Bush expands war on children’s health care.


The NY Times reported today that the Bush administration will expand its war on children’s health care and order states to stop expanding CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) to children above the poverty level.

The Bush surge against children’s health will result in new standards that would make it much more difficult for many states to extend coverage to children in middle-income families. Middle income in Bush’s world are families who earn more than $20,000 a year.

Administration officials outlined the new standards in a letter sent to state health officials on Friday evening, in the middle of a month-long Congressional recess. In interviews, they said the changes were intended to return the Children’s Health Insurance Program to its original focus on low-income children and to make sure the program did not become a substitute for private health coverage.

After learning of the new policy, some state officials said yesterday that it could cripple their efforts to cover more children and would impose standards that could not be met.

Hmmm. A Bush program with standards that cannot be met. Where have I heard that before?

My mistake.

Leo Casey refers to me, not by name, but by my error in his Edwize posting today. I originally incorrectly referred to the Khalil Gibran Academy as a school for the study of Islamic culture, history and language. I should have said it was a school for the study of Arab culture, history and language.

That was my mistake.

Everything else in Leo’s posting is his mistake. From his ahistorical description of the “genius of American identity” to his claim that those who criticized the actions of his union leadership and his defense of same was a “rush to criticize.”

Does Leo think that there is some new information now available that wasn’t available before that would justify his defense of Debbie Almontaser’s firing? The rush to judgment was Leo’s. All the information that has come out since his first posting only serves to reveal what kind of person Almontaser is and why her firing was a gross act of injustice.

I’ve printed my correction. Leo?

“Intifada” and the power of words.


Mike Godwin.

In this mornings NY Times there is a column by by Noam Cohen that talks about Godwin’s Law.

Coined my Mike Godwin who is the general counsel of the Wikipedia Foundation, Godwin’s Law says:

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

In my family, we knew about Godwin’s Law a long time ago. Even before Mike Godwin thought of it.

When my kids were growing up and we would get into dinner table debates, I always tried to stump them by saying, “What if Hitler did that?” or “What if Hitler said that?”

We didn’t call it Godwin’s Law. It became known as “Dad using the old Hitler argument.”

I thought of Godwin’s Law as I read the postings on the internet about Debbie Almontaser, the fired principal of the Khalil Gibran Academy.

She tried to explain and give historical context to the word, “intifada.” She didn’t put the word on a tee-shirt. Nobody at her school wore the tee-shirt. She just tried to explain a word when she was asked by a reporter about it.

In response we heard attacks on her (some by union people, no less) that included the words, “violence,” and “9/11,” and “Islamist madrassa.”

These are words with great power to move people. The fact that they have nothing to do with Debbie Almontaser or KGIA is quite another story.

That’s Godwin’s Law.

First day of school.


Today was the first day back for teachers and staff. The kids come tomorrow afternoon and I see my first students in the art room Wednesday morning.

But today we gathered in the middle school gym. We heard greetings from the board president and the president of the learning foundation and before a “state of the district” presentation from the superintendent, a speech of welcome from the union president. That’s me.

Here is a portion of what I said.

There was the referendum which I thought we won. We won in part because people who had been nasty to one another just a few years ago were speaking together at coffees, and sitting in long meetings together and walking precincts.

It seemed like we were not just working to get the referendum passed, but we were working to rebuild something that had been broken. A community. Not just in the geographical sense. But in the sense of common values and concerns.

So it didn’t really surprise me that the referendum passed.

But it did surprise me that on the very evening it was passed we started hearing terms like “spend management.” This is like politicians who don’t want to say “taxes,” say “revenue enhancement.” But we know “revenue enhancement” means taxes and we know “spend management,” means budget cuts.

It’s not like we teachers don’t understand that we can’t go out and spend money like drunken sailors. Of course, when exactly have we spent money like drunken sailors? We understand the pressures on the board and on administration, although I know they think sometimes we don’t.

But here is how it went down: Once the vote was in nobody ever came and talked to us. Nobody asked questions. Nobody asked questions about what WE thought about how to deal with cost containment. Nobody asked questions about how we thought we might contribute. No questions. Just directives.

All during the campaign for the referendum, it seemed like we were talking and asking questions of each other.

Like I remember this one evening I was at home when the phone rang and it was some lady from the campaign committee and she was asking if they could use my name and the PREA in a full-page ad in the Advocate. And I kind of paused and said, “Are you sure that’s what you want to do?” Because the PREA and I were not trying to be too out front on the referendum in terms of name recognition. But, no. She was sure.

And then a day later I got a second call. She sheepishly said that the committee had met and thought it might be better if my name wasn’t on the ad and she was all apologetic and slightly embarrassed. But I assured her it was ok. All that mattered was getting the referendum passed and I sure didn’t need my name in the paper. Because what we were building wasn’t the PREA, or my public profile, or anyone’s ego. We were building a pro-education community. It wasn’t really just about the dollars. It was about teachers, parents, community and students.

To be very honest, after more than ten years of being in the leadership of PREA there are certain things we only talk about with the board and administration. In fact we only seem to talk to each other about two things: about dollars and whether our decisions are data driven. I don’t know a single person who came to teaching because they wanted to talk about dollars and data.

Before some people get all agitated, I’m for money and for data. I don’t know anybody who is against dollars or the use of data to give direction to and improve their teaching. But it is what we call a means to an end. It’s data to answer questions.

Let me say it again in case it ends up on somebody’s blog. There is no debate that I am aware of in this district about whether we should be careful in our spending or if we should use data in our instructional thinking and planning.

Last year I invited some district leadership to my school. Walk into any room. Any room. And ask the teacher in that room to talk about what they use to identify the learning needs of their kids. And I’m telling you that what you will hear in nearly every room, from nearly any teacher is a sophisticated, insightful explanation of the use of data, data of all kinds, formative data, summative data, performance data, statistical data, empirical data, quantitative data, qualitative data, ethnographic data, testing data, Dibels data, Rit data, ISAT scores and that’s not even including all those scores that are used in special ed.

Now the people I invited did not take me up on my invitation. But the offer is still out there. Although they don’t really need me to invite them into a classroom.

But here is what those scores and that data will never show.

About the girl who for six years never said a word in class but made a movie last year in which she appeared. She used just the right amount of make-up and in front of a camera for hundreds to see acted the news anchor with the poise and diction of Katie Couric.

Or the 4th grade boy who struggles in school daily and who walks the halls with his two friends arguing over the relative strengths of Darth Vadar and some character I’ve never heard of and who imagines, designs, films, edits, narrates and sings the score of an animated film about a superhero hedge hog.

Or the 8th grader who comes back to see his music teacher on the last day of school, who has been practicing piano since second grade. Mrs. Seputis asks if he will play something for us and he says, “of course,” and then on her untuned junky elementary school upright announces he will play a Chopin sonata and does. And it is more than just technically proficient; it is art, and it is a sweet and lovely thing and leaves us with smiles on our faces because the music is so good.

I believe that it was our desire to experience these kinds of events and have our children experience these kind of events that brought us all to education. I believe it is these kinds of events that provide the basis for finding common ground among administration and board, parents and kids and teachers. We can return to the conversation. Ask each other questions. It’s not too late for that. A moment may have passed, but we can grab it back before it gets away. Ask each other questions.

We can do this. Have a great year.

Three over coffee.


  • Last year I bought myself a new digital camera. Its an SLR, Rebel XT Canon and it’s wonderful. But last week at the forum with Green Dot’s Steve Barr, CTU’s Marilyn Stewart and IEA’s Jo Anderson, I was there without my beloved Canon. All I had was my new iPhone (which I also love). So I took a few shots using my iPhone and posted one on this site. It is an admittedly terrible picture. The iPhone picture-taking ability, although pretty good for a phone, is not meant for this. So naturally, the fuzzy photo (which didn’t include my brother Mike, who was moderating the panel, and who now claims I air-brushed him out) was picked up and is on a half dozen blogs on the internet. If it had been one of my great shots taken with my Canon, nobody would ever have reposted it. There is no justice.
  • The Chicago Sun-Times reported on Friday that CPS teachers are getting shortchanged hundred of dollars in their paychecks by a new computer system. I’m sure the landlord will understand.
  • Andy Carvin at Learning.now: From now until October 15, 2007, you will have the opportunity to apply for an award from the Digital Media and Learning Competition. MacArthur (Foundation) will make grant awards in two different categories: knowledge networking and innovation. The knowledge networking awards, ranging from $30,000 to $75,000 each, will go to individuals with a track record as communicators and connectors

Would Martin Luther King, Jr. fire the principal?


Would Dr. King fire Debbie Almontaser?

In what has to be the one of the more bizarre discussions on the web, there is actually a quotation war going on at Edwize over whether Martin Luther King would have supported the firing of Debbie Almontaser, the former principal at Khalil Gibran Academy.

First the anti-union charter people name their schools after King. Now the defenders of this racist firing use his name for their purposes. Would it be asking too much if you all left the guy alone?

IEA to Blago: Where do we go from here?


Springfield leadership.

Now that Blagojevich, Madigan and Jones, the Larry, Moe and Curly of Illinois government, have made such a mess of things in Springfield, the IEA asks the question: Where do we go from here?

As reported earlier in the week, Gov. Rod Blagojevich said he intends to veto $500 million in “pork” from the fiscal year 2008 budget passed last week by the General Assembly and use that savings to expand health care. He said he will use his “executive authority” to expand the Family Care program, provide grants of up to $1,000 to families who can’t afford to buy health insurance, and expand breast cancer screening programs.

How he will do that is the $64,000 question.

The rest of the IEA assessment of things is here.

Peruvian tragedy.


I visited Peru last summer, traveling to Lima and then through the amazing Sacred Valley from Cusco to Machu Picchu. Reports coming out of the coastal city of Pisco say that over 500 are dead and thousands are injured as a result of an 8 point earthquake.

Doctors Without Borders, among others, is sending aid and people. Contribute here.

Hey, this is a private beach.


The anti-union goofball, Joe Williams, who blogs at Democrats for Education Reform is shocked, simply shocked, that union members might go to the beach for the Labor Day Weekend.

First the annual Labor Day parade had to be moved to a weekend after Labor Day because organized labor couldn’t get people away from their beach houses. Now it is being scrapped in favor of a rally for adequate health care for 9/11 workers.

Eye on NCLB: Bracey’s prediction? Two more years.

1094010896_e1daeb27ab_m.jpgEye on NCLB

Gerald Bracey, debunker of education myths and bogus research and statistics, writes in the Huffington Post that we are probably facing two more years of the present NCLB.

Predicting what will happen to NCLB in the next few months is iffy, very iffy, but here goes: Nothing will happen. Congress will pass a one-year automatic extension. And that means that it will be 2009 before we get a full-fledged revision because ain’t nobody gonna touch it during a presidential election year.

So we’ll be stuck with a law that’s all stick and no carrot for another two years.

What a tragedy.