Saturday, February 28, 2015

Cuomo Fails the Children of New York State - Badass Teachers Association

Badass Teachers Association:



Cuomo Fails the Children of New York State
By:  Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager BATs


Every day our children achieve despite having their public schools grossly underfunded by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and his education reform agenda.  From Albany to Roosevelt, from Wyandanch to Troy, children are receiving honors and accolades that show their schools are not failing but are indeed providing exemplary services to our children.  For the Governor of New York to go publicly on social media and call those students, their districts, and communities “failures” is a gross misrepresentation of what is really happening – Governor Cuomo has failed our children.

Last week Governor Cuomo released a report about  New York States failing schools.  Read here:  https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/NYSFailingSchoolsReport.pdf
If you go to page 10 you will see the list of those 17 “failing” school districts but here is a screen shot of that page so that you can peruse it quickly.





Cuomo blasted out a long series of tweets about the failing schools on February 26th.  Here is a sample of the torrent of tweets he sent calling the children , communities, and teachers who utilize these schools “failures.” 




Thankfully, well respected school finance researcher  Bruce Baker took to twitter and tweeted his report about the underfunding of NYS schools.  You can read it herehttps://schoolfinance101.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/50-biggest-aid-gaps-2013-14_15_final.pdf   Baker wrote up a magnificent report comparing Cuomo’s 17 failing schools and how significantly they have been underfunded over the years   https://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/angry-andys-failing-schools-the-finger-of-blame/    

But......... this is not the reason for this write up.  Being a teacher in NYS, I want to highlight some amazing things these “failing” schools are doing for kids, and kids in these schools are doing, Badass Teachers Association:

THE DEBT
BY: Andres Rodriguez, Jr.

Andres Rodriguez, Jr with his daughter BAT Leadership
Team Member Aixa Rodriguez



My family immigrated to the United States from Puerto Rico in the summer of 1960. I was an eight year old boy who, along with two younger sisters and his parents, arrived to start a new life in an urban setting that dwarfed the quiet and mostly rural lifestyle he left behind. The change in scenery was overwhelming. In the island we were part of an extended family living in a humble but spacious home. Life was joyful, noisy, carefree, simple and full of adventure. The thought that we were poor never crossed our minds. My daily childhood routine consisted of waking at sunrise, playing outside all day without adult supervision and coming home just before sundown. Boredom was an unfamiliar state.


Until I arrived in the United States, I had never experienced isolation. Suddenly I was in a different world. Everything was new or alien. The familiar warmth and security of our extended family disappeared. What family we had living in the states lived far away. I didn’t know a word of English. I had no friends. Concerned about my safety, my parents wouldn’t let me play outside unsupervised. I had to devise indoor games and grow accustomed to the confining and constraining forces of apartment living. But there was no turning back. As much as I hated my new surroundings, I knew we had arrived to stay. Still, traumatic as that introduction to life in the South Bronx was, the idea that things could get worse never occurred to me. But they did. It would take some years for me to understand why and to realize the profound impact that simple acts of kindness and compassion had on my life’s trajectory. One such act was performed by Ms. Bonilla in September of 1960 when my mother took me to P.S. 62 to register me for school.


It is noteworthy that to this day the island’s K-12 public school instruction includes European as well as American characteristics. It is: free and secular, compulsory and conducted entirely in Spanish, with English taught as a second language and compulsory at all levels. Hence, by the time they graduate high school students are fully bilingual and are quite competitive in America’s higher education system. Many decide to attend American colleges and universities.


Ms. Bonilla was the only Latina administrator in P.S. 62 and may very well have been the only one in NYC’s public school system at the time. She was also one of the few of color and as a woman, a rarity in NYC’s public education bureaucracy. She also lived in the community where she worked. Perhaps it was coincidence, but she was in the administrative office when my mother walked in with me in tow. With her limited English my mother spoke to a non-Spanish speaking administrative staff member explaining that she was there to register me for school. I had completed the first and second grade in Puerto Rico and by the time I finished second grade I could read and was already getting writing instruction. My mother provided that information fully expecting that I would be  Badass Teachers Association:

The School Closure Playbook - How Billionaires Exploit Poor Children in Chicago | naked capitalism

The School Closure Playbook - How Billionaires Exploit Poor Children in Chicago | naked capitalism:





The School Closure Playbook – How Billionaires Exploit Poor Children in Chicago

Posted on February 26, 2015 by 


Rebecca Rojer, who directed this film essay about a public school version of the Shock Doctrine playbook called “corporate school reform” asked us to present her video after it first appeared on Jacobin. It is accessible yet presents a hard-hitting overview of who is behind this taxpayer looting program and the mechanics of how it operates. From Rojer’s overview:
The piece uses Chicago to explore the broader neoliberal campaign against public schools, focusing on how education “reformers” manufactured a budget crisis through a combination of creative accounting, secretive tax schemes (specifically TIF), and media cooperation. It also looks at some of the organizing that developed to regain local control of schools (and possibly just forced Rahm into a run-off election!).
What is stunning is the degree of out and out grifting that has taken place in Chicago, with millions diverted from public schools to create a false image of a budgetary crisis. And some of the money wound up in dubious-looking pockets, like a Hyatt Hotels franchise.
I hope you’ll watch this video. Be sure to circulate it to anyone you know who lives or votes in Chicago.

“The Other PARCC:” A New Short Film Of Refusal In New Jersey | The Education Activist: From Student to Teacher

“The Other PARCC:” A New Short Film Of Refusal In New Jersey | The Education Activist: From Student to Teacher:







“THE OTHER PARCC:” A NEW SHORT FILM OF REFUSAL IN NEW JERSEY

Event Details


The activist movement in New Jersey, as a coalition of parents, students, teachers, and community members, has culminated in some of the most incredible grassroots organizing in the country. As Diane Ravitch has reported, new legislation in New Jersey has been coined “a ray of hope against PARCC” and state and national writers have been covering the happenings in local towns all across New Jersey (there are just too many links to post, but please look around online). All of this work in New Jersey has culminated in a new short film to be released tomorrow – “The Other PARCC: Parents Advocating Refusal on High-Stakes Testing,” a short documentary film by Michael Elliot.
The video is set to be released nationally at 5:00pm tomorrow, Sunday, Match 1st, 2015 and will launch the already inspiring grassroots activist movement in New Jersey into the national spotlight, highlighting the stories of parents and students in the struggle against high-stakes testing. The video is set to also be released at an event tomorrow in Montclair, New Jersey.
The Other PARCC: Parents Advocating Refusal on High-Stakes Testing Synopsis:
Parents gathered from many different communities in New Jersey to make a short film to voice their concerns and share their stories about the effects that the implementation of CCSS and the PARCC tests were having on their children, teachers, schools and lives. 
Link: https://vimeo.com/120619448
**Note: The link is currently private and cannot be accessed. It will be available upon release at 5:00pm tomorrow, Sunday, March 1st, 2015.
The event is set to take place Sunday, March 1st, 2015 from 3pm to 5pm at Firehouse headquarters (1 Pine Street, Montclair, New Jersey, 07042) in the second floor meeting room. The Firehouse is located just in from Bloomfield Avenue, near the Bay Street train station. Parking will be available across from the Firehouse. Filmmaker Michael Elliot will be in attendance for the premiere at the event, along with many of the film participants.
There is a Facebook event link: https://www.facebook.com/events/815054668561757 
The organizers have asked that all who wish to attend register for free tickets using the following link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/parcc-refusal-meet-up-tickets-15904851840
Again, at the event we will be premiering a fabulous short 5 minute film of parents and students talking about their reasons for refusing from all over the State. Michael Elliot, filmmaker from New York, has made the film with support from Montclair Cares about Schools. Michael has also made an incredibly inspiring film with Change the Stakes, which can be see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ayYajsQjg8
This is a great way to solidify and build support on the eve of the PARCC testing that is set to begin Monday in New Jersey. We hope to see many of you there.

We Care: Teachers Speak Against Cuomo on Vimeo

We Care: Teachers Speak Against Cuomo on Vimeo:

We Care: Teachers Speak Against Cuomo 

A is for Apple B is for Badass What it means to Badassteachers in the Age of Corporate Education Reform Badass Teachers Association

Badass Teachers Association:



A is for Apple B is for Badass 



What it means to Badassteachers in the Age of Corporate Education Reform

By: Dr. Yohuru Williams




One of the persistent questions BATS face centers on the name of our organization and what it means to be one of the Badassteachers. A recent interview with a French journalist reminded me of this fact and the necessity for us to revisit regularly the goals and aims of our collective. So what exactly does it mean to be Badass, she asked sheepishly toward the close of our conversation on the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement. What does the Badassteachers Association believe are the central threats to public education and what makes one a Badass?

It is a question most of us should become adept at answering if we mean to counter the corrosive effect of the narratives of failure that accompany the corporate education reform agenda. As one of the co-founders once observed, we are not trying to resurrect any group from the past. While the rich history of social justice activism informs us, we fully recognize how our situation today calls for organizations and solutions that speak to the unique challenges we face in the present moment.

The essence of what it means to be a Badassteacher can be found in each of the letters that make up our provocative name.

To be clear, the Badassteachers and their allies recognize that the problems we face are

B: Big. The agents of corporate education reform are active in every state of the Union and are financed by individuals like the Koch brothers whose anti-union, anti-teacher schemes have done immeasurable damage to public education. They also understand that corporate education reform is global and that what we fight is one facet of a global education reform movement (GERM) aimed at undermining public education and reducing students worldwide to data points. While we recognize the size and scope of the problem Badassteachers welcome the fight. As our motto states, for too long teachers were forced to suffer in silence as the condition of our public schools eroded and the failure of elected officials to take seriously calls for sober minded reforms such as reducing class sizes and tackling the crippling effects of poverty in our schools. The days of silence have passed. We answer the big challenge with an even bigger commitment to fighting for social justice for our kids and communities across the globe.

A: Action Oriented. What distinguished Badass teachers is their penchant for action. Whether on social media or boots on the ground, real Badassteachers seek to be at the center of the fray, challenging high stakes testing, standing up to politicians, and demanding equity for our students. This is because BATS recognize that the need for action is central to our fight against the corporate education reform industry. We recognize and appreciate the need to challenge the narrative of school failure whenever and wherever it presents itself. We are prepared to vote with our feet as the brave students and education activists have done in New York, Newark, Los Angles, Providence, Philadelphia, and Chicago to stamp out the vestiges of inequality that plague our communities and reclaim our schools.

D. Dedication. Being a Badass requires a level of dedication that transcends casual engagement and takes on an all or nothing mentality with regard to education activism. The state moderators who run this organization from the Bronx to Baton Rouge share a common resolve to get in this fight and stay in this fight until all public school students have the schools they deserve. They share the fundamental belief that schools are the nucleus of communities and that partnership between parents, students, and teachers holds the key to designing schools of the future that will develop our youth and preserve democracy. Badass Teachers and their allies will accept nothing less.

A: Assertive. Badass Teachers know that the only way to check the dangerous incursion of corporate education reform is to be clear and thoughtful in their approach. For this reason, Badassteachers read and study the issues. They read the Bat Blog and other independent sources of information such as Diane Ravitch’s blog that expose the true corporate education reform agenda. They are always ready to share in a fresh and accessible manner our core concerns over issues as high stakes testing, the expansion of charters at the expense of funding for public education, the school to prison pipeline and the need for the recruitment and retention of more teachers of color.

S. Serious. Badass teachers recognize the seriousness of this fight and our need to be steadfast in our approach to fighting for the schools our students deserve. This includes insuring that a full range of academic interventions remains available to our students as well as sustained funding for libraries, music and the arts and other non-negotiable necessities essential to the development of well-rounded students.

S. Surgical. Badass Teachers recognize global education reform as an infectious disease, which, if left unchecked threatens to corrupt the very fabric of our society at the same time it chokes the very life from our schools. We focus on
Badass Teachers Association:

Renewing America's Labor Movement | Randi Weingarten

Renewing America's Labor Movement | Randi Weingarten:

Renewing America's Labor Movement



Across the country, people are clamoring to be heard. They want a voice.
These are people who work hard but never see their wages keep up. After a lifetime of work, they don't have a pension or savings for a secure retirement. They rack up debtso they and their children can get a higher education, which is more necessary now than ever before. People are searching for a way to transform an economic system that benefits the few over the many. They are searching for fairness, opportunity, justice and real change.
I believe that search can and should lead to the labor movement. At this week's Albert Shanker Institute conference, The American Labor Movement at a Crossroads: New Thinking, New Organizing, New Strategies, Labor Secretary Tom Perez reminded us: "The growth of the middle class was linked to a labor movement that was strong."
But we must re-envision and renew our labor movement to face the challenges of the 21st century, to be the voice that today's working people want and the robust engine our economy needs. Because, as we face a new global economy -- one powered on technology and knowledge, where information travels at lightning speed -- we can no longer operate as if we're in a factory. As circumstances change, our nation changes, our world changes -- we too must change.
At the conference, we asked these hard questions: Are we flexible and forward-thinking enough to meet the demands of a 21st-century economy? Can our infrastructure adapt to meet the needs of new generations?
The ideas and strategies were promising. David Rolf, president of SEIU 775, challenged us to innovate: "We have to be willing to stand up and say no court is going to stop workers from building power." Others emphasized the need to work with community. "It's no longer about garnering community alliances for workplace fights. We have to figure out how workplace fights are part of the broader community struggles," said Sarita Gupta, executive director of Jobs with Justice. At the same time, Tefere Gebre, AFL-CIO executive vice president, reminded us that "in order to build a movement, we have to keep workers at the center of our thinking; we need to empower workers to decide for themselves."
As our movement evolves, our values endure: Fairness. Opportunity. Democracy. Justice. These values guide all we do, pressing us to look beyond the four walls of a workplace to the broader community. When we believe in economic and educational justice and opportunity, and in democracy, voting rights and social justice, it inspires us to fight back and to work to ensure all communities have access to high-quality public services, starting with a high-quality public education with fair funding.
Look at New York state. There, we are fighting against a governor who has focused more on settling scores than addressing the funding gap between rich and poor school districts that has only grown under his watch. This past week, Moral Mondays' Rev. William Barber and I joined community activists for a rally for funding equity in New York's schools. If we believe that all children, regardless of their ZIP code, need and deserve a high-quality public education, then we must ensure all children have access to that opportunity -- not just in rhetoric, but in reality.
Across the country, we are standing with community and building power through community. Community is labor's new density. People want a voice: Occupy Wall Renewing America's Labor Movement | Randi Weingarten:

A case for public education | Lehigh University

A case for public education | Lehigh University:



A CASE FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION











Education historian Diane Ravitch, a lightning rod in the national debate on school reform, presented her case for public education Tuesday night in a well-received lecture at the Zoellner Arts Center.
Hosted by Lehigh’s College of Education, Ravitch engaged in an imaginary, yet spirited, debate with a school reformer who’d likely argue that the nation’s public schools are failing, test scores are declining and drastic measures are needed to save the nation from certain ruin.
As she fiercely countered those contentions, Ravitch argued that public schools must be saved for a future generation of children. She called the protection of public education from attempts at privatization as “the civil rights issue of our time.”
“The public schools are the people’s schools,” said Ravitch, author of Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools. “Their doors are open to all… Public education must be, as we once hoped, a bastion of equal opportunity. Public education is a public trust. It is not a business opportunity.”
Ravitch, recently named by Education Week as the education scholar with the greatest public influence, spoke at Lehigh as part of COE’s Distinguished Lecture Series. She also sat down for a question-and-answer segment with Dean Gary Sasso, who described the school reform debate as one of the most contentious and polarizing in the world of education. In an effort to find common ground, Sasso said the College of Education also planned to host a speaker who presents an opposing view in the fall.
Ravitch, an educational policy analyst, was an assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander in the administration of President George H. W. Bush from 1991 to 1993. She is a research professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development.
In an hour-long presentation, Ravitch argued that public schools are not failing and cited several factors: National Assessment of Educational Progress test scores and graduation rates are at their highest in U. S. history and dropout rates are at their lowest.
“Public schools are not mediocre,” she said. “They reflect their communities. Some are outstanding. Some are good but not great. Some are the heart of their community. Some struggle because they serve impoverished communities. We should help them, not close them.”
Anticipating how the debate with a school reformer might unfold, Ravitch countered a number of common arguments:
  • That teacher performance should be evaluated by students’ test scores, in an effort to weed out bad teachers. Ravitch said test scores cannot adequately measure a teacher’s effectiveness. She said those who teach in affluent districts or who teach native English speakers will get higher ratings than those who teach in poor districts, who teach mostly English-as-a-Second-Language learners or who teach the severely disabled. She said peer assistance and review would be a better way to evaluate teachers.
  • That collective bargaining should be banned so that unions can’t protect bad teachers. Ravitch argued that unions helped build the middle class in America and that teachers would be voiceless without unions to protect from them from misguided governors and legislators.
  • That teacher tenure protects bad teachers. Ravitch argued that tenure protects teachers them from being fired for arbitrary reasons. “If bad teachers are getting tenure, then we have an administrator problem, not a teacher problem,” she said to applause.
  • That test scores would go up if teachers had the incentive of merit pay. Ravitch argued that merit pay has never made a difference and pointed to a three-year Vanderbilt University study in Nashville. She said professionals are motivated by idealism, autonomy and sense of purpose, not money.
  • That parents have a right to choose the schools for their children. Ravitch said school vouchers, which would help pay for students to attend private schools, don’t lead to higher test scores for children. ”Why privatize our public schools and destroy an institution that has been central to our democracy?” she asked.
  • That Common Core will close the achievement gap. Ravitch said Common Core standards were set too high and that most students will fail.
For those who worry that the United States is falling behind other countries, such as China, in how well their students score on test, Ravitch argued that test scores are not an indicator of a nation’s economic future or success. 
“America’s trump card has always been freedom, creativity, originality, innovation, ingenuity…,” she said.  In addition to students getting a good education, she said she hopes America’s children are learning to be kind, thoughtful and hard-working and that they will come to possess a zeal for making society better. “That matters more than test scores,” she said to applause.
Ravitch acknowledged all is not well with public education. But rather than privatizing schools or using test scores to evaluate teachers, she said, the country needs to attack the root causes of low academic performance, namely segregation and poverty.
“We need reform intended to improve schools, not close them,” she said. “We need to believe we can solve our problems, not hand them off to entrepreneurs and corporations and well-meaning amateurs. We need to believe that our public institutions can be improved, not privatized, or we will lose our democracy. We must not abandon our ideals.”
Story by Mary Ellen Alu
Photos by Christa Neu

Chicago Elementary School Votes to Oppose PARCC Common Core Tests - Living in Dialogue

Chicago Elementary School Votes to Oppose PARCC Common Core Tests - Living in Dialogue:



Chicago Elementary School Votes to Oppose PARCC Common Core Tests 





 By Michelle Strater Gunderson.

“What the best and wisest parent wants for his child, that must we want for all the children of the community. Anything less is unlovely, and left unchecked, destroys our democracy.”      John Dewey
Last week the Local School Council at Nettelhorst Elementary School in Chicago voted unanimously to write a letter of opposition to the PARCC exam, and gave permission to the parent/teacher organization to distribute testing opt out information to all families.
This is a big deal.
Local School Councils are elected bodies of parent, community, and teacher representatives who are entrusted with governing schools in Chicago. The local school council at Nettelhorst is composed of thoughtful and wise people who gave this action much personal deliberation.
So, why would a Chicago public school that is rated one plus and compliant in almost every school district mandate take this action? Why would a school where most of the children are middle class, speak English at home, and do super great on standardized tests refuse a test? Because opposing the PARCC exam comes from wisdom and a desire for what is lovely in schooling.
This was not a position that was taken hastily and it comes from three distinct conclusions.
First, the test is written at a level far beyond where students are expected to read at each age group (read Russ Walsh’s analysis here). We disagree with the stance that frustration levels for children represents “productive struggle” – a concept promoted by many education reformers. Imagine you are 8 years old, and you are not able to process information on page after page on a test that will last hours. Wise parents do not Chicago Elementary School Votes to Oppose PARCC Common Core Tests - Living in Dialogue:

The Discipline Gap at My High School | John Thompson

The Discipline Gap at My High School | John Thompson:



The Discipline Gap at My High School



I strongly support the work of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies to close the racial "discipline gap." I want to be clear in my agreement with "Are We Closing the School Discipline Gap?" by Daniel Losen et. al.
Part of my support, however, could be described as something that lawyers call a "concurring opinion." Students can't learn if they are not in class and we need to invest in Restorative Justice, and other alternatives to suspensions. Neither do I claim that educators are blameless or that we don't need to invest heavily in professional development. So, I concur with Losen's findings while worrying that systems will, once again, take the cheap and easy approach of claiming that better classroom instruction is enough to reduce suspensions.
Although I intensively studied nearly 15 years of Oklahoma City suspension data, and taught at the state's lowest performing high school, I am surprised that in the two years after I left the classroom that the Oklahoma City Public Schools became "one of the top ten highest-suspending districts at the secondary level for all students, and is the highest suspending district in the nation for black secondary students." Moreover, between 2010 and 2012, "overall suspension rates at the high school level also increased from 24.7 percent to 45.2 percent during the same period."
The latest database shows that at the secondary school level, OKCPS "suspension rates for Black students climbed dramatically from 36.3% to 64.2%." (I have my own theories on why, at a time when education funding was cut by 23%, the rate ballooned, but I will limit myself to what I witnessed and studied.)
The OKCPS experience confirms a key finding in the Consortium on Chicago School Research's Organizing Schools for Improvement. It identified the intertwined factors of discipline and attendance as prime reasons why troubled schools fail to improve. When the Consortium looked deeply into stalled reforms, its "most powerful single finding" was the relationship between attendance problems and the failure to manage disciplinary issues. Moreover, the Consortium, "found virtually no chance of improving attendance in schools that lacked safety and order," and "where instruction alignment was weak or predominantly basic skills oriented."
By 2009-2010 school year that was first studied by Losen et. al, the OKCPS had no choice but to invest all of its discretionary money for high schools in remediation for students who were failing their basic skills graduation exams. We were in the middle of the Great Recession which increased the state's homeless rate by 79%. The district barely had more than 40,000 students at any given time. Oklahoma City had 20,000 students who lived with their grandparents, foster parents, or other guardians, and most attended OKCPS neighborhood schools.
During that year, I had 227 students with the majority being on special education IEPs or English Language Learners; eighteen of my students volunteered that they were mentally ill and I suspected that the diagnosis applied to another dozen. Every The Discipline Gap at My High School | John Thompson:

Steve Zimmer Defends Bennet Kayser Against Charter Industry Attacks | Diane Ravitch's blog

Steve Zimmer Defends Bennet Kayser Against Charter Industry Attacks | Diane Ravitch's blog:



Steve Zimmer Defends Bennet Kayser Against Charter Industry Attacks 
Click on picture to Listen to Diane Ravitch
Los Angeles school board member Steve Zimmer supports fellow board member Bennett Kayser, who has been the target of vicious attacks by the charter industry. Kayser has also been endorsed by Board chairman Dr. Richard Vladovic.
Here is Bennett’s website:
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Here is how to volunteer to help:
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By Steve Zimmer
Exactly two years ago, The California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) sent out a series of campaign hit pieces blaming me for the budget cuts that hit LAUSD during the great recession. They attacked me on every front they could with over three million dollars raised from the likes of Michael Bloomberg, Michelle Rhee and Eli Broad. It was the ugliest, most expensive school board campaign in the history of the nation. We thought it couldn’t get any worse.
Then, last summer CCSA came after Dr. George McKenna with a vengeance. With lies, filth and distortion they tried to mar the career of one of the most beloved educators ever to teach and lead schools in South Los Angeles. The effort failed and McKenna won handily. We thought we had seen the worst.
We were wrong.
In the current School Board election campaign the Charter Schools Association has turned their sights on my colleague Bennett Kayser. In an onslaught of mail, radio and TV commercials, CCSA has gone completely off the rails in their effort to vilify Bennett Kayser. The first mailer attacks Kayser as a racist (http://bit.ly/racistattack) despite the fact that he has a 100% voting record on every major district transformation supported by civil rights groups. They claim he protected child molesters (http://bit.ly/distortingrecordsondismissals) when the entire Board has voted to dismiss every single teacher accused of crimes against children . The most disgusting TV advertisement (http://bit.ly/MockingDisability) directly mocks and mimics his public fight against Parkinson’s.
We have never, ever seen attacks like these in political campaigns.
Bennett Kayser is a good man. His entire adult life has been devoted to public service. And he is an outstanding policy maker. He has been a leading advocate on the Board in support of Early Childhood Education, Adult Education, Arts Education and Immigrant Rights. His courage in his fight against Parkinson’s has been a ray of hope to families fighting neurological diseases.
So why is the Charter Schools Association so hell bent on destroying this man?
One reason and one reason only: he votes against charter schools. Not all charter schools. But most. He has many explanations for this including that charter schools do not serve an equitable number of special education students.
It is fair to disagree with Kayser. In a tough campaign it is fair to attack him for voting against charters. But this is not what the Charter Schools Association is doing.
CCSA seeks to take over the Board of Education by any means necessary. The Association believes in a private sector, corporate model for privatizing our public schools. If CCSA’s candidate, Ref Rodriguez, wins on March 3rd, CCSA will gain control of the LAUSD Board. This will mean an even greater expansion of charter schools and a much greater number of colocations on district campuses, without concern for the financial stability of our district or its impact on district students.
But that’s not the most important reason we should stand against what CCSA is doing.
We should stand against this because it is morally and ethically wrong. By equating voting against a charter school to racism, CCSA cheapens the deep struggles that still face our city and our nation. The crimes against children in school districts are both heinous acts and moral outrages. But to use the suffering of children and families as a campaign issue is the lowest form of political exploitation I have ever seen.
The most shocking attack is the attack on Mr. Kayser’s disability. I have seen very closely how difficult Bennett’s struggle against Parkinson’s is. It is a disease that affects his mobility, physical stability and his speech. But Parkinson’s does not affect Bennett Kayser cognitively nor does it impair his conscience. Bennett Kayser is absolutely fit to serve a second term on the school board. Bennett talks openly about Parkinson’s and uses his profile to raise awareness and allay fears about his disease. His courage to face down illness and to battle publicly should be celebrated not derided.
Do not let the Charter School Association get away with this. They are not only destroying a man; they are degrading our entire electoral process. This is one of those moments when if you do not directly stand against this, you are complicit.
This is especially true for every charter school that is a member of CCSA. If you think it is wrong to dehumanize a person, call upon the leadership of the organization that represents your schools to take these ads down.
Do not let Ref Rodriguez get away with this.
The candidate will tell you he has nothing to do with this. But when a candidate directly or indirectly accepts the dehumanization of his or her opponent it raises serious questions about their character. The willingness to view those who disagree with you as less than human is what actually raises questions about one’s fitness to serve. I have grave concerns that the ethical recklessness that has driven this campaign will become the operational norm of the Board of Education if CCSA is successful in taking control.
Finally, it is a time to lead. We cannot let Bennett Kayser stand alone.
I call on all of our elected leadership and community leadership to stand against the moral low bar of this campaign. If we allow the public tar and feathering of those who follow their conscience to become an acceptable norm, we are endangering the very republic itself; we are rupturing the fibers of our social contract. Stand up and call on CCSA to take down its commercials and apologize for its mailers (jed@calcharters.org). Stand next to the courageous charters to withdraw their membership from CCSA.
And most importantly, let us all commit to re-focusing our attention on children, their families and their school communities. While we argue and hurt one another their dreams languish. It is these dreams, after all, to which we are all accountable.Steve Zimmer Defends Bennet Kayser Against Charter Industry Attacks | Diane Ravitch's blog:
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The Choice 
         Of Students 

                Of Teachers

                      Of Community
Here is Bennett’s website:

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