Wednesday, August 29, 2012

In defense of public education

Publication Date: 2012-08-29
City schools are being dismantled and privatized--with Barack Obama's approval.

This editorial appearing in Socialist Worker, Aug. 29, 2012, offers a good summary of the Obama education policy--and a good and necessary reason for supporting the strike of the Chicago Teachers Union.

WHEN EDUCATION Secretary Arne Duncan praised Hurricane Katrina a few years ago as the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans--because it enabled the closure of most public schools and their replacement with charter schools--he was forced to apologize.

But Duncan himself--backed by his boss, Barack Obama--has unleashed another destructive storm of corporate-driven "education reform," and it's bearing down on Chicago, where Duncan once ran the public school system, setting the stage for what could be the first teachers' strike in Chicago in 25 years.

Duncan and Co. have already wrecked public education in several cities. Detroit's ravaged economy and declining population were as a pretext for an aggressive bipartisan assault that's already led to the closure of 100 schools. Today, Detroit has two school systems--the Detroit Public Schools and a state-run Education Achievement Authority--that compete to attract students, with 35 percent of Detroit kids attending charter schools.

In Philadelphia, school authorities, backed by Democratic Mayor Michael Nutter, are seeking to dismantle the entire school system, handing operations over to an array of nonprofit organizations, charter school management groups and academic institutions.

In Cleveland, another Democrat, Mayor Frank Jackson, worked with union-bashing Republican Gov. John Kasich to pass legislation funneling even more tax money to charters, giving them equal standing with traditional public schools.

In driving these changes, Duncan is making use of the Bush-era federal law known as No Child Left Behind, which ties federal funds to state and local school officials' willingness to close or "turn around" schools that fail to improve test scores.

The Obama administration itself amped up the "school reform" agenda through its $4.3 billion Race to the Top competitive grant program. To have a chance at the money, state legislators had to pass new laws expanding charter schools and imposing harsh evaluation systems on teachers while weakening job security.

What all this amounts to is the end of universal public education as we've known it--a cornerstone of U.S. society, in the North anyway, since the 1850s.

If that sounds like an exaggeration or conspiracy theory, take it from Duncan himself. Once embarrassed at having cheered on a deadly catastrophe in a majority African American city, Duncan is now openly proud of post-Katrina education in New Orleans. "New Orleans is doing a fantastic job as far as improvement goes," Duncan said of a city where, before Katrina, just 1.5 percent of students attended charter schools. Today, 80 percent do.

Remember that quote the next time someone says that you have to vote for Obama to stop Mitt Romney's education agenda. As Ben Joravsky of the Chicago Reader wrote about Romney's program for education: "[I]n many respects, it reads like it could have been written by our very own union-busting, charter-school-loving Mayor Rahm Emanuel." Emanuel, of course, was Obama's chief of staff when the administration unleashed Race to the Top.

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TO UNDERSTAND what's driving the school reform agenda, remember the slogan from the 1970s Watergate scandal: follow the money.

Diane Ravitch, the former Bush Sr. education official-turned-critic of school reform, points to the billionaires' boys club, including Microsoft's Bill Gates and real estate magnate Eli Broad, who both run foundations that bankroll education reform.

Even Facebook boss Mark Zuckerburg, looking for some good public relations after the feature film that portrayed him as a schmuck, decided to toss $100 million to the public schools in Newark, N.J., a city with which he had no previous connection. And according to the New York Times Style section--which usually focuses on fashion design and the leisure pursuits of the rich and powerful-- Wall Street players have taken up adopting charter schools.

But behind the feel-good politics and photo ops--see, the 1 percent really does care about poor kids!--there's an aggressive program to reshape the U.S. working class to suit capital's needs in the globalized 21st century economy.

Unwilling to pay the kind of taxes necessary to support quality public education across the U.S., business and its political operatives like Duncan and Emanuel are creating a system in which access to good K-12 public education will be rationed, with working class and students of color funneled into either budget-strapped neighborhood schools or into charters with corporate and political clout, but dubious educational quality.

The first part of this program has been in place for decades--housing policies and income inequalities enabled the white middle class to leave big cities and enroll their kids in better-funded public schools in the suburbs. Since school funding across the U.S. is overwhelmingly based on property taxes--and since factory closings drained old industrial cities of their tax base--inequality between urban and suburban school districts increased, with African American and Latino students concentrated in underfunded city schools.

The result has been the re-segregation of public schools more than half a century after the U.S. Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education found that separate Black and white schools were inherently unequal.

Today, efforts to redress that racist legacy have all but ceased. To cite just two examples: in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina, a judge in 1997 ended a desegregation plan that allowed Black students to be bussed to suburban, mostly white public schools. "What followed was essentially a reversal of desegregation," according to two researchers at the University of North Carolina Urban Institute.

In 2009, another federal judge lifted a court order that had forced Chicago Public Schools officials to take race into account for enrolling students in magnet and selective enrollment schools. This despite the fact that a Harvard study found that Chicago schools were "only a few percentage points away from total apartheid."

As David Kirp, a University of California-Berkeley professor, wrote in the New York Times:

[D]esegregation is effectively dead. In fact, we have been giving up on desegregation for a long time. In 1974, the Supreme Court rejected a metropolitan integration plan, leaving the increasingly black cities to fend for themselves. A generation later, public schools that had been ordered to integrate in the 1960s and 1970s became segregated once again, this time with the blessing of a new generation of justices.

Today, students in racially segregated urban schools are being treated as lab rats by the corporate education reformers, who are teaming up with politicians to use the economic crisis as leverage.

With the education money in the federal stimulus package of 2009 now gone, officials in Detroit, Philadelphia and Cleveland and other cities are using their busted budgets as a pretext to dismantle public education. Chicago is likely to follow suit, as the Board of Education in that city is deliberately spending all its reserve funds this year. Teachers' union activists believe this is designed to create a crisis and justify the closure of as many as 100 schools.

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THAT'S WHY the stakes in the battle over public education in Chicago are so high.

So far, neither the National Education Association nor the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has mounted a fight against corporate education reform. In fact, AFT President Randi Weingarten argues that the union must collaborate with reformers, arguing that teachers must "lead and propose" on the issues.

By contrast, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU)--which is Local 1 of the AFT--is gearing up for a fight not only for adequate pay and benefits, but for fully funded public education with smaller class sizes and an enriched curriculum.

For the business-backed education reformers, the stakes are high, too. If they can take down the CTU, they will be much further in their goal of gutting the teachers' unions, which together constitute the largest organized labor groups in the U.S. That's why it's so important that everyone who supports public education--and the rights of those who work in them--stand with the CTU.

CTU leaders--members of a rank-and-file caucus that swept to victory in local elections last year--have been mobilizing the whole membership for a fight. That paid off at the end of the last school year when 98 percent of members who cast a ballot voted to authorize the union to call a strike. Meanwhile, parents, students and community organizations have rallied behind the CTU in large numbers--a crucial development given the history of conflicts between these forces in some past struggles.

The showdown is coming in September. Anybody who cares about the future for teachers and our schools--in Chicago and around the country--needs to act now to help the CTU win this fight.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The real effect of teachers union contracts

An oldie but goodie from the Shanker blog, repub at the Answer Sheet, Oct. 2010

By Valerie Strauss
Teachers unions are a big target today of some school reformers who view these organizations as the biggest obstacle to improving student achievement. The film "Waiting for Superman" certainly did. So why are states without binding teacher contracts among the lowest-performing in the nation? Matthew Di Carlo, senior fellow at the non-profit Albert Shanker Institute, located in Washington, D.C., looks at this issue. A version of this post originally appeared on the institute’s blog. A follow-up to this post presented a supplemental analysis of the data.

By Matthew Di Carlo
For years, some people have been determined to blame teachers’ unions for all that ails public education in America. This issue has been around a long time (see here and here), but, given the tenor of the current debate, it seems to bear rehashing. According to this view, teachers unions negatively affect student achievement primarily through the mechanism of the collective bargaining agreement, or contract. These contracts are thought to include “harmful” provisions, such as seniority-based layoffs and unified salary schedules that give raises based on experience and education rather than performance.
But a fairly large proportion of public school teachers are not covered under legally binding contracts. In fact, there are some 10 states in which there are virtually no legally binding K-12 teacher contracts at all (there are none in AL, AZ, GA, MS, NC, SC, TX, and VA; there is only one district with a contract in LA, and two in AR). Districts in a few of these states have entered into what are called “meet and confer” agreements about salary, benefits, and other working conditions, but administrators have the right to break these agreements at will. For all intents and purposes, these states are largely free of many of the alleged “negative union effects.”
Here’s a simple proposition: If teacher union contracts are the main problem, then we should expect to see at least somewhat higher achievement outcomes in the 10 states where there are basically no binding contracts.
So, let’s take a quick look at how states with no contracts compare with the states that have them.
In states where there are binding contracts, there is some variation in coverage (the percentage of teachers covered under contracts). In most of them (34, plus Washington D.C.), districts are required to bargain with unionized teachers, and coverage in these states is very high. There are a few other states in which contracts are binding once they’re finished, but districts are not required to bargain (Louisiana also technically falls into this category, but since Katrina, there is only one contract in force). The results for these states are virtually identical to those for the bargaining states.
In the table below, using data from the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), I present average scale scores for states that currently have binding teacher contracts and those that don’t. The averages are weighted by grade-level enrollment, and they include only public non-charter schools (since most charters in all states have no contracts).

Average 2009 NAEP Score By State Teacher Contract Laws
States with binding teacher contracts
4th grade: Math 240.0 Reading 220.7
8th grade: Math 282.1 Reading 263.7
States without binding teacher contracts
4th grade: Math 237.7 Reading 217.5
8th grade: Math 281.2 Reading 259.5
As the table shows, the states in which there are no teachers covered under binding agreements score lower than the states that have them. Moreover, even though they appear small, all but one of these (8th grade math) are rather large differences.
To give an idea of the size, I ranked each state (plus Washington D.C.) by order of its performance —its average score on each of the four NAEP exams – and then averaged the four ranks. The table below presents the average rank for the non-contract states.

Average Rank Across 4 NAEP Tests

Next to each state is its average rank
Virginia....... 16.6
Texas......... 27.3
N. Carolina.. 27.5
S. Carolina...38.9

Out of these 10 states, only one (Virginia) has an average rank above the median, while four are in the bottom 10, and seven are in the bottom 15. These data make it very clear that states without binding teacher contracts are not doing better, and the majority are actually among the lowest performers in the nation.
In contrast, nine of the 10 states with the highest average ranks are high coverage states, including Massachusetts, which has the highest average score on all four tests.
If anything, it seems that the presence of teacher contracts in a state has a positive effect on achievement.
Now, some may object to this conclusion. They might argue that I can’t possibly say that teacher contracts alone caused the higher scores in these states. They might say that there are dozens of other observed and unobserved factors that influence achievement, such as state laws, lack of resources, income, parents’ education, and curriculum, and that these factors are responsible for the lower scores in the 10 non-contract states.
My response: Exactly.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Scams: Obama/Duncan Corporate Patronage Using RTTT

At a CEC3 meeting last year a network leader informed us that he and the other networks were REQUIRED to spend at least 50% of the Race to the Top funds they received - a meager $100k or so across 30 schools! - on DOE-approved outside contractors. We asked if that was a federal requirement or a DOE imposed one but did not receive a response.

If this isn't another corporate patronage mechanism to siphon dollars from our schools, classrooms, teachers and students and instead funnel them to private industry profits and the growing corporate reform bureaucracy why such a requirement?

Very sad.

noah e gotbaum
twitter: @noahegotbaum

"To support learning strategies that personalize education in all or a set of schools, within specific grade levels or select subjects."

Wonder if this means online learning?

 "form partnerships with public and private organizations to sustain their work and provide services"

Wonder whose private org will benefit? Why should it be a requirement to outsource the programing and services? julie cavanagh


...a bi-weekly update on U.S. Department of Education activities relevant to the Intergovernmental and Corporate community and other stakeholders

On August 12, the Department announced it had finalized the application for the 2012 Race to the Top-District competition, which will provide nearly $400 million to support school districts in implementing local education reforms that personalize instruction, close achievement gaps, and take full advantage of 21st century tools that prepare each student for college and careers.  The program sets a high bar to fund those districts that have a track record of success, clear vision for reform, and innovative plans to transform the learning environment and accelerate student achievement.  Race to the Top helped bring about groundbreaking education reforms in states across the country.  Building off that success, were now going to help support reform at the local level, Secretary Duncan noted.  We want to help schools become engines of innovation through personalized learning, so that every child in America can receive the world-class public education they deserve.

The program criteria invites applications from districts or groups of districts proposing to serve at least 2,000 students -- or groups of 10 or more districts proposing to serve less than 2,000 students -- with at least 40% of participating students (across all participating schools) qualifying for free or reduced-
price lunch.  Districts will choose to apply for funding to support learning strategies that personalize education in all or a set of schools, within specific grade levels or select subjects.  Moreover, districts must demonstrate a commitment to Race to the Tops four core reform areas and have sign-off on their plan from the local superintendent, local school board president, and local teacher union/association president (where applicable).  The Department plans to support high-quality proposals from across a variety of districts, including rural and non-rural, as well as those participating in a Race to the Top state grant and those not participating.  The program offers competitive preference to applicants that form partnerships with public and private organizations to sustain their work and provide services to help meet students academic, social, and emotional needs and enhance their ability to succeed.

The Department expects to make 15 to 25 awards.  Awards will range from $5 million to $40 million, depending on the population served through the plan.  Districts are asked to submit an intent to apply by August 30.  Applications are due October 30.  Grants will be announced no later than December 31.  FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE GO TO <> .  (Note: To assist applicants in preparing the application, the agency is hosting technical assistance webinars [ <> ] and has posted answers to Frequently Asked Questions [ <
> ].)

Charter school group's chief blamed for 2010 cheating scandal

Charter school group's chief blamed for 2010 cheating scandal

Educators say John Allen asked Crescendo principals to show teachers the state standardized test. L.A. Unified was going to suspend him, but the board voted to fire him and close the campuses.

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John Allen
Two separate investigations into the cheating scandal blamed Crescendo founder and chief executive John Allen, who was driven, as one official said, by a desire to be “better, better, better, best." (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times / March 4, 2011)
By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
August 17, 2012, 5:34 p.m.
The meeting at Crescendo Preparatory South was progressing as usual when the acting principal dropped a bombshell: She had been given copies of the upcoming standardized tests. The teachers were to study them, take notes — and make sure the kids got it.
Some of the eight instructors were troubled by what seemed to be an order to cheat. One burst into tears.
So began one of the most brazen cheating scandals in the nation. Ultimately, all of Crescendo's schools in South Los Angeles, Gardena and Hawthorne were shut down, its teachers let go and 1,400 students forced to find new schools.
Only the rough outlines of the 2010 scandal were made public, but dozens of interviews with former Crescendo employees and officials — as well as a review of previously unreleased documents — portray an environment so poisoned by demands to excel on state proficiency tests that many submitted to a plan to boost the scores of schools that were already doing well.
Two separate investigations blamed Crescendo's founder and chief executive, John Allen, who was driven, as one official said, by a desire to be "better, better, better, best." Allen has declined all interview requests and maintained his innocence in court documents.
Former Crescendo principals are still grappling with how they were drawn into violating a fundamental tenet of their profession, and teachers are left questioning their own actions and an educational mission in which they believed so deeply.
"Here I had been going around bragging about how awesome our school is, and now I wonder: Are we cheaters?" former Crescendo teacher Lisa Sims said.
The first Crescendo schools opened in 2005, part of a burgeoning charter movement spurred by overcrowding, shrinking resources at traditional public schools and parents' fears over safety.
The Crescendo network, which combined strict academics with arts and music enrichment, attracted black families in particular; African Americans made up at least 80% of the enrollment, compared with less than 10% districtwide.
The schools were the brainchild of Allen, an imposing figure who started teaching in L.A. Unified in 1988 and became a principal in the Capistrano Unified School District in Orange County eight years later. He then headed the well-regarded Watts Learning Center, a publicly funded, independently run charter.
"John worked 24/7," said a former Crescendo board member who, like some others interviewed, cited legal or employment ramifications in requesting anonymity. Much, if not most, of Crescendo's success could "be attributed to John."
Allen provided a strong vision to his largely young and inexperienced teachers.
Sandra Kim, 24, had been waiting tables for six months before she got a job teaching at Crescendo.
"John Allen seemed sincere and nice, wanting to know about my school, my teaching philosophy, my background. He seemed like he really cared about the kids and how the school was being operated," Kim said. "I was ecstatic."
Allen's ideas on how schools should be run included enforcing his notions of professional attire.
Teacher Patricia Hardison said that when Allen would arrive on campus unannounced, the first teacher to notice would send a student to other classes with the message: "Do you have a red pen?"
That was the signal for teachers to pull out their uncomfortable high heels.
But Allen's biggest fixation was test scores.
Nationwide, schools' reputations and educators' jobs increasingly depend on student test scores. At Crescendo, Allen seemed to push harder each year. In 2009, he had classroom results posted for all to see, teachers said. He also told them flat out: "You better score a 900 this year," one recalled.
Copyright © 2012, Los Angeles Times

Educators Have No Political Party

Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 08:48 AM PDT

Daily Kos

For about thirty years now, public education as well as its teachers and students have been the focus of an accountability era driven by recurring calls for and the implementation of so-called higher standards and incessant testing. At two points during this era, educators could blame Ronald Reagan's administration for feeding the media frenzy around the misleading A Nation at Risk and George W. Bush's administration for federalizing the accountability era with No Child Left Behind (NCLB)—both Republican administrations.
For those who argued that Republicans and Democrats were different sides of the same political coin beholden to corporate interests, education advocates could point to Republicans with an accusatory finger and claim the GOP was anti-public education while also endorsing Democrats as unwavering supporters of public education. To claim Republicans and Democrats were essentially the same was left to extremists and radicals, it seemed.
As we approach the fall of 2012 and the next presidential election, however, educators and advocates for public education have found that the position of the extremists—Republicans and Democrats are the same—has come true under the Barack Obama administration.
Educators have no political party to support because no political party supports educators, public education, or teachers unions.
Discourse, Policy, and How Democrats Are Failing Education
Behind the historical mask that Democrats support strongly public education and even teachers specifically and workers broadly, the Obama administration has presented a powerful and misleading education campaign that is driven by Obama as the good cop and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as the bad cop. Obama Good Cop handles the discourse that appeals to educators by denouncing the rising test culture in 2011:
What is true, though, is, is that we have piled on a lot of standardized tests on our kids. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a standardized test being given occasionally just to give a baseline of where kids are at. Malia and Sasha, my two daughters, they just recently took a standardized test. But it wasn’t a high-stakes test. It wasn’t a test where they had to panic.
Yet, simultaneously, Secretary Duncan Bad Cop was endorsing and the USDOE was implementing Race to the Top, creating provisions for states to opt out of NCLB, and endorsing Common Core State Standards (CCSS)—each of which increases both the amount of standardized testing and the high-stakes associated with those tests by expanding the accountability from schools and students to teachers. Under Obama, Democratic education policy and agendas, embodied by Duncan, have created a consistently inconsistent message. More recently, Obama has shifted into campaign mode and once again offered conflicting claims about education—endorsing a focus on reducing class size (despite huge cuts for years in state budgets that have eliminated teachers and increased class size, which Bill Gates endorses) and making a pitch to suport teachers unions and even increasing spending on education, leading Diane Ravitch to ponder:
Well, it is good to hear the rhetoric. That’s a change. We can always hope that he means it. But that, of course, would mean ditching Race to the Top and all that absurd rightwing rhetoric about how schools can fix poverty, all by themselves.
Throughout Obama's term, Obama's discourse has been almost directly contradicted by Duncan's discourse and the USDOE's policies. Obama tended to state that teachers were the most important in-school influence on student learning while Duncan tends to continue omitting the "in-school" qualifier, but these nuances of language are of little value since the USDOE under Obama has an agenda nearly indistinguishable from Republican agendas: • Promoting that all states should adopt CCSS and the necessary increase of testing and textbook support to follow.
• Endorsing market dynamics and school choice by embracing the charter school movement, specifically corporate-style charters such as Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP).
• Embracing and promoting "no excuses" ideologies for school reform and school cultures.
• Criticizing directly and indirectly public school teachers and perpetuating the "bad" teacher myth by calling for changes in teacher evaluations and compensation, disproportionately based on student test scores.
• Funding and endorsing the spread of test-based accountability to departments and colleges of education involved in teacher certification.
• Funding and endorsing the de-professionalization of teaching through support for Teach for America.
• Appealing to the populist message about choice by failing to confront the rise of "parent trigger" laws driven by corporate interests posing as concerned parents.
If my claim that Republicans and Democrats are different sides of the same misguided education reform coin still appears to be the claim of an extremist, the last point above should be examined carefully.
Note, for example, the connection between the issues endorsed by Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and the anti-union sentiment joined with endorsing the next misleading Waiting for "Superman"Won't Back Down.
The Democratic National Convention will be home to DFER, Parent Revolution, and Students First to promote Won't Back Down as if this garbled film is a documentary—including a platform for Michelle Rhee.
There is nothing progressive about the education reform agenda under the Obama administration, nothing progressive about the realities behind Obama's or Duncan's discourse, nothing progressive about Rhee, Gates, or the growing legions of celebrity education reformers.
If the Democratic Party were committed to a progressive education platform, we would hear and see policy seeking ways to fund fully public schools, rejecting market solutions to social problems, supporting the professionalization of teachers, embracing the power and necessity of collective bargaining and tenure, protecting students from the negative impact of testing and textbook corporations, distancing themselves from Rhee-like conservatives in progressive clothing, and championing above everything else democratic ideals.
Instead, the merging of the education agenda between Democrats and Republicans is Orwellian, but it real, as Ravitch warned early in Obama's administration:
This rhetoric represented a remarkable turn of events. It showed how the politics of education had been transformed. . . .Slogans long advocated by policy wonks on the right had migrated to and been embraced by policy wonks on the left. When Democrat think tanks say their party should support accountability and school choice, while rebuffing the teachers’ unions, you can bet that something has fundamentally changed in the political scene. (p. 22)
In August of 2012, educators have no political party to support because no political party supports educators—and this is but one symptom of a larger disease killing the hope and promise of democracy in the U.S. This tragic fact is the inevitable result of the historical call for teachers not to be political. Now that educators have no major party to support, the failure of that call is more palpable than ever.

Originally posted to plthomasEdD on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 08:48 AM PDT.

Also republished by Education Alternatives.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

TAGs Support Chicago Teachers Union

Their fight is our fight!

Chicago has been the focus of corporate school “reform,” but Chicago is now the epicenter of the push back against it. On June 11, 2012, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) leaders announced that 89.73% of CTU members—98% of those who cast ballots—voted to give the union authority to call a strike if contract negotiations with Chicago Public Schools fail (Chicago Teachers Union). This astounding vote was about much more than a contract. It tapped into teachers’ deep anger at 17 years of neoliberal education “reforms” that have demoralized and blamed teachers and belittled their knowledge, taken the joy out of classrooms, and decimated public education. After 17 years of the tyranny of high stakes tests, business-like management of public schools, school closings and turnarounds by private operators, disinvestment of resources from neighborhood public schools, and moves to pay teachers based on competitive performance measures, teachers have had enough. A new revitalized teachers union, along with parents, students and community members of Chicago are standing up to the assault on public education.
On July 16, 2012, a mandatory fact finder—tasked with making recommendations for a new collective bargaining agreement between the Board of Education of the City of Chicago (Board) and CTU—shocked Mayor Rahm Emanuel by finding largely in favor of the CTU. Quickly, the Mayor and his appointed Board backed down on extending the school day without paying teachers for their extra time and agreed to rehire laid off teachers to add more art, music, and physical education classes to the school day. This was a victory for students, community members, and the CTU who have been fighting for a “better school day,” not just a longer day. But the struggle is far from finished. Teachers do not want a strike, but CTU leadership rejected the report noting that it left many key issues unresolved, including smaller class sizes, fair compensation for paraprofessionals, a rehire pool for laid-off teachers, and fair systems for teacher evaluation and compensation. Further, issues of charter school expansion and hiring more nurses and social workers are also at stake.
As a national Network of Teacher Activist Groups (TAG), we believe Chicago teachers are in a crucial battle to defend public education and make schools more equitable and just. The outcome of this struggle will not only impact the people of Chicago, but also set the tone for promoting educational equity across the nation. Their fight is our fight. We are asking educators, school social workers, parents, students, youth workers, and any concerned community members to join us in support and solidarity for the CTU teachers as they stand up to the powerful forces aligned to dismantle public education.
Read more…

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Why Are Our Public Schools Up For Sale?

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While charter proponents claim that their schools are less bureaucratic, more efficient, and more effective, the evidence fails to back those claims.
Photo Credit: Margie Hurwich via
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"Back-to-school" sales seem to start earlier every year. These days, more than binders and backpacks are on offer. Now, public schools themselves are for sale.
In July, Muskegon Heights, Michigan became the first American city to hand its entire school district over to a charter-school operator.
More than 1.6 million American kids attend charter schools, which emerged in the early 1990s. Whatever their original intent, charters are fundamentally restructuring the school system by placing it in private — often for-profit — hands. They're making teachers and staff work harder and longer for less pay, usually without union benefits or protection.
In May, Philadelphia's schools announced a plan to close 64 schools and outsource 25 more to so-called "achievement networks" run by charter operators. The goal: that 40 percent of Philadelphia's children attend charters by 2017. Detroit's plans are similar.
Restructuring may seem the best option. Urban school districts have long struggled to serve their students. And many of us know firsthand — as former students, teachers, administrators, or parents — that many of America's public schools require radical change.
Charter proponents claim that their schools are less bureaucratic and more efficient, and thus save taxpayer money. Yet evidence is mounting to show that the opposite is true. When Philadelphia first announced its restructuring plans, the budget earmarked for charters stood at $38 million. By July, that figure was "rounded up" to an astonishing $139 million. Since when is a $100-million cost-overrun a sign of cost-effectiveness?
Moreover, charter proponents argue that competition and choice pressure all schools to perform better. This assumes that schools operate on even playing fields. However, Detroit officials followed their restructuring plans by imposing a contract on teachers that caps class sizes at more than 40 students starting in kindergarten and at a staggering 61 for sixth grade through high school. No school can possibly "compete" under such conditions.
Finally, consider Muskegon Heights. The city hired charter operator Mosaica Education, a for-profit company premised on earning more from contracts to run schools than it pays out in expenses. In fact, Mosaica expects to earn as much as $11 million in its Muskegon Heights deal. That's roughly the same amount as the current budget deficit that officials gave as the reason to hire this outfit in the first place. Apparently, officials weren't troubled by Mosaica's record elsewhere in Michigan — its six other charter schools performed on average at the 13th percentile, according to the state's annual ranking in 2011.
That none of these developments has made national headlines is mind-boggling. Perhaps this has something to do with the institutional racism that led to the Supreme Court's crucial Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954.
Muskegon Heights is a highly segregated African-American community adjacent to the predominantly white Muskegon. In Muskegon Heights, median household income stood at just over $26,600 in 2010, with over 30 percent of residents living below the poverty line.
It's primarily in minority-majority communities like this where schools are being sold off to the highest bidder, regardless of those bidders' track records.
The same story has played out in Chicago for almost a decade. The city has closed dozens of neighborhood schools and considered replacing them with charters. What's different in Chicago, though, is that the Chicago Teachers Union is leading the fight against this agenda. After several years of building strong alliances with parent and community groups, the union is challenging Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel's attack on public schools. In July, Emanuel blinked and agreed to reinstate 477 laid-off art, music, PE, and foreign language teachers.
The union is demonstrating that teachers and students share common interests. Together with their parent and community allies, Chicago's teachers and their unions are proving that they can put public schools back in the public's hands and win the funding required for the world-class education that all our children deserve.
Jeff Bale is an assistant professor of second language education at Michigan State University. Sarah Knopp is a public high school teacher in Los Angeles. They are the co-authors of the book Education and Capitalism, published this year by Haymarket Books.

Who Is Behind The Privatization Of Education:Gates, Broad, KIPP, Pearson, EdWest & The Gulen Schools


Third Annual September Summit to Focus on Solutions 

NEW YORK, NY—August 13, 2012—NBC News today announced that The New York Public Library (NYPL), one of the country’s leading learning institutions, will serve as the home of the 2012 “Education Nation” National Summit, taking place from Sept. 23-25. The three-day event – which draws more than 300 of the country’s thought leaders in education, government, business, philanthropy and media – will be held at the NYPL’s landmark Stephen A. Schwarzman Building in midtown Manhattan. As part of a larger partnership meant to engage the public in free learning opportunities during the week of the “Education Nation” Summit, NBC News and the NYPL will invite New Yorkers to take part in special programming throughout the library system. 

Using the full strength and reach of NBC News broadcast, cable and digital platforms, the 2012 “Education Nation” Summit will focus on successful examples of innovation in education. Summit sessions, moderated by top NBC News journalists, and NBC’s on-air programming will highlight a series of case studies from communities across the country, providing tools and takeaways for participants and viewers. 

“There’s no place more fitting to host this year’s ‘Education Nation’ Summit than the New York Public Library, which has put outstanding resources in place to promote education and the opportunities it affords,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “’Education Nation’ has become a wellspring of forward-thinking and innovative approaches, and has helped to reignite calls for education reform in our country. We are thrilled to continue these conversations from New York City – particularly such a revered place of learning.” 

“The goal of this year’s ‘Education Nation’ Summit is to showcase and discuss solutions in education, and the New York Public Library is a great partner to help us host this important national conversation,” said NBC News President Steve Capus. “The NYPL is at the forefront of reimagining the power of educational programming and how to broaden access beyond the walls of its buildings, and we are looking forward to the opportunity to bring ‘Education Nation’ to more people both locally in New York and across the country.” 

"The New York Public Library is honored to host NBC News’ ‘Education Nation,’ an innovative program that embodies the Library's mission to provide access to education for all," said NYPL President Anthony Marx. "As the free education provider for all New Yorkers and a model for other urban library systems across the country, the Library is proud to participate in this summit, and is privileged to welcome leading thinkers to its landmark 42nd Street building, which has been a hub of knowledge, inspiration and ideas for over 100 years." 

In addition to serving as the home of the ”Education Nation” Summit, the NYPL will also host a special series of free events and programs that bring “Education Nation” to the broader public at branch libraries. A calendar of local “Education Nation at the New York Public Library” events and programming will be posted online at in September. 

The New York Public Library is a leading provider of free educational programs and initiatives for all New Yorkers, including ESOL and literacy classes, computer training, after-school homework help, reading groups, teacher professional development, exhibition curricula, and much more. In addition, The New York Public Library partnered with the New York City Department of Education on a pilot program to provide access to books and curated book series to 50 public schools. 

More information on the summit agenda and programming is coming soon. For more information about “Education Nation,” visit, check us out on Facebook: or follow us on Twitter @EducationNation. 

About "Education Nation"
"Education Nation" seeks to create a thoughtful, well-informed dialogue with policymakers, thought-leaders, educators, parents and the public, in pursuit of the shared goal of providing every American with an opportunity to achieve the best education in the world. These discussions cover the challenges, potential solutions and innovations spanning the education landscape. By providing quality information to the public, NBC News hopes to provide information to Americans so they can make decisions about how best to improve our education system both in the near and long terms, and to shine a spotlight on one of the most urgent national issues of our time.
About The New York Public Library
The New York Public Library is a free provider of education and information for the people of New York and beyond, operating 90 libraries—including research and branch locations throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. The Library system offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars, and has seen record numbers of attendance and circulation in recent years, with more than 18 million visits in Fiscal Year 2012. The New York Public Library also serves millions more around the globe online through both its website at and its extensive social media presence.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Valerie Strauss on Charter Business

Washington Post
The big business of charter schools
By Valerie Strauss

If you are wondering why you should add charter schools to your investment portfolios, here's David Brain, head of a major investment concern called Entertainment Properties Trust, to tell you.

This isn't a joke.

You may think charter schools are just one option for parents looking for an alternative to traditional public schools for their children, but they are big business in some quarters.

What is Entertainment Properties Trust? According to its website, it is "a specialty real estate investment trust (REIT) that invests in properties in select categories which require unique industry knowledge, and offer stable and attractive returns."

And the website also says this: "Our investment portfolio of nearly $3 billion includes megaplex movie theatres and adjacent retail, public charter schools, and other destination recreational and specialty investments. This portfolio includes over 160 locations spread across 34 states with over 200 tenants."

This is why some people see the growth of charter schools run by for-profit management companies as part of a movement to privatize the country's public education system, which has been the country's most important civic institution.
Above is a video — with the headline "Invest in Charter Schools?" — that shows an interview that Brain did with anchors at CNBC. Here is part of the dialogue:

Anchor: Charter schools have become very popular as parents seek more choice in educating their children. But are charter schools a wise addition to your investment portfolio? Well let's ask David Brain, president and CEO of Entertainment Properties Trust. ....Why would I want to add charter schools into my portfolio?

DB: Well I think it's a very stable business, very recession-resistant. It's a very high-demand product. There's 400,000 kids on waiting lists for charter schools ... the industry's growing about 12-14% a year. So it's a high-growth, very stable, recession-resistant business. It's a public payer, the state is the payer on this, uh, category, and uh, if you do business with states with solid treasuries. then it's a very solid business.

Anchor: Well let me ask you about potential risks, here, to your charter school portfolio, because I understand that three of your nine "Imagine" schools are scheduled to actually lose their charters for the next school year. Does this pose a risk to investors?

DB: Well, occasionally — we have Imagine arrangements on a master lease, so there's no loss of rents to the company, although occasionally there are losses of charters in certain areas and they're used to peculiar, ug, particular circumstances. In this case it's a combination of relationship with the supervisory authorities and educational quality. Sometimes educational quality is very difficult to change in one, two, or three years. It's a long-term proposition, so uh, there are some of these that occur, but we've structured our affairs so this is not going to impact our rent-roll and in fact we see this as uh maybe even a good experience as the industry thins out some of the less-performing schools and we move on to the best-performing schools.

Anchor: David, there has been somewhat of a public backlash to charter schools in some areas given their use of public money, as you noted. Any risk to the growth of charter schools generally?

DB: I don't — there's not a lost of risk, there's probably risk to everything but the fact is, this has bipartisan support. It's part of the Republican platform and Arne Duncan, secretary of education in the Obama administration, has been very high on it throughout their work in public education. So we have both political parties very solidly behind it, you have high demand, high growth, you have good performance across the board. Most of the studies have charter schools at even or better than district public education. So, I think it has some risk because it's new and it's emerging and it is a high-growth category. But at the same time I think ... much more's going forward so it's still a safe area for investment.

Anchor: You've invested in retail centers, ski parks, you've got charter schools, you've got movie theaters.... If you could buy one thing right now, David, one type of asset in real estate, what would it be?

DB: Well, probably the charter school business. We said it's our highest growth and most appealing sector right now of the portfolio. It's the most high in demand, it's the most recession-resistant. And a great opportunity set with 500 schools starting every year. It's a two and a half billion dollar opportunity set in rough measure annually.

By the way, it isn't true that "most of the studies have charter schools at even or better than district public education."

But why let facts get in the way?


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Krugman on Ryan, 2010

The Flimflam Man

One depressing aspect of American politics is the susceptibility of the political and media establishment to charlatans. You might have thought, given past experience, that D.C. insiders would be on their guard against conservatives with grandiose plans. But no: as long as someone on the right claims to have bold new proposals, he’s hailed as an innovative thinker. And nobody checks his arithmetic.
Which brings me to the innovative thinker du jour: Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Mr. Ryan has become the Republican Party’s poster child for new ideas thanks to his “Roadmap for America’s Future,” a plan for a major overhaul of federal spending and taxes. News media coverage has been overwhelmingly favorable; on Monday, The Washington Post put a glowing profile of Mr. Ryan on its front page, portraying him as the G.O.P.’s fiscal conscience. He’s often described with phrases like “intellectually audacious.”
But it’s the audacity of dopes. Mr. Ryan isn’t offering fresh food for thought; he’s serving up leftovers from the 1990s, drenched in flimflam sauce.
Mr. Ryan’s plan calls for steep cuts in both spending and taxes. He’d have you believe that the combined effect would be much lower budget deficits, and, according to that Washington Post report, he speaks about deficits “in apocalyptic terms.” And The Post also tells us that his plan would, indeed, sharply reduce the flow of red ink: “The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan would cut the budget deficit in half by 2020.”
But the budget office has done no such thing. At Mr. Ryan’s request, it produced an estimate of the budget effects of his proposed spending cuts — period. It didn’t address the revenue losses from his tax cuts.
The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has, however, stepped into the breach. Its numbers indicate that the Ryan plan would reduce revenue by almost $4 trillion over the next decade. If you add these revenue losses to the numbers The Post cites, you get a much larger deficit in 2020, roughly $1.3 trillion.
And that’s about the same as the budget office’s estimate of the 2020 deficit under the Obama administration’s plans. That is, Mr. Ryan may speak about the deficit in apocalyptic terms, but even if you believe that his proposed spending cuts are feasible — which you shouldn’t — the Roadmap wouldn’t reduce the deficit. All it would do is cut benefits for the middle class while slashing taxes on the rich.
And I do mean slash. The Tax Policy Center finds that the Ryan plan would cut taxes on the richest 1 percent of the population in half, giving them 117 percent of the plan’s total tax cuts. That’s not a misprint. Even as it slashed taxes at the top, the plan would raise taxes for 95 percent of the population.
Finally, let’s talk about those spending cuts. In its first decade, most of the alleged savings in the Ryan plan come from assuming zero dollar growth in domestic discretionary spending, which includes everything from energy policy to education to the court system. This would amount to a 25 percent cut once you adjust for inflation and population growth. How would such a severe cut be achieved? What specific programs would be slashed? Mr. Ryan doesn’t say.
After 2020, the main alleged saving would come from sharp cuts in Medicare, achieved by dismantling Medicare as we know it, and instead giving seniors vouchers and telling them to buy their own insurance. Does this sound familiar? It should. It’s the same plan Newt Gingrich tried to sell in 1995.
And we already know, from experience with the Medicare Advantage program, that a voucher system would have higher, not lower, costs than our current system. The only way the Ryan plan could save money would be by making those vouchers too small to pay for adequate coverage. Wealthy older Americans would be able to supplement their vouchers, and get the care they need; everyone else would be out in the cold.
In practice, that probably wouldn’t happen: older Americans would be outraged — and they vote. But this means that the supposed budget savings from the Ryan plan are a sham.
So why have so many in Washington, especially in the news media, been taken in by this flimflam? It’s not just inability to do the math, although that’s part of it. There’s also the unwillingness of self-styled centrists to face up to the realities of the modern Republican Party; they want to pretend, in the teeth of overwhelming evidence, that there are still people in the G.O.P. making sense. And last but not least, there’s deference to power — the G.O.P. is a resurgent political force, so one mustn’t point out that its intellectual heroes have no clothes.
But they don’t. The Ryan plan is a fraud that makes no useful contribution to the debate over America’s fiscal future.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Parent Trigger Film "Won't Back Down" Draws Teacher Objections

Walmart, Right-Wing Media Company Hold Star-Studded Benefit Promoting Education Reform Film 

By Josh Eidelson
Viola Davis, shown here with her SAG award for Outstanding Performance by an Female Actor in a Leading Performance for "The Help," will be appearing soon in anti-teachers union propaganda at a theater near you.   (Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images) 

The world’s largest private-sector employer and the country’s most prominent conservative entertainment company have teamed up to sponsor a fundraiser called “Teachers Rock.” Backed by Walmart and Anschutz Film Group, the August 14 event will feature live performances from musicians like Josh Groban and appearances from actresses like Viola Davis; it will be broadcast August 18 as a CBS special with messages from actresses like Meryl Streep. And it will promote the upcoming feature film Won’t Back Down, Anschutz’s entry in the “education reform” wars.

Won’t Back Down is reportedly a highly sympathetic fictional portrayal of “parent trigger” laws, a major flashpoint in debates over education and collective bargaining. Under such laws, the submission of signatures from a majority of parents in a school triggers a “turnaround option,” which can mean the replacement of a unionized school with a non-union charter. Such laws have been passed in several states, but due to court challenges, the "trigger" process has never been fully implemented.

“It's another Waiting for Superman," says Jose Vilson, a New York City math teacher and board member of the Center for Teacher Quality. "You have these popular actors, who as well-intentioned as they may be, they may not know all the facts, but they’re willing to back up a couple of corporate friends or people maybe they've become familiar with" in "trying to promote this sort of vision."

Parent trigger is one of the model bills pushed by the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Adamantly opposed by teachers unions, parent trigger bills (as I’ve reported for Salon) have often been spearheaded and supported by Democratic politicians. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed slamming teachers unions, Campbell Brown highlighted Won’t Back Down as evidence that “teachers unions have become a ripe target for reformers across the ideological spectrum” and Hollywood “has turned on unions.”

Walmart, Hollywood and Anschutz Unite
According to a July 24 joint press release, Tuesday's concert is “presented by” Walmart and by Won’t Back Down, which the release describes as a “powerful story – inspired by true events” about “determined mothers who will stop at nothing to transform their children’s failing inner city school. Facing a powerful and entrenched bureaucracy and a system mired in traditional thinking, they risk everything to make a difference in the education and future of their children.” Proceeds from the fundraiser will go to the non-profits Teach For America, Feeding America and

According to the release, the benefit will “feature scenes” from the film, and Viola Davis, one of the film’s stars, will be among the performers making “special appearances” at the event. The CBS TV special will include additional appearances by celebrities including Streep, Adam Levine of the band Maroon 5 and NBC's The Voice, and Matthew Morrison, who stars as a beloved high school teacher on Fox show Glee. Representatives of Streep, Levine and Morrison declined requests for comment; representatives of Davis, Groban, and CBS did not respond to inquiries.

Reached over e-mail, Anschutz Film Group (AFG) CEO David Weil said that both the benefit and the film "highlight the importance of teachers and education and seek to inspire parents to believe that they can make a real difference in the lives of students and teachers.” The movie is produced by AFG's Walden Media subsidairy. AFG operates as a subsidiary of Anschutz Entertainment Group, which in turn is a subsidiary of the Anschutz Company. Philip Anschutz, the Anschutz Company's chairman and CEO and the billionaire owner of The Weekly Standard and other publications, has provided major funding to efforts to restrict obscenity on television and oppose bans on sexual orientation discrimination.

Walden also backed Waiting for Superman, the 2010 documentary that argued unions were a primary obstacle to improving education. Walden CEO Michael Bostick told the New York Times that, after Superman, the company "realized the inherent limitations of the documentary format." With Won't Back Down, the Times reported, "he said, the idea is to reach a larger audience through the power of actors playing complicated characters who struggle with issues that happen to be, in his words, 'ripped from the headlines.'" The film is being distributed as part of a joint venture with 20th Century Fox.

Asked over e-mail how AFG expected Won't Back Down to influence education policy debates, Weil said the movie "explores many different approaches to issues that parents face every day as they selflessly advocate for their children to receive the promise of a great education." Weil adds that the film does not "advocate any specific approach," and that, "If anything, we hope the film will inspire parents to be aware of and involved in their children's educations."

Vilson describeds Walmart’s involvement in "Teachers Rock" as evidence of an agenda “to Walmart-ize teachers" by securing the power to “totally strip collective-bargaining rights and health benefits," and exercise discretion to replace teachers at will. As David Moberg has reported, Walmart has had a hostile relationship with organized labor for decades. None of its U.S. stores are unionized.

Walmart was a member of ALEC until May, when it ended its membership following pressure from activists after the killing of Trayvon Martin. A Walmart vice president wrote, in a letter reported by the Los Angeles Times, that ALEC had lost its proper focus on advancing "Jeffersonian principles of free markets." According to the Center for Media and Democracy, the Walton Family Foundation has historically been a major donor to organizations seeking to privatize public schools. Walmart declined a request for comment.
Vilson says he was particularly disappointed by Viola Davis' participation, given The Help star's past comments about wanting to elevate the voices of often-ignored domestic workers.
"You should also see the alignment between that and what's going on with teachers," says Vilson, "and the bad tone that's being sent throughout the country."

"I'm sorry," Davis told the New York Times, "I just know if you don't have a strong advocate for a child, they're not going to make it."

The New York Times reported that the trigger law portrayed in Won’t Back Down differs from its real life counterparts in a key respect: Unlike standard parent triggers laws which require just a majority of parents’ signatures to trigger a turnaround, the law in the movie requires support from a majority of a school’s teachers as well. Asked why, Weil told In These Times, "It was important that the law used be fictional because the film is not based on a specific actual law," but instead "draws on many situations throughout the country."
Asked whether "Teachers Rock" would address education policy, including teacher layoffs across the country, Weil said it would not. "It's a celebration of a group of unsung heroes of our society - our teachers," he says. "It is not intended to be a political event."

An Anti-Union Lightning Rod
Won't Back Down will reach theaters next month amid increasing national traction for parent trigger. In June, the policy received a unanimous endorsement from the U.S. Council of Mayors. Its supporters scored a key legal victory last month, when a Superior Court judge found that the Adelanto School District had erred in allowing parents to rescind their signatures on a trigger petition. Without the rescinded signatures, the petition lacked a majority.

According to the Los Angles Times, the pro-trigger group Parent Revolution accused opponents of trying "to bully and trick parents into rescinding their signature." The school board's president told the Times that the pro-trigger organization Parent Revolution and another group misled parents into signing the trigger petition by presenting it along with another petition calling for reforms, and telling them that the trigger petition would serve as leverage to support the other one. He said he will reccomend an appeal.

“If you want to transform the system so that it gets better results,” National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel says, “collective bargaining is a must. … There’s got to be a way for professionals who are in the classrooms with the students to have a voice.”  Van Roekel, who leads the nation’s largest teachers union, describes trigger’s backers as a mix of people who “have good intentions,” and others “who are privateers who are trying to find ways to make money off the education process.”

Parent Revolution national advocacy director Michael Trujillo acknowledges that parent trigger could lead to the elimination of union recognition at a school, but says ending collective bargaining is not the goal: “It just adds the love of a mom and a father to that [bargaining] table.” He describes parent trigger as a reform that “hands raw power to moms and dads, giving them the power to be the change in their child’s failing school.”

Fund Education Now co-founder Kathleen Oropeza contests the claim the trigger empowers parents. Once the trigger is pulled, she says, parents like her are “not going to be in there telling these for-profit charter developers how to run their school.”  Oropeza’s organization was part of the successful campaign to defeat a trigger law in Florida's legislature. “Parents are being used as a tool,” Oropeza charges, by people trying “to create a revenue stream for corporations. And the children are losing.”

Vilson accuses parent-trigger advocates of seeking to “take advantage of an often misinformed public” in order to “get their own sort of reforms in those otherwise unbreakable schools.” He names Parent Revolution as a group whose sponsors are “anti-union and frankly anti-professional,” and seeking to rebuild schools “in the hands of the one or two people who have the funding.”

As David Sirota has noted, several studies have found that charter schools perform worse overall than other public schools. Teachers at charter schools are far less likely than their other public school counterparts to have union contracts. Van Roekel says that education reforms should include measures to improve teacher retention: "We lose 47% of teachers hired in America within five years. There is no business large, small, or medium in America that could survive with that level of turnover."

Vilson cited New York City as a school district that has seen an improvement in test scores due to improvements in teachers’ professional development, rather than restriction of their rights. “Unfortunately,” he says, “that doesn’t get a lot of attention.”
But Vilson says he expects the fundraiser and the film to be a boon for parent trigger supporters: “A lot of people are going to take it as fact.”

Saturday, August 11, 2012

What's Campbell Brown Doing Smearing Teachers All Over the Media?

comments_image 23 COMMENTS

What's Campbell Brown Doing Smearing Teachers All Over the Media?

Brown, a former CNN and NBC reporter, is arguing against teachers' unions--but doesn't want to disclose that her husband is on the board of Michelle Rhee's anti-union organization.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
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Unfortunately, teacher-union-bashing has become one of the few areas in which many Democrats seem to agree with Republicans—and where people with no experience in the classroom declare themselves experts and pontificate to anyone who will listen about how if we could just fire those bad teachers, everything would be fine.
The latest self-proclaimed expert to grace the pages of the national media -- in this case Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal -- is Campbell Brown, former CNN and NBC anchor and reporter. Brown, whose expertise appears to be that she testified in front of Governor Cuomo's Education Reform Commission, doesn't note that she has a personal connection to an organization that spends its time doing just that--demonizing teachers. She painted what appears to be a horrific tale of sexual predators let loose in public schools to prey on our children, and blames the processes that exist to provide teachers with some sort of job security—processes that unions have fought for over the course of decades—for keeping them there. She then hit Morning Joe, MSNBC's morning program, to make the same argument. 
There's just one problem with Brown's argument: it doesn't hold up under even the most casual scrutiny.
The relevant portion of the contract, which you can read in its entirety here , says:
6. Sexual Offenses Involving Students or Minors
A tenured pedagogue who has been charged under the criminal law or under §3020-a of the New York State Education Law with an act or acts constituting sexual misconduct (defined below) shall be suspended without pay upon a finding by a hearing officer of probable cause that sexual misconduct was committed.
In §3020-a proceedings, a mandatory penalty of discharge shall apply to any tenured pedagogue a) found by a hearing officer to have engaged in sexual misconduct, or b) who has pleaded guilty to or been found guilty of criminal charges for such conduct.
For purposes of this section, sexual misconduct shall include the following conduct involving a student or a minor who is not a student: sexual touching, serious or repeated verbal abuse (as defined in Chancellor’s Regulations) of a sexual nature, action that could reasonably be interpreted as soliciting a sexual relationship, possession or use of illegal child pornography, and/or actions that would constitute criminal conduct under Article 130 of the Penal Law against a student or minor who is not a student. 
In other words, school districts not only have the authority to terminate teachers who commit sexual misconduct—they are required to.
There's no reason for a professional reporter not to know this. This contract was agreed to by Joel Klein, the former New York schools chancellor, and the teachers' union. Klein is now the chief executive of Rupert Murdoch's “ fledgling education division ” and is a board member of StudentsFirst, the infamous anti-union organization led by scandal-plagued former Washington, DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee. Also on the board of StudentsFirst? Dan Senor, Campbell Brown's husband.
Though Brown denied that StudentsFirst had anything to do with her Op-Ed and her TV appearance, StudentsFirst sent an angry email to supporters when Brown's connection to their organization (whose talking points she's parroting) was pointed out by, among others, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten. StudentsFirst claimed that questioning Brown's connection to their organization was “sexism.”
It is sexist, apparently, to ask where one's household gains its income, and whether that should have been disclosed in Brown's Op-Ed or in her television appearance. Yet male reporters from the Washington Post's education columnist to the Nation's Christopher Hayes have felt the need to disclose