IEA returns to THE issue: social justice in funding.

It’s late in the game. There’s just two weeks left for us before the school year ends. But, since I was critical of the IEA leadership when I thought they screwed up, I’ll tell them when they did good. If you go to the IEA’s web site now, there’s no sign of the Burnham Plan, no talk of accountability, no arcane references to new forms of governance. They’re back to the issues that got 8,000 people to Springfield: The fight for justice, equity and fairness in funding.

“Arrested while grieving.”

I’m in NY for the weekend. I’m seeing the kids and Lucy, my grandchild. And we’re celebrating my sister-in-law and brother-in-law’s 25th wedding anniversary.

But the news in New York is not all celebratory. Bob Herbert’s column in today’s NY Times is a disturbing story reminiscent of the things you might have read during the Rudy Giuliani days. A group of high school kids on their way to a funeral of a friend, students from Bushwick Community High School, were literally assaulted by members of the NYPD. Evidence of their gang affiliation? They were wearing shirts that said, “RIP.” As Herbert titled his column, they were “arrested while grieving.”

Thirty-three people were arrested, 20 men for unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct, seven women got disorderly conduct summonses, and six juveniles were released on their own recognizance.

Herbert’s column, which requires registration to access on the NY Times web page, reports that the original story that the police were responding to a gang provocation was not supported by any civilian witnesses and was contradicted by the testimony of the kids themselves.

They were kids of color in NY going to the funeral of a friend.

What’s private? What’s public?

Sometimes the comments sections of postings get overlooked. And I would recommend you scroll down to the posting or just click on, I had to read Edwize again..

JD, Leo Casey and I exchange some thoughts about Green Dot, tenure, contracts and the issue of what’s private, what’s public and what does it mean for teacher unions. It’s a good discussion, if only just the start of one.

Leo challenged my assumptions about Green Dot as anti-union. He thinks we need to reconsider how we define these things. I challenged Leo to explain the contradictions between what Green Dot says on their web page and what Leo says they actually do. JD appreciates the need to see the issues through many lenses and warns against dogmatic definitions.

It’s just really interesting to me and I didn’t want you to overlook it.

Spellings was really funny.

Appearing on the Daily Show with John Stewart last night, DOE Secretary Margaret Spellings was hilarious.

My favorite part was when she said:

The old solution to education challenges was to spend money and cross our fingers. Now, we can find out what actually works because we are measuring. It’s become a favorite refrain of mine, “What gets measured, gets done.” I’m even thinking about getting a tattoo.

Oh wait! That wasn’t on the Daily Show. That’s what she said in a speech to the right-wing think tank, The Manhattan Institute.

I wonder if I could get that tatoo?

Sacco and Vanzetti.

sacco_vanzetti3.jpgBen Shahn’s Sacco and Vanzetti

My old friend from Atlanta, Jesse Crawford, has produced a documentary about the story of two Italian immigrants and anarchists, Sacco and Vanzetti.

Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested for a robbery and murder it is now agreed they did not commit. They were executed in 1927. Their case became a world-wide cause celebre. Amazingly, this is the first major documentary ever made that tells their story.

It is showing at Chicago’s Facets Multimedia through tomorrow night.

The schedule of showings around the country can be found at First Run Features web site.

Where did the IEA go?

I’m only a local president, so I’m not in the loop. But then again, neither is the rest of the rank-and-file.

For months leading up to May 2nd, we were asked by the IEA leadership to put everything into mobilizing for Capitol Action Day, our annual lobbying effort. This year was special. It was different. This was the moment. The window of opportunity.

First we were told to support the governor’s proposal: the Gross Receipts Tax. It had the best chance of passing the legislature. It had Senate President Emil Jones’ support and, besides, the governor said he would veto any income tax increase.

There was talk we were actually for Senator James Meeks’ tax swapping bill 750 before we were against it. But by the time we got to Springfield (sounds like a Jimmy Webb song) we weren’t supporting any specific bill. We were for increased, sustainable funding. But OK. We got the membership moving. Thousands showed up at the Capitol. We bombed our local state senator Kotowski with e-mails and phone calls. The IEA rank-and-file were asked to step up. And we did.

And then…

What happened? Where’d everybody go?

Go to the IEA website and you’ll find some stuff about The Burnham Plan. No more talk about mobilizing the ranks. No more mass lobbying.

Has the IEA’s leadership now changed its strategy? Did we go from a focus on mobilizing the rank-and-file, building a coalition between urban, suburban and downstate organizations involved in public school support to a focus on lobbyists, back-room political deal making, and most disappointingly, a shift to pressing accountability issues in order to prove we deserve the funding?

Please tell me I’m reading this all wrong.

Graft, kickbacks, bribery are a PR problem for the DOE.

spellingsx.jpgMargaret Spellings

Way down at the bottom of the USA Today piece on DOE Secretary Margaret Spelling’s appearance on tonight’s Daily Show is a telling comment from Andrew Rotherham of Education Sector, a right-wing think tank.

Rotherham is quoted as saying that the administration realizes it has “a pretty substantial public relations problem and that they need to get out there and try to turn it around.”

I love it when they call criminal acts a PR problem.

Thinking about Green Dot.

There’s been a lot of discussion around about Green Dot, the non-profit charter operation in LA headed by Steve Barr, former Democratic Party fundraiser and founder of Rock the Vote.

Green Dot doesn’t seem to fit the mold of many charter operations that have earned the suspicion of public school advocates. But it’s a challenge to teacher unions and supporters of public schools to figure it out.

Some issues:

  • Do they support or undermine the public sector of education?
  • Do they support or undermine quality schools in underserved communities?
  • Do the collaborate with or undercut teacher unions and the collective bargaining process?
  • Do they promote or undermine the professional role of teachers?
  • Do they encourage or discourage community and family involvement?
  • Are they held to the same standards as public schools?

Of course, most of these same questions must be asked of public schools.

I had to read Edwize again. I sure misread it the first time.

Maybe I was tired. Or maybe it’s just crazy around here as we get closer to June 6th. But I totally misread Leo Casey’s post on EdWize about Green Dot.

I thought he was supporting the view that Green Dot was an anti-union enterprise. But I got it wrong.

Casey defends Green Dot because:

  • They have tenure procedures.
  • They have grievance procedures.

If I got it right this time, that’s pretty weak stuff.

Here is what I see. A public school is taken over by a non-public although non-profit organization. Simultaneously the existing union, the UTLA, is essentially decertified and a weaker union is brought in to replace it.

For further clarification, or confusion (if I am any example), read the comments that follow Casey’s posting.

Reading First blasted by NY Times. But what about consequences?

It’s hard to work in schools without hearing two words: “consequences” and “accountability.”

When our students misbehave, their misbehavior requires “consequences.” We’re told that if you don’t hand out a consequence for misbehavior, the student will inevitably repeat the misbehavior.

Similarly, if we don’t have “accountability,” how will we know that teachers are really doing their jobs? We need “accountability,” not so much to evaluate student learning, but to detect teachers failures.

And then there is Reading First.

The New York Times ran an editorial Sunday blasting the Department of Education and its scandal ridden Reading First program.

The Times charged the DOE with

  • creating the panels that evaluate state reading programs which lacked transparency and documentation.
  • failing to enforce anti-conflict of interest policies.
  • giving room to “profit-mongers” who used ties to the DOE programs to line their own pockets.
  • DOE senior employees that also worked for and lobbied for huge publishers.
  • The heads of the DOE (one can only assume the NY Times means Secretary Margaret Spellings) knew about and tolerated the conflict of interest of her employees.

Good. So we have that straight. We know what the charges are. What about consequences and accountability?

The NY Times says:

But the only way to make sure that things have actually changed is for Congress to write the new rules and procedures into law.

Huh? What?

Bribery?

Conflict of interest?

Ignoring the law?

And the consequences are “write new rules.” Jeez, those guys on the editorial board of the Times wouldn’t last a day over here.