Joy Bunch a lot of “hooey” to incite parents against teachers unfairly and unnecessarily. I have also been eyewitness to some unfortunate isolated behavioral outbreaks by these few children who are sorely in need of small group educational settings and are visibly misplaced in inclusion classes. I have also seen staff members physically abused and harmed by emotionally distressed children. All teachers in the DOE are advised not to break up physical fights between students. There is no compensation or disability provided to a teacher who is hurt on the job if said teacher is hurt as a result of breaking up a fight. What about trying to subdue a student who is out of control and is throwing a fit that involves trashing a classroom and in the process becomes a threat to others? The teachers of these children are never the less held “culpable” by administration when they are faced with the challenge of maintaining decorum in a class with a large register in addition to several emotionally unpredictable students who cannot function within such a large educational setting. Making the teacher a scapegoat is not a resolution and it certainly will not make the problem go away.
We are setting ourselves up for failure if tactics of creating divisiveness amongst staff and between staff and parent body continues. Successful schools have always brought about achievement due to joint effort and collaboration of administration and staff. We need to put the children first and stop slinging mud. It is their needs that are paramount. The dishonesty and lying has to stop too.
The Klein-Bloomberg ‘coalition’ has, according to this writer made more than a few absurd decisions and set some ridiculous policies that have already proven to be less than wise…AND innocuous political brotherhood that determines educational policy can only bring deleterious fallout. All DOE staff members are subject to the political agendas of the administration, whether it is local or regional, PS 106 is not exempt here. Parents everywhere should be aware that Bloomberg has worked with our school chancellor to train the Newbies who attend the Principals’ Leadership Academy to act as corporate execs and clean house of 10% of their current staff regularly. This precept is based on the premise that at least 10% of workers in corporations are unsatisfactory in their production. School administrators were previously known to mold and guide staff in becoming the best educators they can be.
No inexperienced personnel in a ‘beginners’ position is going to perform in an exemplary manner without the personal growth that develops via guidance, mentoring and experience in the field- not even the PLA graduates. Administrators can be respected for their accomplishments, visions and initiatives and they can do so by treating their staff with courtesy and propriety- they cannot deem respect for themselves if they are condescending and mean to their staff.
In addition, the forgery of a teacher’s classroom observations did in fact take place and Principal Sills has recently referred to this blatant act of deception and dishonesty as a “misunderstanding.” This example of poor judgment on behalf of an administrator is unforgivable. Is this an example of a proper role model for educators, parents and students? Can trust, respect and confidence grow between staff and administrative leadership under these circumstances? Is it a wonder that teachers who were appointed to PS 106 prior to Ms. Sills’ placement have transferred to other schools? Are current teachers being harassed, possibly to encourage their leave taking of the school as well? Newly hired teachers are so duped that they can only deny the truth and thus disavow any wrongdoings to colleagues. This select group is within Ms. Sills’ “inner circle”. They are treated royally, can do no wrong and thus support Ms. Sills with naïve innocence that they are safe and secure and on her “good side”. Herein lays the power of dividing the staff to avoid attaining strength in numbers. The teachers of PS 106 recently cast ballots and voted by majority to name Ms. Sills as a Principal in Need of Improvement. This is the reality at PS106.
Mr. Cantron refers to Ms. Sills being covered with tears, snot and vomit during the course of a day. This is so absurd, it’s actually funny. Ms. Sills spends most of her day in her office with minimal close contact with the early childhood population who might possibly get to soil her suits, however with a school nurse on premises, this is highly unlikely.
There has been an awful lot of mud-slinging going on of late. Our teachers have been “bad mouthed” and slandered before the parent body. Spreading false rumors about professional hard working staff is hitting me and my colleagues below the belt as well. Sending letters to parents claiming teachers are abusing students (unproven and undocumented) is not only underhanded and deplorable, it is pure slander. This is a way to initiate a riot and negative impressions and it is not reflective of an interest into an honest investigation to seek the truth.
These actions demoralize staff members who are dedicated to raising standards at PS106.
Bringing in Core Knowledge Curriculum to narrow the gap in the education of minorities and lower income populations is indeed commendable; however this initiative does not eradicate all the incidents of dishonesty that several teachers have experienced as a result of their interactions with Ms. Sills. Ms. Sills has expressed a desire for a “clean slate” between herself and the staff. This can be accomplished if everyone’s cards are laid out on the table. Frankly, who would blame any staff member for their lack of trust and confidence in the administration at this point? Speaking your mind and being honest has too often resulted in retribution. That makes us all losers.
In regard to “safety” issues at PS 106, I do not feel any less safe today, than I did when I was first appointed to the school. We are fortunate to have two safety officers at PS106. If both officers are in place, in each building, as soon as the buildings open, everyone is equally safe. The outer gates are also fire exits for all people in the building. We cannot scramble around looking for a key that is held by one or two building personnel in the event of the outbreak of fire.
Why hasn’t the community questioned the three years of scaffolding that adorned the building when no work was being done during all that time? Why aren’t parents asking why most of the computers are nonfunctioning and why there hasn’t been any indication of repairs ordered? Where are basic supplies for the classrooms? Why hasn’t P.S. 106 updated and upgraded the school library in years? Why hasn’t the spending budget been made available to the SLT in the past three years? All cards need to be laid out on the table on all fronts. Honesty and integrity is the road to mutual respect. A true professional puts personal preferences and differences aside and does the job to their best ability. We cannot fail the children no matter who we like or dislike in the building.
This year is the first time since my appointment to PS106 that I remain without an assignment in my specialty area. For years I have been privileged to provide our children with academic support services in literacy instruction and some differentiated instruction within the classroom. This year there are no academic support services for our children, other than standard classroom instruction. This lack of services is harming the academic progress of many children who fall way below benchmark levels for their grade. These children will be sitting in testing grades in a year or two and we will not be able to close the gap or educational lag in time for them to test within even an average range within the grade level. This is an example of poor judgment by administration where personal feelings precede what is needed for the students.

I know that there are many teachers, including myself, wholly dedicated to the students that pass through the portals of PS106. I have never seen such divisiveness in school staff as I am witnessing under this leadership. Our Core Knowledge curriculum espouses teaching of the Golden Rule (Do unto others…) as well as many other virtues - virtues that highlight honesty, generosity, sensitivity and human kindness. We need to recognize that these virtues are applicable to all of us. There cannot be a double standard here, one for children and another for adults. We are one community.
So where do we go from here?

M. Baum, Reading Specialist
P.S. 106

March 7: School Scope by Norm Scott

PS 106 Redux
Will the PS 106 story ever die? Guess not. There’s so much going on – much of which we can’t write about to protect people from retaliation. To summarize: My Feb. 8 column (Queen Bee Meets Queen Bee) talked about Randi Weingarten’s visit to the school where she was not given the warmest welcome by principal Marcella Sills, who has created a war-like atmosphere in the school between her and many teachers and teachers and parents. We also reported the charges by teachers that she forged their names to observations that never took place.
A week later, The Wave printed a story abut a parent protest over some things Weingarten supposedly said at the meeting (PS 106 Parents: UFT Says 'Sabotage Test Scores'), which was looked at as a vote of confidence in Sills, though few parents attended the protest (the PA president pointed out the low turnout was due to the short notice given to parents who have to work.) Some teachers feel the “protest” had Sills’ fingerprints all over it.
Teachers report that of the things Sills did upon taking over the school was drive out the old PA and put in her own brand, but this is standard operating procedure for many principals in schools without a very active parent base.
In that same Feb. 15 edition, Michael Catron, a learning leader/certified volunteer – what exactly is that – wrote a letter castigating me for my column, even calling me a moron. My joke response on Feb. 22 that I was a moron – more-on than off – GET IT – about events at PS 106 – apparently gave the wrong impression I was agreeing with Catron. Teachers have said it is not clear what exactly Catron does at the school. But they raise the same questions about others in the building who are close to Sills and seemingly have duties that are hard to pin down.
The story continued last week in The Wave’s “My Turn” column with teacher M. Baum, a reading specialist at PS 106, taking both Catron and the parent protest to task with a scathing critique of Sills, a very gutsy thing to do. Baum is an 18-year vet who teachers say has been sitting in the school without being given an assignment. Our independent inquiries are that she is a very caring, extremely capable teacher who is on the wrong side of the political tracks.
Here is a brief section from her extensive report:
Mr. Cantron refers to Ms. Sills being covered with tears, snot and vomit during the course of a day. This is so absurd, it’s actually funny. Ms. Sills spends most of her day in her office with minimal close contact with the early childhood population who might possibly get to soil her suits, however with a school nurse on premises, this is highly unlikely.
There has been an awful lot of mud-slinging going on of late. Our teachers have been “bad mouthed” and slandered before the parent body. Spreading false rumors about professional hard working staff is hitting me and my colleagues below the belt as well. Sending letters to parents claiming teachers are abusing students (unproven and undocumented) is not only underhanded and deplorable, it is pure slander. This is a way to initiate a riot and negative impressions and it is not reflective of an interest into an honest investigation to seek the truth.

Sills is a graduate of the dreaded Leadership Academy, where prospective principals are trained with an attack dog mentality to go after experienced (higher salaried) teachers using certain techniques that may include water boarding. Baum better wear a scuba mask.
You know the drill: immediately target some teachers for harassment, mostly senior, to put fear into the rest of the staff and start forcing people out. If you have to use forgery, go right ahead. Bring in younger inexperienced, teachers who will be easily intimidated.
Make sure to purge the former parents association, which might have allegiance to the old principal and set them against those “horrible” teachers.
It is only a rumor that LA people are given a pet animal which they must kill before they are allowed to graduate.
Word is that the Wave stories have sparked some interest from the higher ups, who couldn’t give a crap until stuff gets into the press. They want people to cool it, but this will not happen without an olive branch from Sills, whose future career cannot be helped by these revelations.
Sills is not without her supporters amongst the teachers – the very same newer people she has brought in. Word to the wise: when all the older teachers have been purged, watch out! Your turn will come.

PTA President at PS 106 Speaks out:

I’ve posted all stories on PS 106 in chronological order on the ednotes online blog. Look for the
link in the sidebar.